Scientific American—February 20, 1886

The southern end of the Palisades, with its steep and rugged sides, has always presented a formidable obstacle in the path of the horse car railroads of Jersey City and Hoboken. Steam railroads overcame the difficulty by tunneling and open cuts, their main object being to pass the hill; but the horse cars, having to mount the hill to accommodate residents upon the Heights, were of course compelled to resort to other means. Twenty years ago dummy engines were tried on the routes leading from Hoboken ferry, but the grades proved to be too steep, and they were abandoned. Horses, four to a car, were again employed, and it took twenty minutes to reach the top of the hill from the ferry, a distance of only one mile. In 1873, the North Hudson County Railway Company concluded to construct a short but steep inclined plane, and to elevate both cars and horses by stationary steam power. A car and horses arriving at the foot of the hill passed on to a large and substantial truck and were drawn up the incline, 400 feet long and 100 hundred feet high, in one minute.

This was the first horse car elevator either in this country or Europe. It has been in continuous operation ever since completion, arid has never failed to work or caused an accident.

The truck, or elevator platform, is triangular in shape; the hypotenuse is provided with four sets of wheels, which run up a track extending up the incline, When at rest, the horizontal side of the truck is on a level with the main track, either at the bottom or top of the hill, and is of sufficient length to receive a car and horses. There are two of these trucks, one upon each track. Two wire ropes lead from each car around drums operated by engines at the top of the hill, The cables are so arranged that one truck passes up while the other is going down. A third cable, attached to each truck and passing around sheaves at the top of the hill, serves as a safeguard in case either set of hoisting cables should break.

The travel increased to such an extent as to make necessary the providing of additional facilities for mounting the hill. It was therefore concluded to build the elevated railroad shown in our frontispiece. This easily, accommodates all the travel, and also shortens the time to the top of the hill from ten minutes to five.

The most difficult task was to secure proper foundations for the posts. Soundings made between the ferry and hill showed the solid bottom to be from 20 to 90 feet below the meadow. At no point could a firm foundation be secured without piling. The higher part of the structure rests on towers 50 feet wide at the base and 22 feet wide at the top. Each of the four corner posts is set in heavy castings which rest on bluestone and brick piers 10 feet square at the bottom and 4 feet square at the top; these piers are built upon cross timbers which hold together clusters of 16 or 20 heavy piles. The foundations for the ordinary posts on the level part of the structure are of a similar character, but not so heavy, The structure is entirely of iron. The tracks are of 67 pound steel rails, not laid on wooden cross ties, but on white oak blocks, which are bolted to iron plates riveted in between two iron channel bars, which, while adding strength to the structure, also act as guardrails. This mode of laying the track, dispensing with the wooden ties and substituting iron for wooden guard rails, is far preferable to that of the elevated roads of this city, as it is more durable, admits more light and air, and looks better.

The structure starts from the ferry at an elevation of about 8 feet, and gradually rises until it reaches the first street, where it is 15 feet high. It then continues level for about 3,500 feet, when it begins to rise at the rate of 5 feet in the hundred. There are two curves in the road, one at the ferry and the other at the foot of the steep grade.

The cable is of steel, 1½ inches in diameter, and the total length is about 2½ miles. The motive power is situated on top of the hill. There are four return-flue steel boilers, each of 125 horse power. There are two Corliss engines, having cylinders 30 inches in diameter and 5 feet stroke. The main shaft is 15 inches thick. The engines are so arranged that they can be used either singly or together. The flywheels are 20¾ feet in diameter, and each weighs 28 tons. The gearing for driving the cable drums—shown in Fig. 2— similar to that illustrated in our article describing the Tenth Avenue Cable Railway, of this city, in the SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN of January 30, 1886, and was built by Messrs. Poole & Hunt, of Baltimore.

The arrangement and construction of the grips and rope lifters, Fig. 4, present many advantages over the old methods. The grips are not fastened to the body of the car, but to the wheel trucks, enabling the car to pass easily around the curves, and causing the grip to remain at the same distance from the cable, whether the car is loaded or not. There is one grip on each of the two trucks of the car. The grips are of iron, 3 feet long, and the cable is in contact with the jaws of the grip for the entire 3 feet. The grip is opened and closed by the turning of a hand wheel on the platform. A worm gear and set of levers, forming a powerful and positive movement, transmit the motion of the hand wheel to the jaws of the grip. In front and in the rear of each grip are two claws which can be opened and closed, lowered and raised, by means of a lever on the platform to the left of the grip wheel, and which enables the grip man to pick up the rope without the aid of any other person, and at any place on the road, level or inclined, at or between stations.

The cars have the ordinary brakes to check the wheels. These brakes are tightened and loosened by the same wheel and worm gear which tightens and loosens the grip. A movement of a lever to the right of the hand wheel throws the brake into gear, and at the same time the grip out of gear, and vice versa, making it impossible to have the two forces (grip and brake power) operating against one another. In addition to the ordinary brakes, there are so-called track brakes, to be used in case of emergency on the incline and when the rails are slippery. Their shoes are about 2 feet long, are surfaced with wood, and can be pressed down with much force on the rough iron guard rails on each side of the track rails. By their action the car can be stopped anywhere on the incline or level, and in all kinds of weather. The construction of these brakes will be understood from the cross-sectional view, Fig. 3.

The loading and unloading of passengers at the ferry is quickly done, and without confusion. Near the terminus the down-track runs by a switch into the up-track, so that only one track enters the station. The down-cable continues, of course, in a straight direction, and leaves the down-track; it passes to the end of the station below the platform and around a large sheave, and then returns on the up-track. The single track in the station is flanked on each side by a wide platform. When a car arrives, it comes in by momentum, having let go of the cable some 700 or 800 feet before reaching the station. The passengers pass out of the car to the right and by the front door, and at the same time passengers enter the car from the left and by the rear door. Where the car stops to let out the passengers it remains until it has taken in passengers again, and is ready to start. One minute is sufficient to unload and load one car, or several if coupled together. The up cable is right underneath the car; the grip man lowers the rope lifter, raises the cable between the open jaws of the grip, closes them gradually, and the car moves off.

The advantages of this system are apparent: The incoming and outgoing passengers are completely separated from each other while in the station; only space enough for the single track is taken up within the station, thus leaving ample platform room at either side; and as the loading and unloading go on simultaneously, no time is lost. Possibly some such system could be applied to the termini of the Brooklyn Bridge, where the shifting of cars from track to track is now slowly performed by engines.

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