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But it is difficult to destroy a rail-road. For six years the directors have devoted income to debt, and have at length reduced the enormous debt nearly one-half. Income has gradually increased, the stock has risen to 72 per cent., the line has earned more than six per cent., and dividends on its capital have been resumed. The sky is not yet, however, entirely clear; the present managers have yet to learn the policy of burnetizing their timber, and of conciliating the public by such moderate prices as were charged in the prosperous days of the road, and running an evening train, to the neglect of which they may ascribe, in a greater or less degree, the new horse railway from Lynn to Boston.
XII. The Boston and Maine Rail-Road.—This important line was originally a humble scion or offshoot from the Boston and Lowell RailRoad. It was a branch of about seven miles, from Wilmington to Andover. It was gradually extended to Haverhill, Exeter, Dover and Berwick, intersecting the Merrimac, Exeter and Cocheco Rivers at their lower waterfalls.
Although the Boston and Lowell line had entered Boston with a direct route and double track, the branch was induced, by some neglect or inattention to its interest, to apply, in 1844, for a separate entrance into Boston, relying upon the heavy toll it would save and the local business it might develop upon an independent track for its indemnity. Its prayer was granted by the State, and a new road, with double track, was at once laid into the heart of Boston, under the direction of JAMEs HAyward, Esq., the eminent engineer who had been connected with the enterprise from its inception, and directed it until its completion. This is undoubtedly one of the best planned and most successful enterprises in the State. Judiciously located, carefully built, it has well rewarded the talent, experience and good judgment which have been devoted to its construction. Skilfully and liberally managed, it has built up villages along its line, given a great impulse to the city of Lawrence and every village it has touched, and drawn in feeders from every quarter.
It has met with some drawbacks from fires and ambitious shareholders who would have grasped its power and patronage, and ousted those who were the authors of its prosperity, but it has surmounted all these evils and now stands on terra firma.
XIII. The Fitchburg Rail-Road.—After the completion of the Boston and Worcester and the Boston and Lowell Rail-Roads the triangle between them remained for ten years unoccupied. The great stage line from Boston to Keene, Troy and Rutland passed through Waltham and Fitchburg, but most of the stages and teams were diverted, and the intervening country was depressed by the influence of the rail-roads to the right and to the left. Unsuccessful appeals were made to the Boston and Worcester direction to send off a branch from Framingham. Urgent requests were also made to the directors of the Boston and Lowell to construct a branch to Fitchburg; but this also proved unavailing, and, in 1842, Col. Alvah CRock ER, who had made himself familiar with the country when the early surveys for a canal were made by Col. BAldwin, planned the enterprise of an independent line to Boston. He addressed the people upon the route, called a convention, and took active measures to procure a charter.
The charter was granted in 1842. Very favorable contracts were made for construction, and the iron was purchased in England for the very low price of $22 75 per ton, by a committee of the directors. Although the means of the company were limited, they made liberal provisions for the future. They purchased some fifteen acres of land for freight grounds, fronting upon the harbor, and with tracks leading to deep waterpiers. They adopted a generous width of five rods in the location, a substantial rail and improved engines and cars, and by adopting a ruling gradient of forty feet, and pursuing the course of several valleys, were enabled to make a surface road, and to touch many important villages. The road was substantially built in 1844, and the revenue of the ensuing year, about $208,000, confirmed the predictions of the directors, who had estimated it at $200,000. The entire cost of the line, down to January, 1847, for fifty miles, including stations, equipage and some five miles of second track, was but $1,875,000. From January, 1845, to 1853 the line enjoyed a high degree of proserity. Its dividends ran to ten per cent., and its successive issues of stock sold at high premiums, at one period rising to 30 per cent. advance. Lines radiated from it to Greenfield, Bellows Falls, }. Montreal and Ogdensburg, and its directors, encouraged by the prospect of a growing business, were induced to extend the line across Charles River into Boston, to erect spacious warehouses and an elegant passenger house, to lay down a second track for the entire length of the line, and to avert competition were induced to construct several small branches. Passengers were transported at two to two and a half cents per mile, and a vast business in ice was developed, which was transported five to seven miles at forty cents per ton. At length, however, the day of trial came for the Fitchburg. The new routes into the interior called for additional and express trains at high rates of speed, and contributed no adequate return either in passengers or low-priced freight; indeed, in some instances they diverted an important traffic in flour and grain from the Fitchburg line. The second track, although laid down with iron at forty dollars perton, called for at least fifty thousand dollars annual net income to defray repairs and interest. The express trains required at least an equal amount, and rails, cars and engines, under high speed, demanded a large outlay for renovation. Coincident with this came a rise in labor and materials. Under the combined influence of these causes, the net revenue declined, and became inadequate to meet the customary dividend, and in 1854 the dividends were suspended. But the Fitchburg Rail-Road, although temporarily depressed, and although its great line of traffic across the Hoosac to Troy still remained unfinished, possessed great inherent vigor and recuperative power, and it had been honestly administered. Express trains have been withdrawn, speed reduced, all debts extinguished by surplus revenue, dividends have been resumed, and its bridges widened for side tracks and stations; a tributary line, twenty-seven miles in length, has been purchased, and paid for out of income, and a lease of $22,000 per annum has been extinguished; a branch to Watertown, once suspended, has been advertised to run; and now the Fitchburg line, with a growing business and vast provision of ground, wharves, stations and tracks for its great prospective business, is frugally and faithfully administered, and stands in a position of strength and security.
Among the remedial measures adopted by the present board was an advance on rates, which were placed low at the inception of the enterprise to invite and attract business. The rise on freight has proved beneficial; the rise on passengers has been less satisfactory, having given some stimulus to horse railways, for the distance of seven miles from Boston; and the managers of the line have found, in several instances, a reduction of rates highly beneficial.
The Fitchburg Rail-Road Company now hold 150 miles of track in the main line and branches, at least three miles of water-front in Boston harbor, * a large surplus fund, costing, altogether, about $3,560,000.
If we exclude terminal stations, dépôt grounds and equipage, the entire cost of its tracks, for superstructure, land, road-bed and construction, will fall below $14,000 per mile.
XIV. The Old Colony and Fall River Rail-Road.—The Old Colony Rail-Road, from Boston to Plymouth, (the spot where the Pilgrims landed,) thirty-seven miles in length, was opened in December, 1845. It was not, however, fully completed until the close of the ensuing year, and suffered from having been run at sub-grade. With the exception of a commission paid to the treasurer, nominally for importing the iron, but really for his services in raising the funds, it was, like most of the Massachusetts lines, built with enconomy and fidelity to the interest of the company. The selection of the route was made by commissioners. They chose the Abington iu preference to the Bridgewater route, which was more circuitous, but more productive of freight and better adapted to future extension. The two routes diverge in the town of Braintree, eleven miles from Boston. The decision in favor of the Abington route led to a petition for a branch from Braintree to Bridgewater, passing through a favorable valley, and accommodating several growing villages. The company opposed this application, and made a short branch from Abington to Bridgewater to counteract it; but the branch was chartered, and has been gradually extended to Fall River, Fair Haven, Wareham and Hyannis. The adoption of the Abington route and construction of the short branch, followed by the new competing line, impaired the strength of the Old Colony Rail-Road. A floating debt was also thus created, and contracts were soon after made for the lease and equipment of the South Shore and Dorchester and Milton Rail-Roads, at six per cent. upon their cost, which eventually exceeded the estimate by nearly a quarter of a million; and to prevent the entire diversion of the Fall River line, a further contract was made to widen several bridges, lay a second track of eleven miles and erect one or two stations. When the Old Colony Rail-Road Company made these agreements, and increased its expenses, it was earning less than simple interest upon the cost of its line, it was subject to the weight of a large floating debt, and the rate of interest on all the securities it had to offer was verging upon eighteen to twentyfour per cent. per annum. In this dangerous posture of affairs a new president came into power, and at once adopted the policy of issuing stock and bonds to meet the danger. By vigorous efforts the required improvements were effected, the timber of the new line was kyanized, the leased roads were equipped and the floating debt extinguished. This was effected in 1847–1848, by the issue of stock and bonds at ninety down to seventy-five per cent., and the safety of the company was thus effectually insured. Immediate measures were taken to develop the revenues of the line, by the adoption of those rates which had been successful upon other routes, and a rapid growth of traffic was effected; but the healing hand of time was required to bring up the income to a height sufficient to make returns upon the additional million necessary to cover discounts, fund the floating debt and complete the contracts; and the new president, upon his retirement in 1850, was obliged to content himself with the consciousness of having performed an unpopular and painful duty, and the approbation of those who could appreciate his exertions. Before he retired, an effort was made to obtain for the company a grant of land on Five Point Channel; but the bill, after passing the committee, was defeated by adverse interests. A union with the Fall River line was also recommended, but the stockholders were not ripe for that importaut measure. His successors in office toiled on, without marked success, for several years, conducting a losing and costly contest, and disposing of surplus property. This was taken by the company at its start, in exchange for stock, from speculators in the South Cove, who afterwards opposed the grant of other lands from the State. Meanwhile the Fall |. line moved on successfully, making regular dividends of eight per cent., while the Old Colony line applied its receipts to the purchase of its stock. Upon the application of the former for a new and independent route into Boston, an act was passed for the union of the two companies. Three referees were agreed upon ; the party selected by the Fall River line, the late John DAvis, of Worcester, suddenly died, and the case was heard by the survivors, who, in valuing the stocks, gave to the company earning less than half the per centage on capital earned by the other a premium of about ten per cent. over its successful neighbor, and made an award which is an anomaly in rail-road history. The Fall River line earned over twenty per cent. in 1852 and 1853; the Old Colony line, in the same two years, earned less than ten per cent., according to the reports under oath to the State. It has been urged in favor of this award, that the income of the Fall River line was based, in part, on through business with New-York, which was subject to diversion; but it has proved reliable. It has been urged that the track, stations and engines of the Fall River line required repairs; but its surplus income would have soon repaired them, and the engines of the Old Colony line have since required repairs nearly as heavy as those of the Fall River road. It has been urged that the Old Colony line held much real estate; but this was depreciated in value, and, in part, a dead capital, while the Fall River Rail-Road has a cheap and productive surface line. The parties interested, however, preferred peace to war, and acquiesced in the result; the referees pocketed five thousand dollars fees for a few weeks' service, and the union, oppressive as it may have been to the gentlemen of Fall River, has answered all the predictions of its earliest advocates. The united company has made regular dividends of six per cent., its surplus revenue has extinguished the bonds, a large overplus has been accumulated for the benefit of the stockholders, who have patiently held the stock, and the road, well-administered in most particulars by its diligent president, is now earning more than ten per cent. upon its o although it has lost much of its short travel by high prices and horse railways.
XV. The Boston and New-York Central Rail-Road.—The seventh line out of Boston is the Boston and New-York Central Rail-Road, which originated in the Walpole branch, chartered April 16th, A. D. 1846. During the spring of that year seven petitions for rail-roads through Norfolk county came before the legislature. Rail-roads were successful, villages were aspiring, and there was intense solicitude and great rivalry exhibited by the advocates of different routes, and the most eminent counsel were arrayed against each other. The successful parties combined to defeat . bill reported by the committee, and the only line chartered was a branch from Dedham to Walpole. During this contest a very vivid picture was drawn of the resources of the Blackstone Valley, and the next season, under a very favorable report of the feasibility of the route, which subsequent experience did not justify, the Walpole branch was extended, by charter, to Blackstone, under the name of the Norfolk County Rail-Road. In 1849 this line was opened to Blackstone. Its managers determined early to make this line a portion of a direct road to New-York, and spared no pains or expense to perfect the roadbed. It was built in the best manner, by able engineers and contractors, and such was the cost that the company was compelled to subject it to a heavy mortgage, and the income from local traffic did not more than suffice to meet the interest upon the debt. The parties who embarked in it were determined that it should still go forward, and another charter was obtained to extend it to the Norwich and Worcester Rail-Road and thence to Southbridge, in 1851, and twenty-two miles from Blackstone to the Norwich and Worcester line were opened for use at the close of 1853, and some expenditures were subsequently made upon the extension to Southbridge. A new line from Dedham to Boston, called the Midland, was then chartered, and the three lines combined under the title of the Boston and New-York Central Rail-Road Company, December 12th, 1853, and the entire line from Boston, near the foot of Summer-street, to the Norwich and Worcester line, 58 miles, was opened for use early in 1855. But the means of the company were exhausted, and the struggle ended with the opening of the line; valuable land and important streets had been crossed, a tunnel had been carried under South Boston, below the level of the tide, valuable lots had been engaged for stations and the rails had been laid before the gradation and masonry were finished; inexorable land-owners called for their money, selectmen and commissioners for their bridges, the road itself for repairs. Rival companies were jealous, and threw a shade, not entirely undeserved, over the credit of the company, and in the summer of 1855 the company failed, and the trustees of the Norfolk County bonds entered for foreclosure, and made the middle section a tributary of the Boston and Providence Rail-Road. Various efforts have been made to revive the residue of the line, but