United States

Transcontinental Railroad’s Affect on the Modern World

Have you ever heard of a company that made a nationwide resource for people, but was also extremely corrupt? In 1852 he only way to get from point A to point B was to travel by horses, by wagon, or by foot. That journey took at least 6 months to get from the West coast, to the East coast. In 1862 the Pacific Railroad Act tasked the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific Railroad companies with building a transcontinental railroad that would link the United States from the east to the west.

At the time, Abraham Lincoln was the President. The transcontinental railroad line was important to Abraham Lincoln, but it wasn’t completed until four years after his death. Over the next seven years, the two companies would face toward each other all the way from Sacramento, CA on one side and Omaha, Nebraska on the other side. That’s 1,675 miles worth of railroad that these immigrants made. In 1850 more than 9,000 miles worth of railroad was already built.

Buffalo Skulls

There were two main routes determined for the railroad and only one could be chosen, and the choices were the southern route which ran across Texas, New Mexico, and ended in Los Angeles and the central route which ran from Omaha to Nebraska, and ended in Sacramento. With this method of transportation, it made it easier and faster to get to the place you needed to get to. The railroad made it possible to travel cross country in one week instead of in six months. The fare to get from Omaha to San Francisco in 1870 was only $65. This would get a passenger a third class ticket in a sleeping car. The negative effect of the transcontinental railroad are the the native Americans were forced off of their land. It also brought a lot of western settlers that took over native lands. While Buffalo were the most common type of food source for the native Americans, and when the western settlers came in and took their land, they killed thousands of buffalo, almost putting them in extinct.  Most of the workers for the Central pacific railroad company were Chinese immigrants; most of the workers in the union pacific railroad were Irish. Mormon workers were common in Utah. On May 10th, 1869 Governor Stanford drove the last spike, often called “The Golden Spike” into the track. The spike was only gold plated as real gold would have been too soft a metal. The Golden Spike today is on display at Stanford University in California.

The transcontinental railroad has left a major impact on the railroad and transportation industry forever. After having a quick method of travel like the transcontinental railroad inventors wanted to find an even faster method of travel. This is when they created the modern railroad, a train that could travel 130 mph. The first modern train was the Tokaido Shinkansen which the Japanese National Railways began building on October 1, 1964. This was no ordinary train, it could travel 210 km/h, had a wide loading gauge, it was run off of electricity, and had Automatic Train Control and Centralised Traffic Control as well as many other improvements. This train was the birth of the high speed railroad. Many years later in 1981 the French began building their own version of the high speed railroad, this was very similar to the Tokaido Shinkansen but could travel up to 260 km/h. Unlike the Japanese railroad the European railroad worked and fit on the existing tracks from the previous railways. This helped developed the railroad industry because now they could have high speed trains that worked with the existing tracks.

Today the high speed railroad has become a large part of people’s everyday life all around the world. Currently, in the United States we have don’t have a high speed railroad like China and France, but there has been the idea to have the high speed railroad that can take you all over the U.S. Currently, California is in the process of creating a high speed railroad that takes you from San Francisco all the way to Los Angeles. This train would go 350 km/h and could get you to either place in only 2 hours and 40 min. The project first started in 2015 and is expected to be completely finished in 2029. There has also been many ideas and plans of high speed railroad throughout the U.S. like a train that can take you from California to New York and a even a train running from California to Hawaii. The train from California to Hawaii was approved in 2014 because of proposition 49 which was the plan to have an underwater railroad that stretched from Los Angeles to Honolulu. This project would cost a total of $587 billion and the building is expected to start in 2018. With all of these great high speed railroad plans in the U.S. hopefully we will be able to be like other countries and have the train as an easy and fast way to travel the whole country.

The Transcontinental railroad connects to the modern high speed rail because it allows people to get from point A to point B faster and safer. The transcontinental railroad allowed people to sleep on the train, and in the modern day the high speed rail has rooms for people to stay in during so that they wouldn’t have to sleep in uncomfortable chairs. While it is more expensive to pay for a room with a bed, it is worth the extra money because sleeping in the chairs for some people isn’t as comfortable as sleeping in a bed. The transcontinental railroad allows you to choose whether you want to sleep in third, second of first class, as well had the high speed rail. There are different types of classes, with different price ranges so that everyone has an opportunity to be able to choose where they are comfortable with staying. The high speed railroad is different than the transcontinental railroad in many ways, but in the end, it made the world better and safer for people to get around.

Article by Samantha Russell and MacKenzie MacDougall

Works Cited

UIC. “High Speed Rail History.” UIC – International Union of Railways, 24 July 2015, uic.org/High-Speed-History

History.com Staff. “Transcontinental Railroad.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 2010, www.history.com/topics/inventions/transcontinental-


Smart, Michael. “Why Can’t America Have High-Speed Trains?” CNN, Cable News Network, 4 May 2015, www.cnn.com/2015/05/03/opinions/smart-high-


“First Transcontinental Railroad Facts.” Soft Schools, 2005-2017,


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