The country, from its business to the setting to even its principle of time, was profoundly transformed after the completion of the railroad"s 1,776 mile of track.

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The country, native its business to the environment to also its ide of time, to be profoundly changed after the completion of the railroad"s 1,776 miles of track.

There to be a time once traveling native the East coast to the West coastline meant riding for months in a horse-drawn wagon or stagecoach, or cruising southward come Panama and also then crossing the Isthmus to board another ship for a journey up the other coast. But that all changed on may 10, 1869, once railroad baron Leland Stanford whacked in a ceremonial gold spike to mark the joining with each other of the tracks of the main Pacific Railroad and the Union Pacific rail in Promontory, Utah, to type the transcontinental railroad. The new rail link eventually made it feasible to travel in a train vehicle from new York to san Francisco in just a week’s time.

Some 21,000 workers—from Irish-American Civil battle veterans, freed slaves and Mormon pioneers to Chinese laborers—had been recruited to do the hard and often dangerous work-related of laying the 1,776 mile of track. Through one estimate, the task cost approximately $60 million, around $1.2 exchange rate in today’s money, though other sources placed the amount also higher.

While the railroad's building and construction was a mammoth undertaking, its impacts on the nation were equally profound. Right here are few of the methods that the very first transcontinental railroad—and the countless other transcontinental present that followed it—changed America.


Map of the transcontinental path of the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad and its connections, circa 1883. 

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1. It made the west U.S. Much more important. 

“What the transcontinental railroad did was carry the West right into the world, and also the human being into the West,” describes James P. Ronda, a retired college of Tulsa professor and co-author, v Carlos Arnaldo Schwantes, of The West the Railroads Made. In particular, it assisted turn California indigenous a once-isolated ar to a significant economic and political force, and also helped result in the state’s rapid growth.

2. It made commerce possible on a vast scale. 

By 1880, the transcontinental rail was transferring $50 million precious of freight every year. In addition to delivering western food crops and also raw products to East coastline markets and manufactured products from East coastline cities to the West Coast, the railroad likewise facilitated worldwide trade.

The very first freight train to travel eastward from California carried a load of Japanese tea. “The Constitution listed the legal structure for a solitary national industry for profession goods; the transcontinental railroad listed the physics framework,” describes Henry W. Brands, a professor at the college of Texas in ~ Austin, and also author the Dreams the El Dorado: A the the American West. “Together they offered the United says the single largest industry in the world, which noted the basis because that the rapid expansion of American industry and agriculture to the point where the U.S. Through the 1890s had actually the most an effective economy top top the planet.”


3. The made travel more affordable. 

In the 1860s, a six-month stagecoach trip throughout the U.S. Price $1,000 (about $20,000 in today’s dollars), follow to the university of Houston’s Digital website. Yet once the railroad to be built, the price of a coast-to-coast trip became 85 percent much less expensive. That made it feasible for american to visit far-off locales that previously they can only have actually heard about.

4. It readjusted where american lived. 

During the railroad’s construction, many temporary “hell top top wheels” communities of tents and also wooden shacks sprung up along the path to carry out living soldier for workers. Most of them at some point disappeared, but others, such as Laramie, Wyoming, evolved into towns that listed rail terminals and also repair facilities. Additionally, about 7,000 cities and towns across the country began as Union Pacific depots and water stops. And, as Ronda notes, the very first transcontinental railroad and the other lines that adhered to made it basic for immigrant to spread throughout the nation. “People come across the Atlantic on ships, get on trains, and end up in places such together western Nebraska,” the says.

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5. It transformed Americans’ concept of reality. 

In an 1872 article, naturalist man Muir composed that the transcontinental railroad “annihilated” time and also space. As Ronda explains, it adjusted the way that human being viewed distances. “When you’re go or speak a horse, you experience the civilization one way, but when you’re sit in a rail car, you watch it differently,” that says. “In the West, whereby the ranges are for this reason great, the railroad carried near and far closer together.” The railroad schedules also helped to press the United says into transforming how it significant time, causing the adoption of traditional time area in 1883.