The Story Of The Rome, Watertown, And Ogdensburg RailRoad Part 5

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The Centre rebelled. It had no quarrel with Mr. Edison. On the contrary, it held the highest esteem for that distinguished inventor. But for the life of it, it could not see why the name of a nice old-fashioned Seventh-Day-Baptist town should be sacrificed for the mere convenience of a telegrapher's code. It was quite bad enough when Union Square, over on the Syracuse line, was forced, w.i.l.l.y-nilly, to become Maple View, and Holmesville, Fernwood. Neither were the marvels of the lexicographers of the Postoffice Department, under which all manner of strange changes were made in the spelling of old North Country names (think of Sackett's Harbor, time-honored government military and naval station, reduced to a miserable "Sacket!") germane to Adams Centre's problem. Adams Centre it was christened in the beginning, and Adams Centre it proposed to remain.

And after a brief but brisk fight with railroad and postoffice officials, it succeeded in regaining its birthright.

Early in June, 1872, William C. Pierrepont retired as President of the Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburgh and was succeeded by Marcellus Ma.s.sey, the third holder of that important post of honor in the North Country. Mr.

Ma.s.sey, although for the greater part of his life also a resident of Brooklyn, was of Jefferson County stock, a brother of Hart and of Solon Ma.s.sey. He gave his whole time and interest to the steady upbuilding of the road. Gradually it was coming to a point where it was considered, without exception, the best operated railroad in the State of New York, if not in the entire land. Sometimes it was called the Nickel Plate, although that name nowadays is generally reserved for the brisk trunk line--officially the New York, Chicago & St. Louis--that operates from Buffalo, through Cleveland to Chicago.

The R. W. & O. was in fact at that time an extremely high-grade railroad property; it was the pride of Watertown, of the entire North Country as well. Mr. Ma.s.sey used to say that as a dividend payer--its annual ten per cent came as steadily as clock-striking--his road could not be beat; particularly in a day when many railroad investments were regarded as very shaky things indeed. The crash of the Oswego Midland, which was to come a few years later, was to add nothing to the confidence of investors in this form of investment.

Steadily Mr. Ma.s.sey and his co-workers sought to perfect the property. The service was a very especial consideration in their minds. A moment ago we saw the time table of 1863 in brief, now consider how it had steadily been improved, in the course of another eight years.

In 1871 the pa.s.senger service of the R. W. & O. consisted of two trains through from Rome to Ogdensburgh without change. The first left Rome at 4:30 a. m., pa.s.sed through Watertown at 7:38 a. m., and arrived at Ogdensburgh at 11:15 a. m. The second left Rome at 1:00 p. m., pa.s.sed through Watertown at 4:17 p. m., and arrived at Ogdensburgh at 7:10 p. m.

Returning the first of these trains left Ogdensburgh at 6:08 a. m., pa.s.sed through Watertown at 9:20 a. m., and arrived at Rome at 12:10 p. m.: the second left Ogdensburgh at 3:00 p. m., pa.s.sed through Watertown at 6:35 p. m., and reached Rome and the New York Central at 9:05 p. m. The similarity between these trains and those upon the present time-card, the long established Seven and One and Four and Eight, is astonishing. Put an important train but once upon a time card, and seemingly it is hard to get it off again.

In addition to these four important through trains there were others: The Watertown Express, leaving Rome at 5:30 p. m. and "dying" at Watertown at 9:05 p. m., was the precursor of the present Number Three. The return movement of this train was as the New York Express, leaving Watertown at 8:10 a. m. and reaching Rome at 11:35 a. m. There were also three trains a day in each direction on the Cape Vincent, and Oswego branches and two on the one between DeKalb and Potsdam Junctions.

For a railroad to render real service it must have, not alone good track--in those early days the Rome road, as it was known colloquially, gave great and constant attention to its right of way--but good engines.

Up to about 1870 these were exclusively wood-burners, many of them weighing not more than from twenty to twenty-five tons each. They were of a fairly wide variety of type. While the output of the Rome Locomotive Works was always favored, there were numbers of engines from the Rhode Island, the Taunton and the Schenectady Works.

Thirty-eight of these wood-burning engines formed the motive-power equipment of the Rome road in the spring of 1869. Their names--locomotives in those days invariably were named--were as follows:

1. _Watertown_ 2. _Rome_ 3. _Adams_ 4. _Kingston_ 5. _O. Hungerford_ 6. _Col. Edwin Kirby_ 7. _Norris Woodruff_ 8. _Camden_ 9. _J. L. Grant_ 10. _Job Collamer_ 11. _Jefferson_ 12. _R. B. Doxtater_ 13. _O. V. Brainard_ 14. _North Star_ 15. _T. H. Camp_ 16. _Silas Wright_ 17. _Antwerp_ 18. _Wm. C. Pierrepont_ 19. _St. Lawrence_ 20. _Potsdam_ 21. _Ontario_ 22. _Montreal_ 23. _New York_ 24. _Ogdensburgh_ 25. _Oswego_ 26. _D. DeWitt_ 27. _D. Utley_ 28. _M. Ma.s.sey_ 29. _H. Moore_ 30. _C. Comstock_ 31. _S. F. Phelps_ 32. _Col. Wm. Lord_ 33. _H. Alexander, Jr._ 34. _Roxbury_ 35. _Com. Perry_ 36. _C. E. Bill_ 37. _Gen. S. D. Hungerford_ 38. _Gardner Colby_

Of this considerable fleet the _Antwerp_ was perhaps the best known. Oddly enough she was the engine that the directors of the Potsdam & Watertown had purchased from "Vilas, of Plattsburgh." She was then called the _Plattsburgh_, but upon her coming to the R. W. & O. she was already renamed _Antwerp_. Inside connected, like the _O. Hungerford_, she also was a product of the old Taunton works down in Eastern Ma.s.sachusetts. Her bright red driving wheels made her a conspicuous figure on the line.

The _Camden_ was also an inside connected engine. The _Ontario_ and the _Potsdam_ and the _Montreal_ were other acquisitions from the Potsdam & Watertown. The _Potsdam_ had a picture of a lion painted upon her front boiler door, the work of some gifted local artist, unknown to present fame. She came to the North Country as the _Chicopee_ from the Springfield Locomotive Works, and with her came, as engineer and fireman, respectively, the famous Haynes brothers, Orville and Rhett. Henry Batchelder, a brother of the renowned Ben, who comes later into this narrative, and who is now a resident of Potsdam, well recalls the first train that made the trip between that village and Canton. Made up of flat-cars with temporary plank seats atop of them, and hauled by the _Potsdam_, it brought excursionists into Canton to enjoy the St. Lawrence County Fair. That was in the year of 1855, and the railroad was only completed to a point some two miles east of Canton. From that point the travelers walked into town.

Mr. Batchelder also remembers that the engineers and firemen of that early day invariably wore white shirts upon their locomotives. The old wood-burners were never so hard as the coal-burners on the apparel of their crews. They were wonderful little engines and, as we shall see in a moment, had a remarkable ability for speed with their trains. The _Antwerp_ in particular had rare speed. Those red drivers of hers were the largest upon the line. And when Jeff Wells was at her throttle and those red heels of hers were digging into the iron, men reached for their watches.

No true history of the Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburgh might ever be written without mention of Jefferson B. Wells. In truth he was the commodore of the old locomotive fleet. For skill and daring and precision in the handling of an engine he was never excelled. Although bearing a certain uncanny reputation for being in accidents, he was blamed for none of them.

Whether at the lever of his two favorites, the _T. H. Camp_ and the _Antwerp_, or in later years as captain of the "44" he was in his element in the engine-cab. The "44" spent most of the later years of her life, and of Wells', in service upon the Cape Vincent branch. I can remember it standing at Watertown Junction, sending an occasional soft ring of grayish smoke off into the blue skies above. And distinctly can I recall Jeff Wells himself, a large-eyed, tallish man, fond of a good joke, or a good story, a man with a keen zest in life itself. He was a good poker player.

It is related of him, that one night, while engaged in a pleasant game at Cape Vincent, word came from Watertown ordering him to his engine for a special run down to the county-seat and back.

For a moment old Jeff hesitated. He liked poker. But then the trained soul of the railroader triumphed. He threw his hand down upon the table--it was a good hand, too--and turning toward the call-boy said:

"Son, I'll be at the round house within ten minutes."

That was Wells; best at home in the engine-cab, and, I think no engine-cab was ever quite the same to him as that of the speedy _Antwerp_, with John Leasure on the fireman's side of the cab--Leasure was pretty sure to have previously bedecked the _Antwerp_ with a vast variety of cedar boughs, flags and the like--and the President's car on behind. This, in later years, was sure to be the old parlor-car, _Watertown_, gayly furbished for the occasion. This special was sure to be given the right-of-way over all other trains on the line that day; all the switch-points being ordered spiked, in order to avoid the possibility of accidents. Yet, on at least one occasion--at DeKalb Junction--this practice nearly led to a serious mishap. Mr. Ma.s.sey's train had swept past the little depot there and around the curve onto the Ogdensburgh branch at seventy miles an hour. For once there had been a miscalculation. The little train veered terribly as it struck the branch-line rails; the directors were thrown from their comfortable seats in the parlor-car, and poor Billy Lanfear, of Cape Vincent, the fireman, was nearly carromed from his place in the cab. At the last fractional part of a second he succeeded in catching hold of the engineer's window as he started to shoot out.

The wood-burners were not supposed to be fast engines--a great many of them in the early days of the R. W. & O. had small drivers and this was an added handicap to their speed. But sixty miles an hour was not out of the question for them. Mr. Richard Holden, of Watertown, who started his railroad career in the eating-house of the old station in that city, still recalls several trips that he made in the cab of the engines on the Cape branch. It had a fairly close schedule at the best, connecting at Watertown Junction with Number Three up from Rome in the afternoon, and turning and coming back in time to make connections with Number Six down the line. It frequently would happen that Three would be fifteen or twenty minutes late, which would mean a good deal of hustling on the part of the Cape train to make her fifty mile run and turn-around and still avoid delaying Number Six. But both Casey Eldredge and Chris Delaney, the engineers on the branch at that time, could do it: Jeff Wells was still on the main line and unwilling then to accept the easier Cape branch run, which afterwards he was very glad to take.

"The air-brake was unknown at that time," says Mr. Holden, "all trains being stopped by the brakeman, a.s.sisted by the fireman, a brake being upon the tender of all the engines. When some of these fast trains were running, I used to take a great delight in riding on the engine, and remember the running-time of the trip was thirty-five minutes, which included stops at Brownville, Limerick, Chaumont and Three Mile Bay, my recollection being that the station at Rosiere was not open at that time.

Deducting the time used for stops the actual running time would average sixty miles an hour. All engines used on pa.s.senger trains had small driving-wheels and it will be remembered that all pa.s.senger trains, except One and Six, consisted of but a baggage-car and two coaches, consequently an engine could get a train under good headway much faster than engines with the heavy equipment in use at the present time."

In all these statements in regard to the speed of the trains upon the early R. W. & O. it should not be forgotten that for the first twelve or thirteen years of the road's existence, it had to worry along without telegraphic or any other form of rapid interstation communication. It was not until 1863 or 1864 that its trains were despatched upon telegraphic orders; and even these were of the crudest possible form. The "Nineteen"

had not yet been evolved. A slip of paper torn from the handiest writing block and scribbled in fairly indecipherable hieroglyphics was the train order of those beginnings of modern railroading. The telegraph order, instead of being a real help to the locomotive engineer, was apt to be one of the puzzles and the banes of his existence.

It was in 1866 that a railroad telegraph office was first established at Watertown Junction and D. N. Bosworth engaged as despatcher there.

According to the recollections of Mr. W. D. Hanchette, of that city, who is the nestor of all things telegraphic in Northern New York, Bosworth was soon followed by a Mr. Warner, who was not, himself, a telegraphic operator, but who had to be a.s.sisted by one. A Canadian, named Monk, was one of the first of these. Warner was finally succeeded as despatcher at Watertown Junction by N. B. Hine, a brother of Omar A. Hine and of A. C.

Hine--all of them much identified with the history of the Rome road. N. B.

Hine remained with the road for a long season of years as its train despatcher, eventually moving his office from the Junction to the enlarged pa.s.senger station back of the Woodruff House in Watertown.

He learned his trade in the summer before Fort Sumter was fired upon; using a small, home-made, wooden key at his father's farm, somewhere back of DeKalb. A year after he had obtained his railroad job, Omar Hine was appointed operator at Richland, opening the first telegraph office at that place, and becoming its station agent as well. From Richland he was promoted to the more important, similar post at Norwood. When he left Norwood, Mr. Hine became a conductor upon the main line. In that service he remained until the comparatively recent year of 1887.

About the time that he was a.s.signed to Richland, his brother, A. C. Hine, was appointed operator and helper at the neighboring station of Sandy Creek. So from a single North Country farm sprang three expert telegraphers and railroaders. When they began their career, but a single wire stretched all the way from Watertown to Ogdensburgh; and the movement of trains by telegraph was occasional, not regular nor standardized. A second wire was strung the entire length of the line in the fall of 1866 and in the following spring, Mr. Bosworth began the difficult task of trying to work a systematic method of telegraphic despatching, and gradually brought the engineers of the road into a real cooperation with his plan, a thing much more difficult to accomplish than might be at first imagined. Those old-time engineers of the road were good men; but some of them were a trifle "sot" in their ways. Their habits were not things easily changed.

The full list of these old-time engineers of the R. W. & O. would run to a considerable length. Remember again Orve Haynes--something of an engine-runner was he--who afterwards went down to St. Louis to become Master Mechanic upon the Iron Mountain road. The _J. L. Grant_ was named after a Master Mechanic of the R. W. & O., who eventually became an a.s.sistant superintendent. The _Grant_ was in steady use upon the Cape branch prior to the coming of the "44." A good engineer in those days was a good mechanic--invariably. Repair facilities were few and far between.

The ingenuity and quick wit of the man in the engine-cab more than once was called into play. Engine failures were no less frequent then than now.

Ben. F. Batchelder first came to fame as a well-known engineer of that early decade; John Skinner was another. There was D. L. Van Allen and Louis Bouran and John Mortimer and Casey Eldredge and Asa Rowell and old "Pa.r.s.e" Hines, and George Sch.e.l.l and Jim Cheney--that list does indeed run to lengths. In a later generation came Nathaniel R. Peterson ("Than") and Conrad Shaler and Frank W. Smith and George H. Hazleton, and Frank Taylor, and Charles Vogel--but again I must desist. This is a history, not a necrology. It is hardly fair to pick but a few names, out of so many deserving ones.

The most of the engineers of that day have gone. A very few remain. One of these is Frank W. Smith, of Watertown, who to-day (1922) has retired from his engine-cab, but remains one of the expert billiard players in the Lincoln League of that city.

Mr. Smith entered upon his railroad career on November 9, 1866, at the rather tender age of seventeen, as a wiper in the old round house in Coffeen Street, Watertown. In those days all the engines upon the line still were wood-burners. The most conspicuous thing about DeKalb Junction in those days, aside from the red brick Goulding House, was the huge wood-shed and wood-pile beyond the small depot, which still stands there.

It was customary for an engine to "wood up" at Watertown--in those days as in these again, all trains changed engines at Watertown--and again at DeKalb Junction before finishing her run into Ogdensburgh. Similarly upon the return trip, she would stop again at DeKalb to fill her tender; which, in turn, would carry her back to Watertown once again. Wood went all too quickly. I remember, sometime in the mid-eighties, riding from Prescott to Ottawa, upon the old Ottawa and St. Lawrence Railroad, and the wood-burner stopping somewhere between those towns to appease its seemingly insatiable appet.i.te.

The wood-burners upon the R. W. & O. began to disappear sometime about the beginnings of the seventies. Apparently the first engine to have her fire-boxes changed to permit of the use of soft coal was the _C.

Comstock_, which was rapidly followed by the _Phelps_, the _Lord_ and the _Alexander_. They then had the extension boilers and the straight "diamond" stacks. A red band ran around the under flare of the diamond.

About that time the road began adding to its motive power; new engines, among them the _Theodore Irwin_ and the _C. Zabriskie_, were being purchased, and these were all coal burners, bituminous, of course. When, as we shall see, in a following chapter, the Syracuse Northern was merged into the R. W. & O., eight new locomotives were added to the growing fleet of the parent road; four Hinckleys and four Bloods.

Even at that time the road was beginning, although in a modest and somewhat hesitant way, the construction of its own locomotives in its own shops. William Jackson, the Master Mechanic there in 1873, built the _J.

W. Moak_ and the _J. S. Farlow_, both of them coal-burners for pa.s.senger service. He was succeeded by Abraham Close who built the _Cataract_ and the _Lewiston_, and the _Moses Taylor_, too, in 1877. The following year the late George H. Hazleton was to become the road's Master Mechanic and so to remain as long as it retained its corporate existence.

In later years there were to come those famous Mogul twins, the _Samson_ and the _Goliath_. There were, as I recall it, still two others of these Moguls, the _Energy_ and the _Efficiency_. In a still later time the road, robbed of its pleasant personal way of locomotive nomenclature and adopting a strictly impersonal method of denoting its engines by serial numbers alone, was to take another forward step and bring in still larger Moguls; the "1," "2," "3," and "4."

But I antic.i.p.ate. I cannot close this chapter without one more reference to my good friend, Frank W. Smith. He was an energetic little fellow; and after some twenty months of engine wiping there at Coffeen Street, and all the abuse and cuffing and chaffing that went with it, he won an honest promotion to the job of a locomotive fireman. It was a real job, real responsibility and real pay, thirty-nine dollars a month. Yet this job faded when he became an engineer. Job envied of all other jobs. How the boys would crowd around the _Norris Woodruff_ at Adams depot, at Gouverneur, and all the rest of the way along the line and feast their eyes upon Frank Smith up there in the neat cab, that so quickly came to look like home to him! Fifty dollars a month pay! Overtime? Of course not.

Agreements? Once more, no. This was nearly fifteen years ahead of that day when the engineers upon the Central Railroad of New Jersey were to formulate the first of these perplexing things.

But a good engine, a good job and good pay. They had the pleasant habit of a.s.signing a crew to a definite engine in those days, and that piece of motive power invariably became their pet and pride. A good job was not only an honest one, but one of a considerable distinction. And fifty dollars a month was not bad pay, when cheese was eight cents a pound and b.u.t.ter seven, and a kind friend apt to give you all the eggs that you could take home in the top of your hat. Remuneration, in its last a.n.a.lysis is forever a comparative thing--and nothing more.



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The Story Of The Rome, Watertown, And Ogdensburg RailRoad Part 5 summary

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