The first public proposal for such a line was made by the New York City merchant Asa Whitney in At that time the United States did not hold outright possession of land west of the Rockies, though it exercised joint occupation of the Oregon Country until , when under a treaty with Britain it gained possession of the Pacific coast between the 42nd and 49th parallels. North-South sectionalism intruded when it was appreciated that west of the Missouri any rail project would require a combination of federal and private efforts, the American practice. In the hope of resolving the regional conflict, the Corps of Topographic Engineers was authorized in to undertake the Pacific Railroad Survey, which studied almost all the potential rail routes in the West. The survey on the 49th parallel was in the mids transformed into the Great Northern Railway.
After several years of profitable operation, the assets of the company were purchased in the late s by two other rail companies, CSX Corporation and Norfolk Southern Corporation. The Overland Monthly, September Thirty-six additional locomotives were built and coming west, and twenty-eight more were under construction. Not so today. In Truckee canyon, five Howe truss bridges had to be built. Emigrants from poverty stricken regions of China, many of which suffered from the strife of the Taiping Rebellionseemed to be more willing to tolerate the living and working conditions on the railroad construction, and progress on the railroad continued. Huntington Trans contentental railroad his partners paid Judah to survey the route. The construction of a transcontinental railroad strengthened the connection of British Columbia and the Northwest Territories to Canada they had recently joined, Trans contentental railroad acted as a bulwark against potential incursions by the United States. The Chinese laborers proved to be tireless workers, and Crocker hired more of them; some 14, were toiling under brutal working conditions in the Sierra Nevada by early
Huge titted chubby anal. Dreams of a Transcontinental Railroad
These were about 32 feet 10 m high and 16 feet 5 m wide. Retrieved January 5, The maiden trip was made at Sacramento, November 11,after having arrived Trans contentental railroad the East on a clipper ship via Cape Horn. Contentengal river froze in the winter, and the ferries were replaced by sleighs. They Trans contentental railroad nitroglycerin to deepen the summit tunnel to the required foot 4. Only a generation or Frued anal retentive earlier, travelers by stagecoach had marveled at a spectacle of nature as they paused for minutes and even hours as innumerable bison crossed the overland trail ahead of them. The process of transforming the West continued, and even accelerated, once actual railroad operations began. In later years, the Missouri River commerce based in St. The original track had often been laid as fast as possible with only secondary attention to maintenance and durability. The Tehachapi Loop was hailed as one of the greatest engineering feats of its day. Civil War ended on June 22,the Union Pacific still competed for railroad supplies with companies who were building or repairing railroads in the south, and prices rose. What would they use for fuel? Perishable cargoes traveled inside insulated cars that protected them from the railrooad effects of winter chill and summer heat.
The resulting coast-to-coast railroad connection revolutionized the settlement and economy of the American West.
- Transcontinental Railroad summary: The First Transcontinental Railroad was built crossing the western half of America and it was pieced together between and
- The resulting coast-to-coast railroad connection revolutionized the settlement and economy of the American West.
- Definition of the Transcontinental Railroad Definition: The world's First Transcontinental Railroad was built between and to join the east of the United States on the Atlantic coast with the west of the United States to the Pacific coast.
CNN Before highways, planes, trains and automobiles made crossing the United States a breeze, the completion of the transcontinental railroad in May was a defining moment in the country's history -- and immigrant labor made it possible.
Chat with us in Facebook Messenger. Find out what's happening in the world as it unfolds. More Videos Trains mark Transcontinental Railroad's th anniversary. Former Rep. John Conyers dies at age Pilots streamed plane bathroom to cockpit, lawsuit alleges.
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Origins of Russia probe now a criminal investigation. Astros address firing executive over outburst at reporters. Videos show teen being shot while chased by police. Thousands of workers from a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds labored in grueling terrain and conditions to connect the Atlantic and Pacific. Most of them were Chinese workers who were paid less for their labor than their European counterparts. Chinese migrants worked in the Sierra foothills for the Central Pacific Railroad.
For years, railroad workers were largely overlooked in memorial events marking the railroad's completion. This year, however, their contributions and descendents are more visible than ever in th anniversary celebrations. The anniversary was an occasion to commemorate "the contribution and sacrifices of the railroad workers," including the estimated 12,, Chinese laborers "who risked everything to make the Transcontinental Railroad a reality," Chao said. Before the transatlantic railroad, train travel was available from points east to as far as St.
Louis, Missouri. Anything west of the Mississippi River required travel by wagon, a trip that could take anywhere from three to six months. When California's gold fields lured men away from railroad work, Central Pacific started hiring Chinese workers. They dug 15 tunnels through pure hard granite," Chao said. Irish immigrants, freed slaves and Mormons also worked on the transcontinental railroad. The conditions were merciless, dangerous and harsh. Yet, even after the Chinese workers reached wage parity, they still had to pay for their own housing, clothes and food, unlike other workers.
Chinese workers are said to have laid the last rails to complete the line at the Golden Spike Ceremony before dignitaries tapped four precious metal spikes into a polished tie made from California Laurelwood. The tie bore a silver plaque that included the officers and directors of Central Pacific along with the names of the tie maker and the donor. The spikes were symbols of the "elites" who presided over the ceremony," Stanford University history professor Gordon Chang said.
The steam engine appears in the th anniversary of the Golden Spike Ceremony on May They directed attention "to the business people, political people who were prominent at the time," Chang told the Salt Lake Tribune. This year, however, the Chinese Railroad Workers Descendants Association and other cultural groups championed visibility of railroad workers in events and official celebrations throughout the week. Chinese workers were included for the first time in the annual reenactment of the driving of the Golden Spike.
A lion dance was performed at the start of the Golden Spike Ceremony.
Although the railroad later went bankrupt once the easy placer gold deposits around Placerville, California were depleted, Judah was convinced that a properly financed railroad could pass from Sacramento through the Sierra Nevada mountains to reach the Great Basin and hook up with rail lines coming from the East. He invited Judah to his office to hear his proposal in detail. Publisher Siteseen Limited. Within a few years, nearly all railroads converted to steel rails. Both companies would receive land grants along the route as long as the line was completed by Produce and manufactured goods could now be shipped more reasonably and quickly.
Trans contentental railroad. Articles Featuring Transcontinental Railroad From History Net Magazines
Failure to observe accurate time might well result in a bloody head-on collision between two speeding trains inadvertently attempting to defy physics by occupying the same section of track at the same time. That was the kind of headline-grabbing misfortune every railroad engineer feared most.
A growing number of long-distance travelers grew concerned about accurate timekeeping, too, because the numerous local time standards caused confusion that resulted in impossibly tight connections and missed trains. However, across the nation there were pockets of resistance. To the critics, the unilateral action by railroad managers was highhanded and thus all too typical of railroad power to shape and dominate all phases of human existence.
The diehards kept their clocks and watches set on local time, but they were fighting a losing battle and they knew it. Symbolically, the railroad companies of the United States and Canada had collectively taken upon themselves a form of power that for millennia had belonged solely to God, or so their critics complained.
What was the brave new world defined by railroad power coming to? The railroads new role as the self-appointed guardians of time epitomized as nothing else their seemingly limitless power to transform the Wild West through the practical application of science and engineering. Imposition of standard time was only the most successful and far-reaching triumph of railroads over local and pre-modern ways governed by the rhythms of nature such as seasonal changes, extremes of weather, and even the contrast between the hours of daylight and darkness.
The image illustrates a common method railroads used at the time to field-test the strength and safety of bridges before the first passenger and freight trains chugged across them. Less obvious was that the bridge at Bismarck towered above the water corridor that Lewis and Clark followed eight decades earlier and steamboats based in St. Louis had used in more recent years for fur trade commerce and gold-camp traffic.
Feats of railroad engineering triumphed literally as well as symbolically over familiar steamboat technology and the seasonal variations that could impede or halt steamboat travel on the rivers of the northern West for months at a time.
One reason that the Lewis and Clark Expedition spent the winter of at Fort Mandan, an historic site about 50 miles north of the new bridge, was that the Missouri River froze solid and impeded water travel until the spring thaw six months later.
In later years, the Missouri River commerce based in St. Louis shut down each winter. During the s and s, when steamboats and stagecoaches dominated long-distance travel across the West, their schedules varied according to the season.
Not only did cold weather and ice halt river travel for months at a time, but ice and drifting snow in high mountain passes greatly slowed the pace of overland stagecoaches and their vital cargoes of mail, or stopped them literally in their tracks.
In the new railroad era, steam locomotives and their passenger and freight trains would roll with impunity across frozen waterways and through the icy mountain passes of the West to reach their destinations regardless of the weather, and generally they would do so according to the printed schedule.
Railroads used a combination of technology and muscle to triumph over nature. They dispatched snowplows of various types and armies of shovel-wielding workers to clear the tracks and keep trains moving.
Only infrequently did their best efforts fail. On the rare occasion when railroads of the West lost a battle with Old Man Winter, their temporary plight gladdened the hearts of local journalists eager to write maudlin human-interest stories about snowbound trains and passengers marooned in the high Sierras, Rockies or Cascades.
With proper equipment on the job and hard work, there was no reason why winter passenger train schedules should be significantly different from summer. Further, with steady and consistent service no previous mode of transportation had been able to provide, railroads transformed or eliminated many seasonal variation once ingrained in Americans since birth.
Fresh oranges and grapefruit, for instance, were once unimaginable luxuries on the breakfast table, and especially for residents of the High Plains and mountain West during winter months. Yet, beginning with the widespread use of refrigerated cars beginning in the s, all kinds of fruit—from apples and cherries to lemons and peaches—sped east from the newly planted orchards in southern California and the Pacific Northwest to help provide wholesome and nutritious meals for families in places as distant as Iowa and New Hampshire.
Perishable cargoes traveled inside insulated cars that protected them from the ill effects of winter chill and summer heat. In time, seasonal variations meant no more to the railroads of the West than differences between night and day, which the carriers had early resolved by adding massive headlights to their locomotives.
Wherever railroads chose to run their tracks, they transformed the West by naming or renaming what they perceived to be boundless and undefined space. Some of the names recall the supremacy of a generation of western railroad builders, promoters, financiers and executives, all working tirelessly to transform the landscape of the Wild West.
For example, Billings, Mont. Railroads claiming the right to inscribe names of their own choosing across the West made sense only because many parts of the region appeared far younger historically to the Euro-Americans doing the naming or renaming from an Indian perspective than comparable lands in the Great Lakes or Mississippi River country.
Vast portions of the modern American West were, in effect, the children of railroad parents who did so much to shape and transform them, and in many cases that included naming the land and its distinctive features. When railroads first appeared in states such as Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, and Massachusetts during the s, the builders wedged their tracks and support structures into an existing landscape composed of farms and towns, some of them already generations old.
Montana, by contrast, was the last of the lower 48 states and territories to hear the whistle of a steam locomotive, that ubiquitous sound of modernity. That auditory milestone did not occur until , the year the first tracks entered the still sparsely settled territory.
By then half a century had passed since the first steam locomotives thrilled residents of the East Coast. There are but few Indians in Washington Territory, and these have been for many years on reservations, living by fishing and agriculture. When in the Northern Pacific issued a brochure to promote summer vacations on the Pacific Coast, enough time had elapsed for Indians to be thoroughly transformed from Wild West natives inspiring fear and antipathy into stalwart agrarian capitalists—if not also into tourist attractions.
Now the buffalo and other game are replaced by cattle, sheep and horses; the Indians and their tepees by white settlers and their comfortable homes. In a word, the country has been transformed by Immigration and Irrigation.
Even the Indians now have their farms and irrigation works. Along the numerous rail lines that by the s bisected the Great Plans, new settlements sprang up like Kansas wildflowers—and many died just as quickly. At that time, what perhaps most impressed and sobered transcontinental train travelers was what was missing among the Great Plains wildflowers. Keen observers of the transformation of the American West fretted aloud over the rapid disappearance of wild animals.
Where were the immense herds of bison that had so recently roamed freely across the prairies? Only a generation or two earlier, travelers by stagecoach had marveled at a spectacle of nature as they paused for minutes and even hours as innumerable bison crossed the overland trail ahead of them. It had been easy for early travelers to imagine that western wildlife was abundant beyond belief, and that the trigger-happy man who relieved the boredom of an overland stage journey by using bison, antelope, prairie dogs, grouse and other wild creatures for target practice could never diminish their numbers.
Bailey estimated that nearly shots were fired into the herd. Hunting for sport—if that is what one called randomly targeting wildlife from a slow-moving stagecoach or the deck of a Missouri River steamboat—was common on the long journeys that required weeks of hard traveling. The popular sport continued into the early railroad era in the West. Elizabeth Cuter, wife of Lt. By the early s, train passengers were crossing the Great Plains without seeing a single buffalo.
Progress on the tunnel sped up to over 1. They used nitroglycerin to deepen the summit tunnel to the required foot 4. Nearly all other tunnels were worked on both tunnel faces and met in the middle. Depending on the material the tunnels penetrated, they were left unlined or lined with brick, rock walls or timber and post. Some tunnels were designed to bend in the middle to align with the track bed curvature. Despite this potential complication, nearly all the different tunnel center lines met within 2 inches 5.
The detailed survey work that made these tunnel digs as precise as required was nearly all done by the Canadian-born and -trained Lewis Clement, the CPRR's Chief Assistant Engineer and Superintendent of Track, and his assistants. Hills or ridges in front of the railroad road bed would have to have a flat-bottomed, V shaped "cut" made to get the railroad through the ridge or hill. The type of material determined the slope of the V and how much material would have to be removed.
Ideally, these cuts would be matched with valley fills that could use the dug out material to bring the road bed up to grade— cut and fill construction. In the s there was no heavy equipment that could be used to make these cuts or haul it away to make the fills. To blast a V shaped cut out, they had to drill several holes up to 20 feet 6.
Since the Central Pacific was in a hurry, they were profligate users of black powder to blast their way though the hills.
The only disadvantage came when a nearby valley needed fill to get across it. The explosive technique often blew most of the potential fill material down the hillside, making it unavailable for fill. The existing railroad made transporting and putting material in valleys much easier—load it on railway dump cars, haul where needed and dump it over the side of the trestle.
The route down the eastern Sierras was done on the south side of Donner Lake with a series of switchbacks carved into the mountain. The Truckee River, which drains Lake Tahoe , had already found and scoured out the best route across the Carson Range of mountains east of the Sierras.
The route down the rugged Truckee River Canyon, including required bridges, was done ahead of the main summit tunnel completion. To expedite the building of the railroad through the Truckee River canyon, the Central Pacific hauled two small locomotives, railcars , rails and other material on wagons and sleighs to what is now Truckee, California and worked the winter of —68 on their way down Truckee canyon ahead of the tracks being completed to Truckee.
In Truckee canyon, five Howe truss bridges had to be built. This gave them a head start on getting to the "easy" miles across Nevada. With the advent of more efficient oil fired steam and later diesel electric power to drive plows, flangers, spreaders, and rotary snow plows, most of the wooden snowsheds have long since been removed as obsolete.
Tunnels 1—5 and Tunnel 13 of the original s tunnels on Track 1 of the Sierra grade remain in use today, while additional new tunnels were later driven when the grade was double tracked over the first quarter of the twentieth century. Judah between Soda Springs and Eder, which was opened in when the summit section of the grade was double tracked.
This routing change was made because the Track 2 and Tunnel 41 Summit crossing is far easier and less expensive to maintain and keep open in the harsh Sierra winters.
By then the railroad had already been prebuilt down the Truckee River on the much flatter land from Reno to Wadsworth, Nevada , where they bridged the Truckee for the last time.
From there, they struggled across a forty mile desert to the end of the Humboldt river at the Humboldt Sink.
Water for the steam locomotives was provided by wells, springs, or pipelines to nearby water sources. Water was often pumped into the water tanks with windmills. Central Pacific had 1, freight cars available by May , with more under construction in their Sacramento yard.
Major repairs and maintenance on the Central Pacific rolling stock was done in their Sacramento maintenance yard. Near the end of , Central Pacific had locomotives, of which 2 had two drivers drive wheels , had four drivers, and 50 had six drivers. The steam locomotives had been purchased in the eastern states and shipped to California by sea. Thirty-six additional locomotives were built and coming west, and twenty-eight more were under construction. There was a shortage of passenger cars and more had to be ordered.
Train ferries transferred some railroad cars to and from the Oakland wharves and tracks to wharves and tracks in San Francisco. Before the CPRR was completed, developers were building other feeder railroads like the Virginia and Truckee Railroad to the Comstock Lode diggings in Virginia City, Nevada , and several different extensions in California and Nevada to reach other cities there.
Some of their main cargo was the thousands of cords of firewood needed for the many steam engines and pumps, cooking stoves, heating stoves etc. This new railroad connected to the Central Pacific near Reno , and went through Carson City , the new capital of Nevada. After the transcontinental railroads were completed, many other railroads were built to connect up to other population centers in Utah, Wyoming, Kansas, Colorado, Oregon, Washington territories, etc.
In , the Kansas Pacific Railway started building the Hannibal Bridge , a swing bridge across the Missouri River between Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas City, Kansas which connected railroads on both sides of the Missouri while still allowing passage of paddle steamers on the river. After completion, this became another major east-west railroad. To speed completion of the Kansas Pacific Railroad to Denver, construction started east from Denver in March to meet the railroad coming west from Kansas city.
Denver was now firmly on track to becoming the largest city and the future capital of Colorado. The original transcontinental railroad route did not pass through the two biggest cities in the so-called Great American Desert — Denver, Colorado , and Salt Lake City, Utah.
Feeder railroad lines were soon built to service these two and other cities and states along the route. Modern-day Interstate 80 roughly follows the path of the railroad from Sacramento across modern day California, Nevada, Wyoming and Nebraska, with a few exceptions. Most significantly, the two routes are different between Wells, Nevada and Echo, Utah. The railroad was originally routed along the north shore, and later with the Lucin Cutoff directly across the center of the Great Salt Lake, passing through the city of Ogden instead of Salt Lake City.
The railroad crosses the Wasatch Mountains via a much gentler grade through Weber Canyon. Most of the other deviations are in mountainous areas where interstate highways allow for grades up to six-percent grades, which allows them to go many places the railroads had to go around, since their goal was to hold their grades to less than two percent.
Most of the capital investment needed to build the railroad was generated by selling government-guaranteed bonds granted per mile of completed track to interested investors. The Federal donation of right-of-way saved money and time as it did not have to be purchased from others.
The financial incentives and bonds would hopefully cover most of the initial capital investment needed to build the railroad.
The bonds would be paid back by the sale of government-granted land, as well as prospective passenger and freight income. Most of the engineers and surveyors who figured out how and where to build the railroad on the Union Pacific were engineering college trained. Many of Union Pacific engineers and surveyors were Union Army veterans including two generals who had learned their railroad trade keeping the trains running and tracks maintained during the U. Civil War. After securing the finances and selecting the engineering team, the next step was to hire the key personnel and prospective supervisors.
Nearly all key workers and supervisors were hired because they had previous railroad on-the-job training, knew what needed to be done and how to direct workers to get it done. After the key personnel were hired, the semi-skilled jobs could be filled if there was available labor. The engineering team's main job was to tell the workers where to go, what to do, how to do it, and provide the construction material they would need to get it done.
Survey teams were put out to produce detailed contour maps of the options on the different routes. The engineering team looked at the available surveys and chose what was the "best" route. Survey teams under the direction of the engineers closely led the work crews and marked where and by how much hills would have to be cut and depressions filled or bridged.
Coordinators made sure that construction and other supplies were provided when and where needed, and additional supplies were ordered as the railroad construction consumed the supplies. Specialized bridging, explosive and tunneling teams were assigned to their specialized jobs. Some jobs like explosive work, tunneling, bridging, heavy cuts or fills were known to take longer than others, so the specialized teams were sent out ahead by wagon trains with the supplies and men to get these jobs done by the time the regular track-laying crews arrived.
Finance officers made sure the supplies were paid for and men paid for their work. An army of men had to be coordinated and a seemingly never-ending chain of supplies had to be provided. In addition to the track-laying crews, other crews were busy setting up stations with provisions for loading fuel, water and often also mail, passengers and freight. Personnel had to be hired to run these stations. Maintenance depots had to be built to keep all of the equipment repaired and operational.
Telegraph operators had to be hired to man each station to keep track of where the trains were so that trains could run in each direction on the available single track without interference or accidents. Sidings had to be built to allow trains to pass.
Provision had to be made to store and continually pay for coal or wood needed to run the steam locomotives. Water towers had to be built for refilling the water tanks on the engines, and provision made to keep them full. The majority of the Union Pacific track across the Nebraska and Wyoming territories was built by veterans of the Union and Confederate armies, as well as many recent immigrants.
Brigham Young , President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints , landed contracts with the Union Pacific that offered jobs for around 2, members of the church with the hope that the railroad would support commerce in Utah.
Church members built most of the road through Utah. The Union Pacific train carrying him to the final spike ceremony was held up by a strike by unpaid workers in Piedmont, Wyoming until he paid them for their work. Representatives of Brigham Young had less success, and failed in court to force him to honor the contract. The manual labor to build the Central Pacific's roadbed, bridges and tunnels was done primarily by many thousands of emigrant workers from China under the direction of skilled non-Chinese supervisors.
The Chinese were commonly referred to at the time as " Celestials " and China as the "Celestial Kingdom. The construction work involved an immense amount of manual labor. Initially, Central Pacific had a hard time hiring and keeping unskilled workers on its line, as many would leave for the prospect of far more lucrative gold or silver mining options elsewhere.
Despite the concerns expressed by Charles Crocker , one of the "big four" and a general contractor, that the Chinese were too small in stature  and lacking previous experience with railroad work, they decided to try them anyway. Most of these Chinese workers were represented by a Chinese "boss" who translated, collected salaries for his crew, kept discipline and relayed orders from an American general supervisor. Most Chinese workers spoke only rudimentary or no English, and the supervisors typically only learned rudimentary Chinese.
Many more workers were imported from the Guangdong Province of China, which at the time, beside great poverty, suffered from the violence of the Taiping Rebellion. Most Chinese workers were planning on returning with their new found "wealth" when the work was completed. Most of the men received between one and three dollars per day, the same as unskilled white workers; but the workers imported directly from China sometimes received less.
A snapshot of workers in late showed about 3, Chinese and 1, white workers employed on the railroad. Nearly all of the white workers were in supervisory or skilled craft positions and made more money than the Chinese. Once the Central Pacific was out of the Sierras and the Carson Range, progress sped up considerably as the railroad bed could be built over nearly flat ground. The track laying was divided up into various parts. In advance of the track layers, surveyors consulting with engineers determined where the track would go.
Workers then built and prepared the roadbed, dug or blasted through hills, filled in washes, built trestles, bridges or culverts across streams or valleys, made tunnels if needed, and laid the ties. The actual track-laying gang would then lay rails on the previously laid ties positioned on the roadbed, drive the spikes, and bolt the fishplate bars to each rail. At the same time, another gang would distribute telegraph poles and wire along the grade, while the cooks prepared dinner and the clerks busied themselves with accounts, records, using the telegraph line to relay requests for more materials and supplies or communicate with supervisors.
Usually the workers lived in camps built near their work site. Supplies were ordered by the engineers and hauled by rail, possibly then to be loaded on wagons if they were needed ahead of the railhead. Camps were moved when the railhead moved a significant distance. Later, as the railroad started moving long distances every few days, some railroad cars had bunkhouses built in them that moved with the workers—the Union Pacific had used this technique since Carts pulled by mules, and horses were about the only labor saving devices available then.
Lumber and ties were usually provided by independent contractors who cut, hauled and sawed the timber as required. Tunnels were blasted through hard rock by drilling holes in the rock face by hand and filling them with black powder.
Sometimes cracks were found which could be filled with powder and blasted loose. The loosened rock would be collected and hauled out of the tunnel for use in a fill area or as roadbed, or else dumped over the side as waste. A foot or so advance on a tunnel face was a typical day's work. Some tunnels took almost a year to finish and the Summit Tunnel, the longest, took almost two years. In the final days of working in the Sierras, the recently invented nitroglycerin explosive was introduced and used on the last tunnels including Summit Tunnel.
Supply trains carried all the necessary material for the construction up to the railhead, with mule or horse-drawn wagons carrying it the rest of the ways if required. Ties were typically unloaded from horse-drawn or mule-drawn wagons and then placed on the track ballast and levelled to get ready for the rails. Rails, which weighed the most, were often kicked off the flatcars and carried by gangs of men on each side of the rail to where needed. The rails just in front of the rail car would be placed first, measured for the correct gauge with gauge sticks and then nailed down on the ties with spike mauls.
The fishplates connecting the ends of the rails would be bolted on and then the car pushed by hand to the end of the rail and rail installation repeated. Track ballast was put between the ties as they progressed. Where a proper railbed had already been prepared, the work progressed rapidly. Constantly needed supplies included "food, water, ties, rails, spikes, fishplates, nuts and bolts, track ballast, telegraph poles, wire, fire wood or coal on the Union Pacific and water for the steam train locomotives, etc.
Since juggling railroad cars took time on flat ground, where wagon transport was easier, the rail cars would be brought to the end of the line by steam locomotive, unloaded, and the flat car returned immediately to a siding for another loaded car of either ballast or rails. Temporary sidings were often installed where it could be easily done to expedite getting needed supplies to the railhead.
The railroad tracks, spikes, telegraph wire, locomotives, railroad cars, supplies etc. Some freight was put on Clipper ships which could do the trip in about days.
Some passengers and high priority freight were shipped over the newly completed Panama Railroad across the Isthmus of Panama. Using paddle steamers to and from Panama, this short cut could be done in as little as 40 days.
Supplies were normally offloaded at the Sacramento, California docks where the railroad started. After great initial progress along the Sacramento Valley, construction was slowed, first by the foothills of the Sierra Nevada , then by cutting a railroad bed up the mountains themselves. As they progressed higher in the mountains, winter snowstorms and a shortage of reliable labor compounded the problems.
On January 7, , a want ad for 5, laborers was placed in the Sacramento Union. Emigrants from poverty stricken regions of China, many of which suffered from the strife of the Taiping Rebellion , seemed to be more willing to tolerate the living and working conditions on the railroad construction, and progress on the railroad continued.
The increasing necessity for tunneling as they proceeded up the mountains then began to slow progress of the line yet again.
The first step of construction was to survey the route and determine the locations where large excavations, tunnels and bridges would be needed.
Crews could then start work in advance of the railroad reaching these locations. Supplies and workers were brought up to the work locations by wagon teams and work on several different sections proceeded simultaneously.
One advantage of working on tunnels in winter was that tunnel work could often proceed since the work was nearly all "inside". Unfortunately, living quarters would have to be built outside and getting new supplies was difficult. Working and living in winter in the presence of snow slides and avalanches caused some deaths. To carve a tunnel, one worker held a rock drill on the granite face while one to two other workers swung eighteen-pound sledgehammers to sequentially hit the drill which slowly advanced into the rock.
Nitroglycerin, which had been invented less than two decades before the construction of the first transcontinental railroad, was used in relatively large quantities during its construction. This was especially true on the Central Pacific Railroad, which owned its own nitroglycerin plant to ensure it had a steady supply of the volatile explosive.
Chinese laborers were also crucial in the construction of 15 tunnels along the railroad's line through the Sierra Nevada mountains. These were about 32 feet 10 m high and 16 feet 5 m wide. At first hand-powered derricks were used to help remove loose rocks up the vertical shafts. These derricks were later replaced with steam hoists as work progressed. By using vertical shafts, four faces of the tunnel could be worked at the same time, two in the middle and one at each end.
The average daily progress in some tunnels was only 0. Wilder, a Central Pacific-Southern Pacific employee, commented that "The Chinese were as steady, hard-working a set of men as could be found. With the exception of a few whites at the west end of Tunnel No. A single foreman often Irish with a gang of 30 to 40 Chinese men generally constituted the force at work at each end of a tunnel; of these, 12 to 15 men worked on the heading, and the rest on the bottom, removing blasted material.
When a gang was small or the men were needed elsewhere, the bottoms were worked with fewer men or stopped so as to keep the headings going. Horace Hamilton Minkler, track foreman for the Central Pacific, laid the last rail and tie before the Last Spike was driven.
The sheds were built with two sides and a steep peaked roof, mostly of locally cut hewn timber and round logs. Masonry walls such as the "Chinese Walls" at Donner Summit were built across canyons to prevent avalanches from striking the side of the vulnerable wooden construction.
The major investor in the Union Pacific was Thomas Clark Durant,  who had made his stake money by smuggling Confederate cotton with the aid of Grenville M. Durant chose routes that would favor places where he held land, and he announced connections to other lines at times that suited his share dealings. Durant hired Dodge as chief engineer and Jack Casement as construction boss. In the East, the progress started in Omaha, Nebraska, by the Union Pacific Railroad which initially proceeded very quickly because of the open terrain of the Great Plains.
This changed, however, as the work entered Indian-held lands. The Native Americans saw the railroad as a violation of their treaties with the United States. War parties began to raid the moving labor camps that followed the progress of the line. Union Pacific responded by increasing security and hiring marksmen to kill American Bison , which were both a physical threat to trains and the primary food source for many of the Plains Indians. The Native Americans then began killing laborers when they realized that the so-called "Iron Horse" threatened their existence.
Security measures were further strengthened, and progress on the railroad continued. In , he wrote to Gen. Ulysses S. Congress finally took action, outlawing the killing of any birds or animals in Yellowstone National Park, where the only surviving buffalo herd could be protected. Conservationists established more wildlife preserves, and the species slowly rebounded. Today, there are more than , bison in North America. Army in , he acknowledged that the Native Americans were scuttled to reservations with no compensation beyond the promise of religious instruction and basic supplies of food and clothing—promises, he wrote, which were never fulfilled.
Could any one expect less? Then, why wonder at Indian difficulties? On the Union Pacific side, thrusting westward, the last two rails were laid by Irishmen; on the Central Pacific side, thrusting eastward, the last two rails were laid by the Chinese! It was at Promontory Summit on May 10, , that Leland Stanford drove The Last Spike or golden spike that joined the rails of the transcontinental railroad.
When the last spike was driven, the rail network was not yet connected to the Atlantic or Pacific but merely connected Omaha to Sacramento. To get from Sacramento to the Pacific, the Central Pacific purchased the struggling Western Pacific Railroad unrelated to the railroad of the same name that would later parallel its route and in summer resumed construction on it, which had halted in due to funding troubles. On September 6, , the first transcontinental rail passengers arrived at the Pacific Railroad's original western terminus on the east side of San Francisco Bay at the Alameda Terminal , where they transferred to the steamer Alameda for transport across the Bay to San Francisco.
On November 8, , the Central Pacific finally completed the rail connection to its western terminus at Oakland, California , also on the East Bay , where freight and passengers completed their transcontinental link to San Francisco by ferry. The Western Pacific was originally chartered to go to San Jose , but the Central Pacific decided to build along the East Bay instead, as going from San Jose up the Peninsula to San Francisco itself would have brought it into conflict with competing interests.
The railroad entered Alameda and Oakland from the south, roughly paralleling what would later become U. Route 50 and later still Interstates 5 , , and A more direct route was obtained with the purchase of the California Pacific Railroad , crossing the Sacramento River and proceeding southwest through Davis to Benicia , where it crossed the Carquinez Strait by means of an enormous train ferry , then followed the shores of the San Pablo and San Francisco bays to Richmond and the Port of Oakland paralleling U.
Route 40 which ultimately became Interstate In , a rail bridge across the Carquinez replaced the Benicia ferries. Very early on, the Central Pacific learned that it would have trouble maintaining an open track in winter across the Sierras.
At first they tried plowing the road with special snowplows mounted on their steam engines. When this was only partially successful, an extensive process of building snow sheds over some of the track was instituted to protect it from deep snows and avalanches.
These eventually succeeded at keeping the tracks clear for all but a few days of the year. Both railroads soon instituted extensive upgrade projects to build better bridges, viaducts and dugways as well as install heavier duty rails, stronger ties, better road beds etc.
The original track had often been laid as fast as possible with only secondary attention to maintenance and durability. The primary incentive had been getting the subsidies, which meant that upgrades of all kinds were routinely required in the following years. Several years after the end of the Civil War, the competing railroads coming from Missouri finally realized their initial strategic advantage and a building boom ensued.
In July , the Hannibal and St. Kansas City's head start in connecting to a true transcontinental railroad contributed to it rather than Omaha becoming the dominant rail center west of Chicago.
Only ten years before, the same journey would have taken months over land or weeks on ship, possibly all the way around South America. Supreme Court to divest it because of monopoly concerns. The two railroads would once again unite in when the Southern Pacific was sold to the Union Pacific. Having been bypassed with the completion of the Lucin Cutoff in , the Promontory Summit rails were pulled up in to be recycled for the World War II effort.
This process began with a ceremonial "undriving" at the Last Spike location. The scandal hit epic proportions in the United States presidential election , which saw the re-election of Ulysses S.
Grant and became the biggest scandal of the Gilded Age. It would not be resolved until the death of the congressman who was supposed to have reined in its excesses but instead wound up profiting from it. The process mired down Union Pacific work. Lincoln asked Massachusetts Congressman Oakes Ames , who was on the railroad committee, to clean things up and get the railroad moving. Ames got his brother Oliver Ames Jr.
Ames then in turn gave stock options to other politicians while at the same time continuing the lucrative overcharges. The scandal broke in when the New York Sun published correspondence detailing the scheme between Henry S. McComb and Ames. In the ensuing Congressional investigation, it was recommended that Ames be expelled from Congress, but this was reduced to a censure and Ames died within three months. Durant later left the Union Pacific and a new rail baron, Jay Gould , became the dominant stockholder.
As a result of the Panic of , Gould was able to pick up bargains, among them the control of the Union Pacific Railroad and Western Union. Visible remains of the historic line are still easily located—hundreds of miles are still in service today, especially through the Sierra Nevada Mountains and canyons in Utah and Wyoming. While the original rail has long since been replaced because of age and wear, and the roadbed upgraded and repaired, the lines generally run on top of the original, handmade grade.
Vista points on Interstate 80 through California's Truckee Canyon provide a panoramic view of many miles of the original Central Pacific line and of the snow sheds which made winter train travel safe and practical. In areas where the original line has been bypassed and abandoned, primarily due to the Lucin Cutoff re-route in Utah, the original road grade is still obvious, as are numerous cuts and fills, especially the Big Fill a few miles east of Promontory.
The sweeping curve which connected to the east end of the Big Fill now passes a Thiokol rocket research and development facility. Today the site feature replica engines of Union Pacific No.
The engines are fired up periodically by the National Park Service for the public. Because this rail line currently operates in a directional running setup across most of Nevada, the California Zephyr will switch to the Central Corridor at either Winnemucca or Wells. While not exactly accurate, John Ford's silent movie The Iron Horse captures the fervent nationalism that drove public support for the project.
Among the cooks serving the film's cast and crew between shots were some of the Chinese laborers who worked on the Central Pacific section of the railroad. The movie is said to have inspired the Union Pacific Western television series starring Jeff Morrow , Judson Pratt and Susan Cummings which aired in syndication from until The film How the West Was Won has a whole segment devoted to the construction; one of the movie's most famous scenes, filmed in Cinerama , is of a buffalo stampede over the railroad.
The construction of what presumably is — or is suggested to be — the Transcontinental Railroad provides the backdrop of the epic spaghetti western Once Upon a Time in the West , directed by Italian director Sergio Leone. Kristiana Gregory 's book The Great Railroad Race part of the "Dear America" series is written as the fictional diary of Libby West, who chronicles the end of the railroad construction and the excitement which engulfed the country at the time. In the Will Smith film, Wild Wild West , the joining ceremony is the setting of an assassination attempt on then U.
President Ulysses S. Grant by the film's antagonist Dr. Arliss Loveless. The main character in The Claim is a surveyor for the Central Pacific Railroad , and the film is partially about the efforts of a frontier mayor to have the railroad routed through his town. In the DreamWorks Animation movie, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron , the main character, the horse Spirit, is delivered with other horses to pull a steam locomotive at a work site for the Transcontinental Railroad.
The American Experience series' — season documents the railway in the episode titled "Transcontinental Railroad". Thomas Durant is a regular character in the series and is portrayed by actor Colm Meaney. In , a Lego model depicting the Golden Spike Ceremony, the event that symbolically marked the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad, was submitted to the Lego Ideas website. For maps and railroad pictures of this era shortly after the advent of photography see:.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. The first railroad in the United States to reach the Pacific coast from the eastern states.
Main article: Theodore Judah. Main articles: Thomas C. Durant and Union Pacific Railroad. Main article: Pacific Railroad Acts. See this list for names of Union Pacific civil engineers This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources.
Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. Main article: Golden spike. History portal Trains portal United States portal. Their franchise has recently [late ] been assigned to parties in the interest of the Central Pacific Railroad Company; and it is probable that this line will be formally incorporated with the Central Pacific Railroad, and the road extended from Sacramento to San Francisco by the "best, most direct and practicable route" so soon as the overland connection is completed.
In the meantime the travel is abundantly accommodated by first-class steamers. September Section 6 of the Pacific Railroad Act of , et seq. United States 99 U. It was approved by Congress in and given nearly 40 million acres ,km 2 of land grants, which it used to raise money in Europe.
Construction began in and the main line opened all the way from the Great Lakes to the Pacific Ocean on September 8, Archived from the original on January 25, Retrieved January 26, Archived from the original on January 26, New York: D. January William A. Berkeley, California: University of California Press. United States, 99 U.
A Brief History of the Pacific Railway - The Transcontinental Railroad
The first public proposal for such a line was made by the New York City merchant Asa Whitney in At that time the United States did not hold outright possession of land west of the Rockies, though it exercised joint occupation of the Oregon Country until , when under a treaty with Britain it gained possession of the Pacific coast between the 42nd and 49th parallels.
North-South sectionalism intruded when it was appreciated that west of the Missouri any rail project would require a combination of federal and private efforts, the American practice.
In the hope of resolving the regional conflict, the Corps of Topographic Engineers was authorized in to undertake the Pacific Railroad Survey, which studied almost all the potential rail routes in the West. The survey on the 49th parallel was in the mids transformed into the Great Northern Railway. A near neighbour, the 47th parallel survey, had in the early s been followed by the Northern Pacific Railway. The 41st parallel survey, only a partial investigation, sketched the alignment on which was to be built the first transcontinental railroad, the Union Pacific east of Great Salt Lake and the Central Pacific west thereof.
The southernmost route, the 32nd parallel, was to run from Shreveport, La. Construction began in of the 41st parallel route, which had been selected to receive federal grants, but because of the outbreak of the Civil War relatively little was accomplished on the Union Pacific Railroad before the end of fighting in In California , little affected by the war, construction was more rapidly advanced.
By the original juncture of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific was moved eastward; the meeting took place on May 10, , at Promontory , Utah.
The opening of the Pacific railroad in demonstrated that the market for the profitable operation of such a line still lay somewhat in the future: one eastbound and one westbound train a week were adequate to meet the demands of traffic.
It took almost a generation before additional rail lines to the west coast seemed justified. Each western railroad now had to shape a new economic and geographic strategy. In place of the natural territory gained through monopoly the western lines tried to accomplish regional ubiquity, under which the Southern Pacific originally the Central Pacific , the Union Pacific, or the Santa Fe attempted to have a network of rail lines that reached to the Pacific Southwest, the Pacific Northwest , and northern California; only the Union Pacific succeeded.
The American rail network was essentially complete by when the last transcontinental line, the Western Pacific Railroad to Oakland, Calif. Diesel-electric locomotives appeared in the s. Individual locomotive units provided up to 5, horsepower, a figure equal to all the steam-engine power in the United States in Locomotive units could be multicoupled and operated by a single engineer. Not only did diesel-electric locomotives make such routinization of freight operation possible but they also reduced labour demands greatly.
Refueling engines required only pumping heavy fuel oil at infrequent intervals; locomotives frequently ran coast-to-coast with only changes of crew and refueling. Never as widespread as in Europe, electrification today is particularly associated with the northeastern United States. This regional concentration of electrification has meant that only between Boston and Washington, D.
Experimental high-speed projects began in this northeast corridor in the s when both the Pennsylvania Railroad with its electrically operated Metroliners and the New Haven Railroad diesel-electric Turbotrains began running, and since Amtrak has run its electric Acela Express trains between Boston and Washington.
The Metroliners phased out in attained speeds of km miles per hour in the best sections, while the Acela Express trains are capable of reaching speeds in excess of km miles per hour—though average operating speeds over the entire route are far lower, generally about km 75 miles per hour.
Throughout the 20th century the ownership and organization of U. Mergers were common, and the bankruptcy of Penn Central Railroad in became the nucleus around which a number of northeastern railroads were joined into a nationally owned Consolidated Rail Corporation Conrail , established by the federal government under the Regional Rail Reorganization Act of Louis and from the Ohio River north to Canada.
Although it was set up to be an independent profit-making corporation, in its early years, even with the aid of federal loans, it lost more than the bankrupt lines had lost before consolidation. In Conrail turned a profit for the first time, and in the government put its stock up for sale to the public.
After several years of profitable operation, the assets of the company were purchased in the late s by two other rail companies, CSX Corporation and Norfolk Southern Corporation. Within months after the Penn Central bankruptcy, a number of railroads applied for Interstate Commerce Commission permission to abandon intercity passenger service. From about the early s, the railroads had lost millions of dollars annually on their passenger lines as a result of a steady decline in their ridership and increases in their operating costs.
In , for example, there were approximately 9, passenger trains in service, and these lines carried just under 50 percent of all intercity traffic.
By , however, there were only about trains still in operation, with a total share of the passenger traffic amounting to a mere 7 percent. Freight service was still modestly profitable, but passenger service was, as virtually everywhere else in the world, possible only with substantial government subsidies.
More than a century earlier, land grants had been given to railroads to spur completion of the transcontinental line, but the creation of Amtrak marked the first time that rail passenger service had received any form of direct financial assistance from the U.
The new corporation was set up to pay the railroads to run their passenger trains and also compensate them for the use of certain facilities, including tracks and terminals. It bore all administrative costs, such as those incurred for the purchase of new equipment, and managed scheduling, route planning, and the sale of tickets.
Income from passenger fares has never been sufficient to pay for operating and capital-improvement costs, and, as a result, Amtrak has regularly received subsidies from the federal government—in addition to constant scrutiny of its operating and budgetary practices and periodic threats from Congress to reduce or even eliminate funding. By the turn of the 21st century, rail was estimated to account for only about 1 percent of intercity traffic in the United States. Amtrak was responsible for some 33, km 21, miles of track around the country, though by far most of its ridership was found in so-called urban corridors, short- or medium-distance routes that linked centres of high population.
In Amtrak took over the route, assuming direct ownership of the tracks and facilities. At the same time, a federally funded Northeast Corridor Improvement Project was begun to upgrade the route for high speed and extend electrification over the entire route.
By the route between New York and Washington could be run at high speed by Metroliner, which were hauled by lightweight 7,horsepower electric locomotives of Swedish design. The Metroliner was replaced between and by the Acela Express, whose passenger cars and electric power cars were built by Bombardier Inc. In Amtrak claimed more than one-half of the combined rail and air passenger market between the two cities and also between New York and Boston.
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