In the late fall of 1864 the Sacramento Valley Railroad (the rival of the Central Pacific) arranged to make a record trip from Freeport to Virginia City by the Placerville route. Though the officials endeavored to keep the matter secret, it leaked out and immediately the Central Pacific planned to circumvent their aim. They stationed relays along their own line to compete, and Nature and Fate seemed to come to their aid. A fierce storm arose the day before the start was to be made, and it fell heavier on the Placerville than on the other route. Though the drivers of each line did their utmost, feeling their own personal honor, as well as that of their company at stake, the heavy rains at Strawberry arrested the Placerville stage and made further progress impossible, while the other route was enabled to complete its trip on record time. Mr. L.L. Robinson, the Superintendent of the Sacramento Valley Railroad, who himself accompanied the stage, wired from Strawberry, “Heavy rains, heavy roads, slow time”—reluctant to own a possible defeat. But the Sacramento Union, the organ of the Central Pacific, came out the next morning with glowing accounts of the successful run of the stages over the Emigrant Gap route and ridiculed Mr. Robinson’s telegram, ironically comparing it with Caesar’s classic message to the Roman Senate: “Veni, Vidi, Vici.”
It was such struggles for local business as this that led the San Francisco Alta California, a paper bitterly opposed to the Central Pacific, to denounce the railway, in 1866, as the “Dutch Flat Swindle.” It claimed that the railway would never be built further than Alta and that it was built so far only for the purpose of controlling passenger and freight traffic over their wagon road to Virginia City and other Nevada points. Other San Francisco papers joined in the fight and so energetically was it conducted, and so powerful became the opposition that they actually prevailed upon the people of San Francisco to repudiate their contract to purchase a million dollars’ worth of Central Pacific stock and compromise by practically making the railroad company a present of $600,000 (which had already been expended) provided they would release the City and County from their pledge to raise the remaining $400,000.
The folly of this action is now so apparent that it is hard to conceive how even political and civic jealousy or hatred could have been so blinded to self-interest. The Central Pacific engineers had undertaken one of the most difficult pieces of railway engineering in the world, and the financiers of the company were having an equally desperate struggle. During the Civil War the finances of the nation were at a low ebb and money was exceedingly difficult to secure. Yet in spite of all obstacles the company had gone ahead in perfect good faith, and at that very time were hauling rails and track material from Alta, and soon from Cisco, to Truckee (then called Coburn Station on the old Emigrant Gap road), and had actually built the railroad from Truckee down into Nevada and as far east as Wadsworth, or a little beyond, before the tunnel at Summit was completed.