In 1830, when Massachusetts was just chartering her first railroads and the little •seventeen-mile Mohawk & Hudson was not yet ready, mass meetings were being held — if you can justly speak of "mass" meetings in such small towns as Ohio had then — in hope of producing a railroad between Sandusky and Columbus; but the idea did not crystallize. In 1831 a charter was granted by the Legislature for this line, but not used, and in '32, amid great popular enthusiasm, no less than ten charters were handed out. The Cleveland Advertiser said on January 3 of that year, "The Railroad fever is permitted to rage unmolested in both houses. The Sandusky & Columbus and the Mad River & Lake Erie railroad bills are passed with liberal charters."
But chartering a railroad in Ohio was a job much easier done than building one. It was three years before the Mad River & Lake Erie, intended to run from Sandusky via Springfield to Dayton, could raise enough cash even to have a ground-breaking. At last, on September 7, 1835, a procession led by the Sandusky Rifle Corps formed in front of the Steamboat Hotel in that village and led the way to the spot where General William Henry Harrison, the hero of Tippecanoe, drove a spade into the sod, and "assisted by Governor Vance," declared the work begun, amidst rapturous enthusiasm which lacked the participation of a delegation of Wyandot Indians, near‑by residents, who stood looking on glumly. Their presence is sufficient commentary on the still raw condition of the country.
Three years now elapsed with little done, because there was so little money. But under the "Plunder Law" of 1838, mentioned in a previous chapter, the Mad River & Lake Erie was eventually p342 authorized to ask the state for $200,000 and to sell from $25,000 to $60,000 in stock in each of the counties it traversed. •Sixteen miles of track were built that year.
In October, 1837, President James of the railroad company was in the East, shopping for equipment. It had at first been intended to run the railroad entirely with horse-power, but just for curiosity Mr. James went over to the Paterson, N. J., factory of Rogers, Ketchum & Grosvenor, who had lately turned from machinery making to locomotives. There he saw an engine which had been built and tried out on a little railroad between Paterson and Jersey City, but apparently not sold to it. Mr. James looked it over, saw it run and was impressed. And now, they told him, here was an improvement never before seen on a locomotive — a whistle.a The engineer pulled a cord and the whistle shrieked. That did it; Mr. James was sold! He ordered the engine at once.
The machine had been built to fit those little roads just beginning to be built in New Jersey, and which had created their own private track gauge — •4 feet, 10 inches. As not a rail had yet been laid on the Mad River, its track could be made to fit the locomotive. The treasured purchase was shipped by Hudson River, Erie Canal and the lake to Sandusky, where the whole town's population save those who were bedridden, turned out to see what has been called Ohio's first locomotive — though the Erie & p343 Kalamazoo's Adrian had preceded it — unloaded from the boat and fired up. It was promptly christened Sandusky and went to work, helping to build its own track; and as it did so, it set the gauge for most of the railroads in Ohio. Others in the vicinity adopted it, and presently the Legislature declared it to be the legal gauge for the state — though it must be admitted that as time went on, there appeared some recalcitrant railroads which did not comply with the law. For of course it was not long before railroaders' hair began graying prematurely over the problem of running cars into and out of neighboring states, in all of which the prevailing track-widths were different from Ohio's. Mr. James may well be compared to the men who introduced the English sparrow into America and the rabbit into Australia.
Sandusky, the Mad River & Lake Erie's first locomotive,
By the fall of 1838, the rails had reached Bellevue and the Sandusky had been promoted to pulling the daily "Train" each way — one small passenger car none equally diminutive freight car. In '41 the railhead was at Tiffin. Charles Dickens was touring America in the following spring, and used the Mad River in traveling from Cincinnati to Lake Erie. There was no stagecoach line from Columbus to Tiffin, so he and his wife engaged a private coach with four horses and a driver for the trip. The so‑called road was just a rough, serpentine trail through forest and swamp, and all through a long day they were pitched and tossed this way and that as the carriage swayed and lurched into and out of mudholes and over stumps, with low-hanging boughs flailing against it. It was between 10 and 11 P.M. when they reached Upper Sandusky, then mostly a Wyandot Indian village, and slept — or tried to sleep — in a log tavern, with walls papered with newspapers and the air hazy with clouds of voracious mosquitoes. Leaving early the next morning, they reached Tiffin about noon, boarded a train at 2 P.M. and arrived at Sandusky in time for dinner.
The Mad River could buy only the cheapest of strap rail, •five-eighths of an inch thick, and in consequence was much troubled with snakeheads. One of them pierced a car floor one day and carried a lady passenger's hoopskirt ceilingward, causing frightful embarrassment to all concerned. First and last, the road wangled $400,000 from the state, and with the further aid of a Boston investor who unexpectedly appeared, it worked down to Springfield by 1846, where it connected with the Little Miami Railroad for Cincinnati.
In 1849, one of the Nation's worst visitations of Asiatic cholera p344 occurred. Coming up the Mississippi River in late winter and early spring, it followed the Ohio and other avenues of communication in the North. It broke out with appalling virulence in Springfield and Sandusky in July, and all operations on the Mad River were suspended save those necessary to sustain one freight and one scantily patronized passenger train. Seventeen employees of the company died at Sandusky and on the trains, including the chief engineer. "The effect of this severe visitation," said the directors, "was sensible in the diminished Receipts of the Company during the whole Spring and Summer."
By act of the Legislature of 1850‑51, railroads were authorized to aid each other, either by subscription to stock or in some other way. Then began a period of unparalleled interlocking of interests, as we shall see. The Mad River tracks reached Dayton in 1851. During the 1850's, it abandoned its track between Sandusky and Tiffin via Bellevue in favor of a more direct route through Clyde; and in later years, the Columbus, Shawnee & Hocking used the old right of way from Bellevue to Sandusky. The company changed its name in 1858 to Sandusky, Dayton & Cincinnati. It had been so hard hit by the panic of the year before that Indianapolis papers in '58 declared that the State Fair in Sandusky that season was almost a failure because of the inability of the S. D. & C. to handle with facility the stock and other exhibits that would have been shipped to it — a thing that could never happen, the editors smugly commented, at Indianapolis, with its network of rails. The poor little S. D. & C. was anybody's football. The Erie came barging through Urbana with its railhead and sliced off a part of its passenger station without a "By your leave," "Sorry!" or any other amenity. By 1861 it was so run down and dilapidated that the Cleveland, Columbus & Cincinnati abrogated a through business contract with it and said there must be a new arrangement.
Which brings us to the Cleveland, Columbus & Cincinnati, the real germ of the Bee Line. In 1836, when it was chartered, the village of Cleveland, although forty years old, could not have had much more than 5,000 population. (The census of 1840 showed 6,071.) After the charter was granted, it lay unused for nine years, because no one could do anything about it. Even if it had not been for the financial calamity of '37 — well, in front of Cleveland lay the lake; back of it the Ohio Canal led across the state to Ohio River, connecting with other canals and rivers on the way. What need, for heaven's sake, asked many, was p345 there of a railroad? The project was far too ambitious, anyhow.
The development of railroads elsewhere, however, had its effect on public opinion, and in 1845 the charter was revived, with the proviso that the company need not be under obligation to construct beyond Columbus if inconvenient to go further, and that it might at any time united with any other road running in any direction. Even with this liberalizing, the newly organized company found it well-nigh impossible to get anywhere. The city of Cleveland, in a magnificent gesture, proposed to back it to the extent of $200,000, $100,000 in bonds to be handed over immediately; but who would buy Cleveland bonds? Eastern capitalists were supremely uninterested. A canvass of Cleveland yielded only $25,000 in stock subscriptions, and one of the directors, sent to New York and Philadelphia, came back with practically no sales. It seemed that the whole vision might have to be given up; but just as it was about to fade entirely, two men saved it. In the spring of 1847, two Cleveland directors, Richard Hilliard and Henry B. Payne, agreed to give three months of their time to one final attempt. They procured $40,000 more in subscriptions, induced Harbach, Stone & Witt to undertake the building of the line, taking the principal part of their pay in stock, and as a final master stroke, persuaded Alfred Kelley to come in as director and very shortly as president. With that, the ectoplasm began to take form.
Kelley was building the Columbus & Xenia Railroad (now a part of the Pennsylvania) when Hilliard and Payne enlisted him. The C. & X., chartered in 1845, had lain helpless until he, given its presidency, took its bonds to New York, sold them and raised money enough to complete the job by 1850 — and with a heavy T‑rail, too, this being the first railroad in Ohio to rise above the miserable strap-rail track. He had an even tougher assignment with the C. C. & C. Subscriptions do not mean cash — deplorably true at that time, and it was touch-and‑go whether he could get things moving in time to save the charter. A gesture must be made in that direction and so on an autumn day a dozen men assembled to "break ground" on a little patch of earth in Cleveland which the company could call its own. President Kelley shoveled up a barrow load of earth, wheeled it a few yards and dumped it. Several others did the same. Construction had begun. To hold the charter, one man was kept at work all through the following winter, just digging earth, whiling it a short distance and dumping it again. When age and rheumatism forced the p346 first incumbent on this job to retire, another man took his place. At last, enough cash was on hand to give Harbach, Stone & Witt a real start on the grading. The gauge of course was •4 feet, 10 inches.
The engineer had made no less than seven surveys, describing them in his 1846 report as the Ashland line, Delaware line, Marion line, Elyria line, Wooster line, Millersburg line and Mt. Vernon line. Harbach preferred a compromise route through Wellington, Shelby and Galion, and that was the one finally adopted. So eager were the directors for progress that in May, 1849, they proposed to Harbach, Stone & Witt that if they could complete the road from Cleveland to Wellington — only •36 miles of the 138 — before next January 1, they might have half of the company's net profit for the next ten months, the road meanwhile to be operated either by the contractors or an agent of the company. The city of Cleveland turned over its second $100,000 in bonds that year, and Kelley had also gotten a subscription from the city of Columbus, while Franklin and Delaware Counties had subscribed to stock and produced $30,000 each in 7 percent bonds, with more to come. If those bonds had only been easily negotiable!
One of the strangest experiments in early railroad building appears in an agreement of December 20, 1849, in which the company agrees to let the contractors lay track from Wellington to Columbus on plank instead of cross-ties; the planks to be •seven feet long and four inches thick, the broadest and most perfect planks to be selected, no bevel to exceed one-half the thickness of the plank, one entire side to be free from sapwood and the heart side to be laid downward. The planks were to be laid crosswise of the track of course, "close edge to edge together." Fancy spiking T‑rails — for Kelley would have none other — to four-inch plank! Whose idea this was we do not know, but it sounds like a child of that oily amateur genius, Amasa Stone, Jr. As may be imagined, such a track was soon found to be impracticable.
In 1850‑51 they were still in straitened circumstances, borrowing money from the State Canal Fund and peddling bonds around at various discounts. Some quaint pictures remain of those early years. For some time all at switching of the four-wheel freight cars in the Cleveland yards was done by one man, Myron Dow, with a horse! In later years, a yard engine was named in Dow's honor. At last, on February 21, 1851, the first train ran through p347 from Columbus to Cleveland, and on the following day, Washington's Birthday, there was a grand opening, the Common Councils of Cincinnati and Columbus journeying up to join that of Cleveland, the city and railroad officials in a celebration which combined patriotism with industrial triumph. The visitors remained in Cleveland over Sunday, and the Reverend Dr. Samuel Aiken, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, seized the occasion to preach a timely sermon, which was heard by most of the dignitaries. In a typically pathetic wish-fancy which has cheered the naive human soul from that day to this, he saw transportation, the bringing together of man and man, nation and nation, making them "feel the sympathetic throbbings of one family heart," as a sure future preventive of war. He also touched upon a moot point of the day, saying that he did not believe railroads were going to nullify the Christian Sabbath, as had been feared. "Experience," he said, "is gradually deciding in favor of remembering the Sabbath day to keep it holy. . . . Wherever the voice of the community favors it, Directors are not backward to let their men and enginery remain quiet on this day, for it is found that nothing is gained and much lost by running."b The railroads betrayed Dr. Aiken sadly in the years thereafter.
Amasa Stone, Jr., became the road's superintendent that year at an annual salary of $4,000 — his second step up the ladder towards great fortune. In the following year he was made a director — just at the time when a crisis arose. In 1852, in a sudden spasm of concern for the canals, the Legislature first decreed that the railroads must match the canals in rates, and then, in a wildly drastic ukase, ordered all railroad bridges over canals to be removed by a certain date, else the state would remove them and charge the costs to the railroad companies; a madly retrogressive step which was bound to fail when the politicians presently came to their senses.
By 1852 the C. C. & C. was running three trains a day each way, and was dickering with the Little Miami, Columbus & Xenia and Cleveland, Painesville & Ashtabula, with a view to amalgamating as a through line between Cincinnati and Erie, Pa., as a rival to the Erie Railroad, which was thrusting a line from western New York towards Cincinnati. They could not get together, but the first three did agree on a joint operation as the "East Line" between Cincinnati and Cleveland, the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton, Mad River and Junction Railroads being the p348 West Line. The earnings were to be pooled, the East Line taking 60 percent, the West Line 40 percent. Passenger fares were the same by either route.
Meanwhile Kelley — who was growing old and had his hands full with the affairs of the Lake Shore Road, of which he was also president — retired in 1853, but remained as director, and H. B. Payne became the company's executive. The road was now in a fairly flourishing condition; there was talk of a double track, and aid was being extended to many neighbors. In January, '54, the company guaranteed the payment of interest on $150,000 in bonds of the Cleveland, Coshocton & Zanesville, and also endorsed the bonds of the Bellefontaine & Indiana, taking half of the B. & I.'s stock as security. It lent $47,000 in cash to the B. & I., and $54,000 — later increased to $70,000 — to the Indianapolis & Bellefontaine.
It seemed to be playing Santa Claus to most of the railroads in Ohio, reminding one of the present role of the United States in world affairs. It guaranteed payment of interest on $200,000 bonds of the Toledo, Norwalk & Cleveland, and $100,000 of the Cleveland, Madison & Tuscarawas. It agreed to take $50,000 in stock of the Mississippi & Atlantic, provided the Cleveland, Painesville & Ashtabula would do the same. Also, jointly with the Indianapolis & Bellefontaine and the Bellefontaine & Indiana — some private subscriptions to both of which it took over — it endorsed a $400,000 bond issue of the Columbus, Piqua & Indiana, which admittedly was in a deplorable condition, owing $2,727,988 and needing nearly $200,000 to complete its road, whereas its semi-liquid assets were only $116,600.
Those were helter-skelter days, and had Kelley remained at the head of the company, one doubts that its money and credit would have been tossed about quite so freely, though as it was, all came out happily; the C. C. & C. was now apparently a child of fortune. Nevertheless, President Payne, in his report of January 11, 1854, right in the midst of the Christmas party, warned in rather puzzling fashion that:
The day for extravagant dividends has passed. The multiplication of railroads is so rapid and so reckless, and the delusion as to their cost and productiveness is so general that a wide spread and frightful revulsion must inevitably take place. Prices of transportation are being constantly reduced, while the cost of construction and expenses of every kind are being increased. In almost every instance, the cost of completing and equipping p349 a road far exceeds the calculations of its projectors, and the deficiency of means has to be supplied by an issue of bonds. . . .
Then, he went on, by the time running expenses, repairs, taxes, deterioration and interest were deducted, the surplus for dividends was very small. "This, however, can never be the case with your road," he boasted. "It will owe no debt and will have no interest to pay." Its location as the shortest line connecting the three principal cities of the state, its straight track and low grades, "sets at defiance all injurious competition." And he was not far wrong. The revulsion he predicted came to pass in 1857, but the C. C. & C. survived it very handsomely.
Concern was being voiced in the Midwest as early as 1852‑53 over the too-rapid multiplication of railroads. Kennedy's Bank Note Review, published in Pittsburgh, opined that
The most alarming events of the day are the subscriptions making from day to day by cities, counties and boroughs towards the construction of railroads. . . . Indications are becoming every day stronger that even the great rival lines between the valley of the Mississippi and Ohio and the seaboard will not much more than pay the interest upon the cost of their construction.
The giving of aid by cities and counties in volume beyond their means, though unsound policy, frequently resulted in the railroad's building up the community greatly — which did not, however, justify the practice; but there were notable exceptions. As to there being too many railroads, the best-located of them, such as the C. C. & C., thrived, and in the end, gathered the weaker ones under their wings — the latter sometimes proving to be liabilities rather than assets.
The question of passes was plaguing the midwestern railroads as it did the eastern, and the same comical process of stern resolutions to abolish them and complete failure to do so was gone through yearly. In August, 1854, a railroad tariff convention resolved to do away with ALL passes, as well as "runners, drummers and soliciting agents." A month later a convention of Ohio and Indiana railroad presidents and superintendents, twenty-six companies being represented, again emphatically abolished passes.
A delightful commentary upon this action is found in the experience of William Ferguson, a British traveler in the following year, when he came across a convention of "Ohio railroad men" — p350 he does not say what rank of officials they were — in Cleveland, and "as a specimen of their generous hospitality, nearly every one presented me with a free pass over the line of railway with which he happened to be connected."1 The Locomotive of Indianapolis (June 18, 1853) jeered at editors "with their hats chalked," who smeared the salve about "accommodating conductors" with "gentlemanly bearing," etc., commenting acidly that "They are paid for that with a free passage." "His hat chalked" was current slang for "riding on a pass." We can find no evidence that deadheads' hats were ever really chalked by conductors. Most of the free riders were too important for that.
In May, 1855, the railroad brakemen and firemen of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Illinois met in Allegheny, Pa., to — try to grasp this — "consider the comfort and safety of the traveling public, more uniform rates of speed at which trains shall run, and what to do about deadheads." On top of that the notice of the meeting ended with, "Come up, boys, and let us regulate the movement of rolling stock as it should be — do it practically. All invited. Our brethren will extend to those attending the convention the 'right of way' to and from the same." Speaking of deadheads!
On October 17, 1857, another convention of railroad officials met at Cleveland with the object of reducing speed of trains, reducing fares, dispensing with foreign agents and abolishing passes. We will leave the reader to guess how much of this program was carried out. They strove hard for ethical reform, however. All tickets were to be of one class thereafter, all bills and posters must be framed, and advertising limited to true statements as to distance, direction, rates, connections, time of trains, etc., and it must contain no reference to competing routes.
In July of that sad year, 1857, the locomotive builders, who had become sufficiently numerous to hold conventions, met in New York and decided that there would be no more accepting railroad stock in payment for locomotives, and no more giving little jerkwater lines several years to pay for an engine. Such practice had become "eminently hazardous, unremunerative and ruinous." Hereafter, they would accept promissory notes on locomotives for no longer "than is usually taken by merchants for the sale of merchandise."
In November, 1852, when the Cleveland, Painesville & Ashtabula, or Lake Shore, as it was more and more called, reached the p351 Pennsylvania boundary, there was a continuous rail line from New York to Cincinnati, via Buffalo and Cleveland, though of varying gauges. But the Lake Shore and C. C. & C., being of the same width, decided in March, 1855, upon joint operation under a committee appointed by both companies. They listed 64 locomotives, 587 freight cars, 48 passenger cars (first and second class), with some baggage cars, etc., as owned by the two concerns. These were pooled and the ownership declared upon the ratio of 138 parts to the C. C. & C. and 95 parts to the C. P. & A. The former thus owned 59 engines and the latter 25 — and so on. On completion of the Fort Wayne & Chicago Railroad that year, a continuous line was created from New York and Cleveland, via C. C. & C., Crestline, Ohio; Ohio & Indiana Railroad and F. W. & C. to Chicago. But the C. C. & C. had to lend some engines and cars to make up through trains over the other roads not so fully equipped.
The C. C. & C. for several years used Cleveland-built locomotives from the shop of the Cuyahoga Steam Furnace Company. They tried one engine each from Rogers and some of the New England builders, finally buying several from Taunton. Crews of the Cuyahoga-built engines claimed superiority over all others so eloquently that on one occasion a test was arranged between the home-made Nashville and the Taunton-built Leonard Case. Each was to start from Columbus drawing four passenger cars and with equal supplies of wood and water, and try who could go farthest without replenishment. The Taunton machine was sent out first, and crawled into Cleveland with its tender and steam almost gone. Some time elapsed before the Nashville appeared, and her partisans were beginning to worry when she came tripping along, signalled for the switch to the C. P. & A. track to be opened, and ran some distance up that line before succumbing. The company gave her engineer a gold watch and the fireman a silver one. The Nashville, by the way, drew the funeral train of President Lincoln on a part of his long journey home in 1865.
Payne also reported that it had been deemed advisable that the company have a hand in the steamship service on Lake Erie. As he explained it:
The New York and Erie Company having built boats expressly adapted to that trade, an arrangement was, in July last, entered into, according to which the title to said boats passed into the p352 hands of trustees, for the joint and equal benefit of the New York and Erie Railroad, New York Central and the line of railroads between Erie and Cincinnati. The proportion advanced by this company was $54,000.
In January, 1858, L. M. Hubby succeeded Payne as president, and that year they loaned $20,000 to the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago Railroad, to enable it to put its track in order between Crestline and Fort Wayne. In the following year $25,000 more was advanced to the Bellefontaine & Indiana; the links towards Indianapolis and St. Louis were slowly being forged. In 1861 the company began branching out on its own. The Springfield and Mansfield, organized in 1850 and renamed Springfield, Mt. Vernon & Pittsburgh two years later, was opened from Springfield to Delaware in 1854. The opening celebration was an unhappy one, a young man losing both legs under the triumphal train, and the locomotive Olentangy being derailed several times because, we are told, "its flanges were defective." Another engine, the Goshen, had to bring the train back to Springfield, the celebrants being kept out overnight on the way. In 1860, the company was in receivership, and in December, '61, the C. C. & C. gathered it in — including five locomotives, cars, stations and all — for $140,000, which may well be spoken of as a song.
It will be noted that the C. C. & C. had for some time been aiding and forming alliances with east-west lines. The first promoters in Ohio conceived the most important thing to be the linking of Lake Erie with the Ohio River. No doubt they were right at the moment, but within a few years, they found the importance of east-west rails between the seaboard and the growing cities of the interior — Indianapolis, Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Louis — increasing, so that their own lines must be allied and tied in with those others in the most advantageous way.
The growth of industry and of cities in Ohio follows close upon the spread of railroads. In 1850, the state had only •299 miles of rail. By 1853 it had •1,385; by 1857, •1,880; while in 1860 there were •2,974 miles of track, a multiplication of practically ten times in a decade. Cleveland had 6,071 population in 1840; in 1850, stimulated by railroads, it had jumped to 17,034, in 1860 to 43,417. With the outbreak of the Civil War, the industrial growth of northern Ohio took on amazing proportions. Iron ore was coming down the lakes, coal from southern Ohio and Pennsylvania, and Cleveland, Toledo, Akron, Canton and Youngstown p353 began to be manufacturing cities, outstripping some of the older Ohio River towns. It was during the war, too, that Cleveland became an oil refining center and John D. Rockefeller began piling up dimes.
During the war a new $475,000 Union Station was erected at Cleveland. "Its erection," said President Hubby, when it was opened in 1866, "was indispensable, as the old depot, being erected over the waters of the lake upon piles, had from general decay become unsafe." In 1865, the C. C. & C., together with the Little Miami and Columbus & Xenia, jointly leased the Dayton & Western, and their traffic arrangement was extended to include the Columbus & Indianapolis, Indiana Central and Covington & Richmond. Meanwhile, however, the C. C. & C. continued to invest money in Indianapolis, Pittsburgh & Cleveland (the former Indianapolis & Bellefontaine) stock. It is time now to notice that road.
When Indiana (along with Ohio, Illinois and Michigan) had her spasm of statism in the 1830's, her thought was given mostly to the construction of canals and turnpikes. Only one railroad was projected — from Madison, on the Ohio River, through the newly founded capital city of Indianapolis to Lafayette — and only a few miles of it was built. When the internal improvement scheme was abandoned in 1842, the country was so poor and the tariff on rails so high that no private railroad building was attempted. The lowering of the tariff in 1846 gave an impetus to promotion, and Indiana rapidly began chartering railroad companies. The former state project from Madison to Indianapolis was completed by promoter John Brough in 1847. It had procured some stock subscriptions in the country northeast of Indianapolis, with the notion of extending its track in that direction, "to Pendleton, Huntsville and Andersontown;" but by the time it reached Indianapolis, it was out of breath.
A company had been chartered in 1846 to build a line from Indianapolis to Pendleton, a village then thought to have a brilliant future. But nothing was done with the charter, and on February 17, 1848, the Indianapolis & Bellefontaine Railroad was incorporated, with a capital allowance of $1,000,000 in $50 shares. Its eastern terminus had been a hotly debated question. A railroad northeast from Indianapolis was wanted, but going where? Many said Fort Wayne, there to connect with the Wabash and p354 Erie canal; but others pointed out that that waterway was frozen tight as a drumhead for half the year. It is said that the matter was finally decided at a mass meeting at the Ohio-Indiana state line, where, after some soap-box oratory, those present arrayed themselves in two lines, for and against Bellefontaine as the eastern terminus, and that town won. The subscriptions made to the Madison & Indianapolis for the extension up that way were taken over by the new company. When $20,000 had been subscribed and $5,000 paid in — in money, land, labor or materials — it was permitted to elect its board of fifteen directors.
This board was chosen by the stockholders at Muncie in July, and elected Oliver H. Smith, an Indianapolis attorney, as president. Mr. Smith appears to have had some ability, but he was orotund to a marked degree. His florid oration of acceptance was "spread upon the minutes," as were all his utterances thereafter. He impressed upon the board his assertion that he had "neither sought nor desired the office," which would entail "heavy professional sacrifice," such as would almost seem to forbid his acceptance, and nothing but a strong belief in the importance of the job induced him to accept. He spoke of it frequently as "this great enterprise" and "this great national work," and ended in a burst of enthusiasm with, "it will be one of the most gratifying incidents of my life to pass over this great line from the Atlantic to the Mississippi, which I confidently expect yet to do."
At each re-election thereafter, he made the welkin ring with rhetoric and emphasized the fact that the honor was entirely unsought by him. He was not only president (the company had not even a vice-president until 1854), but in effect superintendent as well, and ran everything; dealt with the contractors and did the buying. Ties — at 18 cents for the small and 22 for the large size could be procured along the line, but all iron, tools and other equipment had to come from the East via the Ohio River and Madison.
Mr. Smith was not always happy in his relations with the public. In Randolph County there was bad feeling between the county commissioners and the railroad. It started when the charter was going through the Legislature and someone from Randolph discovered that it specified that the road was to run "directly east from Muncie to Union," where the track was to meet two Ohio railroads. If this meant a straight line, that would carry it •a mile and a half north of Winchester, the Randolph p355 County seat, but squarely through some land upon which "certain parties" had an option. Whether Mr. Smith was involved in this we do not know, but what we learn about him later is not reassuring. The bill was amended to force the railroad to pass through Winchester. Later the railroad company requested the commissioners to call an election upon the question of the county's buying $12,000 worth of stock. To the sensitive ears of the commissioners, the request seemed to have too imperious a sound, and they refused to comply.
The road was being built with good T‑rail, and Smith boasted that its cost would not be more than $10,000 per mile, including depots and equipment, which was putting it much too low. Large wheat crops in 1850‑51 aided the company, but it was still having some tough going, and not infrequently had to persuade someone to accept a share of stock in payment for land upon which to build a station. The railhead reached Anderson in June, 1851, but it was still unable to equip itself, and made an agreement with the Madison & Indianapolis, by which that company was to stock and operate the line between Indianapolis and Anderson. Passengers on the celebration trains had to sit on bare benches on flat cars, shaded by boughs from trees. By 1853, President Brough of the M. & I. had gotten the notion that his company had the right to operate the whole road, but Smith talked him out of it, and he agreed to end his operation on December 1 of that year.
The money market was dull in 1851, and the •18‑mile stretch from Anderson to Muncie was not completed until the spring of the following year. In November, '52, Smith reported that he had ordered seven 18‑ton locomotives from Baldwin at $7,000 each, and two from Amoskeag at $7,250. The directors voted that "the first good superior Passenger Engine that is procured be called the O. H. Smith." But already they were beginning to exhibit disquieting symptoms. First they decided to elect the way station "clerks" or agents, who had hitherto been appointed by the president. Then during the winter of 1852‑53 some criticism was heard — that the president was not an experienced railroad man, and wasn't he drawing too big a salary ($1,000 yearly!) for the work he was doing? There was undoubtedly something other than this mild complaint behind the trouble.
Smith, aware of the dissatisfaction, wrote to the directors, asking whether they were going to elect him again. They replied that a group of large stockholders thought there should be a p356 different arrangement; that they should elect, "as the Terre Haute railroad has done," a general superintendent to take over the management of the road, "the President to preside at all meetings of the Board, conduct the correspondence, etc."
Mr. Smith was mortally offended. He "unhesitatingly rejected" the new arrangement. He wrote:
You may find a man who is willing to sacrifice his honor and become your servant; and he would be worthy of his position, but you have noticed my public and private life to little purpose if you suppose I can be induced by any earthly consideration to occupy that position.
He had been aware for some time of the trend of affairs, he said. Had the original stockholders continued to control the company's affairs, he would have been happy to remain. "But the Stock has been monopolized by men who differ widely from me in policy." (Which meant that Brough and associates were acquiring a large interest.) The board replied temperately, but Smith angrily resigned "the office to which I have been five times elected without any solicitation on my part," and left, predicting that the stock would fall to half its par value. The board thanked him for his services, and asked him to "accept the freedom of the cars so long as he shall live to enjoy them." A sort of pro tem president was chosen, but within three months, on June 30, 1853, John Brough became director and president, and upon assuming office, violated tradition by making no speech. At least, there is none engrossed in the minutes.
Two years later, Henry V. Poor made grave charges against Smith in his American Railroad Journal, declaring that Smith had managed the Indianapolis & Bellefontaine for his own selfish ends; among other things that he owned property "at Yorktown and Muncietown," and detoured the road past it to increase its value. That may be, but when the road reached its terminus at Union on the state line, it appeared that Mr. Smith and his brother, Jeremiah, away back in 1849, soon after the company was chartered, had bought a large tract of land there, on which they now proceeded to make some nice profits. Perfectly legitimate, of course, but it shows that Smith never neglected Smith's interests.
The •eighty‑six-mile line had reached its goal at the end of 1852. A railroad from Dayton, Ohio, known as the Greenville & Miami (later Dayton & Union), as well as the Bellefontaine & p357 Indiana were to meet the I. & B. at that stake-in-the‑ground where later Union City was to appear. On November 25, when the I. & B. rails were still •three miles from the spot, its construction crew and that of the G. & M. heard the whistles of each other's locomotives. The G. & M. railhead arrived on Christmas Day and pushed the rail-ends •a foot or more into Indiana; the I. & B. connected with it several days later. As both roads were of standard gauge, through service between Indianapolis and Dayton was soon begun. The Bellefontaine & Indiana track reached Union on the following July 11, but as it was of the Ohio gauge, its relations with the I. & B. were for some time not very close.
The I. & B. numbered its first animal victim in October, 1851, a horse. For several years the settlements for slain cattle were passed upon by the directors, and we find all the figures in the minutes. Hogs ranged in price from $1 to $4.50 each, and one poor fellow was fobbed off with only $3.80 for six hogs. A cow often brought $20, but one bull was settled for at only $8. The company early made clear its policy — it would pay for cattle, though it chaffered considerably if it could be proven that the train was "running at ordinary speed and with ordinary care," but it flatly refused to pay if the stock had been deliberately enticed onto the track "by feeding or otherwise," or allowed by their owners to lie on the track. Some honest yeoman had evidently gotten the idea — and how widespread it was, we can only guess — of selling their stock to the railroads in this violent manner. One wonders whether those farmers who gave the Michigan Central so much trouble had been doing something of the sort. The I. & B. even presented a gold watch to Engineer Martin Hall on January 1, 1854, "for killing the least livestock" in the preceding six months.
There are evidences, however, of neighborliness between railroad and citizens. The Locomotive editor told of being on a train which halted at a place where there was nothing but a small platform on four posts. Near by was an enclosure in which were two colts. The train ran back and forth a few times past the pen, and when the editor inquired the reason, he was told by a trainman that it was "to get the colts broken and used to the cars." There is no service like that nowadays.
Brough had promptly evinced his disapproval of Smith's lavish policies by selling to the Peru & Indianapolis two locomotives, thirty-four freight cars and a lot of wheels; but he had so much p358 difficulty in collecting from the P. & I. for them that he finally had to take some land in Indianapolis in settlement. That daft Ohio gauge was coming to be more and more of a nuisance. How all railroad men must have cursed Rogers and the other New Jerseyites who built that first locomotive and started all the trouble. In the spring of 1853 it was remarked in an I. & B. directors meeting that as they would probably be laying a second track soon, why not make it of the Ohio gauge, so that through trains could be run over it to Cleveland, while other connections used the old standard gauge track? It was a wonderful idea. It seems that they tried using the wide wheels, which were supposed to do equally well on both gauges. The Indianapolis Sentinel, one day in October, 1853, thus explained why the Bellefontaine train, due in at 11:45 A.M., did not arrive until 4:16 P.M.:
Near Farmland the driving wheels of the engine were thrown off the track and then on again. By this sudden jar, the last car — occupied principally by ladies — was thrown off the track sideways into the ditch. The car, while yet in motion, fell upon a stump, which raked from one end to the other. . . . The car is a complete wreck. The wounded are eight in number.
To this the Locomotive adds, "We are informed that the above accident was caused by running the narrow gauged cars on the wide gauged track at the rate of •80 miles an hour." One's hair stands on end at the temerity of those early railroaders.2
A pleasant little byplay with an old friend in the leading role is to be noted here. A railroad between Indianapolis and Evansville was talked of as early as 1840. On April 16, 1853, the Evansville, Indianapolis & Cleveland Straight Line Railroad was chartered, with intent to build from Evansville to Indianapolis and Union City or farther. Its presiding genius was none other than Oliver H. Smith, with Willard Carpenter as collaborator. The city of Evansville agreed to take $250,000 in stock. Late in that year Mr. Smith, communicating with his former company, promised that if the I. & B., the Bellefontaine & Indiana and the C. C. & C. would buy $200,000 worth of stock in his concern, he would agree to build no farther than Indianapolis.
The I. & B. paid little attention to him, and he issued communiqués, bluffing at paralleling it from Indianapolis to Union. p359 In 1855‑56 his company succeeded in grading •about •60 miles of its survey. Carpenter then went to Europe to sell bonds, but with so little to boast of at home, he could make no headway abroad, and eventually lost his own little fortune in the venture. On June 6, 1855, the American Railroad Journal copied an article from the Indianapolis Journal, boasting of the company's progress and prospects, and claiming that all debts, including interest on bonds, were being promptly paid. But the Railroad Journal spoiled the effect by revealing that "We publish the above by request," and then expressing the conviction that the promotion of the road, "in the present condition of the money market, is inopportune." If the road were built, Editor Poor added, Indiana would have to supply the funds; he didn't believe any cash could be found outside the state for the purpose. "The President of the road" — suave irony here — "is a man of experience in money matters, and doubtless knows where he can lay his hand on the needful. So long as such companies as the New York Central and the Little Miami cannot sell their bonds in the market, roads in progress have but a poor market."
He continued to attack the project until Smith retorted angrily, when Poor excoriated him, as already quoted, for his service with the I. & B. He also gave a cuff to the Locomotive, "an insignificant and needy concern," in which Smith was "wont to trumpet to the world his own greatness and the excellence of whatever project or scheme he is connected with." And with this, Mr. Smith passes out of our story. The E. I. & C. Straight Line company was still precariously alive in 1859, when a number of people who had paid land for stock were suing to recover it, but we need not follow it further at the moment.
In 1854, the I. & B. signed an agreement with the Columbus, Piqua & Indiana for through business between Columbus and Indianapolis, the two companies to erect a joint depot on the state line at Union, half of it in Indiana and half in Ohio. (But not until five years later did the C. P. & I., then in receivership, reach Union.) By '55 the Greenville & Miami and the I. & B. were changing their gauge and rolling stock to the •4‑foot, 10‑inch width — only to be compelled to change back again in a few years, when the whole country went standard.3
Brough in 1854 deftly induced the I. & B. to aid the Mississippi p360 & Atlantic, which was to run from Terre Haute to St. Louis, but for which he had not yet even succeeded in getting a charter in Illinois, where nine-tenths of its line would be. The I. & B. board readily voted to buy $200,000 stock in the M. & A., though their own stock was down to half price on the market, much to the satisfaction of O. H. Smith. In February, 1855, just after they had changed the name of the company to Indianapolis, Pittsburgh & Cleveland, Brough resigned the presidency, saying that the Mississippi & Atlantic would soon require all his time; but he came back to be re-elected in July. He must have been a Murphy blue-ribboner,c for his Terre Haute & Indianapolis had decided to haul no more beer, and on the day of his return to the I. P. & C., that board voted to deliver no spirituous or intoxicating liquors to anybody in the state but the county agents authorized to receive and sell the same:
And the several station agents, in case they suspect any vessel contains such liquors, shall be authorized to bore into the same with a small gimblet, doing as little harm as possible and carefully stopping the same so as to prevent loss.
It is to be presumed that the agents, to complete the test, would be authorize to taste the contents; otherwise, how could they be sure that it was liquor?
In 1856, an amalgamation with the Bellefontaine & Indiana was proposed, but the outcome at the moment was only a joint operation of the two roads by a committee. In '58 the infiltration from eastward is startlingly shown by the report that the Cleveland, Columbus & Cincinnati owned 2,800 shares of I. P. & C. stock, while Amasa Stone, Jr., high in the councils of the C. C. & C., held 333 shares. When a committee from the I. P. & C. met with representatives of the B. & O. and Pennsylvania & Ohio in Columbus in '59 to talk over a division of the eastern business, President Hubby of the C. C. & C. protested that as the largest stockholder, his company would not take such action quietly, which was sufficient to block the move.
The I. P. & C. was in financial difficulties in 1859‑60, and its directors bemoaned the financial stringency, bad crops and "the bad condition of the Terre Haute, Alton & St. Louis Road, which is our connection with St. Louis and the Mississippi." Brough referred to the Alton road as "interests hostile to our own," by which he meant hostile to his Mississippi & Atlantic. Despite its worries, the I. P. & C. joined with the Bellefontaine & Indiana p361 and the C. C. & C. in guaranteeing principal and interest of $400,000 bonds of the Columbus, Piqua & Indiana. Brough had retired from the presidency in '58, but he came back to it in 1863, the same year in which he was elected governor of Ohio, only to die two years later. And in 1864, the I. P. & C. voted to amalgamate with the Bellefontaine & Indiana. Let us now glance at that railroad.
The B. & I. was incorporated February 25, 1848, just eight days later than the Indianapolis & Bellefontaine, to build from a junction with that road to the C. C. & C. at Galion. The directors regarded the road as "a part of the great east and west thoroughfare between Philadelphia and St. Louis," wherefore they must choose the shortest practicable route — which led them to reject an invitation from Bucyrus to detour through that town, notwithstanding "very liberal offers and strong pecuniary inducements."
Hugh Thompson, an attorney of Sidney, was elected president, and the first corporation meeting was held in his office. For some time thereafter, the board met any- and everywhere. Some minutes are headed "Logansville, John Dickson's House," others at Sidney Court-House; sometimes they were at Quincy, at Bellefontaine, at a law office in Cleveland, and finally at Marion, where they settled down and established headquarters. The company had the usual difficulty in marketing its paper and getting under way. Construction did not begin until 1851, and as we have recorded, it was not until July, 1853, that the rails entered Union City. As its gauge was "the Ohio," it could not operate trains through to Indianapolis at first. Its effect upon the territory is vividly pictured by Perrin and Battle in their History of Logan County, which also well describes the handiwork of the railroads everywhere in frontier country. They say that when the Mad River Railroad reached Bellefontaine, "the affairs of the town began to assume a more promising aspect." But when the B. & I. was completed in '53:
The surrounding country quickly responded to the central impulse. Warehouses were at the doors of the farmer; the wheat market was removed from a distance and brought into the neighborhood of the husbandman. No longer receiving fifty cents a bushel at Perrysburg and Detroit, he received a dollar a bushel at home. Brush fences quickly disappeared in flame and smoke; land was cleared; new fences were made and old ones improved; land ceased to be shapeless patches; calicoes and even laces and p362 silk invaded the region so long held by homespun in the cabin of the farmer. The cabin itself gave way to a new house; prosperity spread like a flying glint of sunshine over the whole land, and schools and intellectual and artistic improvements drove away the ignorance and loutishness of a retired, solitary and laborious life in the country.
The B. & I. itself, however, did not for some time seem to share in this prosperity. In June, 1854, it issued $50,000 in scrip to help in paying its first dividend. Nevertheless, it endorsed $200,000 in bonds of the Piqua road, and when Brough requested a subscription in aid of the still dubious Mississippi & Atlantic, the directors magnificently signed up for $200,000 in stock, and issued bonds to pay for it. The fact that Brough was a considerable stockholder may have had something to do with their action. In 1855, that gentleman became president and so continued until his death, ten years later. In '56 he signed the joint working agreement with the Indianapolis, Pittsburgh & Cleveland as president of both roads.
The aversion to operating trains on Sunday led to an annoying situation at Union City, of which the B. & I. directors took notice in 1855. They had a train which, because of eastern connections, was unavoidably scheduled to reach Union at 3:25 A.M. There passengers must alight and transfer to a train which carried them directly on to Indianapolis. But on Sunday the Indianapolis train did not run, and they had to lie at Union until Monday morning; a place, said the directors, "destitute of religious privileges and comfortable accommodations for strangers." Why couldn't a train be hustled right on down to Indianapolis, "where all desirable privileges and accommodations are at command?" The situation was "justly regarded by the traveling public as an imposition uncalled for by any moral or religious considerations, and in existing circumstances, detrimental to both Religion and Morality," not to mention "the interests of this line of Roads." Therefore, they thought the I. P. & C. ought to run a train on to Indianapolis, reaching there "by 6 or 6½ o'clock on Sunday morning." And thus the encroachments of travel on the Sabbath gradually increased.
In 1859 there are some significant entries on the minutes:
p363 Ordered, that the President be authorized to issue passes to Judges of Courts whose circuits are on the line of the Bellefontaine & Indiana Railroad.
Ordered, that the President be authorized to issue a pass for the year 1859 to Judge Bowers, his wife and unmarried children, provided that no charge is made by said Bowers for services as Trustee of Real Estate Bonds.
In 1863, the B. & I.'s entire property was mortgaged to Amasa Stone, Jr., as security for $791,000 in bonds; and on December 20, 1864, the company was merged with the I. P. & C. under the new name of Bellefontaine Railroad. Effusive handbills advertised it as "The shortest line between Pittsburgh and the West." The Pittsburgh connection was over the P. F. W. & C., via Crestline, •four miles northeast of Galion. A track extension for the purpose was laid between those two towns, although it was squarely alongside the C. C. & C., the Bellefontaine's ally and well-nigh its owner, which also ran from Galion to Crestline.
And here we come upon the origin of a famous nickname. "Bellefontaine Railroad" was too much of a mouth useful for railroad men who already fancied themselves becoming terrifically pressed for time, and they shortened it to B. Line. Quite naturally, "B" suggested "Bee," and "Bee Line" became an advertising boast of the road's directness. . . . In January, 1868, the C. C. & C. increased its capital stock to $12,000,000, and cut a $1,500,000 melon to win the stockholders' approval to its plan to reorganize and take in the Bellefontaine. This was done, and on May 16, 1868, a new corporation emerged, the Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati & Indianapolis, thenceforth for twenty-one years to be famous as the Bee Line. It had already acquired a St. Louis connection, as we shall now explain.
When Illinois, then mostly forest and prairie, had its passing frenzy of statism in 1836, Vandalia, a village of less than 1,000 population, with mud streets, no sidewalks and only muddy trails leading to it through the forests, was still the capital. In the Internal Improvements bill, Alton was highly favored. It was to have three railroads — one to Shawneetown, one to Mount Carmel and one across the state in the direction of Terre Haute, Indiana. Alton is only a few miles upstream from St. Louis, but of course Illinois was not going to build a railroad to any foreign city. There were those who believed that with adequate railroad service, Alton could snatch the supremacy of the middle Mississippi p364 away from St. Louis. Bisecting these railroads was to be another the length of the state, now for the most part represented by the Illinois Central. There were to be other railroads, as well as canals and river improvements, the whole to cost an estimated $8,000,000 (!), which was to be paid for with bonds.
When the Whig-born state bank blew up in 1842 and left Illinois without a circulating medium, when Whigs were calling Democrats disloyal, destructive and opposed to decent government, when Democrats were calling Whigs federalists, blue-lights, British-bought bank-vassals and "ragocracy," some work had been done on all the proposed railroads. All of it was halted, of course, and some of the lines were never built.
Several spots had been graded on the route from Alton to Terre Haute, and some contractors had quantities of timber cut for bridges when the crash came. All had had to take their pay in state paper, "which," says the anonymous historian of Edgar County, delicately, "when the system began to decline, partook of a downward tendency and left the creditors in rather a sad plight." In history, the money had become what the Democrats called "bank rags." The timber men took their product back, and those who were favorably located sold it down-river or elsewhere for whatever they could get.
So provincial was Illinois in its thinking that when in 1849 the Ohio & Mississippi (now B. & O.), coming west from Cincinnati, reached the eastern boundary of the state on its way to St. Louis, a "State Policy" party sprang up and held rabble-rousing mass meetings, denying the right of any "foreign" corporation to set foot on Illinois soil, especially when it proposed to advance the interests of an alien city like St. Louis, which Alton still vainly hoped to outstrip. The O. & M. was long delayed because of that opposition, as was John Brough's Mississippi & Atlantic, seeking to build from Terre Haute to St. Louis, passing through Vandalia, which had lost the capital to Springfield in 1837.
In 1850‑51, citizens of Alton, after a hard struggle, succeeded in attracting enough eastern capital to be able to organize the Terre Haute & Alton Railroad, with intent to use the old state survey and grade. Charters were procured in Illinois, and in Indiana for the •nine-mile portion in that state. Among the eastern directors after the organization was completed in 1852 one finds the names of Edwin C. and E. B. Litchfield, John B. Jervis and F. C. Durant, also one from Rome, N. Y., and a Ten Eyck from Cazenovia. Under the contracts made by President p365 Simeon Ryder (he, the secretary, treasurer and chief engineer were Alton men), the •173‑mile railroad was to be built for $3,000,000 — less than $18,000 a mile — and contractors would receive in payment 7⁄ths of their pay in cash, the remainder in equal quantities of stock and bonds.
John Brough and associates were having the very deuce of a time with their Mississippi & Atlantic project, which paralleled the T. H. & A. In June, 1852, they tried for the fifth time to persuade the Illinois Legislature to grant them a charter, but the politicians, still loyal to the old survey, refused again because (T. H. & A. directors' report for 1853) "in view of the probable completion of our road, no other was required by any public necessity." Also, as they remarked elsewhere, there was "the interest which the State of Illinois has manifested in her determination to form at least one important city within her own territory, upon the banks of the Mississippi."
The T. H. & A. now proceeded to issue a million dollars' worth of 7 percent bonds and to start the refurbishing and extension of the old grade, much of which was said to be still in fair condition. The directors were startled when Brough proclaimed late in the year that he would now proceed to build, as his company required no further legislation, the general laws of Illinois giving them sufficient power to go ahead. But this was palpably a bluff, for in January, 1853, he applied for the sixth time for a charter, and was again turned down. With that, he gave up; he did not live to see the road built. The T. H. & A. directors thought the action "did justice to . . . the good faith of the State," and was the more gratifying because the Brough road "is not only not required, but is absolutely forbidden by a just regard to the best interests of the State."
The T. H. & A. project was a difficult one, for counties along the line were mostly too poor to give much financial assistance or to supply any business after the road was completed. How Montgomery County mustered courage to subscribe for $50,000 worth of stock or expected to pay for it is a mystery. Edgar County (Paris) went even farther and bonded itself for $150,000. By 1854, scattered portions of the road were in operation; but as the directors said in their 1857 report, it was of course purely local, hampered by construction trains and "want of the most ordinary accommodations." Their report fills in a rather pathetic picture of the primitive conditions with which they had to struggle:
p366 The year 1854 had been unprecedented in the general failure of the staple crops of the country, and from the opening of the road until the fall of 1855, there was scarce anything along the line for transportation. The absence of all connections rendered the travel entirely local. Notwithstanding these discouraging prospects, the road was operated in portions, regardless of its unfit condition, until the 1st of March last (1856), when it was so far completed as to admit of the passage of a daily train over its entire length. The bad condition of the track on the newly worked portions required the greatest care and prudence to get the trains through. . . . The passenger trains have been moved at moderate speed and with carefulness and regularity, so that no accident of any kind has occurred. . . .
The road was in bad condition for long afterward. A conductor, A. A. Talmage, later an official of the road, told of riding in the cab with a new engineer, who grew nervous as the jolting from the rough track kept him "bobbing up and down in his seat. Finally, as he bounced nearly to the top of the cab, he reached for the throttle" to shut off steam, but Talmage stayed him, explaining that the head brakeman would tighten up the brakes on the curves and keep the cars from swaying off the track.
Some now flourishing cities were created right from the bare soil by the railroad. Mattoon, for example, which was named in honor of one of the firm of Barnes, Phelps & Mattoond of Springfield, Mass., who built a part of the line. There are various stories told of its naming — one that it was the result of a wager, another that the contractor who first reached the midway point of the road was promised the distinction of naming a town.
For a short time the directors kept up the fiction of Alton's future river supremacy, forwarding passengers and freight for St. Louis down to that city by boat. But the pretense could not be maintained. The Legislature had yielded to the Ohio & Mississippi, which was now building rapidly towards St. Louis, and it was up to the Terre Haute road to do likewise. In 1856, it took over the Belleville & Illinoistown Railroad, Belleville being a coal center •17 miles east of St. Louis, while Illinoistown is now East St. Louis. The two roads were combined under the new name of Terre Haute, Alton & St. Louis, and an extension of the B. & I. was built from Illinoistown to a junction •four miles east of Alton.
The road suffered from having no connection eastward out of Terre Haute but the Terre Haute & Indianapolis, of which p367 Brough was the presiding genius, and which therefore was none too friendly. It was hit hard by the panic of '57 and presently had to go into trusteeship, with two familiar names appearing as trustees, Azariah C. Flagg and John Wilkinson. The property was sold on July 1, 1862, to a committee, among whose members were Russell Sage and Samuel J. Tilden, who promptly sold it to a reorganized corporation, the St. Louis, Alton & Terre Haute. By that time the Civil War was raging, and as is usual at such times, this brought, to quote the directors, "fortuitous and unexpected prosperity."
Early locomotives had of course been wood-burners. At various points along the line one might see wood being sawed into engine lengths by horses walking on treadmills. As the road now tapped a coal field at its western end, the directors reported in 1865 that engines when rebuilt were being changed to coal-burners. A rail mill was started at East St. Louis that year, which was a great convenience. The board found that "The life-time of a new iron rail with this business of ours is about eight years." Some of theirs had been in use twelve years and were practically worn to shreds. During 1866, "half of all the accidents that occurred were caused by broken rails."
With the end of the war, revenues decreased again, and rumors now began to be heard that the Legislature was looking more tolerantly upon the Brough survey. The C. C. & C. and Bellefontaine, having invested no little money in the St. L. A. & T. H., wanted to see it saved. So, together with the Indianapolis, Cincinnati Lafayette, the Pennsylvania, P. F. W. & C. and Lake Shore, they agreed with and guaranteed to the Alton line that the Terre Haute & Indianapolis "or some other responsible road" would lease it. The T. H. & I. had apparently almost gone through with the deal in 1867 when it suddenly balked, probably at the behest of the Pennsylvania, which was becoming increasingly dominant in its affairs, and the Pennsylvania thereupon withdrew from the combination — undoubtedly because of its interest in the St. Louis, Vandalia & Terre Haute Railroad, now about to be organized to build to St. Louis over the Brough survey.
In turn, the other guarantors, on August 31, 1868, incorporated the Indianapolis & St. Louis Railroad, to parallel the Terre Haute & Indianapolis between its two termini. The new company had scarcely gotten organized when it leased the St. Louis, Alton & Terre Haute. The fusion a few months before of the C. C. & C. p368 and Bellefontaine into the Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati & Indianapolis created the chief factor in ownership of the new railroad. Backed by that recent big increase in capital stock, the Bee Line bought half of the $600,000 capital stock of the I. & St. L., as well as $750,000 of first mortgage, $500,000 second mortgage and $249,000 income bonds. The other guarantors also invested heavily; there do not seem to have been any private stockholders.
Actual construction began in 1869, and it went through with a rush. The new road was well and soundly built, with dressed stone culverts and iron bridges, and some of the wages paid by contractors were unheard of — $2 a day, and $1 extra for Sunday work! The •72‑mile road had an "opening" on July 4, 1870, but it was not really completed for a month thereafter. At its west end it traversed the rich Indiana coal field, which helped to give it earnings of $8,000 a mile for the rest of that year. Its creation, however, had spurred the construction of the St. Louis, Vandalia & Terre Haute, which was accomplished in 1869‑70, and there they were — two parallel lines all the way from Indianapolis to St. Louis — where, by the way, the new Eads Bridge was being built, to give them entrance to the city and do away with the car ferries. But this also meant a splitting of revenue, and the smashup of '73 and a rate war or two did not improve matters. In 1878, the I. & St. L. was unable to pay its rental, and the St. L. A. & T. H. brought suit against it and its railroad-company stockholders. Passing over the tedious details of the litigation, it is sufficient to say that the I. & St. L. was thrown into receivership early in 1882, shortly followed by a sale and reorganization as a new I. & St. L., under complete control of the C. C. C. & I. These two, I. & St. L. and Bee Line, thereafter operated the St. L. A. & T. H. for seven years.
The Bee Line was still using some inside-drive locomotives in the 1860s.
Now let us complete the eastern portion of the Bee Line system. The first Springfield & Columbus Railroad had been chartered in 1846, and after various rebirths succeeded in laying a track a part of the way between the two cities, but owned no equipment and never operated its line. Until 1869, the fragment was operated by Sandusky, Dayton & Cincinnati, which in '66 dropped the "Dayton" from its name, and in '69 reversed it and became the Cincinnati, Sandusky & Cleveland. In that year, too, the Springfield & Columbus became the Columbus, Springfield & Cincinnati; and in '72, after a quarter-century, it was finally completed through to Columbus, the Bee Line being the fairy godmother who came to the rescue.
p370 In 1870, the Cincinnati & Springfield Railroad was incorporated, with Bee Line gold in its veins, to build a line from the outskirts of Cincinnati to Dayton, which was opened July 4, 1872. It had already leased the part of the Cincinnati, Sandusky & Cleveland between Dayton and Springfield; and in '72 the whole affair came under the aegis of the C. C. C. & I., which thus at last made its entrance into Cincinnati, and completed a powerful system of •750 miles, connecting Lake Erie with the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. Its Cleveland-Cincinnati track was advertised as the Short Line between those cities, and in August, 1872, the Springfield Republican announced that "six magnificent sleeping cars, to cost $55,000 apiece and to be unequaled in style, comfort and convenience," were being built at Philadelphia for it. A few weeks later the Cincinnati Commercial noted the first trip of the Empress, "one of the four fine sleeping coaches now being built," and added:
The exterior of these coaches is plain; they are provided with rotundas at each end and balconies with iron railing and a patent safeguard over the steps. The gates close securely, and travellers desiring a whiff of fresh air and a view of the country while they enjoy their Partagas,e can regale themselves sitting on the verandas.
But the Bee Line had not yet quite won security. Even as it entered Cincinnati, Jay Gould was trying to get control of it, proposing to cut down the six-foot gauge of his Erie and Atlantic & Great Western to standard, and thus form a new through line from New York to St. Louis. The St. L. A. & T. H. directors were all for it. In their report for January 1, 1873, they announced that "At present writing, this arrangement is partially consummated, and in our next annual report, we hope to be able to chronicle the successful operation of the proposed combination."
But the panic of '73 blocked Gould's plans, and before he could get a foothold again, the superior resources of the Vanderbilts had foiled him, gradually putting them in practically complete control of the Bee Line. In 1880, William H., who had invested heavily in the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton, proposed adding that to the Bee Line system, and calling the whole thing the Ohio Railway, but was halted by a lawsuit brought by an Ohio citizen, George K. Nash, who was perhaps as much alarmed by a proposed name of the new company as by anything else. In his bill p371 he said that the essential point was, "Can all the railroad companies in the state be combined in one vast corporation?" He pointed out that if the Vanderbilt merger was legal, it would be possible for the 72 railroad companies in Ohio, with •5,700 miles of track, touching every county but one and with capital stock and debts totalling $370,000,000, to consolidate into one mighty corporation. The State Supreme Court upheld him in his contention, and Vanderbilt disposed of his C. H. & D. stock. The decision influenced the thinking of railroad entrepreneurs in the state for years thereafter.
Lest we forget, let us mention the fact that the old C. C. & C. seems to have been the proving ground for the mail crane and catcher, this in 1865, those devices being strewn sparingly along its line and that of the Little Miami from Cleveland to Cincinnati. A post-office official wrote to Amasa Stone, Jr., "president Erie & Cleveland (sic) Railroad" in 1867 ordering the installation of the system on his road, saying it "has been in successful operation on the Cleveland, Columbus & Cincinnati and Little Miami Railroads for the last two years." The Department supplied the catchers, but the railroad was expected to erect the cranes, under Government supervision. At many small stations where there were no cranes the postmaster continued to stand on a box beside the track and hold up the bag for the mail clerk to catch as the train passed, at greatly reduced speed, to avoid blowing him away.4
It was also a proving ground for the refrigerator car, which first appeared in Indiana in 1860. The Locomotive remarked on June 9 that several such cars were being built in Indianapolis under Lyman's patent for a local provision dealer. One car had recently come to Indianapolis, carrying five tons of fresh fish and fruits, and returned with a load of fresh beef. The first one that arrived, a few weeks before, brought a load of fresh shad, lobsters, oysters, pineapples, etc. There had been many deaths, the editor believed, attributable to eating spoiled food.
And so the Bee Line went on its efficient way, but with Manifest Destiny shuffling the cards for a new deal in the not-too-distant future. Perhaps it was a creation of youthful imagination, but there are old-timers who think they recall its bright crimson trains as flitting in and out of the old Grand Central Station p372 in Cincinnati with a certain sprightliness and noticeable in those of other roads. It had some famous operatives. Thomas A. Edison was once one of its telegraphers, and there was a "butch" or newsboy on its main line east of Indianapolis named Tom Taggart, who later managed the restaurant in the Union Station in Indianapolis, then owned the Grand Hotel in that city, became Democratic boss of Indiana, mayor of Indianapolis, United States Senator, National Democratic Committee chairman and owner of French Lick Springs.
A Bee Line handbill of 1884
1 America: by River and Rail. London, 1856.
2 The Locomotive, a weekly published at Indianapolis from 1845 to 1860, was primarily interested in railroad news, but carried much other news as well.
3 One finds that the first I. & B. passenger cars were red. Did this set the fashion for the later Bee Line? But in the spring of 1854 there appears an unexplained mention of one yellow car.
4 See Harlow, Old Post Bags, opposite page 406, for a picture reproduced from Harper's Weekly in 1875, of a village postmistress in sunbonnet holding up a bag thus beside the track.
c Francis Murphy founded the Blue Ribbon Army, a temperance organization, in 1882. See McGonagall Online — a site devoted to the atrocious poetry of William Topaz McGonagall — for thirteen stanzas of his once well-known verse lauding it, and good background information to go with.
d James Barnes, a West Point graduate, was also from Massachusetts. The railroad line was the Terre Haute & Alton. Villages named Barnes and Phelps both exist in Illinois, the latter not far from Alton although south of it: I don't know whether the two places are named for the other, presumably senior, partners.
e Partagas was a brand of expensive Cuban cigar — thus negating the benefits of any fresh air, but at least keeping the air fresher in the compartments. I wonder how often smokers were encouraged by the rest of us back then to avail themselves of these little balconies.
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