A History of its Industries, Railroads and Inventions





Of New York State


"Railroad Wars of New York State" relates the saga of the railroad companies from their inception through the end of the nineteenth century. In an age when few regulations existed to check the power of corporations and the men who ran them, the railroads grew to become a dominant force in the economy. Despite their sometimes monopolistic hold over certain towns and cities, they were able to operate almost without restraint, and their owners were able to carry out stock market manipulation, treasury plundering, rate wars, duplicity, court rigging, and legislator bribing on a grand scale. From the establishment of a new rail system in the face of competition from the Erie Canal, to fights over control of the state's two trunk lines, to labor wars against the railroads' own employees, this exciting book covers the most infamous battles as the railroads were becoming an essential way of life for millions of people.

Published by The History Press, 2012




Canal Wars

Rate Wars

Hudson River Wars

The New York Central War

The Susquehanna War

The Great Erie War

Labor Wars


The railroads first had to contend with the Erie Canal, the most
successful waterway in the United States.

Robber barons like Jay Gould, Daniel Drew, and Jim Fisk looted
 treasuries and manipulated the stock market, wiping out thousands
 of investors and impoverishing several railroad companies.

Worker strikes often turned violent and caused hundreds of thousands
 of dollars worth of damage to railroad property.


Excerpt from the introduction:

Here in the twenty-first century, when just a small part of the population travels by rail, it is hard to imagine the impact railroads had on all aspects of life during the 1800s. The spread of railroads to every corner of the country created a national economy for the first time, allowing millions of people to travel freely and businesses of all types to ship goods much more efficiently than ever before. Had railroad development not taken place, the country’s great size would have been a liability rather than an asset, as villages and cities would have been forced to cluster around waterways and coastlines as thousands of miles of interior lands remained wild and unsettled. The nation would have remained almost defenseless, subject to internal conflict and foreign invasion, until the advent of internal engines more than a century after declaring independence.

Although a few primitive railroads were built elsewhere in the country first, New York State opened one of the earliest in 1832 and took the lead in constructing new ones. The presence of the Erie Canal across the middle of the state presented a powerful competitor, but the success of the first railroad from Albany to Schenectady proved to be an equally powerful incentive for others to put forth their own charters. Within a year, a veritable deluge of incorporations took place for rail lines between such population centers as Aurora and Buffalo, Brooklyn and Jamaica, Schoharie and Otsego, Ithaca and Geneva, Elmira and Williamsport, and Rochester and Dansville.

The “wars” fought by the railroads beginning with their inception were constant and varied. Those included in the following pages were meant to portray examples of the most famous wars rather than a tedious rendition of every railroad battle ever fought in New York State. A broad spectrum was intentionally chosen that hopefully imparts an informative history of railroading in general as well as the battles that took place on and around the rails more than a century ago.

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