THE last half of the third decade of the nineteenth century was an eventful period. It formed an era during which sufficient changes in the prevailing sentiment were effected to make 1830 a vigorous starting point in railway improvements in several sections of the country. Up to 1825 all actual work had been confined to a few crude railroads. Shortly after the publication of Mr. Strickland's reports, the line of the Mauch Chunk Railroad was built for the purpose of carrying anthracite coal, and when it was finished, in 1827, it formed the longest and most important Work of the kind then existing in the United States. Other railway or tramway lines were built soon after or about the same time, for similar purposes, the leading object being to furnish cheap transportation between coal mines located on elevated mountain regions, and adjacent canals built on the lower level which corresponded with that of the rivers from which water supplies were drawn.

These works required inclined planes, on which rails were laid, and a contrivance of that kind was used by the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company at the early period of 1820. Inclined planes formed a very important feature of all railway projects intended to provide routes for mountainous districts, and the extent to which they should be substituted for heavy grades continued to be a debatable question for a lengthy period. The original inclined plane at Mauch Chunk may, therefore, perhaps be considered as an important adjunct or forerunner of the early railways. A short railway was built about 1827 in Schuylkill county to provide a connection between coal mines and the Schuylkill Canal. And on the railway connecting coal mines of north-eastern Pennsylvania with the Delaware and Hudson Canal, in 1829, the first American work of a genuine locomotive, imported from England, was performed.

There were other contemporaneous events of considerable significance, three of the most important of which were the passage of an act by the Pennsylvania legislature, in 1828, which provided for the construction of a railway, by the state of Pennsylvania, to extend from Philadelphia through the city of Lancaster, to Columbia, and thence to York; the incorporation of the Baltimore and Ohio Railway, to extend from Baltimore to some eligible point on the Ohio river, by Maryland and other states, in 1827 and 1828; and the incorporation of the Charleston and Hamburg Railway, in South Carolina, in 1827.


The completion of the first important railway in this country and the first use of the locomotive, were the result of labors of canal companies, or of parties who wished to reach their lines, and this fact may have had a bearing on the protracted discussion relating to the rival merits of railways and canals as channels of communication over a given route. It has already been shown that the proposition of John Stevens to construct a railway instead of a canal as a main artery between eastern and western New York was ignored by the New York commissioners in 1811. And although he recommended the construction of a railway between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to the legislature of Pennsylvania before 1820, that body, in its subsequent action in deciding upon a main line of public improvements between those cities, does not seem to have deemed railways worthy of serious consideration, except for the parts of the route proposed on which canal construction would have been unusually difficult and expensive, which were the regions between Philadelphia and Columbia, and the acclivities of the Allegheny mountains. To secure even this concession in favor of railways was difficult. Canals had been tested and rendered profitable in some localities, and the Erie Canal, of New York, promised to be a magnificent success. Whatever might be said of railways theoretically there was little or no positive knowledge in regard to their utility as avenues for miscellaneous traffic. Indeed their sturdiest advocates scarcely ventured to recommend them except for rapid passenger movements, and for the transportation of light and costly descriptions of freight that could afford to pay high charges to ensure rapid movement. A stage had been reached in which it was acknowledged by advanced thinkers that there were some routes over which railways could be profitably constructed, but it was for a protracted period difficult to secure means to build new lines that were not intended to be used mainly as substitutes for the portages, or connecting links between water courses, of primitive Indian and colonial overland movements.

The Baltimore and Ohio, however, was designed as a rival of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal at the outset. They both became urgent applicants for state aid from Maryland, and an animated struggle was prosecuted between those corporations, which embraced lengthy discussions of the merits of the relative methods. A strong point in favor of railways, which was probably of sufficient importance to determine doubtful contests in their favor, was the success of the first two English lines used for general traffic, the Stockton and Darlington, opened in 1825, and the Liverpool and Manchester, opened in 1829.

Neither the Mauch Chunk, Schuylkill, or Delaware and Hudson lines could have been expected to give much of an impetus to railways intended for miscellaneous public uses. They were mere adjuncts of canals intended mainly for the movement of coal. It was natural that the first railway work of considerable consequence should be commenced for this purpose, and perhaps equally natural that none of the pioneer coal railways were lengthy, inasmuch as the belief then was nearly universal that cheap transportation could only be secured on natural or artificial water routes, and the main cost of coal at the place of consumption is made up of charges for moving it. Of the


Coal and Iron and Oil says: "It was not until 1827 that rails were used in the (Schuylkill) mines, and up to 1829 the coal was carted over common mud roads from the mines to the canal. Abraham Pott, of Port Carbon, was the first to build a model railroad in the Schuylkill region. It led from his mines to the canal, a distance of half a mile. Soon after the Mill Creek Railroad was built from Port Carbon to the Broad Mountain, about the present town of St. Clair. The distance is about three miles. The cost was $3,000. This was in 1829."

A historical sketch of Pottsville states that in 1825 the Schuylkill Canal was opened to Mt. Carbon, then a suburb of Pottsville, and in 1826 and 1827 Abraham Pott built a railroad extending half a mile in length near Pottsville. The railway was made of wooden rails, laid on wooden sills, and was successfully operated in carrying coal, which, previous to that time, was hauled in wagons to the canal, and thence sent to market. In 1829 the directors of the Schuylkill Canal came to Pottsville, and viewed this primitive road in operation. They were taken by surprise when they saw thirteen railroad cars loaded with 11 tons each, and they were shocked when Mr. Pott, the projector of this corduroy railroad, told them that in less than ten years a railroad would be in operation along the line of their canal. After events proved that he was right in everything except as to time, for it was not until 1842 that the first train passed over the extension of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad from Mt.. Carbon.

The Pottsville Board of Trade, in replying in 1834 to inquiries of a committee of the legislature of Pennsylvania relating to coal, said: "Previous to the erection of any of the public railroads our enterprising fellow-citizen, Abraham Pott, constructed a railroad from his mines, east of Port Carbon, to that place, making a half mile. This served as a model, and maybe termed the beginning from which all originated."


Professor Silliman, in Notes of a Journey to Mauch Chunk, published in 1830, in referring to the Mauch Chunk Railway, says that Mr. Josiah White, then the leading spirit of the company which had constructed this pioneer line, "states, in a public document, that their railway alone had saved them $50,000, but that he does not think it economical, on account of the wear and tear, to travel over railways faster than six miles an hour with heavy loads, unless with passengers and valuable goods, which will bear heavy tolls, so as to reimburse the expense of repairs, which is of course greater as the motion is more rapid. Still, he is of opinion that a railroad may be constructed sufficiently solid, strong, and true to admit of a motion of sixty miles an hour for a short time."

Professor Silliman says the Mauch Chunk Railroad was built in three months after the wood used in its construction was growing in the forest. A Baltimore and Ohio committee, which inspected it, thought it a very simple affair.

Mr. Josiah White formed such an unfavorable opinion of railways, on account of the necessity for frequent and expensive repairs, which was developed on the short line he had constructed, and the high cost of movement as compared with canals, that he continued to be a firm advocate of the latter class of improvements, and insisted upon the reconstruction of the canal after it had been nearly destroyed by a freshet, at a time when the substitution of a railway would have been advisable.


Of the very early coal railways in Pennsylvania the longest and most important was that constructed by the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company. A statement published in 1829, by Jacob S. Davis, says: "The Lackawaxen Canal, constructed by the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company, extends from Honesdale down by the eastern and northern side of the Lackawaxen river to its mouth, descending 371 feet by 37 locks, The Delaware and Hudson Canal is connected with its lower extremity, and extends down the eastern side of the Delaware river to Carpenter's Point, and thence to Kingston on the Hudson river. The Lackawaxen Canal is 20 feet wide at bottom, 32 feet at top, and 6 feet deep. The boats that navigate the canal, are 70 feet long, 8 feet 7 to 8 inches wide, and carry 25 tons. From Honesdale a railroad extends up the valley of the west branch of the Lackawaxen; and crossing the river near the mouth of Vanauken brook, it continues in a western direction through Canaan township, and across the Moosic mountain at Rig's Gap to Carbondale, being 16 miles in length; overcoming an elevation and descent of 1,812 feet, by 8 inclined planes, one of which is near the mouth of Vanauken—two on the eastern and five on the western side of the mountain. At the head of last inclined plane is erected a building containing a stationary steam engine, for the purpose of assisting the wagons in the ascent and descent."

George W. Smith, writing in June, 1828, says: "The company have excavated a canal from the Hudson to the Delaware, in the state of New York. Thence the route of 29 miles, up the Lackawaxen to the forks of Dyberry, is in Pennsylvania. At this place the canal terminates, at a distance of 105 miles from the Hudson, and 33 from the Great Bend, on the Susquehanna. It is in contemplation to form a connection between these points by a railway, to be constructed by another company not yet incorporated.

From the forks of the Dyberry to Carbondale, a distance of 15 miles nearly, a railway is being constructed with timber rails, guarded by iron bars, and resting on stone supports. It is calculated for the employment of horse power and locomotive engines on the more level portions, and for stationary steam engines on the inclined planes. The estimate for these 15 miles of railway, including all the machinery, is $178,228 (the greater portion of which has been expended), a sum sufficient to defray the cost of only seven miles of the canal which it was once intended to construct over part of the route."

It was on a portion of this railway, between some of the inclined planes mentioned, that


was performed in the United States or the western continent, and it is a notable fact that this experiment was so unsatisfactory, chiefly on account of the imperfect nature of the railroad, the excess of the weight of the engine over the weight prescribed in the order given for it, and the limited scope for locomotive performances on the short spaces between the inclined planes, that the pioneer of a mighty race of steam giants was speedily discarded as a thing of no real utility in the surroundings to which it was applied, after doing all that could reasonably be expected.

Of this locomotive experiment, a modern account says: "In 1828 John B. Jervis, chief engineer of the Delaware and Hudson Canal, sent his assistant, Horatio Allen, to England to investigate the application of steam to land transportation. Allen became convinced that Stephenson's ideas were destined to revolutionize commerce, and he, therefore, bought for the canal company three engines to be used on the initial railway in the United States. In May, 1829, the first of the engines was landed here; was put together by Allen, and exhibited at the foundry for some weeks. It was queer-looking enough, having four wheels connected by side rods. Vertical cylinders on each side of the rear end of the boiler communicated motion to a vast walking beam, attached to the side rods of the driving wheels by other long iron rods. The engine was, indeed, so covered with rods and joints that it resembled a vast grasshopper. Having been delivered at Honesdale in due season, on the 9th of August, 1829, Allen had it put on the track, consisting of hemlock stringers or rails, in section, 6 x 12 inches, on which bars of rolled iron, 2¼ inches wide, and one-half inch thick, were spiked. The hemlock rails were supported by caps of timber ten feet from centre to centre. The engine weighed seven instead of three tons, as had been agreed upon. The rails had been warped, and as the road crossed the Lackawaxen river, after a sharp curve, on a slender hemlock trestle, which, it was believed, would not support the engine, Allen was besought not to imperil his life on it. He knew there was danger, but, ambitious to connect his name with the first locomotive in America, he determined to take the risk. He ran the engine up and down along the coal dock for a few minutes, and then invited some one of the large assembly present to accompany him. Nobody accepted, and, pulling the throttle valve open, he said good-bye to the crowd, and dashed away from the village around the abrupt curve, and over the trembling trestle, amid deafening cheers, at the rate of ten miles an hour. The Stourbridge Lion, as the engine was named, was attached, after the trial, to trains of coal cars, and drew them satisfactorily on the docks; but it could not be employed to advantage on so slight a railway, which could not be fitted to the engine on account of the expense required. The Lion was, therefore, placed in a shanty on the docks, and stayed there for years. Finally it was taken to pieces, its boiler being carried to Carbondale, and put in a foundry, where it is still in use. The other two engines shared the same fate."


Mr. Horatio Allen, the hero of the first locomotive trip in America, had received the appointment of chief engineer of what was first known as the Charleston and Hamburg Railroad, and subsequently became the South Carolina Railroad, a short time before that trip was made, and he states that in September, 1829, he was at Charleston, South Carolina, to enter upon his new duties. The South Carolina Railway completed the construction of a portion of their line during the early years of the third decade of the nineteenth century, and preliminary or experimental operations had been commenced previous to 1830. A southern journal states that "the original charter of the company was obtained from the South Carolina legislature in 1827, books of subscription being opened in February of that year. The earliest projectors of the road were Alexander Black, Tristan Tupper, William Aiken, George Bennett, and others, who organized the company in May, 1828. In those days the railroad was a thing of the future, and the originators were met on every side with jeers and ridicule. They did not seem themselves to have any clear idea of the extent and scope of the project which they were undertaking, and the fear of ridicule made them pursue their plans in secret. In February, 1829, they made an experiment. They built one hundred and fifty feet of railway track, very crude it was, in Wentworth street, Charleston, and procured a four-wheeled car upon which they placed forty-seven bales of cotton. A mule was hitched to the car and drew the load with ease. This was a revelation. It developed the drawing capacities of the mule to an extent that had never been dreamt of before and inspired the conspirators with renewed confidence and hope. They began to entertain the idea of running a railroad between Charleston and Augusta with mule power, and saw 'millions in it.' Emboldened by this experiment, two months later one hundred and seventy feet of track was laid on Chisholm's wharf, and upon this the rails (flat iron) were transported from the ship. In June, 1829, a meeting of the stockholders was held and directors were authorized to begin work on the road between Charleston and Hamburg. At this time the company had received about five hundred tons of rails, and the legislature had advanced $100,000 in the way of a loan.

On the 1st, of April, 1830, one mile of the South Carolina Railroad had been laid and the first train was started over it. The 'train' consisted of a cranky four-wheel car which carried thirteen persons and three tons of freight. It was propelled by means of a large square sail, which was rigged up on a mast and accomplished a speed of fifteen miles an hour."

Of the construction of interior portions of the South Carolina Railroad, the story is told that when a lot of wheelbarrows arrived in a district where they were to be used by slaves, they commenced operations by carrying the wheelbarrows on their heads.

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