Several men including both Charlie and Judge Edwin B. Crocker, Mark Hopkins, Leland Stanford and Collis Huntington, all of the Central Pacific Railroad Company, formed this toll road company. There were other investors but they were squeezed out early on. Early in 1861 the company was called the Lake Pass Turnpike Company because the name Donner was not yet in common use. Later the company was incorporated as the Dutch Flat and Donner Lake Wagon Road Company.
In 1861 the State of California granted the DFDLWR Company exclusive use of the corridor for a period of 10 years. It was built from Alta, over Donner Pass, through Coburn Station (Truckee), then north to join the Henness Pass Road near the present Stampede Lake. It was built near the planned railroad line west of Truckee to facilitate movement of men and supplies during construction of the railroad. East of Truckee the plan was different. The surveyors had already chosen the best path in the narrow Truckee River Canyon for railroad construction. Costly, slow road construction on less desirable alignments was avoided by routing the DFDLWR north of Truckee near the earlier emigrant trails.
As the railhead moved higher in the Sierra Nevada Mountains from Sacramento, transfer facilities and warehouses were built at several railheads, such as Newcastle, Clipper Gap and Cisco, reducing the distance that wagons had to haul between the railhead and Washoe. Shorter road travel to the silver mines encouraged use of the DFDLWR in preference to other roads. The combined rail/wagon travel between Sacramento and Washoe soon allowed the DFDLWR to offer more comfortable service than the Pacific Turnpike, Henness Pass and the Placerville roads. As a result the DFDLWR captured most of the tolls. During 1864-1868 the toll road was so profitable that its owners could use the profits to support railroad construction when income from slow railroad bond sales were not sufficient to meet railroad construction expenses.
The DFDLWR road became public in 1871 but it may have been toll free as early as 1868 when the railroad could move freight and passengers to Reno faster, in greater comfort and at competitive rates as mentioned above. For the next 40 years, this road was used very little and maintenance was limited. Over the mountains the three counties that it traversed kept the road passable but it was not improved to accommodate long distance motorists. In 1913, the Lincoln Highway Association chose the DFDLWR route over the Sierra Nevada Mountains for the newly designated Lincoln Highway, therefore the DFDLWR alignment is identical to the early Lincoln Highway trace. ...
State permission was granted in 1861 allowing the company to collect tolls for 10 years, therefore this book uses 1861 to 1871 as the life of that road. Toll traffic began in 1864 and probably toll collection ceased in 1868.
- December 3, 1866: Central Pacific opened 92 miles (148 km) to Cisco, California.
- August 28, 1867: The Sierra Nevadas were finally "conquered" by the Central Pacific Railroad, after almost five years of sustained construction effort by its mainly Chinese crew about 10,000 strong, with the successful completion at Donner Pass of its 1,659-foot (506 m) Tunnel No. 6 (a.k.a. the "Summit Tunnel").
- December 1, 1867: Central Pacific opened to Summit of the Sierra Nevada, 105 miles (169 km).
- June 18, 1868: The first passenger train crosses the Sierra Nevada to Lake's Crossing (modern day Reno, Nevada) at the eastern foot of the Sierra in Nevada.