Railroads and Conflict in the West

Start Free Trial

Why was the Transcontinental Railroad so important?

Expert Answers

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

Before the Transcontinental Railroad was built, transportation was slow, arduous, and dangerous. Relying mostly on horses and other draft animals, carts or buggies, and your own two feet, travelling across the US could take months and put you at risk for robbery, losing your way, the loss or death of your draft animal (and then no way to move your goods), and many many more factors that made the trek very difficult and potentially life-threatening. Not only was the transportation of goods and people slow and difficult, but so was the transportation of news and correspondence. To think of it in a more modern sense, if a disaster (think Hurricane Katrina or state-wide fires) were to happen, those forces that could send aid would take days, weeks, or even months to get the news and then take just as long to send aid.

The Transcontinental Railroad changed all this by connecting the United States "from sea to shining sea" and providing a foundation for the jump start of the Industrial Revolution within the United States. More and heavier goods could be transported faster and further, people could spread more widely across the continental United States, and news and information could be more timely and accurate. 

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team