The concept of building a railroad across the United States linking Council Bluffs, Iowa and the already established eastern railroads to California was proposed as early as 1830. After years and years of discussion, the federal Congress finally approved the legislation (House of Representatives approval came on May 6, 1862 – the U.S. Senate passed the bill on June 20, 1862) to establish the 2,000 mile railroad. Abraham Lincoln signed the railroad legislation into law on July 1, 1862.
Two companies – the Central Pacific building from west to east and the Union Pacific building from east to west – were hired to accomplish the challenge which some called “the greatest technical feat of the 19th century.”
President Lincoln was highly supportive of the concept, but did not live to see the project completed.
The line, which became known as "the Overland Route" hastened travel to the west, opening economic growth west of the Mississippi River. Passenger traffic was carried on the route all the way to 1962.
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