NOTES OF PIONEER RAILROADING.
(From Reminiscences of W. H. Stewart.)
There were no ticket agents at first east of Chester, and the
conductor was provided with tickets for each station on the road,
a square tin box to carry them in, and a bag containing ten dollars
in small coin or bills. This was carried in the box and was the
conductor's capital for the day. It was to make change with when
passengers offered money for their tickets larger than the amount
charged. The tin box and its contents were delivered at one end
of the run to the general ticket agent at Piermont, who was Henry
Fitch. The account was balanced with the conductor, and the box
returned to him with ten dollars in the bag again for the return
trip. All tickets for New York were collected on the boats.
The Erie freight dock at New York was originally at the foot
of Albany Street, but the increase in business was so steady that
new and better quarters were soon obtained at the foot of Duane
Street. Joseph Hoxie, better known as "Singing Joe"
and "Fighting Joe" Hoxie, was freight agent on the dock.
There was at first no shelter of any kind there for freight, and
consequently butter, cheese, grain, leather, etc., were all dumped
in a pile together on the dock, to be sat upon, spat upon, and
otherwise befouled by stevedores and longshoremen until consignees
could manage to dig their goods out of the mass and take them
away. But Joe Hoxie kept them in good humor by his never-failing
repertory of songs and his endless jolly stories.
There was at first no system of doing business at all. No one
in authority seemed to have any idea of railroading. Samuel S.
Brown was general freight agent at New York. W. H. Stewart was
running on a freight boat between Cornwall and New York prior
to the opening of the railroad between Goshen and Piermont. Daniel
Tobias was the captain of the boat. The opening of the railroad
destroyed his business, as it did that of many other freighters
from Newburgh, and he hired his boat to the railroad company to
carry its freight from Piermont to the New York dock, and Stewart
and the other hands remained at work on it. When winter set in
and shipments fell off, there was no money to pay the employees.
Freight Agent Brown discharged Stewart and the other men on the
boat, but they went to New York, and Joe Hoxie hired them over
again. After a while the Company issued scrip, with which it paid
its men and for supplies. A bushel basket of it at the time was
not worth, intrinsically, the price of a month's board, but there
were men who bought it on speculation at twenty-five cents on
the dollar. A large buyer of the scrip was Augustus S. Whiton,
the first superintendent of the Eastern Division. He took all
he could get, and the result proved that he had judged wisely.
The time came when the scrip was redeemed at its face value by
the Company, and Whiton made a snug little fortune.
It was the custom for some years after the railroad was opened
to have boys pass through the cars with cans of water and tin
dippers to satisfy the thirst of passengers. These were called
"water boys," and a water boy on the railroad was the
envy of all juveniles along the line. Like the whale-oil lamps
and tallow candles that threw their dim light through the cars
at night, the water boys are long-forgotten adjuncts of railroad
William Skelly, better known as Billy Skelly, was the first
newsboy on the railroad. He was a protege of Captain Alec Shultz,
a bright boy ten or twelve years old. He was very active and very
popular with the patrons of the road. If a train was delayed,
he always passed through the cars informing the passengers what
the trouble was, how long it was likely to last, etc. He was the
pioneer of the railroad news business, and as he grew up increased
his facilities until he had a monopoly of the business between
New York and Port Jervis, supplying such dealers as there were
then at his own prices. Skelly made a snug fortune in the business,
and his enterprise led to the establishing of the Union News Company,
the present great railroad news agency of this country. The pioneer
railroad news-dealer was not as successful in keeping money as
he was in making it, and he died penniless. As early as 1843 Asa
Faulkner, a brakeman, sold newspapers on Erie trains.
Riding on a railroad was a new thing, and it was a long time
before people learned that by paying fare from Piermont to Monsey,
say, they would have no difficulty in riding all the way to Goshen
without the conductor discovering the fact that they had paid
fare only a small part of the distance. A well-to-do and prominent
farmer, who lived not far from Goshen, once sought to evade conductor
W. H. Stewart on the train by going into the closet when the conductor
came through. Mr. Stewart discovered the trick. The station where
the man was to get off was Goshen. Before the train arrived at
that place the conductor stationed a brakeman at the closet door
with instructions to hold it fast and not let the man out. The
instructions were obeyed, and the economical farmer was carried
on to Middletown. Then Stewart collected fare from him and let
him out. He was obliged to remain all night at Middletown, and
pay his fare back to Goshen next day, so that his attempt to "beat"
the railroad company cost him dear.
The afternoon trains from Middletown, which began running in
1843, carried the milk shipments. No provision was made for Sunday
nights, and soon the order came from Superintendent Seymour that
the freight conductors must run the milk trains Sunday nights.
These were Stewart and Lytle, and they made the run on alternating
Sunday nights. All went smoothly until the latter part of the
summer, when one night Stewart's train ran over a pony that was
on the track at the Ramapo crossing. The night was dark, and the
engineer did not see the pony until he was upon it. The highway
crossed the track diagonally, and was planked. The engine was
the "Rockland," and the engineer W. C. Arnold. The locomotive
left the rails and ran fifty yards along the wagon road. In those
days the train crews carried their own wrecking tools, consisting
of a jack, block and tackle, etc. but if a train was four hours
late they would make up their minds at the Piermont headquarters
that something more was wrong with it than the train men could
handle, and a wrecking crew would be sent out to look it up and
give it a lift. This night, however, no wrecking crew came from
Piermont to help this train out of its difficulty, but at daybreak
next morning, when Stewart and his gang, by hard work all night,
had succeeded in getting the engine back on the track, the wrecking
crew came in sight.
About two weeks after this mishap, the same train, with the
same crew, struck a horse and wagon that the driver was attempting
to drive across the track ahead of the locomotive, at Ward's pond,
near Ward's station, one mile north of Sloatsburg. The result
was the throwing of the engine, two milk cars, and the passenger
car off the track into the pond. The water was very deep, and
the locomotive was submerged all except the smokestack. One milk
car was out of sight, under water, and the forward end of the
other was deep in the pond. The passenger car was at the edge
of the pond.
There being no possibility of the train crew extricating the
engine and cars from the pond, Conductor Stewart walked on to
Sloatsburg, one mile, where he hired Sloat's son to drive him
to Monsey, a station twelve miles further east. There he got a
handcar and the "road gang," and started for Piermont.
There was no frog at switches in these days, and the change was
made by a moving bar. The switch east of Blauveltville was open,
and as the hand-car came speedily along, it was thrown from the
track. Conductor Stewart was hurled with such force against the
bar on the hand-car that two of his ribs were broken, and he was
tumbled down the embankment several feet. They got the car back
on the track, however, and went on to Piermont, where they got
the wrecking crew and returned with it to the scene of the most
extraordinary wreck that had ever occurred on any railroad. They
arrived there between eight and nine o'clock in the morning. A
man named Thomas had a trip-hammer mill nearby, which got its
power from Ward's pond. The mill had been idle for a long time,
and Superintendent Seymour, who had come with the wrecking train,
requested Thomas to draw the water off the pond, so the men might
get at the sunken locomotive and cars, and get them out and back
on the track. Thomas started up his mill, and said he would not
draw the water off unless the railroad Company paid him $600 for
doing it. After a long parley a compromise price for his granting
the company's request was agreed upon. The water was drawn off
the dam, and the train was got back on the rails about dark, or
nearly twenty-four hours after the accident occurred. No one was
injured by the smashup, singularly enough, but two carloads of
Orange County milk never got any further toward their destination
than Ward's pond.
The Railroad Company had always been exceedingly accommodating
to Thomas, stopping at Ward's to take him on and let him off,
and taking on and leaving freight for him there. After this experience
with him, though, he got no more favors from the Company. He was
obliged to go to Sloatsburg, a mile east of Ward's, to get aboard
trains, and to ship all his freight from, and receive it at, that
station. So he lost a great deal more than he made out of his
act of selfishness.
general superintendent, Hezekiah C. Seymour, came from Oneida
County, and got the name on the road of the "Oneida Chief."
In 1849 a successor to Superintendent Seymour was to be appointed,
as he intended to quit the service. S. S. Post was superintendent
of transportation. He was in the line of promotion to the general
superintendency, and as he was very popular with the employees,
they were delighted with the prospect of having him as their superintendent.
James P. Kirkwood was also mentioned in connection with the place.
W. H. Stewart ran what was called the night line, and, in expectation
of hearing the news somewhere along the line that Post had been
elected superintendent, he had a big transparency, inscribed "S.
S. Post, General Superintendent," all ready to light and
display on his train. The news came, however, that Kirkwood was
the choice of the Directors, and there was great disappointment
among the "boys." This was in April, 1849. It is highly
probable, though, that S. S. Post's long connection with the Railroad
Company, and his popularity, would have secured him the place,
if he had not shown an inclination to answer, in a non-committal
way, queries put to him by the Directors, and a disposition to
respond to them by asking questions himself. Superintendent Kirkwood
became known among the railroad men as the "Silent Man,"
from a peculiarity of his disposition. His office was at 56 Wall
Street, New York. Audience with him was easily obtained, and as
the caller entered, the superintendent would look up at him a
moment. If the caller did not at once go on to mention the business
that had brought him there, Kirkwood would turn his eyes back
to his work without a word. Then the visitor might stand or sit
there all the rest of the day without the Superintendent paying
any more attention to him, or until the visitor broke the silence
himself by speaking and making known his errand.
For a long time after the railroad was built, all switching
at the ends of divisions and elsewhere was done with horses.
John Bailey was the first station agent at Goshen. He was the
father-in-law of A. C. Morton, who was the civil engineer of the
road for Orange County. The depot at Goshen was built over the
track, or rather the track ran into the depot. When the train
came in, the business of the railroad was over for that day. The
train and locomotive were locked in the depot, and the agent kept
the key until it was time to begin business on the road again
next morning, when he would unlock the depot and let the trainmen
go in and "fire up." The bell that hung above the platform
was rung fifteen minutes before the train was to start.
Capt. A. H. Shultz, the pioneer Erie steamboat Captain, was
born at Rhinebeck. Before there were railroads in Central and
Western New York, he ran stages between Rochester and Buffalo.
Later he ran a steamboat between Amboy, N. J., and New York. He
began in the Erie service January 1, 1841, having been harbor
master under Governor Seward, before the railroad was in operation,
and continued until 1844. He was Alderman from the Fifth Ward
of New York. He was afterward in the Government service for many
years. He died at Philadelphia, April 30, 1867.
The winter of 1843 was one of the hardest on record. Capt. Shultz
made his two trips on the Hudson River daily between New York
and Piermont, although the ice was twelve inches thick, missing
but one trip. April 28, 1843, in recognition of this, the people
of Piermont presented him with a solid silver snuffbox, lined
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