TransContinental Railroad Essay Research Paper If any

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Trans-Continental Railroad Essay, Research Paper ?If any act symbolized the taming of the Northwest frontier, it was the driving of the final spike to complete the nation?s first transcontinental railroad.?1 The first railroad west of the Mississippi River was opened on December 23, 1852. Five miles long, the track ran from St. Louis to Cheltanham, Missouri. Twenty-five years prior, there were no railroads in the United States; twenty-five years later, railroads joined the east and west coasts from New York to San Francisco.2 No other single factor contributed more the commercial and social development of the Pacific Northwest than the arrival of the railroad. For the first time in history, people could get to the west coast in a matter of days rather than months by covered

wagons or boat around the southern tip of South America. Immigrants, adventurers, opportunity-seekers, and entrepreneurs came by the hundreds of thousands. ?Between 1887 and 1889, the railroad brought into the area an estimated 100,000 people.? 3 ?The population of Washington in 1880 was 75,116. By 1890, it had reached 349,390, a 365 percent increase in just ten years.? 4 The Pacific Northwest advanced in a single generation the development that took the eastern United States several generations to accomplish as they went from a frontier to urban society. As a result of railroad surveys commissioned during the 1860?s for the purpose of finding practical routes to the Pacific, three railroads were chartered for westward transcontinental expansion. These railroads were the Union

Pacific, Central Pacific, and the Northern Pacific. The Union Pacific came from Omaha in the east, the Central Pacific came from Sacramento in the west, and met each other at Promontory Point in Utah, on May 10, 1869.5 The Union Pacific is generally seen as the most important of the northern transcontinental railways, partially because of its early construction and also partially because of its more central route.6 The Union Pacific did experience financial difficulties because it did not receive federal cash loans and because its construction began before there was sufficient commercial traffic to make the company turn a profit.7 The Union Pacific, Central Pacific, and the Northern Pacific were all land-grant roads; that is, they were subsidized with lands from the public. Each

railroad was to receive a 200-foot-wide right-of-way and sections of public lands to help finance construction. The Northern Pacific?s charter originally provided ten alternate sections per mile in states through which it passed and 20 sections per mile in territories. If sufficient lands were not available within this grant, other sections could be selected as in-lieu from a secondary zone which reached back from the tracks another 20 miles.8 These land grants contributed greatly to commercial development and growth of towns along the track routes. A fourth railroad was the Southern Pacific, which was routed from New Orleans to Los Angeles. The Great Northern Railway was the fifth transcontinental line. The Great Northern, along with the Northern Pacific, had the greatest impact

on developing the northwest. However, unlike the Northern Pacific, it was not a land-grand railroad. It did not obtain federal loans to help in its construction as did the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads.9 The Northern Pacific received generous land grants but did not receive any government loans in the building of its railroads. After several financial delays, the directors were able to begin with the aid given by Jay Cooke, a monetary genius of his day. Supplemented by bond sales, Cooke took over the financing of the Northern Pacific. Construction started in the east from Lake Superior and from the west at Kalama on the Columbia River. However, the construction came to a screeching halt in 1873 with the failure of Cooke?s company. At that point in time, the United