transcontinental railroad

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transcontinental railroad,

in U.S. history, rail connection with the Pacific coast. In 1845, Asa Whitney presented to Congress a plan for the federal government to subsidize the building of a railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific. The settlement of the Oregon boundary in 1846, the acquisition of western territories from Mexico in 1848, and the discovery of gold in California (1849) increased support for the project; in 1853, Congress appropriated funds to survey various proposed routes. Rivalry over the route was intense, however, and when Senator Stephen Douglas introduced (1854) his Kansas-Nebraska ActKansas-Nebraska Act,
bill that became law on May 30, 1854, by which the U.S. Congress established the territories of Kansas and Nebraska. By 1854 the organization of the vast Platte and Kansas river countries W of Iowa and Missouri was overdue.
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, intended to win approval for a line from Chicago, the ensuing sectional controversy between North and South forced a delay in the plans. During the Civil War, a Republican-controlled Congress enacted legislation (July 1, 1862) providing for construction of a transcontinental line. The law provided that the railroad be built by two companies; each received federal land grants of 10 alternate sections per mile on both sides of the line (the amount was doubled in 1864) and a 30-year government loan for each mile of track constructed. In 1863 the Union Pacific RR began construction from Omaha, Nebr., while the Central Pacific broke ground at Sacramento, Calif. The two lines met at Promontory Summit, Utah, and on May 10, 1869, a golden spike joined the two railways, thus completing the first transcontinental railroad. Others followed. Three additional lines were finished in 1883: the Northern Pacific RR stretched from Lake Superior to Portland, Oreg.; the Santa Fe extended from Atchison, Kans., to Los Angeles; and the Southern Pacific connected Los Angeles with New Orleans. A fifth line, the Great Northern, was completed in 1893. Each of those companies received extensive grants of land, although none obtained government loans. The promise of land often resulted in shoddy construction that only later was repaired, and scandals, such as Crédit Mobilier (see Crédit Mobilier of AmericaCrédit Mobilier of America
, ephemeral construction company, connected with the building of the Union Pacific RR and involved in one of the major financial scandals in American history. Oakes Ames, Thomas C.
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), were not infrequent. The transcontinental railroads immeasurably aided the settling of the west and hastened the closing of the frontier. They also brought rapid economic growth as mining, farming, and cattle-raising developed along the main lines and their branches.


See J. Grodinsky, Transcontinental Railway Strategy, 1869–1893 (1962); R. W. Howard, The Great Iron Trail (1962); L. M. Beebe, The Central Pacific and Southern Pacific Railroads (1963); G. Hogg, Union Pacific: The Building of the First Transcontinental Railroad (1967, repr. 1970); C. E. Ames, Pioneering the Union Pacific (1969); J. J. Stewart, The Iron Trail to the Golden Spike (1969); D. H. Bain, Empire Express (1999); S. E. Ambrose, Nothing zLike It in the World (2000).

References in periodicals archive ?
Civil War years from Bohemia - then a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire - to work on building the transcontinental railroad in Nebraska, where he worked for free farmland and eventually started a farm that remained in my family for nearly a century.
UP Celebrates the Life and Vision of Lincoln, Father of the Transcontinental Railroad
Celebrated as completing the transcontinental railroad, the event actually joined rail lines from Omaha to Sacramento.
Elko was born as the Transcontinental Railroad was built east from Sacramento.
White blames government subsidy, writing "without the extensive subsidization of a transcontinental railroad network, there might very well have been less waste, less suffering, less environmental degradation, and less catastrophic economic busts in mining, agriculture, and cattle raising.
To help determine the most practical route for the first US transcontinental railroad, Congress authorized surveys of the West in the early 1850s.
For it leaves out the Chinese, a group of people that has been in California since the 1790s, who built the western half of the transcontinental railroad, a group that has been a part of the American West since its beginnings.
The pioneers who came to Utah before the completion of the Transcontinental railroad in 1869 are an important part of our state's history," said Jerry Fenn, Qwest Utah president.
The book details every stage of the fort's existence, from its beginnings in 1834 as a trading post, its involvement in the buffalo hide trade, overland migrations, Indian wars and treaties, the Utah War, and into the telegraph and first transcontinental railroad eras.
Beale, who had made numerous trips across the country, including conducting an assessment of the feasibility of the route for a transcontinental railroad, led the mission to test the suitability of these camels both as pack animals and for riding.
an engrossing simulation of building the transcontinental railroad last century.
We are proud to be sharing the news on America's National Train Day - the official anniversary of the completion of the first transcontinental railroad in 1869.

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