What Was the Transcontinental Railroad?

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The First Transcontinental Railroad was a railway line that connected the Eastern United States to the West Coast. More than 2,000 miles of track were laid, and the railroad was completed on May 10, 1869.

The railroad line referred to as the Transcontinental Railroad was originally called the Pacific Railroad and did not actually run directly across the country. The line ran from Oakland, Calif. to Council Bluffs, Iowa. This connected it with the Missouri River and with existing rail lines in the east. It was a significant accomplishment due to the length and the terrain, which required digging numerous tunnels and building bridges.

Plans for such a line existed since the introduction of steam locomotives to the country in the 1830s, but there was political dispute over whether the route should run through the Northern or Southern United States. This was settled during the Civil War when Congress authorized a route from Nebraska to California. Construction began in 1863 and concluded in 1869 at Promontory Summit, Utah Territory, where the completion of the railroad was celebrated with a ceremonial driving of a final golden spike. At this point, however, the line only reached Sacramento. Direct access to Oakland was added later.