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CHAPTER XXII

ROSS WINANS'S COMPARISONS

 

We will also take pleasure here in laying before our readers the following highly-interesting letter from Ross Winans, Esq., the inventor of the friction-wheels in general use on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. It gives a cooperative view of the performance of the locomotive-engine of the Messrs. Stephenson, of England, contrasted with that of Mr. Cooper:

Philip E. Thomas, Esq.

"Sir: The performance of the working model of experimental locomotive-engine of Mr. Cooper has been such today as to induce me to attempt a hasty comparison of its dimensions and performances with some of the late celebrated English locomotives, having witnessed the grand locomotive exhibition at Liverpool in October last, for the £500 purse, and many other interesting experiments by the Novelty and Rocket since that time. As Mr. Cooper's engine has been got up in a temporary manner, and for experiment only, and has been on the road but a few days, it will be no more than justice to make the comparison with some of the early experiments of the English engines. I have, therefore, selected the experiment of the Rocket in October, on the result of which the premium of £500 was awarded to Mr. Stephenson, its builder, for having produced the most efficient locomotive-engine, etc.

"The Rocket is professedly an eight horsepower when working at a moderate speed, but, when working at high velocities, she is said to be more than eight horsepower. Its furnace is two feet wide by three feet high; the boiler is six feet long and three feet in diameter.

"The furnace is outside of the main boiler, and has an external casing, between which and the fireplace there is a space of three inches filled with water and communicating with the boiler. The heated air from the furnace is circulated through the boiler by means of twenty-five pipes of two inches internal diameter. It has two working cylinders of eight inches internal diameter and fifteen inches in length each, or thereabouts. The road-wheels to which the motion is communicated are four feet eight and a half inches in diameter. Mr. Cooper's engine has but one working cylinder of three and one-fourth inches diameter, and fourteen and a half inch stroke of piston, with a boiler proportionally small, or nearly so. The wheels of the engine to which the motion is communicated are two and a half feet in diameter, making it necessary to gear with wheel and pinion to get speed, by which means a considerable consumption of power is experienced. You will perceive by the foregoing that the capacity, or number of cubic inches, contained in the cylinder of Mr. Cooper's engine is only about one fourteenth part of that contained in the two cylinders of the Rocket; consequently, it can only use one-fourteenth the quantity of steam under the same pressure when each engine is making the same number of strokes per minute, which is nearly the case when the two engines are going at equal speed on the road. The total weight moved in the experiment above alluded to by the Rocket, including her own weight, was seventeen tons on the level road at an average speed of twelve and a half miles the hour, thereby exhibiting (agreeably to Vignoles's late table of the power of locomotive-engines) a little less than a six-horse engine.

"Mr. Cooper's engine has today moved a gross weight of four and a half tons from the depot to Ellicott's Mills and back in the space of two hours and ten minutes, which, as you are aware, the distance being twenty-six miles, gives an average speed of twelve miles to the hour. As the engine returned with its load to the same point whence it started, the acclivity's and declivity's of the road were, of course, balanced; and at least as much time and power (if not more) were required to traverse the whole distance as would have been on a level road; therefore (agreeably to the aforesaid tables of Mr. Vignoles) Mr. Cooper's engine exhibited an average force during the time it was running of 1.43 horse power, or nearly one and a half, which is more than three times as much power as the Rocket exhibited during the experiment above described, in proportion to the cylindrical capacity of the respective engines. This, no doubt, originated in a considerable degree from the steam being used in Mr. Cooper's engine at a higher pressure than in the Rocket. We are, however, not able to come to any very correct conclusion as to what extent this cause prevailed (Mr. Cooper's steam-gauge not being accurately weighed), which prevents a more minute comparison being made. It may be said that subsequent practice and experience with the Rocket have enabled her constructor to produce more favorable results, which is no doubt the case; but we have every reason to expect a similar effect with regard to Mr. Cooper's engine, judging from what we have witnessed, each exhibition of its power being, as yet, an improvement upon the one that preceded it. It is, however, too small and too temporary in its construction to expect a great deal, from the friction of the parts; the heat lost in a small engine being much greater in proportion to the power than in a large one. But today's experiments must, I think, establish, beyond a doubt, the practicability of using locomotive steam-power on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad for the conveyance of passengers and goods at such speed and with such safety (when compared with other modes) as will be perfectly satisfactory to all parties concerned, and with such economy as must be highly flattering to the interests of the company. It has been doubted by many whether the unavoidable numerous short curves on the line of your road and inclined planes would not render the use of locomotive-power impracticable; but the velocity with which we have been propelled today by steam-power round some of the shortest curves (to wit, from fifteen to eighteen miles per hour) without the slightest appearance of danger, and with very little, if any, increased resistance's as there was no appreciable falling off in the rate of speed, and the slight diminution in speed in passing up the inclined planes, some of which were nearly twenty feet to the mile, must, I think, put an end to such doubts, and at once show the capability of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad to do much more than was at first anticipated or promised by its projectors and supporters.

As much as we have written and quoted respecting this first experimental locomotive of Mr. Peter Cooper, we still cannot leave the subject without giving our readers a description of that first trip, from the pen of H. B. Latrobe, Esq., the counselor of the company, who was one of the passengers on that occasion. In a lecture before the Maryland Institute, in 1868, Mr. Latrobe, after speaking of the numerous starves that existed on the line of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, thus continues:

"For a brief season it was believed that this feature of the early American roads would prevent the use of locomotive-engines. The contrary was demonstrated by a gentleman still living in an active and ripe old age, honored and beloved, distinguished for his private worth and for his public benefactions; one of those to whom wealth seems to have been granted by Providence that men might know how wealth might be used to benefit one's fellow creatures. The speaker refers to Mr. Peter Cooper, of New York. Mr. Cooper was satisfied that steam might be adapted to the curved roads which he saw would be built in the United States; and he came to Baltimore, which then possessed the only one on which he could experiment to vindicate his belief, and he built an engine to demonstrate his belief. The machine was not larger than the handcars used by workmen to transfer themselves from place to place; and, as the speaker now recalls its appearance, the only wonder is, that so apparently insignificant a contrivance could ever have been regarded as competent to the smallest results. But Mr. Cooper was wiser than many of the wisest around him. His engine could not have weighed a ton, but he saw in it a principle which the forty-ton engines of today have but served to develop and demonstrate.

"The boiler of Mr. Cooper's engine was not as large as the kitchen boiler attached to many a range in modern mansions; it was of about the same diameter, but not much more than half as high. It stood upright in the car, and was filled above the furnace, which occupied the lower section, with vertical tubes. The cylinder was but three and a half inches in diameter, and speed was gotten up by gearing. No natural draught could have been sufficient to keep up steam in so small a boiler; and Mr. Cooper used, therefore, a blowing-aparatus, driven by a drum attached to one of the cartwheels, over which passed a cord that in its turn worked a pulley on the shaft of the blower. Among the first buildings erected at Mount Clair was a large garage, in which railroad tracks were laid at right angles with the road-track, communicating with the latter by a turn-table, a Lilliputian affair indeed compared with the revolving platforms, its successors, now in use.

"In this car-shop, Mr. Cooper had his engine, and here steam was first raised; and it seems as though it were within the last week that the speaker saw Mr. George Brown, the treasurer of the company, one of our most estimable citizens, his father Mr. Alexander Browns Mr. Philip E. Thomas, and one or two more, watch Mr. Cooper, as with his own hands he opened the throttle, admitted the steam into the cylinder, and saw the crank-substitute operate successfully with a clacking noise, while the machine moved slowly forward with some of the bystanders, who had stepped upon it. And this was the first locomotive for railroad purposes ever built in America; and this was the first transportation of persons by steam that had ever taken place on this side of the Atlantic, on an American-built locomotive.

"Mr. Cooper's success was such as to induce him to try a trip to Ellicott's Mills, on which occasion an open car, the first used upon the road already mentioned, having been attached to the engine, and filled with the directors and some friends, the speaker among the rest, the first journey by steam in America on an American locomotive was commenced. The trip was most interesting. Tile curves were passed without difficulty, at a speed of fifteen miles an hour; the grades were ascended with comparative ease; the day was fine, the company in the highest spirits, and some excited gentlemen of the party pulled out memorandum-books, and when at the highest speed, which was eighteen miles an hour, wrote their names and some connected sentences, to prove that even at that great velocity it was possible to do so. The return-trip from the Mills, a distance of thirteen miles, was made in fifty-seven minutes. This was in the summer of 1830, but the triumph of this Tom Thumb engine was not altogether without a drawback. The great stage proprietors of the day were Stockton and Stokes; and on that occasion a gallant gray, of great beauty and power, was driven by them from town, attached to another car on the second track—for the company had begun by making two tracks to the Mills—and met the engine at the Relay House, on its way back.

From this point it was determined to have a race home; and, the start being even, away went horse and engine, the snort of the one and the puff of the other keeping time and time.

"At first the gray had the best of it, for his steam would be applied to the greatest advantage on the instant, while the engine had to wait until the rotation of the wheels set the blower to work. The horse was perhaps a quarter of a mile ahead, when the safety-valve of the engine lifted, and the thin blue vapor issuing from it showed an excess of steam. The blower whistled, the steam blew of in vapor clouds, the pace increased, the passengers shouted, the engine gained on the horse, soon it lapped him— the silk was placed— the race was neck and neck, nose and nose— then the engine passed the horse, and a great hurrah hailed the victory. But it was not repeated, for just at this time, when the gray master was about giving up, the band which drove the pulley, which moved the blower, slipped from the drum, the safety-valve ceased to scream, and the engine, for want of breath, began to wheeze and pant. In vain Mr. Cooper, who was his own engineer and fireman, lacerated his hands in attempting to replace the band upon the wheel; in vain he tried to urge the fire with light wood: the horse gained on the machine and passed it, and, although the band was presently replaced, and steam again did its best, the horse was too far ahead to be overtaken, and came in the winner of the race. But the real victory was with Mr. Cooper, notwithstanding. He had held fast to the faith that was in him, and had demonstrated its truth beyond peradventure. All honor to his name! In a patent-case, tried many years afterward, the boiler of Mr. Cooper's engine became, in some connection which has been forgotten, important as a piece of evidence. It was hunted for and found among some old rubbish at Mount Clair. It was difficult to imagine that it had ever generated steam enough to drive a coffee-mill, much less that it had performed the feats here narrated. In the d' Irtillerie at Paris there are preserved old cannon, contemporary, almost, with Crecy and Poictiers. In some great museum of internal improvement, and some such will at a future day be gotten up, Mr. Peter Cooper's boiler should hold an equally prominent and far more honored place; for while the old weapons of destruction were ministers of mall's wrath, the contrivance we have described was one of the most potential instruments in making available, in America, that vast system which unites remote people, and promotes that peace on earth and goodwill to men which angels have proclaimed."


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