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Erie Railroad

Erie Railroad, rail transportation line designed to connect the mouth of the Hudson River with the Great Lakes region. The New York and Erie RR Company was enfranchised and incorporated in 1832, and construction was begun in 1835 near Deposit, N.Y. The year 1851 saw 446 mi (718 km) of trunk line across New York state completed to Dunkirk, N.Y., on Lake Erie at a huge cost. The railroad was extended to Jersey City, N.J., and to Buffalo, N.Y., but in 1861 the company failed and was reorganized as the Erie Railway Company. The company gained sound financial footing during the Civil War before it became the subject of a tremendous financial battle. Daniel Drew, Jay Gould, and James Fisk allied themselves and from 1866 to 1868 outmaneuvered—with the aid of unauthorized stock issues, political chicanery, and incessant litigation—Cornelius Vanderbilt to keep control of the Erie Railway Company. After further financial trickery, the Erie Railway Company went bankrupt and was reorganized (1878) as the New York, Lake Erie and Western Railway Company. By 1880 branch lines were built to Chicago. The railroad went into receivership after the Panic of 1893 and was reorganized (1895) as the Erie RR Company. Under the presidency (1901–27) of Frederick D. Underwood, the Erie continued to suffer losses, and after a major reorganization (1941) it yielded (1942) a dividend for the first time in 69 years. In 1960 the Erie merged with the Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western RR to form the Erie-Lackawanna. In 1976 this organization and five other lines that had gone bankrupt were merged to form the Conrail system, which in 1999 became part of the CSX and Norfolk Southern railroads.

See C. F. Adams, Jr., and H. Adams, Chapters of Erie (1886, repr. 1967); F. C. Hicks, ed., High Finance in the Sixties (1929, repr. 1966); H. R. Grant, Erie Lackawanna (1994).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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