The Beginnings Of The Norfolk And Western Railway System, 1830-1870

Emmett Shufflebarger
to .subscribe for-two**fifths of the capital stock of these roads, of internal improvement, but, as time elapsed, and '"the need for more help was evident, the amount was raised to three-fifthe** Virginia issued her first charter to a railroad on March B, 18,27* This charter gave the right to build a thirty-two mile road from Winchester to Harper*s Ferry*-It was named-the Winchester and Potomac Eallroad and later became one of the branches of the important Baltimore and .Ohio Eailroad.^ By IBJB
more » ... the state had issued bonds to aid in the building of seven railroad lines in the state. Among these were the Potomac and Staunton Hailread, the Petersburg and EdanokeRailroad, the Portsmouth and Roanoke Railroad, the 'Petersburg Railroad* the Riehmond and Petersburg Railroad, •and the City Point Railroad* The following acts of the General Assembly in the early years of railroad construction may be taken as typical of the legislation" that regulated the early railroads#, On March 23r 1&3 6, an act was passed--"prescribing the punishment of offenses committed on ..railroads In Virginia*" Under this act any person who injured m y part of the railroad property willfully was,forced to pay to the company three times the actual damage done*, If any .person should remove or disturb any part of the railroad line that would endanger the safety of the people, he be charged with high crimes and misdemeanors# The sentence fixed for a white person on such a charge was from two-to five-years imprisonment, and if a slave he would suffer "death without benefit of clergy.* The railroad-companies were given the power to use any other "remedies* to-keep the roads safe and protected#® An act "prohibiting the transportation of slaves on railroads with*** out proper authority" was passed on March 25» 1$37* The company was to pay the sum of one hundred .dollars for each .offense,; and the money collected was to be used by the ID Literary Fund.of the state* By the year 1&37 the impetus to railroad building was so strong in Virginia that the General Assembly passed an act ■*£0r regulations for-the incorporation of railroad companies* This act included a list of general provisions -which the legislature deemed necessary in granting a charter of incor*poration of a company to cons tract a railroad*-Under this act a board of commissioners was appointed to make the necessary-steps In preparing for incorporation*' They'were to ■ m open the hooks1 * for receiving'subscript ions to the capital stock of the -company» which was. to be fixed by the Individual act'-for a. specific time and place*' The books ■were to remain open for at least ten days* -The value of each share of stock in the company was to be one tandrei i dollars; two-dollars-for each share had to-be paid in installment s * Ŵhena specific part of the capital had been raised* •.the incorporation went into-effect*, A general meeting of ajl subscribers was then to foe called to select a president and five directors who were be foe elected for-a. tern of one .year*. The commissioners., who had earlier been appointed to: , collect the -subscription* were then to-turn over the books ' and money to the company* The company was invested with the rights to construct and maintain the road" along with the power to make contracts* ' lb had. the -power to enter upon and purchase' land, to construct the roads,' to issue stock., to' make branch and lateral railroads not exceeding ten miles, and the exclusive right of transportation on i the road*. The various companies were required to make -an annual report-of the physical and financial, condition to the Board of Public Works*-This board was to compile all the facts for-the benefit of the General Assembly*T here was to be an annual meeting of the stockholders of each of the companies* and the proceedings of these meet ings were to be turned over' by the board of directors to the ■-Board of Public Works* The company m s to declare a"\semi annual dividend which was-limited by the charter*-The notice of such. ,a, dividend was to be-put .in all local newspapers*. .Until all the capital was raised" the companies were" forbid-; : den-.:to borrow money without special authority of the General Assembly* The legislature reserved the direct right to alter and modify the charter of any of the companies,* The legist lature also reserved, the power be connect any of the-.. railroads with any:'other road that' they might-.thing pro fitable to the abate* The government agreed to subscribe for.' two-fifths of the capital stock* 'The-General Assembly was-, also to provide for the transportation of the United States mail by the railroads at a fair and adequate compen sation* Thus the whole scheme-of operations was established, aud it was. to remain the general policy of the state,-until after the Civil W a r * Ûnder the general incorporation act of 1&37, three larger railroad companies were chartered which were later to 9 make up the maim route of the great Norfolk and Western system* these three roads were the S o u t h s i d s t h e Virginia and Tennessee, and the Norfolk and Petersburg Railroads.' 'The big development of railroads in the state-was now under way. The mileage of -railroads-grew from 147 miles■ in 1B40 to 3$4 in 1$50, and to 1,350 in I S S O . ^ By the beginning of the Civil War all three of these roads were in operation 'under separate control' and management* A closer look ateach road will help to better-understand the later consoli** dation and problems of the roads.. m FOOflOfBS G M P T E I I 1* Horace Porter* nRailway Passenger Travel*** The-American Eallwav. (Hew torki Charles Scribner*a iosi.* l M 5 T T -" . s s S S S s h ' • 2* A m e s 0* Laut. The Romance of the tail a Clew York? Tudor Publi3hin.g~Company7' 'i55'677~61^---3. Ibid" 161. 4* Caroline MacGill and others* History of Transportation i n the United States Before iffiSST^ Ili'sMnSSon?1 ^ C a m i H I e Iri^tftuti' of' ^'WasHingtcm "kl4*4I5 * . 5* Charles W* Turner* "The Early Railroad Movement in Virginia,« ghgVirginia p g a a i i m of History: and Biography i v n i 9 4 7 ) . 353. 6. 0* G. Pearson* The Readiuster Movement, in Virginia (Hew Haven; Tale University ' Turner* "The Early Railroad Movement in. Virginia*1 ' 315• i*, Richard 1# Morton* Virginia Since, 1861* Vol. Ill* History of: Virglnaa^TIew^ Chicago; The American .IllslortciX Society.* if2 6 } * 356# •9* Aet.e. of the General-Assembly of Virginia Passed in 1S36-I W y ' TSicEmond;' fKoSmi" Ritchie # . ip* ihidb*. 101 * ' 11. Ibid.#, 10X*»1Q2V & V MM*:* 102*103*' ' *$• libido 103* 104* • 14* Morton* Virginia Since, 1S61, '356* |OU*iE O F WILLIAM & MARV . c h a p t e r i i M B SOOTHSXDB RAILROAD --« * THE BEGINNING OF THE SYSTEM The first of the three original major branches that went to make up the Norfolk and Western -system was the, Boutbside-Railroad Company which connected the town of hjn'Ghburg with Petersburg*-On. March 6, 1346* -the General Assembly passed an act setting up a board of commissioners to open books-of subscription in Petersburg for-the purpose of building a railroad from that town to some point in Nottoway-County* east of Black and Whitens Tavern* The regulations of this road were d r a w in accordance with, the act of 1037*1 On March 13, 1049 # an amendment to the rail-* * * > road1 a charter was .passed by the legislature -and the capitalstock of the company was fixed at #-600,000, one sixth of which the. town of Petersburg was allowed to subscribe* The, act transferred the state*s stock in a former railroad company, the Petersburg and Roanoke Railroad, to the South* side . Company * Construction had to be started within one year and-the company was given three years to complete the road to a place.of connection with the Richmond and Danville Railroad at or near the town of Burkeville* The first surveys were made by the company in October* 1043; the work its final'sueeee#*,**bhsy confidently hope. and believe that the economy and well-granted diligence to the affairs' of the company will recover from this emb&rraa smart * On April 6, 1 8 3 9 , the Board of Public Works was authorised to loan the company the sum.'of fifty thousand dollars*^® The mortgage w m turned over to the Board by the directors of the road on June 22, 1839, and. the payments ' pi were to he made on. the loan to. ten semi-annual installments* The report for -the year 1840-seemed, to indicate a more hopeful; feeling on the part of the-president of the company, for he said t w'the-.,business of the road gives evident# of an increasing transportation-upon it., and elicited an experience in favor of its finally overcoming its difficulties and embarrassment*Tec the-road to position was not completely secure*:. Times were; hard due to the depression of 1837* This railroad also■had an early rival to the Petersburg Tow*' tog Company which operated on the Appomattox liver* Thetoport of: 1840 relates that, *1x1 February, 1839, C h e ■ Direct** ors, with the advice of some, -of the largest stockholders, in pTder to.put aside the rival interest in the river, or v ' . p " * t otema l destruction to both parties, united to the purchasing the. entire property owned by the Petersburg. Towing Company * In his report to the Board of Public Works for the year 1842, the road to-new president, John A* Peterson, said, *The superstructure is of the ordinary plate rail kind, ■Consisting of cross sills, .five feet -apart" about twelve inches square and seven feet long, with notches, in which are fixed wedges, wooden^sleeper©* five by h i m inches-, capped withj flat iron an inch 'thick'and. two-inches wtde*n^ Money was greatly needed to complete the purchase -of the new locomotive for the road. This machine had been in use by the company-for some, time, but unless the payment was mat by the following March, it was to be turned back to the' m a k e r * By 1845 the prospects of the "company were not much better*. The /Board of Public Works" -after investigating all the -conditions of the road, recommended to the legislature. , that the state should sell its interest in it* This .was met with bitter opposition.*-In a letter to the Board, President' : John -Peterson 'expressed the-feeling that the road was being betrayed by such a move* He disclosed that it was not until recently -that the. citisens of" Petersburg had really become interested in the railroad and that its prospects were now greater than they ted ever been before* 8# felt that the .receipts-of the company for the next year would greatly increase, . '.due to the fact that it had hired a new engineer ' and had made contract with the James ' Elver Boat and Bay line ' ' ' ' , J Co. hasten freight on its voyage north* He therefore hoped" ■ \ ' • that if the stockholders -would be patient a little longer the-, road-'would show its true worth*^ * * * the capital subscribed by the state charter was five.million dollars, only 13,450,637 had been actually subscribed for and
doi:10.21220/s2-ta6x-1p97 fatcat:2n3sb5fywbgt5kcl24wuzkzsnu