3) Westward Expansion
Pioneering and westward expansion also fueled the growth of railroads while railroads, in turn, fueled pioneering and expansion. Pioneers' movement West created demand for means of transportation to new territories. That demand rose in 1848 when America acquired California at the end of the Mexican War and a man discovered gold in this future state. The demand was eventually met in part by railroads, which increased expansion by fostering migration and adding railroad laborers to the population of pioneers.
Between 1850 and 1857, the Appalachian Mountains were crossed by five railway lines linking the Midwest and the East. In the late 1850s, a continuous line connected the lower Mississippi River with the southern Atlantic seaboard. And, on May 10, 1869, laborers completed the transcontinental railroad, linking the continent.
Students can search on California and the railroad lines Union Pacific and Central Pacific to find maps of the western region. To assist in their understanding of frontier life, students can read books in the collections California As I Saw It: First-Person Narratives of California's Early Years, 1849-1900 and Pioneering the Upper Midwest: Books from Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, ca. 1820-1910. Use the option of searching the descriptive information of each collection on railroad. Students can use the maps of California and the western territories in Railroad Maps, 1828-1900 to see the railroad lines discussed by the authors. From these readings students will gain a sense of the importance of the railroad to the pioneer lifestyle and the impact of the railroad on their lives.