Excerpt from
The Terminus: The Railroad System of the Pacific Coast, by John Scott, 1871


A wharf, 11,000 feet long, running out to a depth of 26)a feet at low- tide and 3312 feet at high tide, in a bay like that of San Francisco, having 12 railroad tracks upon its last one thousand feet, a wide carriage way. a spacious passenger depot and railroad offices, warehouses and outside storage for 40.000 tons of grain or other merchandise, three large docks, one of which affords ample space for five of the largest steamers or clippers afloat, is not often seen, even in this age of railroad and engineering wonders. Such a structure has, however, recently been completed by the Central Pacific Railroad Company on the Oakland or easterly side of the Bay of San Francisco. The extreme end of the main wharf is only three miles from the foot of Second street, where freight is landed in this city, and is less than two and a half miles from the foot of Pacific street, where passengers are set down on this (San Francisco) side.

It would be much more difficult to build such a long wharf with safety on our side of the bay, because the bottom here is a yielding mud; but on the Oakland side there is a hard clay bottom. Another point in favor of Oakland is that the destructive marine wood-eating worm, the teredo, is not found there at all. In these facts lie two of the greatest elements of strength and ability to bear great burdens of the new railway wharves across the bay, but only two of them. Nothing has been neglected in the quality of material used, and workmanship employed, to make the wharves the very best ever built in the United States. Experts in the construction of such work, and army and other engineers who are familiar with like structures in Europe and America, all agree in saying that for engineering skill, mechanical execution, and solidity and excellence of all the material employed, the work is not surpassed by any they ever examined. To make this plain, a few descriptive figures must be given. The piles used, where the water deepens, are 65 feet long, and are 42 to 54 inches in circumference, or as heavy as the main-mast of the largest clipper. They are all of the very best pine, which for lasting qualities under water is one of the very best kinds of wood. The main wharf—for a thousand feet east of the latter there are two wharves, one for Oakland local trains, and one for the regular freight and passenger cars of the through overland road—is 800 feet wide at the extreme or western end, and on it are pens for 500 cattle, two immense warehouses tone 50x500, another 62x600), with the passenger depot, 75x305 in size. The piles were driven into the bottom to a depth of 18 feet. They are set 10 feet apart, parallel with the course of the wharf, and 6 and 7 feet apart across it. In the docks, or slips, there is a double row of spring or fend-off piles, and the regularity and neatness with which they are laid is especially worthy of attention and admiration. Those who will examine the old slips into which the steamers used to run, or who remember those used at the Brooklyn, (N. Y.) ferries, will be able to appreciate the superiority of the Central Pacific slips. The upright piles on the last one thousand feet of the main wharf are braced with immense cross piles and iron anchors. Trains of heavily loaded freight cars pass over this gigantic structure with as little jar as over solid ground.

The massive new freight ferry-boat of the Central Pacific Company has been completed, and is now running from the Company's extensive wharves at the foot of Second street, in this city, to the Company's wharves and docks above described, on the Oakland side of the Bay. The boat carries 16 loaded cars on each trip, and has, in addition, pens for 300 cattle. She can carry from 1,000 to 1,280 tons each way per day, making the trip across the Bay (3 miles) in forty minutes, when loaded. A railroad now connects the Pacific Mail Company's dock and the Central Pacific wharf on this side, by means of which the cargoes of the China steamers can be immediately discharged into the Central Pacific freight cars, and thus the utmost dispatch will be attained in the shipment of teas, silks, and other fast freight intended for the Atlantic States and Europe.

The Central Pacific Company owns all of the Oakland water-fronton which its vast wharves are built. It has its own docks there, capable, as we have shown, of accommodating five of the largest clippers or steamers at a time. In future, all grain, ores, wool, wine, and other merchandise that are to be shipped to Europe or elsewhere, by water, will be discharged directly on shipboard from the cars at the end of the Company's wharf, while all steamers or other craft which come into this port with Oriental cargoes for the Atlantic States, will go direct to the Company's docks and unload into the cars. In this way, heavy wharfage, tolls, loss of time, double handling and its onerous attendant costs, will be avoided.

In addition to the main overland line, the Central Pacific Company owns the California and Oregon Railroad which is now completed to Tehama, 123 miles above Sacramento, toward Oregon; the San Joaquin Valley Road, which is completed to the Tuolumne River; the San Jose branch from Niles' Station, and the Alameda and Oakland Railroad. The two first named branches of the Central Pacific line run through our two great valleys—the Sacramento and San Joaquin. No country on earth offers a more princely traffic to railroads than do these two vast empire valleys.

In the building of these deep-water wharves and warehouses, the Central Pacific Company has omitted nothing which would] tend to facilitate business and reduce expenses on the Company's railroads. Mr. S. S. Montague, the Chief Engineer of the Central Pacific Road, and Mr. Arthur Brown, who built all the Howe-truss bridges on the road, planned and built the great wharves and warehouses which we have described, and the whole work stands as a fresh monument of the engineering talent of the one, and the mechanical skill and ability of the other.

Note By Editor Transcript.—While according infinite praise to Messrs. Montague and Brown for their genius in designing, no less praise is due to Mr. A. R. Guppy—the accomplished and indefatigable engineer who directed and superintended the work. We will add that the work done is only a small part of that which is designed.

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