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Rails West

May 2023
1min read

Congratulations on Stephen E. Ambrose’s excellent article on the construction of the Central and Union Pacific Railroads (“The Big Road,” October 2000). No ax was being ground. He makes the point that all the bonds were repaid, and with interest too. What’s also true is that in making the land grants, the U.S. government reserved the right to have reduced rates applied to all government traffic, both freight and passenger. The vast volume of freight and troop movements handled in both world wars paid many times over the cost of any assistance given to the railroads. While only those railroads receiving land grants were required to offer these reductions, the stiff competition between railroads allowed government auditors to apply the reduced rates whenever the traffic could have been handled over a land-grant railroad. The rates applied from origin to destination even if only a few miles’ journey took place over a land-grant railroad.

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