During the time of reconstruction after the Civil War, the railroad industry was maturing and expanding with a great force. The railroad industry had already existed be-fore this though; for instance, "the first regular steam-powered rail service in the United States . . . began in the genteel city of Charleston in 1830- (Abrams 325). Some of the major events in the business of railroads in the late 19th century were the construction of the transcontinental railroad, economic hindrances in railroad expansion, the expansion of the New York Central railroad, and the graft and bribery of Commodore Cornelius Van-derbilt.
Public demand for the transcontinental railroad for westward expansion was originally inspired by an 1836 proposal by the American statesmen John Plumbe and Robert John Walker (Railroads). Finally, in July 1862, Congress authorized the construc-tion of two railroads that together would provide the first railroad link between the Mis-sissippi Valley and the Pacific coast (Allen 57). One was the Union Pacific, to run west-ward from Council Bluffs, Iowa; the other was the Central Pacific, to run eastward from Sacramento, California. Each of these companies was awarded business through decep-tion, overcharging, and cheating of the government. To encourage the rapid completion of those roads, Congress provided generous subsidies in the form of land grants and loans. These subsidies were based on where the track was being laid, in mountains or plains, and there were land grants given in plots of one hundred and sixty acres on alter-nating sides of the track. .
Even with the government subsidies, the construction was slower than Congress had anticipated. The Union Pacific actually got off to an extremely slow start with only forty miles of track laid in the first two years. The Central Pacific, wanting to capitalize on this opportunity, was threatening to build tracks into the Union Pacific's allotted terri-tory.