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Bound for the Mountains, 12 mile Tangent - 4 miles from Sacramento

Hart, Alfred A.
ca.1865-1867
Photograph

Bound for the Mountains, 12 mile Tangent - 4 miles from Sacramento, circa 1865-1867; Alfred A. Hart Stereographs of the Central Pacific Railroad, PC-RM-Hart; Box 01; California Historical Society

In the 1850s the federal government conducted a series of surveys to identify three distinct routes for a transcontinental railroad. One party traveled along a northern route, another traveled along a central route through the middle of the country, and the third surveyed a southern route. In addition to a geographical advantage, regional political conflict between the North and the South made the central route the most viable option. In 1862, after 11 southern states had seceded from the Union, a Republican-controlled Congress passed legislation to encourage the construction of the world’s first transcontinental railroad. The Pacific Railroad Acts of 1862 and 1864 granted loans and lands to two private corporations, the Union Pacific Railroad and the Central Pacific Railroad, to subsidize this project and facilitate its completion. The Republican Party was not simply antislavery. It was a pro-business party that believed the federal government should adopt policies to stimulate economic development, encourage industrialization, and build infrastructure projects that simultaneously accelerated national growth and connected the country’s many far-flung regions. 

 

The locomotive in the photograph belonged to the Central Pacific Railroad, the company responsible for building the western portion of the railroad from west to east. The train is traveling east from Sacramento. How does this locomotive and the laws that led to the construction and financing of the world’s first transcontinental railroad in the midst of the Civil War help answer the question, How did the country change because of the Civil War?

In the 1850s the federal government conducted a series of surveys to identify three distinct routes for a transcontinental railroad. One party traveled along a northern route, another traveled along a central route through the middle of the country, and the third surveyed a southern route. In addition to a geographical advantage, regional political conflict between the North and the South made the central route the most viable option. In 1862, after 11 southern states had seceded from the Union, a Republican-controlled Congress passed legislation to encourage the construction of the world’s first transcontinental railroad. The Pacific Railroad Acts of 1862 and 1864 granted loans and lands to two private corporations, the Union Pacific Railroad and the Central Pacific Railroad, to subsidize this project and facilitate its completion. The Republican Party was not simply antislavery. It was a pro-business party that believed the federal government should adopt policies to stimulate economic development, encourage industrialization, and build infrastructure projects that simultaneously accelerated national growth and connected the country’s many far-flung regions. 

 

The locomotive in the photograph belonged to the Central Pacific Railroad, the company responsible for building the western portion of the railroad from west to east. The train is traveling east from Sacramento. Ask your students to look at a map of California and Nevada. These questions can guide them in a discussion of the significance of the railroad in the midst of the Civil War: What can you see in the photograph? What do you not see in the photograph that may be important? What sorts of obstacles and engineering challenges would the railroad encounter as it moved eastward? Who provided the labor to build this railroad? Where did the laborers come from, and why? What did the construction of railroads through the heart of the continent mean for the West’s indigenous communities? How would railroads stimulate economic development of regional communities, such as the towns of the Comstock Lode, and of the rest of the country? Who claimed the land that the railroad crossed?

Central Pacific Railroad, California 136. Bound for the Mountains, 12 mile Tangent - 4 miles from Sacramento