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Transcontinental: The Construction of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads

The completion of the Transcontinental Railroad was a transformative moment in the history of the United States.  Thanks to the support of the Union Pacific Foundation and several other donors, the John W. Barriger III National Railroad Library is able to make some of our rarest items available in digital format.

We've divided the history of the Transcontinental Railroad project in to several sub-headings:

The Idea

A Project for a Railroad to the Pacific by Asa Whitney

Address of Mr. A. Whitney, before the Legislature of Pennsylvania by Asa Whitney

Pacific Railroad: Report of Theodore Judah by Theodore Judah

The Union Pacific

This section covers material from the Union Pacific's portion of the project starting in Omaha, Nebraska to Promontory Summit, Utah.

List of Corporators of the Union Pacific Railroad

Report on the Organization and Proceedings of the Union Pacific Railroad Company.

Union Pacific R. R. Views by Andrew J. Russell

Report of Peter A. Dey, Engineer in Charge of Preliminary Surveys 1864.

Message of the President of the United States March 11, 1864

Report of the Consulting Engineer on the Location between Omaha City and Platte Valley, 1865.

Letter of the Secretary of the Interior January 22, 1866.

Papers Relating to the Central Branch, 1867.

Message from the President of the United States January 9, 1868

Letter from the Secretary of the Interior communicating in compliance with a resolution of the Senate of the 14th instant, the report of Jesse L. Williams, esq, the government director of the Union Pacific Railroad on the condition of said railroad, 1868.

Troops on the Union Pacific Railroad 1868.

Message of the President of the United States March 15, 1869.

Letter of the Secretary of the Interior February 3, 1869.

Union Pacific Railroad Timetable to Take Effect May 10, 1869.

The Central Pacific

This section covers material from the Central Pacific's portion of the project starting in Sacramento, California to Promontory Summit, Utah.

Railroad Communication with the Pacific, with an Account of the Central Pacific Railroad, 1867.

By-Laws of the Central Pacific Railroad Company of California.

Report of the Chief Engineer of the Central Pacific Railroad Company 1861.

Report of the Chief Engineer of the Central Pacific Railroad Company 1862.

Report of the Chief Engineer of the Central Pacific Railroad Company 1863.

Report of the Chief Engineer of the Central Pacific Railroad Company 1864.

Report of the Chief Engineer of the Central Pacific Railroad Company 1865.

The Golden Spike

This section covers the events of May 10, 1869 and how they were reported by contemporary sources.

The American Railroad Journal May 15, 1869 page 559.

The St. Louis Missouri Republican May 11, 1869 page 2.

The Commemorations

The completion of the Transcontinental Railroad was memorialized several times up to and including the centennial year of 1969.  This section showcases some of the earlier celebrations.

History of the Union Pacific Railroad-1919 Edition for 50th Anniversary of the Golden Spike

75 Years of Progress-Hsitorical Sketch of the Southern Pacific

History of the Southern Pacific-1932

John W. Barriger III's Trip to the Golden Spike Centennial in 1969

Other Resources

From Lampo Junction to Rozel The Archaeological History of the Transcontinental Railroad Across the Promontory Mountains, Utah

Bibliography

The Transcontinental Railroad; General Histories:

Empire Express: Building the First Transcontinental Railroad by David Haward Bain.

The Union Pacific Railroad:

Union Pacific (3 volumes) by Maury Klein.

How we Built the Union Pacific Railroad by Grenville M. Dodge.

The Central Pacific Railroad:

Sunset Limited: The Southern Pacific Railroad and the Development of the American West, 1850-1930. by Richard J. Orsi.

The Big Four; the story of Huntington, Stanford, Hopkins and Crocker, and of the building of the Central Pacific by Oscar Lewis.

History of the Promontory Site:

The Un-Driving of the Golden Spike by Jeff Terry, Thornton H. Waite and James J. Reisdorff.


up2cbt.gif  Support for "Transcontinental" is provided by the Union Pacific Foundation.