Before the transcontinental railroad, people frequently worked on neighboring farms in exchange for agricultural produce in a barter system. After the completion of the transcontinental railroad, the economy shifted to a system where individuals used cash currency to pay for goods and services. As the demand for manufactured goods increased, individuals preferred payment in gold or paper currency. Valuable resources like silver, lead, and coal could be shipped by railroad for profit.
The transcontinental railroad brought significant changes to Utah’s environment. Landforms were altered while creating cuts, fills, and tunnels. During droughts, the train engines sometimes ignited fires. Agriculture of cash crops, such as wheat and livestock, grew by 340%. Farming techniques became specialized and the use of irrigation increased, altering ecosystems by redistributing water from streams to farmland. New mines were opened. The railroad reshaped the image of Utah from the chosen place of the Mormon faith to more of a source of commercial profit.
Source: Economic, Environmental, and Social Impacts of the Transcontinental Railroad
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