One way to explore the development of the railroad in the North American West and its portrayal in the Western genre is via railroad simulation video games. One interesting example of such is the Railroad Tycoon series, which began in 1990 and has had 5 installments – the most recent being Sid Meier’s Railroads! in 2006.
The goal of these games is to create, operate and expand a railroad company. With an initial amount of money, players lay railway track, acquire equipment, and work to build their empire.
Geographic locations in the series include the American West. In Railroad Tycoon 3 (2003), those settings include the building of a line between Salt Lake City (Utah) and San Francisco (California) between the years 1855-1876. The second half of the final TV season of AMC’s Hell on Wheels, set to debut in the summer of 2016, will dramatize the completion of the very first such line, with the connection of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads in 1869.
Railroad Tycoon 3 also engages with the end of the historical “Old West” & the beginning with the 20th century in its “Texas Tea” mission. In that mode, players attempt to haul oil thru Texas and coffee into the United States from Mexico. Here is the launch trailer for that 2003 game:
(Copyright – Chad Beharriell)