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Feb. 5, 1883 - Espee completes Sunset Route

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  • deadeye_dolly
    Feb. 5, 1883 - Southern Pacific Railroad completes Sunset Route The Southern Pacific Railroad completes its transcontinental Sunset Route from New Orleans
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 5, 2005
      Feb. 5, 1883 - Southern Pacific Railroad completes "Sunset Route"

      The Southern Pacific Railroad completes its transcontinental "Sunset
      Route" from New Orleans to California, consolidating its dominance
      over rail traffic to the Pacific.

      One of the most powerful railroad companies of the 19th century,
      the "Espee" (as the railroad was often called) originated in an
      ambitious plan conceived in 1870 by the "Big Four" western railroad
      barons: Collis P. Huntington, Charles Crocker, Leland Stanford, and
      Mark Hopkins. A year earlier, the Big Four's western-based Central
      Pacific had linked up with the eastern-based Union Pacific in Utah,
      creating the first transcontinental American railway. With that
      finished, the "Big Four" began to look for ways to increase their
      control over West Coast shipping, and decided to focus their efforts
      on extending the California-based Southern Pacific southward.

      By 1877, the Southern Pacific controlled 85 percent of California's
      railroad mileage. Huntington, who now dominated the company, saw an
      excellent opportunity to create a transcontinental line through the
      southern United States. Huntington had to act fast if was to beat
      the competition. The Texas and Pacific Railroad was already pushing
      westward toward the Pacific at a fast pace. Marshalling his awesome
      energy and financial resources, Huntington began driving his
      Southern Pacific line eastward. He won the race in 1881, when he
      linked the Southern Pacific to the Santa Fe Railroad at Deming, New
      Mexico, creating the second American transcontinental railway. Two
      years later, on February 5, 1883, Huntington gained full control of
      a number of smaller railroads, creating the Southern
      Pacific's "Sunset Route" from New Orleans to California.

      With the "Sunset Route," Huntington confirmed his domination over
      California rails. He had taken considerable financial risks to build
      the Southern Pacific system, and he collected very considerable
      financial rewards. The Southern Pacific had a near monopoly over
      rail service to California, and Huntington and his associates took
      advantage of the situation by charging high shipping rates.

      Termed "the Octopus" for its tentacled stranglehold on much of the
      California economy, the Southern Pacific inspired Californians to
      create some of the first strong public regulations over railroads in
      American history. But despite the anger and outrage Huntington's
      exploitation inspired, few would deny that the mighty Southern
      Pacific Railroad played an essential role in fostering the growth of
      a vibrant California economy for decades to come.

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