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The steam horse has commenced his career on the Western plains. For many years he has preferred to follow the small valleys, and wind among the hills of the Atlantic slope, venturing first through the Mohawk Gap, and proceeding with cautious movement to the eastern shore of Lake Erie. At long intervals he has also lent bis aid to the planter in crossing the pine desert which borders the Southern States.

The broad plain embraced by the mountain ranges of the continent and the Gulf of Mexico is now, from one extremity to the other, invoking his presence. Hitherto, his exploits have been accomplished where natural obstacles were most numerous. Hereafter, the chief field of his operations will be in the wide plain of the North American continent, where he may fly along the track from city to city, from lake to lake, and from lake to guli

, without turning to the right or to the left. What a field for his exploits ! In extent, numbering square miles by the million; its present population counting more, by two millions, than all the old States east of the mountains, and, within the life-time of persons now living, to number two hundred millions. According to a calculation, made with care, it appears that the people living on this plain, within our national limits, in 1850 lumbered 12,541,139, counting only those north-westward of the principal range of the Apalachian Mountains. Within the next twenty years this number will swell to twenty-six millions. The Canadas and New Brunswick, within the plain, contain about two millions of people, and within the twenty years will have some four millions. Here will then be thirty millions living on a rich soil, in a variety of climates, embracing an abundant supply of mineral and vegetable riches, to be exchanged with each otber and with neighboring communities. During the last twenty years railroads have increased in the United States from 176 miles in 1832, to nearly 12,000 miles in 1852. Their extent, at the end of the twenty years to come, cannot safely be predicted. That it will exceed fifty thousand miles is quite probable. It may be well to consider what routes occupied, partly occupied, and yet undetermined, promise greatest utility to stockholders and the public. "To this consideration should be brought a good knowledge of the topography of the country, with some familiarity with the course of trade, and the capabilities of the various sections to furnish traffic to railroad lines.

There are some routes so strongly marked that one needs only a tolerable knowledge of the geography of the country to point to them on the map with almost unerring certainty. One of these is that which connects Buffalo and Albany. It occupies the only gate-way through the Apalachian mountains, except the comparatively unimportant one by Lake Champlain. Indeed, the valleys of the Mohawk and Lake Champlain furnish a passage-way between the two sides of our Atlantic system of mountains, that no other routes can safely attempt a rivalry, except at a great distance. By railroads from Oswego and Buffalo to Albany and Troy, the railroad traffic of four millions of people on the Atlantic slope will be exchanged for that of some six millions north-west of the mountains. All the other roads, connecting and to connect the West and East, necessarily encounter numerous comparatively high grades and many curves, making their distance practically greater between New York and the heart of the West, than the level route through central New York. The routes over the mountains to Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Richmond, Wilmington, Charleston, and Savannah, may divide among them the business of some four or five millions living in the western valley. Those leadiig to Philadelphia and Baltimore will naturally draw most of this business, because they are large cities; and still more, perhaps, because they are on the road to New York and the Eastern States. These routes, already occupied, are mentioned in this connection because they necessarily give direction to the railroads making, and to be made, in the West, with a view to Eastern traffic.

It seems as certain as anything in the future can be that the States north of the Ohio River, together with those west of the Mississippi, north of the latitude of the mouth of the Obio, will, ultimately, if not immediately, direct their railroad lines, made with a view to Eastern business, so as to form the easiest connection with the New York roads. This will give to most of the great lines of this portion of the West a general direction from southwest to north-east. To this there will be an important extension of all that portion which is north of the latitude of the southerly bend of Lake Michigan. The railroads of the peninsula of Michigan, for mary years to come, will naturally be directed from all quarters towards Detroit, as a market, a port of transhipment, and as a passage-way through Canada; and towards Toledo, as the gate-way to the country south of Lake Erie and to Cincinnati. Westward of Lake Michigan, the railroads will be directed chiefly towards Chicago, in order to pass the lake for a winter business in the East

. Of the routes commenced but not finished, the one most likely to rival in importance that through the Mohawk gap, is that which will occupy, as nearly as practicable, the line of latitude which touches the south shore of Lake Michigan, from the Mississippi to Toledo, and which passes thence eastward along the south shore of Lake Erie to Buffalo. This necessarily takes an east and west course between the heads of the lakes, and it follows the shore of Lake Erie, because that is the most direct course towards Buffalo, and because the great gathering points of Commerce are on that shore. As a trunk-road for the convergence of business from other roads, and from lakes and canals, it has no rival and can have no equal in the United States. Near the south bend of lake Michigan it must gather in for a passage eastward all the winter traffic and much of the summer travel and trade of the vast country west of that lake, aided by converging railroads, plank-roads, and the Illinois Canal. On its way from Chicago to Toledo it will receive from the South several tributary roads, bearing produce for shipment down the lakes. One of these is in progress of construction, and two others are being prepared for letting. At Toledo it will receive from the North the business of the Southern Michigan Road and a railroad froin Detroit, hereafter to be made. At the same point it will connect with six hundred and ninety miles of canal and a railroad to St. Louis.

This, at some future day, will itself become one of the great trunk-lines of the country. From the South will come in, at Toledo, a railroad forming the shortest practicable road between Cincinnati and the navigable waters of Lake Erie. This is progressing northward of Dayton, and may be expected to reach Toledo in two or three years. Proceeding eastward, two railroads, now in operation, coine in at Sandusky City-one from Cincinnati, and the other from Zanesville. At Cleveland it is joined by two railroads, branching off to Cincinnati and Pittsburg. Other roads are being made from the forest city, into wbich, also, flows the Commerce of six hundred miles of artificial navigation. At Erie it is to be met by the Sunbury Rail

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road, opening a way to Philadelphia and Baltimore. It also connects here with a canal to Pittsburg. At Dunkirk it receives the New York and Erie Railroad; and, finally, at Buffalo it becomes one with the great Mohawk Valley trunk-line.

Taking the whole of this line, from Rock Island, on the Mississippi, to the city of New York, its peer cannot be found in the United States, nor, as it seems to me, in the world.

Another trunk-line of some three hundred miles extent, having an east and west course, will connect Cincinnati and St. Louis. This is understood to be under contract at nine millions of dollars. Two others, one from Memphis, the other from Vicksburg, will connect the South-Western States with the South-Eastern at Charleston and Savannah. The abovementioned are all the trunk-lines likely to be made, nearly following lines of latitude.

The other great trunk-lines of the West will have a general course southwesterly and north-easterly. Many and cogent reasons favor this opinion. Such is the general course of the great rivers east of the Mississippi. The mountain and hill ranges are, of course, in the same direction. mercial and manufacturing States and cities are north-east of the chief commercial and manufacturing cities of the great valley. The British Provinces and the United Kingdom, with whom is the main portion of the foreign Commerce of the West, are situated north-easterly of its center of business and population. Whether this foreign Commerce chooses for its channel the St. Lawrence River or the Erie Canal and central New York railroads, the railroads from Nashville, Louisville, Cincinnati, Cairo, and St. Louis must reach it in a north-easterly direction.

The English and Irish Channels, through which passes the greater part of our Commerce with Europe, are in the same latitude as the main entrance into the Atlantic, from the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The course of water transport, from the west end of Lake Erie to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, is nearly in the same line as the railroads, which would connect with this water channel the center of the Mississippi basin, at St. Louis and Cairo. The distance in a straight line from Cairo to Toledo is.....

St. Louis to Toledo..

Chicago It has been stated, as a controlling reason why these railroads should be directed to the south shore of Lake Erie, that they would there enter the best railroad route to New York and the New England States. In summer another motive is added. When navigation is open on the lakes and the Erie Canal, the traffic is floated at so cheap a rate, and in such safety, that, for anything but passengers and light freight of great value, railroads passing in the same direction, or towards the same destination, cannot compete with success.

Even for passengers, the proud steamers of the lakes will hold, with their rival carriers of the land, a divided empire. This is especially true where the route by water is not materially longer than by land. That the lake route is preferred to that by the great rivers, in intercourse with the eastern world, and is growing in favor among the travelers of the western valley, is shown by the more rapid extension of lake than of river Commerce. According to a late report of the Secretary of the Treasury made to the Senate, in obedience to its call, the steam tonnage on the upper lakes has more than quadrupled in eight years, while, on the Mississippi,

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it had only doubled in nine years. The sailing tonnage on the lakes increased in a nearly equal ratio with that of steam. As the steam tonnage of the lakes exceeded that of the Ohio or Mississippi basin, and as the tonnage of sailing vessels is scarcely less than two-thirds that of steam, it seems certain that the aggregate tonnage of the lakes must now nearly, if not quite, equal that of the western rivers.

We have said that lake navigation was safer than river. According to the document just referred to, the number of persons lost on the lakes during the year ending July 1st, 1851, was sixty-seven, (67,) and on the rivers, during the same time, six hundred and twenty-eight, (628.) This comparison does not tell the wbole story; for while the lake air is proverbially pure and health-giving, no small portion of the river navigation subjects the traveler to fever-engendering malaria. As a water route, therefore, the lakes should be preferred for travel and freighting. This preference, thus shown to be well founded, should be duly appreciated when long and expensive lines of railroad are to be constructed.

The great interior commercial centers, in the river portion of the valley, are Pittsburg, Cincinnati, Louisville, and St. Louis. Perhaps Cairo may become one. Pittsburg holds its communication with the lake region through Cleveland and Erie. Cincinnati has its present railroad connecting with the lakes at Cleveland and Sandusky. To the former the distance is 259 miles, to the latter 219 miles. An air line to Cleveland would measure 220 miles, to Sandusky 184 miles, and to Toledo 180 miles. A near approximation to an air line would be more feasible to Sandusky and Toledo than to Cleveland, as it would involve less additional cost over the cheapest practicable route. An air line to Detroit, through Toledo, would be 135 miles in length.

For passengers between Cincinnati, Erie, and Buffalo, the Cleveland Road will be preferred. For railroad freights the shorter and cheaper lines to Toledo and Sandusky, in summer, will have the preference. The heavy freights, between Cincinnati and Lake Erie, will, of course, pass by canal, to and from Toledo. The cost of a railroad between these ports will be less, by some 25 per cent, than the Sandusky Road, owing to its having been a pioneer road, paying more for iron, &c., has cost. It may, also, be constructed for a less amount per mile, by some 20 per cent, than that which connects Cincinnati with Cleveland.

And here it will be appropriate to direct our attention to another of the main trunk-lines of the valley, passing through Cincinnati. Perhaps, in the far future, it may be as important as that which skirts the south shore of the great lake. Commencing at Detroit and terminating at New Orleans and Mobile

, it would pass through the cities of Cincinnati, Lexington, and Nashville, and the important commercial towns, Toledo, Dayton, and Florence, besides numerous places of less note. By a short branch from the Mobile line, it would reach Pensacola; and, by roads already made, it would meet the south shore trunk-road at Cleveland and Sandusky-by the forier, passing through the flourishing city of Columnbus. By this road the principal gulf cities and lake cities would be brought into close communion of interest and feeling. In a straight line, the distance between Detroit and New Orleans is 940 miles. A feasible route could probably be found not exceeding one thousand miles. By river, from New Orleans to Cincinnati it is 1,556 miles, and thence, by the shortest traveled route, to Detroit, over 300 miles-together 1,860 miles. This road, if judiciously located and managed, would, beyond a doubt, be profitable to its owners. Its way business, if it had no other, would insure that result.

Louisville and New Orleans will, probably, find the best railroad connection with the lake roads by way of Madison, Lawrenceburg, and Dayton. The Cincinnati roads, thence to Lake Erie, will be their roads.

The Central Railroad of Illinois, in connection with its continuation from Ca to New Orleans and Mobile, and which we will call the Cairo line, is by some deemed the most important trunk-line between the gulf and the lakes. Compared with that which is to pass through Cincinnati

, Nashville, &c., it seems to fall quite in the rear. Neither the towns, the natural resources, the populousness of the region it traverses, nor its railroad connections, are equal to those of the Cinciunati line. It has, besides, the disadvantage of reaching Lake Michigan at a point from which, in the transaction of its eastern business, a navigation of more than 700 miles must be performed in order to i-et the advanced position on Lake Erie which the Cincinnati line first reaches. This will be a cheap navigation, but it will cost something, and in spring and fall will call for a beavy rate of insurance, The Cincinnati line will have the advantage, too, in its connection with the railroads leading from Nashville to Charleston and Savannah. The rime seems distant, it it shall ever arrive, when any other route between the lakes and the Gulf of Mexico will take precedence of that through Cincinnati. The Cairo line. commencing at New Orleans and passing through Jackson, would have the advantage of the railroad business of the river towns, Vicksbuig, Memphis, &c., and, by taking a course from Cairo tlırough Indianapolis w Toledo, reach Lake Erie by a line only 100 miles longer than that to Chicago.

Another trunk-line, destined to a high rank, is that which is to connect St. Louis, the city of the Mississippi, with Lake Erie, at Toledo. Its length by an air line would be 408 miles, and by the most profitable route need not exceed 430 miles. It would pass over the lowest summit level between the

upper lakes and the river valley, with the exception of that near Chicago. The summit at Fort Wayne is less than two hundred feet above the lake, and, practically, the whole route may be considered horizontal. It passes along the richest river valleys that can be united in one line between the great lakes and rivers; and its course is right for the most direct intercourse between the northern Atlantic States, Canada, and Europe, and the center of the great valley. For beavy freight, it could not compete successfully with the route from St. Louis, by way of Illinois River and Canal. The distance by the two routes to Lake Erie would compare as follows: From St. Louis to Lake Erie by railroad .. ....miles 430 via Toledo.

by rivers, canals, and lakes ..... 1,067 via Chicago. by railroad and lakes .....

970 via Chicago. For passengers and freight of high value in proportion to weight, the direct route would be preferred in summer

, and would monopolize the business in winter. At St. Louis and Toledo, the extent of navigation it would connect would be great, and the railroads it would meet extensive. This is to be one of thousands, the way business of which is sure to pay a fair dividend from the start, and the termini of which are, by nature and art, the greatest gathering points of Commerce, by water and by land, which can anywhere be found.

Another very important trunk-road, between St. Louis and Cleveland, passing through Vandalia, Terre Haute, Indianapolis, Sydney, Marion, and

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