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its trials and its effects. To appreciate it better, it is desirable to examine some of the leading rail-roads of Massachusetts.
VIII. The Boston and Worcester Rail-Road.—This road is one of the pioneer lines of the State. In the early spring of 1834, the first section of ten miles was opened for use, and on the morning of the first of May the locomotive was set in motion. There was no bonnet upon the engine, and a large party of ladies, with their beaus, enlivened by a host of sparks, made their first excursion by steam from Boston into the country. This line commenced with very limited means; and having no direct natural valley to follow, a devious route was pursued, conforming closely to the surface, with a ruling gradient of thirty feet to the mile, and a narrow location was adopted. A light edge rail, weighing less than forty pounds to the yard, was introduced and laid, principally upon ties of white cedar embedded in the primitive soil, and little space was allowed for drainage. The company were induced, by a grant of several acres of land, at a nominal price, to establish their Boston station upon the South Cove; but in the provision of land and buildings, the growth of business was greatly underrated. The provision for freight consisted of an open yard, with a small wharf, store and freight-house, which would not receive at once more than two or three long cars. From 1834 to 1840, the whole capital raised was but $1,840,000. The equipage of the line consisted, for several years, of a few light engines and single cars, for both freight and passengers, some of which were imported from England. Worcester was then a village with four or five thousand people, whose trade sought the New-York and Providence markets by the Blackstone Canal. It offered so little merchandise, that for some time the average freight from Worcester to Boston did not exceed twelve tons per train. Until the close of 1839, the line drew a very moderate income from its light local traffic. Its rails were injured, its tracks disturbed by frost, its cars and engines worn out by use or gone out of fashion, and its dépôts unsuited to the day. Its charges had been as high as 4} cents per passenger a mile, and its rate for freight up to 7 to 8 cents per ton a mile, from which rates it with difficulty paid a . moderate dividend, and accidents frequently occurred, from the deterioration of its tracks and engines. But in 1839 the Norwich and Worcester and the Western Rail-Roads were opened, from tide-water at Norwich and the navigable waters of the Connecticut at Springfield, into Worcester, and a new impulse was given to the Boston and Worcester line. An investigating committee, in 1846, reported its defects, and suggested some of the remedies to the stockholders, and prompt measures were taken for its renovation. The capital was rapidly increased, by stock and bonds, from $1,840,000 to $5,500,000, three times the original amount; the road-bed was raised, widened and graveled, new rails were provided, a second track laid, branches opened, and superior engines and long cars purchased. Several acres of land were obtained, at high prices, and extensive dépôts and engine-houses erected, and the revenue rapidly increased, and the dividends soon rose to eight per cent. per annum. For a time the directors adhered to their system of high prices, and induced the Western Railway to charge $6 50 per ton and $3 75 per
passenger between Boston and Springfield, and business was thus for a time repelled; and when the Western Rail-Road adopted rates very nearly the same as those now established, the Boston and Worcester line declined to take a pro rata share, and commissioners were called in to adjust the difference; but gradually moderate rates were established, special trains, with season tickets and low fares, were set in motion, and now the Boston and Worcester Rail-Road exhibits a line fringed with villages, villas and suburban residences, and has raised its revenue from $210,000 in 1837 to more than a million in 1860. It has, doubtless, in the past, shown some want of prescience. It has made more branches than are profitable; the renovation of its tracks and road-bed, and the acquisition of land after use have enhanced its value, and doubtless carried its capital to an unnecessary height; but in the past ten years its cost has been reduced from income more than half a million. It divides eight per cent., and it is now conducted, by its present officers, with a degree of promptitude, efficiency and success alike acceptable to the public and the shareholders.
IX. The Boston and Lowell Rail-Road.—This line, from Boston to Lowell, twenty-five miles, was constructed at the same time with the Boston and Worcester, and considered a very bold experiment, as it run nearly parallel with the Middlesex Canal. Its engineer aimed at a level route, and its gradients, except for a few feet near its Lowell terminus, did not exceed ten feet to the mile, and heavy expenses in cuts and embankments were incurred to secure this gradient and curves of large radius. Road crossings were generally avoided, extensive dépôt grounds and accommodations were obtained at Cambridge and Boston, a liberal rovision was made for the future, and a second track was soon provided. he fish-belly rail, popular in England, was first selected, and laid down upon stone cross-ties, upon a well-ballasted surface. These ties have |. less elastic and durable than those of wood. The cost of the ine in 1837 was but $1,500,000, but it was carried soon after, by the completion of its second tracks and dépôt grounds, to $1,800,000; and, with a slight addition of debt for new equipage and the short branch at Woburn, the capital, for some twenty years, has continued stationary. The stand-still policy has, until very recently, been the ". of the Boston and Lowell line; and this is almost as dangerous as the expansion policy. While the city of Lowell and the local business were annually progressive, other parties took up the subject of branches, and shaped them so as to divert the legitimate business of the Boston and Lowell line. A line was carried from Nashua to Worcester, diverting largely from the trunk line. The Manchester and Lawrence line made another diversion from the trunk line. The Lowell and Salem Rail-Road became another competitor, and, crossing the Boston and Maine, which might easily have been retained as a tributary, competed for all the heavy freight of the factories, and for a part of the Boston passenger. The Fitchburg line diverted also a business that might have been attracted to the Boston and Lowell and the trunk of the Boston and Lowell line. Like a solid oak, stripped of its leaves and denuded of its branches, it stood for a time almost in solitary grandeur, a warning to other lines not to neglect branch accommodation. Its stock declined from a high premium to about fifty per cent. At length a new policy was inaugurated. Treaties were made, binding more closely to it the Nashua and Lowell line, and giving it the control of the Lowell branches. The diversion of business was thus arrested, and, under the able management of the present dynasty, the stock has risen above par, and good dividends are returned to the stockholders.
X. The Boston and Providence Rail-Road.—This line, 43 miles in length, is coeval also with the Boston and Worcester, and in 1835 came into active operation. Its original cost was a little less than $1,800,000, and as it occupied an important route both to Providence and New-York, and succeeded to a large business previously conducted by teams and stages, it soon became a successful enterprise and made large dividends to the stockholders. It was distinguished at first for high charges. Its rates for passengers were 4# to 5 cents per mile, and its rate for freight was five dollars per ton, or twelve cents per ton a mile. But these high rates and a close and exclusive alliance with a line of steamers running through the Sound, aroused jealousy and opposition. The Seekonk Branch was built, and a strenuous effort made to break the monopoly, which involved the company in a considerable expenditure. After this the Norwich and Worcester line obtained the State aid, and was pressed through with energy and much popular favor, in consequence of the high charges upon the Boston and Providence line; and when this new line was opened, in 1839, the net income of the Boston and Providence was reduced more than fifty per cent., and in 1840 its net revenue fell from ten to four and a half per cent. The directors, who had to this point resisted the popular current, were at length obliged to reduce their passenger rates twenty-five per cent, and their freight charges forty per cent. The effect of these measures was electric. Their warehouses soon overflowed with freight; a large amount of Providence business was soon diverted from New-York to Boston, and the foundation was laid for an active intercourse between Rhode Island and Massachusetts. The railroad company was compelled to enlarge and rebuild its station-houses, and some gentlemen who had resisted all changes and listened with incredulity to the predictions of the results which occurred, at length commended the wisdom evinced in the new measures adopted. From 1840 to 1847 the line continued to revive with the rapid growth of business, and in the latter year had again recovered its early prosperity and made large and satisfactory dividends; but success itself is often bewildering. Large expenditures were made for a costly branch from West Roxbury to Dedham, a point already reached by a branch; an improvement which for a long time gave no adequate return. And further and still larger expenditures were made for a new route from the main track through Pawtucket to Providence, to avoid a ferry; some second track was also laid and costly buildings were erected. By these measures the cost of construction was suddenly doubled, and the amount carried from $1,800,000 to $3,600,000, without securing any important feeder to the line. his sudden change gave a severe shock to the company, which for several years found it very difficult to meet its interest, and a six per cent.
dividend, in place of the eight per cent. previously paid; but the gradual growth of business, the substitution of coal for wood and the beneficent hand of time, are again reducing the cost and swelling the dividend. Had the West Roxbury Branch been omitted, and the Providence improvements been gradually effected, no check need have been given to the prosperity of the company. This second lesson will probably need no repetition.
XI. The Eastern Rail-Road.—This is another important trunk line, leading from Boston along the eastern coast, through Lynn, Salem and Newburyport to the line of New-Hampshire. It was opened to Ipswich in 1839, and to the State line in November, 1840. Before its construction many of the best appointed stages run between Salem and Boston, and the new line reduced at least one-half both the time of transit and the cost of conveyance.
In selecting the original route it was a serious question whether it was most advisable to make a detour from Salem by Danvers and Charlestown to Boston, thus increasing the expense, adding a few miles to distance, but accommodating a large population and avoiding the ferry, or to adopt the more direct route by East Boston and the ferry. The engineer chose the least expensive and more direct course. The route he chose had certainly many advantages; it was nearly level, free from curvature, crossed few highways at grade, and comported best with the very moderate means of the company. It was connected with Boston proper by a commodious steam ferry.
In the construction of the line a light-edge rail was adopted. At a subsequent period a heavier rail, laid on longitudinal sills, was introduced, but these sills were affected by the frost and were eventually discarded.
The new line was for a series of years well conducted and eminently successful. It commenced with six per cent. dividends, in 1841, and raised them to eight per cent. in 1845, at which rate they were maintained for the seven succeeding years, under the able management of DAVID A. NEAL, Esq.
In 1845 the cost of the line, including a branch to Marblehead, was but $2,471,561, represented byThe capital,...
$ 1,800,000 State loan, funded at 5 per cent.,..
500,000 Surplus earnings,...
$ 2,471,561 And the net income over expenses and interest was $221,376, or more than twelve per cent on the capital. And here we are again admonished how great are the dangers of success. Deterioration was then but little felt; the country was prosperous, the prospect of the future brilliant, and the company, in the course of 1846, commenced two branches to Salisbury and Gloucester. By these and other improvements the cost of construction was gradually increased, until, in January, 1852, it had risen to $3,647,000. Represented by capital,.
$ 2,850,000 State loan, at 5 per cent., .
500,000 Floating debt,...
The company was still successful; its net income over expenses had attained to $317,000 in 1850, and it had continued to pay its eight per cent. dividends with great regularity; but new perils were at hand; the dangerous element of a floating debt had grown out of the new branches; rival companies had built a branch from the Boston and Maine line at South Reading to Salem, which made the distance from Boston to Salem twenty miles, against fourteen by the Eastern Rail-Road. Another company had made a branch from the same line to the western side of the city of Lynn.
With its direct and local route and other sources of business, it is safe to say that the Eastern Rail-Road could have put down these feeble rivals by competition at reduced prices; but its managers became alarmed, and fell into the error of buying both at an advance upon their cost, and into the still more serious error of constructing a new and circuitous route from their maine line in Chelsea into the city of Boston, with a view to avoid the ferry, and launched into the heavy expenditures which both these measures required, without any issue of new stock, without any just appreciation of the cost, and with the burthen of a floating debt hanging over them, and money worth more than ordinary interest.
A heavy debt was then created. Notes at one or two per cent. a month were thrown upon the market, and facilities afforded to an unscrupulous treasurer to dispose of funds. The net income was reduced. The principal part of it was absorbed by interest, and the dividends were suspended six years from 1854.
It is difficult to determine from the annual reports the precise cost of the South Reading and Saugus branches, but from January 1, 1852, to January 1, 1853, during which period the branches were purchased, the floating debt was increased $665,906, most of which was probably paid for the branches. And from January 1, 1853, to January 1, 1856, the debt was further increased $1,487,000, nearly all of which must have sprung from the entrance into Boston and the defalcations of the treasurer incident to the floating debt created.
In January, 1856, the account of the company, after its purchases and improvements, stood as follows: Capital,
$ 2,853,400 Funded and floating debt,
$ 5,803,137 In place of (in 1852,)....
3,647,000 While the debt had thus increased $2,156,137, the net income, which before the purchase and extension was, in 1850, $317,000, had actually fallen, in 1855, to $305,000.
The entire outlay for the branches and extension, made at a period when labor and materials were rising, had thus resulted in a yearly loss of more than the interest paid on the whole outlay ; surely a severe lesson.
The stock of this company, under this disaster, fell to 38 per cent., and a part of the burthen has been thrown upon the public, many of whom, on their way from Salem to Boston, have been compelled to make the detour by Saugus, (doubling the Cape or going round the Horn as the seafaring passengers express it,) and paying additional prices for increased detention.