Go West: U.S. Westward Expansion - THE RAILROAD IS FINISHED

THE RAILROAD IS FINISHED (Illustration) Famous Historical Events Social Studies Geography Nineteenth Century Life Ethics Native-Americans and First Peoples  American History

Alfred A. Hart was the official photographer of the Central Pacific Railroad from 1864 to 1869. His work documents construction of the railroad from Sacramento (California) to Promontory Summit (Utah).  In this image, we see Hart’s 1869 photo of Central Pacific’s crews at Camp Victory. Image online via the Linda Hall Library (Kansas City, Missouri). Click on it for a better view.


As the completed tracks neared each other, Union Pacific workers made their "Last Cut" while Central Pacific workers had their "Big Fill." 

On May 10, 1869, the last spike, a ceremonial golden one, was set into the tie at Promontory, Utah. (There were actually five spikes, although the one which was actually driven into the tie was made of iron.)

With that historic action, supervisors from both companies shook hands and America's east and west coasts were connected for the first time. A telegram was sent to let the nation know. It contained one word:


A.J. Russell, the official photographer for the Union Pacific, stood atop Central Pacific's locomotive "Jupiter" to capture the Last Spike Ceremony. Before long hotels, including those owned by railroad companies, were built along the transcontinental route.

After the rail lines were connected, new commercial opportunities also dotted the landscape at Promontory:

  • A tent city, just north of the tracks, was quickly erected at Promontory Summit.
  • So was a ticket/telegraph office plus a school and wind mill.

After the track was joined on that spring day in 1869, people seeking a new life in the West were about to dramatically transform the country. As a consequence:

  • The Navajo and Apache would lose their homes and be forced to live on reservations.
  • Formerly proud Shoshone would soon beg at train stations.
  • Native-American cliff dwellings, like those at Mesa Verde (in Colorado), were now a thing of the past.

The same was true of the Prairie Schooner since families had a faster, more-comfortable and less-arduous travel option.

Let's take a look at the trains which carried Americans, and recent immigrants, West.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5197stories and lessons created

Original Release: Aug 01, 2005

Updated Last Revision: Nov 10, 2015

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"THE RAILROAD IS FINISHED" AwesomeStories.com. Aug 01, 2005. Jun 02, 2020.
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