HORSE AND SAILING CARS
Following the horse-power car came the Meteor. This was a sailing-vehicle,
the invention of Mr. Evan Thomas, who was, perhaps, the first
person, as already mentioned, who advocated railroads in Baltimore.
The Meteor required a good gale to drive it, and would only run
when the wind was what sailors call abaft, or on the quarter.
Head-winds were fatal to it, and Mr. Thomas was afraid to trust
a strong side-wind lest the vehicle might be upset; so it rarely
made its appearance except when a northwester' was blowing, when
it would be dragged out to the farther end of the Mount Clair
embankment, and come back, literally with flying colors. The Baltimore
and Ohio Railroad being the first in operation in this country,
and almost the first in the world for the transportation of passengers
and merchandise, of course was visited by crowds from almost every
section of the United States, as well as from parts of Europe.
Among them was Baron Brudener, envoy from Russia, who, by invitation
of Mr. Thomas, made an excursion in the sailing-car, managing
the sail himself. On his return from the trip, he declared he
had never before traveled so agreeably. Mr. Thomas caused a model
sailing-car to be constructed, which he presented to the baron,
with the respects of the company, to be forwarded to the emperor.
This courtesy on the part of Mr. Thomas was handsomely acknowledged
by the baron.
Like the Morse-car, the sailing-car had its day. It was an
amusing toynothing moreand is referred to now as an
illustration of the crudity of the ideas prevailing forty years
ago in reference to railroads.
It was after the demonstration by Peter Cooper that the Baltimore
and Susquehanna Railroad Company, now the Northern ventral, imported
the Herald from England. It ran off the track continually, and
was useless. Its unfitness, with its large wheels, for use on
our curved roads was at once apparent, and it had to be altered
to obviate the difficulty. It was, however, antedated by the engine
of Mr. Cooper and other locomotives, as we shall show; yet it
excited great admiration for its beauty, and even its driver,
an Englishman named John, became a person of consequence. When
he came down from the engine to oil it, the crowd surrounded him,
as the boys at a race surround the dismounted jockeys on the course.
The whole American world were railroad children in the days we
The contest for the right of way along the Potomac between
the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal
Companiesthe preliminary proceedings, in which counsel on
both sides, with surveyors at their heels like moss-troopers,
scouted the banks of the river from the Point of Rocks to Williamsport,
ferreted out the proprietors of almost inaccessible cliffs, besieged
them in their dwellings to obtain grants of the right of way,
described what railroads were, oftentimes to men whose knowledge
of highways was confined to mountain-paths, made diagrams and
drawings of cars and tracks unlike any thing that ever existed
before or which ever came afterward, and were believed by an ignorance
that was only greater than their ownthese proceedings alone
would furnish more than a dozen chapters, but our limits will
not allow us to record them. The route to the mountains lay up
the valley of the Potomac, and the struggle for priority of claim
was a prolonged and exciting one.
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