I've Been Working on the Railroad: A Digital Reconstruction of the Southern Pacific Railroad




Mezzell, Maddie

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This thesis explores the history and archaeology of the Lower Pecos stretch of the Southern Pacific Railroad, specifically focusing on a bridge abutment along an abandoned section of track located near the town of Langtry, Texas. There have been archaeological investigations into the camp life of the different railroad labor groups, which were often made up of Chinese immigrant workers. However, less is known about the conditions of labor at the work sites and craftsmanship that went into the construction of railroad features. By analyzing the abutment through these lenses, I contribute to a greater understanding of how skilled labor was conducted in a time in which industrialism was becoming prominent. I use photogrammetry and computer graphics software (SfM) to create a 3-D, digital reconstruction of the abutment (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). Additionally, I inventory and analyze the railroad artifacts, collected from the land that the abutment is on, to increase comprehension about what tools and objects the workers were utilizing during construction. The reconstruction of the abutment and analysis of artifacts, coupled with literary research, will be combined into an online platform meant to inform on the experiences of laborers and what can be learned from examining the product of their labor (https://arcg.is/CKCXf). Because the creation of the railroad and use of largely immigrant labor are intertwined with the diaspora of immigrants across the American West, studying a site of labor can be indicative of working-class treatment and its intersection with issues of immigration and ethnicity.



archaeology, railroad, labor, SfM, 3D modeling, Lower Pecos, Chinese history, History, Honors College


Mezzell, M. (2022). I've been working on the railroad: A digital reconstruction of the Southern Pacific Railroad (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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