Selected Articles From Manufacturer and Builder
1890-1899/Page 1
Collected by Joe Thompson

These articles from Manufacturer and Builder Magazine were published in the 1890s, the period when a debate raged over the best technology to use for street railways. 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.

Claim for an Improvement in Cable Railways

From Manufacturer and Builder / Volume 22, Issue 2, Feb 1890

This item from the "Correspondents' Column" refers to a system described in the May, 1889 article "An Improved Gripping Device and Accessories for operating Cable Railways".

The following communication gives no specific information as to details, but the advantages claimed for the system may interest our readers. --[Ed. M. & B.]


If a company were compelled to build a mountain railroad, they surely would select a cable road, because it is the most reliable for a mountain road, where a constant pull is necessary. The only trouble that exists is in the doubtful control of the car for stopping in case of necessity, and especially when in danger. All the brakes thus far devised fail to give assurance of safety to the traveling public, Something more positive must be devised to afford entire safety.

This something the writer believes to have been provided in his adjustable gripping system, by which the car can be stopped positively, whenever necessary, on any part of an incline; and no matter how steep the grade, the car will infallibly be brought to a dead stop, not suddenly with a rigid stop, but slowly, under ordinary circumstances, although, in case of danger, it can be stopped at once.

Its construction for a mountain road would cost less than any successful cable road of the old type on the level. (It requires no cog rails). Furthermore, this system of grip and gripping has many advantages on the level. Among these, it may be stated, is the ability to bring a car over a crossing-line cable without the use of horses. No modification of the underground structure is required. It takes the car from one line to a crossing-line cable, and proceeds on that cable.

To build a road on this system would cost, on a level, about half the money that is required by other systems of good cable roads, for the reason that it operates in such a small conduit -- only 8 inches wide and 12 to 14 inches deep, about two-fifths of the depth of conduits of other systems, so that the castings can be much lighter, though equally strong. The grip can be applied to any car. It is managed by two levers on the platform. There is no friction between the grip and the cable. As soon as the grip opens the cable runs free in its carrying, pulleys.

Philadelphia, February, 1890.

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Cable Roads in New York

From Manufacturer and Builder / Volume 22, Issue 11, Nov 1890

Cable railways came late to the streets of Manhattan.

The cable system of traction for surface railways in cities is distinctly an American idea, and though it has been naturalized abroad, it has received a much more extended adoption in the land of its birth. It has been steadily growing in favor as an efficient substitute for horse traction, having acknowledged advantages on the score of cleanliness, regulable speed from 4 to 15, or even more, miles per hour, ability to overcome the steepest grades without affecting the speed of travel, and considerable economy over the use of animal power. Since the introduction of the first cable railway in San Francisco, in 1878 (1873 - JT) (where it was introduced principally because of the number of steep grades to be overcome, rendering it difficult to use horses satisfactorily), the system has been adopted with unessential modifications in a number of American cities, and in every case with excellent results. This has been the case in Chicago, Detroit (proposed but never built in Detroit - JT), Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and other cities, where cable lines more or less extensive have come into use. The system is not without its drawbacks, however, the most material of which are that it is extremely wasteful of power, and that the breakdown of the engines, or other accident at the terminus of the line, or the breakage of the cable, involves the serious result of a stoppage of the entire line until the damage is repaired. On the whole, however, it must be said of the cable system, that it has proved highly successful as an advantageous substitute for animal power, and until the storage-battery system shall have been substantially improved, may be considered as the dangerous rival of the electric systems, which are growing in popularity at an unprecedented rate. The latter, however, save in the storage-battery system, are not well adapted for the business thoroughfares of cities. The overhead, or trolley, plan involves the obstruction of the streets by poles, which is a prime objection; and the underground conductor is difficult to maintain in efficient insulation, and liable to be the cause of constant accidents to animals. The cable railway for surface roads, therefore, is in no immediate danger of being displaced by the electric system, for the only one of this kind that is adapted for the thronged avenues of large cities -- namely, the storage battery system, does not hold out much encouragement for the speedy solution of its present objectionable features.

At the present time, the Broadway surface line in this city, extending from the Battery to Central Park, is about being converted into a cable road, and the work of laying the conduit is now going on.

Longitudinal Section Fig. 1. Longitudinal Section through Conduit and Wheel Pit. No thumbnail.

We present herewith some sectional views showing the form of the conduit and the method of construction employed. The cable will run upon pulleys supported within a pear-shaped conduit of steel plate, and continuous from end to end of the line. (In one portion of the line the conduit will be of concrete). Every 31 1/2 feet this conduit will open into a rectangular iron manhole, or wheel pit, where the wheels for the cable are to be supported (Fig. 1). There are to be, of course, two of these trenches running parallel under the street, one under each track, but connected at the manholes. Between the manholes the conduit is to be supported at intervals of 4 1/2 feet by cast-iron yokes resting on bases of concrete (Fig. 2). It has arms running up on each side to support the rails firmly and to insure the preservation of a continuously equal vertical distance between the rails and the cable. The steel conduit is further to be supported by concrete packed lightly around it from yoke to yoke, and the yokes are to be enclosed in solid concrete. Fig. 3 represents a cross-section of the line at Broadway and Twenty-eighth street.

The line will be owned and operated by the Broadway & Seventh Avenue Railroad Company.

Cross Section Fig. 2. Cross section of conduit and supporting yoke. No thumbnail.

large view Fig. 3. Section of Broadway at 28th Street -- wheel pits and conduit in place. (17k image).

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Plan of the East River Railway to Connect New York and Brooklyn

From Manufacturer and Builder / Volume 23, Issue 3, March 1891

This proposed line had many features similar to Thompson's cable/gravity elevated system.

O. H. P. Cornell, chief engineer of the company, gives the following brief description of a contemplated plan for rapid transit between New York and Brooklyn, by the employment of a combined gravity and cable system. It has a number of novel and interesting features, which will appear upon perusal:

Commencing in the city of New York, at a point in the vicinity of Broome and Goerck streets, thence under Broome street and the East river to the junction of Bedford avenue and Broadway, in the city of Brooklyn.

Distance about 4,000 feet. The railway is to be operated on the Henning gravity system, which consists of a tunnel with corresponding sharp inclines at each end, gravity power to carry cars down the incline and across and up part of the opposite incline, where an automatic grip will seize a cable extending down said incline, moving at the rate of 15 miles per hour, and which will haul cars to the station. The station platforms will be 850 feet long so as to accommodate trains of six cars, each car seating 96 passengers. The track at the stations will have an incline of 2 per cent so as to start the trains easily, and which will change gradually to a 12 per cent grade down the incline, reversing to a connection with a level portion of the tunnel at the depth of 125 feet; and with similar inclines and grades at the opposite end of the tunnel. There will be two tracks of standard gauge, with only one train on each track, so that trains can run back and forth on the same track, one train starting from each end at the same time.

The time necessary to make the trip can be regulated by the depth and steepness of the inclines, and at a depth of 125 feet, and inclines as stated above, will take one minute and twenty four seconds, and with trains of six cars, each carrying 96 passengers, train will carry 576, and allowing that it will take 36 seconds to load and unload, trains can be run every two minutes, making the capacity of the road 17,280 per hour each way. At each station arrangements will be made for three platforms, one in the center and one on each side, and center platform will be used for the reception of passengers and the outside for unloading, so as to prevent crowding. At the Brooklyn end the station will be under the surface of the street, and elevators will be used to deliver passengers to the street and to the Elevated road above. A train of six cars will accommodate all the travel during the busy hours, and as the travel decreases cars can be dropped to suit requirements, nor need trips be so frequent during dull hours, especially at night.

Each car will be fifty feet long, with side entrances like excursion cars, and doors hung on slides, so that all can be opened simultaneously by a lever at end of the car, thus facilitating loading and unloading; each car (and the tunnel), will be lighted with electricity. Guard rails, or supports will be placed under the sills of the cars, outside the wheels, so arranged that in case of breaking of wheels or axle the car will fall only a short distance and slide along the support without any great shock until stopped.

The advantages of the proposed system consists of its ability to create maximum speed in the shortest time, and to carry it nearest to stopping point, as the opposite incline acts as a brake to retard the train, without any shock, and prevents the train from getting beyond control. It saves the wear and tear of ordinary brakes on wheels and axles, and wear and tear on rails at initial points, and, in fact, on the whole length of the road, and is decidedly safer than any other system, as there is only one train on each track, consequently collision is impossible, and by the manner of constructing the tunnel, if wheel or axle should break, the sills of the car would settle down on a stable support, sliding along until stopped by the increased friction. Its advantage over bridge or ferry in cold or foggy weather will be apparent to all, and, taken altogether, it presents the quickest, safest and most reliable method of transit between the two cities.

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Cleveland City Cable Railway

From Manufacturer and Builder / Volume 23, Issue 11, November 1891

This articles describes the Kirkland and Superior powerhouse of the cable system in Cleveland, OH. The cable lines converted to electricity in 1893.

large view Winding Drums and Gearing of the City Cable Railway at Cleveland, Ohio. (368k image).

The illustration on the opposite page is a view of the drums and gearing of the City Cable Railways plant at Cleveland, Ohio, which was put in operation during the early part of the present year. The entire outfit, embracing the power station, engines, and cable-driving machinery, is believed to afford the most complete example of a cable plant thus far constructed, and a fair idea of its magnitude may be had from an inspection of the picture.

The power station is an imposing structure of brick, covering an area of 213 by 150 feet. The ground plan is divided into the power room, 137 by 63 feet, covered by an iron truss roof spanning the entire width, the remainder of the space being devoted to the boilers, the machine shop, and the tension carriage department. The smoke stack is 150 feet high. All the details are thoroughly well carried out to meet the requirements of the service. The steam plant includes three 420 horse-power Babcock & Wilcox boilers, arranged to use crude oil as fuel. The engines are two in number, built by William Wright, of Newburgh, N. Y., and are each of 1,500 horse-power. One engine suffices to drive the system, the other being held in reserve. These engines have compound cylinders, 38 and 60 inches in diameter, and 5 feet stroke, and make 65 revolutions per minute. They have fly-wheels of 24 feet diameter, each weighing 125,000 pounds.

The method of transmitting the power from the main shaft to the winding drums is somewhat novel, the object of the engineers being to do away with the auxiliary shaft ordinarily used, diminish the number of gears, and yet not sacrifice the overhanging feature for the drums. This is accomplished by leading the main shaft, which is 110 feet long and 16 inches in diameter, between the different sets of winding drums, to which, by means of pinion and gear, it transmits its power, the engines being attached at either end. The pinions on the main shaft are about 5 feet in diameter, and have a 12-inch face, and engage on either side with gears 13 feet in diameter, with the same width of face, which are mounted on the winding-drum shafts. Each set of drums varies in diameter, depending upon the different speeds of cable required.

The plant is designed for driving six independent cables, but only four are yet in position, as shown in the engraving. To provide for the placing of additional wraps upon the drums without cutting the cables, the main shaft is divided into sections measuring 30 feet each, which are connected together by means of a coupling and steel key. Each section terminates in a large disk having a 2-inch space between their faces. The disks are then connected by a key set into the face of each disk, which is held in place by two large bolts passing through the coupling key. In case it is required to put an additional wrap on the drums, the key is removed, the rope passed through between the faces of the disks, when the keys are readily replaced, the whole operation being performed in a brief period of time. The shaft is also provided with powerful friction clutches for the purpose of cutting out any set of winding drums. The tension cars are provided with improved winding gear, and are anchored to radiating arms, which provide for leading the tension cables always directly into the grooves of the sheaves in the rear. The tension carriage is operated by spur gear, and is easily adjusted while the machinery is in motion.

A feature of the power station is an overhead traveling crane (see the engraving), capable of lifting the largest piece of machinery required in the plant.

The winding drums are provided with the Walker differential rings, as are also the drums of the auxiliary pit machinery.

The entire driving mechanism of this plant, including auxiliary, traveling crane, and the extension carriages, was built by the Walker Manufacturing Co., of Cleveland, whose chief engineer, John Walker, has raised this establishment to the first rank of works of its class in this country.

Without going into unimportant details, it may be noticed that one section of the cable moves at the late of 16 miles an hour, and is driven by drums 16 feet in diameter; another section travels at the rate of 12 miles per hour, with 14-foot drums; and a third section, in the dense portion of the city, or at the inner terminal, is driven at 6 miles per hour by means of auxiliary machinery.

The entire system has been operated very successfully since it was first started up, and the traffic exhibits a very great increase over that previously obtained by horse power.

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An Ammonia Motor for Street Railway Service

From Manufacturer and Builder / Volume 25, Issue 2, November 1892

Perhaps I don't remember my chemistry very well, but this sounds dangerous.

An original and ingenious application of the expansive force of liquefied ammonia as a source of motive power has lately been made by P. J. McMahon, who has adapted his system specially to meet the requirements of street railway-car propulsion. The generator and engine, which have undergone several modifications, may be described in its present form as follows:

The principle of operation of the McMahon motor, as above stated, is the utilization of the expansive force of liquid anhydrous ammonia. The amount of pressure that may thus be utilized will depend on the rapidity with which the evaporation of this medium is permitted to take place, and this, as will he made clear, is under complete control. It has been determined that at 60 degrees Fah., the evaporation of the ammonia will yield a pressure of 60 pounds to the square inch; at 80 degrees, 150 pounds; and at 115 degrees, 225 pounds. The arrangement of the apparatus, which is all placed under the car floor, will appear from the following description: The ammonia cylinder, charged with the liquid anhydrous ammonia, is surrounded by an exterior tank charged with warm water, the quantity of the materials employed being gauged so that a single charge will be sufficient, under ordinary conditions, to run a car for 30 miles. The outer warm-water tank surrounding the ammonia cylinder also partially surrounds the engine cylinders. It contains water heated to 80 degrees F., and is connected with the exhaust. The absorption of the evaporated ammonia by the water takes place so energetically that not only is the engine practically relieved of back pressure, but also the heat generated by the absorption is sufficient to prevent the freezing of moisture in and about the working parts of the engine from the cold produced in the evaporation of the medium. The ammonia vapor, passing through the engine, actuates it, precisely like steam or other elastic medium. When the car, after making its trip, returns to the charging station, the diluted ammonia contained in the outer tank is withdrawn, and a fresh charge of anhydrous ammonia and warm water is introduced into the two tanks -- an operation requiring only a few minutes -- when the car is ready for another trip.

According to the statements of those interested in the invention, the cost of preparing the anhydrous ammonia for use at the charging station, is less than one cent per car-mile, and the operating expenses of the system are estimated at one-third those of the system of operating by horses. Further, it is affirmed, the cost of installation, for the same number of cars and traffic, is less by one-half than with the electric system of propulsion, in evidence of this, the Railway Ammonia Motor Co., 45-46 Drexel Building, New York, owners and operators of the McMahon system, state that the entire equipment for a 10-mile line, with 50 cars and adequate plant, will cost considerably less than $200,000.

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Selected Articles From Manufacturer and Builder (1890-1899)/Page 2

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