The winner of the Great Transcontinental Railroad Race is still vigorously debated both on university campuses and in bars throughout the USA and DSA.
The British sponsored transcontinental railroad had started construction first, in 1846, with the American sponsored transcontinental response starting a year later, in 1847, the same year as the private "Southern Route" was inaugurated by Southern entrepreneurs. While the British sponsored railway had a head start, it was saddled with the need to build improvements and extensions east of the Mississippi to meet its political obligations. The American transcontinental railway had a greater breadth of the continent from coast to coast, but given the more developed railroads from the American Eastern Seaboard to Chicago, the amount of rail that had to be laid en toto was actually less, but construction on the American route was slowed yearly by the snows of American winter. The Southerner route took great advantage of the already existing lines along the Gulf Coast, had the shortest route of all, and no winter snows of note to deal with. Initially, it appeared to be a favorite to beat to the punch the politically hemmed in government routes. However, the private effort within a few years ran into financial difficulties, and over the course of its tulmultuous drive to the West, would change hands and owners several times. All three routes at certain points had to defend against attacks by Wild Indian Tribes. The Legion of America defended the American Route, the British Army the official Dominion Route, while a combination of hired guns and Royal Southern American Rangers provided security for the private Southern Route.
By 1853, it was suprising to see that the American and British Empire were essentially neck-and-neck in being able to complete their routes. With national pride on the line, both efforts strained mightily to be the first to complete the circuit. The British and Southerners first declared victory, but Americans quickly called foul, noting that the Southern route still had several unfinished railroad bridges over rivers on the route, using ferries to cross over these. Thus later in the year Americans claimed the credit for completing the first route fully traversible by a locomotive. However, before a train could actually perform the feat of traveling from East Coast to West Coast, unusually heavy snows closed the route. The Southerners worked throughout that winter to complete their river crossings on the route, and in fact were the first to have a train travel from the East Coast to the West Coast in the early 1854, with the route actually taken by this train east of the Mississippi was along the Gulf Coast. However, that train was one sponsored by the Dominion for the honor of claiming the title, and contained neither freight nor passengers. It was almost immediately thereafter that the Americans had the first commercial train travel across the continent (though at a financial loss, as the railway put forth a herculean effort to clear the last of the snows from the route to accomplish the task so early in the year). The Southerners quickly countered with the first passenger transport from the Coast to Coast.
Ironically, the financially tulmultuous Southern Route was finished a year later, in 1855, but would for several years thereafter become the most heavily traveled route of the three. In that same year, the final main branches of the other two routes (from Oregon for the Americans, and from Carleton for the Southerners) were completed as well. The completion of three full routes across the continent in such a short time would lead to a more rapid development of the interior and West Coast than many could have envisioned just a decade before.