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The Transcontinental Railroad and Westward Expansion

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The Transcontinental Railroad and Westward Expansion

Thesis: The transcontinental railroad greatly increased Westward expansion in the United States of America during the latter half of the nineteenth century.

The history of the United States has been influenced by England in many ways.
In the second half of the 1800 's, the railroad, which was invented in England, had a major effect on Western expansion in the United States.

"Railroads were born in England, a country with dense populations, short distances between cities, and large financial resources. In America there were different circumstances, a sparse population in a huge country, large stretches between cities, and only the smallest amounts of money." ("Railroad" 85)
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Then came the construction gangs who, working in shifts, graded
(flattened) the land by as much as a hundred miles a stretch. Behind them came the track-laying crews, each consisting of ten thousand men and as many animals.
For each mile of track, the government was loaning the railroad from $16,000, for flat land, to $48,000, for mountainous land ("Railroad" 86). The supplies needed to lay a single mile of track included forty train cars to carry four hundred tons of rail and timber, ties, bridgings, fuel, and food, which all had to be assembled in a depot on the Missouri River. But the Union Pacific had the twin advantages of comparatively flat land and a continuous supply line back to the factories of the East coast. It was quite different for the Central Pacific, which had to fetch most of its materials, except timber, by sea, twelve thousand miles around the tip of South America. Another difference between the two companies was their work-forces. The Eastern work gangs were recruited from immigrant Irish, poor Southern whites, and poor Southern blacks, while the
Western crews came mostly from China. The Union Pacific was said to be sustained by whisky while the Central Pacific was said to be sustained by tea (Douglas
110).

While the Easterners were racing through the prairie, the Westerners were stripping foothill forests, painfully
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