The First Transcontinental Railroad: Central Pacific, Union Pacific

By John Debo Galloway | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
Locating the Central Pacific Railroad

ON ACCOUNT of the magnitude of the undertaking of building the Pacific Railroad, both because of the length of nearly 1,800 miles and the remote and difficult country it traversed, certain principles which governed its location may be mentioned. In the case of railroad terminals as widely separated as Sacramento and Omaha, the shortest distance between the two is measured on the trace of a great circle. This trace cannot be drawn as a straight line upon an ordinary map, which is meant to represent the surface of a sphere on a flat surface. For short distances, the variation would be of no great importance, but over a spread of 1,800 miles there would be a wide difference between the shortest distance as measured on an ordinary map and as measured on a great circle. The topography of the country will rarely, if ever, permit a railroad to follow a great circle trace exactly, but it is remarkable how closely the located lines of the Pacific Railroad adhered to the trace of a great circle drawn

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