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CHAPTER XXX

SECOND AMERICAN LOCOMOTIVE

 

THE second locomotive for the South Carolina Railroad, and also the second built in this country, arrived at Charleston by the ship Lafayette on Monday, February 28,1831. This engine was ordered from the West Point Foundry, and constructed from plans sent by Horatio Allen, Esq., the chief engineer of the road. Of this locomotive, Mr. David Matthew, after describing in his letter to the author, in 1869, the "Stourbridge Lion" and the "Best Friend" locomotives, thus continues:

"American locomotive number two was called the 'West Point.' This engine was contracted for by Horatio Allen, and was commenced by me, David Matthew, in the fall of 1830, and completed and shipped to the Charleston and Hamburg Railroad about the middle of February, 1831. This locomotive had the same size of engine, frame, wheels, and cranks, as the 'Best Friend,' but had a horizontal tubular boiler. The tubes were two and a half inches in diameter and about six feet long."

After this engine was run upon the road for some time, a trial of her speed was made, which is thus described in the Charleston Coteries, August 1,1831:

"On Saturday afternoon, March 5, 1831, the locomotive 'West Point' underwent a trial of speed, with the barrier car and four cars for passengers, on our railroad. There were one hundred and seventeen passengers, of which number fifty were ladies in the four cars and nine persons on the engine, with six bales of cotton on the barrier car, and the trip to the Five-mile House, two and three fourths miles, was completed in eleven minutes, where the cars were stopped to oil the axles about two minutes. The two and one fourth miles to the forks of Dorchester road were completed in eight minutes. The safety has been insured by the introduction of the barrier-car* and the improvements in the formation of the flange of the wheels, which we learn was made by a young mechanic of this city, Mr. Julius D. Petsch, in the company's service. The new locomotive worked admirably, and the safety-valve being out of the reach of any person but the engineer, will contribute to the prevention of accidents in future, such as befell the 'Best Friend.'"

* A car with bales of cotton fixed up as a rampart between the locomotive and passenger cars.

As we before stated, Mr. Nicholas W. Darrell was the engineer who ran this machine from the time it was put on the road. He thus describes it in a letter to the author:

CHARLESTON, S. C., September 23, 1869. MR. WILLIAM H. BROWN—

"RESPECTED SIR: I have received your favor of the 22d of August, and would have answered it before this time, but, being quite indisposed in health, I have been prevented.

"It gives me pleasure to know that the information and sketch of the 'Best Friend' I sent in my last letter is of any service to you. I will now give you such information of the second locomotive.

As for our road as my memory serves. The engine was named the 'West Point.' The boiler was horizontal, with tubes or flues running lengthwise with the boiler, about five or six feet long and, I think, about three inches in diameter. I think their number was six or eight. These tubes, or flues, or whatever you may call them, were riveted to the fire-box and to the other end of the boiler. They were made of iron, and the water in the boiler surrounded them, and the fume and smoke passed through the tubes into the smoke-box.

"The engine was similar in every respect to the 'Best Friend,' except in the boiler. I herewith send you a rough sketch of the machine as near as I can recollect.

"Several persons now living, and who saw the engine at that time, think that the sketch looks very much like the old 'West Point.' Hoping that this brief information may lead to some more important results from some more valuable source, I remain, dear

Sir, Very respectfully, etc.,
"Formerly Superintendent of Machinery, South Carolina Railroad!."

Tristram Tupper, Esq., the president of the South Carolina Railroad, in one of his reports under the head of "The History of the Road," gives an extract from the report of the Hon. Thomas Bennett, four days after the building of the road had commenced, as follows:

"The locomotive shall alone be used. The perfection of this power in its application to railroads is fast maturing, and will certainly reach, within the period of constructing our road, a degree of excellence which will render the application of animal power a gross abuse to the gifts of genius and science."

"This," continues Mr. Tupper, "was assuming a great deal, when animal power was used, years afterward, on all the other railroads then in progress in this country. But what, then, were our expectations as regards the performance of a locomotive 2?

"On March 1,1830, a committee reported that they too had accepted the offer of Mr. E. L. Miller to construct a locomotive-engine in New York, at the West Point Foundry; and that she should perform at the rate of ten-miles are 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 a trial of engines for the premium of two, which Mr. Miller went out to witness. Mr. Miller's engine, under this contract, was brought out by him in the fall of 1830, and on the 14th and 15th of December, 1830, had her trial and proved her power and efficiency to be double those contracted for. She was the first locomotive engine built in the United States to run on a rail-road. She was first called the 'Best Friend,' but having her boiler burst in June, 1831, and renewed in Charleston, she was afterward called the 'Phoenix.' This engine was built according to the plan and under the personal direction of our talented and enterprising fellow-citizen E. L Miller, Esq."At the time this engine was engaged, 1830, Mr. Miller led the party among the advocates of steam over horse or any other power for railroads. Public opinion was, at that time, much divided on the subject; the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company leaned in favor of horse-power; but, nothing daunted by the weight of their authority, Mr. Miller persevered, and, with an unyielding fearlessness of purpose, proposed to construct an engine, on his own responsibility, equal to the best then in use in England. He succeeded, and to him belongs the honor of planning and constructing the "Best Friend," the first locomotive ever built and worked on a railroad in the United States. The directors of the South Carolina Railroad, therefore, are not only entitled to the credit of having had built for their railroad, and run upon it, the first locomotive built in the United States, for the practical use of their road, but they are also entitled to the credit of being the pioneers in having their railroad the first, not only in America but the first in the world, constructed from the very beginning for the use of locomotive power.

When the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was commenced nearly a year before, from the lack of experience and under the advice of the best English engineers, the track was designed and constructed for horse-power, and not until it had been built as far as Ellicott's Mills, a distance of thirteen miles, did the subject of locomotives come under deliberation; as Mr. Peter Cooper states in his letter to the author: "The road, in the opinion of the largest stockholders, was considered ruined for locomotives, which at that time began to show some signs of advancement and improvement in England, and they refused, in many instances, to advance another dollar toward its completion;" when Mr. Cooper's little locomotive, the "Tom Thumb," demonstrated the fact that, although the road was really built for horse-power, locomotives could be run upon it successfully. But with the Charleston Railroad directors there was no such doubt. At the first meeting of the board, the chief engineer of the road, Horatio Allen, made his able report on the kind of power the road should be constructed to sustain, and this report was followed by that memorable resolution of Mr. Bennett that it should be built for locomotive power; and this resolution was unanimously adopted and acted upon in the contract with Mr. Miller to furnish a locomotive.


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