Pacific Railway Act

(1862)

The Pacific Railway Act of 1862 created the Union Pacific Railroad and authorized it, in conjunction with the Central Pacific Railroad, to build railway and telegraph routes connecting the eastern portion of the United States to the Pacific Ocean. The act also granted land to the railway companies and provided for the financing of the project. To the east, construction began at the rail terminus at Council Bluffs, Iowa, and Omaha, Nebraska—the westernmost point in the rail network that linked most of the eastern United States. In the west, the Central Pacific began construction at Sacramento, California. After the Union Pacific raced across the Great Plains and the Central Pacific inched over the Sierra Nevada, the two rail lines met at Promontory Summit, Utah. On May 10, 1869, Leland Stanford, the founder of Stanford University and a major investor in the Central Pacific, drove a ceremonial last spike, the “golden spike,” into the track. With one blow of a hammer (actually...

Image for: Pacific Railway Act

Meeting of the engines at the Golden Spike National Historic Site, Utah (Library of Congress)

View Full Size