The Railway Strike

This article from the July 21, 1877 edition of the London Times gives an account of the strike's changing scope following the arrival of Federal troops as well as the suspicion of its growth in other cities around the country.


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The Federal troops at Martinsburg, as anticipated, have enabled the Baltimore and Ohio Railway Company to proceed with their goods traffic. Zebb, the ringleader of the strikers, was arrested on Thursday afternoon, and trains were afterwards started both ways under the protection of military guards. One train to the east arrived at Baltimore during the night, and one westward reached Cumberland, when the strikers impeded its further progress. While communication is reopened to the east from Martinsburg, the line seems to be still obstructed by the strikers from Cumberland westward. They control the chief stations, have cut the telegraph wires to prevent news transpiring, and created a strike along the western branches of the railway towards Chicago. Zebb, at Martinsburg, was released on bail last night, but several other leading strikers have been arrested.

No fresh disturbance has occurred, and appearances indicate that the Martinsburg blockade will be raised to-day. Several trains guarded by troops are departing, but the line, it is feared, it obstructed further west.

Yesterday a formidable stokers' strike began on the central Ohio division of the Baltimore and Ohio Railway, and the Chicago branch goods traffic is entirely suspended. The authorities are powerless, and have made an application to the Governor of Ohio for troops. The chief trouble is at Newark and Columbus. The old rate of wages has been offered to the men to take out the trains.

At noon yesterday the strike extended to the Pennsylvania Railroad. The stokers at Pittsburg on the goods trains struck against increased work without extra pay, and also to recover the 10 per cent reduction of their wages made on June 1. The drivers and brakemen subsequently joined them, taking entire possession of the Pittsburg terminus and stopping all movement of goods, though the passenger traffic continues unimpeded. By midnight there was nearly a thorough blockade, with rumours of an extension of the strike to the western connexions. The Pennsylvania Railroad officials during the night determined to appeal to the Governor of Pennsylvania for the assistance of troops.

A deputation of. . . on the Great Western Railroad of Canada yesterday asked the manager to reconsider the proposed reduction of their wages, but no decision as yet has been come to.

Reports from Cincinnati also indicate the likelihood of a strike on the Ohio and Mississippi Railway.


The Martinsburg blockade has been raised, and 13 trains have been dispatched, each with a military guard. All is quiet, and trains from the east to Baltimore are unmolested, but those to the west were blocked at Cumberland. The first train westward, after several hours detention, got past Cumberland, the troops driving the strikers away at the point of the bayonet, and thence proceeded west to Keyser. Subsequent trains were blocked at Cumberland, the insurgents wrecking on at Keyser. Several hundred strikers besieged the troops in the train. Reinforcements were telegraphed for to Martinsburg, 100 men being sent. At Cumberland, Keyser, Piedmont, and Grafton the strikers control everything; but the arrival of troops will probably force the blockades, as at Martinsburg. Serious inconvenience is caused in Baltimore by the detention of the corn and petroleum intended for foreign shipment. Some Martinsburg strikers having retreated to St. John, one run west of Martinsburg, two companies of troops have been dispatched thither to drive them from the line.

The blockade at Newark, Ohio, on the Chicago branch, still continues. The Sheriff read the Riot Act, but the strikers gave no heed, and the Sheriff has asked the Governor of Ohio for troops.

On the Pennsylvania Railroad, the insurgents control everything. At Pittsburg the Sheriff also ordered them to disperse, but receiving no obedience, he, too, has asked the Governor of the State for troops. The Governor this morning issued a proclamation commanding the rioters to disperse, and has also instructed General Pearson to call out the Militia. At Pittsburg the Militias are assembling at the armouries, their intention being to clear away the mob obstructing the line from Pittsburg to East Liberty, six miles eastward. Large numbers of discharged railway servants are aiding the Pittsburg strikers. There is no disturbance at Philadelphia, but as a precautionary measure, the Mayor to-day sent a strong detachment of police to the west Philadelphia station of the Pennsylvania line. At Pittsburg there stands blocked a large number of cars, containing many cattle, which have been unloaded. Troops are now marching to East Liberty, where the strikers chiefly are.

Rumours prevail that a strike has begun at Cleveland, Ohio, on the Lake Shore Railway, a western extension of the New York Central line. Emissaries have been sent to the western systems to endeavor to create dissension, and a strike last night began on the Erie Railway. Those in charge of cattle trains for the East abandoned them at Hornellsville, though the cause is not announced. Orders have therefore been sent to Buffalo temporarily to stop all cattle consignments to the East over the Erie Line.

Those employed on the Union Pacific Railway have appointed a deputation to wait upon the Manager with the object of procuring a restoration of the amount recently deducted form their wages.

There are indications that these troubles are the result of a general movement on the part of all railway servants secretly prepared beforehand.

About this Document

  • Source: London Times
  • Date: July 20, 1877