THE CRUSADE OF U. S. RAILROAD INTERESTS IN CANADA
JOHN M. COPELAND
JOHN BULL'S eldest daughter, Canada—recently eulogized as his fairest by the Honorable William H. Taft—is no laggard in recognizing opportunity as it ebbs and flows in the great, scientific game of trade. Like her wideawake neighbor to the south, she inherits from commercial and speculative England the bartering instinct and is willing enough to emulate, in a modified way, cousin Columbia’s obeisances to the goddess of commerce. The goddess, aforesaid, has been an active dame and most aggressive throughout North America during the past half century. To further her aims, enthusiastic disciples have achieved such marvelous feats, especially in railroad construction and transportation methods, during the period mentioned that comparisons, invidious or otherwise, are well nigh compulsory.
Idle prairie schooner has made a scpieaky exit from the drama of locomotion into museums, and the tor-
tuous, blazed trails of the gold seekers of ’49, minus kinks and humps, are now the routes of many lines with trackage contributing to an aggregate of 224,000 miles of railway, which 169 roads have under operation to-day in the United States alone. (In i860 the Union possessed only 30,626 miles of steel.)
Fifty years ago the fruits of opportunity in the middle and golden west appeared to the denizens east of the Missouri to ripen and require plucking all at once, and the termination of the Civil War signalled the inauguration of extravagant railroading ventures. Responding to the goads of progress, the railroads extended, paralleled and criss-crossed each other in a dignified scramble for a slice of the melon of prosperity. The slogan was and has ever been, “More Passengers,” “Increased Tonnage”: import, export, interline and local business all made grist for the mills.
About the time mercantile houses
were becoming inoculated with the "commercial traveler” idea, a small squad of traveling railroad representatives, in open formation, were training observing optics on prospective traffic. In this, the eastern group of railroads were slightly in advance of their newer, western connections.
As far back as 1868 New England and N.Y. State railways—the nuclei of gigantic present-day systems—grew interested in international trade and thrust their tentacles across that imaginary line of demarkation bisecting the ( Ireat Lakes into Ontario and Quebec. E. L. Slaughter entered Canada forty years ago as representative of the Erie, and is said to have been the first foreign line traveling agent to invade British domains on such a mission. John Strachan, genial and popular, followed him and for many years graced the position. Those were the days of the “Merchant’s Dispatch,”
the days when John Barr, in the early eighties, trod the boards boosting the “Blue Line.” Then distinctive terms were applied to the two earliest systematized methods, operative within a railway organization, for tracing perishable or timed freight and transporting it via most direct routes, in cars of a uniform dimension, color, etc. Subsequently, “Great Eastern” and “National Dispatch” sprang into existence. Hot on their heels came the "Uoosac Tunnel Route” and “West Shore” . bidding for favorable consideration. These factors, afterwards units of the “N.Y.C.” freight interests, were not merged until many years later.
At that period there was more talk in Canada of reciprocity with the United States than there may be again. Uncle Samuel's politicians were wont to shun the subject, but the interchange of railway traffic grew apace,
Emboldened by their competitors' success, the Lackawanna road sent an emissary into Ontario and they “have stuck.’’ 1884 saw the Lehigh Valley freight department follow in the wake of their passenger representatives and more recently came the Pennsylvania System.
A large percentage of the public have enjoyed, or, at least, know, of the splendid passenger equipment and service some of these railways, in conjunction with Canadian trunk lines, offer to-day between Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Hamilton and the Atlantic seaboard. The demands of the age and growth of travel account for “the milk in the cocoanut.” The average number of passenger trains crossing the line via Rouse’s Point, N.Y., is 134 per month, and in that time they transport 9,627 passengers southward. At Newport. Vt., 160 trains entering the United States, yield a monthly patronage of 6,897 people.
Niagara Falls, N.Y., is the magnet which attracts or ushers into the State of New York 20,000 souls a month, and 700 trains of all railroads are pressed into service to cater to the modern craze to be “on the go.” These authentic figures do not include pedestrian traffic.
Compare the tonnage of forty years ago, and the leisurely dispatch it was given, with the daily carloads containing a multifarious assortment of perishable commodities and staples which now make regular, scheduled runs of 24, 36 and 48 hours between United States points of origin or the docks at Portland, Boston and New York and distributing centres in Canada. Twelve to fifteen hundred tons .of import merchandise for Ontario destinations per month, apportioned to each of the half-dozen competitive eastern “U.S.” lines, is a conservative estimate of what is handled. They bring in hardware, silver novelties,
locks and clocks from Connecticut; tools, machinery and electrical supplies from Massachusetts and New ^*'»rk ; cement and coal from Pennsylvania; early table delicacies from Maryland, and from ocean vessels, English fabrics, weaves from Scotch and Irish looms, German toys, Parisian frocks and bonnets, as well as tons of express matter and the theatrical accessories which accompany tiie mimics, thespians and slap-stick artists. One of these eastern lines, with a strong weakness for fruit shipments. transports to the international bridges during the season, 125 carloads a month of incoming Cuban pineapples, Costa Rica bananas and Mediterranean lemons. The local and through eastbound tonnage secured by interested railways receives equal dispatch, exceeds that average and includes large quantities of apples, cheese, eggs, flour, implements, lumber, meats and poultry, which probably approximate a combined monthly output of 1.200 carloads. It may be news to some of the uninitiated to hear that 1.500 carloads of Ontario-grown turnips are shipped annually. in the autumn, for consumption in the United States. It is not surprising, therefore, that \he big
American carriers hasten to augment their revenues by coaxing and nursing this growing trade.
In 1875 ^ie complacent east languidly condescended to heed insistent whispers concerning Canada’s vast northwest. The tide of travel was diverging and began to carry with it in that direction prospectors, homesteaders and adventurous merchants bent on spying out locations in the prairie El Dorado. Dependent, of course, they levied on the mills of the east for food, clothing and implements. About this time Sir Hugh C hilders, London, England, occupied the president’s chair, directing the destinies of the Grand Trunk Railway, and the contemporary Canadian Pacific Railway official was (Sir) William Van Horne. Lucius Tuttle, president of Boston & Maine System ;
D. McNicoll, vice-president, and C.
E. E. Ussher, assistant passenger traffic manager, Canadian Pacific Railway, all now in the first flight and noteworthy examples of what determination and capacity accomplish, were going through a “course of sprouts” with Ontario lines, which afterwards lost identity. Robert Kerr, to-day passenger traffic manager C. P. R., was G. F. & P. A. of the North-
ern Railway, with office in Toronto, and men like W. E. Davis, Geo. B. Reeve and John W. Loud, then in modest positions, were fitting themselves for the exalted places they afterwards honorably filled in shaping the policy of the Grand Trunk Railway System. The majority of these and other officials had frequent business intercourse with various United States railroad agents who visited Canada.
In the year 1877 A. H.
Burnham made his initial .bow in Ontario, representing Chicago, Milwaukee &
St. Paul Railway. This move was significant, indicating the expectations of western roads, based on the interest Manitoba’s commercial future had awakened. In July, 1878, the late James M. Taylor, prior to that time general freight agent and superintendent St. Lawrence & Ottawa Railway, had the distinction of establishing at Toronto the first permanent western line office in Canada. He was appointed general Canadian agent of the St. Paul road. Unlike any competitor, that railway company has maintained an agency in Ontario without interruption for three decades. The Chicago & Northwestern Railway soon followed with a representative to further the interests of that line, and later, in 1880, it opened a Canadian office. The Rock Island Road quickly swung into line, and the Burlington, Northern Pacific and such watchful competitors as Great Northern, Great Western, Union Pacific, and Illinois Central, likewise took the cue.
Richard Arnold was at this time ticket agent of G.T.R., Toronto, and two of his daughters became the wives, respectively, of William Wain-
wright, still in harness as fourth vicepresident of the Grand Trunk Railway, and James Stephenson, now retired and residing in England, two prominent figures of the old regime.
The “All Rail’’ mediums then available for transporting man and beast destined to California, the Dakotas and Manitoba from Old Ontario, were Grand Trunk, Great Western, Credit
Valley and Canada Southern, covering the distance as far as St. Thomas and Detroit, thence via Michigan Central and Wabash Railroads to Chicago.
As travel increased from a dozen or two people to an occasional weekly carload and more, the number of migratory railroaders multiplied. Oldtimers will recollect some of those big-hearted hustlers who made it their
dutv to assist with customs formalities at the frontier, and also assuage the fears of intending passengers trembling at the prospect of meeting in Chicago that much-heralded and maligned bugaboo, the bunco steerer.
It is worthy of remark that while to-day the railroad companies caution and forbid passengers riding on the platforms. 35 years ago the traveling public swarmed on that perilous projection. and on. the steps, and quite often t#>ok possession of the car roofs with a nonchalance that would make the cold chills run up and down your spine.
How many of the lads and lasses in this year of grace would have the temerity to sally forth, for instance to the London Fair, decorating the top of a flat car rigged up with benches for the occasion? Yet their fathers and mothers did it.
The patronage of the farmer and his brawny sons, who had visions of gang plows and waving wheat was an important desideratum i n that era. Party
leaders were “some pumpkins,” and they puffed and spat over many a fragrant cheroot while sipping their “ponies” and “bootlegs” in company of expectant agents. Presently the good blood of Ontario, and some bad stuff, was rolling westward at the rate of two and three regularly-arranged-for trains of nine to thirteen loaded cars each week. The personal effects and stock of the settler went along, too, the owner ensconced occasionally in a tourist sleeper jolting along at the end of the string, and
eager railway companies took turns in hauling the prize. Excitement ran high. The wires were kept hot about special or inadequate equipment, conflicting rates and alleged unconstitutional moves of opposing forces.
It was no uncommon occurrence to convene a meeting in hotel parlor or little red schoolhouse and there agents present would, in turn, give the agriculturist samples of terseness or spellbinding eloquence. Imagine the persuasiveness tha was pitted against the farmer’s cautiousness or distrust. Recall, ye of good memory, if you 'can, the epigrams, arguments and b o n mots which rolled off the ready tongues of a dozen or more jovial pilgrims from o’er the border. They talked corn until their tones grew husky and they were as fine a coterie of unconventional freelances as ever probed the intricacies of a railroad time-table. To this day the boys tell of the adaptability o f Harry Badgeley, of the C.G.W.R., how he studied pigology, hobnobbing for three days with a colony of ruralists whom he landed high and dry by this artful manoeuvre, in spite of keen competition.
On “special party” dates passengers were concentrated at junctional points and afterwards personally conducted to Detroit, Chicago or St. Paul. B. Travers, city agent at Paris still, has informed me that parties of.75 and 100 people were occasionally gathered there and such a pretentious exodus was known to earn a serenade by
the local brass band at time of departure. The sturdy knights of ploughshare and other instruments of peace, had to be and were better mixers than the stall-fed variety of traveler of this day, and the consciousness that theirs was a common object made easy the upsetting of social barriers to the music of violin, mouth-organ and jew’s harp. The journey always ensured incident and good-fellowship, and, perhaps, some disappointing experiences. The records, considerately offered me for perusal, do not include the name of the escorting agent, who, while wrapped in the arms of Morpheus in a Chicago hotel, suffered the loss of his train’s entire proceeds by the deft removal of a panel in the door on which his coat was hanging.
Three different gauges, or widths, between rails, were accepted as standard in different parts of Canada and
the United States at that time, and to permit interchange of equipment, three rails wrere sometimes laid. Just before the adoption of the standard broad gauge, 4 feet 8J/2 inches, became general in America, a goodsized party bound for the west were delayed at Toronto half a day awaiting the readjustment of that portion of the Great Western to Hamilton, Ont. In the forenoon the third rail over the entire distance, 39 odd miles, was removed and the second spiked down in its new position. This must have been quite a feat 26 years ago in the absence of those simplifying methods practised to-day.
Moving westward over designated routes from Chicago, the canary-colored coaches were pulled by locomotives with yellow-bellied boilers, wheels painted scarlet, and ponderous smoke-stacks—hummers in the old days—but antiques in 1909.
What a shock it would be to my lady's complacency if, on her journey now. she should find it necessary to raise a sunshade in the coach to protect her raiment from the rain and snow sifting through the chinks and rifts in the car. This age is not without some blessings.
The St. P., M. & M., later converted by astute minds into the Great Northern Railway, was the railroad which gave that big quartette, Messrs. Angu# Smith, Hill and Stephens, a gilt-edged monopoly of Manitoba
emigration, and, incidentally, the patronage of Dame Fortune. Men and chattels had only shank’s mare as an alternative to this line northward from St. Paul as far as Fisher’s Landing, a Red River port. Here, transfer was made to the Kittson Line of steamboats plying to Fort Garry, now Winnipeg, and owned by Norman Kittson, a colleague of J. J. Hill in some early business ventures. In winter the trip was made by stage traveling part way over thick ice. Mr. Kittson was one of several successors to Anson
Northrup, the pioneer navigator of the Upper Mississippi River, who launched his first craft there in 1835.
James M. Taylor, in charge of affairs for C.M. & St.P.R., during those strenuous days, pulled off the biggest coupe of the period I attempt to sketch, in securing for his line a party which originated at Millbrook, Ont., and is said to have consisted of or influenced 400 people, together with 35 carloads of effects. Mr. A. Leach, who was ticket agent there then, capably fills that position to-day.
'flic idea which the “President’s Agreement” made concrete in February. 1900. was ridiculed twenty years before, and the system of commissions to agents for ticket sales being in vogue, competition waxed lively. For obvious reasons the standards of remuneration did not always remain stationary ; fancy prices and fat drafts swelled many a bank balance. Although few dismissals and re-engagements by telegraph were bulletined, the foreign railway man’s berth never was considered as sure as taxes.
There are quite a number of agents, active in transportation matters at the present time, who took part in and recall the friendly but whirlwind competition American lines indulged in to obtain the lion’s share of business moving beyond the border. They could tell you of long drives in good and indifferent weather into the surrounding country, seeking prospective passengers and good locations for the half and quarter-sheet style of advertising so much used then ; of hard and fast arrangements upset in a trice, accompanied by restitution of deposits given to clinch the deal and of mysterious cheques which used to spring from nowhere in particular when the management forbade their acceptance. They smile when recounting methods used to test if agents were sticking to tariff. I remember the case of one “stool pigeon,” who, after obtaining the favor of a ticket at a rate partially unconfirmed, sold it with intent to a rival organization to be utilized in trapping the enemy. He
made a required affidavit as to purchase price and the subterfuge, with its charge of irregularity hinging thereon, had not been operative an hour before the resourceful agent who sold him the ticket, effectively turned the tables, causing the spotter's arrest on the grounds “false pretences” and that worthy received his liberty under suspended sentence, together with a reprimand.
In 1881 rumors of consolidation of existing railway systems in Ontario were bruited about by those “in the know,” and the steady, westward extension of the C.P.R. sowed uneasiness where the interests via ChicagoSt. Paul Route were cherished. August nth and 12th, 1882, witnessed the amalgamation of Great Western and Grand Trunk. William Edgar then was G.P.A., at Hamilton, and Geo. T. Bell, present assistant passenger traffic manager, Grand Trunk
Railway System, made stenographic hooks and crooks for him.
November 2nd, 1885, marked an epoch in the annals of the Prairie Provinces. Although previously used for transportation of troops, on that date, Canadian Pacific Railway equipment first rolled into Winnipeg under a schedule. The event was fraught with much import to Manitoba, and formed an item of significance in the history of the Dominion. The national character of Van Horne’s project and the prestige of the sponsors of this great pioneer, western Canadian line attracted to it the major portion of freight traffic which had been moving via other channels, and by demanding the privilege of preferential passenger rates, based on newness, geographical position and inaccessibility, the patronage of the homeseeker was diverted, practically en masse, from United States lines, which had
enjoyed the pickings unmolested for eight years. This reversal of conditions left not even all the Dakota business to the latter, and with a single exception, the Chicago-St. Paul and allied systems, one by one, abolished Canadian agencies and withdrew their representatives from active participation in the chase.
Their absence, however, did not impair the business relations then budding between U. S. merchants and Canadian importers, and the railroads of the neighboring republic realizen that it behooved them to look jealously after their individual share of lumber, broom corn and cotton goods from the southwest ; seeds, citrus and deciduous fruits from California ; tinned salmon and shingles from the North Pacific coast, and consignments of matting, silks, bamboo, rice, etc., disembarked along Puget Sound.
The man in the street might puzzle over the price of his breakfast orange if he reflected that some days twenty carloads of this marmalade fruit now and then gluts the local markets at Montreal and Toronto.
A certain percentage of such incoming cars, after unloading, are returned laden with hides, clay, cordage, fish, lumber and sand ; pedigreed sheep for Idaho and Oregon ranchmen; hair for San Francisco plasterers ; gums, glass, nuts, salt and tinplate from Atlantic coast wharves; also with ton upon ton of coveted Canadian woodpulp, which re-appears as the basis for newspaper headlines.
Twenty-two foreign railroads, nine operating in the east and central States, and thirteen western companies, each maintain one to six passenger and commercial offices in this country. Affairs pertaining thereto are supervised by Canadian agents, division, general and traveling agents, contracting representatives, solicitors, city canvassers and counter clerks. The combined staff numbers ioo men. With few exceptions, they are natives of the soil, familiar with local conditions and are liberal dispensers of a good deal of salary, rentals and incidental expense moneys. In rounding up traffic the tactics which obtain include direct solicitation with shipper, consignee and traveler; the assiduous cultivation of the man who pays the freight or buys the tickets, and canvass of stationary railway agents, whose judgments often dic-
tates via what junctions and lines unrouted shipments, and passengers without pre-arranged itinerary, should be routed. Prompt dispatch and trains “on time” are cardinal requisites in luring trade and holding a continuance of favor. The personality and perseverance of the foreign road agent has an important bearingon results. Changeable climatic conditions divert certain commodities and influence the warm zone hunter from one channel to another. Warehouse and track facilities play a part in the scheme of convenience, and that indefinite quantity sentiment, 'colors calculations, though shifty as smoke. Unsettled claims occasionally rile the temper and switch a lot of business to the lynx-eyed competitor who watches while he works. Friendly, but contending factions, lock horns for the haul of a single carload. San Francisco and Vancouver agents, acting in concert with their confreres at Winnipeg, Halifax or Hamilton, keep the wires hot. Perhaps, some of the “big wigs” put a finger in the pie, and to score a point, resort to every permissable ruse save, let us hope, that dishonorable weapon, the bogus telegram.
Necessity has slowly convinced numerous hesitating shippers and travelers that the canvass of those United States railroads, looking to Canada for business, has more behind it than a cloven hoof ; that sometimes an extra string to one’s bow is a really effective precautionary measure.
The pack animal, oxen and primitive implements of the pioneer who pierced the wilderness and first scratched the surface of the last west, have steadily given place to the steelribboned highway, and thus, on “easy street,” when compared with his progenitor, the modern colonizer is link-
ing the old with the new and accomplishing, by successive stages, the development of our pregnant western heritage.
Trade relations between United States and Canadian railroad systems
constantly grow more intimate and wield an unmistakable influence in the strengthening of those bonds, commercial and sentimental, which make for the good of all concerned. This interchange broadens our knowledge of each other and tends more completely to harmonize the aims and aspirations of the two nations.
To the attentive eye each moment of the year has its own beauty ; and on the same field it beholds every hour a picture that was never seen before and shall never be seen again —Emerson.