Throughout the expansion westward and the Industrial Revolution, it became clear that the rail system was the ticket to a more unified and advanced society. People wanted to move out west, and the easiest way to travel there, as well as deliver and send materials across country was through an in depth system. In 1862, that system came in the form of the Pacific Railroad Act, which chartered the Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroad Companies. These companies would be in charge of building the Transcontinental Railroad, essentially linking the east and the west. The two companies would head towards each other in the build, one starting from Sacramento, California, and the other in Omaha, Nebraska. It took seven years to complete, but the long journey was finally completed when the two sides met in Promontory, Utah on May 10, 1869.
The details of the building agreement between the two companies stated where both of them would start, but did not specify where the two companies were to meet. Seeing as how both companies were compensated by the Federal government with 6,400 acres of land (later doubled) and $48,000 in governmental bonds for every mile they built, it was natural that this would create a competition to build faster, because there was no set point for them to meet in the middle. Both sides were led by either people who had no railroad or engineering backgrounds, those who had gained their position through corruption or loopholes, or both. Naturally, both companies struggled to get off to fast starts, with both not starting to build until 1863, and not really accomplishing much until the end of the Civil War in 1865.
Working on this massive railroad was not easy work and was often dangerous. Throughout the Union Pacific’s progress across the plains from Omaha, they were often attacked by Native Americans who rightfully felt like their way of life was being threatened by the white man and his “iron horse”. Add in the fact that it was long hours of work in the heat, with unsuitable living and working conditions, and it is easy to understand why it was difficult to maintain workers. This lead to the Central Pacific company to eventually hire Chinese laborers, which was controversial due to racist preconceptions.
By early 1869, the Central Pacific and worked its way through the mountains, and the Union Pacific had crossed about four times as much distance, leading them to be only miles from each other in Utah. In order to complete the mission, President Ulysses S. Grant vowed to withhold public funding for the project until a meeting point had been decided. On May 10, after several delays, the final spike was driven into the railroad to connect the two lines. Telegraphs were immediately sent to the President and across the country, because the biggest and most influential project of the era had finally been completed.