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Erie Railroad,rail transportation line designed to connect the mouth of the Hudson River with the Great Lakes region. The New York and Erie RR Company was enfranchised and incorporated in 1832, and construction was begun in 1835 near Deposit, N.Y. The year 1851 saw 446 mi (718 km) of trunk line across New York state completed to Dunkirk, N.Y., on Lake Erie at a huge cost. The railroad was extended to Jersey City, N.J., and to Buffalo, N.Y., but in 1861 the company failed and was reorganized as the Erie Railway Company. The company gained sound financial footing during the Civil War before it became the subject of a tremendous financial battle. Daniel DrewDrew, Daniel,
1797–1879, American railroad speculator, b. Carmel, N.Y. He became a cattle dealer in early life and by 1834 was successful enough to engage in the steamboat business on the Hudson, which he developed rapidly. In 1844, Drew entered Wall St.
..... Click the link for more information. , Jay GouldGould, Jay,
1836–92, American speculator, b. Delaware co., N.Y. A country-store clerk and surveyor's assistant, he rose to control half the railroad mileage in the Southwest, New York City's elevated railroads, and the Western Union Telegraph Company.
..... Click the link for more information. , and James FiskFisk, James,
1834–72, American financial speculator, b. Pownal, Vt. In his youth he worked for a circus and as a wagon peddler of merchandise. During the Civil War he became wealthy purchasing cotton in occupied areas of the South for Northern firms and selling Confederate
..... Click the link for more information. allied themselves and from 1866 to 1868 outmaneuvered—with the aid of unauthorized stock issues, political chicanery, and incessant litigation—Cornelius VanderbiltVanderbilt, Cornelius,
1794–1877, American railroad magnate, b. Staten Island, N.Y. As a boy he ferried freight and passengers from Staten Island to Manhattan, and he soon gained control of most of the ferry lines and other short lines in the vicinity of New York City.
..... Click the link for more information. to keep control of the Erie Railway Company. After further financial trickery, the Erie Railway Company went bankrupt and was reorganized (1878) as the New York, Lake Erie and Western Railway Company. By 1880 branch lines were built to Chicago. The railroad went into receivership after the Panic of 1893 and was reorganized (1895) as the Erie RR Company. Under the presidency (1901–27) of Frederick D. Underwood, the Erie continued to suffer losses, and after a major reorganization (1941) it yielded (1942) a dividend for the first time in 69 years. In 1960 the Erie merged with the Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western RR to form the Erie-Lackawanna. In 1976 this organization and five other lines that had gone bankrupt were merged to form the Conrail system, which in 1999 became part of the CSX and Norfolk Southern railroads.
See C. F. Adams, Jr., and H. Adams, Chapters of Erie (1886, repr. 1967); F. C. Hicks, ed., High Finance in the Sixties (1929, repr. 1966); H. R. Grant, Erie Lackawanna (1994).