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.
Excerpt From History of Electric Street Railways
From Manufacturer and Builder / Volume 25, Issue 2, February 1893
At this point, construction of new cable railways had slowed.
The history of electric street railways for the last five years is that of almost unequaled development. The figures showing the growth of the system are interesting. At the close of the year 1891 there were in this country 10,599 miles of street railway, with 55,877 cars. Of these, 4061 miles were electric, and 8,892 cars were electric. The total of horse, cable, and electric mileage had increased, during the year 1891, 1,490 miles, but electricity standing by itself had increased 1,538 miles. The total of horse, cable, and electric cars had increased during the year 3,826 cars. Of this number 3,300 were propelled by electricity. There were at the end of the year seven times as many miles of electric road as of cable, and almost twice as many electric cars as there were cable cars.
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Increase of Electric Railways
From Manufacturer and Builder / Volume 25, Issue 7, July 1893
Sprague-type electric cars were proving their superiority.
The multiplication of electric street railways in the United States has completely thrown into the shade the growth of steam railways and is without precedent in road building. The increase of American railways was very slow at first. In 1830 there were 23 miles in operation. In 1832 the total was 229 miles. In 1835 it reached 1,098; in 1840, 2,818; in 1845, 4,633; and in 1848, 5,997. In no single year was the increase in mileage, which now averages 5,000 miles a year, as high as 1,000. From 1849 to the beginning of the civil war in 1861, the extension of American railroads was rapid, the total mileage in that year reaching 31,000. Then railroad building languished until 1870, when 7,000 miles were added, and now the total is 215,000 miles.
With the electric railway companies the case is entirely different. They have increased, it would seem, almost by magic. They are limited to no section of the country. At the beginning of 1890, when the plan of electric road building first began to be popular, there were 200 companies in operation, covering 1,641 miles of track and using 2,346 cars. To-day, so rapid has been the multiplication of lines and so general the use of electricity as a means of traction, that there are more than 7,000 miles of electric street railroads divided among the States, as follows
Three years ago the mileage of horse-car roads was 5,713, of electric roads 1,641, of steam roads 554, and of cable roads 527. Now the electric roads lead all others, with a total in excess of 7,000 miles, while the horse-car roads have fallen below 5,000, the cable roads have reached 1,000, and the steam lines in cities have not materially increased, The cost of building a mile of cable road in a big city is put usually by engineers at $60,000. An electric road costs about $18,000 a mile. The cost of operating horse car and steam street railways is about the same per mile. The cost of operating cable and electric roads is about one-half of it. Electric roads are ten per cent cheaper to operate than cable roads, and their cost of construction is 60 per cent less.
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Notes and Queries
From Manufacturer and Builder / Volume 25, Issue 8, August 1893
Drawbacks of battery power.
Q. 4732. THE STORAGE BATTERY FOR STREET RAILWAYS.
I notice in your last month's issue that you speak unfavorably of the storage battery as a source of motive power for street railways. Will you explain the nature of the objections more fully. I am informed on what I think is good authority, that there are several accumulator systems in use for this kind of work which are giving good satisfaction. I am anxious to know the actual facts of the case, if possible, and therefore venture to ask this question. -- J. L. L., Madison, Wis,
Answer. The unfavorable opinion which we expressed respecting the storage battery for railway work, if read in connection with the text in which it will be found embodied, will be found to be a qualified opinion. We are not prepared to make the definite assertion that it is a failure, or that the system cannot be so greatly improved as to turn failure into success. This much, however, is admitted -- namely, that in nearly every instance where such batteries have been applied for this form of service, they have been found to be unsatisfactory, and, for one reason or another, they have never come into general use.
There can be no more convincing argument than this single fact, for if the accumulator system could be satisfactorily adapted to the requirements of railway service, it would speedily come Into use in place of the trolley system, the introduction of which in cities is attended with many and serious objections which have caused it to be bitterly opposed; while a satisfactory storage-battery system would be free from all objection. The prime difficulty, so far as we have been able to learn, appears to lie in the fact that, as at present constructed, the accumulator cell, while it yields highly satisfactory results in forms of service where the work is continuous and practically uniform, is not well adapted for service of an intermittent character, and especially where the load is not applied uniformly. In the first case, the cell is called upon to deliver its energy at a uniform rate, and in consequence its rate of discharge is uniform, and the physical condition of the surface of the plates is not seriously impaired, even after long service. In the other case, the discharge of the cell is irregular, and the sensitive material of the cell is unable to withstand disintegration and rapid destruction. The character of the work imposed on the motor in railway service is particularly severe on the accumulator cell. The frequent stops and starts, and the occurrence of heavy grades, impose the most irregular calls on its stored energy, and the load line exhibits frequent and excessive variations. For this reason, principally, the life of an accumulator cell, when applied to this kind of work, is quickly terminated by the rapid disintegration of the material of which it is formed. It is not impossible that there may be some radical innovation in the method of constructing the accumulator cell by which this, and certain other defects apparently inherent in the present system, may be avoided; but in view of the fact that a vast amount of thought and experiment have been expended without success on the present system to do away with these defects, we have little expectation that any great improvement will be made. We must wait, therefore, for the invention of a radically new system to successfully overcome the difficulties above referred to.
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An Improved Safety Fender for Trolley and Cable Cars
From Manufacturer and Builder / Volume 26, Issue 2, February 1894
Cable and electric cars ran faster than horse cars, creating a demand for new safety devices.
The comparatively high rate of speed at which the trolley and cable cars are run in many cities and towns, has been productive of a corresponding increase in the number of fatal and minor accidents To such an extent, indeed, have accidents increased in some localities, that, by municipal action, the street railway companies have been compelled to adopt some form of safety fender to the front of these cars. The object in view in a device of this kind is to prevent the car wheels from passing over the body of a person accidentally run down, by some device which is designed either to push the body before it, or to cause it to be thrown sideways free of the tracks. Many of the street railway companies have adopted the use of a fender, which, on the cars of all that we have thus far seen, is formed of a rigid framework of iron or steel, presenting in front either a fiat surface or one that is conical, after the pattern of the cow-catcher commonly used on locomotives of steam roads.
Devices of this description, to our mind, do not meet the requirements of the case. A rigid framework of this kind doubtless will effectually prevent the body of an unfortunate victim from being crushed and mangled by the wheels of the car, but the impact of an unyielding iron frame propelled at the rate of from six to nine miles an hour against a human body, will be sufficiently severe, in most cases, to inflict painful bruises, if not more serious injuries.
What is required, it appears to us, is some slightly forward-projecting framework of strong yet elastic construction, with its front edge carried sufficiently near the ground to strike any yielding obstruction, such as a human body, an elastic blow, that will neither inflict bruises nor break bones, and either to scoop up the body into a strong but elastic net, where it will be held safely until the car can be stopped, or to sweep it to one side free of the tracks.
Several devices have lately been invented which perform these operations in a satisfactory manner. One of the best of these is described and illustrated herewith
The device in question originated with Dr. L. L. Seaman, of this city, who has been assisted in the practical development of the invention by Samuel A. Darrach. Its construction and mode of operation will be understood from the following account, reference being made to the two engravings shown in connection therewith:
The apparatus consists of a light framework of steel pipe, supporting a gang of flat steel springs arranged in the form of a scoop, which extends the full width of the front of the car. It is automatic in its action, and also under the control of the motor-man. The elasticity of the springs insures a yielding blow to any person who chances to come in contact with it -- very different from that which would be struck by a rigidly-constructed fender -- and the springs themselves form an elastic seat upon which the individual may fall, and secure protection from striking any part of the front of the car.
If the individual is overtaken while lying upon the track, the spring seat, being hinged at the point of its attachment, glides over the body. The seat, also, is so balanced that a very slight weight rests on the person passing under it. This elevation of the spring seat over the body of the victim depresses a sort of spring shovel which extends the entire width of the track, and is located under the front of the car. This shovel has some peculiar features which facilitate its passage under the body of the victim. On falling, it is automatically locked, and its elasticity permits it to glide easily under any obstruction that may be on the track in front of it, and at the same time it adapts itself to any inequalities in the surface of the street.
The advantages of this combined apparatus are claimed to be as follows: It is automatic in its action and independent of the motor-man; it insures protection from a hard blow or concussion from the front end of the car; it does not throw the victim to either side of the track where he may be exposed to passing trucks or vehicles; it provides an elastic spring seat upon which a person struck may fall without injury; it also provides an elastic edge which glides along the surface of the ground and slides under any obstruction or person that may be lying upon the track, instead of grinding them between itself and the earth, as do many fenders in use at present.
A series of interesting practical tests of this device was made at Roseville, N. J., a few weeks ago on a trolley car of the New Jersey Traction Co., and appeared to those who witnessed them to be highly satisfactory. The tests consisted in running the car at a speed of six miles an hour toward a dummy propped up on the track. The practical operation of the forward fender was successfully demonstrated a number of times. Then the dummy was laid on the track; when the car met it, the forward fender glided easily over it, the scoop was instantly released, and the dummy was rolled over into it in a second.
After this a young man stood up and laid down in front of the car, and the same tests were repeated with equal success. Finally, Mr. Darrach himself -- quite an elderly gentleman -- submitted to the tests, both standing up and lying down, with no worse results than to get a little snow on his clothes.
A modification of the above design is in process of construction that will be adaptable to cars on which it is not desirable to have a fender project beyond the platform.
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The Great Cost of Cable Laying in New York Streets
From Manufacturer and Builder / Volume 26, Issue 3, March 1894
This article, an excerpt from a longer story, describes how difficult it was to build cable railway lines in New York City.
The chief reason why New York, aside from the difficulties of obtaining the necessary permits from the city authorities, was so far behind other cities in replacing horse-car lines by cable roads, was that here the cost of laying the cable was much more than in smaller cities. The expense of cutting a path through the network of pipes of every description in the New York streets frightened capital away. At Broadway and Fourteenth street there were no less than thirty-two different pipes belonging to more than a dozen different companies -- gas, water, sewer, steam, pneumatic, electric, etc. All these companies had rights which the cable company was under bonds to respect. The work of getting the pipes out of the way had to be done without interfering with the service of each of these corporations. Sometimes days were wasted in trying to find the owners of pipes that had been abandoned, perhaps for years. Gas companies and steam companies had gone out of business, but had left their pipes to make the confusion under the pavements worse confounded. The enormous cost of this work explains the high price asked by some of the contractors for certain parts of the lines in New York city. Some blocks along the lower parts of the Bowery are said to have cost the contractors at the rate of $300,000 a mile.
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The Cable Costs much Less to Run than Horse Cars
From Manufacturer and Builder / Volume 26, Issue 3, March 1894
This article, an excerpt from a longer story, explains why cable cars were more economical than horse cars.
The first outlay for a cable plant is of course enormous as compared to a horse-car road, but the deterioration is insignificant. Steam engines and driving machinery last a lifetime, while the hard work required of a car-horse uses the animal up in less than five years. Another item of saving is in the wages of stablemen and hostlers. Wherever a machine can be made to do the work of a man there is a saving, and the force of men now required at the power houses of the Broadway road in New York City to run the machinery is only one-eighth of what it used to be when horses were used. Still another advantage is in the smaller quarters required. A building half the size of the old stables will contain the boilers and engines required for the cable. The enormous stables of the big horse-car lines have long been a menace to the city on account of the danger from fire, and a source of foul odors at all times. The carting through the streets of vast quantities of manure from the stables is also done away with.
There is also one advantage which the cable road has over horse-cars that few persons not familiar with the subject realize. Both cable roads and horse-car roads have to be prepared at all times to carry an exceptionally large number of passengers. During certain hours of the day the business requires four times as many cars as at other times; then upon occasions of public ceremony, parades, celebrations, etc., the whole force of cars may fall short. In order to be ready for such emergencies, both daily and occasional, the horse-car road has to keep in readiness a large number of horses, probably twice the number required for the average work of the road. And of course the car-horse costs as much to keep in idleness as when at work. With the cable roads a greater demand means simply more steam, more coal to be shovelled into the furnaces.
P. G. Hubert, Jr in Scribner's
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Revival of the Use of Compressed Air as a Motive Power
Selected Articles From Manufacturer and Builder (1890-1899)/Page 12
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