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  • Emily Pan

Evidence the Chinese Built the Railroads

Updated: Jul 6, 2020

Evidence from the Southern Pacific Railway Company and Howard Louis that the Chinese Built the San Luis Obispo railraods (Image Courtesy of History Center of San Luis Obispo)

The Chinese played a significant role in building the railraods that ran through San Luis Obispo County. In 1980, the San Luis Obispo Weekly Tribune published an article saying the Chinese did not build the railraods that run through San Luis Obispo. However, this article sparked much controversy. But with the evidence gathered, it is evident that the Chinese did indeed build the railraods. As stated by the Southern Pacific Railway Company, "Cuesta Pass posed a difficult challenge to railraod builders. The railroad reached the east side of the pass in 1889, but it wasn't until 1894 that it was completed over the mountains to San Luis Obispo. Eight tunnels had to be carved with hand tools and dynamite. Some 2000 Chinese worked on the $1.8 million project. On March 31, 1901, the line between San Francisco and Los Angeles was opened for service" (Louis).

In addition, the freight bills show an increase in the amount of rice bought, explaining that there were a lot more Chinese than normal. The orders showed only 2,100 pounds of rice in 1888, but a significant jump to 10,050 pounds of rice in 1891.

To watch a video learn more about the Chinese Contribution to the San Luis Obispo Railraod, click here. For more information on the role the Chinese played in the Pacific Coast and Southern pacific railroad Companies, click here.

Works Cited

Louis, Howard "Letters to the Editor" San Luis Obispo Telegram Tribune, 1980


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