The building of the Pacific Railroad was one of the great works of man. Its promoters were men of small means and little or no financial backing outside of the aid granted them by the Government. It took nerve and good Yankee grit to undertake and carry out the project. How it was done it is hoped the succeeding pages may show.
1848 in a bill entitled "Authorizing Asa Whitney, his heirs or assigns, to construct a railroad from any point on Lake Michigan or the Mississippi River he may designate, in a line as nearly straight as practicable, to some point on the Pacific Ocean where a harbor may be had." The road to be six foot gauge, sixty-four pound rails. The Government to establish tolls and regulate the operation of the line, Whitney to be the sole Owner and receive a salary of four thousand dollars per year for managing it.
The proposition was debated for days in the Senate and then was tabled on a vote of twenty-seven to twenty-one. The opposition dwelt largely on the length of time Whitney would necessarily require. Say he could colonize and sell a million acres a year, this would only be funds enough to build one hundred miles and consequently the two thousand miles would require at least twenty years. The defeat was largely owing to the opposition of Senator Benton of Missouri, the most pronounced friend of the West in