-Note The idea of a Transcontinental Railroad existed for years. THis essay is a brief history taking the idea to the passing of the Railroad Act.-
The Transcontinental Railroad changed the United States forever. It was a monumental feat that tested the skill and determination of man. The business establishment back east recognized the industrial potential of the West. The government considered the political and financial ramifications of massive western expansion while millions of European immigrants sought a new life in this land of opportunity. Ever since the 1830's the dream of a transcontinental railroad existed. In 1832, few had seen a locomotive. Dr. Carver from New York, urged congress to build a transcontinental railroad between New York and San Francisco, lawmakers laughed at him.
Men like Dr. Carver realized the railroad would open the door of American wealth existing across the country in mines, factories, and fields. But this was before the discovery of gold, and the politicians of the day could not conceive a 2,030-mile, $60-million iron highway across what they understood as the "Great American Desert."
A transcontinental railroad was suggested and discussed by visionaries from time to time. Newspapers of the 1840's and 50's exploited articles upon the subject but nothing came of it. It remained a dream.
In 1853 congress expended $150,000 in hunting a feasible route. Surveys were made periodically. Congress debated the ever-present issue as short line railroads were developing in the Mid West. Some of these united, and systems began to develop. However it wasn't until 1862 that a railroad company took up the initiative. The bloody Civil War had divided America; could a transcontinental railroad unite it?The Civil War proved to be a blessing in disguise for Theodore Judah and Collis Huntington. It made congress aware of the importance a transcontinental...