Explain how the transcontinental railroad network provided the basis for the great post-Civil War industrial transformation?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Just as the construction of the interstate highway system would facilitate the more efficient movement of goods and people many decades later, the establishment of the transcontinental railroad system made possible the far more efficient movement of people and goods. The nineteenth century had seen the westward movement of Americans...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Just as the construction of the interstate highway system would facilitate the more efficient movement of goods and people many decades later, the establishment of the transcontinental railroad system made possible the far more efficient movement of people and goods. The nineteenth century had seen the westward movement of Americans seeking land, fortune, and, in some cases, religious freedoms unavailable in the early incarnation of the United States. Movement by horse-drawn carriage, however, was slow and extremely limited in capacity. Rail provided the opportunity for the mass movement of cargo, including livestock, as well people transiting between distant points.

The requirement for steel for both train construction and for the construction of the rail lines themselves spurred the development of that industry, and the demand for coal as fuel for train engines helped lift the mining industry. The agriculture sector benefited from the speed and bulk movement capabilities rail provided farmers, whose goods could reach more distant markets without spoiling.

Completion of the transcontinental railroad system was instrumental in the growth of the United States. The scale of commercial activity increased exponentially because of the bulk capability rail transportation provided, and human travel was additionally facilitated by the construction of the rail system. Rail remains important today for the same reason it was instrumental in national development. It remains a cost-efficient method for moving goods to market.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The transcontinental railroad provided the basis for the growth of industrialization after the Civil War. The building of the transcontinental railroad required the use of many machines and many resources. The building of the transcontinental railroad alone helped industries grow.

The transcontinental railroad also helped people move to the west. It became easier to move westward as a result of the railroad. As people went to the west to farm, to mine, or to raise cattle and sheep, the transcontinental railroad made it easier to ship products to the west. As the west grew, the demand for industrial products increased. Since it was easier to get people and products to and from the west, industries were able to make more products and sell them. Eventually, industries began to expand their facilities to the west so they could be closer to the people living there. The transcontinental railroad made it easier for these businesses to expand to the west.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The transcontinental railroad did this in two major ways.  First, it helped to stimulate the steel industry.  The demand for all those rails needed to build the railroad and for the cars that ran on those rails helped cause the steel industry to boom.   Second, the transcontinental railroad created a huge market that allowed industry to expand.  It allowed factories to get raw materials from anywhere in the US and sell their products to anywhere in the US.  By doing these things, the transcontinental railroad allowed the US to become an industrial power.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team