The construction of the the Transcontinental Railroad was an event that had a profound effect on America. It was symbolic of a young nation’s desire to stretch from sea to shining sea. The result was the settlement of the West.
Although the main line passed north of Kansas, the Transcontinental Railroad still left its mark on our state:
- The Kansas–Nebraska Act was passed with a view to making railroad construction possible.
- Hopes that Leavenworth would become the eastern terminus fueled speculation.
- The Pacific Railroad Act of 1862 provided for a branch line that later became the Kansas Pacific.
And there are more, subtler connections that we could draw.
For those of you who want a fascinating introduction to the subject of the Transcontinental Railroad, consider this free book: The Story of the First Trans-Continental Railroad: Its Projectors, Construction, and History by W. F. Bailey. Although written for children, there is ample meat here to interest readers of all ages.
The narrative starts as early as Thomas Jefferson and Lewis and Clark, tracing the dreams and ideas of the railroad’s earliest proponents through disappointment to success. Then follows accounts of the financial and practical matters of construction from start to finish.
The focus is on the Union Pacific part of the railroad, but chapters on the Central Pacific, Kansas Pacific, and Denver Pacific are also included.
A free but very well-rounded introduction. Highly recommended!