The Role of Railroads in the Great West Settlement, Essay Example


The rise of the railroad system in the American West between 1865 nand 1900 was integral to the region’s economic development and the Great West settlements. In addition, the railroad system was also instrumental in promoting ethnic diversity in the American West, as it drew Caucasian settlers from the East, African-American settlers from the Deep South, and Chinese settlers to work on the railroads[1].  The Great Plains and the Far West were popular settlement locations brought about by industrialization, partly fueled by the railroads. The railroads were also integral in the implementation of new developments, as well as encroaching economic adjustments in the area that led to the eventual defeat of the western Indians and southwest Hispanic communities. However, this also led to the growth of the presence of Asians, Mexicans, and Europeans who migrated to this area. Also, it is reported that railroad operations in Indian Territory in Oklahoma sparked competition by district settlers, and this led to the implementation of the Homestead Act of 1889 which opened the door for many settlers to gain occupancy and ownership of the land[2].

What the Railroads Accomplished

The invention and building of the railroads in the American West accomplished many siginificant events, such as improved transportation, imports, and exports. This gave way to the extension of capitalist initiatives, as well as new business and innovation, causing the growth and expansion of the settlements, as gold, mercury, agricultural products, livestock, and other forms of wealth were easily funneled into the West[3].


Henrietta. A Maturing Industrial Society, 1877–1914. Bedford St Martin, 2009.

Rise of Industrial America, 1876-1900. n.d.

Schwantes, C. A., and J P. Ronda. The West the Railroads Made. 2008.

[1]  (Rise of Industrial America, 1876-1900 n.d.)

[2]  (Henrietta 2009)

[3]  (Schwantes and Ronda 2008)