American Experience - Transcontinental Railroad


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This site offers insights into topics in American history including the settling of the West; manifest destiny; contact and conflicts between Native Americans and white settlers; experiences of workers, including Chinese immigrants and Civil War veterans, in building the railroad; 19th century speculators and the rush to claim land; the Crédit Mobilier scandal and the backroom dealings that financed the railroad; the technical, mechanical, and engineering challenges of building steam locomotive routes across American terrain; the creation -- and, sometimes, abandonment -- of frontier boom towns; the use of nitroglycerin in construction projects; and the role of government in funding and overseeing infrastructure projects. Use part or all of the film, or delve into the rich resources available on this Web site to learn more, either in a classroom or on your own.


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    Topics and Grades

    Grade: 4 to 9

    Topics: History-Social Science