On this day in 1869, the West and the East had finally converged to unite the states in the transcontinental railroad. For the first time in US history, travel to the Pacific Ocean was accessible and simple. Not only did the Union Pacific and Center Pacific railroads provide jobs for countless veterans and immigrants, but they also significantly altered the landscape and socio-economic climate of America.
Since the first movement of Westward Expansion, the relatively unoccupied west was opened up for more colonization and expansion. The dangers of the tedious journey west, which normally would have taken months were virtually eliminated for a destination of a few days.
The building of the rail, however, was not a task for the faint of heart. Amid harsh midwestern winters and brutal prairie summers, Indian wars, disease, and wild animals, the brave rail workers battled horrible working conditions, long hours, and little pay to provide nearly 2,000 miles of service that would ultimately forever cement the previously divided country.
After nearly six years of back-breaking construction, on this day in 1869 the Central Pacific Railroad Company of California President Leland Stanford ceremonially drove the last Golden Spike to commemorate the historic moment and officially open the railroad for business.
The West was officially open.
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