After the end of the American Civil War, the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the United States were linked by railroad.
Completed in 1869, the railroad linked Iowa with San Francisco. It was completed by three railroad companies, the two best known being Central Pacific and Union Pacific.
Although it linked California with the eastern states, its primary purpose wasn’t travel, it was economic.
Facts About the Railroad
Construction Begins: 1863
Mileage Covered: 1,907 over Nebraska, Wyoming Territory, Utah Territory and California.
Demographics: Up to 80% of the workforce was Chinese. Other workers were former soldiers, and Mormons, among others.
During Construction: The railroad cut through land occupied by Native Americans. Treaties had taken land away from the natives and made it public domain. Much of this new public domain land was used for the rail lines. Attacks by Native American tribes were common.
Towns that sprung up around the newly constructed lines are rough, crime ridden places nicknamed “hell on wheels”.
Union Pacific investor Thomas Durant manipulated the rail routes and made a fortune through illegal means.
Cost: Funded mostly by investors.
Construction Completed: May 10, 1869.
Last Spike: Promontory Point, Utah.
Legacy: Millions of dollars worth of goods were transported cross country by the 1880s. Travel that once took half a year was cut down to under a week.
Have you ever traveled by rail? Tell us about it. Leave a comment below.
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