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The Transcontinental Railroad was a key factor in the industrial development of the United States. Before the Railroad's completion, rail lines had limited reach, and supplies could only be transported through laborious animal hauling. Because of this, the standard of living and wealth throughout much of the country was lower than in the industrialized, developed areas; food, medicine, and education were all affected by transport limitations. The Transcontinental Railroad did not permanantly solve all these problems, but it did improve transportation and living standards significantly. Cargo could be transported in larger bulk than ever before; imports and exports could be scheduled, raising the wealth of outlying areas, and of course the Railroad itself provided many jobs. It also shortened travel times between far destinations, making business trips easier and more productive, and making vacation trips possible. One of the biggest side effects of the railroad was to improve communications; as the rail was being laid, telegraph poles and wires were put up alongside, taking advantage of the newly-cleared land. This allowed far better communications across the nation than ever before.
The Transcontinental railroad played a major role in connecting the East and Western coasts of the United States. Spanish settlements had been established in the Western coast, currently the states of Washington, Oregon and California but they were separated by vast lands from the Eastern coast. There were very few routes that were either treacherous or expensive to access the far flung regions before establishment of the railroad.
The journey from the Eastern coast to the Western coast through land would take several months to accomplish. There were also risks of attacks and illness along the way which attributed to many deaths along that route. The other option would be to cover the distance by sea. This method still required several months and was expensive although less risky. The coming of the transcontinental railroad saw most of these issues sorted out and offered easy access for settlers and relatives to access or visit their families from coast to coast.
The transcontinental railroad was also necessary to ensure that the states along the Western coast remained loyal to the Union by providing easy access to the region.
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