AR, M&GN 4/1/1861 CE

Annual Report of the Mobile & Great Northern RR
as of April 1, 1861,
Chief Engineer's Report
Engineer's Office, Mobile & Great Northern R. R.
Mobile, Ala., April 1st, 1861
To W. D. Dunn, Esq.
President Mobile & Great Northern R. R. Company
   At the date of my last Annual Report, the entire work upon the Eastern Division of your road had been let to contract, and the work of construction just begun.
   With two or three exceptions the work has been in the hands of responsible parties, and has been pushed rapidly forward.
   The Clearing, Grading and Cross Ties upon Sections 29, 30 and 31, were originally contracted for by Sanford Babcock, who, after having moved about, one-sixth of his work, was forced to abandon it and forfeit his twenty per cent. and amount due upon all unestimated work. These sections were afterwards let to L. M. Donavan & Co., at a loss of $4,000 to your Company.
   Sections 44, 45,47,48 and 49, were contracted for by Samuel Thompson under circumstances somewhat similar to those of Mr. Babcock. The position of these sections was such as to make it imperative that they should be finished at an early day. After the most strenuous efforts, and many concessions on the part of the Company, and repeated pledges from Thompson, he failed monthly to move one-half the amount of material necessary to get his work out of the way. On the 6th of October last the contract was declared forfeited.
   In forfeiting his work Mr. Thompson's also forfeited to the Company nearly an entire month's work and twenty per cent. upon all work previously estimated, every cent of which was required to cover the losses sustained by the Company in releting the work.
   Sections 44, 45 and 48 were let to Joseph R. Abrahams, sections 47 was permitted to remain in the hands of Charles A. Marstin & Co., former sub-contractors of Thompson, and section 49 has been worked by a force of company hands.
   This section terminates upon the east bank of the Tensas, and with the exception of a single cut, lies entirely in the swamp. It was in the original plan to build an embankment from the high land to the river, a distance of three thousand feet, and the work was begun, and carried into the swamp about one thousand feet, with every appearance of success. At first the material taken from the cut was tenacious clay, highly favorable for constructing an embankment under existing circumstances. More recently we have been forced to use material of a very inferior character, that will not stand under the action of water, or aid in distributing the weight of the bank over the occupied surface.
   The result has been that the foundation has given way in many places, and the work of weeks disappeared in a single night, while the work has thus been delayed, and much annoyance experienced, we were not discouraged, as no doubt was entertained about making the work permanent without extraordinary expense beyond the material already lost.
   To prevent delay and to enable us to use an engine and train in carrying in material, fifteen hundred feet of temporary pile trestle work has been built by the Company hands, and the balance of the embankment carefully facined with brush which I am confident will continue to hold it without further trouble. Fascines will be used with a superior quality of material in the bank next to the river when built. It was fortunate that we had a Company force to use upon this section, as no contractor would have willingly encountered the difficulties presented in executing the work.
   With the exception of the two failures mentioned above, the work has progressed favorably, and has been directed so as to extend all the relief possible to both stockholders and contractors. The two extreme ends of this division have been pressed rapidly, and are almost finished, while the middle ground has been worked so as to ensure its completion a little in advance of the track.
   The earth work upon this section of the road has been extremely favorable to the contractors, and will make an admirable road bed. We have not been so fortunate in finding good material for masonry. Stone is not found at all on portions of the work, and when obtained elsewhere is very defective, and I am sorry to say that our stone masonry is not first rate.
   The Brick masonry is better, and I think will compare favorably with similar work on the best roads. The masonry for Big Escambia bridge, Cobb's branch and Honeycut, is complete, and with the exception of a single culvert on section nine, one on section forty-eight, and several small ones on section 30, all of the culvert masonry on the Division has been finished.
   The Cross Ties are being delivered rapidly, every section has been let to contract. I feel confident in saying that neither the workmanship or timber in these Cross Ties have ever been excelled. The specifications were carefully and strictly drawn, and have been rigidly enforced.
   The floods of last fall convinced me that the water-way upon the road should be considerably increased over my first estimate. The following statement will show the vent for each stream of importance:
Tabular Statement of the Various Streams and the Character of Crossings from the Alabama & Florida Rail Road to the Tensas River
Name of Streams No. Spans Length of Span from centre to centre of piers Total Length of Bridge Kind of Bridge -- Remarks
Little Escambia 1 166   Howe's Truss
    "            " 11 45 661 Beam truss
Big Escambia 1 166   Howe's Truss
   "             " 6 65 656 Fink's Iron Bridge
Brushy Creek 1 65 65     "         "       "
Perdido River 3 65 195     "         "        "
Bushy Creek     1200 Trestle Work
Dyas' Creek 7 45 315 Beam Truss
Hog Swamp 1 32 32     "         "
Honeycutt Creek 1 65 65 Fink's Iron Bridge
Cobb's Branch 1 65 65     "         "       "
Hurricane Creek 1 32 32 Beam Truss
Hurricane Lake 3 45 135     "         "
   Your road is designed to be first class in all of its appointments, and the above table is based upon the supposition that no temporary work will be built, except Bushy Creek, where it is proposed to use 1,200 feet of well-built pile trestle work.
   The Big Escambria Bridge is about complete; also the bridges at Honeycut, Cobb's branch and Hurricane lake, making one span of How truss, eight spans of Fink's iron bridge, and three spans of Beam truss. Nothing has been done towards erecting the bridges at Brushy Creek, Perdido, Bushy Creek or Dyas's Creek. Work upon the Little Escambia has been suspended for the present, because it was not actually required. A convenient temporary junction can be made with the Alabama & Florida Railroad, between the Two Escambias, and the little Escambia bridge built whenever the interest of the Company may actually require it. The brick for the masonry and the iron work for the superstructure are upon  the ground and in part paid for. 
   Till the date of the late Presidential election, all of the above work had been pressed with extraordinary vigor, and the time for opening the division was confidently fixed at an early day in the next summer. It was natural that the management of the road should share with the people the general distrust produced by the result, and became apprehensive that the work would have to be discontinued for awhile. Under this pressure all of the wheel-barrow forces were drawn off, the Bridge masonry at Little Escambia, Bushy Creek and Perdido was stopped, and nearly the entire force of assistant engineers discharged. Nor were our Grading contracts spurred up with accustomed energy. As a matter of course, the completion of the road has thus been delayed to a certain extent. Yet, without unforeseen difficulties, the track will be laid through by the 1st of September.

Track Laying

   On Thursday, the 28th of last month, track laying was commenced near the east bank of the Tensas, and on the first of May the track at the junction with the Alabama & Florida Rail Road will be put under way. This work is being done in a superior manner by the Company's forces, and can be carried forward at the rate of ten miles per month, and finished by the first of September next.


   The equipment of your road will have much to do with its successful operation in the future. Experience and common sense both suggest the importance of uniformity in every department of the rolling stock of a road. There is no reason why the bolts, brasses, boxes, springs or axles of one car, or the various parts to every particular member of a Locomotive, cannot be changed from one machine to another without the slightest alteration or shop work. This has been found impracticable on nine out of ten of our railroads, only because the various companies have been forced for credit purposes, to patronize every builder of engines and cars to be found, and have introduced with each manufacturer confusion and something different from the others.
   The result upon most of our roads has been a vast accumulation of rubbish and unnecessary stock; expensive patterns that would be a fortune within themselves, costly machine shops, and an army of machinists to keep going this heterogeneous collection of rolling stock. With a uniform and well-selected equipment upon the plan suggested, a limited supply of the various wearing and breaking parts would naturally modify the character of the machine shops and machinery, reduce the number of machinists, save much time and actually reduce the amount of rolling stock under that usually required. In purchasing equipment for your road this idea has prevailed throughout. The requisite number of Locomotives for passengers and freight service, were contracted for last summer of the New Jersey Locomotive and Machine Company, at Patterson, without a single variation in the specification. The propriety of this may be questioned, and there are circumstances that would require a material difference, yet, in the present instance, it is unquestionable. The same policy has been pursued in purchasing cars, no Truck was fixed upon till one was found that would answer well for every class and description of car used upon the road. The Truck selected is manufactured by Messrs. Joseph R. Anderson & Co., of the Tredegar works, Richmond, Va.; they are of iron and embrace all the recently improved features that have been considered essential for ease, durability and light draft, and will make the least impression upon the track. They are the only trucks that I know of, within a reasonable price, that answers equally well for both freight and passenger service. For immediate use Trucks for twenty platform cars were contracted for and have been delivered, and portion of them set up.
   The following stock of Equipment it is believed will be sufficient till the Road is complete to the City of Mobile:
Four Locomotive
Four First Class Passenger Cars
Two Second Class Passenger Cars
Fifty Freight Cars
Five Repair Cars

Iron Rails and Fastenings

   Contracts were made with Messrs. John Rogerson & Co. for iron rails and fishing pieces, and with Joseph R. Anderson & Co. for spikes. A sufficient number of the latter have been received to complete this division; and 1,564 tons of rails fishing pieces and bolts have been received; 474 tons at Pensacola and 1,090 tons at Tensas wharf. In our contract with Mr. Rogerson it was made a point that the rails should be manufactured under the inspection of an agent of this Company; this duty was performed by Col. Lewis Troost, Chairman of the Executive Committee, who visited England for the purpose. The result is we feel confident of having the very best rail made, one that will be a credit to all parties.

Telegraph Line

   Experience has demonstrated the value of a well-constructed and managed telegraph in operating railroads, and that no road can be safely or economically worked without it. Appreciating this fact, steps were taken at an early day to contract with responsible parties for building and working a line over your Road. In November last a contract was closed with the American Company. The work was immediately commenced, and I am glad to say a first rate line is now in successful operation. Under this contract your Company has the free use of all the lines owned or worked by the American Company, and when your road is in operation, Telegraph Offices are to be established upon it, and kept open to suit the running hours of your trains.


   In my last annual report the Eastern Division was estimated to cost $1,094,200.00
   The total expenditures have been as follows:
Clearing, Grading, Masonry and Bridging $243,591.53
Superstructure 116,949.78
Buildings and Wharf 832.18
Equipment 21,807.83
Gen'l Expenses and Engineering 37,281.80 $420,463.12
Clearing, Grading, Masonry and Bridging $8,900.00
Superstructure ---
Buildings ---
Equipment ---
Gen'l Expenses and engineering 4,000.00
     Total $433,363.12
Sum necessary, as per first estimate to complete the Eastern Division $673,736.88
   From indications, I think the above figures for this Division may be largely reduced, and that the following estimate will be ample to cover the cost of completing it -- namely, for
Clearing, Grading, Masonry and Bridging $190,000
Superstructure 231,000
Buildings 35,000
Equipment 78,000
Gen'l Expenses and Engineering 8,000 $542,000.00
Deduct labor of Company hands 23,856.61
Amount saved upon first estimate $107,880.27
Making the total cost of the First Division 986,319.73
   or $19,726.39 per mile, including Side Tracks

Company Force

   The Company force consists of 70 negro men, 11 women, 4 boys, 20 mules, 12 horses, 18 carts and 1 wagon. One negro man has been used as an axe-man in the engineer's service; the remaining forces have been engaged in construction on sections 43 and 49.
   The following is a correct statement of the work done by this force, on account of --
Clearing $393.91
Grading 17,763.20
Masonry 1,150.00
Bridging 2,413.50
Buildings 630.00
Cross Ties 492.00
Iron Rails &c 364.00
Rolling Stock 50.00
Track Laying 100.00
Engineering 500.00
     Total $23,856.61
   Although the Company now owns eighty-five negroes, the average force of the year has been fifty-four hands and seventeen head of stock. The work done per hand per annum is $441.78, or an average of $336.14 for each hand and mule, including women and boys. The expenses per hand have been as follows:
Tools $16.00
Quarters 7.46
Provisions 73.24
Clothing 19.73
Medical Services 9.89
Superintendence 30.41
Bedding 2.26
Freight 3.70
Incidentals 7.51
Total per hand $170.00
For the Stock the expenses have been 
For Feed $146.52
For Harness 15.24
For Freight 11.50
Total per head per annum $173.36
   During the year there has been lost one horse and two mules. A negro man, Charles, was shot and killed by some unknown person, and on the 23d of November, Solomon, a faithful hand, died of pneumonia in a private infirmary in this city. The hands have been well clothed, fed and cared for, and have given but little trouble; yet the expenses on account of medical services will be found to be large -- it must, however, be remembered that the larger portion of the force was brought upon the work from a high latitude, unacclimated, and placed upon the most unhealthy portion of the line, and worked in very unfavorable positions. Recently they have had but little sickness among them. I have not failed to give this force my own constant personal attention; yet I regret to say that my expectations have not been realized, and though I warmly advocated the purchase, I am now very doubtful of the policy. For the first nine months I found it impossible to get reliable and efficient overseers, such men being in great demand at high prices. It is difficult to find men who entertain a moral sense of duty of as high an order towards corporations as individuals, or who have a greater incentive to usefulness and industry than the salary paid; or who, as an agent, will exercise the same degree of vigilance that they would as principal. I know of exceptions, but only urge this against the principal of railroad companies owning forces for the purpose of construction.
   The contract system in the running operations of roads has not prevailed in our country to any extent. The entire work of keeping up the road, equipping trains, and supplying wood, water, and depot stations, has been performed by hired forces. In the Southern States this has been performed with slave labor, at prices greatly exceeding those paid for almost any other description of work, accompanied with the annoyance and loss of drilling in new hands each year. These difficulties you will avoid; by the time your track is laid through, you will own a well-drilled and efficient force of hands -- with which to keep up the road bed, equip your trains, supply wood and water stations, and even to perform a large amount of your shop work in the repairs of engines and cars. In this service this force will amply repay the Company, and will tell at once upon the monthly expenses of the road.

Western Division

   Previous to the sixth of November active steps had been taken to commence work upon this division on the first of January. Contracts had been made before my last annual report to you with Messrs. John Rogerson & Co. for the cast iron piles for the Tensas and Mobile river piers, and with Denmead & Kendrick for the superstructure. Jos. R. Anderson & Co. also contracted for the Lifting and Pnuematic Machinery, and the West Point Foundry for the Air Lock. Messrs. Rogerson had taken steps to carry out their contract. Messrs. Denmead & Co. have delivered on the ground the necessary machinery for doing their work, and the entire Pnuematic machinery, except the Air Lock, has been received. Had not the finances of the Company become so embarrassed by the political troubles, the work of erecting the Tensas bridge would have been commenced before this. To have continued this work would have been embarrassing in the extreme without advancing the road toward completion one day, but only cripple your ability to complete the division from the Tensas to the Alabama & Florida railroads, which will begin to contribute at once to the trade and travel of Mobile, and attract a trace that would otherwise be diverted to Pensacola. With this division open, I apprehend but little competition from Pensacola, for the freights over the Alabama & Florida railroad seeking tidewater. Yet we should loose no time, and watch with jealous care, that well directed and, I may say, merited efforts may not have precedence. Every one must admit the propriety of discontinuing work upon this division under the circumstances.
   The Alabama & Florida railroad of Florida has been finished up to the Junction, and Alabama & Florida road of Alabama has been completed to a point that secures the completion of the entire line from Montgomery to Pensacola in a few weeks. There is no special reason for completing this work before the first of September next, you will then begin operations with the beginning of the trade, in time to meet the crop and the returning fall travel.
   Contracts should be made as soon as possible for the estimated number of passenger cars, and additional trucks for freight cars. There should be ample time given for building the passenger cars especially, that the work in every respect may be well done. The wood work for the freight cars can be well and cheaply done on the road.


   In conclusion the following brief summary of the condition of the work is presented with no small degree of pleasure. It could and would have been far better had not the paralyzing influence of revolution destroyed for awhile the commercial confidence, and so much intimidated the people.
   Had the work been started upon any other than a most unparalleled bases, it could not have withstood the shock. In managing the work we have been without trouble or excitement. Three-fourths of the local work of construction has been done. Seventeen miles of rails and fastenings have been delivered. Track laying has been commenced. A first rate Locomotive has been put upon the road and another shipped, and I may say the cars are running, and a first class Telegraph line is in full operation over the entire division. This much has been accomplished in one short year in the face of litigation, revolution, and a financial crisis unsurpassed. If this has been done under past circumstances, I think there is little to fear for the future.

   The work has been in charge of Tillotson Fox, as Principal Assistant, A. G. Martin, as Second Assistant, and Joseph Williford, as Assistants. These gentlemen have had arduous duties that have been performed faithfully and cheerfully.

G. Jordan, jr.
Chief Engineer