California was added as an American territory in the year 1848, and was declared a state in 1850. The fortune that the gold rush of 1848 brought to California gave birth to lots of subsequent developments in the state. All the possible efforts were made by the government and other non-government influential business magnets to establish a connection with the apparently almost isolated land of California. It took at least five to eight months to reach the east coast from New York via the waterway across the Atlantic, southern tip of South America and the Pacific Ocean. Moreover, the journey was full of dangers that included the risk of oceanic cyclones, the Red Indian attacks, typhoid fever and Cholera. An alternative communication system was necessary to ensure the proper flow of both the people and productions to boom the potential economy that the 1948 gold rush offered.
Realizing the importance of the modernization of communication system, the US congress passed the Pacific Railroad Bill and several other grants that allowed some of the railroad construction companies to start constructing railways that would become the transcontinental railroad; a path that would boost the US economy enormously. The Central Pacific and the Union Pacific railroad companies contributed greatly to this newly emerging industry. The first intercontinental railroad was completed in the year 1869 that connected Nebraska to the isolated western coast of California. As the last spike was set on May 10, 1869, the 2,575 kilometer- 1600 in mile- journey now would take only a few days which was once a matter of at least five to eight months via waterways.
The construction of intercontinental railroad proved to be a milestone in the history of California as well as of entire United States of America. Railway construction overshadowed all other industries of the time. A new flow of urbanization and infrastructural development took place. The trade of commodities related to railroad construction such as iron, steel, wood etc. encountered a huge boom (Endsley). The concentration was now shifted from gold mining to a larger arena of trade and market flow. Before the construction of railroad, it would take around $1000 to travel between New York and California. But after the railroad was opened for public transportation, it was a matter of only $150 and a single week to reach California from the western coast of Atlantic.
The process of the construction of railroad was extremely painstaking and risky. There was a scarcity of white labor. A new wave of Chinese labors was seen at this moment. A huge number of Chinese was already living in California who came in search for gold during late 1840s and 1850s. However, these newly arriving Chinese labors were proved to be very effective for the construction work. They worked constantly for 8 hour a day and 6 days a week, with a wage rate of $1 a day. Needless to say, these Chinese labors built the base for the upcoming influx of market flow that made California one of the richest states of America. Sadly, within next few years, anti-Chinese immigration concerns grew among the white nationals, and the congress passed bills to ban Chinese emigration afterwards which was prevalent until the time of President Roosevelt.
The people of California didn’t get the expected result immediately after the completion of the railroad. It was naturally expected that the productions of Californian land were now easily transportable to the wider market, and thus, Californian economy would boost enormously. But, to great depression, the Californians experienced huge competition with a much wider, much greater wave of Eastern traders. Their products now had to compete with the nationwide circulation process as a whole. Though their products flew very well, they didn’t get the expected price. Moreover, the labors of railroad construction became unemployed once the construction was over. Thus, they all shifted to San Francisco and California in search for new means of livelihood, which in turn resulted in a decrease of wage in the state of California and the surrounding areas.
However, this temporary depression was nothing compared to the fortune that the railroad brought for the Californians. The refrigerated train bogies were of great help for the fruit producers of California. These goods, which once had no way but been disposed as garbage because of the lack of consumers, could now easily be transported to the eastern consumers. As the travel became easy, the industrialists, businessman and the creative minds from all around of America could now get an idea about the vastness of their country, about the potentialities of their professional fields, and could develop new plans for industrial and infrastructural development.
The railway carriages were transporting an average of approximately $50 worth of freight each year only within 10 years of the completion of the railroad (endsley). The state of California experienced actual boost resulting mainly from the railroad in the 1880s when the Southern Pacific Company took over the responsibility of the publicity of California. The publicity department of the railroad managed the famed national daily newspapers and periodicals to publish news and stories about the new potential image of California that resulted from gold rush and now grew much more productive as a result of the construction of the railroad.
As a result of the huge publicity, several other railroad companies reached Los Angeles by the 1885 and began to compete with the Southern Pacific. The travel fare decreased to as low as $1 which was previously around $125 (Csun.edu). Real estate business received a boom to accommodate hundreds of thousands of people arriving every day. 2,000,000 people arrived in California in a single year, 1887. Hundreds of new communities were established in Los Angeles with over 5,000,000 home-sites
The railroad business began to face strong competitors by the end of the nineteenth century. The main rivals this time were highway transport services, cars and airplanes. The railway as passenger transport became dominated firstly by street car service, then by the National City Line bus services. By the mid-nineteenth century, the influence of railroad almost declined in favor of its new competitors. (Csun.edu). The construction of railroad marks a new era of development and prosperity for the state of California. It consolidated the potentialities that the gold rush brought up. Therefore, we can undoubtedly claim the construction of the coast to coast railroad as one of the most felicitous events of the state of California.