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WHY the history of a railroad? Particularly, why a history of the Erie? Many times during his work in the production of this Story of Erie the author was asked those questions. They were apt, and it was but natural that they should have been asked, for, at first thought, it is difficult for the average person to understand what there might be of interest or general importance in the details of the conception or building of a railroad. To-day there could be but little more than local interest or importance in such an undertaking, for the land is thick with railroads, and the purpose of none now constructing or to be constructed can be broader than that of local benefit. But when the idea for a railroad through the region and over the route now occupied by the Erie first found expression, seventy years ago, railroads were so strange in this country, so almost unheard-of, in fact, that in but three States of the Union had there been any movement made toward a practical application of them as a means of transportation-in Massachusetts, in Pennsylvania, and in Maryland; less than sixty miles of railroad, or of what then passed for railroad, in all the broad land. The Massachusetts railroad was built to haul stone on, from a quarry, by horse-power. The Pennsylvania railroads were used and to be used for hauling coal from the mines, the cars running by their own gravity, or being hauled by stationary engines up in clined planes. The Maryland railroad alone had been designed for the carrying of passengers as well as freight, with the hope that some day it might extend as far as the Allegheny Mountains of Virginiaand the cars were drawn by horses. The idea of the railroad as the one great factor in the development, the expansion, the civilization of the country had not inspired any of the undertakings named, and had found no expression until William C. Redfield

evolved it and called public attention to it, before the sound of a locomotive whistle or the whirr of a locomotive's wheels had been heard on the American continent; and from that idea came the Erie, the first projected link of all the links of railroad that have been welded into one great chain of connection between the Atlantic and the Pacific, making not only possible, but creating, the marvellous development of theretofore unknown regions, and peopling them with industrious millions.

When the movement toward the construction of the Erie began, Missouri was the only State west of the Mississippi; Chicago was a small village clustered about Fort Dearborn, and yet unnamed; Buffalo was a Western village, and Detroit a frontier post. Summer and winter saw the poor emigrant, with his whole household in a hooded wagon, which often served for vehicle, stable, and tavern, moving toilsomely to the distant West, or what was then called the distant West, and it was rarely more distant than Illinois. Beyond the Mississippi was virtually a land unknown to emigration.

Redfield's idea for such a railroad as he advocated involved even more than the project of those who at last acted upon it. He planned for the construction. of a railroad from the Hudson River to the Mississippi, but that was a project beyond the power of his contemporaries to grasp the magnitude of. They said: "Let us reach Lake Erie with our railroad. Then other railroads will come from the West to meet us." And railroads did come from the West to meet them, brought into existence by the advance of the Erie westward. Then, as the Erie project took on form and substance, its purpose aroused the East to action, and Massachusetts began the pushing of a railroad westward, to share in, if not rule, the prospects brought to view by the Erie idea. If the build

ing of the Erie had not been begun when it was, New York City and Central New York would have been without railroads for years, for it was the prospective uniting of the Hudson with Lake Erie by such a railroad that spurred the interests between Albany and Buffalo to the building of the local lines that were consolidated as the New York Central Railroad soon after the Erie was completed to Dunkirk. Boston's connection by rail with the West was hastened a decade or more by the Erie undertaking. It was because the Erie was advancing toward Lake Erie that all that system of railroads now known as the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern came into existence as early as they did, and that lines of railroad from the South and from the North were projected, and their building was begun and carried forward to meet the advancing Erie at some point along its route. Thus it may be said, truthfully, that the history of Erie is indirectly the history of the railroads of the country; and as the prosecution of the work of building and finishing the Erie between the ocean and the lakes, and the early operations upon it, were fraught with stirring and exciting incident without precedent here or elsewhere; involved so much of personal sacrifice, and enlisted in it the efforts of men so prominent socially and financially; brought into the commercial life of the country so much that was new and of universal benefit; evolved so many ideas in the science of railroading that became the basis of the future great development of that science, to the general good; and gave such opportunity, then and later in its existence, for the enhancement of individual interests and schemes, which opportunity was so eagerly seized and acted upon as to bring into the records of Erie events as startling and dramatic as any that enliven the pages of fiction, the story of it all stands unique among the chronicles of the time, and appeals not alone to one locality, nor simply to one particular class of readers. It is not alone the history of a rail

road. It is a history of men, and measures, and methods that for two generations were potent in the social, financial, and commercial affairs of this country and Europe; and every page of it is of human interest. This had long been in the thought of the author. Hence "The Story of Erie."

To tell of the task the compiling of such a narrative entailed would require a chapter as long as any in the book itself. It was begun more than five years ago, and has been in almost constant prosecution. The records of three-quarters of a century, many of them long forgotten and hard to find, had to be examined; musty files of newspapers, old a generation ago, carefully scanned, number by number and year by year; old publications bearing on the subject, rare, and of obscure possession, hunted up and read; railroad reports for nearly seventy years past inspected, volume by volume, and the Erie's showing in them analyzed and digested; the records of Wall Street for half a century compiled; the survivors of Erie's departed days, few and widely scattered about the country, unearthed, and interviewed as to their reminiscences of those days-all these things, and many more, had to be accomplished before the Story of Erie could be told. It may well be expressed in the words of quaint Thomas á Wood of old: A painfull work, I'll assure you, and more than difficult; wherein what toyle hath been taken as no man thinketh, so no man believeth, save he that hath made the triall."

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