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The History Of The Transcontinental Railroad History Essay

Out of all the inventions and advancements the United States has gone through to make it the great nation it is today, one of the most important was the Transcontinental Railroad. The Transcontinental Railroad stretched out all through the United States and was used for trade, transportation, expansion of the west and much more. The Transcontinental Railroad helped in unifying the east and west coasts of the United States of America and greatly contributed to the westward expansion.

Before the Transcontinental Railroad was constructed, the west wasn’t of much use. Not many people cared to go to an empty land to start a new life on their own. Trade was nearly impossible because of transportation issues that were faced. In 1848, in Sutter’s Hill, California, gold started being discovered. People suddenly became more interested in heading westward and as a result, travel and trade became important( History of the Transcontinental railroad). Before the discovery of gold, congress had never passed any bills that requested construction. The reason is because the north wanted the railroad to be in the north and the south wanted the railroad to be in the south. Also, there were no problems regarding slavery in these western parts of the United states and so congress argued whether slavery should even be permitted in those regions( History of the Transcontinental Railroad.). Congress sent out 5 surveying teams in 1853 to find possible routes to construct the transcontinental railroad on and came back a year later. They gave their results to Jefferson Davis, secretary of way, and he decided that a southern route would be the best. Due to the south’s secession from the United States before the Civil war, his opinion was disregarded and the route went on from California through the Sierras and Mississippi river and ended in Chicago.

The construction of the Transcontinental Railroad began in Omaha.(“History of the Transcontinental Railroad.”) Construction came off to a slow start because of The Civil war still being in progress. Many problems were faced while constructing the railroad. Two different railroad companies were constructing the railroad and intended on meeting in the middle to connect both sides. From the east there was the Central Pacific Railroad Co. and from the west was The Union Pacific Railroad Co (“The Transcontinental Railroad”.) From the west, many Chinese laborers worked on and constructed the railroads. They were willing to work for lower wages than other laborers and they had to go through alt of discrimination because the whites felt that they were taking their jobs away from them. The Chinese couldn’t become citizens, vote, testify in court, and were forced to live in certain parts of town (“Facts”.) They also faced harsh working conditions when it became hot or cold and were often exposed to a fair amount of danger while working. Both railroad companies hired Chinese laborers for the same reasons, they were hardworking and accepted lower wages than Irish workers.

The Transcontinental railroad was completed on May 10th, 1869 and the two different railroads that were constructed from different sides of the United States were connected in Promontory Point, Utah.( “History of the Transcontinental Railroad”.) The Transcontinental Railroad was used for transportation and trade mainly. A trip that normally took months now only took days. The United States was connected like never before and the railroad introduced a whole new trade and transportation system. The west was greatly impacted by the transcontinental railroad. The population grew massively in the 1870s and 1880s(“Growth of the West”). By 1880, the population grew to an estimated quarter million people in the west (Growth of the West”.). In the beginning, people sought to move out to the west for mining reasons, but after the transcontinental railroad was completed people went there for other reasons. The west became multicultural in many ways. People from all over America started settling in the west. The goal of the transcontinental railroad was achieved and much more.

Not only did population in the west increase, but so did opportunity. Immigrants came from different countries to live an American life-style, while record-breaking numbers of Americans came from the East to start a new life. As a result of the population growth, by 1990 14 new states were organized from the western territories. (“Growth of the West”) Before the transcontinental railroad was constructed, there weren’t many organized states. It was just a huge chunk of land people called the west, or frontier. Between 1889 and 1890, North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho were officially states. (“Growth of the West”.) Slowly, the west had gotten rid of its frontier identity and the entire country shared the same identity, Americans.

Needless to say the United States became one unified country. The intent of the Transcontinental Railroad was to have better, more advanced ways of transportation and trade but it achieved much more than that. It opened America up to the world, and it affected the west and the rest of the United States in unimaginable ways. Constructing the transcontinental railroad took a lot of work and faced many problems before, during, and some after its construction was completed. Despite the difficulty that came along with constructing the transcontinental railroad, Americans pushed through and achieved the unimaginable. Over-time, new ways of transportation and trade were introduced and as a result, people dug up the road ties and used them for supplies and other necessities (“Facts.”). The Transcontinental Railroad contributed massively to the expansion westward and unified the country as a whole. Without the transcontinental railroad, developing the west would have taken hundreds of years, but the transcontinental railroad made it quick and easy to start new settlements and communities in these western regions. It only took tens of years to accomplish what would’ve taken hundreds. The transcontinental railroad wasn’t about making the west better than anyone else, but to unify and make the west a part of the United States, and that goal was certainly fulfilled

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