While the American Civil War engulfed some parts of the country, life elsewhere continued as usual. On January 8, 1863, ground was broken in Sacramento, California for the nation’s first continental railroad.
While conducting the war, President Abraham Lincoln found time on July 1, 1862 to sign the Pacific Railroad Bill, promising generous land grants and 30-year government bonds to help finance the effort.
Spanning nearly 1,800 miles, the line would run through the Rocky Mountains and over the Great Plains, then known as the “Great American Desert,” before reaching its terminus in Omaha, Nebraska. Most of the areas under construction were little affected by the combat raging in other parts of the country. The celebrated route became operational on May 10, 1869.