Plaque honoring Chinese Narrow Gauge rail workers in Nevada City

Editor’s note: I received this press release from the Nevada County Historical Landmarks Commission, and I’m pleased to republish it:

“The Nevada County Historical Landmarks Commission is pleased to announce that on March 22, 2022, the Nevada County Board of Supervisors designated the County’s newest historical landmark NEV 22-01 to commemorate the Chinese workers who were integral in building the Narrow Gauge Railroad.

“Applicant Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum is sponsoring a plaque which is expected to be placed this coming summer near the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad kiosk at the corner of Sacramento Street and Railroad Avenue in Nevada City. It will read:

“In the race to build the western portion of the Transcontinental Railroad, the Central Pacific Railroad recruited over 10,000 young men from China, creating a skilled and dependable work force. Upon completion many of these workers, who had come to America under contract for employment, returned home to China. Others remained to find employment building railroads throughout the United States.

“This site marks one end of the 22-mile Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad that connected Nevada City and Grass Valley with Colfax and the Central Pacific Railroad.

“After construction of the NCNGRR started in 1875, over 300 Chinese immigrants labored to build the railroad. They built the railroad grade over the rugged and uneven terrain between Colfax and Grass Valley, scaling canyons, filling ravines, and prepared the way for bridges and trestles. Using hand tools, horse drawn scrapers, hand carts and their determination, they completed the task in early 1876. Although considered more dependable than white workers, they were paid less.

“When the railroad was completed in 1876, most of the Chinese moved on to other railroad construction projects. A few Chinese workers remained as track workers maintaining the NCNGRR. Apart from laboring on the railroad, several Chinese businessmen in Nevada City were investors and retained stock in the company into the 20th century. The contributions of Chinese immigrants were an essential element in the building and success of the NCNGRR.

“The purpose of the Nevada County Historical Landmarks Commission is to promote the general welfare of Nevada County and its citizens through official recognition, recording, marking, preserving, and promoting the historical resources of Nevada County.

“The plaque will be featured in the next edition of the Commission’s interactive map and e-guide.

“Please visit for information on digital and hard copies of our book.”

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.

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