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CHAPTER XXVII

FIRST AMERICAN LOCOMOTIVE

 

While these events were transpiring in Maryland, through the progress of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, a similar enterprise, nearly equal in its magnitude, and fully so in importance, had been started in another section of the country. The practicability of establishing a railroad communication between the city of Charleston, South Carolina, and Williamsburg, on the western border of the State, a distance of one hundred and thirty-six miles, must have been talked of, and even some primary steps taken for its consummation, as early as 1827. We have seen, in an old file of the Charleston Courier, dated December, 1827, the following copy of a letter from Columbia, the capital of the State, where the Legislature was in session at the time. It says:

"The committee to whom the Charleston memorial was referred is divided in opinion on the propriety of an appropriation for the survey of the country between Charleston and Hamburg. Some of the committee think that if the railroad is to be the tools of a company, who is to receive all the profits, the whole expense should be borne by the company. And again, that if a survey be effected by the State, it would not be done so satisfactorily to the community as it probably would be if managed by individuals immediately interested."

However, a bill, granting a charter for the South Carolina Railroad, was passed December 19, 1827. Fifteen days after, on January 4,1828, a meeting of the citizens was called, and a committee appointed to report on that charter at the next meeting. The second

"A meeting of the citizens is requested at the City Hall, this day, at 1 o'clock, to take into consideration the report of the committee on the subject of the railroad from this city to Hamburg. At a previous meeting on January 4th, the subcommittee had reported unfavorably. This committee pointed out many parts of the General Act of the Legislature for incorporating companies for constructing turnpike-roads, bridges, and ferries, that were inapplicable to a railroad company, as the bill now before the Legislature."

On the reassembling of the Legislature, January 21, 1828, after the usual Christmas recess, Mr. Black presented a memorial praying amendments to the act of the last session, and a new bill was reported on the 22nd.

January 29, 1828, the present charter of the South Carolina Railroad was granted. A motion had been made to strike out the provision en emptying the property of the road from taxation. The yeas and nays were taken yeas 13, nays 22—and the bill passed.

The stockholders organized as a company on the 12th of May, 1828, being the second railroad company formed in the United States for commercial purposes and the transportation of passengers and freight.

At one of the earliest meetings of the projectors, Horatio Allen, Esq. (before mentioned), well known as an experienced engineer, had been invited by them to fill the position of chief engineer of the contemplated work. In compliance with their request, Mr. Allen made a report at the first meeting, five days after their organization recommending the kind of road to be constructed and the kind of power best suited to be used upon the road. Having visited England to survey the progress so far made in railroads and locomotive power, and having been requested, while in England, by John B. Jervis, Esq., chief engineer of the Delaware and Hudson Railroad, to contract for the iron for that roads and procure for it three first-class locomotives, the Charleston Railroad directors had confidence in his skill and judgment. In his report at this first meeting, Mr. Allen used all the arguments at his command to recommend the construction of the road for locomotive power, and with such success that at the meeting on January 14, 1830, when the report was acted upon, the Hon. Thomas Bennett offered a resolution to the effect that the locomotive alone should be used upon the road, and in selecting that power for its application to railroads, the maturity of which avid be reached within the time of constructing the road, would render the application of animal power a great abuse of the gifts of genius and science. The resolution was unanimously carried. At the celebration in Dunkirk, New York, in 1852, in commemoration of the completion of the New York and Erie Railway, Mr. Allen, alluding to this subject in his address, makes use of the following language:

"At the same period, that is, prior to the great locomotive trial in England, and when the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company were so strongly impressed in favor of horse-power, it became necessary for me, as engineer of the South Carolina Railroad Company, to decide for what power that road should be built. The road was one hundred and thirty-six miles long. From the character of the country, the plan of the road would be naturally influenced by the kind of power adopted. Stationary power was out of the question, but the opinion was held, by many of great intelligence, that horse-power should at least be commenced with. In the report I made on this important question, I submitted such comparative estimate of the results of horse-power and locomotive-power as the information then to be had appeared to me to sustain. That estimate was in favor of locomotive-power, but I rested the decision of the question on the position that, what the performance of a horse was and would be, every one knew; but the man was not living who would undertake to say what the locomotive was yet to do; and I may add that, after more than thirty years have elapsed, during every one of which the soundness of this position has gained new grounds to sustain it, he would be a bold man who would say that we had attained the limit in the performance, and especially in the economy of performance, of this great mechanical blessing to mankind. In the recommendation of this report in favor of locomotive-power the source of the South Carolina Railroad Company unanimously concurred, and, as this decision was the first of any railway built for general freight and passenger business in this country or in England, it has been referred to as one of the interesting facts in the early history of railroads."

The preparations for the work were at once commenced, and the road was begun in 1829. Six miles were completed in that year.

Like the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, a number of experiments were tried with different powers.

The company offered a premium of $500 for the best locomotive by horsepower. This premium was awarded to Mr. C. E. Detmole, who invented one worked on an endless chain platform. When this horse-power locomotive was completed and tested upon the road, it carried twelve passengers at the rate of twelve miles an hour.

A sailing car, or a car propelled by the wind, was also tested upon the road in 1829-'30. A description of one of the trips upon this machine we copy from the Charleston Courier, March 20, 1830:

"SAILING ON LAND.—A sail Novas set on a car on our railroad yesterday afternoon, in the presence of a large concourse of spectators. Fifteen gentlemen got on board and flew oft at the rate of twelve to fourteen miles an hour. Thirteen persons and three tons of iron were carried about ten miles an hour. The preparations for sailing were very hastily got up, and of course were not of the best kind; but owing to this circumstance the experiment afforded high sport. The wind blew very fresh from about northeast which, as a sailor would say, was 'abeam,' and would drive the car either way with equal speed. When going at the rate of about twelve miles an hour and loaded with fifteen passengers, the mast went by the board, with the sail and rigging attached, carrying with them several of the crew. The wreck was described by several friendly shipmasters, who kindly rendered assistance in rigging a jury mast, and the car was again soon put under way. During the afternoon the wind changed so as to bring it nearly ahead when going in any direction; but this did not stop the sport, as it was ascertained that the car would sail within four points of the winch. We understand it is intended by some of our seamen to rig a car properly, and shortly to exhibit their skill in managing a vessel on land."

The president of the road, Mr. Tupper, in one of his reports to the board, informs them that on March 1, 1830, the committee to whom the matter was referred had reported that they had accepted the offer of Mr. E. L. Miller, of Charleston, to construct a locomotive at the West Point Foundry, in New York, and that it should perform at the rate of ten miles per hour, instead of eight, as first proposed, and carry three times her weight, which was required the year before, on the Liverpool and Manchester Railroad, at the trial for the premium of £500.

Mr. Miller immediately set about the construction of his locomotive. His plans and specifications were drawn out by the same Mr. Detmole, who had invented the horse power locomotive on the Charleston road, and who was then living in New York.

Meantime the work on the road was pushed forward, and another mile completed, making seven miles ready for use, and many more under contract and fast approaching completion.


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