Building the Railroad

In the 1800s, most American lived in the eastern part of the United States. Traveling from east to west was difficult. People made trips on wagons, on horses, or on foot. Crossing the U.S. could take six months.

Americans needed a quicker way to travel. Trains could move people more quickly and safely. In the 1860s, the U.S. government decided to build a train system across the country. The system was named the Transcontinental Railroad.

The Central Pacific Railroad company (CPRR) looked for workers to do this job. They would have to lay tracks across rivers, mountains, and deserts. It was dangerous and difficult work. At that time, millions of people in China were poor. Many came to the U.S. The CPRR began hiring Chinese immigrants to fill the jobs. These immigrants were very hard workers. Soon, most of the CPRR’s workers were Chinese. One crew of mainly Chinese workers laid 10 miles of track in just one day. That was the fastest time ever!

Chinese workers were not treated equally. Sometimes they were paid less than other workers. They also had to pay for their food, housing, and clothes. Other workers did not have to pay for those things.

Chinese immigrants worked hard, but were treated unfairly. They did something important. These immigrants helped to build the Transcontinental Railroad.