[Trestle on Central Pacific Railroad]

Carleton Watkinsnegative 1877; print about 1880

The J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum
Los Angeles, United States

Although the load-bearing construction of the trestle is a central part of this image, Carleton Watkins trimmed many inches off this picture's edges in an attempt to focus attention on the figures rather than the landscape.

More than a dozen Chinese laborers work at laying these tracks in the Sierra Nevada mountains for the Central Pacific Railroad, supervised by a Caucasian foreman in a white shirt and vest. In the mid-1800s, the railroads turned to Chinese and Irish laborers to perform the dangerous work of constructing bridges and lying track in rugged deserts and mountainous terrain. The Central Pacific Railroad recruited many of its Chinese laborers from farms in southern China.


  • Title: [Trestle on Central Pacific Railroad]
  • Creator: Carleton Watkins
  • Date Created: negative 1877; print about 1880
  • Physical Dimensions: 20.5 × 31.4 cm (8 1/16 × 12 3/8 in.)
  • Type: Print
  • External Link: Find out more about this object on the Museum website.
  • Medium: Albumen silver print
  • Terms of Use: Open Content
  • Number: 94.XA.113.26
  • Culture: American
  • Credit Line: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift in memory of Leona Naef Merrill and in honor of her sister, Gladys Porterfield
  • Creator Display Name: Carleton Watkins (American, 1829 - 1916)
  • Classification: Photographs (Visual Works)

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