Sometime around 1860, an application was made before the state's first legislature for a railroad franchise from Carson City to Virginia City.
In 1862, President Lincoln signed the Pacific Railroad Bill into law – a law that provided federal aid to private entities to construct a transcontinental railroad.
The Pacific Railroad Bill provided that the Union Pacific would build westward and that the Central Pacific would build eastward. This was the beginning of what would be a race to construct rail across the country connecting the eastern U.S. and the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. That race concluded in 1869 when the two railroads met.
In 1868, Reno (previously Lake's Crossing, a camping place for passing travelers) became a city after a railway agent held an auction of real estate.
In 1890, Union Pacific Railroad began construction of the Salt Lake route across Nevada to connect Salt Lake City and Los Angeles. Legislation passed in 1901 allowed the railroad to build across southern Nevada. Railroad developers determined that the water-rich Las Vegas Valley would be a prime location for a stop facility and a town. The tracks reached Las Vegas in 1904.
In 1905 Southern Pacific Railroad established the town of Sparks, Nevada (first called East Reno) and later named Sparks in honor of then Governor John Sparks.
In 1931, the Union Pacific constructed a rail line requiring the construction of five tunnels through the rock hills linking Las Vegas to Boulder City (for additional information www.nps.gov/lake/planyourvisit/hikerr.htm). Construction was completed in 1935. Shortly thereafter, the Six Companies, Inc. Railroad branch used to construct Hoover Dam was decommissioned and the rails removed.
Throughout the history of rail in Nevada and the country, miles upon miles of track were laid, many strikes paralyzed transcontinental rail operations, mergers and acquisitions occurred, rail touched some cities and created others, rail brought people and goods to the mines, the ocean and the rivers – it connected a country.