The First Transcontinental Railroad

Transcontinental Railroad

The First Transcontinental Railroad in the United States was built in the 1860s. It is considered one of the greatest technological feats of the 19th century to take place in America. It served as a vital link for commerce, trade and travel. It replaced the stagecoach and wagon trains for a safer journey across the nation. The main line was officially completed on May 10, 1869. The vast number of people who traveled the line, and the network that followed, set the USA on the path to economic abundance. It also ended the centuries old way of life of the Native Americans and greatly altered the environment.

The rail line was an important goal of President Abraham Lincoln, fostered during the early portion of his term and completed four years after his death. The building of the railroad was motivated in part to bind California to the Union during the American Civil War. The railroad is considered by some to be the greatest technological feat of the 19th century. The transcontinental railroad replaced the slower and more dangerous wagon trains, Pony Express and stagecoach lines that crossed the country by land and the equally difficult sea journey around the southern tip of South America.

The route followed the well established Oregon, Mormon and California Trails. The new line began in Omaha, Nebraska, followed the Platte River, crossed the Rocky Mountains at South Pass in Wyoming and then through northern Utah and Nevada before crossing the Sierras to Sacramento, California. Additional track was laid to connect Denver, Colorado and Salt Lake City, Utah and other cities not directly on the route.

The Central Pacific laid 690 miles (1,110 km) of track, starting in Sacramento, and the Union Pacific laid 1,087 miles (1,749 km) of track, starting in Omaha. The two lines connected at Promontory Summit, Utah.

Transcontinental Railroad