222 Chapters
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2 Development Delayed

Simon Cordery Indiana University Press ePub

The earliest attempts to build steam-powered railroads in Illinois failed miserably. Several private projects laid a few miles of track before going bankrupt; two short coal lines used animals to haul wagons; and an ambitious state-funded network fell victim to an economic depression—called a “panic” at the time—in 1837. But the seed blown across the Atlantic Ocean from Britain fell on fertile soil. Railroads offered relatively fast, all-weather transportation for people and commodities. Engineering challenges, especially safely and reliably harnessing steam power, proved surmountable, and investment capital became available, but the development of the industry was neither smooth nor simple. The demand was fueled in part by roads so poor that Illinois became a notorious “mud state” when the weather turned foul. In the winter of 1848–49, for example, the people of McLeansboro found themselves isolated. Bereft of “coffee, sugar and other necessaries of life,” they survived on what they had stored from previous harvests until the roads dried out the following spring.1 This was a common occurrence in the harsh Illinois climate, and town and country alike needed a dependable, all-weather mode of transportation to combat snow, ice, and mud.

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1 The Age of Steam

Edited by Don L Hofsommer and H Roger Indiana University Press ePub

Much of the history of Iowa is associated directly with the Railway Age. No one would deny that the railroad evolved into a magnificent means of long distance transportation, both for freight and passengers. The process began in the United States at about the point when the first Euro-American settlement occurred in the future territory and later the state of Iowa. By the time residents gained admission into the federal union in 1846, the railroad had emerged from its initial demonstration period. Notions about roadbed design and rails had been largely established, and motive power and rolling stock resembled equipment that for decades would dominate rail operations. As the state matured, so too did railways. On the eve of the Civil War railroad mileage in Iowa had reached 655 miles, but by 1890 trackage had soared to an astonishing 8,366 miles that fully covered the state.

Iowa was well suited for railroad construction. The general terrain in this “Beautiful Land” between the mighty Mississippi and Missouri rivers offered no major impediments for shaping paths for the iron horse. Of course, not all of the state was as flat as a floor, but the hills of the northeast, the “pot and kettle” sections elsewhere, especially in the southern tiers of counties, and the steep loess hills along the banks of the Missouri did not make for painfully difficult and costly construction, conditions that often confronted railroad builders in other sections of the country. After all, crossing the spine of the Allegheny Mountains, for example, had been time consuming and expensive, forcing such roads as the Baltimore & Ohio and the Pennsylvania to drive and maintain costly tunnels, deep cuts, and monumental bridges.

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Appendix A. Frank Julian Sprague Patents

William D. Middleton Indiana University Press ePub

Frank Sprague was issued 95 patents during his career. They are listed in the order in which they were issued, by number, title, patentees, application date, issue date, and assignee.


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7 Cooking the Books

RushJr. Loving Indiana University Press ePub

In the late fall of 1968, Jim McClellan and a friend from the Central rode the train together to Washington for interviews at the Federal Railroad Administration. The FRA administrator, who had been a protégé of Alfred Perlman at the Central and the Rio Grande, wanted one of them to come to FRA on a new exchange program that he was setting up. He selected McClellan, who left behind at Penn Central a memo to Perlman. Even if he hadn’t paid much attention to the financials, McClellan was beginning to see with ominous clarity that the chaos and fighting were putting the railroad on a track to disaster. Accordingly, he sent the warning that Penn Central would not make it if nothing were done to change things. Perlman could be surprisingly tolerant of such ideas, but others in the top ranks of Penn Central could not, and immediately it became clear that McClellan’s appointment at FRA was not temporary, because Penn Central was not going to let him come back. It didn’t seem that way at the time, but nothing could have been more to McClellan’s advantage.

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5   A Look Back

Lawrence A. Brough Indiana University Press ePub

While the Niles Car & Manufacturing Company was a good civic booster and even fielded a works baseball team each year, it was not very generous in reporting to the public, or to the industry for that matter, about its financial affairs. Except for advertisements in industry trade journals and announcements of cars orders, very little was published about the company. The Niles Daily News carried articles about annual meetings and occasional car shipments but little else. No company records survived, so what is known about the company has been gleaned from newspapers, trade journals, and published traction line histories to create this account.

There was a plethora of car builders operating at the beginning of the twentieth century, a great many having evolved from the construction of carriages and horse cars, which were generally small and lightweight. But the excitement in the electric railway industry at that time was in building interurbans for long distance, high-speed service that demanded cars more like railroad coaches. There were fewer builders of cars of this type and Ohio was in the middle of all this activity. And like the railroad-building boom of half a century earlier, there was plenty of business to share among suppliers to this frenzy (as in the gold rush of the previous decade, it wasn’t the miners who became wealthy but rather the merchants who sold them the picks and shovels). While Cleveland was already a railroad center, Niles seemed an unlikely place to establish a railroad-car-building concern of any type. But it was in the heart of industrial America at the time and skilled labor was easily available.

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