Railroads and Conflict in the West

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What factors were key to the growth of railroads?

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One factor was the encouragement of the federal government. The federal government provided land grants along the right-of-way of major railroads. The railroads could then sell this land and make money not only from shipping but land sales as well.

Another thing that helped the growth of railroads was the rapid westward expansion of the United States after the Civil War. Millions of immigrants and poor whites from the South looked at the cheap land west of the Mississippi as a place to get a fresh start. Many immigrants also worked on creating railroads as track layers. As the Native American populations were placed on smaller reservations, more land was opened up to farming. These emigrants demanded supplies and access to markets which railroads provided. Railroads also developed monopolies over the shipping in many regions, thus allowing them to turn a great profit until they were regulated at both the state and national levels.

The final thing that allowed railroads to grow and prosper was the rapid industrialization of the United States as a whole. Andrew Carnegie's steel production enabled railroads to be made safer and more efficient. The United States needed ways to ship raw materials and finished products all over the country and to port cities where they could be shipped worldwide. Railroads were vital to the industrial growth of the nation.

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The West was becoming a strategically important part of the United States during the late nineteenth century. As the Western states became more closely linked to the rest of the country economically and politically, it became necessary to establish a reliable railroad network between the East and West. Whether it was agricultural products, cattle, or gold prospectors, they all needed to be transported to satisfy the growing demand for goods, services, and labor that the rapid development of the West necessitated.

Railroads proved highly effective during the Civil War in facilitating the movement of men and freight, and it was thought that they could perform a similar role in peacetime. In the years immediately following the Civil War, the United States developed rapidly as an industrialized power. The needs of this new industrialized economy required the regular transportation of raw materials and heavy machinery and equipment across the length and breadth of the country. At that time, the railroads were ideally placed to fulfill this overriding need, which in turn enabled the United States to strengthen its position as an industrial superpower.

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There were several factors that led to the growth of the railroads. One was the movement of people to the West. As people moved to the West, they needed a way to get materials and products to the area. The railroads expanded to fill this demand. People went west to mine, farm, and raise sheep and cattle. They needed basic supplies in order to survive. Plus, the farmers and cattle ranchers needed to ship their products. The railroads provided a way for this to occur. It allowed the railroad owners an opportunity to make money.

The government also encouraged the growth of the railroads. The Pacific Railway Act authorized the building of the transcontinental railroad. The government worked with railroad companies to make railroad growth happen. One thing the government did was give land grants to the railroad companies. The companies would sell this land and use the money they received to build the new or extended railroad lines.

As our trade expanded, railroad growth was needed. Railroad operators who figured out how to fill their trains with products and people as the trains traveled from the East to the West and vice versa could make a lot of money. This involved interstate trade as well as products we received from trade with other countries.

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