How Did The First Transcontinental Railroad Affect Westward Expansion

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Railroad development was paramount in shaping westward expansion and urban growth from 1860 to 1890. Conversely, rapid growth of cities in eastern America eventually led to overproduction of railways based on privatized industry and government subsidies. This symbiotic relationship fueled industrialization and rapid economic recovery for a country so desperately in need. In 1860 railroads hardly expanded further west than St. Louis. Many Americans believed the west to be comprised of nothing but dry desert and conflict with Native Americans. By 1870 the first transcontinental railroad connected San Fransisco to New York City. This was the proof of concept that led to increased production of railways west of the Mississippi. “The five transcontinental railroads with other subsidiary lines framed the network in the west, and pulled millions of settlers and pioneers into the Great West” (Wang 226). This mass migration was also correlated to the creation of cities and industries as well …show more content…
Prior to railroads, many families did not have the resources to resettle in the west or even move to a neighboring city. “In 1881, a ticket from New York to Chicago reached a low of five dollars, and at one time in 1884 the Chicago to St. Louis fare dropped to only one dollar” (Wang 227). Americans were no longer handcuffed to a particular region and businesses were no longer forced to recruit from the local population. The flexibility that railroads created in the workforce directly affected urbanization and western expansion. Railroads also made rapid urbanization possible in the eastern states by making iron and steel more accessible for the building of skyscrapers, giving an expanding workforce somewhere to live. Transportation by rail made suburban living possible for those who did not prefer city living, creating a secondary expansion of existing

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