Tales of The Rails By Veronica Hutchinson Collection of Ture Tales Lore Stories
Tales of The Rails By Veronica Hutchinson An entertaining collection of railroadiana; true tales, railroad lore, stories for young and old. 329 Pages Copyright 1952 DUST Jacket FIRST EDITION Dust jacket has some tears.
SINCE THEIR first beginnings railroads and railroading have always held a fascination for all ages. We have come a long way since our pioneer days of railroad travel.
The first travelers in America had to go over wilderness roads, often muddy, and sometimes follow Indian trails on horseback, oxcart, stagecoach and, later, by canal boats. These roads were often impassable, but in spite of every discomfort people found a way of traveling from one place to another.
Early in the 1800's the first railroads were built. (At that time, railroad was spelled as two separate words.) These Rail Roads were built on granite blocks laid opposite each other, a short distance apart, and wooden rails were laid on each side of the block. In this way, the first railroad was built. Travel became more comfortable and was much faster than over the old, rutty roads.
The Baltimore and Ohio was the first horsepower railroad in America. It was opened in 1828. The coaches were built in the same style as the stagecoaches. Again, a forward step in our history of transportation.
A short time later in 1828, George Stephenson, an English engineer, invented a steam locomotive. Few people realized at this time what a wonderful invention this was and how the steam locomotive would change the history of the world. It was a small locomotive and pulled two coaches. Naturally, this made a great impression in America, where everyone was interested in new inventions.
The first locomotives used in America were shipped from England, but soon locomotives were being made in this country. Peter Cooper built the first American locomotive. It was so small that it was called the "Tom Thumb." It was used on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and its speed was about twelve miles an hour. This was much faster than any other type of then known transportation.
Another locomotive that has come down in American history was built in New York-the Dewitt Clinton. There was great excitement the day the Dewitt Clinton made its first trip. An important group of people rode the three coaches, all very proud of the honor of being invited to take the first trip. It was far from comfortable. Cinders blew back from the engine, burning the ladies' dresses and the men's coats. These coaches were open and there was very little protection for the passengers. The crowds that gathered were greatly amused. Whenever the locomotive would stop because of some engine trouble, someone from the crowd would call, "Get a horse."
It did not take too long a time before improvements were made. People accepted the new way of traveling. Soon a number of railroads had been built and were carrying passengers from place to place.
As is usually the case when a new invention is accepted, there was considerable opposition to the railroads from the owners of the stagecoaches, clipper ships and canal boats. These well established groups knew that if the railroads were successful, it would be the end of their business. And so it was.
The men who built and worked on the early railroads were real heroes. The railroads had to be built through the wilderness and, finally, across the continent. The eastern railroads were built as far as the Missouri River. For a number of years, people thought it would be impossible to build a railroad from coast to coast, but again the ingenuity and courage of the American engineers won. Railroads carrying freight as well as passengers were built in the north and south of our country and west as far as the Missouri River.
When the great gold rush stirred the country in 1849, thousands of men started the long journey to California. There were three ways to reach the Pacific coast, all filled with danger and hardship. One was by land across the plains and mountains. Great numbers traveled by horse and oxcarts. Many lost their lives, either on the great plains or in the almost impassable mountains. Some were attacked by Indians swooping down upon small parties of travelers and others were lost in blinding blizzards.
A second way was by boat to the Isthmus of Panama, then a frightful journey through the jungles and swamps where many died in their effort to make their way through the wild and dank tropical undergrowth. When the coast was finally reached, the last lap of the long and trying journey was by boat up the Pacific to San Francisco.
The third way, even more dangerous, was by clipper ship around the Horn. Violent storms swept around the Horn and many lives were lost in shipwrecks. The fortunate ones who survived reached their destination at great cost. Still the flow of travel kept on.
All this traveling made those who were interested in the continental railroad more determined than ever to build a railroad straight across the country and to surmount all obstacles. How all this was accomplished is one of the most thrilling chapters in American history.
The Union Pacific Railroad was finally completed, going west to Ogden, Utah, from St. Joseph, Missouri. The Central Pacific was built from San Francisco to Ogden, Utah.
After untold work and hardships, the two railroads met west of Ogden, Utah, on May to, 1869. It is a day to remember, not only in the history of railroads but in the history of America. The two roads that took so long to plan and build were completed at last. There was a great celebration when the joining rails were fastened down with gold and silver spikes.
An old print shows the commemoration of the historical event. Two locomotives, one facing cast and one facing west, are standing opposite each other. Crowds of officials, promoters and workers are standing on the locomotives and grouped around them-all looking very happy. A monument now stands on this spot to mark where history was made.
The completion of the continental railroad made it possible for people to travel west by train and was the greatest factor in the development of our country.
No wonder stories of railroads and the men who built and operated them have been read by hundreds of thousands of people. In this collection, chosen from many sources, are stories of heroes engaged in all phases of railroading-real men who risked their lives to "keep 'em rolling."
Casey Jones is probably one of the best known of the railroad heroes. His name is synonymous with railroading. He was made an immortal by a ballad that was written shortly after the wreck of his engine on the Central Illinois Railroad. From the time he was a young man, his great ambition was to be an engineer. He finally achieved his ambition and became an engineer, and a good one. His record was one of which he could be proud. He met his death driving his famous Cannonball, but he still lives wherever tales are told of railroad heroes.
The stories in this collection will make the reader more conscious of the men who are connected with the operation of the railroads and trains in every possible division. The engineer, fireman, switchman and conductor go out in all kinds of weather, and they and the train dispatcher are all vitally connected in some way with the operation of the railroad.
A phrase that is as well known as the name of "Casey Jones" again comes from railroad lore. A certain man by the name of Finnegan was given to long reports and was asked by his supervisor to be more concise. One day when a train was derailed his report came in as follows: "Off again, on again, gone again. Finnegan."
We can remember the whistles of engineers long gone. Casey Jones had his own particular whistle of six notes, calling to all as he drove along through the towns on the Illinois Central. Whenever we hear a lonesome whistle at night, we know that a train, well equipped and operated by efficient men, is riding into the night with hundreds of passengers comfortably asleep in the knowledge that their lives are protected by the engineer.
We are particularly indebted to K. M. Campbell of Railroad Magazine for his invaluable assistance and courtesy in making accessible to us the resources and files of Railroad Magazine.
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