GCSE American West - The Significance of The Railroads


The US wanted the First Transcontinental Railroad to be built because it would:

1. Encourage the development of the West, fulfilling Manifest Destiny and bringing law and order

2. Open up trade across America and between the West and Asia

The Southern States opposed the construction of this railroad. However, once the Southern States left the Union in 1861, the Northern States had control over the federal government and passed the Pacific Railroad Act.


  • Split the job of building the railroad between two companies: the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific
  • Loaned each company $16,000 for every mile of track laid ($48,000 for mountain areas)
  • Granted each company large sections of public land along the railroad for them to sell
  • Terminated any rights Plains Indians had to land along the railroad


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