The Transcontinental Railroad: Chinese Immigrant Railroad Workers

By | January 18, 2019

test article image
Montana: Chinese laborers during building of Northern Pacific Railroad. 1,500 Chinese helped to complete the job. Source: (

During the Civil War, Congress authorized the construction of a transcontinental railroad. The railroad would connect the east to the west, spanning 1,800 miles and going through the Rocky and Sierra Nevada Mountain Ranges.

test article image
Photo of Chinese immigrants working on the Transcontinental Railroad. Source: (

Finding the Workforce

Building the railroad required more laborers than even existed in America at the time. In the mid-1800s, the turmoil in China led many to emigrate to California. Most were married men who planned to return to China. The Central Pacific Railroad labor force, over the course of two years, grew to 13,500 employees with 12,000 of them being Chinese immigrants.