The City of Colfax possesses a rich history, especially relating to the building of The Central Pacific Railroad – the western portion of the Transcontinental Railroad. From the bronze statue of the city’s namesake, Schuyler Colfax, to the newly restored Southern Pacific Depot, reminders exist today to tell the story of Colfax’s instrumental role in the construction of the railroad.
Speaker of the House, and later Vice President Schuyler Colfax, visited the Camp 20 railroad construction crew in 1865, assuring them the government was committed to completing the transcontinental railroad. Central Pacific officials renamed Camp 20 to Colfax in his honor. An 1873 Congressional investigation into the Crédit Mobilier scandal named Colfax as one of the members of Congress who in 1868 were offered (and possibly took) payments of cash and discounted stock from the Union Pacific Railroad in exchange for favorable action during the construction of the First Transcontinental Railroad.
Built in 1908 the Southern Pacific Passenger Depot continued service to Nevada County Narrow Gauge passengers until 1942 and Southern Pacific passengers until 1971. The restored depot now serves AMTRAK travelers and houses the Colfax History Museum and the Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center.
The Colfax Hotel, formerly the Gillen Hotel, was built by an ex-Southern Pacific conductor to serve the rails and other travelers. For its 1903 grand opening, San Francisco dignitaries came by special train to tour its 56 rooms and restaurant. The hotel is currently undergoing restoration.
Nevada County Narrow Gauge #9, a Baldwin 2-8-0 engine built in 1914, delivering to Colfax fruit sheds.
P.O. Box 323
Colfax, CA 95713
Photography by Steve Chandler