The Transcontinental Railroad, finished in 1869, was only part of a massive increase in railroad growth in postwar America. First, the railroads themselves created a need for new materials, such as cheap steel for rails. Andrew Carnegie made millions of dollars creating the raw material to make these rails. The railroads also improved the economies of towns as they became rail hubs. No one would have heard of Dodge City, Kansas without the railroad. The transcontinental railroad also connected the fertile Pacific Coast region with a growing urban population in the East who had no access to farms. Refrigerated railcars would ultimately give Easterners access to goods the West enjoyed, such as out-of-season produce and cheap beef.
The transcontinental railroad also united America economically, as mail-order catalogs now had a way to get goods to their customers quickly and inexpensively. People from coast to coast could now shop out of the same catalogs, thus creating a distinctly American consumer culture out of what had been only a regional one previously.