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Rocklin's granite roots found in and on rail lines

Rocks, Rails and Ranches
By: Gary Day, Special to the Placer Herald
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Editor’s Note: This is the second part of a three-part series on the industry that put Rocklin on the map. Part three was mistakenly published last week. The earliest documented evidence of Rocklin’s granite quarries appears to be a Sacramento Union newspaper article dated March 21, 1864. It tells of the construction of the eastbound leg of the transcontinental railroad reaching our area from Sacramento. That article, written before Rocklin had a name, described a 22-mile train ride of state legislators to the quarry at the end of the tracks. An article one week later said the Central Pacific’s first paid freight along their new rail line was three carloads of granite bound for a building project in San Francisco. Rocklin’s Capitol Quarry, now called the Big Gun Quarry, opened in September of that year providing granite building material, mainly granite blocks by rail, to build California’s Capitol building in Sacramento. But the main business of Rocklin’s quarries of the mid 1860s was to supply granite blocks for the new rail line’s tunnels and culverts. A biographical sketch from the 1860s tells of Michael Kelly and his 9-year-old son, Maurice, who delivered Rocklin granite blocks by oxcart for culverts all along the line as far as Auburn. Rocklin quarries also supplied riprap, chunks of waste granite, for hillside rail beds that allowed water to pass easily underneath the tracks. By 1880, at least six Rocklin quarries had shipped granite blocks for dozens of imposing granite structures, including Rocklin’s roundhouse (1866-67) and San Francisco’s Palace Hotel (1874). The industry shrunk to one quarry in the early 1880s as public projects dried up, but a better economy, machine-powered quarrying technology, and large numbers of hard working Irish and Finnish immigrants brought the quarries to their peak of activity by 1895 when at least 12 quarries operated. For more information about the Rocklin Area Historical Society, call 624-2355.