Western Expansion, Manifest Destiny, and the Mexican-American War

Start Free Trial

Student Question

How did the railroad impact the Western economy?

Expert Answers

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

The railroad was a huge factor in developing the west. Matter of fact, cities grew up around the railroad stations. Workers came from the east to find work in the west. Goods were shipped to the west for the people who were making their homes there. Many people who were victims of prejudice in the east went out west to gain employment. Mining was an enormous boost to the economy and they needed the railroads to transport their goods. In a sense the railroad was built on the mining industry. Of course, the west changed with all the influx of settlers. It became more civilized.

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

Without the railroads, the economy of the West would have had a very hard time expanding.

The economy of the West was based largely on mining and agriculture.  Both of these industries needed a way to get their products back to the East, where the vast majority of Americans lived.  If it had not been for the railroads, miners and farmers/ranchers would not have been able to get their products to market.  A perfect example of this would be the famous cattle drives of the Old West.  Cattle were driven from ranches to the railheads so they could be shipped back to the East.

Because of these things, you can say that railroads allowed the West's economy to grow much faster than it otherwise would have.

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

As population and migration increased in the West with frontier settlement as well as the desire for more wealth, railroads helped to link both the eastern/ central part of the United States with the newly discovered Western part.  Prospectors moved out West with the desire to generate new revenue streams, while settlers migrated in the hunt for new land.  There had to be a way to link both ends fo the continent, and this was seen in the railroad.  The transcontinental railroad linked both parts of the nation.  Spurned by Congressional allocation of funds, corporations built the railroad in exchange for land rights in the new West.  As more railroads were built, it helped to expand the nation and the West  Industries cropped up in the West and used the railroads to link industry to markets in the Eastern part of the nation.

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