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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 River 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 capital, 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 the 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 there has been no consentaneous action of the creditors. Every claimant of land damages had a right to enjoin the company not to run until his claim was paid, and the rails of the Boston and New-York Central, like the fowling-piece of Rip Van Winkle, rust while the owners sleep.
The entire cost of this line down to 1855 exceeds $3,750,000. The holders of the Norfolk County bonds, in amount $412,000, alone receive the interest on their debt, although there is little reason to doubt that the road, which, in separate sections, unfinished, has earned $2,000 to $3,000 per mile, would, if finished to Southbridge, pay the interest on one or two millions, and when made a part of a through line to NewYork or Albany, as it well may be, would pay the interest on a larger amount.
XVI. The Western Rail-Road. We have now finished our resumé of the seven trunk lines out of Boston, and must glance at the great Western Rail-Road, still the principal line of the State. It is a continuation of the Boston and Worcester Rail-Road, for a distance of 155 miles, from Worcester to Greenbush, opposite Albany, with branches to Hudson and North Adams.
This line was commenced in 1836, received loans on mortgage from Massachusetts and the city of Albany to the amount of five millions, and was opened for use at the close of 1842.
The Western Rail-Road on its way to the West encountered very serious obstacles ; it crosses the Monadnock range of mountains at a summit one thousand feet above the sea, and the spurs of the Green Mountains, in Berkshire, at an elevation of fourteen hundred and forty feet, and threads the narrow ravine of the Pontoosuc, where it is inscribed into the sides of the mountain, passing from cuts seventy feet deep across the
spurs of the mountain on to embankments seventy feet high, and over stone bridges sixty to eighty feet above the stream.
The entire road has cost ten millions of dollars, has established extensive dépôts upon the Hudson, where it receives freight from the canalboats, and has laid down a second track for a great part of the way.
Its annual revenue is not far from two millions of dollars; it has for years regularly paid eight per cent. ; applies a surplus to improvements, and annually accumulates nearly two hundred thousand dollars in sinking funds, which already exceed two millions of dollars.
In its infancy this road had a very severe struggle for existence. At one period its stock fell to 40 per cent., and it became for a time a mere foot-ball for the brokers. Its chief engineer equipped the freight-trains with crab-engines, with cog-wheels and vertical tubes, which proved a very dear purchase, checked the freight business and greatly retarded the prosperity of the road. And yet they were so highly commended at first, that the gentlemen who opposed their purchase and predicted their failure, came near losing their seats in the direction for their opinions. Some of the same gentlemen were opposed because they advocated the present tariff of freight and the fare of $5 and $4 to Albany from Boston, both of which are now understood to be the rates realized on the through tickets. The views of those who have studied deeply, and reflected much, although sometimes denounced as radical, eventually often become the established standard.
The Western Rail-Road, although debarred by its heavy gradients of
seventy to eighty feet per mile, from carrying large masses of flour, grain and other cheap freight at low prices, in competition with the sea route, has carried much valuable freight, has become a great thoroughfare for travellers between Boston, Albany and New-York; built up many villages, transported large quantities of local freight and greatly enhanced the value of estates upon its borders, and the aid furnished by Massachusetts and by Albany has enured to the benefit of both.
XVII. The Troy and Greenfield Rail-Road.--The Fitchburg RailRoad is extended from Fitchburg to Greenfield, a distance of 45 miles by the Vermont and Massachusetts Rail-Road, a line built in the most substantial manner, and which will forin an important link in the new line to the Hudson, but which is now gradually paying a debt incurred in construction from its local business. Its gradients from the west are very favorable, none exceeding 45 feet to the mile.
At Greenfield, the Troy and Greenfield line commences, and, pursuing the rich valley of the Deerfield, and touching Shelburne Falls, passing under the Hoosac Mountains and through North Adams, Williamstown and a corner of Vermont, falls into the Troy and Boston Rail-Road at the line of the State of New-York.
By the close of the present year the line from Boston will touch the eastern part of the mountain, and the rail-road from Troy already touches its western base, and nothing will then remain to be done but a horse railway upon the highway over the mountain, to form the connection until the tunnel is finished.
This great work is now making regular advances, and receives the benefit of a loan from Massachusetts, nearly sufficient to pay the laborers; it is regularly advanced as each thousand feet is completed.
The tunnel has already advanced two-thirds of a mile at the castern end; a shaft has been rapidly sunk half a mile from the western end to the depth of three hundred and twenty-five feet at the grade line, which opens two additional faces to contractors.
The work from the eastern end, to a point some distance west of the shaft, consists of mica slate in vertical layers, which form a regular and sufficient arch and are easily penetrated. No water has thus far been encountered sufficient to retard operations either in the shaft or drifts, although much was kindly promised by opposing engineers when a State loan was agitated.
Mechanism, like that employed in the Mount Cenis and Saxony Tunnels, will soon be applied to work the drills with such improvements as the able engineer, Mr. Haupt, has perfected, which it is believed will double the rate of progress,
And the fact that the shaft just finished has required no pump, and has been worked rapidly and at light expense, will offer strong inducements for the construction of others.
When this great work is achieved, the distance between Boston or Salem, Haverhill, Newburyport, Lawrence or Lowell and Troy, will be reduced between 22 and 30 miles The summit will be cut down 700 feet; cheap fuel will be furnished, and the tractive power of the engine, compared with those of the Western Rail-Road, will be nearly doubled by a reduction of gradients and diminution of curves. The Commonwealth is now advancing five dollars per lineal foot on VOL. XLV.-NO. II.
the rail-road, and fifty dollars per lineal foot upon the tunnel, which will probably insure their completion.
When completed, their effect must be in the diminution of distance, curves, summits, gradients and use of fuel, to reduce at least one-third the cost of transit between Boston and Troy, and to place the seaports of Massachusetts Bay nearly upon a footing with New-York for the exports of western produce to Europe. And if it be the intention of Mr. Wood to secede and take with him the island of Manhattan, let her be assured that the old Peninsula of Shawmut will preserve and improve its union with the West and aspire to be one of its seaports.
XVIII. We might point out the peculiarities and chief points of interest in the history of other lines of Massachusetts.
There is the Connecticut River line, resuming its former dividend after shaking off the incubus of the Ashuelet Lease, against which it was in vain cautioned.
There are the Nashua and Worcester, the Taunton Branch, Taunton and New-Bedford, Cape Cod, Newburyport and other lines earning good dividends by economy and forecast, but time will not suffice to describe them all in our limited space.
A compendious view of the rise, decline and recovery of rail-road property in Massachusetts, and of its present position, may be taken, however, from the following table of the prices of the leading lines of Massachusetts at different periods :
Average Market Value of Rail-Road Stocks during the year 1845, and
their market value in January, 1857, and April, 1861.
120 Eastern Rail-Road Company,..
109 Boston and Maine Rail-Road Company,.. 112 Fitchburg Rail-Road Company,
120 Western Rail-Road Company,
102 Providence and Worcester Rail-Road Co.,
Price, Price, Diridend, Jan., 1857. April, 1861. July, 1861. $ 83 $ 113
4 per cent. 66 111
Our brief resumé will have answered its purpose if it has enforced the lessons of experience that forecast, caution, frugality and patience are essential to the success of railways, that neither apathy or recklessness should guide their councils. That foating debts should be avoided. That the wishes and interests of the public must be regarded, and that grave errors are not to be corrected or counteracted by excessive charges; and, above all, that the natural growth of traffic, if countenanced and encouraged by the rail-road itself, will bring prosperity in its train in America as it has done in Europe.