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Erie Railroad Reaches the Great Lakes - History


1851 Erie Railroad Reaches the Great Lakes

An Erie Train

In May 1851 the Erie Railroad reached Dunkirk New York on Lake Erie. The first train to traverse the line had President Filmore and Americas elder statesman Daniel Webster on board.


In May, the Erie Railroad finally reached Lake Erie, achieving the goals of its founders. The railroad was founded in 1829. Its goal was to build a railroad to the West from New York. When the railroad reached Lake Erie, it became the first rail connection between the East Coast and the Central part of the country. Less than 20 years later that connection was extended all the way to California.


Before the opening of the Erie Canal, New Orleans had been the only port city with an all-water route to the interior of the United States, and the few settlers in the Midwest had arrived mostly from the South. “Southerners had been moving up the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers into southern Ohio and southern Indiana, which did become sympathetic to slavery,” according to Jack Kelly, author of the new book “Heaven’s Ditch: God, Gold and Murder on the Erie Canal.” The Erie Canal checked that trend as the new settlers from New England, New York and Europe brought their abolitionist views with them to the newly established Midwest states. “The New Englanders and Europeans beginning to stream across the canal were opposed to slavery, and it set up this confrontation,” Kelly says. “Southerners became more hardened and Northerners more adamant.” Kelly adds that the transformation of the Midwest into America’s breadbasket by the new settlers also “reduced the dependence of the industrial North on the agriculturally dominant South.”

Believing the Erie Canal to be a pork-barrel project that would only benefit upstate towns, many of New York City’s political leaders tried to block its construction. Good thing for them that they failed. “The Erie Canal really made New York City,” Kelly says. Prior to the canal’s construction, ports such as New Orleans, Philadelphia and even Baltimore outranked New York. “The success of a port depends on how big a region it can draw from inland,” Kelly says. “It gave New York City access to this huge area of the Midwest, and that was an enormous factor in establishing New York City as a premier port in the country.” As the gateway to the Midwest, New York City became America’s commercial capital and the primary port of entry for European immigrants. The city’s population quadrupled between 1820 and 1850, and the financing of the canal’s construction also allowed New York to surpass Philadelphia as the country’s preeminent banking center.


Design and construction

Beginning in the 1780s, various plans were proposed to improve navigation on the Mohawk River. In 1792 the Western Inland Lock Navigation Company was incorporated by the state of New York and given the rights to improve navigation on rivers and lakes west of Albany. Under the leadership of Philip Schuyler, the company focused most of its activity on the Mohawk River, clearing the riverbed and digging several short canals to bypass river rapids. Although the company achieved some success in making improvements to the river, it never had the financial resources to tackle the larger navigation obstacles in the river.

The Western Inland Lock Navigation Company, which found itself short of funds and snarled in state partisan politics, never completed its plans. Nonetheless, the Mohawk River still provided a valuable path from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes, and plans for a new canal were debated. In 1820 the state of New York purchased the company’s works, closing the books on the 18th-century canal scheme.

Meanwhile, a new canal project had been gaining momentum. In particular, DeWitt Clinton had promoted the idea of a western canal as early as 1811 while serving in the New York state senate. He won preliminary legislative approval in 1816 and was named commissioner for the project. In 1817, following election as governor of New York, Clinton persuaded the state legislature to authorize loans for $7 million to build a canal from Buffalo, on the eastern shore of Lake Erie, to the upper Hudson, passing through the Mohawk Valley region. Chief engineer Benjamin Wright and his corps of self-taught engineers (there were no engineering schools in the United States at that time, though the project prompted several schools to start engineering programs) were successful in overcoming the technological problems faced by the canal, which needed to move boats through more than 150 metres (500 feet) of elevation.

With a typical canal prism shape—12 metres (40 feet) wide on the top, 8.5 metres (28 feet) wide at the bottom, and 1.2 metres (4 feet) deep—the engineers patterned the Erie Canal after the Middlesex Canal in Massachusetts. The Erie required 83 locks, each made of stone, to move boats up and down the natural elevations. The locks were designed so that each needed only one person for its operation. The canal also required the construction of 18 aqueducts to carry the canal over bodies of water. With nature presenting more daunting obstacles on both the western and eastern sections, construction began in the middle segment on July 4, 1817, with Clinton officiating the groundbreaking at Rome, New York.

On the western side, the challenge was the Niagara Escarpment, a 23-metre (75-foot) rock ridge. Canal engineer Nathan B. Roberts designed a series of 10 locks, five levels with 2 locks side-by-side, to carry boats over this barrier. The staircaselike locks were followed by a 5-km- (3-mile-) long, 9-metre- (30-foot-) deep cut blasted into the rocky plateau. The town that grew at this site was appropriately named Lockport. On the eastern section, the lower Mohawk Valley required the construction of 27 locks over only 50 km (30 miles) in order to surmount a series of natural rapids, including those found in Cohoes and Little Falls.

Work was undertaken by multiple contractors who agreed to dig small sections of the canal. Each contractor was then responsible for supplying equipment and for hiring, supervising, and paying his own workers. Using horses and manpower, the canal was dug across the state. Canal engineer Canvass White solved one of the construction obstacles when he discovered how to create a cement that hardened underwater. Having a local source of hydraulic cement greatly aided the construction process, and it reduced costs by eliminating the need to import European cement.

The canal was finished on October 26, 1825, two years ahead of schedule. In a grand ceremony, Clinton and other dignitaries boarded the Seneca Chief in Buffalo and traveled the length of the canal. At the conclusion of the trip in New York City, Clinton emptied a keg of water from Lake Erie into the Atlantic Ocean, calling it the “marriage of the waters.” Altogether, the locks, the aqueducts, and the canal itself were considered an American engineering marvel, and it was a great source of pride as an example of how citizens in a republic could improve upon nature and promote progress.


Erie & Ontario Railroad

In 1831, the new Welland Canal built under the direction of William Hamilton Merritt was completed. As a result of this new mode of transportation, business along the Portage Road diminished. In order to compete with the canal, the businessmen of the Portage Road formed the Erie & Ontario Railroad Company.

The original application for a charter to form the Erie & Ontario Railroad Company was turned down by the Provincial Legislature in 1832 and 1833.

On April 16th 1835, the Erie & Ontario Railroad Company received a government charter to begin operation. Construction soon began on their railroad and it would be the first railroad in Canada.

At a general meeting on September 7 1835, civil engineer, James Archibald of Luzerne, Pennsylvania was awarded the contract to build this railroad. The railway was completed within five years after construction had started.

On July 3 1845, the Erie & Ontario Railroad began operations from Chippawa to Niagara. The railroad gauge was much wider for horse drawn carriages and shared track from Stamford to Clifton with the Great Western Railroad (Canadian National Railroad).

The carriages were box like compartments with doors on each side along with running boards to allow easier access. The seats ran across and each carriage had room for about 20 passengers. Luggage was carried on the roof and the driver had an outside seat at roof level. The carriage had four wheels and was pulled along at 13 km/h.

The start of the railroad was at the Queenston depot, located at the north-east of the rivers edge,which is today York Road at Front Street. The team of three horses used to pull the railcars up the escarpment were switched for a fresh team consisting of one or two horses to continue the remainder of the journey. This stop over became known as the Stamford Halfway.

The next stop occurred on Concession 2 (Stanley Avenue) at Ferry Road (Ferry Street). This was the rail depot owned by Lanty McGilly. Here passengers destined for the USA would disembark and would transfer to a stagecoach which would take them to the Maid of the Mist dock. The Railroad Hotel was built on the north-west corner to cater to the railroad passengers (Current site of Napoli Pizzeria). It was owned and operated by Adam Fralick. The Railroad Inn was demolished in the mid 1940’s.

The railway followed a general path along the current Canadian Pacific Railroad line. The train stopped at the Pavilion Hotel to allow passengers to get on or off. The Chippawa terminal was located at the dock along the Chippawa Creek (current site of Front Street at Norton Street). Here steamboats from Buffalo brought daily passengers to Niagara Falls.

This railroad could not operate during the winter. This coincided with the cancellation of steamboat services for the season. This railroad became known as the Erie and Ontario Railroad Coach.

In 1852, the Erie & Ontario Railroad applied for and was granted a revision to its charter allowing for a change to steam power. In 1853, the Erie & Ontario Railway relocated its tracks from bush lands to pass through the new centers of the settlements. This relocation resulted in the Erie & Ontario Railway passing much closer to the Niagara River from Chippawa to Clifton

The original railroad was rebuilt for steam operation using a narrower rail gauge. The route was changed to provide for a gentler grade at Queenston and to be located closer to the Railway Suspension Bridge in Niagara Falls.

Samuel Zimmerman of Clifton took over financial control over the Erie & Ontario Railroad and began by invest money into extending the rail line to Niagara (Niagara on the Lake).

The newly relocated railroad line followed a path very close to the current Canadian Pacific Railroad. The new Erie & Ontario rail line ended at Victoria Avenue at B ridge Street where it joined with the existing Great Western Railroad.

In 1854, the Erie & Ontario Railroad extended its service northward from Queenston to Niagara on the Lake. This extension allowed the railroad to connect to an already established Lake Ontario steamer service docking at Niagara on the Lake. In the same year, the Great Western Railroad proposed to buy the Erie & Ontario Railway but their share holders did not approve.

Following Zimmerman’s death, the Erie & Ontario Railroad changed its name to the Fort Erie Railroad Company.

In 1862, the Fort Erie Railroad Company was purchased by William Thompson and in 1863, the company became known as the Erie & Niagara Railroad.

In 1864, the Erie & Niagara Railway was extended southward from Chippawa to the Fort Erie ferry dock. From here, the Railroad provided passenger service to the many crossing passengers crossing the Niagara River by ferry boat from Buffalo.

The Buffalo-Fort Erie ferry boat service continued until 1873, when the International Railway Bridge spanning the upper Niagara River between Buffalo and Fort Erie was built.

In 1864, there was one train trip per day running from Buffalo to Niagara on the Lake. The train would leave Buffalo at 7 a.m. and would arrive at Niagara on the Lake by noon. A return trip was made beginning at 2 p.m. arriving back in Buffalo at 7 p.m.

In 1869, the Erie & Ontario Railroad became the Niagara division of the Canadian Southern Railroad. In order to access the American market, The Canadian Southern Railroad formed a partnership with the Michigan Central Railroad. The Canadian Southern Railroad had a rental agreement with the Great Western Railroad to use their rail line and to cross their railway suspension bridge at the Niagara border.

In 1873, the Canadian Southern Railroad was running three trains per day between Fort Erie and Niagara on the Lake.

The Canadian Southern Railway began advertising the Falls View and all day trains were stopped 15-20 minutes at this location for sightseeing purposes. Fast trains were stopped for 5 minutes before continuing.

In 1878, the Erie & Niagara Railroad became part of the Canadian Southern Railway. The Canadian Southern Railroad built two railway stations along its route in Niagara Falls. The main station was called the “Clifton Station”. It was a large two storey train station located on Queen Street at Park Street (the parking lot of the former Rosberg’s Department Store). The second station was the “Niagara Falls Station” but became known as the famous “Victoria Park Station”. It was located at the top of Ferry Road (Clifton Hill).

By 1882, the financial cost to cross the Canada-USA border using the Great Western Railroad suspension bridge was too excessive for the financially strapped Canadian Southern Railroad. By agreement, the assets of the Canadian Southern Railroad were taken over by the Michigan Central Railroad. The Michigan Central Railway had leased the railway for 21 years. Before the original lease expired, the Michigan Central Railway renewed its lease for use of the rail line for 999 more years. This lease still exists today although many changes of ownership have taken place.

In 1883, the Michigan Central Railway built a double track from Welland to Niagara Falls where it connected to the Grand Trunk Railway (formerly Great Western Railway) in order to provide passenger train service to the USA via the GTR’s International Suspension Train Bridge at the base of Bridge Street.

A dispute over the use of the Grand Trunk Railway Bridge by the Michigan Central Railway ensued. This directly resulted in the Michigan Central Railway building the International Railway Bridge spanning the Niagara River Gorge just south of the Grand trunk Railroad Bridge.

In 1883, the rail bed of the Michigan Central Railway leading to the new bridge followed a route that brought the tracks past the front (east side) of Loretto Academy. This resulted in a portion of the original Portage Road in that area to be closed to accommodate the Michigan Central Railroad. All Michigan Central Railroad trains stopped at Falls View for at least 10 minutes to allow everyone to view the majestic Falls of Niagara. The Michigan Central Railroad built two additional train depots: the Falls View Station and the Wesley Park Station.

The former Erie & Ontario rail line continued to operate until the mid 1920’s before passenger service was terminated. This rail line continued to function for freight train service until the rail line was closed completely in 1959.

In 1925, the Michigan Central Railroad discontinued rail service from Fort Erie to Chippawa.

In 1929, the New York Central Railroad leased the Michigan Central Railroad for 99 years. On January 2 1930 the New York Central Railroad began operations along the former Michigan Central Railway right of way through the center of Niagara Falls.

In mid 1940’s the New York Central Railway tried to abandon this rail line to Niagara on the Lake however it remained in service until 1959. Although passenger service had ceased after 1926, only freight continued to be transported.

On March 20th 1950, the New York Central Railroad roundhouse at Montrose Road was gutted by fire.

On April 8th 1960, a rock slide along the Niagara Escarpment destroyed seventy feet of track belonging to the New York Central Railroad from St. David’s to Niagara on the Lake.

In 1968 the New York Central Railroad was purchased by the Penn Central Railroad.

In 1976, the Conrail Railroad was established and began operations after acquiring the assets of the Penn Central Railway and a number of other railroads.

In 1983, Canadian National and Canadian Pacific Railway purchased the Conrail system.

The City of Niagara Falls planned on the relocation of the rail line in order to ensure safety for all of its passengers, but this never happened.

In 1965, rail relocation was estimated to cost $7.2 million dollars.
In 1970, rail relocation was estimated to cost $9 million dollars.
In 1972, rail relocation was estimated to cost $10 million dollars.

Between 1999 and 2001, the City of Niagara Falls in association with the Province of Ontario and Casino Niagara (Falls Management Company) negotiated a purchase of this 10.6 kilometre (6.5 miles) long by 30 meters (100 feet) wide railway right of way from the Canadian Pacific Railroad for $39.5 million dollars.

The deal was closed on December 19th 2001.

All Canadian Pacific Railway trains are now being re-routed along the Canadian National Railway line crossing the Niagara River by use of the International Railway Bridge Buffalo to Fort Erie.

Today, a stone cairn is located at the corner of Stanley Avenue and Morrison Street that commemorates the Erie & Ontario Railroad as the first railroad in Upper Canada and the third in the Province of Ontario.


Erie Railroad: "Serving The Heart Of Industrial America"

The Erie Railroad was once the fourth way to Chicago, a sometimes forgotten competitor in the hotly-contested market from New York to the Windy City.   Its network was much smaller than either the Pennsylvania, New York Central, or Baltimore &  Ohio.  

However, it boasted a high and wide, double-tracked main line, a routing that would prove ideal in handling today's profitable intermodal business.  

The Erie's history began during the industry's earliest days and was once a dominant eastern carrier during the 19th century.  

As the 20th century progressed, laden with increasing debt and multiple reorganizations the Erie sought a merger partner, eventually joining the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western to form Erie-Lackawanna in 1960.  

An EL in today's world would have been a successful enterprise but alas its debt, competition against Penn Central, and restrictive government regulations helped bring down the company in the early 1970s.  

Today, segments of the old Erie system remain in use east of Ohio but most of its network is abandoned west of that point.

An A-B-B-A lashup of Erie covered wagons, led by F7A #713-A, with a merchandise freight at the Maybrook, New York interchange, circa 1950's. Marvin Cohen photo.

The classic Erie Railroad had a fascinating, if not tumultuous, corporate history which allowed it to witness the birth of the industry through the creation of Conrail in 1976.  The company's beginnings are thanks, in part, to the Erie Canal.  

As the most famous and successful transportation waterway ever built in the United States, the canal ran across New York state.  It began construction in 1817 and eventually connected Albany, along the Hudson River, with Buffalo spanning a distance of more than 360 miles.

It opened for service on October 26, 1825. ਍uring this era canals were regarded as the future of efficient transportation but they did have issues the waterways were expensive to build, moved freight and people slower than a stagecoach, and the northern hemisphere froze solid during colder months of the year (roughly November through March/early April). ਊs a further setback, railroads were already in development at the time.

More About The Erie Railroad

With the Erie Canal's completion the state's Southern Tier region (the block of counties running along the border with Pennsylvania from Delaware to Chautauqua County) felt their economic fortunes would seriously erode if they, too, did not have a better means of transportation.  

The Erie Railroad logo. Author's work.

Railroading of this period was an odd, extremely selfish industry as promoters (or even state legislatures) obsessed over the possibility that another might invade their territory or undercut their system's future prospects.  

Incredibly, the idea of interchange and partnership with another road was not of great concern and actually frowned upon.  In the case of the NY&E its charter also stipulated it must be built to broad gauge (6 feet) as a further step of interchange prevention and was not allowed to lay rails outside its home state.  

Erie PA-2 #863 works suburban service at Port Jervis, New York on November 11, 1960 during the very early Erie Lackawanna era. Photo by noted rail historian, the late Richard Steinbrenner.

As the railroad pushed west it ultimately had no choice but to run a grade through the northeastern tip of Pennsylvania on its way to Binghamton (such as Lackawaxen and Susquehanna) to utilize the best route in an otherwise rugged region.

Construction officially began in 1836 and was completed from Piermont to Goshen (about 40 miles) on September 23, 1841.  It continued due west to Port Jervis and wound its way along the Delaware River before turning away at Deposit, New York aiming for Binghamton.  

In the process, it constructed one of the great feats in engineering at Lanesboro, Pennsylvania, the Starrucca Viaduct. It was designed by Julius W. Adams and James P. Kirkwood as a beautiful stone-arch structure spanning Starrucca Creek.  

The bridge was 1,040 feet in length and capable of handling two tracks.  It opened for service in 1848 and today is a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark that still witnesses rail traffic.

Erie's train #7, the westbound "Pacific Express" (Jersey City - Chicago), makes its afternoon stop in Warren, Ohio during the summer of 1949. William Rinn photo.

In 1847 the NY&E opened to Binghamton, 207 miles from Piermont, and finally completed its 447-mile main line in the spring of 1851. 򠫌ording to H. Roger Grant's authoritative title, "Erie Lackawanna: Death Of An American Railroad, 1938-1992," the first train of dignitaries ran the entire length of the system on April 22nd that year.

The Erie was the jewel of New York and was the only railroad at the time to boast a route of its length under common ownership.  

At Jersey City, the Erie went on to construct Pavonia Terminal along the Hudson River to provide ferry service into downtown Manhattan.  It remained in service until late 1958 when the railroad began using Delaware, Lackawanna & Western's nearby and much larger, Hoboken Terminal.

An Erie company photo depicting what appears to be (from left to right) E8A #833 (preserved and restored today), two sets of FA's, and F7's at the engine terminal in Hornell, New York during the 1950s."

Alas, in some ways the opening of NY&E's original route proved its zenith. ਏurther growth stalled for years and it slowly fell behind competitors racing towards the Midwest as the Baltimore & Ohio, Pennsylvania, and what later became the New York Central passed it by.  

Its original end points were of little value Piermont did not development into a market of any considerable size while Dunkirk did not have a deep water port.  

Realizing it needed a connection to the growing city of Buffalo it reached the location in 1853, as well as nearby Rochester, via branch lines from its main stem.  

In 1859 it entered into the first of five bankruptcies, emerging as the Erie Railway on June 25, 1861.  The 1860s also witnessed a prolonged battle for control of the company in the so-called "Erie War" of 1867, sparked by Cornelius Vanderbilt of the New York Central, the Commodoreਏought with Daniel Drew, Jay Gould, and Jim Fisk for stakes in the railroad.

In the end, Gould gained control (1868) and during his four years did his best to improve the shabby property and continue expansion westward.  

In 1872, Gould was fired as president although he did acquire control of theਊtlantic & Great Western Railroad for a time, which eventually joined the Erie system.

It's the spring of 1951 at Middletown, New York as a pair of Erie's new E8A's power the "Centennial Train" celebrating the railroad's 100 years of service. Marvin Cohen photo.

Mike Schafer notes in his book, "More Classic American Railroads," the road was again in receivership during the 1870s when it emerged as the New York, Lake Erie & Western in 1878.  

In 1874 the company gained new leadership through Hugh Jewett (through 1884), who oversaw the conversion to standard gauge of 4 feet, 8 1/2 inches, which was widely becoming the industry standard.  

By that time, self-interests had waned and any railroad hoping to enjoy a prolonged future had to seamlessly interchange with its surrounding neighbors, competitors or otherwise.  

The C&A had opened a 250-mile route from Marion, Ohio to Hammond, Indiana while trackage rights over the Chicago & Western Indiana provided it access into Chicago and, later, Dearborn Station.

General Electric's experimental A-B-B cab unit set #750, the UM20B (missing is the second A unit, trailing is an FA), seen here at Salamanca, New York testing in Erie colors during the 1950's. In 1959 the group was purchased by Union Pacific. John Bartley photo.

Mr. Grant notes that the C&A was arguably the best engineered route across Indiana and became well recognized for this attribute in later years.  In 1884, new president John King (through 1894) oversaw the final hints of expansion by completing coal branches into the northern and central regions of Pennsylvania.  

The financial panic of 1893 resulted in the road's third bankruptcy where it was reorganized as the Erie Railroad. ਋y this time the company was acquiring an increasing level of debt and was further burdened by high interest rates.  

These issues plagued the road throughout the 20th century, resulting in a limited borrowing power and slighted names like the "Weary Erie" with the statement, "It ran Nowhere-In-Particular to Nowhere-At-All." ਋ut, things looked up after Frederick Underwood became president in 1900.

An Erie Railroad publicity photo featuring a pair of E8A's ahead of a passenger consist along the Southern Tier main line near Corning, New York during the 1950s.

He spent massively on infrastructure improvements, including the complete double-tracking of its Chicago main line.  The route through the Hoosier State was of particular interest as it was grade separated in many locations, often yards apart.  

Underwood purchased new locomotives, launched time freights to Chicago, avoided bankruptcy through innovative financing, and installed Automatic Block Signals (ABS).  

During the 1920s the railroad was acquired by the Van Sweringen brothers who saw the Erie's valuable Chicago route as a great addition in their growing empire (they also controlled the Chesapeake & Ohio, Denver & Rio Grande Western, and Pere Marquette among others).  

They had likely intended to eventually merge their eastern properties into one system, which would have rivaled the other eastern trunk lines.  Unfortunately the brothers passed away in the 1930s so it is hard to tell just how the Northeast rail map would have appeared had they lived long enough to carry out their plans.

The Great Depression of 1929 and resulting economic downturn of the 1930s began a long road of decline for the Erie.  This resulted in a fourth bankruptcy in 1938 where the company emerged on December 22, 1941 carrying the same name.  

It did witness a bright spot during World War II, where the great influx of wartime traffic and the profits it brought enabled the company to pay down much of its long term debt.  

It also carried out infrastructure improvements, such as acquiring new diesel locomotives and retiring its fleet of maintenance-intensive steamers.  The Erie had recognized the diesel's potential early, acquiring its first boxcab in 1926 and worked hard through the 1940s and 1950s to complete the upgrade of its motive power fleet.  

The road, "Serving The Heart Of Industrial America," was a good company with a competitive main line that carried a high and wide right-of-way, devoid of clearance impediments, thanks to its broad gauge heritage.  The industry's leading railroads recognized this status, despite its financial woes.  

A Timken Roller Bearing Company ad from 1955 featuring Erie's flagship, the "Erie Limited" (Jersey City - Chicago/Buffalo), on Starrucca Viaduct at Lanesboro, Pennsylvania.

Alas, as the 1950s progressed this was of little consolation.  It worked hard to offset traffic losses by encouraging industrial development along its property and launched new trailer-on-flatcar service (TOFC) during July of 1954.  

The late-era Erie operated over 2,300 route miles while its Chicago-New York main line was 998 miles in length.

Its passenger services were respectable with names like the Erie Limited (its flagship, the train pampered guests with Pullman parlor-buffets, deluxe coaches, dining service, and sleepers) and Lake Cities਋ut with a schedule of around 24 hours they could not compete with the fast, 16-hour times offered by the New York Central and Pennsylvania.  

However, freight was another matter and the road handled a variety from anthracite coal and general merchandise to perishables and expedited movements.  

Its few feeder branches proved both a blessing and a curse the lack of online traffic hurt it considerably although after World War II proved an advantage when these superfluous secondary corridors helped bring down many roads in the Northeast and New England.  

An Erie PA works suburban service between New York and Port Jervis, seen here stopped at Middletown, New York circa 1958. Douglas Wornom photo.

As freight evaporated thousands of miles of this trackage became redundant and companies like the Lehigh Valley, Reading, Boston & Maine, and New Haven all went bankrupt.  

Realizing the wartime traffic boom was a mirage, in 1954 the Erie began informal talks with the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western regarding the possibility of merger.  

The DL&W had been a finely managed property throughout its history and until the Great Depression earned handsome profits.  To cut losses they launched joint operations in various locations on October 13, 1956 the Erie began using Lackawanna's Hoboken Terminal for commuter services, ending all services from its Pavonia Terminal in Jersey City on December 12, 1958.  

In addition, the two began sharing trackage between Binghamton and Gibson, New York, via the Erie's main line, in 1957.  On September 10, 1956 studies were launched regarding a merger between the Erie, DL&W, and Delaware & Hudson.  On April 13, 1959 the D&H dropped out but the other two roads continued on.  

A pair of Erie's handsome 2-8-4's await their next assignment at the road's Marion, Ohio terminal in April, 1947. The lead unit, #3331 (S-2), was manufactured by Lima in 1927. The railroad owned some 105 Berkshires and all were scrapped between 1950-1952.

During the next year the process worked its way forward until the Interstate Commerce Commission formally approved the union on September 13, 1960.  The new Erie-Lackawanna Railroad (EL) officially began operations on October 17, 1960 with an entire network of 3,031 miles.    

The EL was not particularly successful, losing millions right from the start, despite a consultant's many studies to the contrary.  The deepening recession after 1958 had made matters worse, ballooning the predecessor roads' debt, which combined totaled twenty-two outstanding bonds!  

In 1963 the company gained new leadership under Bill White and he worked wonders to stave off bankruptcy and improve earnings until his unexpected passing in early 1967.  

A brand new set of Erie Railroad F3's, led by #805-A, in Chicago with a passenger train during August, 1947.

The EL was faced with several setbacks which all came in quick secession after 1968 first, the creation of the disastrous Penn Central merger and its 1970 collapse resulted in service disruptions and loss of traffic.  

Two years later, Hurricane Agnes hit in June of 1972 which dealt EL a fatal blow, wreaking havoc on its property and forcing it into bankruptcy (its fifth, and final, receivership).   

Diesel Locomotive Roster

American Locomotive Company

Model Type Road Number Date Built Quantity
Boxcab2019261
HH-660302-30519394
S1306-3211946-195016
S2500-5251946-194926
S4526-5291951-19524
FA-1725A-735A, 725D-735D1947-194922
FB-1725B-735B, 725C-735C1948-194922
FA-2736A-739A, 736D-739D1950-19518
FB-2736B-739B, 736C-739C1950-19518
PA-1850-861194912
PA-2862-86319512
RS2900-913, 950-954194919
RS3914-933, 1005-10381950-195354

Baldwin Locomotive Works/Lima Locomotive Works

Model Type Road Number Date Built Quantity
DS-4-4-660381-3851946-19495
DS-4-4-750386-38919494
DS-4-4-1000600-60119462
S12617-6281951-195212
LS-1000650-659194910
DRS-4-4-15001100-110519496
AS161106-1120, 11401951-195216
DRS-6-6-15001150-1161195012

Electro-Motive Corporation/Electro-Motive Division

Model Type Road Number Date Built Quantity
SW136019481
NW2401-4271939-194927
SW7428-4401950-195213
FTA700A-705A, 700D-705D194412
FBA700B-705B, 700C-705C194412
F3A706A-710A, 706D-710D, 800A-806A, 800D-806D1947-194924
F3B706B-710B, 706C-710C, 800B-806B1947-194917
F7A711A-712A, 711D-712D, 807A, 807D1950-19516
F7B711B-712B, 711C-713C, 807B1950-19526
E8A820-833195114
GP71200-1246, 1400-14041950-195252
GP91260-126519566

Model Type Road Number Date Built Quantity
44-Tonner2619461

Steam Locomotive Roster

Class Type Wheel Arrangement
C1 Through C3Switcher0-8-0
H20 Through H22 (Various)Consolidation2-8-0
J1, J2Decapod2-10-0
K1 Through K5 (Various)Pacific4-6-2
L1Articulated0-8-8-0, 2-8-8-2
M1Articulated2-6-8-0
N1 Through N3Mikado2-8-2
P1Articulated2-8-8-8-2T (Triplex)
R1 Through R3Santa Fe2-10-2
S1 Through S4Berkshire2-8-4

Notable Erie Railroad Passenger Trains

Erie Limited: Connected Jersey City with both Buffalo and Chicago.

Lake Cities: Connected Jersey City with Cleveland, Buffalo, and Chicago.

Pacific Express: (Jersey City - Chicago)

Atlantic Express: (Chicago - Jersey City)

Midlander: (Jersey City - Chicago)

Southern Tier Express: Connected Buffalo with Hornell and Jersey City.

Mountain Express: (Jersey City - Hornell)

Tuxedo: (Jersey City - Port Jervis)

A pair of Erie E8A's run the Southern Tier near Gibson, New York (Corning) within the Chimney Narrows along the Chemung River with what is perhaps the "Erie Limited" (Jersey City/New York - Chicago) during the 1950's.

On May 8, 1974 the Pougkeepsie Bridge, which spanned the Hudson River burned and was severely damaged.  This bridge had long been an important interchange with New England carriers like the New Haven, but owner Penn Central refused to make repairs.  

Finally, already in a precarious financial situation and unable to work out a deal with its unions for inclusion into the Chessie System (Chessie would have utilized all lines east of Sterling, Ohio) the company decided to join the new Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail).

The new railroad had little need for a third main line to Chicago and soon abandoned or sold the former corridor across Indiana and western Ohio after 1977.  

There were a few attempts by short line operators to preserve this trackage but lack of customers resulted in its complete abandonment during the early 1980s.  

Today, Erie's superior double-track main line across the Heartland has been largely returned to nature, plowed under for agriculture purposes.


Contents

The Erie Canal, linking New York City with Buffalo, New York, (via Albany and the Hudson River) opened in 1825 and proved to be a financial boon to merchants in New York City. [1] The canal also gave cities on the Great Lakes a transportation cost advantage equal to that of cities on the Ohio River [2] (then the major east-west transportation route for both goods and people west of the Appalachians). [3] Encouraged by the canal's success, railroads began rapid construction in interior regions to link isolated markets to the canals and to other railroads. [4] [5]

The first important step in the development of rail transportation along the Great Lakes came in 1832 when the Michigan Territory chartered the Erie and Kalamazoo Railroad to run from Port Lawrence (now the city of Toledo, Ohio) to Adrian, Michigan, with the goal of giving agricultural and timber producers in the Michigan interior access to Lake Erie ports. [6] Horse-drawn trains first ran on the line in November 1836, with steam locomotives taking over the following year. [7] Citizens of Sandusky and Elyria in Ohio now determined to link their cities with Toledo and Cleveland. The Junction Railroad, chartered in 1846, proposed an inland route through Millbury, Fremont, Norwalk, and Grafton, with trackage rights over an existing railroad between Grafton and Cleveland. [8] [a]

A second important step came in 1842. The Erie and North East Railroad (E&NE) was chartered by the state of Pennsylvania to build a line from Erie, Pennsylvania, northeast to the Pennsylvania-New York border, [10] where it would connect with rail lines being built from Buffalo. [11] [b] It was not until 1846, however, that the Dunkirk and State Line Railroad agreed to connect with the Pennsylvania road. Only then was stock in the Erie & North East sold. [13]

To complete the line between Buffalo and western Michigan, only two short rail links remained to be completed: Between Erie and the Pennsylvania-Ohio border, and between the Pennsylvania-Ohio border and Cleveland. [14]

Cleveland had emerged as one of the largest and fastest-growing cities in Ohio due to its transportation links (the Ohio and Erie Canal and its Lake Erie steamship port). [15] Railroads were seen by Cleveland business and civic leaders as critical to the city's future. They could reach deep into agricultural and mining country far more easily than canals, and move much greater quantities of goods than wagons. Railroads would not only allow these goods to reach Erie and Buffalo (the traditional transshipment ports for Ohio products) faster and more easily, but also give Ohio producers direct access to large, rich seaboard cities like New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. [16] With Ohio underdeveloped and starved for capital, Clevelanders and other Ohioans saw railroads as the means to opening new markets and bringing capital into the state. [17]

Alfred Kelley, a Cleveland lawyer, had been elected the first mayor of the newly-incorporated Village of Cleveland in 1815. As a member of the Ohio General Assembly, he championed the construction of canals, and as the first Canal Commissioner oversaw the construction of the Ohio and Erie Canal. [18] Known as the "father of the Ohio and Erie Canal", [19] Kelley was one of the most dominant commercial, financial, and political people in the state of Ohio in the first half of the 1800s. [20] In August 1847, the officers of the nascent Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati Railroad (CCC) asked Kelley to oversee construction of their new road. Kelley agreed, and the line from Cleveland to Columbus and Cincinnati was completed in February 1851. [21] [c]

With completion of the CCC, rail lines extended west and south of Cleveland—but not east to the all-important seaboard markets. [25] Since 1831, different coalitions of Cleveland businessmen had tried to organize a railroad to connect Cleveland with points east, but none of these efforts got off the ground. [26] In 1847, a group of businessmen from Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, and Lake counties undertook a successful effort to build Cleveland's railroad link to the east. The group included John W. Allen, [d] Sergeant Currier, Charles Hickox, [e] and John B. Waring of Cuyahoga County William W. Branch, O.A. Crary, David R. Paige, [f] Peleg Phelps Sanford, [g] Lord Sterling, [h] Aaron Wilcox, [i] and Eli T. Wilder [j] of Lake County and Frederick Carlisle, [k] George G. Gillett, Edwin Harmon, [l] Zaphna Lake, Robert Lyon, [m] and Asaph Turner of Ashtabula County. [36] The Cuyahoga County representatives took the lead, [37] and on February 18, 1848, they received a state charter for the Cleveland, Painesville and Ashtabula Railroad (CP&A) to build a rail line from Cleveland to some point on the Ohio-Pennsylvania border. [38] [39]

The CP&A had a number of nicknames, and was also known informally as the "Cleveland and Erie Railroad", [40] the "Cleveland and Buffalo Railroad", and the "Lake Shore Railroad". [41]

By the end of July 1849, $50,000 ($1,600,000 in 2020 dollars) in stock had been sold by the CP&A's incorporators. The stockholders met for the first time on August 1, 1849, and elected Herman B. Ely, George G. Gillett, Alfred Kelley, Tappan Lake, David R. Paige, Peleg P. Sanford, and Samuel L. Selden to the initial board of directors. Kelley was elected president, but due to pressing business had to temporarily step aside. Herman Ely was named acting president until such time as Kelley could take up his duties. [42]

Ohio route Edit

Frederick Harbach, a surveyor and engineer for several Ohio railroads, [43] surveyed the route for the CP&A in late 1849 and early 1850. In his report, issued at end of March 1850, [44] Harbach proposed two routes. [45] The "South Route" began at the City Station of the CCC on Station Street (an area south of what is now the intersection of Superior Avenue and W. 9th Street). It followed the towpath of the Ohio & Erie Canal south to Kingsbury Run, then moved inland along the stream, following it northeast and east to Euclid Creek. The route then turned north-northeast to Willoughby, where it crossed the Chagrin River. Past the river, the proposed route followed a fairly straight line along the lakeshore to the Ohio-Pennsylvania state border. [46] The "North Route" began at the "Outer Station" of the Cleveland and Pittsburgh Railroad (on E. 33rd Street between Lakeside and Hamilton Avenues) and followed a relatively straight route along the lake to Euclid Creek and Willoughby. Staying close to the shoreline, it passed 0.66 miles (1.06 km) north of Painesville. The proposed route ran parallel to and north of the South Route at a distance of about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) until reaching the Ohio-Pennsylvania state border. [47]

Alfred Kelley reviewed both proposed routes, and chose the North Route. [48] In part, this route was chosen because, east of Cleveland, it ran atop an ancient beach ridge (formed when Lake Erie was much larger) that required little ballasting, was naturally well-drained, [49] and required almost no blasting or earth moving. [50] It was also essentially a level grade for almost its entire length, [51] [n] with a ruling gradient of just 0.3 percent. [53]

Building the Ohio road Edit

Harbach's 1850 report estimated that building the road would cost $488,963 ($15,200,000 in 2020 dollars), of which $341,295 ($10,600,000 in 2020 dollars) would be needed for earthwork, grading, and the construction of masonry bridges. Another $6,600 ($200,000 in 2020 dollars) per mile would be needed for ties and rails. [54] Initial rolling stock, which included four locomotives, was estimated to cost $145,425 ($4,500,000 in 2020 dollars). Harbach suggested the construction of 13 passenger and freight stations in Ohio at a total cost of $39,700 ($1,200,000 in 2020 dollars): Doan's Corners (located roughly at the modern intersection of Euclid Avenue and E. 105th Street), East Cleveland, Willoughby, Mentor, Painesville, Perry, Centerville, Unionville, Geneva, Ashtabula, Kingsville, West Conneaut, and Conneaut. [55]

To construct the road, the CP&A turned to the firm of Harbach, Stone & Witt. Frederick Harbach, Amasa Stone, and Stillman Witt were all personally well known to Alfred Kelley, [o] and the firm was engaged in the construction of Kelley's Cleveland, Columbus & Cincinnati Railroad. [57] [p] With the CCC nearing completion (it opened in February 1851) [59] the CP&A awarded a contract to Harbach, Stone & Witt on July 26, 1850, [60] to build its 71-mile (114 km) line. [61]

Construction on the CP&A began in January 1851. [53] Due to the almost flat and obstacle-free route, grading proceeded very swiftly. By the end of the month, grading had reached Willoughby and a construction team was already at work in Painesville building a bridge over the Grand River. [62] The bridge at Willoughby was completed in August, piers for the bridge in Ashtabula were under construction, and grading had proceeded past that city. [63] The bridge at Painesville, begun May 26, was completed on October 6. [50] [q]

Ten months after construction began, the entire right of way to the Ohio-Pennsylvania border had been purchased, two-thirds (60 miles (97 km)) of the road had been graded [53] (to Ashtabula and slightly beyond), [50] and all bridges completed except for the bridge over Conneaut Creek. [53] [r] For the track, the company purchased 65-pound (29 kg) [54] T rails manufactured in the United Kingdom. Each rail was 12 to 18 feet (3.7 to 5.5 m) in length, and joined by a cast iron chair joint. [65] [s] Ballast was not initially laid, although the unstable nature of the clay beneath the track bed later required it. [65] White oak ties were used to anchor the track. [53]

The track to Conneaut was completed on November 15, [67] and a wooden Howe truss bridge built over Conneaut Creek to give access to the state border. [68] Regular trains began running on the 71-mile (114 km) line [61] on November 20, 1851. [53]

The CP&A did not have the legal authority to build a railroad in Pennsylvania. Until the late 1800s, states strictly controlled railroad development by requiring the issuance of charters by their legislatures, and they generally refused to give "foreign" (out-of-state) railroads permission to own or construct railroads within their borders. Moreover, the Pennsylvania state legislature prohibited the construction of railroads across the Erie Triangle, effectively blocking both New York and Ohio railroads from crossing the state there. [69] [t]

The CP&A soon discovered a way around this legal obstacle. [u] In April 1844, the Pennsylvania General Assembly had enacted legislation incorporating the Franklin Canal Company (FCC) and permitted the company to take ownership of the Franklin Division of the Pennsylvania Canal between the French Creek feeder aqueduct at Meadville and the mouth of French Creek at Franklin. [72] The company discovered that the canal would never become profitable, [69] and petitioned the state to expand its charter. The state legislature did so in April 1849, permitting the FCC to build a railroad along the Franklin Division canal towpath and to extend this railroad line north to Lake Erie and south to Pittsburgh (where it could connect with other railroads). Two months later, the FCC concluded that the connection clause in its charter permitted it to expand westward as well. The company established a subsidiary (the "Erie and Cleveland Railroad") to build and operate this 25.5 miles (41.0 km) line. [73]

Pennsylvania route Edit

On July 5, 1849, the FCC issued $500,000 ($15,600,000 in 2020 dollars) in stock, [74] [75] with the CP&A purchasing $448,500 of it. [53] [76] The FCC also sold $67,500 ($2,100,000 in 2020 dollars) in bonds to begin construction on the line. [74] [75] Surveying of the potential route began on August 26, 1849, [77] and was completed in December. [78]

The FCC's railroad primarily followed the Franklin Canal towpath. North of the French Creek feeder aqueduct at Meadville, two routes were identified to reach Lake Erie. One route followed Cussewago and Conneaut creeks to Erie. The other followed French Creek to Waterford. Just east of Waterford the route connected with the Erie and Sunbury Railroad, which (it was assumed) would grant the FCC trackage rights to Erie. [79] The Cussewago/Conneaut route was chosen [80] because although the route crossed ravines 800 to 1,400 feet (240 to 430 m) wide (and two of them more than 100 feet (30 m) deep) [81] it had a ruling grade reported as either 0.28 percent (15 feet per mile) [82] or 0.34 (18 feet per mile). [81] In addition to choosing the Cussewago/Conneaut route, the FCC also intended to build a 25.5-mile (41.0 km) branch line along the shore of Lake Erie from Erie to the Ohio-Pennsylvania border. [83] Completion of this branch line (the "Lake Shore Division") was to occur before construction of the main line, since the branch line would connect the CP&A and the E&NE and bring the FCC significant income with which to build its main line. After the main line was finished, the FCC said, a route through the city of Erie to the harbor would be surveyed and constructed. [84] For the immediate future, however, both the main line and Lake Shore Division would terminate at the Erie & North East railroad depot at Sassafras and W. 14th Streets. [77]

On January 10, 1850, the Cleveland, Painesville and Ashtabula Railroad (then in the process of surveying its own route) agreed to connect its line with the FCC at the Ohio-Pennsylvania border. [85] This simple written agreement required no actual construction, however, and was canceled. On August 26, 1850, the CP&A signed a new agreement which required it to build a line to the Pennsylvania border and connect it to the FCC's Lake Shore Division. [86] The CP&A further agreed to build the FCC's line for the canal company. [87] [v] The road from Cleveland to Erie would be operated as a single line by the CP&A, [82] although the locomotives, rolling stock, and other equipment needed to operate it would be purchased jointly by the two companies. [88] [w] Profits (or losses) were to be prorated to each company based on the length of road owned by each between Cleveland and Erie. [82] The contract went into force in December 1852. [89]

Building the Pennsylvania road Edit

By the first half of 1850, the cost of building the Lake Shore Division had risen to $632,000 ($19,700,000 in 2020 dollars). [82] [90] The FCC had enough funds in hand to purchase in fee simple the land it needed [x] and to clear, grade, and fence it. The company also had enough funds to build depots and stations at intervals on the route, [90] and by January 1851 a portion of the route began to be cleared and graded. [82]

The directors of the FCC concluded that selling bonds would be better than selling more stock if the necessary funds to finish the Lake Shore Division were to be raised. But with no assets, the company had no collateral to guarantee the bonds. The CP&A stepped in with a solution: It would seek legislation in the state of Ohio allowing it to guarantee the bonds of other railroads. The CP&A would then guarantee the FCC's bonds, allowing a successful sale and completion of the road. [87] As part of the deal, the FCC agreed to reserve two spots on its board of directors for CP&A representatives. At the August 1850 meeting of the FCC's stockholders, five directors were elected. These included John Galbraith, William A. Galbraith, and William S. Lane (all of Erie), as well as Herman B. Ely and Frederick Harbach of the CP&A. The directors elected Galbraith president, and Lane treasurer. [90] [93] Alex C. Twining was appointed the road's chief engineer. [81] On December 10, 1850, the state of Ohio enacted legislation granting the CP&A the authority to guarantee the bonds of other railroads. [87] [94] [y]

On February 1, 1851, the FCC sold $400,000 ($12,400,000 in 2020 dollars) in bonds to complete construction of and to buy equipment, locomotives, and rolling stock for its road. [98] [z] All the bonds were guaranteed by the CP&A. [92]

The FCC anticipated spending $130,000 ($4,000,000 in 2020 dollars) purchasing rail and grading the line, and $270,000 ($8,400,000 in 2020 dollars) in constructing the line. [92] Iron track for the FCC railroad was purchased in March 1851, [100] but on April 15 the Pennsylvania General Assembly enacted a law forbidding any Pennsylvania railroad from connecting with any railroad in New York or Ohio. [101] This apparently delayed construction for about nine months, during which time the CP&A announced it would merge with the FCC. [92] [102] [aa] Eventually, legal counsel for the FCC determined that the company's charter did not "contain any prohibition either by express language or by implication, against going to, or touching the State line." [103] Based on this construction of their charter, the FCC began construction on the Lake Shore Division shortly after November 1851. [53]

When the Lake Shore Division was completed in 1852 is a matter of some dispute. Sources place the end of construction on September 1, [74] [ab] November 17, [80] and November 20. [104] It is also unclear when trains began running, as sources claim either October 15, [74] November 23, [105] and December 17. [106]

More clear is the final cost of constructing the Lake Shore Division, which totaled $550,000 ($17,100,000 in 2020 dollars). [74] The cost of depots, stations, and other improvements added another $52,252 ($1,600,000 in 2020 dollars). [75] [ac]

The Lake Shore Division used an existing station in the city of Erie for its eastern terminus. [107] Located on W. 14th Street between Peach and Sassafras Streets (the site of the current Union Station), [108] this structure was erected by the Erie & North East Railroad in 1851. [109] It was a two-story [108] brick structure [109] with a balcony overlooking W. 14th Street. [108] [ad]

Pennsylvania Supreme Court charter interpretation Edit

While the gauge freeze was in place, the Attorney General of Pennsylvania filed suit on October 12, 1852, to enjoin the Franklin Canal Company from opening its nearly-completed railroad. The Attorney General argued that the FCC had violated its charter by constructing a line from Erie to the Ohio-Pennsylvania state border. [116] The FCC halted construction of its line at Crooked Creek [75] although whether it did before or after the state's action is not clear. The FCC lost the case, and appealed to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania on December 27, 1852. [106] [117] The FCC argued that its charter gave it wide leeway to build a railroad as it saw fit, so long as it eventually reached Lake Erie. There was no bar to branch lines, [af] and no deadlines for making the connection to the lakeshore. Moreover, the company argued, the state of Ohio never protested the company's plans while Lake Shore Division was being constructed, even though the company made annual reports to the state legislature documenting its intentions and construction progress. [106] On January 10, 1853, the state supreme court ruled in favor of the FCC in Commonwealth v. Franklin Canal Company, 9 Harris 117 (1853). However, the court interpreted the charter to preclude the construction of any railroad within 5.5 miles (8.9 km) of the Ohio border. [106] [119] [120] [121]

Alarmed that the Lake Shore Division might not reach the state border, Alfred Kelley personally purchased the 5.5-mile (8.9 km) right of way. [75] [122] [ag] Pennsylvania law permitted private individuals to construct "lateral railroads" to connect their factories, farms, mines, or other real estate to state-chartered railroads. [ah] Kelley initially proposed that several less-prominent directors of and investors in the CP&A and FCC purchase the land and build this lateral railroad with funds provided by the CP&A, but none were willing to take the risk. Kelley went forward with the project on his own, with funds secretly provided by the CP&A. [126] Kelley personally visited landowners along the route, making friends with them and buying the land he needed. In some cases, he was required to purchase entire farms. He also won passage of local ordinances permitting his lateral railroad to cross public roads. [127] Kelley then had the line graded and constructed, and conveyed the lateral railroad to the FCC. [20] [75]

Erie Gauge War Edit

What became known as the Erie Gauge War began on December 7, 1853, when the E&NE began work to alter its gauge. [132] Urged on by the Erie mayor Alfred King and Erie & Sunbury Railroad director Morrow B. Lowry, [133] mobs in Erie and the nearby village of Harborcreek tore up the E&NE's and FCC's track, demolished several of their bridges, and assaulted railroad officials. When the railroads tried to relay the track, the mobs attacked construction workers and tore up the rails again. [134] [135] [136] The city of Erie also tried to obtain an injunction against the FCC for violating its state-issued charter, but the Pennsylvania Supreme Court refused to issue the injunction. [137] [ai] The CP&A threatened to raise a private militia to protect the property of the FCC if the state could or would not do so. [139] The FCC counter-sued the city, and won a Pennsylvania Supreme Court injunction on December 17 [140] ordering the mayor to stop inciting the mobs. [141] Rioters continued to attack both railroads, [142] and a United States Marshal proved unable to stop the violence and destruction of property. Railroad officials and some members of Congress began to call for Federal troops to be sent to Erie to enforce the law. [143] A group of townspeople seized and jailed the U.S. Marshal on January 12, releasing him two days later. [144] [145] The marshal's arrest was national news, [146] but President Franklin Pierce declined to send Federal troops to enforce the court orders. [146] [147]

Tensions died down considerably when, on January 28, 1854, the Pennsylvania General Assembly enacted legislation declaring the FCC in violation of its charter. The law repealed the company's charter and authorized the state to take control of the company. [73] [148] It also specifically prohibited a connection between the E&NE and any railroad to the west. A jubilant crowd tore up the connection at Sassafras Street in Erie, [149] and "sentinels" were posted by the townspeople to ensure no new connection was made. [150] Pennsylvania Governor William Bigler seized the FCC on January 30, and appointed William F. Packer as the company's superintendent. [151] The CP&A continued to operate the FCC on behalf of the state, forwarding 47 percent of all revenues generated by the Lake Shore Division to the state treasury. [152]

Connecting the FCC and E&NE Edit

The state of Pennsylvania had no interest in running a railroad. [151] On May 5, 1854, the General Assembly enacted new legislation permitting the CP&A to build a line from the Ohio-Pennsylvania border east to Erie. [153] [154] The law allowed the CP&A to purchase the FCC, provided that the CP&A connected with the Erie and Sunbury Railroad [153] at Erie's harbor. [155] [aj] The CP&A was also required to purchase $500,000 ($14,400,000 in 2020 dollars) of Erie & Sunbury stock with bonds issued by the CP&A. [153] [ak] The CP&A, which already owned the FCC, assumed title to the Lake Shore Division. [155] Although the required bond purchase was called a bribe by railroad industry observers [160] and blackmail by Erie historian Edward Mott, [162] the CP&A took steps to comply with the remaining terms of the law within months. [155] [al]

Sources vary considerably on when the break at Erie ended. According to some sources, temporary superintendent Packer ordered the FCC and the E&NE connected immediately and the break was removed on February 1, 1854. [164] [107] The first through train between Cleveland and Buffalo ran over the former break later that day. [165] [166] The Erie Weekly Gazette, however, reported that the break still existed as of February 9, 1854, and Packer had agreed to retain it at least until May 1. [167] Other sources indicate that the break was not removed until March 1855, with the first through trains running on April 1. [89] [168] Some sources place the removal of the break in spring of 1856, [156] while others say, vaguely, that the break was removed some time after passage of the Kansas–Nebraska Act in 1854 (but before the end of the Civil War). [169] [170]

The operation of the line was disrupted again in October 1855, when the Pennsylvania General Assembly revoked the charter of the Erie & North East. [161] On November 17, 1855, the state-appointed commissioner operating the E&NE informed the CP&A that it could no longer operate rolling stock over the line. [171] This bar remained in place until May 15, 1856, when the charter was restored to the E&NE. [172]

The city of Erie continued to oppose the link between the CP&A and the E&NE. The city took the CP&A to court, but in January 1856 the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that CP&A had the legal right to connect to the E&NE at the eastern boundary of the Erie city limits. The court issued an injunction against the city, preventing any further interference with the railroad link. [173]

Leadership Edit

A major leadership change occurred at the CP&A in 1851. The CCC was completed in February 1851, [174] and Alfred Kelley finally took up the CP&A presidency the following month. [175] He resigned this position in February 1854, and was replaced temporarily by William Case. [176] Case was elected to a full term as president in August 1854. [177]

Case retired as president in August 1858, and was replaced by Amasa Stone. Stone served as the CP&A's president from August 1858 to March 1869. [175] Stone was severely injured in a carriage accident in October 1867, [178] and went to Europe for 15 months beginning in May 1868 to recover his health. [179] [180] [181] John Henry Devereux, the railroad's vice president, oversaw operations in Stone's absence. [182]

Devereux remained the railroad's acting president until its March 1869 merger. [183]

Stations and roundhouses Edit

When the Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati Railroad (CCC) was building its line, it constructed a brick depot in Cleveland on Front Street at the foot of Water Street. This depot opened on May 29, 1851. [184] Although it was initially used only by the CCC, the depot had been constructed as a cooperative effort by the CCC, CP&A, and Cleveland and Pittsburgh Railroad (C&P). [185]

In January 1853, the CP&A began building a new passenger station adjacent to the C&P's Outer Station. A wooden freight depot was erected next to this new passenger station, and extensive sidings constructed to provide access to both buildings as well as to permit the idling of trains. [186] The two-story brick passenger depot was completed in mid-March 1853. [187]

In the summer of 1853, the CP&A extended its Cleveland tracks to the Front Street Station. [188] That year, northwest of the intersection of Lake Street (now Lakeside Avenue) and Alba Street (later known as Depot Street, now E. 26th Street), the railroad also built a repair yard that included a car shop, blacksmith shop, lumber shed, paint shop, rail repair shop, and roundhouse. [189] The blacksmith building was 180 by 40 feet (55 by 12 m) and contained 12 forges. The car shop, where rolling stock was repaired, was 60 by 200 feet (18 by 61 m), made of brick, and employed 60 men. The lumber shed, which provided wood for rolling stock repair, was 40 by 350 feet (12 by 107 m). The nearby paint shop, where engines and rolling stock could be repainted, was 60 by 200 feet (18 by 61 m). Worn or damaged track was repaired in the rail shop, which had four forges and employed eight men. The roundhouse was 166 feet (51 m) in diameter, and had stalls for 20 engines. [190] The company began expansion of the Lake Street rail repair yard in March 1857. [191] Completed about July 1858, the expansion included a two-story, 70-by-288-foot (21 by 88 m) machine shop. The structure featured steam heat and iron columns that held up the second floor and roof. The machine shop covered the entire first floor. A business office, two storerooms, a library, wash room, bathing facilities, and pattern room (where patterns for equipment and wheels were kept) occupied the second floor. Also part of the expansion was a 45-by-70-foot (14 by 21 m) boiler shop for the repair of locomotive engines. [190]

During the American Civil War, the CP&A expanded its presence at both of its termini. It constructed a roundhouse in Erie at Chestnut Street in 1863 [107] which had stalls for 21 locomotives. [192] (Although a connection with the E&NE had probably existed since 1855, trains continued to change locomotives at the Erie station 1891.) [193] The CP&A also collaborated with the Erie & Pittsburgh and Philadelphia & Erie railroads [194] [195] to build a new station in Erie. Construction of the $150,000 Union Station [194] (which replaced the 1851 depot) [196] was announced in March 1863. [194] It was completed in July 1864. [195] [am] In 1865, the CP&A completed work on a new Union Station in Cleveland. [197] This work began in 1862, when the CC&C, CP&A, C&P, and the Cleveland and Toledo Railroad agreed that the existing station was far too small to accommodate existing needs much less future growth. Engineer Benjamin Franklin Morse acted as architect of the new structure, [198] whose costs of construction were shared equally by all four railroads. [109] When completed, Cleveland's Union Station had the largest train shed in the nation. [198] The Pittsburgh and Erie Railroad later rented space in the building, paying one-third of the interest on the cost of construction and one-third of the cost of upkeep. [109]

In March 1869, just days before its merger into the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad, the CP&A (operating under its new name, the Lake Shore Railway) completed construction on a new brick freight depot in Cleveland. This two-story building was 400 feet (120 m) long, 80 feet (24 m) deep, and 27 feet (8.2 m) high, and cost $60,000 ($1,200,000 in 2020 dollars). [199]

Expansion Edit

On April 1, 1855, the 1851–1852 operating contract between the FCC and CP&A was superseded by a new agreement under which FCC-branded locomotives, rolling stock, and depots were rebranded with the CP&A name and logo. Under the old contract, CP&A cars could travel east but not west over the FCC line (and vice versa). [an] The new agreement allowed CP&A rolling stock to travel over both lines in either direction. [89]

The CP&A completed its spur to Erie's harbor in 1857 at a cost of $48,477 ($1,300,000 in 2020 dollars). [200]

The CP&A began expanding in Pennsylvania during the Civil War. On March 9, 1863, the Pennsylvania General Assembly enacted legislation giving the CP&A permission to own up to 5,000 acres (20 km 2 ) of land in Mercer and Venango counties. This included the right to own and operate mines on these lands, and the authority to build branch lines (no more than 10 miles (16 km) in length) from any part of its road in Pennsylvania so long as the branch lines did not extend north of French Creek nor to Oil Creek. [201] The railroad also began construction of a 36-mile (58 km) [201] branch line from Ashtabula to Jamestown, Pennsylvania, in 1863. [202] The branch was completed in August 1872. [203] On March 21, 1864, the CP&A signed a 20-year lease for the Jamestown and Franklin Railroad (J&F), which ran from Jamestown (near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border) east to Franklin. The CP&A returned 40 percent of the J&F's annual earnings to the line's builders. [201] [ao] The CP&A also constructed spurs from the J&F into the coal fields around Franklin, Pennsylvania. [204]

In April 1864, the Pennsylvania legislature passed a law allowing the CP&A to extend its line past Franklin to Latona, Pennsylvania (now Oil City, Pennsylvania). [201] [206] This work, begun in 1865, [207] was finished on May 24, 1870, [208] giving the J&F a line 51 miles (82 km) in length. [201]

The Cleveland, Painesville and Ashtabula Railroad operated its own track as well as the track of the Franklin Canal Company under the legal name of the Cleveland and Erie Railroad. According to the industry publication The Railway News, by 1866 it was the "most profitable line in America", and had made the greatest return on investment of any railroad line in the nation. [41]

The CP&A engaged in a two-year wave of consolidations after the Civil War which led to the founding of the Lake Shore and Southern Michigan Railroad. The first of these occurred on October 8, 1867, when the CP&A leased the Cleveland and Toledo Railroad. [201]

The CP&A changed its name to the Lake Shore Railway on June 17, 1868, [209] and on February 11, 1869, the Cleveland and Toledo merged into the Lake Shore Railway. [201]

On April 6, 1869, the Michigan Southern and Northern Indiana Railroad and the Lake Shore Railway merged to form the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway (LS&MS). [210] This was followed on August 1, 1869, by the merger of the Buffalo and Erie Railroad into the LS&MS. [211] [ap] The merger placed the line from Chicago to Buffalo under the control of a single company for the first time. [212]

From the beginning of operations in 1851 until 1863, the Cleveland, Painesville and Ashtabula Railroad operated 71 miles (114 km) of track in Ohio [61] and another 25.5 miles (41.0 km) of track in Pennsylvania via the Franklin Canal Company [83] (which was effectively a subsidiary of the CP&A). [146] The CP&A added a 3-mile (4.8 km) spur in the city of Erie in 1847, [200] and began the 36-mile (58 km) Jamestown Branch in 1863. [201] It leased the Jamestown & Franklin Railroad in 1864, and extended it to Latona in 1865, giving the J&F a total length of 51 miles (82 km). [201] It leased the entirety of the 156.7-mile (252.2 km) Cleveland and Toledo Railroad in 1867. [201] [aq]

In 1868, the year before its merger into the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern, the CP&A had 16 miles (26 km) miles of double track (15 miles (24 km) of which were in Ohio), and 24 miles (39 km) miles of siding (15 miles (24 km) of which were in Ohio). [215] It had 19 stations, of which only two were in Pennsylvania (at Erie and Girard). It owned 39 locomotives, 25 first-class passenger cars, nine second-class passenger cars, six sleeping cars, 10 mail and express-freight cars, and 1,038 freight cars. [216]


The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River have served as major North American trade arteries since long before the U.S. or Canada achieved nationhood.

A new era in marine transportation was made possible by construction of the 306-kilometer (189-mile) stretch of the St. Lawrence Seaway between Montreal and Lake Ontario during the mid to late 1950s. Recognized as one of the most challenging engineering feats in history, seven locks were built, five Canadian and two U.S., in order to lift vessels 246 feet (75 meters) above sea level as they transit from Montreal to Lake Ontario.

Initiated in 1954 and completed in 1959, building the Seaway required:

  • Some 22,000 workers
  • Moving 210 million cubic yards of earth and rock
  • Pouring over 6 million cubic yards of concrete

The Seaway is considered to be one of the engineering marvels of the 20 th century


Combined with the eight locks of the Welland Canal, which link Lake Ontario to Lake Erie, the binational St. Lawrence Seaway&rsquos 15 locks (13 Canadian and 2 American) allow ships to transit between Montreal and Lake Erie, a difference in elevation of 168 metres. The &ldquoSoo&rdquo Locks, managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, enable ships to reach Lake Superior, which is 183 metres above sea level.

History of the Seaway&rsquos Two Sections:

Welland Canal Section (consisting of eight locks) was completed in 1932.

The Montreal &ndash Lake Ontario Section (consisting of seven locks) was completed in 1959.

The combination of these two sections forms the St. Lawrence Seaway, which permits ships to transit between &ldquosea level in Montreal to Lake Erie.

Note: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers runs the Soo Locks, which permits ships to gain access to Lake Superior

On April 25, 1959, the icebreaker &ldquoD&rsquoIBERVILLE&rdquo began the first through transit of the St. Lawrence Seaway which was officially opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the President Dwight D. Eisenhower of the United States on June 26 th of that year.

Today, the waterway remains a fine example of the spirit of co-operation that can exist between two nations and its successful operation is a tribute to the ingenuity, capability and perseverance of all those who had a hand in its realization. In 2020, it is expected that the St. Lawrence Seaway will reach a total of three billion tonnes of cargo having transited its locks since it initially opened in 1959. This rapidly approaching milestone serves as a strong testimony to the Seaway&rsquos ongoing role as a vital trading gateway connecting the heart of North America to over 50 trading nations across the globe.

Administration of the St. Lawrence Seaway

The St. Lawrence Seaway was built as a binational partnership between the U.S. and Canada through international agreements that carry the weight of treaties, and continues to operate as such. Administration of the waterway is shared by two entities, the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation in the U.S., a federal agency within the U.S. Department of Transportation, and The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation in Canada, a not-for-profit corporation established by the Government of Canada.

The waterway remains a fine example of the spirit of co-operation that can exist between two nations and its successful operation is a tribute to the ingenuity, capability and perseverance of all those who had a hand in its realization. The two Seaway Corporations have an excellent working relationship, and continue to work together on a daily basis in administering Seaway operations, supporting a vital trade gateway connecting the heart of North America to over 50 nations across the globe.


Erie Railroad Reaches the Great Lakes - History


Text from—"When Railroads Were New"—by Charles Frederick Carter--1909

THE first bride who ever made a honeymoon trip on a railroad in America did more by that act to expedite the building of the world's first trunk line than the ablest statesmen, engineers, and financiers of the Empire State had been able to accomplish by their united efforts in half a dozen years.

Indeed, it is within bounds to go much further than this and say that the inspiration drawn from this bride's delight over her novel ride pushed the hands of progress ahead ten years on the dial of history.

The bride who achieved so much was Mrs. Henry L. Pierson, of Ramapo, N. Y. Mr. and Mrs. Pierson were in Charleston, S. C., early in January, 1831, on their wedding tour. When Mrs. Pierson heard that a steam locomotive was to make its first trip with a trainload of passengers over the South Carolina Railroad from Charleston to Hamburg, six miles away, on January 15, she was eager to take the ride and her husband, like a dutiful bridegroom, agreed.

That was the first regular train that ever carried passengers in the United States. It was then less than eighteen months from the time when the first successful locomotive had made its trial trip.

The locomotive which drew the first regular passenger train in America and the first bridal couple to take a railroad journey was the Best Friend of Charleston.

The two cars were crazy contraptions on four wheels, resembling stagecoach bodies as much as they did anything else. The train contrived to get over the entire system of six miles and back again at a fairly satisfactory speed.

All the passengers were highly pleased with their strange experience. The bride was in a transport of delight. She could talk of nothing else. When she returned to Ramapo she gave her brother-in-law, Eleazer Lord, and her father-in-law, Jeremiah Pierson, such glowing accounts of her railroad trip that they were fired with enthusiasm. The bridegroom had already become almost as ardent an advocate of railroads as his bride.

Jeremiah Pierson, the father of the bridegroom, was one of the nation's first captains of industry. He owned several thousand acres of land around Ramapo, on which he conducted tanneries, a cotton-mill, iron-works, and a nail factory. His son-in-law, Eleazer Lord, was one of the leading merchants, financiers, and public men of New York City.

For half a dozen years the two had been deeply interested in Governor De Witt Clinton's ideas for the development of southern New York by means of a State highway or canal or other method of communication, but politicians in central New York, where the Erie Canal had been in operation from 1825, by methods not unknown even among politicians of today, turned all the efforts of the Governor and his public-spirited supporters into a farce.


Later, Mr. Lord and his father-in-law had been greatly interested in the possibilities of a railroad as the best form for Governor Clinton's proposed highway to take. But their original idea of a railroad was an affair of inclined planes and horse-power.

Of course, they had heard all about the experiments with locomotives and the building of the South Carolina Railroad, the first in the world projected from the outset to be operated by steam locomotives, and they had been deeply interested in William C. Redfield's famous pamphlet, so widely circulated in 1829, proposing a steam railroad from the ocean to the Mississippi but the idea of a steam road through southern New York was not clearly developed in their minds until the bride's glowing accounts of her experience fired their imaginations.

Young Mrs. Pierson gave it as her opinion that if a steam railroad were built it would be possible to go from New York to Buffalo in twenty-four hours. At first, the men folks were inclined to smile at this, but they were thoroughly impressed with the value of the locomotive as described by this ardent advocate.

Mrs. Pierson's girlish enthusiasm was the determining factor which crystallized the ideas of those men and led them to take the steps which finally resulted in the building of what is now known as the Erie Railway, which, by uniting the ocean with the Great Lakes, became the world's first trunk line.

No railroad has had a more romantic history than this one, which had its inception in so romantic an incident. It required twenty years of toil and anxiety, sacrifice and discouragement, to get the line through, but it was accomplished at last, and the bridegroom and bride who had made the memorable first wedding journey by rail were again passengers on a trip which will live in history as long as railroads exist.

This time the bride was a handsome woman of middle age, but she was just as proud of her husband as she was on that first trip, for he was vice-president of the road, the longest continuous line in the world, and the trains did move at a speed that would have carried them from New York to Buffalo in twenty-four hours, just as she had prophesied two decades before that they would.

Mr. Lord at once began corresponding with the most influential citizens of southern New York on the subject of building a steam railroad from the ocean to the Lakes. The idea was well received everywhere so well, in fact, that a public meeting in furtherance of Mr. Lord's railroad scheme was held at Monticello, July 29, 1831 another at Jamestown, September 20, and a third at Angelica, October 25. Finally, a great central convention was called to meet at Oswego, December 20, 1831.

People were inclined to believe that so vast an enterprise as the building of five hundred miles of railroad was too much for one company to undertake. It was pretty generally believed that two companies would be required—one to build from New York to Oswego, the other from Oswego to Lake Erie.

A convention at Binghamton, December 15, had formally approved the two-company plan, and public opinion had pretty definitely decided that two companies were necessary.

But while the Oswego convention was in session a citizen rushed breathlessly in, interrupting a delegate who was delivering an address, and in the most orthodox style known to melodrama handed the president a letter. It was from Eleazer Lord, briefly but emphatically declaring that the undertaking could be carried to success only by a single corporation.

His reasoning was so cogent that the convention without much ado decided in favor of one corporation, and nothing further was heard of the two-company proposition.

Public opinion was so pronounced in favor of the railroad that the politicians from the canal counties could make no headway against it. A charter drafted by John Duer, of New York, was granted the New York and Erie Railroad, April 24, 1832.

But the fine Italian hand of the politicians who could not prevent the granting of the charter was clearly to be seen in the document itself. That instrument provided that the entire capital stock of ten million dollars must be subscribed and five per cent of the amount paid in before the company could incorporate.

The canal counties had served public notice that the projectors of this great public work would have to combat all the pettifogging intrigues of which small politicians were capable before they could even begin their titanic contest with nature.

The little band of enthusiasts led by Eleazer Lord were undertaking the most stupendous task that had been set before the nation up to that time. The country was poor in resources the region through which the road was to run was a wilderness except for a few scattering villages.


Missouri was the only State west of the Mississippi. Chicago was a village clustered around Fort Dearborn. Railroad building was an unknown science three-quarters of a century ago. The building of five hundred miles of road then was a far more stupendous task than the building of ten thousand miles would be to-day.

Seeing the hopelessness of complying with the terms of the charter, the incorporators contrived to bring enough pressure to bear on the legislature to have the amount of subscription required before organization reduced to one million dollars.

Finally, on August 9, 1833, the New York and Erie Railroad Company was organized, with Mr. Lord as president. The next month the board of directors issued an address asking for donations of right of way and additional donations of land.

As no survey had been made, and no one had any idea where the road would be located, this address failed to bring out either donations or subscriptions of stock, but there was a great deal of harsh talk about land-speculation schemes.

In desperation, a convention was held, November 20, 1833, in New York City, to ask for State aid. The aid was not forthcoming. Next year the company took the little money received for stock from the incorporators and started the surveys. The eastern end of the line began in a marsh on the banks of the Hudson, twenty-four miles north of New York City.

Considering that the fundamental purpose of the road was to secure the trade of the interior to New York, this did not make any new friends for the road. The western end of the road was to be Dunkirk, a village of four hundred inhabitants, on the shores of Lake Erie.

The talk about land speculation and the failure to make satisfactory progress created such strong opposition to his policy that Mr. Lord resigned as president at the January meeting in 1835, and J. G. King was elected to succeed him. King, by superhuman exertions, was able to make an actual beginning.

He went to Deposit, some one hundred and seventy-seven miles from New York, where at sunrise on a clear, frosty morning, November 7, 1835, on the eastern bank of the Delaware River, be made a little speech to a party of thirty men, in which he expressed the conviction that the railroad for which be was about to break ground might in a few years earn as much as two hundred thousand dollars a year from freight.

This roseate prophecy being received with incredulity, Mr. King hastened to modify it by saying the earnings might amount to so vast a sum "at least eventually." Then he shoveled a wheelbarrow-load of dirt, which another member of the party wheeled away and dumped, and the great work was begun.

But it was only begun. No progress was made that year, nor did it look as if any further progress ever would be made. The great fire in New York, December 16, 1835, ruined many of the stockholders, and the panic of 1836-1837 bankrupted many more.

Once more the company resolved to appeal to the legislature for aid as a last desperate expedient. The sum required was fixed at three million dollars.

Although the request was supported by huge petitions from New York, Brooklyn, and every county in the southern tier, the opposition was bitter. However, public opinion was too strong to be ignored, so the opposition went through the form of yielding to popular clamor by presenting a bill to advance two million dollars when the company had expended four million six hundred and seventy-four thousand five hundred and eighteen dollars.

This was a safe move, because the company had not a dollar in the treasury, and no means of getting one. Subsequently the conditions were modified and the credit of the State to the amount of three million dollars was loaned. Ultimately the amount was given outright.

In December, 1836, the board issued a call for a payment of two dollars and a half a share. Less than half the stockholders responded. Then a public meeting was held, at which a committee of thirty-nine was appointed to receive subscriptions. The committee opened its books and sat down to wait for the public to step up and subscribe. The public didn't step.

By 1838 President King had had enough of the effort to materialize a railroad out of the circumambient atmosphere, and the board of directors again turned to Eleazer Lord, who had a new plan to offer. It was to let contracts for the first ten miles from Piermont, the terminus of the road on the Hudson, twenty-four miles above New York, and solicit subscriptions in the city to pay for that amount of work, and to solicit subscriptions from Rockland and Orange counties to pay for the next thirty-six miles, to Goshen. Middletown was to be asked to pay for nine miles between that point and Goshen.


Before this plan could be put in operation, the company had a very narrow escape from an untimely end. People were getting so impatient to see some progress made that the legislature of 1838-1839 was swamped with petitions for the immediate construction of the road by the State.

February 14, 1839, a bill authorizing the surrender by the New York and Erie Railroad Company of all its rights, titles, franchises, and property to the State was defeated in the Senate by the narrow margin of one vote.

The Assembly succeeded in passing a similar bill, but it was defeated in the Senate, seventeen to twenty-four. The Governor stood ready to sign the bill if it had been adopted by the legislature.

In the spring of 1839 grading was begun under Lord's newest plan. October 4, 1839, Lord was again made president, and H. L. Pierson, who with his bride had taken that historic ride on the first passenger train, was made a director. Mr. Lord continued to keep things moving in his second administration so effectively that on Wednesday, June 30, 1841, the first trainload of passengers that ever traveled over the Erie Railroad was taken to Ramapo, where the party was entertained by the venerable Jeremiah Pierson, the father-inlaw of the bride who made the memorable trip ten years before, who was one of the directors of the road. Three months later the line was opened for traffic to Goshen, forty-six miles from Piermont.

Slowly, very slowly, the rails crept westward. Not until December 27, 1848, more than seven years after reaching Goshen, did the first train enter Binghamton, one hundred and fifty-six miles beyond. In all those seven years the Erie Company was experiencing a continuous succession of perplexities, annoyances, difficulties, and dangers that in number and variety have probably never been equaled in the history of any other commercial enterprise in this country.

The financing of the work was one prolonged vexation. Times innumerable it seemed as if the whole enterprise must fail for want of funds, but at the last minute of the eleventh hour some way out would be found.

Then, too, the company had to learn the science of railroading as it went along. There was no telegraph in those days to facilitate the movement of trains. The only reliance was a time card and a set of rules.

Locomotives and rolling stock were small and crude. Officials and employees had everything to learn, since railroads were new, and every point learned was paid for in experience at a good round figure. The living instrumentalities through which the evolution of the railroad was achieved were very much in earnest, as they had need to be. They were too busy with the problems of each day as they arose to glut their vanity with profitless reflections upon the magnificence of the task upon which they were engaged, or to enjoy the humor of the expedients which led to their solution. Posterity gets all the laughs as well as the benefits.

An interesting example of the quaint devices by which important ends were attained is afforded by the origin of the bell cord, the forerunner of the air whistle, now in universal use on American roads for signaling the engineer from the train. A means of communication between the engine and the train has always been considered indispensable in America. In Europe the lack of such means of communication has been the fruitful source of accidents and crimes.

The bell cord was the invention of Conductor Henry Ayers, of the Erie Railroad. In the spring of 1842, soon after the line had been opened to Goshen, forty-six miles from the Hudson River, there were no cabs on the engines, no caboose for the trainmen, no way of getting over the cars, and no means of communicating with the engineer. There were no such things as telegraphic train orders, no block signals, no printed time cards, no anything but a few vague rules for the movement of trains. The engineer was an autocrat, who ran the train to suit himself. The conductor was merely a humble collector of fares.

Conductor Ayers, who afterwards for many years was one of the most popular men of his calling in the country, was assigned to a train whose destinies were ruled by Engineer Jacob Hamel, a German of a very grave turn of mind, fully alive to the dignity of his position, who looked upon the genial conductor with dark suspicion. When Ayers suggested that there should be some means of signaling the engineer so he could notify him when to stop to let off passengers, suspicion became a certainty that the conductor was seeking to usurp the prerogatives of the engineer. Hamel decided to teach the impertinent collector of small change his place.

One day Ayers procured a stout cord, which he ran from the rear car of the train to the framework of the cabless engine. He tied a stick of wood on the end of the cord, and told Hamel that when he saw the stick jerk up and down he was to stop. Hamel listened in contemptuous silence, and as soon as the conductor's back was turned threw away the stick and tied the cord to the frame of the engine. Next day the performance was repeated.

On the third day Ayers rigged up his cord and his stick of wood before starting from Piermont, the eastern terminus, and told Jacob that if be threw that stick away he would thrash him until he would be glad to leave it alone.

When they reached Goshen the stick was gone, as usual, and the end of the cord was trailing in the dirt. Ayers walked up to the engine, and without saying a word yanked Hamel off the engine and sailed in to thrash him. This proved to be no easy task, for Hamel had all the dogged tenacity of his race. But one represented Prerogative, while the other championed Progress, and Progress won at last, as it usually does.

That hard-won victory settled for all time the question of who should run a train. Also it showed the way to a most useful improvement. Once the idea was hit upon it did not take long to replace the stick of wood with a gong. In a very short time the bell cord was in universal use on passenger trains.

To Conductor Ayers is also due the credit of introducing another new idea, which, if not so useful in the operation of trains, was at least gratefully appreciated by a numerous and influential class of patrons: the custom of allowing ministers of the Gospel half rates.

Early in the spring of 1843 the Rev. Dr. Robert McCartee, pastor of the Presbyterian Church at Goshen, was a passenger on Conductor Ayers's train. On account of a very heavy rain the track was in such bad condition that the train was delayed for hours. The passengers, following a custom that has been preserved in all the vigor of its early days, heaped maledictions upon the management. Some of the more spirited ones drew up a set of resolutions denouncing the company for the high-handed invasion of their rights, as manifested in the delay, in scathing terms. These resolutions were passed along to be signed by all the passengers. When Dr. McCartee was asked for his signature, he said he would be happy to give it if the phraseology was changed slightly. Upon being requested to name the changes he wished, he wrote the following:

"Whereas, the recent rain has fallen at a time ill-suited to our pleasure and convenience and without consultation with us and

"Whereas, Jack Frost who has been imprisoned in the ground some months, having become tired of his bondage, is trying to break loose therefore be it

"RESOLVED, that we would be glad to have it otherwise."

When the good Dr. McCartee arose and in his best parliamentary voice read his proposed amendment, there was a hearty laugh, and nothing more was heard about censuring the management.

Conductor Ayers was so delighted with this turn of affairs that thereafter he would never accept a fare from Dr. McCartee. Not being selfish, the Doctor suggested a few weeks later that the courtesy be extended to all ministers. The company thought the idea a good one, and for a few months no minister paid for riding over the Erie. Then an order was issued that ministers were to be charged half fare. That order established a precedent which was universally followed until the new rate law put an end to the practice.

The modest but invaluable ticket punch was also evolved on the Erie. When the first section of the road was opened in 1841 there were no ticket agents. Each conductor was given a tin box when he started out for the day, which contained a supply of tickets and ten dollars in change. The passenger on paying the conductor his fare received a ticket, which he surrendered on the boat during his voyage of twenty-four miles down the Hudson from Piermont to New York. These tickets were heavy cards bearing the signature of the general ticket agent. These were taken up and used over and over again until they became soiled.

Travelers soon found a way to beat the company. They would buy a through ticket which they would show according to custom. At the last station before reaching their destination they would purchase a ticket from that station to destination. This latter ticket would be surrendered and the through ticket kept to be used over again. The process would be repeated on the return trip. The passenger would then be in possession of through transportation, which enabled him to ride as often as he liked by merely paying for a few miles at each end of his trip.

It was some time before this fraud was discovered. Then a system of lead pencil marks was instituted, but pencil marks were easy to erase. The only sort of mark that could not be erased was one that mutilated the ticket. This led to the development of the punch.

Another interesting innovation which originated on the Erie was intended for the laudable purpose of protecting passengers from the dust which has always been one of the afflictions associated with railroad travel. A funnel with its mouth pointed in the direction the train was moving was placed on the roof of the car, through which, when the train was in motion, a current of air was forced into a chamber where sprays of water operated by a pump driven from an axle washed the dust out and delivered the air sweetened and purified to the occupants of the car. A small stove was provided to heat the wash water in winter. Several cars were so equipped, and they seem to have satisfied the demands of the day, for David Stevenson, F.R.S.E., of England, who made a tour of inspection of American railroads in 1857, recommended their adoption by English railroads. But the combined ventilator and washery did not stand the test of time and in later years passengers on the Erie, in common with the patrons of other roads, were obliged to be content with unlaundered air.

While it was learning the rudiments of railroading the company acquired some interesting side-lights on human nature, also at war prices. People of a certain type were eager to have the railroad built, but they never permitted this eagerness to blind them to the immediate interests of their own pockets.

One of the natives near Goshen had bought a tract of land along the right-of-way, expecting to make a fortune out of it when the road was in operation. The fortune manifested no indications of appearing until the native observed that the railroad had established a water-tank opposite his land, which was supplied by a wooden pump which required a man to operate.

Thereupon the native scooped out a big hole on top of a hill near by, lined it with clay to make it waterproof, and dug some shallow trenches from higher ground to the basin, which was soon filled by the rains.

Then the native went to New York and told the officers of the road that he had a valuable spring which would afford a much more satisfactory supply of water than the pump. He would sell this spring for two thousand five hundred dollars if the bargain was closed at once.

Commissioners were sent to examine the spring and close the deal. The two thousand five hundred dollars were paid over, and the company spent two thousand five hundred dollars more laying pipes from the "spring" to the track. Of course, the water all ran out in a short time, and no more took its place. Then the railroad company found that the land was mortgaged, and that if they did not get their pipe up in a hurry it would be lost, too.

A neighbor of this same native had a mill run by water-power, which had been standing idle for a couple of years. The railroad skirted the edge of the mill-pond. One day a train got tired of pounding along over the rough track and plunged off into the mill-pond.

The company asked the owner to let the water off, so that it could recover its rolling stock. But the mill man suddenly became very busy, started up his mill, and declared he couldn't think of shutting down unless he was paid six hundred dollars to compensate him for lost time. Not seeing any other solution of the difficulty, the railroad company paid the six hundred dollars.

Going down the Shawangunk Mountains into the Neversink Valley there was a rocky ledge through which a way had to be blasted. The German owner of the rocks, when approached by the right-of-way agents, gave some sort of non-committal reply which was interpreted as consent. But when the workmen began operations on the rocks the owner stopped them and would not let them do a stroke until he had been paid a hundred dollars an acre for two acres of rock that was not worth ten cents a square mile. All along the line owners suddenly appeared for land that had been regarded as utterly worthless who had to be paid extravagant sums for right-of-way through their property. Fancy prices were also extorted for ties, fuel, and bridge timbers for the railroad.

Retribution overtook the greedy ones at last. The Irish laborers employed on the grade overran the country, digging potatoes, robbing hen-roosts and orchards, and helping themselves to whatever else took their fancy.

The company had its full share of trouble with these same Irishmen. Some were from Cork, some were from Tipperary, some from the north of Ireland, called the "Far-downers," while all were pugnacious to the last degree. There were frequent factional riots, in one of which three men were killed.


According to popular report, a good many others were killed and their bodies buried in the fills as the easiest way to dispose of them and the chance of troublesome official investigations. On several occasions the militia had to be called out to suppress disturbances. Prevention by a general disarmament and the confiscation of whisky was ultimately found to be the most effective way of dealing with the turbulent ones.

Still, there were a few incidents of a more agreeable nature. In 1841, G. W. Scranton, of Oxford, N. J., attracted by the rich deposits of iron and coal in the Luzerne Valley, Pennsylvania, bought a tract of land there and established iron-works, where he was joined later by S. T. Scranton. They had a hard struggle to keep going for five years.

Then W. E. Dodge, a director in the Erie, who knew the Scrantons, conceived the idea of having the Scrantons make rails for the road. The company was having great difficulty in getting rails from England, and the cost was excessive.

A contract was made with the Scrantons to furnish twelve thousand tons of rails at forty-six dollars a ton, which was about half the cost of the English rails. Dodge and others advanced the money to purchase the necessary machinery, and the rails were ready for delivery in the spring of 1847. This Erie contract laid the foundations of the city of Scranton.

To get the rails where they were needed it was necessary to haul them by team through the wilderness to the Delaware and Hudson Canal, at Archbold, thence by canal-boat to Carbondale, thence by a gravity railroad to Honesdale, thence by canal-boat, again, to Cuddebackville, and finally by team once more over the Shawangunk Mountains on the western extension, a distance of sixty miles.

By the time the road had reached Binghamton, two hundred and sixteen miles from New York, the Erie company seemed to be at its last gasp. Every dollar of the three million that by superhuman exertion had been raised for construction was gone, and there seemed no way to raise more.

At the last moment Alexander S. Diven, of Elmira, came to the rescue with a device which has since become the standard method of railroad-building. This was a construction syndicate, the first ever organized. An agreement was made by which the Diven syndicate was to do the grading, furnish all material except the rails, and lay the track from Binghamton to Corning, a distance of seventy-six miles, taking in payment four million dollars in second-mortgage bonds.

This saved the situation and aroused new interest in the road. It made fortunes for the members of the syndicate, but it increased the heavy burden of debt on the company and helped to make trouble for the future.

In 1849 the company tried the interesting experiment of building iron bridges. Three of them, the first structures of the kind ever built for a railroad, were erected during that year. An eastbound stock train was crossing one of the iron bridges near Mast Hope July 31, 1849, when the engineer heard a loud cracking. Instantly divining the reason, he jerked the throttle wide open and succeeded in getting the engine across in safety. So narrow was his escape that even the tender of the locomotive followed the train into the creek along with the wrecked bridge. A brakeman and two stockmen lost their lives.

This accident caused the company to lose faith in iron bridges. Thereafter all bridges were built of wood, including the famous structure over the chasm of the Genesee River at Portage. This chasm was two hundred and fifty feet deep and nine hundred feet wide. A congress of engineers being assembled to devise means of crossing it, a wooden bridge in spans of fifty feet was decided upon.

It required two years' time and an outlay of one hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars to build. When it was opened August 9, 1852, sixteen million feet of timber, the product of three hundred acres of pine forest, had gone into the structure. The science of iron bridge building was making progress and when the great wooden structure burned in 1875 it was replaced in forty-seven days with a modern steel bridge.


The road was completed to Corning on December 31, 1849. By this time business throughout the country was improving, and the prospects of the Erie looked brighter.


There now remained a gap of one hundred and sixty-nine miles from Corning to Dunkirk, on Lake Erie, the western terminus, to be filled in. But the company having learned how to issue bonds, the rest seemed easy. An issue of three million five hundred thousand dollars of income bonds, bearing seven per cent interest, floated at a heavy discount, followed later on by a second issue of the same amount, paid for the completion of the work, in the spring of 1851.


The driving of the last spike, which completed the road that linked the ocean with the Lakes, marked an epoch in the history of railroads. The first great trunk line was now ready for traffic. The Pennsylvania was then only a local line from Philadelphia to Hollidaysburg, in the foothills of the Alleghanies.

New York was connected with Buffalo by an aggregation of ramshackle roads of assorted gauges. The only other road of importance in the world was the line from St. Petersburg to Moscow, which was opened also in 1851.

So notable an event called for something unusual in the way of a celebration. Whatever may have been its shortcomings in financial acumen or constructive genius, and it had many such to answer for, the Erie management was a past master in the art of celebrating. Beginning with the opening of the first section of the line to Ramapo, away back in 1841, every achievement in construction had been celebrated with great eclat. The completion of the line to Goshen, to Port Jervis, to Binghamton, to Elmira, the completion of the Starrucca viaduct and of the wooden bridge over the chasm of the Genesee at Portage, had all been celebrated with prodigal pomp.

When the time came that the world's first long-distance railroad excursion could be made the celebration arranged eclipsed anything of the kind that had been done. The guests included President Fillmore, Secretary of State Daniel Webster, Attorney-General John J. Crittenden, Secretary of the Navy W. C. Graham, Postmaster-General W. K. Hall, and some three hundred other distinguished guests, including six candidates for the Presidency, twelve candidates for the Vice-Presidency, United States Senators, governors, mayors, capitalists, merchants, and President Benjamin Loder and the other officers and directors of the company.

When President Fillmore, the members of his cabinet, and other distinguished guests came up from Amboy on the steamer Erie in mid-afternoon on May 13, 1851, all the shipping in the Harbor was dressed in bunting. Batteries at Forts Hamilton and Diamond and on Governor's Island and Bedloe's Island boomed forth National salutes. Cheers from fifty thousand throats and a salute from pieces used in 1776, fired by veterans of the Revolution, greeted the President and his suite as they disembarked at the Battery. Nine thousand militia were on hand to escort the President to the Irving Hotel at Broadway and Twelfth Street. Webster, who was already showing marked indications of his approaching end, went to the Astor House, where he always stopped. An elaborate dinner was the event of the evening.

According to the program, the boat carrying the guests was to leave for Piermont at 6 A.M. on Wednesday, May 14, 1851 . There was a pouring rain that morning, but, despite the unearthly hour and the rain, the streets were packed with people to cheer the departing guests. A blundering porter was slow with Webster's baggage, and the boat did not get away until 6:10.

The famous Dodsworth's Band, which had been engaged to accompany the party to Dunkirk, rendered an elaborate program on the way up the river. Another very important member of the party was George Downing, the most famous caterer of his day, who had with him a picked corps of waiters, whose duty it was to see that no one lacked refreshment, liquid or solid.

On arriving at Piermont, at 7:45 A.M., the party was received with the ringing of bells, the booming of cannon, and the cheers of a multitude. The two trains which were to carry the invited guests were decorated with bunting, and there were flags and banners everywhere.

At eight o'clock the first through train that ever carried passengers from the ocean to the Lakes pulled out of Piermont, and was followed seven minutes later by the second section. President Fillmore was on the first section, and Webster was on the second, seated in a comfortable rocker on a flat car, for the rain had ceased and he wanted to enjoy the scenery to the utmost.

The only man on either train who was not happy was Gad Lyman, the engineer of the first section. Gad had not got many miles out of Piermont before his engine, a Rogers, No. 100, manifested unmistakable symptoms of "laying down." Under any conditions, this would have been mortifying, but the peculiar circumstances in this case made the conduct of No. 100 doubly humiliating.

In those days there was a fierce rivalry between the different makers of locomotives, and engineers were not infrequently zealous partisans of the various manufacturers. Some months previous Gad had been given a new Swinburne engine, No. 71, just out of the shop.

Being partial to Rogers machines, Gad could do nothing with the new Swinburne. On the strength of his reports the 71 was condemned as worthless, and Gad was given the new Rogers, with which he declared he could pull the Hudson River up by the roots if he wanted to.

Josh Martin, another engineer, was a warm personal friend of Swinburne, the maker of the 71. Josh asked for the 71 after it had been condemned, and after much solicitation was given profane permission to take the old thing and go to blazes with it.

On this memorable day, after Gad's vaunted No. 100 had laid down on a little hill, a messenger was sent to a siding near by for a plebeian gravel-train engine to help him into Port Jervis, where he arrived an hour late and inexpressibly crestfallen to find Josh Martin waiting with the 71 to take his train.

Swinburne, the locomotive-builder, who was on the train, hurried forward and climbed on the 71. Josh slapped him on the back and exclaimed:

"Swinburne, I am going to make you to-day or break my neck!"

Josh didn't break his neck, but every one on board the train was fully persuaded his own neck would be broken, for Josh covered the thirty-four miles from Port Jervis to Narrowsburg with the heavy train in thirty-five minutes. Such a record as that had never been approached in the history of railroading.

Swinburne was in raptures, the officers of the road were astounded, and some of the distinguished passengers were so nervous that they insisted on getting off and walking. By the time they had covered the eighty-eight miles from Port Jervis to Deposit, Josh had made up the hour Gad had lost.

At every station along the route there were cheering crowds, booming cannon, waving banners, and oratory. Wherever the trains stopped long enough, some of the distinguished guests would make brief speeches. As the observation platform, since found so convenient in National campaigns, had not then been thought of, the orators held forth from flat cars attached to the rear of the trains for the purpose. One of these flat cars was also occupied by the railroad official who had been designated to receive flags. By a singular coincidence the ladies at every one of the more than sixty stations between Piermont and Dunkirk had conceived the idea that it would be as original as it was appropriate to present a flag wrought by their own fair hands to the railroad company when the first train passed through to Lake Erie. As it would have consumed altogether too much time to make a stop for each of these flag presentations, the engineer merely slowed down at three-fourths of the stations enough to allow the flag officer to scoop up the banner in his arms much like the hands on the old-fashioned Marsh Harvesters gathered up armfuls of grain for binding. At the end of the journey the Erie Railroad had a collection of flags that would have done credit to a victorious army.


The party reached Elmira, two hundred and seventy-four miles from New York, where the night was to be passed, at
7 P.M. As the President alighted a national salute was fired. There was an imposing procession to escort the President to one hotel and Webster to another two banquets were served, with Downing, the caterer, and his staff helping the hotel men.


All night long the streets were filled with enthusiastic crowds. Hospitality was unbounded, and many citizens on all other occasions staid and sober men grew hilarious as the night wore on. Elmira has never had another such night as that which marked the opening of the Erie from the ocean to the Lakes.

At 6.30 A.M., on Thursday, May 15, the special trains left Elmira for Dunkirk., where they arrived at 4.30 P.M.

The scenes of the day before were repeated at every station along the way. H. G. Brooks, an engineer, ran his locomotive out several miles to meet the trains, which had been consolidated for entering Dunkirk, and escorted them to the station under a canopy made of the intertwined flags of the United States, England, and France.

There was a procession, led by Dodsworth's Band, to the scene of a barbecue for which the whole country had been preparing for weeks.

There were two oxen barbecued, ten sheep, and a hundred fowls bread in loaves ten feet long and two feet wide, barrels of cider, tanks of coffee, unlimited quantities of ham, corned beef, tongue and sausage, pork and beans in vessels holding fifty gallons each, and vast quantities of clam chowder.

President Fillmore manifested deep interest in the pork and beans, while Webster was attracted by the clam chowder. He was something of a specialist in making clam chowder himself, he said. He strongly recommended the addition of a little port wine to give the chowder the proper bouquet. After several dinners in as many different places, accompanied by much speech-making, the celebration was at an end.

The first trunk line, an unbroken road five hundred miles long, from tide-water to the inland seas, was now open for traffic, but that was about all that could be said. It began nowhere, ended nowhere, had no connections and could have none. The track was unballasted, and the rolling-stock was in such bad condition that the insecurity of travel over the road was notorious. In two months there were sixteen serious accidents on one division alone.


Part of these anomalous conditions was due to peculiar ideas of what a railroad should be that seem strange enough now but were not considered peculiar in those early days. The road was built to secure for New York City the trade of the southern part of the State. To make sure that none of this trade should go to Boston or Philadelphia or any other places which were casting covetous eyes in that direction, the Erie was prohibited, under penalty of forfeiture of its charter, from making any connections with any other road.


Even if connections had been desired, there could have been no direct interchange of traffic, because the Erie was built on a six-foot gauge, while all the other roads were adopting the standard English gauge of four feet eight and one-half inches.


When the railroad had reached Middletown, the chief engineer at that time, Major T. S. Brown, after a trip to Europe to study the best railroad practice there, urged a change of gauge to four feet eight and one-half inches. He said the gauge of the fifty-four miles of track then in operation could be changed then at a cost of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, but his recommendations were not approved.


When the Erie was confronted, forty years later, with the alternative of changing its gauge or going out of business, the change was made at a cost of twenty-five million dollars.

In this connection it is interesting to note that the problem of gauge was not finally settled by the railroads of the United States until 1886. Between May 22 and June 2 of that year upwards of twelve thousand miles of railroad in the South were changed from wide to standard gauge. The Louisville and Nashville, by using a force of 8,763 men, was able to change the gauge of 1,806 miles of main-line and sidings in a single day.

Notwithstanding the road was built to benefit New York, its terminus was twenty-four miles away from the city, and the company had refused an opportunity to gain an entrance over the Harlem Railroad. It didn't take long for some shrewd Jerseymen who were not in the Erie directorate to see that the natural terminus of the road was at a point in Jersey City opposite New York, and but a very little longer for them to preempt the only practicable route by which the Erie could reach that point. This was from Suffern through the Paramus Valley to Jersey City via Paterson.

The Paterson and Hudson Railroad, from Jersey City to Paterson, and the Ramapo and Paterson Railroad, from Paterson to Suffern, were duly chartered. The former was opened in 1836, the latter in 1848. The Erie might refuse to connect with other roads. But no legislative flat could prevent a passenger on the Erie from leaving it for another road that stood ready to save him twenty miles of travel and an hour and a half of time. The Erie tried every device of discrimination in rates and increased speed of its boats and trains, but utterly failed to convince the traveling public that the longest way round was the shortest road home. On February 10, 1851, the Erie capitulated on terms dictated by the shrewd Jerseymen, taking a perpetual lease of the short cut to the Metropolis.

This alarmed the people of Piermont, who petitioned the legislature to come to the rescue of their town with a law compelling the Erie to continue to run its trains to that out-of-the-way terminus. But the legislature, like the railroad, gave up the attempt to prescribe routes of travel by statute and left Piermont to oblivion.

An event of far greater historical importance in the same year was the discovery that trains could be moved by telegraph. Although seven years had elapsed since Morse had sent his first telegraph message from Washington to Baltimore, capitalists were still scornfully skeptical of the investment value of his wonderful invention, and other folk were more or less incredulous of its practical utility. Such occasional messages as were sent began with "Dear Sir," and closed with "Yours respectfully."

No one dreamed of using the telegraph to regulate the movements of trains. The time card was the sole reliance of railroad men for getting over the road. The custom, still in vogue, of giving east and northbound trains the right of way over trains of the same class moving in the opposite direction had been established. If an east-bound train did not reach its meeting point on time the west-bound train, according to the rules, had to wait one hour and then proceed under a flag until the opposing train was met. A flagman would be sent ahead on foot. Twenty minutes later the train would follow, moving about as fast as a man could walk. Under this interesting arrangement, when a train which had the right of way was several hours late, the opposing train had to flag over the entire division at a snail's pace.

On September 22, 1851, Superintendent Charles Minot was on Conductor Stewart's train west bound. They were to meet the east-bound express at Turner's. As the express did not show up Minot told the operator to ask if it had arrived at Goshen fourteen miles west. On receiving a negative answer he wrote the first telegraphic train order ever penned. It read as follows:

To Operator at Goshen:

Hold east-bound train till further orders.

"CHARLES MINOT, Superintendent."

Then he wrote an order which he handed to Conductor Stewart, reading as follows:

Run to Goshen regardless of opposing train.

"CHARLES MINOT, Superintendent."

When Conductor Stewart showed this order to Engineer Isaac Lewis that worthy read it twice with rising amazement and indignation. Then he handed it back to the conductor with lip curved with scorn.

"Do I look like a d— fool?" snorted Lewis.

I'll run this train according to time card rules, and no other way."

Upon hearing of this Superintendent Minot used all his powers of persuasion to induce Lewis to pull out but the engineer refused in most emphatic terms. He wasn't prepared to cross the Jordan that morning, so he proposed to abide by the rules in such cases made and provided. No other course being open Minot ordered the obstinate engineer down and took charge of the engine himself. Lewis took refuge in the last seat of the rear car, where he would have some show for his life when the inevitable collision occurred, while the superintendent ran the train to Goshen. Finding by further use of the telegraph that the opposing train had not reached Middletown he ran to that point by repeating his orders and kept on in the same way until be reached Port Jervis, saving two hours' time for the west-bound train.


The account of the superintendent's reprehensible conduct when related by Engineer Lewis caused a great commotion among the other engineers. In solemn conclave they agreed that they would not run trains on any such crazy system. But Minot issued an order that the movements of trains on the Erie Railroad would thenceforth be controlled by telegraph, and they were.


When the Erie was at last in operation from Jersey City to Dunkirk it had cost $43,333 a mile exclusive of equipment, or six times the original estimate made in 1834, yet it was a railroad more in name than in fact. Motive power and rolling stock were insufficient and dilapidated, while the track demanded an expenditure of large sums before traffic could be handled with profit.


But in spite of all its drawbacks this first trunk line justified the enthusiasm of the bride which expedited its building, and even justified the reckless language of President King, who thought "Eventually it might earn two hundred thousand dollars a year on freight" for the receipts on through business in the first six months after the line was opened to Dunkirk were $1,755,285, and the first dividend, 4 per cent, was declared for the last six months of 1851.

The opening of the Erie to Dunkirk and the completion of a through route from New York by way of Albany to Buffalo a few months later, upon the opening of the Hudson River Railroad, completely revolutionized travel between the East and the West. People congratulated one another on the comfort, safety, and cheapness of travel with which, in that progressive age, the great distance between the Mississippi and the Atlantic could be "traversed in an almost incredibly short space of time." Before these roads were opened for traffic the journey from St. Louis to New York was a formidable enterprise which nothing but the most urgent necessity could induce any one to undertake. The usual route was by steamboat to Wheeling or Pittsburg, thence by stage through a nightmare of rough roads, sleepless nights, stiffened limbs, and aching heads to Baltimore or Philadelphia, thence to New York.

But the opening of the Eastern roads and of a road from Cincinnati to Lake Erie reversed the current of travel. Instead of going by way of Baltimore or Philadelphia to New York, nearly all the traffic moved to Cincinnati by boat, from whence New York could be reached by rail by way of Dunkirk or Buffalo in less than forty-eight hours, and Washington in about fifteen hours more. This was less time than was required to go from Cincinnati to Pittsburg by steamboat. The routes by Wheeling and Pittsburg were practically abandoned, while travel by the new railroads, according to the newspapers of the day, became "almost incredibly great."

Under the circumstances, then, such superlatives as these from the American Railroad Journal anent the formal opening of the Erie Railroad to Dunkirk seem quite pardonable:

"The occasion was an era in the history of locomotion. Its influence will at once be felt in every part of the United States. The Erie Railroad is the grand artery between the Atlantic and our inland seas. Its branches compared with other trunk lines would be great works. . . . The New York and Erie Railroad lays high claims to being one of the greatest achievements of human skill and enterprise. In magnitude of undertaking and cost of construction it far exceeds the hitherto greatest work of internal improvement in the United States, the Erie Canal. When we consider its length, which exceeds that of the great railway building by the Russian Government from Moscow to St. Petersburg when we reflect upon the extensive tracts of country teeming with rich products it has opened up, it is doubtful whether any similar work exists on the earth to compare with it."

Yet Dunkirk was scarcely more satisfactory as a western terminus than Piermont as the eastern. The struggle to create a railroad, instead of being at an end, was only begun.

Although the first public meeting to create the sentiment which ultimately led to the building of the Erie was held at Jamestown in 1831, when the road was finally opened twenty years later, that town was left thirty-four miles from the line. Being determined to have a railroad the people of Jamestown in May, 1851, organized the Erie and New York City Railroad to build from Salamanca, named after the Duke of Salamanca, financial adviser to Queen Isabella, of Spain, who was instrumental in placing a quantity of bonds in Spain, through Jamestown to the Pennsylvania State line.


About the same time it occurred to Marvin Kent, a manufacturer of Franklin, Ohio, that the real terminus of the Erie should be at St. Louis through a connection with the struggling Ohio and Mississippi, which was also of six feet gauge. Acting on this idea he procured a charter from the Ohio legislature for the Franklin and Warren Railroad to build from Franklin east to the Pennsylvania State line and south to Dayton. A formidable obstacle to the execution of this project for a through route from New York to St. Louis and the west was the State of Pennsylvania, which interposed between the Franklin and Warren and the Erie and New York City. There was no railroad connection across the State of Pennsylvania between New York and Ohio, and there was no prospect that there ever would be any if the selfish jealousy of Erie, Pittsburg, and Philadelphia could prevent it. These cities had resolved that all the traffic between the East and the West through Pennsylvania should pay tribute to them.


A combined lobby from these cities controlled the legislature and so effectually prevented all the numerous attempts to charter any railroad that threatened their commercial supremacy. But a way out was found even from this hopeless situation. When it was made an object to the Pittsburg and Erie Railroad that company stretched its privileges to cover the construction of a "branch" across Pennsylvania that would make a connecting link between the New York and Ohio roads then projected. Following the devious ways necessary to legalize its operations, and hindered by the delays required to capitalize it, this "branch" in the course of seven years became first the Meadville Railroad and then the Atlantic and Great Western. The Erie made the surveys for this connection, which would have been so helpful, and promised to finance it but for several years was too desperately hard up to fulfil that promise.

Not until the assistance of James McHenry, an Irishman, who after being brought up in America went to Liverpool and made an immense fortune by creating the first trade in America dairy products, had been secured were the funds to build the Atlantic and Great Western forthcoming. McHenry's indorsement was enough to give the road good standing with English investors. Their capital was lavished on the project as foreign money had never before been lavished on anything American. Agents were kept in Canada and Ireland to recruit labor, which was sent over by the shipload during the Civil War.

By virtue of achievements in railroad building then unparalleled the first broad-gauge train from the East was able to enter Cleveland November 3, 1863. On June 20, 1864, a special broad-gauge train arrived at Dayton from New York. From Dayton connection was made by the Cincinnati, Hamilton and Dayton by way of Cincinnati, and the Ohio and Mississippi with St. Louis, thus opening a broad-gauge route from the ocean to the Mississippi. The Atlantic and Great Western was leased by the Erie January 1, 1869, and thus became a link in the present main line.


Before this the Erie had become great enough to rouse the cupidity of rival manipulators, who in their struggle for possession nearly ruined the property. High finance was then a new art and its methods were crude.


But the Erie survived it all, and half a century after it was ushered into Dunkirk with such elaborate ceremony it had developed into a system of nearly two thousand five hundred miles with annual earnings of more than forty million dollars.


December 7 Marks 159th Anniversary of Erie’s Gauge War

Not a single cannon was fired, nor a life lost in the conflict known as the Gauge War. It was a conflict of commercial advantage which involved the rights of local government and pitted the citizens of Erie County against Buffalo, Cleveland and New York during the era of railroad development and growth in Pennsylvania.

Earliest railroad activity along the Lake Erie shoreline began in the 1840s, with local investors forming the Erie & North East Railroad. Finished in 1852, this 19-mile section of 6 foot gauge track ran from the City of Erie near 14th Street east to the NY/PA border where it connected with the 90-mile 4’8.5” gauge track of the Buffalo & State Line (New York Central). To the west of the E&NE was the Franklin Canal Company Railroad. Owners of the Franklin Canal Company took several liberties with their contract with the state of Pennsylvania and built a 30-mile 4’10” gauge track connecting the E&NE with the Cleveland, Painesville and Ashtabula Railroad which began at the OH/PA line. Due to the difference in track gauge, passengers and freight traveling along Lake Erie were forced to change cars twice within the county, once at the NY/PA line and once in the City of Erie.

For the City of Erie, this disruption in rail travel was part of a plan. In an effort to spark industrial and economic growth at the point of the harbor, Erie planned to cut off Buffalo which connected to New York City via the Erie Canal, and connect the Erie harbor to the Atlantic seacoast through Philadelphia via the Sudbury & Erie Railroad. Key to the success of this plan was the incompatibility of the E&NE with the Ohio and New York rail systems which necessitated stoppage within the City of Erie.

By April 1853, railroad interests in Ohio and New York realized the value of uninterrupted rail travel along Lake Erie and felt pressure from stakeholders to improve efficiency of operations and dividends. They began to buy up stock in the E&NE with the intent to standardize the track gauge in Erie County and enable continuous travel from Buffalo to Cleveland. Coincidentally, at the same time the PA General Assembly repealed the 1850 Gauge Law which forbade use of the Ohio 4’10” gauge east of Erie. To the satisfaction of the Ohio and New York railroads, standardization of gauge along the lake shore was now possible.

Erie & North East stakeholders underestimated residents’ willingness to wage war against the railroad to protect their commercial interests and the rights of local government. The City of Erie passed an ordinance in July declaring the 4’10” gauge a public nuisance east of State Street, and the railroad’s request to allow gauge change was rejected in November. When the railroad began making necessary changes to the E&NE tracks December 7, 1853, the City of Erie and Harborcreek Township responded immediately. Erie Mayor Alfred King deputized 150 “special police” who quickly set to work removing the rails and bridges. In Harborcreek, the township commissioners used the change to justify destroying the railroad where it interfered with Buffalo Road, the primary public highway through northeast Erie County. In the three places where the rails crossed Buffalo Road and hindered wagon travel, Harborcreek Township commissioners ordered the rails removed and the railbed plowed under. Destruction to the rails in Erie and Harborcreek created a 7-mile break in travel and during the next two months passengers and freight were transferred between Harborcreek and Erie by stages, wagons and sleighs.

To Erie’s opponents, the City’s resistance was an act of foolishness which disrupted travel, commerce and mail. Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune and onetime Erie resident, called for a boycott of all Erie hospitalities by travelers who were forced to cross the 7-mile “isthmus of Erie.” He and others argued that the city’s sole ambition was to protect its trade of peanuts, popcorn, candies and pies which were sold to travelers. (For this reason, the Gauge War was also referred to as the Peanut War.) Luckily for Erie, President Franklin Pierce resisted pressure from the New York and Ohio railroad interests to suppress Erie’s resistance with federal troops.

December 17th the E&NE procured an injunction from the federal district court in Pittsburgh, but the threat of imprisonment did not deter those committed to nuisance abatement and repeat removal of tracks and bridges continued with the support of local government as well as PA Governor William Bigler. In his annual message to the assembly in 1854, Governor Bigler explained,

It so happens that PA holds the key to this important link of connexion between the East and West, and I most unhesitatingly say, that where no principle of amity or commerce is to be violated, it is the right and the duty of the State to turn her natural advantages to the promotion of the views and welfare of her own people. (Pennsylvania Archives, Fourth Series, Papers of the Governors, Volume VII, 1845-1858, pg. 651.)

A confrontation between Harborcreek residents and railroad officials and laborers on December 27th stands out among the rest. While Harborcreek Township officials supervised the destruction of the E&NE tracks for the fifth time in three weeks, a train full of railroad officials, tracklayers and laborers arrived from Buffalo. During the confrontation that followed, Harborcreek farmer William Davison was felled with a pick, George Nelson received a gunshot wound to his head when one of the men from New York drew his pistol, and, if it weren’t for the misfiring of the pistol, William Cooper may have been the first casualty of the “war.” In retaliation, Harborcreek men stormed the train, and the Buffalo men fled the impending riot on the train with which they arrived.

After January 1854, a series of court decisions and legislative acts tipped the balance of power in the railroads’ favor, and by late 1856 a track of continuous gauge connected Cleveland to Buffalo the passage of trains through the “isthmus of Erie” was uninterrupted.

The change in gauge did not stunt growth of the City of Erie as residents had feared during the late 19th and 20th centuries, Erie became a commercial and industrial center on the Great Lakes, even though it would never reach the size of Buffalo or Cleveland. The Gauge War remained a topic of serious debate for many years after, and today is an oft-cited example of confrontation between the railroads and the local communities that they served.


Canandaigua history: Remembering the old Peanut Line

It has been gone since 1972 and reminders are increasingly hard to find. The only obvious reminder of that old rail line in the town of Canandaigua is the Peanut Line Trail donated by Jim Judkins in 2008. That short trail connects County Road 30 and the Cooley Road. It&rsquos a short trail, as rail trails go, about one mile round-trip, but give it a try in any season. As you walk along, try to imagine yourself riding the last passenger train to pass that way in 1933. Or a conductor on the last freight train trundling over the deteriorating tracks to Holcomb in 1972.

What has generally been known as the &ldquoPeanut Line,&rdquo was really the Batavia Branch of the New York Central Railroad for most of the 20th century. It began as the Canandaigua & Niagara Falls Railroad, incorporated under the new general incorporation law for railroads passed by the state legislature in 1850. That new statute made it easy for railroad promoters to create new lines and feed the &ldquorailroad fever&rdquo gripping the nation, and western New York, in the decades prior to the Civil War. Many of those new lines fell into financial trouble and so the C&NFRR became part of the New York Central Railroad in 1858.

By 1851, the Erie Railroad was completed and its arch rival, the newly consolidated New York Central, was opening through traffic to Buffalo and the Great Lakes. In addition, renowned bridge builder, John A. Roebling, was building a new suspension bridge across the Niagara River at Niagara Falls. That new bridge promised through rail connections to Detroit, Chicago, and all points west.

On March 4, 1851, a meeting was held in Lima for the purpose of organizing the Canandaigua & Niagara Falls Railroad. Corporate officers were elected and the sale of 13,500 shares of stock was authorized to finance construction. The C&NF was one of the few railroads in the area that was not publicly funded. The line was planned to connect the village of Canandaigua with the new bridge at Niagara Falls.

Construction went smoothly with the tracks laid to six-foot &ldquobroad gauge.&rdquo That was to conform to the standards of the Erie Railroad and the roads connecting Canandaigua with the Erie at Elmira. Behind the effort was the desire of the Erie to effectively compete with the New York Central for through service to New York City.

By Jan. 1, 1853, the C&NF was completed from Canandaigua through Holcomb, Ionia (Miller&rsquos Corners), North Bloomfield, and on to Batavia. July 28, 1853, saw the first passenger train on the rest of the road to North Tonawanda. It was finished to Niagara Falls on April 1, 1854. The railroad company then ran a series of excursions for the people living along the line so they could enjoy the new and faster means of travel and marvel at the natural wonder of the falls.

According to the 1856 annual report of the state Rail Road Commissioners, the line was 98.57 miles long, and was laid with 57-pound iron rail produced in England. It had 11 locomotives and 239 cars. It was already doing a booming business as it reported carrying 83,762 passengers and 38,148 tons of freight that year. Most of the freight, throughout the life of the line, was related to agriculture.

Freight rates on the C&NF were very competitive, but not enough to sustain the needs of the railroad. It failed to pay its bondholders twice in 1857 and was foreclosed and sold at auction on the steps of the Ontario County Court House on May 15, 1857. The line was purchased by agents of the old corporation acting for the largely foreign bond holders. They reorganized and reincorporated the line as the Niagara Bridge & Canandaigua Railroad in 1858. Within months, the entire line was leased to the New York Central.

Almost immediately, the New York Central reduced the track gauge to Standard Gauge (4&rsquo8.5&rdquo) to conform to its increasingly common width. By that action, the Central effectively blocked much of the interchange with the rival Erie. By 1890, the New York Central had purchased most of the capital shares of NB&CRR stock and then merged the line into the new New York Central and Hudson River Railroad Corporation.

That brings up the question of where that term, &ldquoPeanut Line,&rdquo originated. There are many stories, some pretty far-fetched. However, the best evidence was published in the Ontario County Times, March 21, 1906. The article had previously been published in the Batavia News. The focus of the article was a reminiscence by Walter L. Richmond, grandson of one-time New York Central President Dean Richmond. In response to a recent question, Walter Richmond stated that his grandfather &ldquowas responsible for the Canandaigua and Tonawanda branches of the Central being dubbed the &lsquoPeanut road&rsquo.&rsquo

&ldquoIt was the time the branches were being built, and there was also a construction gang at work on the main line. One day the men on the main line struck, and in a few days afterwards the gang on the branches followed suit. The first strike seemed to create a lot of anxiety among the officials of the road, of which Dean Richmond was then president. When Mr. Richmond was informed of the second strike he remarked: &lsquoOh, that&rsquos only a little peanut line, anyway&rsquo.&rdquo

&ldquoThat name has since stuck to the branch,&rdquo Walter Richmond said in 1906. And so it has, outlasting the life of the line by nearly half a century.

Throughout the last half of the 1800s, the Peanut Line thrived. By the 1920s, however, it was falling into decline. As the &ldquoGood Roads Movement&rdquo resulted in better highways in rural areas, and motor vehicles took over transportation, railroad traffic declined drastically, and freight traffic ended in 1939 on the western part of the line, and in 1972 on the Canandaigua to Holcomb section.

By this time the tracks had deteriorated so badly that train crews would not ride across the Mud Creek trestle. They let the train cross slowly, unmanned, and then they climbed aboard on the other side.

Nature has been reclaiming the right-of-way ever since. Most of the rails were removed and salvaged in 1979, but some remained into the 1980s. At grade-crossings, a few rails were simply paved over. The Peanut Line Trail, donated by Mr. Judkins, is the only preserved part of the right-of-way of this historic railroad in the town of Canandaigua.

Preston E. Pierce is Ontario County historian and museum educator at Ontario County Historical Society.


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