How Did The Transcontinental Railroad Affect Western Expansion In The United States?
Thesis: The transcontinental railroad greatly increased Westward
expansion in the United States of America during the latter half
of the nineteenth century.
The history of the United States has been influenced by
England in many ways. In the second half of the 1800's, the
railroad, which was invented in England, had a major effect on
Western expansion in the United States.
'Railroads were born in England, a country with dense
populations, short distances between cities, and large
financial resources. In America there were different
circumstances, a sparse population in a huge country, large
stretches between cities, and only the smallest amounts of
money.' ('Railroad' 85)
The first American railroads started in the 1830's from the
Atlantic ports of Boston, New York City, Philadelphia,
Wilmington, Charleston, and Savannah (Douglas 23). Within twenty
years, four rail lines had crossed the Alleghenies to reach their
goal on `Western Waters' of the Great Lakes or the tributaries of
the Mississippi. Meanwhile, other lines had started West of the
Appalachian mountains, and by the mid-1850's Chicago, St. Louis,
and Memphis were connected to the East. Still other lines were
stretching Westward, beyond the Mississippi. An international
route connected New England and Montreal and another one crossed
Southern Ontario between Niagara, New York, and the Detroit
During the 1850's, North and South routes were developed
both East and West of the Alleghenies. It was not until after
the Civil War, however, that a permanent railroad bridge was
constructed across the Ohio River. After the Civil War, the pace
of railroad building increased. The Pacific railroads, the Union
Pacific building from Omaha, Nebraska, and the Central Pacific
building from Sacramento, California, had started to build a
transcontinental railroad during the war to help promote national
unity. They were joined at Promontory, Utah, on May 10, 1869,
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