Commemoration of Chinese narrow-gauge railwaymen


Members of the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Museum stand with David Yee, who holds the state proclamation.
Photo: Jerry Martini

A new Nevada County Historic Landmark Commission plaque dedicated to Chinese narrow gauge railroad workers was commemorated last month by members of the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum.

Local historians, government officials, as well as representatives of the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs were present.

The plaque reads:



In the rush to build the western section of the transcontinental railroad, the Central Pacific Railroad recruited more than 10,000 young men from China, creating a skilled and reliable workforce.

The new Chinese Narrow Gauge Railroad Workers Plaque is near the museum booth at the corner of Sacramento Street and Railroad Avenue in Nevada City.
Photo: Jerry Martini

When completed, many of these workers who had gone to America under an employment contract, returned home to China. Others stayed to find jobs building railroads across the United States



This site marks one end of the 22-mile Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad that connected Nevada City and Grass Valley to Colfax and the Central Pacific Railroad. After construction of the NCNGRR began in 1875, more than 300 Chinese immigrants worked to build the railroad. They built the railroad across the rough and rugged terrain between Colfax and Grass Valley by scaling canyons, filling in ravines, and preparing the way for bridges and trestles using hand tools, pulled scrapers by horses, handcarts and their determination. They completed the task early in 1876. Although considered more reliable than white workers, they were paid less.

When the railway was completed in 1876, most Chinese moved on to other railway construction projects; a few Chinese workers remained as track workers to maintain the NCNGRR. In addition to working on the railroad, several Chinese businessmen in Nevada City were investors and retained stock in the company well into the 20th century. The contributions of Chinese immigrants have been an essential element in the construction and success of the NCNGRR.

Representatives of the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs were present at the historic plaque rededication last month in Nevada City.
Photo: Jerry Martini
Nevada City Mayor Doug Fleming speaks during the commemoration.
Photo: Jerry Martini
A California Senate resolution is presented at the dedication of the Chinese narrow-gauge railway workers’ plaque last month.
Photo: Jerry Martini
Dr. David Yee, a member of the California Commission on Asian & Pacific Islander American Affairs, speaks at last month’s dedication. Yee also introduced a California state resolution honoring Chinese railroad workers, sponsored by state senators Richard Pan and Brian Dahle.
Photo: Jerry Martini

Photo: Jerry Martini

Photo: Jerry Martini
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