Construction On The T&T

By C. B. Glasscock
from Clarence Rasor's personalized copy of
"Here's Death Valley"

The title of General Superintendent was given to him {John Ryan - ed.} by Wash Cahill, whom he established at Ludlow to take charge of the office work and a multitude of other responsibilities in the construction of the line. Cahill soon found that requisitions for mules, hay, grain, scrapers, ties, rails, groceries and incidentals which he was constantly writing, needed more authority than the commonplace name - John Ryan. So he {Cahill - ed.} appended: "Gen. Supt., T. & T. R. R." Ryan laughed, and let it go at that. If Cahill found that a few odd words and letters under John Ryan's name made his own job easier, that was all right.

Labor was the chief difficulty encountered in the building of that road. The problem was to get any sort of manual labor.

It happened that on two occasions during the construction of that railroad, I {Glasscock - ed.} had occasion to travel over it from Ludlow to the end of track, wherever that might be. A Santa Fe passenger train from Los Angeles reached Ludlow about three o'clock in the morning. The accomodation-construction train left Ludlow over the new T. & T. tracks about five. Even the saloons in Ludlow were uninviting between three and five A.M. The railroad waiting-room seemed to be the logical place to wait. But Mexican laborers always lay thickly on the benches and floor of the little waiting-room. It was not conducive to the comfort of the other travelers. It was pleasanter to pace the platform for two hours until one could climb into the accomodation car. The Mexicans were always there. Individually they came and went with such regularity that there were always fifteen to twenty in that small waiting-room. Fifteen or twenty days of work, with grub included, would give them sufficient money for fifteen or twenty days of ease and luxury around the Los Angeles Plaza. Then they could go back to the T. & T. for another fifteen or twenty days.

The labor turnover was enormous, especially in the summer, when the sun can be very hot on the Amargosa. It worried Wash Cahill. He couldn't keep enough men on the payrolls to speed the work as it should be speeded. In desperation Cahill engaged one hundred Japanese laborers from Los Angeles.

"Those one hundred Japs arrived," says Mr. Cahill, "and it was hot. Shortly before the Fourth of July, I remember. And every one of them had a bedroll as big as that rolltop desk there in the corner. Those bedrolls alone filled a box car."
 
"We fixed them up with tents and cots, and put them to work. The big dining tent was stretched over a frame on a plank platform with walls of three or four boards below the canvas, right alongside the railroad track."

"Now those of us Americans who have seen the Japanese gardeners, men and women, working from daylight to dark in the truck gardens of Southern California, stooping and squatting, and picking and cultivating and weeding hour after hour, may have an idea that they are a tough and industrious people. No doubt they are. But they didn't have what it took for construction work on the T. & T."

"A day or two after they arrived I went out to see how they were getting along. Out of the hundred men, only seventeen were working. And out of those seventeen only eight were handling picks and shovels. The other nine were spraying them with water, by precisely the same skillful but unlovely method that the old time Chinese laundrymen sprayed the clothes for ironing. A mouthful of water and a 'whoosh' sprinkled each coolie as fast as the human spray could operate."

"On the Fourth of July it appeared that one reason their bedrolls were so large was tht each contained a jug of saki. And the whole lot of them got drunk. Between the firewater inside and the sun outside, their dining tent got so hot that some of them decided to roll up the sides and let the wind come through. They loosened the canvas sidewalls and tied the guy ropes to the railroad track. The first construction locomotive that came by cut all the guy ropes. The wind did the rest, and it did it promptly and completely."


Two of the large tents at end of track, just
north of Sperry in the Amargosa Canyon.

"Their 'book man', that is the Japanese overseer sent out by the labot contractor to look after them and translate for the construction foreman, came hurrying up to the office. He said he wanted to send a telegram to his boss in Los Angeles. He had it all written out. A masterpiece of condensation, not to say understatement. It was simply this: 'WE HAVE NO HOME.' "

"Certainly they didn't have a home with us any longer. We shipped them all back to Los Angeles on the next train."

 

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07/01/2007