Kansas City Cable Railway - an 1885 Magazine Article
Collected by Joe Thompson

This article, from The Kansas City Review of Science and Industry, was published before the Kansas City Cable Railway opened for service.

Kansas City Cable Railway

From The Kansas City Review of Science and Industry / Volume VIII, Number 10, February 1885

There are now two cities in this country that have cable railways in successful operation (San Francisco and Chicago - JT), and very soon three others will be added to the list, New York, Philadelphia and Kansas City. The latter city can claim the first duplicate cable railway, the others having but one cable in the tunnel beneath the street for propelling cars. The distinction between a single and double cable in cable railways is what their respective names imply. In the ordinary cable railway, or single cable road, when accidents occur to the cable, such as loosened strands, broken wire, or the cable is otherwise injured so as to affects its strength, to repair these injuries it becomes necessary to stop the operation of the road, thus causing a cessation of business, which means a very great loss to the company, or which may be prevented only by continuing to use the fractured cable until the hour of stopping at midnight, which would cause still greater injury and perhaps ruin to the cable for further use.

In Chicago when serious accidents occur, the horses used on other lines owned by the company are pressed into service and made to haul the cars. Horses would be of little use pulling cars along the road in Kansas City, as the grades are so excessively steep that it would be impossible to ascend many of them. Should an accident occur, the public would have to wait until the repairing had been done but for the additional cable and machinery that is at all times ready for use at a moment's notice. The change from one cable to the other requires but very little time, and the travel is not interrupted. The duplicate road has a duplication of machinery throughout. Besides the cables there are two carrying pulleys side by side that support the cable in every pulley-pit, which are thirty-five feet apart along the road; at the extreme ends of the railway, where in the ordinary cable road there is one sheave twelve feet in diameter, in the duplicate road there are two. This duplication is still more extensive in that two independent sets of driving machinery are provided in the engine-house, also engines, boilers, etc.; in fact the provision made in the way of machinery is sufficient to build another and independent road; thus the cost is very considerably greater than in the case of a single cable railway.

There is probably no cable railway in the country, that in constructing presented so many difficult features to be overcome as the Kansas City road. The wrought-iron elevated structure from Union Avenue to the top of the bluff does not represent all the work done at this end of the road. At Union Avenue large and massive brick foundations were built pyramidal in shape. Old sewers were encountered requiring special provision to overcome these unexpected obstacles. At the bluff very serious difficulties presented themselves. In locating the foundations for the wrought-iron supports for the viaduct it was discovered that a local movement in the limestone ledge was taking place. A great portion of earth and loose rock deposited at the base of the bluff was removed, exposing the rock ledge in questiton five feet in thickness, underneath which was a stratum of soapstone and bituminous shale eighteen feet in depth, which disintegrated rapidly and thus allowed the rock ledge above to fall in large fragments to the base of the bluff. The rock ledge was cleared of earth and other materials, and all the cracks or fissures located, which were then thoroughly cleaned out and filled with liquid cement grout made from German Portland cement. When the cement had set it excluded all water from springs and surface drainage from the base of the rock, which before served as a lubricant to the moving ledge. The shale and soapstone were further protected by building a stone wall in front of the vertical face of the stratum, close to it; the space between the wall and shale was then filled with concrete and cement grout, thus excluding air and water from the exposed face of shale; the rock ledge was thus made solid and permanent, no further movement having been discovered. The process of disintegration of the shale was watched with considerable interest. It was noticed that so long as the shale contained some moisture, or the water was allowed to saturate the surface, disintegration was retarded, but when the sun caused the shale to become dried and warm, the absorbed air seemed to expand, thus throwing off small particles of shale, which would have continued until the whole ledge had fallen but for the protecting wall and the concrete excluding the air.

The wrought-iron viaduct will, when completed, present a very interesting piece of work. The incline down the bluff is eighteen and three-tenths feet in 100 feet and commences at the west line of Jefferson Street with an elevation of 191 feet and descends westwardly, at the rate mentioned, to the center of the main span across the Union Depot yards, the length of which span, from end-pin to end-pin is 186 feet. The incline commencing in the center of this span, ascending with the rate mentioned, caused a curious modification in the design of this bridge from ordinary bridges. The end posts were made to incline so as to cover two panel length of the bridge, thus providing sufficient clearance between the protal bracing and top of the car, which could not have been secured has only one panel length been covered by the end post as is usual.

From the centre of this span westward to the waiting station, the tracks are level, beginning at this point to ascend at the rate of two feet in one hundred to and by the waiting station. The waiting station is quite an ornament of its kind. Stairways descend to either sidewalk of Union Avenue, and are covered and protected from the weather. The roof of the main waiting room projects over the platform on all sides, and is covered with slate. A passenger wishing to take a train up the incline to Main street pays his fare to the agent, who gives a ticket in return, which is collected on the train. He passes through the waiting-room to the train. Passengers coming from the trains pass to the passage-way on either side of the building, through the gates to the stairways. The trusses across Union Avenue are sixty-five feet in length and eight feet in depth, and three in number, that support the waiting-room and tracks, which trusses are in turn supported by wrought-iron columns, three on each side of the Avenue. These columns are inserted into heavy cast-iron shoes or bases, extending into the casting about two feet. The space between the cast socket and column was filled with cement grout and is now equal to rock in hardness. There are two large sheaves, twelve feet in diameter, over the Avenue, supported between the girders, weighing four thousand pounds each. The main bridge span at Union Avenue is supported by two wrought-iron columns, one under the end shoe of each truss. The distance from the railway tracks below the bridge to the floor is twenty-three feet, and the distance from the floor of the bridge to the upper chord or top of truss, is twenty-six feet. The iron work at this end of the road is composed of eleven spans and they have the following lengths, commencing at Union Avenue: 65 feet, 185 feet, 67 feet, 29 feet, 45 feet, 46 feet, 47 feet, 46 feet, 46 feet, 47 feet, 47 feet. At the end of the last span the cable leaves the open work of the viaduct and enters the concrete subway below the street. The rails of the tracks on the viaduct at one point are about fifty feet above the surface of the ground below. The railway is double-track throughout. There are two curves, both at street intersections, at right angles to each other. A special and independent sewer has been constructed from one end of the road to the other, between the tracks, which connects with the regular city sewers at every street crossing. The carrying pulley-pits are made of brick twelve feet by five by five feet in depth, extending under both tracks in its longest dimensions. They are large and spacious. Two cast-iron pulley frames are arranged at each side of the pit corresponding with each track. Communication is had with the pit by means of a heavy trap door between the tracks.

The cable in passing around the curves at Grand Avenue occasions great resistance. The constructions at the curves consist of a series of horizontal conical pulleys, there being three independent pulleys on each shaft, which constitute a set. The lower one is a large conical pulley having a groove at its base in which the idle cable rests, the next above this is an ordinary horizontal grooved pulley in which the moving cable rides. The next and upper pulley of the set is a plain pulley with a smooth rim against which the grip rests and by which it is guided around the curve. The cable passes from the engine-house to the sub-way below the street and under the south track, thence to Woodland Avenue, around twelve-foot end-sheaves, thence into the sub-way below the north track to Union Avenue, around the twelve-foot sheaves over Union Avenue, and thence to engine-house, around the driving drums and thence to the tension-car wheel or sheave.

The grip-cars are radically changed from those in use on other roads, in that the grip is operated from the end of the car instead of in the centre, consequently the gripping attachments occupy very little room in the car. A complete cab is provided at each end of the car in which the grip-man is stationed and operates his grip without being interfered with by passengers.

The grip consists of three parts-the upper or crank part, the middle shank, and the lower or jaws. The upper is made from cast-steel, and so constructed as to embody great strength; the crank and shaft giving motion to the jaw of the grip are connected at one side, this part with the levers of the grip-wheel in the cab, which crank is also connected with the central and moving part of the shank, which has a vertical motion; the moving pan of the shank is also connected with the movable and horizontal upper jaw of the grip, the shank being made from rolled-steel and the jaw of cast-steel lined with brass, reducing the wear on the cable to a minimum. The lower jaw of the grip is stationary, having two rollers placed vertically at each end of the jaw. When it is desired to start a car the grip-wheel in the cab is turned to the right, which forces the movable upper jaw (seventeen inches long) down on the cable resting on or rolling over the pulleys in the lower jaw of the grip; the pressure forces the rollers down a limited distance with the cable; as they are supported by flexible journals, the brass in the grip takes hold of the cable under the pressure of the grip wheel and the car moves. If it is desired to stop the car, the grip-wheel is turned to the left, thus raising the movable upper jaw from the cable. The pressure being released, the small pulleys in the lower jaw spring upward slightly and support the cable, revolving at the same time, and while the car is thus stayed, receiving or discharging passengers, the cable continues to move through the grip between the jaws supported by the pulleys referred to. It does not matter how often stops are made, the cable never leaves its position between the grip's jaws - it is either gripped by the jaws or riding on the pulleys on the lower jaws. The cable is, however, conducted out of the grip when it is necessary to change the car from one track to another, and in passing over the vault on the south track at the engine-house -- there being no cable at this point, as it is conducted into the engine-house too far below the street for the grip to reach -- the cars are carried over this distance, which amounts to forty feet, by momentum acquired from the cable before reaching the vault. This occurs on the south track only.

The cable is one and one quarter inches in diameter, made from Swedish iron wire. It is capable of resisting a strain of thirty tons. There is a total length in both cables of forty-four thousand feet. It is expected that this cable will have to be replaced within eighteen months from the opening of the road.

Many people have been at a loss to know how the cable is prevented from impinging on the upper side of the tube or tunnel below the street in the depressions along the line, and at points where the grade changes from a level to a comparatively steep grade. It must be remembered that the cable is very much heavier than a string, its weight being two and a half pounds per lineal foot. When the ordinary tension is on the cable and an average number of grips with their loaded cars attached are being propelled by it, the deflection between the carrying-pulleys, which are thirty-five feet apart, is about two incles. It would be impossible with any power to cause the cable to assume a straight line from one hill to the other, and before the sag or deflection could be gotten out, it would break in two. The cable leaves the engine-house with a strain of about one ton and returns to it with about five tons (approximately), doing its maximum work, and the total weight of one cable is about twenty-eight tons. Where it is necessary at the depressions referred to, depression-pulleys are placed which hold the cable down, and when the grip passes the cable is pressed down six inches below these pulleys; this the grip avoids contact with them.

The maximum grades on various roads are as follows:
Clay Street, San Francisco16 feet in 100 feet.
California St., "18 feet in 100 feet.
Sutter St., "8.7 feet in 100 feet.
Geary St., "9.8 feet in 100 feet.
Ninth St., Kansas City18.3 feet in 100 feet.
Chicago City, State St.(about level)

The power developed in operating cable railways is usually proportioned as follows:
For moving cable51 per cent.
For moving cars46 per cent.
For moving passengers3 per cent.

The power-station or engine-house is located at the corner of 9th and Washington Streets, and has a frontage on the latter street of ninety feet and on the former of 144 feet, two stories and basement. The east room is the boiler-room and is separated from the engine-room by a brick partition wall; the floor is thirty-two feet below the street grade. One battery of boilers, after the Ferminicle patent, twenty feet in height, occupying a floor space of twelve feet by twenty feet, have their fire fronts facing 9th Street. The boiler settings are especially attactive, being laid up with Philadelphia pressed brick, with a bold projecting cornice. In the use of these boilers there is no danger from disastrous explosions, as is the case in the use of ordinary tubular boilers. At the base on either side and a little below the grate-level are two large plate-iron mud-drums, the upper sides of which are framed with a horizontal plate into which the water-tubes are expanded; the tubes are sixteen feet long and three and a half inches in diameter, and are placed in an inclined position, the ends being expanded into the lower horizontal plates of the upper water drums. There are two of these drums in each boiler corresponding with the lower mud-drums, the tubes in these drums incline towards each other as they extend upward into the water-drums above; above these drums the steam-drum is located, connected with the upper drums referred to by means of two wrought-iron legs six inches in diameter. The water circulates through the tubes, the heated gases passing around and about them. In the case of low water there is no danger of explosion save from about three and a half inch water-tubes, which would result in no serious damage should any explode.

Immediately back of these boilers in located the smoke-stack, and south of this again is another battery of boilers. The smoke-stack pedestal is eighteen feet square, and the total height of the stack 150 feet above the boiler-room floor, the flue is five feet in diameter, having an iron ladder fixed at one side of the flue from the base to the top of the stack. Directly west of the stack and against the wall, is arranged a large heater with pumps and other necessary parts. The heater containing water has a height of twenty feet and is fifty inches in diameter, having inverted U-shaped brass tubes. On either side of the heater are Worthington Duplex Pumps, each having a capacity of 8,000 gallons per hour. The exhaust steam-pipe from the engines conducts the steam to the heater, which then passes through the inverted U-shaped brass tubes in the water in the heater, thence by the exhaust-pipe out of the building.

It will be seen that in this, as in all heaters, the steam after having performed all the work required of it in the engines in turning the machinery, is conducted through the heater thus heating the feed-water to a temperature of about 280 degrees when it is forced by the pumps into the boilers. It is generally claimed that fifteen per cent of fuel is saved by using a good heater over the practice of forcing cold water into the boilers. The total boiler capacity equals six hundred horse power.

The engine-room, which is twenty feet above the floor of the boiler-room, has the appearance of some large pumping-station. There seems at first glance to be a confusion of large drums and gear wheels which, upon closer examination, assume right positions and perform each their respective work. To those expert in mechanical construction it presents a very complete and well arranged picture of accurate designing, nicely proportioned parts, and upon the whole a model plant for the purposes for which it was designed. There are two large automatic cut-off engines quite near the door through which you pass in entering from the boiler-room. The cylinders are 24 x 48 inches. The engines throughout are highly finished and were built by William Wright, of Newburgh, New York. In place of the ordinary crank, large and highly polished circular discs are arranged, which add much to the engines. The engines combined are equal to five hundred horse power.

The engines are about twenty feet apart, having a common shaft thirteen and a half inches in diameter. On the end of the shaft nearest the east engine the large driving-wheel is fixed; it is eighteen feet in diameter, weighing 34,500 pounds. A very heavy and substantial pillar-block supports the shaft between the fly-wheel and the large gear on engine-shaft. This gear has an eighteen inch face, and is geared into a large gear ten feet in diameter, keyed on the main-line shaft of driving machinery. A very heavy cast-iron girder-frame surrounds the gear referred to. The main-line shaft extends westward across to the girder-frame of driving machinery. This frame entirely surrounds the driving machinery and is eighteen inches in depth and seventeen inches across the upper face. Between the two outside parts of the girder-frame there is arranged a central piece running north and parallel with the outside frame. On each of these three parts of the girder-bed or frame of the machinery, and supporting the main-line shaft, are heavily proportioned pillar blocks. Next the two outside pillar blocks the five-foot gears of the machinery are keyed on a sleeve to the main shaft which revolves in the sleeve, each of which have a sleeve arranged on their inward side. In these sleeves eight steel circular plates are permanently fixed. Another sleeve is keyed on to the main shaft, which also has eight circular steel plates arranged which revolve with the shaft, but which are worked laterally on a key in the shaft. When the sleeve is moved inward with its steel plates, the plates take up against the steel plates in the sleeve on the gear, causing frictional contact, which is gradual but positive, and when the plates are brought together with sufficient pressure the gear revolves with the main driving-shaft. These gears are connected with a series of gears, which cause the two driving drums twelve feet in diameter of each set of driving machinery, around which the cable passes, to revolve. The central piece of girder frame separate the two sets of machinery, either of which is set in motion or deprived of motion by means of the lever connected with their respective clutches described above. These clutches are known as the Weston Clutch and are the largest of the kind applied to this class of machinery.

When accidents occur to the cable and it is desired to repair it, the clutch belonging to that particular set of machinery is released, and the other is forced against the gear plates of the other set of machinery; thus the other cable is set in motion, doing the work of the injured one until it is repaired. The injured cable is then, by means of auxillary engines, slowly led into the engine-room where the repairing is done.

These auxillary engines, especially designed for this purpose, were built by the New York Steam Engine Company. The driving machinery was made by Poole & Hunt, Baltimore, who have a national reputation for manufacturing the finest gears and machinery of this character.

Back of each set of driving machinery there is a track built which extends five feet above the floor of the engine-room, and supported by a series of brick arches. Upon this track a car moves back and forth, moved back by means of heavy weights in a pit at the back part of the building connected with the car by means of a cable over a veritcal pulley at the pit, moving forward as the increased tension on the cable in the street demands, caused by additional cars using the cable. There is arranged also in the center of this tension-car a large twelve-foot sheave which constantly revolves as the cable passes around it, in going from the driving-drum to the sheave and out into the street again. The gauge of the tension track is three feet. In front of the engine-house on 9th Street a very large vault is made under the street; the roadway at this point is carried by iron columns. This vault has six large twelve-foot sheaves arranged in it, each of which weighs 4,000 pounds; these are used for directing or guiding the cables in to the engine-house.

The room next west of the engine room is arranged as a machine shop; it is large and provided with such tools as work of this kind requires.

The 9th and Washington Street floor is used as a storage room for cars, in one corner of which is provided a very complete wash-room for cars, heated in winter with steam radiators, and also provided with hot water.

The upper floor is used as a paint and repair shop, except that portion partitioned off for offices. These offices are all finished with Southern pine, there being in all six rooms; namely, conductors', superintendent's, cashier's, directors', and civil engineer's office.

The total length of this road, as now built, is two and one-quarter miles. Next summer the road will be extended eastward one mile on Independence Avenue and one mile on 9th Street. Mr. Robert Gillham, C.E., chief engineer of the company, has his plans of these extensions nearly completed. Plans are also being prepared by Mr. Gillham, who is also chief engineer for the Inter-State Rapid Transit Company, who are about building an elevated cable railway from Kansas City to Wyandotte. The total length of this road, including the proposed surface cable railway through Wyandotte, will be three miles, making a total length of double track, when these extensions are completed, of seven and one-quarter miles, all of which road will be operated by the machinery and the cable that operates the Kansas City Cable Road, described above. (The Inter-State Rapid Transit Company had its own powerhouses and machinery - JT)

There has been very little reliable information gathered regarding the economy and the power required under different conditions of loading of cable, to operate these roads. While it is true that cable railways have been in operation in San Francisco for several years, no scientific records or tests have been made; thus the results are not very well determined.

Mr. Gillham has provided means of testing the capacity of boilers, power of engines, evaporation of water per pound of coal, power required to move cable, machinery and cars; also to test power required in ascending the various grades, and to test the tension on cable under all conditions of loading. The information gathered from careful tests of this character will be of value to the engineering profession.

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