8 Transcontinental Railroad Facts for Kids
The Transcontinental Railroad was one of the key accomplishments of its era. It made the movement of people and goods possible in a time when travel and transport was difficult at best. In 1862 the Pacific Railroad Act was passed and tasked the then Union Pacific and Central Pacific with linking the railroads to come up with a route that would go from east to west across the US.
1. The Transcontinental Railroad linked the entire country so that people could move freely from east to west and back again. It also opened up commerce across the US and allowed goods to travel from east to west.
2. Each company took on the task and set out to race each other to build the tracks that would connect the country. It took 7 years with one company moving from Sacramento CA toward Utah and the other moving from Omaha Nebraska toward Utah.
3. On May 10th 1869 the two companies met in Promontory Utah.
No Easy Task
4. Both companies faced hardships and dangers to build this railroad. The Union Pacific men reported attacks by Native American tribes that resulted in casualties and bloody deaths. Coming from the west the Central Pacific crews were met with huge problems blasting through the Sierra Nevada and many workers refused to work.
5. Central Pacific brought in Chinese immigrants to do the work and were met with terrible racism on the project. The Native Americans fought the Union Pacific men to keep the “iron horse” off their lands while the Chinese immigrants were faced with attacks from former railroad workers because they took the jobs that they did not want.
6. Public opinion about the railroad was split down the middle. Some people were all for it while others violently opposed the railroad and would attack the camps at night and steal the materials and burn down the tents that the workers slept in.
7. Of course the two companies could not get along either and bickered about everything throughout the construction. Much of the work that was done was shoddy in a bid to get the work done. Bridges and some of the tracks had to be ripped out and replaced because of the lack of workmanship that went into getting the track laid so that it would be completed in time.
8. The newly elected President Grant refused to release any more federal funding to either company unless they could work out their differences. Ultimately they did and the railroad was open for business.