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Chinese Narrow Gauge rail workers commemorated

Submitted to The Union
Members of the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Museum stand with David Yee, who holds the State proclamation.
Photo: Jerry Martini

A new Nevada County Historical Landmarks Commission plaque dedicated to the Chinese Narrow Gauge Rail 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 & Pacific Islander American Affairs were in attendance.

The plaque reads as follows:



In the race to build the Western portion of the Transcontinental Railroad, the Central Pacific Railroad recruited over 10,000 young men from China, creating a skilled and dependable work force.

The new Chinese Narrow Gauge Railroad Worker Plaque sits near the Museum’s kiosk at the corner of Sacramento Street and Railroad Avenue in Nevada City.
Photo: Jerry Martini

Upon completion many of these workers who had gone to America under contract for employment, returned home to China. Others remained to find employment building railroads throughout the United States



This site marks one end of the 22-mile Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad that connected Nevada City and Grass Valley with Colfax and the Central Pacific Railroad. After construction of the NCNGRR started in 1875, over 300 Chinese immigrants labored to build the railroad. They built the railroad grade over the rugged and uneven terrain between Colfax and Grass Valley scaling canyons, filling ravines, and prepared the way for bridges and trestles using hand tools, horse drawn scrapers, hand carts, and their determination. They completed the task in early 1876. Although considered more dependable than white workers, they were paid less.

When the railroad was completed in 1876 most of the Chinese moved on to other railroad construction projects; a few Chinese workers remained as track workers maintaining the NCNGRR. Apart from laboring on the railroad, several Chinese businessmen in Nevada City were investors and retained stock in the company into the 20th century. The contributions of Chinese immigrants were an essential element in the building and success of the NCNGRR.

Representatives of the California Commission on Asian & Pacific Islander American Affairs were in attendance of last month’s new historical plaque dedication in Nevada City.
Photo: Jerry Martini
Nevada City Mayor Doug Fleming speaks during the commemoration.
Photo: Jerry Martini
A California Senate resolution is presented during last month’s Chinese Narrow Gauge Railroad Worker plaque dedication.
Photo: Jerry Martini
Dr. David Yee, a member of the California Commission on Asian & Pacific Islander American Affairs, speaks during last month’s dedication. Yee also presented a California State resolution honoring the Chinese rail workers, sponsored by state Senators Richard Pan and Brian Dahle.
Photo: Jerry Martini

Photo: Jerry Martini

Photo: Jerry Martini
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