Home > Meigs Elevated Railway

Joe V. Meigs Biographical Sketch 
Meigs Elevated Railway News


Sketch of Captain Joe V. Meigs of Lowell,

Originator of the Meigs System of Elevated Railroads.

Some of His Many Remarkable Ideas and Inventions.


"In the topmost story of the brick block number 89 Court Street, Boston, is the experiment station of an inventor whose genius and ability entitles him to rank with the most scientific men America has produced—Captain Joe. C. Melgs, Inventor of the Meigs system of elevated railroads. Much has been written of the famous Edison and Menlo park; but to speak within bounds, no one or a dozen of his many excellent inventions in operation at the park will compare with the railway, of which a working model is now on exhibition at Captain Melgs’ work-rooms. The system has so frequently been described, and has so long since passed from the experimental stage to the field of unquestioned success, that more attention will here be paid to the inventor than to the invention. Suffice it to say that the latter is a single track, elevated system, contemplating an entire revolution in rationing in the important particulars of safety, economy, comfort, speed and practicability, in the last respect making it possible to penetrate portions of country where the natural obstacles tender use of an ordinary railroad impossible.

But to the inventor. Joe V. Meigs was born in Nashville, Tenn., forty-three years aga, his father, at present the clerk of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia, was at the time of the investor's birth one of the most prominent lawyers in Tennessee. But the bent of the son's mind was in other directions than that of the law, for while he was yet at school he began to show

A Propensity for Invention.

The family cooking apparatus was the first thing to demand his boyish attention, and this he improved by attaching various useful devices. Next he involved a printing press which embodied all the really essential features of the great perfecting press of today, printing the sheet on both sides at once from platens, damping and cutting off the sheets and folding them. It was never put in practical use for the reason that the boy-inventor did not realize the importance of his work, nor did his father, but the model worked admirably, and probably contained not a few ideas which could even now he used in advantage on the most modern of the wonderful presses of today. An improved process of tanning, also, was among his inventions, the idea being to secure a more rapid method than was then in use. It consisted of filling a tight vat with steam, which was then condensed, creating a vacuum. This caused the hides to swell and the liquor was easily forced in. With the exception that a different method is used in creating the vacuum, essentially the same system as that devised by the boy inventor so many years ago is still in use. A friend of the family, who early appreciated the

Youthful Genius.

Wished to have him go to South America and become engaged in railroad enterprises. This he consented to do, but as a preliminary step went for a year into the railroad shops at Memphis, under charge of his brother, a well-known civil engineer. One day while thus employed young Meigs was aboard a train which an off the track, causing considerable damage to property and more or less personal injury. This set him thinking whether there might not be some system devised whether all such accidents should be made impossible. That was the germ of his present great invention. Meantime, the threatening clouds of civil war caused him, at his father’s command, to remain in the United States. The entire family, casting their fortunes with the Union side, went to Washington, and young Meigs was for one year a corresponding clerk in the War Department. But this did not suit his active, listless temperament. He was accordingly commissioned as an officer in the army, with which he remained through the war, accomplishing, among other things, the organization of a colored battery which was the wonder of all who witnessed its workings. He also proposed to the War Department a plan for utilizing troops the thousands of [African Americans] who took refuge in Tennessee. The war was at this line drawing to a close, but realizing the necessity of better dreams, Captain Meigs

Invented a Gun

Capable of discharging forty or fifty shots in about half that number of seconds. This gun coming to the notice of General Butter, and the latter at once perceiving the great inventive power of the young officer, proposed that he accompany him to Lowell, Mass., and establish a gun factory. Captain Meigs consented, went to Lowell, and a large amount of capital was subscribed for the new enterprise. But on looking up the history of arms manufacturing he became convinced that in times of peace there was no money in that department of manufacture. He reported his conclusions to the capitalists interested, and advised them strongly against going into the business. He recommended, however, the formation of a corporation for the manufacture of cartridges. At once he was told to go ahead. The result is seen today in the United States Metallic Cartridges Company, which manufactures at least as good a cartridge as there is in the market. Its machinery, nearly every particle of which was invented by Captain Meigs, is the best in the world. This invention is only one of the hundreds of almost equally valuables ones made by the talented Tennessean. He has plans of thousands of things which would prove

Exceedingly Valuable

In use, yet which were so easily invented that to him they seem as of comparatively little account. But during all this time he has never allowed himself to lose sight of his plan for an improved railroad. He had not seen an opportunity, however, to perfect has plans in this direction until five or six years ago, when one of his friends seeing at once the great importance of such a system, induced Captain Meigs to devote his best energies to that particular invention. Every one who has vested his rooms on Count street knows the result, and it is a most significant fact, too, that the only persons who really doubt the utility of captain Meigs' system are those who have never seen the working model which, though but one eight[th] the full size operates so perfectly as to win confidence at sight.

It is No Myth.

It shows for itself. The result are wonderful, but they are real, nevertheless, as any one who will take the slight pains to do so can see.

Like all great inventors, Captain Meigs is thoroughly bound up in work, and labors night and day upon it. A man of slight build, rather above the medium height, with a finely developed head set pretty well down to a pair of high shoulders, dark eyes, grayish hair and thin face of a quick, nervous temperament, Captain Meigs would attract attention any where. A frank, generous, kind hearted gentleman, sure as steel, without the least particle of policy in his nature, he needs but to be known to be appreciated, both for his great talent and his sterling integrity as a man. Such is the inventor of the Meigs system of elevated railways.

Source: Boston Globe, February 4, 1883


Meigs Elevated Railway
Copyright © 2020 CelebrateBoston.com