DeGolyer Library

"A Highway to the Pacific": Building the Transcontinental Railroad

January 29-May 31, 2019

Hillcrest Foundation Exhibit Hall, Fondren Library West, open Monday - Friday, 8:30am to 5:00pm, except University holidays 


On May 10, 1869, the last rail was laid, a golden spike was driven, and the Union Pacific Railroad, proceeding west from Omaha, and the Central Pacific Railroad, proceeding east from Sacramento, met at Promontory, Utah, having built together the first transcontinental railroad in the world. Our current exhibit of original pamphlets, maps, photographs, government surveys, and other materials tells the story of this “highway to the Pacific,” as promoters often called it.  A great technological achievement, the railroad was the subject of intense political debate before construction began, finally emerged out of the turmoil of the Civil War, and played a leading role in the long-term development of the American west.   



'Gro'p of distin. guests of U. P. R. R. at 100h mer' by John Carbutt, October 1866. After the Union Pacific Railroad reached the 100th meridian of longitude in 1866, a group of politicians and dignitaries and their wives were invited on a trip to view the progress.

'Central Pacific Railroad, and Alameda Creek' by Thomas Houseworth & Co., circa 1867-1869. 

 'Engine House & workshops of U. P. R. R. at Omaha' by John Carbutt, October 1866. 

'Donner Mountain, showing Snow Sheds, C. P. R. R.' by Charles L. Pond, circa 1867-1869.

'Ferry Landing and Freight Shed - Oakland Wharf' by Thomas Houseworth, circa 1867-1869.

'First Bridge, Alameda Canon, Central Pacific Railroad' by Thomas Houseworth, circa 1867-1869.

'First Rock cut on U. P. R. R. entering the Black Hills' by John Carbutt, October 1867. "Carbutt took the photographs included in his series of stereographs titled Views of the Rocky Mountains and Vicinity while on the Editorial Party Excursion sponsored by Union Pacific Railroad."

'Excur. party 275 ms. W. of Omaha, Oct. 24 '66' by John Carbutt, October 24, 1866.

'Interior View of Snow Shed - C. P. R. R.' by Thomas Houseworth, circa 1867-1869.


'Rocky Cut Above Alta and American River 2000 feet below' by Thomas Houseworth, circa 1867-1869.

'Group of Excursts. at Camp No. 1, Columbus, Neb.' by John Carbutt, 1866.

'The American River - From Cape Horn, 1,400 feet below' by Thomas Houseworth, circa 1867-1869.

'The Big Cut, Livermore Pass' by Thomas Houseworth, circa 1867-1869.

'The Excursion Train going West' by John Carbutt, October 1866. 

'Train in Bloomer Cut' by Thomas Houseworth, circa 1867-1869.

'Train Leaving Oakland Wharf for New York' by Thomas Houseworth, circa 1867-1869.

'View at Cape Horn C. P. R. R. California' by Charles L. Pond, circa 1867-1869.

"Progress of the Union Pacific Railroad west from Omaha, Nebraska, across the continent, making, with its connections, an unbroken line from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean"

"Progress of the Union Pacific Railroad Across the Continent, West from Omaha, Nebraska, 1868" published by the Union Pacific Railroad Company.

"Choice Farming Lands in Iowa and Nebraska" published by the Iowa Rail Road Land Company, 1871

"An Address on the Railroad Evil and Its Remedy" written by Alfred A. Cohen and published by Valentine Francis & Co. in 1879.

"The Pacific Railroad: A Defense Against Its Enemies" written by H. De La Montanya and published by the Central Pacific Railroad Company of California, 1864

"Rail Road from St. Louis to San Francisco: The Boston Plan" which describes a plan "to complete, in two years, in two years, the telegraph, from San Francisco to St. Louis, Memphis, and Chicago, and to all other parts of the United States. And to complete this rail road communication in four years." Published by Dutton and Wentworth, Boston, in 1849

"Speech of the Hon. Jefferson Davis, of Mississippi, on the Pacific Railroad Bill, Delivered in the Senate of the United States, January, 1859" published by John Murphy & Co. in Baltimore.

"Union and Central Pacific Railroad Line via Omaha or Kansas City to San Francisco" from the Union Pacific Railroad Company, printed by Republican Print in Omaha, 1882

"Speech of Hon. Aaron A. Sargent, of California: on the Pacific Railroad as a Military Necessity. Delivered in the House of Representatives, January 31, 1862" published by G.C. Rand & Avery in Washington.