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History of The Common Carrier Railroad

As a common-carrier the B&O, under license/authority provided to it by a regulatory body (originally the state legislature but later more stringent federal laws and agencies were formed to govern the railroad industry), was tasked with handling any freight or passenger traffic without discrimination. In other words, in most circumstances a railroad could not deny the transportation of legal freight and/or law-abiding citizens. Following the B&O and D&H operations numerous early railroads sprang up during the 1820s and 1830s with names like the Mohawk & Hudson (later New York Central) and Camden & Amboy (acquired by the Pennsylvania Railroad).

Due to the 950-foot Moosic Mountain a railroad was needed at the western end between Olyphant and Honesdale. From this point a 25-mile canal ran along Lackawaxen Creek, then crossed the Delaware River using a aqueduct suspension bridge (still in use today), and finally wound its way along the river for 23 miles to Port Jervis. It spanned 108 miles and entered service in 1828 but as competition for surrounding traditional railroads increased it would close in 1899.

In the U.S. the Delaware & Hudson Canal Company would earn the distinction as the country’s first to operate a steam locomotive when it put the Stourbridge Lion, an English-built locomotive, into service on August 8, 1829. The 7-ton locomotive proved too heavy for the line (in particular was the bridge spanning Lackawaxen Creek designed only to handle only 3 tons), which had been built by chief engineer John B. Jervis using strap-iron rails lain atop wooden stringers.

In a general sense it refers to any entity (railroad, person, or otherwise) which serves the public at the large, transporting goods or people (in regards to freight the company or person is responsible for any losses during transport). The first railroad to provide such services in the United States was the acclaimed Baltimore & Ohio, earning such a distinction despite the fact that it was neither the first chartered nor the first put into operation.

The early D&H was an interesting operation; it was designed largely as a canal system, specifically to handle anthracite coal destined for New York City. During the early 19th century canals were hailed as the future of modern transportation, which would use a combination of newly constructed waterways that connected with larger rivers and creeks to offer a through route transporting people and goods from Point A to Point B. However, canals were not without their limitations; they were generally quite slow and, in northern regions, would freeze during the winter months shutting down all operations for months at a time. On April 23, 1823 the Pennsylvania and New York legislatures granted merchants (and brothers) Maurice and William Wurtz permission to construct the D&H and it was chartered that same day.

Despite its early start the D&H, being chartered as a canal system, was not the first common-carrier railroad (it later did flourish into a successful railroad connecting Montreal, Quebec with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania). Many waterway owners, such as those in control of the mighty Erie Canal which stretched 364 miles from Buffalo on Lake Erie to Albany on the Hudson River, along with stagecoach lines saw railroads (and rightfully so) as a threat to their future well-being.

The railroads’ efficiency eventually outweighed these obstacles although they were many and unproven people would die in accidents, in particular, during the 19th century. As a port city it was in competition with others such as Charleston, Philadelphia, Boston, and New York which were already planning or had completed a railroad or canal.

The first railroad to provide such services in the United States was the acclaimed Baltimore & Ohio, earning such a distinction despite the fact that it was neither the first chartered nor the first put into operation. The first publicly operated railroad was England’s Stockton & Darlington, which officially opened for service, using steam locomotives (its first piece of motive power, according to the book “Railroads In The Days Of Steam” was referred to as Locomotion No. 1), on September 27, 1825.
Despite its early start the D&H, being chartered as a canal system, was not the first common-carrier railroad (it later did flourish into a successful railroad connecting Montreal, Quebec with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania). Many waterway owners, such as those in control of the mighty Erie Canal which stretched 364 miles from Buffalo on Lake Erie to Albany on the Hudson River, along with stagecoach lines saw railroads (and rightfully so) as a threat to their future well-being. Following the B&O and D&H operations numerous early railroads sprang up during the 1820s and 1830s with names like the Mohawk & Hudson (later New York Central) and Camden & Amboy (acquired by the Pennsylvania Railroad).

The term “common carrier” in regards to this article will refer specifically to railroads although it generally relates to all transportation types, including pipelines and even telecommunication companies. The first publicly operated railroad was England’s Stockton & Darlington, which officially opened for service, using steam locomotives (its first piece of motive power, according to the book “Railroads In The Days Of Steam” was referred to as Locomotion No. 1), on September 27, 1825.
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