Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Marsh, Sylvester

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MARSH, Sylvester, engineer, b. in Campton, N. H., 30 Sept., 1803; d. in Concord, N. H., 30 Dec., 1884. He had but little opportunity for education. In 1826 he established himself as a provision-dealer in Boston, and later was engaged in Ashtabula, Ohio, in supplying Boston and New York with beef and pork. He settled in Chicago during the winter of 1833-'4, and there followed a similar business till 1837, when his accumulations were swept away in the financial crisis of that year. He began again in the grain business, and acquired a substantial fortune. Meanwhile he was active in all that pertained to the advancement of Chicago, and ranks among its founders. The meat-packing industry was originated by him, and he invented many appliances that were incidental to its success, especially those having reference to the use of steam. He invented the dried-meal process, and “Marsh's caloric dried meal” is still an article of commerce. In 1864 he settled in Littleton, N. H., and after 1879 made Concord, N. H., his residence. While ascending Mount Washington in 1852 he lost his way, and then conceived the idea of building a railroad to its summit, believing that such an enterprise could be made profitable. He obtained a charter for the road on 25 June, 1858, but the civil war prevented any action until May, 1866. The construction of such a road was regarded as impossible, and he became known as “Crazy Marsh”; indeed, the legislature, in granting him a charter, further expressed their willingness to grant a “charter to the moon” if he wished. Notwithstanding all opposition, he persisted in building the railroad, relying chiefly on his own resources, and received but little encouragement from capitalists till an engine was actually running over part of the route. The peculiar form of locomotive, cog-rail, and brakes used were invented by Mr. Marsh. The road was formally opened on 14 Aug., 1868, as far as “Jacob's ladder” (see illustration), and entirely completed in July, 1869. Its length is 2.81 miles, and the ascent 3,625 feet, making the average grade of 1,290 feet to the mile. There are nine curves, of radius varying from 497 to 945 feet. The indispensable peculiarity of this road is its central cog-rail, which consists of two pieces of wrought-iron, parallel to each other and connected by strong pins. The teeth of the driving-wheel of the engine play into the spaces of these bolts, and, as it revolves, the engine climbs or descends, resting on the outer rails, which are four feet and seven inches apart. For stopping trains and controlling their descent, both friction and atmospheric brakes are employed, and their complete reliability has been proved by the severest tests. The engines weigh about six and a half tons, and are rated at fifty horse-power, but by their gearing this power is greatly increased, at the expense of speed, which is two miles an hour. The engine always takes the down-hill end of the train, which consists of locomotive, tender, and one car, accommodating about fifty passengers. The cost of the road was $139,000, and its capital stock is $129,000. Not an accident has occurred on the road to any of its 130,000 passengers down to 1888. During the construction of this road it was visited by a Swiss engineer, who took away drawings of the machinery and track, from which a similar railway has since been built up Mount Rigi in Switzerland. Another road, built on similar plans, is in successful operation to the summit of Green mountain, Mount Desert, Me.


Appletons' Marsh Sylvester - cog railway.jpg