Colfax is a city located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Placer County, California which was on the alignment of US Route 40. Early US Route 40 within Colfax inherited the alignments of the North Lincoln Highway and Victory Highway upon the US Route System being created during November 1926. Eastbound US Route 40 crossed through Colfax via Auburn Street, Grass Valley Street and Main Street. Above early US Route 40 can be seen crossing the First Transcontinental Railroad via Grass Valley Street as seen in the May 1939 California Highways & Public Works. Below a map of early US Route 40 in Colfax can be seen as displayed in the May 1939 California Highways & Public Works.
During 1861 the State of California granted the Central Pacific Railroad a 10-year franchise on toll rights to the Dutch Flat & Donner Lake Road (DF&DLR) which completed by 1864. The DF&DLR was used to finance the Central Pacific Railroad's construction of the First Transcontinental Railroad from 1864 to 1868. Colfax was founded as a siding of the Central Pacific Railroad and was located on the DF&DLR. Colfax is named in honor of Speaker of the House Schuler Colfax who visited the community during 1865. The DF&DLR was likely not tolled after the Central Pacific Railroad was completed over the Sierra Nevada Mountains during Spring of 1868. The DF&DLR became a public highway in 1871 and was only loosely maintained given rail service had become the easiest form of transportation over Donner Pass. The website below goes into far more detail about the Dutch Flat & Donner Lake Wagon Road.
Below Colfax can be seen along Central Pacific Railroad on the 1873 Bancroft's Map of California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona. The DLDLWR essentially acted as a frontage road of the Central Pacific Railroad in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
"An act to make an appropriation for the location, survey and construction of a state highway from Emigrant Gap...to the west end of Donner Lake..."
"...for the location, survey, and construction of a state highway from Emigrant Gap, Placer County in an E-ly direction through what is known as the Truckee Pass (Donner Pass) to the W end of Donner Lake in Nevada County... and it shall be the duty of the department to locate, survey, and construct said road along the line of the wagon road known as the Dutch Flat and Donner Lake wagon road..."
The Victory Highway was formally organized during 1921 as a coast-to-coast highway aligned from New York to San Francisco. The Victory Highway Association lived on after the creation of the US Route System and became the US Route 40 Association in 1938.
During 1912 Indiana Businessman Carl G. Fisher conceptualized the Lincoln Highway as a major transcontinental Auto Trail. The Lincoln Highway was formally dedicated on October 31st, 1913 and was aligned west of Fallon via split branches over the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The original northern branch of the Lincoln Highway (displayed in blue) is shown on the Lincoln Highway Association's Official Map in Colfax following Auburn Street, Grass Valley Street and Main Street.
Thusly US 40 appears on the 1925 Rand McNally Map of California east of Sacramento to Verdi, Nevada.
The January 1926 California Highways & Public Works features the recently completed LRN 37 in the corridor of Colfax-Gold Run. Interestingly the article notes LRN 37 in the Colfax-Gold Run to be part of US 40 despite the US Route System not having been finalized.
The May 1926 California Highways & Public Works announced a contract to surface LRN 37 between Colfax-Emigrant Gap had recently been awarded. LRN 38 in the Truckee River Canyon between Truckee and the Nevada State Line is stated to have been fully graded. The new segment of LRN 38 is stated to have a planned opening on June 10th, 1926 and is noted to bypass the infamous Dog Valley Grade.
The April 1927 California Highways & Public Works announced the CHC decided to eliminate numerous railroad crossings on US 40/LRN 37 in the Auburn-Colfax corridor.
During the 1964 State Highway Renumbering all the Legislative Route Numbers were dropped in favor of field signage. Legislative Routes Numbers without field Sign State Routes were given new numbering assignments. In the case of LRN 25 in the Colfax-Grass Valley corridor it was assigned as part of California State Route 174. What had been the last surface alignment of US 40 in Colfax was subsequently assumed into California State Route 174.
Part 2; a drive on former US Route 40 in Colfax
Below former US 40 westbound on modern CA 174/Colfax Highway southbound can be observed at the Colfax City Limit.