Tens of thousands of veterans found themselves facing uncertain futures at the end of the Civil War (1861-1865). Although the transcontinental railroad was authorized and signed into law in 1862, full construction efforts did not start until after the war’s end. Veterans joined in the building of both the Central Pacific Railroad (from the west) and the Union Pacific Railroad (from the east). As a workforce, veterans were disciplined, accustomed to taking orders and able to endure much hardship. Many of the work-in-file railroad workers (and nearly all of the engineers) had learned to build, maintain –and even destroy– railroads during the war. Spike150 and the 150th anniversary celebration honors America’s Civil War veterans, most of whom contributed first to reuniting our nation, then together thereafter constructing a stronger nation by building the first transcontinental railroad.
Courtesy of the Utah State Historical Society
Railroad workers (including Civil War veterans wearing both gray and blue) assembled in front of the paymaster car, Blue Creek, Box Elder County, Utah, 1869, Andrew J. Russell, photographer