Transcontinental and Trans-Siberian Railroadsby Rit Nosotro
Compare the impact of the Transcontinental and Trans-Siberian Railroads.
When the last spike of the Unites States' Transcontinental Railroad was driven into the ground on May 10, 1869, church bells rang and cannons boomed as people across the nation celebrated the accomplishment. For the first time in history a single, continuous train route linked the eastern and western states together. Soon this route would transform the American frontier. About two decades later, in 1891, the Russians followed the American lead and began to construct the Trans-Siberian Railroad in order to consolidate the territory of the Russian empire and exploit the rich natural resources in its eastern regions. Interestingly, the Trans-Siberian Railroad's impact was very similar to that of the Transcontinental Railroad. Each railroad opened a frontier, united a country, and sparked economic growth. Together these two railroads demonstrated the power of efficient transportation.
The Transcontinental Railroad
In 1862 the United States Congress passed the first Railroad Act, contracting two companies to begin the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad. As compensation each company would receive a land grant of twenty square miles of land for every mile of track laid.1 Construction began in 1863, while the Civil War still raged. The Union Pacific Railroad Company began laying tracks in Omaha, Nebraska and worked west, while the Central Pacific Railroad Company started in Sacramento, California and proceeded eastward. Eventually, the two sets of tracks met at Promontory Summit, Utah, six years after construction began.
When finished, the Transcontinental Railroad spanned the vast territory between California and the Missouri River, cutting the travel time through this region down to six days rather than four to six months.2 With such an increase in the speed of travel, the states became more united and the world felt smaller.3 The telegraph lines that were strung up alongside the railroad added to this feeling by enabling nearly instantaneous communication across the country.4 Obviously, this new capacity for travel and communication had significant impact.
Enhanced transportation allowed for increased commerce between the states.5 Fifty million dollars worth of cargo annually surged across the railroad during its first decade of use.6 Asian goods and raw materials flowed out of the West, and a stream of finished products issued from the East.7 This trade sparked a manufacturing boom in the recently industrialized East by keeping it supplied with minerals mined in the western regions.8 Additionally, the West began to catch up with the Eastern way of life9 as the products of the manufacturing boom flowed to the frontier. Ultimately, the trade induced by the Transcontinental Railroad accelerated the progress of the entire country.
One of the evidences of progress in the West was rapid settlement. In fact, the settlement of the West may have been the single most important effect of the Transcontinental Railroad. After the railroad's construction, traveling became much simpler, and families flocked west. Cheap land attracted settlement as the railroad companies sold their grant-lands and the federal government offered other land (called homestead land) to settlers for free.10 Soon new railways branched off of the Transcontinental Railroad, and others ran parallel to it, creating a network of tracks11 that transformed the West from an unpopulated wilderness to a thriving region of mining and agriculture.
The Trans-Siberian Railroad
When Russia began constructing the Trans-Siberian Railroad, it hoped to tame and exploit its eastern frontier as the Americans had done in their frontier. Czar Alexander III also realized the importance of a Trans-Siberian railroad to consolidate Russia's eastern territory, and he took action. As with the Transcontinental Railroad, workers began laying tracks from both the east and west.12 Siberia's harsh climate and difficult terrain impeded the railroad's progress,13 however, and from the time construction began in 1891 it took about fourteen years to complete the original railroad, which did not exist in its final form until 1917. But when it was finished, its 4,607 miles of track formed the longest railway in the world14 and deeply affected Russia.
The Trans-Siberian Railroad transformed transportation in Russia. Before the railroad, travel time from Moscow (in the west) to Vladivostok (in the east) was nearly a year.15 With the advent of the Trans-Siberian Railroad, that time was reduced dramatically. As hoped, efficient transportation unified Western Russia with its Eastern frontier, just as the Transcontinental Railroad had unified America.
Efficient transportation on the Trans-Siberian Railroad also opened the door to settlement in Russia's eastern regions. Prior to the construction of the railroad, Russia's eastern region of Siberia was virtually uninhabited.16 After the railway was finished, many Russians migrated to this area.17 Therefore, like the Transcontinental Railroad, the Trans-Siberian Railroad caused the rapid settlement of frontier lands.
However, settlement did not tame the Siberian frontier to the extent it had tamed the American West. Observation of a map of the world population distribution18 reveals that immense areas of Siberia remain extremely sparsely populated. This can be attributed largely to the harsh climate-Siberia is infamous for its particularly cold temperatures. However, another factor likely caused this as well. Unlike the Transcontinental Railroad, the Trans-Siberian Railroad did not spark the construction of a great network of railroads. Absent in Siberia are the many north-south railways that branched off the Transcontinental Railroad. Perhaps this was because Russia lacked the funds to build these railways. In any case, much of Siberia remained a frontier, primarily as a result of the climate, but possibly because of the lack of an involved network of railroads as well.
In the area along the Trans-Siberian Railroad, however, the population increased, and with it production also increased dramatically. Thanks to updated farming techniques, farmers began producing grains and dairy products in southern Siberia.19 In addition, several coal-mining operations and iron and steel ventures were established.20 Siberia's rich natural resources were exploited and then shipped by railroad to western Russia or to the eastern port of Vladivostok, boosting the economy in the same manner as the Transcontinental Railroad had done in America. In fact, the Trans-Siberian Railroad still contributes significantly to Russia's economy, transporting approximately one third of all of Russia's exports.21
Both the Transcontinental and Trans-Siberian railroads demonstrated that efficient transportation is a powerful stimulator of progress. Each railway united a country and significantly boosted its economy and production. In addition, each one opened a frontier to settlement and exploitation, which actually helped humans fulfill God's command to "fill the earth and subdue it."22 Without the efficient transportation provided by these two railroads, the world would have remained more fragmented and less productive.Endnotes
1"Land Grants for the Railroads." Railroads and Settlement. <http://www.nebraskastudies.org/0500/frameset_reset.html?http://www.nebraskastudies.org/0500/stories/0505_0101.html> (20 November 2000).
3"People and Events: The Impact of the Transcontinental Railroad." <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/tcrr/peopleevents/e_impact.html> (20 November 2003).
12"The Trans-Siberian Railroad." The Russian Intervention. 18 March 2001. <http://www.kolchak.org/History/Siberia/Trans-Siberian%20Railroad.htm> (20 November 2003).
13Sergey Sigachyov. "How the Trans-Siberian Railroad Was Built." 31 January 1999. <http://www.geocities.com/MotorCity/Speedway/4283/dates.htm> (20 November 2003).
16"Info About Siberia." < http://www.siberian-expedition.de/south/Some_information_about_Altai/Siberia/info_about_siberia_.html > (20 November 2003).
21"A Buzz Across Siberia." The Christian Science Monitor. 30 December 2002. Available at < http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/1230/p20s03-comv.html>
"About the Program." The Iron Road. <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/iron/> (20 November 2003).
"A Buzz Across Siberia." The Christian Science Monitor. 30 December 2002. Available at < http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/1230/p20s03-comv.html>
de Bilj, H.J. and Muller, Peter O. Geography Realms, Regions, and Concepts. (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2002).
"Driving the Last Spike." <http://www.sfmuseum.org/hist1/rail.html> (20 November 2003).
"Info About Siberia." <http://www.siberian-expedition.de/south/Some_information_about_Altai/Siberia/info_about_siberia_.html> (20 November 2003).
"Land Grants for the Railroads." Railroads and Settlement. < http://www.nebraskastudies.org/0500/frameset_reset.html?http://www.nebraskastudies.org/0500/stories/0505_0101.html> (20 November 2000).
Nee, Brendon and Theler, Preston. "The Transcontinental Railroad." <http://www.bnee.com/project/trans.html > (20 November 2003).
"People and Events: The Impact of the Transcontinental Railroad." <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/tcrr/peopleevents/e_impact.html> (20 November 2003).
Sigachyov, Sergey. "How the Trans-Siberian Railroad Was Built." 31 January 1999. <http://www.geocities.com/MotorCity/Speedway/4283/dates.htm> (20 November 2003).
"The Transcontinental Railroad Affect Western Expansion" <http://www.ez-essays.com/free/2693.html > (20 November 2003).
"The Trans-Siberian Railroad." The Russian Intervention. 18 March 2001. <http://www.kolchak.org/History/Siberia/Trans-Siberian%20Railroad.htm> (20 November 2003).
Wishnick, Elizabeth. "Migration Issues and Russia's Economic Integration in
Asia." 25 June 2003. <http://gsti.miis.edu/CEAS-PUB/200103Wishnick.pdf>
(20 November 2003).
Additional information about <http://hyperhistory.net/apwh/comp/cw24transrailroads32101525.htm>
The above essay was donated to hyperhistory.net.
of inaccuracies or plagiarism.
Post a link to this essay,
a great essay
on your blog or website :
|Comparative Essays||Biographies||Doc. Based Questions||Change Over Time|