These articles from Manufacturer and Builder Magazine were published in the late 1880s, the high point of the cable railway era. Photo scans of the articles are available from Making of America at Cornell University. Uncorrected text scans are available from the Library of Congress' American Memory site. I did some cleanup of the text scans. I made a few editorial comments in italics with my initials.
The Bentley-Knight Electric Railway System
From Manufacturer and Builder / Volume 21, Issue 1, January 1889
Bentley-Knight pioneered conduit electrification.
The system and apparatus of the Bentley-Knight Electric Railway Company has lately attracted very general attention from the admirable performance of several important lines of city railway that have been equipped therewith, and because of its growing popularity, as well as because of the fact that the plan exhihits several special features of great merit, we have availed ourselves of the opportunity to print a description of it, with suitable illustrations.
For city street railways, the Bentley-Knight company employs a conduit system. The plant for this service consists of a power station, engines, boilers, and dynamo.electric machines; a conduit running along the whole length of the line, containing the conductors which convey the electric current to the motors; and banging connections (plows), which pass through the conduit slot, and, sliding along the conductors, maintain unbroken connection between the motors and the source of power. The electric conductors are accessible only to regular employees, furnished with special tools. The current used, even on roads of the heaviest carrying capacity, cannot injure either life or property. The direction and speed of each car are controlled at will from either end. The driver can proceed slowly, almost imperceptibly, when required, and take any desired speed to recover lost time.
In cases where heavy work will be required of the motors, or where excessive strains of any kind must be met, the Bentley-Knight company supplies trucks equipped with double motors, each motor driving one axle independently. For all ordinary work, only one motor is employed, mounted upon one axle of the car. The method of motor suspension employed by this company in the construction of its single-motor trucks concentrates a very large part of the whole weight to be moved upon the driven axle, thus securing at all times ample tractive adhesion.
Each car is entirely independent of any other, and any car, dynamo or engine may break down without interrupting traffic. A car disabled through accident, can be pushed to the depot by the succeeding one, or its plow may be thrown out of the conduit at any point on the line, and the car run off to one side of the track. Any engine or dynamo at the power-station may be cut out for any reason, and at any time. The independence of the motors, and the expansibility of the motor power, render the system wholly independent of horses or other reserve. The power consumed is proportioned to the number of cars operated; and, apart from interest on the plant, one car may be run with nearly as great economy as twenty. All parts are of the most substantial and enduring character.
The motor and mechanism of a car operate noiselessly, and are entirely concealed from view beneath the bottom of the car. Toothed gearing is used throughout for communicating power from the motor to the car axles, experience having shown this to be the most reliable system.
The more important mechanical elements of construction and operation of the system will clearly appear further on in connection with the description of the sectional views of motor truck and conduit.
For suburban lines, or for small cities and towns where the traffic will not justify the outlay for the more costly conduit system, the Bentley-Knight company furnishes its elevated conductor system, which is inexpensive, and, at the same time, efficient. The elevated conductors can be either bracketed off from poles or hung from wires crossing the street at any desired hight (sic - JT) above the roadway. Electrical connection between the motor on the car and the elevated conductors is maintained by means of a trolly or contact-brush and a flexible conductor. The elasticity of the elevated conductor system is very great, and it can be most readily adapted to the needs of any road. It can easily be used in connection with the conduit system, and is especially valuable as an inexpensive method of equipping suburban extentions of city lines, as the successful experience of the company has fully demonstrated.
The mechanical elements of the construction and operation of the Bentley-Knight system will appear in what follows:
Referring to the sectional views, Figs. 1 and 2 represent the construction of the new and improved type of motor and mechanism for street cars, as constructed hy the Bentley-Knight Electric Railway Co., as well as the conduit, conductors, connecting plows and plow-guides used in the conduit line lately built for the West End Street Railway Company, of Boston, through Boylston and Beacon streets, starting from the Common and running alongside the public Gardens, and which was opened for traffic on New Year's day. Single motor trucks of the same type will also be used on the line now being laid through Fulton street, New York, in the construction of the much-delayed North and East River Railway line; and double motor trucks are now being made for Boston, for the operation of the rapid transit line to Brookline.
Fig. 1 exhibits an end view of the motor truck and mechanism, and of the conduit and plow of the yoke; while Fig. 2 gives a view of the motor truck and mechanism from the center of the truck, showing the plow guides in section. The conduit differs from any form heretofore made or used, in that the conductors for both tracks are carried in conduits laid in the space between the two tracks of a street railway, instead of being laid between the rails of each individual track. The peculiar advantage of this construction, is that an existing street railway can be equipped with an electric conduit plant without any interference with the operation of the line by horses during the period of construction, and that the entire work can also be done without in any way changing the present road-bed, however it may be constructed. A further and decided advantage, is that a single catch-pit and sewer connection at a given point serves to drain both conduits. It is also a fact that the conduit between tracks places the slot steels where they will least interfere with traffic, or be objectionable on account of their causing horses to slip. The center of the roadbed, also, is the cleanest point of the street the highest, and therefore the best drained; while in all cases the wear and tear on pavement, etc., is much less there than in any part of the street surface.
As will also be seen from the sectional cuts, an entirely novel form of yoke has been employed to support the slot rails. The latter rest in a seat prepared for them on either side of the yoke, and are held in position by two bolts on each side of each yoke. Each yoke casting has in its either upper extremity, a box, which box contains and protects, not only the nuts of the bolts which hold the slot rail in position, and which enable the widith of the slot to be regulated at will, but also contains the extremities of the insulator supports from which are bracketed the conductors along the line. The insulators are made of heavy, glazed porcelain, securely seated into the holders, while the brackets which support the conductors are in turn seated into the insulators themselves. These yokes occur at intervals of every four feet. The boxes above described are provided with iron caps, which being removable, afford ready access to the conductors and interior of the conduit. The slot rails employed are the heaviest ever used in conduit work. The conductors come in lengths of 24 feet and at one end of each length of conductors, there is an expansion and contraction joint to allow for variations in temperature.
As will be seen, connection between the conductors and the motors on the car is maintained by means of a contact plow at the lower extremity of which, spring shoes are pivoted, which slide along the upper surface of the conductors. The plow heads are held in guides which extend across the entire width of the car and permit the plows to slide freely and to follow any variations in the line of the conduit slot. When a car switches from down to up track, it will be readily seen that the contact plows must occupy a position on the up track, opposite to that which they occupied on the down track, and must keep up electrical connection while taking the switch.
The mechanical construction shown is of the Bentley-Knight truck latest build, in which all possible care has been taken to secure strength, solidity and durability. The motors, and all transmitting mechanism, have been condensed to the last possible point, thereby securing much additional room between the car body and the street surface.
Each motor truck is provided with duplicate plow guides and plows, which insure perfection of electrical connection and prevent any flashing at the contact, while giving a double security against possible accident.
The three miles of conduit on the above pattern which have been just constructed for the West End road by the Bentley-Knight Company, were opened on New Year's day successfully, and the cars provided by the Sprague company, and equipped with the necessary conduit connections by the Bentley-Knight Company, were operated successfully over the entire line of conduit and also over the overhead line at the extremity of the conduit section which has been erected by the Sprague Company. Thee construction of the Sprague cars used, does not permit of the use of the double plow, which trucks constructed under the Bentley-Knight system use, and some flashing is thereby occasioned. But it is a noticeable fact, that the conduit laid in Boston, was put into operation the day after its completion, and that no errors, either mechanical or electrical, were found to interfere with its work.
Those who may be interested directly in the introduction of the most improved plans for operating city passenger rairvays, will find the accompanying estimates, of the comparative cost of construction and operation, of the three systems -- horse traction, electric traction, and cable traction instructive. The figures are given on the authority of the Bentley-Knight company. The estimates in the table, based on New York prices, are for a road 5 miles long, double track, operatiumg 40 cars; average speed, 6 miles an hour; headway, 2 1/2 minutes; maximum grade, 5 feet in 100; 16 full running hours per day.
As a matter of general interest, we give several views exhibiting the appearance of the several forms of motor cars introduced in various localities by the Bentley-Knight company. Fig. 3, for example, shows the double-motor car, now in use on the Observatory Hill Passenger Railway, of Allegheny City, where at the puesent time there are six of them employed, and which, since December, 1887, to the present, have been doing what is asserted to be the heaviest duty ever performed by a self-propelled motor of any kind without extraneous aid. They have regularly carried loads of 14,000 pounds up a grade of 295 feet in 4,900 feet, in which the maximum rise was 12 1/2 per cent. This line is of special interest, since in its construction and operation nearly every possible difficulty to be met in street railway work has been met and overcome.
The line is about four miles in length. For one-fourth of this distance the electric conductors are contained in a sub-surface conduit. For the remainder of the line the conductors are elevated above the roadway, being bracketed off from poles erected along one side of the street. The conduit branches from double to single track, and at the present terminus of the line (between the City Hall of Allegheny and the new Carnegie Free Library) there is a conduit cross-over switch from down to up track. At different points along the conduit section, the conduit cuts through five other street railway tracks belonging to other companies. On the elevated conductor section the line is single track, with seven turn-outs. Double conductors are used throughout both conduit and elevated conductor sections, neither the rails nor any part of the conduit itself being used as a part of the electiic circuit. Almost the entire line is built on grade. Nowhere throughout the whole line is there a space 50 feet long where a car will stand wilbout the brakes being applied.
Fig. 4 is a view of the car using the elevated conductor, and shows very clearly the space occupied beneath the car body by the Bentley-Knight standard single-motor truck.
Fig. 5 is interesting from a hlistorical standpoint, though it must be remembered that in this field of rapid progress, history is not long in being made. It is a view of the Bentley-Knight trial line at Cleveland, operated during the winter of 1884-1885. This is said to have been the first conduit line ever laid, and the cars then running upon it were the first electric street cars ever run on the direct system now in general use. The length of the road was 2 1/2 miles, and it had a number of mechanical defects of construction, that experience developed, and which have been corrected in subsequent constructions. Nevertheless, in respect of the electrical element, it demonstrated in practice the feasibility of street-car lines propelled by this agency. The picture shows the flrst rude wooden conduit at a point where the line had to be carried through the rails of the Cleveland & Pittsburg Railroad, One of the most serious problems to be solved in conduit lines.
The success which the electric system of street railways is meeting in the United States, as is indicated by their rapid introduction, is a surprising fact even in this day of rapid progress in electrical application of every description; and to this progress the system herein described, by reason, of its numerous meritorious features, has contributed substantially. The Bentley-Knight Electric Railway Company has recently erected a large and well-equipped factory, for the manufacture of everything pertaining to electric railway construction and electric-power plants. The factory is situated at 25 and 27 Tenth avenue, New York city.
* Car bodies cost from $700 to $1,200.
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An Improved Gripping Device and Accessories for operating Cable Railways
From Manufacturer and Builder / Volume 21, Issue 5, May 1889
N Kirchner's system was never implemented.
The accompanying illustrations give various views of a gripping device, with accessory hanging and operating arrangements therefor, for use upon cable railways, for which certain meritorious features are claimed. It is the invention of N. Kirchner, of 6 South Delaware Ave., Philadelphia.
The special mechanical construction of the Kirchner cable grip is such as to permit a car provided with it to pass over a crossing cable without resorting to the use of horses, as is now commonly practiced (ie North Chicago Street Railroad - JT), and without modification of the underground structure. It will also permit a car to be taken from one line to a cross-line cable by means of a sub-cable without the use of horses. The gripping device, as will be perceived from the illustrations, is movable up and down, and also laterally, but is so disposed and operated as always to be perpendicular above the cable, whether the latter is gripped or loose in it. The additional advantage is claimed for this gripping device that it cannot, under any circumstances, become engaged and caught fast to the cable when the latter is somewhat roughened or frayed by long usage. This mischance is a not infrequent occurrence with the side-gripping devices in common use. With the new device, however, the grip can be raised, and in so doing the jaws are opened by a positive movement where by the cable is released,
The standard position of the cable will be about 7 inches below the slot, except where two cables cross, when they will be lowered about 3 inches, in order to allow the grip 3 inches of lift to enable it, on releasing, to pass over the crossing cable and engage on the other side of it.
The peculiarities of the new device will be understood from the following description of the illustrations: Fig. 1 is a side elevation partly broken away, with part of a car truck fitted with the Kirchner improvements; Fig. 2, a plan of the frame which carries the grip carrying bracket, and the rods by which this frame is attached to the car truck; Fig. 3, a side elevation of the grip-carrying bracket; Fig. 4, a rear, and Fig. 5, a front view of the same; Fig. 6, a transverse section of part of the conduit, showing bracket cable and conduit pulley; Fig. 7, a front, and Fig. 8, a side view of the grip; Fig. 9, a side elevation of the grip-operating device; Fig. 10, a plan of the lever with roller which moves in the link of Fig. 9; Fig. 11, a plan of the car truck, and its connection parts shown in Fig. 1.
The principal advantages of these devices, as claimed by the inventor, are as follows: 1. The grip is easily movable, and so devised and operated as not to be liable to become deranged by usage. 2. It will take a car over a cross-line cable without any extra attachment or horses. 3. It will take a car from one line to a cross-line cable by means of a sub- cable. 4. It will prevent a sudden jar by a start, for the frame will slightly give. 5. The grip cannot miss the cable.
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Notes and Queries
From Manufacturer and Builder /Volume 21, Issue 5, May 1889
Q. 4217. CITY PASSENGER RAILWAYS. -- I would esteem it a great favor if you could find room in your valuable journal for a sketch of the origin and development of street railways for passenger travel in cities, more especially with reference to American practice. -- M. L. M., Southampton, England.
Answer. Horse railways (called tramways in England, and, to some extent, elsewhere) preceded steam railways in point of time, but since the introduction of the latter they are rarely used for the transport of merchandise, their employment for this service being confined principally to the case of industrial works where the question of speed of transit is an unimportant one, and where, on account of the shortness of the distance to be traversed, it would not be profitable to employ locomotives. This mode of transportation is used to some extent, however, for the conveyence of merchandise between the freight depots of the railways and certain distributing centers in cities, such as market houses, warehouses, etc., although in the majority of cases of this kind the loaded freight cars are simply hauled to and from these places by animal traction over the ordinary railway tracks, which are extended to make the necessary corrections. Within the past twenty-five years street railways have been very extensively introduced for passenger travel in cities, and to provide means of transit between the suburbs and the business centers. Considered historically, the street railway is the outgrowth of the tramroad system which was used in the English collieries two centuries ago. Knight defines the tramways as flat boards, balks, or paving stones laid down to form a way, upon which the wheels of the trams (wagons) could roll more easily. These primitive devices were succeeded by rails made of wood (1670), which are described as being supported on transverse sleepers, and shaped so that the four wheels of the wagon fitted to them. Passenger railways in cities were first introduced in the United States about the year 1850. Some ten years later, though only after meeting with violent opposition, they came into use in England. Since that time they have come into general use throughout Europe. The roadway is commonly placed on a level within the street, following the grade of its surface. The rails in common use for the street railway are of the flat form, with broad flange, and are fastenend by spikes (more rarely by bolts) to longitudinal sleepers, which in turn ane secured to cross-ties to give the necessary transverse stiffness to the line. This form of rail has the advantage of allowing the passage of ordinary wagons on its broad surface, a convenience which the drivers of vehicles generally avail themselves of; but, on the other hand, these vehicles are liable to severe wrenching, and not infrequently to breakage, of wheels and axles, when the attempt is incautiously made to turn out sharply from the track, or to cross it at an acute angle. A grooved rail, that cannot be used by wagons and carriages, and consequently is not liable to cause accidents of this nature, is also largely used. The cars in common use on the street railways are four-wheeled vehicles, capable of accomadating from twenty to thirty passengers. The American pattern, with the seats arranged lengthwise of the car, is that in general use; more rarely, except for summer traffic, the seats are arranged across the car. The plan first named permits greater convenience of ingress and egress to passengers, and having only one door, this may be closed in cold weather, and, in exceptionally severe weather, may be conveniently heated. The wheels of the passenger cars (tram cars) are flanged, like those in use on the steam railways, the form of the flange varying according to the style of the rail in use. A novel variety of the street railway, which is worthy of mention, and in which the car may leave the track and return to it at pleasure, is The so-called "Perambulator" system, devised by Haworth, and introduced in Salworth, near Manchester, England, and also in Geneva. Between two flat raills for the wheels, there is placed a central grooved rail of V section, supported on stringers like the others. Connected with the front axle of the car is a small fifth wheel, to act as a guiding wheel, and which may be lowered into the grooved rail, or raised out of it, by means of a treadle controlled from the driver's seat. By this device the car may be united to the track, or made independent of it. Experiments have been made, both in America and Europe, with the view of dispensing with the use of the wooden stringers, the rails for this purpose being laid in a specially prepared bed of gravel or concrete. Such experiments, however, have not demonstrated any utility. in 1873, Hallidie, an American inventor, devised a system of cable traction for street railways, which, with some modifications of detail, has been adopted in a number of American cities with very good results. The elements of the system are, an endless wire rope placed in a conduit in the center of the track rails, and a continuous longitudinal slot on the upper surface, which comes flush with the surface of the ground, and supporting rollers for the cable placed at convenient distances apart; a stationary winding engine, located usually at one of the terminii of the line, by which the cable is made to travel in the conduit at a predetermined rate of speed; and a car, provided with a suitable lever passing through the bottom of the car and through the slot in the conduit, and having at its lower extremity a suitable clutch or "grip," for taking hold of the traveling cable when the car is to go forward. The rails are of the ordinary flat pattern, laid as usual The conduit is generally oval in section, and made of cast iron in sections of from 12 to 15 feet in length, bolted together to form a continuous tube. This is laid upon a substantial foundation (sometimes cement) placed in communiction at regular inutervals with the sewer to insure suitable drainage, and provided with numerous covered man-holes to permit of inspection. The cable traction system was introduced for the first time in 1873 in San Francisco, Cal, where the numerous and steep gradients of certain important thoroughfares interpose serious obstacles to the economical operation of the ordinary horse railway. It was found fully to answer its intended purpose, and others of the same type were established in the same city with equal success. From this beginning it has been extended, and at the present time is used to a large extent in Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit (Never in Detroit - JT) , Kansas City, and elsewhere. The difference in the topography of San Francisco and Chicago, the one being very hilly, and consequently furnishing many steep grades to overcome, and the other on an almost dead level, in both of which situations the cable system works satisfactorily, speaks well for the practicability of the system under the most diverse conditions. No difficulty is experienced in operating the cable road at all seasons. The usual rate of travel is about six miles per hour, though on suburban roads this is considerably exceeded. The cable traction system is more economical in operation than the system of animal traction which it replaces, and is free from the obvious objections to the latter on sanitary grounds. It affords one of the most practical solutions of the street railway problem that has been devised. The experiment has been made at various times to substitute steam as the motive power for surface roads in cities, and a number of compactly-built steam motors have been devised for this special service. Except for suburban lines, however, the use of steam has been almost entirely abandoned on surface roads within the built-up areas of cities. Aside from the general objection to The use of locomotives in crowded streets, the plan of using steam motors is open to the objection that it renders the existing roiling stock of the surface roads practically worthless, and involves too great an outlay of capital for the substitution of a system whose advantages, at best, are questionble. On suburban roads connecting with the street railway lines steam is very generally used as the motive power, locomotives (dummy engines) of small size and power, specially built for this service, being employed. Worthy of mention in this connection is the system introduced in 1875, out a three-mile section of the New Orleans & Carrolton Railway (in the suburbs of New Orleans), in which the locomotive is charged with steam of the requisite pressure from a supply boiler at one of the terminii. The use of a furnace and fuel are by this means dispensed with, the locomotive (which came be considerably reduced in size) being charged at the starting point with steam enough to serve for the round trip. This form of engine was termed the "fireless locomotive." The system has been introduced in France by M. Francq who made certain improvements in the details of construction of the locomotive, and was put in service in 1879, on a short line of railway between Remil and Marly-le-Roy, with complete success. The system would appear to have much to recommend it to the favorable notice of engineers. Self-propelling cars, actuated by compressed air, have been successfully adopted for passenger railways in cities. One of the most notable examples of this kind is afforded by the Nantes tramway, a line of about 3 7/8 miles through that city, from Doulon, an eastern outskirt, to Chantenoy, its western terminous. The system employed is that of Mekarski. It was introduced in 1879, and answered all the demands of practice so well, that in 1882 one of the metropolitan tramway companies of London determined to adopt it on the Caledonian Road, which runs from King's Cross to Holloway. The last few years have witnessed the introduction of electricity as the motive power for city and suburban railways, and the details of these electric systems of transmitting power have been so far improved that electric railways are rapidly coming into use upon such lines. For surface roads in cities, and for suburban roads communicating with them, the electric system possesses such decided advantages in economy and convenience over all others that have been proposed and used, that it appears to be merely a question of a little time when it shall entirely supersede them. The first electric railway for public service was built by Siemens & Halske at Berlin, and opened in May, 1881, between Lichterfelde and the Cadettenhaus. It is 1.6 miles long, with a gauge of 39 inches. In this the current is sent along the rails, which are insulated, and actuates an electric motor carried beneath the car, and which transmits its motion to the wheels, with which it is connected. On this road a speed of 18 miles per hour can be attained, although the maximum speed permitted is 9 miles. The success of this pioneer railway stimulated the ingenuity of inventors on both sides of the Atlantic, and the progress made in the development of this mode of transmission has been most surprising. The electric systems in use may be divided into two general classes. In one, a generator of electricity (a dynamo-electric machine), driven by a steam engine, or other convenient source of power, is stationed at one terminous of the line, and supplies the current to the insulated rails, which may either be at the street or road level, or carried on posts. The car carries an electric motor, which takes the current from the rails and communicates its motion by suitably disposed gearing to the axles. In the other, the car carries its own supply of electric power. In this, a number of cells of storage battery (acculators), previously charged, are carried on the car, and furnish the current to the electric motor, as above. This system, from present indications, seems best adapted, all things considered, for the operation of railways in cities, since it does away completely with the accidents to he feared from the presence of conductors carrying dangerous currents in the crowded streets. The overhead conductor in cities is open to objections on the score of convenience.
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Running Locomotives with Soda Instead of Coal
From Manufacturer and Builder / Volume 21, Issue 6, June 1889Many methods were tried to avoid using steam power, even after electricity had begun to establish itself.
At the Baldwin Locomotive Works, Philadelphia, there are in course of construction four locomotives which are designed to run by soda, which takes the place of fire under the boiler. The engines are now nearly finished and will be shipped within two weeks to Minneapolis, Minn., and are to be run on the streets of that city, where steam engines are forbidden. The engine is about sixteen feet long, entirely boxed in, with no visible smokestack or pipes, as there is no exhaust or refuse. The boiler is of copper, 84 1/2 inches in diameter and 15 feet long, having tubes running through it as in steam boilers. Inside the boiler will be placed 5 tons of soda, which, upon being damped by a jet of steam, produces an intense heat. In about six hours the soda is thoroughly saturated, when the action ceases. A stream of superheated steam from a stationary boiler is then forced through the soda, which drives out the moisture, and the soda is ready for use again. The exhaust steam from the cylinders is used to saturate the soda, and by this means all refuse is used. These engines are the first of their kind that have been built in this country. They will have the same power as those used on the New York elevated roads. Soda engines are used in Berlin and other European cities very successfully, and they also traverse the St. Gothard tunnel under the Alps, where the steam engines cannot be used, because the tunnel cannot be ventilated so as to carry off the noxious gases generated by a locomotive.
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The Traffic of the Cable Railway on the New York and Brooklyn Bridge.
From Manufacturer and Builder / Volume 21, Issue 2, November 1889The New York and Brooklyn Bridge Railway was one of the few rapid transit operations in the cable industry.
G. Leverich, C. E., lately read an interesting paper before the American Society of Civil Engineers, giving, in addition to the mechanical details of construction and method of operation, some important data relating to the enormous traffic which the cable railway of the Brooklyn Bridge accommodates. We reproduce herewith the essential portions of Mr. Leverich's paper:
Over a line of track which measures in all 6,017.33 feet, on the New York side there is an extension for switching and car storage of 109.88 feet, and in Brooklyn 389.22 feet. The cable on the out-going and in-going track, and available for service, is 2 1/16, miles long. To run the drums and give the requisite power, there are in Brooklyn six water-tube boilers, each rated at 104 horse-power. Two horizontal steam engines, with cylinders of 26 inches diameter and 48 inches stroke, have fly-wheels 18 feet in diameter, weighing 30,000 pounds. Two drums wind and unwind the cables, and are 12 feet in diameter, with a 26-inch face, with a third drum of 5 feet. The large drums revolve 23 3/4 times per minute, whereby a theoretical mean speed of 895.35 feet per minute, or 10.17 miles per hour, should be imparted to the cable. Owing to the wearing out of the grooves and the slipping of the cable, the true mean speed is 880 feet per minute, or 10 miles per hour. The cable is 11,500 feet long, and, when new, measures l 1/2 inches in diameter, and weighs 3 1/2 ounces to the inch. At first the cars used weighed from 8 1/2 to 10 tons, according to size. To-day there are cars of uniform size, which weigh, unloaded, 16 5/8 tons. The vacuum brakes on each car are parts of the cars themselves, and are worked by the revolution of the wheels. Before this newer system the vacuum brakes were used for emergencies; now they serve for all general purposes. The locomotives for hauling trains when the cable is not in use, were at first 9 tons; to-day they weigh 21 1/2 tons. Four are in constant use, and will haul two loaded cars at cable speed. The first car was run -- August 8, 1883 -- at long intervals; afterward, in 1885, 1 1/2 minutes headway was commenced. One and a quarter minutes, it is believed, is barely possible, the live freight not being able to unload itself quickly enough, and usually it is 1 1/2 minutes. In May, 1888 487 trains, with an average headway of 1 1/2 minutes, have been dispatched within the 24 hours. Of the traffic, 82 per cent is carried between 7 A. M. and 7 P.M. Between 7 and 8 oclock A. M., 10,068 passengers have been taken from Brooklyn to New York. This is a fair average, but sometimes between 5.30 and 6.30 P.M. from New York to Brooklyn the number is larger. In November last, on one day during the hour, 12,160 passengers were carried. Looking at the vast increase in October of 1883 and 1884, 477,700 passengers were carried, and in October of 1887 and 1888, 2,635,617. The total of 1883 and 1884 was 7,955,200; the total of 1886 and 1887 was 27,377,930. Looking over the totals for the seven months of 1887-88, the increase is notable, jumping up by the thousands. The first cable employed was 3 years and 43 days in use; the second one has been in place for about 18 months. The first cable showed a service of 21,777,711 ton-miles; the second one, so far, in a much less time, of 21,542,370 ton-miles, for the work is constantly increasing. The first cable carried 48,960,000 people; the second has so far hauled 42,420,000 passengers, and its work is nothing like over. Careful data are kept of the stretch of the steel wire cables. At fist the stretch is rapid and notable, but afterward, wben in use, its stretch is lessened and more gradual. The first cable stretched 2.85 per cent, and the second, up to May, 1888, 2.52 -- that is, comparing length with the number of miles of work. As the cable stretches, the hempen cord (in the middle of the wire cable) becomes harder, more compact, and, of course, smaller; from this, as well as from wear, the cable also is reduced in size, the first cable when taken out, being but 1 1/4 inches, and the one now in use l 1/16 inches in diameter. Under different loads and changes of temperature, a cable extends or contracts, but it has not been thought worth while as yet to get up special data for these slight differences. The wear and tear of a cable is constant, but is at once noticeable.
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Excerpt from The Pneumatic Rolling-Sphere Carrier Delusion by Dr. P. H. Van der Weyde
From Manufacturer and Builder / Volume 21, Issue 12, December 1889I've always been fascinated by Beach's experiment. And I love the title of this article; it would have made a good name for a psychedelic rock band.
The next practical application of the pneumatic principle was made by A. E. Beach, of the Scientific American, who, in 1867 exhibited at the same place (the American Institute Fair) a round wooden tube, 300 feet long, suspended by iron straps from the ceiling rafters, so that it occupied no floor space, and as he rightly considered the atmospheric pressure upon a piston in a comparatively small tube insufficient to propel considerable weight, he returned to the original conception of Valiance in 1825, and placed the whole car in the tube. It is evident that then he could obtain the enormous propelling power produced by the atmospheric pressure of about half an atmosphere upon the surface of a circle of some 6 feet in diameter, or 30 square feet, which, at the rate of only 8 pounds per square inch, is over 24,000 pounds. It is evident that such power is capable of propelling quite a long train of cars. The car, moving on rails, was propelled by a ventilator wheel in the shape of a propeller, which produced either a blast or suction, by revolving it in alternate directions. A platform at one end, accessible by stairs, supported the propeller, which sent the car, containing more than a score of passengers, outward and backward with the greatest ease.
One year later, in 1868, he built a round tube, or tunnel, 400 feet long under Broadway, New York city. It was 9 feet 3 inches in diameter; the experimental car in use was 25 feet long, and had a seating capacity for 25 to 30 passengers.
Mr. Beach also devised a plan to substitute, in place of the lamp-post post office letter boxes, a simple slot for the reception of letters and small parcels which allowed them to fall through the hollow post into a subterranean tube, through which they would be carried to the central post office by means of an exhaust pump operating continually there. Trials on a small scale proved eminently successful; but the probability that the tube might be choked up by a superabundance of letters, which occasionally might be deposited during the busy hours of the day, caused the abandonment of this plan.
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