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The Baltimore and Ohio Railway

The Illustrated London News, vol. 38, no. 1089, pp. 466-467.

May 18, 1861

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The Baltimore and Ohio Railway: Tray Run Viaduct. [p. 466]

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The Baltimore and Ohio Railway. Boardtree Hill. [p. 467]

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The Baltimore and Ohio Railway. Kingwood Tunnel. [p. 467]

In geographical and commercial importance this great railway is equal, and in magnificent and picturesque scenery superior, to any work of a similar kind on the continent of America. By its means the great and busy East and the boundless Far West, shake hands; the dividing ridge of the Alleghany [sic] Mountains has been pierced through or cut asunder; the Atlantic and the Mississippi are one, for between the waters of the Chesapeake and the Ohio is one of the best lines of communication in the United States. This railway has also special claims to honour as being the first line made in America by an incorporated company assisted by the public purse. The first stone was laid in 1828 by Charles Carroll, of Carrollton, the same Charles Carroll who signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776. The first train drawn by steam power appeared on the line on the opening of the first section of it, to Ellscott's Mills, on the 30th of August, 1830, fifteen days before the opening of the Manchester and Liverpool Railway in England, showing how rapidly the Americans had adopted any improvements in locomotion made on this side of the Atlantic. It was not, however, until 1853 that the entire line of 400 miles was completed: a formal opening then took place, accompanied with great public rejoicings. The Baltimore and Ohio Railway is peculiarly interesting at the present time, as its course is along that line which divides the border State of Maryland from Virginia, or the old dominion, as it is often called. Upon this line, which follows in its general features the course of the Potomac River, events are now taking place of the most momentous character. We purpose giving a series of illustrations of the railway and a description of the locality through which it passes. We commence with three of its most important features.

The Tray Run Viaduct is one of the most remarkable engineering works on the whole line. It spans a deep gorge or run in the mountains 600 feet in width, and at a height of 160 feet above the bed of the ravine. The roadway is supported on iron columns secured and braced in a peculiar manner, and placed on a solid mass of masonry which fills up the bottom of the run. This work was designed by Mr. Albert Fink, one of the assistant engineers on the line. It is remarkably light in appearance, and is rendered more strikingly so by being surrounded by masses of rock of colossal dimensions towering above it at each end to an immense height, and surrounding it, above and below, in every direction. From this cause it appears to be mere wirework, and, to the uninitiated, dangerous in the extreme, although, when closely examined, its parts will be found to be of ample dimensions. The landscape scenery at this spot is equal to anything in the world, combining the choicest materials of mountain, forest, and river, a peculiar bend in the course of the Cheat River which roars down the bottom of the great valley, dyed deeply brown by the black spruce, hemlock, and laurels that grow high up on the mountains, where it rises and affords an opportunity of seeing the characteristics of the locality without making them appear smaller. It is usual when the train arrives at the west end of this viaduct to stop it for a short time, that the passengers may alight and gaze for a few minutes at the remarkable scenery surrounding them, a plan that would be highly advantageous in other situations.

Kingwood Tunnel is a fine and important work, and the key of the whole line, piercing, as it does, the very backbone of the Alleghany [sic] Mountains. It is 4100 feet in length, arched with brick, iron, and stone, and cost more than a million dollars. It was at first constructed without lining, but, being found dangerous, it was determined by the managers not only to line it efficiently, but also to widen it, so that two lines of rails might be laid throughout it. During the time this tunnel was in progress an engineering feat in railway work was accomplished such as had never before been thought of. The tunnel being unfinished, and a rib of a mountain, three quarters of a mile thick and three hundred feet high, being in the way of the line, the difficulty was to join the lines at either side. The boldest experiment in engineering perhaps ever adopted was tried here by Mr. La Trobe, and found to answer well. He determined, high and thick as the hill was, being unable to get through or round it, to climb over the top, engines, carriages, passengers, and all: this he actually did, during the time the tunnel was first being constructed, and afterwards repeated the practice for a year while the tunnel was being arched and widened, and that, too, without difficulty, delay, or inconvenience. The manner in which it was done is clearly shown in our Illustration of Boardtree Hill. A series of short inclines were made on the side of the hill sufficiently long for an engine, tender, and two carriages to run upon, and to allow of being shunted from one to the other, travelling backwards and forwards alternately. These inclines, being of the maximum gradient the engines were capable of working over, of course very soon brought the train to the top; the descent on the other side was then accomplished in the same manner, the operation being reversed. The whole thing worked admirably. Only one accident occurred during the time it was in use, and that happened to one of the company's servants through his own neglect. The delay was not great in working this curious railway-ladder, the whole train having been passed over on one occasion in about twenty minutes.

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