On May 10, 1869, the presidents of the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific railroads met in Promontory, Utah to drive the last spike into the rail line that would connect the east and the west.
The project to connect the east and west coasts started 16 years before when Congress surveyed routes for the railroad. Then tensions between the North and the South stopped anything more to happen at the time. Then, after the Pacific Railroad Act of 1862, the Union Pacific and The Central Pacific were able to get the land grants and loans to proceed with the railroad. By 1866, the Central Pacific set out from Sacramento, California, and the Union Pacific set out from Omaha, Nebraska with one goal. To meet somewhere in the middle.
Workers from both railroads worked hard to complete the project in a timely manner. Most of the Union Pacific workers were made up of Irish and Civil War veterans. The Central Pacific hired mostly Chinese men. Conditions for all workers included harsh winters, hot summer heat and lawless towns along the path of the planned railroad. The Chinese workers endured 12-hour workdays and received lower wages than the white workers. Crews were lost to avalanches and accidents and explosions.
Within three years, ahead of the deadline and under budget, over 2,000 miles of track were laid. Now a person could travel across the country in a matter of days instead of months