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The Fight for the Seaboard Pipe-Line

oil, line, pipe, miles, company, field and williamsport

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THE FIGHT FOR THE SEABOARD PIPE-LINE project for a seaboard pipe-line to be built by the producers and to be kept independent of Stand ard capital and direction had been pushed with amazing energy. Early in the fall of 1878 General Haupt reported that his right of way was complete from the Allegheny River to Baltimore; contracts were let for the tele graph line and preparation begun to lay the pipe. Before much actual work had been done it became clear to the company that it was not from the Butler oil field but from that of Bradford that a seaboard pipe-line should run; that the for mer field was showing signs of exhaustion, while the latter was evidently going to yield abundantly. With a promptness which would have done credit to Mr. Rockefeller himself, Messrs. Benson, Hopkins and McKelvy changed their plan.

The new idea was to lay a six-inch line from Rixford, in the Bradford field, to Williamsport, on the Reading Railroad, a distance of 109 miles. The Reading, not having had so far any oil freight, was happy to enter into a contract with them to run oil to both Philadelphia and New York until they could get through to the seaboard themselves. In November, 1878, a limited partnership, called the Tidewater Pipe Com pany, was organised with a capital of $625,000 to carry out the scheme. Many of the best known producers of the Oil Regions took stock in the company, the largest stockholders being A. A. Sumner and B. D. Benson.* The first work was to get a right of way. The company went at the work with secrecy and despatch. Its first move was to buy from the Equitable Pipe Line, the second independent effort to which, as we have seen, the Producers' Union lent its support in 1878, a short line it had built, and a portion of a right of way eastward which Colonel Potts had been quietly trying to secure. This was a good start, and the chief engineer, B. F. Warren, pushed his way forward to Wil liamsport near the line which Colonel Potts had projected. The Standard, intent on stopping them, and indeed on putting an end to all future ventures of this sort, set out at once to get what was called a "dead line" across the state. This was an ex clusive right for pipe-line purposes from the northern to the southern boundary of Pennsylvania. As there was no free pipe

line bill in those days, this "dead line," if it had been complete, would have been an effectual barrier to the Tidewater. Much money was spent in this sordid business, but they never suc ceeded in completing a line. The Tidewater, after a little delay, found a gap not far from where it wanted to cross, and soon had pushed itself through to Williamsport. With the actual laying of the pipe there was no interference which proved serious, though the railroads frequently held back shipments of supplies. At Williamsport, where the pipe crossed under the railroad, it was torn out once. The Tide water had no trouble in this case in getting an injunction which prevented further lawlessness.

By the end of May the company was ready for operation. The plant which they had constructed proposed to transport io,000 barrels of oil a day over a distance of 109 miles. The apparatus for doing this consisted simply of tanks, pumps and pipes. At Coryville, on the edge of the Bradford field, two iron tanks, each holding 25,00o barrels of oil, were con nected with an enormous pump of a new pattern devised by the Holly Company especially for this work. This pump, which was driven by an engine of seventy horse-power, was expected to force the oil through a six-inch pipe to a second station twenty-eight miles away and about 700 feet higher. Here a second pump took up the oil again, driving it to the summit of the Alleghanies, a few miles east. From this point the oil ran by gravitation to Williamsport.

It was announced that the pumps would be started on the morning of May 28. The experiment was watched with keenest interest. Up to that time oil had never been pumped over thirty miles, and no great elevation had been overcome. Here was a line 109 miles long, running over a mountain nearly 2,60o feet high. It was freely bet in the Oil Regions that the Tidewater would get nothing but a drizzle for its pains. However, oil men, Standard men, representatives of the Pennsylvania Railroad, newspaper men and natives gath ered in numbers at the stations, and indeed all along the route, to watch the result.

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