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The Union had won the Civil War and abolished slavery. However, Lincoln, an early champion of railroads, would not live to see the next great achievment. The governmentpitted the Union Pacific against the Central Pacific in a race that encouraged speed over caution. Locomotives, rails, and spikes were shipped from the east through Panama, around South America, or lugged across country. The railroad was the last great building project to be done by hand. The brave men who built the American Transcontinental Railroad between 1865 and 1869 came from China, Ireland and the defeated South.
Stephen E. Ambrose is the author of numerous books on history and is founder of the Eisenhower Centre and the National D-Day Museum in New Orleans.