THE LOCOMOTIVE CROSSES THE NEVERSINK.
During 1847, the thirteen miles of railroad between the Shawangunk
Summit and Port Jervis were completed. President Loder had divided
the road into sections, for the completion of which he had fixed
certain dates, the finishing of the work on such dates being provided
for in the contracts, a failure being attended with cost to the
contractor. Thus, December 31, 1847, was the day on which the
locomotive was to enter Port Jervis. The extraordinary character
of the work to be done may be imagined from a brief description
of some of it. At the summit of the mountain, near Otisville,
was a rock cut upwards of fifty feet deep in the deepest place,
and extending with some interruption over a length 2,500 feet.
The contractor for this work was Thomas King. A little more than
a mile beyond was a heavy embankment, to be supported on the lower
side by a retaining wall more than fifty feet high, and several
hundred feet in length. This was followed immediately by a heavy
thorough cut in the rock, 1,000 feet long and thirty feet deep.
Half a mile further on was another enormous embankment, to be
supported on the lower side by a wall fifty feet high. These sections
were in the hands of Charles Story. At Shin Hollow, about half
way between Otisville and Port Jervis, was a cut upwards of three-fourths
of a mile long and more than forty feet deep, in the contract
of Carmichael & Stranahan. Beyond that was an embankment upwards
of fifty feet high, and 1,500 feet long. Immediately adjacent
to this embankment was another enormous thorough cut in rock upwards
of fifty feet in depth.
In those early days of railroad building such an undertaking
as this cutting of a roadway along the rocky side of that wild
mountain pass was something that required more courage, endurance,
and perseverance than a work many times as formidable would in
these days of advanced constructive science; but the work was
pushed forward with all possible facility by the contractors,
under the persistent spurring of Silas Seymour, the Constructing
The rails that were to be put down from Otisville west were
the first American T-rails for which any actual order for extensive
use of them had ever been given. Up to that time England supplied
this country with rails. These for the Erie were rolled at Scranton,
Pa., and were delivered to the Company by means of the Delaware
and Hudson Canal Company's gravity railroad and canal ("Administration
of Benjamin Loder," pages 90-91.)
The 31st day of December, 1847, came. The rails were all laid
between Otisville and the east bank of the Neversink River, and
were ready on the Port Jervis side of the river. But the trestle
bridge was not yet completed to carry the rails across and make
connection so that cars could be run to what was to be the Port
Jervis, or Delaware, station. People from the "Port,"
and from all about, had flocked to the aid of the railroad laborers
for days, helping in the laying of rails and the construction
of the trestle. Daniel Hilferty, who kept a hotel at Carpenter's
Point, threw open his house to the workers, and refreshments and
good cheer of all kinds were free. The big-hearted boniface said
afterward that the demand for these was so great that railroad
mud from the feet of thirsty and hungry helpers covered his floors
three inches deep by the time the trestle was completed.
A locomotive and two flat cars, loaded with railroad men and
citizens, left Otisville in the afternoon, to be the first train
to run into Port Jervis on the stipulated time. Knowing the situation,
bets were freely made at Otisville and Port Jervis that the train
could not get to its destination in time. This construction train
arrived at the east end of the unfinished trestle, and added its
complement of men to the crowd that was already straining every
nerve to get the bridge in shape to carry the locomotive and flat
cars over. It was late at night when the woodwork was ready, and
the rails had yet to be put down. At a few minutes before eleven
o'clock the track was all down with the exception of a gap of
one rail, and that rail had to be cut to fit the space. Whether
it was a rail of extraordinary toughness, or whether the excitement
and suspense were so great that the workmen and the bosses lost
their heads, it is impossible to say, but it is known that it
took them one hour to cut the rail and spike it to its place.
Then, with a tremendous shout, all of the crowd that could do
so clambered upon the flat cars, and the locomotive put on steam,
crossed the Neversink, and ran to the Port Jervis terminus of
the road, arriving there just seventeen minutes before the advent
of January 1, 1848. What few people there were in the hamlet
of Port Jervis were on the spot, and were wild with joy and excitement.
Silas Seymour was among those who rode in on the construction
train. The uproarious crowd lifted him from his feet and carried
him on its shoulders to the Union House, on the canal, nearly
a mile from the railroad, and there tendered him all the honor
and homage that shouts and revelry, continued long into the night,
could be made to be the sponsor for. The hotel was kept by S.
O. Dimmick. It is there yet, and has the distinction of being
the scene of the first celebration of the completion of the New
York and Erie Railroad between the Hudson and the Delaware, a
celebration none the less hearty and historic because it was impromptu
and informal, and unofficial.
The late William H. Stewart had charge of the construction
train as conductor, and the engineer was "Dutch John"
Zeigler, who had been Eleazar Lord's coachman, but who was promoted
by Mr. Lord, during his control of Erie affairs, to the railroad
service, where he culminated as a locomotive engineer. The locomotive
was the "Eleazar Lord."
The official opening of the railroad to Port Jervis was on
Thursday, January 6, 1848. The Sullivan County Whig,
a newspaper then published at Bloomingburg, near Middletown, thus
described the features of the occasion, in its issue of January
"On Thursday, last the Directors and a party of invited
guests took an excursion upon the New York and Erie Railroad from
Piermont to the limit of its extension on the Delaware, a distance
of seventy-four miles. This was the first train of cars that had
passed over the road from Otisville to Port Jervis.
"On arriving at the latter place the party, numbering
over a hundred, sat down to a sumptuous dinner prepared at the
hotel of Samuel Truex, after which the President, Benjamin Loder,
made an address, in which he congratulated all interested in the
successful completion of that portion of the road, notwithstanding
the great obstacles that had to be overcome. He spoke of the proximity
of the road to the States of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and
invited their citizens to share in its advantages and benefits.
Mr. Loder then proceeded to give a brief history of that portion
of the road just completed, which he considered by far the most
difficult and expensive portion on the entire route to Lake Erie.
He read from a memorandum prepared by Mr. Silas Seymour, Superintending
Engineer, the following interesting statistics: In the construction
of the road from Otisville to Port Jervis, a distance of thirteen
miles, 317,000 Pounds of powder had, been consumed, 210,000 cubic
yards of solid rock and 730,000 of earth excavated, 14,000 yards
of sloping wall constructed, 300,000 days' labor bestowed upon
it by 3,000 laborers, and 30,000 days' labor by horses. He further
stated that from this point to Binghamton, a distance of about
130 miles, nearly every section is being worked, and a large portion
will be ready for the superstructure by the month of June or July;
and before the first of January next, unless unexpected difficulties
shall occur, the Directors intend to have the cars running to
Binghamton, if not further.
"The section between Otisville and Port Jervis has been
mainly constructed since June last. The President having determined
to complete the work by the 1st of January, 3,000 laborers were
sent over their road gratuitously.
"The contractors, Carmichael & Stranahan, C. Story,
and Thomas King, deserve credit for the energy and enterprise
with which they have fulfilled their contracts. The grading alone
between Otisville and Port Jervis cost about $30,000 a mile. The
rails were manufactured at the Lackawanna Iron Works, in the Wyoming
The progress of the Erie at this time inspired the poet of
the New York Herald, in a "carrier's address"
for January, 1848, to this burst:
Get off the track;five hundred pounds of steam
To each square inch don't make a trifling team.
Patent greased lightning only could begin
To run beside this iron horse and win.
Whizz! how she travels! coppers hot, each one
We may get "busted," but we'll have our fun.
Hands off the brake!Chain down this valve! Hurra!
We're through by daylight! Yes, Sir-ee! We are!
Get off the track! Whe-w-w! Hear that whistle scream!
Hard down the brake! There, quick! Shut off the steam!
Jump! Turn that switch! Chuff! Choo! Ch-e-o-u-gh! Hurra!
We're through by daylight! Yes, Sir-ee! We are!
Hundreds of people from the surrounding country thronged the
village. Cannon boomed, and bunting floated in the breeze. The
hotel mentioned as being the scene of the official feast was called
the New York and Erie Hotel, and was on the southwest corner of
Pike and Main streets. The Union House, on the corner of Main
street, near, the Delaware and Hudson Canal, was the scene of
another jubilation in honor of the event. This hotel was kept
by Samuel O. Dimmick, still living at Port Jervis. Silas Seymour,
the Constructing Engineer of the railroad, gave Mr. Dimmick order
to cater to all who might participate in the celebration at his
housegave him carte blanche, in fact, and told him
to send his bill in to the Company and it would be paid. The night
Of January 6th there was a great "spread" at the Union
House. Mr. Dimmick was ill, and not able to be present during
the evening. Next morning it was reported to him that his wine
cellar was empty; that there was not a drop of anything in the
bar to begin business with for the day, and that there was scarcely
a whole piece of crockery left in the hotel. The opening of the
railroad had been evidently celebrated by the opening of everything
openable in the house; and the first "smash-up" as a
result of the railroad was the smash-up of things at the same
place. The hotel was replenished, and when Mr. Dimmick saw Mr.
Seymour he explained matters, and said he thought a bill for $600
would be about right, "and not any too much at that."
Seymour said he guessed that would be about right.
"Make it out as 'for supplies to the Railroad Company,"'
Mr. Dimmick made the bill out in that way, and it was paid.
Sam Truex, at the New York and Erie House, had many guests,
also, as a result of the railroad celebration, besides his official
ones, and they enjoyed themselves with the contents of his house
in about the same manner that, the Union House's guests had with
the stores of that hostelry. Truex asked Dimmick what he had charged
the Company. Dimmick told him, and Truex put in a bill for the
same amount, independent of his bill for the official entertainment.
But Truex had had no order from the Company to keep open house
on the occasion, and his bill was returned unpaid. And it is unpaid
to this day.
When the Erie was thus opened to Port Jervis, it had seventy-four
miles of railroad, ten locomotives, nine passenger cars, seventy
eight-wheel freight cars, seventy-seven mail and baggage cars,
one machine shop (at Piermont), and employed 182 men in its transportation
department. There are now forty-two miles of track in the Port
Jervis yard alone, and a single freight train frequently consists
of sixty cars. To construct the road to Port Jervis from Piermont
had cost $3,276,678.
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