2008 TTOS National Convention - Sacramento


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The First Transcontinental Railroad in the United States was built across North America in the 1860s, linking the railway network of the Eastern United States with California on the Pacific coast.

Ceremonially completed on May 10, 1869, at the famous “golden spike” event at Promontory Summit, Utah, it created a nationwide mechanized transportation network that revolutionized the population and economy of the American West.

The Sacramento Valley Railroad was the first commercial railroad west of the Mississippi and, like so many other similar proposals of the 1850’s, its promoters held high hopes that it would become the western leg of the first transcontinental railroad when it would be built. The Sacramento Valley Railroad carried the Pony Express mail between Sacramento and Folsom, California, a distance of 22 miles. The Sacramento Valley Railroad had been completed in 1856. The Sacramento Valley Railroad led directly to the building of the transcontinental railroad. As a result of the 22 miles of track to Folsom, laws were passed that eased railroad financing. The Sacramento Valley Railroad lost out to the Central Pacific as the all-important transcontinental railroad was routed through Roseville instead of Folsom.

The Central Pacific began laying track eastward from Sacramento, California in 1863, and the Union Pacific started laying track westward from Omaha, Nebraska, two years later in July, 1865. The Central Pacific laid 690 miles (1,110 km) of track, starting in Sacramento, California, and continuing through California (Newcastle and Truckee), Nevada (Reno, Wadsworth, Winnemucca, Battle Mountain, Elko, Humboldt-Wells), and ending in Utah Territory. Later, the route was extended to the Alameda Terminal in Alameda, California, and shortly thereafter, to the Oakland Long Wharf at Oakland Point in Oakland, California.

The building of the railway required enormous feats of engineering and labor in the crossing of plains and high mountains by the Union Pacific Railroad and Central Pacific Railroad, the two privately chartered federally backed enterprises that built the line westward and eastward respectively. The building of the railroad was motivated in part to bind the Union together during the strife of the American Civil War. It substantially accelerated the populating of the West by homesteaders, while contributing to the decline of the Native Americans in these regions.

The railroad was considered the greatest American technological feat of the 19th century. It served as a vital link for trade, commerce and travel that joined the eastern and western halves of late 19th century United States.




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Last modified: February 04, 2012

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