Tunnel 6

Tunnel 6 (HM1JSD)

Location: Truckee, CA 96161
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Country: United States of America
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N 39° 19.022', W 120° 19.789'

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Hwy 40 Scenic Bypass

History 1866 - Right here
Bam, bam, quarter turn; Bam, bam, quarter turn; Bam, bam, quarter turn; all day long, three shifts a day, day after day, week after week. Chinese workers pounded away at the solid granite. One worker held a star bit, turning it a quarter turn as two other workers pounded the bit with 18 lb. sledges. Four teams at four separate faces making progress only inches a day, cutting through 1659 feet of solid granite. Once a hole was drilled, it was packed with black powder, the fuse was set, and the workers ran. When the smoke cleared, workers hauled out the rubble — all by hand — no machines.

Imagine the courage holding the drill bit. Imagine the confidence in your friends. Imagine the accuracy of the sledge handlers; imagine their concentration, hour after hour.

That was Tunnel 6, the longest tunnel of the Sierra Crossing.

Working the solid granite went too slowly. They blasted a shaft straight down above the middle to open two more faces. Hauling the rubble by hand was too slow. A steam engine was brought in to haul up the rubble.

When all four faces joined up, they were off by only two inches — after two years. Amazing.

Facing granite was not the only obstacle. The workers faced avalanches and heavy snows: 40 feet that first winter. Workers didn't see daylight for days at a time as they moved from their living sheds to work faces through tunnels dug into the snow.

Nitroglycerine would speed the tunneling but still, work wasn't fast enough. The railroad hauled track, railroad cars and a steam engine over the pass, over the snow, above here, between Donner Peak and Mt. Judah, so they could continue building on the eastern side — to race across Nevada, to earn pay for miles, to beat the Union Pacific which was coming from the east.

Pictured here, Alfred A. Hart photographs: tunnel 6 incomplete top, "Shaft House over Summit Tunnel, American Peak (now Mt. Lincoln) in the distance," and east portal of Tunnel 6, bottom.

Things to do right here
Hike to the Pacific Crest Trailhead at Lake Mary and instead of going up hill try and retrace the route going downhill of the old Lincoln Highway. It's what appears to be a roadway that is now being overgrown.
Walk on the top, over the tunnel and see the monument there as well as the metal covering for the shaft that was used so the Chinese workers could work from the middle out as well as the outside in.
Series This marker is part of the series, and the series.
Marker Number23
Placed ByDonner Summit Historical Society
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Saturday, March 28th, 2015 at 1:08pm PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)10S E 730197 N 4355359
Decimal Degrees39.31703333, -120.32981667
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 39° 19.022', W 120° 19.789'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds39° 19' 1.32" N, 120° 19' 47.34" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)530, 775, 415
Which side of the road?Marker is on the right when traveling South
Closest Postal AddressAt or near Sugar Bowl Rd, Truckee CA 96161, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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