Trains offer an efficient way to move goods over long distances. Railroads have not always been as expansive as they are today. We have hundreds of thousands of miles of rail connecting major cities across the country, but this was not the case.
The 1850s saw the westward expansion of the United States. The California Gold Rush and Nevada Silver Rush pushed U.S Americans further west with the promise of economic prosperity. In 1862, Congress passed the Pacific Railroad Bill and several grants that allowed financial support for the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroad companies. These two companies then began constructing what would become the transcontinental railroad.
Travel was one of the aspects of U.S. life most impacted by the completion of the transcontinental railroad. Before the railroad it took almost 6 months and $1000 to travel between California and New York. After the railroad was completed, it took a week and $150. This radically changed business and pleasure travel.
Easier transcontinental business travel allowed growth through expanding markets and cheaper distribution, as well as increased possibilities exchange of ideas. It also gave professionals a broad view of their industry and allowed improved access to information and skills.
Within ten years of the transcontinental railroad’s competition, it was shipping $50 million in freight from coast to coast every year. A marked production boom occurred, thus speeding up the process of making goods.
Despite the benefits it brought to the U.S., the transcontinental railroad had some negative consequences. Most starkly, the forced relocation of Native Americans from their lands resulted in widespread destruction of Native American cultures and ways of life. Many conflicts arose as the railroad project continued westward, and the military was brought in to fight Native American tribes. In addition, many natural resources were destroyed to make way for the expanding train tracks and stations.
Source: How the Transcontinental Railroad Changed America
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