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transcontinental railroad

Completed 150 years ago this month, the railroad's construction was one of the great dramas in American history, and led to a notorious scandal.

While the Civil War raged on battlefields in the East, two armies fought a very different kind of war in the West.  The men working for two corporations that were said to be the wealthiest in America struggled to see who could finish a greater part of the transcontinental railroad before the two Read more >>

They created towns and became the center of Western life, enabling wheat, cattle, and minerals to flow out of the West

Half a century after engines touched pilot to pilot at Promontory, Utah, to complete the first transcontinental railroad, the imprint of the Iron Road was nearly everywhere in the American West. Some enthusiastic real estate promoters and railway officials even claimed that the railroads invented the West—or at least the national image of the West. Read more >>

Building the transcontinental railroad was the greatest engineering feat of the nineteenth century. Was it also the biggest swindle?

Introduction: Read more >>

In a classic model of government corruption, the promoters placed shares of the company's stock “where it will do most good"—in the pockets of key Congressmen

 

What it was like for the first travelers

Our half-known new western empire was mapped, in a great mass exploration, by the Army’s Pacific Railroad Surveys of 1853

The Pacific Railroad Surveys of 1853 —a grand national reconnaissance extending over half a continent and led by men who would later be counted among the most prominent soldiers and scientists of the Republic Read more >>

The Union Pacific met the Central Pacific at Promontory—and the nation had truly been railroaded

At Promontory, Utah Territory, on the raw afternoon of May 10, 1869, Leland Stanford, the beefy, pompous president of the Central Pacific Railroad, hefted a silver-plated sledge hammer while David Hewes, a dedicated railroad booster from San Francisco, stood by the golden spike Read more >>

The official painting is full of dignity and decorum lamentably absent in the actual photograph.

Snowshed crews on the Central Pacific, battling blizzards and snowslides, built “the longest house in the world”

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