Historical Issue-Analysis and Decision-Making
When railroad companies needed to decide where to build new railroad lines, many issues were analyzed. Students can read The Transcontinental Railroad from the special presentation, History of Railroads and Maps, and then list the geographic, economic, political, and social factors influencing the selection of the route for the first transcontinental railroad. In addition, they can discuss the different goals people sought to achieve with a transcontinental railroad. For example, while Abraham Lincoln saw the transcontinental railroad as a way to unite East and West into one nation, builder Theodore D. Judah inspired his co-investors with promises of wealth and fame. In researching the best route, the government designated the Secretary of War Jefferson Davis to survey possible routes to the Pacific in 1853. Why was the Secretary of War chosen for this task? What goals might he have had in mind?
Students can search on trans-continental or transcontinental and proposed to see researched train routes. Students can compare the process of choosing railroad routes to that of deciding where to construct interstate highways.