Talk:Transcontinental railroad

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The world's First Transcontinental Railroad was built between 1863 and 1869 to join the eastern and western halves of the United States. Begun just before the American Civil War. If the Civil War started in 1861, shouldn't it read "Begun just after the American Civil War?"


SURELY....there is a date when the Canadian transcontinental railroad was finished and available for stands now, as some time between 1881 and 1885--not good enough for an encyclopedia. And how about a separate entry for the United States, instead of merely a photo caption giving us May 10, 1869? HomeBuilding (talk) 13:15, 3 March 2008 (UTC)

What is the name of Canada's transcontinental railway? Do we have an article on it? Wondering simply, -- Infrogmation 16:48, 7 Dec 2003 (UTC)

  • I second this, where is Canada?Patcat88 07:36, 23 December 2005 (UTC)

First came the Canadian Pacific Second came the Canadian National Tabletop 10:35, 23 December 2005 (UTC)

Are there any trans-South America or trans-Africa railroads? Rmhermen 16:14, Feb 5, 2004 (UTC)

I remember there was a British plan to build a trans-African railway, but little of it was actually built. Anyone know more? Warofdreams 16:17, 5 Feb 2004 (UTC)
That was a plan of Cecil Rhodes to build a "Cape to Cairo" railroad which would have run from Johannesburg to Cairo. Mr Rhodes was heavily involved in exploiting the natural resources of southern Africa and wanted a quicker and easier way to get his product to European markets rather than sailing around the continent. I don't think much of the planned route got built outside of Zimbabwe (which was then called Rhodesia). slambo 15:45, 5 Oct 2004 (UTC)

San Diego and Arizona Railway (SD&A)[edit]

Recently, an anon editor posting from IP address began routinely removing the following passage:

*John D. Spreckels completed his privately-funded San Diego and Arizona Railway in 1919, thereby creating a direct link (via connection with the Southern Pacific lines) between San Diego and the Eastern United States.

After this removal was reverted several times The Proffesor left a message on my talk page regarding these previous edits. In the interim, The Proffesor has entered into a cycle of reverts over this issue with several other editors; his last edit began with

Some consider the San Diego and Arizona Railway transcontinental...

which was reverted (properly, in my opinion) by Mdhennessey on the basis of Wikipedia:Avoid weasel words. I have since left a response on The Proffesor's talk page citing several sources that support designating the SD&A as a transcontinental railroad. Just minutes ago I reverted this same edit by The Proffesor and am asking that further discussion take place here prior to any further edits regarding this issue.

The last thing I want to see is an edit war erupt over this; any input or guidance from "outside" editors will, I am sure, be appreciated by all involved. I'd even support protecting the page, if necessary.--Lord Kinbote 06:30, 11 September 2006 (UTC)

I've taken some time to consider the issue before commenting here (partly to see if anyone else spoke up first). It seems to me that SD&A qualifies as a transcontinental as much as California Southern Railroad does. Both railroads were built to form connections between a longer system and the Pacific coast at San Diego, but neither of the shorter railroads got past the California-Arizona border. The other railroads on the US list here all directly connected points near or east of the Mississippi River to the Pacific and are more intuitively transcontinental; if nothing else, they all crossed the Rocky Mountains on their own rails. So it comes down to a question of qualifications. If we are going to include railroads that were built and intended to form parts of transcontinental connections, then we also need to include companies such as California Southern Railroad, Atlantic and Pacific Railroad and other subsidiary and separate companies. I'm more inclined to limit the list to companies that connected the longer distances with their own rails. However, I also think that mention should be made of these smaller companies that were intended to form parts of larger transcontinental systems; we just need to specify that these smaller railroads weren't by themselves transcontinental railroads. Slambo (Speak) 13:04, 12 September 2006 (UTC)
I believe it's widely agreed that the Western Pacific Railroad is transcontinental ([1]), and it never crossed the Rockies. The problem is that we don't actually have a definition. The closest I can find to a good definition is "a railroad that crosses a continent or connects existing railroads so as to make a rail system that spans a continent", but that's too ambiguous, since it includes lines such as the International Railway of Maine and the Union Pacific Missouri River Bridge. --NE2 09:22, 17 August 2008 (UTC)

By the way, there definitely are sources for the SD&A being transcontinental: [2] On the other hand, the D&RGW is described as part of a transcontinental route: [3] It seems that the "last stretch" over the Sierra Nevada or Cascades is what's required to be truly transcontinental. --NE2 09:40, 17 August 2008 (UTC)

[4] may be useful for a history of early routes after the first. --NE2 09:44, 17 August 2008 (UTC)

I listed all "transcontinental" lines or combinations of lines I could find at User:NE2/transcon. --NE2 00:20, 19 August 2008 (UTC)

Two "First Transcontinental Railroads"[edit]

How is it possible that the Panama Railroad is listed as the first transcontinental railroad, but the article First Transcontinental Railroad describes the whole history of the U.S. Railroad?

I suggest that the U.S. Railroad should be moved to an article entitled Second Transcontinental Railroad and that the First transcontinental railroad article redirects to the history of the Panama Railroad.

--WikiDrive 02:12, 2 December 2007 (UTC)

This was discussed over a year ago and closed with no consensus for a move. The comments are in the archive. Slambo (Speak) 14:36, 11 December 2007 (UTC)
  • The seminal period book on the subject of the Panama Railroad is "Illustrated History of the Panama Railroad" by Fessenden N. Otis, MD published by Harper & Brothers in 1861. (The author had been a ship's surgeon for the Pacific Mail Steamship Company from 1853-59.) At no place in this work is the railroad described as being a "transcontinental" line. (The word "continent" only appears once in the 268 page book (on page 262) referring to the location of ticket offices in Europe, while the word "transcontinental" does not appear in the book anywhere at all.) On the first page of the book's main text (page 15), however, Dr. Otis describes the purpose for which the road was built across the Isthmus of Panama was to permit interoceanic communication at this point." The line was also described in the contemporary press when it opened in 1855 as being an "inter-oceanic" railroad such as in a story entitled "A Great Enterprise" published in The Portland (Maine) Transcript on February 17, 1855 ("That great enterprise, the inter-oceanic or Panama Railroad across the Isthmus, is completed, and the rough Atlantic is now wedded, with an iron band, to the fair Pacific.") as opposed to a "transcontinental" one. Centpacrr (talk) 11:00, 10 September 2010 (UTC)

Panama Railroad as a "Transcontinental" Railroad[edit]

The Panama Railroad as used in "transcontinental" travel between New York and San Francisco before 1869 was actually only a very small portion (between Aspinwall and Panama City) of the entire ticketed passage which was offered by the North American Steamship Company prior to the completion of the Pacific Railroad with the vast majority of the trip being made over water by steamer. I see that the contention that the Panama Railroad is a "transcontinental" railroad is derived from an entry to that effect originally made by Infrogmation on February 2, 2004, in the article Transcontinental Railroad and on December 27, 2004, by RJII (since permanently banned from editing for abuse), but neither of these contentions (or the current portion of the article still claiming that the Panama Railroad is a "transcontinental railroad") cite any references to support it. When opened on January 28, 1855, the railroad was actually referred to as the "Inter-Oceanic" railroad. Using this logic, a railroad running from Miami, FL, on the Atlantic Ocean to Tampa, FL, on the Gulf of Mexico could also be described as a "transcontinental railroad" as well which would, I think, be misleading. (Centpacrr (talk) 21:44, 5 June 2008 (UTC))

It was "transcontinental" in that it connected the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. I started the article on the Panama Railroad to fill a gap since noone else had started the article before me, but cannot claim to be the first to notice that it connected the two sides of a continent. I know of no suggestion that any other railway did so earlier. -- Infrogmation (talk) 22:41, 12 June 2008 (UTC)

Actual date of completion of the Pacific Railroad under the provisions of the 1862 Act; Eastern Terminus[edit]

While the tracked grades of the CPRR and UPRR were joined with the driving of the Last Spike at Promontory Summit, Utah, on May 10, 1869, the line was not deemed to have met the requirements of the Pacific Railroad Acts of 1862 and 1864 until six months later on November 9, 1869. This date of completion was established by a decision of the U.S. Supreme court in the case of Union Pacific Railroad vs. United States (99 U.S. 402). (See The Official "Date of Completion" of the Transcontinental Railroad under the Provisions of the Pacific Railroad Act of 1862, et seq., as Established by the Supreme Court of the United States to be November 6, 1869. (99 U.S. 402) 1879)

The Eastern terminus of the Pacific Railroad was not Omaha, Nebraska, which is located on the Western side of the Missouri River, but was actually Council Bluffs, Iowa, which is its sister city situated on the eastern side of the Missouri River directly opposite Omaha even though Council Bluffs and Omaha were not physically connected by rail until almost four years AFTER the first through trains ran over the Pacific route when the UPRR's Missouri River Railroad Bridge was completed and opened on March 25, 1873. (See Executive Order of Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, Fixing the Point of Commencement of the Pacific Railroad at Council Bluffs, Iowa. dated March 7, 1864. 38th Congress, 1st Session SENATE Ex. Doc. No. 27)

If I'm not mistaken, the point was defined as roughly here (the river followed the line there until 1877). Was it redefined between 1864 and 1869? --NE2 09:05, 18 August 2008 (UTC)
That does seem to be the point shown on [5] as a Missouri River crossing. (The river is misleading, both based on its current route and on the state line, but if you look at the section lines it matches.) The cross-state section lines are somewhat misaligned (Iowa should be about 1/2 mile farther north with respect to Nebraska than it is on the map), and I would assume that the "probable connection" is just a roughly-drawn line. I would put the east end of the bridge roughly here and thus, depending on whether the "western boundary of the State of Iowa" was the east bank of the river or the state line in its center, the east end of the railroad was either there or about here. [6] shows the end on the west bank slightly to the north, but probably still complying to the executive order (with respect to the west end of the required bridge), about here. However, [7] shows that the bridge was always in its current location. Was a new order made, or did the UP have to build north on the east side to what became the river's west side in 1877?
Now, of course, the 1869 joining may not have technically satisfied the act, but it was much more important in shortening the time between the coasts than the later completion of the bridge, and is rightly the year that is widely considered to be the most significant. --NE2 14:21, 18 August 2008 (UTC)
Agreed. My only point was that the 1862 Act "authorized and directed" the President of the United States " fix the point on the western boundary of the State of Iowa, from which the Union Pacific Railroad Company is by said section authorized and required to construct a single line of railroad and telegraph upon the most direct and practicable route, subject to the approval of the President of the United States, so as to form a connexion with the lines of said company at some point on the one hundredth meridian of longitude in said section named" which President Lincoln "designated and established" by Executive Order on March 7, 1864, as being the "point on the western boundary of the State of Iowa, east of, and opposite to, the east line of section 10, in township 15 north, of range 13 east, of the sixth principal meridian, in the Territory of Nebraska" thus confirming the statutory Eastern terminus to be in Council Bluff, Iowa, and not Omaha, Nebraska. The UPRR's own website[8] also notes on its Museum page that: "The completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869 by Union Pacific and its constituent railroads shaped the landscape and geography of the American West. Council Bluffs, the eastern terminus of that landmark railroad, represented the starting point for tens of thousands of westward-bound immigrants." As with almost everything involved with building and operating the Pacific Railroad, of course, it was messy. (Centpacrr (talk) 22:20, 18 August 2008 (UTC))

Split this page?[edit]

Obviously the concept of North American transcontinental railways is a notable one. But elsewhere it doesn't seem to be as important, coming about more through joining of mature systems. I suggest moving the North American stuff to transcontinental railroads in North America (unless we decide not to include Mexico), and turning this into a disambiguation with links to pages such as Trans-Australian Railway, Trans-Asian Railway, and Cape-Cairo Railway. --NE2 13:29, 18 August 2008 (UTC)

An Act of Congress[edit]

I believe it took a Act of Congress to "drive the silver spike". Since both railroads were being paid for the amount (miles) of track laid, and, since both railroads had laid track that passed each other, and, since neither railroad wouls stop laying track, then Congress acted to stop the payments for the laying of track. Congress then directed the two railroads to relay their tracks to meet in Utah. Many Irish and Chinese laborers were then put of work. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:55, 5 December 2008 (UTC)

Intercontinental Bridges[edit]

Important bridges such as the Red Sea bridge link different continents or major sub-continents and should be at least mentions in this topic. Tabletop (talk) 22:40, 23 February 2009 (UTC)

You don't understand what transcontinental means. --NE2 07:07, 24 February 2009 (UTC)

Australasia or Oceania for Australia[edit]

In line with the other sub headings in the article, the Australia section should be renamed to reflect the continent it exists in, even if it is the only country mentioned in the section. Which name for the continent should be used though? —Preceding unsigned comment added by OffiMcSpin (talkcontribs) 15:39, 6 May 2009 (UTC)

Nobodys made a comment so I'm going to go for Oceania--OffiMcSpin (talk) 00:55, 14 May 2009 (UTC)

Might I say, I agree with the first comment above. The sub-title of "Oceania" in unnecessary and inconsistent. Australia is both the contient and the country this particular part of the subject matter relates to. Oceania is a geographical or political grouping, not directly relevant to the subject matter. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Wikiuss (talkcontribs) 14:47, 12 June 2011 (UTC)


At the risk of offending, I'll enter an opinion/observation.

This article seems to me a case of trying to create invent an article out of a disambiguation. The page seems to be trying to summarize numerous topics related only by the fact that according to certain definitions they could be considered to cross a continent. But there is little discussion of what a "transcontinental railway" is or why that by itself is notable. By the same token I could turn the disambig Springfield into an article about all the towns with that name and describe each one. That would be a bogus article. The fact that the individual towns themselves are notable does not make "Springfield" a notable topic itself. By the same token I don't really know of anything particularly notable about the concept of a transcontinental railroad.

I would propose that this should be made into a disambig.

--Mcorazao (talk) 16:42, 9 December 2009 (UTC)

I agree; see #Split this page? above. --NE2 17:54, 9 December 2009 (UTC)


Despite the opening line of this article I'm wondering if technically trans-european services ARE actually worthy of inclusion here? Though clearly not as impressive in many ways due to its paltry size in comparison with Asia or America, certainly it is now possible to cross large sections of our small continent by direct train (for example London-Marseilles, Paris-Brindisi, Helsinki-Moscow, Madrid-Paris can even buy a ticket for a London-Malta service by train (and ferry of course!). Plus there are plenty of former services as the opening line suggests like the Orient Express Paris-Istanbul serivce which could really should be listed here as a trans-continental service. What do people think about altering the first line and startin a new paragraph on cross-Europe services??--Mapmark (talk) 13:25, 10 January 2010 (UTC)

1864 Executive Order of the President fixing the point of commencement of the Pacific Railroad (Original Document)[edit]

The long standing link to the 1864 Executive Order of the President fixing the point of commencement of the Pacific Railroad has been restored. This original link (which had been in place since August 18, 2008) provides direct access to a searchable, verbatim transcription made directly from an original 1864 U.S. Government produced printing of Senate Ex. Doc. No. 27 (38th Congress, 1st Session). The link which had been recently substituted for it is not to a verifiable original document, but to a 778-page pdf of a 1907 commercially published volume (The Century Co., New York) containing unsourced, unverified third party transcriptions of many hundreds of Lincoln's "speeches, letters, state papers, and miscellaneous writings" made and printed 43 years after the fact which a reader then has to then search through on his/her own in order to find the the the text of the unsourced 1907 commercial transcription. Further substitution of the unverified, unsourced 1907 transcription for the link to the page with the annotated transcription made from the 1864 original will be considered to be disruptive editing and treated as such. Centpacrr (talk) 16:09, 25 May 2010 (UTC)

US48-Canada-Alaska RR[edit]

Would a US48 Canada Alaska Railroad count as a Transcontinental railway? [1] Tabletop (talk) 03:15, 7 June 2010 (UTC)

Rearranged the section "The Americas"[edit]

The arrangement of the railroads in the Section "The Americas" did not follow either geographical or chronological order, so I rearranged it chronologically. --WikiDrive (talk) 16:27, 8 September 2010 (UTC)

Sections now arranged by continents/sub continents. Centpacrr (talk) 00:38, 9 September 2010 (UTC)

Long sentence in lede[edit]

Multiple clauses in this sentence make for difficult reading:

Construction by the Central Pacific Railroad and Union Pacific Railroad of the 1,928 mile "Pacific Railroad" link between Council Bluff,IA/Omaha, NE and the San Francisco Bay at Oakland, CA via Ogden, UT and Sacramento, CA connecting with the existing railroad network to the East Coast via ferry creating the world's first transcontinental railroad when it opened in 1869 was made possible by the Congress through the passage of Pacific Railroad Acts of 1862, 1864 and 1867.

I'm going to try to shorten it by trimming out details (which are/should be covered in the body text, anyway). If anyone objects, feel free to edit/revert and discuss here. Phlar (talk) 20:44, 19 November 2014 (UTC)