Bliss had good reason to believe he was winning the battle at this time. In addition to currently having the upper hand in the entry to Chicago, an alternate eastern link to New York City to the Bostonian’s New York Central for his MS (via a steamer across Lake Erie) had finally clawed its way to Lake Erie. On May 14, 1851, only twelve days before Common Council voted to permit the MS to lay track within Chicago’s city limits, the New York & Erie had finally finished its twenty-year campaign and completed its 460-mile line to Dunkirk, some 50 miles south of Buffalo. Its president, Benjamin Loder, sponsored a fitting celebration for the occasion: a two-day gala train ride along the completed route, during which a host of political dignitaries that included Pres. Fillmore, Sec. of State Daniel Webster, three other cabinet members, and at least six of the country’s leading 1852 presidential hopefuls, including Stephen Douglas, were entertained. The ride began in New York City, with an overnight stop at Elmira, New York, that included seven hours of feasting and grand oratory. This was far eclipsed, however, by the 300-foot-long banquet table of food and spirits that greeted the revelers at the end of the ride in Dunkirk. All that now remained to forge a continuous rail route from New York City directly to Chicago was a line of track which was already under construction, through northern Pennsylvania and Ohio, along the southern shore of Lake Erie to Toledo. (The tracks of the MC’s route to Albany via the Canadian Great Western were located along the northern shore.)
Especially pleased among the dignitaries in attendance at the Erie’s celebration must have been William Ogden. Besides being able to promote his ideas for a transcontinental railroad with the nation’s leading politicians, he had to have felt a measure of pride in his heart that day, for sixteen years earlier in 1835, he had been one of the first legislators in the New York statehouse to vote in favor of the initial charter of the Erie (see Chap. 3.11) before he had moved to Chicago. Ogden’s jubilation was short-lived, however, for within a month, he was forced to resign the presidency of the G&CU, the road that he had started singlehandedly, the result of an apparent internal struggle among its Board of Directors.
Harlow, Alvin F. Steelways of New England. New York: Creative Age Press, 1946.
Stover, John F. Iron Road to the West: American Railroads in the 1850s. New York: Columbia University, 1978.
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