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PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS.

 

As a railway is an embodiment of engineering and mechanical science applied to land transportation, it follows that its efficiency depends largely upon the degree or amount of skill applied to the service of any particular line or system. The entire combination of expedients is the outgrowth of centuries of scientific inquiry, ingenious investigations, and expensive practical tests. In early railway construction the knowledge relating to many details was comparatively limited, and in numerous cases lack of means prevented the adoption of the best methods that had been suggested. There was, besides, a great scarcity of trained assistants and of useful mechanical appliances, as well as of capital. The railway was but imperfectly understood, even by those who were best informed in 1830, and for some years later. One of the ablest and most celebrated of the civil engineers who entered into useful and prolonged service at an early day, said to the writer that he looked back with amazement, not unmingled with consternation, at the density of his own ignorance when he first began to assume heavy responsibilities. The pioneers have recounted many incidents illustrative of the deficiencies and drawbacks under which they labored. Strictly speaking there were no railway civil engineers, and no thoroughly competent representatives of dozens of distinct and complicated pursuits and professions which have since been developed, and which each require elaborate special training. The entire profession of civil engineering is of comparatively modern origin, and in the United States when railway construction commenced, two of the principal directions in which reliable assistants were sought and found were among men who had gained experience in locating canals, or men skilled as military engineers, either through instruction gained at West Point, or connection with various descriptions of governmental works. The canal operations which had preceded railway construction were of great service in training civil engineers and contractors; and a custom adopted of permitting officers of the United States army to temporarily enter into the service of railway companies without forfeiting their positions, materially increased the supply of available talent of a high order. Training as land Surveyors also proved useful, and the American faculty of rapidly becoming expert in new fields of effort, helped materially to advance raw recruits into useful leaders. But for sometime there was a great scarcity even of instruments and implements which would now be considered indispensable, as well as of thoroughly trained men adapted to all intricate or difficult branches of railway construction and operation, From the outset, and largely up to the present day, one emergency or requirement after another was developed, which could only be fully met by means or measures for which there was no clearly defined precedent, and railway men of all grades were subjected, to an immense extent, to the necessity of learning their most valuable lessons in the stern school of rugged experience.

So far as theories had been developed, they were often more likely to be fallacious than correct. A notable instance of this is furnished by the title given to the main track and appurtenances. It is styled

A PERMANENT WAY,

partly in harmony with the idea that the structure would, by the free use of stone and iron, be imperishable. Experience soon demonstrated that of all descriptions of roads ever constructed, railways exceed all others in exacting requirements for incessant supervision and constant repairs. In one of the frequent legislative investigations of modern periods, a manager of an important western railway was told that his company was spending entirely too much money in keeping its road-bed in order, and that its patrons were unnecessarily subjected to onerous charges for this purpose. He replied that constant endeavors were made to keep down such expenses. He was then asked what would be the result if these expenses were very greatly reduced, to which query he replied that in a comparatively short time they would have no railway.

Another prominent idea, which has proved to be erroneous, but which was probably founded on previous experience with the turnpikes that were seriously injured or worn out by heavy wagons, was that it was very desirable that

LOCOMOTIVES AND CARS SHOULD BE AS LIGHT AS POSSIBLE.

It was only by slow degrees that advances were made in increasing the weight of rolling stock, but they have been so steady and continuous on every progressive line that they form a leading feature of new developments. At the outset, as in all subsequent stages, conflicting views, variations in amount of available capital, or the requirements of anticipated traffic, and other causes, led to the adoption of diverse mechanical systems, but all were more or less imperfect to an extent which can scarcely be appreciated by those whose conceptions of a railway are based on familiarity with first-class lines of the present day. For such ideals, tinder-box cars, puny locomotives, strap rails, and pine-board stations, with their natural accompaniments, must be substituted by those who want to form correct impressions of primitive lines.

DIFFERENT PLANS OF CONSTRUCTION

were tried on different roads, and frequently on different sections of the same road.

The highest state of development is probably represented by the best style of construction used on the Philadelphia and Columbia Railway, inasmuch its it was built by the state of Pennsylvania, and suffered less from impecuniosity, at the time of construction, than any contemporaneous enterprise. Of the tracks of this line, which was completed in 1834, and portions of which were opened for travel in 1832, Mr. W. Hasell Wilson, who was employed as one of the assistant engineers in surveying and constructing it, in his instructive notes on the Internal Improvements of Pennsylvania, says:—

"The length of the road (which had a double track) being 81-six-tenths miles, there were 163-two-tenths miles of single track, exclusive of sidings and crossings, of which 6 miles were laid with granite sills plated with flat iron bars, 2½ inches in width by five-eighths of an inch in thickness; 18 miles with wooden string pieces plated in a similar manner; 2 miles with stone blocks and edge rails, having stone sills extending across the track at intervals of 15 feet; and 137-two-tenths miles with stone blocks and edge rails, having wooden cross-ties intermediate, except on some of the embankments, where the edge rails were secured to cross-ties supported on longitudinal mud-sills. The English gauge of 4 feet 8½ inches was adopted for this road, and the tracks were placed 4 feet 6 inches apart. The granite sill track, which was similar to that laid on the eastern portion of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and in regard to the permanency and efficiency of which great expectations had been formed, proved an entire failure. Although the sills were bedded on a stratum of broken stone one foot in depth well rammed, it was found impracticable to keep them either to an even surface or to gauge, and after a very short period of use, the iron bars began to work loose, curling up at the ends and forming what were termed 'snake heads.' The wooden track was also liable to the defect last mentioned, and as the timber soon commenced to decay, it became unsafe, especially for locomotives. In the course of a few years all of the flat bar track was replaced by T rails laid upon cross-ties. The edge rails, of which the greater portion of the road superstructure was formed, were rolled of the Wigan pattern, three and a half inches in depth, with the bottom and top surfaces parallel, weighing 41¼ pounds per yard. Cast-iron chairs of 15 pounds weight, were secured to the blocks or ties placed three feet apart, and the rails secured in the chairs by wrought-iron wedges, one on each side. The rails were at first ordered in lengths of 15 feet for straight lines, and 9 feet for curves, under the supposition that they would be too rigid to adapt themselves to a curve; but it was very soon discovered that they could without difficulty be forced into curved lines, and that the longer the rail the more easily this could be effected; consequently the 15-feet rails were taken for the curves, and the 9-feet rails made use of on straight lines. Subsequently the rails were all procured in lengths of 18 feet, and placed so as to break joint, with a cross-tie every 9 feet. The rails, which were procured from the Ebbw Vale Iron Works in Wales, cost upon the wharf at Philadelphia prices ranging from $44½ to $50½ per ton. The iron was of such excellent quality that the old rails remaining after the road came into possession of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company in the year 1857, was re-rolled into rods for blacksmith purposes.

As the road was intended to be operated by horse power, and so used for several years, the space between the rails of each track was filled in with broken stone or gravel to form a horse path."

Of the method employed in

CONSTRUCTING THE PORTAGE RAILROAD,

which was also a work of the state of Pennsylvania, commenced in 1831, and opened in 1834, to form a connecting link between canals east and west of the crest of the Allegheny mountains, Mr. Solomon W. Roberts, who was one of the engineers, says:—
"The laying of the first track and turnouts, with a double track on the inclined planes, was contracted for on the 11th of April, 1832. The rails used weighed about forty pounds per lineal yard and they were rolled in Great Britain. The hauling of them in wagons from Huntingdon, on the Juniata, was a laborious work. The rails were supported by cast-iron chairs, weighing about thirteen pounds each, the chairs being placed 3 feet apart from centre to centre, with a wrought-iron wedge in each chair. In most cases these chairs rested upon, and were bolted to, blocks of sandstone, containing 3½ cubic feet each, and imbedded in broken stone. These stone blocks were required to be 2 feet long, 21 inches wide and 12 inches deep. They cost about 53 cents each. On high embankments a timber foundation was used, with cross-ties and mud sills, which stood much better than the stone blocks. On the inclined planes, which were to be worked by means of ropes, flat bar-rails were laid upon string-pieces of timber.

Great care was taken in the drainage of the road-bed, and a large number of culverts and drains were built, there being 159 passages for water tinder the railroad. It was found, by experience, that the track must be tied across with cross-ties, or it could not be kept from spreading, and many such ties were put in between the stone blocks. The attempt to construct a permanent railroad track, containing no perishable material, was, in this case, a failure. We were striving to build a great public work to endure for generations, and, as it turned out, it was superseded by something better in about twenty years."

Jonathan Knight, chief engineer of the Baltimore and Ohio, in one of his publications in 1832, referred to the Columbia and Philadelphia railroad as being built on the English plan, laid with heavy English rail, "upon cast-iron chairs and stone blocks, and it also includes inclined planes and their machinery, and other very expensive work, and especially of bridges, having to traverse the country across the streams. This railway is estimated at $28,173 per mile. The construction is of the most expensive character, and it has been planned with a view to great permanency, and for the use of heavy locomotive engines."

Of the plan first tried on the

BALTIMORE AND OHIO,

a report on railways made by a committee of the New York legislature in 1832, said:—
"The most approved method of constructing railways is on the plan adopted by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company. A line of road is first graded, free from short curves, and as nearly level as possible. A small trench is then formed for each track, which is filled with rubble stone, on which are laid blocks of granite or other suitable stone (in the place of wood), which will square about one foot, and of as great length as can be obtained. The upper end and inner surfaces of each track are dressed perfectly even, as well as the ends of the blocks at their joinings. Bars, or plates of wrought iron, near an inch in thickness, are then laid upon these blocks or rails, in a line with the inner surfaces, and fastened to the stone with iron bolts or rivets, entering about four inches in holes fitted to receive them, and at a distance of about 18 inches. The distance between the two tracks, for the wheels, should be about five feet."

As on most other important roads, various modes of construction were adopted on the Baltimore and Ohio. In addition to the granite-sill method, six miles of single track were composed of stone blocks and wooden string pieces, and a considerable part of the line rested on wooden sleepers (or ties).


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