Some Unusual Aspects of Train Operation
A LARTIGUE MONORAIL TRAIN on the former monorail line which was laid between Ballybunion and Listowel, in County Kerry, Ireland. The 10-
2 ft diameter running along the single rail. There were also four guide wheels, bearing against the guiding rails. The maximum speed was restricted to 18 miles an hour.
THE unconventional, whether in human beings or in inanimate objects, generally attracts attention. If the underlying idea is merely odd or freakish, public attention will not be sustained. If on the other hand a sound idea underlies the presentation, there is a reasonable probability -
This chapter will deal mainly with ideas and inventions that have had varying fortunes. Some have thriven for a time, but are now in a state of suspended animation; others have expired after an uneasy adolescence; others again have never yet seen the light of day.
Everything is strange when it is first introduced, and more or less in the experimental stage. The first electric tube railway -
Another forgotten experiment of this kind was the Pneumatic Conveyance Company, which many years ago was tried for the underground transport of mail-
This forerunner of the present wonderful Post Office Tube had a very small bore, and cylindrical four-
Whether we shall yet see trains running on one rail is still a matter for speculation. Several decades ago, in his novel, “The War in the Air”, Mr. H. G. Wells forecast them as an immediate probability; but for once, that remarkable prophet was wrong. A younger novelist, Aldous Huxley, has described them in one of his books as being in use six hundred years hence, which is a safe enough distance away.
A long time ago, the French engineer Lartigue invented a monorail system in which the single rail was mounted on a tri-
In the early years of the present century a great deal of attention was attracted to the invention, by Mr. Behr, of a high-
their backs to the rail, in deep armchair seats, while two other rows of similar seats were to face them along the outer sides of the car. It is believed that Mr. H. G. Wells had the Behr railway in mind when he described futuristic trains in “A Modern Utopia” and “In the Days of the Comet” but those in “The War in the Air”, which we have already mentioned, appeared to be of the gyroscopic type, running on one simple rail with no balancing rails at all. The Liverpool-
The gyroscopic monorail next calls tor attention. The invention of this type which attracted most attention in the past was that of Louis Brennan. A gyroscope may be likened to an enormous spinning top, and in a gyro-
The weak point of Brennan’s system, as of any gyroscopic monorail, was that, while the locomotive or motor coach could balance itself, it could not balance any trailer cars as well, and that if these were to have their own balancing mechanism, the train would have been a heavy, complicated, and expensive piece of work with only limited passenger or goods accommodation. The system invented some time back by the Russian, M. Shilovski, was an attempt to overcome this problem. It also involved the use of the gyroscope; but what was known as Shilovski’s Gyroscopic Stabilizer was to be employed. Two or three of these devices were to be included in a train consisting of a locomotive and several vehicles. Models were built, including a steam tank locomotive with two driving wheels and a bogie at either end. Although the engine had but one set of wheels, its side elevation resembled that of an orthodox 4-
A STATION ON A PIER. Lymington Station, in Hampshire, belonging to the Southern Railway, is built on a pier, as it also forms the landing stage for the company’s boat service between the mainland and Yarmouth, in the Isle of Wight. The landing stage is half a mile from the mouth of the river, because it was necessary to construct a pier that could be used at low tide.
It may be asked what was the point of these experiments in monorail design. The running of a train or rail-
In the adjoining towns of Barmen and Elberfeld, in Germany, an electric “hanging” railway has been at work for many years. On this, the cars hang from a rail mounted on overhead girders. Speeds of over thirty miles an hour are attained, so the railway provides a rapid form of travel.
In places the line is carried above the River Wupper, where it provides a striking, though hardly beautiful, addition to the landscape. The Germans call it a Schwebebahn, or “swinging railway”. The line is illustrated on pages 574, 575, and 577. Slightly resembling the Barmen-
Two interesting experiments were put into practice at the British Empire Exhibition, Wembley, during 1924 and 1925. One of these was known as the “Neverstop Railway”, and ran the length of the Exhibition grounds. A similar, though smaller line, had previously been installed in an amusement park at Southend. The “Neverstop” cars ran on two rails in the ordinary way, but they were driven by a revolving continuous screw, laid in a pit between the rails. The thread of this screw varied in pitch at different places; at the stations, the pitch was so fine that the cars crawled past the platforms at a bare walking pace, and were easily boarded. Between the stations the screw pitch was increased, so that the cars ran at a considerable speed. The cars engaged with the thread of the screw by means of horizontally mounted rollers between and below the running wheels. Such a line would only be of use over short distances in towns. It is still possible to see at Wembley the concrete viaducts which carried this interesting line. The other line at Wembley appeared at first sight to be a simple narrow-
We will now deal with some “might have-
TO PREVENT ACCIDENTS at level crossings, the Alton Railroad, a subsidiary of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad of America, has adopted striking designs for its rail-
The procedure adopted for ferrying the ship was to have been as follows. At low tide a gigantic wagon, resembling a slipway on wheels, would have been run down to the extreme limit of the line, in deep water. At high tide the ship to be ferried would manoeuvre over this vehicle. When the tide went out again, the ship would then settle down on to the wagon on an even keel, and it would be hauled ashore by two giant steam locomotives, each with six sets of wheels, the ship-
The capacity of the “ship railway”, too, as compared with a canal, would have been woefully small, for the transport of each ship would have taken at least a day to accomplish. So the Canal came instead, but it was long in coming, and was not opened till 1914. The notion of laying the rails at either end of the “ship railway” down into deep water was not quite so extraordinary as it sounds. The idea took concrete shape at Brighton, as explained in the chapter beginning on page 605. A semi-
It must be remembered, on the other hand, that the principle of the “Ship Railway” has been successfully applied on a small scale. On page 1024 of this work appears an illustration of the Portage Railroad across the Allegheny Mountains, on which sectional canal boats were run up inclined planes by means of a stationary engine. Quite probably it was this which gave Eads his much more ambitious but less workable idea for crossing the Isthmus of Panama. A modern instance also occurs on the Overland Canal built by German engineers between Elburg and Prussian Eylau, where the small canal steamers are transferred from one level to another by means of cable-
Now we have to consider two more “might-
The “Ghost” was built by Robert Stephenson and Company in 1861, two years before the Metropolitan was first opened, It was a broad gauge engine; otherwise very little was known about it at the time, though people whispered that it “went by hot bricks”. The engine was a 2-
Before this, in 1860, tentative designs had been prepared for another “hot bricks” locomotive, which would have been a
Subsequently a trial was made with a wagon on which a crude form of electromagnetic motor was mounted. On its trials it crawled into the tunnel between King’s Cross and Gower Street and stuck there, after which it was hurried away into the limbo of forgotten inventions. Then, in 1888, a six-
CHECKED BY NATURE. In Dutch Guiana, near the River Maroni, which is liable to floods, it has been impossible to operate a railway line. The locomotive shown above had to be abandoned to the swamp and the tropical vegetation.
This early Underground “Electromotive” does not seem to have been much of an advance on Robert Davidson’s electro-
The vehicle weighed six tons and succeeded in propelling itself at four miles an hour, which was a remarkable performance for the first half of the nineteenth century. As it stood, of course, Davidson’s machine was anything but a commercial proposition, but he had got the idea of electric traction roughly half a century before the successful experiments of Siemens. The Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway were sufficiently impressed to buy the apparatus, but that was the end of it, and nothing more was done. When we reflect on the time and money which was spent in trying to perfect the Atmospheric System, it seems strange that nobody realized how very great were the elements of Davidson’s invention. Davidson really stands in relation to Werner Siemens as Murdoch does to George Stephenson.
The reference to runaways is a reminder that at one time and another, perfectly ordinary and respectable locomotives have “taken holidays” on their own account. Many years ago a London, Brighton and South Coast engine down in Sussex ran away because a cleaner had opened the regulator a little way without realizing what he had done. This man wanted to have the engine moved to get at a part of the motion. After his -
The old South Devon engine “Brutus” once took a similar trip by herself. On that occasion the regulator was jerked open through the engine being accidentally bumped in the rear by another. “Brutus” finished up half way through a building behind the buffer-
A SWING BRIDGE at Goole, Yorkshire, carries the LNER line from Doncaster to Hull over the river Ouse. The swing portion of the bridge rests on an artificial island in mid-
Runaway locomotives are rare nowadays, but less than fifteen years ago one of the late Mr. Dugald Drummond’s well-
But probably the most extraordinary fate which ever overtook a locomotive was that which befell a commonplace little six-
The tender was hauled back to safety, but by the time the breakdown crane had arrived the engine had sunk deep down into the fissure, only the cab and footplate being visible, where they protruded out of a chaos of slipping earth. The engine was beyond all hope of salvage; gradually she disappeared completely into what is probably the queerest “grave” the world has ever seen. The sides of the fissure gradually fell in over her, completing the weird business of locomotive-
Perhaps, thousands of years hence, people of another civilization will come across her accidentally in the course of some as yet unvisualized excavations, and she will be solemnly installed in one of their museums as a “perfect and unspoilt example of Neo-
When, in the present chapter, we refer to “warlike railways”, we do not mean strategic or military railways. Strange as it may sound, in these decorous days, certain railways in Great Britain were once warlike in the literal sense, that is to say, they were extremely quarrelsome among themselves. Nowadays, with only four great railways and three joint railways, cut-
In the Far North of the British Isles, the Great North of Scotland was a somewhat quarrelsome line. It had a deadly feud with the Highland Railway, which held the key to Inverness, and another with the Scottish North Eastern, which carried on the traffic to the South.
At Keith, where the Great North and the Highland were connected, the Great North would schedule their trains to leave just before “connecting” Highland trains arrived. This they did because they grudged the Highland its half of the Inverness-
But these were merely obstructive tactics. In England, in at least two instances, the mutual dislike of rival railway companies may be said to have come to open warfare. Perhaps the most notable instance was the celebrated quarrel between the old London Brighton and South Coast line and the London and South Western Railway, which flared up in 1858. The bone of contention was Portsmouth, to which the Brighton line had access via Havant. On the completion of the newer line-
AN INGENIOUS INVENTION designed to enable non-
Six years before, at Nottingham, there had been a somewhat similar dispute between the Great Northern and the Midland Railway. On August 1, 1852, the Great Northern ran its first train into Nottingham, to the disgust of the Midland, which looked upon that city as its own property. The Midland men captured the Great Northern engine, and with the aid of several of their own, hustled it into a shed. The rails in front of the shed were then torn up, and the Great Northern engine held a close prisoner. Thus it remained for several months, while the rival companies went to law over the matter. The Great Northern won the action in the end, and ran to Nottingham until the present LNER succeeded it in 1923.
The old London and North Western was a rather lordly line in some ways, and once or twice conducted affairs in a high-
Mixed Goods Traffic
Railways are called upon to carry some peculiar things at times. A few years ago, one of the items included in a sale of railway lost property was a stuffed alligator. Such luggage as this is comparatively rare, and it is strange, indeed, to find such a thing among the unclaimed parcels and umbrellas. But a far worse thing than the loss of a stuffed alligator once took place at a London goods depot. A large packing case, containing “not classified” goods, arrived without its label. There was nothing for it but to examine the contents with a view to determining its ownership. There was a surprise when it was found to contain ancient but obvious human remains, which were handed over to the police. An inquest was held, at the end of which the “remains” were very much the worse for wear. They were found to be those of a young woman or girl; there was “nothing to show how death had been caused, or whether it were the result of crime”. Life had been extinct for an indefinable period. Then the lost invoice suddenly turned up, and brought with it trouble for a number of people. The “young woman or girl” was a Peruvian mummy, and should have been sent to a museum in Belgium. She had been dead for thousands of years. She was packed up and sent off to Belgium, but the owners refused to accept their gruesome “goods” after all the damage which had been done by the unfortunate railway company, and the people at the mortuary. In the end the railway company had to pay heavy damages for the unlucky mistake.
The smallest railways may sometimes appear unusual, but they serve their purpose well and in a normal way. There is, however, a strange train which runs on a practically unknown railway in Dorset, and it is worth a passing notice. The railway is a little narrow-
There are two tiny tank engines, one of them built locally as far back as 1868, a fleet of small unsprung wagons, and no train service in the time-
Unofficial carriage of non-
THE “SHIP RAILWAY” proposed by an American inventor for transportation across the Isthmus of Panama, before the building of the canal. This “ ship railway ” was to have had twelve rails, on which it was proposed to run a gigantic moving slip-