Coincidentally, this is also my 100th post.
I wish everyone a happy and prosperous new year.
Merry Christmas, everyone. Peace on Earth and goodwill to men (women, and children).
I took this photo of Powell Street cable car 9 at Hyde and Beach on 08-December-2003.
Yesterday morning it was raining as I rode the DX into the city. The bus I usually ride in the morning takes Ninth Street. When we turned onto Mission, the driver said "Looks like there's a fire up ahead." We could see several sets of flashing lights. She turned down Eighth to Folsom and then back up Seventh. We had a bad time turning back onto Mission from Seventh. The fire was between Seventh and Eighth, on the south side of the street.
I learned later that it was the Knights of the Red Branch building which was burning.
At lunchtime, I walked in the light rain to the Borders by the ball park to get gift cards for the members of my team. Then I handed out my Christmas cards.
When I left work to catch the bus home, a lady at the stop said that Mission was still closed and the building was still burning. This was a DX that takes Sixth Street, so we didn't have to detour, but traffic was terrible. The DPT people were turning traffic off of Mission onto Sixth rather than Seventh, I suppose because Sixth has two-way traffic.
This morning when the alarm went off, KCBS said Mission was still closed. The fire had burned all night. I surmised that the fire department was afraid the building was going to collapse. The Chronicle website confirmed that it is going to have to be demolished. This morning the driver went down Folsom to Sixth and over to Mission. That worked much better.
Today I spent the day building a new desktop at work. My old one died two weeks ago and I have been using my laptop, which is not as good ergonomically. I didn't finish installing everything I need, but I made a good start.
At lunchtime, I went to Patrick's Office Supplies and See's Candy to buy stocking stuffers.
When I left to come home, I caught a Tenth Street DX. The driver turned on Sixth and went over to Howard, then straight out Howard to Tenth. Traffic was terrible on 101.
I took the photo at the Linda Mar Park and Ride lot on 07-August-2007. It shows Gillig Phantom 40-foot low floor bus number 316.
Walter Rice, whom I am proud to have called a friend, passed away this week.
He was what used to be called a man of parts. Walter, a native of San Francisco, was a PhD, Associate Dean and Professor Emeritus of Economics at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, a historian who has written on many topics related to transit and railways, a die-hard fan of the San Francisco Giants, and a keeper of goats. This list covers only a small part of his accomplishments.
I remember him as a gentleman, a man of great vitality, a good guy who took an interest in people of all sorts, a family man, and a person who lived to share his great knowledge with others. Walter and his wife Laurie were kind hosts to the many visitors who turned up at their home, including me and my family.
I was honored that he made so many contributions to my cable car website (http://www.cable-car-guy.com/). I highly recommend his interview with Mrs Barbara Kahn Gardner, the daughter of Samuel Kahn, President of San Francisco's Market Street Railway, the chronology, his articles about the Manx Electric Railway, the Isle of Man Railway, and the Great Orme Tramway, and the many pieces of information and images that Walter allowed me to use.
I also recommend his many books and magazine articles. Here are a few books that come to mind:
I firmly believe that Walter had a long list of questions ready for when he would meet Andrew Hallidie, Henry Root, James W Harris, and Frank J Sprague. Charles Smallwood probably introduced them. Many people will miss Walter. We are lucky to have known him.
This blog is named after a series of articles written by Doctor P. H. Van der Weyde and published in Manufacturer and Builder Magazine in 1889 and 1890. The more I learn about Doctor P. H. Van der Weyde -- I'll share more about him in future posts -- the more I like him. Here is an article he wrote about attempts to use compressed air to drive transit vehicles. In this period, people know that horse-powered railways were inefficient, but cable traction was expensive, steam power was not suitable for urban areas, and electric traction was still being developed.
Lately an important problem has again been brought to public notice -- namely, the propulsion of street cars by means of compressed air, carried on the car itself.
The solution of the problem requires the execution of two kinds of contrivances -- first, a reservoir strong enough to withstand considerable pressure, and, secondly, a motor machine to be put in operation by this pressure. The reservoir is by preference made in the form of cylinders, of say one or two feet in diameter, so that they can be placed under the seats of the car, and of a length sufficient to utilize all the space afforded. The motor is best placed under the floor of the car, now a common method in the electric trolley cars, while the regulating devices are on both platforms where the motorman performs his duty.
It is evident that this system offers peculiar advantages, especially by reason of its apparent simplicity. The cylinders containing the compressed air -- the motive power -- are charged at the station and need no further attention, as is the case with locomotive boilers, where the chances of safety depend on the engineer and stoker. All the heavy machinery used for the production of the primary power is stationary, and no power is wasted to move it about as in the case of the locomotive, the only weight to be transported is the motor and the cylinders containing the compressed air. Summing up the advantages, they are:
1. No dead weight of coal or fuel on board.
2. No dead weight of water, boiler, furnace, and other material which has to he stabled, the real primary motor, which is a stationary structure of large dimensions, and therefore economical, as the economy increases at a very large ratio as the engines are increased in size.
3. The compression of air is going on continually in the reservoirs, and is always connected with the gauges, so as to insure safety.
The first application of this principle was seen some six or eight years ago at the Harlem station of the Second Avenue Railroad. It was intended for the propulsion of trains, and the compressed air reservoirs consisted of two huge cylinders placed horizontally, with a space between, through which the engineer could see the forward track while standing on the motor, and having the train of cars behind.
A few years later I saw some interesting experiments of thie same character at the Delamater works, where pipes were laid to quite a distance from the works, and at which pipes the cylinders could take up new supplies of compressed air without going back to the supply station.
A syndicate has been formed to introduce this system of street transportation, so that we will have another additional method in practice.
The text is taken from the Library of Congress' American Memory site (http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/index.html).
When Alfred Brisbane constructed the pneumatic dispatch in Washington city, as described on
page 242 of the December number of this journal, he was (if my information is correct) assisted by Chas. M. Johnson in the execution of the scheme. After the Washington failure, Mr. Brisbane went to the West, and there attempted to revive the system. He found in Michigan some financial assistance from private individuals, and constructed there, for the purpose of exhibition, a sheet-iron tube in sections, connected after the manner of making smoke stacks
for river steamers. The sections were connected, not by overlapping, but by exterior bands, so as to have the interior smooth; while, in addition, a smooth iron gutter was placed at the bottom, so as to bear the weight of the ball, which had a diameter of 28 inches, the tube having an interior diameter of 30 inches, and a total length of 1,200 feet. The ball at first used was hollow, and made of papier-mâché -- at least it is thus described in the only patent found in the Patent Office records, and granted to A. P. Johnson November 25, 1887, No. 372,023.
This patent does not claim the use of rolling balls, as this had become public property since about 1878, Needham's patent having been granted about 1861. This is probably the reason why the claims are confined, first, to some improvements in the construction of the air cushions, intended to arrest the balls, without destructive collisions between the balls and the tube, at the end of the latter, and at the stations where side pockets are provided to receive, discharge, and re-charge the contents of the balls. The second kind of improvement claimed, is in the construction of the ball of papier-mâché, which is minutely described in the claim and also in the specification.
It appears that these patented papier-mâché balls did not answer the purpose. Probably the iron tubes, through the interior of which they were made to roll with great velocity, were too much for the weaker papier-mâché. This caused rapid wearing out, and their use was abandoned -- at least this was so when the plant and tubes arrived in New York for the purpose of exhibition.
The sales of shares in this new stock enterprise appear to have been so encouraging in the West, that those interested in the scheme, felt justified in transplanting the whole affair to that great center of stock speculation -- New York, with a fine office fronting the artery for money making or losing, in Wall street and Broadway. In the latter thoroughfare, at No. 137, second floor, front room, I received the information that for the ball a hollow cast-iron shell was substituted, of 28 inches diameter, and of a weight of 700 pounds, rolling on the surface of the gutter slightly elevated above the interior surface, and stated to be able to move with a velocity far surpassing that of the swiftest locomotive. The praise of the enormous advantages of this system of transmission was most enthusiastic, and the statements in regard to the profits to be expected by those who were wise enough to invest their money in shares of stock were overwhelming.
When, however, inspecting the operation of the plant at Marion, N. J., the impression obtained was quite different; the shaking of the blower, which revolved with enormous velocity by a steam engine, and the thundering noise produced by the rolling ball, was in striking contrast with the silent pneumatic dispatch engine in the cellars of the Western Union building. As every engineer knows that the productiotin of so much noise involves a great waste of power, it is surprising that such a prosperous business was done in the sale of stock -- at least if the statements of the assistants are to be trusted. These sales, and offers for the patent rights, were said to be similar to those suggested on page 242 of the November number of this journal. The assistants were imbued with the highest expectations, such as the projected building of a tube to the Scranton coal mines, where the finest qualities of coal would be placed in the hollow iron balls and rolled over mountains and through tunnels under rivers, and delivered in Jersey City at less cost than at present.
However, it appears that the heavy iron balls of 700 pounds weight were too much for the tube, as their use was also abandoned. When I last visited the plant, a solid wooden ball, of the same diameter, was used, and thundered through the tube. Nothing, of course, could be put in the solid ball, but this appears to have been considered of no importance, while, in order to impress the spectators with the high velocity attained, small levers were suspended in the top of the tube, arranged from distance to distance in such a way as to cause a visible and audible signal outside when the ball passed and moved the interior little levers.
Here is an old postcard of the Dutch Windmill, near the beach in Golden Gate Park, to illustrate a pair of interesting items.
The text is taken from the Library of Congress' American Memory site (http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/index.html).
The next practical application of the pneumatic principle was made by A. E. Beach, of the Scientific American, who, in 1867 exhibited at the same place (the American Institute Fair) a round wooden tube, 300 feet long, suspended by iron straps from the ceiling rafters, so that it occupied no floor space, and as he rightly considered the atmospheric pressure upon a piston in a comparatively small tube insufficient to propel considerable weight, he returned to the original conception of Valiance in 1825, and placed the whole car in the tube. It is evident that then he could obtain the enormous propelling power produced by the atmospheric pressure of about half an atmosphere upon the surface of a circle of some 6 feet in diameter, or 30 square feet, which, at the rate of only 8 pounds per square inch, is over 24,000 pounds. It is evident that such power is capable of propelling quite a big train of cars. The car, moving on rails, was propelled by a ventilator wheel in the shape of a propeller, which produced either a blast or suction, by revolving it in alternate directions. A platform at one end, accessible by stairs, supported the propeller, which sent the car, containing more than a score of passengers, outward and backward with the greatest ease.
One year later, in 1868, he built a round tube, or tunnel, 400 feet long under Broadway, New York city. It was 9 feet 3 inches in diameter; the experimental car in use was 25 feet long, and had a seating capacity for 25 to 30 passengers.
Mr. Beach also devised a plan to substitute, in place of the lamp-post post office letter boxes, a simple slot for the reception of letters and small parcels which allowed them to fall through the hollow post into a subterranean tube, through which they would be carried to the central post office by means of an exhaust pump operating continually there. Trials on a small scale proved eminently successful; but the probability that the tube might be choked up by a superabundance of letters, which occasionally might be deposited during the busy hours of the day, caused the abandonment of this plan.
This leads us back from the pneumatic railways to the main subject under discussion -- the pneumatic dispatch systeam, about which we wish to correct an omission, so as to do justice to the first inventor. This was a Danish engineer, named Medhurst, who, in 1810, conceived the idea of carrying mails in a pipe, by creating a vacuum in front of a traveling piston, inside of which letters were to be placed. Years after, in 1832, he conceived the project of driving cars by the same means. The piston being united to the front car by a rod passing through a longitudinal opening in the top of the tube, this opening was closed by a water valve, which opened to let the rod pass, and closed behind, ready for the return trip. The use of a water valve made it necessary for the railway to be perfectly level, and for this reason the plan was soon laid aside, until, in 1835, Pinkas made it a success by substituting an elastic valve for the water valve, as mentioned on page 242, November number.
A few years after, Mr. Beach constructed his pneumatic passenger railway in New York city, Albert Brisbane obtained an appropriation from Congress of $12,000 for constructing an underground pneumatic dispatch between the Capitol and the United States printing office, operated by rolling balls, for which he claims to have obtained a patent about 18 years ago, which makes the date 1871. As Mr. Needham claims to have obtained a patent for the rolling balls some ten years previously, the granting of a second patent for the same thing was an error on the part of the patent office -- in case the statements are entirely correct, which a search in the patent office records only can decide; but such a search must not be expected to be made, except when a sufficient monetary interest is at stake, especially since the patent office reports of that time are not provided with a yearly alphabetical index, as is the case at present.
Mr. Brisbane also states, that after spending $6,000 more than the appropriation amounted to, the enterprise failed, because a portion of the tubes had to be laid in quicksand, which caused them to settle. However, N. J. Van Der Weyde, CE., a son of the writer, who some years ago was employed in Washington as superintendent in the construction of a new sewage system, states that there is no quicksand, but only two kinds of soil, one very hard and the other more soft -- not so soft, however, as to cause any impediment in the construction of the brick sewers. This raises the suspicion that the vibration caused by the continuous rolling of the heavy balls is the true cause of the settlement, and if so, it is another serious objection to the rolling-ball system, brought out by practice.
Next in order comes the introduction of the pneumatic dispatch principle at the different stations of the telegraph and post offices in London, and also in the Western Union Telegraph building in New York, intended to connect the different floors, the office for receiving and delivering messages being in the basement, while the operating room is on the the seventh floor, just under the battery room on the eighth floor. There were introduced there in 1872 twenty brass tubes of 2 1/4 to 3 inches in diameter, in which well-fitting leather cylinders of some 10 inches long are propelled exclusively by suction produced by an exhaust Root blower. Such leather cylinders are very appropriate to receive the rolled up messages, while rolling balls of 2 inches interior diameter would be inadequate and very inconvenient; so that the idea of rolling balls was not even thought of, especially since a great portion of the tubing was vertical.
About the year 1880, long tubes were laid under the streets of this city, connecting the telegraph office with the leading newspaper offices down town, while other tubes were laid to Wall street, and still others to the branch telegraph office up town, at Fifth avenue and Twenty-third street. It was at once discovered that the Root blower was utterly unable to work tubes of a mile and more in length, in addition to which the great noise that would be made by six such blowers would be highly objectionable in the building. Therefore, it was concluded to work the long tubes by the positive and silent blast of large pistons, which were introduced to operate them, one side being worked by blowing for transmission, and the other side by suction for the receiving of dispatches. The pistons for the four air pumps have 32 inches diameter, and are directly connected with the steam pistons of 20 inches diameter, while the stroke is 3 feet. They move perfectly noiseless, within the moderate velocity of 30 to 40 strokes per minute. The total capacity of the four engines and air pumps is 500 H.P.
In order to be satisfied respecting the superiority of the positive blast produced by pistons moving silently and propelling sliding message carriers in comparison with the noisy rotary blowers, and still more noisy balls rolling with thundering effect through iron tubes, worse than the noise of a bowling alley, one has only to visit the lower basement in the Western Union building and watch the operation.
In our next will be given some critical remarks on the last exhibition of pneumatic transmission by rolling balls, now in operation at Marion, N. J., a few miles west of New York city.