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the cars with the storage battery cells and the cost of reconstructing the road; and I have no doubt that in a very short time this system will be brought down to such a point that a car much less in weight can be operated by a battery, so that the cars can be operated over our present construction, thereby saving that expense ; and also save the expense of the storage batteries. These, unfortunately, are controlled by companies which ask a royalty or percentage, and which make the cost so high that it practically makes your car cost more than you want to put into a plant of that kind. I can say to the gentlemen of the Convention that I think the day is not far distant when the storage battery will be a thing of the past, and the primary battery will be in practical operation, reducing the weight one-third and the cost proportionately ; and thus enable us to run our cars without reconstruction of the roads and at less expense.
Mr. Wright : I would call upon Mr. F. E. Cobb, of the West End Street Railway of Boston.
The President : We should be pleased to hear from Mr. Cobb.
Mr. Cobb: Mr. President, in the first place, I am not a dele. gate ; in the second place, I am afraid I am a good deal more fluent as a listener than a speaker; and thirdly, not having any memoranda here I should not like to say anything from memory or hearsay, which might go to the credit of one party and the discredit of another.
Mr. Bracken, of New York: If you will allow one who is not a delegate to make a suggestion, it would be that we invite Mr. Mailloux to speak upon this question. He will talk interestingly and will give us all some practical information.
Mr. Mailloux, of New York: I came here for the purpose of listening and learning something. I think I may feel an inclination to say something by and by; but am not quite ready now. If the meeting will be so indulgent as to dispense with my services until the others have had their say, I shall be very glad to say a few words.
REMARKS OF MR. F. J. SPRAGUE ON ELECTRIC
RAILWAYS AND MOTORS.
Mr. F. J. Sprague, of New York, Vice-President, Sprague Electric Railway and Motor Company: I feel somewhat at a loss in addressing you upon this subject. I do not wish to urge any particular methods of working, except so far as they bear my name. By that I mean I do not present either the storage battery, the overhead, or the conduit system alone. Each of these three systems has its merits, and each of the three will succeed, as each of them has its own independent field of work. There are some planes where the cost of each of any two of these systems meet. The experiments which have been carried on during the past year have proved what electricity can do. We have been, possibly by good fortune, perhaps by hard work, somewhat prominent in carrying out these experiments. One year ago to-day we did not have an electric road running in the United States, except one car in the East Boston Sugar Refinery. On the second day of last February, the Richmond road, of which I spoke to you at the meeting last year, was opened. This is a road which, whatever its defects, stands to-day somewhat historical in the fact that it is the largest, and the first large successful electric railway in existence. When the contract was made a year and four months ago, not a foot of track had been laid, and we did not know what we had to meet in the grades or curvatures on the road.
The specifications did not give the grades with any accuracy and only in a very general way. We took the contract simply because we saw an opportunity to develop on a large scale the possibilities of electric traction by our overhead single wire system. Twelve miles of track, including switches and turnouts, with twenty-nine curves were laid; straight grades were met as high as ten per cent., and grades on curves of forty-foot radius as high as seven, eight and nine per cent., giving a straight track equivalent of at least thirteen per cent. On the second of February the road started, and since then it has made nearly five hundred thousand miles, and carried nearly two million passengers. The road is no longer under our control; it has been bought and paid for. The cars have been run as high as eight thousand miles without being sent inside of a car shed. This is extraordinary in view of the fact that the cars have no proper care, but are for the most part housed in the streets. The moters have been run without any covers on them; they have been run until you could hardly identify a motor, it was so covered with dirt and slime. Yet, under all these disadvantages, these motors have, as I said, many of them, made records as high as eight thousand miles without even being properly cleaned. The motors which are in use in Richmond were never designed for the work they do. They were designed to operate up to seven or seven and a half horse power, normal capacity. They have been worked up to eleven horse power, an outrageous overloading. A year ago it was not possible, six months ago even, to design an electric motor to meet all the exigencies of street-car service. There was not that intimate knowledge of street-car service in the possession of electrical engineers to make this possible; and, on the other hand, there was not that knowledge of electrical machinery on the part of street-car builders to enable them to materially assist us in this matter. There had not been in the early state of this work a car properly constructed, properly braced, with its brake apparatus properly made. Two ways of attaching motors to street cars have been developed, both recognizing the variation of distance and position of car body or truck and the wheels. One was to place a motor on the car, and to yieldingly connect it to the axle. The other was developed by us, and constitutes one of the particular features of our system. It is to centre the motor upon the driving axle, and to flexibly or yieldingly support the other end from the car body or car truck. This is to allow, of course, the axle to retain its present freedom, and also, when we use a spring, to ease the strains on the gears.
Experience during the past year has taught us much in the matters of detail.. We have spent a hundred and fifty thousand dollars in Richmond, and many thousands in other places. We have on hand some twenty-eight or twenty-nine contracts already. We have several roads in operation now, and will have a large number in operation during the winter. In all of these roads which we are to build, there is not one in the form of an experiment; every one of the twenty-eight or twenty-nine roads are to be paid for in cash, or its equivalent, and are not put in for advertisement. They are not to be put in to be taken out again; but to do hard every-day service, running from ninety to one hundred and twenty or one hundred and twenty-five miles a day, with sometimes as high as ninety-five or ninety-six per cent. of the gross working force in use.
So far as the actual cost of operation is concerned, it would vary with the different systems. The actual power expense, the expense in the central station, which includes all depreciation of dynamo machines, engines, all expenses of attendants and of engineers and electricians, the use of oil and waste, and the consumption of coal; in fact, everything in the station, will, on a road with a direct system of supply (and it will be about the same thing with a conduit as with the overhead system), not exceed one dollar and a half a day for cars making seventy-five, eighty or ninety miles a day. In Richmond a local electric light company supplies the power to the electric railway company at one dollar and sixty cents a day, and they make money. In Harrisburg, with a very much smaller line, with six cars, maximum grades of about six per cent., making about seven or eight hundred miles per day, they run at a consumption of about one hundred pounds of coal per hour in their central station, making an average of about six or seven horse power per car. In Richmond, the average loads in our central station for the thirty cars in operation is about five or five and a half horse power.
There have been a good many objections raised against the overhead system, and one of the most frequently asserted objections is that of appearance. This objection is largely brought about by careless construction; and it is simply a question of dollars and cents to get rid of it. It is quite possible to construct an overhead system that will be ornamental. Such will doubtless be the case with the Beacon street road, Boston, which the West End Railway Company is to build, and which calls for expenditure five times that of the Richmond road. The road has got to be put up in the best possible manner. We are going to use a wire that has a tensile strength of over one hundred thousand pounds per inch, and we use for our span wires a wire that will practically never break. The trolley wire is of silicon bronze. That wire is not liable to come down; and if, by any accident, a section of it does come down, that goes out of operation, and the rest of the road remains in operation. There will be in the Boston station over four hundred horse power of dynamos and steam engines, and it is our intention to show what is possible on an overhead line on that road. So far as the conduit system is concerned there is no possible question as to its working, barring certain abnormal conditions of drainage. The Bentley-Knight people are putting in two to three miles of conduit in Boston to be in operation this winter, and the street-railway people can look to that city this winter for the best possible trial that has ever yet been given to electricity as a motive power. The use of electric railways has been largely confined to milder climates than that of Boston; but our Company will
have several roads in operation in northern cities during the winter: twelve cars in Akron, twenty in Cleveland, twenty in Scranton, twenty in Boston, with at least three more heavy cleaning cars. These are all northern cities, and the objection against the trial in Richmond, that it proves nothing about winter, which is not so, because they have the worst street storms there, will be met by the operation of these northern roads. These roads will prove more to street-railway people about the practicability of electricity than all the other roads put together. Our present policy is simply to devote our work to the existing contracts on hand. We do not care for any additional work at this time, but wish to devote ourselves to the necessary detail supervision of every element of our work now in hand, which means either the success or failure of electrical railways in the northern cities; and next spring we propose to know all there is to be known about electricity in the winter ; and, of course, next spring we expect to take any contracts that may be offered. It seems to me to be the part of wisdom for street-railway people generally to see what these people who are putting in the various systems are going to do in the ice and snow.
Mr. Wason, of Cleveland : I would like to ask Mr. Sprague if any of the officers or directors of the companies he has referred to are connected with the Sprague Electric Motor Company ?
Mr. Sprague : I am glad to say in answer to that question that no man connected with our Company, directly or indirectly, is interested in the electric railway company at Richmond. The parties who had that road put in did so on a commercial basis and paid for it. The transaction was wholly of a business character. The Sprague Electric Railway Motor Company is controlled by three persons ; one of them is the President of the Edison Electric Light Company, acting entirely in his individual capacity ; the other is myself, and the third is one of the most prominent financial men in the United States. Not one of them has had any interest in any electric road which we put in, or expects to have; and we do not want them to have any financial interest in it. We do not care to buy testimonials about our work. We are in a position to know as much as anybody can know about electric propulsion. I think I have about me the best force in the United States to-day. It requires trained men to do the work, and it is in this new business difficult to