Not many people know the following bit of obscure American historical trivia, but, as it was recently brought back to my attention and I love nothing more than sharing interesting tidbits which delight and instruct, I lay it out for you below.
Before the profusion of railroad lines capable of transporting one from basically any major origin on one side of the country to any major destination on the other, regardless of the latitude of either, plans were made for two chief lines, or, if you like, one line with a major point of divergence, though they would still be two logical lines. Both would start in the highly populated northeast, travelling southwest for a spell until hitting roughly the middle of the country, there heading west in a more-or-less straight line. Then, one of the lines would turn to the northwest, ending in Washington state, and the other southwest, ending in Arizona. It was decided that construction on the lines (post-bifurcation) would proceed serially, with the latter being constructed first. However, as is well known, the process of undertaking such a vast construction project, in an era of rampant corruption (which is as much as to say, in an era), was more involved than anyone anticipated during the planning phase. As a result, after construction of the first branch was completed, all parties agreed that they wouldn't bother with the construction of the second, and those lines that did eventually service those areas were added piecemeal by individual operators.
And that's why we never got a ciscontinental railroad.