New System of Cable Propulsion for Street Railways.

By Augustine W. Wright.

This article, from The American Engineer, January 25, 1884, describes the non-grip Rasmussen system which was tested on a short experimental track on the Chicago West Division Railway in 1886 and implemented unsuccessfully on Newark's Essex Passenger Railway and Newark and Irvington Street Railway in 1888.

Plan A

[A paper read before the Western Society of Engineers, Chicago. Jan. 15,1884, by Augustine W. Wright, Member.

As a member of your "Committee on Transportation, etc.", I have the honor of addressing you upon a system of cable propulsion for street railways.

I would premise my remarks by the statement that street railways are an American idea, and the first charter was for the New York & Harlem, opened in 1832. From this beginning they have spread to nearly every quarter of the globe.

The Hon. Moody Merrill, in his address at the organization of the American Street Railroad Association, in Boston, Mass., December, 1882, said "There are now organized and doing business in this country and Canada 415 street railroads. They run 18,000 cars. * * * More than 100,000 horses are in daily use. * * * To feed this vast number of horses it requires annually 150,000 tons of hay and 11,000,000 bushels of grain. These companies own and operate over 3,000 miles of track. * * * The whole number of passengers carried annually is over 1,212,400,000. The amount of capital invested in these railways exceeds $150,000,000." These figures give you an idea of the vast importance of this business and the great expense of horse-power therefor. Inventors have been at work for years to find some method of doing this work without horse-power, and many patents have been taken out. Compressed air, electricity, gas engines, compressed steel springs, endless wire cable, etc., have been proposed.

Sir F. Bramwell reports favorably of the Mekarski compressed air system as used on the Nantes Tramway in France, as does also B. Frank Teal, of Philadelphia; but compressed air was not a success as tried by the North Chicago City Railway. The electrical motor can hardly be said to have yet passed the experimental stage.

Among the applications of gas engines is the patent of B. C. Pole. This motor weighs 4,000 pounds. The force is obtained from an Otto or similar gas engine. After its injection into the engine it is exploded, and the explosion operating upon a series of pumps or valves sets in motion the movements of the motor. In the first place there are two fluid cylinders so arranged as to bring the pressure upon a foot which jars down upon the cobble stone between the tracks, making a step of 3 feet 2 inches in length; and every time this grip-like device, fitted with teeth and nicely adjusted for securing purchase or hold makes a step the motor is pushed forward 3 feet 2 inches, the steps to be decreased or increased by regulation from the engineer. The foot is padded with rubber, which gives its stroke such elasticity that there is no jar or sudden start." (Railroad Gazette, p. 18, 1883.) I invite your attention to the accompanying cut of a machine patented by David Gordon, Dec. 18, 1824, in England.

Substitute steam for gas and you have a very similar idea. The Baldwin Locomotive Works manufactured steam motors, but any machine depending upon its adhesion upon the unfavorable street rail is at a disadvantage. It must be made so heavy that rapid depreciation results to itself and the tracks, for the latter are covered frequently with a greasy mud that reduces the adhesion probably to less than one-quarter of that obtained on a "T" rail.

Herein is the chief advantage of the system of stationary engines and ropes. As you are aware, in 1829 the directors of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway Company submitted to Messrs. Rastrick, Walker and Stephenson, three most eminent English engineers, the question "What under all circumstances is the best description of moving power to be employed upon the Liverpool & Manchester Railroad?" Rastrick and Walker replied "Upon the consideration of the question in every point of view, taking the two lines of road as now forming, and having reference to economy, dispatch, safely, and convenience, our opinion is that if it be resolved to make the Liverpool & Manchester Railway complete at once so as to accommodate the traffic stated in your instructions or a quantity approaching to it, the stationary reciprocating system is the best." This was stationary engines and ropes, and thus in the early days of railroading was the stationary engine proposed, but it was not until modern inventors had perfected the manufacture of wire rope that the system was applied to street railways. Among the many patents upon this subject in the United States of America are those of General Beauregard, A. C. Brush, and A. S. Halliday (Hallidie - JT), of San Francisco, Cal, who is entitled to great credit for the success of the cable roads there, inaugurated August, 1873, by the Clay Street Hill Railroad Company, and subsequently adopted by other roads in San Francisco and the Chicago City Railway Company here. Oct. 3, 1882, you had the pleasure of listening to an interesting paper by our fellow-member, D. J. Miller, upon the construction of the latter road.

I now desire to call your attention to the system of endless wire rope propulsion patented by Charles W. Rasmussen, owned by the United States Cable Railway Company, of this city. It professes novelty, and in my opinion many advantages. The plan marked D shows very plainly his system of track construction. To the cross-tie of the tracks, as ordinarily laid, he spikes a tube of channel iron, in the centre, between the car-wheel rails. This tube is the same depth as the ordinary stringer and rail, i. e., 8 inches for the former, 1 inch for the latter, or nine inches. It has a slot open on top 5/8 inches wide, or the same as the Haliday system. In the bottom of this channel you will notice a rail on each side. Instead of carrying his cable upon stationary pulleys, he attaches to the cable every 16 feet, by a suitable clasp, an axle, having two wheels 6 inches in diameter, upon which it travels. As often as may be necessary he also attaches to the cable a broom or scraper to clean the tube from all snow, ice, or dirt that may enter it through the open slot. At suitable intervals the bottom is left out of the tube and inclines built carrying this dirt into iron boxes or pails placed in catch basins built between the tracks, if it be a double-track road. These can be removed from time to time, as may be necessary. He has perfected plans by which curves are turned and tracks crossed upon a level. So much for the substructure. The device by which he propels the cars is most ingenious. Under the bottom of each car, at each end, he fastens a wheel, around both of which passes an endless steel band. To the latter are attached, by hinged joints, plates of steel about 9 inches long and deep enough to reach into the afore-mentioned slot and engage one of the axles attached to the cable. These arms and axles are so arranged as to meet each other like cogs upon wheels. When the car is standing still these arms revolve around under the car with the same speed as the cable. The conductor signals the driver to start. He gradually tightens this band by a friction clutch and the car slowly or quickly starts as the friction is applied slightly or more firmly.

The advantages proposed by this system, in my opinion, over any other system of wire rope propulsion with which I am familiar, are briefly as follows:

First, -- Cheapness of construction. The Chicago City Railway cable track is reported by its President to have cost $105,000 per mile of single track. The tracks of the North Chicago City Railway Company at present prices cost per mile of single track $9,004.21; paving, 8 feet wide, $6,279.00. The channel for this cable will weigh 172 tons and at $55 per ton is $9,460; 440 axles and wheels at $1.50 = $660; cable at 25 cents per foot, $1,320; 16 catch basins at $10 = $160; labor of laying and spikes, $300. Total cost of one mile single track on this plan, $27,183.21, of which sum $11,900 is for the cable.

This system permits of being laid without tearing up of horse-car tracks and consequent loss of revenue during construction. No interference with gas and water pipes or sewers. In operation there is not the expense of constructing and maintaining grip cars, affording as they do small seating capacity and this not used during winter weather. This grip is attached to each passenger car at an estimated cost of $150. The driver is placed at the front end of the car where he has an unobstructed view of the track and can avoid accidents to individuals and vehicles. Only one hand wheel is required to operate both grip and brake. The same turn of this wheel releases the cable and applies the brake or the reverse, as the case may be. The cable is always in line. There is no downward strain on the car caused by lifting the cable above carrying pulleys and consequently making a downward pull, very detrimental to track. The great danger of cutting the cable by a careless or negligent driver neglecting to "let go" at the proper points is avoided, and it is impossible to miss connection with the cable. There is no wear on the cable when the car is stationary. It is not sliding through a grip. This must prolong the life of the cable many times. Should the tracks be obstructed by fire, hose, or any other means these cars can be transferred to the other track and run backwards and forwards on each side of the break, and if the cars are "bunched" by any accident the cable can be run faster and the delayed cars can make up time while the others can travel slower than the cable with slighter wear upon them and none at all upon the cable. This is not the case when the cable is slipping through grips and rapidly destroying the latter as well as itself, as in the San Francisco system. If their track be obstructed all the cars must remain stationary, they cannot let go the cable and regain it, except at certain prepared points upon the line where the cable is elevated ordinarily, it is below the grip that the latter may pass over the carrying pulleys. No skill is required to manage the Rasmussen grip. Anyone who can turn a wheel can manage the car, and the company is not consequently at the mercy of some evil minded employes who inaugurates a strike. Not so when skilled labor must be employed.

I will not submit an estimate of the comparative cost of cable traction and horse-power. It varies with each situation, and the relative prices of the various items going to make the total. The following table is taken from the return of three companies to the State Engineer of New York, for the year ending Sept. 30, 1882.

Name of Road.No. of Horses.Repairs of Harness.Horse ShoeingCost of Horses.Stable Expenses.Feed.Water Taxes.Tot'l Expenses, 1882.
Sixth Av. 1252$6,600.52$18,581.26$72,005$83,240$141,297$398$613,984
Eighth Av.1150$4,975.02$18,065.51$40,453$54,739$138,197$558$495,144
Third Av. 1931$5,135.98$25,627.99$70,662$ 4,759$237,648....$878,922

From this report it appears that the average expense for each horse was $213 during that year. That the cost of the horse department was 46 per cent, of the total operating expenses, and to reduce this great expense is the effort of those who advocate the cable system of propulsion. The Committee on "Motive Power" reported at the October, 1883, meeting of the Street Railroad Association, regarding Cable Railroads, "This system in our judgment, (though in its infancy now), is on the right road to solve the problem of dispensing with animal power. * * * We believe, in conclusion, that the only practical means presented to our view for dispensing with animal power is the cable system." * * *

The cable system is awakening a widespread interest, and I take pleasure in bringing this plan before you, and hope it may be discussed. I shall be glad to furnish any further information in my power.

Of the accompanying plans, "A" shows a side view of car and grip; "B" an end view of same; "C" a side view of one end with details; "D" the method of building the afore mentioned catch basins. The plans are so plain they can scarcely require detailed explanations.

Plans B and D

Plan C

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