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Rapid Transit Problems 
Meigs Elevated Railway News

"The paramount question to each of the people of a city is how to save time without snatching it from hours devoted to sleep, and all want more hours for business or pleasure. Looking over the uses of time, there is but one source from which to snatch a little—from that used in going and coming.

Speedy movement is the only possible way by which to save this time.

Speed almost always adds to danger. It certainly does when speed takes place in crowded streets. We must gain speed, but we must not jeopardize life in doing so.

For the use of the masses of the people there is but one way to gain this speed—elevate the roadway, and run the carriages go and fro, on separate lines, at high speed.

How to attain this saving of time, therefore, with the greatest economy in wear and tear, the greatest safety, the greatest economy in original cost and with the least obstruction to the highway and to the houses near which it may pass is the problem.

The necessity of putting the passenger down, from his own door at the remotest suburb, close to his chosen destination, is what is involved in the problem stated.

Safety, and speed must be combined safety requires, when coupled with speed, at least two minutes interval between the cars. This is the interval employed on the elevated railway of New York, and even this interval is insufficient to answer the requirements of safety in very heavy, foggy weather.

Therefore, it is necessary to run the cars in trains. They cannot be run singly, even public as far as carrying numbers is concerned. The trains also must be roomy. Excessive cost will forbid such a railway.

The surface railways leading out of the city carry daily about the same aggregate of passengers carried by the city railways. Therefore, the relief railway must be able to carry greater trains—greater crowds—than are carried by the surface roads.

It must then have a means of propulsion equal to, if not superior, to that now used by the surface railways. Otherwise, it will be a more make-shift.

Merely a new method of propelling the old cars, even if it could be done economically by electricity, compressed air, or even by steam, used directly or indirectly, won’t do. That does not meet the absolute and unchangeable requirement, which I restate, "that great bodies of people shall be safety, quickly and cheaply moved." A steam motor we have seen must, to do this work, be able to pull a train—not merely a single car, for single cars cannot be run without danger, unless there in an interval between them equal to that required between long trains—nor can trains to otherwise run. The reader must bear in mind that the interval must increase with the speed, and the number of cars in the train must then also be increased. The cable roads, with six miles an hour, even were compelled to run their cars in trains, so as to get a safe interval, and that system does not meet the requirements.

Larger cars must be moved in larger trains, at greater speed, with greater intervals between trains, requiring greater power, if we are to save money and insure safety and freedom from paying damage; and certainly it must be so, of we are to save time. The city of Paris, in France, has tried to divorce itself from the horse for a long time, and has tried more than 57 devices to that end, and while a part of the motors tried promised well, they all failed upon extended trial. Gas engines, steam engines of several kinds, expansive and direct, soda engines and compressed air engines, electric engines of many kinds all have been tried, and all have failed, for the common sense of the problem is not in a substitute for a horse, but lies in greater trains at greater intervals with greater speed, drawn by greater power. Our great railways have found it necessary to draw their trains with a safe interval, to put down heavier rails, using heavier engines—up to 95,000 pounds even were required.

To meet the question and solve the problem honestly and fairly, to really establish the business of moving the people, developing and making desirable the city and its suburbs, an elevated road, not greatly interfering with the common use of the streets, running rapid trains, nay, very rapid trains will be necessary.

It is the purpose and necessity of men to concentrate, like trades and like articles of sale. The customer seeks that center, for there prices and commodities can be compared. For this cause we have seen ten-story buildings rise like magic in New York City, and like trades concentrate in them. As it was in New York, so it will be in Boston.

The motive power must be as great at least, and powerful as the New York elevated roads engines, but with less weight if possible, but yet having the same attractive power, with a surplus.

It must have the equivalent of adhesion. It must be incapable of derailment, and the cars as compared to the present surface or elevated railway cars should have reduced weight for passengers and greater seating capacity.

They should have less wind surface; be easier and more rapidly filled and emptied; be capable of being turned from narrow streets into narrow streets, and be run with the least injury to property, making as little noise and disturbance of light as possible.

The way must be very strong, incapable of obstruction be snow and ice, nor easily obstructed willfully, and should interfere the least possible with the highway in which it is placed or abutting buildings, and absolutely safe under any breakage of its parts less than total destruction, and so devised that the interest on its cost shall be within the probability of its earnings.

These conditions, and these alone, will meet the requirements of the city and its suburbs and the approval of the thinking people, and of the Legislature, and these things alone will render the investment of money in elevated roads safe and permanent. This is the only solution of the problem."

Joe V. Meigs


Source: Boston Globe, December 27, 1885


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