The Transcontinental Railroad was a topic in the book The Adventures of Pearley Monroe when the book talked about a Chinese boy named Chen and his family. Chen and his family came to California to help build the Transcontinental Railroad. Most of Chen’s family died from a nitroglycerine explosion, but Chen’s mom died of Cholera, a disease. Because of the Chinese building the railroad Miss Nancy got her son, Andrew back sooner. The Transcontinental Railroad was the fastest way of transportation in the world in the 1880’s.

By Julian

How It Started

The Transcontinental Railroad was very important to the development of the United States. Before the transcontinental railroad was built the journey from east to west was very long and dangerous. The travel from east to west could either be made by land or by water. To travel by land would take about six months. People would have to cross over difficult terrain, deal with bad weather, and possibly run into dangerous people. The trip by water would take less time but was just as dangerous. Travelers would have to take either the journey around Cape Horn or cross the Isthmus of Panama from Central America. One of the many dangers of this route was being exposed to deadly diseases.

The first trains started running on the east coast in the 1830s and grew quickly. By the 1840s the railroad stretched all over the eastern part of the United States, into the South, and out towards the Midwest. With all this progress people were very excited about the possibility of a Transcontinental Railroad. When California was won in the Mexican-American War and gold was discovered in 1848 things really moved forward. California became a state in 1850 and people wanted a safer and faster way to get across the country.

Theodore Judah was a very important part of the Transcontinental Railroad. He was a civil engineer and helped to build the first railroad in California. He proposed that the Transcontinental Railroad take the path along the 41st parallel which would take trains through Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and California. He actually was so obsessed with the idea of the Transcontinental Railroad that he was called "Crazy Judah"!  Judah had a really good plan but people were scared because of the treacherous terrain, especially the Sierra Nevada mountain range. A man named Daniel Strong, who lived in California, suggested a route that went along the old emigrant road and Donner Pass. This route had only one summit and a gradual rise which would make the task of bringing the railroad through the mountains much easier.

Next Theodore Judah needed money. He had to find investors to back his plan. He told people in California of the great possibilities that the Transcontinental Railroad could bring. Four Sacramento businessmen, known as the "Big Four", became his main investors. They were Collis P. Huntington, Mark Hopkins, Charles Crocker, and Leland Stanford.  Judah was now able to take a land survey and take a proposal to Congress in October of 1861. The members of congress didn't really want to start something so expensive and were worried because the Civil War was also going on. Luckily Abraham Lincoln was very supportive of the railroad and gave Judah his approval.  On July 1, 1862, the Pacific Railway Act was signed by Lincoln. This gave the Central Pacific Railroad and the Union Pacific Railroad the money needed to begin construction. The first rail was spiked on October 26, 1863. Unfortunately, Judah did not live to see the Transcontinental Railroad completed. He was having conflict with his investors and decided to go to New York to find new investors to buy out the old ones. He sailed to Panama and took the train across the Isthmus. He contracted yellow fever on this trip and died in New York on November 2, 1863.

By Ty

The Route

In 1862, the Pacific Railroad Act hired the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific companies. The Pacific Railroad assigned the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific with building the Transcontinental Railroad that would connect the United States from the East to the West. Over the next seven years the Central and Union Pacific Railroad would compete against each other where they would race toward each other from Sacramento, California, to Omaha, Nebraska, They wanted to compete against each other because whoever laid the most miles of track would receive the most cash and land. They had to fight against great risks before they met at Promontory, Utah, on May 10, 1869.

Did you know that before the Transcontinental Railroad was built it would cost about $1,000 dollars to travel across the country? After the Transcontinental Railroad was built, it only cost $150 dollars to travel across the country.

By the summer of 1867 the Union Pacific was already in Wyoming. It covered nearly four times as much as the Central Pacific. The Union Pacific was laying track down on flat land. The Central Pacific was laying track down on big mountains and had to go over the Sierra’s. It was difficult for the people to go over the mountains because they were not building on flat land. It was easy to build on flat land but not land that was reaching high peaks up on the mountains.

In the West, the Central Pacific would be controlled by the “Big Four”. The “Big Four” were Charles Crocker, Leland Stanford, Collis Huntington, and Mark Hopkins. They were businessmen and investors in the railroad. The people who controlled the Union Pacific Railroad were the United States Congress. Abraham Lincoln was the founder of the Union Pacific Act. William B. Ogden was the Union Pacific’s first president. Thomas Durant was the Union Pacific Railroad’s vice president and architect.

By Sierra

The Workers

In 1865, the first Chinese workers were hired to build the Transcontinental Railroad. The Central Pacific agreed that it would pay the Chinese $28 per month. The work was slow, difficult and dangerous. It took the Chinese 2 years to lay 50 miles of track. The workers reached the treacherous Sierra Nevada Mountains. They had to face the danger of blasting away the mountainsides so they could lay down track. The workers used explosives to create about 15 tunnels to get the railroad through the mountains. More than 1,200 Chinese workers died from accidents like avalanches and explosions. The Chinese worked so hard that they placed the last 10 miles of track in 12 hours. Leland Stanford said, “Without the Chinese it would have been impossible to complete the western portion of this great national highway.” 

On May 10, 1869, at Promontory Summit, Utah, the Transcontinental Railroad was completed. There were over 30,000 Chinese workers used to link the East and West by railroad.

By Clara

Building The Railroad

The Union Pacific and the Central Pacific companies wanted to build the railroad quickly.  Because the companies wanted to build fast, the work was chaotic. The supervisors told the workers what to do from horses.   The workers ran forward and back between carts and tracks while carrying ties and rails.  The other workers hammered the metal spikes into the rails. 

Before railroad companies start to build, the company sends out groups of men called surveyors.  Surveyors explore land to find routes to lay the railroad tracks.  Surveying was a very tedious task.  The surveyors explored new wilderness, climbed up cliffs, hiked through dense forests, and crossed turbulent rivers to find a route.  They had to travel through many different kinds of weather while searching for a route.

After the company found a route where the railroad could be built, they would start building.  A train took the equipment and the workers to the end of the track.  Workers called graders helped by making the ground level.  The other workers laid the ties.  The workers had to lift the iron to put them into the right spot.  This was really hard because the rails were really heavy.  When the rails were in place the workers would nail them down with long, metal spikes.

By Julian


The construction of the Transcontinental Railroad had positive and negative change. One of the main benefits of the railroad was that it now connected the East and the West. This meant there was a faster transportation for people and goods. The workers had positive change because they had a job and were earning money.  The negative change was that they faced a lot of danger like nitroglycerine explosions or avalanches while building the railroad. The completion of the Transcontinental Railroad brought more positive changes than negative changes and that helped bring our nation together.

By Clara

By Clara

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