The Missouri Pacific (MP), chartered by Missouri in 1849, was the first railroad to be built west of the Mississippi River, and was to stretch from ‘St Louis to the western boundary of Missouri and thence to the Pacific Ocean’. The gold rush in 1848 had highlighted the need for a fast and efficient transport system in the southwest. Despite several years of delay in construction (caused by a cholera epidemic and a major steamboat fire) the MP had grown into a major railroad by the late 19th century, flourishing under the ownership of New York financier Jay Gould (d. 1892). It spanned eleven central southwestern states and merged with the St Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railroad in 1917. In 1961, the railroad pioneered computer-guided rail technology and by the 1980s, owned 11,469 miles (18,457 km) of rail line. In 1982, it merged with the Union Pacific and Western Pacific Railroad, but retained its corporate identity.
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