Den første transkontinentale jernbanen i USA var en oppfinnsomhet og ingeniørarbeid. Det var resultatet av visjonærer og drømmere så vel som kloke forretningsmenn og hardtarbeidende arbeidere. Det åpnet for nye byer, nye næringer og nye muligheter for innvandrere og bosettere. Imidlertid førte det også til desimisering av indianernasjoner og miljøet, samt til et rasistisk tilbakeslag mot innvandrere.
Mens de studerer den første transkontinentale jernbanen, er det nyttig for studentene å lage biografiplakater for en innflytelsesrik person eller gruppe mennesker. Dette eksemplet viser ingeniør, Theodore Juda.
Theodore Dehone Judah was a railroad pioneer who was known for founding the Central Pacific Railroad.Judah was born in Bridgeport, CT in 1826 to Reverend Henry Raymond Judah, an Episcopal minister, and Mary Reece Judah. His family moved to Troy, New York and Judah attended the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to study civil engineering.At 18, Judah became a railroad surveyor and at 21 he married Anna Pierce. In the mid 1800s, railroads were steadily increasing across the country and Judah had a big dream to extend the railroad to stretch from coast to coast. In 1854, Judah declared to his wife, "Anna, I am going to California to be the pioneering railroad engineer of the Pacific coast." Theodore Judah's big dreams and his enthusiasm for the transcontinental railroad earned him the nickname "Crazy Judah".
Judah's passion led him to build the Sacramento Valley Line by 1856, which was the first railroad west of the Missouri River! Judah was now determined to build a great Pacific railroad. The largest obstacle to this project was the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Nobody had figured a way a railroad could be built through the mountains. Judah surveyed the area and in July 1860, determined that the Donner Pass was the best route. Judah convinced investors Mark Hopkins, Leland Stanford, Charles Crocker, and Collis Huntington (later known as the Big Four) to invest in his vision and went to Washington to lobby the government. President Lincoln signed the Pacific Railroad Act on July 1, 1862 approving construction. Judah famously telegraphed to his investors: "We have drawn the elephant, now let us see if we can harness him up."The Central Pacific Railroad began construction in 1863, but Judah was at odds with "The Big Four" who kept him in the dark about decisions and eventually maneuvered to oust Judah from his own project. As Judah scrambled to raise enough funds to continue to be involved, he set sail for New York and became deathly ill. He died in Anna's arms on November 2, 1863. When the project that he had envisioned was completed on May 10, 1869, it was also his wedding anniversary. Anna said: "It seemed as though the spirit of my brave husband descended upon me and together we were there unseen, unheard of by man."
"I am going to California to be the pioneering railroad engineer of the Pacific coast!"