More than 140 years ago, President Abraham Lincoln created Union Pacific Railroad with the stroke of a pen. What followed has been called the greatest engineering feat of the 19th century. In the seven years after Union Pacific’s creation, construction crews crossed hundreds of miles of desert, pushed into mountains, and forded streams and rivers to link east and west by rail. Union Pacific’s role in building the transcontinental railroad opened the American West to settlers and united a continent.
The completion of the transcontinental route in 1869 shortened the journey from New York to San Francisco from six months to ten days. Tens of thousands of immigrants made the westward journey, passing through towns that grew around railroad water stops. Many began new lives in those communities, becoming farmers, ranchers, and entrepreneurs.
The building of the American West required innovation, and Union Pacific supplied it. Before completion of the transcontinental railroad, there were no time zones. To ensure safety and efficiency of trains on the route, the railroad industry instituted standard time, leading to what have become the Central, Mountain, and Pacific time zones.
Farmers’ need to sell crops beyond their local markets led to the development of refrigerated boxcars and the quick movement of perishables from agricultural areas to cities in the east — forever changing America’s eating habits.
When recreational areas sprang up along the route, Union Pacific was quick to lend a hand. Union Pacific engineers built the world’s first chair lift at the Sun Valley ski resort to support tourism in the west.
When the country went to war, Union Pacific moved troops and supplies. That commitment continues today as Union Pacific supports the many efforts to secure the nation’s security at home and abroad.
In recent years, Union Pacific has continued its tradition of innovation with the adoption of high-tech tools. From satellite technology to computerized locomotives, Union Pacific embraces technology to increase the railroad’s efficiency and safety.