Delaware Railroad Stocks & Bonds - Ghosts of Wall Street

Delaware Railroad

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    The Delaware Railroad was conceived in 1836 by John M. Clayton, a former United States senator who obtained a charter from the Delaware General Assembly to serve the Delmarva Peninsula. He was concerned that a proposal in Maryland to build a line along the western side of the peninsula would harm Delaware's economy. Delaware was highly motivated and exempted the railroad from taxation for fifty years and provided other incentives. Clayton, William D. Waples and Richard Mansfield were appointed as commissioners and a survey of the line was made. The Depression of 1837-1839 prevented investment in the railroad and the charter was forfeited.

    The charter was renewed in 1848 under the promotion of Samuel M. Harrington (Clayton at this time was serving as the United States Secretary of State). It called for a line from Dona Landing (just east of Dover) to Seaford that would be part of a Philadelphia to Norfolk route. Sufficient investment was secured by 1852 allowing commencement of the operation. In 1853, the Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore Railroad guaranteed construction bonds, and the line was built from a junction with the New Castle and Frenchtown Railroad in Porter to Dover in 1855 and on to Seaford in 1856. Moving the northern terminus from Dona Landing to Porter added approximately 35 miles to the originally planned length.

    The first section was opened with an inaugural eight-car train north from Middletown on September 1, 1855 carrying the president of the railroad and that of the New Castle and Frenchtown Railroad, the chief engineer, and railroad contractors.

    Prior to the railroad, steamship traffic from Philadelphia ran to Dona Landing, a Dona steamship line port on the Leipsic River just off Delaware Bay and approximately 6 miles east of Dover. Passengers would then go by stagecoach to Dover and south to Seaford where they would then resume travel by ship south to Norfolk on the Nanticoke River. Both the stage and steamship lines were made obsolete by the railroad and hence abandoned.

    The railroad ran inland to avoid wetlands near the coast through areas that had been sparsely populated. Railroad access spurred the growth of farms in this part of the state as farmers had means to ship produce north to Philadelphia, New York City and Boston. Land that had not been farmed was cleared as the new access to city markets increased agricultural output. The railroad assisted the Delaware peach industry, allowing faster peach transport to market than had been possible by steamship. It also allowed the introduction of peach orchards to areas without access to river shipping. The industry spread downstate from the Delaware City area where it originated as the railroad extended further south. By 1875, five million baskets (900,000 carloads) of peaches were shipped on the Delaware Railroad. The railroad is credited with the peach becoming a "signature crop" in Delaware - the first state from which peaches were a commercial crop shipped long distances to market. In 1863, peach farmers sued the railroad after they grew a bumper crop but the railroad did not have enough freight cars to accommodate the entire crop, and as a result there was significant spoilage. The railroad felt the judgment was "exorbitant".

    New towns formed along the railroad including Bridgeville, Greenwood, Clayton (nearby Smyrna did not want the railroad competing with its shipping industry), Wyoming (nearby Camden refused to allow the railroad to be built through the town), Felton (named after David Felton, president of the railroad) and Harrington. In 1855, the railroad located its main office in Clayton.

    In the latter half of the 19th century, the Pennsylvania Railroad had acquired the Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore Railroad, and several east–west branch lines of the Delaware Railroad serving locations throughout the Delmarva Peninsula in Delaware and the eastern shore of Maryland. These included the Junction and Breakwater Railroad and the Queen Anne's Railroad (later the Maryland, Delaware and Virginia Railroad).

    In 1881, the parent company, the Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore Railroad, itself came under the control of the Pennsylvania Railroad, a larger and dominant railroad of the northeastern United States. Facing financial difficulties in the 1960s, the Pennsylvania Railroad merged with its rival New York Central in 1968 forming the Penn Central which itself filed for what was, at that time, the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history in 1970. The mainline of the Delaware Railroad was eventually absorbed into Conrail, created by the Federal Government to operate the potentially profitable lines of multiple bankrupt carriers.

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    Delaware Railroad Company Stock Certificate
    Delaware Railroad Company Stock Certificate
    Delaware Rail Road Company
    Delaware Railroad Company Stock Certificate
    Delaware Railroad Company Stock Certificate
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    Delaware Railroad Company
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