A Year's Progress of Cable Motive Power
by James Clifton Robinson

The "REPORT OF COMMITTEE ON A YEAR'S PROGRESS OF CABLE MOTIVE POWER" was delivered at the Tenth Annual Meeting of the American Street-Railway Association, held at the Monongahela House, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on October 21 and 22, 1891. The paper was written by James Clifton Robinson, General Manager of the Los Angeles Cable Railway and engineer on many other cable and electric traction projects. Robinson visited almost every cable traction line in the US and Europe. This paper was written at a time when electric traction was not considered a viable alternative, so cable was the latest big thing. William J Richardson, Secretary of the Association, was president of Brooklyn's Atlantic Avenue Railroad, and promoter of the Brooklyn Cable Company.
JCR James Clifton Robinson, from the New York Tribune, 07-November-1910, page 1.

From The Verbatim Report of the Tenth Annual Meeting of the American Street-Railway Association, American Street Railway Association, 1890-1891.

The President : The next report is on "A Year's Progress of Cable Motive Power," by Mr. James C. Robinson, of Los Angeles, Cal.


The Secretary : As noticed in the report of the Executive Committee, this letter was received quite recently :

SAN FRANCISCO, CAL., September 30, 1890.

My Dear Sir : -- I have to express very deep regret, that owing to recent changes in my business affairs it will be impossible for me to present, at the forthcoming meeting of the Association, the report entrusted to my charge, viz, "A Year's Progress of Cable Motive Power."

The difficulties encountered by me during the early part of the year at Los Angeles, when almost unprecedented storms and floods interrupted and delayed the completion of my work in that city, precluded my giving, at that time, any attention to the preparation of the report.

I hopefully relied upon the latter portion of the year affording ample opportunity in which to compile the necessary data and in complete form, do full justice to the important subject ; but "man proposes and God disposes."

The arrangements whereby the transfer of the Los Angeles roads was so unexpectedly consummated, rendered a change of base, and my prompt organization of the California Contract Corporation, at San Francisco, imperative.

These considerations, together with their contingent necessity of frequent movement, have quite absorbed my attention, and. at this juncture, made it quite impossible for me to thoroughly complete my paper in time for your Convention.

Under these circumstances, I would respectfully crave your kindest indulgence ; and further, I would ask that the powers invested in me as a committee be continued for another year, when, if privileged, it would be my pleasure to submit to the next Convention a full and adequate report to date, on "Cable Traction," worthy alike of the subject, and of the American Street-Railway Association.

Very faithfully yours,

The President : The letter will be placed on file and published in the minutes.


The President: The next business in order is the report of the Special Committee on "A Year's Progress of Cable Motive Power," by Mr. J. C. Robinson, of Los Angeles.

The Secretary : A very voluminous report, and, I would add, exhaustive report of the subject, has been prepared by the Committee on the Progress of Cable Motive Power, covering thirty-one pages of half-space type-written copy. An abridged report has been prepared and I would suggest that it be read instead of the report in full.


Mr. H. H. Littell, of Buffalo: I move that the abridged report be read. Carried.

The Secretary then read the report in its abridged form ; the full text of which is as follows :


Gentlemen: -- When I was appointed the Committee to report upon the subject of Cable Motive Power at the meeting of the Association in 1889-90, it was proposed that I should deal only with the story of one year's progress in the application of this method of traction to the operations of street-railways. Owing to my engagements in California I was unfortunately prevented from preparing a report for presentation at the time appointed. By favor of the Convention, an extension of a year's time was kindly accorded to me, and by the courtesy of Mr. William J. Richardson, Secretary of the Association, I have been allowed so to extend the scope of my report as to make it more worthy, as a retrospect of the subject, and to give, along with information as to its latest developments, a sketch of the origin and rise of cable traction in its application to tramways.

It will be in the knowledge of many of the members of the Convention that the plan of using a rope or cable as a means of traction is of old date, and no attempt need be made in this report to trace its origin. We find it has been in use for many years in mines and on railways and canals -- sometimes as a continuous rope, sometimes on the reciprocal system -- but in whatever form, embodying the same idea, namely, that of effecting haulage by a traveling rope actuated by means of power at a distance from the object to be moved. In the use of a cable operated on a public roadway, whether urban or rural, it is essential that the road should be kept clear, and thus the power can only be utilized on such roads by appliances fixed overhead, or by a cable concealed in a conduit below the surface of the track. So far as I have been able to learn, an overhead cable has never yet been successfully used for passenger transportation on a public road, though it was attempted in the first New York Elevated Railway in 1868 (Not actually an overhead cable - JT). A like plan has been recently proposed at Atlanta, Georgia, and other efforts in the same direction are mentioned in a later page. Such an overhead system always appeared to be objectionable, both on grounds of amenity and for practical reasons, for, though the presence of sheaves and a running rope above ground may be allowable in a mine or on a railway incline, for street use the cable should be concealed from view, and in the following report I propose to limit myself strictly to surface tramways fulfilling this condition.


The construction of the atmospheric railway of half a century ago familiarized the mind with the idea of using an underground tube, having a longitudinal opening by which the cars could be connected with and propelled by the concealed power within. The earliest suggestion for the use of a moving cable within such a conduit is found in a proposal by Mr. W. Brandling in 1845, who described an underground pipe in which the rope should travel, with a grip attachment capable of picking up or letting go the traveling cable. Thirteen years later, in 1858, an important invention was put forward by Mr. E. S. Gardiner, of Philadelphia, Pa., who described in detail the use of a tube between the rails, having a narrow longitudinal opening, so to be used as not to impede the passage of the ordinary vehicles using the roadway. Although Mr. Gardiner went into no particulars as to the method of gripping, it appears clear that in his invention, as in that of Mr. Brandling, we have the first practical suggestions in the line of our present inquiry. In the following years a number of inventions were put forward for the operation of railways by overhead or underground cables, but no solid progress falls to be recorded until 1869-70, when, at a time when I happened to be in New Orleans, General Beauregard put forward an important invention in which the principles of the modern cable grip were first distinctly set forth. Although the plan with which this invention was connected was one for the use of an overhead cable, this does not detract from the value of his suggestion, furnishing as it did the groundwork of all further development in the line of a side grip apparatus, with mechanically moving jaws. In 1872 mention is made of a patent granted to Mr. Thompson for a motor in a conduit, and his proposition merits notice, in so far that his truss to span the tunnel, used to hold the road-bed in position, is, broadly, the first direct claim to the invention of the yoke.


While the inventor of a new idea is worthy of all honor, the men who, by the application of intelligence and administrative ability, bring the matter into practical and successful operation, are worthy of no less honor. We now reach a point where those ideas which had been floating about somewhat aimlessly in the patent offices, or in the mechanical journals, were worked out into concrete shape in those inventions and practical applications with which the names of Hallidie, Eppelsheimer, Root, Hovey, Miller and Paine are indissolubly associated. It is to California, and to the city of San Francisco in particular, that the credit of the first great practical development of cable traction is due. The grades and configuration of San Francisco presented difficulties in the way of developing the horse railways in that city, and to this circumstance we may doubtless attribute the fact that there we find the cradle of the cable system. Necessity there, as elsewhere throughout human experience, became the mother of invention, and the solution of the city's difficulty was found in cable motive power. The heights there were inaccessible by any other means, and without the cable San Francisco would to this day be deprived of the facilities for rapid and comfortable internal transit now enjoyed by it in common with nearly every city and town of importance in the civilized world. It was in 1872 that Mr. Hallidie's first patent in connection with a cable grip was registered, and in September, 1873, on Clay street, in San Francisco, the pioneer cable railway of the world was brought into successful operation. The remarkable results achieved in this experiment excited world-wide interest. Here was a road showing in some parts a gradient of I in 6, and rising in its course of about a mile to a height of 300 feet above its low level terminus.

The problem of steep grade street-railways was solved, and as later developments show even worse gradients than those in Clay street have been encountered and successfully operated with cable traction. As I shall hereafter endeavor to show, the value of the system is not confined to steep ascents, for it has been applied with equally favorable results upon level lines. I may also here observe that the premier cable road, being straight throughout, presented none of those practical difficulties subsequently encountered and so brilliantly treated in handling the problem of curved, depressed and tortuous routes. It is remarkable to record that with the important object-lesson presented to the world by the safe, continuous and successful operation of the Clay Street road, the progress of the system was slow, and that nine years elapsed before a cable tramway was to be found in any other city than San Francisco. There was an impression, as already hinted, that the new method of traction was only intended for steep grades and straight lines, and that only in a fine, open climate like that of California could the road be satisfactorily operated; but while the cable roads in San Francisco were being added to from time to time, in 1882 a second object-lesson of equally striking value was offered by the inauguration of cable tramways at Chicago, where, in the midst of frost and snow, and on level roads embracing curves of peculiar difficulty, the system was triumphantly demonstrated to be of general applicability. For this second remarkable illustration of the value of cable traction the world is indebted to the admirable foresight, energy and ability of Mr. Charles B. Holmes, and from this event may be traced that continuous progress and development of cable motive power, which it is now my province to describe.


In San Francisco the Clay street line was followed, in 1876, by the construction of a 5 ft. gauge cable road on Sutter street, converted from a 3 ft. 6 in. horse car line, and ultimately extended to a system 14 miles in extent. The gradients in this line were less onerous than those in Clay street, but in 1878, by the opening of the California street track, a steeper grade, namely, 75 ft. in 412 1/2 ft. as against 67 ft. in 412 1/2 ft. in Clay street, was coped with. This was again exceeded on the Union street and Presidio line, opened in 1881, where a gradient of 78 ft. in 412 1/2 ft. was surmounted ; and on the Powell Street line, opened in 1887, a still harder gradient has been successfully achieved. Other cable tramways in San Francisco are the Geary street, 12,500 ft., opened in 1880, and now being reconstructed and extended 6 miles (less than that -- JT) to Golden Gate Park; and the Market Street Cable Railway, opened in 1883, and now above 25 miles in extent. The last named is deserving of more special notice, as this was the first in San Francisco where, following the example of Sutter street, many acute curves, cable crossings, auxiliary cable terminals, turn-tables and combination cars were largely introduced. The Powell street line, 11 miles (less than that -- JT), and the Omnibus Cable Company, 26 miles (less than that -- JT), followed in 1890, and completes the present system of San Francisco, which still maintains the lead in point of extent, having nearly 100 miles of cable roads in successful operation. The ramifications of the system are still being largely extended. The number of passengers carried annually has more than doubled, the travel now being nearly 900,000 per mile. Passengers are conveyed an average distance of 6 miles for 5 cents. The number of passengers carried in San Francisco during the past year amounted to 70,630,133, or over 200 times the estimated population of the city.

In 1882, as already mentioned, the first Chicago cable road was inaugurated. Here the lines were over level ground, so that no question of gradients arose; but the extreme variation of temperature, from an almost tropical summer heat to winter frosts, sometimes recording 25 below zero, with sudden snowfalls, offered problems which promised to test the efficiency of the cable system under entirely new conditions. In point of constructional detail, the conversion of the Chicago lines presented some features not heretofore encountered, but as a plain matter of fact, it may be stated that each and every difficulty was triumphantly overcome as it arose. The Chicago City Railway Company now controls and operates a cable system over 35 miles in extent, comprising 13 cables, which are operated at speeds from 7 1/2 miles to 14 miles per hour. Power to move these cables is furnished by three power houses, and as the power required on the days of heaviest traffic this year will, in a short time, be the average power consumed, arrangements have been made to provide for increasing demands by adding two engines capable of transmitting 1,800 H. P. each. As stated, the success attending this triumphant demonstration has led to the adoption and gradual extension of the cable motive power throughout the civilized world. In Chicago, the North Chicago and the West Chicago Railway Companies have, under the vigorous administration of President Charles T. Yerkes, added 33 miles to the above total, while important extensions still continue to be made. In an extension of 11 miles now under construction by the West Chicago Street Railway Company, on Blue Island avenue, the business centre of the city will be reached by means of a subway under the Chicago River, constructed on plans specially prepared by Mr. A. D. Whitton, the able Engineer-in-Chief of the Company, for its exclusive use at a cost of $1,500,000. This is in itself a remarkable work in connection with any street-railway, and it is noticeable that only in connection with cable railway enterprise have works of this progressive character been undertaken.

Early in 1883 an experimental line of cable tramway was constructed in Philadelphia by the Union Passenger Railway Company, now merged by lease in the Philadelphia Traction Company. This line, consisting of 2 1/2 miles, single, introduced a novelty of construction in the use of a cast-iron conduit, but, through faulty design, the experiment proved a failure ; however, a similar plan, in which wrought-iron has been employed instead of cast-iron, has been successfully utilized elsewhere.

New York followed in the adoption of cable traction on the construction of the great Brooklyn Bridge, opened in 1883. In this case, from the circumstance that the tracks were not also to be used for ordinary traffic, the cable was not put below the surface, so that the road does not directly fulfill the condition laid down in the opening paragraph of this report. But it is of great importance as an illustration of the capability of cable motive power to accommodate itself to every possible requirement of railroad operation, providing means by which sudden and enormous influxes of traffic can, without cessation, be successfully handled. The Tenth avenue (One Hundred and Twenty-fifth street) cable road, completed in 1886, and extending to 11 1/2 miles, presents in the line of progress yet another novelty in cable working. This line was principally constructed on what is known as the Miller system, on designs prepared by the late Col. Walter H. Paine. Its specialty lay in the introduction of duplicate cables, the object being two-fold -- first, to secure constant service during the greater part of the twenty-four hours, one cable being under all circumstances available ; and next, that when the traffic becomes crowded it is possible to apply the full power of the system by running alternate cars on the two cables simultaneously. After an interval of five years the operations have met with such favor that the complete conversion of the whole of the Third avenue system is now under way, representing an extension of about 12 miles, while the Broadway and Seventh Avenue Railroad Company are not only rapidly converting their Broadway lines, but extending the system to Lexington avenue. The duplicate cable form of construction is being adopted in the latter case, the conduits in this case also consisting of wrought-iron tubes supported by heavy cast iron yokes embedded in solid concrete. This application of the cable system to the traffic of some of the most important and most congested thoroughfares in the world, may be claimed as the most decided evidence yet afforded of the value of cable haulage in providing for rapid transit. It is anticipated that the traffic will be greater, and consequently more exacting, upon road-bed and plant than upon any cable system hitherto inaugurated. The plans show that the duplicate cables may be operated either singly or together by the same engine, an arrangement of friction clutches and couplings providing facilities for connecting different engines. Ample power is thus readily available for the tractive purposes of a system, any section of which may be called upon to bear the simultaneous strain of 100 loaded cars. Having waited, carefully watched and considered what was best to be done to meet the case, the people of New York have given up their great and famous street for a few months' serious interruption, in order to secure for all time the best accommodation for their traffic that modern invention can give. It is now proposed to cable Sixth avenue, so that shortly New York may occupy a foremost position as regards the extent and operations of its cable systems.


The first appearance of cable tramways outside of the United States of America was in New Zealand, where a firm of engineers, Messrs. Reid & Duncan, having had their attention drawn to the value of this system of traction, projected a line connecting the suburb of Roslyn with Dunedin, which was opened in 1882. This tramway as constructed offers the first instance of the use of a single track for traffic working both ways on a cable line. It consists of 3,500 ft. of single track, with passing places, and in its course rises 500 ft., the gradient being in some places as steep as 1 in 4 1/2 to 5 ft. This proved a great success, and shortly afterwards a second line of similar length, but with a double track throughout, was built to connect the suburb of Mornington with Dunedin. The steepest gradient in this line is 1 in 6 1/4- ft.

We now come to the introduction of the cable tramway into Europe, by the inauguration of the Highgate Hill tramway in London, of the construction, equipment and practical operation of which I took control as General Manager for the construction corporation. Associated with me as engineer- in-chief and designer of this road was Mr. William Eppelsheimer, of San Francisco, and Mr. J. Bucknall Smith, C. E., of London. Operations were begun in October, 1883, and the line was open for traffic on May 29, 1884. the opening ceremony being performed in state by the late Sir Robert Fowler, then Lord Mayor of the City of London. This undertaking was intended as a practical demonstration of the system for the instruction and information of the municipal authorities, tramway companies, and engineers of the Old World, and in this respect may be said to have amply fulfilled its mission. Being alternately single and double track, mostly on a very steep grade, but with one level portion, and presenting difficult curves in its course, this line demonstrated, in a very effective way, the capabilities of the system, Being, however, less than a mile in length, and owing to a difference in gauge without through connection with the London system of horse tramways, it illustrates a point to be further referred to as to the conditions of traffic, population, etc., essential to a perfect road, and necessary to bring out all the advantages of the cable system.

I have found it to be advisable to reserve the consideration of the progress of the cable in the United States subsequent to the year 1886, in order that I may deal more in detail with the systems of construction then introduced, but the same necessity does not exist with regard to the history of cable traction abroad, and I shall therefore now proceed to exhaust it, although the completion of the lines referred to may fall within the period reserved for separate consideration. Next after London came the city of Edinburgh, where two lines have been constructed and are now in operation. The north side of Edinburgh presents a series of steep grades, over which, although the routes were scheduled for the purpose, it was found impossible to operate the proposed horse tramways. During my connection with Edinburgh, in 1883, the Northern Cable Company was incorporated to furnish this part of the city with cable tramways. In all, the two lines give about six miles of single track, each line being double track about a mile and a half long. The steep parts of both routes run parallel, and, as a consequence, one power house is made to operate both. Both routes bring passengers to the business centre of the city, but having no through or transfer arrangement with the general tramway's organization of the city, as is the case at Highgate, the traffic is less than it would be were such connections provided. So far as design and construction are concerned, the Edinburgh roads approximate very closely to the methods adopted at Highgate.

Following on Edinburgh came the city of Birmingham, where a system six miles in length was completed about a year ago. This road is thoroughly well and substantially built and equipped, the engineers being Mr. Joseph Kincaid, of London, and Mr. Edward Pritchard, Members of the Institute of Civil Engineers. The road in many of its leading details, modified and improved to comply with the local conditions, follows the principles observed in the construction of the Chicago city lines, and the operations are successfully conducted by the Birmingham Central Tramways Company. The attention of street-railway men in Europe will probably be directed to the operations of this company, since it now includes in its system all the four forms of animal, steam, electric and cable traction. From the returns just issued (which may here be given, although they refer more to the financial aspect of the question, I gather the results of the past year s operations to have been as follows:

Form.Average Cost.Net Profit.
Steam22 cents per mile run9 3/4 cents
Electric (storage) 19 1/2 cents per mile run 10 cents
Horse19 1/4 cents per mile run 1 cents
Cable12 1/4 cents per mile run 12 7/8 cents

These figures speak volumes.

The restrictions placed by the government and local authorities upon street-railways in Great Britain have not only retarded the progress of mechanical power, but from the official returns we gather the remarkable fact that there is now a less mileage of tramways in operation in that country than in the preceding year. The number of passengers carried annually is about thirteen as against one hundred times the population in the United States. The maximum speed attained on British tramways is 7 miles per hour as against an average of 9 miles per hour in America.

As indicating the direction of public opinion at this time on the question of cable traction in the British Islands, I venture to quote the views recently expressed by Mr. W. W. Duncan, of London, the eminent tramway and financial expert, in reference to the subject : " I say unhesitatingly, from my study of the systems worked in Chicago and San Francisco, that where tramways are in a position to raise fresh capital for reconstruction, as they will be when they have come to an understanding with the local authorities, there is bound to be a great extension of cable motive power throughout the Kingdom."

Melbourne, Australia, has just completed a splendid system of cable roads, about 85 miles in extent, which is claimed to be not only the largest but probably the most successful in the world, as it certainly is, financially speaking, the most prosperous: while Sydney, New South Wales; Bragga and Lisbon, Portugal ; Constantinople and Hong Kong have inaugurated, or are in process of adopting, the cable.

During the past year a short length of cable tramway has been constructed, and put into operation from the Place de la Republique to the heights of Belleville, Paris. In a recent inspection of this road I found that here, too, the example of Highgate had been adhered to, but not without many singular defects, the construction and equipment leaving so much to be desired that I was not surprised to find that the operations were not being attended with any degree of success. At the time of writing, a practical start has been made to deal with the question of cable motive power seriously in Europe; for example, I have recently inspected and reported on the question of cabling the Continental Metropolitan tramways system of the southern division of Paris, and that proposition is now under consideration.

The Brixton section of the London Tramways Company is being converted to cable, and already, as I am informed, some 60 miles of horse tramways of the several London companies have been scheduled for a like transformation. Parliamentary powers have been obtained by the Bristol Tramways Company, and the first section, 5 miles of track, will be cabled in that city, with Mr. Joseph Kincaid as engineer, during the coming year. In relation to Bristol it is interesting to record that so long ago as 1878 I reported in favor of cabling the tramway lines on the hilly portions of this company's system ; this, however, was far ahead of the times, and it was only this year that the company was enabled to obtain the necessary powers to proceed with the work. In Scotland, the city of Glasgow -- which owns the horse lines and leases them to an operating company -- has in view the early conversion of several branches of the system to cable traction, and in the negotiations now being conducted with the Edinburgh corporation for the renewal of the lease of the horse tramways there, conditions are being laid down by the municipality for the cabling of a large section of their more heavily graded lines. During the past few months I have been invited to visit Liverpool and Dublin in view of the introduction in the near future of the cable traction in those cities: and I have also made a tour of a large number of the cities of France and Germany with a view to practical action for the further development of the system.


Following upon the success achieved in San Francisco, Chicago and New York, the year 1886 marks the period when the cable system began to make rapid progress in the United States, and about seventy roads are now being operated or are in course of construction. Kansas City, Mo.; St. Paul, Minn.; Omaha, Neb.; Denver, Col.; Cincinnati, O.; Los Angeles, Cal., and St. Louis Mo., entered the field early. The lines in Kansas City, now six in number, extend to over 70 miles in all; Denver presents four lines, 58 miles in extent ; and in Cincinnati lines of 24 miles in length are in operation. The cable tramway constructed in Grand Rapids is 12 miles in length ; St. Paul has a system 15 miles : the four roads built in St. Louis now extend to 45 miles ; and Omaha has a line of over 9 miles of track. The lines now named present a grand total of over 250 miles, mostly completed in the years 1886-89, and of which I shall presently give more detailed information.

I may, perhaps, be allowed to dwell upon the cable system now in operation in Los Angeles, Cal., partly because of the active share I took, in conjunction with my able colleague and friend, Mr. Augustine W. Wright, C. E., Engineer in Chief, in the construction, organization and administration of those lines, and partly because they illustrate a large number of problems of interest in the construction of such roads. In July, 1886, two short, single track cable tramways of about 7 miles in length were brought into operation on Temple street and Second street, but the inauguration of the great system in Los Angeles virtually dates from 1888. .The Pacific Railway Company now owns and operates a total mileage of 20 1/2 miles, traversing the leading thorough fares of the city, and Temple street, 4 3/4 miles, has recently been double tracked. The leading features of the Los Angeles cable tramways are two. In the first place, I may point out that the project was conceived with great boldness in view of the population the roads were intended to serve. In 1880 Los Angeles had a population of 7,500 only, which in 1888 had risen to 65,000, and on the completion of the work in 1890 to 80,000. In view of the fact that the city was already gridironed with horse and mule car lines when the cable roads were begun, it will be seen that the undertaking was on a large scale for a place of the size; but the association of Mr. Holmes with any enterprise is a guarantee that there will be no half measures, and that whatsoever is done will be done thoroughly and well. This has been abundantly proved at Los Angeles, and it is only a plain fact to assert that the prestige of Mr. Holmes' association with the magnificent cable roads at Los Angeles has both directly and indirectly brought about further important developments of cable motive power in San Francisco, Chicago, St. Louis, Cleveland, Washington, Baltimore, New York and elsewhere. In the second place, the system constructed at Los Angeles included works such as had never before been realized in tramway or street-railroad construction, including the building of large and massive iron bridges, the diversion and grading of new streets, the driving of straight lines through undeveloped territory, and the crossing and recrossing of roads, rivers and railways. In all this, capacity and power have been provided to meet all expected growth of population, and although we were considered to have run a little in advance of the times, yet, looking to the phenomenal development of the city, I have little doubt it will grow to justify the boldness of Mr. Holmes and his associates and their faith in their great undertaking.

The bridges and viaducts, three in number, built specially to carry the cable tramway, form outstanding features of the Los Angeles system. One viaduct, 578 ft. long, carries the tramway over the track of the Santa Fe Railroad and the river in one span. In all, the length of bridges and viaducts thus specially built amounts to 4,250 ft., and the greatest, on San Fernando avenue, carrying the cable road over the depot of the Southern Pacific Railway Company, measures 1,535 ft. This grand viaduct carries, like the others, a double track, but owing to difficulties as to the site for supports between the steam railway surface tracks below, it rests on single posts, being the only case in which double tracks are so carried. Of the total length of 1,535 ft., 50 ft. at each end form the concrete approaches, and the remaining 1,435 ft. are all in metal work. The dimensions generally are as follows: Height from ground to rail level, 25 ft. 9 in. ; width between hand rails, 25 ft. : main posts 5 ft. wide at ground line, tapering to 3 ft., 14 ft above the ground, and 22 ft. long. There are 19 main posts, each weighing 4 1/2 tons ; 10 smaller ones, 12 in. square and 26 ft. long. The ruling span is 50 ft., but 2 spans are 55 ft., 3 of 40 ft., 1 of 30 ft., and 1 of 20 ft. The main trusses are of the Warren type, 4 ft. deep, weighing 100 Ibs. per running foot ; the concrete approaches are 8 ft. high at the highest point, and 19 ft. wide. Two curves on the viaduct are 60 ft. radius. There is no thoroughfare on the viaduct except for the cable trains -- indeed, the grade of the approaches, 1 in 5, forbids the possibility of any other traffic using the viaduct, and, as a consequence, the cable is not here enclosed in a conduit. Probably not many places will be found where this plan can be adopted, except in such cases as the Brooklyn Bridge, or where, as here, a viaduct is built exclusively for cable purposes, but the use of an open conduit cable where possible illustrates the general adaptability of the system.

The driving plant in Los Angeles is placed in three power-houses, the weight of machinery being, in Grand avenue, approximately 549 tons; at Boyle Heights 448 tons, and in Downey avenue 446 tons. In principle, capacity and general arrangement, the engines, etc., are the same, so that a notice of the Grand avenue power house plant will suffice to give the Convention a knowledge of the whole system. The boilers by which power is generated are of the Hazelton tripod type, a boiler whose many advantages in occupying small superficial area, and in giving a maximum of heating effect, I shall not here dwell upon. With Roney mechanical stoker and smokeless furnace, the steam generating plant used is of the best and most progressive character. The engines are double expansion, of the Pacific Coast type, high pressure cylinder 26 in., low pressure 42 in., and stroke 48 in. in length. The high pressure transmits power to a double disc, and the low pressure to a single disc crank, and the engines develop a minimum of 700 horse-power at 75 revolutions a minute. The cylinders are parallel, with 10 ft. distance, centres. The main journals are 12 in. x 28 in., outboard journal 12 in. x 20 in., low pressure crank pin, 7 in. dia. by 7 in. long, and high pressure 12 in. dia. by 7 in. length of journal. The fly-wheel is 14 ft dia. with 14 in. face, weighing 36,000 Ibs. The main driving shaft, which is 18 ft. 2 1/2 in. long, communicates power to the car machinery by a system of endless cotton rope transmission, and not by gearing. On the shaft are two wheels, 6 ft. 2 in. dia., each grooved for fourteen 2 in. cotton ropes, these ropes giving movement to the driving wheels 25 in. diameter similarly grooved, the shaft on which these latter turn being coupled to the driving winder shaft of the cable machinery by Oldham couplings. Leaving out smaller details of measurement, I may say that the rope drums receiving power from the large driving wheels are 15 in. diameter, and they are coupled by ropes working on the grooves on their rim to two " idler " rope wheels in rear, these "idler' wheels subserving a valuable purpose in the economy of the design. They are one inch less in diameter than the companion rope wheels, and the result of this is, that the cable itself has no labor in driving the " idlers," the slip required being otherwise provided. The cable drums are 13 ft. diameter, grooved for five 1 1/4 in. ropes, run loose on the shaft alongside the hub of the driving wheels, and receive motion by the action of friction discs on the Western principle. A speed of 75 revolutions per minute on the engines represents a traveling speed of 8 miles an hour on the road. The road is 3 ft 6 in., double tracked throughout. The rails are of steel girder pattern, 40 Ibs. to the yard, the slot rails being of the same weight. Yokes of wrought iron, weighing 200 Ibs., are laid at distances of 3 ft. 6 in., and the conduit, 28 in. deep, is of concrete and averages 12 in. in thickness. Covering plates are used, and is surface paved to level with bituminous rock, a Southern Californian asphaltum product. The carrying pulleys, 16 in. diameter, are of cast-iron, unlined. mounted in lignum vitae, and placed 30 ft. apart. The curve pulleys are also of cast-iron, 18 in. and 22 in. diameter, with centres 4 ft. apart. The entire length of straight surface track of cable lines is 99,328 feet ; viaducts, 4,250 feet ; bridges, 2,124 feet ; curves, 2,010 feet ; pits, 562 feet, making a total of 108,274 feet of track, or rather over 2o miles. The cost of construction amounted to about $52,500 per mile of single track complete. The varieties of level, including those caused by the approaches to the viaducts and bridges, necessitated the use of depression and crown pulleys, and several steam railway and cable road crossings had also to be provided for. The cables, 1 1/4 in., in use at Los Angeles are of crucible steel, weighing 2 1/2 Ibs. per foot. The average weight per mile is 6.58 tons (2,000 Ibs.); the price averaged about 12 1/2 cts. per Ib.

The Los Angeles road, having numerous sharp curves in parts, is pretty severe on the seven cables in use, their life averaging about 10 months only. The cost of coal fuel, $10.50 per ton, and the number of power-houses made the initial operating charges rather high, but the substitution of crude oil for coal as fuel has materially reduced these expenses. The cars are run in trains of one, two, or three trailers to a grip car on 2 1/2 and 5 minutes headway, each train averaging 110 miles per day of 18 hours. The speed of the cables averages 8 miles per hour. The system presents many curves of every type and character. In the first section operated, 15,000 feet, there are 14 right angle compound and reverse curves, and yet the facility and safety with which these roads have been operated are gratifying, as far as overcoming practical difficulties are concerned. An appreciation of the magnitude of the undertaking may be gathered from the following figures which represent approximately the quantities and total cost of the system :

Iron work, track and slot rails$370,000
Viaducts and bridges150,000
Sundry track material148,000
Power-houses$ 1 54,000
Plant and machinery300,000
Cars, etc135,000

The whole of the work at Los Angeles was practically carried through, and the lines put into complete operation within one year of our taking hold.

Kansas City, Missouri, as mentioned in the report by Mr. Lawless to the fifth annual meeting of the Association, held in Cincinnati in 1886, had at that time completed one cable road, three miles in length. As already shown in my report, Kansas City now takes a high place in the records of cable traction, having about 70 miles of road in operation. The Kansas City Cable Company now owning 20 1/2 miles of cable track, was the first in the field. In point of mileage the Metropolitan Street Railway Company exceeds that of the City Cable Company, its length of cable track being now 22 1/2 miles. This Company began to convert a portion of its system in 1886, and it is of interest to notice that the line first converted was originally of narrow gauge, but on the cable being introduced the 4 ft. 8 1/2 in. width was adopted. Next in point of extent is the Grand Avenue Railway Company, holding 17 1/4 miles. The conversion in this instance was also begun in 1886, the first section being completed in 1887, and the rest being gradually brought into construction or conversion and operation. The other lines are the Kansas City Consolidated Street Railway Company, 6 miles ; the People's Cable Railway Company, 6 miles ; and the Union Cable Railway Company, 5 miles, the last having been completed in 1888. In connection with these roads the name of Mr. Robert Gilham stands high in the work of constructive engineering.

St. Louis, in the same State, has also taken a prominent share in the development of cable traction. Here the People's Railway, now consisting of 11 miles of track, was begun in 1887 and completed in 1889. The St. Louis and Suburban, 7 miles, followed. In 1889, the Missouri Railroad Company cabled 9 miles, or about one-half of their system, and in 1890 the Citizens' Cable Company, whose system now consists of 21 miles of cable track, completed and began the operation of their splendid Broadway line.

Denver, Colorado, has since 1887 opened over 58 miles of cable tramway, owned by four companies. The Denver City Cable Company comes first, both in point of time and extent, with 22 miles of track, on the narrow or 3 ft. 6 in. gauge, completed in 1887. The Denver and West Side Cable Railway Company followed in 1888 with 12 miles of the same gauge, and in 1889, the lines of the Denver Tramway Company 18 miles cable, out of a total mileage of 30 3/4 miles, and the Denver Cable Railway Company, 6 miles were put into operation.

Another important contribution to cable mileage has been furnished by Cincinnati, Ohio, where three companies have their lines, or a part of them, operated by this method. The Cincinnati Street Railway Company, whose track is on a 5 ft. 2 in. gauge, has eight miles of cable, and a line of the same length and gauge is operated by the Mount Adams and Eden Park Inclined Railway. The third line belongs to the Mount Auburn Cable Railway Company, and is 8 1/2 miles in length, of the same gauge as the others.

Coming to the State of Pennsylvania, we find in the "City of Brotherly Love" a cable line of 23 miles in length, part of the system of the Philadelphia Traction Company, whilst in Pittsburg three lines have been built, that of the Pittsburg Traction Company, 9 miles, opened in November, 1888 ; the Central Traction Company, 5 miles ; and the Citizens' Traction Company, 12 miles, on which the first car ran January 1st, 1889. As may be seen the system is being extended in this famous iron centre, where the problem of rapid transit has been attacked with marvelous nerve and enterprise. Taking a wide and comprehensive view of the situation, it is not too much to say that in no other city in the world has there been so great and diversified an application of mechanical forces in the operation of street-railways as in the phenomenally progressive city of Pittsburg.

The city of Baltimore, Maryland, now claims to be congratulated upon the completion of the first section, 11 miles, of cable track, part of the system of the Baltimore Traction Company. The history of this enterprise, it is stated, has been that of many another in which the most stubborn opposition has been met and overcome, and, as elsewhere, the very people who worked the hardest to prevent its inauguration, now take upon themselves the credit for a success which " they always predicted." So easy is it to be wise after the event.

Cleveland, Ohio, has also achieved distinction in the construction of some 20 miles of cable track, completed and put into operation during the present year, and there is no room for doubt that the character and design of roads, such as those at Cleveland, contain, mechanically and financially, all the elements of assured success. In connection with them the name of the late Colonel W. H. Paine, C. E., deserves honorable mention, he, like a true soldier, dying in harness last winter while perfecting his good work.

In the District of Columbia, Washington, the Capital of the United States, although somewhat late in falling into line, promises to occupy a high position in cable records. The Washington and Georgetown Railroad Company brought into operation their first 6 miles of cable road: 10 additional miles are now in course of construction. The "City of Magnificent Distances" offers a grand field for the operation of the cable, and I shall be disappointed if the development of the system there does not make rapid and successful progress.

Seattle, in the State of Washington, has seven different lines enumerated, most of them completed and brought into operation in the present year. They are the Front Street Cable Railway Company, 5 3/4 miles: the South Seattle Cable Railway Company, 2 3/4 miles (Did not operate cable cars - JT): the West Seattle Cable Railway Company, 2 miles. Those lines are on the standard 4 ft. 8 1/2 in. gauge. There are also the Madison Street Cable Railway Company system, 7 miles, 4 ft. gauge, opened April 1st, 1890, and the Seattle City Railway, the pioneer cable road of the great Northwest, 5 miles, of 3 ft. 6 in. gauge, constructed and inaugurated by Mr. J. M. Thompson- in October, 1888.

In Tacoma a cable line of 1 1/2 miles was opened this summer; and at Spokane Falls, a cable road of 3 miles, the motive power of which is generated by the neighboring water falls, is under operation.

Oakland, California, was early in the field, a line of 5 1/2 miles having been brought into operation there five years ago. The Piedmont Consolidated Cable Company has laid in a system of 10 miles.

Sioux City, Iowa, possesses a line of 4 miles; in Michigan, as formerly mentioned, the Grand Rapids Valley City Street and Cable Railway Company completed in 1887 cable track to the extent of 12 miles. St. Paul, Minnesota, has had 15 miles of cable track put in operation by the City Railway Company. In Missouri, besides Kansas and St. Louis, St. Joseph has 6 miles of cable tramway in the Circle Cable Railway, owned by the Wyatt Park Railway Company. (Never completed - JT) In Butte, Montana, the year 1889 saw 3 miles of cable track brought into operation by the Butte City Street Railway Company, now merged in the Butte Consolidated Railway Company; and Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska, have 9 and 5 miles of cable railways in operation. In Hoboken, New Jersey, an elevated cable railway of 2 1/2 miles in extent, following the example of the earlier elevated roads in New York, has been constructed: a further proof of the capability of the system; and from the city of Chicago intelligence is received of another system of overhead or suspended cable traction. Texas has a cable road 5 miles brought into operation this year by the Dallas Cable Railway Company. (Never completed - JT) In Portland, Oregon, a cable line of 5 miles was brought into operation in 1889. Providence, Rhode Island, received a cable tramway of 3 miles, opened January 1st, 1890. San Diego, California, has 6 miles of cable line, single track, 3 ft. 6 in. gauge, opened June 7th, 1890.

A short length of cable road on Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn, New York, concludes the list. It is worthy of mention that this road has been constructed and put into operation notwithstanding the vigorous opposition of adjoining property owners, actuated probably by the reverse which a few years before attended an endeavor to exploit a new departure in cable traction, and, that now that it has been completed, it has been received with the same unequivocal favor that has been universally awarded to cable roads.

Taking the extensions now in process of construction, we arrive at a total of close upon 700 miles of cable road in operation within the United States, besides the lines existing and under construction, on the continent of Europe and in the British Colonies. As my figures have shown, a very large proportion of that mileage has been brought into operation within the three years more especially embraced in my report.


Having given the story of the progress, early and recent, of cable tramways, I propose now to indicate some practical points which a knowledge and review of the methods, appliances and circumstances of the various roads suggest for discussion. Notwithstanding the fact that conventions of the Association have on previous occasions been favored with reports of its respective committees, in which the more technical side of cable traction has been most ably treated, the mechanical details of the system present to us a deeply interesting study, but the subject is too well known to the members of this Association to bear more than an epitomized repetition of its most salient features. Yet, it may not, perhaps, be deemed out of place if I set aside this portion of my report to the considerations of the conditions most favorable to the equipment, operation, success and progress of cable motive power. Guided by the light of our experience, and having regard to the remarkable developments recently manifested in other directions, it may now, I think, be admitted that the primary essential to the perfect success of the cable system in the future is, that its operation should be confined to cities of large population, preferably, perhaps, to those districts presenting the more severe gradients, and with regard, not only to the volume of travel to be catered for, but also to the character and extent of probable competition. There is, I believe, no royal road to the construction of a perfect cable line, for each road, or locality, presents its own problem, and as all roads must be more or less controlled by local conditions, so too will every detail of the mechanical parts have to bear a relation in form, position and detail to these requirements.

Remembering the axiom that "the errors of to-day are fastened upon tomorrow," our determination in regard to the location and construction of the line becomes of considerable importance. A double track may not necessarily be looked upon as a sine qua non in successful cable working, inasmuch as many roads consisting of a single track with turnouts for passing places have been, and may under certain favorable circumstances yet be, built, and may be operated with satisfactory results ; but I think, wherever practicable, a double track should be secured. Present indications show that the larger cities only of the United States are now falling into line in their adoption of cable traction, hence it is that the capacity of the system in the way of expansion and efficiency in handling large bodies of passengers at quick and frequent intervals during, probably, 20 hours out of every 24, renders the adoption of duplicate cables and consequent construction of double track roads in such cases almost essential, and this especially so when we take into consideration the growing demands for cheap, safe and rapid transit.

The question of gauge has been discussed from nearly every conceivable standpoint, and tracks of every width, from 18 in. to 6 ft., have been more or less satisfactorily brought into use by conversion. Viewing the whole circumstances of the case, I may say that for all practical purposes the standard gauge, 4 ft.8 1/2 in., appears to possess many tractive advantages.


It may be unnecessary for me to recapitulate the details of construction most beneficial in the line of progress, and in this connection I shall only state briefly that I believe the principle of construction now being wrought out on such a grand scale at New York is that most likely to be accepted. I am captivated by the splendid systems of construction there being so rapidly evolved, for the more I contemplate these operations, the more I have become convinced of the comparative advantages of the methods now being so vigorously applied there. The operation of duplicate cable methods has revealed the possession of so many striking advantages that to describe them in detail would be only a work of supererogation on my part. The satisfactory results achieved by Mr. A. D. Whitton, C. E., in the use of iron conduits doubtless suggested their adoption on the New York roads. Opinion has long been divided as to the relative advantages of concrete and iron as the material to be used in the construction of the road, not only with regard to the question of cost, but also with regard to the facilities offered by those materials respectively, in overcoming the difficulties which present themselves in building up a really substantial and serviceable conduit under all the conditions which may occur, and there have been many examples in practice of rushing into the extreme in each direction. I have seen a road built at Oakland, California, where the use of iron yoke frames or trusses has been entirely discarded, and the construction of the conduit has been almost exclusively confined to cement concrete, the track and slot rails being retained in position by a series of tie-rods, stays and anchor bolts embedded in the walls of the conduit ; but so far as I have been able to gather, the success of the experiment, in view of the contingencies of disintegration and the difficulty of maintenance and renewals, is, at least, a subject for doubt.

The forms of conduit in use now, or likely, so far as we know, to be brought into use in the future are: First, concrete as a whole ; second, concrete and iron in combination ; third, timber and iron ; fourth, sheet iron supported by yoke frames on a bed or foundation of solid concrete ; and in the last named form, inasmuch as the yoke frame or truss is intended to preserve the track and slot rails in position, and in performing this duty possesses the inherent weakness of forming an arch minus the key, I think it will be generally conceded that the suitable design of the yoke frames must always play an important part in the construction of a perfect cable road. Their strength and stiffness gives the necessary coherence to keep the road substantial and true to gauge, and also to prevent the slot beams from coming together, while they sustain with efficiency every possible strain which may, under any conditions, be brought to bear upon them. Yokes of every variety and weight, size, material and character have been designed and brought into use. On the coast, where the climate is all that the most exacting could desire, and where strength rather than great rigidity is essential, light wrought-iron or steel yokes ranging from 150 to 300 Ibs. serve the purpose admirably. In the more eastern cities, and especially in level places, where the conditions of traffic and of climate differ so much, the selection necessarily inclines to the use of heavier yokes from 300 to 500 Ibs. in weight. In Europe, as in the British Colonies, where material and labor are comparatively cheap, and where the severe climatic conditions of Chicago, for example, do not obtain, the inclination rather leans in the direction of the California form of construction. Regarding the typical section of track generally there seems to be a consensus of opinion in all recent practice in favor of the use of grooved steel girder track rails and slot beams, weighing from 40 to 70 Ibs. per yard. The paving employed is laid flush with the surface of the street and is chiefly composed of granite setts, though in some instances asphaltum, and even wood blocks have been preferred.


The provision of an efficient system of drainage is deserving of the greatest attention, as without adequate drainage of the conduits there can be no sustained and satisfactory operation of the cable road. Having a vivid recollection of our experience in this direction at Los Angeles, I cannot emphasize too strongly the importance of this point. There, in a practically newly-founded city, hurriedly built up as Los Angeles was, and developed in a period brief beyond precedent, the city possessed no commensurate system of storm drains or sewers, consequently the cable roads for many miles of their extent were constructed without any drainage facilities whatever. In the rain storms which periodically visited us, we found our roads literally swamped with storm water, which had no means of escape other than through the cable conduits and thence into the terminal pits and power-houses, which had been located with their foundations 30 ft. below the level of the tracks. How, and to what extent, those power-houses were flooded, and with what danger, expense and difficulty the roads were maintained in continuous operation, are matters of Pacific Coast history. The connection of the man-holes of the cable conduits by 8 in. pipes joining their lowest points will in the future render such a state of things as those I have described impossible. It was a very severe object-lesson, however, and very clearly and forcibly demonstrated the necessity of providing proper drainage in laying out or building cable roads. Hence. I think it desirable to direct special attention to the necessity that exists that the drainage of cable conduits should be provided for by their being connected at suitable intervals with the storm drains or city sewers. In consequence, doubtless, of the floods above referred to, Los Angeles is now being furnished with a splendid system of drainage. The catch basins of the drainage pits, or, in other words, the length of track between them, will vary in their connections from 40 to 200 ft., according to requirements. In some instances it has been found convenient to connect pulley pits together before communicating with the city sewer, whilst in others it has been found desirable or compulsory to connect each pit separately. Touching upon this question of drainage in connection with cable tramway conduits, it is of great value to consider the following extract from the Annual Hygienic Report of the Medical Officer for the city of San Francisco, furnishing, as it does, testimony to the sanitary value of these conduits to the community generally. The writer says: "The engineer under whose supervision the roads were constructed, found it necessary for the purpose of drainage to connect the conduit through which the cable runs with the sewers in the streets by pipes 4 in. in diameter; these pipes are placed at intervals of 40 ft., and so thorough does the ventilation seem to be that no complaint has been made of any offensive odors from this sewer since the construction of the line. Speaking from a sanitary standpoint, I believe the cable road to be the most desirable thoroughfare to live on, the offensive and mephitic vapors which, under certain conditions of pressure, penetrate the dwellings of other streets in the city, here escape into the open air in a form so diluted as to be both inodorous and innoxious."


I now come to deal with a subject of much practical value, namely, the location, number and capacity of the engine-houses, providing the motive power for a system of cable tramways. On the proper selection of site and character of the power-houses much of the economic success of a road necessarily depends ; indeed, in looking over the ground for the purpose of laying out a cable system, one of the first, if not actually the first, points to be decided upon are the site, location, and extent of the power required to operate the road, and many mistakes have been made from failing to pay proper regard to this matter. The great desideratum is to centralize the power houses so as to command the heaviest strain upon them at about the centre of the system, and they should not be placed under street level if that can be avoided. Upon the number and character and extent of the roads to be operated will depend the power necessary to be laid in at any one power-house. If the roads are of ordinary grade, conformation and extent, practically any number of cables may radiate from one power-house, the length and extent of curvature in the road alone defining the limit within which the cables may be operated. Single cables have been operated to 35,000 and 36,000 ft., and it is known that on a straight level road at Oakland, California, a cable of 39,000 ft. has been operated. But it is not considered safe practice to exceed 25,000 ft. in any one cable, particularly where the road presents unusual difficulties in the shape of sharp depressions or sinuosities in the routes. It is found in practice that every right angle curve on a cable road puts a strain upon the cable plant equal to that entailed upon it by 1,000 feet of straight road. The question of power and the arrangement of plant and machinery generally is one that has exercised the minds of those concerned in the practical administration of cable roads ; and rarely indeed has the same method been observed in any two plans that have come under my consideration. That there is no recognized standard is not because engineers have failed to solve the problem, but apart from all claims on personal or patent grounds, is chiefly attributable to the many perplexing conditions encountered in the territory sought to be dealt with. There should, however, be little difficulty in determining the engines most suitable in size, capacity, and power for the efficient operation of a cable road under ordinary circumstances. The engines, plant, and machinery in use at Los Angeles may be quoted as the ideal of what the power equipment of a modern cable system should be. This plant has been found to combine all the requisite conditions for giving uniformity of speed under every possible change and variation of strain imposed upon it. As is well known, the demand on the engines of a cable power-house vary with a suddenness and rapidity almost unknown under other conditions, changes ranging from 50 to 350 horse-power being indicated within the space of a few seconds. One point with regard to the selection of engine power cannot be too strongly borne in mind, namely, the determination of the efficient size in point of economy. Engines or boilers too capacious for the purpose required represent, it can be readily understood, a profitless drain upon the revenue, and therefore it is, as laid down by Mr. Hanscom, that in any proposed cable system of roads the alignment, curvature and gradients, and the other physical features of the roads, should be thoroughly studied, and the engines, plant and machinery should then be carefully adjusted to suit the conditions of the case. The amount of traffic to be accommodated will, of course, guide the engineer in this respect, leaving a suitable margin to meet sudden influxes of traffic, etc. The expense involved in the operating of a cable road is, so far as regards power, largely independent of the traffic, for to run the cable alone a certain expenditure is entailed ; therefore, the greater the number of cars propelled, the less will be the cost per car mile. It may be assumed that from 40 to 60 per cent, of the power used in operating the cable road is consumed in running the dead cable. This percentage, to those not thoroughly conversant with the subject, is not a little deceptive in character, and is thus liable to lead them to erroneous conclusions. But while, for instance, when no cars are running the whole power of the engines, 100 per cent., is absorbed in the movement of the cable as the number of cars increase, the power so expended is proportionally reduced. Mr. H. M. Kebby, whose experience I may say entirely coincides with my own, states that "on 10 miles of road with 30 trains, cable speed averaging 8 miles per hour, the power required to move the cables and machinery was 140 horse-power, and the average when operating the whole of the loaded trains was 287 horse-power, leaving in that case about 47 per cent, power for cable and machinery." This fact has an important bearing on the question as to what locality can the cable system be most profitably applied. It may occur to some of my hearers that there is an inconsistency between the statement now made as to the large proportion of the required engine-power employed on cable roads necessarily expended in moving non-paying load, and the comparison above made between the cost of locomotive traction and of cable traction in favor of the latter, but this apparent inconsistency may be explained by the following considerations : In the first place, locomotive traction is not altogether free from the disadvantage of being obliged to spend a part of the power employed in moving non-paying load, viz., the weight of the locomotive itself ; and it is to be observed that the ratio of this part of the load to the whole will generally be larger on a tramway than on a railway ; and secondly, the economic efficiency of one large fixed engine of the best type will always be very much greater than that of a large number of locomotives.


It is important to bear in mind that while, in contrast with some other methods of tramway traction, the installation of a cable system imposes a larger first capital outlay in construction; this is far more than counterbalanced by the low percentage of cost in operating the road. Owing to the distance from my base, having been unavoidably detained in Europe while preparing this report, I have found it exceedingly difficult to obtain reliable data concerning the operations connected with many of the cable roads in America, but it may be assumed, as observed by Mr. William U. Henry, that " the expenses of such roads are directly proportional to their several characteristics. This, however, serves only as a general guide in the construction of new 'roads ; as has been discovered in some notable instances where the engineering and mechanical appliances, which should have contributed to the successful operation of the system if properly designed, have caused an unnecessary and unwarrantable, because unprofitable, expenditure of capital. The more perfect and suitable the design, the less will be the expense of operation." Having personally inspected most of the cable roads in existence, and made myself familiar with many important details bearing on the subject, I shall endeavor to give the Convention the benefit of my experience. But it will, I trust, be taken that in my references, deductions and conclusions, my desire is to avoid repetition of arguments already used, my object being to indicate as succinctly, yet comprehensively, as may be, the conditions under which the success of cable motive power has thus far been achieved, and is most likely to be preserved.

After the location of the proposed route and power-houses has been settled, the question of cable grip and rolling stock come into consideration: indeed, in the initial stages of the proposition the grip may be claimed as the focus around which, for the time being, all other considerations centre. The form, character and construction of the road itself is so materially influenced by this element that it might be a fairly safe dictum to lay down : First, determine upon the type of grip most suitable, then design and build your road. The varieties of cable grips are legion, and, mechanically speaking, differ largely in detail, but when examined they are found to range themselves into two classes, the "side" and "bottom" grip. Both classes have their adherents, but for facility of manipulation and general efficiency in the operation of a complicated system of cable roads, I infinitely prefer the "bottom" grip. It is true the "side" grip may be less liable to drop the cable when it is undesirable to do so, but, on the other hand, it should not be lost sight of that where quick and positive action is necessary in order to relinquish the cable and regain it at will, the "bottom'' grip possesses the advantage. In passing power-houses, gravitating over cable crossings, or making terminal switches, all that is required is simply to throw open the "bottom" grip to its full extent, whereupon the cable releases itself, and when the car has traveled over the intervening space by momentum, the running cable is recovered automatically. In case of accident by blockade or other exigencies which may arise on any part of a system during operation, considerable advantages also accrue, in so far that the cable can be instantaneously released, and regained without difficulty.

At Los Angeles we used a " bottom " grip, one pound of pressure on the lever of which was capable of exerting 300 pounds pressure on the cable, a reserve power equal to several times the estimated load. The life of the solid steel grip-dies being 50 days, 2,506 miles; cost per set of dies, 57 cents; cost per mile run, .01 cent; maximum life of cable, 628 days, 100,348 miles. A good practice is to design a grip embodying either of the two principles referred to, with certain modifications to meet local conditions, and this course is now generally followed. Very great progress indeed has been made in the manufacture and, consequently, in the durability and economic treatment of cables during the past few years, simultaneously with improvements in construction of the road-bed, and particularly in the treatment of curves, as well as better knowledge of the subject generally, all tending to render the working more economical and satisfactory. The size of the cable most generally adopted is 1/4 in. diameter; the material should be of the highest grade of crucible steel, and the wires must develop high tensile as well as high torsional strength, and possess a good percentage of elongation. If the cable has high tensile strength with a low torsional strength, it will soon crystallize and become worthless; if of a high torsional strength with a low or medium tensile strength, it will stretch very rapidly, and is apt to strand or break when extra strain is applied. Such contingencies may arise in ordinary operations which need not be enumerated. The cable par excellence is thus, that which maintains a proper balance of the tensile, and torsional strength in the wire, and along with that as high a percentage of elongation as possible should be secured. Manufacturers have now realized the importance of producing a cable having in each case due regard to the position the rope has to occupy, and the nature of the work it is called upon to perform.

The speed at which cables may be run depends wholly upon the conditions under which the road is operated. It may be accepted that a cable may be run with safety and advantage on city roads, through crowded thoroughfares and around ordinary curves, at a speed of 8 miles per hour, while suburban cables running in direct lines to outlying districts may be allowed to attain any speed up to 14 miles per hour. Roads that are short, straight or level, of course, admit of the longest life to a cable, and, in an economic sense, display the most satisfactory results. A few illustrations may be given. On the Temple street cable road at Los Angeles coming under the category named, the record showed for a 12,380 ft. cable a period of 3 years and 2 months in continuous wear, during which time 120,681 miles were run. Market street and Geary street roads, in San Francisco, show, respectively, 1 year and 5 months for 106,225 miles, and 2 years for 119,153 miles run. On the Grand avenue road, Kansas City, 18,000 ft. of cable gave constant service for 1 year and 10 months, 135,872 miles, the uniform speed being at the rate of 14 miles per hour, whilst the Metropolitan cable road secured a success with 1 year and 7 months and 102,359 miles. In Denver a cable 24,000 ft. in length, running around several right angle curves, made a record of 1 year and 5 months, with 144,000 miles to its credit, while a 22,000 ft. cable operated by the same company attained a record of 19 months, with 137,280 miles on a road embracing a 7 per cent, grade and four right angle curves. The life of the cables throughout the country display signs of increase, and at present averages about 14 months, giving from 70,000 to 80,000 miles of service. The introduction of the solid steel or " interlocked " rope with electric welded splice has not been attended with any degree of success. After a short trial on Brooklyn Heights, this class of cable was found unsuitable for the purpose, and was withdrawn from use, and the ordinary cable with hempen core was substituted.

Without going into the merits of any particular make of cable, it may be sufficient, as a practical reminder, to say that the life of the cable plays a most important part in the results sought to be achieved in the operation of a road, and that on the class of cable adopted, and on the supervision and attention bestowed by those responsible for its splicing and care, will in no small measure depend the profitable exploitation and operation of cable tramways.

Regarding driving plants generally, so much has been said at previous conventions that I can offer little in the way of indicating progress made. The most important question to be considered in designing winding machinery for cable roads is to propel the rope without injuring it, and with the least loss of power in operating the machinery itself. This, it is considered, is best accomplished by driving both drums and employing as few wraps as possible. On various lines now in operation, differential ring drums, designed to reduce the wear on the cable, are employed with satisfactory results. There are numerous devices for securing a proper tension, and the point the engineer has to consider before adopting any one of them is to see that it is capable of providing against vibration, and the accumulation of slack or " sag " between the carrying pulleys. If this be not attended to unpleasant surging is the result, and provision should be made in the tension apparatus to obviate this possibility. The permanent stretch of a cable is variously estimated at from 1 to 2 percent. If these points have received attention a cable equipment will indeed prove a beautiful system, working in sunshine or storm, in flood or fury, noiselessly and smoothly as a charm.

The cotton rope system of transmission of power from engine to cable drum is employed at Los Angeles ; in Geary street and Howard street, San Francisco ; San Diego; Kansas City; Providence, R. I., and is included in the designs for the equipment of the power plant in the Broadway road, New York.

The cars employed in the operation of cable roads are chiefly of three classes, the dummy or grip car, the combination car and the eight-wheel bogey truck car. The eight-wheel combination car, with open front, finds most favor on the Coast, though all our roads in Los Angeles are operated with "dummy" cars, drawing trains of one, two or three trailers as occasion may demand. It is held by some that the best way to handle heavy traffic in large cities is by single cars, and many of them, rather than by the use of trains ; but from my experience with both systems I have found the nearest approach to the solution of the problem of passenger transportation in reducing the number of cars by increasing their carrying capacity; and have handled a congested traffic with efficiency by means of the employment of trains. Numerous and widely divergent opinions have been presented on this point, with reasons and conclusions almost as widely conflicting, but, in my opinion, nothing has been more clearly demonstrated than that when regularity and promptness are required, short, light trains of cars are the most likely to clear off a crowd, and at the same time to achieve the most economic results.

In respect to brake power, while in some cases "emergency drags" and "slot anchors" have been provided, ordinarily the track and wheel brakes now universally applied to cable cars, have been found to "fill the bill." During some experiments made by me at London, under the inspection of the Government Board of Trade, in May, 1884, I released a descending train of cars on a grade of 1 in 8, from the cable, and proceeded by gravitation until the speed indicator attached to the grip car recorded a velocity of 25 miles an hour. I then received orders from Major General Hutchinson, R. E., the Inspector of Railways under the Board of Trade, to apply the brakes, which was immediately done, and the train was brought to rest within 35 feet. Nothing better than this is possible, and on steep grades nothing less should be provided. If. As claimed, a running cable bearing no greater load than its own weight, has an existence limited by attrition to a period not exceeding three years, it becomes important in the mechanical equipment of the roadbed, to adopt only these appliances which are best calculated to lessen the evils which have been found to militate against good results. Much success has been attained, apparently, by the introduction of a system approaching "retrogressive" improvement, which, while it does not exactly return to the adoption of first principles, has impressed us with the prudence begotten of experience, and has taught us not to "experiment for experiment's sake," so that in the matter of drums, sheaves and pulleys we have learned to avoid all unnecessary expensive complications. Large and light chilled cast iron curve and carrying pulleys, of diameter and weight consistent with the requirements, when properly hung and balanced in the bearings of babbitt metal, give the best satisfaction, and are finding most favor in modern practice.

In the practical operation of a road immediate communication at all times with the power-house is necessary to the proper maintenance of efficiency. Insulated telegraph wires through the cable conduits for giving between the power-house communication from any part of the system by means of a series of signal boxes built within the manholes, and accessible to the employees along the route, seems most worthy of adoption as presenting a ready and reliable signal system.

Regarding franchises, in the consolidation of the roads at Los Angeles, the City Council, in the exercise of a wise discretion, rendered us a very important service. The ordinances under which the old horse and mule car companies were promoted had the limit of their municipal existence fixed at 21 years, and it was deemed expedient that these ordinances should be rescinded and a new one substituted granting us 50 years over the whole system, which concession has been carried into effect.

A clause specifying 50 years as the period for which all cable powers should run, is one that in view of the exceptional character of the case should, in accordance with the spirit of a liberal and considerate policy, be accepted by all local authorities and embodied in all charters relating to the operations of cable tramways.

In the effect upon drivers and conductors changed from horse lines to cable roads, I think there is no question that old car drivers make the best class of gripmen. Nearly every possible type of man has been utilized by me for the purpose, and I record with pleasure the fact that I have always found our old drivers the most efficient and reliable. Already accustomed to work through crowded thoroughfares, they have thus become familiar with the requirements of their position in respect to passengers, and with the amenities of street traffic generally. Invariably men of quick perception and intelligence, their occupation as horse car drivers sharpens and intensifies these qualities, and I find they appreciate and value the improvement naturally accruing in their condition as men selected for their competency and dexterity to handle a cable train with all its responsibilities and opportunities for advancement. Conductors also develop by the change to a better grade.

I now come to the subject of working cost, and so far as I have been able to ascertain it, the average cost per mile is thirteen cents, and sixty per cent, of the gross receipts about represents the average expenditure. Ninety per cent, of the cable roads in operation have been converted from animal power, and the mileage attained per day in excess of the previous motor averages one hundred per cent., while the ratio of increase in business has been in like proportion. In unsettled portions of cities to which roads have been extended marvelous development has been displayed; that on some of the roads in Pittsburg alone showing a rise from 3,000 to 15,000 passengers per day. There has in all such cases been a very marked increase in the value of property, the increase varying from fifty to three hundred per cent. Cable traction is admitted to have fully and conclusively disposed of the difficulty in regard to snow, no interruption now being recorded from this contingency. The accident returns show a remarkable change for the better as compared with horse service in proportion to the number of passengers carried. In no instance have I discovered a symptom of public disapproval, either on the part of the resident population or of the local authorities, while there has been, on the other hand, gratifying and unequivocal unanimity of satisfaction expressed.

If you ask me where and under what circumstances the cable should be adopted, the answer would greatly depend on the local details of conformation and probable progress of the city given. Population offers no really reliable guide as to the volume of traffic likely to accrue in the operation of a new road, but it is a pretty safe conclusion that any mile of an existing system now carrying 2,000 passengers per day may, in view of natural developments, be profitably converted to cable traction.

The mileage on cable roads by each car or train averages: 10 miles per day, the average speed being 9 miles per hour, and the number of hours in daily operation being generally eighteen. The dividends paid to the stockholders have reached as high as 72 per cent., though the average on the whole of the roads is about 12 per cent. Cable stock continues to be a favorite investment, commanding a high position in the markets, but it is generally held so tightly as an investment as to almost exclude it from quotations ; but from quotations to hand, West Chicago, North Chicago and the Chicago city roads are seen to be respectively at $625, $500 and $308, the par value of the stock being in each case $100.


I have thus fully, but I trust at not too great length, brought before the Convention a review of the cable question, past and present, and it now falls to me to sum up results. Before doing so, I may point out that I have purposely avoided crowding my report with tables or minute details. Cable traction for tramways is a great subject, impossible to be exhaustively treated within the scope of one report. There is hardly a paragraph in the foregoing remarks, whether in historical retrospect, current review or technical opinion, on which a report so full as to occupy all the time allotted might not have been written. It has, therefore, been necessary to treat the subject in broad touches rather than in minute detail; to follow the character of Bartholdi's statue of "Liberty," rather than the trifling elaboration of a filagree chain ; and I confess my consciousness of the compliment conferred upon me at being called upon to chronicle and advocate this mighty engine for the improvement and expedition of city transportation, which the ingenuity and perseverance of many inventors have presented for our use. I might produce many witnesses before you to support by their practical knowledge and appreciation of the system all that has been advanced ; but I shall here also refrain from loading my pages, being of opinion that the mere recital of the facts I have narrated constitutes in itself, a triumphant proof of success, and an ample vindication of potency and promise. It may be allowed to me, however, to call one witness to corroborate by his experience all I have ventured to bring forward, and I find my witness in one very well known to this Convention, and, indeed, well known everywhere where tramway transit is understood or discussed ; I refer to the Hon. C. B. Holmes, who, in his report to the Convention of this Association held in New York City, in 1884, referred to the conversion of the horse lines of his Company at Chicago to the cable system with his usual brilliancy and perspicuity on all matters pertaining to street-railway operations ; he advanced points in favor of the case for cable motive power, and the conditions most desirable for its successful progress. His words were: " After the first four lines had been built, covering short distances and carrying few passengers, a road was constructed in Chicago in 1881. The latter city claims not one iota of credit for the invention of the cable system, but it did undertake the somewhat serious task of demonstrating, first, that the system could be utilized in a region of harsh winters, deep snow and frost, the antipodes of the balmy climate and perpetual summer of California ; and second, that it could be extended into a suitable system for moving the vast population of our largest cities. The former could not be accomplished by any fragile construction. but required great strength and compactness to resist the strains inevitable in a large commercial city, and the powerful pressure of the frost in a Northern winter. The latter could not be accomplished by any mile or mile and a half timid trying, but by unshaken faith in its methods of construction, and the possibilities of the system. Twenty miles of track were constructed and the daily transportation of 100,000 people was attained with the ability to move five times as many."

What Mr. Holmes believed and knew in 1884 he still adheres to, for I find that under his direction last year his Company had grown from 22 miles of track to 152 miles, and from 60 bob-tail cars to 1,250 of the largest and best: its revenues had increased from $600,000 a year to nearly three and one-half millions ; its patronage from 30,000 passengers a day to 200,000 ; the speed of its cars from five miles an hour to an average of ten miles an hour. The Chicago Company has developed a cable system second to none in the world in extent, efficiency and public regard. During the last year the passengers carried numbered 68,734,969, an average of 30,917 more passengers being carried every day in 1890 than in the previous year. The cost of operating per mile, per car, was, by cable, 9.650 cents; by horses, 21.985 cents. Those are grand achievements, and the growth of the cable roads in Chicago, as the result of conspicuous success, is worth a train load of theory, and sweeps into the limbo many words we hear against the system from people who either do not understand it, or do not wish to understand it. At a recent discussion of the relative merits of this and other modes of mechanical traction, held in St. Louis, it was actually made a point against the cable that in ten years' experience all defects of appliance or construction had been improved away! Nothing, it was said, takes the place of working a machine to know its defects; precisely so ! and we cannot oblige the critic who used this argument by putting back the clock and constructing all cable roads on the first and necessarily imperfect plan. In point of fact the idea thrown out in this criticism suggests my strongest claim on behalf of cable traction. It did lie rather fallow for a year or two, and in that time "an intelligent study of the weak points" was made, with beneficial results. A system does not root itself into our largest cities and take possession of our finest and most crowded thoroughfares until any "weak points " it may have have been strengthened or removed -- and this is what we claim has in the case of cable motive power been done. Each new success has been the parent of another, and the progress, if slow at first, having found its crux, has at length begun to move on an accelerated ratio. What are the great outstanding facts? In the United States, Europe and the British colonies, there are at present at least 75 cable roads in operation or under construction, representing a capital of about $100,000,000, and embracing 700 miles of track, 3,500 trains of cars, running on an average headway of less than five minutes, the speed attained being from 6 to 14 miles an hour, about 50,000 horse power being in use to propel them.

Cable traction surmounts grades of 1 in 4; it has conquered combined and sinuous curves presenting physical and mechanical difficulties impossible under any other system; it has conveyed larger crowds within a shorter period, at less expense, and with greater safety and financial success, than has been found practicable by any other method of propulsion. The passengers daily are counted in millions, and wheresoever the traffic is most dense there will the cable road most surely assert its superiority. There is one point I must emphasize, namely, the improved type of car the cable has rendered it possible to bring into use, and this simply from the fact that weight or length of car is of little consideration, while the available carrying capacity for a given street space occupied has been largely increased. Where the cable has been introduced by conversion of system, the old primitive tracks have disappeared, and there has been evolved in their stead a substantial, smooth and perfectly constructed roadbed no longer rendered obnoxious by the necessary concomitants of animal traction.

In conclusion it can be claimed that while cable motive power is cheaper, given a suitable population, financial results are better, because occasional or sudden bursts of traffic add little or nothing to the working cost, while the knowledge on the part of the community that the system can cope with any casual influx of traffic makes such intromissions a matter of frequent rather than of fortuitous occurrence. Remembering that no system of tramway traction is capable of universal application, we claim that the cable is open to few of the objections that have been urged against other motors, while it possesses advantages which no other can pretend to offer. For proof, many facts and arguments cognizant to most of us could be advanced, but " comparisons are odious," and in order to avoid contention I should prefer to base the claim of cable motive power for recognition on its inherent attributes, than on any comparison of it with rival methods that may still have their place as fitting factors in the economy of transportation. At the risk of exhausting your patience. I may briefly recapitulate what these inherent good qualities are:

(1.) Financially, the cable road shows a low operating cost, less depreciation, and a high earning capacity -- in other words, most favorable as an investment.

(2.) Practically, it ranks foremost in trustworthiness and complete independence of climatic conditions, moving its loads steadily through heat, cold, snow, frost or flood, so that, indeed, no disturbance short of an earthquake has any effect on its power to maintain a service on which the public has learned to depend.

(3.) Socially, it can claim that through its agency no district is cut off from sharing in rapid transit or intercommunication with other systems, by reason of steep grades, and that desirable facilities are given for the interchange of traffic, so that by payment of a uniform fare passengers are readily transferred to intercepting routes throughout the entire line of travel.

(4.) Personally, the cable road appeals to public patronage in various ways, whether in the furtherance of business or in the pursuit of pleasurable enjoyment ; on the side of amenity it presents nothing offensive, actual or resultant ; on the side of comfort, that better and more commodious cars may be used ; on the side of convenience, all demands for extra or special accommodation can be readily met ; on the side of safety, the record is almost unbroken by accident or injury to passengers, and in that it offers less disturbance to the quietest street from noise.

(5.) Sanitarily, the system confers the negative gain of contributing no nuisance, and the positive gain of help in the drainage of a city, as shown in the quotation given from the Health Officer for San Francisco.

(6.) Generally, it can be alleged of cable traction that no condition, demand or requirement in city traffic can be made that it cannot fulfill, demonstrating it to be well in the lead of all modes of affording internal transit to our busy cities.

These, gentlemen of the Convention, are one and all strong points, and the opportunity which the preparation of this report has given me to pass in review every detail connected with the system has only served to strengthen my faith in its general value and adaptability, and in this faith I now respectfully submit this report.

J. C. ROBINSON, Committee.


The President : What is the pleasure of the Association in relation to the report just read.

Mr. Cleminshaw : I move the report be received and entered on the minutes, and that the thanks of the Association be tendered to its author. Carried.

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