The Pennsylvania Railroad
(reporting mark PRR
) was an American Class I railroad, founded in 1846. Commonly referred to as the "Pennsy,
" the PRR was headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The PRR was the largest railroad by traffic and revenue in the U.S. for the first half of the twentieth century. Over the years, it acquired, merged with or owned part of at least 800 other rail lines and companies. At the end of 1925, it operated 10,515 miles of rail line; in the 1920s, it carried about three times the traffic (measured by ton-miles of freight) as other railroads of comparable length, such as Union Pacific Railroad or Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. The only rival was New York Central (NYC), which carried around three-quarters of PRR's ton-miles.
At one time, the PRR was the largest publicly traded corporation in the world, with a budget larger than that of the U.S. government and a workforce of about 250,000 people. The corporation still holds the record for the longest continuous dividend history: it paid out annual dividends to shareholders for more than 100 years in a row.
In 1968, PRR merged with rival NYC to form the Penn Central Transportation Company, which filed for bankruptcy within two years. The viable parts were transferred in 1976 to Conrail, which was itself broken up in 1999, with 58% of Conrail going to the Norfolk Southern Railway and 42% of Conrail going to CSX Transportation. Norfolk Southern received nearly all of the former PRR. Amtrak received the electrified segment east of Harrisburg.
The Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) was originally a line from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh. Much of the railroad's subsequent expansion was accomplished by leasing or purchasing the following additional railroads:
Philadelphians were slow to recognize that the Erie Canal and the National Railway (and later the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad) were funneling to New York and Baltimore commerce that might have come to Philadelphia. A canal was opened in 1827 between the Schuylkill and Susquehanna rivers, and another was proposed along the Susquehanna, Juniata, Conemaugh, and Allegheny (along with a four-mile tunnel under the summit of the Allegheny Mountains) to link Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. That project was declared impractical, and in 1828 the Main Line of Public Works was chartered to build a railroad from Philadelphia to Columbia, another across the mountains, and canals from Columbia and from Pittsburgh to the base of the mountains.
By 1832 canals were open from Columbia to Hollidaysburg and from Pittsburgh to Johnstown; in 1834 a railroad was opened from Philadelphia to Columbia and a portage railroad was opened over the mountains. The latter, the Allegheny Portage Railroad, was a series of rope-operated inclined planes; canal boats were designed to be taken apart and hauled over the mountains.
The pace of the state's action increased when the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (B&O) requested a charter for a line to Pittsburgh. The B&O line was chartered, but so was the PRR, on April 13, 1846 — to build a railroad from Harrisburg to Philadelphia with a branch to Erie. B&O's charter would be valid only if the PRR were not constructed.
The line was surveyed by J. Edgar Thomson, who had built the Georgia Railroad. His operating experience led him to lay out not a line with a steady grade all the way to Harrisburg to the summit of the mountains, but rather a nearly water-level line from Harrisburg to Altoona, where a steeper grade (but still less than that of the B&O) began for a comparatively short assault on the mountains. This arrangement concentrated the problems of a mountain railroad in one area.
Construction began in 1847. In 1849 the PRR made an operating contract with the Harrisburg, Portsmouth, Mountjoy & Lancaster Railroad (HPMtJ&L), and by late 1852 rails ran from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, via a connection with the Allegheny Portage Railroad between Hollidaysburg and Johnstown. The summit tunnel was opened in February 1854, bypassing the inclined planes and creating a continuous railroad from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh. More than half of the line had already been double-tracked.
The Main Line of Public Works was constructed with a much smaller loading gauge than the PRR, and although the PRR was operating the HPMtJ&L, the railroad's own management was responsible for maintenance — and not doing much of it. In 1857 PRR bought the Main Line and in 1861 leased the HPMtJ&L, putting the entire Philadelphia-Pittsburgh line under one management.
To protect its canal the state included a tax on railroad tonnage in PRR's charter. When PRR purchased the Main Line, canals and all, it mounted a long battle to have the tax repealed. The charter was amended only to the point that the funds were used to aid short lines that connected with the PRR. Most of those railroads eventually became part of the PRR.
PRR also acquired interests in two major railroads, the Cumberland Valley Railroad (CVRR) and the Northern Central Railroad. The CVRR was opened in 1837 from Harrisburg to Chambersburg, and it was extended by another company in 1841 to Hagerstown, Maryland. The Baltimore & Susquehanna Railroad was incorporated in 1828, not long after the B&O got underway, to build north from Baltimore. Progress was slowed not by construction difficulties but because of the reluctance of Pennsylvania to charter a railroad that would carry commerce to Baltimore. The line reached Harrisburg in 1851 and Sunbury in 1858. By then the railroad companies that formed the route had been consolidated as the Northern Central Railway. A block of its stock that had been held by John W. Garrett, president of the B&O, was purchased by J. Edgar Thomson, PRR's president, about 1860 and transferred to PRR ownership. PRR acquired majority ownership of the Northern Central in 1900.
The PRR expanded into the northwestern portion of the state by acquiring an interest in the Philadelphia & Erie Railroad in 1862 and assisting that railroad to complete its line from Sunbury to the city of Erie in 1864. The line to Erie was not particularly successful, but from Sunbury to Driftwood it could serve as part of a freight route with easy grades. The remainder of that route was the Allegheny Valley Railroad, conceived as a feeder from Pittsburgh to the New York Central (NYC) and Erie railroads. The PRR obtained control in 1868, and in 1874 opened a route with easy grades from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh via the valleys of the Susquehanna and Allegheny rivers. PRR leased the Allegheny Valley Railroad in 1900.
Thomson led the PRR from 1852 to his death in 1874, making it the largest business enterprise in the world and a world-class model for technological and managerial innovation. Thomson's sober, technical, methodical, and non-ideological personality had an important influence on the Pennsylvania Railroad, which in the mid-19th century was on the technical cutting edge of rail development, while nonetheless reflecting Thomson's personality in its conservatism and its steady growth while avoiding financial risks. Under his watch, PRR was the largest railroad in the world, with 6,000 miles (9,700 kilometres) miles of track, and was famous for steady financial dividends, high quality construction, constantly improving equipment, technological advances (such as replacing wood with coal), and innovation in management techniques for a large complex organization.
By 1847 the directors of the PRR were looking west into Ohio. In 1851 they discussed assisting the Ohio & Pennsylvania Railroad (O&P) which by then was open from Allegheny, Pennsylvania, across the Allegheny River from Pittsburgh (and now a part of Pittsburgh), to Salem, Ohio. Projected west from the end of the O&P at Crestline, Ohio was the Ohio & Indiana Railroad (O&I), which was building a line to Fort Wayne, with extensions to Burlington, Iowa, and almost incidentally, Chicago. In 1856 the O&P, O&I, and the Fort Wayne & Chicago were consolidated as the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago Rail Road (PFtW&C). The PRR held an interest in the PFtW&C, but not a controlling one. In 1858 the PFtW&C leased the Cleveland & Pittsburgh Railroad, a line from Cleveland through Alliance (where it crossed the PFtW&C) to the Ohio River near Wellsville, Ohio, and then upstream to Rochester, Pennsylvania, where it again met the PFtW&C.
In 1869 George Gould tried to get control of the PFtW&C from the Erie, but the PFtW&C evaded him and was leased by the PRR. The lease included the Grand Rapids & Indiana Railroad, a line from Richmond, Indiana, north through Fort Wayne and Grand Rapids, Michigan. In 1873 the PRR assembled a route into Toledo; about 50 years later it extended the line to Detroit, mostly on trackage rights.
On June 15, 1887 the Pennsylvania Limited
began running between New York and Chicago. This was also the introduction of the vestibule, an enclosed platform at the end of each passenger car, allowing protected access to the entire train. In 1902 the Pennsylvania Limited
was replaced by the Pennsylvania Special
which was replaced in 1912 by the Broadway Limited
, the most famous train operated by the PRR. This train operated from New York City to Chicago via Philadelphia, with an additional Harrisburg-Washington, D.C. dubbed the Liberty Limited
West of Pittsburgh lay a string of railroads — Pittsburgh & Steubenville Railroad, Steubenville & Indiana Railroad, Central Ohio Railroad, Columbus & Xenia Railroad and Little Miami Railroad — that formed a route through Columbus to Cincinnati. The Pittsburgh & Steubenville was the last to be opened because the state of Virginia, which held a large interest in the B&O, refused to permit a railroad be built across its narrow strip of territory (now the panhandle of West Virginia) between Pennsylvania and the Ohio River. The Pittsburgh & Steubenville was sold at foreclosure and a new company, the Panhandle Railway, took over in January 1868. In May of that year the PRR consolidated the Panhandle and the Steubenville & Indiana as the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati & St. Louis Railway, but the nickname "Panhandle" stuck with it and its successors.
West of Columbus, the Columbus, Chicago & Indiana Central Railway (CC&IC) had a line from Columbus to Indianapolis and another from Columbus through Logansport, Indiana to Chicago. The PRR leased the CC&IC in February 1869, snatching it from the clutches of archetypal robber baron Jay Gould.
Beyond Indianapolis lay the Terre Haute & Indianapolis and the St. Louis, Alton & Terre Haute. Because of a lack of agreement among several roads about division of traffic, the St. Louis, Vandalia & Terre Haute was constructed between 1868 and 1870 from East St. Louis to Terre Haute and leased by the Terre Haute & Indianapolis, which then made traffic agreements with the Panhandle and the CC&IC. (The St. Louis, Alton & Terre Haute wound up in the NYC system.)
The Little Miami Railroad was incorporated in 1836; by 1846 it had a line from Cincinnati through Xenia to Springfield, Ohio, and it grew by purchasing and leasing lines to Columbus and Dayton. It was a desirable property as far as the PRR was concerned. To force the issue of a lease, the Panhandle got control of the Cincinnati & Zainesville, a secondary line that would give it access to Cincinnati. The Panhandle leased the Little Miami in 1869.
In 1890 the Panhandle and several other lines were consolidated as the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railway (PCC&StL), and in 1905 the Vandalia Railroad was incorporated to consolidate the lines west of Indianapolis. The PCC&StL, the Vandalia, and several others were consolidated in 1916 as the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad (railway
changing to railroad
, a common change among consolidations in the industry). At the beginning of 1921 the PCC&StL was leased to the PRR. Many lines serving the southern Illinois coal region were double-tracked. Several passenger routes for the PRR’s Blue Ribbon-named trains transvered these lines, including The St Louisan
, and Spirit of St. Louis
With the leases of 1869 the PRR suddenly had more than 3,000 miles (4,800 kilometres) of line west of Pittsburgh. Rather than try to manage it all from Philadelphia, the PRR organized the Pennsylvania Company to hold and manage the lines west of Pittsburgh. The new company also operated the PFtW&C and its affiliate railroads.
The division of the PRR system into several more or less autonomous divisions was not altogether successful, partly because the pieces all came together in Pittsburgh, where the yards and terminals were under three agreements. The Pennsylvania Company ceased to be an operating company in 1918 and transferred its leases to the PRR.
Even with the loyalty to Philadelphia engendered by having its roots and headquarters there, the PRR could not ignore New York City, both as a city and a port. Any traffic from the west to New York had to be turned over to the Reading Railroad (RDG) at Harrisburg because there was no through Philadelphia-New York route. In 1863 the PRR contracted with the Philadelphia & Trenton Railroad (which was built and opened in 1834), the Camden & Amboy Railroad (with lines from Camden to South Amboy and from Trenton to New Brunswick, New Jersey), and the Delaware & Raritan Canal Company. In 1871 it leased the properties of these companies and the United Canal & Railroad Companies of New Jersey, acquiring lines northeast to Jersey City, south to Cape May, and north along the Delaware River to Belvidere. In the 1880s the PRR acquired the lines from Philadelphia east across New Jersey to the shore and constructed lines up the Schuylkill Valley into RDG territory. The New Jersey lines were combined with a parallel line owned by the RDG in 1933 as the Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines.
The NYC had long had an advantage in passenger service to and from New York: It had a terminal, Grand Central, on Manhattan Island, and all the other railroads (except the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad [NH], which share NYC's facilities) had to ferry their passengers across to Manhattan. PRR's desire for a rail terminal in Manhattan was given added impetus by its acquisition of the Long Island Rail Road in 1900. After studying proposals for bridges and tunnels, PRR began construction in 1904 of Pennsylvania Station, between Seventh and Eighth avenues and 31st and 33rd streets; two tunnels under the Hudson River; four tunnels under the East River; and a double-track line across the Jersey Meadows to connect it to the main line east of Newark — all electrified. The new station opened in 1910.
In 1917 the New York Connecting Railroad, including the Hell Gate Bridge, was opened, creating a rail route from Bay Ridge in Brooklyn for freight service and from Penn Station for passenger service to a junction with the NH in the Bronx.
The B&O had a monopoly on traffic to and from Washington, D.C. — and protection of that monopoly in its charter. B&O refused to make arrangements with the Northern Central Railway or the Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad (PW&B) for through ticketing of passengers and through billing of freight. The PRR bought the charter of the Baltimore & Potomac Railroad (B&P), a line which was to have run from Baltimore straight south to the Potomac River at Popes Creek, Maryland, but which had lain dormant since its chartering in 1853. The charter allowed the B&P to build branch lines no more than 20 miles (32 kilometres) long, and it was slightly less than that from Washington to Bowie, Maryland on the B&P. The resulting Baltimore-Washington route, opened in 1872, was only three miles longer than B&O's. Congress authorized the PRR to continue its line through Washington and across the Potomac River to connect with railroads in Virginia.
The PW&B was opened in 1838 between the cities of its name. The PRR was quick to connect it to the B&P in Baltimore (it had no physical connection with the B&O), and in 1873 through service was inaugurated between Jersey City and Washington. Both the PRR and B&O saw the strategic importance of the PW&B, which included lines down the Delmarva Peninsula; PRR got it in 1881. PRR soon extended the Delmarva lines southward by construction of the New York, Philadelphia & Norfolk Railroad to Cape Charles, Virginia, and where they connected with a ferry to Norfolk, Virginia.
In 1885, the PRR began operating the Congressional Limited Express
a New York-Washington passenger service via Philadelphia with limited stops. The service expanded, and by the 1920s, the PRR was operating hourly passenger train service between New York, Philadelphia and Washington. In 1952, 18-car stainless steel streamliners were introduced on the Morning Congressional
and Afternoon Congressional
between New York and Washington.
In 1902 the PW&B and the B&P were consolidated as the Philadelphia, Baltimore & Washington Railroad. PW&B and B&O teamed up to form the Washington Terminal Company, which constructed a new Union Station in Washington, opened in 1907. In 1917 the PW&B was leased to the PRR.
Around 1900, the PRR built several low-grade lines for freight to bypass areas of steep grade (slope). These included:
The Pennsylvania and Newark Railroad was incorporated in 1905 to build a low-grade line from Morrisville, Pennsylvania to Colonia, New Jersey. It was never completed, but work was done in the Trenton area, including bridge piers in the Delaware River. North of Colonia, the alignment was going to be separate, but instead two extra tracks were added to the existing line. Work was suspended in 1916. Another low-grade line across the mountains of Pennsylvania, avoiding completely the congestion of Pittsburgh, was discussed.
Other major additions to the PRR at the end of the 19th century were the following:
By 1910 the PRR had achieved full growth: It has been described as a man with his head in Philadelphia, his hands in New York and Washington, D.C., and his feet in Chicago and St. Louis. The metaphor, which was unkind to Pittsburgh, requires for completeness a fishnet spread over the man with pins holding it down at Buffalo, Rochester, and Sodus Point, New York, Detroit and Mackinaw City, Michigan, Marietta, Cincinnati, and Cleveland, Ohio, Madison, Indiana, and Louisville, Kentucky. The hand in New York holds a large fish — Long Island — and resting on the other shoulder is another, the Delmarva Peninsula. Almost everywhere the PRR went it was the dominant railroad, the principal exception being NYC territory along Lake Ontario and the south shore of Lake Erie.
The PRR was also, by its own declaration, "The Standard Railroad of the World." The standardization was internal. Passenger trains moved behind a fleet of 425 K4s-class Pacifics; the railroad had hundreds of P70-class coaches built to a single design. Freight was hauled by 579 L1s-class Mikados (which used the same boiler as the K4s) and 598 I1s-class Decapods; PRR had thousands of X29-class 40-foot steel boxcars. Much of PRR's standardization was different from nearly everything else in North America: Belpaire boilers on steam locomotives; position-light signals giving their indications with rows of amber lights at different angles; Tuscan red passenger cars instead of drab olive green.
At the turn of the century under the leadership of Alexander Cassatt, PRR purchased substantial interests in Norfolk & Western (N&W), Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O), B&O, and (through B&O) RDG railroads. Cassatt was vigorously opposed to the practice of rebating (returning a portion of the freight charge to favored shippers) and was in favor of an industry-wide end to the practice. Strong railroads would be able to resist pressure to grant rebates, but weaker ones would not — unless they were controlled by strong railroads. In 1906 PRR sold its B&O and C&O interests but increased its N&W holdings.
In 1929 the Pennroad Corporation was formed as a holding company owned principally by PRR stockholders. Pennroad purchased sizable interests in the Detroit, Toledo & Ironton; Pittsburgh & West Virginia; NH; and Boston & Maine railroads. The PRR would have needed Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) approval to purchase interests in other railroads; it was not necessary for the holding company.
The biggest single improvement accomplished by the PRR in the 1920s and 1930s was the electrification of its lines from New York to Washington, D.C., and from Philadelphia to Harrisburg. PRR had initially added electric in 1910 via a direct current (DC) 650-volt third rail that powered PRR locomotives and LIRR passenger cars.
The nucleus of the main improvement was the 1915 electrification between Philadelphia and Paoli, Pennsylvania. That was extended south to Wilmington in 1928 and began working north to Trenton. PRR decided to change the New York terminal third-rail electrification to high-voltage 11,000-volt 25-Hertz alternating current (AC) to match the Philadelphia electrification and connect the two; that was completed in 1933, putting the New York-Wilmington line under wires. At the same time the railroad opened two new stations in Philadelphia; Suburban Station next to Broad Street Station and the "Chinese Wall" elevated tracks leading to it. Two years later the electrification was extended to Baltimore and Washington, D.C. to Potomac Yard in Alexandria, Virginia. Electrification was extended west from Paoli to Harrisburg in 1938, with the thought of eventually continuing it to Pittsburgh. Other Philadelphia-region electrified lines:
A $77 million loan from the New Deal's Public Works Administration in 1934 allowed the PRR to add wire to freight-only lines, including:
During World War II PRR's traffic doubled and passenger traffic quadrupled, much of it on the eastern portion of the system. The electrification was of inestimable value in keeping the traffic moving. After the war PRR had the same experiences as many other railroads but seemed slower to react. PRR was slower to dieselize and when it did so it bought units from every manufacturer. As freight and passenger traffic left the rails for the highways, PRR found itself with far more fixed plant than the traffic warranted or could support, and it was slow to dismantle excess trackage or replace double track with Centralized Traffic Control. The company, in particular, was worse than practically anyone else in having four to six tracks where one or two would do — track that was no longer needed but which was still on the tax rolls. PRR was saddled with a heavy passenger business, and it had extensive commuter services centered on New York, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh — and lesser ones at Chicago, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and Camden, New Jersey. Unlike nearly every one of its competitors, PRR had gone through the Great Depression without going bankrupt — and bankruptcy can have salutary effect on old debt. The PRR had to its credit, though, the longest history of dividend payment in U.S. business history.
PRR and NYC shocked the railroad industry by announcing merger plans in November 1957. The two had long been bitter rivals, and tradition favored end-to-end mergers rather than those of parallel railroads; West of the Allegheny Mountains, the two systems duplicated each other at almost every major point; east of those cites, the two hardly touched. The initial reaction was utter surprise. "Who? Why?" Every merger proposal for decades had tried to balance the NYC against the PRR and create two, three, or four more-or-less equal systems in the east. Traditionally, the PRR had been allied with the N&W and the Wabash Railroad; the NYC with the B&O, RDG and the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad (DLW). Any remaining players were swept up with the Erie Railroad and the Nickel Plate. In addition, tradition favored end-to-end mergers rather than those of parallel railroads. Planning and justifying the merger took nearly a decade, during which time the eastern railroad scene had changed dramatically, in large measure because of the impending merger of the NYC and PRR. The Erie merged with the DLW to create the Erie Lackawanna Railway (EL) in 1960, the C&O acquired control of the B&O, and the N&W took in several railroads, including the Nickel Plate and the Wabash. Stockholders of the PRR and NYC approved the merger of the two railroads on May 8, 1962. ICC approved the merger four years later, and on February 1, 1968, the Penn Central (PC) came into existence — and fell apart faster than it went together.
PRR and NYC came into the merger in the black, but PC's first year of operation yielded a deficit of $2.8 million ($18,485,359 today). In 1969 the deficit was nearly $83 million ($519,616,152 today). PC's net income for 1970 was a deficit of $325.8 million ($1,926,044,730 today). By then, the railroad had entered bankruptcy proceedings on June 21, 1970. The PC bankruptcy was a cataclysmic event, both to the railroad industry and to the nation's business community. The nation's sixth-largest corporation had become its largest bankruptcy (the Enron Corporation's 2001 bankruptcy eclipsed this in large measure).
The viable parts were transferred in 1976 to Conrail, which was itself broken up in 1999, with roughly equal parts of Conrail going to the Norfolk Southern Railway and CSX Transportation. Norfolk Southern received most of the former PRR, with CSX receiving the former PRR [Landover Subdivision]] (primarily in Washington, D.C.), the former PRR Pope's Creek Secondary in Maryland, and the former PRR Fort Wayne Line from Crestline, Ohio, to Gary, Indiana. Amtrak received the electrified segments connecting Harrisburg, Washington, and New York City.
The PRR's corporate symbol was the keystone, the commonwealth of Pennsylvania's state symbol, with the letters PRR intertwined inside. When colored, it was bright red with a silver-grey inline and lettering.
As noted, PRR colors and paint schemes were standardized. Locomotives were painted in a shade of green so dark it seemed almost black. The official name for this color was DGLE (Dark Green Locomotive Enamel), though often referred to as "Brunswick Green." The undercarriage of the locomotives were painted in black, referred to as "True Black." The passenger cars of the Pennsylvania Railroad were painted Tuscan Red, a brick-colored shade of red. Some electric locomotives and most passenger-hauling diesel locomotives were also painted in Tuscan Red. Freight cars of the PRR had their own color, known as "Freight Car Color," an iron-oxide shade of red. On passenger locomotives and cars the lettering and outlining was originally done in real gold leaf. After World War II the lettering was done in a light shade of yellow called Buff Yellow.
PRR was one of the first railroads to use position-light signals. The signals replaced semaphore signals. Visibility in foggy conditions was one of the factors for the development of this type of signal. A position-light signal used a large round target with an array of up to nine lights. Eight lights are in a circle near the edge of the target with another light in the center. The lights in position-light signals used amber-colored lenses, which could penetrate fog. With a position signal light, the positioning of the light display determined the meaning of the message. The design also allowed train personnel to recognize the signal aspect even when one light in a row was inoperative.
Signal aspects were displayed as rows of three lit lights. The aspects corresponded with upper-quadrant semaphore signal positions: vertical for proceed, a 45° angle for approach, and horizontal for stop. A row of lights at a 45° angle leaning left of vertical (perpendicular to the approach aspect) was used for a restricting aspect. A "X" shape was a "take siding" aspect (message) and a full circle was a "lower pantograph" aspect in electrified territory. Additional aspects were conveyed with a second target head below the first, either a single light, a partial target, or a full target. Separate Manual Block signal aspects existed as well.
In later years the two outside lights in the horizontal "stop" row were often given red lenses, and the center lamp would be extinguished when the signal displayed a stop aspect. Apart from a test installation at Overbrook interlocking near Philadelphia, later reversed, installation of such "red-eye" lenses was limited to interlocking home signals north and west of Rockville (near Harrisburg).
Starting in the late 1920s the PRR installed Pulse code cab signaling where the higher speeds of passenger trains made cab signalling desirable. In this system signal, information is transmitted through the rails using track circuits and picked up by a sensor on the locomotive, where the signal is displayed in the engineer's cab. PRR ultimately extended cab signals on its New York-Washington, Philadelphia-Pittsburgh, and Pittsburgh-Indianapolis lines (the latter which was later downgraded by PC and ultimately abandoned by Conrail). PRR also experimented with cab signals without wayside signals, an approach later expanded by Conrail (Conemaugh line) and Norfolk Southern Railway (Cleveland line). Cab signals were subsequently adopted by several other U.S. railroads, especially on passenger lines. This technology, advanced for its time, is still in use by Amtrak.
For most of its existence, PRR was conservative in its locomotive choices and pursued a path of standardization, both in locomotive types and their component parts. Almost alone among U.S. railroads, the PRR designed most of its steam locomotive classes itself and built them in Altoona.
Outside builders were used due to the sheer number of locomotives the PRR ordered. The number required exceeded the capacity that its own shops could produce. PRR used a commercial builder as a subcontractor, building exact replicas of an existing PRR design. This was unlike most railroads who gave only a broad specification, thereby leaving the majority of the decision making and design to the locomotive builder.
When it needed a commercial locomotive builder, the PRR favored Baldwin Locomotive Works. Baldwin was a major PRR customer, receiving its raw materials and shipping out its finished products on PRR lines. The two companies were headquartered in the same city, with PRR and Baldwin management, along with the engineers, knowing each other well. When the PRR and Baldwin shops were at capacity, orders went to the Lima Locomotive Works in Lima, Ohio. Only as a last resort would the PRR use the American Locomotive Company (ALCO) based in Schenectady, New York. This may have been due to the fact that Alco was serviced by PRR's rival, NYC.
The PRR had a design style that it favored in its locomotives. One example is the square-shouldered Belpaire firebox. This British style firebox was a PRR trademark that was rarely used by other locomotive builders in the United States. Also, the PRR used track pans extensively to pick up water, for the locomotive, while on the move. Using this system meant that the tenders of their locomotives had a comparatively large proportion of coal (which could not be taken on board while running) compared to water capacity. Locomotives of the PRR had a clean look to them. Only necessary devices were used and they were mounted neatly on the locomotive. Smoke box fronts bore a round locomotive number board denoting a freight locomotive or a keystone number board denoting a passenger locomotive. Otherwise the smoke box was uncluttered except for a headlamp at the top and a steam-driven turbo-generator behind it. In later years the positions of the two were reversed, since the generator needs more maintenance than the lamp.
Each class of steam locomotive was assigned a class designation. Early on this was simply a letter, but when these ran short the scheme was changed so that each wheel arrangement had its own letter, and different types in the same arrangement had different numbers added to the letter. Subtypes were indicated by a lower-case letter; superheating was designated by an "s" until the mid-1920s, by which time all new locomotives were superheated. A K4sa class was a 4-6-2 "Pacific" type (K) of the fourth class of Pacifics designed by the PRR. It was superheated (s) and was of the first variant type (a) after the original (unlettered). Steam locomotives remained part of the PRR fleet until 1957.
The PRR's reliance on steam locomotives in the mid-20th century contributed to its decline. Steam locomotives require more maintenance than diesel locomotives, are less cost efficient, and require more personnel to operate. The PRR was unable to update its roster during the World War II years; by the end of the war their roster was in rough shape. In addition, the PRR was saddled with unsuccessful experimental steam locomotives such as the Q1, S1, and T1 "Duplex Drive" locomotives, and the S2 turbine locomotive. Unlike most of their competition, the PRR did not acquire any 4-8-4 locomotives.
The PRR's competitors managed this period better with their diesel locomotive rosters. The PRR voluntarily preserved a roundhouse-full of representative steam locomotives at Northumberland, Pennsylvania in 1957 and kept them there for several decades. These locomotives, with the exception of I1sa #4483 which is on display at Hamburg, New York, are now at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg, Pennsylvania. In sharp contrast, NYC's Alfred E. Perlman deliberately scrapped all but two large steam locomotives, and these survived only by accident.
On December 18, 1987 the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania designated PRR's K4s as the official State Steam Locomotive. The two surviving Locomotives are housed at Strasburg and Altoona.
When work on the Hudson River tunnels and New York's Penn Station was in progress, the type of electric locomotives to be used was an important consideration. At that time only a few electric locomotives existed. Several experimental locomotives were designed by railroad and Westinghouse engineers and tried on the West Jersey & Seashore Railroad track. From these tests the DD1 class was developed. The DD1s were used in pairs (back to back). Thirty-three of these engines having Westinghouse equipment were built at Altoona. They were capable of speeds up to 85 miles per hour (137 km/h). Placed in service in 1910, they proved to be very efficient.]
Steel suburban passenger cars capable of being electrified for MU operation were designed due to the need for such cars in service to Penn Station through its associated tunnels and were designated MP54. Designs for corresponding cars accommodating baggage and mail were produced also. Eight of these cars were electrified with DC equipment to provide shuttle service from Penn Station to Manhattan Transfer between 1910 and 1922. More extensive electrification plans required AC electrification, starting with 93 cars for the Paoli Line in 1915. With the expansion of the AC electrification, additional MP54 cars were electrified or purchased new until a total of 481 cars was reached in 1951. Replacement with newer types of cars began in 1958 and the last MP54 cars were retired in 1980.]
The single FF1 appeared in 1917 and ran experimentally for a number of years in preparation for electrification over the Allegheny Mountains that never came to fruition. Its AC induction motors and side-rod drive powered six axles. It developed a starting tractive force of 140,000 pounds, which was capable of ripping couplers out of the fragile wooden freight cars in use at the time.:123
In 1924 another side-rod locomotive was designed: (the L5 class). Two DC engines were built for the New York electrified zone and a third, road number 3930, was AC-equipped and put in service at Philadelphia. Later 21 more L-5 locomotives were built for the New York service. A six-wheeled switching engine was the next electric motive power designed, being classified as B1. Of the first 16 AC engines, two were used at Philadelphia and 14 on the Bay Ridge line, while 12 DC-equipped engines were assigned to Sunnyside Yard in New York City.
The O1 class was a light passenger type. Eight of these engines were built from June 1930 to December 1931. The P5 class was also introduced, with two of this class being placed in service during July and August 1931. Following these came the P5A, a slightly heavier design capable of traveling 80 miles per hour (130 km/h) and with a tractive force of 56,250 pounds. In all, 89 of these locomotives were built. The first had a box cab design and were placed in service in 1932. The following year, the last 28 under construction were redesigned to have a streamlined type of cab. Some of these engines underwent regearing for freight service.]
In 1933 two entirely new locomotives were being planned: the R1 and the GG1 class. The R-1 had a rigid frame for its four driving axles, while the GG-1 had two frames which were articulated. Both of these prototypes, along with an O-1, a P5A and a K4s steam locomotive underwent exhaustive testing. Testing was conducted over a special section of test track near Claymont, Delaware and lasted for nearly two years. As a result of these experiments, the GG1 type was chosen and the construction of 57 locomotives was authorized. The first GG1 was finished in April and by August 1935 all 57 were completed. These first GG1 engines were designated for passenger service, while most of the P5A type were made available for freight service. Some of the later-built GG1s were assigned to freight service as well. The total number of GG1s built was 139. They are rated at 4,620 horsepower (3,450 kW) at speeds of 100 mph (160 km/h).]
On August 26, 1999, The United States Postal Service issued commemorative 33-cent All Aboard! 20th Century American Trains
stamps. These commemorative stamps featured five celebrated American passenger trains from the 1930s and 1940s. One of the five stamps features an image of a GG-1 locomotive pulling the "Congressional Limited Express." The official Pennsylvania State Electric Locomotive is the GG-1 #4859. It received this designation on December 18, 1987 and is currently on display in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
In the mid-1940s, the PRR began to add diesel locomotives to their fleet. From 1945 through 1949 it purchased 60 E7 class locomotives from General Motors EMD (Electro-Motive Division). These units were given the classification EP20 by the PRR. Sixty of this number were designated "A" units, meaning that they had a cab for the train crew. The remaining 14 were designated "B" units; these were cabless booster units that were controlled by an "A" unit.]
Another addition to the PRR diesel locomotive fleet was the Baldwin DR-12-8-1500/2, referred to as the "Centipede." Twenty-four of these units were purchased, and PRR classified them as BP60. These units had reliability problems and were soon obsolete. They were relegated to helper service.]
In 1948 the PRR purchased twenty-seven DR-6 locomotives from Baldwin Locomotive Works. These units were given the PRR classification BP20. Originally for the passenger service fleet, these locomotive proved troublesome, and some were reclassified as BF16z freight locomotives.]
From 1950-1952, the PRR purchased another group of 74 locomotives from EMD. These were EMD's E8 locomotives (successor to the E7). All of this group were "A" units. The PRR gave these units the classification EP22s. In 1956, the Pennsy retired the remaining steam fleet and opened bidding for a large order of diesel replacement locomotives. GM/EMD gave the PRR an exceptional deal on new, reliable GP9s, so the entire bid went to EMD. Baldwin Locomotive Works (BLW) was counting on PRR (BLW's lifelong loyal customer) to keep the struggling company in business by purchasing at least some Baldwin diesels. When that did not happen, the 126-year-old company went bankrupt.
In 1849, PRR officials developed plans to construct a repair facility at Altoona. Construction was started in 1850, and soon a long building was completed that housed a machine shop, woodworking shop, blacksmith shop, locomotive repair shop and foundry. This facility was later torn down to make room for continuing expansion.
In time additional PRR repair facilities were located in Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Mifflin, and the Altoona Works expanded in adjacent Juniata, Pennsylvania. Inventor Alexander Graham Bell sent two assistants to the Altoona shops in 1875 to study the feasibility of installing telephone lines. In May 1877, telephone lines were installed for various departments to communicate with one another.
Fort Wayne, Indiana, also held a key position for the railroad. By the turn of the 20th century, its repair shops and locomotive manufacturing facilities became known as the "Altoona of the West."
By 1945 the Altoona Works had grown to be one of the largest repair and construction facilities for locomotives and cars in the world. During World War II, PRR facilities (including the Altoona Shops) were on target lists of German saboteurs. They were caught before they could complete their missions.
In 1875 the Altoona Works started a testing department for PRR equipment. In following years, the Pennsylvania Railroad led the nation in the development of research and testing procedures of practical value for the railroad industry. Use of the testing facilities was discontinued in 1968 and many of the structures were demolished.
The PRR built several grand passenger stations, alone or with other railroads. These architectural marvels, whose city name was usually preceded by "Penn Station", were the hubs for the PRR's passenger service. Many are still in use today, served by Amtrak and regional passenger carriers.
Broad Street Station was the first of the great passenger stations built by the PRR. Opened in 1881, the station was expanded in the early 1890s by famed Philadelphia architect Frank Furness. For most of its existence it was with City Hall one of the crown jewels of Philadelphia's architecture, and until a 1923 fire had the largest train shed in the world (a 91 m span). It was the terminal for the PRR in Philadelphia, bringing trains into the center of the city. It was demolished in 1953 after the PRR moved to 30th Street Station.
Built 1898-1903 and renovated in 1954 and partially repurposed in 1988 it was originally called "Union Station" as the terminal for some Pennsylvania Railroad subsidiaries.
The main station of Baltimore, this Beaux-Arts building was built in 1911 from a design by architect Kenneth MacKenzie Murchison. It is served by Amtrak and MARC Train commuter service. Both approaches to the station are via tunnels, the B&P Tunnel to the south and the Union Tunnel to the north.
The PRR, along with the Milwaukee Road and the Burlington Route, built Chicago's Union Station, the only one of Chicago's old stations still used as an intercity train station. It was designed by Graham, Anderson, Probst & White in the Beaux-Arts style.
Newark's Pennsylvania Station was designed by McKim, Mead and White. It opened in 1935, was completed in 1937 and was refurbished in 2007. Its style is a mixture of Art Deco and Neo-Classical. All Amtrak trains stop here, and the station serves three commuter lines, PATH rapid transit to Jersey City and Manhattan, and the Newark Light Rail.
The original Pennsylvania Station was designed by the noted architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White and was modeled on the Roman Baths of Caracalla; it was notable for its high vaulted ceilings. Infamously, it was demolished for redevelopment in the mid-1960s. The station opened in 1910 to provide access to Manhattan from New Jersey without having to use a ferry, and was served by PRR's own trains as well as those of PRR's subsidiary, the Long Island Rail Road. Its 1963 demolition did not include the platforms, the tracks, or even some of the staircases. The station continues as an underground operation (serving Amtrak, New Jersey Transit and LIRR) and is the busiest intercity railroad station in the United States.
30th Street Station displays its majestic—and traditional—architectural style with its enormous waiting room and its vestibules. The station, in spite of its architectural classicism, opened in 1933, when modern and Art Deco styles were more popular. Its construction was needed to accommodate increased intercity and suburban traffic. It replaced the 32nd Street Station (West Philadelphia). It is now the primary rail station in Philadelphia, serving long-distance and commuter trains.
Union Station, built jointly with the B&O, served as a hub for PRR passenger services in the nation's capital, with connections to the B&O, and Southern Railway. The station was designed by architect Daniel Burnham and opened in 1908. The Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad provided a link to Richmond, Virginia, about 100 miles (160 km) to the south, where major north–south lines of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad and Seaboard Air Line Railroad provided service to the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida.
The controlling non-institutional shareholders of PRR were, during the early 1960s, Henry Stryker Taylor, who was a part of the Jacob Bunn business dynasty of Illinois, and Howard Butcher III, a principal in the Philadelphia brokerage house of Butcher & Sherrerd (later Butcher & Singer).
PRR system map, November 1857
PRR system map, 1893
PRR eastern system map, 1899
PRR M1a at 1939 New York World's Fair
PRR S1 at 1939 New York World's Fair
PRR herald, Newark Penn Station
Amtrak and SEPTA commuter trains on electrified Main Line, Rosemont, Pennsylvania
The First Transcontinental Railroad (known originally as the "Pacific Railroad" and later as the "Overland Route") was a 1,907 mile (3,069 km) contiguous railroad line constructed between 1863 and 1869 across the western United States connecting the Pacific coast at San Francisco Bay with the existing Eastern U.S. rail network at Council Bluffs, Iowa on the Missouri River. The rail line was built by three private companies: the original Western Pacific Railroad Company between Oakland, California to Sacramento, California (132 miles (212 km)), the Central Pacific Railroad Company of California eastward from Sacramento to Promontory Summit, Utah Territory (U.T.) (690 miles), and the Union Pacific Railroad Company westward to Promontory Summit from the road's statutory Eastern terminus at Council Bluffs on the eastern shore of the Missouri River opposite Omaha, Nebraska (1,085 miles).
Paddle steamers initially linked Sacramento to the cities and their harbor facilities in the San Francisco Bay until the WP grade (which had already been acquired by the CPRR) was completed and opened to Alameda and Oakland (MP 6) by the CPRR in the Fall of 1869. (Service between San Francisco (MP 0) and Oakland Pier (MP 6) was provided by ferry.) The CPRR eventually purchased 53 miles of UPRR built grade from Promontory Summit (MP 828) to Ogden, U.T. (MP 881) which then became the interchange point between the two roads where passengers changed trains. The transcontinental line was popularly known as the Overland Route after the principal passenger rail service that operated over the length of the line through the end of 1962.
After years of study, argument, and lobbying by influential people such as Theodore Judah as to where the "eastern" terminus would be and how the cost of construction would be paid, the construction and operation of a transcontinental line was authorized by the Pacific Railroad Acts of 1862 and the even more generous act of 1864, during the American Civil War when southern Democratic opposition in the Congress to the central route near the 42 parallel was absent. Other railroads were also authorized under much the same terms. Two railroad companies, the Union Pacific Railroad and Central Pacific Railroad, were chosen for the first transcontinental railroad and supported by 30-year U.S. guaranteed government bonds (at 6% interest). The bonds were to be issued at $16,000/mile for track laid at level grade, $32,000/mile for track laid in foothills and $48,000/mile for track laid in mountains. In addition, a 400 feet (120 m) right-of-way grant and land needed for all sidings, stations, rail yards, maintenance stations, etc. on which to build the railroad were granted. Extensive land grants of alternate sections of government-owned lands along the tracks for 10 miles (16 km) on both sides of the track--6,400 acres (2,600 ha) per mile (1.6 km) of track were granted. Grants were not allowed or given in cities or at rivers or on non-government property. While some of this land had potentially exploitable minerals, was good farm or forest land, and quite valuable, much of it was essentially valueless desert. Provisions in the Pacific Railroad Acts were made for the telegraph companies, who had just completed the First Transcontinental Telegraph in 1861, to combine their lines with the Railroad's telegraph lines as they were built. Railroad allocated land not sold in three years was to be sold at the same government price homesteads were sold at, $1.25 per 1 acre (0.40 ha) if there were any buyers. If the bonds were not repaid all remaining railroad property, including trains and tracks, were to revert to the U.S. government for disposal—they were all repaid with interest.
Completion of a Pacific railroad was the culmination of a decades-long movement to build such a line beginning as early as 1832 when Dr. Hartwell Carver publish an article in the New York Courier & Enquirer advocating the building of a transcontinental railroad from Lake Michigan to Oregon, and in 1847 he submitted a Memorial to Congress entitled "Proposal for a Charter to Build a Railroad from Lake Michigan to the Pacific Ocean" seeking a charter to build such a road. In 1856 the Select Committee on the Pacific Railroad and Telegraph of the US House of Representatives began its Report recommending the adoption of a proposed Pacific railroad bill by stating that: "The necessity that now exists for constructing lines of railroad and telegraphic communication between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of this continent is no longer a question for argument; it is conceded by every one. In order to maintain our present position on the Pacific, we must have some more speedy and direct means of intercourse than is at present afforded by the route through the possessions of a foreign power." Opened for through traffic on May 10, 1869, with the driving of the "Last Spike" with a silver hammer at Promontory Summit, the road established a mechanized transcontinental transportation network that revolutionized the settlement and economy of the American West by bringing these western states and territories firmly and profitably into the "Union" and making goods and transportation much quicker, cheaper and much more flexible from coast to coast.
Most of the capital investment needed to build the railroad were got from selling government guaranteed bonds (granted per mile of completed track) to interested investors. The financial incentives and bonds would hopefully cover most of the initial capital investment needed to build the railroad. The bonds would be paid back by the sale of government granted land and prospective passenger and freight income. In addition to the railroad land grants which the railroads sold at low cost to pay back their government backed bonds (all were repaid) the 37th United States Congress passed the Homestead Acts which were several United States federal laws that sold an applicant 160 acres (65 ha) of unclaimed government owned land, typically called a "homestead", at low cost when the applicant did some prescribed work on it. There was now a strong and relatively low cost incentive for the settlement of the west which many thousands took advantage of. The railroads started new population growth and potential population growth induced many other railroads to be built and connected to the transcontinental railroad to serve communities and states off the original main track.
Most of the engineers and surveyors who figured out how and where to build the railroad on the Union Pacific were usually engineering college trained Union Army veterans who had learned their railroad trade keeping the trains running and tracks maintained during the U.S. Civil War working for the U.S. Military Railroad (USMRR) which was established by the United States War Department as a separate agency to operate and repair any rail lines needed by the Union army or seized by the government from the Confederate States of America railroads during the American Civil War. Nearly all of the Union and Confederate armies were supported and transported by extensive rail networks which had to be built up, protected and repaired as the armies advanced and retreated. Most key workers and supervisors were trained by previous on-the-job training and knew what needed to be done and how to direct workers to get it done. Most of the semi-skilled workers on the Union Pacific were recruited from the many discharged Union Army and Confederate Army veterans and emigrant Irishmen escaping poverty and famine in Ireland.
The Central Pacific had the same financial incentives the Union Pacific as well as some construction bonds that were granted by the state and the city of San Francisco. The Central Pacific hired engineers and surveyors who had extensive experience and training building railroads and knew what needed to be done and how to supervise others to get it done. The Central Pacific, facing a semi-skilled labor shortage, relied on some black employees escaping the slavery and turmoil of the American Civil War and many emigrant Chinese manual laborers for construction. Most of these Chinese emigrants were escaping the poverty and terrors of the Taiping Revolution in the Kwangtung province in China. Supervisory, engineering and skilled jobs were done with "white" workers including a lot of Irishmen. The Chinese, despite their small stature and total lack of experience with railroad work, handled most of the heavy manual labor needed to get over and through the Sierra Nevada mountains and across the Nevada and Utah deserts. Most of the black and white workers were paid $30.00/month and provided food and lodging. Higher skilled and supervisory jobs paid more. Most Chinese were initially paid $31.00/month and provided lodging. They bought and cooked their own food—just as they desired. In 1867 this was raised to $35.00/month after a strike.
The Central Pacific RR broke ground on January 8, 1863. Essentially all of their railway supplies: spikes, hammers, rock drills, black powder, bridge hardware, iron rails, fishplates, bolts and nuts, railroad switchs, railroad turntables, steam locomotives, railroad cars, telegraph wire, insulators, etc. would have to be imported over 18,000 miles (29,000 km) and about 200 day (by regular sailing ship) trip or about 120 day trip (by Clipper ship) around South America's Cape Horn or the much more expensive route across the new paddle steamer and Panama Railroad's crossing of the Isthmus of Panama—about a 40 day trip and twice as expensive. After the goods got to the San Francisco Bay area they would have to be unloaded from the ships and put on paddle steamers for transport over the final 130 miles (210 km) trip up the Sacramento River to Sacramento. The first track was laid in August 1863 when rail shipments finally reached Sacramento. Many of these steam engines, railroad cars, etc. were shipped dismantled and had to be reassembled in the Sacramento Central Pacific maintenance yards. Ties, lumber, telegraph poles, trestle and bridge timbers, and firewood to feed their locomotives could be cut from timber already in California, Oregon, etc.
The Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) did not start construction until July 1865, due to the difficulty getting financial backing and the Civil War's need for workers, rails, ties, steam locomotives and railroad supplies. The U.S. Civil War ended 22 June 1865. In the first year, 1865, so little work was done by Union Pacific that they sold two of the four steam locomotives they had purchased. After the Civil War competition for railroad supplies to build a new transcontinental railroad while building or rebuilding new railroad nets and repairing and bringing up to date the damaged rail networks in the south initially caused railroad product's prices to rise. Completion of the railroad and the new Homesteading laws substantially accelerated populating the West. Land could now be obtained fairly cheaply and there was now a much cheaper and faster way to get "goods" to buy and sell and widespread markets for those goods regardless of where you lived. The railroads established the equivalent of inland "ports". It established the modern state's land highways of commerce and trade, resulting in the decline of territory controlled by the Indian tribes in these regions.
The gauge, the distance between the wheels, of both railroads was set at what is now called standard gauge—4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1.435 m). The railroad gauge used in the United States were not all standardized at this time with several different gauges being used. This made transferring railway cars and locomotives to different railways difficult. The gauge of the southern and Panama Railroads were 5 feet (1.5 m) then. The rails used were nearly all iron rails of a flat bottomed modified I-beam profile weighing 56 pounds (25 kg) per 1 yard (0.91 m) or 66 pounds (30 kg) per 1 yard (0.91 m). The heavier rails were used in the Sierras where they made it easier to plow the tracks for snow clearance. Railroad rails were restricted to U.S. manufacturers by congressional fiat. Today's engines and railroad cars are much heavier and use much heftier steel rails, often continuously welded. Steel rails had just been introduced by 1865 as the Bessemer process and open hearth furnace steel making processes started to be built in the United States. Steel rails lasted much longer but were not used in building the first transcontinental railroad. Eventually nearly all railroads converted to steel rails. Rails are one of the major costs of building a railroad and get a surprising amount of wear and would have to be replaced, particularly in corners, fairly regularly. The rail lengths are variously listed as 30 feet (9.1 m) (560 pounds (250 kg)) or 15 feet (4.6 m) long (280 pounds (130 kg)). The available pictures seem to favor the shorter length; but the longer rails may have been used on curves where their longer length made them easier to bend (using crow bars) around the curves. Time was not standardized in the U.S. then and time was set by each railroad to minimize errors in scheduling trains and only later (about 1883) were standardized time zones set up and time standardized so all the railroads could schedule their trains—later recognized by Congress.
Needing rapid communication for ordering more supplies or particular types of men with specific skills and scheduling the trains which had to go both ways on a single track, the companies built telegraph lines along the railroad rights of way as the track was laid. The close proximity of the railroad made these lines easier to protect, supply with operators for relay or train stations and maintain than the original First Transcontinental Telegraph lines, which went over much of the original routes of the Mormon Trail and across the very thinly populated Central Nevada Route through central Utah and Nevada deserts. The railroad's telegraph lines which followed the railroad and were needed to schedule train traffic to avoid conflicts and collisions, soon superseded the earlier telegraph lines in general use which were mostly abandoned by the original telegraph companies as they merged their business with the railroad telegraph lines—just as specified by Congress.
For maps and Railroad pictures (photography had just been invented) was of this era see:
The 100,000 square feet (9,300 m2) California State Railroad Museum at old town Sacramento, California has an extensive bookstore of railroad material and a lot of the original and later Union Pacific and Central Pacific locomotives, cars, etc.
The Union Pacific's 1,087 miles (1,749 km) of track started at MP 0.0 in Council Bluffs, Iowa on the eastern side of the Missouri River. This was chosen by the President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, as the location of its Transfer Depot where up to seven railroads could transfer mail and other goods to Union Pacific trains bound for the west. Initially trains crossed the river by ferry to get to the western tracks starting in Omaha, Nebraska in the newly formed Nebraska Territory. Winter and spring caused severe problems as the Missouri River froze over in the winter; but not well enough to support a railroad track plus train. The train ferries had to be replaced by sleighs each winter. Getting freight across a river that every spring became a flooded debris and/or ice floe filled river became very problematic for several months of the year. Starting in 1873 the railroad traffic crossed the river over a new 2,750 feet (840 m) long, eleven span, iron truss Union Pacific Missouri River Bridge to Omaha, Nebraska. After the rail line's initial climb through the Missouri River bluffs west of Omaha and out of the Missouri River Valley, the route bridged the Elkhorn River and then crossed over the new 1,500 feet (460 m) Loup River bridge as it followed the north side of the Platte River valley west through Nebraska, following the general path of the Oregon, Mormon and California Trails. By December 1865 the Union Pacific had only completed 40 miles (64 km) of track, reaching Fremont, Nebraska, and a further about 10 miles (16 km) of roadbed. At the end of 1865 Peter A. Dey, Chief Engineer of the Union Pacific, resigned in a routing dispute with Thomas C. Durant one of the chief financiers of the Union Pacific.
During the winter of 1865–66 John S. Casement, General "Jack", the new Chief Engineer of the Union Pacific, had several railroad cars equipped as portable bunkhouses for his men and gathered men and supplies to push the railroad rapidly west. His bunkhouses included a galley car which prepared meals and even provided for a herd of cows to be moved with the rail head and bunk cars to provide a movable source of fresh meat. Some "meat" hunters were hired to provide buffalo meat from the large herds of American bison then roaming in the Nebraska Territory. The small survey partys used to locate where the track went were subject of Indian raids and occasionally wiped out. To protect these small surveying and hunting parties the U.S. Army instituted active Calvary patrols that grew larger as the Indians grew more aggressive. Temporary, "hell-on-wheels" towns, made mostly of canvas tents, accompanied the railroad as it it headed west. Most faded away but some became permanent settlements.
The Platte River was too shallow and meandering to provide river transportation but the Platte river valley headed west and sloped up at a gradual slope of about 6 feet (1.8 m) per 1 mile (1.6 km) and laying a mile (1.6 km) of track a day or more was often done in 1866 as Union Pacific finally started moving rapidly west. Building bridges to cross creeks and rivers were the main obstacles. Near where the Platte River split into the North Platte River and South Platte River the railroad bridged the North Platte River with a 2,600 feet (790 m) long bridge (nicknamed 1/2 mile bridge). This was a bridge across the shallow but wide North Platte resting on piles driven by steam pile drivers. Here they built the "railroad" town of North Platte, Nebraska in December 1866 after completing about 240 miles (390 km) in 1866. In late 1866 former Major General Grenville M. Dodge was appointed Chief Engineer on the Union Pacific but hard working General "Jack" Casement continued to work as chief construction "boss" and his brother Daniel Casement continued as financial officer.
The original emigrant route across Wyoming of the Oregon, Mormon and California Trails, after progressing up the Platte River valley, was up the North Platte River valley through Casper, Wyoming along the Sweetwater River and over the Continental Divide at 7,412 feet (2,259 m) South Pass. The original westward travelers in their ox and mule pulled wagons tried to stick to river valleys and do as little road building as possible—gradients and sharp corners were usually of little or no concerns. The ox and mule pulled wagons were the original off-road vehicles in their day since nearly all of the Emigrant Trails were cross country over rough un-improved trails. The route over South Pass's main advantage for wagons pulled by oxen or mules was a shorter elevation over an "easy" pass to cross and its "easy" connection to nearby river valleys on both sides of the continental divide for water and grass. The emigrant trails were closed in winter. Major disadvantages of the North Platte/South Pass route for a railroad were: it was about 150 miles (240 km) longer and much more expensive to construct up the narrow, steep and rocky canyons of the North Platte. The route along the North Platte was further from and with a difficult connection to Denver, Colorado—a city that a railroad connection was already being planned for and surveyed.
A new, shorter, "better" route was already being surveyed out in 1864–67. A new route was found and surveyed that went along part of the South Platte River in western of Nebraska and after entering what is now the state of Wyoming ascended a gradual sloping ridge between Lodgepole Creek and Crow Creek to 8,200 feet (2,500 m) Evans pass (also called Sherman's Pass) which was discovered by the Union Pacific employed English surveyor and engineer, James Evans, in about 1864. This pass now is marked by the Ames Monument (41.131281,-105.398045 lat., long.) marking its significance and commemorating two of the main backers of the Union Pacific Railroad. From North Platte, Nebraska (elevation 2,834 feet (864 m)) the railroad proceeded westward and upward along a new path across the Nebraska Territory and Wyoming Territory (then part of the Dakota Territory) along the north bank of the South Platte River and into what would become the state of Wyoming at Lone Pine, Wyoming. Evan's Pass was located between what would become the new "railroad" towns of Cheyenne, Wyoming and Laramie, Wyoming. Connecting to this pass, about 15 miles (24 km) west of Cheyenne, was the one place across the Laramie Mountains that had a narrow "guitar neck" of land that crossed the mountains without serious erosion at the so-called "gangplank" (41.099746,-105.153205 lat., long.) discovered by Major General Grenville Dodge in 1865 when he was in the U.S. Army. The new route surveyed across Wyoming was over 150 miles (240 km) shorter, had a flatter profile, cheaper and easier to construct, closer to Denver and the known coalfields in the Wasatch and Laramie Ranges.
The railroad gained about 3,200 feet (980 m) in the 220 miles (350 km) climb to Cheyenne from North Platte Nebraska—about 15 feet (4.6 m) per mile (1.6 km)--a very gently less than one degree average slope. This "new" route had never become an emigrant route because of its lack of water and grass needed by the emigrants ox or mule pulled wagons. Steam locomotives didn't need grass and they could drill wells for the water they needed if necessary. Coal had been discovered in Wyoming and reported on by John C. Frémont in his 1843 expedition across Wyoming and was already being exploited by Utah residents from towns like Coalville, Utah and later Kemmerer, Wyoming. Union Pacific needed coal as a fuel for its steam locomotives on the almost treeless plains across Nebraska and Wyoming. Coal shipments by rail were also looked at as a potentially major source of income—this potential is still being realized.
The Union Pacific reached the new town of Cheyenne in December 1867 having laid about 270 miles (430 km) that year. They paused over the winter to get ready to push the track over Evan's (Sherman's) pass. At 8,247 feet (2,514 m), Evans/Sherman's pass is the highest point reached on the transcontinental railroad. The Union Pacific connection at Cheyenne to Denver with its Denver Pacific Railway and Telegraph Company railroad line was made in 1870. The new "railroad" town of Cheyenne (elevation 6,070 feet (1,850 m)) on the new Union Pacific route was chosen to be a major "railroad" town with its connection to Denver and was build with extensive railroad yards, maintenance facilities and Union Pacific presence. It was about 35 miles (56 km) from Evans pass. Its location made it a good place to install extra steam locomotives to trains with snowplows to help clear the tracks of winter snow or haul the freight over Evan's pass. The Union Pacific's junction with the Denver Railroad with its connection to Kansas City, Kansas, Kansas City, Missouri and the railroads east of the Missouri River again increased Cheyenne's importance as the junction of two major railroads. Cheyenne later became Wyoming's largest city and the capital of the new state of Wyoming.
The railroad established many townships along the way: Elkhorn, Grand Island, North Platte, Ogallala, Sidney, Nebraska as the railroad followed the Platte River across Nebraska territory. The railroad even dipped into what would become the new state of Colorado as it followed the South Platte River west into what would become Julesburg, Colorado before turning northwest along Lodgepole Creek into Wyoming. In the Dakota Territory (Wyoming) the new towns of: Cheyenne, Laramie, Green River and Evanston, Wyoming (named after James Evans) were established as well as many more fuel and water stops. The Green River was crossed with a new bridge and a new "railroad" town of Green River constructed there after the tracks reached the Green River on October 1, 1868—the last big river. The tracks reached Evanston on December 4, 1868 having laid almost 360 miles (580 km) of track over the Green River and the Laramie Plains that year. Evanston in 1871 became a significant train maintenance shop town where extensive repairs were done on the cars and steam locomotives.
In the Utah Territory the railroad diverted from the main emigrant trails again to get over the Wasatch Mountains and went down the rugged Echo Canyon (Summit County, Utah) and Weber River canyon. To do this as fast as possible, Union Pacific hired Mormon contractors to work ahead of the rail head to cut, fill, trestle, bridge, blast and tunnel its way down the Weber River Canyon to Ogden, Utah. The longest of four tunnels built in Weber canyon was 757 feet (231 m) long Tunnel 2. Work on this tunnel started in October 1868 and was completed six months later. Temporary tracks were laid around it and Tunnels 3 (508 feet (155 m)), Tunnels 4 (297 feet (91 m)) and Tunnels 5 (579 feet (176 m)) to continue working on the tracks west of the tunnels. The tunnels were all made with the new dangerous nitroglycerine explosive which expedited work but caused some fatal accidents. While building the railroad along the rugged Weber River canyon, Mormon workers signed the Thousand Mile Tree which was lone tree alongside the track a 1,000 miles (1,600 km) from Omaha. A historic marker has been placed there. The tracks reached Ogden, Utah on March 27, 1869 although finish work would continue on the tracks, tunnels and bridges in Weber Canyon for over a year. From Ogden the railroad went north of the Great Salt Lake to Brigham City, Corinne, Utah before finally connecting with the Central Pacific Railroad at Promontory Summit in Utah territory on May 10, 1869. The portion of the original railroad around the north shore of the Great Salt Lake is no longer used. In 1904, the Lucin Cutoff, a causeway across the center of the Great Salt Lake to Promontory Point bypassed Promontory Summit. The Lucin Cutoff shortened the rail route by approximately 43 miles (69 km). One reason for locating the railroad north of Great Salt Lake was the availability of water on that route—it was lacking on the salt deserts south of the lake.
The Central Pacific laid 690 miles (1,100 km) of track, starting in Sacramento, California in 1863 and continuing over the rugged 7,000 feet (2,100 m) Sierra Nevada (U.S.) mountains at Donner Pass into the new state of Nevada. The elevation change from Sacramento (elev. 40 feet (12 m)) to Donner summit (elev. 7,000 feet (2,100 m)) had to be accomplished in about 90 miles (140 km) with an average elevation change of 76 feet (23 m) per mile (1.6 km), and there were only a few places in the Sierras where this type of "ramp" existed. The discovery and detailed map survey with profiles and elevations of this route over the Sierra Nevada (U.S.) is credited to Theodore Judah, chief engineer of the Central Pacific Railroad up till his death in 1863. This route is up a ridge lying between the North fork of the American River on the south and Bear River (Feather River) and the South Yuba River on the north. As the railroad climbed out of Sacramento's 40 feet (12 m) elevation to the 7,000 feet (2,100 m) Donner summit there was only one 3 miles (4.8 km) section near "Cape Horn CPRR" where the railroad grade slightly exceeded two degrees.
In June 1864 the Central Pacific railroad entrepreneurs opened Dutch Flat and Donner Lake Wagon Road (DFDLWR). This toll road wagon route, costing about $300,000 and a years worth of work, was opened over much of the route the Central Pacific railroad (CPRR) would use over Donner Summit to carry freight and passengers needed by the CPRR and to carry other cargo owned by others over their toll road to and from the ever advancing rail head and over the Sierras to the gold and silver mining towns in Nevada. As the railroad advanced their freight rates with the combined rail and wagon shipments would become much more competitive. The toll road freight traffic to Nevada was estimated to be about $13,000,000 a year as the Comstock Lode boomed and getting even part of this would help pay for the railroad construction. When the railroad reached Reno they had the majority of all Nevada freight shipments and the price of goods in Nevada dropped significantly. The rail route over the Sierras followed the general route of the Truckee branch of the California Trail going east over Donner Pass and down the rugged Truckee River valley.
The route over the Sierras had been plotted out by Central Pacific's Chief Engineer Theodore Judah in preliminary surveys before his death in 1863. Judah's deputy, Samuel S. Montague was appointed as the new Chief Engineer with Lewis M. Clement as Assistant Chief Engineer along with Charles Cadwalader as second assistant. To build this new railroad detailed surveys had to be run that showed where the cuts, fills, trestles, bridges and tunnels would have to be built. Work that was identified as taking a long time were started as soon as its projected track location could be ascertained and work crews, supplies and road work equipment found to send ahead and start work. Tunnels, trestles and bridges were nearly all built this way. The spread out nature of the work resulted in the work being split into two divisions with L.M. Clement taking the upper division from Blue Cañon to Truckee and Cadwalader taking the lower division from Truckee to the Nevada border. Other assistant engineers were assigned to specific tasks such as building a bridge, tunnel or trestle which was done by the workers under experienced supervisors.
In total, the Central Pacific had eleven tunnel projects (Nos. 3 through 13) under construction in the Sierra from 1865-68 with seven tunnels located in a 2 miles (3.2 km) stretch on the east side of Donner Summit. The tunnels were normally built by drilling a series of holes in the tunnel face, filling them black powder and detonating the powder to break the rock free. The black powder was provided by the California Powder Works near Santa Cruz, California. They had started production in 1864 when the U.S. Civil War cut off shipments of black powder needed by the mining and railroad industry in California and Nevada. The Central Pacific was a prolific user of black powder often using up to 500 each 25 pounds (11 kg) kegs per day. The summit tunnel (Number 6), 1,660 feet (510 m), was started in late 1865, well ahead of the rail head. The summit tunnel, through solid granite, progressed at a rate of only about 0.98 feet (0.30 m) per day per face as it was being worked by three eight-hour shifts of workers hand drilling holes with a rock drill and hammer, filling them with black powder and trying to blast the granite loose. One crew worked drilling holes on the faces and another crew collected and removed the loosened rock after each explosion. The workers were pulled off the summit tunnel and the track grading east of Donner pass in the winter of 1865/66 as there were no way to get supplies to them or winter quarters they could live in. The crews were transferred to work on bridges and track grading on the Truckee River canyon.
In 1866 they put in a 125 feet (38 m) vertical shaft in the center of the summit tunnel and started work towards the east and west tunnel faces giving four working faces on the summit tunnel. A steam engine off an old locomotive was brought up with much effort over the wagon road and used as a winch driver to help remove loosened rock from the vertical shaft and two working faces. By the winter of 1866/67 work had progressed enough and a winter camp had been built for workers on the summit tunnel which allowed continued working during the winter. The cross section of a tunnel face was 16 feet (4.9 m) wide, 16 feet (4.9 m) high oval with a 11 feet (3.4 m) vertical wall. Progress on the tunnel sped up to over 1.5 feet (0.46 m) per day per face when they started using the newly discovered nitroglycerin—manufactured near the tunnel. They used nitroglycerin to deepen the summit tunnel to the required 16 feet (4.9 m) height after the four tunnel faces met and made even faster progress. Nearly all other tunnels were worked on both tunnel faces and met in the middle. Depending on the material the tunnels penetrated they were left unlined or lined with brick, rock walls or timber and post. Some tunnels were designed to bend in the middle to align with the track bed curvature. Despite this potential complication, nearly all the different tunnel center lines met within 2 inches (5.1 cm) or so. The detailed survey work that made these tunnel digs as precise as required were nearly all done by the Canadian born and trained Lewis Clement, the CPRR's Chief Assistant Engineer and Superintendent of Track, and his assistants.
Hills or ridges in front of the railroad road bed would have to have a flat bottomed V shaped "cut" made to get the railroad through the ridge or hill. The type of material determined the slope of the V and how much material would have to be removed. Ideally, these cuts would be matched with valley fills that could use the dug out material to bring the road bed up to grade--cut and fill construction. In 1860's there was no heavy equipment that could be used to make these cuts or haul it away to make the fills. The options were to dig it out by pick and shovel, haul the hillside material by wheelbarrow and/or horse or mule cart or blast it loose. To blast a V shaped cut out they had to drill several holes up to 20 feet (6.1 m) deep in the material, fill them with black powder, and blast the material away. Since the Central Pacific was in a hurry, they were profligate users of black powder to blast their way though the hills. The only disadvantage came when a nearby valley needed fill to get across it. The explosive technique often blew most of the potential fill material down the hillside making it unavailable for fill. Extra material would have to be dug out and hauled in to fill the valleys.
The route down the eastern Sierras was done on the south side of Donner Lake with a series of switchbacks carved into the mountain. The route down the rugged Truckee River Canyon, including required bridges, was done ahead of the main summit tunnel completion when the Central Pacific somehow hauled two small locomotives, railcars, rails etc. on wagons and sleighs to what is now Truckee, California and worked the winter of 1866-68 on their way down Truckee canyon ahead of the tracks being completed to Truckee. In Truckee canyon five Howe truss bridges had to be built. This gave them a head start on getting to the "easy" miles across Nevada. Later many miles of snow sheds and snowplows on the front of special locomotives would have to be employed to try and keep the railroad clear in the winter time.
On June 18, 1868, the Central Pacific reached Reno, Nevada after completing 132 miles (212 km) of railroad up and over the Sierras from Sacramento, California. By then the railroad had already been prebuilt down the Truckee River on the much flatter land from Reno to Wadsworth, Nevada where they bridged the Truckee for the last time. From there they struggled across a forty mile desert to the end of the Humboldt river at the Humboldt Sink. From the end of the Humboldt they continued east over the Great Basin desert bordering the Humboldt River to Wells, Nevada. One of the most troublesome problems found on this route along the Humboldt was at Palisade Canyon (near Carlin, Nevada) where for some 12 miles (19 km) the line had to be built between the river and basalt cliffs. From Wells, Nevada to Promontory Summit the Railroad left the Humboldt and proceeded across the Nevada and Utah desert. Water for the water towers needed by the steam locomotives was provided by wells, springs, or pipelines to nearby water sources. Water was often pumped into the water tanks with windmills. Train fuel and water spots on the early trains with steam locomotives may have been as often as every 10 miles (16 km). On one memorable occasion, not far from Promontory, the Central Pacific crews organized an army of workers and five trainloads of construction materials and laid 10 miles (16 km) or track on a prepared rail bed in one day—-a record still today. The Central Pacific and Union Pacific raced to get as much track laid as possible, and the Central Pacific laid about 560 miles (900 km) track from Reno to Promontory Summit in the one year before the Golden spike was driven on May 10, 1869.
Central Pacific had 1,694 freight cars available by May 1869 with more under construction in their Sacramento yard. Major repairs and maintenance on the Central Pacific rolling stock was done in their Sacramento maintenance yard. Near the end of 1869 Central Pacific had 162 locomotives, of which two had two drivers (drive wheels), 110 had four drivers, and fifty had six drivers. The steam locomotives had been purchased in the eastern states and shipped by sea to California. Thirty-six additional locomotives were built and coming west and twenty-eight more were under construction. There were inadequate numbers of passenger cars ordered and more had to be ordered. The first Central Pacific sleeping car, the "Silver Palace Sleeping Car", arrived at Sacramento June 8, 1868.
The CPRR route passed through Newcastle, California and Truckee, California, Reno, Nevada, Wadsworth, Winnemucca, Battle Mountain, Elko, and Wells, Nevada, (with many more fuel and water stops) before connecting with the Union Pacific line at Promontory Summit in the Utah Territory. When the eastern end of the CPRR was extended to Ogden by purchasing for about $2.8 million the Union Pacific Railroad line in 1870 from Promontory to Ogden, it ended the short period of a boom town for Promontory and extended the Central Pacific tracks about 60 miles (97 km) and made Ogden a major terminus on the transcontinental railroad as passengers and freight switched railroads there.
Later, the western part of the route was extended from Sacramento to the Alameda Terminal in Alameda, California, and shortly thereafter, to the Oakland Long Wharf at Oakland Point in Oakland, California and on to San Jose, California. Train ferries transferred some railroad cars to and from the Oakland wharves and tracks to wharves and tracks in San Francisco. Before the CPRR was completed, developers were building other feeder railroads like the Virginia and Truckee Railroad to the Comstock Lode diggings in Virginia City, Nevada and several different extensions in California and Nevada to reach other cities there. This new railroad connected to the Central Pacific near Reno, Nevada and went through Carson City, Nevada, the new capitol of Nevada.
After the transcontinental railroads were completed many other railroads were built to connect up to other population centers in Utah, Wyoming, Kansas, Colorado, Oregon, Washington territories, etc. In 1869 the Kansas Pacific Railway built the Hannibal Bridge, a swing bridge to allow passage of paddle steamers up or down the Missouri, was built across the Missouri River from Kansas City, Missouri to Kansas City, Kansas as to connect to railroads on both sides of the Missouri. When completed this would be an another major east-west railroad. To speed completion of the Kansas Pacific Railroad to Denver, construction started east from Denver in March 1870 to meet the railroad coming west from Kansas city. The two crews met at a point called Comanche Crossing, Kansas Territory, on August 15, 1870. Denver was now firmly on track to becoming the largest city and the future capitol of Colorado. The Kansas Pacific Railroad linked with the Denver Pacific Railway via Denver to Cheyenne in 1870.
The original transcontinental railroad route did not pass through the two biggest cities in the so-called Great American Desert—Denver, Colorado, and Salt Lake City, Utah. Feeder railroad lines were soon built to service these two cities and other cities and states along the route.
Modern-day Interstate 80 closely follows the path of the railroad from Sacramento across modern day California, Nevada, Wyoming and Nebraska with two major exceptions: Interstate-80 crosses Donner Summit and proceeds east down the north side of Donner Lake (the railroad goes down the south side) and East of Wells, Nevada, Interstate 80 passes through Wendover, Utah and then goes across the salt flats on the south shore of the Great Salt Lake on its way to Salt Lake City, Utah (the railroad goes on the north side) and passes up Emigration Canyon, Utah before rejoining the railroad near the Echo Canyon junction of Interstate 84 and Interstate 80. I-84, built much later, simply "blasted" its way down Weber Canyon with no tunnels. The interstate diverges somewhat from the railroad route as it was built much later with much more powerful equipment, better explosives and much higher cost. In addition interstate highways can be built with up to about a six degrees of grade which allows them to go many places the railroads had to go around since they tried successfully to hold their grades to less than two degrees.
With strong congressional support and under the direction of the Department of War (then run by Jefferson Davis) the Pacific Railroad Surveys (1853–1855) were an extensive series of explorations of the American West to explore possible routes for a transcontinental railroad across North America. The expeditions included surveyors, scientists, and artists and resulted in an immense body of data covering at least 400,000 square miles (1,000,000 km2) on the American West. "These twelve volumes... constitute probably the most important single contemporary source of knowledge on Western geography and history and their value is greatly enhanced by the inclusion of many beautiful plates in color of scenery, native inhabitants, fauna and flora of the Western country." Published by the United States War Department from 1855 to 1860, the surveys contained significant material on natural history, including many illustrations of reptiles, amphibians, birds, and mammals. In addition to describing possible routes, these surveys also reported on the geology, zoology, botany, paleontology of the land as well as provided ethnographic descriptions of the Native peoples encountered during the surveys. Despite the over 12 volumes of data produced there was almost no detailed topographic maps produced over competing routes that would be needed to estimate the feasibility, cost and best route to build a "real" railroad. One by-product of these surveys was the purchase of the Gadsden Purchase of the southern parts of the future states of Arizona and New Mexico for $10,000,000 as it was realized the best southern route lie south of the Gila River boundary in a mostly vacant Mexican territory—fortunately Santa Anna, President of Mexico again, needed money to pay for his army and was happy to sell some "desert". The U.S. Congress was strongly divided on where the eastern terminus of the railroad should be—in a southern or northern city. The Southern Pacific Railroad (later merged with the Central Pacific Railroad) would start construction after the U.S. Civil War was concluded and finish a southern transcontinental route across the U.S. in 1880.
The Pacific Railroad constituted one of the most significant and ambitious American technological feats of the 19th century following in the footsteps of the building of the Erie Canal (and many other canals) in the 1820s, the building of extensive railroad networks in the eastern, southern and midwest parts of the U.S starting in the 1830s and the crossing of the Isthmus of Panama by the a U.S. company built Panama Railroad in 1851-1855. The transcontinental line served as North America's vital link for trade, commerce and travel that joined the eastern and western halves of the late 19th-century United States. It brought the states of Nevada, California, Oregon and the Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Washington territories firmly into the Union and made settlement of the west much more rapid and inexpensive.
The railroad established the nation's economic infrastructure for the future. The far slower, more hazardous and more expensive stagecoach lines from Missouri to California with about 28 days of day and night travel were mostly used for carrying a few intrepid passengers and mail services. The route along the Oregon, Mormon and California Trails was so rugged at about 2,000 miles (3,200 km) and 140–160 days travel over mostly unimproved roads that almost no cargo to coastal states or territories went by land. About the only cargo shipped overland by wagons went to the "landlocked" cities of Salt Lake City, Utah and later to Virginia City, Carson City, Nevada and Denver, Colorado. In fact, about 50% of the population and more than 90% of the extensive cargo shipments needed in rapidly developing Pacific states had arrived by sailing ship to the Pacific around Cape Horn of South America or by paddle steamers to Mexico, Nicaragua or Panama, a land transit to the Pacific Ocean and then another paddle steamer to California, Oregon or Washington.
The developing railroads provided the technology for much faster, safer and cheaper transportation of emigrants and goods. The railroads, bankers and the United States government in the East promoted this worldwide migration to attract specific populations for agricultural progress with the sales of land-grant lots, and then provided farmers the cheap and quick transportation for the cornucopia of crops, minerals and timber. The need for wheat and its now easy transport and other staples led to the rapid settling of the supposed "Great American Desert".][
Talk of a transcontinental railroad started in 1830, shortly after steam powered railroads were invented in Great Britain and began to be introduced into the United States. This talk intensified as railroad technology advanced and the Oregon Territory and California were added to United States Territory in 1846 and 1848. Early debates were not so much over whether it would be built, but how it would be paid for and what route it should follow:
A "northern route", roughly following the path of the Lewis and Clark Expedition along the Missouri River through present-day northern Montana to Oregon Territory, was initially considered impractical because of rough terrain and extensive winter snows. Later the Northern Pacific Railway (NP) found and built a better route across the northern tier of the western United States from Minnesota to the Pacific Coast. It was approved by Congress in 1864 and given nearly 40 million acres (160,000 km2) of land grants, which it used to raise money in Europe for construction. Construction began in 1870 and the main line opened all the way from the Great Lakes to the Pacific Ocean when former U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant drove in the final "golden spike" in what is now western Montana on Sept. 8, 1883.
One of the most prominent champions of the central route railroad was Asa Whitney (a distant cousin to cotton gin inventor Eli Whitney). Whitney envisioned a route from Chicago and the Great Lakes to northern California, paid for by the sale of land to settlers along the route.
In June 1845 Whitney led a team along part of the proposed route to assess its feasibility. Whitney traveled widely to solicit support from businessmen and politicians, printed maps and pamphlets, and submitted several proposals to Congress, all at his own expense. Legislation to begin construction of the Pacific Railroad (called the Memorial of Asa Whitney) was first introduced to Congress by Representative Zadock Pratt. Congress did not act on Whitney's proposal.
The Oregon Question was settled in 1846 when the United States and Great Britain agreed to a Canadian–U.S. boundary at the 49th parallel. U.S. forces took over California in 1846, which came under formal United States control in 1848 with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo at the conclusion of the Mexican-American War. The discovery of gold in California in January 1848 set off the California Gold Rush, and the number of settlers going to California skyrocketed. By 1850 California had enough settlers, over 120,000, arriving by the California Trail and by sea to become the 31st state.
Whitney saw a version of the central route completed, although he was not formally involved.
Concerns lingered that snow would make the central route to California impractical. A survey after 1848 indicated that the best route for a southern route had been overlooked when the US accepted a boundary proposed by Mexico in their peace treaty. With Santa Anna in power in Mexico, the US in 1853 made the Gadsden Purchase, acquiring the southern portions of what is now New Mexico and Arizona for $10,000,000. The southern route could now be built entirely within U.S. territory.
Because the US Congress was divided between slave and non-slave state members, it could not reach agreement on supporting construction of a particular route. Each region wanted the railroad because of its benefits. The decision became embroiled in the divisive sectional dispute that eventually turned into the American Civil War. The southern route was not constructed until 1880, when the Southern Pacific Railroad crossed Arizona territory.
The next big champion of the central route was Theodore Judah. Judah undertook to survey and plan a way through what was one of the chief obstacles of a central route to California: a way over the high and rugged Sierra Nevada mountains.
Judah was chief engineer for the newly formed Sacramento Valley Railroad in 1852, the first railroad built west of the Mississippi River. Although the railroad was to go bankrupt when the easy placer gold deposits around Placerville, California were mostly mined out, he was convinced that a properly financed railroad could pass from Sacramento through the Sierra Nevada mountains to reach the Great Basin and hook up with rail lines coming from the East.
In 1856 Judah wrote a 13,000-word proposal in support of a Pacific railroad and distributed it to Cabinet secretaries, congressmen, and other influential people. In September 1859, Judah was chosen to be the accredited lobbyist for the Pacific Railroad Convention. The convention approved his plan to survey, finance, and engineer the road. Judah returned to Washington in December 1859. He had a lobbying office in the United States Capitol, received an audience with President James Buchanan, and represented the Convention before Congress.
In February 1860 Iowa Representative Samuel Curtis introduced a bill to build the railroad. It passed the House but died when it could not be reconciled with the Senate version.
Judah returned to California in 1860. He continued to search for a more practical route through the Sierras suitable for a railroad. In the summer of 1860, a local miner, Daniel Strong, had surveyed a route over the Sierras for a wagon toll road, a route he realized would also suit a railroad. He described his discovery in a letter to Judah. Together they formed an association to solicit subscriptions from local merchants and businessmen to support their proposed railroad.
From January or February 1861 until July, Judah and Strong led a 10-person expedition to survey the route for the railroad over the Sierra Nevada, through Clipper Gap, Emigrant Gap, Donner Pass, and south to Truckee. They discovered a way across the Sierras that was gradual enough to be made suitable (with much work) for a railroad.
Before major construction could begin Judah traveled back to New York City to raise funds to buy out The Big Four. Shortly after he arrived in New York, however, Judah died on November 2, 1863, of yellow fever that he had contracted while traveling over the Panama Railroad's transit of the Isthmus of Panama. The CPRR Engineering Department was taken over by Samuel S. Montegue as his successor as Chief Engineer, and Canadian trained Chief Assistant Engineer (later Acting Chief Engineer) Lewis Metzler Clement who also became Superintendent of Track.
Collis Huntington, a hardware merchant, heard Judah's presentation about the railroad at the St. Charles Hotel in Sacramento in November 1860. He invited Judah to his office to hear his proposal in detail. Huntington changed Judah's strategy of finding several investors and instead sought to raise the money from three partners: Mark Hopkins, his business partner; James Bailey, a jeweler; Leland Stanford, a grocer, future governor of California, and founder of Stanford University; and Charles Crocker, a dry-goods merchant and eventual owner of Crocker Banks. They initially invested $1,500 each and formed a board of directors: The investors became known as The Big Four and their railroad was called the Central Pacific Railroad. Each were eventually to make millions of dollars from their continuing investments and control of the Central Pacific Railroad (CPRR).
The Pony Express from 1860 to 1861 was to prove that the Central Nevada Route across Nevada and Utah and the sections of the Oregon Trail across Wyoming and Nebraska was viable during the winter. With the American Civil War raging and a secessionist movement in California gaining steam, the apparent need for the railroad became more urgent.
In 1861 Curtis again introduced a bill to establish the railroad, but it did not pass. After the secession of the southern states, the House of Representatives on May 6, 1862, and the Senate on June 20 finally approved it. Lincoln signed it into law on July 1. The act established the two main lines—the Central Pacific from the west and the Union Pacific from the mid-west. Other rail lines were encouraged to build feeder lines.
Each was required to build only 50 miles (80 km) in the first year; after that, only 50 miles (80 km) more were required each year. Each railroad received $16,000 per mile ($9,940/km) built over an easy grade, $32,000 per mile ($19,880/km) in the high plains, and $48,000 per mile ($29,830/km) in the mountains. This payment was in the form of government bonds that the companies could resell. To allow the railroads to raise additional money Congress provided additional assistance to the railroad companies in the form of land grants of federal lands. They were granted right-of-ways of 400 feet (100 m) plus 10 square miles (26 km2) of land (ten sections) adjacent to the track for every mile of track built. To avoid a railroad monopoly on good land, the land was not given away in a continuous swath but in a "checkerboard" pattern leaving federal land in between that could be purchased from the government. The land grant railroads, receiving millions of acres of public land, sold bonds based on the value of the lands, sold the land to settlers, used the money to build their railroads, and contributed to a rapid settlement of the West. The total area of the land grants to the Union Pacific and Central Pacific was even larger than the area of the state of Texas: federal government land grants totaled about 203,128,500 square miles and state government land grants totaled about 76,565,000 square miles. The race was on to see which railroad company could build the longest section of track and receive the most land and government bonds.
The bonds and land grants have been frequently characterized as a government subsidy. However, historian Stephen Ambrose has argued against this since the companies repaid both the capital and interest. He also argues that although the companies were able to sell the land grants in the Sacramento Valley and Nebraska at "a good price", most of the land in Wyoming, Utah and Nevada was "virtually worthless".
Once it was decided that the railroad would follow the central route rather than the southern route, there was little question that the western terminus would be Sacramento. However, there was considerable intrigue over the eastern terminus.
The three prime candidates for the eastern terminus on 250 miles (400 km) of Missouri River between Kansas City and Omaha were:
The principal advantages of Council Bluffs/Omaha were that it was well north of the Civil War fighting taking place in Missouri, was the shortest route to the South Pass break in the Rockies in Wyoming, and would follow a fertile river that would encourage settlement. Missouri's advantages included that it had the only railroad to actually reach the Missouri River on its western border (H&SJ), was more centrally located for lines coming up from Texas and could offer a route servicing Denver, Colorado, the biggest city in the Great American Desert. In 1862 the closest rail lines to Omaha/Council Bluffs were 150 miles (240 km) away and would take five years to reach Omaha.
Thomas C. Durant who was building the cross-Iowa railroad (the M&M) was literally banking that the Omaha route would be chosen and began buying up land in Nebraska.
In 1857, Durant hired private citizen Abraham Lincoln to represent the M&M in litigation brought by steamboat operators to dismantle Government Bridge, the first bridge across the Mississippi River. The bridge prevented steamboats from passing underneath and was an obstruction of a public waterway. In August 1859 Lincoln at the behest of M&M attorney Norman Judd traveled to Council Bluffs to inspect M&M facilities that were to be used to secure a $3,000 loan Lincoln was to hold. On the visit Lincoln rode the SJ&H railroad and visited railroad locations in Missouri and Kansas before going to Council Bluffs. During the visit Lincoln was to spend 2 hours with M&M engineer Grenville M. Dodge at the Pacific House Hotel discussing the merits of starting the railroad in Council Bluffs and was to visit Cemetery Hill there to look over the proposed route.
Lincoln's ties to Council Bluffs were furthered strengthened by the fact that he had won the 1860 Republican nomination on the third ballot when the Iowa delegation switched its vote to him. In contrast, Lincoln was to get only 10 percent of the Missouri vote in the 1860 Presidential Election.
While the Pacific Railroad Act was to award the eastern contract to the newly formed Union Pacific, it was left up to then President Lincoln to formally choose the location for the railroad to start and Lincoln in 1862 was to follow the advice of his former client.
The H&SJ and LP&W were not totally shut out of the contract though. The H&SJ was to be allowed to build a feeder line from Atchison, Kansas, while the LP&W could build a feeder line out of Kansas City, Kansas. The feeder lines were supposed to meet the Union Pacific main line somewhere around the 100th meridian west in central Nebraska and the feeder lines were to get the same land grant incentives as the Union Pacific.
In contrast to the relatively straightforward arrangements for the Central Pacific, the Union Pacific which was to ultimately build nearly 2/3 of the track was to be mired in controversy and scandals while its controlling partner Thomas C. Durant got rich as he took advantage of lax or non-existent government oversight during the Civil War.
The enabling legislation for the Union Pacific required that no partner was to own more than 10 percent of the stock. However, the Union Pacific had problems selling its stock. Durant enticed investors with a scheme where he would put up the money for the stock if they would just put their names on it. Then Durant wound up taking the stock from the investors and was to end up controlling about half the stock of the railroad.
The initial construction of railroad went over land that Durant owned around Omaha. Being paid by the mile, the railroad built oxbows of extraneous track never venturing further than 40 miles (64 km) from Omaha in the railroad's first 2½ years.
Durant manipulated market prices on his stocks by spreading rumors about which railroads were to be connected to the Union Pacific. First he ran up the stock of his M&M Railroad while secretly buying stock in the depressed Cedar Rapids and Missouri Railroad (CR&M), then running up CR&M stock with new plans to connect the Union Pacific to it at which point he began buying back the M&M stock at depressed prices. The gambit is estimated to have raised $5 million for his cohorts and him.
Durant was to keep a low public profile in his machinations as he was only a vice president. He was to install a series of respected men such as John Adams Dix as president of the railroad.
On July 4, 1865, the Union Pacific had not gone farther than 40 miles (64 km) from Omaha—even as the Central Pacific had been working away for 2½ years. With the end of the Civil War and increased government supervision in the offing, Durant hired his former M&M engineer Grenville M. Dodge to build the railroad and the Union Pacific began a mad dash.
To construct a railroad you need money, engineering expertise and a goal that can be "sold" to other investors. (citation needed) Most of the capital investment needed to build the railroad were got from selling government guaranteed bonds (granted per mile of completed track) to interested investors. The Federal donation of right-of-way saved money and time as it did not have to be purchased from others. The financial incentives and bonds would hopefully cover most of the initial capital investment needed to build the railroad. The bonds would be paid back by the sale of government granted land and prospective passenger and freight income. Most of the engineers and surveyors who figured out how and where to build the railroad on the Union Pacific were usually engineering college trained. Many of Union Pacific engineers and surveyors were Union Army veterans (including two generals) who had learned their railroad trade keeping the trains running and tracks maintained during the U.S. Civil War. After you have the finances assured and the engineering team selected then the next choice is to hire the hire the key personnel and prospective supervisors. Nearly all key workers and supervisors were hired because of their previous railroad on-the-job training and knew what needed to be done and how to direct workers to get it done. After the key personnel were hired the semi-skilled jobs could be filled if there was available labor. The engineering team's main job was to tell the workers where to go, what to do, how to do it and provide the construction material they would need to get it done.
Survey teams were put out to produce detailed contour maps of the options on the different routes. The engineering team looked at the available surveys and choose what was the "best" route. Survey teams, under the direction of the engineers, closely led the work crews and marked where and how much hills would have to be cut and depressions filled or bridged. Coordinators made sure that construction and other supplies were provided when and where needed and additional supplies were ordered as the railroad consumed the supplies. Specialized, bridging, explosive, tunneling teams were assigned to their specialized jobs. Some jobs like explosive work, tunneling, bridging, heavy cuts or fills were known to take longer than others and the specialized bridging, tunneling, etc. teams were sent out ahead by wagon trains filled with the needed supplies and men to get these jobs started and completed by the time the regular crews arrived. Finance officers made sure the supplies were paid for and men paid for their work. An army of men had to be coordinated and a seemingly never ending chain of supplies had to be provided. The Central Pacific road crew set a track laying record by laying 10 mi (16 km) of track in a single day, commemorating the event with a signpost beside the track for passing trains to see.
In addition to the track laying crews other crews were busy setting up stations with provisions for loading fuel, water and often mail, passengers and freight. Personnel had to be hired to run these stations. Maintenance depots had to be built to keep all of the equipment repaired and operational. Telegraph operators had to be hired to man each station to keep track of where the trains were so that trains could run in each direction on the available single track without interference or accidents. Sidings had to be built to allow trains to pass. Provisions had to be made to store and continually pay for coal or wood needed to run the steam locomotives. Water towers had to be built to refill the water tanks on the engines and provisions made to keep them full.
The majority of the Union Pacific track across the Nebraska and Wyoming territory till it approached Utah territory was built by veterans of both the Union and Confederate armies and many recent immigrants. Brigham Young, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, wished to get jobs for his people and see the railroad support the population centers in Ogden and Salt Lake City, Utah. As the track approached Utah Territory, he and his representatives sought and got construction contracts with the Union Pacific to build most of the road through Utah. Union Pacific provided the materials needed or contracted with others to have them supplied. Under these contracts, large work gangs of over 2,000 men, made up almost entirely of Mormons, built much of the Union Pacific track in the Utah territory including the difficult section requiring extensive trestle or bridge building, blasting, cutting, filling and tunneling through the Weber River canyon. Durant was always hard to extract money from for completed work and the final Union Pacific train carrying Durant to the final spike ceremony was held up by an unpaid worker's strike in the railroad town of Piedmont, Wyoming until he paid them for the work they had done. Unfortunately, the Utah workers didn't do the same. Brigham Young's representatives had to go to court to try and extract all the money Durant had promised them.
The manual labor to build the Central Pacific's roadbed, bridges and tunnels was done primarily by many thousands of emigrant workers from China under the direction of skilled non-Chinese supervisors. The Chinese were commonly referred to at the time as "Celestials" and China as the "Celestial Kingdom." At that time the labor saving devices were limited to wheelbarrows and horse or mule pulled carts and a few railroad pulled gondolas so this construction work involved an immense amount of manual labor. Initially the Central Pacific had a hard time hiring and keeping unskilled workers on its line as many would leave at the latest talk of a gold or silver strike somewhere. Even though at first they were thought to be too small at about 58 inches (1.5 m) and 120 pounds (54 kg) and totally unacquainted with railroad work, Charles Crocker, one of the "big four" and a general contractor, decided to try them. After the first few days on which Chinese were working on the line, the decision was made by Crocker to hire as many more as could be hired in California (where most were independent gold miners or in service industries such as laundries and kitchens). Most of the Chinese workers were represented by a Chinese "boss" who translated, collected salaries for his crew, kept discipline and relayed orders from an American general supervisor. Most Chinese workers spoke only rudimentary or no English and the supervisors typically only learned rudimentary Chinese. Many more workers were imported from the poverty and Taiping Rebellion induced strife in Kwangtung Province China. Most workers were planning on returning with their new found "wealth" when the work was completed. Most of the men received between one and three dollars per day, the same as unskilled white workers; but the workers imported directly from China sometimes received less. A diligent worker could save over $20.00/month after paying for food and lodging—a "fortune" by Chinese standards. A snapshot of workers in late 1865 showed about 3,000 Chinese and 1,700 white workers employed on the railroad. Nearly all of the white workers were in supervisory or skilled craft positions and made more money than the Chinese.
Most of the early work on the Central Pacific consisted of constructing the railroad track bed, cutting and/or blasting through or around hills, filling in washes, building bridges or trestles, digging and blasting tunnels and then laying of the rails over the Sierra Nevada (U.S.) mountains. Once the Central Pacific was out of the Sierras the work sped up considerably as the railroad bed could be built over nearly flat ground. The Central Pacific did one section of 10 miles (16 km) of track in one day as a "demonstration" of what they could do on flat ground like most of the Union Pacific had in Wyoming and Nebraska. The track laying was divided up into various parts. In advance of the track layers workers prepared the roadbed, dug or blasted through the hills, filled in the washes, built trestles, bridges or culverts across streams or valleys, made tunnels if needed and laid the ties. Another gang laid rails on the previously laid ties positioned on the roadbed, drove the spikes, and bolted the splice bars; at the same time, another gang distributed telegraph poles and wire along the grade, while the cooks prepared dinner and the clerks busied themselves with accounts, records, using the telegraph line to relay requests for more materials and supplies or communicate with supervisors. Usually the workers lived in camps built near their work site. These camps were moved when the rail head moved and later as the railroad started moving long distances every few days some railroad cars had bunkhouses built in them that moved with the workers. Almost all of the roadbed work was done manually, using shovels, picks, axes, black powder, two-wheeled dump carts, wheelbarrows, ropes, scrapers, mules, and horses.
Tunnels were dug through hard rock by putting hand drilled holes in the rock face, filling it with black powder and blasting the rock. Sometimes cracks were found which could be filled with powder and blasted loose. The loosened rock would be collected and hauled out of the tunnel for use in a fill area, as roadbed or dumped over the side as waste. A foot or so advance on a tunnel face was a typical days work. Some tunnels took almost a year to finish and the Summit Tunnel, the longest, took almost two years to finish. In the final days working in the Sierras nitroglycerin, which had just been invented, was introduced and used on the last tunnels including Summit Tunnel.
Supply trains carried all the necessary material for the construction up to the rail head with mule or horse drawn wagons carrying it the rest of the ways if required. Ties were typically unloaded from horse or mule drawn wagons and then placed on the track ballast and leveled to get ready for the rails. Rails, which weighed the most, were often kicked off the flatcars and carried by gangs of men on each side of the rail to where needed. The rails just behind the car would be placed first, nailed down and then the car pushed by hand to the end of the rail and rail installation repeated. Track ballast was put between the ties as they progressed. Where this was possible the work progressed rapidly. Constantly needed supplies consisted of “food, ties, rails, spikes, fishplates, nuts and bolts, track ballast, telegraph poles, wire, fire wood and water for the steam train locomotives, etc.” The railroad tracks, spikes, telegraph wire, locomotives, railroad cars, supplies etc., were imported from the east on sailing ships that sailed the about 18,000 miles (29,000 km) and about 200 day trip around Cape Horn. Some freight was put on Clipper ships which could do this same trip in about 120 days. Some passengers and high priority freight were shipped over the newly (1855) completed Panama Railroad across the Isthmus of Panama. The trip over the Isthmus of Panama using paddle steamers to and from Panama could be done in as little as about 40 days. Supplies were normally off loaded at the Sacramento, California docks where the railroad started. The railroad ties needed were cut by sawyers from timber the railroad logged by lumberjacks on forested property that was granted to the railroad in alternate sections (640 acres or 259 ha) of land over the Sierras. Some independent loggers cut and delivered ties cut from their own logging sites on separate contracts. Most of the early Central Pacific locomotives used wood cut from these same sites for fuel—look for their cone shaped spark arresting exhaust stacks.
Shipments of the highly explosive nitroglycerin for tunneling were halted after one ship carrying it blew up. They had to learn how to make it much nearer where it was being used. This problem would be largely solved later with the invention (by Alfred Nobel in 1867) of dynamite which used "stabilized" nitroglycerin. Unfortunately, this was invented a few years too late to be used.][
In addition to track laying over a course laid out by the engineers and surveyors, the operation also required the efforts of hundreds of railroad bed builders, bridge builders, trestle builders, lumberjacks, sawyers, tunnelers, explosive experts, blacksmiths, carpenters, civil engineers, masons, teamsters, telegraphers, and even cooks, to name just a few of the trades and skills involved in construction of the railroad. Depending on the job different mixes of personal were required.
Upon the completion of their work on the CPRR's portion of the Pacific Railroad, many Chinese workers moved on to other railroad construction jobs including with the Central and Southern Pacific. Of those that left the company's employ, some returned with their savings to their families in China while others sent to China for wives and settled in various western communities as miners, laundrymen, and restaurateurs. The majority who remained in the United States, however, returned to and settled in the San Francisco Bay area, Sacramento, Marysville and elsewhere along the Pacific coast. Because of the later restrictions on the immigration of Chinese workers many never got married or reunited with their families if they stayed in the U.S.
On January 8, 1863, Governor Leland Stanford ceremoniously broke ground in Sacramento, California, to begin construction of the Central Pacific Railroad. The Central Pacific made great progress along the Sacramento Valley. However construction was slowed, first by the foothills of the Sierra Nevada (U.S.), then by cutting a railroad bed up the mountains themselves. As they progressed higher in the mountains winter snowstorms and the problem of hiring a reliable work force compounded the problems. Consequently, after a trial crew of Chinese workers was hired and found to work successfully, the Central Pacific expanded its efforts to hire more emigrant laborers—mostly Chinese. Emigrants from poverty stricken and often Taiping Rebellion induced strife in parts of China seemed to be more willing to tolerate the sometimes bad living and working conditions, and progress on the railroad continued. The increasing necessity for tunneling as they proceeded up the mountains then began to slow progress of the line yet again.
The route of the railroad was first surveyed and the locations where large excavations, tunnels and bridges would be needed was located. Crews could then start work in advance of the railroad reaching that location. Supplies and workers were brought up to the work location by wagon team and work on several different sections at once proceeded. One advantage of working on tunnels in winter was found that tunnel work could often proceed right on through the winter since the work was nearly all "inside". Unfortunately, living quarters would have to be built outside and getting new supplies was difficult. Working and living in winter in the presence of snow slides and avalanches caused some deaths. To carve a tunnel, one worker holds a rock drill on the granite face, then one to two other workers swing eighteen-pound sledgehammers to sequentially hit the drill which slowly advances into the rock. Once the hole is about 10 inches (25 cm) deep it would be filled with black powder, a fuse set and then ignited from a safe distance. Nitroglycerin, which had just been invented, was only used to help construct the longest tunnel, the Summit Tunnel (a.k.a. Tunnel No. 6), which reached 1,659 feet (506 m).
The Chinese built 15 tunnels for Central Pacific. These tunnels were about 32 feet high, 16 feet wide. When tunnels with vertical shafts were dug and tunneling began in the middle of the tunnel hand powered derricks at first were used to help remove loose rocks up the vertical shafts to increase construction progress. These derricks were replaced with steam hoists as work progressed. By using vertical shafts four faces of the tunnel could be worked at the same time, two in the middle and one at each end. The average daily progress in some tunnels was only 0.85 feet a day per face, which was very slow, or 1.18 feet daily according to historian George Kraus. J. O. Wilder, a Central Pacific-Southern Pacific employee, commented that “The Chinese were as steady, hard-working a set of men as could be found. With the exception of a few whites at the west end of Tunnel No. 6, the laboring force was entirely composed of Chinamen with white foremen and a "boss/translator". A single foreman (often Irish) with a gang of 30 to 40 Chinese men generally constituted the force at work at each end of a tunnel; of these, 12 to 15 men worked on the heading, and the rest on the bottom removing blasted material. When a gang was small or the men needed elsewhere, the bottoms were worked with fewer men or stopped so as to keep the headings going.” The laborers usually worked three shifts of 8 hours each per day, while the foremen worked in two shifts of 12 hours each, managing the laborers. Once out of the Sierras construction was much easier and faster. Horace Hamilton Minkler, track foreman for the Central Pacific, laid the last rail and tie before the Golden Spike was driven.
In order to keep the CPRR's Sierra grade open during the winter months, beginning in 1867 some 37 miles of massive wooden snow sheds and galleries were built between Blue Cañon and Truckee covering cuts and other points where there was danger of avalanches. Some 2,500 men and six material trains were employed in this work which was completed the fall of 1869. The sheds were built with two sides and a steep peaked roof mostly of locally cut hewn timber and round logs. Snow galleries had one side and a roof that sloped upward until it met the mountain side thus permitting avalanches to slide over the gallery some of which extended up the mountainside as much as two hundred feet. Masonry walls such as the "Chinese Walls" at Donner Summit were built across cañons to prevent avalanches from striking the side of the vulnerable wooden construction. A few concrete sheds (mostly at crossovers) are still in use today.
The major investor in the Union Pacific was Thomas Clark Durant, who had made his stake money by smuggling Confederate cotton with the aid of Grenville M. Dodge. Durant chose routes that would favor places where he held land, and he announced connections to other lines at times that suited his share dealings. He paid an associate to submit the construction bid to another company he controlled, Crédit Mobilier, manipulating the finances and government subsidies and making himself another fortune. Durant hired Dodge as chief engineer and Jack Casement as construction boss.
In the East, the progress started in Omaha, Nebraska, by the Union Pacific Railroad proceeded very quickly because of the open terrain of the Great Plains. This changed, however, as the work entered Indian-held lands. The Native Americans saw the addition of the railroad as a violation of their treaties with the United States. War parties began to raid the moving labor camps that followed the progress of the line. Union Pacific responded by increasing security and hiring marksmen to kill American Bison, which were both a physical threat to trains and the primary food source for many of the Plains Indians. The Native Americans then began killing laborers when they realized that the so-called "Iron Horse" threatened their existence. Security measures were further strengthened, and progress on the railroad continued.
Six years after the groundbreaking, laborers of the Central Pacific Railroad from the west and the Union Pacific Railroad from the east met at Promontory Summit, Utah. It was here on May 10, 1869, that Stanford drove The Last Spike (or golden spike) which is now on display at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University, that joined the rails of the transcontinental railroad. (A second "Last" Golden Spike is also on display at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento.) In perhaps the world's first live mass-media event, the hammers and spike were wired to the telegraph line so that each hammer stroke would be heard as a click at telegraph stations nationwide—the hammer strokes were missed, so the clicks were sent by the telegraph operator. As soon as the ceremonial spike had been replaced by an ordinary iron spike, a message was transmitted to both the East Coast and West Coast that simply read, "DONE." The country erupted in celebration upon receipt of this message. Travel from coast to coast was reduced from six months or more to just one week.
When the golden spike was driven, the rail network was not yet connected to the Atlantic or Pacific, but merely connected Omaha and Sacramento. To get from Sacramento to the Pacific, the Central Pacific purchased the struggling Western Pacific Railroad (unrelated to the railroad of the same name that would later parallel its route) and resumed construction on it, which had halted in 1866 due to funding troubles. In November 1869 the Central Pacific finally connected Sacramento to the east side of San Francisco Bay by rail at Oakland, California, where freight and passengers completed their transcontinental link to the city by ferry.
The original route from the Central Valley to the Bay skirted the Delta by heading south out of Sacramento through Stockton and crossing the San Joaquin River at Mossdale, then climbed over the Altamont Pass and reached the East Bay through Niles Canyon. The Western Pacific was originally chartered to go to San Jose, but the Central Pacific decided to build along the East bay instead, as going from San Jose up the Peninsula to San Francisco itself would have brought it into conflict with competing interests. The railroad entered Alameda and Oakland from the south (roughly paralleling what would later become US Highway 50 and later still Interstates 5, 205, and 580). A more direct route was obtained with the purchase of the California Pacific Railroad, crossing the Sacramento River and proceeding southwest through Davis to Benicia, where it crossed the Carquinez Strait by means of an enormous train ferry, then followed the shores of the San Pablo and San Francisco bays to Richmond and Oakland (paralleling US Highway 40 which ultimately became Interstate 80). In 1930 a rail bridge across the Carquinez replaced the Benicia ferries.
Very early on the Central Pacific learned that it would have trouble maintaining an open track in winter across the Sierras. At first they tried plowing the road with special snowplows mounted on their steam engines. When this was only partially successful, an extensive process of building snow sheds over some of the track to protect it from deep snows and avalanches was instituted. These eventually succeeded at keeping the tracks clear for all but a few days of the year.
Both railroads soon instituted extensive upgrade projects to build better bridges, viaducts, dugways, heavier duty rails, stronger ties, better road beds etc. The original track had often been laid as fast as possible with only secondary attention to maintenance and longevity. Getting the subsidies was initially the primary incentive; upgrades of all kinds were routinely required in the coming years.
The Union Pacific would not connect Omaha to Council Bluffs until completing the Union Pacific Missouri River Bridge in 1873.
With the end of the Civil War, the competing railroads coming from Missouri took advantage of their initial strategic advantage for a building boom. The H&SJ finished the Hannibal Bridge which was the first bridge to cross the Missouri River in July 1869 in Kansas City. This in turn connected to Kansas Pacific trains going from Kansas City to Denver which had built the Denver Pacific Railway connecting to the Union Pacific. In August 1870 the Kansas Pacific laid the last spike connecting to the Denver Pacific line at Strasburg, Colorado and the first true Atlantic to Pacific United States railroad was completed.
Kansas City's head start in connecting to a true transcontinental railroad was to contribute to it rather than Omaha being the dominant rail center west of Chicago.
The Kansas Pacific became part of the Union Pacific in 1880.
On June 4, 1876, an express train called the Transcontinental Express arrived in San Francisco via the First Transcontinental Railroad only 83 hours and 39 minutes after it left from New York City. Only ten years before the same journey would have taken months over land or weeks on ship.
The Central Pacific got a direct route to San Francisco when it was merged with the Southern Pacific Railroad to create the Southern Pacific Company in 1885. The Union Pacific initially took over the Southern Pacific in 1901 but was forced by the U.S. Supreme Court to divest it because of monopoly concerns. The two railroads would once again unite in 1996 when the Southern Pacific was sold to the Union Pacific.
Having been bypassed with the completion of the Lucin Cutoff in 1904, the Promontory Summit rails were pulled up in 1942 to be recycled for the World War II effort. This process began with a ceremonial "undriving" at the golden spike location. In 1957, Congress authorized the Golden Spike National Historic Site. On May 10, 2006, on the anniversary of the driving of the spike, Utah announced that its state quarter design would be a representation of the driving of the spike.
Despite the transcontinental success and millions in government subsidies, the Union Pacific faced bankruptcy less than three years after the golden spike as details surfaced about overcharges Crédit Mobilier had billed Union Pacific for the formal building of the railroad. The scandal hit epic proportions in the United States presidential election, 1872 which saw the re-election of Ulysses S. Grant and became the biggest scandal of the Gilded Age. It would not be resolved until the death of the congressman who was supposed to have reined in its excesses but instead wound up profiting from it.
Durant had initially come up with the scheme to have Crédit Mobilier subcontract to do the actual track work. Durant gained control of the company after buying out employee Herbert Hoxie for $10,000. Under Durant's guidance the company was charging Union Pacific often twice or more the customary cost for track work (thus in effect paying himself to build the railroad). The process was to mire down Union Pacific work.
Lincoln asked Massachusetts Congressman Oakes Ames, who was on the railroad committee, to clean things up and get the railroad moving. Ames got his brother Oliver Ames, Jr. named president of the Union Pacific and Ames himself became president of Crédit Mobiler.
Ames in turn gave stock options to other politicians while at the same time continuing the lucrative overcharges. The scandal was to implicate Vice President Schuyler Colfax (who was cleared) and future President James Garfield among others.
The scandal broke in 1872 when the New York Sun published correspondence between Henry S. McComb and Ames detailing the scheme. In the ensuing Congressional investigation, it was recommended that Ames be expelled from Congress but this was reduced to a censure and Ames died within three months.
Durant was to leave the Union Pacific and a new rail baron Jay Gould was to become the dominant stockholder. As a result of the Panic of 1873 Jay Gould was able to pick up bargains, among them the control of the Union Pacific Railroad and Western Union also fell under his control.
Visible remains of the historic line are still easily located—hundreds of miles are still in service today, especially through the Sierra Nevada Mountains and canyons in Utah and Wyoming. While the original rail has long since been replaced because of age and wear, and the roadbed upgraded and repaired, the lines generally run on top of the original, handmade grade. Vista points on Interstate 80 through California's Truckee Canyon provide a panoramic view of many miles of the original Central Pacific line and of the snow sheds which make winter train travel safe and practical.
In areas where the original line has been bypassed and abandoned, primarily in Utah, the road grade is still obvious, as are numerous cuts and fills, especially the Big Fill a few miles east of Promontory. The sweeping curve which connected to the east end of the Big Fill now passes a Thiokol rocket research and development facility.
Amtrak's California Zephyr, a daily passenger service from Emeryville, California (San Francisco Bay Area) to Chicago, uses the First Transcontinental Railroad from Sacramento to central Nevada. Because this rail line currently operates in a directional running setup across most of Nevada, the California Zephyr will switch to the Central Corridor at either Winnemucca or Wells.
The joining together of the Union Pacific line with the Central Pacific line in May 1869 at Promontory Summit, Utah, was one of the major inspirations for French writer Jules Verne's book entitled Around the World in Eighty Days, which was published in the year 1873.
The feat is depicted in various movies, including the 1939 film Union Pacific, starring Joel McCrea and Barbara Stanwyck and directed by Cecil B. DeMille, which depicts the fictional Central Pacific investor Asa Barrows obstructing attempts by the Union Pacific from reaching Ogden, Utah.
While not exactly accurate, John Ford's 1924 silent movie The Iron Horse captures the fervent nationalism that drove public support for the project. Among the cooks serving the film's cast and crew between shots were some of the Chinese laborers who actually worked on the Central Pacific section of the railroad.
The 1962 film How the West Was Won has a whole segment devoted to the construction; one of the movie's most famous scenes, filmed in Cinerama, is of a buffalo stampede over the railroad.
The construction of a Railroad (presumably the Transcontinental Railroad) provides the backdrop of the 1968 epic Spaghetti Western Once Upon a Time in the West directed by Italian director Sergio Leone.
Kristiana Gregory's book The Great Railroad Race (part of the "Dear America" series) is written as a diary by Libby West, who chronicles the end of the building of the railroad and the excitement which engulfed the country at the time.
Graham Masterton's 1981 novel A Man of Destiny (published in the UK as Railroad) is a fictionalised account of the line's construction.
In the 1999 Will Smith film, Wild Wild West, the joining ceremony is the setting of an assassination attempt on then U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant by the film's antagonist Dr. Miguelito Quixote Loveless.
The building of the railway is covered by the 2004 BBC documentary series Seven Wonders of the Industrial World in episode 6, "The Line".
The series American Experience also documents the railway in the episode titled "Transcontinental Railroad".
The main character in The Claim (2000) is a surveyor for the Central Pacific Railroad, and the film is partially about the effort of a frontier mayor to have the railroad routed through his town.
The popular British Television show Doctor Who featured the Transcontinental Railroad in a BBC audio book entitled The Runaway Train, read by Matt Smith and written for audio by Oli Smith.
The children's book Ten Mile Day by Mary Ann Fraser tells the story of the final, record setting push by the Central Pacific in which they set a record by laying 10 miles (16 km) of track in a single day on April 28, 1869 to settle a $10,000 bet.
The construction of the Transcontinental Railroad provides the setting for the AMC television series Hell on Wheels. Thomas Durant is a regular character in the series and is portrayed by actor Colm Meaney.
Human migration is movement by humans from one place to another, sometimes over long distances or in large groups. Historically this movement was nomadic, often causing significant conflict with the indigenous population and their displacement or cultural assimilation. Only a few nomadic people have retained this form of lifestyle in modern times. Migration has continued under the form of both voluntary migration within one's region, country, or beyond and involuntary migration (which includes the slave trade, trafficking in human beings and ethnic cleansing). People who migrate into a territory are called immigrants, while at the departure point they are called emigrants. Small populations migrating to develop a territory considered void of settlement depending on historical setting, circumstances and perspective are referred to as settlers or colonists, while populations displaced by immigration and colonization are called refugees. The rest of this article will cover sense of a "change of residence", rather than the temporary migrations of travel, tourism, pilgrimages, or the commute.
According to International Organization for Migration, man "no universally accepted definition for (migrant) exists. The term migrant was usually understood to cover all cases where the decision to migrate was taken freely by the individual concerned for reasons of "personal convenience" and without intervention of an external compelling factor; it therefore applied to persons, and family members, moving to another country or region to better their material or social conditions and improve the prospect for themselves or their family. The United Nations defines migrant as an individual who has resided in a foreign country for more than one year irrespective of the causes, voluntary or involuntary, and the means, regular or irregular, used to migrate. Under such a definition, those travelling for shorter periods as tourists and businesspersons would not be considered migrants. However, common usage includes certain kinds of shorter-term migrants, such as seasonal farm-workers who travel for short periods to work planting or harvesting farm products." Also, human migration happened when the Paleo-Indians entered America.
According to the International Organization for Migration's World Migration Report 2010, the number of international migrants was estimated at 214 million in 2010. If this number continues to grow at the same pace as during the last 20 years, it could reach 405 million by 2050. While some modern migration is a byproduct of wars (for example, emigration from Iraq and Bosnia to the US and UK), political conflicts (for example, some emigration from Zimbabwe to the UK), and natural disasters (for example, emigration from Montserrat to the UK following the eruption of the island's volcano), contemporary migration is predominantly economically motivated. In particular, there are wide disparities in the incomes that can be earned for similar work in different countries of the world. There are also, at any given time, some jobs in some high-wage countries for which there is a shortage of appropriately skilled or qualified citizens. Some countries (e.g., UK and Australia) operate points systems that give some lawful immigration visas to some non-citizens who are qualified for such shortage jobs. Non-citizens, therefore, have an economic incentive to obtain the necessary skills and qualifications in their own countries and then apply for, and migrate to take up, these job vacancies. International migration similarly motivated by economic disparities and opportunities occurs within the EU, where legal barriers to migration between member countries have been wholly or partially lifted. Countries with higher prevailing wage levels, such as France, Germany, Italy and the UK are net recipients of immigration from lower-wage member countries such as Greece, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland and Romania.
Some contemporary economic migration occurs even where the migrant becomes illegally resident in their destination country and therefore at major disadvantage in the employment market. Illegal immigrants are, for example, known to cross in significant numbers, typically at night, from Mexico into the US, from Mozambique into South Africa, from Bulgaria and Turkey into Greece, from north Africa into Spain and Italy and from Bangladesh into India.
The pressures of human migrations, whether as outright conquest or by slow cultural infiltration and resettlement, have affected the grand epochs in history and in land (for example, the decline of the Roman Empire); under the form of colonization, migration has transformed the world (such as the prehistoric and historic settlements of Australia and the Americas). Population genetics studied in traditionally settled modern populations have opened a window into the historical patterns of migrations, a technique pioneered by Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza.
Forced migration has been a means of social control under authoritarian regimes, yet free-initiative migration is a powerful factor in social adjustment and the growth of urban populations.
In December 2003, The Global Commission on International Migration (GCIM) was launched with the support of Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan and several countries, with an independent 19-member commission, a threefold mandate and a finite lifespan ending December 2005. Its report, based on regional consultation meetings with stakeholders and scientific reports from leading international migration experts, was published and presented to Kofi Annan on 5 October 2005.
International migration challenges at the global level are addressed through the Global Migration Group, established in 2006.
Different types of migration include:
Historical migration of human populations begins with the movement of Homo erectus out of Africa across Eurasia about a million years ago. Homo sapiens appear to have occupied all of Africa about 150,000 years ago, moved out of Africa 70,000 years ago, and had spread across Australia, Asia and Europe by 40,000 years BC. Migration to the Americas took place 20,000 to 15,000 years ago, and by 2,000 years ago, most of the Pacific Islands were colonized. Later population movements notably include the Neolithic Revolution, Indo-European expansion, and the Early Medieval Great Migrations including Turkic expansion. In some places, substantial cultural transformation occurred following the migration of relatively small elite populations, Turkey and Azerbaijan being such examples. In Britain, it is considered that the Roman and Norman conquests were similar examples, while "the most hotly debated of all the British cultural transitions is the role of migration in the relatively sudden and drastic change from Romano-Britain to Anglo-Saxon Britain", which may be explained by a possible "substantial migration of Anglo-Saxon Y chromosomes into Central England (contributing 50%–100% to the gene pool at that time."
Early humans migrated due to many factors such as changing climate and landscape and inadequate food supply. The evidence indicates that the ancestors of the Austronesian peoples spread from the South Chinese mainland to Taiwan at some time around 8,000 years ago. Evidence from historical linguistics suggests that it is from this island that seafaring peoples migrated, perhaps in distinct waves separated by millennia, to the entire region encompassed by the Austronesian languages. It is believed that this migration began around 6,000 years ago. Indo-Aryan migration from the Indus Valley to the plain of the River Ganges in Northern India is presumed to have taken place in the Middle to Late Bronze Age, contemporary to the Late Harappan phase in India (ca. 1700 to 1300 BC). From 180 BC, a series of invasions from Central Asia followed, including those led by the Indo-Greeks, Indo-Scythians, Indo-Parthians and Kushans in the northwestern Indian subcontinent.
From 728 BC, the Greeks began 250 years of expansion, settling colonies in several places, including Sicily and Marseille. In Europe, two waves of migrations dominate demographic distributions, that of the Celtic people and that of the later Migration Period from the North and East, both being possible examples of general cultural change sparked by primarily elite and warrior migration.][ Other examples are small movements like that of the Magyars into Pannonia (modern-day Hungary). Turkic peoples spread from their homeland in modern Turkestan across most of Central Asia into Europe and the Middle East between the 6th and 11th centuries. Recent research suggests that Madagascar was uninhabited until Austronesian seafarers from Indonesia arrived during the 5th and 6th centuries AD. Subsequent migrations from both the Pacific and Africa further consolidated this original mixture, and Malagasy people emerged.
Before the expansion of the Bantu languages and their speakers, the southern half of Africa is believed to have been populated by Pygmies and Khoisan-speaking people, today occupying the arid regions around the Kalahari Desert and the forest of Central Africa. By about 1000 AD, Bantu migration had reached modern day Zimbabwe and South Africa. The Banu Hilal and Banu Ma'qil were a collection of Arab Bedouin tribes from the Arabian Peninsula who migrated westwards via Egypt between the 11th and 13th centuries. Their migration strongly contributed to the Arabization and Islamization of the western Maghreb, which was until then dominated by Berber tribes. Ostsiedlung was the medieval eastward migration and settlement of Germans. The 13th century was the time of the great Mongol and Turkic migrations across Eurasia.
Between the 11th and 18th centuries, there were numerous migrations in Asia. The Vatsayan Priests from the eastern Himalaya hills, migrated to Kashmir during the Shan invasion in 1203C. They settled in the lower Shivalik hills in 1206C to sanctify the manifest goddess. In the Ming occupation, the Vietnamese expanded southward in a process known as nam tiến (southward expansion). Manchuria was separated from China proper by the Inner Willow Palisade, which restricted the movement of the Han Chinese into Manchuria during the early Qing Dynasty, as the area was off-limits to the Han until the Qing started colonizing the area with them later on in the dynasty's rule.
The Age of Exploration and European colonialism led to an accelerated pace of migration since Early Modern times. In the 16th century, perhaps 240,000 Europeans entered American ports. In the 19th century, over 50 million people left Europe for the Americas. The local populations or tribes, such as the Aboriginal people in Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, Japan and the United States, were usually far overwhelmed numerically by the settlers.
While the pace of migration had accelerated since the 18th century already (including the involuntary slave trade), it would increase further in the 19th century. Manning distinguishes three major types of migration: labor migration, refugee migrations, and urbanization. Millions of agricultural workers left the countryside and moved to the cities causing unprecedented levels of urbanization. This phenomenon began in Britain in the late 18th century and spread around the world and continues to this day in many areas.
Industrialization encouraged migration wherever it appeared. The increasingly global economy globalized the labor market. The Atlantic slave trade diminished sharply after 1820, which gave rise to self-bound contract labor migration from Europe and Asia to plantations. Overpopulation][, open agricultural frontiers, and rising industrial centers attracted voluntary migrants. Moreover, migration was significantly made easier by improved transportation techniques.
Romantic nationalism also rose in the 19th century, and, with it, ethnocentrism. The great European industrial empires also rose. Both factors contributed to migration, as some countries favored their own ethnicities over outsiders and other countries appeared to be considerably more welcoming. For example, the Russian Empire identified with Eastern Orthodoxy, and confined Jews, who were not Eastern Orthodox, to the Pale of Settlement and imposed restrictions. Violence was also a problem. The United States was promoted as a better location, a "golden land" where Jews could live more openly. Another effect of imperialism, colonialism, led to the migration of some colonizing parties from "home countries" to "the colonies", and eventually the migration of people from "colonies" to "home countries".
Transnational labor migration reached a peak of three million migrants per year in the early twentieth century. Italy, Norway, Ireland and the Guangdong region of China were regions with especially high emigration rates during these years. These large migration flows influenced the process of nation state formation in many ways. Immigration restrictions have been developed, as well as diaspora cultures and myths that reflect the importance of migration to the foundation of certain nations, like the American melting pot. The transnational labor migration fell to a lower level from 1930s to the 1960s and then rebounded.
The United States experienced considerable internal migration related to industrialization, including its African American population. From 1910–1970, approximately 7 million African Americans migrated from the rural Southern United States, where blacks faced both poor economic opportunities and considerable political and social prejudice, to the industrial cities of the Northeast, Midwest and West, where relatively well-paid jobs were available. This phenomenon came to be known in the United States as its own Great Migration. With the demise of legalized segregation in the 1960s and greatly improved economic opportunities in the South in the subsequent decades, millions of blacks have returned to the South from other parts of the country since 1980 in what has been called the New Great Migration.
See World War II evacuation and expulsion and Population transfer in the Soviet Union for World War II forced migrations.
The First and Second World Wars, and wars, genocides, and crises sparked by them, had an enormous impact on migration. Muslims moved from the Balkan to Turkey, while Christians moved the other way, during the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Four hundred thousand Jews had already moved to Palestine in the early twentieth century, and numerous Jews to America, as already mentioned. The Russian Civil War caused some three million Russians, Poles, and Germans to migrate out of the new Soviet Union. Decolonization following the Second World War also caused migrations.
The Jewish communities across Europe, the Mediterranean and the Middle East were formed from voluntary and involuntary migrants. After the Holocaust (1938 to 1945), there was increased migration to the British Mandate of Palestine, which became the modern state of Israel as a result of the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine.
Provisions of the Potsdam Agreement from 1945 signed by victorious Western Allies and the Soviet Union led to one of the largest European migrations, and the largest in the 20th century. It involved the migration and resettlement of close to or over 20 million people. The largest affected group were 16.5 million Germans expelled from Eastern Europe westwards. The second largest group were Poles, millions of whom were expelled westwards from eastern Kresy region and resettled in the so-called Recovered Territories (see Allies decide Polish border in the article on the Oder-Neisse line). Hundreds of thousands of Poles, Ukrainians (Operation Vistula), Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians and some Belarusians were expelled eastwards from Europe to the Soviet Union. Finally, many of the several hundred thousand Jews remaining in Eastern Europe after the Holocaust migrated outside Europe to Israel and the United States.
In 1947, upon the Partition of India, large populations moved from India to Pakistan and vice versa, depending on their religious beliefs. The partition was promulgated in the Indian Independence Act 1947 as a result of the dissolution of the British Indian Empire. The partition displaced up to 12.5 million people in the former British Indian Empire, with estimates of loss of life varying from several hundred thousand to a million.Muslim residents of the former British India migrated to Pakistan (including East Pakistan which is now Bangladesh), whilst Hindu and Sikh residents of Pakistan and Hindu residents of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) moved in the opposite direction.
In modern India, estimates based on industry sectors mainly employing migrants suggest that there are around 100 million circular migrants in India. Caste, social networks and historical precedents play a powerful role in shaping patterns of migration. Migration for the poor is mainly circular, as despite moving temporarily to urban areas, they lack the social security which might keep them there more permanently. They are also keen to maintain a foothold in home areas during the agricultural season.
Research by the Overseas Development Institute identifies a rapid movement of labour from slower- to faster-growing parts of the economy. Migrants can often find themselves excluded by urban housing policies, and migrant support initiatives are needed to give workers improved access to market information, certification of identity, housing and education.
Migration for work in the 21st century has become a popular way for individuals from impoverished developing countries to obtain sufficient income for survival. This income is sent home to family members in the form of remittances and has become an economic staple in a number of developing countries. There are a number of theories to explain the international flow of capital and people from one country to another.
This is the newest theory of migration and states that the main reason for labor migration is wage difference between two geographic locations. These wage differences are usually linked to geographic labor demand and supply. It can be said that areas with a shortage of labor but an excess of capital have a high relative wage while areas with a high labor supply and a dearth of capital have a low relative wage. Labor tends to flow from low-wage areas to high-wage areas. Often, with this flow of labor comes changes in the sending as well as the receiving country. Neoclassical economic theory is best used to describe transnational migration, because it is not confined by international immigration laws and similar governmental regulations.
Dual labor market theory states that migration is mainly caused by pull factors in more developed countries. This theory assumes that the labor markets in these developed countries consist of two segments: primary, which requires high-skilled labor, and secondary, which is very labor-intensive but requires low-skilled workers. This theory assumes that migration from less developed countries into more developed countries is a result of a pull created by a need for labor in the developed countries in their secondary market. Migrant workers are needed to fill the lowest rung of the labor market because the native laborers do not want to do these jobs as they present a lack of mobility. This creates a need for migrant workers. Furthermore, the initial dearth in available labor pushes wages up, making migration even more enticing.
This theory states that migration flows and patterns cannot be explained solely at the level of individual workers and their economic incentives, but that wider social entities must be considered as well. One such social entity is the household. Migration can be viewed as a result of risk aversion on the part of a household that has insufficient income. The household, in this case, is in need of extra capital that can be achieved through remittances sent back by family members who participate in migrant labor abroad. These remittances can also have a broader effect on the economy of the sending country as a whole as they bring in capital. Recent research has examined a decline in U.S. interstate migration from 1991 to 2011, theorizing that the reduced interstate migration is due to a decline in the geographic specificity of occupations and an increase in workers’ ability to learn about other locations before moving there, through both information technology and inexpensive travel. Other researchers find that the location-specific nature of housing is more important than moving costs in determining labor reallocation.
Relative deprivation theory states that awareness of the income difference between neighbors or other households in the migrant-sending community is an important factor in migration. The incentive to migrate is a lot higher in areas that have a high level of economic inequality. In the short run, remittances may increase inequality, but in the long run, they may actually decrease it. There are two stages of migration for a worker: first, they invest in human capital formation, and then they try to capitalize on their investments. In this way, successful migrants may use their new capital to provide for better schooling for their children and better homes for their families. Successful high-skilled emigrants may serve as an example for neighbors and potential migrants who hope to achieve that level of success.
World systems theory looks at migration from a global perspective. It explains that interaction between different societies can be an important factor in social change within societies. Trade with one country, which causes economic decline in another, may create incentive to migrate to a country with a more vibrant economy. It can be argued that even after decolonization, the economic dependence of former colonies still remains on mother countries. This view of international trade is controversial, however, and some argue that free trade can actually reduce migration between developing and developed countries. It can be argued that the developed countries import labor-intensive goods, which causes an increase in employment of unskilled workers in the less developed countries, decreasing the outflow of migrant workers. The export of capital-intensive goods from rich countries to poor countries also equalizes income and employment conditions, thus also slowing migration. In either direction, this theory can be used to explain migration between countries that are geographically far apart.
Certain laws of social science have been proposed to describe human migration. The following was a standard list after Ravenstein's proposals during the time frame of 1834 to 1913 (← these are Ravenstein's date of birth and death, not the time frame of his proposal).his proporsal of this was in 1880s. The laws are as follows:
Lee's laws divides factors causing migrations into two groups of factors: push and pull factors. Push factors are things that are unfavourable about the area that one lives in, and pull factors are things that attract one to another area.
See also article by Gürkan Çelik, in Turkish Review: Turkey Pulls, The Netherlands Pushes? An increasing number of Turks, the Netherlands’ largest ethnic minority, are beginning to return to Turkey, taking with them the education and skills they have acquired abroad, as the Netherlands faces challenges from economic difficulties, social tension and increasingly powerful far-right parties. At the same time Turkey’s political, social and economic conditions have been improving, making returning home all the more appealing for Turks at large. (pp. 94–99)
The modern field of climate history suggests that the successive waves of Eurasian nomadic movement throughout history have had their origins in climatic cycles, which have expanded or contracted pastureland in Central Asia, especially Mongolia and the Altai. People were displaced from their home ground by other tribes trying to find land that could be grazed by essential flocks, each group pushing the next further to the south and west, into the highlands of Anatolia, the Pannonian Plain, into Mesopotamia or southwards, into the rich pastures of China. Bogumil Terminski uses the term "migratory domino effect" to describe this process in the context of Sea People invasion.
The New York Central Railroad
(reporting mark NYC
), also known as New York Central
or The Central
, was a railroad operating in the Northeastern United States. Headquartered in New York City, the New York Central was a large railroad, and it had several subsidiaries whose identity remained strong in local loyalties.
In broad geographic terms, the New York Central proper was everything east of Buffalo plus a line from Buffalo through Cleveland and Toledo to Chicago (the former Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railway). NYC included the Ohio Central Lines (Toledo through Columbus to and beyond Charleston, West Virginia) and the Boston & Albany Railroad (neatly defined by its name). The Michigan Central Railroad was a Buffalo-Detroit-Chicago line and everything in Michigan north of that. NYC's Grand Central Terminal in New York City is one of its best known extant landmarks.
In 1968 the NYC merged with former rival Pennsylvania Railroad in 1968 to form the Penn Central, which went bankrupt by 1970.
The New York Central System, like many Eastern U.S. railroads, resulted from mergers, consolidations, and leases. Its principal predecessors were the following companies:
The NYC System included several controlled railroads that did not accompany NYC into the 1968 Penn Central merger. The most important of these were:
The Erie Canal, opened in 1825 between Albany and Buffalo, New York, followed the Hudson and Mohawk rivers between Albany and Schenectady. The 40-mile (64 km) water route included several locks and was extremely slow; in consequence, stagecoaches plied the 17-mile (27 km) direct route between the cities. In 1826 the Mohawk & Hudson Rail Road (M&H) was incorporated to replace the stages between Albany and Schenectady. The railroad opened in 1831; its first locomotive was named DeWitt Clinton
after the governor of the state where the M&H was incorporated. Within months there was a proposal for a railroad all the way from Albany to Buffalo, but the subject was touchy — the state was still deeply in debt for construction of the Erie Canal.
One by one, railroads were incorporated, built, and opened westward from the end of the M&H; Utica & Schenectady, Syracuse & Utica, Auburn & Syracuse, Auburn & Rochester, Tonawanda (Rochester to Attica via Batavia), and Attica & Buffalo. By 1841 it was possible to travel between Albany and Buffalo by train in just 25 hours (lightning speed compared with the canal packets); by 1851 the trip took a little over 12 hours. In 1851 the state passed an act freeing the railroads from the need to pay tolls to the Erie Canal, with which they competed; that same year the Hudson River Railroad was opened from New York City to East Albany and the New York & Erie (later the Erie Railroad) was opened from Piermont, on the Hudson River, west to Dunkirk, New York, on Lake Erie.
The New York & Harlem Railroad (NY&H) was incorporated in 1831 to build a line in Manhattan from 23rd Street north to 129th Street between Third and Eighth Avenues (the railroad chose to follow Fourth Avenue). At first the railroad was primarily a horsecar system, but in 1840 the NY&H's charter was amended to allow it to build north toward Albany. In 1844 the rails reached White Plains and in January 1852 the NY&H made connection with the Western Railroad (later Boston & Albany) at Chatham, New York, creating a New York-Albany route.
The Hudson was a busy river, and the towns along it felt no need for a railroad — except during the winter when ice prevented navigation. Poughkeepsie interests organized the Hudson River Railroad in 1847. In the autumn of 1851 the railroad was opened from a terminal on Manhattan's West side all the way to East Albany. By then the railroad had leased the Troy & Greenbush, gaining access to a bridge over the Hudson at Troy. (A bridge at Albany was opened in 1866.)
By 1863 Cornelius Vanderbilt controlled the NY&H and had acquired a substantial interest in the Hudson River Railroad. In 1867 he obtained control of the New York Central (NYC), consolidating it with the Hudson River in 1869 to form the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad (NYC&HR).
Vanderbilt wanted to build a magnificent terminal for the NYC&HR in New York City and chose as its site the corner of 42nd Street and Fourth Avenue on the NY&H, the southerly limit of steam locomotive operation in Manhattan. Construction of Grand Central Depot began in 1869 and took two years. The new depot was actually three separate stations serving the NYC&HR, the NY&H, and the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad (NH). Trains of the Hudson River line reached the NY&H by means of a connecting track completed in 1871 along Spuyten Duyvil Creek and the Harlem River.
That was the first of three Grand Centrals. The present station, Grand Central Terminal (GCT), was opened in 1913, and defied all possible expectations. GCT has a total of 48 platform tracks on two subterranean levels; the project included depressing and decking over the tracks along Park Avenue and electrifying NYC's lines north to Harmon and White Plains. Even in the internet age Grand Central remains awesome. (NYC had two other stretches of electrified line: the Detroit River Tunnel, opened in 1910, and Cleveland Union Terminal, opened in 1930. Diesels put an end to both those electrifications in 1953.)
The Watertown & Rome Railroad (W&R) was chartered in 1832 to connect Watertown, New York, with the Syracuse & Utica, then only a proposal itself. The railroad opened in 1851, and in 1852 it was extended to Cape Vincent, New York, where it connected with a ferry to Kingston, Ontario. In 1861 the W&R consolidated with the Potsdam & Watertown to form the Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburg Railroad (RW&O). RW&O built a line to Oswego and bought lines to Syracuse and Buffalo. The Buffalo line ended up being a mistake — it bypassed Rochester, had almost no local business, and was not part of any through route. The RW&O came under Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad control briefly before a rehabilitation in the 1880s. New management extended the RW&O north to connect with a Grand Trunk Railway line to Montreal and added the Black River & Utica (Utica to Watertown and Ogdensburg) to the system. NYC leased the RW&O in 1893. Meanwhile, NYC had built its own line north from Herkimer: the St. Lawrence & Adirondack (later Mohawk & Malone) of William Seward Webb, son-in-law of William H. Vanderbilt. NYC merged the Mohawk & Malone in 1911 and the RW&O in 1913.
The Michigan Southern was chartered by the state of Michigan in 1837 to build from the head of navigation on the River Raisin west of Monroe across the southern tier of Michigan to the shore of Lake Michigan at New Buffalo. Under the state auspices it got as far west as Hillsdale, Michigan. It was sold to private interests who combined it with the Erie & Kalamazoo Railroad (opened in 1837 from Toledo, Ohio, to Adrian, Michigan) and extended it west to meet the Northern Indiana Railroad, which was building east from La Porte, Indiana. The line was opened from Monroe to South Bend in 1851; by February 1852 it reached Chicago, where it teamed up with the Rock Island to build terminal facilities (Northern Indiana's successors shared a Chicago station — LaSalle Street — with Rock Island until 1968). The railroads were combined as the Michigan Southern & Northern Indiana in 1855; by then a direct line between Elkhart and Toledo had been constructed.
The railroad situation along the south shore of Lake Erie was complicated by Ohio's insistence on a track gauge of , Pennsylvania's reluctance to let a railroad from another state cross its borders, and the desire of the city of Erie, Pennsylvania to have the change of gauge within its limits in the hope that passengers would spend money while changing trains there. The NYC controlled the Buffalo & State Line and the Erie & North East Railroads by 1853; they were combined as the Buffalo & Erie in 1867. The Cleveland, Painesville & Ashtabula Railroad (CP&A) was opened between Cleveland and Erie in 1852. In 1868 the CP&A took its familiar name, Lake Shore, as its official name, and a year later it absorbed the Cleveland & Toledo and joined with the Michigan Southern & Northern Indiana to form the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railway (LS&MS). Cornelius Vanderbilt acquired control of the LS&MS during the business panic of 1873.
In 1914 the NYC&HR and LS&MS (plus several smaller railroads) were combined to form the New York Central Railroad
— the second railroad of that name.
In 1869 and 1870 several railroads were proposed and surveyed up the west bank of the Hudson River; in 1880 the New York, West Shore & Buffalo Railroad was formed to build a line from Jersey City to Albany and Buffalo, parallel to the NYC. William Vanderbilt suspected the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) was behind the project. The railroad opened to Albany and Syracuse in 1883 and reached Buffalo at the beginning of 1884. A rate war then ensued.
The West Shore (WS) entered bankruptcy, as did the construction company that built the line. WS cut its rates to beat those of the NYC, hoping the Central, with its far greater volume of business, would lose much more money than the WS. NYC, however, had resources to withstand a temporary loss.
In retaliation Vanderbilt decided to revive an old survey for a railroad across Pennsylvania. The surveyed route was considerably shorter than that of the PRR. He enlisted the support of Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller. Meanwhile, PRR bought West Shore bonds. It took J. P. Morgan to work a compromise between the NYC and PRR. The Central would lease the WS, and the PRR would get the South Pennsylvania Railroad and its partially excavated tunnels. In 1885 the WS was reorganized as the West Shore Railroad, wholly owned by the NYC and leased to it. (The roadbed of the South Pennsylvania was later used for the Pennsylvania Turnpike.) The Weehawken-Albany portion of the WS proved to be a valuable freight route for NYC and more so for its successors Penn Central and Conrail; most of the WS west of Albany was abandoned by Conrail and subsequently converted for rail trail use as the Erie Canalway Trail. In 1952 NYC merged the WS.
The Boston & Worcester Railroad (B&W) was opened between the cities of its name in 1835. Its charter had a clause prohibiting the construction of a parallel railroad within 5 miles (8.0 kilometres) for 30 years. The Western Railroad was opened in 1840 from Worcester west to Springfield and in 1841 across the Berkshire range to Greenbush, New York, on the east bank of the Hudson opposite Albany. The two railroads shared some directors, but efforts at merging them were futile until 1863, when B&W's protection clause expired and the Western proposed building its own line from Worcester to Boston. The two roads were consolidated as the Boston & Albany Railroad (B&A) in 1867.
The B&A had several minor branch lines and a few major ones: Palmer to Winchendon, Massachusetts; Springfield to Athol, Massachusetts; Pittsfield to North Adams, Massachusetts; and Chatham to Hudson, New York — only short portions of them remain in service.
The B&A's principal connection was the NYC at Albany. The NYC leased the B&A in 1900. The reason for B&A's willingness to forsake independence was that NYC would acquire the parallel Fitchburg Railroad were unable to get the B&A, and B&A would be left with only local business. In 1961 NYC merged B&A.
B&A maintained much more of its own identity than did other NYC subsidiaries. It had its own officers, and until 1951 its locomotives and cars were lettered "Boston & Albany" rather than "New York Central Lines," largely to appeal to local sensitivities. B&A's steam power was basically NYC appearance but with occasional distinctive features, such as square sand domes on the Hudsons and offset smokebox doors on Pacifics. The profile of the B&A, definitely not the water level route NYC was so proud of elsewhere, called for heavy power in the form of 2-6-6-2s and 2-8-4s (the latter named for the Berkshires over which the line ran). Nearer Boston, B&A operated an intense suburban service powered by 2-6-6Ts and 4-6-6Ts, the latter looking like condensed, solid-packed NYC Hudsons.
The Ohio Central lines included the Toledo & Ohio Central Railway and three leased lines (merged in 1938), the Zanesville & Western Railway, the Kanawha & Michigan Railway, and the Kanawha & West Virginia Railroad. They formed a route to Toledo southeast through Columbus across the Ohio River, and through Charleston to Swiss and Hitop, West Virginia. The line began as the Atlantic & Lake Erie, chartered in 1869. After a series of receiverships and a name change to Ohio Central the line managed to link Columbus with the Ohio River at Middleport in 1882. The railroad then pushed into the coalfields along the Kanawha River in West Virginia and extended itself northwest toward Toledo. It was renamed the Toledo & Ohio Central (T&OC) in 1885. The NYC acquired control of the T&OC by 1910 and began operating it as part of the NYC System. NYC leased the railroad in 1922 and merged it in 1952.
The Michigan Central Railroad had its beginnings in the Detroit & St. Joseph Railroad, which was incorporated in 1832 to build a railroad across Michigan from Detroit to St. Joseph. Michigan attained statehood in 1837 and almost immediately chartered railroads to be constructed along three routes:
The state purchased the Detroit & St. Joseph to use as the basis for the Central Railroad. About the time the railroad reached Kalamazoo (in 1846) it ran out of money. It was purchased from the state by Boston interests led by John W. Brooks and was reorganized as the Michigan Central Railroad (MC). Construction resumed in the direction of New Buffalo rather than St. Joseph, and in 1849 the line reached Michigan City, Indiana, about as far as its Michigan charter could take it.
To reach the Illinois border the MC used the charter of the New Albany & Salem (NA&S) (a predecessor of the Monon Railroad) in exchange for which it purchased a block of NA&S stock. The MC continued on Illinois Central rails to Chicago, reaching there in 1852.
The Great Western Railway opened in 1854 from Niagara Falls to Windsor, Ontario, opposite Detroit, and in March 1855 John Roebling's suspension bridge across the Niagara River was completed, creating with the NYC a continuous line of rails from Albany to Windsor. The Great Western (which had track gauge of ) installed a third rail for standard gauge equipment between 1864 and 1866. Vanderbilt, who had started buying MC stock in 1869, tried to purchase the Great Western. He did not succeed and turned his attention instead to the Canada Southern Railway. It had been incorporated in 1868 as the Erie & Niagara Extension Railway to build a line along the north shore of Lake Erie and then across the Detroit River below the city of Detroit. He acquired the railroad in 1876; MC leased it in 1882. Conrail sold the Canada Southern to Canadian National and Canadian Pacific in 1985. NYC leased the MC in 1930.
The oldest predecessor of the Big Four (and a comparatively late addition to it) was the Mad River & Lake Erie. Ground was broken in 1835, and the line was opened from Sandusky to Dayton, Ohio, in 1851. It went through several renamings and became part of what later was the Peoria & Eastern before it was merged into the Big Four in 1890.
The Cleveland, Columbus & Cincinnati (CC&C) was chartered in 1836, broke ground in 1847, and opened in 1851 between Cleveland and Columbus. In 1852 it teamed up with the Little Miami and Columbus & Xenia railroads to form a Cleveland-Cincinnati route.
In 1848 the Indianapolis & Bellefontaine (I&B) and the Bellefontaine & Indiana (B&I) railroads were incorporated to build a line between Galion, Ohio, on the CC&C, and Indianapolis. The I&B and the B&I amalgamated and became known as "The B. Line." They were absorbed by the CC&C when it reorganized as the Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati & Indianapolis in 1868. The nickname of the new railroad was "The Bee Line." The Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati & Indianapolis reached Cincinnati with its own rails in 1872; that same year it opened a line from Springfield to Columbus. By then the Vanderbilts owned a good portion of the railroad's stock.
The Terre Haute & Alton Railroad was organized in 1852; its backers were certain that with a railroad to Indiana the Mississippi River town of Alton, Illinois could easily outstrip St. Louis a few miles south. It soon combined with the Belleville & Illinoistown Railroad as the Terre Haute, Alton & St. Louis. The Indianapolis & St. Louis was organized to build between Indianapolis and Terre Haute, Indiana. It leased the St. Louis, Alton & Terre Haute, successor to the Terre Haute, Alton & St. Louis, and came under control of the CCC&I in 1882.
In the late 1840s and early 1850s several railroads were completed forming a route from Cincinnati through Indianapolis and Lafayette, Indiana to Kankakee, Illinois, connecting there with the IC north to Chicago. In 1880 these railroads were united as the Cincinnati, Indianapolis, St. Louis & Chicago — considered to be the first "Big Four." Heading the company was Melville E. Ingalls, and on its board was C. P. Huntington, whose Chesapeake & Ohio Railway formed a friendly connection at Cincinnati.
The Vanderbilts had invested in the first Big Four, and they were firmly in control of the new Big Four, the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis, which was formed in 1889 by the consolidation of the old Big Four (Cincinnati, Indianapolis, St. Louis & Chicago) and the Bee Line (Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati & Indianapolis).
In the late 1880s Ingalls and the Vanderbilts gathered a group of railroads between Cairo and Danville, Illinois; added to them the St. Louis, Alton & Terre Haute; and then added them all to the Big Four. The line from Danville north to Indiana Harbor was a comparatively late addition to the system: It was built in 1906 and became part of the NYC rather than the Big Four.
The Peoria & Eastern was formed in 1890 from several small railroads. At one time its predecessor briefly included the former Mad River & Lake Erie and a line from Indianapolis east to Springfield, Ohio, before settling down to be simply a Peoria-Bloomington-Danville-Indianapolis route. In 1902 the Big Four bought the Cincinnati Northern, a line that had been proposed in 1852 and finally constructed in the 1880s from Franklin, Ohio, between Dayton and Cincinnati, to Jackson, Michigan. In 1920 the Big Four acquired the Evansville, Indianapolis & Terre Haute, a castoff from the Chicago & Eastern Illinois in southwestern Indiana. The NYC leased the Big Four in 1930.
The New York Central System was the largest of the eastern trunk systems from the standpoint of mileage and second only to the PRR in revenue. It served most of the industrial part of the country, and its freight tonnage was exceeded only by coal-carrying railroads. In addition it was a major passenger railroad — with perhaps two-thirds the number of passengers as the PRR, but NYC's average passenger traveled one-third again as far as PRR's.
The generally level topography of the NYC system had a character distinctively different than the mountainous terrain of the PRR. Most of its major routes, including New York-Chicago, followed rivers and had no significant grades other than West Albany Hill. This influenced both advertising and locomotive design, built around its flagship New York-Chicago "Water Level Route".
Steam locomotives were optimized for speed on the flat terrain, rather than slow mountain lugging. Famous locomotives of the system included the 4-6-4 Hudsons, particularly the 1937–38 J-3a's; 4-8-2 World War II–era L-3 and L-4 Mohawks; and the postwar S-class Niagaras: fast 4-8-4 locomotives.
NYC did not share as fully in the post–World War II economic expansion because of rising labor and material costs and an extensive improvement program, especially for passenger services. Despite having several modern steam locomotives, NYC's poor financial position caused it to convert to more economical diesel-electric power rapidly. All lines east of Cleveland were dieselized by August 7, 1953; Niagaras were retired by 1956. Steam operations ended by 1957. Problems resurfaced that had plagued the railroad industry before the war, such as over-regulation by the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), which severely regulated the rates charged by the railroad, along with continuing competition from automobiles. These problems were coupled with even more formidable forms of competition, such as airline service in the 1950s that began to deprive the NYC of its long-distance passenger trade. The Interstate Highway Act of 1956 helped create a network of efficient roads for motor vehicle travel through the country, enticing more people to travel by car, as well as haul freight by truck. The 1959 opening of the Saint Lawrence Seaway adversely affected NYC freight business. Container shipments could now be directly shipped to ports along the Great Lakes, eliminating the railroads' freight hauls between the east and the Midwest.
NYC also carried a substantial tax burden from governments that saw rail infrastructure as a source of property tax revenues — taxes that were not imposed upon interstate highways. The railroad was also saddled with a wartime–era tax of 15% on passenger fares, which remained until 1962.
In 1946 and 1947 the C&O purchased a block of NYC stock (6.4%), becoming the railroad's largest stockholder. Robert R. Young gained control of the NYC and became its chairman in 1954 as part of a maneuver to merge with the C&O. One of his first acts was to put Alfred E. Perlman in charge of the Central. While Young was considered a railroad visionary, he was appalled to find the NYC in worse shape than surmised. Young was forced to suspend dividend payments in January 1958; he committed suicide later that month.
Under Perlman NYC slimmed its physical plant, reducing long stretches of four-track line to two track under centralized traffic control, and developed an aggressive freight marketing department. He oversaw construction and/or modernization of many hump or classification yards, notably the $20-million Selkirk Yard which opened outside of Albany in 1966. Perlman also experimented with "jet trains", creating a Budd Rail Diesel Car (the M-497 Black Beetle) powered by two J47 jet engines stripped from a B-36 Peacemaker bomber as a solution to increasing car and airplane competition. The project did not leave the prototype stage. Perlman's efforts reduced operating deficits by $7.7 million, which nominally raised NYC stock to $1.29 per share, producing dividends of an amount not seen since the end of the war. By 1964 he was able to reduce the NYC long term debt by nearly $100 million, while reducing passenger deficits from $42 to $24.6 million.
At the same time NYC's passenger operations were de-emphasized; commuter lines around New York were particularly affected. Service was suspended on the Putnam Division in Westchester and Putnam counties in 1959, and ferry service to Weehawken Terminal ended, impacting the WS. Ridding itself of most commuter service proved impossible due to heavy patronage around metro New York, which government mandated the railroad operate at a loss. On December 3, 1967, just before NYC and PRR merged, the Central reduced its passenger service to a skeleton, combining its New York-Chicago, New York-Detroit, New York-Toronto, and Boston-Chicago services into a single train and dropping all train names (including that of the 20th Century Limited
, once considered the world's finest train) except for, curiously, that of the Chicago-Cincinnati James Whitcomb Riley
The Central's archrival was the PRR. West of the Allegheny Mountains the two systems duplicated each other at almost every major point; east of those cites, the two hardly touched. Both railroads had physical plant not being utilized to capacity, but Perlman's aggressive consolidation left NYC in better shape. PRR was worse than practically any other railroad, having four to six tracks where one or two would do — track that was no longer needed but which was still on the tax rolls. While Perlman had consolidated NYC operations successfully after WWII, PRR reacted at a more leisurely pace. PRR had far more fixed plant than the traffic warranted or could support, and was slow to dismantle excess trackage or replace double or quadruple track with CTC, something NYC had already accomplished. Both companies had intense passenger business; neither was earning much money. Differences aside, NYC and PRR announced merger talks in 1957.
The initial industry reaction was utter surprise. "Who? Why?" Every merger proposal for decades had tried to balance NYC against PRR and create two, three, or four more-or-less equal systems in the east. Traditionally, PRR had been allied with the Norfolk & Western Railway (N&W) and the Wabash Railroad; the NYC with the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (B&O), the Reading Railroad (RDG) and, occasionally, the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad (DL&W). Any remaining players were swept up with the Erie Railroad and the Nickel Plate. Tradition also favored end-to-end mergers rather than those of parallel railroads.
In addition to the problems of unification, the industrial states of the Northeast and Midwest were fast becoming known as the rust belt. As industries shut down and relocated, railroads found themselves with excess capacity.
Planning and justifying the merger took nearly a decade, during which time the eastern railroad scene had changed radically, in large measure because of the impending merger of NYC and PRR. The Erie merged with the DL&W to create the Erie Lackawanna Railway (EL) in 1960, C&O acquired control of B&O, and N&W took in the Virginian Railway, Wabash, Nickel Plate, Pittsburgh & West Virginia and Akron, Canton & Youngstown. Stockholders of the PRR and NYC approved the merger of the two railroads on May 8, 1962. ICC approved the merger four years later, and on February 1, 1968, the Penn Central (PC) came into existence — and fell apart faster than it went together.
At the insistence of the ICC and PRR president Stuart T. Saunders, PC had to take over both freight and passenger operations of the ailing NH as well, which occurred on December 31, 1968. PRR and NYC came into the merger in the black (NH was in the red), but PC's first year of operation yielded a deficit of $2.8 million ($18,485,359 today). In 1969 the deficit was nearly $83 million ($519,616,152 today). PC's net income for 1970 was a deficit of $325.8 million ($1,926,044,730 today). By then the railroad had entered bankruptcy proceedings — specifically on June 21, 1970. The PC bankruptcy was a cataclysmic event, both to the railroad industry and to the nation's business community. The nation's sixth largest corporation had become the nation's largest bankruptcy in history (the Enron Corporation's 2001 bankruptcy eclipsed this in large measure).
A number of bypasses and cutoffs were built around congested areas.
The Junction Railroad's Buffalo Belt Line opened in 1871, providing a bypass of Buffalo, New York to the northeast, as well as a loop route for passenger trains via downtown. The West Shore Railroad, acquired in 1885, provided a bypass around Rochester, New York. The Terminal Railway's Gardenville Cutoff, allowing through traffic to bypass Buffalo to the southeast, opened in 1898.
The Schenectady Detour consisted of two connections to the West Shore Railroad, allowing through trains to bypass the steep grades at Schenectady, New York. The full project opened in 1902. The Cleveland Short Line Railway built a bypass of Cleveland, Ohio, completed in 1912. In 1924, the Alfred H. Smith Memorial Bridge was constructed as part of the Hudson River Connecting Railroad's Castleton Cut-Off, a 27.5-mile-long freight bypass of the congested West Albany terminal area and West Albany Hill.
An unrelated realignment was made in the 1910s at Rome, when the Erie Canal was realigned and widened onto a new alignment south of downtown Rome. The NYC main line was shifted south out of downtown to the south bank of the new canal. A bridge was built southeast of downtown, roughly where the old main line crossed the path of the canal, to keep access to from the southeast. West of downtown, the old main line was abandoned, but a brand new railroad line was built, running north from the NYC main line to the Central's former RW&O, allowing all NYC through traffic to bypass Rome.
For two-thirds of the 20th century NYC operated several famous trains. Its 20th Century Limited
, begun in 1902, ran from GCT in New York to LaSalle Street Station in Chicago and was its most famous train, known for its red carpet treatment and first class service. In the mid-1930s many railroad companies were introducing streamlined locomotives; until NYC introduced the Commodore Vanderbilt
, all were diesel-electric. The Vanderbilt
used the more common steam engine. The 20th Century Limited
which followed the Water Level Route, could complete the 960-mile trip in 16 hours after its streamlining on June 15, 1938 (and did it in 15½ hours for a short period after World War II). Also famous was its Empire State Express
through upstate New York to Buffalo and Cleveland, and Ohio State Limited
from New York to Cincinnati. NYC also provided the Rexall Train of 1936, which toured 47 states to promote the Rexall chain of drug stores.
The Mercuries (1936-1959)
New York-St. Louis
Trains left GCT, Weehawken Terminal in Weehawken, New Jersey, South Station in Boston, Cincinnati Union Terminal in Cincinnati, Michigan Central Station in Detroit, St. Louis Union Station, and LaSalle Street Station in Chicago.
The NYC had a network of commuter lines in New York and Massachusetts. Westchester County, New York, had the railroad's Hudson, Harlem, and Putnam lines into GCT (Putnam Division trains required a change at High Bridge, New York), while New Jersey and Rockland County, New York were serviced by the West Shore Line between Weehawken and West Haverstraw, New York, on the west side of the Hudson River.
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The Great Migration was the movement of 6 million African Americans out of the rural Southern United States to the Northeast, Midwest, and West for most of the 20th century. Some historians differentiate between the first Great Migration (1910–1930), numbering about 1.6 million migrants who left mostly rural areas to migrate to northern and midwestern industrial cities, and, after a lull during the Great Depression, a Second Great Migration (1940 to 1970), in which 5 million or more people moved, including many to California and other western cities.
Between 1910 and 1970, blacks moved from 14 states of the South, especially Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas to the other three cultural (and census-designated) regions of the United States. More townspeople with urban skills moved during the second migration. By the end of the Second Great Migration, African Americans had become an urbanized population. More than 80 percent lived in cities. A majority of 53 percent remained in the South, while 40 percent lived in the North and 7 percent in the West.
A reverse migration had gathered strength since 1965, dubbed the New Great Migration, the term for demographic changes from 1965 to the present in which many blacks have returned to the South, generally to states and cities where economic opportunities are the best. Since 1965, economic difficulties of cities in the Northeastern and Midwestern United States, growth of jobs in the "New South" with lower costs of living, family and kinship ties, and improving racial relations have all acted to attract African Americans to the Southern United States in substantial numbers. As early as 1975 to 1980, seven southern states were net black migration gainers. African-American populations continue to drop throughout much of the Northeast, particularly with black emigration out of the state of New York, as well as out of Northern New Jersey, as they rise in the Southern United States.
James Gregory Bennett calculates decade-by-decade migration volumes in his book, The Southern Diaspora. Black migration picked up from the start of the new century, with 204,000 leaving in the first decade. The pace accelerated with the outbreak of World War I and continued through the 1920s. By 1930, there were 1.3 million former southerners living in other regions.
The Great Depression wiped out job opportunities in the northern industrial belt, especially for African Americans, and caused a sharp reduction in migration, but a second and larger Great Migration began as defense industries geared up for World War II. 1.4 million black southerners moved north or west in the 1940s followed by 1.1 million in the 1950s and another 2.4 million people in the 1960s and 1970s. By the late 1970s, as deindustrialization and the rust belt crisis took hold, the Great Migration came to an end. In the 1980s and 1990s more black Americans were heading South than leaving that region.
Big cities were the principal destinations of southerners throughout the two phases of the Great Migration. In the first phase eight major cities attracted two-thirds of the migrants: New York and Chicago followed in order by Philadelphia, St. Louis, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Indianapolis. The Second great black migration increased the populations of these cities while adding others. West Coast cities (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Phoenix, Seattle, Portland) now attracted African Americans in large numbers.
When the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863, less than eight percent of the African-American population lived in the Northeastern or Midwestern United States. This began to change over the next decade, and by 1880, a migration was underway to Kansas. The U. S. Senate ordered an investigation into it. In 1900, about 90 percent of blacks still lived in Southern states. They also moved to Canada in order to maintain safe haven from anti-abolitionists.
Between 1910 and 1930, the African-American population increased by about forty percent in Northern states as a result of the migration, mostly in the major cities. Cities including Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, and New York City had some of the biggest increases in the early part of the 20th century. Blacks were recruited for industrial jobs, such as positions with the expansion of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Because changes were concentrated in cities, which had also attracted millions of new or recent European immigrants, tensions rose as the people competed for jobs and housing. Tensions were often most severe between ethnic Irish, defending their recently gained positions and territory, and recent immigrants and blacks.
African-Americans moved as individuals or small family groups. There was no government assistance, but often northern industries, such as the railroads, meatpacking, and stockyards recruited people. The primary push factors for migration were segregation, the widespread violence of lynching, and lack of opportunities in the South. Nearly 3,500 African-Americans were lynched between 1882 and 1968. In the North, they could find better schools and adult men could vote (joined by women after 1920). Burgeoning industries created job opportunities.
In her Pulitzer Prize–winning book The Warmth of Other Suns, journalist Isabel Wilkerson described the migration as "six million black Southerners [moving] out of the terror of Jim Crow to an uncertain existence in the North and Midwest."][ This significant event and the subsequent struggle of African-American migrants to adapt to Northern cities was the subject of Jacob Lawrence's Migration Series, created when he was a young man in New York.
Exhibited in 1941 at the Museum of Modern Art, Lawrence's Series featured the young artist and he was quickly perceived as one of the most important African-American artists of the time.
The Great Migration drained off most of the rural black population of the South, and indeed for a time froze African-American population growth in parts of the region. A number of states experienced decades of black population decline, especially across the Deep South "black belt" where cotton had been king. In 1910, African Americans constituted more than half the population of South Carolina and Mississippi, and more than 40 percent in Georgia, Alabama, Texas and Louisiana; by 1970, only in Mississippi did African-American representation remain above 30 percent. “The disappearance of the ‘black belt’ was one of the striking effects” of the Great Migration, James Gregory wrote.
The growing black presence outside the South was still more significant. In 1900, only 740,000 African Americans lived outside the South, just 8 percent of the nation's total black population. By 1970, more than 10.6 million African Americans lived outside the South, 47 percent of the nation's total.)
Because the migrants concentrated in the big cities of the north and west, their impact was magnified. Cities that had been virtually all white at the start of the century became centers of black culture and politics after mid-century. Segregation imposed severe economic and social costs but also allowed the northern “Black metropolises” to develop an important infrastructure of newspapers, businesses, jazz clubs, churches, and political organizations that provided the staging ground for new forms of racial politics and new forms of black culture.
The Great Migration created the first large urban black communities in the North. It is conservatively estimated that 400,000 African Americans left the South in 1916 through 1918 to take advantage of a labor shortage in the wake of the First World War.
In 1910, the African-American population of Detroit was 6,000. The Great Migration, and immigration from eastern and southern Europe, rapidly turned the city into the country's fourth-largest. By the start of the Great Depression in 1929, the city's African-American population had increased to 120,000.
In 1900–01, Chicago had a total population of 1,754,473. By 1920, the city had added more than 1 million residents. During the second wave of the Great Migration (1940–60), the African-American population in the city grew from 278,000 to 813,000.
The flow of African Americans to Ohio, particularly to Cleveland, changed the demographics of the state and the primary industrial city. Before the Great Migration, an estimated 1.1% to 1.6% of Cleveland’s population was AfricanAmerican. By 1920, 4.3% of Cleveland's population was African American. The number of African Americans in Cleveland continued to rise over the next 20 years of the Great Migration.
Other northern and midwestern industrial cities, such as St. Louis, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Omaha, and New York City, also saw dramatic increases in their African-American populations. By the 1920s, New York's Harlem became a center of black cultural life, influenced by the American migrants as well as new immigrants from the Caribbean area.
Other industrial cities that were destinations for numerous black migrants were Buffalo, Rochester, New York, Boston, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Kansas City, St. Louis, Columbus, Cincinnati, Grand Rapids and Indianapolis, and smaller industrial cities such as Gary, Dayton, Toledo, Youngstown, Peoria, Muskegon, Newark, Flint, Saginaw, and Albany. People tended to take the cheapest rail ticket possible and go to areas where they had relatives and friends. For example, many people from Mississippi moved directly north by train to Chicago, from Alabama to Cleveland and Detroit, and in the second migration, from Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi to California.
Throughout the South, the departure of hundreds of thousands of African Americans caused the black percentage of the population in most Southern states to decrease dramatically. For example, in Mississippi, blacks decreased from about 56% of the population in 1910 to about 37% by 1970 and in South Carolina, blacks decreased from about 55% of the population in 1910 to about 30% by 1970.
While the Great Migration helped educated African Americans obtain jobs, eventually enabling a measure of class mobility, the migrants encountered significant forms of discrimination. Because so many people migrated in a short period of time, the African-American migrants were often resented by the urban European-American working class (often themselves recent immigrants); fearing their ability to negotiate rates of pay or secure employment, they felt threatened by the influx of new labor competition. Sometimes those who were most fearful or resentful were the last immigrants of the 19th and new immigrants of the 20th century. In many cities, working classes tried to defend what they saw as "their" territories.][
African Americans made substantial gains in industrial employment, particularly in the steel, automobile, shipbuilding, and meatpacking industries. Between 1910 and 1920, the number of blacks employed in industry nearly doubled from 500,000 to 901,000. After the Great Depression, more advances took place after workers in the steel and meatpacking industries were organized in labor unions in the 1930s and 1940s, under the interracial Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). The unions ended the segregation of many jobs, and African Americans began to advance into more skilled jobs and supervisory positions.
Populations increased so rapidly among both African-American migrants and new European immigrants that there were housing shortages in many major cities, and the newer groups competed for the oldest, most rundown housing. Ethnic groups created territories which they defended against change. Discrimination often restricted African Americans to crowded neighborhoods. The more established populations of cities tended to move to newer housing as it was developing in the outskirts. Mortgage discrimination and redlining in inner city areas limited the newer African-American migrants' ability to determine their own housing, or obtain a fair price. In the long term, the National Housing Act of 1934 contributed to limiting the availability of loans to urban areas, particularly those areas inhabited by African Americans.
In cities like Newark (New Jersey), New York and Chicago, African-Americans became increasingly integrated into society. As they lived and worked more closely with European Americans, the divide existing between them became increasingly indefinite. This period marked the transition for many African Americans from lifestyles as rural farmers to urban industrial workers.][
Migrants often encountered residential discrimination, in which white home owners and realtors prevented migrants from purchasing homes or renting apartments in white neighborhoods. In addition, when blacks moved into white neighborhoods, whites would immediately relocate out of fear of a potential rise in property crime, rape, drugs and violence that was attributed to neighborhoods with large black populations. These tendencies contributed to maintaining the "racial divide" in the North, perhaps accentuating it. By the late 1950s and 1960s, African Americans were hyper-urban, more densely concentrated in inner cities than other groups.
Since African-American migrants retained many Southern cultural and linguistic traits, such cultural differences created a sense of "otherness" in terms of their reception by others who were living in the cities before them. Stereotypes ascribed to black people during this period and ensuing generations often derived from African-American migrants' rural cultural traditions, which were maintained in stark contrast to the urban environments in which the people resided.
The Great Depression of the 1930s somewhat lessened the mobility seen in the earlier migration, which rebounded during World War II. After the political and civil gains of the African-American Civil Rights Movement (1955–1968), in the 1960s, mobility began to increase again.
A map of the black % of the U.S. population by each state/territory in 1900.
Black = 35.00+%
Brown = 20.00-34.99%
Red = 10.00-19.99%
Orange = 5.00-9.99%
Light orange = 1.00-4.99%
Gray = 0.99% or less
Magenta = No data available
A map of the black % of the U.S. population by each state/territory in 1990.
Black = 35.00+%
Brown = 20.00–34.99%
Red = 10.00–19.99%
Orange = 5.00–9.99%
Light orange = 1.00–4.99%
Gray = 0.99% or less
Pink = No data available
A map showing the black population % change by U.S. state between 1900 and 1990.
Light purple = Population decline
Very light green = Population growth of 0.01–9.99%
Light green = Population growth of 10.00–99.99%
Green = Population growth of 100.00–999.99%
Dark green = Population growth of 1,000.00–9,999.99%
Very dark green/Black = Population growth of 10,000.00% of more
Gray = No data available
The northern and southern Great Plains are a broad expanse of flat land, much of it covered in prairie, steppe and grassland, which lies west of the Mississippi River and east of the Rocky Mountains in the United States and Canada. This area covers parts of the U.S. states of Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming, and the Canadian provinces of Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
The Canadian portion of the Plains is known as the Prairies. Some geographers include some territory of Mexico in the Plains, but many stop at the Rio Grande. The region is known for supporting extensive ranching and agriculture.
The term Great Plains is used in the United States to describe a sub-section of the even more vast Interior Plains physiographic division, which covers much of the interior of North America. It also has currency as a region of human geography, referring to the Plains Indians or the Plains States.
In Canada the term is little used; Natural Resources Canada, the government department responsible for official mapping and equivalent to the United States Geological Survey, treats the Interior Plains as one unit consisting of several related plateaux and plains. There is no region referred to as the "Great Plains" in The Atlas of Canada. In terms of human geography, the term prairie is more commonly used in Canada, and the region is known as the Prairie Provinces or simply "the Prairies."
The North American Environmental Atlas, produced by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, a NAFTA agency composed of the geographical agencies of the Mexican, American, and Canadian governments uses the "Great Plains" as an ecoregion synonymous with prairies and grasslands rather than as physiographic region defined by topography.
The region is about 500 mi (800 km) east to west and 2,000 mi (3,200 km) north to south. Much of the region was home to American Bison herds until they were hunted to near extinction during the mid/late 19th century. It has an area of approximately 1,300,000 km2 (500,000 sq mi). Current thinking regarding the geographic boundaries of the Great Plains is shown by this map at the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska–Lincoln.
The term "Great Plains", for the region west of about the 96th or 98th meridian and east of the Rocky Mountains, was not generally used before the early 20th century. Nevin Fenneman's 1916 study, Physiographic Subdivision of the United States, brought the term Great Plains into more widespread usage. Before that the region was almost invariably called the High Plains, in contrast to the lower Prairie Plains of the Midwestern states. Today the term "High Plains" is used for a subregion of the Great Plains.
The Great Plains are the westernmost portion of the vast North American Interior Plains, which extend east to the Appalachian Plateau. The United States Geological Survey divides the Great Plains in the United States into ten physiographic subdivisions:
During the Cretaceous Period (145-65 million years ago), the Great Plains was covered by a shallow inland sea called the Western Interior Seaway. However, during the Late Cretaceous to the Paleocene (65-55 million years ago), the seaway had begun to recede, leaving behind thick marine deposits and a relatively flat terrain where the seaway had once occupied.
Paleontological finds in the area have yielded bones of woolly mammoths, saber toothed tigers and other ancient animals, as well as dozens of other megafauna (large animals over 100 lb (45 kg)) – such as giant sloths, horses, mastodons, and American lion – that dominated the area of the ancient Great Plains for millions of years. The vast majority of these animals went extinct in North America around 13,000 years ago during the end of the Pleistocene.
In general, the Great Plains have a wide variety of weather through the year, with very cold and harsh winters and very hot and humid summers. Wind speeds are often very high. Grasslands are among the least protected biomes. Humans have converted much of the prairies for agricultural purposes or to create pastures. The Great Plains have dust storms mostly every year or so.
The 100th meridian roughly corresponds with the line that divides the Great Plains into an area that receive 20 inches (510 millimetres) or more of rainfall per year and an area that receives less than 20 in (510 mm). In this context, the High Plains, as well as Southern Alberta, south-western Saskatchewan and Eastern Montana are mainly semi hot steppe land and are generally characterised by rangeland or marginal farmland. The region (especially the High Plains) is periodically subjected to extended periods of drought; high winds in the region may then generate devastating dust storms. The eastern Great Plains near the eastern boundary falls in the humid subtropical climate zone in the southern areas, and the northern and central areas fall in the humid continental climate.
Many thunderstorms occur in the plains in the spring through summer. The southeastern portion of the Great Plains is the most tornado active area in the world and is sometimes referred to as Tornado Alley.
The Great Plains are part of the floristic North American Prairies Province, which extends from the Rocky Mountains to the Appalachians.
The first Americans (Paleo-Indians) who arrived to the Great Plains were successive indigenous cultures who are known to have inhabited the Great Plains for thousands of years, perhaps 10,000 years. Humans entered the North American continent in waves of migration, mostly over Beringia, the Bering Straits land bridge.
Historically the Great Plains were the range of the bison and of the culture of the Plains Indians, whose tribes included the Blackfoot, Crow, Sioux, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Comanche, and others. Eastern portions of the Great Plains were inhabited by tribes who lived in semipermanent villages of earth lodges, such as the Arikara, Mandan, Pawnee and Wichita.
With the arrival of Francisco Vázquez de Coronado, a Spanish conquistador, the first recorded history of encounter between Europeans and Native Americans in the Great Plains occurred in Texas, Kansas and Nebraska from 1540-1542. In that same time period, Hernando de Soto crossed a west-northwest direction in what is now Oklahoma and Texas. Today this is known as the De Soto Trail. The Spanish thought the Great Plains were the location of the mythological Quivira and Cíbola, a place said to be rich in gold.
Over the next one hundred years, founding of the fur trade brought thousands of ethnic Europeans into the Great Plains. Fur trappers from France, Spain, Britain, Russia and the young United States made their way across much of the region, making regular contacts with Native Americans. After the United States acquired the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 and conducted the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1804-1806, more information about the Plains became available and various pioneers entered the areas.
Manuel Lisa, based in St. Louis, established a major fur trading site at his Fort Lisa on the Missouri River in Nebraska. Fur trading posts were often the basis of later settlements. Through the 19th century, more European Americans and Europeans migrated to the Great Plains as part of a vast westward expansion of population. New settlements became dotted across the Great Plains.
The new immigrants also brought diseases against which the Native Americans had no resistance. According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), "between one-half and two-thirds of the Plains Indians had died of smallpox by the time of the Louisiana Purchase."
After 1870, the new railroads across the Plains brought hunters who killed off almost all the bison for their hides. The railroads offered attractive packages of land and transportation to European farmers, who rushed to settle the land. They (and Americans as well) also took advantage of the homestead laws to obtain free farms.
Much of the Great Plains became open range, or rangeland where cattle roamed free, hosting ranching operations where anyone was theoretically free to run cattle. In the spring and fall, ranchers held roundups where their cowboys branded new calves, treated animals and sorted the cattle for sale. Such ranching began in Texas and gradually moved northward. In 1866-95, cowboys herded 10 million cattle north to rail heads such as Dodge City, Kansas and Ogallala, Nebraska; from there, cattle were shipped eastward.
Many foreign investors, especially British, financed the great ranches of the era. Overstocking of the range and the terrible winter of 1886 resulted in a disaster, with many cattle starved and frozen to death. Theodore Roosevelt, a rancher in the Dakotas, lost his entire investment; he returned east to reenter politics. From then on, ranchers generally raised feed to ensure they could keep their cattle alive over winter.
To allow for agricultural development of the Great Plains and house a growing population, the US passed the Homestead Act of 1862: it allowed a settler to claim up to 160 acres (65 ha) of land, provided that he lived on it for a period of five years and cultivated it. The provisions were expanded under the Kinkaid Act of 1904 to include a homestead of an entire section. Hundreds of thousands of people claimed such homesteads, sometimes building sod houses out of the very turf of their land. Many of them were not skilled dryland farmers and failures were frequent. Much of the Plains were settled during relatively wet years. Government experts did not understand how farmers should cultivate the prairies and gave advice counter to what would have worked][. Germans from Russia who had previously farmed, under similar circumstances, in what is now the Ukraine were marginally more successful than other homesteaders. The Dominion Lands Act of 1871 served a similar function for establishing homesteads on the prairies in Canada.
The railroads opened up the Great Plains for settlement, for now it was possible to ship wheat and other crops at low cost to the urban markets in the East, and Europe. Homestead land was free for American settlers, railroads sold their land at cheap rates to immigrants in expectation they would generate traffic as soon as the farms were established. Immigrants poured in, especially from Germany and Scandinavia. On the plains, very few single men attempted to operate a farm or ranch by themselves; they clearly understood the need for a hard-working wife, and numerous children, to handle the many chores, including child-rearing, feeding and clothing the family, managing the housework, feeding the hired hands, and, especially after the 1930s, handling the paperwork and financial details. During the early years of settlement in the late 19th century, farm women played an integral role in assuring family survival by working outdoors. After a generation or so, women increasingly left the fields, thus redefining their roles within the family. New conveniences such as sewing and washing machines encouraged women to turn to domestic roles. The scientific housekeeping movement, promoted across the land by the media and government extension agents, as well as county fairs which featured achievements in home cookery and canning, advice columns for women in the farm papers, and home economics courses in the schools.
Although the eastern image of farm life in the prairies emphasized the isolation of the lonely farmer and farm wife, supposedly with few neighbors within range. In reality, they created a rich social life for themselves. They often sponsored activities that combined work, food, and entertainment such as barn raisings, corn huskings, quilting bees, Grange meetings, church activities, and school functions. The womenfolk organized shared meals and potluck events, as well as extended visits between families. The Grange was a nationwide farmers' organization, the reserved high offices for women, and gave them a voice in public affairs.
The region roughly centered on the Oklahoma Panhandle, including southeastern Colorado, southwestern Kansas, the Texas Panhandle, and extreme northeastern New Mexico was known as the Dust Bowl during the late 1920s and early 1930s. The effect of an extended drought, inappropriate cultivation, and financial crises of the Great Depression, forced many farmers off the land throughout the Great Plains.
From the 1950s on, many areas of the Great Plains have become productive crop-growing areas because of extensive irrigation on large landholdings. The United States is a major exporter of agricultural products. The southern portion of the Great Plains lies over the Ogallala Aquifer, a huge underground layer of water-bearing strata dating from the last ice age. Center pivot irrigation is used extensively in drier sections of the Great Plains, resulting in aquifer depletion at a rate that is greater than the ground's ability to recharge.
The rural Plains have lost a third of their population since 1920. Several hundred thousand square miles of the Great Plains have fewer than six persons per square mile—the density standard Frederick Jackson Turner used to declare the American frontier "closed" in 1893. Many have fewer than two persons per square mile. There are more than 6,000 ghost towns in the state of Kansas alone, according to Kansas historian Daniel Fitzgerald. This problem is often exacerbated by the consolidation of farms and the difficulty of attracting modern industry to the region. In addition, the smaller school-age population has forced the consolidation of school districts and the closure of high schools in some communities. The continuing population loss has led some to suggest that the current use of the drier parts of the Great Plains is not sustainable. (See Depopulation of the Great Plains and Buffalo Commons)
The Great Plains contribute substantially to wind power in the United States. In July 2008, oilman turned wind-farm developer T. Boone Pickens called for the U.S. to invest $1 trillion to build an additional 200,000 MW of wind power nameplate capacity in the Plains, as part of his Pickens Plan. Pickens cited Sweetwater, Texas as an example of economic revitalization driven by wind power development.
Sweetwater was a struggling town typical of the Plains, steadily losing businesses and population, until wind turbines came to the surrounding Nolan County. Wind power brought jobs to local residents, along with royalty payments to landowners who leased sites for turbines, reversing the town's population decline. Pickens claims the same economic benefits are possible throughout the Plains, which he refers to as North America's "wind corridor."