We thought we would take time out from our regular FELA related topics to wish you and yours a Happy Fourth of July with an article in our occasional series on railroad history. The following passage describing the July 4, 1828 launch of America's first public railway carrier is excerpted from Norm Cohen's "Long Steel Rail: The Railroad in American Folksong.” For additional information on America's first public railway carrier, see the links below. Happy Fourth of July!
On Independence Day in 1828, ground-breaking ceremonies were held in Baltimore for the construction of America's first public railway carrier to be put in regular service: the Baltimore-Ohio Railroad Company. Charles Carroll, a prominent citizen of Baltimore and patriot of the revolutionary war, participated in the ceremony, declaring it to be his most important act since signing the Declaration of Independence. A song, which the author believes is probably America's first railroad ditty, was specially written for the occasion:
"O we're all full of life, fun and jollity, We're all crazy here in Baltimore. "Here's a road to be made With the pick and spade, ‘Tis to reach to Ohio, for the benefit of trade; "Here are mountains to be level'd, Here are valleys to be filled, Here are rocks to be blown, and bridges too to build. "And we're all hopping, skipping, jumping, And we're all crazy here in Baltimore. "And when the road is made, With the pick and the spade, In the locomotive engine, they will put a little fire, And while the kettle boils, We may ride three hundred miles Or go to bed in Baltimore and breakfast in Ohio. Where they're all waiting, hoping, praying For a quick way to come to Baltimore."
For further reading on the birth of railroading in America, and the B&O's beginnings, see two 1820-era original journals available for free online at Cornell University's digital library collection called "The Making of America."
An 1827 report shows motivations of the early boosters of the Baltimore and Ohio. From the North American Review, Volume 25, Issue 56, July 1827, pp. 62-73
- A fascinating report from 1829 giving one of the first in-depth accounts of the Baltimore and Ohio. From The North American Review, Volume 28, Issue 62, July 1829, pp. 186-203