Pioneer American Railroads - Purple Mountain Press


by F. Daniel Larkin

From Chapter IV--"The First Trains:"

"Articles of agreement were signed November 16, 1831, for the new machine to be built to [Chief Engineer John B.] Jervis's specifications. It was to be named Experiment, a fitting title because its design differed from those used on English railroads . . . the Experiment drive wheels were made with a flange, the `other wheels to have cast iron naves with wooden spokes and felloes and wrought-iron flanged tire or rim'. . . The requirements for the `other wheels' were the only hint in the agreement that something might be different about this locomotive. Something was very different. Instead of the Experiment resting on four wheels fixed in position the Jervis design substituted a four-wheel truck in place of the two front wheels. The truck's purpose was to guide the rear driving wheels into curves on the railroad. David Matthew portrayed the moveable, or bogie, truck as having four wheels, each thirty-three inches in diameter. . . . Matthew proudly and wonderously proclaimed that in testing the engine he `crossed the Mohawk and Hudson Railroad from plane to plane, fourteen miles, in thirteen minutes making one stop for water.' The locomotive engineer increduously asserted that on a section of straight, level track he `made one mile in forty-five seconds [80 miles per hour] by the watch.' He announced that the Experiment was the `fastest and steadiest engine I have ever run or seen, and she worked with the greatest ease.' This was the `first bogie engine or truck . . . ever built in this country or any other.' "

The Mohawk and Hudson (connecting Albany and Schenectady) and the Saratoga and Schenectady Railroads were the first two railways built in New York State, and the third and fourth in the United States to successfully utilize locomotive power in their regular operations. This book details the manner in which the companies were organized, the people who were instrumental in their organization, the acutal construction of the roads, and and their operations prior to consolidation with other roads. This story also reveals the extent to which technology was borrowed from England and from earlier American railroads. It also contains a chapter on the Buffalo Railroad.

Dr. F. Daniel Larkin, a State University of New York Distinguished Service Professor, is director of Academic Support Services at SUNY Oneonta. He is the author of a biography of John B. Jervis and New York State Canals: A Short History published by Purple Mountain Press in 1998.

96 pages, 50 illustrations, 8.5 x 11, index, 1995
$25.00 laminated hardcover--A Purple Mountain Press original

Copyright © 1998 Purple Mountain Press. All rights reserved.