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.

Bibliography

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 ?
The planned South American transcontinental railway will run from Brazil through Bolivia to Peru, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
Or that in 1869, when the transcontinental railway was completed, bison numbers were estimated at 40 million, and uncountable pelicans rose from rivers "like a clatter of pots and pans"?
His role in creating Canada and the realisation of his dream to build a transcontinental railway have fixed his place as a nation-builder in Canadian history.
A transcontinental railway in Canada and the US, CP together with its subsidiaries transports bulk commodities and inter modal traffic consisting of retail goods in overseas containers that can be transported by train, ship and truck, as well as in domestic containers and trailers that can be moved by train and truck.
Canadian Pacific is a transcontinental railway in Canada and the United States with direct links to eight major ports, including Vancouver and Montreal.
Author Barry Lane ably recounts the history of Canadian Pacific, from the construction of the transcontinental railway to the development of the hotels and the building of the shipping line that linked Canada to the rest of the world.
CHRIS TARRANT: EXTREME RAILWAY JOURNEYS Channel 5, 9pm Chris takes a railway trip across Canada, revealing how 2,500 miles of transcontinental railway was built against huge odds in just a few decades, helping to join together a vast wilderness of isolated communities and create the country that exists today.
CHRIS TARRANT: EXTREME RAILWAY JOURNEYS (Channel 5, Thursday, 9pm) TV and radio favourite Chris Tarrant, heads to Canada to discover how a 2,500 mile transcontinental railway was built against huge odds in just a few decades.
CHOICE Chris Tarrant: Extreme Railway Journeys Channel 5, 9pm Chris takes a railway trip across Canada, revealing how 2,500 miles of transcontinental railway was built against huge odds in just a few decades, helping to join together a vast wilderness of isolated communities and create the country that exists today.
THURSDAY Chris Tarrant: Extreme Railway Journeys Channel 5, 9pm Chris takes a railway trip across Canada, revealing how 2,500 miles of transcontinental railway was built against huge odds in just a few decades, helping to join together a vast wilderness of isolated communities and create the country that exists today.
The three-month-long exhibition (21 April to 23 July 2012) followed the evolving notion of an American transcontinental railway from the earliest proposals through its eventual completion in 1869; it tracked the sweeping economic, social and cultural transformations that this powerful new technology unleashed across California and the trans-Mississippi West in subsequent decades.
In addition, KWG Resources has staked out claims along a potential line-of-rail from the existing transcontinental railway near Geraldton, northward for over 300 km to the Ring of Fire.

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