The Story Of The Rome, Watertown, And Ogdensburg RailRoad Part 15
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Upon their initiative, upon their ability to make quick decisions--and accurate--in crises, to handle even matters of a goodly size the huge division rose or fell. Theirs was no job for the weakling or the hesitant.
Mr. Russell was neither a weakling nor hesitant. On the contrary he risked much--even the friendship of the organized labor of the road--when he felt that he was right and must go ahead upon the right path. Eventually his policies in regard to labor forced his retirement from the R. W. & O.
division. He went, capable railroader that he always was, to Scranton where he became General Superintendent of the Lackawanna. From there he went to one of the roads in lower Canada, and finally to Michigan, where he met his tragic death late at night on a lonely railroad pier in the dead of winter.
After Russell, Dewitt C. Moon; a man with an unusual genius for placating labor and getting the very best results out of it. Mr. Moon succeeded Mr.
Russell as Superintendent at Watertown, April 1, 1899, leaving that post September 1, 1902, to become General Manager of the Lake Erie & Western, a Vanderbilt property of the mid-West. He had been schooled in that family of railroads, starting in as telegraph operator on the old Dunkirk, Allegheny Valley & Pittsburgh, which was gradually merged, first into the Lake Shore and then into the parent reorganized New York Central of to-day. Before that reorganization, he had become General Manager of the former Lake Shore in some respects the very finest of the old Vanderbilt properties--at Cleveland. At Cleveland he still remains, as Assistant to the Vice-President of the New York Central in that important city. He is a railroader of the old school, trained in exquisite thoroughness and with a capacity for detail, not less than marvelous.
Moon's great forte, however, was and still is, cooperation. Men like him.
He likes men. A big and genial nature, a quick sympathy and understanding have proved great assets to a railroad executive. These assets Moon has possessed from the beginning. Upon them he had builded--and upgrown.
Still another of this famous quintette to whom the running of a 650 mile railroad division was as but part of a day's work--James H. Hustis. More than any of the three who preceded him Hustis is in every sense a thorough graduate of the Vanderbilt school of railroading. He was born to it. His father, too, was a veteran New York Central man. "Jim" Hustis entered that school in 1878, as office-boy to the late John M. Toucey, then General Superintendent of the New York Central in the old Grand Central depot. He rose rapidly in the ranks, filling several superintendencies in the old parent property before he went to Watertown, in the late summer of 1902.
He left there on October 1, 1906, to assume executive charge of the Boston & Albany. And it was soon after he left that the old division was broken into two parts and the R. W. & O. ceased to exist, even as a division name. Mr. Hustis is to-day President of the Boston & Maine Railroad. He holds the unique distinction of having headed the three most important railroads of New England. After leaving the office of Vice-President and General Manager of the Boston & Albany--as we have already seen the ranking position of that property--he was for a time President of the New York, New Haven & Hartford, before going to his present post with the Boston & Maine. That he is a thorough railroader, hardly needs to be said here--if nothing else said that, the fact that he spent four successful years in full control at Watertown, of itself would tell it.
After Hustis, Cornelius Christie, the last of the executive Superintendents that were to supervise the operation of the Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburgh as a single unit--why the folks down in the Grand Central did not create a general superintendency at Watertown, I never could understand. Christie, a huge six-foot-three man, big both physically and mentally, also was trained in the wondrous Vanderbilt school of railroading. Long service both upon the main line of the Central and the West Shore, equipped him most adequately for the arduous task at Watertown.
It was in Christie's day--in the summer of 1908--that the famous old division was divided into two large parts, as we have already seen; the Ontario and the St. Lawrence. For three years more, Mr. Christie remained at Watertown, as Superintendent of the St. Lawrence, being promoted from that post to a similar one on the busy Hudson River division between Albany and New York. He was succeeded at Watertown by F. E. Williamson, the present General Superintendent of the New York Central at Albany.
At the time Christie became Superintendent of the St. Lawrence Division at Watertown, Frank E. McCormack was set up in a similar job, heading the Ontario Division at Oswego. The genial Frank was R. W. & O. trained and bred. As far back as April 1, 1885, he was working for the property as night operator and pumper, at a salary of $25 a month. Some one must have recognized the real railroader in him, however, for but a year later his "salary" was raised to $30 and the following year he was transferred to the Superintendent's office at Watertown as confidential clerk and operator. From that time on his progress was steady and uninterrupted; despatcher, chief despatcher, trainmaster, and with one or two more intermediate steps, Superintendent.
To attempt even a listing of the able railroad crowd that hovered around the old Watertown depot, in the years that measured the beginnings of the Vanderbilt operation of the old Rome road again, would be quite beyond the province of this little book. H. D. Carter, Frank E. Wilson, George C.
Gridley, W. H. Northrop, Clare Hartigan, how the names come trippingly to mind! And how many, many more there are of them.
Yet I cannot close these paragraphs without singling out two of them--Wilgus and Crowley. Here are two more graduates of its hard, hard school, in which the Rome road may hold exceeding pride. Colonel W. J.
Wilgus was with the old division for but four years--from 1893 to 1897--but they were years of exceeding activity in the rebuilding of the property; particularly its "double-tracking" and the extremely important job of raising the track-levels for many miles north of Richland so that the eternal enemy of the road--snow--would have a much harder time henceforth in endeavoring to fight it. From that job he went to far bigger ones; such as building the new Grand Central Terminal and installing electric operation on the lines that entered it, digging the Michigan Central tunnel under the river at Detroit and building the new station in that city. These and others. But none more interesting to him, I dare say, than the task that he laid out overseas in the Great War, building and arranging the rail lines of communication for the American Army in France.
A job to which he brought all his experience, his great energy and his rare tact.
And finally, Patrick E. Crowley. Mr. Crowley's connection with the Rome road goes back to the Parsons' regime--even though before that day he had had eleven hard years of experience with the old Erie; in about every conceivable job from station agent to train despatcher. He was with the R.
W. & O., however, almost an even year before its acquisition by the New York Central--as train despatcher at Oswego. In May, 1891, he was transferred to Watertown as chief train despatcher and later as train master. His stepping upward has been continuous and earned. To-day as Vice-President, in charge of operation, of the entire New York Central system he is recognized as one of the king-pins of railroad operators of all creation and is the same simple and unassuming gentleman that one found him in the old days at Oswego and Watertown.
That seems to be the mark of the real railroader, always. Ostentation does not get a man very far in the game. In the North Country it got him nowhere, whatsoever. In our land of the great snows and the hard years a very real and simple democracy plus energy and some real knowledge of the problems in hand were the only qualities that put a big boss ahead.
Forever--no matter what the name or how long the division--the job up there was the survival of the fittest. The fit man might be here, there, anywhere. He might be a greaser in the round-house, a news-butcher upon the train, an office boy upstairs in the depot headquarters, an operator in a lonely country station. If he was fit he got ahead and got ahead quickly. Merit won its own promotion and generally won it pretty quickly.
Not that everything was always plain sailing. There is one pretty keen railroad executive in the land who remembers his joy at being promoted to Despatcher on the old Rome road. The pay was eighty dollars a month, which was good in those days. He walked into the new job with a plenty of cocksure enthusiasm. The "super" did not like young men with cocksure enthusiasms. He said so, frankly. And in order to drive his ideas home paid the young man the Despatcher's rate for thirty days; then, for the next five or six months at the old-time operator's rate. The young man caught on. He understood. A job's a job and a boss is a boss. And all the jobs in the world are not worth the paper that they are written on, unless the boss wants to make them so. Which may be put down as an unscientific maxim; yet a very true one nevertheless.
Back of these men who sought with all their energy and vigor, of mind and of body alike, steadily to upbuild the old Rome road, was the great wealth, organization and _esprit de corps_ of one of the leading railroad organizations of the world. The Vanderbilts were always thorough sportsmen. They showed it in their reincarnation of the Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburgh. Parsons had been handicapped, forever and a day, by the constant lack of ready cash--there have been few times when the New York Central has been so handicapped. I bear no brief for the Vanderbilts. They have made their mistakes and they have been grievous ones. But they have not often made the mistake of being miserly with their properties. That mistake was not made in Northern New York.
Into the R. W. & O., once they had clinched their title to it, they poured money like water--whenever they could be shown the necessity of such a procedure. New track went down and then new bridges went up--superb structures every one of them--until there no longer were any limitations upon the motive-power for the North Country's rail transport system. A locomotive that could run upon the main line could run practically anywhere upon the Rome road divisions. And when Watertown complained that the traffic was rising to a volume that no longer could be handled upon a single-track basis, the Vanderbilts double-tracked the road--in all of its essential stretches, many, many miles of it all told. They built and rebuilt the round-houses and the shops. "Property improvement" became their slogan.
In such property improvement Watertown has always shared, most liberally.
The double-tracking of the old main-stem of the R. W. & O. brought with it as a corollary the construction of a much needed freight cut-off outside the crowded heart of that city. That done the local freight facilities were removed from the old stone freight-house opposite the passenger-station and that staunch old landmark torn down. To replace it a huge freight terminal of the most modern type and worthy of a city of sixty thousand population was erected on a convenient site upon the North side of the river. As a final step in this program of progress the old depot was torn away--without many expressions of regret on the part of the townsfolk--and the present magnificent passenger terminal erected, at a cost of close to a quarter of a million dollars. The management of what Watertown will always know as the "old Rome road" has not been niggardly with its chief town.
Nor has it been niggardly with any other parts of Northern New York territory. Oswego has rejoiced in a new station--the blessed old Lake Shore Hotel, which for many years housed tavern and railroad offices and passenger depot, combined, is now a thing of memory. Ogdensburgh has a fine new station, and so has Massena Springs. Norwood still worries along with its old depot, but Richland rejoices in a neat but excellent structure, in which the Wright brothers still serve the coffee, the rolls, the sausage and the buckwheat cakes that cannot be excelled. The North Country has never taken to the dining-car habit; perhaps, because it never has had the chance. But it actually likes its old-fashioned way of living; the innate democracy of the American plan hotel and dinner-in-the-middle-of-the-day.
Never can I ride up through it in these fine basking days of peace and of prosperity over its well-maintained railroad without thinking of the days when journeying into the North Country was not a comfortable matter of Pullman cars and swift trains by day and by night; of the days when one came to Utica by stage or by canal and immediately reembarked upon another stage for an even hundred miles of rackingly hard riding over an uneven plank-road into Watertown. If one went further toward the North, travel conditions became still worse. Such expeditions were not for tender folk.
And sometimes to-day when I ride north from Watertown upon the railroad--and the cars toil laboriously through Factory Street, as they have been toiling for sixty-five long years past--I press my face against the window and look for a little house upon that Appian Way; the little, old, stone house in which Clarke Rice and William Smith were wont, so long ago, to operate their toy train upon the table and so try to induce the folk of the village to invest their money in a scheme which then seemed so utter chimerical. A house in which a real idea was born forever fascinates me. For it I hold naught by sympathy--and understanding. So many of us are dreamers.... And so few of us may ever live to see the full fruition of our dreams.
(Being taken bodily from a poster issued at Watertown in the Summer of 1847.)
WATERTOWN, ROME, AND CAPE-VINCENT RAIL-ROAD
ACCORDING TO NOTICE IN THE JEFFERSON COUNTY PAPERS, the inhabitants of this Town will be speedily called on to complete subscriptions towards the above named Road, sufficient to warrant a commencement.
BY THE CHARTER WE HAVE TILL THE 14TH OF MAY, 1848, to complete subscriptions, and make an expenditure towards the Road.
THE TIME IS SHORT IN WHICH TO DO THIS BUSINESS; therefore it is highly important that every citizen, from the St. Lawrence on the North to the Erie canal on the South--from the highlands on the East to the lake on the West, come forward and spread himself to his full extent for the Road.
TO STIMULATE US TO ACTION LET IT BE BORNE IN MIND that the sun never shone on so glorious a land as lies within the bounds above described. To one who for the first time visits our towns, the scene is enchanting in the extreme. Our climate is bland and salubrious; winters more mild than in any part of New England or southern New York--the atmosphere being softened by the prevalence of southwesterly winds coursing up the Valley of the Mississippi and along the waters of Erie and Ontario, to such degree that for salubrity and comfort we stand almost unrivalled.
WHEAT, CORN, BARLEY, OATS, PEASE, BEANS, BUCKWHEAT, fruit, butter, cheese, pork, beef, horses, sheep, cattle, minerals, lumber, etc., are produced here with a facility that warrants the hand of labor a bountiful return.
WE HAVE WATER POWER ENOUGH TO TURN EVERY SPINDLE in Great Britain and America. In fact we have every thing man could desire on this globe, except a cheap and expeditious method of getting rid of our surplus products and holding communication with the exterior world.
THE WANT OF THIS, PLACES US _THIRTY YEARS_ BEHIND almost every other portion of the State. When we might be _first_, we suffer ourselves to be last.
CITIZENS! HOW LONG IS THIS STATE OF THINGS TO ENDURE? After having lain dormant until we have acquired the dimensions of a young giant, will we, like the brute beast, ignorant of his powers, be still led captive in the train of our country's prosperity--affording, by our supineness, a foil to set off the triumphs of our more enterprising brethren of the East, the South, and the West?
NO,--FROM THIS MOMENT FORWARD, LET US RESOLVE to cut a passage to the marts of the New World, and, by the abundance of our resources, strike their "Merchant Princes" with admiration and astonishment.
THIS CAN EASILY BE DONE IF UNANIMITY, PERSEVERANCE, and, above all, LIBERALITY, be exhibited. If every farmer owning 100 acres of land, and he not much in debt, will take five shares in the Road, _and others in proportion_, the decree will go forth that the work is done. _Without this_, it is feared the whole must be a failure.
VIEWED IN AN ENLIGHTENED MANNER, THERE NEED BE NO hesitation on the part of the owners of the soil. They are the ones to be most essentially benefited. There is no reason why their lands, from having a market and increased price of products, would not be worth fifty to eighty dollars per acre, as is the case in less favored sections, where Rail Roads have been constructed. The very fact that a Road was to be made would add _half_ to the value of land--its completion would more than _double_ the present prices.
A TAX ON THE LAND TEN MILES EACH SIDE OF THE ROAD, to build it, would in three years repay itself, and leave to the present population and their posterity an enduring source of wealth and importance. We lose one hundred thousand dollars annually in the price of butter and cheese alone, when compared with the prices obtained by Lewis and the northerly part of Oneida, simply because they are nearer the Canal and the Rail Road.
BUT TAKING STOCK IS _NOT A TAX_, IN ANY SENSE OF THE phrase. It is only resolving to purchase a certain amount of property in the Road, which, taking similar investments elsewhere as a sample, will pay interest, or can be at all times sold at par, or at an advance, like other property or evidence of value. The owner of shares can at any time sell out, and have the satisfaction of knowing that he has greatly added to his wealth merely by affording countenance to the project while in embryo.
THE DIRECTORS ARE POWERLESS UNLESS THE PEOPLE RALLY to their aid. They have made efforts abroad for capital to build the Road, by adding to the subscriptions on hand at the time they were chosen. Owing to causes not prejudicial to the character of our enterprise, they have not for the present succeeded. Aid they have been promised, but they are enjoined first to show a larger figure at home. The ability and disposition of our population must be more thoroughly evinced than has yet been the case.
AGENTS ARE AT WORK, OR SPEEDILY WILL BE, ON THE whole length and breadth of the line from Cape Vincent to Rome. A searching operation is to be had.
The Story Of The Rome, Watertown, And Ogdensburg RailRoad Part 15
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