Oldest railroads in North America


Oldest railroads in North America

Several railroads have been called the oldest in North America.

Contents

Early experimental railroads

  • 1720: A railroad is reportedly used in the construction of the French fortress at Louisburg, Nova Scotia.[1]
  • 1764: Between 1762 and 1764 a gravity railroad (Montresor's Tramway) is built by British military engineers at the Niagara Portage in Lewiston, New York.
  • 1795: A wooden railway on Beacon Hill in Boston carries excavations down the hill to clear the land for the State House.
  • 1799: Boston developers begin to reduce the height of Mount Vernon, prior to building streets and homes. Silas Whitney constructs a gravity railroad to move excavated material down the hill to fill marshy areas to create new land from the Back Bay.[2]
  • 1809: In September an experimental railroad is built next to a Philadelphia tavern by a millwright named Somerville. The track, built for Thomas Leiper, has a grade of 1-1/2 inch to the yard (1 : 24 or about 4 %) over its total length of 60 yards (54.9 m) and proves satisfactory when tested with a loaded car.[3]
  • The incline section of the Granite Railway, photograph taken in 1934.
    1810: The Leiper Railroad, designed and built by merchant Thomas Leiper, connecting Crum Creek to Ridley Creek, Pennsylvania opens. It is used until 1829 when it is replaced by the Leiper Canal, but replaces the canal again in 1852. This became the Crum Creek Branch of the Baltimore and Philadelphia Railroad (part of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad) in 1887. This is the first railroad meant to be permanent, and the first to evolve into a common carrier after an intervening closure. See the 1826 Granite Railway (pictured) for comparison.
  • 1811: George Magers designs and builds a 1-mile (1.6 km) wooden gravity railroad between a gunpowder mill and its powder storage bunker at Falling's Creek, Virginia.[4]
  • 1815: New Jersey grants a charter on February 6, 1815 for a company to "erect a rail-road from the river Delaware near Trenton, to the river Raritan, at or near New Brunswick", as proposed by John Stevens (1749-1838). This is the New Jersey Railroad Company and is the first railroad chartered in the United States, however it is never built due to an inability to attract financial investors.
  • 1816: A railroad is reportedly used at Kiskiminetas Creek, Pennsylvania.[5]
  • 1818: An iron-smelting furnace at Bear Creek, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania reportedly has a wooden railroad in operation.[5]

The Granite, Coal and Cotton Railroads

Historical Marker of the Mohawk and Hudson Railroad, incorporated in 1826 and opened in 1831.
  • 1826 Mar 4: The Granite Railway in Massachusetts was incorporated by Thomas Handasyd Perkins and Gridley Bryant. Construction began on April 1, and operations began on October 7.[6] It later became a branch of the Old Colony and Newport Railway, which was later absorbed into the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad. This is often called the first commercial railroad in the U.S., as it was the first to evolve into a common carrier without an intervening closure. See the 1810 Leiper Railroad for comparison.
  • 1826 Apr 9: The Mohawk and Hudson Railroad was incorporated as the first railroad chartered in New York State[7] (marker pictured), and the first railroad in the United States designed to be powered by a locomotive engine as opposed to horse-drawn or gravity railroads. It opened on August 9, 1831 using steam locomotive deWitt Clinton.
  • 1827: The Mauch Chunk Railroad, a gravity railroad, is built between Summit Hill and Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania, (now Jim Thorpe, PA).[8] It was built to haul anthracite coal from the mines to the Lehigh River and was the first railroad of this type.
  • 1829 Aug 8: The Delaware and Hudson Canal Company's gravity railroad in northeast Pennsylvania opened using Stourbridge Lion, the first locomotive to run on rails in the United States.[9] It was also a coal railroad. The canal company, chartered in 1823, called itself "America's oldest continually operated transportation company".
  • 1829: The South Carolina Canal and Rail Road Company was chartered December 19, 1827 and was also known as the Charleston & Hamburg Road. An experimental track was installed in February, 1829 to haul bales of cotton in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. On April 1, 1830 a double tracked 3,800-foot (1,200 m) long railroad was in full operation. By 1833, this railroad had been completed to Hamburg, South Carolina for a total length of 137 miles (220 km). At that time, it was the longest railroad in the world. This was the first railroad to use steam locomotives regularly. It later became part of the Southern Railway, now part of Norfolk Southern.[10]
  • 1829: The Mill Creek & Mine Hill Navigation & Railroad Company was chartered on February 7, 1828. The 4.09-mile (6.58 km) main line from Palo Alto, Pennsylvania to Wolf Creek was completed in 1829 with branches added in 1829 and 1830 for a total of 8.29 miles (13.34 km).[11] It was another coal hauling railroad.
  • 1830: The Schuylkill Valley Railroad & Navigation Company was chartered on April 14, 1828. It ran 9.23 miles (14.85 km) from Port Carbon, Pennsylvania to Tuscarora and was completed in 1830.[12] It was built to carry coal from mines to Port Carbon.
  • 1830: The Union Canal Company Railroad was a 3.5-mile (5.6 km) railroad constructed by the Union Canal (Pennsylvania) Company and was chartered on March 3, 1826. The company was in the canal business, but due to the topography, they could not extend their canal to the coal fields north of Pine Grove, Pennsylvania. Their solution was to build this short coal hauling railroad which was completed in 1830.[9]
  • 1830: The Tuscumbia Railway was chartered on January 16, 1830 and proceeded to build a 2.1-mile (3.4 km) railroad from downtown Tuscumbia, Alabama to the docks on the Tennessee River west of Sheffield. This was the first railroad chartered/constructed west of the Appalachian Mountains. In 1832, this railroad was renamed the Tuscumbia, Courtland and Decatur Railroad, and was extended 41.9 miles (67.4 km) to connect the two Alabama cities of Tuscumbia and Decatur.[13]
  • 1831: The Mount Carbon Railroad was completed in 1831 running from Mount Carbon, Pennsylvania through Pottsville where it split into two branches, one going to what is now Seltzer and the other to the current Wadesville. This was a coal hauling railroad, 6.26 miles (10.07 km) in length.[14]
  • 1831: The Mine Hill and Schuylkill Haven Railroad completed the first part of its railroad from Schuylkill Haven, Pennsylvania to Minersville with a branch line up the West Branch of the Schuylkill River, a distance of 13.5 miles (21.7 km).[15]
  • 1831: The Room Run Railroad was completed running a distance 5.26 miles (8.47 km) from Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania to Nesquehoning.[16]
  • 1831: The Chesterfield Railroad (sometimes called the Manchester Railroad) began operations by September 1831 in Chesterfield County, Virginia.[16]
  • 1839: Albion Railway serving coal mines around Stellarton, Nova Scotia, first railway in Canada is use iron rails and run year-round, home of Samson, the oldest surviving locomotive in Canada.

Common carriers

USRail1835.jpg
Name Chartered State Opened Notes
Union Canal Company of Pennsylvania 01826-03-03 March 3, 1826 Pennsylvania 01830 1830 Chartered on May 30, 1811 to build a canal; authorized to build a railroad on March 3, 1826
Granite Railway 01826-03-04 March 4, 1826 Massachusetts 01826-10-07 October 7, 1826 Only authorized to carry freight until April 16, 1846
Delaware and Hudson Canal Company 01826-04-05 April 5, 1826 Pennsylvania 01829-10-09 October 9, 1829 Chartered on March 13, 1823 to build a canal; authorized to build a railroad on April 5, 1826
Danville and Pottsville Railroad 01826-04-08 April 8, 1826 Pennsylvania 01834-09-24 September 24, 1834
Mohawk and Hudson Railroad 01826-04-17 April 17, 1826 New York 01831-09-24 September 24, 1831
Baltimore and Ohio Railroad 01827-02-28 February 28, 1827 Maryland 01830-01-07 January 7, 1830 Carried passengers from opening
South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company 01827-12-19 December 19, 1827 South Carolina 01830-12 December 1830 Carried passengers from opening
Ithaca and Owego Railroad 01828-01-28 January 28, 1828 New York 01834-04-01 April 1, 1834
Mill Creek and Mine Hill Navigation and Railroad Company 01828-02-07 February 7, 1828 Pennsylvania 01829-11-03 November 3, 1829
Tioga Navigation Company 01828-02-07 February 7, 1828 Pennsylvania 01839 1839 Chartered on February 20, 1826 to build a canal or slack-water navigation; authorized to build a railroad on February 7, 1828
Baltimore and Susquehanna Railroad 01828-02-13 February 13, 1828 Maryland 01831-07-04 July 4, 1831
Chesterfield Railroad 01828-02-27 February 27, 1828 Virginia 01831-07 July 1831
New Castle and Frenchtown Turnpike and Railroad Company 01828-03-14 March 14, 1828 Maryland 01832-02-28 February 28, 1832 Chartered on January 6, 1810 as the New Castle and Frenchtown Turnpike Company to build a turnpike; renamed and authorized to build a railroad on March 14, 1828
Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad 01828-03-24 March 24, 1828 Pennsylvania 01832-10-18 October 18, 1832 Part of the state-owned Main Line of Public Works
Schuylkill Valley Navigation Company 01828-04-14 April 14, 1828 Pennsylvania 01830 1830 Chartered on March 20, 1827 to build a canal; authorized to build a railroad on April 14, 1828; renamed Schuylkill Valley Navigation and Railroad Company on January 15, 1829
Schuylkill East Branch Navigation Company 01828-04-14 April 14, 1828 Pennsylvania 01831-11-18 November 18, 1831 Chartered on February 20, 1826 to build a lock navigation; authorized to build a railroad on April 14, 1828; renamed Little Schuylkill Navigation, Railroad and Coal Company on April 23, 1829
New Castle and Frenchtown Turnpike and Railroad Company 01829-02-07 February 7, 1829 Delaware 01832-02-28 February 28, 1832 Chartered on January 24, 1809 as the New Castle and Frenchtown Turnpike Company to build a turnpike; renamed and authorized to build a railroad on February 7, 1829
New Castle Turnpike and Railroad Company 01829-02-07 February 7, 1829 Delaware 01832-02-28 February 28, 1832 Chartered on January 30, 1811 as the New Castle Turnpike Company to build a turnpike; renamed and authorized to build a railroad on February 7, 1829; merged into the New Castle Turnpike and Railroad Company on March 31, 1830
Mine Hill and Schuylkill Haven Railroad 01829-04-15 April 15, 1829 Pennsylvania 01831-04 April 1831
Northern Liberties and Penn Township Railroad 01829-04-23 April 23, 1829 Pennsylvania 01834-04 April 1834
Mount Carbon Railroad 01829-07-15 July 15, 1829 Pennsylvania 01831 1831
Tuscumbia Railway 01830-01-15 January 15, 1830 Alabama 01832-06-12 June 12, 1832
Pontchartrain Railroad 01830-01-20 January 20, 1830 Louisiana 01831-04-23 April 23, 1831
Lexington and Ohio Railroad 01830-01-27 January 27, 1830 Kentucky 01832-08-15 August 15, 1832
Camden and Amboy Railroad and Transportation Company 01830-02-04 February 4, 1830 New Jersey 01832-10-01 October 1, 1832 When the Camden and Amboy imported, assembled, and placed into service the locomotive John Bull, it was the first time that a steam locomotive had ever run on a North American railroad (earlier railroads used animal traction).
Petersburg Railroad 01830-02-10 February 10, 1830 Virginia 01832-10 October 1832
Lykens Valley Railroad and Coal Company 01830-04-07 April 7, 1830 Pennsylvania 01834-04 April 1834
Beaver Meadow Railroad and Coal Company 01830-04-07 April 7, 1830 Pennsylvania 01836-11-05 November 5, 1836
Canajoharie and Catskill Railroad 01830-04-19 April 19, 1830 New York 01839 1839
Boston and Lowell Railroad 01830-06-05 June 5, 1830 Massachusetts 01835-06-24 June 24, 1835
Petersburg Railroad 01831-01-01 January 1, 1831 North Carolina 01833 1833
Paterson and Hudson River Railroad 01831-01-31 January 31, 1831 New Jersey 01834 1834
Elizabethtown and Somerville Railroad 01831-02-09 February 9, 1831 New Jersey 01836-08-13 August 13, 1836
Saratoga and Schenectady Railroad 01831-02-16 February 16, 1831 New York 01832-07-12 July 12, 1832
West Chester Railroad 01831-02-18 February 18, 1831 Pennsylvania 01832-10-01 October 1, 1832
West Feliciana Railroad 01831-03-05 March 5, 1831 Louisiana 01835-01 January 1835
Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad 01831-03-21 March 21, 1831 Pennsylvania 01834-03-18 March 18, 1834 Part of the state-owned Main Line of Public Works
Southwark Railroad 01831-04-02 April 2, 1831 Pennsylvania 01835 1835
Cumberland Valley Railroad 01831-04-02 April 2, 1831 Pennsylvania 01837-08-16 August 16, 1837
Philadelphia and Delaware County Railroad 01831-04-02 April 2, 1831 Pennsylvania 01838-01-17 January 17, 1838 Renamed Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad on March 14, 1836
Philadelphia, Germantown and Norristown Railroad 01831-04-05 April 5, 1831 Pennsylvania 01832-06-06 June 6, 1832
Winchester and Potomac Railroad 01831-04-08 April 8, 1831 Virginia (now partially West Virginia) 01836-03 March 1836
New York and Harlem Railroad 01831-04-25 April 25, 1831 New York 01832-11-26 November 26, 1832
Boston and Providence Railroad 01831-07-22 July 22, 1831 Massachusetts 01835-07-28 July 28, 1835
Boston and Worcester Railroad 01831-06-23 June 23, 1831 Massachusetts 01834-04-16 April 16, 1834
Clinton and Vicksburg Railroad 01831-12-19 December 19, 1831 Mississippi 01838 1838 Reorganized as the Commercial and Railroad Bank of Vicksburg on December 25, 1833
Mad River and Lake Erie Railroad 01832-01-05 January 5, 1832 Ohio 01838 1838
Tuscumbia, Courtland and Decatur Railroad 01832-01-13 January 13, 1832 Alabama 01833-08-20 August 20, 1833
Wilmington and Susquehanna Railroad 01832-01-18 January 18, 1832 Delaware 01837-07-14 July 14, 1837
Lawrenceburg and Indianapolis Railroad 01832-02-02 February 2, 1832 Indiana 01834-07-04 July 4, 1834
Ohio and Indianapolis Railroad 01832-02-03 February 3, 1832 Indiana 01851 1851 Renamed Jeffersonville Railroad on February 3, 1849
Calais Railway 01832-02-17 February 17, 1832 Maine 01832 1832
Philadelphia and Trenton Railroad 01832-02-23 February 23, 1832 Pennsylvania 01833-11-14 November 14, 1833
Baltimore and Port Deposit Railroad 01832-03-05 March 5, 1832 Maryland 01837-07-06 July 6, 1837
New Jersey Railroad and Transportation Company 01832-03-07 March 7, 1832 New Jersey 01834-09-15 September 15, 1834
Portsmouth and Roanoke Railroad 01832-03-08 March 8, 1832 Virginia 01834-07-27 July 27, 1834
New Jersey, Hudson and Delaware Railroad 01832-03-08 March 8, 1832 New Jersey 01872 1872 Merged into the New Jersey Midland Railway on April 26, 1870
Franklin Railroad 01832-03-12 March 12, 1832 Pennsylvania 01839-09-10 September 10, 1839
Delaware and Maryland Railroad 01832-03-14 March 14, 1832 Maryland 01837-07-14 July 14, 1837 Merged into the Wilmington and Susquehanna Railroad on April 18, 1836
York and Maryland Line Railroad 01832-03-14 March 14, 1832 Pennsylvania 01838-08-23 August 23, 1838
Liggett's Gap Railroad 01832-04-07 April 7, 1832 Pennsylvania 01851-10-20 October 20, 1851 Renamed Lackawanna and Western Railroad on April 14, 1851
Rensselaer and Saratoga Railroad 01832-04-14 April 14, 1832 New York 01836-04-19 April 19, 1836
Saratoga and Fort Edward Railroad 01832-04-17 April 17, 1832 New York 01848-10-15 October 15, 1848 Reorganized as the Saratoga and Washington Railroad on May 2, 1834
New York and Albany Railroad 01832-04-17 April 17, 1832 New York 01848-12-31 December 31, 1848 Sold to the New York and Harlem Railroad on March 9, 1846
Watertown and Rome Railroad 01832-04-17 April 17, 1832 New York 01849-10 October 1849
Tonawanda Railroad 01832-04-24 April 24, 1832 New York 01837-05 May 1837
New York and Erie Railroad 01832-04-24 April 24, 1832 New York 01841-09-23 September 23, 1841
Brooklyn and Jamaica Railroad 01832-04-25 April 25, 1832 New York 01836-04-18 April 18, 1836 Leased by the Long Island Rail Road from opening
Hudson and Berkshire Railroad 01832-04-26 April 26, 1832 New York 01838-09-26 September 26, 1838
Boston, Norwich and New London Railroad 01832-05-01 May 1, 1832 Connecticut 01840 1840 Merged into the Norwich and Worcester Railroad on June 22, 1836
New York and Stonington Railroad 01832-05-14 May 14, 1832 Connecticut 01837-11-17 November 17, 1837 Merged into the New York, Providence and Boston Railroad on July 1, 1833
Portsmouth and Lancaster Railroad 01832-06-09 June 9, 1832 Pennsylvania 01836-09-16 September 16, 1836 Renamed Harrisburg, Portsmouth, Mountjoy and Lancaster Railroad on March 11, 1835
Williamsport and Elmira Railroad 01832-06-09 June 9, 1832 Pennsylvania 01837-01-12 January 12, 1837
Strasburg Railroad 01832-06-09 June 9, 1832 Pennsylvania 01837 1837
New York, Providence and Boston Railroad 01832-06-23 June 23, 1832 Rhode Island 01837-11-17 November 17, 1837
Detroit and St. Joseph Railroad 01832-06-29 June 29, 1832 Michigan 01838-02-03 February 3, 1838 Sold to the Central Railroad of Michigan on April 22, 1837
New Orleans & Carrollton Rail-Road in 1835

Selected railroads chartered since 1832:

Tunnels and Bridges

The expanded Park Avenue Tunnel in 1941

West of the Mississippi River

References

  1. ^ Brown, Robert R. (October 1949). Canada's Earliest Railway Lines. Railway & Locomotive Historical Society Bulletin #78. 
  2. ^ Whitehill, Walter Muir (1959). Boston - A Topographical History. Harvard University Press. p. 62. 
  3. ^ Dunbar, Seymour. A History of Travel in America. pp. 876–7. 
  4. ^ Dunbar. quoting Thomas McKibben of Baltimore in the American Engineer, 1886. pp. 878–9. 
  5. ^ a b Dunbar. p. 880. 
  6. ^ Railroads and Canals of the United States of America by Henry V. Poor (New York: John H. Schultz & Co, 1860), page 85[1]
  7. ^ American Railroading Began Here cited 15 October 2009.
  8. ^ Railroads and Canals of the United States of America by Henry V. Poor (New York: John H. Schultz & Co, 1860), pages 415,537 [2]
  9. ^ a b Railroads and Canals of the United States of America by Henry V. Poor (New York: John H. Schultz & Co, 1860), page 415[3]
  10. ^ in The Transfer of Pioneering British Railroad Technology to North America by Frederick C. Gamst, University of Massachusetts, Boston[4]
  11. ^ Railroads and Canals of the United States of America by Henry V. Poor (New York: John H. Schultz & Co, 1860), page 459[5]
  12. ^ Railroads and Canals of the United States of America by Henry V. Poor (New York: John H. Schultz & Co, 1860), page 501[6]
  13. ^ Welcome to Tuscumbia, Alabama - You Should See Us Now!!
  14. ^ Railroads and Canals of the United States of America by Henry V. Poor (New York: John H. Schultz & Co, 1860), page 462[7]
  15. ^ Railroads and Canals of the United States of America by Henry V. Poor (New York: John H. Schultz & Co, 1860), page 460[8]
  16. ^ a b Development of Early Transportation Systems in the United States by J.L. Ringwalt (Philadelphia: Railway World Office, 1888), (RAILWAY CONSTRUCTION FROM 1830 TO 1840)[9]
  17. ^ ExplorePAHistory.com Historical Marker Allegheny Portage Railroad
  18. ^ ExplorePAHistory.com Historical Marker Service began on wooden rails.
  19. ^ Red River Railroad

External links

Specific railroads


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