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04: Construction of the Transcontinental Railroad (editor's title)

Shovel shovel at Hanging Rock, Echo Canyon, Utah
Between 1828 and 1869, America achieved the goal of spanning the continent with a railroad. To accomplish this, the federal government awarded public lands to private railroad companies so that the railroads in turn could sell the land to finance construction, benefiting both the private and public sectors. Here, about 15 workers for the Union Pacific employ an Otis Excavator and work train with locomotive no. 143 to complete the track through the difficult site at Hanging Rock in Echo Canyon, Utah. The train seems to have dump cars that were recently filled with rocks and soil excavated by the shovel. The image indicates that a temporary track had been laid at higher grade on the right to push the railroad west for its 1869 opening. Now, the excavator was employed to relocate the tracks and ease the grade. UP had four excavators, all patented by Wm. S. Otis in 1838. Inclusion of about 15 men in the picture honors work and new technology as much as the picture honors railroading. It is a portrait of accomplishment, technology, and, above all, America's use of railroads to accomplish the nation's social, political, and economic goals of westward expansion. Railroads relatively quickly linked America's west and east coasts, providing transportation for freight and passengers and rapid communication of public and personal news.

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Alternate Title Railroad History in a Nutshell
Source Oakland Museum of California
Coverage Spatial, Echo Canyton, Utah; temporal, c. 1869
Rights Oakland Museum of California
Date Created c1869
Resource Type
Extent Not available
Depicted Railroad
Location Echo Canyon, Utah
Creator Description Andrew J. Russell (1829-1902) made two trips as official photographer for the Union Pacific in 1868 and in 1869. His extensive series, "Union Pacific R.R. Stereoscopic Views,” showed construction from Cheyenne, Wyoming Territory, to Promontory, Utah Territory. In 1869 he continued coverage of the Pacific Railroad as far as Sacramento, California. His collection of more than 200 large-plate and 400 stereo-glass negatives is at the Oakland Museum of California. Russell grew up in Nunda, New York, where his family worked in canal and railroad construction. As an army captain during the Civil War he was assigned special duty as photographer for the United States Military Railroad. After he finished the railroad project in the West, he returned to New York City and joined Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper as a full-time staff photographer in 1870. Leslie’s attributes some photos to “our staff photographer” while credits others to Russell. Russell continued at Leslie’s until 1891, when he applied for a disability pension from the military, retired, and moved to Brooklyn.
Collection The Andrew J. Russell Collection
Image ID H69.459.1858
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