Saturday, January 17, 2009

Railroad to the Moon

From "A History of Old Kinderhook", quoting the June 27, 1827 Boston Courier:
... the project of a railroad from Boston to Albany is impracticable, as every one knows who knows the simplest rule of arithmetic, and the expenses would be little less than the market value of the whole territory of Massachusetts; and which, if practicable, every one of common sense knows would be as useless as a railroad from Boston to the moon.
This echoed a phrase in "Wedding of the Waters" quoting Erie Canal promoter Elkanah Watson:
The utmost stretch of our views, was to follow the track of Nature's canal [the rivers and lakes] and to remove natural or artificial obstructions; but we never entertained the most distant conception of a canal from Lake Erie to the Hudson. We should not have considered it much more extravagant to have suggested the possibility of a canal to the moon.
But it was the success of the Erie Canal that motivated the builders of the Western Railroad. From the Keystone Arches history pages:
So steep and remote it was said to be impossible... Yet not to try meant Boston would lose ever more traffic to New York as they had since the Erie Canal opened in 1823. The canal siphoned traffic down the Hudson River, but a railroad to Albany could recapture that trade... The Western Railroad was the longest (150 miles) the steepest (1458 ft.) and the first mountain climbing railroad in the world... When built, it was so steep no locomotives existed able to climb the grade.
Railroad to the Moon is a short, online documentary of the making of the Western Railroad. It also includes information by the "Friends of the Keystone Arches" about the preservation of the beautiful arched bridges, which were so well engineered that some still carry rail traffic today.

Railfans may want to attend the huge Amherst Railway Society Railroad Hobby Show at the Big-E in West Springfield, MA next weekend (January 24th and 25th, 2009, 9am-5pm). It fills four buildings at the fairgrounds, and has about 400 vendors, all rail related. (Friends of the Keystone Arches will be exhibiting.)

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