More about the Transcontinental Railroad
The Transcontinental Railroad fundamentally changed the American West. As the United States pushed across North America, railroads connected and populated the growing nation. Railroads also sparked social, economic, environmental, and political change.
The Central Pacific Railroad locomotive Jupiter met the Union Pacific Railroad locomotive number 119 during a ceremony marking the meeting of the railways at Promontory summit, Utah, on May 10, 1869.
Building the Transcontinental Railroad presented both physical and monetary challenges. Even with huge government subsidies, the railroad companies had to raise millions of dollars to cover construction costs. Directors skimmed millions off the construction and became rich. Operating the enterprise was often less profitable.
The backbreaking work of grading the bed and laying the track required thousands of workers, who were poorly paid. Building west from Nebraska, the Union Pacific hired Irish immigrants and Civil War veterans. The Central Pacific Railroad Company, building from California, hired Chinese migrants. In the center, Mormon laborers worked for both lines.
Railroads provided employment for immigrant workers, opportunities for investors, and a means for farmers to seize new lands. But these new transportation routes also carried settlers.
Lakota, Shoshone, Cheyenne and other tribes fiercely resisted the railroad as it encroached on indigenous communities. The Pawnee worked with the railroad, seeing benefits to the partnership. Farmer, miners, and even tourists changed the landscape, destroying wildlife and habitats.
The Shoshone were among some of the Native peoples who resisted as the Transcontinental Railroad, aided by U.S. Army troops, pressed into their lands. Both the railroad and the settlers who used it threatened Native peoples’ ways of life and sovereignty.