On May 10, 1869, railroad officials, political leaders and work gangs converged at Promontory Point, Utah, to drive in the last spike of the Pacific Railroad, the first of five transcontinental railroads built in the 19th century. The driving of the spike linked the Union Pacific line built from East to West with the Central Pacific, which had commenced construction in California.
General Grenville M. Dodge had served as Sherman’s engineer in the Atlanta Campaign and near the end of the [Civil] was made chief engineer of the Union Pacific. Dodge’s efficient and hardworking ways helped propel construction three years ahead of the government’s timeline. Work crews carved a railed through the Rocky Mountains, often in the face of attacks from Native American tribes. As many as 10,000 laborers worked on each line at any given
time. The ceremony marked a high point in the golden age of railroading in the United States.
From 1865 to 1914 the nation’s railway network grew almost eight-fold from 35,000 to 254,000 miles. The federal government gave railroads more than 100 million acres and $64 million in loans and tax breaks to finance the expansion, which also helped generate enormous profits for many of the railroad companies. The advent of a rail system led to the introduction of four standard time zones in the country to permit for a national schedule system. Railroads paved the way for the uniting of the country as a single economic entity, tying the Atlantic to the Pacific, farmers to manufacturers and producers to consumers. (document continued on link above.)