The Age of the American Railroad



The Age of the American Railroad
The Age of the American
The Transcontinental Railroad
●Pacific Railway Act - signed by President Lincoln, allowed
the construction of a transcontinental railroad by 2
●Completed at Promontory Point, Utah - 5 gold and 5 silver
spikes for the final rails - May 10, 1869
Each mile required 400 rails,
each rail took 10 spikes
Corporations involved Union Pacific - 1068 miles
Central Pacific - 688 miles
Railroad reality
●Cheap labor
o Chinese, Irish, and Confederate
veterans are hired to work on the
o 2,000 men die and 20,000 men are
injured in railroad construction
o Average wages and hours
 Minorities…$35/month & 80 hours/week
 Whites…$45/month & 50 hours/week
What did railroads do to time?
●Railroad Time
o 1883 the U.S. adopts 4 time zones
o 24 times zones are then created for the world
o Each time zone is 15 degrees latitude wide
●Standard Time - 1919 adopted world wide…still in use
How did railroads change the U.S.?
● New towns
o Businesses pop up alongside the tracks and soon
become towns, then cities, then megalopolises
 Examples: Minneapolis, Seattle, and Denver
● Opportunity
oTrack side stands grow into
massive businesses and
create some of America’s
massively wealthy citizens
o Cornelius Vanderbilt – 1st to offer a direct rail
service between NY and Chicago – begins NY’s
Grand Central Terminal (Station)
What types of problems did railroads encounter?
oOvercharging - Farmers are overcharged (it cost more to
ship good from Chicago to Detroit that from London to New
oBribery, Gov’t land grants
oCrédit Mobilier scandal -Construction companies set up by
Union Pacific Railroad and a member of Congress. Basically signing
contracts with themselves, inflating bills to make money. The same
investors controlled both companies.
Robber Barons – Men that
make as much money as
possible in an industry and
give nothing back.
Captain of Industry
oNot all entrepreneurs were Robber Barons
oJames J Hill – Great Northern Railroad from
Wisconsin/Minnesota to Washington.
oNo federal land grants or subsidies. Low fares.
Hauled goods both east and west. Only
transcontinental railroad not forced into bankruptcy
●Interstate Commerce Act of1887
oLimited and regulated railroad
business practices
●Panic of 1893
oEconomic depression that also
demonstrates the power and
influence of the railroad big

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