Railways enter the era of steam

The history of New Jersey’s role in the Steam Transportation Revolution of the 1800s is replete with many firsts. Some are proudly remembered; some that we would have just as quickly forgotten.

On the water, John Finch operated a steamboat on the Delaware River 20 years before Robert Fulton and his famous Clermont sailed on the Hudson River. In 2011, David J. Fowler wrote for a railroad exhibit that was presented at Rutgers University on John Stevens.

“In 1812 (Stevens) wrote the first American publication promoting the advantage of ‘steam cars’ over canals, which has been called the ‘birth certificate’ of all state railroads. -United. He prevailed over the New Jersey legislature in 1815 to pass a law “to erect a railway from the Delaware River, near Trenton, to the Raritan River, in or near New Brunswick” – the first American railway charter . … In 1825, at the age of seventy-six, Stevens built an experimental steam engine on his property “to power a car on the railroads.” The guests were delighted to ride the “Hoboken Hotel Circle” at 10 km / h. Five years later, the Camden and Amboy Railroad was chartered, and his sons Robert L. and Edwin A. became officers in the young company.

Meanwhile, according to Fowler, one of Stevens’ sons was struggling to implement the new technology.

“In 1830 Robert L. Stevens, ‘President and Engineer’ of the newly chartered Camden and Amboy Railroad, went to England to order rails and a locomotive for the company. He had gained valuable experience in the design and construction of steamboats while working with his father, John Stevens. During the trip, he cut the T-rail from a piece of wood which, with little variation, eventually became the standard in the United States. In the past, the first American railroads used an iron strap laid on wooden rails.

Over the years, Robert Stevens has helped the pioneers of American railroads.

Stevens also developed the “hook-head spike” and “fishplate” for securing the rails, and he replaced the stone blocks to which the rails were originally attached with logs that were propped up by crushed stone. there are wooden “sleepers” still used on platforms today.… Another Stevens invention was the pilot, or “cowcatcher” attached to the front of locomotives. He never patented any of his railway inventions. The miles of railroad tracks that crisscross the countryside are Robert I. Stevens’ “imperishable monument.”

In England, Robert ordered the construction of a new locomotive, which was dismantled and shipped to Bordentown, New Jersey historian John T. Cunningham explained.

“The engine arrived in a bewildering pile of crates. A twenty-three-year-old handyman named Isaac Dripps has been ordered to assemble the unmarked and unnamed pieces. He had never seen a locomotive, of course, but bolted the parts together through trial and error. Nicknamed the John Bull because of its English origins, the locomotive was ready for its first test on November 12, 1831.… That day Dripps sent the John Bull roaring through Mile Hollow near Bordentown at thirty miles an hour . … The first cross-state trip took place in September 1833. As a sign, the locomotive struck a pig that had strayed on the track. The pig was beheaded, the John Bull landed in a ditch, and a passenger “in his fright shot a sunset in a ditch, out the window.”

In the fall of 1833, the railway was in service. It was the fastest land transport on Earth. The National newspaper of November 6 amazed its readers, stating, “The new arrangement for travelers between New York and Philadelphia by the Camden Line and Amboy Rail Road is very convenient. The beautiful steamboat New Philadelphia leaves the Chestnut Street wharf at half past eight in the morning, and passengers arrive in New York at around three o’clock – in less than seven hours. The departure time from New York is eight hours. The cars between Bordentown and Amboy are pulled by the engine of the locomotive, with a speed, comfort and safety that are subjects of curiosity and wonder.

At a time when distance was measured in days, weeks or months, the Gazette was fascinated by this fact: “Breakfast can thus be taken at the usual time in Philadelphia and dinner in New York. In the summer, it will be easy to go and come back in the light of day and devote a few hours, besides business or pleasure, in either city.

The locomotive was the Concorde of its day and intended only for those who could afford the ticket price and were willing to take a risk.

Two days after the Gazette article proclaimed the “speed, comfort and safety” of the trip, the passengers left New York for Philadelphia. Three of those on board were nationally known personalities: Cornelius Vanderbilt, a shipping magnate; Tyrone Power, the world famous Irish actor, making his first tour of America; and John Quincy Adams, former President of the United States, then a member of Congress, who was returning to Washington, DC

Two of the men would leave detailed accounts of their trip. The Irish actor wrote: “Friday 8th – Climbed with the lark, and, accompanied by Captain D-n, boarded the steamer for Philadelphia, via Amboy.

“The morning was clear, with a warm sun just tempered by a balmy and gentle breeze: the package was packed, and our crossing of the port was an unforgettable pleasure. We would soon, however, have all the happy memories of that trip miserably erased by one of the most frightening accidents I have ever seen.

“In Amboy, we took the railroad; and everyone was delighted to find that the locomotives were now running, expecting a quick and enjoyable ride to Bordentown. For a while, all went well: various conjectures were made about our rate; some have calculated it at twenty miles an hour; D — n and the Belgian minister, Baron de B —- r, were arguing.

The former president would record the day’s events in his journal, saying, “We arrived in New York at half past six this morning. I took my leave of Mr. Harrod, his daughter, my niece Elizabeth, took a ride with Mr. Potter, and crossed from the East to the North River, put my luggage in the steamboat Independence, Captain Douglas, and walked to the City Hotel. . I found out that my wife and family left there last Monday to go to Washington.

After leaving a hotel, Adams wrote: “I then returned to the steamboat, which left the quay at eight o’clock and disembarked the passengers at Amboy at about ten twenty. The boat was crowded and almost suffocated, and people from all countries and languages ​​seemed to congregate there – among the rest, a whole tribe of wild Irish, whose language I was now hearing for the first time. . The only people I knew among the passengers were David B. Ogden, of New York, and Dr. McDowell, whom Dr. Condict introduced to me last winter in Washington and who was then a professor at Princeton College but had left since. and moved to Philadelphia.

Once in New Jersey, it was time to board the train.

“There were over two hundred passengers in the wagons. There were two locomotives, A and B, each pulling an accommodation car, a sort of mobile platform, in a square, with an open guardrail, a platform and a row of benches that could hold forty or fifty people; then four or five coaches in the form of large stagecoaches, each with three compartments, with entrance doors on both sides, and two opposite benches, on each of which sat four passengers. Each train was closed by a high quadrangular box van with open oars, in which were crammed the luggage of all the passengers of the train, all covered with an oilcloth. I was (in) car B, n ° 1, and of course in the second train.

Even a former president might be excited about the speed.

“Of the first 10 miles, two were covered in four minutes, marked by a Mr. De Young watch, in the same car and division as me. They stopped, oiled the wheels, and continued on. We had gone about five miles further and had covered a mile in one minute and thirty-six seconds.

What happened next would be a first most people would love to forget – but Adams, Power, and others would remember America’s first railroad crash.

Next week: train accident.

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About Jun Quentin

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