Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Motivation Behind Railroads

Many a railroad was financed by the folks who would be its best customers. Early railroads were planned for various reasons. One was to make it easier to get goods to a wider market. The Lackawanna Railroad originated so that its owners could get their coal and iron to the bigger cities. The Morristown and Erie, originally the Whippany River Railroad, was begun to benefit the paper mills in the area.

Sometimes things worked the other way. Several railroads were started to bring people rather than ship to them. The Tuckerton Railroad was started to bring vacationers to Barnegat Bay and Long Beach Island. Railroads to Atlantic City and Long Branch had the same purpose. Soon after the railroads arrived, land speculators came to capitalize on the situation. They were almost always the same fellows who put up the money to build the railroad!

Then there were railroads that supported other busiesses. For a time, the Tuckerton Railroad brought folks who would be passengers on steamboats going to Long Beach Island. The men who helped start the railroad happened to own those boats. The Monmouth County Agricultural Railroad, later the Freehold and Keyport, had steamboat captains among its backers. They moored at Keyport and would take freight form the railroad to New York City. The other backers were farmers and produce brokers wanting to get their goods to the bigger market in the City.

A peculiarity of the 19th Century is that the money men backing a specific railroad would have other things in common. For instance, almost all of the founders of the Lackawanna railroad were Presbyterian. In fact, a dispute between two of them, Phelps and Dodge, was taken to a religious court at one point. The folks behind the Tuckerton Railroad, such as Barclay Haines and the Pharo family, were all Quakers. It was obviously a religious thing that no train ran on Sundays on several of the railroads until much later. That was the case for the Lackawanna and the Tuckerton, among others. And it certainly limited passenger travel to resorts for a weekend visit. At one point, folks coming to Long Beach island for Saturday would not be able to get a train out until Tuesday.


The community in which I sit, Freehold Borough, has its own amusing rail history. It was the starting point of the Monmouth County Agricultural Railroad, later the Freehold and Keyport. Mos tw of what was shipped out in its early years were famr products ,especially potatoes. These were not like the ones in the supermarket today. Called White Giants, they were the size of a football. The White Giants were easier to process back then. Later came the Rothschild shirt company which lasted to about 1904, to be replaced by the Kharageusian Rug factory. The factory closed in 1964, At one time, it employed almost 2,000 people.

The Freehold & Keyport, also known as the Freehold and New York, was absorbed by the Jersey Central. That was an improvement.

On the other side of town, the Pennsylvania Railroad serviced the Barkeley Cannery on what is now Manalapan Avenue. They specialized in beans. Freehold had its own musical fruit factory!

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