The Transcontinental Railroad

Different Faces Behind "The Work of the Age"

by Dawn Emord and David Bushong


The railroad is a symbol of great engineering feats and is part of America's beginning love story with technology. One of the most amazing feats in railroading is the building of the transcontinental railroad. Built not with machine-powered vehicles, such as dump trucks and bulldozers, the railroad was built almost entirely "with bare hands and coordinated skill" [Howard 327].

The laying of over a thousand miles of track in such a short period of time (about six years) required many thousands of railroad construction workers (more than ten thousand). The work of all these men, under the direction of the leaders of each railroad company, made the transcontinental railroad actually happen.

Since the lives of these men cannot be fully appreciated without understanding the overall history of the great work that was the first transcontinental railroad, this site begins with a history of this great work, for both the Central Pacific (CP) and Union Pacific (UP) Railroad companies. It then focuses on the Central Pacific company, beginning with its leaders and founders. These leaders lived lives that contrasted very sharply in many respects with the lives of the actual workers of the railroad, both the Irish and the Chinese, whose lives will be explored last.




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