Date of Award

2016

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in History

Department

History

First Advisor

Rod Mather

Abstract

Prior to the development of railroad travel in New England, the primary mode of transportation was the stagecoach, a slow and uncomfortable vehicle. Steamboats traveled between coastal cities, but were more limited in their routes than stagecoaches and averaged the same amount of travel time. Desire for faster travel times, specifically between New York City and Boston, accelerated technological advancements that led to the development of a fledgling railroad network in New England by the second quarter of the nineteenth century. It also led to increased collaboration between railroad and steamboat companies, each offering combination routes to save time.

The Long Island Railroad Company (LIRRC) was one of many railroad companies that took part in this transportation revolution. It was also one of many to experience financial hardship and one of the few to escape complete failure following the economic Panic of 1837. LIRRC trains departed Brooklyn and arrived in Greenport, at the northeastern end of Long Island, three hours later. Passengers then took a ferry across Long Island Sound to either Stonington or Norwich, Connecticut and then continued to Boston by railroad. This route was poised to cut travel time between New York and Boston nearly in half, but lasted only two and a half years.

This study will examine the impact of financial hardship on the LIRRC’s quest to offer the fastest route between New York and Boston.

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