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United States  Gotoarrow.png  Migration  Gotoarrow.png  Railroads  Gotoarrow.png  First Transcontinental Railroad

Background

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.

Websites

  • The Transcontinental Railroad Includes a movie, photos, interactive map, and more. From The American Experience.
  • Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum. Though this website is titled Central Pacific, it includes many links to Union Pacific links and links to the total transcontinental experience. There are links to histories, government documents, journal entries and reminiscences, biographies, books, litigation. They are especially looking for information and stories of the Chinese railroad workers.
  • Railroad History by Richard Jensen, Research Professor of History, Montana State University, Billings. This site contains links to many websites treating various aspects of railroad history.

Books

  • Ambrose, Stephen E. Nothing Like It In the World: The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad 1863-1869. New York, New York: Touchstone, Rockefeller Center, 2000.
  • Andrist, Ralph K. The Long Death: The Last Days of the Plains Indians. New York, NY Macmillan Company 1964.
  • Bain, David Haward. Empire Express: Building the First Transcontinental Railroad. New York: Penguin Putnam Books, 1999.

 

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