The Union Pacific Railroad Collection (1828-1986) is comprised of the original corporate records of the Union Pacific Railroad's operations in Southern Nevada, Utah, and Southern California, particularly focusing on Las Vegas and Los Angeles. The collection documents the purchase of Stewart ranch and the construction of the original depot and town which became modern Las Vegas. The collection also contains the records of the Las Vegas Land & Water Company (LVL&W), a subsidiary of the railroad formed in 1905 to handle the railroad's land transactions. The collection contains office files, correspondence, reports, leases, various legal, governmental and financial document, the collection contains large and small format maps, architectural and engineering drawings, published technical reports, railroad operational manuals, bound legal briefs, ledgers, and payroll and receipt books. The collection also includes the personal files of Walter Bracken, the Union Pacific's special representative in Nevada and vice president of the Las Vegas Land and Water Company, and a paper index of the collection materials.
Finding Aid PDF
Scope and Contents Note
The Union Pacific Collection comprises the original corporate records of the Union Pacific Railroad's operations in Las Vegas but also including southern Nevada, Utah, southern California and Los Angeles. The collection dates from 1902 when Montana Senator William Clark began construction of his San Pedro, Los Angeles, & Salt Lake railroad linking the Union Pacific's mainline in Utah with Los Angeles and southern California to approximately 1967.
The collection documents the purchase of the land (the original Stewart ranch) and the construction of the original depot and town which became modern Las Vegas, Nevada. The collection also contains the records of the Las Vegas Land & Water Company (LVL&W), a subsidiary of the railroad formed in 1905 to handle all the railroad's land transactions.
Besides office files, containing correspondence, reports, leases, various legal, governmental and financial documents, the collection contains large and small format maps, architectural and engineering drawings, published technical reports, railroad operational manuals, bound legal briefs, ledgers, and payroll and receipt books. The collection documents the railroads and includes the records of the Land and Tax, Law, Engineering and Industrial Development departments, as well as the personal files of Walter Bracken, the Union Pacific's special representative in Nevada and vice president of the Las Vegas Land and Water Company. Finally, the collection includes a four volume index, created by Robert "Bob" Coffin and compiled by Christy M. Hooper in 1995. This index provides a cross-reference to the Union Pacific filing numbers used for the collection materials.
The collection conforms in scope and content to all the corporate functions and structure of the railroad, reflected in the departments and series in which the collection is organized, and its two major components: the Union Pacific Railroad and its subsidiary, the Las Vegas Land & Water Company. The Las Vegas Land & Water Company files primarily relate to the physical development of the city of Las Vegas and the management of its properties and water system. The railroad files pertain generally to the operations of the railroad itself. In Las Vegas, these two functions were combined in the person of the railroad's local agent, Walter R. Bracken, who was also vice president of the LVL&W Company, and the railroad's local functionary. Bracken kept his own files in Las Vegas, but the bulk of the company files were kept in the railroad's divisional offices in Los Angeles.
When the Las Vegas railroad office was closed in 1960 those files were transferred to Los Angeles, so this collection contains both office files from Las Vegas and files that were always maintained in Los Angeles. The series into which the collection is currently organized reflect to some extent the original filing systems of the various officers, agents and offices but also later re-organizations of filing systems as the corporate structure evolved. Some of Bracken's original LVL&W Company files were also transferred to the Las Vegas Valley Water District when the water company's facilities were turned over to the water district in 1954.
Collection is open for research, with the exception of materials that are restricted to protect personally identifiable information. Restrictions are noted at the file level of this inventory.
Materials in this collection may be protected by copyrights and other rights. See xlink:href="http://www.library.unlv.edu/speccol/research_and_services/reproductions" xlink:show="new" xlink:title="Reproductions and Use"> Reproductions and Use
xlink:href="http://www.library.unlv.edu/speccol/research_and_services/reproductions" xlink:show="new" xlink:title="Reproductions and Use"> Reproductions and Use
These records are organized into fourteen series:
Series I. J. Ross Clark, San Pedro, Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad, 1902-1921;
Series II. Las Vegas Land & Water Company, 1828-1976;
Subseries 2.1 Walter Bracken and the Las Vegas, Nevada Office, 1828-1968;
Subseries 2.2 General Manager, Manager of Properties, and Manager of Industrial Development in Los Angeles, California, 1900-1976;
Subseries 2.3 Correspondence of Las Vegas Agents, 1943-1954;
Subseries 2.4 Receipt Books, 1953-1954;
Series III. Union Pacific Railroad Company, 1889-1974;
Subseries 3.1 Photographs, Schedules, and Instruction Books, 1905-1958;
Subseries 3.2 Maps, Drawings, and Plans, 1903-1969;
Series IV. United States Harbor Reports, 1914-1940;
Series V. Law Department, 1865-1983;
Series VI. Chief Engineer and Engineering Files, 1903-1972
Series VII. Industrial Development, 1914-1967;
Series VIII. Real Estate, 1905-1974;
Series IX. Land and Tax, 1891-1974;
Series X. Publications, Field Books, File Indexes, and Code Books, 1901-1960;
Series XI. National War Industries Projects, 1942;
Series XII. Bound Legal Briefs, 1913;
Series XIII. Blueprints and Drawings, 1902-1975;
Series XIV. Union Pacific Railroad Collection Index, 1995.
Biographical / Historical Note
At the turn of the century, Montana copper-king and Senator William A. Clark incorporated the San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad intending to connect the Los Angeles port of San Pedro, California with Salt Lake City, Utah. The Oregon Short Line, a subsidiary of E.H. Harriman's Union Pacific Railroad, which already owned a right-of-way, also intended to develop a Salt Lake-Los Angeles route. After frantic filing and counter-filing of survey maps and an aggressive track-laying race through the Meadow Valley Wash, the two railroads resolved their conflict in 1903 with an agreement on joint ownership of the Salt Lake-Los Angeles Route by Clark and Harriman. The tracks reached the site of Las Vegas, Nevada from Utah in October 1904 and from California in January 1905. Las Vegas was a division point on the railroad; the townsite was surveyed and lots auctioned on May 15, 1905. The railroad established a subsidiary company, the Las Vegas Land & Water Company (LVL&W) to administer the town site and other property, and its water. The railroad operated under the name of the San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad until 1921 when Clark sold his interest to the Union Pacific Railroad and retired. The Salt Lake Route, as it was known, had always been controlled by the Union Pacific, despite Clark's being a titular partner, and his brother J. Ross being a 2nd Vice President, but after 1921 it was entirely the Union Pacific, one part of the nation's largest rail system, with its headquarters in Omaha and offices in Los Angeles.
The railroad was the biggest business, landowner, and employer in Las Vegas for many years. It controlled the city's water system as well as tracts of industrial, commercial, and residential developments which it leased, sold, serviced, and maintained. The railroad was inextricably bound and engaged in all the business, political, and civic issues which faced the growing city of Las Vegas, and its files document almost all aspects of life in the city such as water shortages, tourism and civic promotion, and strikes and labor unrest. Besides constructing tracks, spurs, buildings, and facilities for its own operations in Las Vegas and other stations along its route, Union Pacific also served a growing number of federal installations. As a national transportation industry, it was subject to federal bureaucratic oversight, which was intensified during wars. For example, during World War II, the Engineering Department maintained a whole file series on "War Conditions." As the railroad expanded and promoted tourism as an important part of its passenger business, it built facilities in neighboring National Parks including the Lodges at Zion, Bryce, and the Grand canyons.
The national railroads, as intricately complex and far-flung industrial and business organizations, were the exemplars of later 19th and 20th century corporate bureaucracy. Bureaucracy which generated massive amounts of paper and files, organized in sometimes arcane "duplex numeric" (filing by general subjects which are assigned series numbers), sometimes simple alphabetical filing systems. Copies of the same document might be filed under different subjects by different departments. All decisions, no matter how petty (whether the local agent could buy a car and what kind, or whether the agent could have modern toilet facilities built in his house) were reviewed by a complex hierarchy of officials with increasingly complex departmental structures. All decisions and transactions required multiple copies for review by multiple offices in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Omaha. Decisions requiring corporate authorization were made in Omaha, whose officers closely monitored local railroad operations as well as state and local political issues. Most departments also maintained local and regional offices. For example, there was a railroad attorney in Las Vegas who reported to the Legal Department in Los Angeles, and the local engineering office in Las Vegas likewise reported to the chief engineer in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles office also handled all accounts and receipts both from the railroad and the Las Vegas Land & Water Company.
Railroad agent, developer, and civil engineer Walter Bracken was born in 1870 in Mount Pleasant, Ohio. In 1901, while surveying Nevada for the San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad, he recommended that the railroad purchase the Stewart Ranch from Helen Stewart in order to build the railroad through Las Vegas, Nevada. In 1904 the railroad took possession of the ranch. Following completion of the railroad in 1905, the railroad announced that it would auction its land parcels for development of a new town. On May 15 of that year, the Clark’s Las Vegas Townsite Auction was held, during which the lots for downtown Las Vegas were purchased. Bracken purchased one of the lots on Fremont Street.
Bracken became the head of the Las Vegas Land & Water Company, which had been started as a subsidiary of the railroad, and was one of the most powerful men in Las Vegas. During his tenure, the company installed Las Vegas’s first water system and he strived for better working conditions for railroad workers. By 1941 Bracken had become the head of operations for the Union Pacific Railroad in the Las Vegas Valley. Though his authority increased, many of the repressive policies of the railroad continued, including the housing segregation of African-American settlers.
In 1905 Bracken married schoolteacher Anna Johnson, a graduate of the University of Nevada and teacher in Delamar. They lived on Fremont Street from 1905 to 1942 and then moved to a new home on 7th Street. Anna Bracken died in January of 1950, and Walter Bracken died in July of 1950.
Sources: Hopkins, A. D. “Walter Bracken,” Las Vegas Review-Journal. February 7, 1999. http://www.reviewjournal.com/news/walter-bracken.
Burbank, Jeff. “Clark's Las Vegas Townsite Auction,” Online Nevada Encyclopedia. September 27, 2010. http://www.onlinenevada.org/articles/clarks-las-vegas-townsite-auction.
Union Pacific Railroad Collection, 1828-1986. MS-00397. Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.
Materials were purchased in 1997; accession number 97-19.
Materials were processed in 1997 by Special Collections staff. In 2018, as part of an archival backlog elimination project, Melise Leech revised the collection description to bring it into compliance with current professional standards, and entered the data into ArchivesSpace.