THE ERIE DEPOT
The gateway to the city was it’s railroad depots, and it would be here that the visitors would get their first impression of the city.
Railroad depots measured a city’s importance, and were either works of art, or were simply wayside shacks and considering the contribution that Youngstown made to the building of the Erie Railroad, one would have thought that we would have a magnificent depot in honor of the memory of Chauncey Andrews who added two of his own railroads to the Erie’s westward expansion, but all Youngstown got was a squat, one story structure that was a laughing stock from day one, and was built in 1875.
Other depots were built here such as the B&O, the Pennsylvania, and the New York Central, and all put the Erie to shame, with the New York Central, in it’s glory days being the finest, but unfortunately we could find no photographs of that structure.
When it was built, it was the pride of the town, but as the city grew in importance, and rail traffic increased a thousand fold, no attempt was ever made to improve it, or provide a new one worthy of the city. It wouldn’t be until 1922 that the old depot would be finally closed, and a new one opened, but even that new one would be an embarrassment when compared to other stations.
Around the turn of the century, plans were drawn up by the city to construct a Union Station that would be a true showpiece, and would serve all the passenger trains, but when the various lines were approached with the plan, they refused to cooperate, even though it would have been to their best interest.
The plan called for it to be built on the location where Wilson and Himrod avenues join, and would have been a building on the style of other beautiful Union Stations. In front would be a plaza with a monumental water fountain, and parking would be in the rear. Trains would load and unload inside the lower level.
The site was perfect in that at that point, all of the railroads converged with the exception of the B&O, whose tracks were across the river, but the plan called for the city to run a connecting track in the area of Oak Hill that would allow the B&O trains to use track that had been laid by the Pennsylvania RR which the city would buy, thus allowing the B&O passenger trains to use the Union Station. Pennsylvania freight trains as well as B&O freight trains would continue to use their own freight and passenger tracks for freight trains so that no further track laying would have been necessary.
Another plan called for the city to take over the New York Central passenger station which was a beautiful station whose interior was styled after New York’s Grand Central Station, and as with the Union Station plan, the same track plan would have been used.
Again, the New York Central refused to sell it’s station to the city because it would have meant that it would have to move all of its offices to another location, and at that time there were several hundred people working in the building covering every aspect of railroading.
Ultimately, a plan for a Union Station was dropped, and each line maintained it’s own depots in scattered locations, and if passengers had to change trains, there was a mad rush to get from one station to another.
The New York Central – East End
The Erie RR – Phelps and Commerce
The B&O – Mahoning Avenue
The Pennsylvania RR – Spring Common
Youngstown & Southern – East Front Street
P&LE RR – With the Erie RR
Two articles extracted from the Youngstown Vindicator provide us with some very interesting reading.
THE ERIE NEVER REPLACED IT’S
OLD DEPOT IN YOUNGSTOWN
Great Railroad of the world, International Sensation,
Once Very Rich, Robbed By First King of Wall Street, Daniel Drew,
and Never Regained Its Losses of Millions – Story of Drew,
Vanderbilt, Fisk, and Gould.
Why didn’t the Erie build a new depot in Youngstown years ago? Erie, the first great railroad of the world, the pride of America, an international sensation, a name once magical in Wall Street, still conjuring up portraits of it’s kings, of Drew, Vanderbilt, Gould and Fisk, a builder of great fortunes, the most sensational leader of the stock exchange has ever witnessed – and what is it today? A poor old man of the railroads, whose greatest asset is memory, and whose stock, now called “Little Erie” is dead “on the street.” Why this decline in fortune? Why the drop from leadership to a second rate position? One name tells the whole story, and that is – Daniel Drew, the first great king of Wall Street, who was “selling short” when Jay Gould was in his cradle, and Cornelius Vanderbilt was a boy, as big a crook as ever read the tape, he is the man that ruined the road and made a bag of money out of it, it was one of the best and most thriving properties in the country, and an 8 per cent dividend payer in the panic of ‘57, when industries were falling by the gross, and when he got through with the road, it’s treasury was ten million dollars in debt. It’s rolling stock down, and the roadbed a death trap and takers of human life. This is what Daniel Drew did in such a blow that it never got back on its feet, he’s the man that we have to blame for the shack that we call a depot.
Life of Daniel Drew
It’s an interesting story – the life of “Uncle Dan” Drew, it shows what one unprincipled man was able to do when Wall Street was in it’s infancy, and when business in the U. S. Was just earning the right to be called “big”. If you know the story of this man, who made Erie stock bob up and down like a kite, and who made a pot of gold and broke hundreds at every turn, it is easy to understand why Wall Street long bore a bad name, one that spelled ruin to anyone not “on the inside”. Here is the way Drew ran the Erie in the hole.
When the New York and Lake Erie, called for short the “Erie” was completed, it was the greatest railroad in the world, 500 miles long, with trains “scooting over the rails like a streak of lightning,” 30 miles an hour all the way. The road connected New York with Lake Erie, having the western terminus at Dunkirk.
Then there was a great jubilee. To celebrate the completion of the road two trains of cars ran over the routes, carrying the President, Daniel Webster, and other “big wigs”. It was in the spring of the year, and when Dunkirk was reached there was a big barbecue. Under a tent was a feast for a thousand people. Whole roast pigs and oxen were roasted over open wood fires, and there was a great sign hung up with the verse:
“‘Tis done, ‘tis done, the mighty chain, that binds Lake Erie to the main.”
The people living alongside of the road were so proud of it that they pitched in, patronized and helped it in every way they could. They looked upon the Erie as a patriotic achievement, for the people in Europe were talking about the wonderful engineering feat that America had put through. It was the first great trunk-line railroad the world had ever seen. Conductors, engineers, brakemen and track walkers were proud to be working for such a fine and great enterprise.
Route of the Road
The road then ran from Piermont on the Hudson to Dunkirk on Lake Erie. It ran through a prosperous region. From Rockland to Chautaugua, there were rich farm lands on both sides. It tapped the Delaware and Hudson Canal at Port Jarvis Branch lines, quickly spread out on both sides and served as feeders, and the grazing lands of Sullivan, Delaware and Browne Counties then had a way of getting their stuff to market. The southern York State country was a rich one, and had been peopled for a long time.
When they were building the road, they hadn’t been able to get through Berger Hill, and that’s why the road had it’s terminal at Piermont. If it hadn’t been for this hill, the road would have come straight down to Jersey City. This would have sawed the 24 mile trip by water on the Hudson which was bothersome in winter. But Berger Hill lay square in the path, and to tunnel through was a difficult task. The stone was hard. The people of Hoboken used to cut pieces out of the ledge and use them as paving blocks.
It was during the panic of 1857, shortly after the Erie was completed , that Daniel Drew laid plans to get the road under his thumb. He had begun his career as a cattle drover, once selling “watered stock” to Henry Aster, a prosperous butcher of old New York, and a brother of John Jacob, then he became owner of steamboats in the early days of travel from New York to Albany, and after this, one of the first operators in the New York Stock Exchange. And when during the panic he saw the strength, richness, and popularity of the road, he knew that if he could get control of it, he could make a stock, and so he laid his plans. This is how he worked.
There were by this time a chain of railroads through the Mohawk Valley and the central part of the state, which coupled together a little later to form the “New York Central”. This chain of roads out of Albany could be made, in connection with Drew’s steamboats on the Hudson, a bad competitor for the Erie for through western traffic. Drew therefore favored the Central Line with rates on the through traffic so as to make himself an enemy of the Erie whom it would pay to make terms with. To make doubly sure he set his trey at the other side also. Out on Lake Erie was a line of boats connecting with the Erie Railroad and forming it’s route to the far west, and quietly he bought a controlling interest in the steamboat line. He still took a third step to obtain power. Out in western New York there was a line of railroads connecting both Central Line and the Erie, which was known as the “Buffalo and State Line Railroad.”. Without letting anyone know what he was doing he got enough stock in this dinky little road to control it.
Drew’s Trap Set
His trap was then set. He let it be known that he was planning to give the Central Line a better rate, both on the Hudson River steamboats and on the Buffalo and State Line than the Erie could meet, and also that the Erie’s rates on the Lake Erie steamers, which he now controlled, were to be raised.
Drew then had the Erie bottled up, corked tight at both ends, and the directors were soon on his trail. “What do you mean,” they asked, “by giving the New York Central better rates than you give us? Are you trying to be a director?” This of course, was what Drew was after, and he was elected at the next meeting.
He was at last in the inside, but he wanted more. He wanted to be in complete control. The way to achieve this was to make the road his debtor. But this was not so easy, as the road was prosperous, and didn’t need any more money. However he found a way.
Erie In Debt
The Erie wanted to eliminate the Hudson River relay of their journey to New York, and tunnel through Berger Hill and establish a terminus at Jersey City. Drew then set about to make trouble for the road so that it could not easily borrow money elsewhere for it’s enterprise. He first secretly aroused the people of Pierpoint so that they brought up objections in the legislature against changing the charter of the road so as not to permit it to go down to Jersey City. Pierpoint was a booming town, her population was growing, and she promised to become a city in no time, but if the terminus was removed, there would be little to hold the people. The railroad won its case, but Drew was able to depress its securities, by hinting around in Wall Street that the road was losing favor with the powers at Albany, and that apparently it was no longer the State’s pet institution.
And then when the tunnel through Berger Hill was being dug, he softly started reports that the tunnel wasn’t getting along as well as had been hoped for, that the rock was exceedingly hard, that caverns of water, poisonous gasses, cave ins, might be met at any minute. Word like this coming from a director of the company made Wall Street cautious. Capital got frightened. As soon as it was learned that the Erie Railroad had apparently bitten off more than it could chew in Burger Hill, and might give up in disgust, investors became suddenly uncertain toward the stock. Erie slumped from 63 down to 33. So the road now could not borrow money as it use to.
This set back came at a time when she needed the money most. This was Drew’s chance, and he stepped forward offering a million and a half, which was accepted. He took as security a chattel mortgage on the rolling stock, and from then on for almost ten years he had the Erie Railroad in his vest pockets so to speak. And controlling the road he made a lot of money by manipulating the stock; if the stock was high he sent abroad a story that things were not going well and that the dividend would probably be cut. This would send the stock down and he would profit by “selling short”; then when the stock was low he adopted the opposite tactics of sending out good news and he again would take profits with a big spoon on the “long” side of the market. It got to be a saying “Daniel says ’up’ – the Erie goes up. Daniel says ‘down’ – the Erie goes down. Daniel says ‘wiggle-wiggle’ – and it bobs both ways!”
A number of years after Drew got possession of the Erie, Jim Fish came down to New York from Vermont to try his hand at the stock game, and Drew took him and young James Gould into partnership. It was well for him that he did for he was soon to need all the aid he could get in the biggest battle of his stormy career – the war with Cornelius Vanderbilt for the possession of the Erie. Vanderbilt saw that Drew was ruining the road by his crooked methods, and also destroying many private fortunes through violent stock manipulation.
War With Vanderbilt
Drew had been the ruling spirit of the road for ten years when Vanderbilt vowed that he would get control and put Drew out of business for good and all. Then Drew worked a “convertible bond” scheme that made Vanderbilt madder than ever. The Erie wanted three million dollars to make improvements. Drew loaned her the money, and took as security three million dollars worth of bonds which were convertible into stock, and also twenty-eight thousand shares of unissued stock which the road just then had on hand.. This provided him with fifty-eight thousand shares of stock.
These shares were intrusted to him to hold in security until the road should pay back his loan. But then a technicality such as this did not bother Drew. The stock was then selling for 95 and promised to go higher, and Drew “sold short’ while Vanderbilt was buying. When the time came for Drew to deliver the stock, the price still held firm at 95. It looked as though Drew was cornered, but he took the 58,000 shares he held as security and dumped them on the market. It was the biggest surprise Wall Street had ever received and the stock dropped to 47 which meant that Drew “cleaned up $48 on every share.”
Ten Million In Bonds
Vanderbilt was not broken and said that sort of dealing had to stop, and he continued to buy up the stocks. Drew needed all the resources he possessed, and strengthened the alliance between himself, Fish and Gould, who were also directors of the Erie. At a meeting shortly after the “Convertible Bond” incident, the three were able to persuade the other directors to issue ten million dollars of Convertible bonds the proceeds of which were to go into improvements.
With these convertible bonds, Drew now had 100,000 shares of stock at his disposal, and he began “selling short” in numerous quantities. Vanderbilt now went into the courts and got an injunction forbidding Drew and his band to issue any more shares of Erie stock. With this injunction passed he proceeded to buy up all the stock obtainable, and felt safe in doing so.
At the time Drew’s “short” contracts were about to mature he went to a printing house, and had 100,000 shares of Erie certificates printed: the convertible bonds were now being turned into stock. When the shares were dumped on the market a landslide broke loose, the stock dropped heavily, but Vanderbilt bought every share of it, paying out over seven million in one day. But he could not make the stock rise again.
Offices In New Jersey
Frightened lest Vanderbilt should enforce the injunction forbidding the issuing of stocks, Drew and his party, took their profits and the company’s books and fled to Jersey City, to open headquarters of the road under a New Jersey charter.
In due course the fight between Vanderbilt and the Drew party was settled. Vanderbilt got control of the road and the others resigned. But the road was then so badly in debt through Drew’s bond issues that it never completely rallied. That’s why, today, it’s finances are low and Youngstown still uses its ancient Erie depot.