Frog war

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The frog, a component of a railway switch, lent its name to a series of battles for railroad dominance in the 19th century.

In American railroading, a frog war occurs when a private railroad company attempts to cross the tracks of another, and this results in hostilities, with the courts usually getting involved, but often long after companies have taken the matter in their own hands and settled, with hordes of workers battling each other. It is named after the frog, the piece of track that allows the two tracks to join or cross and is usually part of a level junction or railroad switch.

Sometimes the first railroad was built specifically to delay the completion of the second.[citation needed]

Division of costs[edit]

It is generally the case that the second railway to arrive has to bear the cost of the special trackwork needed to cross the first.[citation needed] This includes the cost of any interlocking tower or signal box. The latter is not necessarily to the disadvantage of the second railway, since it can signal its trains through the junction ahead of those belonging to the first railway, depending on who employs the signalman.[citation needed]

"Frog Wars" with oil pipelines[edit]

In the early days oil mostly travelled by rail, but gradually oil companies built oil pipelines. Not wanting to lose business, railway companies often refused permission to oil companies for pipelines to cross their tracks.

Bridges and riverboats[edit]

Abraham Lincoln participated in a celebrated court case that decided that railroads had as much right to bridge rivers as the riverboat had the right to navigate those rivers.[1] Nova Scotia's Shubenacadie Canal was rendered useless by a railway bridge built across it in 1870.[citation needed]

List of frog wars[edit]

United States[edit]

Note: The first railroad line built is the first one named.

United Kingdom[edit]


  • Derrick, Samuel M. (1933). Centennial History of South Carolina Railroad. State Publishing Company, Columbia, SC.
  • Fetters, Thomas (2008). The Charleston & Hamburg. The History Press, Charleston, SC. ISBN 978-1-59629-420-2.


  1. ^ [1] Archived January 11, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ "Stories". Retrieved 2015-03-28.