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Mapping the First Transcontinental Railroad

Determining the route of the first-ever transcontinental railroad is not an easy feat and in the mid-1800s, it probably seemed impossible to many: enter dreamers like Asa Whitney and Theodore Judah (nicknamed "Crazy Judah") to begin mapping proposed rail lines through treacherous landscapes such as the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Although logistics and the Civil War temporarily sidelined their dream, the government was eventually convinced and began conducting official surveys while businessmen such as Leland Stanford and Mark Hopkins procured the financial path on which to build.

Each one of these story lines are woven into the cartographic endeavors during this time, and we have used the Esri Story Map platform to share some of these historical maps with you. We have also assigned latitude and longitude to many of Alfred A. Hart's photographs in order to view them in their geographic context and explored historical data sets. Although you can view the story below, it is recommended that you click the small square with arrow icon at the bottom right of this page for a better viewing experience.