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7 Ancient Wonders of the World
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7 Wonders of the industrial World

1st Transcontinental Railroad
Industrial World Wonders
 
 
 
The transcontinental railroad is considered one of the greatest American technological feats of the 19th century--surpassing the building of the Erie Canal in the 1820s and the crossing of the Isthmus of Panama by the Panama Railroad in 1855. It served as a vital link for trade, commerce and travel that joined the eastern and western halves of late 19th century United States. The transcontinental railroad quickly ended most of the far slower and more hazardous stagecoach lines and wagon trains that had preceded it. [1]
 
Transcontinental Railroad [1]

 

The First Transcontinental Railroad is the popular name of the U.S. railroad line (known at the time as the Pacific Railroad) completed in 1869 between Council Bluffs, Iowa/Omaha, Nebraska (via Ogden, Utah and Sacramento, California) and Alameda, California. By linking with the existing railway network of the Eastern United States, the road thus connected the Atlantic and Pacific coasts by rail for the first time. Opened for through traffic on May 10, 1869, with the driving of the "Last Spike" at Promontory Summit, Utah, the road established a mechanized transcontinental transportation network that revolutionized the population and economy of the American West.

Authorized by the Pacific Railway Act of 1862 during the American Civil War and supported by U.S. government bonds and extensive land grants of government owned land, it was the culmination of a decades-long movement to build such a line and was one of the crowning achievements of the presidency of Abraham Lincoln, although completed four years after his death. The building of the railway required enormous amounts of money and feats of engineering and labor in the crossing of plains and high mountains by the Union Pacific Railroad and Central Pacific Railroad, which built the line westward and eastward respectively.

The transcontinental railroad is considered one of the greatest American technological feats of the 19th century--surpassing the building of the Erie Canal in the 1820s and the crossing of the Isthmus of Panama by the Panama Railroad in 1855. It served as a vital link for trade, commerce and travel that joined the eastern and western halves of late 19th century United States. The transcontinental railroad quickly ended most of the far slower and more hazardous stagecoach lines and wagon trains that had preceded it. The railroads led to the decline of traffic on the Oregon and California Trail which had populated much of the west as they provided much faster, safer and cheaper (7 days & about $65 economy) transport east and west for people and goods across half a continent. The sale of the railroad land grant lands and the transport provided for timber and crops lead to the rapid settling of the supposed "Great American Desert". The main workers on the Union Pacific were many ex-army veterans and Irish emigrants while most of the engineers etc. were ex-army men who had learned their trade keeping the trains running during the Civil War. The Central Pacific, facing a labor shortage in the labor short west, relied on Chinese laborers who did prodigious work building the line over and through the Sierra Nevada mountains and then across Nevada to a meeting in Utah.


Pacific Railroad Bond, City and County of San Francisco, 1865The building of the railroad was motivated in part to bind the eastern and western states of the United States together. The Central Pacific faced with the prodigious feat of building a road over the Sierra Nevada mountains started work in 1863. The Union Pacific company faced with the competition for workers, rails, ties, railroad engines and supplies by the needs of the American Civil War didn't start construction till July 1865. Completion of the railroad substantially accelerated the populating of the West while contributing to the decline of territory controlled by the Native Americans in these regions. In 1879, the Supreme Court of the United States formally established, in its decision regarding Union Pacific Railroad vs. United States (99 U.S. 402), the official "date of completion" of the Transcontinental Railroad as November 6, 1869.

The Central Pacific and the Southern Pacific Railroad combined operations in 1870 and formally merged in 1885. Union Pacific originally bought the Southern Pacific in 1901 but in 1913 was forced to divest it; the company once again acquired the Southern Pacific in 1996. Much of the original right-of-way is still in use today and owned by the Union Pacific.

Needing rapid communication, as the railroad was built they built telegraph lines along side the railroad rights of way. Since these lines were much easier to protect and maintain than the original First Transcontinental Telegraph lines which went over much of the original routes of the Mormon Trail and the Central Nevada Route though central Utah and Nevada, they soon became the main telegraph lines and the earlier lines were mostly abandoned.

 

Between 1845 & 1893, the American West was lost and won. Along the way, the lives of hundreds of thousands of Native Americans were violently disrupted and all but destroyed. This mesmerizing documentary chronicles the final astonishing decades of the American frontier from the time of the Gold Rush to the last massacre at Wounded Knee. [2]

 

ericholmgren
September 03, 2008

 

The World Wonders .Com-visit 1,000 world wonders at www.theworldwonders.com

 

 
 
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References
 
 1. Absolute Astronomy- Central Pacific Railroad- Public Domain image-retrieved 7/23/2009
 2. Wikipedia- 1st Transcontinental Railroad-retrieved 7/23/2009
 
 
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