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The American Transcontinental Railroad Essay

4318 words - 17 pages

After America acquired the West, the need for efficient transportation heightened. Ideas circulated about a railroad that would spread across the continent from East to West. Republican congresses ruled for the federal funding of railroad construction, however, all actions were halted for a few years on account of a war. Following the American Civil War of 1861-1865, the race to build transcontinental railroad began in 1866. Lincoln approved Pacific Railway Act of 1862, granting two railroad companies the right to build the first American transcontinental railroad, (Clark 432).
The transcontinental railroad would eventually become a symbol of much-needed unity, repairing the sectionalism that had once divided the nation during the Civil War. The construction of the transcontinental railroad was also an extension of the transportation revolution. Once commodities such as gold were found in the western half of America, many individuals decided to move themselves and their families out west in search of opportunity. Not only did the railroad help to transport people, but it also it allowed for goods to be delivered from companies in the east. In the end, the American transcontinental railroad created a national market, enabling mass production, and stimulated industry, while greatly impacting American society through stimulated immigration and urbanization.
During the reconstruction of America after the Civil War, the government allocated land grants and premiums to encourage work on the railroads, which proved effective. However, such incentives led to a questionable quality of work. Land donations and loans offered to both companies would eventually become profitable with the addition of railroad tracks running through, and the land worth of areas surrounding railroad tracks would rise. The construction of the newly developing railroad would result in increased job availability, which would attract many immigrants and unemployed.
The federal government played a role in the financing of the transcontinental railroad, although one of the more crucial financial components that were needed in order to build the railroad was the help of millionaires and investors. The Union Pacific Railroad’s primary investor and stockholder was Brigham Young, the famous Mormon leader. The Central Pacific railroad on the other hand, was financed by a group of millionaires, who were collectively known as the Big Four, (Houghton 18). The contributions of the wealthy allowed these two railroad companies to develop and thrive, nevertheless, fear of bankruptcy would remain, and the Union Pacific nearly went bankrupt during the Panic of 1857, in the beginning stages of development.
The Union Pacific Railroad Company was established before the Civil War, although it was not until after, that construction began. The company planned on laying down tracks westward from Omaha, Nebraska. The Railroad’s president was William B. Ogden, whose elected provisional secretary was...

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