Effects of Transcontinental Railroad on Western US

Golden Spike Ceremony

Driving in of the Golden Spike in Promontory Summit, Utah on May 10th, 1869 to mark the completion of the first American transcontinental railroad - joining the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads.

US Railroads

Map of the four major transcontinental railroads, each bringing vast amounts of demographic, economic, and environmental change to their respective regions.

With the aid of the federal government in both massive land grants and financial funding, railroad entrepreneurs and private investors transformed the western United States. From making locations like Las Vegas, Aspen, Sun Valley and other majorly populated and popular cities possible - in addition to national parks - railroads allowed both the population and preservation of all the west. Constructed in response to the gold rush of the 1850's and 60's, investors and businessmen realized the rush would eventually end and new markets must be explored. Advertising tourism and railway traffic forced railroad companies to align themselves with certain groups with certain values, such as environmentalists. Preserving the untouched and exotic natural beauty of the west, from the southern Grand Canyon to the northern mountains and evergreen forests, railroad companies promoted national parks and conservation. Such promotion also coincided with the new markets of exotic resorts and domestic tourism, a part of a new leisure travel business railroad companies advertised along side newly formed national parks. Subsidized railroad companies in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were the most important factor in the substantial increase in leisure travel related markets such as national parks, resorts, and the rise of major western cities with the increased accessibility to once isolated and untraversed regions. 


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Washington State University