The Transcontinental Railroad And Its Impact On America’s Economy

The Pacific Railway Act, which President Lincoln signed in the middle of 1800 was intended to link the Eastern and Western hemispheres of America by railroad. Due to the severeness of the Civil War, the plans for major railroad construction were thwarted. Although smaller railroads were built between the north, midwest, and south, transporting goods across the country took a lot of time. The Act was signed by Lincoln and the nation began to improve. The United States’ connection with the Union Pacific Railroad was a significant step towards industrialization. It also led to a more developed economy, better transportation and westward expansion. The Transcontinental Railroad is a topic that has been discussed many times. The Transcontinental Railroad was a long-term project that created many jobs. Many immigrant and expatriate workers from Eurrope and China were able to work on the frontier after the completion of the railroad’s construction. [footnoteRef.0] The government was more involved in economic support of the railroad when the Union Pacific Company (and Central Pacific) were called into action. Soon after the act’s signing, various sections of the Union Pacific Railroad as well as the Central Pacific Railroad were built in different regions of the country. Congress was responsible for overseeing both railroad companies’ progress and gave each company a generous sum of 50 million dollars. The willingness of Congress to support the railroad was met resistance by the officially employed Irish laborers. The majority of labor on the railroad’s parts came from Irish immigrants who were mainly from Northern slums and low-paying jobs. The Irish, although illiterate as well as unskilled, were willing to do the job. However their drunken behavior caused a strike that halted track progress. The company’s co-owners were faced with a labor shortage, which left them without other options. Due to the presence of Chinese immigrants in San Francisco, the bosses began to doubt their decision and decided to seek out Chinese labor. San Francisco gave low-paying dirty jobs to chinese immigrants, including cooks, gardeners and servants. Chinese merchants spread pamphlets about railroad jobs to inform Chinese immigrants. [footnoteRef.3] Chinese immigrants began to immigrate and became more involved in the construction of railroads. Many were brought over from China by merchants who distributed pamphlets. Because of the utility of Chinese laborers, the Central Pacific was able to rely less on the Irish Immigrants. Although they spoke very little English, the Chinese laborers made adjustments to compensate for their disadvantages. Chinese workers set up labor gangs to distribute and collect wages, receive orders from Crocker and translate them. The labor shortage was ended in large part due to the independence and efficiency of the Chinese workers in their new environment. Relationship between Immigrants, Railroads was directly proportional. Construction progressed faster when there were more immigrants. This was a good thing, as Immigrants were in desperate need of work and companies had to hire loyal workers. Seven thousand Chinese workers were hard at work by the time 1865 ended. [footnoteRef.5] Slow construction of railroad resulted in a demand from immigrant labor. The Chinese immigrant community benefited from increased opportunities and more jobs by simply moving to America. It is well-known and acknowledged that the Transcontinental Railroad wouldn’t have been possible without immigrants. However, their perseverance and endurance made the project a reality. The United States saw a significant increase in natural resources and shipping. The East and West had distinct markets before the railroad was built. The North and South had been based on Agriculture and Textile. This was advantageous since they were physically close and could transport goods and textiles between one another. The railroad brought the west coast states to the East’s Industrial relationship. California was home to many successful markets, including the Rockies. Nevada, along with other mountainous areas in the west, was able to conquer the Rocky mountains. Railroad construction allowed companies with Nevada mines to access more common metals ores such as copper or iron for shipment east. [footnoteRef.8] Nevada mining owners were always looking for rarer and more profitable ores. Because copper is a reliable and affordable commodity, business owners could only send the best, if they were lucky. The Transcontinental Railroad enabled mine owners to transport common and valuable ores as transportation was now so easy. This allowed companies to maximize their profits and stop being restricted in the choice of their products because they had access to railroad lines. Copper was soon a significant resource that investors were interested in in the east. The copper-dependent electrical delivery systems generated electricity. Nevada and Wyoming were not far behind. Other states also enjoyed the railroad’s benefits, as was Colorado and Wyoming. Both Wyoming and Colorado had the chance to export their goods just like Nevada. After the railroad’s completion, the two states could ship beef and coal easier. [footnoteRef.10] With more resources available for efficient, cheaper transport, both the East-West industries prospered. The East had access to the West’s resources which were previously scarce and difficult for transport. Due to its success, Transcontinental Railroad became the most important transportation and trade provider in America for fifty more years. The nation would not have made significant progress in its industrial sectors without the railroad. America and its citizens were greatly helped by the Transcontinental Railroad’s creation. In the early 1800’s, Americans east from the Mississippi River began to think about Manifest Destiny. Manifest Destiny is the belief that America’s duty was to expand westward and to claim as many lands as possible. Before the railroad was built, there were few people who could fulfill Manifest destiny. Due to the lack of technology, East residents had to travel the middle west by stagecoach or boat through panama in order to reach the south tip of America. Due to the numerous risks, many Manifest Destiny believers were unable fulfill their aspirations. Although Stagecoach was the most popular option, it was also prone to violent Cheyenne Indian attacks. [footnoteRef.12] With the physical improvement of the railroad, there was no risk to the eaterns settlers. Many people saw completion of the railroad’s construction as an opportunity to grow their land and practice their faith. Transcontinental lines made it possible to travel across the country in a relaxed manner, rather than as a strenuous task. The stagecoach journey was unpredictable and took a long time because of unpredicted factors such as the horses’ health and shortages. Because of the limited resources available, travelers had to choose and decide what they would bring. The railroad’s non-stop, one-way route eliminated unpredicted factors. It used to take six to eight week to complete the journey. Now it takes eight days with stops. Rail travelers used the expression, “You don’t even get time to bathe” when they traveled by railroad. The journey westward was dangerous and long before the railroad. 300,000 settlers made it westward in ten years, fulfilling their hopes of Manifest Destiny. In contrast, the railroad’s future and success were obvious shortly after it opened passenger service. It took around one year for 150,000 passengers to travel from the East via the newly constructed railroad. The Transcontinental Railroad transported half as many passengers in its first year and took 10 years less. The railroad’s huge impact on westward growth can be seen in the stark differences between passenger transport and years. With the railroad, what would have taken 10 years was now only half the time. The railroad’s completion made Manifest Destiny easier to achieve. More people moved westward, claiming new territories. Industrialization was then initiated in these territories, which led to an increase in the size of the nation. Because freight costs were cheaper, transcontinental railroads stimulated American industry. The nation, companies and individuals were able to save more money. The cost of traveling across the continent was approximately $1,000 before the railroad was built. However, it was not possible to guarantee your arrival. It cost $136 to get a first-class seat and $110 to get a second-class seat. A third-class or emigrant seat costs $65. [footnoteRef.16] Basic seating now costs less than 100 dollars from what was once a high-priced option. As society does today, the cost of travel can be affordable for all classes, including those who are wealthy, middle-class, or poor. Mail, books and magazines, which are not essential for living, were expensive and took a while to arrive. These items were shipped at a cost of $1 per ounce until the advent of railroads. This line allowed for faster delivery and enabled magazines, mail, books, and other items to be sent at pennies. Transcontinental lines had opened the doors to a continent-wide economy. The railroad’s completion was an important step in the development and growth of new cities. [footnoteRef.18] Government money was not wasted on the railroad. Transport was the result of the 50 million dollar investment made in the middle 1800’s. Over 50 million tons of freight were transported annually between the East coasts and the West coasts by 1880. The 19th-century’s keystone was the completion the Transcontinental Railroad. The Central Pacific railroad (now the Union Pacific railroad) and Promontory (Utah) met to lay the final spike. Because it was driven into the dirt, the last spike in the track was called the Golden spike. Its significance is what made it the Golden spike. This final piece of the long-term project was a reflection of all the hard work and dedication that went into it. Promontory hosted a huge celebration to mark the completion of the track. Confederate soldiers, union soldiers, immigrants, and whites cheered as they stood side-by. Business owners also congratulated each another on the new railroad. It was connected to the West and East, and also to its citizens. The Transcontinental Railroad drove the United State to greater westward mobility, increased employment and improved industries. The Railroad was dubbed “The Eighth Wonder of the World” as well as “The Greatest Achievement Ever”. Both were rightfully awarded these titles.


  • sofiamiller

    I am Sofia Miller, a 21-year-old blogger and student. I love writing, and I'm passionate about education and learning. I blog about a variety of educational topics, from student life to university admissions. I also write about parenting and lifestyle topics.

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