Page images
PDF
EPUB

required to organize and secure subscriptions representing one fourth of the stock before June, 1837, and to expend $6,000 towards the completion of the road before June 1, 1840; otherwise the charter was to be void. It was not, however, until December, 1840, that a committee, appointed by the grantees in October of that year, to obtain statistical information in relation to the advantage of the road, together with the cost of building and probable profit, made a report, and the first decided steps towards the completion of the road were taken. It was therefore necessary to obtain from the Legislature an act declaring that the money expended in making surveys and doing some other things was to be taken as a compliance with the terms of the charter, and authorizing a continuance of the work, which was done in December of that year. The report of the committee referred to, which consisted of Joseph Low, N. G. Upham, and C. H. Peaslee, forms an interesting and instructive chapter in the history of our railroad system. It shows with what caution and doubt the boldest and most sagacious capitalists risked their money in an enterprise which has since proved a veritable bonanza, increasing in richness with every draft upon its dividend-yielding capacity, and how small conception the fathers of the project had of the possibilities which their charter opened to them. It reveals the littleness of the business this road was built to do, and, by comparison, how that business has increased in less than half a century.

It was written when the Nashua & Lowell road had been in operation two years, and the success of that was the basis of the opinion that it would be well to extend the rails to Concord; but the committee gravely argue that “the certainty and rapidity of transportation for such a distance into the country will be a vast benefit to its citizens,” that “no mode of transportation has yet been devised which in our climate can compare with the ad

vantages of a railroad,” and that the advantages of the road will be such that it must receive the hearty good-will of the citizens of the State. These propositions were supported by a formidable array of facts, by which it was shown that the number of passengers then carried by teams over the “Mammoth” road between Concord and Lowell was more than 29,000 annually, and that the freight carried by boats and teams between Boston and Concord in 1839 was 32,162 tons. From this it was concluded that if the road could be built for $500,000, it could earn 10

per cent or more on its cost. It was stated further that the business would undoubtedly grow, as the district on the Merrimack River and its tributaries was destined to be a manufacturing centerIt was stated that the water-power at Sewall's Falls * in Concord was sufficient for twenty factories of 5,000 spindles each; that at Garvin's Falls at least as large; and the one at Hooksett about the same, while the one at Amoskeag was not exceeded in value by any one in the United States, and, when fully occupied, would run factories enough to furnish 50,000 tons of freight annually.

Accompanying the report of the committee was one by Peter Clark, who had had railroad experience as the agent of the Nashua & Lowell, and was employed as an expert to give an opinion as to the probable cost, receipts, expenses, and profits of the road, and the best route for it. His conclusion was that the right of way could be bought for $40,000; that the road could be built for $234,958.32, and fenced for $8,812.80; that the necessary rolling stock, consisting of three locomotives, three large and two small passenger cars, two baggage cars, sixty freight cars, and two snow-plows, could be had for $12,700, and that $10,000 would cover the cost of a suitable station at Concord,

* The power at Sewall's Falls has never been utilized, that at Garvin's Falls carries only a small pulp-mill recently built, and that at Hooksett is but partially used.

$3,000 of one at Amoskeag (Manchester), while Merrimack and Hooksett were allowed $1,000 each and Nashua $3,000 for depot facilities. The operating expenses he placed at $32,000 annually.

He was confident that a road thus equipped could carry 60,000 passengers annually between Concord and Nashua at $1 each, and 30,000 tons of freight at $2 per ton, making the gross receipts $120,000.

In conclusion he declared in favor of carrying the road through to Concord instead of stopping it at Amoskeag, one of his reasons being that

“ The farming country about Amoskeag is poor and no leading roads terminate there, whereas there is no town in the State so central as Concord or where the adjacent farming country is better or more easy of access.

The boating business which has so long been done at Concord has already diverted the freighting from the adjoining country, and it is not probable that either teams or boats can compete with a railroad when completed to Concord. But if the road should stop at Amoskeag, teams and boats once loaded at Concord would probably continue on to Boston. The further a railroad is extended into the country, the more successfully it can compete with teams and boats."

These arguments prevailed, and the construction of the road was soon begun. It was opened to Manchester July 4, 1842, and to Concord the next September. It cost $742,223.27. The capital stock at that time was $750,000. In their report for the first full year of its operation, which ended May 1, 1844, the directors state the passenger receipts to have been $72,799.22, the freights $65,420, and receipts from other sources $860.26, a total of $139,080.08, while the expenses were $65,166.89. In 1845 the stock was increased to $800,000, in 1846 to $1,200,000, in 1848 to $1,485,000, and afterward to $1,500,000, which is the amount at present. Business increased rapidly from the first, creating a demand for a second track, and additional rolling stock and depot facili

ties, which were secured and paid for from the proceeds of the sale of the new stock. The second track was laid in 1847–8. In the year ending May 1, 1847, the road carried 203,505 passengers and 103,371 tons of freight, and its gross receipts were $290,228.70. The Hooksett branch was built in 1861 by the Concord and Manchester & Lawrence roads, at a cost of $45,000, of which $27,000 was paid by the Concord. It was made necessary by the discontinuance of the track between Suncook and Candia, and was authorized by the act of the Legislature which permitted the Concord to lease the Portsmouth. This act provided that if the Concord and Manchester & Law. rence were not at any future time operated together, the Hooksett branch should become the sole property of the Concord upon payment to the Manchester & Lawrence of its share of the cost.

In 1856 the management obtained control by lease of its most dangerous rival, — the Manchester & Lawrence, and in 1858 secured the Concord & Portsmouth. In 1866 it bought the Manchester & North Weare, and in 1870 leased the Suncook Valley. In these ways it acquired a complete monopoly of the immense business centering at Manchester, and firmly established itself as master of the transportation of the entire Merrimack Valley. It has since purchased the Nashua & Acton, which gives it an outlet to Boston, and a half interest in the Manchester & Keene, which prevents others from operating that to its disadvantage. Thus fortified, the Concord road, though but 34 miles in length and but a link in the middle of a long chain, has preserved its integrity in an era of consol. idation, dominated to a large extent the railroad policy of the State, and controlled the business of the section through which it and its branches run. Its regular rates have been lower than those upon any other important road in New Hampshire, but such have been its advantages that it has never failed to earn a dividend, and in recent years its sur

plus has been an immense one. This has been largely devoted to an extensive and costly system of permanent improvements which has already absorbed more than a million dollars, and will call for as much more before it is completed.

This includes the commodious and substantial passenger station at Nashua, the magnificent and model one at Concord, the freight depots and round-houses at Concord and Nashua, the extensive additions to the yards and laterals at all important points, the new stations on the North Weare, Lawrence, and Portsmouth branches, the work done upon the Manchester & Keene, and the grading by which the alignment on nearly the whole line has been improved, all of which are accomplished facts. Beyond this there is promise of a new passenger station at Manchester with safe and convenient, approaches, which will in some measure reflect the importance of the city as the largest contributor to the treasury of the road; a new round-house and car-house at the same place, and a new and accessible station at Amoskeag, a commodious and respectable one at Newmarket Junction, and repairs upon those at a few other points; the relaying of the main track with heavier steel, and the transfer of that now in use there to the branches; the reduction of the grades upon the Portsmouth road by extensive cuts and fills, or the construction of a new roadway around the hills; the renewal of wooden bridges with iron, and the acquisition of heavier locomotives.

From a stockholder's standpoint, this is the ideal railroad of the country. It has never failed to pay a semiannual dividend. The first year it paid 9 per cent, the next 10 per cent, and after that until 1855 the average was 8.8 per cent. In 1856–57 the rate was 6 per cent, then 8 per cent until 1866, except in two years when it was 7. Since 1865 the dividend has been 5 per cent semi-annually, and the road is certain to earn and pay

« PreviousContinue »