The Transcontinental Railroad : When Rails Linked The Nation

Transcontinental Railroad Gold Spike

Mega-engineering projects have always united our nation and brightened our future. The Erie and Panama Canals, the transatlantic cable, the interstate highway system, and the space program are just a few examples of these visionary endeavors.

In 1862, President Lincoln believed the creation of the Transcontinental Railroad would bind our nation after the Civil War and create economic prosperity. This great project was completed seven years later, on this day in 1869.

The Transcontinental project is just one facet of our nation’s growth on rails. The History of American Trains is the 24-documentary set of DVDs that explores the power and importance of American trains, from the golden age of locomotives to modern-day superliners.

The sweat and muscle for the Transcontinental Railroad was provided by 20,000 laborers: blasters, drillers, gandy gangs, spikers, and shakers plowed through dizzying mountain passes and deep swamps to open inaccessible lands on the prairie for plows and cattlemen. The mountains were now open to mine gold and silver, making railroad barons rich men. Carpenters, draftsmen and engineers laid down gravel bed, sleepers, and rails to the sing and ping of 9-lb. sledges. The famous spike maul of John Henry fame later competed with steam drills and air hammers. Each mile of track used about 40,000 spikes!

The rail companies Central Pacific from the west and the Union Pacific from the east were forced by Congress to link up at Promontory Point, Utah, partially to get the lucrative Salt Lake City mining business. With raucous celebration, there was a great preponderance of champagne and libation.  One gold spike from California, one of silver from Nevada and Arizona iron were spiked to a tie of California laurel wood. In spite of the magnitude of the ceremony, the railroad’s actual completion didn’t occur until a few months later in Comanche, Colorado. At last, the railroad reduced the journey across the continent from about six months to four days.

Dignitaries from the Central Pacific railway were transported to the ceremony in a Jupiter wood-burning locomotive. We’ve captured the essence of this iron horse with The Holiday Tradition Train. This working locomotive provides a festive holiday display of motion, sound, light, and color. Made by Bachmann, known for its high-quality model trains for over 40 years, this G-scale train has a working headlight, puffs smoke, and makes a “chuffing” sound. The 20-piece track creates an oval that surrounds even the fullest of Christmas trees. Your family will appreciate the beauty and nostalgia of America’s early railroads for years to come.

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