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The section of railroad built between 1868 and 1869 from Omaha, Nebraska on the east to Sacramento, California on the west has become known as the First Transcontinental Railroad. The eastern segment was built by the Union Pacific Railroad company. At the same time the Central Pacific Railroad was building the western line. The two lines met at Pronontory Point, Utah, on May 10, 1869, where a connecting spike was driven.
The transcontinental railroad was first seriously considered by the United States government in the late 1840s after gold was discovered in California. They saw it as a way to bridge the distance between the east and west coasts, and to open up Western lands for settlement. Though the project appealed to both government and comercial entities, as well as the private sector, it was delayed by a number of issues. These included financing, where to run the route, and who would build it for starters. Then in the early 1860s the whole project was put on hold until the Civil War ended in 1865.
When the railroad was completed between Omaha and Sacramento, rails did not completely span the continent until the year after the spike was driven. A trestle had to be built between Council Bluffs, Iowa and Omaha, Nebraska to connect to eastern rail lines that reached Atlantic ports. Also a line had to extend beyond Sacramento to San Francisco, California at the Pacific Ocean.