Workers laying tracks for Central Pacific Railroad at camp

Workers laying tracks for Central Pacific Railroad at camp "Victory," a few miles from Promontory, Utah, in May, 1869 (AP)

Michael Kwan thinks about the daily life of his great-great-grandfather in the 1860s, working 12-hour days on the Transcontinental Railroad. (AP)

Michael Kwan thinks about the daily life of his great-great-grandfather in the 1860s, working 12-hour days on the Transcontinental Railroad. (AP)

Chinese workers pause for a picture during their hard labor clearing a railroad bed. (LOC)

Chinese workers pause for a picture during their hard labor clearing a railroad bed. (LOC)

A Chinese worker carries his load with a rail tunnel in the background. (LOC)

A Chinese worker carries his load with a rail tunnel in the background. (LOC)

At a Promontory, Utah, celebration, Margaret Yee talks about how her ancestors helped build the Transcontinental Railroad. (AP)

At a Promontory, Utah, celebration, Margaret Yee talks about how her ancestors helped build the Transcontinental Railroad. (AP)

Remembering Rail Workers

Posted: July 1, 2019

Michael Kwan wonders: What was life like every day for his great-great grandfather?

His ancestor was alive back in the 1860s. He worked 12-hour days in California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range. He was one of the builders of the First Transcontinental Railroad!

“You're not talking about 12 hours sitting at a desk or sitting on a bench,” says Mr. Kwan. “You're talking about 12 hours of lifting and hammering and blowing things up.”

That work was very hard. And lots of Chinese immigrants did it. Twenty thousand of them worked on the Central Pacific part of the railroad, from California to Utah, between 1864 and 1869. Mormons, former slaves, and Irish people worked on the huge railroad too. But Chinese laborers were often the most poorly treated of all. They were often paid less than other workers. Many died in avalanches and explosions. Thousands of these workers are not even remembered by name.

Mr. Kwan is president of the Chinese Railroad Workers Descendants Association. His group is raising money for a statue of a Chinese railroad worker at Golden Spike National Historical Park. Mr. Kwan wants to remind Americans: Chinese-American people have been in the United States for more than 150 years. They helped make the railroad that made America!

Building the First Transcontinental Railroad took a lot of work. But all that work paid off when the very last track was laid. That track connected the two parts of a railroad system that stretched from west coast to east coast. Can you think of any Bible verses that talk about finishing what you start? What about verses about God finishing what He started? Check 2 Corinthians 8:11 and Philippians 1:6.