The Impact of the Railroads in the Western U.S.

 
 
 
 
This paper will discuss the impact of the railroads on the development of cities and towns in the western United States. During the last four decades of the nineteenth century, rapid development in the railroad industry facilitated the settlement and growth of America's western territories. In addition, the coming of the railroads sped up the process of development in the major urban centers of the West, such as Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, Phoenix, Albuquerque and Salt Lake City. In this regard, it has been noted that "the great railroads made large towns out of small ones, helped transform villages into cities, transported immigrant settlers, and moved products nationwide, into and from factories engaged in mass production, thereby creating the basis for a national economic market" (Weinstein & Gatell, 1981, p. 576).

During the early part of the nineteenth century, many American citizens began moving westward in search of new lands to settle, cultivate and raise livestock on. In 1849, the discovery of gold in California created a truly urgent desire on the part of many Easterners to seek their fortunes in the West. However, the journey to the West was a long, hard and dangerous one, complicated by such factors as the Rocky Mountains and hostile Plains Indians. Thus, with the discovery of gold in the West, "suddenly, unexpectedly, the nation found itself possessed of a continent without a means of transportation or communication to conn

     
 
 
 
    

 

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