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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 Engineer.

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 14, 1848:

"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 Valley."

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 house—gave 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,"' said he.

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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