Transcontinental Railroad

Transcontinental Railroad

I can describe the transcontinental railroad and its effects on the movement...

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Transcontinental Railroad

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Students learn how railroads and the transcontinental railroad changed the nation. They will learn how the railroad was built and how it tied the nation together. The lesson also explains how this affected our time zones and brought about significant economic and social changes.

Learning Objective

Students will be able to examine the effects of the transcontinental railroad on the movement toward westward expansion.


Explain that after the Civil War, the railroad business expanded greatly. The key event was the completion of the transcontinental railroad, a railway that extended from coast to coast. Students are asked to think about the following questions before beginning the lesson: “Why do you think the government helped fund the creation of new railroads?” “How do you think railroads changed the lives of Americans?”


Explain how the transcontinental railroad was built by joining two corporations, the Union Pacific and Central Pacific, led by Grenville Dodge and Theodore Judah. Explain that many Chinese immigrants were also hired to work on this project and describe the conditions under which these workers lived and worked. Describe how the railroad benefited the economy and contributed to growth out west. Next, go over how Professor C.F. Dowd divided the days into different time zones, Eastern, Central, Mountain, and Pacific. Finally, discuss how railroad construction also led to an increase in corruption. Have students analyze the political cartoon depicting railroad owner, Jay Gould.


Check student understanding with ten multiple-choice, fill-in, and true or false questions.


Students will create a poster in which they try to recruit workers to build the railroad, explaining how the railroad will change life in the United States.

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