‘Jack’ Snyder – The B&O Model Was Key to American Prosperity – Pt. 5

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VIDEO: ‘Jack’ Snyder – The B&O Model Was Key to American Prosperity – TRT: 5:18.

Joseph P. “Jack” Snyder

In any case, what happened is that the B&O railroad managed to deal with all its difficulties from raids and from natural disasters. There were three big floods at Harper’s Ferry during the Civil War, which wiped out the bridges there. And those were re-built and railroad operations continued. The B&O railroad was crucial in moving large bodies of federal troops from the East to into places like Tennessee and Kentucky during the war, which were absolutely crucial in the ultimate victory of the Union forces. And so, by the end of the war, the B&O was functioning very well and had overcome its difficulties and was one of four major trunk line railroads which were developed and expanding. From north-to-south, those four trunk line railroads were the New York Central in the north, in New York, and westward into the Midwest; the Erie Railroad which ran just south of the New York Central; then the Pennsylvania Railroad operating in Pennsylvania proper; and then the B&O Railroad which was the southernmost of the four main railroads. Partly as a result of its difficulties during the Civil War, the B&O was slow to expand into the Midwest, slower than the other three railroads to the north of it. But it eventually succeeded, and it reached Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania after the Civil War, and then it finally made it to Chicago in 1872. But here, in this part of what became West Virginia – and that happened 20th of June, 1863 during the Civil War – West Virginia itself became a state, separated from the state of Virginia, and that was primarily brought about by the B&O railroad, which used its corporate will to essentially propagate and promulgate the idea of West Virginia becoming a separate state, which made it a great deal less troublesome for the railroad to operate through what had been rebel territory and most of the people in West Virginia were more sympathetic to the Union than the aristocrat planters in the southern part of Virginia, which of course was very much opposed to the Union. So, the point is the agricultural development, the economic development, and the social and cultural development of the United States in general, and more specifically in the eastern Panhandle area of West Virginia was crucially supported by the B&O railroad. A branch-line railroad that met the B&O at Harper’s Ferry and this is called the Winchester and Potomac. That had been developed at the same time the B&O railroad was created, and it proved not to be as successful a money-maker as the B&O railroad itself. So, the directors of that railroad persuaded the B&O to take over the operations of it in the late 1840s although the B&O railroad did not take formal legal control of Winchester-Potomac Railroad until after the Civil War in 1867; but both of those pieces of railroad were enormously important here, and continue to be so until the present-day. It is certainly true that the railroads were the absolute key to the industrial and political development and formalization of the United States itself during the Civil War and after, and remains so today. The American standard of living is very high and it’s absolutely crucial to have the railroad system operating because it carries about forty per cent of the freight that is carried throughout the United States on a daily basis. I think we could say that the Baltimore and Ohio railroad was enormously important in all this, and continues to be so today even though it is now part of a larger industrial/railroad combination called CSX. So, thank you very much.

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