August 3, 1889 edition of The Buffalo News

100 Miles an Hour

A Wonderful Invention Which Drives Wheelless Cars Without Water.

Buffalo's Electric Cars

President Watson Says They Are a Big Success - Extensions of the Electric Line Planned.

Five Lines to the Park.

"The electric street car line from Cold Springs to the Park [Delaware Park] works splendidly," said President Henry M. Watson of the Buffalo Street Railroad Company to the Evening News electrician this morning.

"We have three electric cars running now," he continued, "and the fourth will be ready for use right away. The cars work splendidly and we can hitch them on to other cars just like a locomotive. I don't know how we could have handled the crowds at the C. M. B. A. picnic if we had not had the electric cars. The line now operates to the Park from the barns, but we are going to extend it on Forest avenue clear through to Niagara street. The light iron posts which will be begun immediately on an extension from the car barns to Scajaquada Creek. In the course of a short time we will use no horses on the line north of the Cold Springs stables. I wish you would say that the delay in opening the park line was due to the necessity of relaying the tracks with heavier rails and to the reconstruction made necessary by the lowering of the grade of the thoroughfare in Balcom street."

"How many lines have you got running to the park now?" was asked.

Five Lines to the Park

"No less than five lines," said Mr. Watson "why we run 28 cars an hour to and from the park. that is a car every two minutes. No city in the world gives such a service to its park. We have the Niagara street line via Forest avenue,; the Elmwood avenue line, the green Jersey street line via Baynes street, the Main street line and the Jefferson street line. We're going to hitch the Elmwood avenue and Jefferson street cars onto the electric cars when these cars get to the electric line."

Mr. Watson intimated that other extensions and improvements were in contemplation. The rolling stock of the company has been increased this year by 32 cars, four of which will arrive today. The company has no fewer than 230 cars in active use now.

A Marvelous Invention.

While the people on this side of the ocean are experimenting with electricity the folks on the other are getting up something which may eclipse the electric motors. The Paris correspondent of the London News gives this account of it: A press view took place yesterday of the so-called "Chemin de Fer Glissant," or "Slide Railway," on the Esplanades des Invalides, within the Exhibition. The new invention is a singularly original contrivance for enabling trains to run by means of waterpower, at a speed hitherto undreamed of. Arriving there without any intimation as to what a sliding railway might be, I at first mistook it for an overgrown switch-back, with the humps smoothed away.

The train consisted of four carriages, affording room for about a hundred passengers. The carriages had no wheels, being supported at the corners by blocks of iron of a size somewhat larger than a brick, which rested upon a double line of iron girders. In the middle of the line at regular intervals jutted out irregularly shaped pillars, the use of which was not yet apparent. Having taken our seats, and the signal being given, we glided along very gently for the space of a few yards when suddenly we gathered speed; two or three togs were felt and we were flying on at the pace of an ordinary train, but as smooth as a boat on a river. There was a clicking noise on the train, but this, I was assured, was due to a defect in the construction of the slides, and would be remedied. The absence of any vibration, shaking, or "tall motion" was wonderful. A sight jerk there was at regular intervals; but then again, was told that it was due merely to the shortness of the course and the inability to get up a proper pace. In a hydraulic train traveling at full speed, that is to say at the rate of 140 to 200 kilometers, or 87 to 124 miles an hour, there would be almost no consciousness of motion. The journey down the length of the Esplanade only occupied a few seconds.

Upon our safe return Mr. Pilter, chairman of the company which owns the invention, gave a full account of it. The sliding railway was invented in 1868 by an engineer named Girard, who was killed in the Franco-German war, and it has been improved to its present state by one of his assistant engineers, M. Barre.

No Wheels on the Carriages

As has already been mentioned, the hydraulic carriages have no wheels, these being replaced by hollow slides fitting upon a flat face. When it is desired to set the carriage in motion water is forced into the slide, which it raises for about a nail's thickness above the rail. The slides thus resting, not on the rails, but on a film of water, are in a perfectly mobile condition; in fact, the pressure of the forefinger is sufficient to displace a carriage thus supported. The propelling force is supplied by the pillars which stand at regular intervals on the line between the rails. Running underneath every carriage is an iron rack, about six inches wide, fitted with paddles.

How It Works

Now as the foremost carriage passes in front of the pillar a tap on the latter is opened automatically, and a stream of water at high pressure is directed on the paddles. This drives the train on, and by the time the last carriage has gone past the tap (which then closes) the foremost one is in front of the next tap, the water's action thus being continuous. The force developed is almost incredible. There is some splashing on the rails at the start; but this diminishes the faster the train goes. To stop the train the small stream of water that feeds the slides is turned off, an, the latter coming in contact with the rails, the resulting friction stops the carriage almost instantaneous.

100 Miles an Hour

A water train running at over 100 miles an hour could, I was told, be pulled up within 30 yards, could climb up gradients of 16 inches in the road, descend them with equal safety, and run on curves of 44 yards radius. This system would seem peculiarly adapted for elevated railways in cities, being light, noiseless, smooth, without smoke, fast, and thoroughly under command. The danger of running off the rails is reduced to a minimum, the center of gravity of the carriages being scarcely more than a couple of feet from the rails. The cost of a metropolitan system would only be a third of one on the old plan, while in the open country its cost would be somewhat higher than the ordinary railway; but M. Barre tells me the expense would be in France an average of 8000 pounds a mile. Where no water supply is available, a propelling machine every 12 miles or so would be sufficient to keep trains going at full speed. The consumption of coal per passenger would be one tenth only of the usual quantity.

Great Saving of fuel.

The importance of this may be realized by considering the statement that the Paris-Lyons company alone has an annual coal bill of two millions sterling. Nevertheless, it would be rash to predict the general introduction of the water system on railways. one objection, for instance, that occurs to me is its apparent unsuitability for goods traffic. M. Persil, the manager of the "Chemins de Fer Glissants," believe it will all but do away with the locomotive engine. With respect to England, he believes that the disadvantage of the present slow method of crossing the channel will become so apparent that all opposition to the tunnel will vanish. "I am ready," he said with enthusiasm, "to wager any sum.

See also : Streetcars in Buffalo and Lancaster, by Benedict R. Maryniak

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