|The Old Style Brakeman had to set |
brakes on each individual car
In 1869, George Westinghouse patented his first air brake. Prior to this development, mechanical brakes were used which had to be individually applied to each car by brakemen. The problem with the first straight air brake, it applied braking pressure to the front cars sooner than the rear. By 1873, he developed the triple valve, the key component in the creation of an "automatic" air brake. Instead of using compressed air directly from the locomotive, his system placed a reservoir of air under each car and charged them from a continuous brake pipe linked to the locomotive. That way if the air pump failed or the train parted, air stored on each car could apply the brakes automatically-- an especially useful fail-safe feature.
During competitive trials in 1887 - 1888, the Westinghouse design proved so superior that it was made the universal standard. The air brake was perhaps the most important single railroad invention of the period.