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article number 714
article date 04-26-2018
copyright 2018 by Author else SaltOfAmerica
Our Technology, 1922 - Part 5a: Transport - By Rail
by Various Popular Science Magazine Writers

From issues of Popular Science Monthly, 1922.

* * *

From Steel Plates to Giants of the Rails

THE MAGNITUDE of the American locomotive - building industry is revealed by the latest census report ,which shows that nearly 1000 new locomotives were completed in one year, bringing the total number in operation to 67,319.


To preserve the cylinder from wear and tear as the piston works back and forth, a lining or “bushing” is fitted inside. The bushing is forced into place by a powerful machine in the manner illustrated.



To prevent explosion of the boiler, the top of the firebox is braced by long rods that prevent undue expansion or contraction.



Flat steel plates, curved into huge cylinders by rollers, form the locomotive boiler. Below is shown a machine bending one of the plates into a cylinder six feet in diameter.



While the boiler hangs in a vertical position, its cylindrical sections are fastened together by rivets forced into place by hydraulic riveting machines.



As the Pacific (4-6-2) type locomotive nears completion, magnesia lagging is applied to the boiler and later covered with the metal boiler jacket. This lagging prevents excessive radiation by confining the heat to the surface and interior of the boiler.


A Vision of Rapid Transit 50 Years Hence

By ROBERT S. BINKERD, of the Association of Railroad Executives

THE MILEAGE of tracks will be increased in the future, not by the construction of new railroads, but by double-tracking the single-track roads and by triple or quadruple tracking the present double-track lines.

Great changes will be made in the hauling of freight. The freight car of the future will be simply a chassis that will carry one or more containers easily detached. These units may be loaded and carried if necessary on auto trucks and transferred quickly and cheaply to the chassis. At the end of the journey they can be easily removed from the trucks, thus saving an immense amount of handling.

The mails, for instance, can be loaded in the containers at the post offices, and lifted on the chassis of the cars, saving probably half a dozen transfers in which the bags must be handled one at a time. At present a container holding 20 tons of mail is often loaded and unloaded 10 times in shipment from one city to another. This is equivalent to handling 200 tons.

Locomotives in use 50 years ago appear as midgets beside those of to-day. The locomotives of the future, designed with streamlined bodies, will attain greater speed than ever before. Running time will also be reduced by improving grades and building cut-offs.

Short-haul passenger traffic will he handled by a combination of automobile and railroad car. These rail cars, run by gasoline, will reduce the cost of operation about 50 per cent, and will attain a speed of a mile a minute.

"At present a container holding 20 tons of mail is often loaded and unloaded 10 times."
Even now, freight cars are becoming mobile platforms carrying unit containers that may be easily detached and transferred by derrick to auto trucks for delivery, thus saving an immense amount of freight handling.
Fifty years ago people were accustomed to the locomotive pictured at the lower left. Compare this midget with the automobile trains and streamlined locomotives predicted as the next step.

The Genius of Transportation

How Perfection of the Airbrake Paved the Way for Scores of Epoch-Making Inventions

[The story of George Westinghouse, one of ’Popular Science Monthly’s’ greatest contemporaries, who blazed the trail for the introduction of science into industry.]

THE best investment George Westinghouse ever made was in a magazine, not because he wanted the publication, but because the agent who took his subscription while he was at work in his father’s machine shop at Schenectady, N. Y., in the summer of 1866, was a remarkably pretty girl.

George, being only 20, was susceptible. He never saw the girl again; but in the magazine he read about the use of compressed air in drilling the Mont Cenis tunnel.

That gave him the idea of the airbrake; and the airbrake later gave him the money to develop 400 patents, covering a wide range, and to organize no fewer than 105 manufacturing corporations in the United States and Europe, most of which are still in existence and many of which do a worldwide business.

As a prolific inventor of epoch-making devices and a great business man as well, George Westinghouse has never had an equal.

His first patent, obtained in 1865, when he was barely 19 years old, was for a rotary steam engine. As an engine it was a failure; but, remembering the story of the boy who drew a picture of the minister and, finding it unsatisfactory, added a tail and called the picture a dog, Westinghouse turned his engine around and thus produced an excellent water meter, the manufacture of which became an important industry.

Soon afterward he invented a car replacer and a railroad frog, which provided the foundations for a nice little business that started the young man in life. Before he was 21 he met another pretty girl—on a train. That night he told his father and mother he had found the girl he was going to marry, which he did a few days later.

His impetuosity in love was typical of Westinghouse’s whole career.

First Tests Shocked Passengers

At the historic Burlington trials of his airbrakes in 1887, the shocks in the rear car of the 50-car train were so great that observers and recorders were hurled the length of the car and one broke a leg. Westinghouse was the only man who believed the airbrake, which had been greatly improved since the first passenger train was equipped in 1869, would ever be a success for long freight trains.

People thought the airbrake more dangerous than a wreck when its trials in 1887 hurled observers the length of the car.

In three months Westinghouse had changed the air-brake to a form that endured for 20 years, and in another month had convinced the world that the longest freight trains could be braked by air.

Westinghouse was a tireless worker. Seized with an idea, one New Year’s eve, he called a foreman and ordered eight men to work on the holiday. He worked with the men all New Year’s day without stopping for lunch until the job was finished. Then he gave the men $50 to buy an extra good meal.

Westinghouse carried neither notebook nor pencil; and as he was always figuring on something, he was forever borrowing pencils. He undoubtedly borrowed more pencils than any other man who ever lived.

Sometimes, while waiting for a meeting, he could be found in the shops, in silk hat and frock coat, puttering over some new device.

He didn’t need notebooks. It was a proverb among his employees that “you must not tell the ‘old man’ anything you don’t want him to remember 10 years later.” Things stowed themselves in his mind and came out when wanted.

He had a powerful body, well over six feet tall, and perfect health. No wonder that in one period of eleven years he took out 134 patents, organized six great corporations, developed the airbrake through its one great crisis—thus making possible the present railroad transportation system—and started the alternating current system, without which modern electric developments would have been unthinkable.

Often Westinghouse, in silk hat and frock coat, was found puttering over inventions in his shops.
PORTRAIT PHOTO: George Westinghouse.

The Railroad Borrows the Automobile’s Best and It Pays

REDUCING operating costs from a dollar to about 10 cents the train mile, the latest gasoline-driven passenger coaches, built in St. Louis, Mo., are enabling railroads to operate their branch lines at a profit while greatly increasing train service in outlying districts.

The economies are the result of a unique combination of the best features of automotive equipment with
the essentials of steam rolling-stock design, and are due particularly to an improved system of power transmission and arrangement the rear truck.

The power plant, a four-cylinder automobile engine developing 72 horsepower at 1600 revolutions, is at the front of the car. The clutch is similar to that of a high-class automobile.

From this point the power is transmitted by a longitudinal shaft to the main transmission. Here are four forward speeds with gear ratio ranging from 4.99 to 1, to 1 to 1. To provide for reverse, a second longitudinal shaft runs to an auxiliary reversing transmission that has two speeds only, 1 to 1 forward, and 1 to 1.085 in reverse.

Ease in repair and economy of maintenance are claimed for this system, since any gearbox can be reached without lifting the car from the trucks or sending it to the shops. Further, by separation of the various elements of the gear, wear is lessened and parts can be made more rugged.

The rear driving truck is also arranged so that the brake rigging and gear-case can be removed from the car intact.

The engine is under a hood close to the driver’s seat, with its radiator in the end wall just under the front window.

The hood is lined with asbestos to permit small packages to be stowed in the space just above the engine.

The car Is made with bodies of various types, which seat from 24 to 52 persons, depending upon the size of the baggage room.

While designed especially for use on railroad branch lines, it is said to be suitable for use on suburban trolley lines.

This automotive coach was designed for frequent service on branch lines.
View of driver’s seat and controls. Under the hood a 72-horsepower auto engine.

Subways Four Hundred Feet Deep to Carry Commuters a Mile a Minute

A REMARKABLE system of high-speed subways to be bored through solid rock at a great depth under New York City has been proposed by Reginald P. Bolton, noted consulting engineer, who asserts that the limitations of the present overcrowded, shallow subways have been reached.

At a depth of four hundred feet, the water from the rivers would not penetrate, and it would be unnecessary to work in compressed-air locks.

The tracks would run on straight, level lines, irrespective of the course of the streets or the contour of the ground above, so that great speed and many economies in operation would be possible.

Conditions would be ideal for operating express elevators at the stations at a speed of from eight hundred to a thousand feet a minute. From the island platforms, passengers would be whisked to the street in thirty seconds.

The deep subways would radiate from Manhattan, serving the whole metropolitan population in New York and New Jersey, which is expected to total twenty million by 1950.

Heavier rolling stock and a speed of sixty miles an hour would be practical. Driving tunnels at this depth would not disturb surface traffic.

Every detail of construction, ventilation, and operation involved has already proved a practical success in other subways, tunnels, and mines.

Depiction of subways four hundred feet below the Hudson river.
MAP: Ideal subway routes for the whole metropolitan population in New York and New Jersey.

Drivers Motor for Hours through Poisonous Gas in Old Mine to Test Hudson Tunnel Ventilation

Give Blood to Prove Air Will Be Fresh in Two-Mile Tube

ENGINEERS who are building the nine thousand-foot tunnel driveway for vehicles under the Hudson River between New York City and New Jersey want to be sure that the tube will be supplied with enough fresh air, and
accordingly in an abandoned coal-mine, one hundred and thirty feet below ground, at Bruceton, Pennsylvania, they are testing a reproduction of the ventilating system designed for the Hudson project.

Effects of Gases Studied

The effects of automobile exhaust gases on the human system are being studied by means of medical examination of drivers who are actually running cars in a miniature tunnel, in which have been reproduced conditions that will be met in the larger project.

The experimental tunnel is shaped like an oval race-track four hundred feet in diameter. The cross section is nine feet wide and eight feet high.

Ten small cars, running forty feet apart, circle the tunnel track at ten miles an hour.

Along the ceiling is an air-duct three feet high, and below the floor is another duct two and a half feet high. In proportion to the length of the tunnel ,these dimensions are in the exact scale of the driveway under the Hudson.

Hour after hour, ten small automobiles, spaced forty feet apart, circle the track at a speed of ten miles an hour. Sometimes the gas mixture is deliberately enriched until each car is emitting clouds of smoke; at other times a correct mixture is used.

The tests continue until the engineers are sure that the ventilation will be sufficient to supply enough fresh air, no matter how careless drivers may be.

The amount of carbon monoxide absorbed by drivers is determined by examination of their blood immediately after the tests.

Exhaustive tests have revealed that the amount of carbon monoxide, the poisonous constituent of exhaust gases, averages about 7 per cent of the total volume, and that the health of drivers using an enclosed tunnel requires that the proportion of the poison in the air be reduced to less than four parts in ten thousand.

To maintain this percentage, 2100 cubic feet of fresh air is pumped into the experimental tunnel every minute.

During the tests sensitive instruments in all parts of the tunnel analyze the air to determine its temperature, humidity, velocity, and pressure, as well as concentration of gases emitted by the moving cars. Forty-eight air-sampling tubes obtain samples for chemical analysis.

Air from forty-eight sampling tubes is analyzed to determine concentration of exhaust gases.

Drivers Give Their Blood

Each driver is examined, before and after his run, by physicians and experts of the Bureau of Mines, who specialize in the effect of poisonous gases on the human system. The amount of carbon monoxide absorbed by a driver is determined by testing a few drops of his blood.

The result. of these tests will provide a basis for ventilating systems in proposed vehicular tunnels in other parts of the United States. In order to be sure that the means finally adopted will make vehicular tunnels safe under every condition, the engineers have abused the system, reducing the flow of air, increasing the amount of smoke, etc.

Sensitive apparatus measures the quantity and quality of air in various parts of the tunnel. Experiments have revealed that where the concentration of carbon monoxide does not exceed four parts in ten thousand parts of air, no harmful effects are noticeable.

Winch is Now “Strong Arm” on Factory Siding

WINCHES operated by electric motors, placed near the railroad tracks on factory sidings, are doing away with the antiquated “strong arm” or manual methods of moving freight-cars. By expediting the switching, they reduce freight-handling charges.

Only seven and one half horsepower is consumed when the machine is used. The gearing of the winch is so designed that this force will put a 4000-pound pull on the rope, and give a rope speed of 37 feet a minute.

A capstan of the vertical type adapts the machine for all-round service. This capstan, turned by a worm-gear operating in oil, is self-locking, a feature especially desirable where it is necessary to snub the rope in order to hold the load on down grades.

Vertical capstan allows all-round service of electric winch.

Electric Rail Bonder Drills Two Holes at Once

DRILLING two holes simultaneously for a rail joint, a new rail bonding machine that consists of four portable electric drills mounted on a handcar, has reduced the cost of bonding operations for one American railroad from $67.62 to $46.18 a mile.

The work of drilling holes in the rails for the insertion of signal bonding wires is usually performed by hand, and even efficient workmen occasionally break the expensive drills.

The electric machine, run by storage batteries, drills two holes in 30 seconds. Both drills are fed by a hand-operated lever that gives the operator perfect control and lessens the bit breakage, while it also reduces to a minimum the necessity of sharpening the bits. On one occasion 259 joints were drilled before sharpening was necessary.

A “41” motor-car is used to carry the storage batteries and drill frames. There is an angle-iron bracket on the front of the car with a rod that supports the drill frames. This rod acts as a hinge, so that the drills may be let down against the rails, or tilted back on the carrier when the car is in motion.

When a train approaches, slip electrical connections are instantly disconnected and the drill frames slipped off the rod and laid on the ground. The storage batteries may also be slipped off into the clear, so that only the light car remains to be lifted from the track—a task that can be performed by two men.

An advantage of the electric machine over a gasoline outfit is that it makes little noise while in operation.

Hinged on a rod of the carrier, the drills are let down against the rail, or tilted back on the carrier when the car is moving.
INSET: Showing the two drill against the rail.

Streamlines New? Train Had ‘Em in 1900!

STREAMLINED fuselages and wing struts—the latest word in aeronautical design—are largely responsible for increased flying speed; but how many airmen know that officials of a prominent Eastern railroad constructed and tested a streamlined train more than 20 years ago?

The locomotive was not altered for the experiment, but the cars of the train were built with curved, sloping roofs and with sides as smooth and flush as possible. The rear of the train ended in a tapered point, while the sides were carried down as close to the roadbed as feasible, for the engineers fully realized how important it was to avoid air eddies beneath the train.

The streamlined coaches’ better speed, the saving in time and fuel, were not sufficient to warrant rebuilding all the passenger coaches and so the plan was abandoned, to be revived again for airplanes and autos 20 years later.

Current train vs. a train that had streamlines in 1900.
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