History of Transcontinental Railroad

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The railroad was of extreme importance to the US economic, political and social growth in the XIX century. Without it, the USA would certainly not develop into an industrialized nation it is now. The US started to engage in railroad building in 1827, when the merchants of Baltimore, Maryland chartered the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad which opened in 1830. One should remember that during the same year the first US passenger regular train service began in Charleston, SC. Railroads spread rapidly in the eastern and southern states in the early 1800s. By the 1850s, track linked the Atlantic seaboard to the Midwest. By as early as 1869, the east and west coast were connected by the first transcontinental route (Wiegand, 45).

There was no more important decade of rail growth in the United States than the period of 1850 to 1860. During this time period, total mileage grew to 30,000 miles, thus creating the national awareness of the need for the convenient transportation between the states and the two coasts. The railroad provided thousands of work places for people from all over the world as well as gave many an opportunity to find his/her fortune in the west (California).

The US government understood that the country in order to develop properly needed to expand to the west (California) and the railroad was the only way to prompt that expansion. And it actually did. The US government would provide various economic and land incentives to the railroad companies to expand to the west (Wiegand, 48). The US government donated over 130 million of acres of land to the companies and in turn received reliable mean of transportation to the west. The railroad would provide communication to the most secluded areas in the west and would make it rather possible to move there- a thing that the US government encouraged people to do in the 1860s (Soifer, 23).

The workers were mostly Chinese and Irish immigrants who would work form dawn till dusk for about only $30 a month. The conditions were harsh and a great number of people died. Yet nobody certainly cared for them-the only thing needed was to provide jobs and to expand to the west to have access to gold in California.

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