Oldest railroads in North America

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Several railroads have been called the oldest in North America.

Early experimental railroads[edit]

  • 1720: A railroad is reportedly used in the construction of the French fortress at Louisburg, Nova Scotia.[1]
  • 1764: Between 1762 and 1764 a gravity railroad (Montresor's Tramway) is built by British military engineers at the Niagara Portage in Lewiston, New York.
  • 1795: A wooden railway on Beacon Hill in Boston carries excavations down the hill to clear the land for the State House.
  • 1799: Boston developers begin to reduce the height of Mount Vernon, prior to building streets and homes. Silas Whitney constructs a gravity railroad to move excavated material down the hill to fill marshy areas to create new land from the Back Bay.[2]
  • 1809: In September, an experimental railroad is built next to a Philadelphia tavern by a millwright named Somerville. The track, built for Thomas Leiper, has a grade of 1-1/2 inch to the yard (1 : 24 or about 4%) over its total length of 60 yards (54.9 m) and proves satisfactory when tested with a loaded car.[3]
  • 1934 photo of the incline section of the Granite Railway.
    1810: The Leiper Railroad, designed and built by merchant Thomas Leiper, connects Crum Creek to Ridley Creek, Pennsylvania. It is used until 1829, when it is replaced by the Leiper Canal, then is reopened to replace the canal in 1852. This became the Crum Creek Branch of the Baltimore and Philadelphia Railroad (part of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad) in 1887. This is the first railroad meant to be permanent, and the first to evolve into a common carrier after an intervening closure. See the 1826 Granite Railway (pictured) for comparison.
  • 1811: George Magers designs and builds a 1-mile (1.6 km) wooden gravity railroad between a gunpowder mill and its powder storage bunker at Falling's Creek, Virginia.[4]
  • 1815: New Jersey grants a charter on February 6, 1815, for a company to "erect a rail-road from the river Delaware near Trenton, to the river Raritan, at or near New Brunswick", as proposed by John Stevens (1749-1838). This New Jersey Railroad Company is the first railroad chartered in the United States, but fails to attract investors and is never built.
  • 1816: A railroad is reportedly used at Kiskiminetas Creek, Pennsylvania.[5]
  • 1818: An iron-smelting furnace at Bear Creek, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania, reportedly has a wooden railroad in operation.[5]

Granite, coal and cotton railroads[edit]

Historical Marker of the Mohawk and Hudson Railroad, incorporated in 1826 and opened in 1831.
U.S. railroads in 1835.

Common carriers[edit]

Name Chartered State Opened Notes
Union Canal Company of Pennsylvania March 3, 1826 Pennsylvania 1830 Chartered on May 30, 1811 to build a canal; authorized to build a railroad on March 3, 1826
Granite Railway March 4, 1826 Massachusetts October 7, 1826 Only authorized to carry freight until April 16, 1846
Delaware and Hudson Canal Company April 5, 1826 Pennsylvania October 9, 1829 Chartered on March 13, 1823 to build a canal; authorized to build a railroad on April 5, 1826
Danville and Pottsville Railroad April 8, 1826 Pennsylvania September 24, 1834
Mohawk and Hudson Railroad April 17, 1826 New York September 24, 1831
Baltimore and Ohio Railroad February 28, 1827 Maryland January 7, 1830 Carried passengers from opening
South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company December 19, 1827 South Carolina December 1830 Carried passengers from opening
Ithaca and Owego Railroad January 28, 1828 New York April 1, 1834
Mill Creek and Mine Hill Navigation and Railroad Company February 7, 1828 Pennsylvania November 3, 1829
Tioga Navigation Company February 7, 1828 Pennsylvania 1839 Chartered on February 20, 1826 to build a canal or slack-water navigation; authorized to build a railroad on February 7, 1828
Baltimore and Susquehanna Railroad February 13, 1828 Maryland July 4, 1831
Chesterfield Railroad February 27, 1828 Virginia July 1831
New Castle and Frenchtown Turnpike and Railroad Company March 14, 1828 Maryland February 28, 1832 Chartered on January 6, 1810 as the New Castle and Frenchtown Turnpike Company to build a turnpike; renamed and authorized to build a railroad on March 14, 1828
Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad March 24, 1828 Pennsylvania October 18, 1832 Part of the state-owned Main Line of Public Works
Schuylkill Valley Navigation Company April 14, 1828 Pennsylvania 1830 Chartered on March 20, 1827 to build a canal; authorized to build a railroad on April 14, 1828; renamed Schuylkill Valley Navigation and Railroad Company on January 15, 1829
Schuylkill East Branch Navigation Company April 14, 1828 Pennsylvania November 18, 1831 Chartered on February 20, 1826 to build a lock navigation; authorized to build a railroad on April 14, 1828; renamed Little Schuylkill Navigation, Railroad and Coal Company on April 23, 1829
New Castle and Frenchtown Turnpike and Railroad Company February 7, 1829 Delaware February 28, 1832 Chartered on January 24, 1809 as the New Castle and Frenchtown Turnpike Company to build a turnpike; renamed and authorized to build a railroad on February 7, 1829
New Castle Turnpike and Railroad Company February 7, 1829 Delaware February 28, 1832 Chartered on January 30, 1811 as the New Castle Turnpike Company to build a turnpike; renamed and authorized to build a railroad on February 7, 1829; merged into the New Castle Turnpike and Railroad Company on March 31, 1830
Mine Hill and Schuylkill Haven Railroad April 15, 1829 Pennsylvania April 1831
Northern Liberties and Penn Township Railroad April 23, 1829 Pennsylvania April 1834
Mount Carbon Railroad July 15, 1829 Pennsylvania 1831
Tuscumbia Railway January 15, 1830 Alabama June 12, 1832
Pontchartrain Railroad January 20, 1830 Louisiana April 23, 1831
Lexington and Ohio Railroad January 27, 1830 Kentucky August 15, 1832
Camden and Amboy Railroad and Transportation Company February 4, 1830 New Jersey October 1, 1832 When the Camden and Amboy imported, assembled, and placed into service the locomotive John Bull, it was the first time that a steam locomotive had ever run on a North American railroad (earlier railroads used animal traction).
Petersburg Railroad February 10, 1830 Virginia October 1832
Lykens Valley Railroad and Coal Company April 7, 1830 Pennsylvania April 1834
Beaver Meadow Railroad and Coal Company April 7, 1830 Pennsylvania November 5, 1836
Canajoharie and Catskill Railroad April 19, 1830 New York 1839
Boston and Lowell Railroad June 5, 1830 Massachusetts June 24, 1835
Petersburg Railroad January 1, 1831 North Carolina 1833
Paterson and Hudson River Railroad January 31, 1831 New Jersey 1834
Elizabethtown and Somerville Railroad February 9, 1831 New Jersey August 13, 1836
Saratoga and Schenectady Railroad February 16, 1831 New York July 12, 1832
West Chester Railroad February 18, 1831 Pennsylvania October 1, 1832
West Feliciana Railroad March 5, 1831 Louisiana January 1835
Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad March 21, 1831 Pennsylvania March 18, 1834 Part of the state-owned Main Line of Public Works
Southwark Railroad April 2, 1831 Pennsylvania 1835
Cumberland Valley Railroad April 2, 1831 Pennsylvania August 16, 1837
Philadelphia and Delaware County Railroad April 2, 1831 Pennsylvania January 17, 1838 Renamed Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad on March 14, 1836
Philadelphia, Germantown and Norristown Railroad April 5, 1831 Pennsylvania June 6, 1832
Winchester and Potomac Railroad April 8, 1831 Virginia (now partially West Virginia) March 1836
New York and Harlem Railroad April 25, 1831 New York November 26, 1832
Boston and Providence Railroad July 22, 1831 Massachusetts July 28, 1835
Boston and Worcester Railroad June 23, 1831 Massachusetts April 16, 1834
Clinton and Vicksburg Railroad December 19, 1831 Mississippi 1838 Reorganized as the Commercial and Railroad Bank of Vicksburg on December 25, 1833
Mad River and Lake Erie Railroad January 5, 1832 Ohio 1838
Tuscumbia, Courtland and Decatur Railroad January 13, 1832 Alabama August 20, 1833
Wilmington and Susquehanna Railroad January 18, 1832 Delaware July 14, 1837
Lawrenceburg and Indianapolis Railroad February 2, 1832 Indiana July 4, 1834
Ohio and Indianapolis Railroad February 3, 1832 Indiana 1851 Renamed Jeffersonville Railroad on February 3, 1849
Calais Railway February 17, 1832 Maine 1832
Philadelphia and Trenton Railroad February 23, 1832 Pennsylvania November 14, 1833
Baltimore and Port Deposit Railroad March 5, 1832 Maryland July 6, 1837
New Jersey Railroad and Transportation Company March 7, 1832 New Jersey September 15, 1834
Portsmouth and Roanoke Railroad March 8, 1832 Virginia July 27, 1834
New Jersey, Hudson and Delaware Railroad March 8, 1832 New Jersey 1872 Merged into the New Jersey Midland Railway on April 26, 1870
Franklin Railroad March 12, 1832 Pennsylvania September 10, 1839
Delaware and Maryland Railroad March 14, 1832 Maryland July 14, 1837 Merged into the Wilmington and Susquehanna Railroad on April 18, 1836
York and Maryland Line Railroad March 14, 1832 Pennsylvania August 23, 1838
Liggett's Gap Railroad April 7, 1832 Pennsylvania October 20, 1851 Renamed Lackawanna and Western Railroad on April 14, 1851
Rensselaer and Saratoga Railroad April 14, 1832 New York April 19, 1836
Saratoga and Fort Edward Railroad April 17, 1832 New York October 15, 1848 Reorganized as the Saratoga and Washington Railroad on May 2, 1834
New York and Albany Railroad April 17, 1832 New York December 31, 1848 Sold to the New York and Harlem Railroad on March 9, 1846
Watertown and Rome Railroad April 17, 1832 New York October 1849
Tonawanda Railroad April 24, 1832 New York May 1837
New York and Erie Railroad April 24, 1832 New York September 23, 1841
Brooklyn and Jamaica Railroad April 25, 1832 New York April 18, 1836 Leased by the Long Island Rail Road from opening
Hudson and Berkshire Railroad April 26, 1832 New York September 26, 1838
Boston, Norwich and New London Railroad May 1, 1832 Connecticut 1840 Merged into the Norwich and Worcester Railroad on June 22, 1836
New York and Stonington Railroad May 14, 1832 Connecticut November 17, 1837 Merged into the New York, Providence and Boston Railroad on July 1, 1833
Portsmouth and Lancaster Railroad June 9, 1832 Pennsylvania September 16, 1836 Renamed Harrisburg, Portsmouth, Mountjoy and Lancaster Railroad on March 11, 1835
Williamsport and Elmira Railroad June 9, 1832 Pennsylvania January 12, 1837
Strasburg Rail Road June 9, 1832 Pennsylvania 1837
New York, Providence and Boston Railroad June 23, 1832 Rhode Island November 17, 1837
Detroit and St. Joseph Railroad June 29, 1832 Michigan February 3, 1838 Sold to the Central Railroad of Michigan on April 22, 1837
New Orleans & Carrollton Rail-Road in 1835

Selected railroads chartered since 1832:

Tunnels and bridges[edit]

The expanded Park Avenue Tunnel in 1941

West of the Mississippi River[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Brown, Robert R. (October 1949). Canada's Earliest Railway Lines. Railway & Locomotive Historical Society Bulletin #78. 
  2. ^ Whitehill, Walter Muir (1959). Boston - A Topographical History. Harvard University Press. p. 62. 
  3. ^ Dunbar, Seymour. A History of Travel in America. pp. 876–7. 
  4. ^ Dunbar. quoting Thomas McKibben of Baltimore in the American Engineer, 1886. pp. 878–9. 
  5. ^ a b Dunbar. p. 880.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. ^ Railroads and Canals of the United States of America by Henry V. Poor (New York: John H. Schultz & Co, 1860), page 85 [1]
  7. ^ American Railroading Began Here cited 15 October 2009.
  8. ^ Railroads and Canals of the United States of America by Henry V. Poor (New York: John H. Schultz & Co, 1860), pages 415,537 [2]
  9. ^ a b Railroads and Canals of the United States of America by Henry V. Poor (New York: John H. Schultz & Co, 1860), page 415 [3]
  10. ^ in The Transfer of Pioneering British Railroad Technology to North America by Frederick C. Gamst, University of Massachusetts, Boston [4]
  11. ^ Railroads and Canals of the United States of America by Henry V. Poor (New York: John H. Schultz & Co, 1860), page 459 [5]
  12. ^ Railroads and Canals of the United States of America by Henry V. Poor (New York: John H. Schultz & Co, 1860), page 501 [6]
  13. ^ Welcome to Tuscumbia, Alabama - You Should See Us Now!!
  14. ^ Railroads and Canals of the United States of America by Henry V. Poor (New York: John H. Schultz & Co, 1860), page 462 [7]
  15. ^ Railroads and Canals of the United States of America by Henry V. Poor (New York: John H. Schultz & Co, 1860), page 460 [8]
  16. ^ a b Development of Early Transportation Systems in the United States by J.L. Ringwalt (Philadelphia: Railway World Office, 1888), (RAILWAY CONSTRUCTION FROM 1830 TO 1840)[9]
  17. ^ ExplorePAHistory.com Historical Marker Allegheny Portage Railroad
  18. ^ ExplorePAHistory.com Historical Marker Service began on wooden rails.
  19. ^ Red River Railroad

External links[edit]

Specific railroads[edit]