The transcontinental railroad, begun in 1855 and completed in 1869, transformed the Golden State from sleepy outpost into one of the world's most powerful economies. THE RAILROAD EMPIRE explores this vital moment in California's history and charts its impact on the development of a nation. Archival photography footage depicts the painstaking process of constructing this "ribbon of iron" through the Sierra Mountains. Interviews with historians and railroad experts paint a vivid portrait of how railroads forever altered the social and political landscape of the United States. The program also examines the institutionalized violence and systematic discrimination against Chinese railroad laborers, the development of unions and Congress' role in the Big Four's monopoly of California transportation.