The West Coasts of the United States. The
The Transcontinental Railroads
The Transcontinental Railroad consisted of ten major railroads that together would span the distance between the East and West Coasts of the United States. The completion of these railroads brought change, both for good and bad, and had an enormous impact on the United States and other countries of the world. Without a doubt, each railroad played an important role in shaping America into the country it is today.
The Great Northern Railroad was an 8,316-mile long railroad created in September 1889 by predecessor railroads in Minnesota. It went from Lake Superior to Washington, traveling through North Dakota, Montana, and Idaho. The line was the dream of James Jerome Hill who was known as the “Empire Builder” since he had the ability to bring prosperity to areas that were barren before his influence. This railroad provided service and helped build up the grain, potato, and sugar beet regions in North Dakota, Montana, and Eastern Washington. It also played a pivotal role in the prosperity of the cattle counties of Montana as well as the oil, copper, and lumber industries (http://www.gnrhs.org).
The Northern Pacific Railroad originally started in 1864 by Josiah Perham; unfortunately, due to financing problems the project was stalled until 1869. The route stretched from Lake Superior to the Puget Sound in Washington. This railroad was unique since it received no government loans to assists in its financing. The Northern Pacific lines were vital in bringing immigrants to various cities along the routes through advertising at home and abroad. Their effort to attract settlers into these regions was directly responsible for Montana, Washington, North Dakota and South Dakota becoming states in 1889. This stimulated the economies in these regions (http://www.linecamp.com).
The Union Pacific Railroad was created in 1862 by government grants. Construction began in late 1863 in Omaha, Nebraska. Over a period of six years it was run through Wyoming and on to Promontory Point, Utah. The Union Pacific routes later expanded to reach north to Washington and south to Texas, with numerous subsidiary lines in Colorado. In 1936, the railroad opened Sun Valley, Idaho Ski Resort, which became a model for other ski resorts to follow (http://www.linecamp.com).
The Kansas Pacific was the southern branch of the Union Pacific. The building of the route began in 1863 with the intent to transport passengers (immigrants) westward through the Great Plains. The route ran from Kansas City to Denver. Towns sprung up along the different junctions providing economic booms in those areas. The railroad was consolidated with the Union Pacific in 1880 (http://www.ku.edu).
The Southern Pacific Railroad also known as the “Espee” was merely a dream that would be conceived in 1870 by four guys by the names of Collis Huntington, Charles Crocker, Leland Stanford, and Mark Hopkins. It was one sure way to increase their control over the West Coast shipping. The dream would finally become reality when a transcontinental line that was created by Huntington, ran through the southern United States connecting Los Angeles with New Orleans. By 1877, it controlled over 85% of California’s railroad mileage. In 1881 the South Pacific was linked to the Santa Fe Railroad at Deming, New Mexico, creating the second American transcontinental railway. Two years later, in 1883, Huntington gained full control of a number of smaller railroads, creating the Southern Pacific’s “Sunset Route” from New Orleans to California (http://.www.historychannel.com).
The Santa Fe extended from Atchison, Kansas to Los Angeles. On October 30, 1868 construction officially began at Topeka, heading up Shunganunga Creek almost due south because of the deposits of coal. The construction of the railroad would become halted at Newton, while the eastern end was extended and completed in Atchison in late 1871. In March 1875 it resumed construction toward Pueblo, Colorado, allowing people to use the railroad to transport goods and materials from settlement to settlement (http://www.ku.edu).
The Missouri/Kansas/Texas railroad, also known as the Katy, first came into existence in 1865. It was the first railroad to enter Texas from the north (http://www.rra.dst.tx.us/c_t/railroad/MISSOURI.cfm). This railroad was given its name based on its proposed service route. It was intended to funnel business from Missouri, Kansas, and the north and east to a new rail route across Indian Territory to and through Texas. In 1884, the Santa Fe faced the prospect of losing the Texas cattle business. To maintain business prospects, engineers turned towards the Panhandle of Texas on July 4th of that same year and gained permission to build two routes across Indian Territory. One route was bound for central Texas while the second looked towards the Panhandle (http://www.atsfrr.com).
The Denver & Rio Grande Railroad started under construction in March of 1871. The railroad stretched from Ogden, Utah to Pueblo, Colorado. Construction of this line was completed in June of 1872. Lines branched off the main line to cities like Denver, Leadville, and Santa Fe. This railroad brought much change to Colorado. Many large stockholders bought land near the railroad towns, bringing business with them. Smaller towns in Colorado where abandoned because people wanted to live near the railroad lines. The railroad was mainly used to transport silver from the mines to the larger cities. The Sherman Silver Purchasing Act of 1893 dropped the price of silver, which forced many of the mines to close. This turned Colorado more towards livestock industry (http://www.yesteryeardepot.com).
The Atlantic & Pacific Railroad Company started construction in 1872 in Springfield, Missouri. It met the Southern Pacific Railroad in Needles, Arizona in 1879. Other railroads bought most of the stock in the company due to bankruptcy. This railroad took away the hardships for the settlers making their way west. There was always fear of death when crossing the Southwest, whether it is from Indians or the desert heat. When the railroad went up, the settlers could just bypass all those problems by buying a train ticket (http://www.scripophily.net, http://www.atsfrr.com).
The Central Pacific Railroad Company broke ground on January 8, 1863 in Sacramento, California. Workers had to bore through thousands of feet of solid stone and fought snowdrifts and avalanches along the way. The track met with the Union Pacific Railroad on May 10, 1869 in Promontory Point, Utah. This railroad had a great effect on America and other countries too. Goods could now be shipped from anywhere in America directly to the Pacific coast via train. American industries greatly profited because shipping was much quicker to overseas places. America was now seen as a land bridge for shipping between Europe and Asia (http://www.cprr.org, http://www.learncalifornia.com).
In conclusion, these Transcontinental Railroads greatly affected United States history. They forced changes upon the people and the way of life in the United States by stretching all across the country, transforming, and molding the nation around them. Economic and social change could be found along the many routes of this great system. Even today, the United States relies on this vast railway system to transport goods and services from one hub to another.
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Korst, L. (2005, April 2). What was the Great Northern Railway? Retrieved April 15, 2005, from http://www.gnrhs.org/gn_history.htm
Northern Pacific Railroad, 1999. Retrieved April 15, 2005 from http://www.linecamp.com
Red River Authority of Texas. (1999-2005). Retrieved on April 17, 2005, from http://www.rra.dst.tx.us/c_t/railroad/MISSOURI.cfm
The Sante Fe Railway Historical & Modeling Society. (nd). Retrieved on April 17, 2005, from http://www.atsfrr.com/resources/burton/branch-1.htm
This Day in History, Old West. 1883 Southern Pacific Railroad completes Sunset Route.(nd). Retrieved on April 17, 2005 from http://www.historychannel.com/tdih/tdih.jsp?month=10272954&day
Union Pacific Railroad, 1999. Retrieved April 15, 2005 from