U.S. War Department, Reports of Explorations and Surveys, ca. 1855
Congress authorized publication of the U.S. Pacific Railroad Expedition’s 13-volume report between 1855 and 1861. The volumes included thousands of illustrations of landscapes and natural specimens.
Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress
A Railroad to the Pacific - 2
Settlement of the western territories in the 1850s increased the need for efficient rail transport to the Pacific Coast, but members of Congress could not agree on what route it should follow. Northern members wanted a northern route; southern members sought one advantageous to their region's interests. To inform this debate, in 1853 Congress authorized the Army Corps of Engineers to survey four potential rail routes. Intense sectionalism blocked further legislation until southern states seceded. In 1862, a northern-controlled Congress passed the Pacific Railroad Act.