El Dorado, which in Spanish means “gold”, is a county in the Sierra Nevada foothills of Northern California. Appropriately named for the discovery of the substance during construction of a sawmill by James Marshall in Coloma on January 24, 1848, what became El Dorado County was ground zero for the California Gold Rush. What was once a sparsely inhabited land began drawing people from all over the continent. On September 9, 1850, California became the 31st state. People from afar began making their way to “Gold Country” by wagon or boat on a perilous journey that lasted months. While many people came seeking gold, some sought opportunities to open businesses and supply the miners seeking their treasure. Many of these business owners gained great wealth and prominence. Some of these businessmen started companies that continue operating to this day.
Besides riding a horse or wagon to get to Sacramento, a ship could take you right up the Sacramento River from San Francisco Bay. Once arriving in Sacramento, everyone had the same problem – they had to make a trek to the foothills with their supplies to stake a mining claim. Men, equipment and supplies could only be moved by horses and wagons. To efficiently transport freight and equipment closer to miners, a railroad was needed.