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Its completion gave birth to a new era, and the expansion of its western lines is evidenced today in the far-flung properties of the Southern Pacific Company.
Pioneer of transcontinental railroads, Southern Pacific had its origin in the Central Pacific Rail Road Company of California, incorporated June 28, 1861, to build the western portion of the Pacific Railroad.
The arduous overland journey across the plains by oxen or mules, and the long ocean voyage via Panama or around Cape Horn, brought to the early settlers a realization of their isolation from the remainder of the country.
A growing sentiment in the West and East favored a railroad that would bind the nation closer together.
The story of the early beginnings of this great railroad project is the story of the West, the saga of individual initiative and courage that spanned a nation with bands of iron rail and nurtured the development of today's western empire.
Construction of the rail highway for the Iron Horse from the Pacific Coast to the Missouri River was one of man's greatest accomplishments.
He failed to impress men with money to invest until he got the attention of the Sacramento merchants.
After passage of the bill, Huntington wired his associates: "We have drawn the elephant, now let us see if we can harness him." In granting this aid to the Central Pacific and Union Pacific, Congress followed a federal policy already established, and one extended to several other railroads built before and after the Pacific Railroad was authorized.
The financial aid was not a donation, but was in the form of United States 6% bonds which were a lien against the railroad property, with repayment to be made in thirty years.
Construction began at Sacramento in 1863 following authorization by Congress in 1862.
The original unit of the transportation system that today comprises more than 15,000 miles of rail lines in this country and Mexico, was built from Sacramento 690 miles over the Sierra Nevada Mountains and across Nevada to meet the Union Pacific at Promontory, Utah, where the Last Spike was driven on May 10, 1869.