President Lincoln signed the Pacific Railroad Act (1862), which directed the Union Pacific (UP) and Central Pacific (CP) to build the US’s first transcontinental railroad. The railroad was to stretch from Missouri to the Pacific, described by a Boston paper as a ‘ruinous space’, both to encourage trade and settlement and to contribute to Union defences in the US Civil War. The UP, built using Irish labour, was to meet the CP at Promontory Summit, Utah, to the north of the Great Salt Lake. After construction delays, it was completed on schedule in 1869. It cost $500,000 to lay every 40 miles ( 64.37 km) of track and much of the timber for the tracks had to be imported in treeless regions, in particular Nebraska. Routes fanned northwards to Seattle, Washington, and southwards to Los Angeles, California from Kansas City, Missouri, and Council Bluffs, Iowa. The UP was a highly successful railway and provided useful ‘flows of traffic’ during the two world wars. In 1960–61, it began a hostile merger with the Rock Island railroad to create a direct link to Chicago.
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