Rail-Road network Transition Westward in USA


Rail-Road network Transition Westward in USA

The American history is rich with stories of revolutions and expansions. The most prominent of these expansions was the movement to the western side of the country. By the start of the 19th century, the Eastward was booming with settlement and expansion and the doctrines that run them was the “Manifest destiny”. The doctrine was useful is their expansion across the continent and absorbing the indigenous lands. The west was their major area and the expansion to the side took various fronts. The railroad network was the main focus of the integration of the regions and opened up these new lands. The other expansions front was the creations of major cities, agriculture and economic growth.  The paper will focus of the expansion of the railroad networks, the reasons for its success and its impact on the westward expansion.

Observations from the Westward Expansion Map

From the westward expansion map it is evident that in the year 1860, the westward region was not covered by any railroad network. Only the east was dense with major cities such as Chicago, New York, Boston, Philadelphia and many more covered and accessible by the railway. The west was still desolate in this mode of transportation. By 1860, the expansion towards the western side was staring with one major railroad from Chicago to the far end of San Francisco. Other rails were also progressing westwards. By 1880 the expansions from the cities was getting more pronounced as some rails were branching out from the Chicago-San Francisco railway. Moreover, another railroad was progressing southwest from San Francisco. By the year 1890, the expansion was already vast within the west and covered the area including newer bigger towns such as Denver and several other small towns. The place was generally well accessible via rail road. With the expansion of the railroad network over the years, it is also significant the new cities were formed and agricultural land increased.


Expansion of the Rail-Road network

In the times of the expansion, the rail road was an important asset in the war as people depended on it to transfer the supplies and soldiers within the Civil war.  Abraham Lincoln wrestled with the need to connect the existing network up until the Midwest and the Western region.  The parliament in the year 1862 passed the Pacific Rail Road act that offered grants and loans making the program pay as you go. The same Senate intensified the project to extend up to the central pacific region which then hired Chinese and Irish laborers. By the time it was the 1880’s, the railroad network had spread well within the westward side.

Effects of the Railroad to the Westward

Administration and Settlement

With the spread of the Americans westward, there was need to provide an administrative role as there was resistance from the natives.  The red Indians often attacked the settlers and tried to sabotage their activities. The rail-roads ensured access to the interiors where they set up administrative frameworks. The fact that the railroads passed through the native regions also meant that there was need for consultation between the people and the settlers (Billington and James 23).  Treaties were signed with the native chiefs and it allowed for corporation with the people. Administrative posts were also set up along the rail roads and were later converted into settlements then into towns. The places attracted more people and became centers for people of various economic activities. The places over time became centers of varied culture gathering people from various regions and developing a new culture. The rail road network eventually led to the formation of major cities within the westward region. San Francisco was the first major town within the region owing to the railroad network.  Denver, Omaha, Kansas City and many more followed suit (Billington and James 23).

Commercial Activities


Agriculture improved immensely in the regions that were first accessed via railway. The reasons are numerous but it is mainly attributed to the fact that access ensured newer farming technology and also a way of transporting produce (Schiele 1).  Areas in San Francisco, West of New Orleans, Kansas City Omaha and areas closer to Chicago developed their agriculture greatly after the railroad network reached those regions. Settlements in these regions also ensured that there was skilled labor for the farms and an increased demand for the produce.


Apart from opening up markets for the agricultural products, the rail road system opened up commerce for the people. The connection of various regions that produced different items meant that there was a channel for exchange. Many people thence entered in the business to supply the various demands for the markets (Schiele 2). Shipment of goods to areas of greater demand meant that people did it for a profit and thus made commerce a lucrative economic activity.  The growth of settlements resulted to growth of towns that had increased demands. The suppliers thence created good markets where they could access the produce.


Most of the industries westward grew in the late 19th century because of the access created by the railroad network. The industries started off because of the increased farm produce that required processing before presenting them to the markets through the railways (Turner 34). The other industries that grew in this period was that of mining of steel glass and petroleum. With the presence of these raw materials and a good transport network, industries were at an advantage. The market was also easily accessible owing to the growth of the transport network in the area.


Dissemination of Technology

During the westwards expansion, the inventions of various machines within the field of agriculture and manufacturing took place.  The reaper was invented earlier in 1831, 1834 combine harvester and the steel plow in 1837 (Toms 12).  These technologies had revolutionized the crop growing within the eastern side while the western side was still archaic. The railroad was useful in disseminating these technologies to the newer lands. Some of these technologies such as the reaper and combine harvester were heavy and bulky and thus required a well-established rail network top transport them from their locations of assembly to the farms.  The result of the newer technologies in the western region was increase in the agricultural outputs. Consequently, the increased outputs required a better railroad network to transfer them to the markets and industries for selling and further processing.  Rail transport was considered better that digging out roads and it provided a lasting all weather solution to the farmers (Toms 12).  The general observation therefore is that with the increase of transportation let to increased farm use and thus resulted to increased need for transport for the produce. Once the westward regions had received farming technology from the eastwards and the technology used to increase produce, there was a new need to improve the methods used in processing the produce. Inventions started coming with regard to this.


Overall, the railroad was an important aspect into the Westward settlement. It opened up the region and allowed for access into newer areas, and economic activities. It is clear that the path of the rail road was the most significant points for the growth to take place. Agriculture in the western region benefitted greatly from the newer technology, labor, and good transportation to the markets. Commerce improved greatly because of the need for exchange and the availability of produce and a system to connect the markets. Industries grow because of the expansion of the activities of agriculture and mining and the availability of good transportation.



Works Cited

Billington, Ray Allen, and James Blaine Hedges. Westward expansion: a history of the American frontier. New York: Macmillan, 1949.

Schiele, James. “Westward Expansion—The Final Journey From Maine to California: An Illustrated Thesis.” (2015).

Toms, Kelsey. “A New America: The Gilded Age and Westward Expansion (11th grade).” (2017).

Turner, Frederick Jackson. The significance of the frontier in American history. Charles River Editors via PublishDrive, 2018.

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