The Pacific Railroad and its Monopoly in California

Published 20 Sep 2017

The California Pacific Railroad Company came to existence in 1865. It constructed the Pacific Railroad which operated along three routes: Vallejo to Sacramento, Napa Valley to Calistoga and Davis to Marysville (, 2009). At that time, California and other Pacific side states were largely inaccessible. The Pacific Railroad was instrumental in the expansion of America from the Atlantic territory to the Pacific.

Two decades earlier, the concept of “Manifest Destiny” instilled the dream in Americans that someday, they will make a nation out of the whole North American continent (, 2009). The trail blazers soon trekked to California and they were not dissapointed for gold was soon discovered along the river at the foot of the Sierra Nevada.

News of this prompted people in their thousands to travel on land or by sea in what is known as the California Gold Rush. In a period of three years, approximately 140,000 people have already settled in the region. This facilitated the inclusion of California as the 31st state of the Union. More than ever, a more convenient mode of transportation that will connect the state to the Union was necessary (, 2009).

Congress was hesitant in constructing a railroad because it will connect free states with the Union and brought to the fore slavery issues. Stanford, Huntington, Crocker and Hopkins who were businessmen in California, proposed a railroad project that would expedite the transport of men, equipment, supplies and produce out of the gold fields and permit the expansion of industry and the development of California as a state (, 2009).

Heated debate ensued over whether or not to build a railroad. In order to convince the government and the people, Stanford and his fellow businessmen, who came to be known as the Big Four, and Theodore Judah – the engineer for the project, campaigned hard for the realization of the project (, 2009). To strenghten their position, Stanford ran for governor of California and won.

Eventually, Congress voted for the railroad project. This made the Big Four eligible for a 130-million acre land grant from the government and financial subsidies as well (, 2009). The political influence of the Big Four, the significance of their project both to the union and local industry and the profitability of this line of business made the Pacific Railroad the largest and most powerful business at that time.

The Pacific Railroad became the key to the achievement of the U.S. as a continental state. It connected the Atlantic and Pacific sides of North America and was also instrumental in the rise of commerce and industry in the regions it covered. It had the capacity to provoke and resolve intense debates regarding burning political issues. Moreover, its construction and operation proved that it is possible to achieve the aims of Manifest Destiny.

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