Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Groundwork Laid

Surveyor's toolkit: how many of us can identify these
implements, let alone know how to use them?
One's first visit to the California State Railroad Museum is usually spent marveling at the beauty of the restored locomotives. The age of steam seems like the distant past, but it was less than 200 years ago that America was still an agrarian society.

A good part of the Museum is devoted to the history of the First Transcontinental Railroad, which transformed the national economy.

An exact duplicate of 
Stanford Univ's Gold
Spike is in the Museum
Before the final spike was driven in 1869, merchant ships took four to six months to make the trip to California via Cape Horn; a like amount of time was necessary to traverse the overland route by wagon train.

The railroad shortened the journey to five days, unifying the country geographically and sparking an explosion in the movement of people and goods in both directions.

Industry and agriculture were not the only beneficiaries, it was now possible to build fortifications against military threats originating from both the Atlantic and the Pacific.

The 20th century became the American century, in large part due to the groundwork that was laid in the 19th.

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