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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 by— The capital,..
$ 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 centa 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 8305,000.
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.
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 CROCKER, 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 water piers. 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 prosperity. 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, Burlington, 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 per ton, 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 bave 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, and 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,