Erie County, Pennsylvania

History of Erie County, Pennsylvania 1884

by Samuel P. Bates, 

Submitted by Gaylene Kerr Banister


Part II Chapter XXII
The Canal and Railroads


A suggestion was made as early as 1762 to unite the waters of Lake Erie with the Delaware River at Philadelphia, by way of the Schuylkill, Swatara, Susquehanna, Juniata and Allegheny. The country was too poor to undertake the enterprise then, but it was not lost sight of by the far-seeing citizens of the State. A company was formed in 1791 to construct a canal from the Schuylkill to the Susquehanna, and another in 1792 to build one down the Schuylkill to Philadelphia. These corporations were consolidated in 1811, under the name of the Union Canal Company, and authorized to extend their improvement to Lake Erie should it be deemed expedient. The canal and slackwater along the Schuylkill were not opened until 1818. The Union Canal, connecting with the latter at Reading, was completed to Middletown, on the Susquehanna, in 1827. It does not appear that the corporation made an effort to extend their work any further westward.

The Legislature of 1823 passed an act for the appointment of Commissioners to explore a route for connecting Lake Erie with French Creek by canal and slackwater, a project that seem decidedly absurd in the light of our present information. The Commissioners were duly appointed, Col. Thomas Forster of this city being one of the number, and a survey was made in 1825, by Maj. Douglass, of the United States Army. A convention of delegates from forty-six counties, Giles Sanford representing Erie, met at Harrisburg in August, 1825, and passed resolutions in favor of a canal from the Susquehanna to the Allegheny, and from the Allegheny to Lake Erie. The State embarked in the enterprise soon after, going heavily in debt for the purpose, and by October, 1834, the first boat from the East arrived at Pittsburgh. That was almost nine years later than the opening of the Erie Canal in New York, which was completed in November, 1825. The main line of the Pennsylvania Canal extended from Columbia, Lancaster County, a few miles below the intersection of the Union Canal, and extended up the Susquehanna and Juniata to the Alleghany Mountains. These were crossed by a railway, consisting of a series of inclined planes, over which boats, built in sections, were moved by stationary engines. After overcoming the mountains the route was down the Conemaugh, the Kiskeminetas and the Allegheny Rivers to Pittsburgh.

The Lake Terminus
In the meantime, a furious agitation sprung up in the Northwest over the question whether the extension of the canal from Pittsburgh to Lake Erie should be by way of the Allegheny River and French Creek, or down the Ohio and up the Beaver and Shenango Rivers. The first was known as the "Eastern" and the latter as the "Western" route. Stephen Wolverton was elected to the Legislature from Erie County in 1827 as a French Creek or "Eastern route" man. The next year the friends of the "Western route" rallied, and elected George Moore as the Representative of the county. The Western route having been adopted by the advice of the engineers in charge, another controversy arose in the county over the lake terminus of the canal, some wanting it to be at Erie, and others at the mouth of Elk Creek. William and James Miles, who owned a large body of land in that vicinity, were the chief promoters of the Elk Creek scheme, and at one time nearly succeeded. It is a part of the tradition of the day that Erie owes its selection largely to the labors of Elijah Babbitt in the Legislature, who rose from a sick bed to speak and work in its favor. In 1832, through the efforts of Hon. John H. Walker, the State ceded the third section of 2,000 acres of land west of Erie to the borough, for the purpose of building a canal basin at the harbor, reserving 100 acres for a county almshouse.

The principal difficulty encountered in the construction of the canal was in overcoming the dividing ridge in Crawford County, and obtaining water from there to Erie, a distance of thirty-eight miles, with a continuous descent to the lake. To meet this difficulty, Conneaut Lake, nearly on the summit of the ridge, and about 500 feet above Lake Erie, was raised to a sufficient level to turn the water in a northerly direction, and converted into a reservoir. A feeder was built from Bemus' Mills, three miles above Meadville, which carried a portion of French creek into Conneaut Lake, keeping up a regular supply of water. All of the water used in the canal from the summit to Erie was drawn from the reservoir of Conneaut Lake. Work on the enterprise progressed at irregular spots and intervals until 1842, when the State refused to appropriate any more money.

At Erie, ground was broken for the canal on the 4th of July, 1838, amid great festivities, Capt. D. Dobbins leading the procession, Capt. M. Strong lifting the first spadeful of earth, and Hon. John H. Walker delivering the oration.

The Governor's message in 1843 showed that ninety-seven and three-quarter miles were finished from Rochester, on the Ohio, the southern terminus, to the mouth of the French Creek feeder, and forty-nine and one-quarter miles more, including the feeder and an extension to Franklin, leaving in progress and nearly completed the thirty-eight and one half miles from the point where the other work ended in Erie. Up to that date the State had expended more than $4,000,000, and it was calculated that but $211,000 more were needed to make the canal ready for the boats.

Completion of the Canal
At the session of 1842-43, the Legislature passed an act incorporating the Erie Canal Company, and ceding to it all the work that had been done at such immense cost, on condition that the corporation would finish and operate the improvement. This company was organized with Rufus S. Reed as President; C. M. Reed, Treasurer; William Kelly, Secretary, and the two Reeds, Kelly, T. G, Colt, William M. Watts, B. B. Vincent and John A. Tracy, of Erie, M. B. Lowry, of Crawford County, and James M. Power, of Mercer County, as Managers. Contracts for the incompleted work were let in September, 1843, payment to be made in the bonds of the company. The first boats to reach Erie were the Queen of the West, a packet boat, crowded with passengers, and the R. S. Reed, loaded with Mercer County coal, both coming in on the same day, the 5th of December, 1844. They were received with huzzas by the thousands gathered on the banks of the canal at Erie to witness the great event, and greeted with a cannon salute when they reached the bay. The Wayne Grays paraded during the day, and a ball was given at the Reed House in the evening. A few other boats came in the same winter, but navigation did not regularly open until the spring of 1845. The principal engineers of the work were W. Milnor Roberts and Milton Courtright.

The canal entered the city limits of Erie near the present car works, and followed the ravine of Lee's Run to the bay, which it joined at the foot of Sassafras street. A commodious basin for the protection of the boats was built in the bay, at the outlet, which still remains, being the inclosed part of the harbor on both sides of the public dock. Between the almshouse and the bay there is a descent of over a hundred feet, rendering necessary fifteen locks, with an average lift of seven feet. At Lockport in the western part of the county, where the canal descended to the level of the lake shore, there were twenty-eight locks within a distance of two miles, having an average lift of six and a half feet. The canal was of moderate capacity, compared with the great Erie Canal of New York, and as a consequence the boats were of small size, averaging sixty-five tons.

The Abandonment
A good business was done for thirty years after its completion, mainly in coal, iron ore and merchandise. Up to 1853, when the Lake Shore Railroad was opened to Toledo, the canal also carried large numbers of emigrants, who came to Erie by steamer from Buffalo, and took this route to the Ohio Valley. A number of packet boats for conveying passengers ran on the canal, and it was the grand avenue of trade and travel for the western counties. In 1860, the receipts were $105,311, and the expenses $70,879, of which $17,034 were for a new aqueduct over Walnut Creek. In those days, the canal and basin at Erie presented a busy sight; scores of boats were loaded and unloaded daily at the docks; the locks were in almost constant use; thousands of people derived their maintenance from boating, and large sums of money were invested in various ways along the line of the improvement. W. W. Reed was Superintendent in 1860, and continued in that capacity until the canal was abandoned.

The canal continued to flourish until the completion of the Erie & Pittsburgh Railroad, which soon proved to be a formidable competitor. Had its capacity been for large-sized boats, this rivalry might not have been serious. An enlargement was proposed but never undertaken. The water of Lake Erie could not be made to flow up hill, and opinions differed whether French Creek and Conneaut Lake would furnish enough water to float the increased size of boats necessary to compete with the railroad. A company was formed, however, who had faith in the experiment. They offered Gen. Reed, who controlled most of the stock, a handsome sum for the canal, but, in the midst of their negotiations, were notified that he had disposed of it to the railroad management. The latter operated it in an unsatisfactory manner to the boatmen until 1871, when the fall of the Elk Creek Aqueduct gave them an excuse for abandoning the work, which was undoubtedly their original purpose. Since then the locks and bridges have been taken to pieces, the boats sold or broken up, the channel filled almost everywhere in the county, and few traces of this once important avenue remain. The abandonment of the canal ruined many boatmen and small storekeepers, and caused much injury to the towns along its route which were so unfortunate as to be off of the line of the railroad.

The Lake Shore Railroad -- The earliest public movement in regard to the construction of a railroad along the lake shore was through a convention held in Fredonia, N. Y., in 1831. Its object was to arrange for building a road from Buffalo to the State line, with the understanding that it was to connect with one in Pennsylvania. The delegates from Erie were C. M. Reed, P. S. V. Hamot and Thomas H. Sill.

The Erie & North East Railroad Company, the first railroad organization in the county, was incorporated April 12, 1842, with a capital of $5,000,000. This was reduced in 1846 to $600,000, and books for subscriptions were opened on the 19th of October in the same year, most of the stock being taken in Erie. The active men in forwarding the project were Charles M. Reed, John A. Tracy and John H. Walker. The first election of officers was held on the 22d of January, 1847, resulting in the election of C. M. Reed as President, Giles Sanford as Treasurer, and William Kelly, Henry Cadwell, Smith Jackson, A. W. Brewster, M. Courtright and James Williams as Directors. The surveys of the road were completed in the spring of 1849, under the direction of Mr. Courtright. Contracts for the construction of the road were let on the 26th of July of the same year, and the grading was commenced soon after.

Erie To Buffalo
Previous to this, a company had been formed to build a railroad from Dunkirk to the State line, under the auspices of the New York & Erie Railway Company. A second road was projected by the New York Central Company from Buffalo, by way of Fredonia, to the State line. Both routes were surveyed, the right of way obtained, and some work done. A contract was entered into by the Erie & North East Company for a connection with the Dunkirk & State Line road, which would have given a uniform six feet gauge, and made Erie the practical terminus of the New York & Erie road upon the lake. Shortly afterward, another arrangement was made with the Buffalo, Fredonia & State line road for the laying of an additional track of the New York gauge of four feet eight and one-half inches. In course of time, a compromise was effected between the two New York corporations, by which they violated their contract with the Erie North East Company, and agreed to build but one road between Buffalo and the State line of the Ohio gauge of four feet ten inches. The object of this was to force the Erie & North East Company to adopt the same gauge, and compel the break, which had to occur at some point, to be made within the limits of New York. This did not have the effect they anticipated, and the Erie & North East road was completed with a six feet track. Work on the road went on slowly, and the first passenger train did not come into Erie until the 19th of January, 1952, John Moore being conductor, and Nathan Norton, engineer.

Erie To Cleveland
The Franklin Canal Company was incorporated on the 27th of April, 1844, to repair the Franklin division of the canal. On the 9th of April, 1849, a supplement to the charter was secured authorizing the company to build a railroad on the route of the canal between Meadville and Franklin, and to extend it northward to Lake Erie, and southward to Pittsburgh. This charter was so construed as to permit the building of a railroad from Erie to the Ohio State line, and one was accordingly constructed, largely through the efforts of Judge John Galbraith and Alfred Kelley. At the State line it connected with a road that had been completed to Cleveland, under the laws of the State of Ohio. The first train ran from Erie to Ashtabula on the morning of the 23d of November, 1852, ten months later than the opening of the Erie & North East road. It returned in the afternoon, when the event was celebrated by a supper at Brown's Hotel, of which 300 people partook, and at which speeches were made by Judge Galbraith, Alfred Kelley, M. B Lowry and William S. Lane. As the Pennsylvania law stood at that time, all roads entering Erie from the east were to be six feet or four feet eight and one half gauge, and all from the west four feet ten. The gauge of the Franklin Canal Company's road was therefore different from that of the Erie & North East road, necessitating a break at Erie.

Consolidation Effected
The change of gauge at Erie and at the State line proved to be a serious inconvenience to the railroad companies, and on the 17th of November, 1853, a contract was entered into between the Buffalo & State Line and the Erie & North East Companies, by which the latter were to alter their track to four feet ten inches, making a uniform gauge from Buffalo to Cleveland. By this time, two-thirds of the stock of the E. & N. E. road had passed into the hands of Buffalo & State Line parties, who had entered into a contract to run the improvement as one road. The change of gauge was commenced on the 7th of December, 1853, but was not completed till February 1, 1854, when the first train under the new arrangement arrived at Erie from the East.

The Railroad War
The announcement of the contemplated change of gauge created the utmost indignation among the people of this county, who saw in it the defeat of their hope of having Erie made the lake terminus of the New York & Erie Railway, and a purpose to make the city nothing more than a way station. At 10 o'clock in the forenoon of the 7th day of December, 1853, an immense assemblage of the citizens of Erie gathered at the depot and tore down the bridges over State and French streets, and took up the track across every street east of Sassafras. Near Harbor Creek Station, on the same day, the track was torn up in three places. In the latter township, on the 28th of December, while the railroad men were re-laying the track a fracas took place, in which a pistol was fired by a train conductor, and two citizens of the township slightly wounded. The excitement that ensued was the most intense ever known in the county. Only a few citizens of Erie sided with the railroad companies, and they were treated by the rest as common enemies. The railroad question obliterated party lines to a great extent, and in each of the years 1854, 1855, 1858, for the first time in a long period, one of the two legislative Representatives elected from the county was a Democrat. The agitation among the people was followed by an appeal to the courts, and the interposition of both the State and United States officials was required on several occasions. The occurrences here detailed spread over a period of about two years. During the two months in which the populace prevented the track from being changed, passengers and freight were transferred between Harbor Creek and Erie by stages and wagons, causing a delay that subjected our city, county and people to innumerable curses from the eastern and western patrons of the railroad. A second series of outbreaks occurred in Erie and Harbor Creek in 1855, when the bridges were again destroyed and the track torn up, but it was quieted by the intervention of the Supreme Court.

Further Consolidation

The Supreme Court decided that the road built by the Franklin Canal Company was not a legal building under the charter, and the charter itself was repealed in 1854. Meanwhile, the stock had been mostly purchased by the Cleveland, Painesville & Ashtabula Company, owners of the connecting road from the Ohio state line westward. A new charter was granted by the Legislature in 1855 or 1856, on condition that the company should subscribe $500,000 to the Philadelphia & Erie road, extend its track to the harbor of Erie and retain three citizens of Pennsylvania perpetually in its Board of Directors.

The first of these provisions was complied with; the other two remain in force to this day. The new company took control of the entire line from Erie to Cleveland.

The charter of the Erie and North East Company was repealed in 1855, but restored in April, 1856, conditioned upon the expenditure of $400,000 toward the building of a road from Pittsburgh to Erie. This was subsequently done. A few years afterward, the Erie & North East and the Buffalo & State Line roads were consolidated under the title of the Buffalo & Erie.

About fifteen years ago, the consolidation of the Cleveland, Painesville & Ashtabula road was effected with the Cleveland & Toledo, and at a still later date this organization was consolidated with the Michigan Southern, making one management from Erie to Chicago, which became known as the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Company. Into this organization the Buffalo & Erie was merged in 1869.

William H. Vanderbilt is President of the organization, and controls a majority of the stock.

Local Features
The track of the road is ostensibly four feet ten inches, but has been gradually narrowed to four feet nine inches, which is the universal gauge of the United States, with few exceptions. The road is almost level through Erie County, the heaviest grade being at Mooreheadville, where, for about a mile and a half, it is fifteen feet to the mile. In building the road, the greatest difficulties experienced were at the gullies of the lake shore streams. These were originally crossed by wooden viaducts, which have been replaced by arches or iron bridges. The viaduct across the gully of Twenty Mile Creek was 102 feet high and 400 long; of Sixteen Mile Creek, 40 feet high and 300 long; of Walnut Creek, 106 feet high and 800 long; of Elk Creek, 115 feet high and 1,400 long; and of Crooked Creek, 45 feet high and 500 long. In all of these cases arches and embankments have been substituted for the slender and dangerous looking viaducts. The work of filling the gullies and preparing for the arches was commenced shortly after the road was completed, but went along slowly, it not being practicable to push it rapidly. The iron bridges in Erie County are over Four and Six Mile Creeks, in Harbor Creek Township, and French and State streets in Erie City.

The first depot at Erie was a clumsy looking structure, built in 1851. It was replaced by the Union depot in 1864, the expense of constructing which was born equally by the two Lake Shore organizations then existing. The Philadelphia & Erie Company pay interest for its use on one-third of its cost and one-third of the current expense of keeping it up, less a small rental from the Erie & Pittsburgh Company. Ira W. Hart was the first ticket agent, commencing with the opening of the Erie & North East road in 1852, and continuing until November 1, 1872, when he was succeeded by John T. Forster, who had been his assistant.

The first regular freight agent at Erie was William S. Brown, who was appointed in 1853. He continued until 1865, when he was elected Treasurer and Director, being succeeded as agent by a Mr. Northrup, who remained but a few months. His place was taken by James C. Hart, who continues in the service.

The western round-house was built in 1862, and the eastern in 1863, the first having a capacity for fifteen, and the second for twenty-one engines.

The following are the distances by this route from Erie to the places named:



Eastward -- Miles




Westward -- Miles








Harbor Creek











Miles Grove



North East







State Line




Ohio Line



























































New York








Philadelphia & Erie Railroad
As long ago as 1830, a railroad was projected from Erie eastward through the counties of Warren, Elk and Lycoming, upon nearly the same route subsequently adopted, but nothing was done in the direction of actual work. A railroad was commenced at Sunbury in 1833 by Stephen Girard and other, intended to connect Erie with Philadelphia by of Pottsville. A few miles of it were built eastward, and then the work stopped on account of the financial depression. When the Pennsylvania Railroad Company was incorporated in 1846, it was given authority to build a branch to Erie, but never availed itself of the provision.

In 1837, a bill passed the Legislature incorporating the Sunbury & Erie Railroad Company. An organization was regularly effected, the stock to secure the charter being taken by the United States Bank, and engineers were employed to survey a route in 1838 and 1839. Nothing further was done for some years. In 1854, the project was simultaneously revived in Philadelphia, in Erie and in the Legislature. The city of Philadelphia subscribed $1,000,000 toward the construction of the road, the county of Erie $200,000, and the city of Erie $300,000, in addition to 150 water lots for dock accommodations. This was an extremely liberal subscription for Erie City and County, as the former only contained about 6,000 people and the latter but 40,000. The same year, the Cleveland & Erie Company were required to subscribe $500,000 to the road, as a condition of securing a new charter. About this time the State exchanged a portion of her canals for $3,500,000 of Sunbury & Erie bonds, thus placing the company upon a substantial footing. By December, 1854, the road was in running order from Sunbury to Williamsport, where a connection was made with the Northern Central road to Elmira. The occasion was celebrated by an excursion of 500 citizens of Philadelphia to Erie, who returned to the East full of zeal for the completion of the enterprise. The division of the road from Erie to Warren was begun in August, 1856, and completed in December, 1859. In the spring of 1861, the name of the corporation was changed to the Philadelphia & Erie Railroad Company. The war coming on in that year alarmed the stockholders, and fearful that they would be unable to complete the enterprise, the road was leased, in 1862, to the Pennsylvania Railroad Company for a term of 999 years. Work was vigorously prosecuted by the lessees, and in October, 1864, the first passenger train came through from Philadelphia with a large party of excursionists. A magnificent entertainment was given them by the city of Erie, which cost $3,000. The bill for wines alone was $1,500, and for spiced oysters $300.

General Description
The road is 287 6-10 miles in length, operated in three divisions, as follows: Eastern -- Sunbury to Renovo, 92 4-10 miles; Middle -- Renovo to Kane, 100 7-10 miles; Western -- Kane to Erie, 94 5-10. At Sunbury, connection is made with the southern division of the Northern Central road, under the same management, which gives a direct route to Harrisburg, Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia and New York. The distance from Erie to Harrisburg is 347 miles; to Baltimore, 425; to Washington, 468; to Philadelphia, 453, and to New York, 543. Below are the distances along the road itself, measuring from the foot of State street in Erie:

Outer Depot














Belle Valley




























Le Boeuf







Union City











St. Mary's
























Spring Creek











Lock Haven







Jersey Shore







































Other Matters
In surveying the road, considerable difficulty was experienced in finding a suitable route to reach the level of the lake from the high lands on the south. The course finally adopted was by way of Four Mile Creek, necessitating a long curve to round the second ridge, which compels over seven miles of railroad to make the distance of four and a half miles by common road from Erie to Belle Valley. At Jackson's Station, thirteen miles south of Erie, the summit of the road between the lake region and the Le Boeuf Valley is attained at a height of 656 feet above the lake. The grade between Jackson's and Erie is at one place eighty-three feet to the mile.

The following figures give the height of the road above tide-water at the various points named:








Erie, foot of State street







Summit, at Jackson's







Union City


















St. Mary's Summit











The first General Superintendent of the road was Joseph D. Potts, who took charge at its opening in 1864. His successors are as follows: Albert L. Tyler, October 1, 1865; William A. Baldwin, May 1, 1870; Robert Neilson, August 1, 1881. The Superintendents of the Western Division have been: Samuel A. Black, appointed in July, 1859; William A. Baldwin, February 7, 1862; John W. Reynolds, May 1, 1868. The general offices were at Erie until 1874, when they were removed to Williamsport.

The company occupied the frame building at the foot of State street, in Erie, as a passenger and freight depot, until the completion of the Union depot, to which the passenger traffic was at once transferred. The freight business continued at that point until the erection of the new freight building on Parade street in 1880.

The shops of the road are at Erie, Kane, Renovo and Sunbury.

Erie & Pittsburgh Railroad
A railroad company, under the name of the Pittsburgh & Erie, was chartered many years ago, and got some right of way, but did nothing further. A new charter, incorporating the Erie & Pittsburgh Company, was obtained in the year 1856, by parties interested in the Erie & North East Company. It did not specify the exact route to be taken, and a sharp rivalry for the road sprung up between Meadville and Conneautville. Subscriptions were secured along both routes, but the Conneautville one was approved by the engineers, and adopted. The new charter of the Erie & North East Company provided that it should invest 400,000 in the construction of a road in the direction of Pittsburgh. With this sum and the money of the stockholders, the Erie & Pittsburgh road was graded from near Miles Grove to Jamestown, Mercer County, and the track laid to Albion. The Buffalo & Erie Company advanced the means to lay the rails to Jamestown in 1859. In 1864, with the proceeds of a mortgage and bonds, added to a few subscriptions, the road was continued to New Castle, where the Erie & Pittsburgh road proper terminates. At that place connection is made with the New Castle & Beaver Valley Road, which connects in turn with the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago at Homewood, giving a direct route to the Smoky City. The company own extensive docks at Erie for the handling of coal and iron ore, built in 1863. The round house in Erie was erected in 1865, and the shops bought of McCarter & Scoville in 1866.

The distances by this route are as follows:








Erie to a little west of Miles Grove (Lake Shore road)











































The Superintends of the road have been R. N. Brown, J. L. Grant, W. S. Brown, J. J. Lawrence, F. N. Finney and John M. Kimball. W. L. Scott, of Erie, has been President of the corporation some fifteen years.

The road was operated as a feeder to the Lake Shore until the 24th of March, 1870, when it was leased to the Pennsylvania Railroad Company for a term of 999 years. The terms of the lease are that the lessees shall maintain the road, keep up the interest on its debt, and pay 7 per cent annually on the capital stock of $2,000,000. On the first of March, 1871, the management was transferred to the Pennsylvania Company, a separate corporation from the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, organized to operate the Western lines leased by the latter. It has a capital of $12,000,000.

from Erie to a short distance west of Miles Grove, the E. & P. uses the Lake Shore track, with the exception of two and one-half miles between the city and the dock junction. The company own the connecting road along the bay front of Erie, from the Pittsburgh docks to the Philadelphia & Erie road, at the foot of State street. I was built about 1870.

The headquarters of the road were in Erie until 1881, when they were removed to Youngstown, Ohio.

The following figures show the elevation in feet above tide-water of various points on the road: Summit, near Conneautville, 1,141, Greenville, 984; Sharon, 853; New Castle, 802. In crossing the dividing ridge south of Conneautville, the summit is approached from the north for two or three miles by a grade of fifty-two feet to the mile.

Buffalo, Corry & Pittsburgh Railroad

The Oil Creek Railroad was completed between Corry and Miller Farm in 1862, principally through the efforts of Thomas Struthers and William S. Streator. In 1865, a majority of its capital stock was purchased in the city of Erie by Dean Richmond, representing the Lake Shore and New York Central Companies, and by Thomas A. Scott, representing the Pennsylvania Company, and placed in the hands of Samuel J. Tilden, of New York, as Trustee for the three corporations. It was extended to Petroleum Centre in 1866, where it connected with the Farmers' road to Oil City. Not long afterward, the Allegheny Valley road was completed to Oil City, making a continuous line to Pittsburgh. The failure of the wells on Oil Creek robbed the road of prosperity, and it was sold out upon a mortgage, and purchased by the Allegheny Valley management.

The Cross-Cut road was built from Corry to Brocton in 1867, by Thomas Struthers, William S. Streator, and the American Express Company, to secure a lake outlet for the Oil Creek road, and a connection with the Lake Shore road, independent of the Philadelphia & Erie.

All of the above roads have been consolidated as the Buffalo, Corry & Pittsburgh, and are under one management. The distance by this route from Brocton to Corry is 42.2 miles; Corry to Oil City, 45.6; Oil City to Pittsburgh, 132; total, 219 miles.

New York, Pennsylvania & Ohio Railroad
The Atlantic & Great Western road was completed to Corry inJune, 1861, and extended westward through the southern portion of the county in 1862. It was intended and is still operated as the western extension of the Erie Railway (now the New York, Lake Erie & Western), with which it connects at Salamance, N. Y. The track was originally six feet wide, but a thrid rail has recently been laid, with the purpose of altering the gauge to the general standard of the country. The name was changed as above about two years ago. In March, 1883, the road was leased to the New York, Lake Erie & Western Company for ninety-nine years.

Union & Titusville Railroad

This road extends from Titusville to Union City, where it connects with the Philadelphia & Erie road. It was originated in 1865 by James Sill and P. G. Stranahan. The road was completed in February, 1871. It is operated by the Pennsylvania Railroad Company. Its length is 25.2 miles.

New York, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad (The Nickel Plate)
The New York, Chicago & St. Louis Railway Company was organized in 1880 to build a railroad from Buffalo to Chicago by way of Dunkirk, Erie, Cleveland, Fostoria and Fort Wayne. The first survey was begun in the last week of February, 1881, and the grading of the road commenced in the early part of June in the same year. The first through passenger train reached Erie from the West in the afternoon of August 31, 1882, having left Chicago at 7 o'clock on the morning of the 30th. It consisted of an engine and two coaches, containing some of the leading officials of the company and a number of representatives of the press. The train returned from Buffalo on the 1st of September. Regular passenger trains commenced running on Monday, October 23, 1882.

The road was built by a syndicate, comprising George L. Seney, C. R. Cummings, Watson H. Brown, John T. Martin, A. A. Low & Brother, Gen. Samuel Thomas, C. S. Brice, the Standard Oil Company, Brown, Howard & Co. and A. M. White. These parties originally subscribed $15,000,000, which was increased, before the completion of the work, to $22,000,000. This amount of money was raised and expended before the company issued any securities or created any bonded indebtedness. The company ultimately issued $28,000,000 of common and $22,000,000 of preferred stock and $15,000,000 of first mortgage bonds. The actual cost of the road, including equipment -- the greater portion of which was built by the Pullman Car Company of Chicago -- is stated to have been between $25,000,000 and $28,000,000. The contract for constructing and equipping the road was left to Brown, Howard & Co., of Chicago.

In the winter of 1882-83, a majority of the stock of the road was purchased in Erie by William H. Vanderbilt and others in the interest of the Lake Shore road, and it has since been run in harmony with that line, although a separate organization is kept up.

The principal stations, aside from Chicago and Buffalo, are Valparaiso, Fort Wayne, Fostoria, Bellevue, Cleveland, Ashtabula, Erie and Dunkirk. Leaving Chicago, or rather Grand Crossing, near that city, the line runs from one to eight miles south of and generally parallel with the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago road through Valparaiso to Fort Wayne, and thence to New Haven, Ind., six miles, parallel with the Wabash, St. Louis & Pacific. Between New Haven and Arcadia, Ohio, is the longest tangent on the road -- 85 miles. From Arcadia, the line runs to the northeast through Fostoria, Green Springs and Bellevue to Cleveland. Between Cleveland and Buffalo, the road is south of and parallel with the Lake Shore road, the tracks being in places almost side by side. Passenger trains run into the depot of the Lake Shore road in Chicago, and into the one in Buffalo occupied by the New York, Buffalo & Western and the Lehigh Valley. The principal office of the company is at Cleveland. The main shops are at Chicago. Division shops are located at Fort Wayne, Ind., and Bellevue and Conneaut, Ohio. The divisions for engine service are: Buffalo to Conneaut; Conneaut to Bellevue; Bellevue to Fort Wayne; Fort Wayne to Chicago.

Instead of the culverts used by the L. S. & M. S. road, this route crosses the gullies of the lake shore streams by iron viaducts, some of which are of unusual height and length. The one at Cleveland is double track, 3,000 feet long, and 60 to 70 feet high, including a draw span of 225 feet. Below is a list of the other most important viaducts, with their height and length in feet, and cost:








Eighteen Mile Creek, N. Y.







Westfield, N. Y.







State Line of New York & Pennsylvania







Swanville, Penn.







Girard, Penn.







Springfield, Penn.







Conneaut, Ohio







Ashtabula, Ohio







Painesville, Ohio







Rocky River, Ohio








The distances by this road are as follows: Buffalo to Erie, 87.48 miles; to Conneaut, 115.51 miles; to Cleveland, 183.79 miles; to Bellevue, 247.86 miles; to Fort Wayne, 370.63 miles; to Chicago, 524.74 miles.

The railroad crosses the entire county from east to west, and has stations at all the principal points on the lake shore. From the western border of Erie City to French street the road occupies the center of Nineteenth street; east of that it diverges slightly to the south. The right to use Nineteenth street was granted by the city authorities upon condition that the road should be limited to a single track; that it should be laid at grade with the street; that the company should, within two years, expend $100,000 in improvements within the city, other than tracks; that the city should be indemnified from damages; and that the track might be removed at the cost of the company if the conditions are not complied with. The P. & E. R. R. officials would not allow the new road to cross their tracks at grade, and a costly trestlework had to be constructed for that purpose near the east line of the city.

Projected Railroads
Books were opened in 1836 for subscriptions to build a railroad, twenty-three miles long, from Erie to the State line, three miles east of Wattsburg, where it was designed to connect with a branch of the Erie Railway. The scheme was to make Erie the terminus of the latter thoroughfare, and it seems to have had some encouragement from the management of that corporation. When the Erie & North East road was built, the project was abandoned.

The Erie City Railroad Company was chartered, in 1853, to build a road from Erie to some point on the State line in North East, Greenfield or Venango Townships, as a connection of the Erie Railway. Its organization was maintained until the Atlantic & Great Western road was completed, when the projectors concluded that further effort to induce the Erie Railway to come to the harbor of Erie would be useless.

The Erie Southern was designed to give Erie a connection with the N. Y., P. & O. road at Cambridge, and the Oil Creek road at Titusville, opening up a new route, by way of McKean and Edinboro, for the coal and oil traffic. The project was much talked of about 1873, considerable subscriptions were obtained, and the city voted the corporation a block of water-lots, besides the right of way on Liberty street. A small amount of digging and grading was done in the southwestern part of the city, when the enterprise was given up. The cost of building the road (exclusive of equipment) was estimated at $444,404. It is twenty-six and four-tenths miles by this route from Erie to Cambridge.

The latest railroad projected is one from Erie to Mill Village via Waterford, the purpose being also to secure a connection with the New York, Pennsylvania & Ohio. Surveys made by Col. Irvin Camp, in 1882-83, developed the fact that the length of the proposed road would be but nineteen miles from the depot at Erie to the one at Mill Village. The route surveyed is as follows: Commencing at the mouth of Little Cascade Creek in Erie; thence by the line of Liberty street to near the base of Nicholson's Hill; thence curving eastwardly along the west bluff of Mill Creek to the Shunpike; thence by the Walnut Creek, LeBoeuf Creek and French Creek Valleys to the terminus. It is claimed for this route that the grades are lighter than by that proposed by the Erie Southern. The cost for grading the road bed and laying rails is estimated at $330,825.

Bibliography: Samuel P. Bates, History of Erie County, Pennsylvania, (Warner, Beers & Co.: Chicago, 1884), Part II, Chapter XXII, pp. 430-444.


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