In 1862, during the Civil War,
the United States government decided to give money to build a railroad
to connect the East with the West. The companies would receive $16,000,
$32,000, or $48,000 for each mile of track that was built. the dollar
amount varied depending on how difficult it was to lay the track.
The Union Pacific started at
Omaha, Nebraska and laid track towards the West. The Central Pacific
began at Sacramento, California and built eastward. The two lines were
to join somewhere in Utah.
The Union Pacific led by
Grenville Dodge faced a huge obstacle. The Plains had no lumber for
railroad ties. Timber had to be brought from Minnesota and Michigan.
They also had to bring in stone for the roadbed from Wisconsin. Steel
rails had to come from Pennsylvania. The crews had to fight the Native
American and buffalo herds all the way.
The Central Pacific also faced
problems. Their track had to be laid through the Rocky Mountains. The
mostly Chinese workers had to work in waist deep snow to get the job
On May 10, 1869 the two tracks
met at Promontory Point, Utah. A golden spike was driven into the rails
to join the two together.
"The Last Spike" by Thomas Hill (1881)
depicting the ceremony of the driving of the "Last Spike" at Promontory
Summit, UT, on May 10, 1869, joining the rails of the Central Pacific
Railroad and the Union Pacific Railroad.
Soon after the tracks were
joined more railroads were built. James J. Hill began the Great Northern
Railroad in 1879. His railroad ran from Minnesota to Washington State.
Hill raised money to build the tracks by selling land along the railroad
as it was being built.
Other railroads were also built:
the Southern Pacific
the Northern Pacific