Friday July 25, 2014
history podcasts
printer friendly version

01-078 Charlie Crocker's Ten Mile Day

Friday Jul 25, 2014

Lead: Building a transcontinental railroad wasn't easy. Great sacrifices had to be made. Charlie Crocker's men lay ten miles of track in one day and won Charlie $10,000.

Intro: A Moment In Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: In late October 1868, Thomas C. Durant, President of the Union Pacific Railroad, watched as his workers laid seven and three-quarter miles of track, a record for a single day's work. He then immediately cabled Charlie Crocker, chief engineer of the Central Pacific, who was working eastward on the first continental rail link. He wagered $10,000 that the Union Pacific's record could not be broken. Crocker thought he could beat it, accepted the bet, and bragged that his crew could lay ten miles of track in a single day.

The next spring, Crocker put his plan into practice. He had been waiting for a flat, straight stretch of ground and a very smooth grade. As additional insurance he wanted his end of the track so close to the onrushing Union Pacific that Durant would have no opportunity to set a new record before they met. April 28, 1869 dawned clear in the Utah desert. The whistle blew and they were off. Ten cars brought the rails, spikes, and bolts forward. The track layers, four of them working each side of the roadbed, grabbed each 600-pound rail with tongs, two men at each end, and slapped it down within inches of the previously placed rail. Then the rail-straighteners were followed by the spikers who put the rail into place.

All day long they worked. At 1:30, with six miles of track finished, every man took his full time for lunch and rest. Hour after hour the rails flew down and when the final signal came at dusk the exhausted workers had laid ten miles and 56 feet of good track. On that day Charlie Crocker's men laid 25,000 ties and 3500 rails, an incredible 2,000,000 pounds of iron, and Charlie Crocker won $10,000.

The Producer of A Moment In Time is Steve Clark. At the University of Richmond, this is Dan Roberts.


Brown, D. Alexander. Hear that Lonesome Whistle Blow: Railroads in the West. New York: Holt, Rienhart and Winston, 1977.

Silver, John F. Iron Road to the West: American Railroads in the 1850s. New York: Columbia University Press, 1978.

Williams, John Hoyt. A Great and Shining Road, the Epic Story of the Transcontinental Railroad. New York: Times Books, 1988.

Copyright 2014 by Dan Roberts Enterprises, Inc.


Welcome to with Dan Roberts!

A Moment In Time has made history come alive to all audiences (history enthusiasts and novices, alike) with its short segments on all the important events of human history.  Yet A Moment In Time has not stopped there and is always working to make all of this crucial information more accessible.

Now with podcasts (audio and video), TV segments and more, is the handiest source of AMIT transcripts, audio, video, podcast, and RSS feeds of the internationally acclaimed public radio segment created, hosted and produced by Dan Roberts. 

Visit regularly to read, hear and see the daily segments of AMIT or to find locations at which you can hear Dan Roberts speak live. And sign up to receive daily transcripts of A Moment In Time in your e-mail!

Copyright by Dan Roberts Enterprises, Inc.