"A Day upon the Watertown & Rome Railway"
Jefferson County Journal, Adams, N.Y., Thurs., Feb. 28, 1856
The heading of this letter may seem commonplace to the quiet
citizen who tarries at home during snow storms, and hears no worse
sounds than the crackling fire as it roars up the chimney, or who,
for want of better occupation, like another Ik (sic) Marvel, build
glorious palaces and cities out of the ashes of a coal fire. The
storm had laid an embargo on all railroads, and none were so
thoroughly blockaded as the Watertown & Rome.
Our first sight at the depot was five enormous engines, with the
snow-plow as a leader. We say the snowplow, for this is an
institution, which is peculiar to the W. & R. railway - everything
which had been tried was found useless, and the busy brain of those
Yankees of the Rome shop conceived this invention. It grew out of
the associate counsel of men who have lost half their individuality
in their generous rivalry for the company, which they call our road.
The snow plow is a small house on wheels, with a front shaped like a
monster plow, and its sides ribbed together like the bow of one of
Uncle Sam's frigates. It's made strong as wood as iron can make it,
and weighs near ten tons. On either side is wings, which can be
extended or withdrawn at pleasure, or the bearing of the weight is
such as to keep it close to the track, very much as a weight on the
plow beam causes it to hug the hard green sward.
With some curiosity, and much more fear, we accepted the invitation
of our railroad friends and entered the cabin of this Arctic
traveler. Think of it! Five engines behind you, each carrying from
100 to 120 pounds of steam, and before you, Alps upon Alps of snow;
where there was only two or three feet of snow, and the country
open, we whirled along at ordinary speed, plunging into drifts like
a frolicsome boy, and sending the snow balls over fences 30 or 40
feet distant, and surrounding our house with clouds of the sparkling
snowflakes. There are long wastes of snowy mountains on this road
which would defy all ordinary railway power; when we came upon
these, Greek met Greek, and here came the tug of war.
The train came in at its usual speed, the snow fairly covering you
and us could only think of a vessel completely submerged in its
white foam. Slower, slower, almost stopping, moving like a snail, on
we went, until at last we shot out of the mountain, each engine
giving a hoarse puff as of a cry of victory. There were places too
difficult even for this snowplow, where for miles there is a canal
with banks 10, 12, 15, and even 20 feet high. In such places we were
forced to stop and clear the snow from our wheels, but in no place
was there any shoveling in front of the plow. We have never spent a
more exciting day. The train reached Watertown at about 4 o'clock.
There is no railway where all hands work with such good will as upon
this. It would be unjust to give particular praise where all deserve
credit, but we say, that for companions in a snow squall, give us
the operatives and machines of the Watertown & Rome Railway.