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Chapter 15

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
The Road of the Century

by
Alvin F. Harlow

Creative Age Press, Inc.,
New York, 1947

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Chapter 17

This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

p373 Chapter XVI
The Big Four, Old and New

As we have already noticed, Indiana built one of the several "first railroads west of the Allegheny Mountains." In 1832, when Indiana suffered one of those mental attacks so common in the Midwest at that period, it chartered eight railroads, five of which were to connect Indianapolis with the Ohio River. One of these was the Lawrenceburg & Indianapolis, intended to run from Indiana's river port nearest to Cincinnati, up through Greensburg and Shelbyville to the capital city. The Legislature was so fearful of creating a bonanza that it specified that the company might not retain more than 15 percent profit; all above that must be turned over to the state for the benefit of the public schools.

So these country folk who had never seen a railroad and had only the haziest ideas about the invention,1 set to work under the leadership of "a crazy Connecticut Yankee," Judge William J. Peaslee, and built a mile and a quarter of track just outside of Shelbyville. Black locust cross-ties only — fancy that! — were used, and stone being scarce, they were laid on lengthwise stringers. The rails, for economy's sake, were of white oak. That smidgen of track was "opened" with impressive ceremonies on July 4, 1834, and in the pageant were of course twenty-five little girls in red, white and blue, representing the states then in the Union. A fee of 25 cents was charged for riding the length of the track behind a team of horses, and most of the population of the neighborhood did little else for a few weeks, until the novelty wore off. The directors explained that "Owing to the difficulty of procuring an engineer," they did not carry the track p374into Shelbyville because "they could not tell where the engineer might choose to cross the river."

This company was never able to do any more, and fourteen years slipped by with traffic between Indianapolis and Cincinnati still slogging through mud down to the Ohio, and taking a boat the rest of the way. It is recorded that teamsters required fourteen to sixteen days to make the round trip between Indianapolis and the river in favorable weather. Then the Madison & Indianapolis Railroad was completed in 1847, and in the following year came the great awakening, when there was another outburst of charterings, among them being one for the president and directors of the Rushville and Lawrenceburg Railroad Company, which was announced as designed to connect the two towns named, though the real northern objective of the promoters was Indianapolis. The Madison & Indianapolis was determined to prevent any other railroad to the river being built east of Madison "because it would cut off all the up-river trade of the Madison Road." The Locomotive, of Indianapolis, again and again accused the M. & I. of giving free rides and other inducements to members of the Legislature to influence them against granting a charter to a direct-line railroad. Hence, promoters of another line had to be canny.

The R. & L. at first intended to bypass Greensburg, but loud protests from the citizens brought the surveyors through that county seat, and its county (Decatur) thereupon subscribed for $100,000 in stock of the company. Work was begun at Lawrenceburg in 1849, to the accompaniment of discordant notes from down-river towns, even the near-by Rising Sun Times opposing it. As the grade crept towards Greensburg, the directors began to consider Edinburg, on the M. & I., 30 miles south of Indianapolis, as a possible terminus, instead of Rushville. But Edinburg seemed to have no more money to invest in stock certificates than did Rushville, so the promoters came out boldly for pushing on through Shelbyville to Indianapolis; though when they changed the company's name in 1850 to Lawrenceburg & Upper Mississippi, they asked and received permission to extend only to Shelbyville. Transparently enough, another company was organized to create a road between Shelbyville and Indianapolis, and after a decorous interval, the L. & U. M. took it over. But track-laying on both lines was proceeding very slowly for lack of money.

A rival project had now appeared, planned to run from Cincinnati to Indianapolis via Liberty, Connersville and Rushville. p375 But about this time the city of Cincinnati promised to give $800,000 towards the building of the Ohio & Mississippi Railroad, which was to run through Lawrenceburg towards St. Louis; and at that, the Lawrenceburg & Upper Mississippi began to see itself as a route — the route — between Cincinnati and Indianapolis. With this news as ammunition, some interest was aroused in Shelbyville and Indianapolis, though not enough, for in the fall of 1851, only $75,000 in subscriptions had been obtained in the state capital, and much of that was in land. In the Locomotive on February 28, 1852, the company advertised that it had "well improved farms, unimproved lands, vacant lots and houses and lots in the most desirable location in the city of Indianapolis and Marion County which they will sell on terms that any industrious man can get himself a home by paying a part of the purchase money down and a liberal credit will be given for the remainder."

The cost of the road from Lawrenceburg to Indianapolis was estimated at $1,050,000 — much too low — and along the whole route only $400,000 had been subscribed. The Indianapolis Sentinel late in 1851 urged Cincinnati to sign up for $200,000, calling that city's attention to the efforts of Louisville "to draw the trade of Indiana by the Jeffersonville and New Albany Railroads." The Locomotive had already remarked that "If Cincinnati can afford to lose this trade and is anxious to lose it, all that is necessary is for her to procrastinate until business is fairly established over the other route." At last Cincinnati did show signs of becoming Indiana-conscious; both its Commercial and its Gazette published editorials in favor of the L. & U. M. in 1851, while John D. Jones, a prominent Cincinnati merchant, said frankly, "We are most indebted to Indiana for our growth and prosperity than to any other State in the West, not excepting our own."

In September a locomotive for the road came by boat to Lawrenceburg though there was as yet almost no track for it to run on. Cincinnatians had subscribed only $40,000 that autumn, and the company now turned to another expedient, bonds. The Sentinel was "gratified" in May, 1852, to hear that sales of the L. & U. M.'s bonds in New York "brought the favorable price of over 90." On June 1, DeLancey, Iselin & Clark of New York had sold $500,000 worth at 93, and early in the following year they were quoted at 99.

On May 28, 1852, the Locomotive reported track laid from Lawrenceburg to Greensburg. But in the summer of '53 it was still incomplete. The Sentinel announced that the "Lawrenceburg p376Road" (Why not the Lawrenceburg & Indianapolis? demanded the editor) ran its first train on September 5. It left Indianapolis at 8 in the morning, and in about an hour arrived at Buck Creek, "where there was a gap of about a mile and a quarter, across which the passengers had to walk." With this handicap, they reached Shelbyville in about two hours. Coming back, the walk was half a mile less; that much track had been laid during the day. Some of the track "was not even spiked except at the ends of the rails — and yet it was the smoothest, best road we have travelled over in the State." Perhaps this was because the rails were of "American manufacture," producing "smoothness and freedom from noise." After they had made the trip, "a stockholder was heard to remark that his stock was worth ten percent more than it had been in the morning."

In the following month the name of the company was changed to Indianapolis & Cincinnati. The road now being open from end to end, notices appeared in the Indianapolis papers to the effect that a train leaving that city at 1 P.M. would connect at Lawrenceburg "with the fast steamer Forrest (sic) Queen," which would serve dinner on board and reach Cincinnati at 7 P.M., in time for passengers to attend the theater. Returning, you left Cincinnati at 6 A.M. and bowled into Indianapolis at noon. The fare was three dollars.

Seventy-two years later, when the fare was $3.98 and the running time two hours and thirty-five minutes, a Big Four official pointed out that in 1853 twelve crossties could be bought for that three dollar fare, in 1925 only three; and other items had risen proportionately.2

In 1853, when Indianapolis had railroads to Terre Haute, Richmond, Cleveland, Peru, Lafayette, Lawrenceburg and Louisville, and was beginning to regard itself as the hub of the universe, a p377 union depot was erected, after much wrangling among the rails. The Indiana Journal announced that it was going to call the building a station hereafter, as "Depot is a French word, signifying a town or place where goods are lodged for safe-keeping or for reshipment." The Locomotive jeered at the Journal, remarking that it was a pity Noah Webster hadn't consulted its editor before he compiled his dictionary.

The new road was prospering. In December of that year, the Journal remarked that the freight business "is exceeding the most sanguine predictions of its projectors. The receipts for freight alone have been more than $1,000 per day for some time past. One day this week 95 cars arrived in Lawrenceburg full of freight. More cars are being built. . . ." The fact was that the same revolution was taking place here as elsewhere with the coming of the railroad. Farmers who had been dragging their products through mud, to receive 10 cents a bushel for corn and one or two cents a pound for salt pork now found themselves, by comparison, prospering. New industries sprang up, and the whole economy of the region strode forward in seven-league boots.

Trouble hit the passenger business that summer, however, when the Ohio River fell so low that a dispatch from Aurora reported that "Large boats are aground or laying up." The Locomotive saw no fun in "laying on sandbars, with mosquitoes buzzing and biting,"a and suggested that if people must go to Cincinnati, they go by the Indianapolis & Bellefontaine via Union City. The editor had fallen out with Cincinnati, anyhow, and urged Indianapolis to do her trading with Cleveland, a city of 30,000, with good rail connections and "every facility needed." The Locomotive was growing rather high-and‑mighty, not to say pontifical, despite the fact that few people seemed to heed its homilies.

In 1855, it quoted with approval "an idea which has been lost sight of by railroad managers and our citizens," namely the opinion of a local thinker that "an unnecessary number of trains are run on our railroads to accomodate travellers from distant states," and that one train daily would do all the business necessary. "This extravagance is wrong," and if it were abandoned, the writer had "no doubt that it would add 8 or 10 percent to the dividends of these railroads. They should arrange their running time to suit the citizens of Indiana, and not those of Massachusetts or Texas." (Interstate commerce? Pouf!) "All trains," concluded the water, "should arrive in this city between 11 and p37812 A.M. and depart from it at 1 or 2 o'clock P.M." We cannot find that any railroad even troubled itself to reply to these suggestions.

On November 5, 1853, the road had its first accident, when the breaking of an axle "caused the smashing of two new passenger cars. No persons were seriously injured, as the cars were running at the rate of twelve miles an hour."

Judge George H. Dunn of Lawrenceburg, who had been the tireless promoter of the road and its president since its birth, died soon after it was completed, and General T. A. Morris, former chief engineer of the Indianapolis & Bellefontaine, was chosen to succeed him. For some time the head office of the company was at General Morris's rural home near the station named in his honor below Greensburg. Other towns along the line, such as Batesville and Sunman, were also named for early promoters and directors.

When the Ohio & Mississippi pushed its rails past Lawrenceburg, it proved to be a six-footer, which was disconcerting, for the I. & C. had hoped to run through trains into Cincinnati over its track. But General Morris effected a contract with the O. & M., whereby it laid a third rail to create a standard gauge. This arrangement continued until 1863, when the I. & C. obtained another entrance into what was beginning to call itself the Queen City of the West. And here into the story intrude new elements and new characters not so pleasant.

The Cincinnati & Indiana Railroad, under the presidency of an enterprising gentleman named Henry C. Lord, built that connection, running out of Cincinnati to the Indiana boundary just beyond Valley Junction. According to the surviving records, the C. & I. was incorporated in 1861, but the Ingalls investigating committee, ten years later declared that as early as 1853 it had owned a charter for a railroad from Valley Junction northward to Harrison, seven miles distant and also at the state line. Having opened its own track in '63, the C. & I. made a contract with President Lord and William Dwight, another of its directors, under which those two were to receive a perpetual lease of it from the C. & I., with whom they were to split the gross — not the net — earnings. The Ingalls Committee could not find that this lease was ever executed, but everybody concerned proceeded as if it were. Lord and Dwight's share of the receipts in the first year amounted to $10,000, and by 1870 had risen to $24,000.

Even in the middle 1850's, Lord had bought stock in the Indianapolis p379& Cincinnati, and before the end of the decade, he was its president, and scheming to extend the line towards Chicago. In that direction two companies were born in 1849 which were destined to become a part of our picture. One, the Cincinnati, Lafayette & Chicago, was promoted by Adams D. Earl and others of Lafayette to connect that little city with Kankakee, Illinois, 75 miles distant, where it would intercept the Illinois Central going into Chicago. Earl was also the promoter of an east-and‑west railroad through Lafayette which later became a part of the Lake Erie & Western, and the C. L. & C. used the track of this road to Templeton, eighteen miles distant. It is interesting to note that these trackage rights, Lafayette to Templeton and Kankakee to Chicago, are still in effect at the present moment.

The other birth of 1849 was that of the Lafayette & Indianapolis, a sixty-five-mile line completed in 1852, traversing four of the typically lush agricultural counties of upper Indiana. It was a money-maker from the start, which might be a reason for its cockiness and disposition to be noisy. The Locomotive complained one day in April, 1853, that

For the last two Sabbaths the cars on the Lafayette railroad have come in at church time, blowing their whistle and making a noise in the street. Of course this is not sanctioned by the Officers and Directors of these roads. It would be well to make an example of those engineers that must run their cars on Sunday.

In 1857, Mr. Lord, by this time president of the Indianapolis & Cincinnati, reported that an arrangement had been made "with the chain of roads to Chicago via Lafayette" for through freight shipments from Cincinnati "to the various points reached by these avenues." In these reports — always personal reports of Mr. Lord's, not the directors' — one begins to obtain hints as to his methods, as well as to the condition of the company. In 1859, he told of building three stations at small towns along the line, the contractors accepting in payment "the bonds of 1858 at 80 cents on the dollar." A railroad is reimbursed for such expenditures, he assured the stockholders, by increased good will. "I am not aware," he added, piously, "that the Company has an enemy upon the line of its Road."

A series of curious little fiascos in central Indiana should now be noticed. In 1846, the Martinsville & Franklin Railroad was incorporated, to give Martinsville a connection, 26 miles long, p380 with the Madison & Indianapolis Railroad, just coming through. Offices for the sale of stock were opened in Martinsville, Morgantown, Franklin, Williamsburg (better known as Nineveh), Vernon, Madison, Cincinnati, Bloomington, Mt. Tabor (try and find Mt. Tabor, Indiana, on the map now) and Gosport. A directors' meeting in May, 1848, appointed Colonel John Vawter a solicitor, and he was "requested to take with him when on his tour to the Whig national convention, to be holden in Philadelphia in June next, a subscription book . . . the book which has been deposited at Vernon" (which ancient and sleepy hamlet evidently had not been subscribing much) and the Colonel was exhorted to sell stock "in all the cities he may visit on his tour aforesaid," for they had so far gotten only $27,650 promised, all told, to be paid in cash, land, materials and labor.

Not until 1853 could they put the road into operation, and then it was immediately leased for five years to the Madison & Indianapolis. It was a strap-rail affair, so flimsy and rough that once when an engineer went reckless and dashed along at 25 miles an hour, "to the great alarm of the passengers," the superintendent, who was on board, took over the engine himself and moderated the speed. An old-timer3 recalls a characteristic incident:

The crew got off at a switch and helped themselves to apples in a near-by orchard . . . a man and woman came down from the adjacent farmhouse, and Thompson expected them to make a protest against the trespass. On the contrary, the man made them welcome, evidently being glad to see visitors, and the woman sealed the friendliness by delivering to the conductor some samples of dry goods, asking him to match them at Martinsville and bring back her money's worth on his return. The conductor accepted the samples and the commission, and in due time they ambled on.

When the M. & I.'s lease on the road expired in 1858, the Martinsville's strap‑rail-wood-stringer track was expiring, too. The company tried operating its own trains for a few months, gave it up, and the road lay unused for seven years. Then a colorful promoter from New England came barging into Indiana — General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Ambrose E. Burnside, whose command of the Army of the Potomac had lasted through one disastrous battle, whose name as applied to whiskers has been absurdly reversed in modern parlance to sideburns, who was just embarking in the p381 locomotive manufacturing business in Providence, and who apparently had the idea of going out and creating railroads to buy his engines. In 1868, the stockholders of the Martinsville & Franklin agreed to hand over all their stock to Burnside, and citizens along the line contributed some cash, in consideration of all of which the General agreed to rebuild the road and extend it to a connection with the Indianapolis & Cincinnati, which he did at Fairland. The new company was the Fairland, Franklin & Martinsville.

In 1865, the Indianapolis & Cincinnati was in arrears with its trackage rental payments to the Ohio & Mississippi, and probably did not care greatly, anyhow, for it had its own track into Cincinnati now via Valley Junction (albeit several miles farther that way than by O. & M.); so it picked a quarrel with the O. & M. over the rate, and the latter brought suit. But in the spring of '66 a flood in the Great Miami River washed away the O. & M. bridge and cut that railroad in two. The O. & M. superintendent now came meekly to the I. & C. directors, begging leave to lay a third rail over the track which it had built from Lawrenceburg to Valley Junction, and over the Cincinnati & Indiana from there to Cincinnati, so that their six-foot trains might get into the city. "Only if you withdraw that suit," replied Lord, tartly. The suit was withdrawn.

The I. & C.'s liabilities, as reported by Lord in 1865 and accepted by the directors, were $1,250,000 in bonded debt and $5,750,000 in stock. But bigger and better debts were just around the corner. In his advance towards the Northwest, he had begun reaching out for the Lafayette & Indianapolis. That concern for some time was so obdurate that in '66 Lord organized and began building a roughly parallel line northwestward through Crawfordsville. That brought the L. & I. to its knees, and on February 14, 1867, its stockholders received a wry sort of valentine, informing them that they had come under the domination of H. C. Lord.

He first made arrangements to lease it, but in a short time amalgamated it with the I. & C. In the minutes of the latter road's directors, that supposedly complete record of the company's doings, without any recorded warning or authorization by the board, the company suddenly begins to be called, in the spring of '67, the Indianapolis, Cincinnati & Lafayette. Then President Lord reveals to the board that an arrangement to take over the Lafayette & Indianapolis had been made on January 8; p382 and that was that. This high-handed proceeding seems to have been accepted by the board as an Act of God; but the eastern security holders, who attended meetings only by proxy and hearsay, began to grow restive.

Having achieved his purpose with the Lafayette road, Lord promptly dropped the construction of the new road through Crawfordsville, much to the irritation of the people along that line, as well as the city of Indianapolis, which had contributed $5,000 to the project. Local promoters prepared to carry the thing through, as we shall see later.

About this time, Lord and Dwight, having completed their Harrison Branch Railroad in 1864, schemed to go farther with it. They promoted the White Water Valley Railroad in 1865, and built it up that stream in Indiana, still finding a cheap roadbed in the old White Water Canal towpath through Brookville and Connersville to Cambridge City, 55 miles distant. The charter permitted them to continue 8 miles farther to Hagerstown, but they hadn't the money at the moment. The investigating committee a few years later delicately remarked that the road "seems to have been built by parties largely interested in the Indianapolis, Cincinnati & Lafayette Railroad, in the hope of large profits to themselves and also to the I. C. & L. Company."4

In November, 1867, the I. C. & L. took a lease of the White Water for an annual rental of $140,000, paying all expenses, doing all repairs and supplying all equipment. The I. C. & L. also acquired the dubious privilege of constructing that additional 8 miles to Hagerstown, and made a contract with — whom do you guess? — Henry C. Lord and B. E. Smith, to do the building, the company delivering to them in payment $205,000 in scrip bearing 8 percent interest.

General Burnside was reaching out in various directions. In 1867 he wheedled Lord — always an easy convert to expansion — into adding to the Franklin & Martinsville (which the I. C. & L. had leased) a new line under construction from Martinsville to Gosport, soon to be a part of the new Indianapolis & Vincennes road; and a little later Lord added an extension from Martinsville to Indianapolis. The General had other promotions — the p383Chicago & Great Eastern and the Chicago, Columbus & Indiana Southern, $500,000 in bonds of which he unloaded on the I. C. & L. Lord was now busily conniving with Ohio and Pennsylvania railroads to take over some of Burnside's lines and others to westward. In conjunction with the C. C. & C., the P. F. W. & C. and the Chicago, Columbus & Indiana Southern, he prepared to lease the entire Indianapolis & Vincennes,5 with the right to "a similar lease of a road from Vincennes to Cairo when completed" — our first hint of another of Burnside's promotions, the Cairo, Vincennes & Chicago, of which more later. But the C. C. & C. and P. F. W. & C. withdrew from the deal, and their places were taken by the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati & St. Louis and the Pennsylvania. The latter eventually absorbed the P. C. & St. L., and the I. & V. is still a Pennsylvania branch.

The negotiations of 1867, whereby the Bellefontaine, C. C. & C., Lake Shore, P. F. W. & C. and Pennsylvania strove to get a controlling interest in the Terre Haute & Indianapolis and to lease the St. Louis, Alton & Terre Haute have been related in the previous chapter; also the procuring of the lease and the building of the Indianapolis & St. Louis, which passed under the control of the newly organized Bee Line. Lord was in on this deal, but his company reaped no profit from it. Almost the only smart thing the I. C. & L. did about this time was the promotion of the Methodist camp-ground at Acton, near Indianapolis, which, through the decades that followed, proved a good source of revenue. They aided the project in 1868 by donating ten plank-floored tents, and later, $1,450 in cash.

The company was so hard up that year that in April the directors voted to sell or pledge the $500,000 bonds of the Chicago, Columbus & Indiana Central, $100,000 stock of the Cincinnati & Indiana and $90,000 stock of the Martinsville road, or any part thereof on such terms as they could get. In November, they borrowed $250,000 from the Pennsylvania at 7 percent interest, pledging $150,000 stock of the Cincinnati & Indiana as security. The board voted to the president and themselves 2 percent commissions for negotiating the loans — which will convey a rough idea of how things were going. Eastern security owners had begun p384 to complain about it. The East, though it owned large quantities of stock and bonds, had never had much to say about the company's affairs. Of the nine directors, three were from Cincinnati, three from Indianapolis, two from New York and one from Boston. Lord used his proxies deftly. His home town was really the "ground floor;" he had even taken the shops away from Indianapolis and Lafayette and moved them to Cincinnati.

The eastern stock- and bondholders got no immediate satisfaction of their demands to know what was toward. But when they heard in the summer of 1869 that the board had issued $2,000,000 more in bonds to pay floating debts, and when the news trickled back to them that Mr. Lord had been voted a "special compensation" for his services as president and general superintendent (there was also an under-superintendent), they began moving towards action. One of Mr. Lord's last communiqués was issued in the spring of 1870, when the Indianapolis & Vincennes asked to be absolved from the lease, as the Pennsylvania wanted to take it over for the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati & St. Louis. Lord reported to the board that (railroads were feminine thereabouts in that era) "If this company should retain her interest in the lease, she would be compelled" to pay her part towards putting the I. & V. in condition, as that concern couldn't do it alone. So the I. & V. passed into Pennsylvania hands and is a branch of that road at the present time.

Here the shareholders, both east and west, swooped down on the scene, demanded an overhauling and installed a committee of two to do the job. One of these was John S. Kennedy, one of the New York directors, the other was a new force in railroads, a man destined to become one of the leading characters in the American rail drama. Melville E. Ingalls (1842‑1914), a native of Harrison, Maine, was a Massachusetts attorney, and although only twenty-eight years old, had already served with distinction in that state's legislature. He too had grown a beard to ameliorate somewhat his boyish appearance, and he wore it until death. This brilliant youth was chosen by eastern security holders to go to the front, take a seat on the board and do what he could to straighten out the tangle.

The events of the next few months are so confused that it is difficult to make head or tail of them. Under the influence of the old board, it is evident that for some time the minutes do not tell the whole story. In an off-the‑record meeting of some of the directors in an Indianapolis law office on October 24, 1870, p385Director T. A. Morris and Treasurer William T. Boaz resigned their positions so that they might be appointed by a Cincinnati court as receivers, to take possession of some $2,000,000 in assets in Ohio, "intending to defeat the bankruptcy act," as certain creditors charged in a suit several months later.

In a recorded session of the board at Morris, Indiana, on November 7, 1870, Ingalls was present as director and signed the minutes as president, though they do not show his election. George Bliss appears as one of the new board, and some following meetings were held in New York. It is evident that conflict was going on between old and new, between two claimants to leadership. The minutes do not show the election of a new board until the following January 19, when Ingalls's election to the presidency became a part of the record. He and Kennedy presented their report on the following day.

It said that the books had been very loosely kept. The gross receipts for the past three years appeared to have been about $1,800,000 annually, but there was no accurate account of expenses. The company had a fairly well-equipped main line 179 miles long, from Cincinnati to Lafayette. The I. C. & L. was practically the owner of the whole line, though the Ohio end of it was in the name of the Cincinnati & Indiana, a corporation with a stock capital of $2,000,000, of which "$1,400,000 is owned by the I. C. & L. Company and is lodged with J. Edgar Thomson, William A. Booth and Thomas A. Hendricks, Trustees, to secure the last issue (1869) of $2,000,000 of bonds of the I. C. & L., which bonds are also secured by a mortgage on the whole line of road, equipment and real estate." There was $43,200 worth of the C. & I. stock in the hands of various individuals, and by the terms of the lease of the C. & I. Company to the I. C. & L., "the latter is bound to pay 10 percent on it."

The company's debt in 1865, as already mentioned, was $7,000,000; in 1870, Ingalls found the bonded debt to be $8,000,000, floating debt, $1,500,000; stock issued, $5,750,000 — a total liability of $15,250,000; it had more than doubled in five years! The committee were astonished at this, as they had received "positive assurance from the late management that it was less."

To what this alarming increase is due, or where your money has gone, your committee, in the short time they have had, have not been able to determine. . . . A portion of it is undoubtedly due to the purchase of real estate in Cincinnati. A considerable amount has also been lost in running the leased lines.

p386 Of these, the company was supplying all equipment to the Martinsville road, doing all repairs and losing money steadily on it. For the White Water, too, it was supplying equipment, doing repairs, paying all taxes and expenses, and on top of these was paying a yearly rental of more than $180,000. They were losing heavily there, too. The White Water, cheaply built along a ready-made grade, the old canal towpath, could have been constructed, in the committee's opinion, for less than half of the more than $2,500,000 on which the company was paying 7 percent interest. But this wasn't all:

For some reason not known to your committee, in 1868 the entire business of the Indianapolis, Cincinnati & Lafayette Company between Chicago and Cincinnati was turned over to this White Water line, thus getting only 88 miles of haul, instead of 179 by Lafayette; this notwithstanding the fact that our Company at the time had good arrangements with the roads running from Lafayette to Chicago.

It also appears that our Company loaned $250,000 to the Chicago & Great Eastern Railroad and took $500,000 of their bonds. It is the first instance your committee have ever met where a railroad has loaned its credit to build a rival road to compete with its own main line.

There was much more to the report, but this is enough. Ingalls and Morris were appointed receivers in Indiana in March, 1871, and Ingalls accordingly resigned as president and director. Suits were brought by creditors that year and by the city of Lawrenceburg, the latter because the company had failed to redeem $25,000 in bonds bought by the city and now matured. The ensuing trial was a celebrated one, with no less than twenty-three major attorneys and numerous satellites appearing on the two sides. Among them were George Hoadly, later governor of Ohio, Thomas A. Hendricks, afterwards senator and Vice-President, Benjamin Harrison, senator and President, and another future senator or two. Some of the testimony was illuminating. W. W. Smith, vice-president of the company, testified that in October, 1870, the I. C. & L. was far in arrears with its employees' wages and its bond interest. Asked whether the company was borrowing from Cincinnati banks at the time, he replied, "She was."

"To a large or small extent?" was next asked.

"Some days she would borrow $5,000, some days as much as p387$25,000 and on some occasions as high as $30,000 or $40,000." It was revealed that Lord was the endorser on practically all of these notes, that they habitually borrowed from one bank to repay another, and that on loans up to $15,000, they were apt to pay as high as one percent a month. The former secretary of the company testified that a "one-man power" existed, that the books were kept rigidly secret, and he was amazed by the manner in which the stockholders continued to send their proxies to Lord, knowing nothing of what was going on, though aware that the company was in deep water financially. There had been a $50,000 overissue of stock, which was used as collateral for loans.

There were numerous shady episodes revealed as the case dragged on. J. F. Richardson, superintendent of the road, who also owned a coal elevator in Cincinnati and had a monopoly of coal sales to the company as well as preferential freight rates, also informally operated the Indianapolis & Vincennes for a time, borrowing rolling stock from the I. C. & L. and splitting the gross proceeds with Mr. Lord. And there was a mysterious transaction whereby Lord endorsed a note for $16,300 given him by the company over to Zephaniah Heustis, a conductor, of whom we observe in 1866 that the directors voted to "relieve" him of loss by a $50 counterfeit bill given him by a passenger.

Lord fought back viciously, succeeded in having the receivers temporarily removed in 1872, but suffered final defeat in the election of '73, when Ingalls was again made president, and this time to stay. The road was taken out of bankruptcy that summer, but its condition was so desperate that he even considered leasing it to the Marietta & Cincinnati (now a part of the B. & O.). But with the brashness of youth, he sent forth a $9,000,000 bond issue in November of that panic year of '73, and prepared to obtain entrance to Chicago by buying control of the Cincinnati, Lafayette & Chicago, which carried on beyond Lafayette.

Ever since the building of the Cincinnati & Indiana, the trains had been making a six-mile detour over the old track down to Lawrenceburg, and in 1875 Ingalls eliminated this by a cutoff, so the parent town saw the main line trains no more.6 In 1879 the company encouraged the building of the Vernon, Greensburg & p388Rushville Railroad, which ran from Greensburg down to North Vernon, junction point of the Madison & Indianapolis with the Ohio & Mississippi. This little road was soon taken over under lease.

Those old bonds kept catching up with the company, and the hard times of the 1870's made it difficult to take care of them. Late in '76, on the petition of Judge Hoadly and other bondholders, Ingalls was again made receiver for a time; and so he continued, alternately receiver and president, but always with faith in the road, as is proven by the fact that in 1880 he owned 4,010 shares in it.

He was now ready for the first of his great associations. On March 6, 1880, he incorporated the Cincinnati, Indianapolis, St. Louis & Chicago, issued $7,500,000 in bonds, and took over the Cincinnati & Indiana, the Indianapolis, Cincinnati & Lafayette and the Cincinnati, Lafayette & Chicago. Despite some present-day erroneous notions to the contrary, this was the original Big Four. The story has been told that after the second Big Four — Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis — came into being, a broker's clerk found the name too cumbersome to write on a customers' room blackboard, and so just began calling it Big Four. But there are plenty of veteran railroaders still alive who will testify that its predecessor was the first to bear the nickname, though who originated it we have been unable to discover at this late date.

Ingalls had now become one of the leading citizens of Cincinnati and his railroad one of its best assets. It is found from time to time contributing $1,000 to the Cincinnati Exposition, the May Musical Festival and other causes, but there was one to which it turned a deaf ear. When, in 1882, its former master, Henry C. Lord, wrote to the board an appeal which, in spite of what we know about him, has a touch of pathos in it, for the loan of a thousand dollars with which to promote some property belonging to his wife, the board replied coldly that they could not use the company's money in any such manner.

In 1881, the Big Four, in partnership with the Rock Island, was building a track from Kankakee to Seneca, Illinois, a short cut for westbound freight bypassing Chicago. It also took over a fragment of the Cincinnati & Terre Haute, which in 1871 had set out to connect those two cities, but progressed only 26 miles out of Terre Haute and 10 miles westward from Greensburg. The former bit later became a part of the Evansville & Indianapolis, the p389latter was expanded into the Columbus, Hope & Greensburg, completed in 1884 and leased by the Big Four. And as the decade of the 1880's waned, Ingalls was moving towards bigger things.

Collis P. Huntington, head of the Southern Pacific and the Chesapeake & Ohio, appears as a Big Four director in 1881, presaging future connections between the two. At the request of Huntington, Ingalls became receiver for the Kentucky Central, which ran from Covington (opposite Cincinnati) down through Lexington and beyond. The Chesapeake & Ohio at that time was bringing its Cincinnati traffic from the East via Lexington and the K. C.; but in the latter 1880's it built a line down the south bank of the Ohio River to Covington and bridged the river to obtain its own entrance into Cincinnati.7

As we remarked in the previous chapter, the Vanderbilts had bought a controlling interest in the Bee Line, and now they were also investing in the Big Four. In Ingalls they saw a valuable ally and an indispensable executive. With their aid a great consolidation was accomplished. On June 7, 1889, in Ohio and on the following day in Indiana the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad Company, a new empire, came into being — a fusion of the Bee Line and Big Four, with a capital of p390$20,500,000 common stock and $1,000,000 preferred. Of the fifteen directors, seven were from New York and the names of five of them, Cornelius and William K. Vanderbilt, Chauncey M. Depew, H. McK. Twombly and J. P. Morgan, reveal how powerful the Vanderbilt interest was. Cincinnati's influence was not small, either; she had five directors, while Cleveland claimed only two and Columbus one.

But Ingalls had not yet completed his kingdom. That Cairo & Vincennes Railroad, promoted by General Burnside, chartered in 1867, had become a line of some strategic importance. The General had gotten some liberal aid from counties and towns along the way, Cairo alone with its county voting $100,000 in bonds to buy stock. Burnside succeeded in validating an old State survey for the line, by which he acquired a 200‑foot right of way, much of it wooded, which supplied ties, bridge timbers and engine fuel and left some land to be sold. The General was not only promoter, but contractor for building the road, and thus got his, coming and going. Financial trouble caused a stoppage of the work in '69, the line was at last opened in 1872 with a grand celebration, and the whiskered hero as the central figure, bowing to the plaudits of the multitude. It was an anticlimax when the roads lumped into receivership in 1874 and languished there six years.

To northward in 1869, the Paris & Danville Railroad was born, to utilize that old north-and‑south grade near the Indiana line, a part of the great internal improvement vision of 1835, which was abandoned when the bubble burst. By '76, the P. & D. had built a track from Danville through Paris (on the St. Louis, Alton & Terre Haute) to Lawrenceville on the Ohio & Mississippi. In '79 another little company appeared, to connect Lawrenceville with the Cairo & Vincennes at St. Francisville, ten miles to southward. p391This completed a 260‑mile chain from Cairo north to Danville, pointing directly at Chicago.

In 1881, the Paris & Danville reappears as the Danville & Southwestern, and very soon afterward, together with the St. Francisville & Lawrenceville and the Cairo & Vincennes, it came under the control of the Wabash, St. Louis & Pacific, then dominated by Jay Gould. But Gould had overreached himself, and the whole Wabash system went into receivership in 1884. In '89, by foreclosure under the terms of a divisional mortgage, the Danville-Cairo chain was sold and reappeared, welded into a single company known as the Cairo, Vincennes & Chicago, in which gentlemen named Ingalls, Vanderbilt, et al. were more or less interested. This company proceeded on November 1, 1890, to obtain by deed the entire St. Louis, Alton & Terre Haute Railroad, and itself then became a part of the new Big Four. Not until 1906 was its line extended northward by the Chicago, Indiana Southern to Indiana Harbor, and a connection with the main New York Central lines into Chicago.

The feint by Mr. Lord in 1865‑66 from Indianapolis through Crawfordsville, to force the Lafayette & Indianapolis to yield to him has been mentioned. Others took up the work where he dropped it, and pushed it on past Crawfordsville, to encounter the old right of way of the Newcastle & Danville, incorporated in 1854 to build from Newcastle, northeast by east of Indianapolis, across the state to Danville, Illinois. A little grading was done on it between Crawfordsville and Covington, and then it died. The new company utilized its remains and reached Danville with its railhead in 1867.

Here it met the survey of the Central east-and‑west line of the great state project of 1835. It had been graded for 16 miles eastward from Pekin, on the Illinois River just south of Peoria, when the depression stopped it in 1841. In 1853, the Bloomington & Pekin Railroad was incorporated and acquired the old survey and grade by quit-claim deed from the state, but could do no more. Civic leaders in Bloomington wanted to bond the township for $100,000 in aid of the project, but were outvoted, and the right of way slumbered for another decade. Then the Danville, Urbana, Bloomington & Pekin Railroad was organized in 1867, and McLean County really did itself proud, Bloomington Township producing $100,000 in bonds, Empire Township, $75,000 and West Township, $20,000. Other counties also contributed, and with this support, the track was built at comparatively good p392speed to Danville. In '69 it consolidated with the Indianapolis, Crawfordsville & Danville to form the Indianapolis, Bloomington & Western. The depression claimed it as a victim in '74, and it was operated by a receiver until 1879, when it was bought by a committee headed by Austin Corbin and came forth as the Indiana, Bloomington & Western.

This company proceeded to extend its sphere of influence to Springfield, Ohio, taking over two feeble attempts to accomplish that aim. These, known as the Indianapolis & Ohio State Line and the Ohio & Indiana State Line, had built only scraps of track in their respective territories. Newcastle, Indiana, the largest town on the route, fought hard to put them over. The Newcastle Courier ran a daily column, first headed "Railroad News," and then "Track and Train," to boost subscriptions. But nothing seemed to avail greatly until the I. B. & W. took a hand in 1881, when the two companies were first fused into one known as the Ohio, Indiana & Pacific, and this, after a corporate existence of two days (March 22‑24), was gathered in by the I. B. & W. The latter then completed the track and leased the Cincinnati, Sandusky & Cleveland, giving it a line from Peoria-Pekin through Indianapolis to the shore of Lake Erie.

But this more than doubled mileage sat heavily upon the I. B. & W.'s digestion. In 1886 a receiver took over, and in '87 the road went through an extraordinary series of metamorphoses. Within eleven days it was broken into three parts — those in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois respectively — and sold, first to a committee, then to Charles W. Fairbanks (an Indianapolis attorney, later senator and Vice-president), who almost instantly resold the parts to three new corporations. Two of these — those in Indiana and Illinois — then combined, and on November 11, the whole line, from Sandusky to Pekin, was back in one piece again, as the Ohio, Indiana & Western; in receivership from its birth; which reminds us of the Baxter clothier of long ago, who began business with a closing-out sale.

There was a bond foreclosure in 1890, followed by a process of financiering too long and complicated to set down here; but from it came a new corporation, the Peoria & Eastern, of whose 99,942 shares the New York Central owns 50,102. The P. & E. in turn owns 1,730 of the 10,000 shares of the Peoria & Pekin Union Railroad, a profitable terminal and belt maze which — though Peoria and Pekin stations are only nine miles apart, owns 127 miles of main track and sidings.

p393 Mr. Ingalls was now well on the way with his empire building, but there was more to come. Early in 1870, the Warsaw, Goshen & White Pigeon Railroad Company was organized, and amazingly enough, by August 1 of the same year, it had constructed a 24½‑mile line between Warsaw and Goshen. In the following year it absorbed the Grand Rapids, Wabash & Cincinnati — in existence two years with nothing accomplished — the new name being Cincinnati, Wabash & Michigan. This company sturdily pushed its terminus southward, through Wabash and Marion to Anderson, on the Bee Line, which it reached in 1876 and from which place it operated in later years through trains over the Big Four into Indianapolis. The L. S. & M. S. had helped it by buying $437,000 in bonds, but in '77 its president, A. G. Wells, is found complaining that although his company had thrown all possible business to the Lake Shore, the latter had done very little in return.

The C. W. & M. is remembered during the years following that for a superintendent, Mr. Lamport, who railroaded accordin' to the Bible. There were, as a rule, few papers on his desk, but there was always a Bible. When confronted by a tough problem, he would open the Book to discover if possible what Moses or Isaiah or the Apostle Paul would have done or said in such an emergency, and he usually found an example or a precept to guide him.

As might be expected, there was a foreclosure and reorganization in the company's life story. This took place in 1880, when the company's name was changed from C. W. & M. Railroad to C. W. & M. Railway. It then took over the Elkhart, Niles & Lake Michigan Railroad, which placed its northern terminus at Niles, Michigan, and from there it extended itself to the Lake Michigan shore at Benton Harbor in 1882. Significant conjunctions began to appear in its horoscope, and when we read in the 1890 report that among its directors were such men as James Stillman, M. E. Ingalls, John Newell, George Bliss, Chauncey M. Depew and Cornelius Vanderbilt, no astrologer is needed to foretell its future. In 1891, its entire capital stock was bought by the C. C. C. & St. L. Its line was then extended from Anderson to Rushville, where it touched the Vernon, Greensburg & Rushville division of the Big Four.

Here, then, was completed a north-south line which Ingalls desired to see pushed on to Louisville. He sought trackage rights over the Ohio & Mississippi's Louisville division, but was repulsed, whereupon a corps of Big Four engineers took the field p395and drew a survey alongside the O. & M. track from North Vernon to Jeffersonville. Here Ingalls, in company with his ally, Huntington, had taken over a project, first conceived in 1887, to build another railroad bridge over the Ohio River between Jeffersonville and Louisville, and the structure, begun in 1890, was already well under way. The O. & M. quickly capitulated, and granted trackage rights which are continued under its successor, the B. & O. In Louisville the bridge company had the usual trouble with one landholder over the price of his property, and under its eminent domain right, had to slice off a corner of his brick business building one night while he slept, settling with him later by court award. The Big Four owned two-thirds of the stock of the bridge company until 1927, when it purchased the other third from the Chesapeake & Ohio.

After those two busy years, 1890‑91, Ingalls sought no more acquisitions to the Big Four for a while. But having, through association with Huntington, become much interested in the Chesapeake & Ohio, he persuaded the Vanderbilt interests to buy the aging Huntington's stock in it, even before the new Big Four was organized. He was thereupon elected president of the C. & O. also, and proceeded to make it and the old Big Four a powerful through line, especially for freight, from the Virginia seaboard to Chicago. It hauled West Virginia coal and coke to the Great Lakes and Mississippi Valley regions, and brought back among other things the grain and flour of the West and Northwest to the ocean front at Newport News.

With the mergers of 1889‑91 the new Big Four became a part of what was known to the business world as the Vanderbilt Lines, and the beautiful orange passenger trains of the old Big Four, with the dark maroon band above the windows, on which was painted the railroad's name, began to disappear. One legend which pervaded the midwestern air was that a master painter, the only one who had the formula for mixing that wonderful orange color, had died and taken the secret with him. But the fact was that the Big Four orange and the Bee Line red must now give way to the conventional blackish-green of their new overlord, the New York Central and nearly all other railroads in the country. The NYC for many years did not absorb or lease the Big Four; its higher-ups just continue to buy its stock, until they accumulated a controlling interest.

Ingalls added one more rail to his collection before he ended that phase of his work. Away back in 1852‑53, a line had been p396projected to run from Cincinnati, up through all the capitals of the westernmost tier of Ohio counties into Michigan. A considerable quantity of stock was sold, much grading done and thousands of ties bought and stacked along the right of way. Then the panic of '57 struck, and the company died of the wound. Those ties actually lay there in that gash through the woods and rotted. In 1881, the Cincinnati, Van Wert & Michigan was incorporated, to cover the same ground. It took over two somnolent charters along the old right of way, and succeeded in building track most of the way from Franklin, on the Bee Line between Cincinnati and Dayton, to the Michigan boundary. In 1886, it combined with the Jackson & Ohio — chartered two years before, to build from Jackson down to the Ohio border — and the result was the Cincinnati, Jackson & Mackinaw Railroad.

This passed through the deft hands of Calvin S. Brice at one time in the 1890's, and eventually, in 1897‑98, to the Cincinnati Northern Railroad, which had been first organized in '94 as the Dayton & Cincinnati Terminal Railroad Company. The Northern also acquired the entire capital stock of the Detroit, Toledo & Milwaukee, but in 1902 resold that to the Michigan Central. In that same year all the stock of the Cincinnati Northern became the property of the Big Four. That corporation now had a web of more than 2,300 miles of track, serving the larger cities of four of the great middle western states.

The Big Four was much pestered by the great western railroad strike of 1894, which was particularly virulent in Chicago. There a mile or more of freight cars were burning in the yards at once, precipitating the use of United States transports by President Cleveland, and opening a violent controversy between Right and Left which continues to this day. But there was one feature of the strike which appears remarkable now; in very nearly all cases the trains carrying the United States mails continued to run; the union men of the day had respect for national law.

The stoppage of freight trains forced the shipment of many heavy articles by express — pianos, stoves, farm and shop machinery, etc., which must be hustled on and off fast trains, frequently at junction points, where scheduled stops were brief. Some men remained loyal to the companies and worked overtime, for extra trains carrying mail were run. Some men "doubled back" on their runs again and again, and were out two or three weeks without a chance to see home. One man claimed he was absent so long that his children forgot him, and when he p397finally went home, they ran and reported to their mother, "Mommie, they's a tramp comin' in the gate."

When in 1900 the Pennsylvania joined with the Big Four and the New York Central in ownership of the Chesapeake & Ohio, Ingalls relinquished the presidency of the last-named company. He too was growing old; he now gave up the presidency of the great reticulum which he had created, and became chairman of the board, which position he held until 1912, when failing health forced him into retirement. He died two years later.

In 1920, the Big Four made its last addition to its family, when it annexed the Evansville, Indianapolis & Terre Haute, a curving appendage pieced together out of the old Evansville & Indianapolis and a fragment of the still-born Terre Haute & Cincinnati. And in 1930 the New York Central at last formally leased the Big Four for ninety-nine years. They had found total absorption of the Lake Shore such a troublesome and costly job that they decided to be content with leases and stock ownership for the Big Four and Michigan Central. In the latest report, the NYC owns $54,874,133 worth of the $57,027,300 issued stock of the Big Four, or more than 96 percent. Of the Michigan Central's $18,736,400 stock, it owns $18,671,460, or more than 99 percent; which means that paying the dividends on the stock of these two companies is mostly just a process of taking cash out of one pocket and putting it into another.

The locomotives and trains which tread the old Big Four rails may flaunt the words, "New York Central," but even as in Michigan, loyalty to the old name persists; to veteran employees and to many citizens, it is still the Big Four. At the top of the blackboards outside the way stations which tell you whether trains are on time, the name you see is still "C. C. C. & St. L. Ry." In the lobby of the building in Indianapolis where the company's offices are located you will look in vain for "New York Central" on the directory; but look for Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis, and there it is. The Middle West is still not quite reconciled to the suzerainty of those fellows in New York, and who is there cantankerous enough to chide them for it?
(p394) 
[image ALT: A railroad map of Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio with a network of main lines radiating from Indianapolis. It is a map of the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway system in 1895.]

1895 map of the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway

[A larger, fully readable version opens here (4.7 MB).]


The Author's Notes:

1 It was the bright idea of Governor Ray of Indiana that when a railroad crossed a ravine, they could just saw of all the trees in the right of way at even height, and build the bridge across the gulch on the stumps!

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2 At this writing, the cost of a coach ticket is less than it was in 1853, and on that luxurious all-coach train, the James Whitcomb Riley, you flit, non-stop, over the 109 miles from Cincinnati to Indianapolis in 105 minutes. Indiana is usually thought of as a level state, but when the road was first built, the climb out of the Ohio Valley up towards Greensburg reached at one place the steepness of ninety-two feet to the mile, and a helper engine was used. Since then, by their own special brand of necromancy, engineers have reduced that grade by twenty-five feet or more, and yet shortened the distance; have cut out nineteen of the former twenty-seven bridges over Tanner's Creek — which used to wash away the track occasionally — spending all told as much as the original track cost, but the results have been worth it.

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3 E. C. Thompson in Indianapolis News, July 8, 1922.

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4 The general slovenliness of procedure in the Lord domain is indicated by pretty authentic gossip among the old settlers that much of the White Water was surveyed with a measuring chain, the links of which were so worn that it was two or three feet longer than it should be, so that the actual length of the road was in doubt.

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5 When the contracts were first let for the I. & V., or Indiana Southwestern, as it was once called, they specified that the contractors must make their own iron rails. Indianapolis editors doubted that this was practicable: said it had been tried on the East Tennessee, Virginia & Georgia and didn't work. It didn't work on the I. & V., either.

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6 After the great flood of 1913, when the B. & O.'s bridge over the Great Miami was again swept away, the trains of that road for many years passed over the Big Four track from Lawrenceburg to North Bend. Then flood control work upstate again nerved the B. & O. to bridge the river once more.

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7 Despite his distinctions, Mr. Ingalls retained his sense of humor and relished jokes at his own expense. Once he went back to the old home village in Maine, and while sitting with the local philosophers around the stove in the general store, one old-timer remarked, "Mel, I hear you're drawin' down ten thousand a year now."

Mel was drawing more than that, but he suspected that if he said so, he wouldn't be believed, so he modestly admitted the ten thousand.

"Well," said the ancient, "it jest goes to show what cheek and circumstances will do for a man."

Another incident to which he confessed — long afterward — had to do with a night when a train, with his private car at its tail, was stalled alongside a lonely little station. The crew, with the exception of a rear brakeman who had gone back with a flag, were all out ahead of the train somewhere. After some time had passed, Mr. Ingalls suggest to his son, a youth in his latter teens, that he go to the station and learn, if possible, what was the trouble. The son walked forward to the station, which was near the middle of the train, and found it tenanted by a lone operator in a green eyeshade, who was pounding a telegraph key like mad.

"Know why the train's stopped?" asked young Ingalls.

The operator ignored him and continued to hammer the brass. The boy, a bit diffident, stood irresolute a few moments, then went back to the car. "Operator was so busy, I hated to bother him," was the report.

There was another wait in dead silence for several minutes, and then the impatient executive sent his son up to the station again, but with the same result. "Can't get a word out of him," he reported upon his return.

"Well, I will!" snapped his father. He swung down from the car steps and strode to the station. "Say, what's the matter?" he demanded. "Why are we hung up here?"

With a barely perceptible pause in the clicking and the mere flick of a peevish glance aside at the questioner's legs, the operator grated, "If you G. d. s. o. b.'s will stay away from here and leave me alone, we'll get this thing straightened out."

After a moment's stunned hesitation, the president turned without a word and trudged meekly back to his car.

"Find out what was the matter?" asked his son.

"Oh, just a little trouble up ahead," replied the father, casually. "They'll have it cleared up directly."


Thayer's Note:

a The Ohio River has long been notorious for low flows, reefs, shoals and sand bars, with boats consequently grounding thruout its course, almost regardless of the rainfall in any given season. See for example Bedford's tour down the river in 1807, in which his boat is stranded a couple of times, and when it isn't grounded, there is constant worry that it might (Jan. 27-Feb. 3).


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Page updated: 25 Feb 13