Railroad Repeats

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Trestle at Clipper Ravine     38°58'27.84"N, 121°0'22.74"W


Hart shot this photograph from below the same trestle shown in "Trestle in Clipper Ravine" (14/29). It emphasizes the ingenious but not very durable bridging techniques that used local materials and allowed quick construction. These trestles were vulnerable to weather, fire and rot. Again, the priority in railroad construction was to keep the grade of the track as level as possible. Considerable engineering was necessary to force this kind of linearity on the rolling and mountainous California landscape. From The Pacific Tourist, 1884: "Leaving Colfax, [and headed West,] the tourist may become more interested in the forms of vegetation and will notice the Manzanita, common to all the foothills of California. It will be seen towards the Geysers and the Yosemite of much larger growth. It is a queer bush, and like the madrona, it does not shed its leaf, but sheds its bark. Its small, red berry ripens in the fall and is gathered and eaten by the Indians. Crooked canes made from its wood are much esteemed. The bark is very delicate until varnished and dried, and great care should be taken in transporting them when first cut. The foothills are partly covered with chaparral, consisting mostly of a low evergreen oak, which, in early days afforded secure hiding places for Mexican robbers, and now accommodates with cheap lodgings, many a 'road agent' when supplied from Wells, Fargo & Company's treasure boxes. The white blossoms of the ceanothus fill the air with fragrance in April and May" (Shearer, 257).


The modern photograph shows how the railroad company eventually filled the ravine, burying the trestle under tons of earth. Note the modern freight train passing above. The old Central Pacific route lacks the infrastructure necessary to move the modern double stack of container cars.