Building a Railroad: 1850s Irish immigrant labor in Central Illinois
by Mike Matejka
gallops up to the end of a rail and starts forward,
the rest of the gang taking hold by twos,
until it is clear of the car.
They come forward at a run.
At a word of command the rail is dropped
in its place, right side up with care,
while the same process goes on at the
other side of the car.
Less than thirty seconds to a rail for each gang,
and so four rails go down in a minute....
Close behind the first gang come the gaugers,
spikers and bolters, and a lively time they
make of it.
It is a grand anvil chorus.'
It is played in triple time,
three strokes to the spike.
There are ten spikes to a rail, 400 rails to a mile.
(Late 1860s description of the construction of the
Union Pacific Railroad.)