Modern Marvels (1993– )
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The Transcontinental Railroad 

The story and struggles of how the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads united the United States by rail.


Lauren Levine, Bruce Nash (creator)


Episode credited cast:
Bob Dowty Bob Dowty ... Self - Chief Locomotive Engineer, Golden Spike National Historical Site
Walter Gray Walter Gray ... Self - Director, California State Railroad Museum
John P. Hankey John P. Hankey ... Self - Historian
Harlan Saperstein Harlan Saperstein ... Narrator


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The story and struggles of how the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads united the United States by rail.

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An Incredible Feat Highlights Season Opener
25 March 2008 | by ccthemovieman-1See all my reviews

This is a landmark episode: the first in this long-running and terrific series, aired on the History Channel. They started off in dramatic form, with an incredible feat. Here's how the narrator started this off:

"The plan was daring: to unite a nation with 1,700 miles of track across untamed wilderness,over snow-capped peak and through solid rock. Two rival workforces in a great race to link the American continent, each facing deadly obstacles and titanic challenges of engineering. Now, the transcontinental railroad on Modern Marvels!"

Some of many interesting facts in this presentation:

In the mid 19th century the fastest trains chugged along about 20 miles per hour....Those who emigrated out West from the Mississippi or Missouri rivers by covered wagon during this period and barely survived - which was just a percentage - had the trip take them at least four to five months. It included incredible hardships like illness and disease, the brutal terrain and weather, Indian attacks, loss of food and supplies, etc. There was one other alternative: boat. The problem was you had to travel all the way around South America, and take your chances with a lot of other major problems.....When the transcontinental railroad was done, the same trip from the Missouri River to the West Coast took 4-5 days, instead of months.

This information sets up the bulk of this fascinating episode, making us aware of the incredible feat - including how to finance the huge project - that lay before the tough men who undertook this challenge of making a railway across the United States over 150 years ago. Believe me, these guys were tough and lived under difficult conditions.

Some names you may not know but were heroes as far as making this whole thing happen were Asa Whitney, Theodore Judah, Thomas Durant and Granville Dodge.

Suffice to say if you are interested in history and want to learn about one of the greatest feats ever accomplished in the United States, check out this History Channel "Modern Marvels" first episode.

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Release Date:

1 January 1995 (USA) See more »

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