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CHAPTER XXVIII

FURTHER TRIALS

 

Mr. DAVID CASHEW, who was foreman of the hands fitting up machinery in the West Point Foundry, and had charge of those fitting up the Stourbridge Lion, when she came from England, also had charge of the men fitting up the "Best Friend," the first locomotive ever built in America, for actual service on a railroad. In the same letter, which he addressed to the author in 1859, after describing the Stourbridge Lion, he thus continues:

"The first American-built locomotive for actual service upon a railroad was called the 'Best Friend of Charleston.' I had charge of the hands fitting up this engine; this was in 1830, shortly after the Stourbridge Lion had been tried in our yard, and some modifications made to it. The locomotive 'Best Friend of Charleston' was contracted for by Mr. E. L. Miller, of Charleston. The best Friend was a four-wheel engine, all four wheels drivers. Two inclined cylinders at an angle, working down on a double crank, inside of the frame, with the wheels outside of the frame, each wheel connecting together outside, with outside rods. The wheels were iron hub, wooden spokes and fellows, with iron tire, and iron web and pins in the wheels to connect the outside rods to.

"The boiler was a vertical one, in form of an old-fashioned porter-bottle, the furnace at the bottom surrounded with water, and all filled inside full of what we called teats, running out from the sides and top, with alternate stays to support the crown of the furnace; the smoke and gas passing out through the sides at several points, into an outside jacket; which had the chimney on it. The boiler sat in the centre of the four wheels, with the connecting-rods running by it to come into the crank-shaft. The cylinders were about six inches in the bore, and sixteen inches' stroke. Wheels about four and a half feet in diameter. The whole machine weighed about four and a half tons. It was shipped to Charleston, South Carolina, for the Charleston and Hamburg Railroad, in the fall of 1830, and was put upon that road during the winter.

"It was the first locomotive built in America, was exhibited at our shop under steam for some time, and visited by many. She was shipped to Charleston on board of the ship Niagara, in October, 1830." Prof. Samuel Henry Dickson, of the Jefferson Medical College of Philadelphia, in a recent letter to the author, describes his visit to the West Point Foundry -works in New York, in 1830. At this time the "Best Friend of Charleston," the first locomotive ever built in America, for actual service upon a railroad, was just completed, and about to be shipped to Charleston, Prof. Dickson writes as follows:

Philadelphia, May 30, 1871.

"WM. H. Brosen,—

" DEAR SIR: In reply to your courteous letter of inquiry, just received, I regret that I can give you nothing better than general though very definite reminiscences, dates, circumstantial details and printed statements, such as would best suit your purpose, have faded from my mind, and all written memoranda of that distant time have perished amid the general ruin at the South." But I recollect that, being on a tour among my Northern friends in the summer of 1830, I was written to on the part o the board of directors of the Charleston and Hamburg Railroad (the South Carolina Railroad), and requested, as one of that body to visit the foundry of Mr. Governor Kemble, to look at a locomotive-engine which he was building for our road, and report as on its general appearance, and the prospect of its completion by the appointed time.

"Our contract had been made with Mr. E. L. Miller, who were gauged with Mr. Kemble to build the machine. Mr. Miller accompanied me to the workshop, where I saw with intense interest a great satisfaction, not unmixed with some pride too, the first locomotive constructed in this country. Never having seen a locomotive, and being neither engineer nor mechanic, I could not of course presume to pronounce upon its merits, and was as curious and anxious about the result of our experiment as any one interested. But I had read and heard a good deal on the subject, and did not hesitate to recommend the prompt acceptance of the engine from the contractor, and to congratulate my fellow-directors upon its promise of decided utility and advantage to our great enterprise.

"Mr. Miller named it, I think, ' The Best Friend,' and it was forwarded to Charleston late that fall or early in the winter, when it was at once put upon the road. It did not disappoint our hopes, but proved in capacity and serviceable qualities all that we had expected. It was run long and successfully, under the charge of Mr. Darrell, one of our young native machinists. I am under the impression that it was one day blown up through the carelessness of a Negro fireman, that it was soon repaired and replaced upon the road. Of its ultimate fate I am not certain, but believe that, after having attained a ripe old age, in process of time it finally wore out, and was thrown aside, the common destiny of man and all his works.

"I am glad to hear of the gratifying progress of your book, and know that its publication will not long be delayed. Wishing you the large and profitable success, as an author, which your energy and perseverance so richly deserve, and all other forms of happiness and prosperity,

" I remain, very truly,
" Your friend and obedient servant,
" HENRY DICKSON."

The author examined the order-book recently at the West Point Company's Foundry, at Cold Spring, Putnam County, on the Hudson River, for some reminiscences of the old "Best Friend," but all he could find (the old books having been lost or mislaid) was the following order from the New-York office, dated April 6, 1830, as follows: "Two cylinders, see pattern locomotive-engine, nozzles for exhaust cast right and left."

The above shows that the engine was commenced, as Mr. Matthew states, in the spring of 1830.

The following paragraph appeared in the Charleston Courier, October 23, 1830:

"LOCOMOTIVE Steam ENGINE.—"We understand that the steam-engine intended for our road is on board the ship Niagara, which arrived in the offing last night." As no machinist came out with the locomotive, the superintendent of the railroad applied to Mr. Thomas Dotterer, of the firm of Dotterer & Eason, machinists and engineers, to put the machine together and prepare her for the road. These gentlemen appointed Mr. Julius D. Petsch, who was foreman in their workshops, to discharge this duty. Mr. Petsch, at their request, undertook the task, and selected as an assistant Mr. Nicholas W. Darrell, a young man just out of his time in their workshops. These gentlemen (Mr. Petsch and his assistant Mr. Darrell) immediately set about fitting up the "Best Friend " for the road, and so energetically did they work that in a few days all was ready. Before the 1st of November, several experimental trials, at short distances, were made to see that all was right; and on the 2d of November, with Mr. Darrell in charge, Mr. Miller, accompanied by several gentlemen in a car, made a trial trip.

The result of this trial-trip we learn from the following letter from the chief engineer, Horatio Allen, in the Charleston, November 3, 1830:

"The public will regret to learn that an accident has happened to a pair of the wheels of the locomotive-engine lately put upon the railroad. To prevent any misunderstanding or exaggeration, it is proper to communicate the facts. The change of direction which takes place when a carriage enters a curved part of a road is effected by the action of the flange which is attached to the rim against the iron rail. A lateral strain is then brought to act on the spokes of the wheel, and in this present instance they have proved too weak to resist it, and from this circumstance the accident has originated. The spokes were discovered to spring, and fears were entertained by Mr. Miller, shortly after he commenced running his engine. Yesterday he experimented with it for this especial purpose, and after having proceeded to the extremity of the road, and almost completed his return, during which time the operation of the engine was in the highest degree satisfactory, the forward wheel was sprung inward, so much so as to leave the rail entirely; and the engine, after proceeding about twenty feet, was stopped with both the front wheels off the rail, and some of the spokes much injured.

"It is as singular as satisfactory that no other part of the frame, machinery, or boiler, exhibited the least derangement, of ordering the most decisive proof of the correctness of the proportions and the excellence of the work. It is but justice to state that the wheels were made after the English wheels, the most approved until the construction of the wrought-iron ones. A short time will be required to replace the wheels, when the engine will again be put in motion.

"No personal injury happened to any of the individuals, either on the passenger-car or engine.

"HORATIO ALLEN.

We next hear of the "Best Friend" through the report of President Tupper to the board of directors. After speaking of Mr. Miller's contract to furnish a locomotives etc. he continues: "On the 14th and 15th of December, 1830, the engine was tried, and proved her force and efficiency to be double that contracted for; running at the rate of sixteen to twenty-one miles an hour, with forty to fifty passengers in some four or five cars, and without the cars, thirty to thirty-five miles per hour." "Jockey of York," an amusing sporting writer, gives an account of a trip on Christmas-day, in his peculiar style, in the Charleston Courier—

"SPORTING INTELLIGENCE.—Our distant friends no doubt are desirous to know the result of our Christmas sports. The celebration season was altogether novel and interesting. The iron horse 'Best Friend' was entered for the purse, about a fortnight since, to 'run against time.' The 'heat' was, that he should run ten-miles an hour, carrying three times his own weight. He trained every day preparatory to the great trial of speed and there were at first entertained as to 'his wind,' when everybody knowledge he had sufficient 'bottom.' The 'Best Friend out of a horse bred by Messrs. Watt & Bolton, and of same breed as the Novelty and Rocket, which contended for a purse of £500, at the late Liverpool and Manchester races. Crossing the breed with a Columbian sire, he has eclipsed progenitors upon the European, and stands unrivaled upon American turf. The knowing ones have already hinted that dam was 'half salamander, half alligator' as he eats fire, breathing steam, and feeds upon light-wood. All doubts, however, or being 'short-winded' have been dissipated, and it is now coincidentally believed that he can run one hundred miles without for, like Pat, after the foot-race at Donnybrook Fair, being questioned if he was 'out of Breath,' he replied, ' No, I'm only likely to be troubled with too much of it.' But, Editor, allegory apart, I am the 'odd fellow' of the one hundred and forty-one persons who were drawn or rather whisked though the air by the iron horse or locomotive-engine, on Christmas day—which sped through the air like a meteor swift.

While the crowds from around it did fearfully drift to the right and the left, as it passed. '"We-flew on the wings of the wind at the varied speed fifteen to twenty-five miles an hour, annihilating 'time and spa and, like the renowned John Gilpin,' leaving all the world behind. A venerable friend of mine, seventy-five years of age, gravely marked he thought it was passing through life rather too quickly as the journey at least was a very short one. 'Very true, good sir,' said I. 'We cannot, however, just now take time those sage reflections on matters and things in general so necessary to our mental and moral improvement.' It was nine minutes five and one-fourth seconds since we started, and we covered ourselves beyond the forks of the State roads. Somebody exclaimed the engine was 'waltzing.' I looked around, and 'tis a fact, Mr. Editor; notwithstanding the apparent absence of every moving principle of grace or activity, it turned round as nimbly as a miss of sixteen: but I swear by the spectacles I shall one day or other wear, that either the road or engine turned round like a top—in proof of which I appeal to own pumps—if it did not afterward chased to the left and remain there until the three cars led off country-dance before it. Never did reviewing general present a more warlike front to troops passing on line of march than did this same knight in his ironbound armor.' As each car came in front, it gave us three whiffs of steam in acknowledgment that the compliment to our company was felt and appreciated. Never were the three ruffles of the drum more gratifying to my feelings when military ardor 'fired my breast.' On our return, it again headed the column. We came to Sans-Souci in quick and double-quick time. Here we stopped to take up a recruiting-party—darted forth like a live rocket, scattering sparks and flames on either side—passed over three salt-water creeks, hop, step, and jump, and landed us all safe at the Lines before any of us had time to determine whether or not it was prudent to be scared. It beats the Dumb Chess-Player all hollow. Your obedient servant, JOCKEY OF YORK.


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