Construction began on the Central Pacific Railroad on this day in 1862, completing the western part of the First Transcontinental Railroad. Less than a decade later, the presidents of the Union Pacific Railroad and Central Pacific Railroad drove a ceremonial golden spike into the rail line, uniting the railroads and thus, the United States. connecting the civilized Eastern United States to the Wild, Wild West for the first time in history and revolutionizing American travel. One of the first major American public works projects, the 1,912-mile railroad took more than six years to complete using thousands of laborers working under extremely harsh conditions.
“Railroad iron is a magician's rod, in its power to evoke the sleeping energies of land and water.” —
Ralph Waldo Emerson