Theodore Judah
Many people talked about connecting California to the rest of the nation by rail, but an industrious civil engineer proved it was possible. Theodore D. Judah was brought to California from upstate New York by the promoters of the Sacramento Valley Rail Road. Finishing that project in 1856, he turned his attention to the dream of a railroad across the continent, becoming its most passionate advocate. He lobbied for the enterprise in Washington, and in 1861 helped persuade a group of merchants to incorporate the Central Pacific Railroad in Sacramento. Four of these investors became famous as the "Big Four" of California business and politics. As Chief Engineer, Judah surveyed much of the route over the Sierra Nevada, but had a falling out with his partners not long after the start of track construction. He planned to buy out the others, but contracted yellow fever in Panama while on his way to New York to raise funds. He died in November 1863, less than a month after the locomotive Gov. Stanford arrived in Sacramento.