As shown on the History Channel. In 1869, the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of America, more than 2,000 miles apart, are linked by continuous metal rails. The Transcontinental Railroad--the world's first--is the most ambitious human enterprise since the Great Wall of China, and much of it is built by Chinese laborers. The railroad doesn't just change the lives of Americans, it alters the entire ecology of the continent, and there are casualties. The vast Plains, where buffalo roam and Native Americans civilizations flourish, become home to farmers who build houses of grass--until daring loggers in the north drive lumber down the rivers to build the new homes and cities of the Midwest. It's the railroad that creates a new American icon--the cowboy--who drives cattle thousands of miles to meet the railheads and bring food to the East. But a simple new invention will change the lives of settlers, cowboys and Native Americans: barbed wire. Steel rails and now steel wire parcel up the Plains. In less than a quarter of a century, the heartland is transformed--not by the gun, but by railroad, fence, and plough.