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Building the Transcontinental Railroad

150th Gold Spike logo
May 7, 2019 - 5:00pm
Dinkelspiel Auditorium
471 Lagunita Drive, Stanford

Free. Open to the public.

Advance registration required. Registration is closed.

Speaker: Raymond Paul Giroux, Distinguished Member, American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)

Seeking opportunity, adventurous Americans began migrating to the west coast of North America in the first half of the 19th century.  With the first wagon trains of settlers leaving Independence, Missouri in 1836 they would embark on an arduous five month journey. With the discovery of gold near Sacramento, California in 1848, political pressure mounted for a safe and speedy passage to the Pacific Coast.  Exploratory surveys were needed to determine a feasible route through mountainous terrain many said was impossible to cross.  Even as the United States was embroiled in a Civil War (1861-1865), Abraham Lincoln had the courage to start building a transcontinental railroad that would help unite all of America in 1862.

There would be two mighty forces: the Central Pacific Railroad marching east from Sacramento, and the Union Pacific Railroad marching west from Omaha, building a 1,776 mile-long railroad of unprecedented scale through rugged and hostile territory, to a meeting point not yet known.

Completed in May of 1869, the Transcontinental Railroad is an important chapter not only in civil engineering, but in the history of the United States.  This presentation will bring the story of the Transcontinental Railroad to life, revealing

• The challenges of building the Transcontinental Railroad.
• The means and methods used to build the Transcontinental Railroad.
• The contributions of the builders of the Transcontinental Railroad to the civil engineering profession.
• The importance of the Transcontinental Railroad to growth and development of the United States.

This program will be preceded by the Stanford Historical Society 43rd Annual Meeting.


  • 5:00 - 5:20 p.m. | Members' Meeting (open to non-members)
  • Brief Intermission
  • 5:30 - 7:00 p.m. | Featured program and Q&A (open to non-members)
  • Members' Reception to follow
Event Sponsor: 
Stanford Historical Society
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