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This Day In Founding Fathers History – 28 February
On this day in 1827, the Baltimore & Ohio (B&O) Railroad became the first railway in the United States chartered for commercial transport of freight and passengers. With the Erie Canal providing access to the Midwest for New York, Baltimore wanted in on the action. Investors in the railroad saw the B&O as their answer. In July of 1828, Charles Carroll laid the first stone as construction began on the railway in Baltimore Harbor. Peter Cooper’s steam engine Tom Thumb successfully maneuvered the first stretch of track, proving to skeptics that steam traction would be a viable means of transport on the railway. The B&O was completed in 1852 at Wheeling, West Virginia. The line was extended later to Cleveland, St. Louis and Chicago. The B&O was joined by the Central Pacific and Union Pacific lines in the 1860s, forming the first transcontinental railroad. The B&O was always at competition with the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) and the New York Central Railroad (NYC), always remaining the underdog in the East. Despite not leading the pack financially, the B&O was the first to adopt diesel power in the 1930s, the first to include air conditioning in its passenger fleet and one of the first railroads to use electric locomotives. 1
1 “The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, Linking Thirteen Great States With The Nation,” American-rails.com/baltimore-and-ohio.html; “The B&O Railroad,” Today in History, Library of Congress Online, memory.loc.gov/ammem/today/feb28.html