Richmond and the Railroad System
November 7, 1866
Searching for a reason to explain the economic stagnation, the Dispatch blames the missed opportunity brought to the city in the name of railroads. However, it is suggested that it is not too late to fix their error by starting construction on railroads.
Richmond and the Railroad System. Had the proposition of that sagacious and patriotic gentleman Mr. Wyndham Robertson, made before the canal was begun, to construct a railroad from Richmond by Lynchburg to the Tennessee border, with a branch down New river and the Kanawha to the Ohio, been approved and carried out, as it ought to have been, Richmond would be this day a city of 200,000 population. We should have had in Virginia a great railroad corporation, the compeer of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company, which could have given direction to improvements and to trade, and held commerce to the centre and heart of Virginia, adding incalculably to her material resources and political power. That was the tide in the affairs of this State which, taken at the flood, would have led on to fortune--a fortune unlimited and incalculable. But the opportunity was lost, and we are just where we are. That the mistake may be repaired to a great degree by proper measures now is beyond question; but delay will even deprive us of the power of the partial retrieval of the fortune lost by the great blander. Richmond may yet recover nobly from her misstep, and her consequent slow and staggering march forward, by prompt and bold action. But she must make up her mind to hazard much and to labor without ceasing. She must secure direct connections with the Southwest and the Ohio. As these must at best be the work of time, the sooner they are taken hold of the better. The very act of taking measures for their construction will give new hope and new energies to our own people and invite capital from abroad for investment amongst us. The commercial and manufacturing advantages of this city are extensively known and appreciated. It Is only necessary that the community blessed with these advantages should prove that they mean to make auxiliary to nature the most rapid known modes of transportation by the most direct lines, in order to insure the importation of capital for investment here in commerce and manufactures, and the importation of enterprising men to try their fortunes amongst us. The moment, for Instance, that we decide that the straight road to Lynchburg shall be built, and give an earnest of our intentions by our acts, we believe a new spirit will animate our own people, while it will give us credit and confidence in the estimates of other communities. The great works before us require credit, and our credit will increase as we progress with them. This has been well established. A railroad may be built with a fourth of its aggregate cost by the use of its credit. Once begun, the way to men of sagacity and energy clears up before them as they advance.
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“Richmond and the Railroad System,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed January 17, 2018, https://reconstructingvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/403.