Railroad Journeys – Donner Summit

Duration: 1:01:45

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Treacherous and beautiful… infamous and magnificent. These words describe the 8,000-foot, wind-swept, snow-covered summit of Donner’s Pass in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. Named after the ill-fated party of immigrants that lost over half of its number in their tragic attempt to cross it, Donner’s Pass was every bit as resistant to the Central Pacific Railroad’s efforts to build a transcontinental rail line back in 1863. It took six years and an army of almost 10,000 men using only hand tools to carve a safe passage through the mountains. Today, this 140-mile stretch of double-tracked mainline rail operations is still one of the most difficult climbs in American railroading. Steep grades, sharp curves, and cruel weather place staggering obstacles in the path of trains that have been making the difficult trek for the last 130 years.