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Mr. Lawless: I would like to hear from some of the gentlemen who represent the electric lines that have recently joined the Association.
The President : Gentlemen, you have heard the request of Mr. Lawless, of Kansas City. Will some gentleman who knows something about this subject, who has been experimenting, give us the benefit of his experience ?
REMARKS OF MR. WILLIAM BRACKEN ON THE STORAGE
Mr. William Bracken, of New York, General Manager, Julien Electric Company :
Mr. President and Gentlemen-I have hesitated to be the preface to this discussion ; especially as the preface is the most disagreeable part of a book. It is the more difficult on the present occasion, simply because I do not profess to be an electrician. It is only a few years since I have had the honor to be ranked among the gentlemen who represent your great industry. I am one of that dangerous class of men known as a Philadelphia lawyer ; who, in a moment of folly, left his profession some two and a half years ago, and directed his attention to electric traction. I am not able to discuss the subject by the use of technical terms which men skilled in the science are accustomed to use; neither am I mechanician, nor do I know anything about the street-railway industry. I have had the opportunity of devoting two and a half years in the capacity of an officer of a company engaged in electric traction, the Julien Electric Company, of New York; and I came on here to be a looker-on in the Convention, rather than with any hope that I should have the privilege of addressing you. I trust, therefore, you will extend to me your indulgence if I make statements which your practical sense may deem to be impracticable, or not, to the point.
I think it a very auspicious thing that the electric traction men and the hard-headed, practical, common sense, intelligent streetrailroad men of this country should meet as they do to-day and exchange views. I think it shows that the electric traction men deem it necessary to co-operate with the street-railway men; and I trust that the street-railway men will regard it in the same light. There has been a great deal of misapprehension, I think, on both sides in relation to the application of electricity as a motive power.
I think the electricians have led the street-railway men to expect too much; and I am afraid that on that account, and for other reasons, the street-railway men have been too exacting with electricians. Of course, it is natural in any industry entirely new, like that of electricity-a science that has certainly until very recent years been regarded as an occult science--that a certain air of mystery should surround it, and have two effects, viz : that of making people, who are naturally very sanguine, to expect too much; and on the other hand, to lead people who are accustomed to spy into abuses, to regard it with some degree of skepticism. But, gentlemen, there is nothing mysterious about electricity ; electricity is energy, just as steam is. It is necessary to consume coal, or some other material, in order to develop electricity. It is handled just in the same way that steam is handled; and when you direct your attention to it, if you will not be afraid to look into it and study what you may deem its mysteries, you will be surprised to find how simple it is, and how docile. I am not one of those over-sanguine people who think that electric traction is going to supersede every other method of traction ; neither am I sufficiently conceited to imagine that storage battery electric traction, which I represent, is going to supersede every other method of electric traction. I think there is a sufficient field for all, and the sooner we come to recognize this, and pull together in harmony, and exchange views as to the best methods of applying our systems, the sooner we will all come to the desired result.
No man will say, no matter how sanguine he may be, that the President of this Association, Mr. Holmes, would dream for a moment of exchanging what, from his description and what I have heard from others, is a magnificent system of cable traction, for any system of existing electric traction, at the present day. In the economy of his system, in the method and manner in which it works, I should hardly deem that it would be judicious for him to do so.
I cannot see myself any difference in starting from a Central station and moving a cable, which gripped on to will move a car, and running that same energy through a wire which grips the car instead of being gripped, and takes it to the same destination, provided the economy in both should be the same. I will not discuss this matter, however, as I am here to discuss the merits of the storage battery system of electric motive power ; and if I may be indulged, I will tell you about it.
Two years ago and over, I was in the city of Brussels on professional business; and in coming out of my hotel one morning, I saw a car moving along the street; neither overhead wire, nor cable, nor horses, nor any indication of the means by which the car moved could be distinguished. I got on the car, and was told it was run by accumulators-storage batteries. I knew nothing of the system ; but I took an interest in it, and saw the counsel of the road that was engaged in that method of traction, who explained to me all that he knew about it. I came back very enthusiastic over what I had seen. The result was we made arrangements to apply it here. I got Mr. Julien to forward us a car to New York, in order to put it in service and demonstrate what could be done with it. You may not all know that the shortest curve in Brussels is forty-two feet radius. We have to describe a curve on the Fourth avenue road, New York city, of twenty-one feet radius, and up-hill at that. Consequently the car that Mr. Julien sent to us was illy adapted to do the rough, hard service that a street car in this country is expected to perform. We had not only those difficulties to encounter, but the methods of producing the machinery, especially the storage batteries, at that time, although it is only two and a half years ago, certainly seemed to us, and proved afterwards in the light of experience, to be very crude. Mr. Julien sent over 10 us the most improved methods of manufacturing storage batteries ; the furnaces, moulds and all the adjuncts they had in Brussels were reproduced and sent here, accompanied by an electrician, who was supposed to be skilled in the mysterious art of making a storage battery. We went to work; and, fortunately, the Company had secured the services of bright, intelligent American mechanics and skilled men, especially a chemist (who is invaluable in the storage battery manufacture), and we soon discovered the crudeness of the art, although we had the best methods and appliances that were to be found in England or Europe. From what was deemed and is still generally deemed as a forbidding thing in storage battery traction, that is, the cost of the storage battery and its life, which have been considered to render them too expensive for general adoption, we have reached the point where we are prepared to set down at the doors of any street-railway man a factor of force in storage batteries more cheaply than he could secure his horses for, and we will reproduce that and supply the force more cheaply
than he can maintain his horses. The storage battery, if I may say so, is nothing mysterious; it simply consists of plates made of lead or other metal, to which salts of lead is applied as mortar is to laths, The plates are immersed in a solution of sulphuric acid and water, and treated with an electric current which so changes the properties of the metal, that it becomes a receptable for electric energy. In order to fill these plates with the salts of lead or paste, we had to employ a large number of men. Each man had before him a small piece of board on which he had instruments or cups for measuring the quantity of mixture to put on each plate; that was spread on with a trowel, and no matter how diligently the man worked, he could not fill more than sixty plates a day. That is the method in Europe to-day. You can imagine how expensive that was. Our Mr. Henry G. Morris and Mr. Salom so improved this, that two girls are able to make more batteries to-day than fifty men were able to make a year ago, and they are more uniform and better in every respect; so that instead of charging eleven dollars a cell, as we were obliged to a year ago, if you were to offer us, say, six dollars a cell, or even less, you would be in danger of being taken up. Of course, we had a great deal to contend with, owing to the ignorance of men whom we had to employ in this storage battery manufacture. It is very easy to drill men in matters of horse traction, or even in cable traction ; you can secure a number of men capable of handling your cars or engines at the central station; but we were engaged in an industry that was entirely new, unknown; there was not a factory in this country engaged in similar work when we began manufacturing storage batteries. Mr. Brush had played with them some, but never had produced commercial results. I want to show you what this country can do with an industry like this. Although we run our factory night and day, in Camden, New Jersey, we are very much behind in our orders. We are lighting the cars of a large number of railroads; among others, the Boston and Albany, the Pullman Vestibule cars, and a large number of cars on the Pennsylvania railroad; also the watch factory at Waltham, Massa. chussetts, is lighted, and its lathes run by the Julien storage system. I am not saying this, gentlemen, in order to extol the Company I am connected with, but simply to show you what progress has been made in this industry. People ask, “Why are you not running more cars ?” The chief
reason is because we have been unable to find men who were skilled in the knowledge of handling our batteries and other electrical apparatus.
We want to send cars on the streets that will take care of themselves, and carry passengers, and stop and start, and get back to the car-house; and this requires a great deal more care than is commonly understood. We have started to do the most difficult thing that has been done or attempted, and which calls for the highest degree of electrical skill. We have a great deal of respect for gentlemen who will attach a car to an overhead wire or a conduit; but it requires a great deal more skill and industry to take a car that is propelled by its own energy. and which must take care of itself throughout, and must get back, from a journey of twelve miles, through a crowded city without any but necessary stops, and without interfering with public traffic. This is no easy achievement to attain. attempting to do something that has not hitherto been undertaken; certainly never with a fair degree of success
as the result. I will say this, that never has a car of the weight which is now run on Fourth avenue and Madison avenue, New York, an eighteen-foot car, with large platforms, and capable of carrying, when crowded, some seventy or seventy-five people, been run successfully by electricity. We put one car in service on the seventeenth of September, and it has been running on that line every day up to the present day, in actual service, carrying passengers, and in that time we have never had an accident whereby we have stopped traffic or whereby the car has been disabled, and not been able to return to the station with its passengers just as it started out. I thank you very much, gentlemen, for the indulgence which you have extended to me, and hope I have not intruded on your time.
The President : Before the gentleman takes his seat, I would like to ask him if the cars operate regularly day after day, carrying passengers?
Mr. Bracken : They do.
The President : On how large a scale ? Please give us all the information you can.
Mr. Bracken : In relation to your question, Mr. President, as to what progress in operation we have made, I would say that the car we received from Mr. Julien, some two years ago, was entirely unadapted to the work required of the American street