RAILWAY CONSTRUCTION FROM 1830 TO 1840.
PREPARATIONS FOR RAILWAY ADVANCES.
WHILE the period between 1825 and 1830 was peculiarly important
in movements which laid the groundwork for preparations for railway
construction, it can scarcely be said that any railway intended
for miscellaneous traffic was completed and in successful operation
in the United States before 1830. That is, therefore, the year
from which the growth of the American railway system is generally
dated, and about that time, or a few years later, real or imaginary
difficulties were sufficiently overcome to render railway projects
of one kind or another a subject of serious consideration in nearly
all the localities in which the growth of traffic, population,
wealth, and intelligence, and the absence of adequate water routes
gave to such schemes a rational hope of success.
The canal, stage-coach, turnpike, and steamboat were each and
all well advanced in their essential features when the railway
first appeared. It came is the rival and adjunct of facilities
gradually developed up from low to high points by the slow but
steady progress of centuries, and it came to stay, because all
these antecedent appliances failed to satisfy the public requirements.
Before the railway there was a long series of preparations. Turnpike,
canal, and stage-coach companies had familiarized investors with
the corporate combinations necessary to ensure railway success.
Many advances had been made in mechanical progress, and notably
in the improvement of the steam engine, which had been successfully
applied to various purposes, and especially to transportation
in steamboats and steamers. Carriages, coaches, and wagons had
also been greatly improved, and turnpikes promoted the use of
By 1830 many of the preliminary obstacles had been cleared,
away, and a number of the conditions necessary to secure success
had gradually been established. In addition to the corporate training
furnished by various companies, the state of New York had set
an example, in her zealous support of the Erie Canal, which other
commonwealths were disposed to follow. The United States government
had built the national road, and advanced some money to canal
schemes. Thus several possible methods of obtaining the means
necessary to construct important lines had been suggested, and
there was a fair prospect that promising routes might be supported
either by private capital, or city or state subscriptions.
The fact was also clearly recognized that neither steamboats,
turnpikes, nor canals would fully provide for all the transportation
requirements of the country. There were thriving inland districts
which could not be advantageously reached by any description of
natural or artificial water courses.
PROGRESS OF STEAMBOAT MOVEMENTS.
The success which had finally attended steamboat operations,
and the large number of districts in which steamboats had been
introduced in the United States before active efforts to promote
important railway construction were commenced, must have afforded
considerable incidental aid, in various ways, to some of the early
railway operations. At all events, it helped to train men in the
operation of steam engines, to increase the amount of available
mechanical knowledge relating to the application of steam to transportation
either on water or on land, and to give to some of the ramifications
of early American railway affairs the benefit of better training
at the outset than would otherwise have been available. Such good
fortune certainly awaited the early New Jersey railroads, which
called into their service members of the Stevens family, who had
been experimenting with or operating successfully steamboats for
more than a score of years, and who were enabled, by this experience,
to materially increase the practical value of their labors in
the new field of effort in which they won new honors.
The progress of American steamboating from 1807 to 1830 is
indicated by official statements, which show that the reported
number and tonnage of steamers of all classes constructed was
From 1807 to 1820, inclusive 128 built, adding up to 25,797.77
From 1821 to 1830, inclusive 385 built, adding up to 65,211.60
Up to and including 1820 there had been built on the western
rivers 71 steamers, measuring 14,207.53 tons; 52 steamers, measuring
10,564.43 tons, had been built on the Atlantic coast, exclusive
of New England; 4 steamers, measuring 921.84 tons, including one
steamer of 298.57 tons, built on lake Champlain, had been built
on the lakes; and one of 218.84 tons had been built at Mobile.
Up to and including 1830 there had been built on the western rivers
296 steamers, measuring 51,506.65 tons; 183 steamers, measuring
33,667.88 tons, had been built on the Atlantic coast, exclusive
of New England, and 11 steamers, measuring 2,208.64 tons, had
been built on the northern lakes.
After 1830 progress in the construction of steamboats on the
western rivers, principally at Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Louisville,
continued to be rapid, but the business was subjected to considerable
fluctuations, growing out of variations in the demand for new
transportation facilities or other causes.
The number of steamers built in New England from 1817 to 1830
inclusive, was 18, of an average tonnage of about 112.
Before 1830 lines of steamboats had commenced running in New
England which connected ports of Maine and Boston.
The first steamer was introduced on lake Ontario in 1816; a
steamer was launched on lake Erie in 1818, which traded as far
westward as Mackinaw, Michigan, but was wrecked before the close
of the year; several other lake steamers were built and operated
before 1820; and during the third decade eight additional lake
steamers were constructed.
Steamboats were introduced on several of the eastern rivers
and especially on the Delaware soon after the successful operation
of the Clermont on the North river in 1807.
In 1820 the steamers in service along the Atlantic coast were
distributed as follows:
AT NEW YORK.The Connecticut and Fulton on Long
Island sound, between New York and New London and New Haven, changing
in 1822 to Providence. The Richmond, Chancellor Livingston, Paragon,
and Car of Neptune on the Hudson, from New York to Albany, and
the Fire Fly to Newburgh. The Olive Branch, New York to New Brunswick.
The Swift, from New York to Elizabeth. The Franklin, from New
York to Shrewsbury. The Atlanta, from New York to Elizabethtown
Point. The Bellona, from New Brunswick to Staten Island, and the
Nautilus, from New York to Staten Island.
AT PHILADELPHIA.The Pennsylvania and Ætna
were running from Philadelphia to Bordentown. The Philadelphia,
from Philadelphia to Trenton. The William Penn and Bristol, from
Philadelphia to Bristol. The Superior and Vesta, from Philadelphia
to Wilmington, and the Baltimore and Delaware, from Philadelphia
to New Castle.
AT BALTIMORE.The United States and Philadelphia
were running from Baltimore to French Town. The Virginia and Norfolk
to Norfolk; the New Jersey to Elkton; the Maryland to Easton;
and the Eagle and Surprise were on no regular routes.
AT WASHINGTON.The steamer Washington ran to Fredericksburg,
and the new steamer Potomac, built at Norfolk, was put upon the
route between these two ports.
AT NORFOLK.The steamers Roanoke and Richmond ran
between that port and Richmond. The Powhatan, Petersburg, and
Sea Horse were also on routes from that port.
AT SAVANNAH.The steamer Enterprise, 152.10 tons'
burden, was running to Charleston and river ports in that vicinity.
On the Atlantic coast the notable event had also occurred,
in 1819, of fitting out the steamer Savannah, which had crossed
the ocean, partly by the help of her sails, sailing from Savannah
to Liverpool in twenty-five days, during eighteen of which her
engine was worked. She was the first steamer to cross the Atlantic.
A steamer was built, and operated for three years, to ply between
New York, Charleston, Havana, and New Orleans, which made her
first trip in 1820, and which was successful in regard to safety
and speed, but unprofitable financially.
The number and tonnage of new steamboats or steamers constructed
on the Atlantic coast, in New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore
districts, from 1821 to 1830 inclusive, was as follows:
On western rivers steamboat construction previous to 1830 had
been more rapid than in any other section. The progress was specially
rapid from 1817 to 1830. It is stated that from 1817 to 1827 there
were built at Cincinnati 52 steamers, measuring 9,306.61 tons.
From about 1814 to about 1824 there were built at Pittsburgh 30
steamers, measuring 5,698.78 tons. From 1815 to 1825 there were
built at Louisville 35 steamers, measuring 6,032.26 tons. From
1825 to 1830 the official records of construction of steamers
on the western rivers in the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Louisville
districts show the following aggregates:
These western river steamers were then running principally
on the Ohio and Mississippi, but they were also traversing to
some extent various tributaries of the Mississippi. It is stated
that the Virginia, a stern-wheel boat, arrived at Fort Snelling,
near the Falls of St. Anthony, in 1813. In 1817 a steamboat touched
at St. Louis, and proceeded up the Missouri to explore that river.
In the natural order of advancement, after steamboating was fully
established on the Ohio and Mississippi, steamboats were rapidly
introduced on all the navigable tributaries of those rivers, and,
generally speaking, on them, as on all other navigable waters
of the United States, the steamboat was introduced and operated
extensively before railways were constructed in contiguous inland
districts, the steamboat being very frequently the pioneer or
predecessor of the locomotive.
But much as steamboats had done up to 1830, and a few years
later, they were not meeting all requirements. The time had evidently
come when it was not merely desirable to increase the number of
steamboats on the Atlantic coast, the lakes, and western rivers;
to utilize the canals then in existence, and to increase their
number; but also to construct railways.
RAILWAYS COMPLETED OR PROGRESSING IN 1836.
In H. S. Tanner's American Traveler or Guide Through the United
States, published in Philadelphia in 1836, the favorite routes
of travel of that era are described at length, and the following
list of railways then completed, or in course of construction,
is given under the heads of the different states, viz.:
ALABAMA.A railroad is now in progress from Decatur,
in Morgan county, to a point 10 miles below Tuscumbia, on the
Tennessee. Length, 62 miles.
DELAWARE.The New Castle and Frenchtown Railroad
extends from New Castle to Frenchtown. Length, 16 and 19/100 miles.
A railroad to extend from Wilmington to Downingtown, in Pennsylvania,
GEORGIA.Alatamaha and Brunswick Railroad, 12 miles
KENTUCKY.Lexington and Ohio Railroad, commences
at Lexington, passes through Frankfort, and thence to shipping
point, near Louisville. Length, 85 miles.
LOUISIANA.The New Orleans and Pontchartrain Railroad,
5 miles long.
MARYLAND.Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, extends
from Baltimore to Point of Rocks, on the Potomac, 67-five-eighths
miles from Baltimore. This road is to be continued to the Ohio
river. A road of a single track extends from the main line to
Frederick, 3½ miles. Baltimore and Susquehanna Railroad,
commenced in 1830, is to extend to York, Pennsylvania. Length,
when completed, 76 miles. Another railroad is projected, to extend
from Baltimore to the Susquehanna at Port Deposit, and thence
to unite with the Oxford Railroad, of Pennsylvania, which intersects
the Columbia Railroad about 40 miles from Philadelphia. Baltimore
and Washington Railroad. Length, 37¾ miles. This work is
MASSACHUSETTS.Worcester Railroad, 43 miles in
length. It is proposed to continue this road to the Connecticut,
and to construct a branch to Milberry. Boston and Providence Railroad.
Length, 43 miles. Boston and Lowell Railroad, length 25 miles,
now in progress. Quincy Railroad, used for transporting granite
from the quarry in Quincy to Neponset river. Length, 3 miles;
branches, 1 mile.
MISSISSIPPI.St. Francisville and Woodville Railroad,
26 miles in length. Vicksburg and Clinton Railroad, length 37
NEW JERSEY.Camden and Amboy Railroad, commences
at Camden, opposite Philadelphia, and terminates at South Amboy.
Length, 61 miles. Paterson and Hudson River Railroad, from Jersey
City, opposite New York, to Paterson, on the Passaic. Length,
16 30/100 miles. It is proposed to extend this road to the Morris
Canal. New Jersey Railroad, commences on the last-mentioned railroad,
about 2 miles from Jersey City, and terminates at New Brunswick.
Length, 28 miles.
NEW YORK.Mohawk and Hudson River Railroad, from
Albany to Schenectady, 16 miles. Schenectady and Saratoga Railroad,
from Schenectady to Saratoga Springs, 20 miles. Catskill and Canajoharie
Railroad, from Catskill to Canajoharie (now in progress), 70 miles.
Ithaca and Owego Railroad, 29 miles. Harlem Railroad, on Manhattan
Island. Rochester Railroad (now in progress), from Rochester to
a point below the Falls of Genesee, Schenectady and Utica Railroad
(now in progress). Length, 80 miles. Bath Railroad, from Bath
to Crooked Lake, 5 miles. Rochester and Batavia Railroad (now
in progress), 28 miles. Troy and Ballston Railroad (now in progress),
22 miles. Several other roads are proposed in different parts
of the state.
NORTH CAROLINA.Railroads are projected to extend
from Fayetteville to Cape Fear river; from Wilmington, through
Fayetteville and Salisbury, to Beattysford, on the Catawba, a
distance of 250 miles; and several others.
Railroad, extends from Philadelphia to Columbia, on the
Susquehanna. Length, 81 60/100 miles. Allegheny Portage Railroad,
from Hollidaysburg to Johnstown, forms the connecting link between
the Central and Western divisions of the Pennsylvania Canal. Length,
36 69/100 miles. Railroads constructed by joint stock companies:
Mauch Chunk Railroad, from Mauch Chunk to the coal mines,
9 miles. Room Run Railroad, from Mauch Chunk to the coal mine
on Room Run,5 26/100 miles. Mount Carbon Railroad, from Mount
Carbon to Norwegian valley, 7 24/100 miles. Schuylkill Valley
Railroad, from Port Carbon to Tuscarora, 10 miles; branches of
the preceding, 15 miles. Schuylkill Railroad, 13 miles. Mill Creek
Railroad, from Port Carbon to the mines near Mill Creek, Length,
including branches, 7 miles. Mine Hill and Schuylkill Haven Railroad,
from Schuylkill Haven to the coal mines at Mine Hill. Length,
including two branches, 20 miles. Pine Grove Railroad, 4 miles
in length. Little Schuylkill Railroad, from Port Clinton to Tamaqua,
23 miles. Lackawaxen Railroad, from Honesdale to Carbondale, 16½
miles. West Chester Railroad, front the Columbia Railroad to West
Chester, 9 miles. Philadelphia, Germantown and Norristown Railroad,
(about 7 miles of this road are completed; a new route to Norristown,
leaving Germantown to the north-east has been adopted.) Lykens
Valley Railroad, front Broad Mountain to Millersburg. Philadelphia
and Trenton Railroad, 26¼ miles in length. Central Railroad,
from the vicinity of Pottsville to Sunbury, 44 54/100 miles; Danville
branch, 7 miles long; whole length 51 54/100 miles. Oxford Railroad,
now in progress, extends from the Columbia Railroad to the Maryland
state line. Reading Railroad, to extend from Norristown to Port
RHODE ISLAND.Stonington railroad, now in progress,
extends from Stonington, in Connecticut, to Providence, 46 miles
in length. A company has been incorporated to construct a railroad
from Providence to Norwich, in Connecticut.
SOUTH CAROLINA.South Carolina Railroad, commences
at Charleston, and terminates in the town of Hamburg, opposite
Augusta; entire length, 135 75/100 miles. It is proposed to construct
a branch to Orangeburg, and thence to Columbia, &c., and another
to Barnwell Court House.
TENNESSEE.A railroad from the town of Randolph,
on the Mississippi, to Jackson, in Madison county, 65 miles, and
one from Nashville to New Orleans, are proposed, and measures
for insuring their early completion have been adopted.
VIRGINIA.Manchester Railroad, extends from Manchester
to the coal mines. Length, 13 miles. Winchester Railroad, extends
front Harper's Ferry to Winchester. Length, 30 miles. Petersburg
and Roanoke Railroad, extends from Petersburg, in Virginia, to
Blakely, at the foot of the Roanoke Canal, in North Carolina.
Length, 59 38/100 miles. A branch of this road leaves the main
line about 10 miles from Blakely, which extends to the head of
the rapids of Roanoke. Length, about 12 miles. Portsmouth and
Roanoke Railroad, commences at Portsmouth, opposite Norfolk, passes
in it direct course, intersects the Petersburg road 6 miles from
Blakely, and terminates in the Roanoke a short distance below
the Petersburg branch. Length, 80 miles. Richmond and Petersburg
Railroad (now in progress) Length, 21 50/100 miles. Richmond and
Fredericksburg Railroad (now in progress). Length, 64 miles. Belleplain
Railroad, extends from Fredericksburg to Belleplain, situated
on a branch of the Potomac (in progress). Length, 11 miles. Several
other railroads are proposed.
The reported number of miles of railway constructed in the
United States in the third decade was 2,264.67. Of this mileage,
the amount completed in each of the years named was as follows:
1830, 39.80; 1831, 98.70; 1832, 191.30; 1833, 115.91; 1834, 213.92;
1835, 137.82; 1836, 280.08; 1837, 348.38; 1838, 452.88; 1839,
385.88; total, 2,264.67.
Of these railways, the mileage located in New England was 356.68;
in Middle states, Delaware, Maryland, and a few Western and Northwestern
states, 1,399.89; Southern states, 487.35; South-western states,
20.75. The following
table shows the number of miles completed by each company in the
A few of the early companies are not included in this list.
Some of the unimportant primitive lines have been abandoned; for
the name of the original constructing company there has been substituted,
in some instances, the name of the present operating company;
and there are probably a few omissions or slight inaccuracies
in dates, but with these exceptions the table is presumably substantially
correct, as it is compiled from the data furnished to the United
States Census Bureau in 1880 by the companies then operating the
existing lines. Some of the early coal railroads of Pennsylvania
are not included in the list.
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