In many places there seems to be a strong prejudice against having railroads pass through streets. We do not wonder why such a feeling should exist when steam power is employed to draw the cars, but we think such a prejudice is exceedingly unreasonable against having tracks laid in streets when the drawing power is the same as that which is used to draw numerous lines of omnibuses. The objections which can be urged against locomotives running in streets are many; such as the smoke of the wood employed for fuel; the blast, and the general speed at which they have been and are now run in all those cities through which railroads are laid. Locomo-motive power would certainly never do for New York City unless through a perfectly secluded street for that purpose, and in such a case who could or should find fault ? We have never seen a good argument advanced against railway tracks in cities, yet when the Common Council of Williamsburgh —a young city adjacent to New York— granted the privelege to a company of laying down a track in that place, they were compelled to recede from their position by a universal indignation meeting of the citizens.— It would not indeed be just to run a railroad through a street against the wish of all the owners of property in that street, but the owners of property may be wrong in their opposition, and if they are, it is the dutyjof those who think so to try and convince them of their error, rather than cram an improvement down their throats. Let us present a few arguments in favor of railroads in cities on which the cars are drawn by horses. 1st. Railroad cars are certainly handsomer than omnibuses, they can at least be made so, and therefore they present a better appearance in going through a street. 2nd. The track is straight, and no fears need be entertained by a pedestrian crossing the street that they will swerve from their path, like an omnibus ; they go straight on and neither turn to the right hand nor to the left, so that there is no danger but in crossing the rails, whereas the danger from omnibuses is manifest over the whole breadth of the street. 3rd. Railroad cars make less noise than omnibuses, and thereby are much preferable either for streets full of shops, or those composed of private residences. 4th. One horse on a railroad can draw as much as three on the best pavements, and thus as a certain saving to any city, the rails have greatly the advantage in avoiding the expense of tear and wear of pavements, and outlay for animal feed. This saving is effected by obviating the great resistance and friction of pavements by the substitution of rails. Where this can be done and is not, a preference being in favor of clumsy omnibuses, a person is forcibly reminded of those dark times when people went to mill with a stone in one end of the bag to balance the grain in the other, to help the poor animal that carried the bag. The arguments we have presented in favor of railroads in cities as substitutes tor omnibuses running over pavements, we think are incontrovertible, we know the last one is. Instead of injuring the value of property, a good city railroad running through a street should raise its value, especially if the rails are substituted for one or two lines of omnibuses.
This article was originally published with the title "Railroads in Cities" in Scientific American 8, 37, 293 (May 1853)