Saturday, August 14, 2010

Look Ma, No Horses!

  The first public test of the 
Elieson Motor in the United States was made on the tracks of the 
Buffalo Street Railroad Co. March 10, 1888 

   It is not claimed that the new motor is cheaper than steam, but it is noiseless, and can therefore be used in the streets. It is claimed to be cheaper than horses, and both cheaper and more trustworthy than the cable system. The motor was shipped to this country at the expense of the Elieson Electric Co., of London, England, who have had their system in successful operation at home for several months.

Buffalo Morning Express  March 11, 1888
     If anything were needed to convince the Buffalo Street Railroad Company that the city is ripe for rapid transit, conclusive proof was furnished yesterday in the general outpouring of the population to witness the exhibition trip of the new electric motor. A regular circus-day crowd lined the main street sidewalks from Seneca Street to The Genesee, and never was the triumphal chariot at the head of a glittering cavalcade hailed with greater demonstrations of delight than were seen on all sides when the imported precursor of better street car facilities finally made its appearance. We are looking forward with longing to the time when we can sell our horses, put in a big engine and a lot of dynamos, and become an electric railway from end to end, said President Watson. But such radical changes ought not, on Elieson as a matter of business policy, to be made until it is conclusively proven that electricity can be economically used as a substitute for horse-power.
Main Street Buffalo
 “Do not expect too much of it. In the first place, the wheels are lighter and the flanges much narrower than our standard car wheels, and for this reason it is apt to jump the tracks unless great care is exercised. This will materially reduce the possible speed. Then, again, Mr. Robison, the expert electrician, who will operate it, is wholly unacquainted with the route over which it will travel, and has had no experience in running it over our tracks. So, from beginning to end it will be a cautious trip, with no attempts to make the possible 12 miles an hour.”  The Press party, President Watson, and some of the street railway employees took their places in the car, the starting-bell was rung, the lever thrown over, and the exhibition trip was begun.
    A crowd of from 200 to 300 had gathered at the barns, and the teams standing in the street and hitched to the fences suggested a country fair. The small boys ran along on the sidewalk on either side shouting and gesticulating, fresh recruits taking the places of those who fell out, thus keeping up the excitement. At every street corner a large assemblage was gathered, and as the first exponent of coming rapid-transit swept by,  the men cheered and the ladies waved their handkerchiefs. It was more like the march of an army with banners than a simple test of a new propelling device.

   Electrician Robison stood in the front door of the motor cab with his right hand upon the speed regulator, while with the other he grasped the cord of the warning bell.  While rounding curves and crossing switches, as well as at the intersections of the principal streets, the speed was brought down to a snail's pace as a precautionary measure; but while traversing the long blocks where the track is in excellent condition, the Motor was permitted to bowl along at the rate of eight or nine miles per hour for short distances, to show what it was capable of doing in actual service. Up and down the grades it moved at about the same rate of speed, the power being shut off wherever gravity would give the requisite propulsion. The motion of the car was pleasanter and less jerky than where horse power is used, particularly in starting and stopping, while the noise was reduced sufficiently to permit of easy conversation without raising the voice.  

    Finally, just at five o'clock, the excursionists reached the waiting-room at the corner of Niagara and Main Streets once more, and the party dispersed, pleased and happy in the thought that the feasibility of rapid transit, so far as the public is concerned, has been demonstrated at last in the streets of Buffalo. Yes, the people turned out March 10, as they might be expected to a circus parade, as the mayor and aldermen enjoyed the first trip in the United States on the street railroad tracks of Buffalo by motor power.

Rapid Transit Moving Up & Down Main Street Around 1900

    The motor is of the storage battery style, carrying a charge of electricity lasting four hours. It is about 10 ft. long, nearly 11 ft. high, and weighs 6 tons. It takes four hours to charge the battery, which contains 90 secondary cells, each, one inch long, 12 in. wide and 5 or 6 in. thick. Each cell contains from 10 to 13 metal plates. The whole battery weighs about 2 tons. It is placed in the motor between double floors. As soon as the motor has ran its four hours the battery is taken out and another, ready charged, slipped into place. 
  The electricity is transmitted by means of a cog wheel 4 ft. 6 in. in diameter, which runs horizontally. This controls a series of smaller cogs, which in turn drive a crank that imparts the motion. It is not claimed that the new motor is cheaper than steam, but it is noiseless, and can therefore be used in the streets. It is claimed to be cheaper than horses, and both cheaper and more trustworthy than the cable system. The trial trip of 21 miles was made in half an hour, and was a decided success. While rounding curves and crossing switches, as well as at the intersections of the principal streets, the speed was brought down to a snail's pace, but, while traversing the log blocks, the motor was permitted to run at the rate of eight or nine mile per hour for short distances. If the Buffalo company is satisfied with the experiments which it will make daily, the question of putting the electric machinery in its own cars will be considered, for it can be placed in any car.


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