A Nation is Joined, East to West
Nearly 150 years ago, President Lincoln signed the Pacific Railroad Act. With this historic stroke of a pen, the stage was set for Union Pacific to open the American West to settlers and, in the process, connect a continent. The transcontinental route heralded the Industrial Revolution and modernized transportation, turning the grueling, six-month, $1,000 journey from New York to San Francisco into a weeklong trip costing a mere $70.
It took an army of 20,000 men, working 12 to 16 hours a day, seven days a week, for six years, to connect America east to west by rail. It was a remarkable feat, as the system was built primarily by hand. With the driving of the Golden Spike on May 10, 1869, the route was complete, and a vast, largely unpopulated region was poised for growth.
Beginning a Legacy, Building a Nation
To promote development of America's expansive frontier, Union Pacific advertised worldwide for immigrants in search of a better way of life. The railroad offered unprecedented incentives to the new settlers, including land deals, transportation and lodging, along with seed for crops and even breeding stock to establish new cattle herds.
The call to settle the west was answered as ten of thousands of people sought to fulfill their dreams, as well as the nation's Manifest Destiny. Soon, the western two-thirds of the country was thriving. And what were once merely water and supply stops along the rail line grew into literally thousands of towns, many of which developed into major population centers such as Denver, Salt Lake City, Cheyenne and Las Vegas. In fact, as many as 7,000 communities throughout the west can trace their origins directly to a Union Pacific depot.