Railroad Repeats

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Inside of Snow Gallery at Summit     39°18'39.12"N, 120°18'26.88"W


This photograph shows the construction of the original snow sheds. Workers are visible in the background of the picture. These sheds were one of the signature features of the Central Pacific route. Without them, the route would not have been possible during the winters. They, however, had dangers of their own since they were liable to catch fire from passing locomotives, and they made the life of a brakeman, who braked the cars with handbrakes on the top of cars, more dangerous still. Maintaining the sheds involved constant investment and labor.

Crofutt on the summit snow sheds p. 163- “The snow sheds are solid structures, built of sawed and round timber, completely roofing in the road for many miles. When the road was completed, there were 23 miles of shed built, at an actual cost of $10,000 per mile. With the additions since made the line reached about 45 miles, which includes the whole length of the deep snow line on the dividing ridge. When we consider that along the summit the snow falls from 16 to 20 feet deep during a wet winter, we can imagine the necessity and importance of these structures. By this means the track is as clear from snow in the winter as in the valleys. The mighty avalanches which sweep down the mountain sides in the spring, bearing everything before them, pass over the sloping roofs of the sheds and plunge into the chasms below, while beneath the rushing mass the cars glide smoothly along, the passengers hardly knowing but what they are in the midst of a tunnel.”

Shearer on snow sheds p. 241 “The snow sheds, so important to winter travel, are found east of Strong’s Canon, and west of Emigrant Gap, wherever there is no side hill, and the removal of the snow would be difficult for the plow. Between these two stations, they are without break, except for tunnels and bridges. In all, there are about 40 miles of the sheds.”

“They are of two kinds, the flat roof, built to hold the weight of 25 or 30 feet of snow, or slide it down the mountain side, and those with the pitched or steep roof, and “batter brace.” The massiveness of the huge pine trunks, or sawed timbers, twelve or sixteen inches on a side, may be easily seen from the cars. The cost per mile varied from $8,000 to $10,000, and where it was necessary to build heavy retaining walls of masonry, some dry and some cement walls, the cost was at the rate of $30,000 per mile. Sometimes the heavy square timbers are bolted to the solid ledge, that avalanches may be carried by, and the sheds remain.”


The modern photograph shows a point where the snow sheds connected with a tunnel. The sheds are now gone, but some of the hardware remains. The original timber long ago rotted or burned away and replacement timber is now so much debris.