Alfred A. Hart

Dates1816 - 1908

As official photographer of the Central Pacific Railroad, Alfred A. Hart spent five years documenting the construction of this legendary railroad from Sacramento, California, to Promontory Summit, Utah. Between 1864 and 1869, Hart accompanied the engineers and crews as they made their way across valleys, deserts, and mountains, building trestles, digging tunnels, and constructing enormous embankments. The Central Pacific Railroad maintained a high regard for Hart's role as photographer, allowing him to stop trains and work crews for the time needed to set up his camera and make his photographs.

Though he is most known for his images of the first transcontinental railroad, Hart did not consider himself a photographer. He trained as a painter in New England and began his career painting portraits and religious panoramas. After his photographic work for the railroad ceased to be profitable, he returned to painting, though he seems not to have achieved critical success in this media. He spent his last years in poverty, receiving help from his son and daughter until his death, a few days before his ninety-second birthday.