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Fuel for the railroads across America

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Where Did The U.P. Get Wood For The Railroad Across America

When building the Transcontinental Railroad across the barren Nebraska plains, the Union Pacific Railroad had endless aggravation obtaining railroad ties. The only timber available was the pulpy cottonwood tree, which grew along the edges of Nebraska's rivers and streams. The U.P. made due with this poor choice by preserving the cottonwood tie with a solution of zinc chloride. These treated ties were interspersed with freighted-in oak and cedar ties on a ratio of four "junk" cottonwood ties to one good cedar or oak tie.

Getting lumber for the trestles was an even bigger problem. There was no room for junk lumber in a railroad trestle! Therefore, tress were felled in Minnesota, floated down the Mississippi to the confluence with the Missouri, than barged to Omaha, where they were milled cut to specific size for the specific trestle, then transported as far as possible by rail, then by horse drawn wagons to the location of the trestle, which was usually many miles ahead of the track laying crew. One historian claims that the wood for one specific trestle was cut and milled to fit in Michigan, then shipped to Omaha. Good wood jsut wasn't available in Nebraska!


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