Chinese Railroad Workers & the Iron Way

On the morning of June 11th, at around 10 a.m. and before the Davis Branch Library of the Yolo County Library opens, many people will gather together in front of the front gate waiting to attend the “Chinese Railroad Workers & the Iron Way” event, an event that is co-hosted by Yolo County Library and US – China Railroad Friendship Association. Some people may bring their parents and children since it is said that there are not many Chinese people who know this part of history and the children are not being taught this in school. Thus, this event will be a good opportunity to learn how the Chinese railroad workers contributed to the building of the US transcontinental railroad.

Director of Yolo County Library Patty Wong will host the welcome and recognition.

C.C. Yin, APAPA founder and Liyou Zha, Deputy Consul General, People’s Republic of China will give remarks.

The “Chinese Railroad Workers & the Iron Way” event consists three parts,

  • Documentary film: “Crossing Donor Summit”,
  • Exhibition: “Chinese Railroad Workers & the Iron Way”, and
  • Panel discussion: “Chinese Railroad Workers & the Iron Way – Past, Present and Future”.

The documentary film: “Crossing Donner Summit” is produced by independent producer Min Zhou, a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. She attended the 150 Anniversary Celebration of Chinese Railroad Workers building the US Transcontinental Railroad in 2015, and took the sightseeing Dream Train Ride. She interviewed Union Pacific Vice Precedent Scott Moore, Deputy Consul General Gang Bi, APAPA founder C. C. Yin, Chinese railroad worker descendant Gene Chan and special narrator Joe Debbs. The film tells the story of the Chinese railroad workers based on these interviews and other documents.

The mobile exhibition: “Chinese Railroad Workers & the Iron Way” was produced by the Chinese Historical Society of America (CHSA) Museum and the Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project at Stanford University (CRRW). It provides an historical overview of the Chinese railroad workers who were instrumental in building the United States’ first Transcontinental Railroad. Utilizing graphic panels, the exhibit features historical and contemporary photos, illustrations, stories of descendants of the workers.

Scott Love, Yolo County Library West Yolo Reginal Manager, will host the panel discussion, to include Phil Sexton and Dr. Cecilia Tsu to speak on Chinese railroad works from their professional point of views. Descendants Gene Chan and Freeman Lee tell their family story.

The panel discussion includes Phil Sexton, Cecilia Tsu, Gene Chan and Freeman Lee.

– Phil Sexton is a State Park Interpreter from California State Railroad Museum. He has many years’ experience as an historic interpreter with an emphasis on transportation development across the Sierra Nevada and its impacts on development of California and the nation in the 19th and early 20th century.

– Dr. Cecilia Tsu is an Associate Professor, UC Davis History Department. She is a U.S. historian with research and teaching interests in Asian American history, race and ethnicity, and immigration to California and the American West.

– Gene Chan and Freeman Lee are Chinese railroad worker descendants. At the end the film about Chinese Highrial is presented.

The audience with comprise people from many places, including Reno, San Francisco, Berkley, Elk Grove, Folsom, Davis and Sacramento. The event attracts people from CA State Park, CA State Railroad Museum, Donner Summit Historical Society, UC Davis, Trucker – Donner Historical Society, Confucius Institute at UCD, Lee Association, Cal Center, CA Engineer Association, UC Berkley, Davis Chinese Association, Sacramento Historical Museum, Davis Joint School District, Sacramento Historical Society, UC – China Culture Communication Association, and Chinese Association of Northern Nevada.

We anticipate more than 200 people will attend. Some people will attend the morning documentary film rolling presenting and exhibition, some will attend the afternoon pane discussion and some will attend both programs.  The event is open to the public.

By Wei Zhang

June 15, 2016


You may watch documentary film trailer at