I see over my own continent the Pacific railroad surmounting every barrier.
It had taken the bloodshed and sacrifice of the Civil War to reunite the nation, North and South. But when the war was over, Americans set out with equal determination to unite the nation, East and West.
To do it, they would build a railroad. Its completion would be one of the greatest technological achievements of the age -- signalling at last, as nothing else ever had, that the United States was not only a continental nation, but on its way to becoming a world power. And when the railroad was finally built, the pace of change would shift from the steady gait of a team of oxen, to the powerful surge of a steam locomotive. The West would be transformed.
Overnight, the railroad would turn barren spots of earth into raucous boom towns -- North Platte and Julesburg, Abilene, Bear River, Wichita and Dodge.
The railroad would allow Civil War veterans, poor farmers from the East and landless peasants from Europe to have a farm they could call their own. There they planted foreign strains of wheat in rich, matted prairie soil that had never known anything but grass.
Railroads would carry hundreds of thousands of western longhorns to eastern markets -- and turn the dusty, saddle-sore men who herded them into the idols of every eastern schoolboy.
And railroads would bring onto the Great Plains the buffalo hunters -- who would drive a magnificent animal that symbolized the West to the brink of extinction -- and with it a way of life with roots reaching back before recorded history.
The railroad would do all of that. But first, someone would have to build it.
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