The J. Paul Getty Museum

[Trestle on Central Pacific Railroad]

Object Details


[Trestle on Central Pacific Railroad]


Carleton Watkins (American, 1829 - 1916)




negative 1877; print about 1880


Albumen silver print

Object Number:



20.5 × 31.4 cm (8 1/16 × 12 3/8 in.)

Credit Line:

Gift in memory of Leona Naef Merrill and in honor of her sister, Gladys Porterfield

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Object Description

Although the load-bearing construction of the trestle is a central part of this image, Carleton Watkins trimmed many inches off this picture's edges in an attempt to focus attention on the figures rather than the landscape.

More than a dozen Chinese laborers work at laying these tracks in the Sierra Nevada mountains for the Central Pacific Railroad, supervised by a Caucasian foreman in a white shirt and vest. In the mid-1800s, the railroads turned to Chinese and Irish laborers to perform the dangerous work of constructing bridges and lying track in rugged deserts and mountainous terrain. The Central Pacific Railroad recruited many of its Chinese laborers from farms in southern China.

Carleton Watkins: From Where the View Looked Best (February 15 to June 4, 2000)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), February 15 to June 4, 2000
Railroad Vision (March 3 to June 23, 2002)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), March 5 to June 23, 2002