The Weems Electric Railway.
Engineering News—September 14, 1889

This company, whose tests on their Baltimore track, we noted in our issue of Aug. 31, and which proposes to construct a second and longer 5-mile track at Garden City, was organized Feb. 13, 1888. The experimental track is at Laurel Station, on the Washington branch, Baltimore & Ohio R. R., about midway between Baltimore and Washington. It is precisely a 2-mile circle constructed with only 16lb. rails, and with rather rough surface and broken grades. The track is of 24-in. gauge. The motor is 18 ft. long by, say, 2½ x 2½ ft. cross-section, or 6.25 sq. ft., pointed in front. Two cars follow it, closely telescoped together, the rear car of the train being also pointed to diminish suction, so that the train is practically one snake-like body, pointed at head and front. The experimental train complete weighs about 6,000 lbs.; and this train, there appears to be no room for doubt, has been repeatedly driven around the 2-mile circle in somewhat less than a minute, affording some basis for the hope and belief expressed, that with better track and more complete appliances, speeds of 150 miles per hour may be attained. The projectors even talk of running "mail trains" at the rate of 4 or 5 miles per minute, or at the rate of only 228 to 182 minutes (3 to 3.8 hours), between Chicago and New York.

To see how reasonable such expectation is, we may start from the reported fact that they have actually made 2 miles per minute on their experimental track. The dynamo used is of 60 H. P., and was pushed to its full capacity. Then

which is the average frictional resistance of the train under these stated conditions. This amounts to 62½ lbs. per ton of total resistance; or, if we consider a third of the resistance only to have been true frictional resistance, or 21 lbs. per ton, we have left 125 lbs, as the air resistance, which amounts to precisely 20 lbs. per ton per sq. ft. of sectional area. By Smeaton's scale, the best we have, this would correspond to the pressure from a wind of some 62 miles per hour only; but Smeaton's scale not being wholly reliable, and the apparatus being pointed at each end to reduce air resistance, this corresponds sufficiently well with the alleged facts for the latter not to seem incredible.

We were somewhat surprised at these results, not expecting them to correspond so closely with what theory would indicate, but they evidently do that fairly well. At present the principal practical use contemplated is the handling of mail and express matter, to which accidents due to the very high speed will be of minor moment. It is also expected, however, to extend the principle to passenger transport, after its use for freight has been made successful. A rail with a wide exterior flange is used, tinder which a catch rides so as to prevent derailment.

The adhesion is increased several fold by the electric current, otherwise there would not be enough for such rapid motion. The train is entirely controlled from the dynamo station, and there are no runners on board of it. Stopping is effected as follows: There are brakes actuated by powerful springs which normally press against the wheels. When the current is turned on, it acts through a coil on an armature attached to a toggle joint arrangement, in the usual manner, so that the brakes are held off so long as the current continues. Should there be any interruption in the track or conductor, as for instance, an open drawbridge, the current instantly stops and the brakes go on. The current can if desired be reversed, and the train then run backwards, so that it can be brought back from any moment to the starting point.

Using large copper conductors, it is expected that a single dynamo station can operate 40 to 50 miles each way, so that but one would be essential between Philadelphia and New York for example. It is not proposed to have more than one train on the same "block" at once. An automatic register is used, showing the position of the train. The center of gravity of the train is below the axles.

We give herewith illustrations of the motor and train from photographs taken at the company's experimental track at Laurel. Fig. 1 shows an end view of the train on the siding with the company's shops in the background. The pointed nose of the motor is about the only feature of interest which this view shows. We must confess to a most thorough inexperience in the design of the prows of locomotives intended to cleave the air at the rate of two or three hundred miles per hour; but, it certainly seems that an alteration in the design of the "beak" of this machine would make a large difference in air resistance. As now designed, it seem, as if the air sliding past the side planes would be held by the front wheels. It would seem better to have the sides straight, and let the machine cleave the air with a horizontal edge instead of a point. Wheel covers, which the air could pass smoothly over, would also tend to diminish the air friction.

This illustration also gives a very fair picture of Mr. DAVID G. WEEMS, the inventor of this new system of transit and the general manager of the company which is now perfecting it for practical use.

Fig. 2 is a side view of the motor, and shows also the manner in which the track is fenced, a very necessary precaution. It would probably be found advisable to add also a few strands of barbed wire to save the lives of dogs, pigs, lambs, and such small game, as well as those of the intoxicated gentlemen whose penchant for the railway track as a sleeping place is well known.

It would also be necessary to enclose sections entirely wherever snow was likely to drift upon the line, since a train of this weight, bolting along at a few hundred miles an hour, would be likely to be transformed into a rocket if it struck a fair-sized snow drift.

We have not deemed it necessary at this stage in the development of this new transit scheme to present any detailed illustration of the mechanism of the motor end cars. The general form of the motor is shown in our engravings. The dynamo which drives it receives the current from an overhead conductor.

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