One such act was the Pacific Railway Act, passed in 1862. This act promoted westward expansion by providing enormous swaths of land to two companies--the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific--to construct a railroad that connected Omaha, Nebraska to the west coast. This act had been long in coming, but several schemes to construct such a railroad had floundered amid the sectional tensions of the period. The West is often imagined as a space where individuals could escape the strictures of the East, and it was, but the reality is that the federal government played a major role in its settlement. In this case, the dangers and expenses inherent with constructing railroads through mountain ranges and across lands occupied by Native Americans were so high that federal assistance was viewed as absolutely necessary. Once the transcontinental railroad was complete in 1869, a pattern was set for railroad construction in the West. Railroad companies received massive land grants, which they not only used for the construction of railroads, but also sold for timber, mineral, and other resources. This also fostered the formation of railroad monopolies, which took advantage of local farmers in the West through setting high rates and other practices. But the setting aside of land for railroad construction, along with the Homestead Act, which guaranteed federal land to farmers for settlement, was perhaps the single most important government act that promoted westward expansion.