[New York, West Shore & Buffalo Railway Mammoth Plate Photos.]. orace, L. Bliss, photog.
[New York, West Shore & Buffalo Railway Mammoth Plate Photos.]
[New York, West Shore & Buffalo Railway Mammoth Plate Photos.]
[New York, West Shore & Buffalo Railway Mammoth Plate Photos.]
[New York, West Shore & Buffalo Railway Mammoth Plate Photos.]
[New York, West Shore & Buffalo Railway Mammoth Plate Photos.]
[New York, West Shore & Buffalo Railway Mammoth Plate Photos.]
[New York, West Shore & Buffalo Railway Mammoth Plate Photos.]
[New York, West Shore & Buffalo Railway Mammoth Plate Photos.]
[New York, West Shore & Buffalo Railway Mammoth Plate Photos.]
[New York, West Shore & Buffalo Railway Mammoth Plate Photos.]
[New York, West Shore & Buffalo Railway Mammoth Plate Photos.]
[New York, West Shore & Buffalo Railway Mammoth Plate Photos.]
[New York, West Shore & Buffalo Railway Mammoth Plate Photos.]
[New York, West Shore & Buffalo Railway Mammoth Plate Photos.]
[New York, West Shore & Buffalo Railway Mammoth Plate Photos.]
[New York, West Shore & Buffalo Railway Mammoth Plate Photos.]
[New York, West Shore & Buffalo Railway Mammoth Plate Photos.]
[New York, West Shore & Buffalo Railway Mammoth Plate Photos.]
[New York, West Shore & Buffalo Railway Mammoth Plate Photos.]

[New York, West Shore & Buffalo Railway Mammoth Plate Photos.]

Montgomery County, New York, 1882–1883. 10 mammoth plate photographs, albumen prints, approx. 27 x 34.5 cm to 33 x 42 cm, on larger mounts with printed titles.

Ten mammoth plate photographs documenting the construction of the New York, West Shore & Buffalo Railway.

Originally owned by James Dudley Hawks (1847–1921), a noted railway engineer and president, this group of ten mammoth plate photos documents the construction of the notorious New York, West Shore & Buffalo Railway, which Hawks supervised from 1881 to 1883. Completed in 1884, it ran between Weehawken, NJ and Buffalo. Perceived as a ‘blackmail line’ by William Vanderbilt, the railway was created to compete with Vanderbilt’s own New York Central & Hudson River Railroad and ran parallel to the New York Central most of the way to Buffalo. Along with the Pennsylvania R.R. Company, Gen. Horace Porter and George M. Pullman were among the notables who supported the West Shore line. (Pullman was apparently incensed at Vanderbilt for using the sleeping cars of the Wagner Palace Car Co. instead of his own—and thus perceived the West Shore as an opportunity to both make money and have revenge.) The West Shore line was built to the highest engineering standards but would suffer from a lack of venture capital. This prompted a ferocious rate war with New York Central, which would begin breaking ground on a South Pennsylvania road to compete with the Pennsylvania R.R. Co. However, by 1885, the West Shore Railway went bankrupt. In turn, “[a] secret deal was worked out aboard J. P. Morgan’s yacht, the Corsair, whereby William Vanderbilt would stop construction of the South Pennsylvania Railroad and acquire the West Shore line for a nominal amount.” It was said that Morgan earned a commission of some $3,000,000 for brokering the compromise.

Most of the photos included here were taken in Montgomery County, New York, from the fall of 1882 to winter of 1883. The subjects include snowy scenes of the North River Construction Company at work; cuts into hills; the building of double-track road-beds; widening railroad cuts for stone; construction of retaining walls; quarrying stone, and the widening of the Erie Canal. Laborers are shown working and standing at ease next to a range of equipment: pulley systems, makeshift buildings, horses, ropes, horse-drawn carriages full of stone, wheelbarrows, picks, and so on. Image titles identify the work pictured and the location, e.g.: “Widening Erie Canal and Building Double Track Road-bed, Flint Hill, Montgomery Co., NY.” Other construction sites include Fort Plain, Little Falls, Diefendorf Hill and Yankee Hill. In one lovely shot entitled “Gibraltar Hill Cut in Little Falls, NY,” various workers are shown standing on makeshift bridges that span two blasted rock formations. The names of officers and contractors are listed in the lower right and left margins, Hawks among them.

James D. Hawks was born in Buffalo, New York and studied at the University of Michigan. He was employed as Assistant Engineer of the Buffalo division of the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railway (L.S.M.S.R.) (1870–75); Assistant Engineer of the Erie division of L.S.M.S.R. (1875–78); Assistant Engineer of the Lake Shore Division of L.S.M.S.R. (1878–81); Superintendent of Construction for the New York, West Shore & Buffalo R.R. (1881–83); Chief Engineer of the Michigan Central Railway (1884–92); Manager of the Detroit Citizens’ Street Railway Co., (1892–93); and Manager of the Detroit, Bay City & Alpena Railway Co. (1893–95). Later he served as President and Manager of the Detroit & Mackinac Railway Co., and President of the Detroit, Ypsilanti & Ann Arbor & Jackson (Electric) Railway Co., and the Grand Rapids, Grand Haven & Muskegon Electric Railway Co.

Photographer Horace L. Bliss (b. 1823) moved to Buffalo around 1854 where he entered the photographic business. He established a photograph gallery in 1859 and found success in both outdoor and commercial photography until 1886, when he retired.

REFERENCES: Adams, Arthur G. The Hudson Through the Years, Third Edition (New York, Fordham University Press, 1996), pp. 211-215; Chernow, Ron. The House of Morgan : an American banking dynasty and the rise of modern finance (New York, Atlantic Monthly Press, 1990), pp. 52-55; Successful American, An Illustrated Magazine, Vol. VII, No. 1 (New York, January 1903), p. 27.

CONDITION: Good, mounts rippled, one image blistered, occasional light soiling and foxing, tonality generally good, two or three a bit on the lighter side

CONDITION: Fading to some photos, but tonality generally good; some foxing and other discolorations to a few images, but most clean and attractive; six areas of loss to emulsion in one photo.

Item #5278

On Hold

Price: $5,000.00

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