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Railroads, Bridges All On Mystery Engineer’s Resume

Virgil Bogue, our mystery engineer from the previous issue, was one of the leading engineers of the post-Civil War period. He was born in Norfolk, New York a small mill town on the Raquette River in the Adirondack Mountains on July 20, 1846. His family later moved to Brooklyn, New York. He was educated at local schools and later at General Russell’s School at New Haven, Connecticut. He enrolled at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in 1864 near the end of the Civil War and graduated in 1868 along with Leffert L. Buck and O. F. Nichols who would be life long friends and colleagues. While at RPI he was an honor student and Grand Marshall, the highest student position at the Institute. After graduation he worked on the design of Prospect Park in Brooklyn before traveling to Peru to work on the Callao, Lima and Oroya Railroad (the Railroad in the Clouds) with Henry Meiggs. He convinced Leffert Buck to come down; then they, in addition to laying out and building a switch back railroad over the Andes Mountains, built the famous Verrugas Viaduct, which at the time was the highest railroad viaduct in the world. He followed this up by becoming manager of the Trujillo Railways Company. 

 Virgil Bogue, 1846 -1916
Virgil Bogue, 1846 -1916 

He returned to the United States in 1879 to work on the eastern Washington segment of the Northern Pacific Railroad but given his experience in building railroads over mountains he was assigned the task of locating the railroad over the Cascade Mountains. He found a pass later called Stampede Pass with a summit elevation of 3,495 ft. above sea level that would later become the main route of the Cascade Division of the railroad. He also had his classmate Buck come west to design several bridges on the line at Pasco and that segment of the line opened in 1886. He then became Chief Engineer of the Union Pacific Railroad working on that line from 1886 to 1891 before going into business for himself. He was appointed an assistant engineer on the Brooklyn Bridge and was considered to be a local favorite to design and build the Williamsburg Bridge across the East River in New York City but that job went to Buck with Nichols as his assistant.

He traveled to New Zealand in 1901 and 1902 to work on the design of another mountain crossing railroad of that island after which he went west again to work on the Western Pacific Railroad. On that line he selected a route with a uniform grade of 1% between Oroville and Beckwourth Pass that was followed by the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad. One of his last projects was the preparation of a master plan for the city of Seattle, Washington which he did and even though approved by the Municipal Plans Division it was rejected by a substantial majority of the citizens of the city. This was followed by work on the ports for the City of Tacoma, Gray’s Harbor, and Port Rupert, British Columbia.

He died on a steamship returning from Mexico on October 14, 1916 and is buried in the Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn. His work on railroads around the world made him one of the best-known engineers of his time. Learn more about Bogue and the work he did around the world.

Map showing Lake Union Waterfront District, Bogue
Map showing Lake Union Waterfront District, Bogue plan
Municipal Plans Commission (9359-01)
Map no. 619, Seattle Municipal Archives