The Railroad Comes To Youngstown


The very first railroads to run through Youngstown were homegrown systems that were developed by the local industrialists to meet specific needs.

A huge sum of money was required, which meant that stock had to be sold, and before that could happen, the individual whose dreams sparked the idea had to lay out an initial investment so high that, if for some reason, the plan failed, he could and did go broke overnight.

To be a railroad builder required a tough individual filled to overflowing with business wisdom, and an even tougher spirit, and the willingness to walk over people to get the job done, which meant that they would make enemies, have to spend time in courts of law in order to fight for their dreams, and have no qualms about stepping onto the other side of the law occasionally.

If they succeeded, history would lionize them, but if they failed, they would quickly be forgotten.

When a city like Youngstown was able to develop two railroad builders, the only word that could describe them would be remarkable, but we had such men in Chauncey Andrews and David Tod, the fathers of Youngstown railroading.


Chauncey Andrews, Railroad Builder

At the top of the railroad builders must stand Chauncey Andrews, a tough hard man, the sort of man that was needed to build a railroad from the bottom up.

Nineteenth century Youngstown was anything other than a sleepy wayside town. Both business and industry were going full speed ahead.

Andrews for example was running steel mills and coal mines as well as banks, and now he needed a railroad.

George Reese, the former industrial editor of the Vindicator, in the March 27, 1939 anniversary issue provided the readers some vivid pictures of the man.



History of Development Reads like High Fiction

By George R. Reese

(Youngstown Vindicator, March 27, 1938)

Kindly souls were those old Youngstown captains of industry who were good to their families, paid their debts, and never poisoned their neighbor’s dogs. But as railroad builders they belonged to that school which holds that the track man who can’t sink a track spike in an oak cross tie with each blow of his maul in spite of a broken arm and a shower of detractor’s club is a geranium.

Lusty, gutsy men of a lusty, gutsy age they were, who asked little and took a lot; and we mention this only that there should be no misapprehension that Youngstown’s railroad building days were tea parties. They were not.

These gentlemen built the Youngstown district’s railroads as they were built elsewhere, with might and sheer gall and on shoestrings - usually someone else’s shoestrings at that - in those raw, crude days, when railroading was a dangerous, hard game which in six years (from 1888 to 1894) killed 16,257 men and maimed 172,130 others, although the railroads employed only 179,646 men. It was a job more dangerous than war. Yet, when one man died, another sprang up to take his place.

And so were built some of Youngstown’s greatest fortunes, the fortunes of the railroad builders and the iron masters.

Nothing Stopped Them

What matter if they didn’t own rights of way, hadn’t secured franchises? What matter if clubs were swung, if skulls were cracked, if tracks were torn up, and rolling stock was overturned? The district needed and demanded its railroads didn’t it? Well their job was to build railroads - and they built ‘em! They squabbled later over rights of way. And they provided some of Youngstown’s most sturring times.

For instance, there was a the time the raging, howling mob tore up a stretch of Chauncey Andrews’ pet railroad, while a scalding stream of water was poured on it.

Andrews, probably the most forceful figure Youngstown has ever known, had taken personal charge of the track gang that was laying a stretch of the Pittsburgh, Cleveland & Toledo Railroad, now a part of the Pennsylvania, that cold morning of December 16, 1883.

Rose to Emergencies

Andrews was president of the road, but wasn’t proud. He didn’t hesitate to labor with a track gang, or run a station, or take charge of a train crew, if the occasion demanded. And now it demanded.

The crew was laying down a piece of track between Market and Philips Sts., when Ben Cunningham and John Ellis called to stop the track work. They claimed the land.

Andrews wouldn’t halt, white with anger, Ellis whipped out a revolver, covered Andrews. Now as heretofore intimated, Andrews wasn’t a pansy, fixing Ellis with a cold, calm stare, Andrews ordered:

Put up your gun, John. Don’t try to bluff me.” Then turning to his gang, he ordered:

Go on with your work men.”

Ashen and shaken, Ellis put up his gun. He and Cunningham hurriedly sought a judge and got a temporary injunction to halt the work. But the track was already laid.

Real Fight Flared

Later the same day, Andrews’ crew moved over on land owned by the Booth, Miller & Co. - and then flared the real fight.

Employees of the plant tied down the mill whistle, imperiously summoning workers, until a crowd of about 2,000 - employees and curious - gathered. Swinging clubs and flinging stones, the mob attacked the track gang and then ensued perhaps the most famous battle in Youngstown’s industrial history. The track men fought back, swinging their spike mauls and picks and track bars. Skulls were cracked, eyes were blackened and folks were pummeled.

The mob, greatly outnumbered the track gang, tore up the tracks with the gang’s own tools and overturned the railroad cars, while Senator-elect A.D. Fassett, editor of the Merchant & Miner, poured a scalding stream of water from the plant engine room on the crowd.

But eventually Andrews won out and the road was built.

Bitter Battle Fought in July, 1887

Another bitter chapter in the city’s early railroad history was written July 13, 1887, when the Pittsburgh & Western Railroad now a part of the Baltimore & Ohio, built its line across Mill St. near the present Oak Hill Ave., near the present Baltimore & Ohio line.

The city persistently refused the road a franchise. So the road sought to build its track anyway. It stole a march and laid the track one night, and then came plenty of action.

There was never so much excitement in Youngstown, as there was this afternoon,” said The Vindicator of that date. “Federal St. was densely packed with people. About 1:15 the steam gong at the water works sounded the alarm of fire and put the citizens to flight in every direction. There was no fire but the whistle was blowing at the request of the city council in order to raise a crowd to tear up the railroad tracks of the Pittsburgh & Western which had been extended across Mill Street.”

A mob headed by the fire department, marched upon the railroad.

Ran Train Over Street

As the building crew saw the advancing mob, Engineer Reeves, aboard the work train’s locomotive, ran his engine and two cars on the crossing, setting the breaks, for in those days, a legal crossing was established when a train was run across one. The gang of 50 or 75 laborers huddled on the two flat cars. Halting beside the locomotive, from the window of which Engineer Reeves hung complacently, City Marshall Williams ordered:

Move that locomotive Mister Engineer.”

The Engineer stared calmly, chewing his tobacco cud and spat a brown stream into the summer dust.

Move that locomotive,” again ordered Williams, “or we’ll move it.”

Still the Engineer ignored him. Then came plenty of action. The fire company turned it’s hoses on the track laborers, and washed them off the cars, while Williams, City Engineer Reno and officer Manning stormed the locomotive, where the engine crew met them with upraised scoop and slice bar. Williams, Reno and Manning finally boarded the engine, forcing off Engineer Reeves.

Backs Train Off Crossing

Police Officer Pratt, a former railroader, took the throttle and backed the train off the crossing, while J.W. Kelley, the construction foreman, threw tools under it’s wheels, venially seeking to derail it, Kelley was arrested.

Then the angered crowd tore up 50 to 75 feet of track, while the laborers fled and the locomotive disappeared in another direction.

The Vindicator commented on the justice of the raid, saying the property owners never were offered a penny for the right of way, “but the railroad stole the track through by the light of the moon.”