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The Metal Toy Soldiers of Wm. Hocker, Proprietor

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Conestoga Wagon and Central Pacific Rail Gang

Bill Hocker - 8Mar11 8:39PM

As you may have noticed, the American West series has been progressing quite slowly (now one and a half years since the prototypes were first shown.) Two more sets are finally in production: #412 Conestoga Wagon, 1841 and #416 Central Pacific Rail Gang, 1869.

Only 4 sets yet to finish!

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1. Bill Hocker - 8Mar11 8:40PM

The Rail Gang's handcart is the only working toy done in this series: Push it down the track and the men begin pumping.
2. Randy Bond - 9Mar11 3:42AM


These are wonderful sets. I am especially taken with the Rail gang. Kudos to you for this tribute to the work of the Chinese laborers who did the lion's share of the work and then were intentionally left out of the 1869 photograph of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. Here is part of that story from a website with a page honoring Asian and Pacific Americans:

The First Transcontinental Railroad, built between 1863 and 1869, was the first railroad that linked both coasts of the United States. It is recognized as one of the greatest technological achievements of the 19th century. On the day the railroad began construction, a trip from Boston to Sacramento took 6 months. On the day the railroad was completed, it took 8 days. The railroad is known as one of the main instruments in the changing of America as people began to move westward and forming this country into the industrial power it is today.

Built in two sections of railroad, it was built by two railroad companies, the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific. The Union Pacific began their stretch of railroad in July of 1862 at Omaha Nebraska, stretching west towards Utah. The Central Pacific began its stretch of railroad in January 1863 at Sacramento California, stretching east towards Utah to be eventually united with the Union Pacific line.

While the Union Pacific employed mostly Irish immigrants and ex Civil War veterans, the Central Pacific found it difficult to find employees. At the beginning of 1864 it needed nearly 5000 workers. It only had 600 on the payroll.

Chinese labor was considered as they had already worked on other railroads in California. The first Chinese were hired in 1865, at $28 dollars a month to do the extremely difficult jobs of blasting pathways through hard, tough granite that formed the high Sierra Nevada Mountains. Work in the beginning was slow and difficult. After the first 23 miles, the Central Pacific faced the daunting task of laying tracks over terrain that rose 7,000 feet in 100 miles. To conquer the many sheer embankments, the Chinese workers used techniques they had learned in China to complete similar tasks. They were lowered by ropes from the top of cliffs in baskets, and while suspended, they chipped away at the granite and planted explosives that were used to blast tunnels. Many workers risked their lives and perished in the harsh winters and dangerous conditions. By the summer of 1868, 4,000 workers, two thirds of which were Chinese, had built the transcontinental railroad east over the Sierras and into the interior plains.

On May 10, 1869, the two railroads were unified at Promontory, Utah in front of a cheering crowd and a band. A Chinese and Irish crew was chosen to lay the final ten miles of track, and it was completed in only twelve hours, a single day record that stands today. A golden spike was used as the final spike to unify the two railroads as one.

3. Bill Hocker - 9Mar11 10:54AM


Thanks for not making too big a deal about my obvious mixup of the two railroad companies. I often tell people (who assume that I must be a historian) that I learn just enough so as not to embarrass myself. As you were polite enough not to mention, I'm not entirely successful even at that.
4. Randy Bond - 9Mar11 12:48PM


I did not know this either until reading that web page this AM. Here is a photo by A. J. Russell who later took the iconic image showing the 2 trains meeting at Promontory Point Utah in 1869. You will see 2 Chinese workers in the photo--one on the left and one in the center.

From: Chinese Workers & Transcontinental RR

"When the railroad was completed on May 10, 1869, an eight man Chinese crew was selected to place the last section of rail – a symbol to honor the dedication and hard work of these laborers. A few of the speakers mentioned the invaluable contributions of the Chinese ... " —National Park Service

"The more famous A.J. Russell photograph could not include the Chinese workers photographed earlier participating in the joining of the rails ceremony because at the moment the famous photo was being taken it was after the conclusion of the ceremony and the Chinese workers were away from the two locomotives to dine at J.H. Strobridge's boarding car, being honored and cheered by the CPRR management.

Ging Cui, Wong Fook, and Lee Shao, three of the eight Chinese CPRR workers who brought up the last rail at Promontory Summit on May 10th, 1869 also participated in the Ogden 1919 50th Anniversary Celebration.

CPRR foreman, Amos L. Bowsher, who wired the telegraphic connection at Promontory which sent the word out over the wires that the last spike had been driven later recalled: "It was certainly a cosmopolitan gathering. Irish and Chinese laborers who had set records in track laying that have never since been equalled joined with the cowboys, Mormons, miners and Indians in celebrating completion of the railroad."

Since 1983