Another great article from mental_floss:
Before the transcontinental railroad, travel from the East to the West Coast took many moons and at least a thousand dollars. If you journeyed overland, bandits and belligerent natives might ravage your wagons, foul weather or unexpected hazards might strand you in mountains, and for any number of reasons — up to and including Divine Wrath — your party might drop from thirst, hunger, or pestilence, leaving bones for strange rodents to gnaw and scatter. If you went by water, the trip would be long and you might get bored, which is a drag.
Image credit: ShortStuf7
American Experience – Transcontinental Railroad
Empire Express: Building the First Transcontinental Railroad
Modern Marvels – Transcontinental Railroad (History Channel)
Nothing Like It In the World : The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad 1863-1869