Digital-Desert : Mojave Desert
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ecology: wildlife - plants - geography: places - MAPS - roads & trails: route 66 - old west - communities - weather - glossary
ghost towns - gold mines - parks & public lands: wilderness - native culture - history - geology: natural features - comments

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History - Railroads of the Mojave Desert:
Railroads around the Mojave National Preserve

Introduction

No one knows when civilization began, but sometime around fifteen or twenty or thirty thousand years ago mankind first discovered he didnít have to live in caves, but could build his own at whatever site he preferred using rocks and mud and logs and twigs and other building material, the beginning of architecture. At some time chasing wild cattle for food he found he could drive them into a box canyon and keep them there, handy to be slaughtered as needed, without running around hunting for them in the wild, the beginning of ranching or animal husbandry. After hunting wild edible vegetables and fruits, he found that tossing their remains on a trash heap led to germination of seeds close at hand, and he learned he could grow what he wanted close to where he lived instead of having to hunt wild plants in the wild - the beginning of agriculture. At some point he discovered he could ride a wild horse instead of just killing it for food, and you had the beginning of horse-borne transportation.

From that point fifteen or twenty or thirty thousand years ago until less than two hundred years ago, the fastest a man could move on land was as fast as a horse he was riding could run. And then, with the beginning of the industrial revolution, and the invention of the steam engine, and the application of that engine to a locomotive that rode on wheels that ran on metal rails, you had the invention of the railroad in the 1820s and within eight decades, by the end of the 19th Century, manís speed on land increased from the speed of a running horse to the speed of a railroad locomotive moving at about a hundred miles and hour.

The invention of the railroad represented a revolution in transportation unlike any that had occurred in all human history since the harnessing of the horse to carry man and pull his wagons. Furthermore, the railroad is the most efficient system for moving passengers and freight over land that has been invented to this day in terms of energy expended. The amount of a steel wheel that encounters a steel rail on a railroad car is about the size of a dime, and the amount of resistance of steel on steel as compared with the much larger interface of rubber tires on dirt or asphalt or concrete roads is infinitesimally smaller. That is why the railroad network in the United States remains a key foundation block of the nationís infrastructure. Imagine if you will, all of the freight and passengers carried on trains (with passengers, especially commuter trains in urban settings) being all transferred to trucks, buses and automobiles, and the congestion unto gridlock that would follow. The railroad is still with us today and construction by the Union Pacific of a second main train across Mojave National Preserve is a measure of just how much it is still with us today.

On May 10, 1869 at Promontory Summit (or Promontory Station) Utah, two railroads met to complete the first transcontinental railroad. Beginning at Omaha, Nebraska, where it connected with river borne transportation which via the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers connected with oceanic transportation through the Gulf of Mexico and across the Atlantic Ocean, the Union Pacific had built westward, and beginning at Sacramento, California, where it connected with river borne transportation on the Sacramento River which connected in San Francisco Bay with oceanic transportation across the Pacific Ocean, the Central Pacific Railroad built eastward, and when their locomotives touched, pilot to pilot, on May 10, 1869, above golden and silver spikes which secured the last rails, the first transcontinental railroad in North America was in business.

ecology: wildlife - plants - geography: places - MAPS - roads & trails: route 66 - old west - communities - weather - glossary
ghost towns - gold mines - parks & public lands: wilderness - native culture - history - geology: natural features - comments

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