IN WHICH PHILEAS FOGG AND PARTY TRAVEL BY THE PACIFIC RAILROAD
"From ocean to ocean"—so say the Americans; and these four words
compose the general designation of the "great trunk line" which crosses
the entire width of the United States. The Pacific Railroad is,
however, really divided into two distinct lines: the Central Pacific,
between San Francisco and Ogden, and the Union Pacific, between Ogden
and Omaha. Five main lines connect Omaha with New York.
New York and San Francisco are thus united by an uninterrupted metal
ribbon, which measures no less than three thousand seven hundred and
eighty-six miles. Between Omaha and the Pacific the railway crosses a
territory which is still infested by Indians and wild beasts, and a
large tract which the Mormons, after they were driven from Illinois in
1845, began to colonise.
The journey from New York to San Francisco consumed, formerly, under
the most favourable conditions, at least six months. It is now
accomplished in seven days.
It was in 1862 that, in spite of the Southern Members of Congress, who
wished a more southerly route, it was decided to lay the road between
the forty-first and forty-second parallels. President Lincoln himself
fixed the end of the line at Omaha, in Nebraska. The work was at once
commenced, and pursued with true American energy; nor did the rapidity
with which it went on injuriously affect its good execution. The road
grew, on the prairies, a mile and a half a day. A locomotive, running
on the rails laid down the evening before, brought the rails to be laid
on the morrow, and advanced upon them as fast as they were put in
The Pacific Railroad is joined by several branches in Iowa, Kansas,
Colorado, and Oregon. On leaving Omaha, it passes along the left bank
of the Platte River as far as the junction of its northern branch,
follows its southern branch, crosses the Laramie territory and the
Wahsatch Mountains, turns the Great Salt Lake, and reaches Salt Lake
City, the Mormon capital, plunges into the Tuilla Valley, across the
American Desert, Cedar and Humboldt Mountains, the Sierra Nevada, and
descends, via Sacramento, to the Pacific—its grade, even on the Rocky
Mountains, never exceeding one hundred and twelve feet to the mile.
Such was the road to be traversed in seven days, which would enable
Phileas Fogg—at least, so he hoped—to take the Atlantic steamer at
New York on the 11th for Liverpool.
The car which he occupied was a sort of long omnibus on eight wheels,
and with no compartments in the interior. It was supplied with two
rows of seats, perpendicular to the direction of the train on either
side of an aisle which conducted to the front and rear platforms.
These platforms were found throughout the train, and the passengers
were able to pass from one end of the train to the other. It was
supplied with saloon cars, balcony cars, restaurants, and smoking-cars;
theatre cars alone were wanting, and they will have these some day.
Book and news dealers, sellers of edibles, drinkables, and cigars, who
seemed to have plenty of customers, were continually circulating in the
The train left Oakland station at six o'clock. It was already night,
cold and cheerless, the heavens being overcast with clouds which seemed
to threaten snow. The train did not proceed rapidly; counting the
stoppages, it did not run more than twenty miles an hour, which was a
sufficient speed, however, to enable it to reach Omaha within its
There was but little conversation in the car, and soon many of the
passengers were overcome with sleep. Passepartout found himself beside
the detective; but he did not talk to him. After recent events, their
relations with each other had grown somewhat cold; there could no
longer be mutual sympathy or intimacy between them. Fix's manner had
not changed; but Passepartout was very reserved, and ready to strangle
his former friend on the slightest provocation.
Snow began to fall an hour after they started, a fine snow, however,
which happily could not obstruct the train; nothing could be seen from
the windows but a vast, white sheet, against which the smoke of the
locomotive had a greyish aspect.
At eight o'clock a steward entered the car and announced that the time
for going to bed had arrived; and in a few minutes the car was
transformed into a dormitory. The backs of the seats were thrown back,
bedsteads carefully packed were rolled out by an ingenious system,
berths were suddenly improvised, and each traveller had soon at his
disposition a comfortable bed, protected from curious eyes by thick
curtains. The sheets were clean and the pillows soft. It only
remained to go to bed and sleep which everybody did—while the train
sped on across the State of California.
The country between San Francisco and Sacramento is not very hilly.
The Central Pacific, taking Sacramento for its starting-point, extends
eastward to meet the road from Omaha. The line from San Francisco to
Sacramento runs in a north-easterly direction, along the American
River, which empties into San Pablo Bay. The one hundred and twenty
miles between these cities were accomplished in six hours, and towards
midnight, while fast asleep, the travellers passed through Sacramento;
so that they saw nothing of that important place, the seat of the State
government, with its fine quays, its broad streets, its noble hotels,
squares, and churches.
The train, on leaving Sacramento, and passing the junction, Roclin,
Auburn, and Colfax, entered the range of the Sierra Nevada. 'Cisco was
reached at seven in the morning; and an hour later the dormitory was
transformed into an ordinary car, and the travellers could observe the
picturesque beauties of the mountain region through which they were
steaming. The railway track wound in and out among the passes, now
approaching the mountain-sides, now suspended over precipices, avoiding
abrupt angles by bold curves, plunging into narrow defiles, which
seemed to have no outlet. The locomotive, its great funnel emitting a
weird light, with its sharp bell, and its cow-catcher extended like a
spur, mingled its shrieks and bellowings with the noise of torrents and
cascades, and twined its smoke among the branches of the gigantic pines.
There were few or no bridges or tunnels on the route. The railway
turned around the sides of the mountains, and did not attempt to
violate nature by taking the shortest cut from one point to another.
The train entered the State of Nevada through the Carson Valley about
nine o'clock, going always northeasterly; and at midday reached Reno,
where there was a delay of twenty minutes for breakfast.
From this point the road, running along Humboldt River, passed
northward for several miles by its banks; then it turned eastward, and
kept by the river until it reached the Humboldt Range, nearly at the
extreme eastern limit of Nevada.
Having breakfasted, Mr. Fogg and his companions resumed their places in
the car, and observed the varied landscape which unfolded itself as
they passed along the vast prairies, the mountains lining the horizon,
and the creeks, with their frothy, foaming streams. Sometimes a great
herd of buffaloes, massing together in the distance, seemed like a
moveable dam. These innumerable multitudes of ruminating beasts often
form an insurmountable obstacle to the passage of the trains; thousands
of them have been seen passing over the track for hours together, in
compact ranks. The locomotive is then forced to stop and wait till the
road is once more clear.
This happened, indeed, to the train in which Mr. Fogg was travelling.
About twelve o'clock a troop of ten or twelve thousand head of buffalo
encumbered the track. The locomotive, slackening its speed, tried to
clear the way with its cow-catcher; but the mass of animals was too
great. The buffaloes marched along with a tranquil gait, uttering now
and then deafening bellowings. There was no use of interrupting them,
for, having taken a particular direction, nothing can moderate and
change their course; it is a torrent of living flesh which no dam could
The travellers gazed on this curious spectacle from the platforms; but
Phileas Fogg, who had the most reason of all to be in a hurry, remained
in his seat, and waited philosophically until it should please the
buffaloes to get out of the way.
Passepartout was furious at the delay they occasioned, and longed to
discharge his arsenal of revolvers upon them.
"What a country!" cried he. "Mere cattle stop the trains, and go by in
a procession, just as if they were not impeding travel! Parbleu! I
should like to know if Mr. Fogg foresaw this mishap in his programme!
And here's an engineer who doesn't dare to run the locomotive into this
herd of beasts!"
The engineer did not try to overcome the obstacle, and he was wise. He
would have crushed the first buffaloes, no doubt, with the cow-catcher;
but the locomotive, however powerful, would soon have been checked, the
train would inevitably have been thrown off the track, and would then
have been helpless.
The best course was to wait patiently, and regain the lost time by
greater speed when the obstacle was removed. The procession of
buffaloes lasted three full hours, and it was night before the track
was clear. The last ranks of the herd were now passing over the rails,
while the first had already disappeared below the southern horizon.
It was eight o'clock when the train passed through the defiles of the
Humboldt Range, and half-past nine when it penetrated Utah, the region
of the Great Salt Lake, the singular colony of the Mormons.