Figuring prominently into every
aspect of America’s history is the railroad. Involving ingenious
entrepreneurs, armies of workers, and the ultimate conflicts with
outlaws, railroad history and tales are yet another fascinating
aspect of westward expansion.
Beginning in the 1830’s, the
nation realized the need to connect the east with the Pacific coast, shortly
after the railroads began large scale operations. The first survey for a
transcontinental railroad system was made in 1849-50 by Howard Stansbury, who
surveyed a route through the
Black Hills and south of
Salt Lake City.
Further measures where taken in
March of 1853, when Congress approved a survey by the War Department. Seeing the
future, George Pullman began building sleeping cars as early as 1858.
But Congress would dally for
another four years, debating the route the transcontinental railroad should be
built, until finally it approved the passage of the Pacific Railway Act in 1862,
authorizing the building of the transcontinental railroad westward from Omaha,
Nebraska by the
Union Pacific Railroad and eastward from
Central Pacific Railroad. The act further provided loans for the building
of the railroad, as well as sections of public land, ultimately resulting in the
railroad companies acquiring 33 million acres of free land.
began, the building of the railroad was initially slow due to lack of investors;
however, when the war was over, construction began in earnest.
The building of the railway
required enormous feats of engineering and labor in the crossing of plains and
high mountains as railroad workers suffered during bad winters, desert heat,
lack of supplies and