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Rocklin plays central role in early railroad days

Rocks, Rails and Ranches
By: Gary Day, Special to the Placer Herald
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In 1862, during the Civil War, the U.S. Congress authorized Federal incentives for construction of a rail line to connect eastern population centers with California. In January 1863 the Central Pacific Railroad started laying rails eastward from Sacramento according to plans proposed by Chief Engineer Theodore Judah. Later that year the Union Pacific Railroad started laying rails westward from a point near Omaha, Nebraska. In 1869 the tracks met at Promontory Summit, Utah, marking completion of the nation’s first Transcontinental Railroad. Judah’s plan in 1863 was to build a roundhouse at Junction, now Roseville, to service the extra engines that would be needed to help trains surmount the Sierra. But Judah died that year and new CP managers instead decided to build the roundhouse in Rocklin, closer to the point where the rail bed steepens as it heads toward Auburn. Also, the engines of the 1860s needed new fuel and water at regular intervals and Rocklin was at a more appropriate distance from Sacramento for a train’s first stop. The decision to build in Rocklin also reflected Rocklin’s proximity to large stands of oak and pine. Each engine required 16 cords of firewood on its strain to the Sierra summit. The Rocklin facility was located at the intersection of Front Street and Granite (now Rocklin Road) east of today’s Crossroads Church. Opened in May 1867, it included 25 engine stalls, a turntable, and an 8,000 square-foot woodshed. The next column will continue the history of Rocklin’s roundhouse. Gary Day is a member of the Rocklin Historical Society.