Forest Service releases documentary on Chinese railroad workers

A historic photo of a Chinese railroad worker carrying rocks near one of the many tunnels. | Courtesy Joe Flannery

The U.S. Forest Service has released “Legacy,” a film that chronicles Chinese railroad workers’ contribution to the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. “Legacy” can be viewed at The release of this film coincides with the U.S. Forest Service’s celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in May.

“The U.S. Forest Service is thrilled to share “Legacy,” a film produced on the Tahoe National Forest, that documents the contributions of thousands of Chinese railroad workers to the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad,” said Eli Ilano, Tahoe National Forest Supervisor, in a press release. “These brave and determined workers changed the course of American history. The film showcases cultural sites connected to the railroad within the boundaries of the Tahoe National Forest and features the men and women who are retelling this fascinating story today.”

Read more about the history of the Transcontinental Railroad in our special online section on the railroad.

More than 150 years ago, Chinese Railroad Workers blasted and chiseled their way through the rugged Sierra Nevada near Donner Summit on the Tahoe National Forest while completing the Transcontinental Railroad. Despite this monumental achievement, the Chinese Railroad Workers’ contribution was excluded, ignored and forgotten from history. Today, grassroots groups and the U.S. Forest Service are working together to retell the story of these workers’ legacy

The world premiere of Legacy occurred in January at the Wild and Scenic Film Festival in Nevada City. “Legacy” was produced in association with the Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association. Written and directed by Joe Flannery, Public Affairs Officer for the Tahoe National Forest. Cinematography and editing by Kyle Lancaster, Gigantic Film Co.

The release of “Legacy” for online viewing is the latest effort of the Asian Pacific American Heritage Collaborative to provide interpretation and access to heritage resources on public lands. |