Special thanks to intern Rebecca Rowell for the following post!
On May 10, 1869—147 years ago today—the transcontinental railroad was completed. The event was marked by a celebration in Promontory, Utah, where the heads of the Central Pacific Railroad and the Union Pacific Railroad drove a final spike into the line that joined their two railroads. With that, people could travel from the East to the West (and West to East) by train. At that time, much of the land west of the Mississippi River wasn’t even a part of the United States. It was rough and rugged, and people were eager to settle it. But the journey there was by wagon, making it long and treacherous. In 1862, US Congress approved funds to build a railroad that connected the East Coast with the West Coast. Work began in 1866.
Completing the massive project wasn’t easy. Workers faced a variety of challenges, some of them dangerous. In addition to coping with the elements and twelve-hour days, workers faced attacks by Native Americans and the lawlessness of the Wild West. And using explosives to carve out land in the mountains proved deadly. But the determined workers pressed on and completed the project both early and under budget, creating the first transcontinental railroad.
Learn all this and more about this interesting and important piece of US history in Alison Behnke’s A Timeline History of the Transcontinental Railroad, published this year. Within this eBook, you’ll track the events and turning points of this major construction project that contributed to the westward expansion of the United States, yet created hardships and conflicts along the way.