Transcontinental railroad

Transcontinental railroad

perhaps being an exception.

The Americas


The world's first inter-oceanic [
] railroad was the Panama Railway, completed in 1855. Built near the narrowest point of the Central American isthmus in modern-day Panama (then part of Colombia), the railroad was 48 miles / 77.25 km long, and it was the first railroad to cross the Americas to connect the Atlantic with the Pacific Ocean. Given the tropical rain forest environment, the terrain, and diseases such as malaria and cholera, its completion was a considerable engineering challenge. The construction took 5 years, 8 million dollars and thousands of workers from the United States, Europe, China and Africa.

This railroad was built to satisfy the need for a shorter and more secure path between the United States' East and West Coasts, a need triggered mainly by California Gold Rush. However, the railroad continued its activity over the years, and it played a key role in the construction and the subsequent operation of the Panama Canal, due to its proximity with the water way. Currently, the railway operates under the private administration of the Panama Canal Railroad Company, and its upgraded capacity allows it to complement the cargo traffic through the Panama Canal.

United States

In the United States, the area of the Mississippi River has always been a transfer point between systems in the East and West. No single company ever controlled a route all the way from one coast to the other (though several had lines between the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico). The reason for this is fairly simple: if an eastern company were to ally itself with a western company, it would no longer have the choice to send traffic over the other western lines.Fact|date=August 2008 This is still true—two of the major Class I railroads have systems east of the Mississippi, while the other two major ones are mainly west of the Mississippi.

In the United States, the term "transcontinental railroad" usually refers to a line over the Rocky Mountains (and on several routes also the Sierra Nevada Mountains) between the Midwest and Pacific Ocean. Some of the eastern trunk lines are covered in railroads connecting New York City and Chicago.

*The rails of the "First Transcontinental Railroad" were joined on May 10, 1869, with the ceremonial driving of the "Last Spike" at Promontory Summit, Utah, after track was laid over a 1,756 mile (2,826 km) gap between Sacramento and Omaha, Nebraska/Council Bluffs, Iowa [ [ Executive Order of Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, Fixing the Point of Commencement of the Pacific Railroad at Council Bluffs, Iowa. dated March 7, 1864. 38th Congress, 1st Session SENATE Ex. Doc. No. 27] ] in six years by the Union Pacific Railroad and Central Pacific Railroad. Although through train service was in operation as of that date, the road was not deemed to have been officially "completed" until November 6, 1869. [ [ The Official "Date of Completion" of the Transcontinental Railroad under the Provisions of the Pacific Railroad Act of 1862, et seq., as Established by the Supreme Court of the United States to be November 6, 1869. (99 U.S. 402) 1879] ] (A physical connection between Omaha, Nebraska and the "statutory" Eastern terminus of the Pacific road at Council Bluffs located immediately across the Missouri River was also not finally established until the opening of UPRR railroad bridge across the river on March 25, 1873, prior to which transfers were made by ferry operated by the Council Bluffs & Nebraska Ferry Company. [ [ "Omaha's First Century" Installment V. — The Proud Era: 1870-1885] ] [ [ UPRR Museum, Council Bluffs, IA] ] )

*In 1882, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway connected Atchison, Kansas with the Southern Pacific Railroad at Deming, New Mexico, thus completing a second link to Los Angeles.
*The Southern Pacific Railroad linked New Orleans with Los Angeles in 1883, linking the Gulf of Mexico with the Pacific Ocean.
*The Northern Pacific Railway, also completed in 1883, linked Chicago with Seattle.
*The Great Northern Railroad was built without federal aid by James J. Hill in 1893; it stretched from St. Paul to Seattle.
*In 1909, the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul (or Milwaukee Road) completed a privately built Pacific extension to Seattle. On completion the line was renamed the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific.
*John D. Spreckels completed his privately funded San Diego and Arizona Railway in 1919, thereby creating a direct link (via connection with the Southern Pacific lines) between San Diego, California and the Eastern United States. The railroad stretched 148 miles (238 km) from San Diego to Calexico, California.
*In 1993, Amtrak's "Sunset Limited" was extended to the Atlantic Ocean, making it the first transcontinental passenger train route operated by one company. Hurricane Katrina temporarily cut the route in 2005.

George J. Gould attempted to assemble a truly transcontinental system in the 1900s. The line from San Francisco, California to Toledo, Ohio was completed in 1909, consisting of the Western Pacific Railway, Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, Missouri Pacific Railroad and Wabash Railroad. Beyond Toledo, the planned route would have used the Wheeling and Lake Erie Railway, Wabash-Pittsburgh Terminal Railway, Little Kanawha Railroad, West Virginia Central and Pittsburgh Railway, Western Maryland Railroad and Philadelphia and Western Railway,Fact|date=July 2008 but the Panic of 1907 stopped the plans before the Little Kanawha section could be finished. The Alphabet Route was completed in 1931, providing the portion of this line east of the Mississippi River. With the merging of the railroads, only the Union Pacific Railroad and the BNSF Railway remain.


(CPR) [cite web
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] completed a line between Ontario and the Pacific coast, fulfilling a condition of British Columbia's 1871 entry into the Canadian Confederation. The City of Vancouver, incorporated in 1886, was designated the western terminus of the line. The CPR became the first transcontinental railway company in North America in 1889 after its International Railway of Maine opened, connecting CPR to the Atlantic coast.

The construction of a transcontinental railroad had the effect of establishing a Canadian claim to the remaining parts of British North America not yet constituted as provinces and territories of Canada, acting as a bulwark against potential incursions by the United States.

Subsequently, two other transcontinental lines were built in Canada: the Canadian Northern Railway (CNoR) opened another line to the Pacific in 1912, and the combined Grand Trunk Pacific Railway (GTPR)/National Transcontinental Railway (NTR) system opened in 1917 following the completion of the Quebec Bridge, although its line to the Pacific opened in 1914. The CNoR, GTPR, and NTR were nationalized to form the Canadian National Railway, which remains Canada's "other" transcontinental railway. [cite web
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A second Central American inter-oceanic railroad began operation in 1908 as a connection between Puerto San José and Puerto Barrios in Guatemala, but ceased passenger service to Puerto San José in 1989.

Costa Rica

A third Central American inter-oceanic railroad began operation in 1910 as a connection between Puntarenas and Limón.

South America

There is activity to revive the connection between Valparaíso and Santiago in Chile and Mendoza, Argentina, through the "Transandino" project. Mendoza has an active connection to Buenos Aires. The old Transandino began in 1910 and ceased passenger service in 1978 and freight 4 years later. Technically a complete transcontinental link exists from Arica, Chile, to La Paz, Bolivia, to Buenos Aires, but this trans-Andean crossing is for freight only.

Mexico - Panama

* FERISTSA - a proposed north-south line.


*The first Eurasian transcontinental railroad was the Trans-Siberian railway (with connecting lines in Europe), completed in 1905 which connects Moscow with Vladivostok on the Pacific coast. There are two connections from this line to China. It is the world's longest rail line at 9,289km (5,772 miles) long. This line connects the European Railroad System with China, Mongolia and Korea. Since the former Soviet Countries and Mongolia use a broader gauge, a break of gauge is necessary either at the Eastern frontiers of Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania or the Chinese border. In spite of this there are through services of passenger trains between Moscow and Beijing or through coaches from Berlin to Novosibirsk. Almost every major town along the Trans-Siberian railway has its own return service to Moscow.

* A second rail line connects Istanbul in Turkey with China via Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. This route imposes a break of gauge at the Iranian border with Turkmenistan and at the Chinese Border. En route there is also a train ferry in Eastern Turkey across Lake Van. The European and Asian parts of Istanbul are currently linked by a train ferry, but an undersea tunnel is under construction. There is no through service of passenger trains on the entire line. A uniform gauge connection was proposed in 2006, commencing with new construction in Kazakhstan.


*The Trans-Asian Railway is a project to link Singapore to Istanbul and is to a large degree complete with missing pieces primarily between Iran and Pakistan (under construction in 2005), and in Myanmar, aside from political issues. The project has also linking corridors to China, the central Asian states, and Russia. This transcontinental line unfortunately uses a number of different gauges, 1435 mm, 1676 mm and 1000 mm.
* The TransKazakhstanTrunk Railways project by Kazakhstan Temir Zholy will connect China and Europe at a gauge of 1435 mm. Construction is set to start in 2006. Initially the line will go to western Kazakhstan, south through Turkmenistan to Iran, then to Turkey and Europe. A shorter to-be-constructed 1435 mm link from Kazakhstan is considered going through Russia and either Belarus or Ukraine.

* The Baghdad Railway connects Istanbul with Baghdad and finally Basra, a sea port at the Persian Gulf. When its construction started in the 1880s it was in those times a Transcontinental Railroad.

* The proposed trans-Himalayan railway from Pakistan to China via the Khunjerab Pass could count as a transcontinental railroad due to the size of the mountains in the way. []



*The first Trans-Australian Railway was completed in 1917, between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie, and crosses the Nullarbor Plain. This line completed the link between the mainland state capitals of Brisbane then Sydney via Melbourne and Adelaide to the western state capital of Perth. This route suffered from a number of breaks-of-gauge, using 1435 mm twice, 1600 mm once, and 1067 mm thrice, with five breaks-of-gauge in all.

The Trans-Australian Railway was the first route operated by the Federal Government.

In the 1930s, 1960s, and 1990s steps were taken to rationalise the gauge chaos and connect the mainland capital cities mentioned above with a streamlined 1435 mm uniform gauge system. Since 1970, when the direct line across the country was all completed as standard gauge, the passenger train on the Sydney to Perth line has been called the Indian Pacific.


* The first north-south trans-Australia railway opened in January 2004 and links Darwin to Adelaide through the Ghan. This line uses the 1435 mm gauge, though it started out as 1067mm gauge.

* In 2006, proposals for new lines in Queensland that would carry both intrastate coal traffic and interstate freight traffic would see standard gauge penetrate the state in considerable stretches for the first time. (ARHS Digest September 2006). The standard gauge Inland Railway would ultimately extend from Melbourne to Cairns.



*There are several ways to cross Africa transcontinentally by connecting west-east railroads. One is the Benguela railway that was completed in 1929. It starts in Lobito, Angola and connects through Katanga to the Zambia railways system. From Zambia several ports are accessible on the Indian ocean: Dar es Salaam in Tanzania through the TAZARA, and, through Zimbabwe, Beira and Maputo in Mozambique. The Angolan Civil War has made the Benguela line largely inoperative, but efforts are being taken to restore it. Another west-east corridor leads from the Atlantic habours in Namibia, either Walvis Bay or Luderitz to the South African rail system that, in turn, links to ports on the Indian Ocean ( i.e. Durban, Maputo).


*A North-South transcontinental railroad had been proposed by Cecil Rhodes: the Cape-Cairo railway. This system was seen as the backbone for the African possessions of the British Empire, and was not completed. During its development, a competing French colonial project for a "Trany" line from Algiers or Dakar to Abidjan was abandoned after the Fashoda incident.

* An extension of Namibian Railways is being built in 2006 with the possible connection to Angolan Railways.

* Libya has proposed a Trans-Saharan Railway connecting to say Nigeria.

African Union of Railways

* The African Union of Railways has ambitious plans to connect the various railways of Africa.


External links

* [ The Old Transandino]
* [ Trans-Asian Railway Project]

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