In 1863, construction began on the transcontinental railroad—1,776 miles of tracks that would form a link between America's West and East coasts. While thousands of European immigrants worked on the westbound Pacific Union rail, there was not enough manpower to build the Central Pacific line, which snaked through the rugged Rocky and Sierra Nevada Mountains.
In 1865, Central Pacific officials hired 50 Chinese laborers to lay down a section of track. Their work was so well done, they decided to recruit more Chinese men. In the end, nearly 12,000 Chinese railroad workers were hired to perform dangerous work. They dammed rivers, dug ditches, and blasted tunnels through mountain ranges.
"Although working on the railroad was a risky job for all laborers, Chinese workers faced more challenges than their white counterparts did."
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