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From Philadelphia to Baltimore by Robert Morris Copeland

1873

 

VIEW OF THE SCHUYLKILL RIVER AND WEST PHILADELPHIA.

VIEW OF THE SCHUYLKILL RIVER AND WEST PHILADELPHIA.

In 1832 a few adventurous men obtained a charter for a railroad from Baltimore to Port Deposit: other charters were granted by Delaware and Pennsylvania in succeeding years, and at last in 1838 all were consolidated as the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad Company, and became a through all-rail line, interrupted only by the Susquehanna and some minor water-courses, under one management, beginning at Philadelphia and ending at Baltimore. But the country was too young and weak to make this a strong road, either in capital or business. It struggled along with a heavy debt, poor road-bed, imperfect rail (in some parts the old strap rail), few locomotives and cars, and inconvenient dépôts, making but little progress up to 1851, when Mr. Samuel M. Felton was brought from Boston to assume the presidency.

Seeing the actual and future importance of the line, some Eastern men bought up the stock, put in the necessary money and encouraged Mr. Felton to begin an entire revolution in the road. The road-bed was perfected and widened for a double track, new dépôts erected in Baltimore and Philadelphia, new rails laid, new branches opened; and whereas Mr. Felton found the road with only a single track, 25 locomotives and 308 cars, he left it with many miles of double track, its dépôts rebuilt, 49 locomotives and 1145 cars. When he took the road its locomotives traveled 312,840 miles per year, and earned $718,010, at a cost of $252,184.54: when he left it, borne down by disease, the locomotives traveled 780,537 miles per year, at a cost of $1,960,649. The capital stock in 1851 was $3,850,000, and paid three and a half per cent.: it is now $13,486,250, and pays eight per cent.

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When the war broke out in 1862 this road was the key of the continent, and the fact that it was officered and controlled by Northern and energetic men saved it from destruction or becoming an engine in the hands of our enemies. Over it hundreds of thousands of soldiers and citizens were carried to the front, and millions of tons of merchandise and supplies were poured into the quarter-master's, commissary's and medical departments all along the line.

In 1864, worn out by disease, the able manager laid down his authority, to be taken up by another vigorous New England man, who in his turn has given almost life-blood to carry the road on to greatness.

Since 1864 the advance in earnings has not been so great as in the four preceding years, because of the necessary reduction in travel and transportation since the war. But enormous improvements have been made, thousands of steel rails have been laid, locomotives, freight cars and passenger cars of the most beautiful description have been added to the stock, new dépôts made (some of the finest in the country), a new line planned and executed, carrying the road from the meadows and marshes of the Delaware through the valleys and beautiful rolling uplands of Delaware county to Chester, avoiding all danger from floods, and going over or under twenty-seven streets to enter the city without possible peril to life or limb. A whole railroad system subsidiary to this road has been developed in Delaware, and to-day, with the best road-bed, double tracks, steel rails, the best locomotives, the best passenger cars in the country, supplied with all the modern improvements of brake, platform and signal, and a perfectly drilled corps of subordinates, this road may challenge the attention of the country, and be pointed out as one of the best evidences of the growth and prosperity of Philadelphia.

The dépôt in Philadelphia, at the corner of Broad street and Washington avenue, is a large and spacious building, which does not pretend to be a model of domestic architecture, but is roomy and reasonably well ventilated. The bell rings, we take our seats and move out through the usual coal-yards and shanties and suburbs, passing the United States Arsenal, until we reach Gray's Ferry, where we see the Schuylkill, beautiful at high tide, the high banks opposite once a famous estate, now the seat of the Almshouse, where four thousand paupers live in the winter and about fifteen hundred in the summer. So mild and pleasant is this climate that the majority of the paupers creep out, like the blue bottleflies, with the coming of spring, preferring to sleep in barns or under the green trees all the summer, rather than endure the hard beds, discipline and regular habits of the Almshouse. The rains of summer may fill their old bones with rheumatism for winter, but there are charms in the life of the stroller, who feeds to-day at a farm-house, or works a few hours to-morrow for a trifle to get whisky and tobacco, but has no notes to pay, no house to maintain, no servants to support.

Gray's Ferry is an old historic name, for here Washington and the men of the Revolution crossed again and again. The old rope ferry was succeeded by the old horse ferry, and now there are three railroads here—the Darby Improvement, the Junction (which goes to West Philadelphia and makes the connection for the great Southern Air-line), and the old line, which leads us out, through the old Bartram Gardens, where an enthusiastic botanist made the first and best collection of trees and plants in this country, on to the marshes of the Delaware. The mighty river, widening into a bay, flows on to the ocean, its bosom furrowed by thousands of keels and whitened by myriad sails. We look over wide acres of marshes, now green with the tender colors of spring, the corn-fields of the higher portion giving by their brown earth beautiful contrasts of color, the rows of corn just coming into sight. All over these meadows stand huge oak trees and elms, amongst whose branches the vessels seem to glide. But beautiful as the scene is, it is a bad place for a railroad, for when the great river rushes down swollen by some freshet, and is met by the incoming tide, the water sets back over the marshes and threatens to sweep away the track or put out the fires of the locomotives; and to cross streams and tideways many draw-bridges, with their attendant dangers, must be maintained. To avoid all these difficulties, Mr. Hinckley planned the change which is known as the Darby Improvement, carrying the road from Gray's Ferry to Chester over and through the high lands of Darby and Ridley. We shall no longer hear the brakeman shout out "Gibson's," "Lazaretto,", "Tinicum" (called by the Indians Tenecunck), "Crum Creek." We shall no longer wonder that the train should be stopped for so few passengers to get on or off, for in future our car will take us over a road-bed so perfectly laid with steel rails that a full glass of water will not spill as the train hurries on through a thickly settled country. Look quickly from the window at the country you are traversing: see the beautiful station at Bonnaffon, and the magnificent oak tree, worth a hundred stations, that stands in a field just beyond. We cannot enumerate all the beauties and objects of interest that line the road: every valley opens a pleasant view, every hill is covered with handsome houses, comfortable farmeries or superb trees. Before the road was made, these lands, lying on a ridge high above the river, perfectly healthy and offering the most desirable homes for city people, were inaccessible, but now they can be reached, and have been already appreciated. Most of the land has grown too valuable for farming, and has been bought up and laid out with different degrees of care for suburban residences.

SHARON HILL.

SHARON HILL.

Darby is one of the oldest towns in the State, and contributes largely to the business of the road. Mills were built here in 1696, and it was divided into Upper and Lower Darby in 1786. The first of the new towns is Sharon Hill, where a large amount of land has been laid out in the rectangular method, and already many of the lots are sold to actual settlers: a machine-shop has been established, and the railroad has built a very nice station for passengers.

Next to Sharon Hill comes Glenolden, where hill and dale, wood and meadow and a beautiful stream, offer all the picturesqueness that can charm an enthusiastic or artistic eye, together with good building-sites and every advantage that fertile and forest-clad land can give to one who would exchange the heat and pavements of a city for rural life. From Glenolden it is but a short distance to Norwood and to Moore's Crossing, where the company are erecting turnouts, engine-houses, etc., and from here, eight miles from the city, numerous trains will run to Philadelphia to accommodate the workingmen who, it is believed, will come out to live on these cool and breezy uplands.

GLENOLDEN.

GLENOLDEN.

From Moore's we soon get to Ridley Park, which was described at length in a former Number. The two stations at Ridley are models of beauty in their way: the principal station spans the road-bed, wide enough here for four tracks, and is probably the most picturesque in the country, as well as very convenient. Crum Lynne Station is remarkable for the beautiful sculpture of the capitals of the pilasters to the architraves of the windows, the architect having designed each one for this building, using the flowers and fruits and birds and animals of the region for his ornamental work, instead of the usual cornice and frieze and capital of Grecian architecture.

RIDLEY PARK.

RIDLEY PARK.

CRUM LYNNE FALLS.

CRUM LYNNE FALLS.

But the train sweeps us away from Ridley limits, past Leiperville with its primeval railway, and on to . As we round the curve and rush through the woods we see on the left the broad river with its three-masted schooners, ships and steamers, and on the right the spires and houses of the town; and first and predominant the Military School of Colonel Hyatt. This school was incorporated by act of Legislature in 1862, and is devoted to both civil and military education. The studies and drill are so combined as to secure good mental and physical culture; and to ensure good military instruction the State and the United States have contributed arms of all kinds. Scholars come from all parts of the country, and even the West Indies; and as the standard of scholarship is high, the graduates compare favorably with those from other institutions.

DISTANT VIEW OF LANDSCAPE, SHOWING MILITARY INSTITUTE AT CHESTER.

DISTANT VIEW OF LANDSCAPE, SHOWING MILITARY INSTITUTE AT CHESTER.

Chester is one of the oldest towns on the line of the road by actual years, but one of the youngest in growth. First called by the Indians Mackaponacka, and then by the settlers Upland, it had a justice of the peace court in 1676. Its court-house was built in 1724. Its first newspaper was published in 1819. For many years Chester dozed away in dignified quiet as the county-town: its court-house and jail gave it all the honor it required. But the streams made good mill-sites, the deep waterfront along the river offered splendid wharfage and chances for shipbuilding, and, as good luck would have it, a rivalry awoke which ended in loading Media with the county buildings and relieving Chester. Since then it has doubled and trebled: mills and factories are on all sides, and its shipyards are not easily surpassed. Roach's shipyard covers twenty-three acres. The firm make their own engines and everything required in iron shipbuilding from keel to topmast. They have six vessels now on the stocks, and employ eleven hundred men, and have room for sixteen hundred. They have built for every trade from the coaster to the East Indiaman, varying in size from six hundred to four thousand tons, and their vessels pass unchallenged amongst the best in the world.

VIEW OF CHESTER.

VIEW OF CHESTER.

Nor is trade the only feature of the town. About half a mile from the dépôt, on a gentle eminence, is the Crozer Theological Seminary. The approach from Chester for the pedestrian, along the shrub-, vine- and tree-clad banks of Chester Creek into and across the wide lawn, is a delightful walk. The principal building was erected by John P. Crozer for a normal school. During the war he gave it to the government for a hospital, and when he died in 1866 left it to his sons, desiring them to devote it to some benevolent use. They have responded in a munificent manner by establishing a school for training young men for the ministry, with accommodations for a hundred students, houses for the professors, a church, a library building, lecture-halls and all the required conveniences for a great and successful school. They have added an endowment fund of two hundred and twenty-eight thousand dollars, the whole gift being about three hundred and ninety thousand dollars, and one of the family has since given twenty-five thousand dollars as a library fund. The seminary was opened in 1868 with fifteen students: there are now fifty from all parts of the Union.

CROZER SEMINARY.

CROZER SEMINARY.

But the most complaisant conductor of the most accommodating special train could not wait any longer for us, and we must hurry on through Lamokin, where the Baltimore Central, a tributary road, turns off and traverses a most picturesque country, round by Port Deposit to Perryville, where it again reaches the main road. At Lamokin are works where steel of a peculiar kind is manufactured under a European patent. From here the road again clings to the shore of the Delaware, and until we reach Wilmington the river, with its sails and its blue water, is on the left—on the right a high ridge, which ends in the valley of the Shell Pot and Brandywine at Wilmington.

We flash past Linwood to stop a moment at Claymont, where the ridge comes nearer the river and offers superb sites for buildings. Why Claymont has not grown more no one seems to know. There are schools and churches, fine rolling land, noble river-views, and all that can make a country home delightful. That the place has attractions for lovers of the picturesque may be inferred from the fact that it counts among its residents an artist of such wide and well-founded celebrity as Mr. F.O.C. Darley, whose delineations of American life and scenery, especially in the form of book-illustrations, have been familiar to the public for the past thirty years. With so many years of fame, Mr. Darley counts but fifty-two of life, and in the enjoyment of vigorous health still continues the practice of his art, executing many commissions from Europe, where his genius is as highly appreciated as at home.

VIEW OF DELAWARE RIVER NEAR CLAYMONT.

VIEW OF DELAWARE RIVER NEAR CLAYMONT.

RESIDENCE OF MR. F.O.C. DARLEY.

RESIDENCE OF MR. F.O.C. DARLEY.

VIEW AT CLAYMONT: CREEK AND BRIDGE.

VIEW AT CLAYMONT: CREEK AND BRIDGE.

But we must stick to our train, which carries us through the Red Bank Cut to Ellerslie Station, where occurred the first accident of a serious character which has happened on this road for eighteen years, and which was due only to a willful violation of orders by an old and very trusted conductor. At Ellerslie are the Edgemoor Iron-works of Messrs. William Sellers & Co., where every known improvement in the manufacture of iron is being tested and applied. The next curve in the road shows us the meadows of the Shell Pot and the Brandywine, with Wilmington in the distance. The Brandywine, famous in our history, runs through as picturesque a valley as there is in America, combining all that the climate of Delaware permits in trees, shrubs, vines and flowers with the wildness and variety of the valley of the Pemigewasset or the wild Ammonoosuck. In this rare valley are mills as old as the settlement of the country, and quaint hamlets that seem to belong to Europe rather than America.

At Wilmington the system of the Delaware railroads begins: it spreads out over the peninsula of Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland like a huge left hand. The thumb touches Chestertown and Centreville, the fore finger Oxford, the middle finger Cambridge, the ring finger Crisfield, the little finger Lewes; and this hand gathers into the main road every year millions of baskets of peaches, and millions more of oysters in baskets and sacks, and crates of berries, and car-loads of hardwood and lumber. Under the influence of these roads the sleepy peninsula is beginning a new career.

We cannot go down the peninsula, so let us keep on to Baltimore, pausing, however, for a moment as we cross Mason and Dixon's line near Elkton. Little did Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon dream, as they set that tangent point for the determination of the boundary-lines of the three States, how famous they would become. But there the simple monument stands in the open fields, and there it must remain so long as the three States need a boundary.

Soon after leaving Mason and Dixon we strike the first of the great estuaries of the Delaware and Susquehanna, which are the delight of the sportsman, the naturalist and the tourist. No matter at what season of the year you approach North-east, Principio, the Susquehanna River or Stemmer's Run—no matter at what time of the day—the views are always fine. The water spreads out in huge widening bays, and loses itself in the forest or hides behind some projecting headland; and when, as is often the case, the surface of the water is actually darkened with large flocks of wild fowl, the variety as well as beauty of the scene could not be heightened. Such shooting-ground for sportsmen exists nowhere else on this coast easily accessible. At Perryville, Havre de Grace, Bush River and many other places the chance sportsman can find every accommodation, while clubs of gentlemen have leased many of the best points, and established little houses where they may be comfortable when the day's sport is over, and where they can leave from season to season boats, decoys and all the paraphernalia of the sport. To recount the names of canvas-backs, red heads, bald pates and innumerable other ducks, to tell of the tens, fifties, hundreds shot in a single day, would add nothing to the excitement of any sportsman who has seen from the cars the huge flocks of birds rise and sweep out to sea when scared by some passing train or boat.

PRINCIPIO.

PRINCIPIO.

BRIDGE OVER THE SUSQUEHANNA AT HAVRE DE GRACE.

BRIDGE OVER THE SUSQUEHANNA AT HAVRE DE GRACE.

If every passenger could stop once, and study the Susquehanna bridge crossing the river between Perryville and Havre de Grace, he would have a most profound respect for its projectors and builders. For many years all transport by cars was interrupted here, and travelers and merchandise were transported by ferry-boat, causing wearisome delays and extra expense. But now a bridge 3273 feet long and with 1000 feet of trestling, resting on thirteen huge piers built on foundations in water from twenty-seven to sixty feet deep, and costing a million and a half of dollars, carries all safely over, and defies floods and ice. This bridge, one of the triumphs of engineering and a just source of pride to the road, has already saved in time and trouble a large percentage of its cost. It was threatened the past winter by the ice-pack which filled the river back to Port Deposit, and which seemed to promise for some time the destruction of that well-named little town. It is hard to believe that in a country so extensive as ours, with all kinds of lands and town-sites, any one could begin to build a town in such a situation. It clings to the broken and rocky shores and hillsides as lichens adhere to rocks and to the bark of trees or swallows' nests to the eaves of a barn. There it is, however, and, judging from its costly houses, churches and business appearance, its inhabitants have found it a profitable place to stay in. Port Deposit last winter, when the river was filled with ice from shore to shore and for miles in both directions, fissured and cracked and covered with mud, logs and débris, seemed on the verge of destruction; and it was easy to believe that if the river did rise suddenly the moving mass of ice, like some huge glacier, would sweep away all evidences of humanity, leaving behind only the glacial scratches and the roches moutonnées. Overhanging the railroad is a very remarkable profile rock which has attained some celebrity, and is shown in one of our sketches.

MOUNT ARARAT--PROFILE ROCK.

MOUNT ARARAT--PROFILE ROCK.

PORT DEPOSIT.

PORT DEPOSIT.

From Port Deposit to Baltimore the country is more rolling than from Perryville to Wilmington, and there are many picturesque points. One could find at Gunpowder River and Stemmer's Run several beautiful points of view, but by the time he reaches these places the traveler begins to get impatient for the great city, the terminus of his wanderings, which soon begins to announce itself by more thickly congregated houses, and roads cut straight through hill and valley, regardless of cost or the destruction of local charms of hill and dale.

If one were to judge by the streets, he would think Baltimorians lived only on oysters, for the new streets seem wholly built of their shells, making them very white, glaring and offensive to the unaccustomed eye. But the attention is soon diverted from houses and roads, to the bay and to Fort McHenry, which lies before the town like a sleeping lion. Few forts in the country are more interesting or have played a more important part in our military history; but all its military reputation is less interesting than the fact that whilst confined to a British vessel, one of the fleet unsuccessfully bombarding the fort, Francis Key wrote the "Star-Spangled Banner," now a national hymn. A bomb thrown into the fort at that time by the British has been preserved on a pillar ever since—almost the only local reminder of the facts of the bombardment.

FORT MCHENRY.

FORT MCHENRY.

THE BRITISH SHELL.

THE BRITISH SHELL.

At Baltimore we leave the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad, sorry to part from so good a road and one so important to the welfare of the country. It is a link in the great system, and one kept very bright and well polished by its managers. Their course has been to pay only a moderate dividend, and use the rest of the earnings to improve the road and its belongings, and to foster the interests of the people who use it. Such wise policy must build it strongly into the affections and interests of those who live along it, and ensure its being each year a better and better-paying road.