Sunday, August 16, 2020

1944 Completion of First Transcontinental Railroad


The next stamp on my list of stamps to write about was this beautiful 1944 3¢ "Completion of First Transcontinental Railroad" stamp.

I've noticed that when I research a stamp and write an article on my blog about it that I really develop a deeper appreciation for it. I've learned so many things about the first transcontinental railroad this week that I didn't know. I know I say this all the time, but that is one thing I love about my hobby. 

This stamp was issued on May 10, 1944, in 3 different cities: Omaha, Nebraska, Ogden, Utah, and San Francisco, California. Over 61 million were printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing using the Rotary Press method. It's perforations are 11 x 10.5 and it is violet in color.

The First Transcontintal Railroad (or originally known as the Pacific Railroad and the Overland Route) is one of America's greatest achievements in my opinion. To think about what was achieved almost 160 years ago by people that didn't have the technological advancements that are available now is just amazing.

The rail road was constructed from 1863 to 1869 but for many years people had been proposing to congress for the construction of a railway system to connect the East and West coasts by rail. Congress agreed and the government spent two years conducting surveys to find the best route. 3 routes were suggested. They were: a northern route, central route, and southern route. Eventually, the central route was chosen. Sacramento, California was chosen as the western terminus and in Council Bluffs, Iowa was connected to an existing rail line.

To allow the creation of the two companies (Union Pacific and Central Pacific) to build the House of Represenatives and the Senate pass the "Pacific Railroad Act of 1862" and was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln soon after. The law also allowed the government to sell bonds to finance the project. The two companies also sold stocks and bonds to help finance the project. 

Land grants were given by both federal and state governments totaling over 180 million acres (an area larger than the state of Texas). Some of that land was then sold to settlers which largely boosted the rapid expansion of people to the "West".

Thousands of workers were employed in the construction of the rail line. Inlcuding former Union and Confederate soldiers of the American Civil War, Chinese and Irish immigrants, and former slaves escaping from the south after the civil war. Work was hard and the days were long through both hot and cold temperatures. The workers also had to worry about attacks from Native American tribes.

Many cities and towns spurng up along the line that are still here to this day. Many tunnels were opened by the use of dynamite and many are still there as well. The Union Pacific dug 4 tunnels and the Central Pacific dug 15. Bridges had to built to cross rivers and streams. 

After six years of hard work the two companies met at Promontory Summit in the Utah Territory and the "last spike" was driven on May 10, 1869. The Union Pacific had laid 1,087 miles and the Central Pacific laid 690 miles.

The Transcontinental Railroad reduced travel to the west coast from over six months to just about one week.

Although the original tracks don't remain, hundreds of miles of the railway are still in use to this day on the original grade that was built almost 160 years ago. 

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