RAILROADS

From "The Minoa Chronicle," May 1997

Town of Manlius

Submitted by Les Crowell


On August 9, 1831, New York's first railroad, the "Mohawk and Hudson Rail Road," made its maiden trip.  The cheering crowd was fascinated with the train, powered by steam.

It was eight years later when the opening of the Syracuse and Utica Railroad in 1839 awakened the little hamlet of Manlius Station as the first trains passed through.  By 1849, the engine "Lightning" sped by on its journey from Syracuse to Utica at the terrifying speed of 70 MPH.

Villages along the line dramatically changed with the emerging era of the train.  Their once quiet streets were now filled with shrill whistles and the clatter of racing trains that filled their villages with soot.  Many people complained about their clothes getting covered with black cinders and getting cinders in their eyes.  Mary Hobb lived on North Central and she said that hanging clothes out really wasn't any problem if you remembered not to do it when the wind was blowing from the south.

Manlius Station became the village of Minoa as a result of the railroad and its citizens saw only jobs, village growth and new neighbors who shared their lives.  Most of the men in the village were railroad men and they were proud of it.  Railroading was a dangerous occupation and company rules became the law of this area.  Even State lawmakers feared the power of the railroad community, and for the first 50 years set only general safety standards.  The men working on the railroad were in one of our country's most dangerous professions.  Serious injuries and even death met these men as they followed the rails.

Trains and the power of steam continued to improve.  On May 10, 1893 the Empire Express passed through Minoa to Syracuse.  Engine 999 of the New York Central & Hudson railroad, recently built in the West Albany shop under the guidance of William Buchanan, was strapped to the Express.  The immortal engineer, Charlie Hogan, was at the controls and was instructed to try for a speed record on the straight track between Batavia and Buffalo.  As Charlie Hogan neared this stretch he pulled the 999's throttle wide open and held it in the open position.  Stopwatches clocked his speed for the entire 36 miles and for one mile on this trip he raced at the unbelievable speed of 112.5 MPH.  The accuracy of the record has  been challenged, but all railroad historians agree that "Nothing that rolled had ever gone that fast."  That record held for many years. It so captured the imagination of America that the U.S. Post Office issued a two-cent stamp depicting No. 999 and the four wooden parlor cars she pulled while setting the speed record.  The stamp was commemorated at the Pan American Exhibition in Buffalo in 1901.

Trains became the symbol of speed and progress in this country and to meet this challenge the railroad constantly devised new ways to transport people and goods in a shorter time.  The Empire Express, trying to shorten the time between stops, adopted a system first used in England in 1860.  Steam engines needed water, and time was lost as they stopped to fill their boilers.  A trough several hundred feet long, filled with water, was laid between the rails.  The engineer, while running at about 45 MPH, would see the green light and yell to the fireman, "Drop Scoop!" forcing about 10,000 gallons up into the tank.  When he red light appeared, the engineer would yell "Up Scoop!".  The only way to tell when the tank was full was when it overflowed.  One passenger recalled that he was riding in the first car behind the locomotive when the tank filled and the excess water cascaded into the car vestibule and aisle.  This simple procedure ended time-consuming stops at water tanks, but as you can see, it also created its own problems.

The speed of rail travel increased and a novel experiment was tried on Sunday, July 4, 1875.  The first "Sunday Newspaper Train" left Grand Central Station in New York City at 2:30 AM.  A baggage car filled with Sunday papers started on an historic journey.  With the train speeding at about 50 MPH, an agent standing on the rear platform of the baggage car flung packages of newspapers from the train as it passed each station.  For the first time, people in Minoa and other Central New York towns could read New York City's Sunday paper on the same day it was printed.

Trains played an integral part in the growth of Minoa.  We hope to form a group of railroad men to meet and share knowledge and experiences for print in future Chronicle issues.  If anyone is interested contract Phil Hobb, 656-3186.
 

"The Minoa Chronicle" is published quarterly by Norma Jenner, Bob Kinsella, Bev Petterelli and Loretta Sturick, and is available at Green's Hardware Store, the Minoa Public Library and the Village Office in Minoa, and at Brownell's Printing in Eastwood.


Submitted 23 April 1999