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Charles Crocker (1822-1885) came to California by wagon on the overland route. Like the other Central Pacific Associates, he made his money as a merchant during the mining boom and was persuaded by Collis Huntington that the railroad would be the next big investment. Crocker joined the board of the CP, but after Congress passed the Pacific Railroad Bill in 1862, he stepped down to become the railroad's chief contractor, founding Charles Crocker & Company without having laid a mile of track in his life.

Contracting work out to one of their own was a shrewd move for the Associates, and Crocker quickly learned about laying track and managing construction. One of his best and most famous decisions was to bring Chinese laborers to the CP during a labor shortage in 1865. The idea proved a huge success for the company. Crocker is also remembered for winning a $10,000 bet with Durant on whose crews could lay more track in a day. Crocker's Central Pacific men won with a staggering total of ten miles.

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