The Transcontinental Railroad: Exploring the West, Encountering Pitfalls, and Exchanging Culture
Student-composed Words: 500
Process Paper: 500
On May 10, 1869, the final spike of the Transcontinental Railroad was driven, and the East and West of the United States were finally connected. Guided by Manifest Destiny, the Transcontinental Railroad provided the means to explore uncharted territory, to encounter a true test of American spirit, and to exchange cultures, impacting what it meant to be an American.
After seeing this year’s theme, I wanted a topic about exploration of the West. I chose the Transcontinental Railroad because I wanted to learn more about the different immigrants and cultures that contributed to the railroad. I was intrigued by this topic because the Transcontinental Railroad and the Homestead Act are closely intertwined, and my farm was homesteaded by my great-great-grandparents.
I found many books at my school’s library, public libraries, and my own library. My favorite resource was an interview of Donald Fixico, Professor of American Indian History at the University of Kansas. This interview helped me understand the Native American perspective of the Transcontinental Railroad. Another favorite source was the movie series America: The Story of Us which sparked my interest and helped me start my research. My family and I visited the home of Grenville Dodge, chief engineer of the Union Pacific, and the Union Pacific Railroad Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa. We also visited the old Union Pacific station in Omaha, Nebraska.
I chose to do an individual project because I like having freedom over where the project goes and the general pace of the research. I wanted to do an exhibit because I could be creative and showcase my design skills to help aid in conveying the theme. An exhibit helped me display photographs and artifacts effectively.
I chose material with compasses and maps because I thought it helped convey the exploration theme. I used railroad tracks to emphasize the topic. I used paper towel rolls to make “dynamite” for my thesis statement to show the danger of the project. I used arrows and wooden strips to connect captions together. The left panel displays the reasons why a Transcontinental Railroad was needed to explore the West. The middle panel explains the hardships encountered and how the American spirit kept construction moving forward. The right panel displays how Indian, Chinese, and European culture was exchanged through building the Transcontinental Railroad. The front display contains my conclusion and artifacts.
The Transcontinental Railroad left a legacy in the United States. Travel to the West was made easier and safer. After completion, Americans could easily move to the West. The Transcontinental Railroad also increased industrialization, since goods and resources could be transported faster. Chinese immigration and discrimination was another effect of the Transcontinental Railroad. The railroad provided jobs to Civil War veterans and freed slaves. After the Civil War, the railroad was crucial in making the nation feel unified. The small towns railroad workers built led to bigger cities and rough Wild West culture. The Transcontinental Railroad proved that different cultures working together and exchanging ideas can build the impossible.