Members of the American Society of Civil Engineers have announced plans to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the completion of the historic Transcontinental Railroad next month in Sacramento.
The two-day event will focus on the actual building of the 1,912-mile railroad line that connected by track Omaha, Nebraska with the San Francisco Bay.
The project took six years to complete, between 1863 and 1869, and to this day is regarded as one of the greatest construction and engineering triumphs in U.S. history.
Civil engineer and scholar Raymond Paul Giroux is scheduled to speak at the upcoming Sacramento event. According to a publication called ASCE News, Giroux will emphasize in his talk not only the extraordinary work that went into building the railroad, but the planning and engineering that led to its completion.
In an interview with the publication, Giroux said while there remains “some casual understanding of the complexity of the effort required to plan the route,” he does not feel that “most published historical accounts of the route planning really do it justice.”
Giroux notes that the available documentation of the project indicates that “civil engineers took into consideration social and political factors as well as technical feasibility and financial viability of differing route options.”
Those engineers also analyzed the bridge, tunnel, and track construction costs before the work was launched.
Giroux contends that the lesson for today’s civil engineers is one that emphasizes the importance of understanding an entire project from the planning and design phase all the way through to construction.
He adds that those earlier engineers were only able to see the Transcontinental Railroad through to completion by the use of “extemporaneous temporary structures and work-around solutions to advance the railroad, while permanent solutions could be developed off of the critical path.”
The ASCE Transcontinental Railroad event is scheduled to take place between May 5 and 6 at the Sheraton Grand Sacramento Hotel.
By Garry Boulard
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