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The United States Grows
(1865-1900)

Rails across America - UP Deals with Grasshoppers and Hell on Wheels



Rails across America - UP Deals with Grasshoppers and Hell on Wheels
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 7 to 9
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   6.44

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    actually-by, alighting, briny, desolate, drifts-whatever, eastbound, killed-cured, racecourse, snowplow, tent-towns, tent-villages, track-laying, workforce-Mormon, impassable, promontory, liquor
     content words:    Union Pacific, Central Pacific, Missouri River, Big Muddy, Great Plains, Brigham Young, Wasatch Mountains, Great Salt Lake, Promontory Point


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Rails across America - UP Deals with Grasshoppers and Hell on Wheels
By Toni Lee Robinson
  

1     When you think of racing, do fast cars come to mind? Or maybe horses? Perhaps people on foot, sprinting around a racecourse, each trying to finish before the others? The railroad race was nothing like any of these. It wasn't even a race between two trains.
 
2     The great railroad race was a contest between teams of workers. The Union Pacific and Central Pacific teams both worked hard to build the most track in the shortest time. But hammering the tracks in place was only part of the task. Getting the supplies and tools to the railroad was one of the biggest headaches of all.
 
3     Almost everything necessary for the UP crews to function had to cross the Missouri River. There were no bridges over the Big Muddy. Rails, ties, spikes, sledgehammers, shovels, everything needed for the construction had to travel by boat. Food, water, all the necessities to keep the men going, had to be shipped in. Even the huge locomotives had to be freighted across the Missouri.
 
4     From November to April, the great river was impassable. This meant waiting out the winter months with little progress on the road. In fact, winter on the Great Plains could bring anything to a sudden halt, including the railroad.
 
5     The winter of 1867 was the worst anyone could remember. During a February storm, ninety miles of UP line between Rawlins and Laramie, Wyoming, were shut down for three weeks. Two trains were stranded, one eastbound and one headed west. Hundreds of passengers were stuck in the desolate Wyoming wilds in a mountain snowstorm.

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