Hell on Wheels

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"HELL ON WHEELS," a term applied to the temporary rails-end towns, or construction camps, of the Union Pacific Railroad. Construction westward along the 42d parallel began in 1865, laying a record-setting average of over a mile of track a day using only picks, shovels, and mules. The term reflected the rough work camps of the all-male, largely Irish laborers, who fought, drank, and caused general hell along the rail as they progressed westward over the prairie and through the mountains.


Bain, David Haward. Empire Express: Building the First Transcontinental Railroad. New York: Viking, 1999.

Williams, John Hoyt. A Great & Shining Road: The Epic Story of the Transcontinental Railroad. New York: Times Books, 1988.

Dan E.Clark/h. s.

See alsoRailroads ; Transcontinental Railroad, Building of .