IT required years of continuous improvements to convert railways into formidable competitors of water routes as cheap freight carriers of bulky products over long distances. At the outset they were scarcely expected to assume such a function. When they carried cheap and bulky articles at all it was usually only over comparatively short distances to an adjacent canal, river, or seaport. They were, however, considered very desirable for passenger traffic over the rapidly increasing interior routes, for the movement of freight which required rapid transit, and also for the continuation of all classes of freight movements during winter months when the rivers and canals were closed by ice, or when freshets damaged canals, and the temporary uselessness of water routes caused great scarcity of necessary articles. A vivid picture of the nature of some of the distress and inconvenience which railways were expected to diminish, and which they have practically abolished, is furnished in an article advocating the construction of the Erie Railroad, published in the Railroad Journal in January, 1832. It, says: "It would prevent a recurrence of the state of things which now exists in the city of New York. There would not then be, as there now are, thousands of barrels of flour and other kinds of produce in proportion, frozen up in canal boats and in sloops on the Hudson; salt would not be now selling in Albany for $2.50 per bushel, and pork at $2 per hundred for want of salt to save it, whilst pork is worth from $5 to $7 in this city. Coal would not then sell here for $15 or $16 per ton; nor oak wood at $9, and hickory at $13 per cord, as has been the case for two or three weeks past, if railroads were in general use; but all kinds of business would move on regularly and be more equally divided throughout the year. Produce could come to market as well in January as in July; and the farmer would not be obliged, in order to get his crop to market in the fall, to neglect preparing for the next."


The most important of all the results of the construction of railways cannot be stated with absolute accuracy, inasmuch as they consist of the increase of population at given points, advances in the price of property belonging to private owners, and development of new enterprises. Railways are only benefited incidentally by these advances through the increase in traffic they produce, while many individuals are enriched, and the market value of lands at terminal points and districts traversed is greatly enhanced. One of the leading arguments urged in favor of state aid to railways was to the effect that, however unprofitable such enterprises would be to their owners, they were certain to greatly increase the value of land, and that all the land-owners benefited should, therefore, be obliged to indirectly assume some of the risks of such undertakings. There is no doubt that the cash value of the property of the entire country has been advanced by railways to a sum that very greatly exceeds the cost of their construction, and it has unfortunately happened that such gains of land-owners and citizens have often occurred on lines that were very unprofitable to stockholders. In other words, an expenditure of a few billions of dollars for railways has benefited other persons, who have made no important investments in the securities of such enterprises, to the extent of many more billions of dollars.

A few of the early railway reports make interesting references to the increase in the value of the districts traversed, which are presumably typical of similar results in nearly all regions in which railways have been constructed. The report of the Georgia Central, dated November 1st, 1839, for instance, says: "In every case where a sale of real estate has taken place near the line, since the commencement of the work, the price has been much advanced, and in some cases to many times the amount that would have been demanded before the road was projected. In some instances the amount paid to the proprietor of the land for pine timber for the construction of the road has exceeded the price that the entire tract would have sold for three years ago. In the absence of more extensive experience as to the effect of the road on the value of lands in its vicinity, that of others similarly situated may with propriety be invoked to aid us in our conclusions." The president of the South Carolina Railroad Company, in his semi-annual report of July 10th, 1837, says: "To give some idea of the advantages derived by those not immediately connected with the company, by the passage of the road through so great an extent of pine barren, a moderate estimate has been made of the additional value of these lands since the road was located, and it has been found that the advance within a mile of the road, and beyond the influence of the towns at each end, not including anything within fifteen miles of either extremity, has been equal to the cost of the original construction of the whole road." These statements were but forerunners of many much more remarkable advances in value of real estate in various portions of the Union which logically followed the construction of railways.


The facilities furnished by railways were at first much more fully appreciated by travelers than by transporters. The novelty and unprecedented rapidity of journeys made in cars drawn by a locomotive, or even cars drawn by horses on a railway, presented so many elements of attractiveness that some persons traveled considerable distances by the old methods for the express purpose of securing an opportunity to ride a short distance on a railroad. All journeys that could be made by this new and popular mode were usually made in cars, even when they were over routes which necessitated frequent changes to stages, steamboats, or canal boats. Short railway links, which were steadily growing in length and importance formed parts of all the great thoroughfares.

The extent to which the old and new systems were intermingled, and the relative comfort and advantages of each, in 1839, is indicated by a statement compiled in January, 1840, by a foreign tourist who had made journeys aggregating 10,330 miles in length, during intervals between December 24th, 1838, and January 14th, 1840. He states that he made 175 separate journeys, and that he had not met with a single accident of the smallest kind. He compiled the following tabular statement—.

In commenting upon these journeys the author said: "The speed upon railroads is 50 per cent. greater than that of steamboats, to which I have, however, to remark, that the passage in steamboats upon rivers was nearly exclusively up stream. The speed upon common roads is less than one-third of that on railroads, the speed on canal boats only one-fourth. The average speed on the whole voyage, which is obtained by dividing the number of miles traveled by the time of motion, was 7½ miles, or half the speed on railroads. The fare on steamboats and canal boats includes board, and is, therefore, the cheapest, the stage fares are 40 per cent. higher than the railroad charges, and the average rate per mile for the whole voyage was 5-and-eight-tenths cents."

The average speed of all American passenger trains, exclusive of stoppages, at the period mentioned, is probably stated with approximate accuracy in the record given above of 15 miles per hour. On some roads considerably higher speed was attained. A southern railway report speaks of a rate of 22 miles per hour having been maintained for a considerable period, but on account of the extra expenses necessitated, especially in repairs to locomotives, this rate was reduced to 17 miles per hour. Officers of various other roads respectively speak of passenger trains being run at the rate of 18, 20, and 25 miles per hour. David Matthews, superintendent of engines and machinery on the Utica and Schenectady, said in 1839: "We are five hours crossing the road, eighty miles, including fifteen stoppages."

Of speed on the Columbia and Philadelphia, for the year ending October 31st, 1837, its superintendent, Andrew Mehaffy, in his annual report to the state of Pennsylvania, said:—
"It is not denied that some discontent has existed at the low rate of speed on the road. But when it is known that the trip of 82 miles is now made in precisely the same length of time (viz., six and a half hours, including all stoppages consequent to taking in fuel and water) as when a high rate was permitted, the objection falls to the ground."

This rate of speed was a trifle more than 12.61 miles per hour. Mr. Mehaffy proceeds to say:—
"Within the last month the undersigned visited some of the most frequented roads in this part of the Union, for the purpose of contrasting their operations and regulations with the one under his charge, and the result, as far as speed is concerned, was decidedly such as to convince him of the propriety of the present management. Without wishing to disparage any, he is satisfied that, though more parade may be made by others, as great a degree of safety is not accomplished, nor as great an amount of work done."

On American, as well as the new foreign roads, the usual result of a decided increase in the number of persons who traveled over the various routes, after railway operations commenced, was noticed, but even with these gains the total number of passengers was comparatively small.


In contrast with the amount of business transacted on corresponding lines at the present day, the passenger receipts seem insignificant, but the development on some lines was sufficiently rapid to exceed the expectations of the projectors, and where the results were disappointing a remedy was sought in some localities in a reduction of fares, and in others in an increase of the authorized charges. The general drift with New England lines was in the first of these directions, and with some of the southern lines towards the second. In March, 1840, the legislature of Virginia permitted the Petersburg road to advance the price of passage to 8 cents per mile. Similar advances had been authorized in other Southern states, but the wisdom of enforcing them was in some cases questioned. For instance, a report of the Louisville, Cincinnati and Charleston (the temporary successor of the South Carolina), published in 1840, states that there was "a feeling adverse to the increased charge on passengers between Charleston and Hamburg, authorized by an act of the South Carolina legislature, and it is very questionable bow far the higher rates now exacted have contributed to an augmentation of income. The reports show 4,000 passengers less this, as compared with the previous year, and the reports on the Georgia road exhibit nearly the same deficiency. . . . To a certain extent, reduction of the cost of freight and travel does stimulate to increase of receipts and of income. Thus it has been ascertained from calculation that a locomotive, with power to convey 200 passengers, can traverse a railroad at a cost of $1 per mile, or half a cent to each passenger, provided the whole number could always be obtained. Two hundred passengers, therefore, at $5, or even $3, to Hamburg, one-half or even one-third of the present charge, would be more remunerative to the share owners than the present daily average of some twenty-five or thirty passengers at $10 each." This fare of $10 was at about the rate of 7-and-three-tenths cents per mile.

A report of the superintendent of the Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad for the year ending October 31st, 1837, states that at that time the charges for passengers, per mile, on the roads named below was as follows: Baltimore and Ohio, 3 cents; Baltimore and Washington, 6; Portsmouth and Roanoke, 6; Boston and Providence, 5; Boston and Lowell, 3½; Mohawk and Hudson, 5; Petersburg, 5.


The first stage of railway development occurred on lines built with the expectation that they would be operated with horse power, as they were at the outset, leaving the question whether it should be supplanted by locomotives to be determined by the subsequent course of events. Before the money necessary to construct these railways could be raised, either by companies or states, it was requisite that the utility of such works should be demonstrated even if locomotives were never used upon them. There was, accordingly, a considerable amount of discussion of this subject, and many conflicting statements were made, relating to what horses could do or could not do, on railways, and the differences between the practical efficiency of horse power as applied to turnpikes, railways, and canals. The leading idea advanced by champions of the iron tracks hinged on implications of the truism that they diminished friction to an extent that very greatly reduced the cost of movement. Perhaps none of these publications presented the issues involved in this controversy, in a brief space, and the


as they were then understood, so clearly as the following extract from a report of the board of canal commissioners, of Pennsylvania, dated December 15th, 1831:—
"To counteract the wild speculation of visionary men, and to allay the honest fears and prejudices of many of our citizens, who have been induced to believe that railroads are better than canals, and consequently that for the last six years the efforts of our state to achieve a mighty improvement have been misdirected, the canal commissioners deem it to be their duty to advert to a few facts which will exhibit the comparative value of the two modes of improvement for the purpose of carrying heavy articles cheaply to market, in a distinct point of view.

Flour is now carried by the canal to Philadelphia from Lewistown, 211 miles, for 62½ cents, and from Harrisburg, 150 miles, for 40 cents a barrel; and gypsum is taken back for three dollars a ton to Harrisburg, and five dollars a ton to Lewistown, therefore the freight (exclusive of tolls) is downwards 14½ mills per ton per mile, and returning 7 mills per ton per mile; or on an average both ways one cent and three-fourths of a mill per ton per mile for carriage.

On nine miles of railroad at Mauch Chunk, and on ten miles of railroad between Tuscarora and Port Carbon, the carriage of coal costs four cents, and the toll on the latter road is a cent and a half per ton per mile.

The comparison will then stand thus:—
On ten miles of railroad between Tuscarora and Port Carbon:—

Being 39¼ cents difference in favor of the state canal for every ten miles of transportation.

The following table will exhibit the relative useful effects of horse power when employed on common roads, on turnpike roads, on railroads, and on canals:—

The introduction of locomotive engines and Winans cars upon railroads, where they can be used to advantage, will diminish the difference between canals and railroads in the expense of transportation. But the board believe that, notwithstanding all the improvements which have been made in rail roads and locomotives, it will be found that canals are from two to two and a half times better than railroads for the purposes required of them by Pennsylvania."


A favorite saying of the advocates of canals as internal improvements to be preferred to railways, was that a railroad occupied a middle ground between a good turnpike and a canal. Benjamin Wright, one of the earliest civil engineers in the country, said in 1831, after examining critically the canal and railroad of the Delaware and Hudson company, he "found that the expense on the railroads, not including any toll, would be about 3¼ to 3½ cents per ton per mile; and on the canal, without toll, one cent to one cent and two mills per ton per mile." Josiah White, superintendent of the Mauch Chunk Railroad and Lehigh Canal, made a similar comparison in reference to operations on those works. The weak point in their argument was that the railways they referred to were among the earliest constructed in the country, and being intended solely for the transportation of coal they were not fair representatives of railway possibilities.

Other points made in favor of canals were that they required little intelligence on the part of those who operated them, that they would be open to any man who built a boat, and that those who used them could travel or stop, as they pleased, instead of being obliged to adopt rates of speed dictated by managers. One of Josiah White's general grounds of preference for canals, was novel yet, in some respects, prophetic. He said: "I think it rather fortunate for society that railroads are not of equal value to canals, for a railroad can be taken anywhere; and, consequently, no improvement would be safe on their line, for the moment the improvement succeeded, it would be rivaled, so as to destroy both, whereas we know the line and limits of our canals, by the supply of water, and graduation of the ground; so that all improvements thereon are safe against the undermining of rivals. I should consider that, if the railroads superseded canals, they would, for the above reasons, render the tenure or value of property as insecure as it would be without the protection of law."

One of the principal topics discussed by advocates of the opposing systems was the relative cost of construction—the champions of the railways contending that canals would, as a rule, always be the most expensive, and this allegation being denied by the advocates of canals. The instances were rare in which the cost of either of the proposed works did not greatly exceed estimates.

A large amount of data bearing on the relative utility of railways and canals, as freight carriers, is furnished by documents published by Congress, by order of the committee on internal improvements of the House of Representatives, in 1832. The leading advocates on one side were the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and on the other side the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Company. Each of these corporations, through their engineers and officers, collected a large amount of the information then pertinent to a discussion of the comparative merits of canals and railroads. The president of the Baltimore and Ohio at that time was P. E. Thomas, and the chief engineer Jonathan Knight.

One of the arguments favorable to railways advanced in Mr. Knight's reply to the elaborate argument previously made by champions of the canal system, was embraced in a reference to the fact that they had used comparatively old data, and that the railway cars, &c., had been materially improved since the tables referred to had been compiled. Special importance was attached to the reduction in friction effected by the Winans car. The significance claimed for these improvements was so great that Mr. Knight contended that, whereas an old table cited by the canal advocates had estimated that a power of 100 pounds would move at the rate of 3 miles per hour 38,542 pounds on a canal, and only 14,400 pounds on a level railway, with the new cars 40,000 pounds could be moved on a level railway. Tables which give varying velocities and effects were cited, and Mr. Knight said: "From an inspection of the corrected tables (that is, corrected so as to make due allowance for the benefits derived from an improvement in the cars, &c.), it will appear that when the velocity is 3 miles per hour it requires less power on the railway than on the canal to produce an equal effect. From a strict calculation, it will be found that the power required will be equal when the velocity is 2-86/100 miles per hour, or 4.2 feet per second."

A leading feature of his argument consisted of his advocacy of the theory that resistance on a level railway with proper cars is less than on water—while steam can be used more advantageously on land than on an artificial water channel, and thus the actual force employed can be subjected to a greater economy. Mr. Knight adds that "according to Tredgold, the maximum of useful effect of the labor of a horse will be obtained from a duration of six hours labor per day, at a velocity of three miles per hour, and the mean power of traction will be 125 pounds. The railway will, therefore, have the advantage of the canal, at a rate of speed best suited to the action of the horse. The effect of the railway is to that of the turnpike road as 22 to 4."


Experience soon demonstrated that a strong horse could draw on a level railroad a great deal more than ten tons. One of the early instances recorded was a performance on the first portion built of the Baltimore and Ohio, in 1831. In describing it the Baltimore American Said:—
"The experiment of the transportation of two hundred barrels of flour, with a single horse, was made on the railroad on Saturday with the most triumphant success. The flour was deposited in a train with cars, and made, together with the cars and the passengers who rode on them, an entire load of 30 tons, viz.:—

The train was drawn by one horse from Ellicott's Mills to the Relay House, 6½ miles, in 46 minutes. The horse was then changed and the train having again set out, reached the depot on Pratt street in 69 minutes. The road between the Relay House and the depot is a perfect level, except at three deep excavations, where an elevation of 17 to 20 feet per mile was opened for drainage."

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