Railway-Engineering in the United States
THOUGH our country can boast of no Watt, Brindley, Smeaton, Rennie, Telford, Brunel, Stephenson, or Fairbairn, and lacks such experimenters as Tredgold, Barlow, Hodgkinson, and Clark, yet we have our Evans and Fulton, our Whistler, Latrobe, Roebling, Haupt, Ellet, Adams, and Morris,—engineers who yield to none in professional skill, and whose work will bear comparison with the best of that of Great Britain or the Continent; and if America does not show a Thames Tunnel, a Conway or Menai Tubular Bridge, or a monster steamer, yet she has a railroad-bridge of eight hundred feet clear span, hung two hundred and fifty feet above one of the widest rivers in the world,—locomotive-engines climbing the Alleghanies at an ascent of live hundred feet per mile,—and twentyfive thousand miles of railroad, employing upwards of five thousand locomotives and eighty thousand cars, costing over a thousand millions of dollars, and transporting annually one hundred and thirty millions of passengers and thirty million tons of freight,—and all this in a manner peculiarly adapted to our country, both financially and mechanically.
In England the amount of money bears a high proportion to the amount of territory; in America the reverse is the ease; and the engineers of the two countries quickly recognized the fact: for we find our railroads costing from thirty thousand to forty thousand dollars per mile,—while in England, to surmount much easier natural obstacles, the cost varies from seventy-five to one hundred thousand dollars per mile.
The cost of railroad transport will probably never be so low as carriage by water,— that is, natural water-communication ; because the river or ocean is given to man complete and ready for use, needing no repairs, and with no interest to pay upon construction capital. Indeed, it is just beginning to be seen all over the country that the public have both expected and received too much accommodation from the companies. Men are perfectly willing to pay five dollars for riding a hundred miles in a stage-coach; but give them a nicely warmed, ventilated, cushioned, and furnished ear, and carry them four or live times faster, with double the comfort, and they expect to pay only half-price,—as a friend of the writer once remarked, “ Why, of course we ought not to pay so much when we a’n’t half so long going,”—as if, when they paid their fare, they not only bargained for transport from one place to another, but for the luxury of sitting in a crowded coach a certain number of hours. It would be hard to show a satisfactory basis for such an establishment of tolls. We need not wonder at the unprofitableness of many of our roads when we consider that the relative cost of transport is,—
By Stage, one cent,
By Railroad, two and seven-twelfths;
and the relative charge,—
By Stage, five cents,
By Railroad, three cents;
and the comparative profit, as five less one to three less two and seven-twelfths, or as four to five-twelfths, or as nine and six-tenths to one.
America has, it is true, a grander system of natural water-communication than any other land except Brazil; but, for all that, there is really but a small part of the area, either of the Alleghany coal and iron fields, or of the granaries of the Mississippi valley, reached even by our matchless rivers. A certain strip or band ot country, bordering the watercourses, is served by them both as regards export and import; just as much is served wherever we build a railroad. In fact, whenever we lay a road across a State, whether it connects the West directly with the East, or only with some central commercial point in the West, just so often do we open to market a band of country as long as the road, and thirty, forty, or fifty miles wide,—the width depending very much upon the cost of transport over such road; and as the charge is much less upon a railroad than upon a common road, the distance from the road from which produce may be brought is much greater with the former than with the latter. The actual determination of the width of the band is a simple problem, when the commercial nature of the country is known.
The people of the great valley have not been slow, where Nature has denied them the natural, to make for themselves artificial rivers of iron. These railroads arc more completely adapted to the physical character of the Western States than would be any other mode of communication. The work of construction is oftentimes very light, little more being necessary for a railway across the prairies of the West (generally) than a couple of ditches twenty or thirty feet apart, the material taken therefrom being thrown into the intermediate space, thus forming the surface which supports the crossties, the sills or sleepers, and the rails. Indeed, the double operation of ditching and embanking is in some eases performed by a single machine, (a nondescript affair, in appearance half-way between a threshing-machine and a hundred-and-twenty-pound field-piece) drawn by six, eight, or ten pairs of oxen.
It is even probable that in a great many eases the common road would cost more than the railway in the great central basin of America ; as the rich alluvial soil, when wet in spring or fall, is almost impassable, and lack of stone and timber prevents the construction of artificial roads.
The influence of the railroad upon the Western farm-lands is quickly seen by the following figures, extracted from a lately published work on railroad construction.
Table showing the Effect of Railroad Transport upon the Value of Grain in the Market of Chicago, Illinois.
|At market Carried.||WHEAT.||CORN.|
|Carried by railroad.||Carried by wagon.||Carried by railroad.||Carried by wagon.|
Thus a ton of corn carried two hundred miles costs by wagon-transport more than it brings at market,—while, moved by railroad, it is worth $21.75. Also wheat will not bear wagon-transport of 330 miles,—while, moved that distance by railroad it is worth $44.55 per ton.
The social effect of railroads is seen and felt by those who live in the neighborhood of large cities. The unhealthy density of population is prevented, by enabling men to live five, ten, or fifteen miles away from the city and yet do business therein. The extent of this diffusion is as the square of the speed of transport. To illustrate. If a person walks four miles an hour, and is allowed one hour for passing from his home to his place of business, he can live four miles from his work ; the area, therefore, which may be lived in is the circle of which the radius is four miles, the diameter eight* miles, and the area 50¼ square miles. If by horse he can go eight miles an hour, the diameter of the circle becomes sixteen miles, and the area 201 square miles. Finally, if by railroad he goes thirty miles an hour, the diameter becomes sixty miles, and the area 2,827 square miles.
In the ease of railroads, as of other labor-saving (and labor-producing) contrivances, tlio innovation has been loudly decried; but though it does render some classes of labor useless, and throw out of employment some persons, it creates new labor for more than the old, and gives much more than it takes away.
Twenty years of experience show that the diminished cost of transport by railroad invariably augments the amount of commerce transacted, and in a much larger ratio than the reduction of cost. It is estimated by Dr. Lardner that three hundred thousand horses, working daily in stages, would be required to perform the passenger-traffic alone which took place in England during the year 1848.
Regarding the safety of railroad-travelling, though the papers teem with awful calamities from collisions and other causes, yet so great is the number of persons who use the new mode of transport, that travelling by railroad is really about one hundred times safer than by stage. The mortality upon English roads was for one year observed :—one person killed for each sixty-five million transported; in America, for the same time, one in forty-one million.
If we should try to reason from the rate of past railway-growth as to what the future is to be, we should soon be lost in figures. Thus, in the United States,—
In 1829 there were 3 miles.
In 1830 41 miles.
In 1840 2167 miles.
In 1850 7355 miles.
In 1856 23.242 miles.
Thus from 1830 to 1840, the rate is as 2167/41 or 53 nearly ; from 1840 to 1850, 7355/2167, or 3 nearly; and from 1850 to 1856, 23242/7355, or 3 nearly ; and from 1850
to I860 we may suppose the rate will be about 4. The rate is probably now at its permanent maximum, taking the whole country together,—the increase in Now England having nearly ceased, while west of the Mississippi it has not reached its average.
Among the larger and more important roads and connected systems in our country may be named the New York and Erie Railroad, — connecting the city of New York with Lake Erie at Dunkirk, (and, by the road’s diverging from its western terminus, with “ all places West and South,” as the bills say,)—crossing the Shawangunk Mountains through the valley of the Neversink, up the Delaware, down the Susquehanna, and through the rich West of the Empire State.
The Pennsylvania Central Road: from Philadelphia through Lancaster to Harrisburg, on the Susquehanna, up the Juniata and down the western slope of the Alleghanies, through rock-cut galleries and over numberless bridges, reaching at last the bluffs where smoky Pittsburg sees the Ohio start on its noble course.
The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad: from Baltimore, in Maryland, to Wheeling and Parkersburg, on the Ohio;-— crossing the lowlands to the Washington Junction, thence up the Patapsco, down the Monoeacy, to the Potomac; up to Harper’s Ferry, where the Potomac and the Shenandoah chafe the rocky base of the romantic little town perched high above ; winding up the North Branch to Cumberland,—the terminus of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, and of the great national turnpike to the West, for which Wills’ Creek opened so grand a gate at the narrows,—to Piedmont the foot and Altamont the summit, through Savage Valley and Crabtree Gorge, across the glades, from which the water flows east to the Chesapeake Bay and west to the Gulf of Mexico; down Saltlick Creek, and up the slopes of Cheat River and Laurel Hill, till rivers dwindle to creeks, creeks to rills, and rills lose themselves on the flanks of mountains which bar the passage of everything except the railroad; thence, through tunnels of rock and tunnels of iron, descending Tygart's Valley to the Monongahela, and thence through a varied but less rugged country to Moundsville, twelve miles below Wheeling, on the Ohio River.
These are our three great roads where engineering skill has triumphed over natural obstacles. We have another class of great lines to which the obstacles were not so much mechanical as financial,— the physical difficulties being quite secondary. Such are the trunk lines from the East to the West,—through Buffalo, Erie, and Cleveland, to Toledo and Detroit, and from Detroit to Chicago, Rock Island, Burlington, Quincy, and St. Louis ; from Pittsburg, Wheeling, and Parkersburg, on the Ohio, to Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Louisville, and St. Louis; and from Cleveland, through Columbus, to Cincinnati, and from Cincinnati to the Northwest.
In progress also may be noticed roads running west from St. Louis, Hannibal, and Burlington, on the Mississippi, all tending towards some point in Kansas, from which the great Pacific Road, the crowning effort of American railwayengineering, may be supposed to take its departure for California and Oregon.
The chief point of difference between the English and the American engineer is, that the former defies all opposition from river and mountain, maintains his line straight and level, fights Nature at every point, cares neither for height nor depth, rock nor torrent, builds his matchless roads through the snowy woods of Canada or over the sandy plains of Egypt with as much unconcern as among the pleasant fields of Hertford or Surrey, and spans with equal case the Thames, the Severn, the St. Lawrence, and the Nile. The words “fail,” “impossible,” “can't be done,” he knows not; and when all other means of finding a firm base whereon to build his bridges and viaducts fail, he puts in a foundation of golden guineas and silver dollars, which always gives success.
On the other hand, the American engineer, always respectful (though none the less determined) in the presence of natural obstacles to his progress, bows politely to the opposing mountain-range, and, bowing, passes around the base, saying, as he looks back, “ You see, friend, we need have no hard feelings, — the world is large enough for thee and me.” To the broad-sweeping river he gently hints, “ Nearer your source you are not so big, and, as I turned out for the mountain, why should I not for the river?” till mountain and river, alike aghast at the bold pigmy, look in silent wonder at the thundering train which shoulders aside granite hills and tramples rivers beneath its feet. But if Nature corners him between rocks heavenward piled on the one hand and roaring torrents on the other, whether to pass is required a bridge or a tunnel, we find either or both designed and built in a manner which cannot be bettered. He is well aware that the directors like rather to see short columns of figures on their treasurer’s books than to read records of great mechanical triumphs in tlieir engineer’s reports.
Of the whole expense of building a railroad, where the country is to any considerable degree broken, the reduction of the natural surface to the required form for the road, that is, the earthwork, or, otherwise, the excavation and embankment, amounts to from thirty to seventy per cent. of the whole cost. Here, then, is certainly an important element on which the engineer is to show his ability ; let us look a little at it, even at the risk of being dry.
It is by no means necessary to reduce the natural surface of the country to a level or horizontal line ; if it were so, there would be an end to all railroads, except on some of the Western prairies. This was not, however, at first known ; indeed, those who were second to understand the matter denied the possibility of moving a locomotive even on a level by applying power to the wheels, because, it was said, the wheels would slip round on the smooth iron rail and the engine remain at rest. But lo ! when the experiment was tried, it was found that the wheel not only had sufficient bite or adhesion upon the rail to prevent slipping and give a forward motion to the engine, but that a number of ears might be attached and also moved.
This point gained, the objectors advanced a step, but again came to a stand, and said, “ If you can move a train on a level, that is all,—you can’t go up hill.” But trial proved that easy inclines (called grades) could he surmounted, — say, rising ten feet for each mile in length.
The objectors take another step, but again put down their heavy square-toed foot, and say, “ There ! ar’n’t you satisfied? you can go over grades of twenty feet per mile, but no more,—so don’t try.” And here English engineers stop,—twenty feet being considered a pretty stiff grade. Meanwhile, the American engineers Whistler and Latrobe, the one dealing with the Berkshire mountains in Massachusetts, the other with the Alleghanies in Virginia, find that not only are grades of ten and of twenty feet admissible, but, where Nature requires it, inclines of forty, sixty, eighty, and even one hundred feet per mile,—it being only remembered, the while, that just as the steepness of the grade is augmented, the power must be increased. This discovery, when properly used, is of immense advantage ; but in the hands of those who do not understand the nice relation which exists between the mechanical and the financial elements of the question, as governed by the speed and weight of trains, and by the funds at the company’s disposal, is very liable to be a great injury to the prospects of a road, or even its ruin.
It was urged at one time, that the best road would have the grades undulating from one end to the other,—so that the momentum acquired in one descent would carry the train almost over the succeeding ascent, and that very little steam-power would be needed. This idea would have place, at least to a certain extent, if the whole momentum was allowed to accumulate during the descent; but even supposing there would be no danger from acquiring so great a speed, a mechanical difficulty was brought to light at once, namely, that the resistance of the atmosphere to the motion of the train increased nearly, if not quite, as the square of the speed; so that after the train on the descent acquired a certain speed, a regular motion was obtained by the balance of momentum and resistance,—whence a fall great enough to produce this regular speed would be advantageous, but no more. On the other hand, the extra power required to draw the train up the grades much overbalances the gain by gravity in going down.
Here, then, we have the two extremes : first, spending more money than the expected traffic will warrant, to cut down hills and fill up valleys; and second, introducing grades so steep that the amount of traffic does not authorize the use of engines heavy enough to work them.
The direction of the traffic, to a, certain extent, determines the rate and direction of the inclines. Thus, the Reading Railroad, from Philadelphia up the Schuylkill to Reading, and thence to Pottsville, is employed entirely in the transport of coal from the Lehigh coal-fields to tide-water in Philadelphia; and it is a very economically operated road, considering the large amount of ascent encountered, because the load goes down hill, and the weight of the train is limited only by the number of empty cars that the engine can take back.
This adoption of steep inclines may be considered as an American idea entirely, and to it many of our large roads owe their success. The Western Railroad of Massachusetts ascends from Springfield to Pittsfield, for a part of the way, at 83 feet per mile. The New York and Erie Railroad has grades of 60 feet per mile. The Baltimore and Ohio climbs the Alleghanies on inclines of 116 feet per mile. The Virginia Central Road crosses the Blue Ridge by grades of 250 and 295 feet per mile; and the ridge through which the Kingwood Tunnel is bored, upon the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, was surmounted temporarily by grades of 500 feet per mile, up which each single car was drawn by a powerful locomotive.
Another element, of which American engineers have freely availed themselves, is curvature. More power is required to draw a train of cars around a curved track than upon a straight line. In England the radius of curvature is limited to half a mile, or thereabouts. The English railway-carriage is placed on three axles, all of which are fixed to the body of the vehicle ; the passage of curves, of even a large diameter, is thus attended by considerable wear and strain ; but in America, the cars, which are much longer than those upon English roads, are placed upon a pintle or pin at each end, which pin is borne upon the centre of a four-wheeled truck,—by which arrangement the wheels may conform to the line of the rails, while the body of the ear is unaffected. This simple contrivance permits the use of curves which would otherwise be entirely impracticable. Thus we find curves of one thousand feet radius upon our roads, over which the trains are run at very considerable speed ; while in one remarkable instance (on the Virginia Central Railroad, before named) we find the extreme minimum of 234 feet. Such a track does not admit of high speeds, and its very use implies the existence of natural obstacles which prevent the acquirement of great velocities.
In fine, the use which the engineer makes of grades and curves, when the physical nature of the country and the nature and amount of the traffic expected are known, may be taken as a pretty sure index of his real professional standing, and sometimes as an index of the moral man ; as when, for example, he steepens his grades to suit the contractor's ideas of mechanics,—in other words, to save work.
Not less in the construction of bridges and viaducts, than in the preparation of the road-bed proper, does the American engineering faculty display itself. Timber, of the best quality, may be found in almost every part of the country, and nowhere in the world has the design and building of wooden bridges been carried to such perfection and such extent as in the United States. We speak here of structures built by such engineers as Haupt, Adams, and Latrobe,—and not of those works, wretched alike in design and execution, which so often become the cause of what are called terrible catastrophes and lamentable accidents, but which are, in reality, the just criticisms of natural mechanical laws upon the ignorance of pretended engineers.
Among the finest specimens of timberwork in America are the Cascade Bridge upon the New York and Erie Railroad, designed and built by Mr. Adams, consisting of one immense timber-arch, having natural abutments in the rocky shores of the creek;—the second edition of the bridges generally upon the same road, by Mr. McCallnm, which replaced those originally built during the construction of the road,—these hardly needing to be taken down by other exertion than their own;—the bridges from one end to the other of the Pennsylvania Central Road, by Mr. Haupt;—the Baltimore and Ohio “ arch-brace ” bridges, by Mr. Latrobe; — and the Genessee “ high bridge,” (not a bridge, by the way, but a trestle,) near Portageville, by Mr. Seymour, which is eight hundred feet long, and carries the road two hundred and thirty feet above the river, having wooden trestles (post and bracework) one hundred and ninety feet high, seventy-five feet wide at base, and twenty-five feet at top, and carrying above all a bridge fourteen feet high; containing the timber of two hundred and fifty acres of land, and sixty tons of iron bolts, costing only $140,000, and built in the short time of eighteen months. This structure, if replaced by an earth embankment, would cost half a million of dollars, and could not be built in less than five years by the ordinary mode of proceeding.1 Further, the interest, for so long a time, on the large amount of money required to build the embankment, at the high rate of railroad interest, would nearly, if not quite, suffice to build the wooden structure.
Again, our wooden bridges of the average span cost about thirty-five dollars per lineal foot. Let us compare this with the cost of iron bridges, on the English tubular plan, the spans being the same, and the piers, therefore, left out of the comparison.
Suppose that a road has in all one mile in length of bridges. Making due allowance for the difference in value of labor in England and America, the cost per lineal foot of the iron tubular bridges could not be less (for the average span of 150 feet) than three hundred dollars.
5280 feet by $35 is $184,800.00
5280 feet by 300 is 1,584,000.00
The six per Cent, interest on
the first is . . . 11,088.00
The six per cent, interest on
the second is . . 95,040.00
And the difference is . . 83,952.00
or nearly enough to rebuild the wooden bridges once in two years; and ten years is the shortest time that a good wooden bridge should last.
The reader may wonder why such structures as the bridge over the Susquehanna at Columbia, which consists of twenty-nine arches, each two hundred feet span, the whole water-way being a mile long, and many other bridges span-
ning large rivers, and having an imposing appearance, are not referred to in this place. The reason is this: large bridges are by no means always great bridges; nor do they require, as some seem to think, skill proportioned to their length. There are many structures of this kind in America, of twenty, twenty-five, or thirty spans, where the same mechanical blunders are repeated over and over again in each span; so that the longer they are and the more they cost, the worse they are. It does not follow, because newspapers say, “ magnificent bridge,” “ two million feet of timber,” “ eighty or one hundred tons of iron,” “cost half a million,” that there is any merit about either the bridge or its builder; as one span is, so is the whole ; and a bridge fifty feet long, and costing only a few hundreds, may show more engineering skill than the largest and most costly viaducts in America. Pew bridges require more knowledge of mechanics and of materials than Mr. Haupt’s little “trussed girders” on the Pennsylvania Central Road,—consisting of a single piece of timber, trussed with a single rod, under each rail of the track.
Again, as regards American iron bridges, the same result is found to a great extent. Thus, Mr. Roebling’s Niagara Railroad Suspension-Bridge cost four hundred thousand dollars, while a boiler-plate iron bridge upon the tubular system would cost for the same span about four million dollars, even if it were practicable to raise a tubular bridge in one piece over Niagara River at the site of the Suspension Bridge. Strength and durability, with the utmost economy, seem to have been attained by Mr. Wendel Bollman, superintendent of the roaddepartment of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad,—the minute details of construction being so skilfully arranged, that changes of temperature, oftentimes so fatal to bridges of metal, have no hurtful effect whatever. And here, again, is seen the distinctive American feature of adaptation or accommodation, even in the smallest detail. Mr. Bollman does not get savage and say, “Messieurs Heat and Cold, I can get iron enough out of the Alleghenies to resist all the power you can bring against me ! ”—but only observes, “ Go on, Heat and Cold ! I am not going to deal directly with you, but indirectly, by means of an agent which will render harmless your most violent efforts! ”—or, in other words, he interposes a short link of iron between the principal members of his bridge, which absorbs entirely all undue strains.
It is not to be supposed from what has preceded, that the American engineer does not know how to spend money, because he gets along with so little, and accomplishes so much; when occasion requires, he is lavish of his dollars, and sees no longer expense, but only the object to be accomplished. Witness, for example, the Kingwood Tunnel, on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, where for a great distance the lining or protecting arching inside is of heavy ribs of castiron,—making the cost of that mile of road embracing the tunnel about a million of dollars. Nor will the traveller who observes the construction of the New York and Erie Railroad up the Delaware Valley, of the Pennsylvania Central down the west slopes of the Alleghanies, or of the Baltimore and Ohio down the slopes of Cheat River, think for a moment that the American engineer grudges money where it is really needed.
Stone bridges so rarely occur upon the roads of America, that they hardly need remark. The Starucca Viaduct, by Mr. Adams, upon the New York and Erie Railroad, and the viaduct over the Patapseo, near the junction of the Washington branch with the main stem of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, show that our engineers are not at all behind those of Europe in this branch of engineering.
From the civil let us pass to the mechanical department of railroad engineering. This latter embraces all the machinery, both fixed and rolling; locomotives and cars coming under the latter,—and the shop-machines, lathes, planers, and boring-machines, forging, cutting, punching, rolling, and shearing engines, pumps and pumping-engines for the water-stations, turn-tables, and the like, under the former. Of this branch, little, except the design and working of the locomotive power, needs to be mentioned as affecting the prosperity of the road. Machine-shops, engine-houses, and such apparatus, differ but slightly upon different roads; but the form and dimensions of the locomotive engines should depend upon the nature of the traffic, and upon the physical character of the road, and that most intimately,—so much, indeed, that the adjustment of the grades and curvatures must determine the power, form, and whole construction of the engine. This is a fact but little appreciated by the managers of our roads; when the engineer has completed the road-bed proper, including the bridging and masonry, he is considered as done with; and as the succeeding superintendent of machinery is not at that time generally appointed, the duty of obtaining the necessary locomotive power devolves upon the president or contractor, or some other person who knows nothing whatever of the requirements of the road; and as he generally goes to some particular friend, perhaps even an associate, he of course takes such a pattern of engine as the latter builds,—and the consequence is that not one out of fifty of our roads has steam-power in any way adapted to the duty it is called upon to perform.
There is no nicer problem connected with the establishment of a railroad, than, having given the grades, the nature of the traffic, and the fuel to be used, to obtain therefrom by pure mechanical and chemical laws the dimensions complete for the locomotives which shall effect the transport of trains in the most economical manner; and there is no problem that, until quite lately, has been more totally neglected.2
Of the whole cost of working a railroad about one third is chargeable to the locomotive department; from which it is plain that the most proper adaptation is well worth the careful attention of the engineer. Though it is generally considered that the proper person to select the locomotive power can be none other than a practical machinist, and though he would doubtless select the best workmanship, yet, if not acquainted with the general principles of locomotion, and aware of the character of the road and of the expected traffic, and able to judge, (not by so-called experience, but by real knowledge,) he may get machinery totally unfit for the work required of it. Indeed, American civil engineers ought to qualify themselves to equip the roads they build ; for none others are so well acquainted with the road as those who from a thorough knowledge of the matter have established the grades and the curvatures.
The difference between adaptation and non-adaptation will plainly be seen by the comparison below. The railway from Boston to Albany may be divided into four sections, of which the several lengths and corresponding maximum grades are as tabulated.
|Length in miles.||Steepest grade.|
|Boston to Worcester,||44||30|
|Worcester to Springfield,||54 1/2||50|
|Springfield to Pittsfield,||52||83|
|Pittsfield to Albany,||49 1/2||45|
A load of five hundred tons upon a grade of thirty feet per mile requires of the locomotive a drawing-power of 11,500 lbs.
Upon a 50 feet grade 15,500 lbs. Upon an 83 feet grade 22,500 lbs. Upon a 45 feet grade 14,500 lbs.
Now, if the engines are all alike, (as they are very nearly,) and each is able to exert a drawing-power of five thousand
B. to AY. 44 miles AY. to S. 54 A miles S. to P. 52 miles P. to A. 49J miles
pounds to move a load of five hundred tons from Boston to Albany, we need as follows :—
B. to W. 11500/5000 or 2 engines. AY. to S. 15500/5000 or 3 engines. S. to P. 22500/5000 or 5 engines. P. to A. 14500/5000 or 3 engines.
From which the whole number of miles run by engines for one whole trip would be —
by 2 engines, or 88
by 3 engines, or 163½
by 5 engines, or 260
by 3 engines, or 148½
And the sum, 660
Now suppose, that, by making the engines for the several divisions strong in proportion to the resistance encountered upon these divisions, one engine only is employed upon each: ora mileage becomes,
B. to W. 44 by 1 or 44
AY. to S. 54 ½ by 1 or 54½
S. to P. 52 by 1 or 52
P. to A. 49½ by 1 or 49½
And the sum, 200 miles.
And the saving of miles run is therefore 660 less 200, or 460 ; and if 500 tons pass over the road daily, the annual saving of mileage becomes 460 by 313, or 143,980, or 70 per cent, of the whole. The actual cost for freight-locomotives per ton, per mile run, during the year ending Sept. 30, 1855, was 384/1000 of a cent; and the above 143,080 miles saved, multiplied by this fraction, amounts to $55,288 per annum. The actual expense of working the power will not of course show the whole 70 per cent. of saving, as heavy and strong engines cost more at first, and cost more to operate, than lighter ones; but the figures show the effect of correct adaptation. If we call the saving 50 per cent, only of the mileage, we have then (as the locomotive power consumes 30/100 of the whole cost of operating) 50/100 of 30/100 or 15/100, of the whole cost of working the road, and this by simply knowing how to adapt the machinery to the requirement.
So very slight are the points of difference between a good and a bad engine, that they often escape the eye of those whose business it is to deal with such works. It is not the brass and steel and bright metal and elaborate painting that make the really good and serviceable engine,—but the length, breadth, and depth of its furnace, the knowledge of proportion shown in its design, and the mechanical skill exhibited in the fitting of its parts. The apparently complex portions are really very simple in action, while the apparently simple parts are those where the greatest knowledge is required. Any man of ordinary mechanical acquirements can design and arrange the general form,—the whole mass of cranks, pistons, connecting-rods, pumps, and the various levers for working the engine ; but to find the correct dimensions of the inner parts of the boiler, and of the valve-gearing, by which the movements of the steam are governed, requires a very considerable knowledge of the chemistry of combustion, of practical geometry, and of the physical properties of steam. So nice, indeed, is the valve-adjustment of the locomotive, as depending upon the work it has to do, whether fast or slow, light or heavy, that a single eighth of an inch too much or too little will so affect its power as to entirely unfit it for doing its duty with any degree of economy.
When a single man takes the general charge of five hundred miles of railroad, upon which the annual pay-roll is a million of dollars, and which employs over two hundred locomotives and three thousand ears, earning five million dollars a year,—a road which cost thirty-three million, has five miles in length of bridges, and over four hundred buildings,—it is plain that the system of operation must be somewhat elaborate. And so it is. Indeed, so complete is the organization and management of employées upon the New York and Erie Railroad, that the General Superintendent at his office can at any moment tell within a mile where each car or engine is, what it is doing, the contents of the car, the consignor and consgnee, the time at which it arrives and leaves each station, (the actual time, not the time when it should arrive,) and is thus able to correct all errors almost at the moment of commission, and in reality to completely control the road.
The great regulator upon long lines of railroad is the electric telegraph, which connects all parts of the road, and enables one person to keep, as it were, his eye on the whole road at once.
A single-track railroad, says Mr. McCallum, may be rendered more safe and efficient by a proper use of the telegraph than a double-track railroad without,-—as the double-tracks commonly obviate collisions which occur between trains moving in opposite directions, whilst the telegraph may be used effectually in preventing them between trains moving either in opposite directions or in the same direction; and it is a well-established fact, deduced from the history of railroads both in Europe and in this country, that collisions from trains moving in the same direction have proved by far the most fatal and disastrous, and should be the most carefully guarded against.
From the admirable report of Mr. Mc Callum, above referred to, we take the following :—“ Collisions between fast and slow trains moving in the same direction are prevented by the following rule: ' The conductor of a slow train will report himself to the Superintendent of Division immediately on arrival at a station where, by the time-table, lie should be overtaken by a faster train ; and he shall not leave that station until the fast train passes, without special orders from the Superintendent of Division.' A slow train, under such circumstances, may, at the discretion of the Division Superintendent, be directed to proceed; he, being fully apprised of the position of the delayed train, can readily form an opinion as to the propriety of doing so; and thus, while the delayed train is permitted to run without regard to the slow one, the latter can be kept entirely out of its way.
“ The passing-place for trains is fixed and determined, with orders positive and defined that neither shall proceed beyond that point until after the arrival of the other; whereas, in the absence of the telegraph, conductors are governed by general rules, and their individual understanding of the same,—which rules are generally to the effect, that, in case of detention, the train arriving first at the regular passing-place shall, after waiting a few moments, proceed cautiously (expecting to meet the other train, which is generally running as much faster, to make up lost time, as the cautious train is slower) until they have met and passed ; the one failing to reach the half-way point between stations being required to back, — a dangerous expedient always, — an example of which operation was furnished at the disaster on the Camden and Amboy Railroad near Burlington ; the delayed train further being subjected to the same rule in regard to all other trains of the same class it may meet, thus pursuing its hazardous and uncertain progress during the entire trip.”
The following table shows the rate and direction of subordination for a first-class railroad :—
|Superintendent of road.||Roadmaster.||Section men.|
|Superintendent of machinery.||Foreman of machine-shop.||Machinists.|
|Foreman of blacksmith's shop.||Blacksmiths|
|Foreman of carpenter's shop.||Carpenters.|
|Foreman of paint-shop.||Painters.|
|Engineers (not on trains).||Firemen.|
|Car-masters.||Oilers and cleaners.|
|Superintendent of road.||Conductors.||Brakemen.|
|Engineers (on trains).|
|Superintendent of road.|
|Engineers (on trains).|
|Weighers and gangers.|
|Supply agent. Fuel agent.||Clerks and teamsters furnishing supplies.|
|All men employed about wood-sheds.|
All subordinates should be accountable to and directed by their immediate superiors only. Each officer must have authority, with the approval of the general superintendent, to appoint all employées for whose acts he is responsible, and to dismiss any one, when, in his judgment, the interests of the company demand it.
Fast travelling is one of the most dangerous as well as one of the most expensive. luxuries connected with the railroad system. Few companies in America have any idea what their express-trains cost them. Indeed, the proper means of obtaining quick transport are not at all understood. It is not by forcing the train at an excessively high speed, but by reducing the number of stops. A train running four hundred miles, and stopping once in fifty minutes,—each stop, including coming to rest and starting, being five minutes,—to pass over the whole distance in eight hours, must run fifty-five miles per hour ; stopping once in twenty minutes, sixty-three miles per hour ; and stopping once in ten minutes, eighty-six miles per hour.
The proportions in which the workingexpenses are distributed under the several heads are nearly as follows :—
And the percentage of increase due to fast travelling, to be applied to the several items of expense, with the resulting increase in total expense, this:—
|increased by||0||per cent, is||0.0|
|And the whole increase||18.6|
The causes of accident beyond the control of passengers are,—
Collision by opposition,
Collision by overtaking,
Derailment by switches misplaced,
Derailment by obstacles on the track,
Breakage of machinery,
Failure of bridges,
Those causes which are aggravated by fast travelling are the first, second, fifth, and sixth. The effects of all are worse at high than at low velocities.
The proportion of accidents due to each of these causes, taken at random from one hundred cases on English roads, (American reports do not detail such information with accuracy,) were,—
|Breakage of machinery||18||18|
|Failure of road||14||14|
|Obstacles on rails||6|
Eighty-eight per cent, being from those causes which are aggravated by increase of speed ; and if wo suppose the amount of aggravation to augment as the speed, the danger of travelling is eighty-eight per cent, greater by a fast than by a slow train.
These are the direct evils of high speeds; there are also indirect evils, which are full as bad.
All trains in motion at the same time, within a certain distance of the express, must be kept waiting, with steam up, or driven at extra velocities to keep out of the way.
Where the time-table is so arranged as to call for speed nearly equal to the full capacity of the engine, it is very obvious that the risks of failure in “making time” must be much greater than at reduced rates; and when they do occur, the efforts made to gain the time must be correspondingly greater and uncertain. A single example will be sufficient to show this.
A train, whose prescribed rate of speed is thirty miles per hour, having lost five minutes of time, and being required to gain it in order to meet and pass an opposing train at a station ten miles distant, must necessarily increase its speed to forty miles per hour; and a train, whose prescribed rate of speed is forty miles per hour, under similar circumstances, must increase its speed to sixty miles per hour. In the former case it would probably be accomplished, whilst in the latter it would more probably result in failure, —or, if successful, it would be so at fearful risk of accident.
However true it may be that many of our large roads are well, some of them admirably, managed, it is none the less a fact that the greater portion are directed in a manner far from satisfactory,— many, indeed, being subjected to the combined influence of ignorance and recklessness.
Many people wonder at the bad financial state of the American railroads ; the wonder is, to those who understand the way in which they are managed, that they should be worth anything at all. It is useless to disguise the fact, says a writer in one of our railroad-papers, that the great body of our railroad-directors are entirely unfit for their position. They are, personally, a very respectable class of men, (Sehuylerisms and Tuckermanisms excepted,)—men who, after having passed through their active business-lives successfully, and after retirement, are, in the minds of some, eminently fitted to adorn a director’s chair. Never was there a greater mistake. What is wanted for a railway-director is an active, clearbeaded man, who lias not outlived his term of activity. We want railway-directors who know how to reduce the operating-expenses per mile, and not men who oppose their bigoted ignorance to everything like change or improvement, who can see no difference between science and abstract ideas. It would seem that the only question to be asked with regard to the fitness of a man for being a director is—Is he rich and respectable ? If he has these qualities, and is pretty stupid withal, he is in a fair line for election. We tell our railway-readers, that, if they desire to make their property valuable, and rescue it from becoming a byword and a reproach, they have got to elect men of an entirely different stamp,—men of practical experience, in the best sense of the term, who have intelligence enough to know and apply all those vital reforms upon which depends the future success of their undertakings,—the men of the workshop, the track, and the locomotive. And we shall yet see the more intelligent of them taking the place, at the directors’ board, of the retired merchants, physicians, and other respectable gentlemen, who now lend only the names of their respectability to perpetuate a system of folly that has reduced our railroad-management below contempt. As at present constituted, our boards are a very showy, but very useless piece of mechanism. The members attend at meetings when they feel just like it, and sign their names to documents and statements which have been prepared for them by others, without much knowledge of what the contents are; their other duties consisting chiefly in riding over their own and connecting roads, free of charge.
Why should railway-directors work for nothing for the stockholders ? Ah, Messrs. Stockholders, you little know in reality how fat a salary your directors make to themselves, by nice little commissions, by patronizing their favorite builders of locomotives and cars, and by buying the. thousand and one patents that are so urgently recommended ! Do you carry your broken watch to a blacksmith or to a stone-mason to be mended ? Neither, we think. Why, then, do you leave the management of a work which engineers, machinists, carpenters, masons, and men of almost every trade, have spent time and care upon to build, to the respectable merchant, lawyer, or banker, who thinks the best road that which has the softest cushions and the most comfortable seats on which to ride ?
Railroad-building, remarks a late writer, (Mr. Whiton,) may be divided into three periods,—the first, the introductory, in which roads were a sort of experimental enterprise, where the men who labored expected to be paid for their time or money, and were willing to wait a reasonable time for the expected profit. Second, the speculative period, when men were possessed with an unhealthy desire for fortune-making, and, not content to wait the natural harvest of the seed sown, departed from the sound and honest principles of construction and management; trying, at first, by all sorts of pretence and misrepresentation, to conceal, and last by legislation to counterbalance, the results of their ignorance and of their insane desires. Railroads were compared, as an investment, to banks; and it was even supposed that the more they cost the more they would divide; and tunnels, rock-cuts, and viaducts were then as much sought after as they are now avoided. Shrewd and intelligent business-men, who had made for themselves fortunes, embraced these ridiculous opinions, and seemed at once, upon taking hold of railroad-enterprises, to lose whatever of common sense they before might have possessed ; and even at the present day these same men have not the manly honesty to acknowledge their errors, but endeavor to cover them up with greater,— The third period is that of reaction, which embraces the present time. To a person unacquainted with the management of railroads, to see a body of men, no one of whom has ever before had anything to do with mechanical operations, assembled to decide upon the relative merits of the different plans of bridges or of locomotives or cars, upon the best means of reducing the working-expenses of a machine of whose component parts they have not the slightest idea, of the most complicated and elaborate piece of mechanism that men have ever designed, might at first seem absurd ; but custom has made it right. It is generally supposed that the moment a man, be he lawyer, doctor, or merchant, is chosen director in a railroad enterprise, immediately he becomes possessed of all knowledge of mechanics, finance, and commerce; but, judging from past experience, it. appears in reality that he leaves behind at such time whatever common sense he perchance possessed before ; otherwise why does he not follow the same correct business-rules, when managing the property of others, as when he accumulated his own ? A man who should show as much carelessness and ignorance, when operating for himself, as railway-directors do when operating for others, would be considered as a fit subject for an insane asylum.
When railroads are built where they are needed, at the time they are wanted, in a country able to support them, by permanent investors, and not by speculators, and are well made by good engineers, and well managed by competent men, whose interest is really connected with the success of the enterprise, then they will pay, and be railroads indeed. But so long as money is obtained on false pretences, to be played for by State and Wall Street gamblers on the one hand, and ravenous contractors on the other hand, they will be what they are,—worthless monuments of extravagance and folly.
“ Experience keeps a dear school,” says poor Richard, “ but fools will learn in no other.”
Let not the reader think for a single moment that we have no appreciation of the labors of a De Witt Clinton, or of a Livingston,—that we at all underrate the services of the Eastern capitalists who render available the public-land grants of the West, whether to build ship-canals or railroads. Wo have the highest respect for that talent without which our Western lands would still be left to the buffalo and the deer, and the gold and silver of Europe would remain on the other side of the Atlantic. These capitalists are the mainsprings of the system; but we should no more apply their energy and skill to the detailed operation of so mechanical a structure as a railroad, than we should attach the mainspring of a watch to the hands directly, without the intermediate connecting chains and wheels.
Not less incompetent for the construction oi railways, than are the directors for the management of the completed roads, are at least one half of the so-called engineers in America. Obliged to complete no course of education, to pass no examination, they are at once let loose upon the country whenever they feel like it, to build what go by the names of railroads and bridges, but are in reality traps in which to lose both life and money. Indeed, any man (in the United States) who has carried a rod or chain is called an engineer; while the correct definition is, a man who has, first, a thorough knowledge of mechanics, mathematics, and chemistry,-—second, the knowledge necessary for applying these sciences to the arts,— and last, the knowledge requisite to the correct adaptation of such arts to the wants of man, but, more than all, that experience which is got only from continual practice. We have such a class of engineers, and to them we owe what of fame we have in the engineering world. Second, comes another grade, men who, commencing as subordinates, without any preparatory knowledge, but with natural genius, and an intuitive knowledge of mechanics, need only to have their ideas generalized to see the hearing of their special knowledge upon the whole, in order to rank high in the profession. Third, a class who lack both natural and acquired knowledge, and whose only recommendation is that they are always for sale to the highest bidder, whether he be president, director, or contractor; sometimes working nominally for the company, but really for the contractor,—or in some cases, so debased is this class of persons, for both contractor and company openly. Of late years this prostitution of mongrel engineers has had place to an alarming extent. Let us hope that the old professional pride, and, better still, a love of truth and honesty for their own sake, may
yet triumph, and place real engineers high above the dead level to which ignorance and pretence and venality have degraded the profession.