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Examining the Transcontinental Railroad

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Social Studies +1 Age Levels Elementary (9 to 12 years old), Middle School (13 to 15 years old)

Railroads started well before 1869, but it was not until that year that the nation was bound together by a commitment to build the first transcontinental system. On May 10, 1869, the driving of a golden spike, signaled the ceremonial end to a process that had been going on for 6 years of construction, engineering, and human toil. Two companies, one starting in Omaha, Nebraska and the other in Sacramento, California competed to lay track towards each other to join the Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads. Their reward for each mile was government money and lots of it. By the time that they met at Promontory Summit, Utah, vast sums of money and untold human labor and sacrifice had been expended on this incredible technical endeavor. A single track united the continent's Wester and Eastern regions. Travel from East to West used to take months by wagon train, could now be measured in mere days. This collection utilizes Primary Source student review strategies from the Library of Congress' Primary Source Analysis Tools

Theodore Judah

California State Railroad Museum Library & Archives

Transcontinental Railroad

California State Railroad Museum Library & Archives

Big Four

California State Railroad Museum Library & Archives

Promontory Summit

California State Railroad Museum Library & Archives

The Gold Spike

California State Railroad Museum Library & Archives

Civil War’s Effect on the Transcontinental Railroad

California State Railroad Museum Library & Archives

Travel to California

California State Railroad Museum Library & Archives

Central Pacific Railroad

California State Railroad Museum Library & Archives

Union Pacific Railroad

California State Railroad Museum Library & Archives

Chinese and the Railroad

California State Railroad Museum Library & Archives

Rail Travel/Westward Expansion

California State Railroad Museum Library & Archives

Railroad economy

California State Railroad Museum Library & Archives

Driving the Last Spike, Thomas Hill, 1881.

California State Railroad Museum