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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 travel.

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.

The first 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 with gold.


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