Chines Railroad Essay

Submitted By Karey77
Words: 810
Pages: 4

In Jack Chen’s essay, Linking a Continent and a Nation, Chen describes the rapid expansion of the railway system in the United States and the role the Chinese played in the laying of the Central Pacific’s line. Chen asserts that the completion of the Central Pacific line to the East could not have been completed as quickly or as cheaply had it not been for the contribution of the Chinese laborer. Though they were recognized and praised by many for their hard work and agreeable behavior, the decision to hire them on did not come without resistance, and as a predictable result, the Chinese were treated as second -class workers.
Dealing with the mounting pressures of Civil War and political allegiance, President Lincoln pushed for a transcontinental railway. Congress approved the plan and Theodore Judah was sent to California to survey the land and makes plans for the new railway. With the formation of the Central Pacific Railway Company by the “Big Four” and Theodore Judah, the western half of the transcontinental railway came to fruition. When the laying of the Central Pacific Eastbound line commenced in 1863, progress slowed to a trickle due to lack of white laborers who had found greener pastures in mining and other ventures. With little track being laid within the first year, Charles Crocker put forth the idea of hiring Chinese to carry on and complete the project, he believed that if the Chinese built the Great Wall, then with out a doubt they would be perfect for the construction of a railroad. Met first with opposition, it was soon realized that how critical the situation had become financially and a handful of Chinese workers were eventually hired on a trial basis.
The Chinese were quick to prove themselves as skilled and dedicated workers. They did not partake in many of the activities such as drinking or fighting like their white counter parts did after the workday was done. It could even be said that the Chinese were healthier. They sustained themselves on healthier diets of rice, dried meats, and vegetables, and bathed regularly. Keeping themselves hydrated on boiled tea also kept them from contracting illnesses such as dysentery from contaminated water supplies. The labor of the Chinese man was also cheaper than that of the white laborers. Not only were they paid less, they provided their own food and shelter on the job, whereas these essentials were provided for the white workers. Over the course of the construction of the transcontinental railway 15,000 Chinese workers were employed with the Central Pacific Railroad.
The Chinese proved to be an asset once again when the line approached the Sierra Nevada. They were able to employ techniques used in China to carve out tunnels and a line through the granite. When work slowed again due to the difficulty of tunneling through the granite, they were entrusted with the task of using nitro glycerin, a highly volatile substance, to blast their way through. Explosive were but one of the many perils these laborers encountered in the Sierras. There was the