Science and Invention in Transportation
The Wright Way
We often receive letters from young people or their parents asking where the best opportunities for the future lie. Our answer is that special opportunities do not exist in the particular industry or profession - they exist within men themselves.
On December 17, 1943 the world celebrated the 40th anniversary of the first successful flight of a selfpowered airplane - and I can think of no better time to review some of the highlights in the early career of the inventors the Wright brothers. After you have heard the simple story of their lives - I wonder if you will think they were conscious of what Destiny had in store for them?
Wilbur Wright was born on a farm near Millville, Indiana - in 1867 - and Orville was born four years later in Dayton, Ohio. Their father was the Reverend Milton Wright. In this period - just after the Civil War - there were yet no electric lights, telephones or automobiles, and their home town, Dayton, was a typical American town of about thirty thousand people. The Wrights were not wealthy people and the boys had no special advantages, except their home environment. Their parents encouraged them to investigate whatever aroused their curiosity, but urged them to try to earn enough to cover the costs of their experiments. The boys tried many things, and to finance their experiments they sold kites, folded papers, and collected junk. When bicycles became the fad, the Wright boys each saved up enough money to buy one. This was a new field to them and, after a thorough job of investigation, they went into the bicycle business. Business grew; they not only sold several makes but repaired them, and in 1895 even brought out a custom model of their own make - the Van Cleve.
As they read scientific papers, they ran across an article on Lilienthal's glider experiments in Germany. So they got together all the information they could find about Lilienthal and his work - they investigated Chanute's experiments - and read about Langley. But the Wrights could never be satisfied just reading about these experiments - they had to try things for themselves.
They didn't let the fact that Lilienthal and Pilcher had been killed - or that Chanute had quit after a careful study and many experiments in gliding - prevent them from going ahead. They wanted to fly! The Wright boys - in 1899 - began with a biplane kite equipped with wing controls. It is interesting to note that their first man-carrying kite cost them, in actual cash outlay, about $15.00. As the result of a letter to Chanute - and Weather Bureau reports - they decided to go to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, for their first experiments.
You probably know the story from then on - how they made glider after glider - how they fought the weather - about their accidents and their inaccurate data. During the next two years, they visited Kitty Hawk with new wings, new controls - and collected fact after fact - until in 1902 they felt they had enough information to build a power machine. Then began another long year's experiments on engines; they found there was none in existance that met their requirements.
On December 17, 1903, after many disappointments and weeks of waiting, they made the world's first successful flight of a self-powered, heavier-than-air flying machine. Orville was the pilot. The flight lasted 12 seconds.
These few highlights in the early life of the Wright brothers can give only a sketchy impression of those two American pioneers. Perhaps they weren't ordinary boys - although there was certainly nothing unusual about their environment. They did not have wealth, family influence nor educational advantages. To me they seemed average American boys from an average American town. But they had outstanding qualities - curiosity, persistence, an intense desire to succeed and, above all, they were self-sufficient. They were encouraged to develop themselves from within and not expect too much help from without.
I believe if these young people who write us every year would take the same point of view, they could solve many of their own problems. I don't believe anyone outside should tell them they should be lawyers, doctors or engineers or ad vise them what business to get into. Suppose someone had insisted that the Wright boys get into the new automobile business - the development of the airplane might have been delayed for decades. Certainly no one, at that time, could have advised them to investigate the airplane business - there simply wasn't any.
A young man starting out today should analyze his own problems, prepare himself, perfect his thinking - and be ready and willing to face the inevitable failures and discouragements. I would not depend too much on a fairy godmother pointing out the Road to Success. I would be more inclined to do some surveying and map making of my own.
A Veterinarian "Shoes" a Horseless Carriage
Today we are surrounded by so many highly developed products, such as the electric light, the radio, the telephone and the automobile, that we are apt to forget how we came by them. They are so interwoven into our daily lives that we overlook their importance until something threatens to deprive us of their use.
Take the automobile, for instance. Until now, very few of us really appreciated how much the operation of cars, buses and trucks depended upon gasoline and rubber tires. While our thirty million pneumatic-tired vehicles today have the capacity to move every man, woman and child in the United States at the same time, yet there was not even a pneumatic bicycle tire on the market sixty years ago.
But, thanks to Charles Goodyear, bicycles did have solid rubber tires. In Belfast, Ireland, in 1884, some of the streets were paved with what we call Belgian block, not exactly a smooth road for solid-tired bicycles. Every day, a small boy rode his hardtired tricycle over these blocks to school and complained to his father about the roughness. His father, Doctor John Dunlop, a veterinarian, decided to do something about it. He made a wooden disc wheel, and around the edge of it fastened an inflated rubber tube held in place with linen cloth tacked to the wheel.
To compare the relative speeds of these two tires, the air disc one and the old solid tire, Dunlop rolled them across his yard. The new air tire went the whole length of the yard and bounced off the wall at the end. The solid tire did not go nearly as far.
And so from that time on, his son Johnny would have nothing but the new air tires on his tricycle "because he could beat the bigger boys." But Dunlop then did not have the slightest conception of the automobile. He didn't rate the pneumatic tire as a scientific invention, but only as something to please a small boy.
In England at that time, bicycle racing had become one of the most popular sports. Everyone was interested in anything that would increase the rider's speed. As an experiment, Dunlop equipped one of the new "Safety" bicycles with his pneumatic tires, and William Hume, who was not one of the best riders, defeated all the solid-tired competitors in his first race. Among the defeated riders was Harvey DuCros. Arthur DuCros, learning of his brother's defeat, investigated the new tires and had them put on their new "Safety" bicycles. The following year, he and Harvey won all of the English and French races on their Dunlop tires.
But people were not exactly convinced, so when news about these revolutionary tires began to travel, the "Irish Cyclist," a trade journal, made these sarcastic comments: "Pneumatic? Something to do with air, isn't it? Quite right, too, we like to see new ideas well ventilated." But Dunlop did not let such criticism or the more practical difficulties discourage him. In 1890, through the help of the DuCros, the Pneumatic Tyre Company was formed and the new tires soon became standard on nearly all English and American bicycles.
But a new type of vehicle was coming into the picture - the automobile. And, like the bicycle, these early horseless carriages were usually bought by sportsmen. This was particularly true in France. Michelin, the French rubber manufacturer, learning how successful the pneumatic tire was in increasing the speed of bicycles, tried for several years to interest the automobile manufacturers in France in this new type of tire for their faster cars. At last, he convinced some of the French makers, and in 1895, the pneumatic tire came into regular use on automobiles.
The story of Dunlop's development is no different from the experiences of many other inventors. It simply is impossible to determine the ultimate value of any invention at the time it is made.
It would be just as difficult for parents to predict the exact future of their newborn child. Dunlop could not foresee that an entirely new industry would come from his invention, to say nothing of his being able to establish it as one of the most important factors in a World War fifty years later.
There are always thousands of young ideas growing up around us. Like children, they must be carefully developed. I am so positive of this that I have often said we must obtain a better understanding of the way to develop ideas. Because if we tried to rear human children the way we develop infant ideas, we would expect a child of nine months to earn its own living.
Energy From the Sun
Recently when I mentioned the important part rubber played in the war, I was not unmindful of the equally great contribution petroleum made to our air and motor transportation.
Petroleum was first developed to produce kerosene for home lighting. Before that time only very wealthy people could afford to stay up after dark. And New England whalers sailed the seven seas to get sperm oil for lamps. People laboriously handdipped candles, and Lincoln read by the light of a rude fireplace. So important was the need for oil that in looking for sources which could supply kerosene, petroleum was found quite satisfactory. But the quantity was small and uncertain.
Edwin Drake, a former conductor on the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad, came to Titusville, Pennsylvania, to search for oil. He had a new idea - instead of collecting oil in small quantities, wherever he could find it, he intended to drill an oil well. After many failures he finally struck oil, and August 1859 dated the beginning of a new mechanical age. Drake's enterprise had started a great new industry.
Three years after the first successful well, two million barrels of oil a year were being produced. Incidentally, we now use more than this amount every day.
About this time men were working on the development of a selfpropelled vehicle. But they needed an engine which could use some sort of fuel that was plentiful and inexpensive. The steam engine didn't seem to be the answer. Dunlop had already solved the tire problem and the year of the Centennial in Philadelphia, America heard of the internal combustion engine an engine that used gas as fuel. Some ten years later vehicles propelled by this type of engine were being built and, at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893, many Americans saw the horseless carriage for the first time.
With tires and engines available there was still no real supply of fuel in sight. Unknowingly the petroleum refiners in this country provided the answer. In refining petroleum to get kerosene they had a troublesome by product - gasoline. They could find no use for gasoline or even a way to get rid of it. You could have all you wanted if you would haul it away. In fact, laws had to be passed to keep the refiner from dumping gasoline into rivers and harbors. Government inspectors were on hand at every refinery to see that none of this volatile material got into the kerosene.
Now this gasoline, that was such a great nuisance to the refiners, was a very good fuel for the new internal combustion engine and, as the automobile and airplane developed, the "by-product" gasoline became more and more important each year. Now it is one of our most important civilian and military materials.
We are told our petroleum resources are being reduced at an alarming rate; that in 15 or 20 years we will have used up all our reserves. Then we won't be able to get gasoline. What are we going to do about it?
If we trace petroleum back to its origin perhaps we can better understand the problem. Petroleum, as you know, is supposed to be formed by the decomposition of vegetation millions of years ago. So all the energy that comes from oil is stored sun energy from these past ages. It is well known that we can produce gasoline from coal - another form of stored sun energy; and if we keep the sun in mind as the original source of energy, it is easy to see that the real problem is how to obtain our fuel directly from the source.
The sun grows all vegetation, evaporates the water that falls as rain and furnishes the energy for the winds. During the three summer months in Central Ohio the solar energy falling on just one acre of ground, if it could be retained, is enough to furnish power for 300 to 400 automobiles. The growing plant fixes only a small part of this energy. I am positive that we can develop special processes of condensing and storing some of the unlimited energy of the sun to supply fuel for our transportation needs.
Here is a great problem of the utmost importance to everyone of us; it presents a limitless frontier for discovery, invention and research. If this work is undertaken with the patience and determination it deserves, I am sure our scientists and engineers will get the answer before our petroleum reserves are exhausted no matter how many say: "It can't be done."
Time and Distance
When the Axis planned the war, they took into consideration all of the facilities of communication and transportation then known to mankind. For our Army and Navy to meet this, a large part of our productive capacity was turned to making communication and transportation materials.
To appreciate the nature of the transportation accomplishment, we must briefly retrace our development. As someone has facetiously said, "We need so much transportation because no one is where he wants to be and nothing is where you can use it." Since most of the Earth's surface is covered by water, man began by making various types of small boats, propelled at first by hand. But it wasn't until sails came into general use that he could cross the oceans. Columbus made a most historic trip when he sailed from Palos, Spain to the West Indies in 70 days. The improved sailing vessels shortened the time but they were still at the mercy of the prevailing winds.
Early in the 19th Century, John Fitch, John Stevens and later Robert Fulton were trying ways and means of harnessing steam to boats so as to be independent of the winds. Fulton was most successful and in 1807 the Clermont inaugurated a new era in travel. Twelve years later, in 1819, the steam ship Savannah made the first trans-Atlantic crossing under power from Savannah, Georgia to Liverpool in 25 days - about twice the time of the packet boats.
This was not a good showing and much doubt was expressed as to the value of steam. One of the basic problems which confronts us every day in Research work is just such a comparison - the first of the new, against of the last of the old.
Progress was made, however, as just before this War the Normandie and the Queen Mary crossed the Atlantic in about four days! An interesting thing though about the application of steam to transportation is the fact that a steamboat crossed the Atlantic before the steam locomotive was put into use on land.
Up to the beginning of the 20th Century only a few people had tried air transportation, using balloons. The Wright brothers from Dayton really opened the sky-roads when they flew at Kittyhawk. Many airmen over the years have contributed to the knowledge of long transoceanic flights, until now such trips are very common. Recently a 30 ton flying boat made the trip from New York to Ireland in 16 hours. It was just 100 years after the first steamboat crossed the Atlantic that an airplane made a similar trip.
When the War came along it soon became apparent that Time and Distance were going to be deciding factors. A great shipbuilding program was started at once in cooperation with the Navy and the Merchant Marine. The dramatic success of this project is well known to everyone. To save space on our ships, bombers were flown to destinations whenever possible.
As the airplane proved itself capable of longer and longer flights over water, the Ferrying Command was organized to make such deliveries to all fronts. The first ones were flown comparatively light and later they began to carry such things as spare parts, supplies, emergency equipment, and finally key personnel. As the functions of the Ferrying Command were expanded, its name was changed to the Air Transport Command.
Before the War ended over one hundred thousand men were used in this operation. More than ten thousand flights were made across the South Atlantic to Africa and a greater number across the North Atlantic to England.
One division operated an 11-day round trip service between Florida and India - the one-way distance being approximately 13,000 miles. These air lanes had to be supported by important ground installations, such as, a world-wide network of radio communications, weather bureaus, refueling stations and repair bases.
The Air Transport Command developed a practical experience with regard to world-wide aerial transportation. It has often been said that, "Necessity is the Mother of Invention," but these accomplishments seem to indicate that just as often "Necessity is the Mother of Utilization."
It seems reasonable to expect that some of these facilities can be used to build up a better World just as they have helped to tear down destructive forces. The war emergency work of these modern pioneers can certainly be of great help to aviation in building the very necessary transportation system of the World of Tomorrow.
Inventor - Business Man
On a warm August day in 1807 a large crowd of people lined the banks of the Hudson River not far from where I am now speaking. They had been told they would see the first trip of a boat without sails. And the skeptics, as usual, were there laughing at the strange looking craft, and ridiculing the idea it could move without sails or oars.
But presently smoke began to pour from the stack and the catcalls and ridicule changed to cheers as the weird looking boat moved slowly up the river. Robert Fulton, that day, successfully accomplished something that Fate rarely permits an inventor to do - he proved his idea was practical and at the same time opened up a large part of America to pioneers and settlers.
Robert Fulton did not begin his career as an inventor; very few men ever do. Although in his youth in Lancaster, Pennsylvania he exhibited considerable mechanical ingenuity, his ambition was to become an artist like another Pennsylvanian, Benjamin West. West was the great American painter who later became president of the Royal Academy of England. So, at seventeen, Fulton went to Philadelphia to study painting. Benjamin Franklin helped him and very soon he earned a reputation as a painter of portraits and landscapes. He could also make excellent drawings of machinery, bridges and buildings.
When he was twenty-one his doctor advised him to go abroad for his health so he took this opportunity to join his old friend Benjamin West in England. As a protegé of West's, he soon had more requests for portraits and landscapes than he could paint. But as time went on he found himself drifting more and more into mechanical projects. He designed a mill or sawing marble, a flax spinning machine and a canal dredger.
Fulton disliked war and he had the unique idea that the way to end wars would be to destroy all warships in existence, and do it as quickly as possible. So he designed a torpedo and later built the submarine Nautilus, adapting some of the ideas, no doubt, of a contemporary, David Bushnell. While in France in connection with the submarine he made the acquaintance of Robert Livingston, then United States minister to France.
Livingston, with his brother-in-law, Colonel Stevens, and Nicholas Roosevelt had built several unsuccessful steamboats in America, yet they were still enthusiastic about the possibilities of steam navigation. Livingston and Fulton became close friends and in 1804 built a steamboat model - but the engine was so heavy that it quickly sank to the bottom of the River Seine. It was later raised and after many changes it worked fairly well, but above all, it convinced the two men that a successful full scale steamboat could be made.
Now they turned their attention to their native land, America, because it was there that the real need for such a means of transportation existed. This was the America after the Revolution - a land of restless people, people who saw millions of acres of virgin soil to the west - separated from markets only by poor transportation. All they had were narrow mountain trails and rivers which could be navigated only down-stream by rowboats and barges. Fulton and Livingston could visualize hundreds of steamboats transporting thousands of people and tons of goods and produce up as well as down those waterways. Livingston would supply the finances - Fulton the ingenuity - an excellent and very necessary combination.
Fulton did not invent the Clermont as a flash of genius. In fact, the steamboat, like the automobile, was not a single invention but a combination of many. These ideas did not occur all at once - they were the result of experience and evolution. Many men made essential contributions. One group, including Newcomen and Watt, had evolved the steam engine. Another group made up of Symington, Rumsey, Fitch, Stevens and Robert Fulton contributed the ideas for harnessing the steam engine to the boat.
Fulton had a combination that those who preceded him did not possess. He had excellent mechanical ability and, being an artist, he was able to clearly draw all the structural details. He also had the financial backing of Livingston and then there was the crying need of the times for just such a means of transportation. In addition to all this, Fulton possessed the ability to coordinate all of these factors in such a practical way that people could easily see their great value and willingly supplied means for their development.
The skill of Fulton and the confidence of Livingston are some of the reasons why on that August day in 1807 the ridicule turned to cheers when the Clermont steamed up the Hudson. And the thousands of inventors and their financial backers that followed are some of the reasons why the original thirteen states became forty-eight, and why our nation became one of the richest and most powerful in the world.
Patience and Practice
In these talks, we have often stressed the value of patience in developing new things because, as a rule, it takes a long time for an idea to grow up. Today, we have an outstanding example of this from the career of a young Russian who over 40 years ago started experiments in aviation which are just now coming into use.
Fifty-five years ago, Igor Sikorsky was born in Kiev, in Southern Russia. Igor grew up in a scientific atmosphere - his father was a professor of psychology and his mother was educated in medicine. His mother greatly admired Leonardo da Vinci and often told her son of the many accomplishments of the great artist, but da Vinci's flying machine designs made an indelible impression on the boy's mind, even though they were made 400 years before.
With this background, it was only natural that in 1908, when he read about the Wright brothers, he resolved to make flying his career, so he began to collect all the information he could find on the subject. He remembered da Vinci's helicopter sketch, and this may have influenced him to work on a machine that would rise vertically.
After reading everything available, he realized he had to do more - he would have to learn first hand about engines and airplanes - he would have to practice, work and practice. So in January 1909, with the financial aid of his sister, he went to Paris where they were experimenting with airplanes. He spent months at the flying fields talking to the experts, particularly Captain Ferber who offered him the following advice: "Don't waste your time on the helicopter - the airplane will be far more valuable." Another expert published an article on the helicopter entitled "The Wrong Way."
But young Sikorsky returned to Kiev with a lot of information, an engine, and a firm determination to build one. In the next two months he built an experimental machine, then the tests and real troubles began. The helicopter frame resembled a large rectangular box - the engine was on one side, the operator on the other. Many detail troubles were encountered and fixed, then the real difficulty showed up - the engine was too small. So he made a second design. A year later the new machine was completed - it would lift itself but not the operator - there were still many problems to be solved.
In the meantime, he also designed and built an airplane. This was ready for test in April, 1910, and although he had never flown a plane before, without hesitation he climbed into the pilot's seat and opened throttle. But he could get into the air only a few feet. Again it was a question of power. He was getting both practice and experience.
Both the helicopter and airplane furnished valuable scientific information but he had to choose now which one he would develop; and as the airplane seemed to offer greater possibilities at the time, he discontinued his helicopter experiments.
Sikorsky built a second airplane, adding more power, and on June 3, 1910 made his first successful flight. His practice was bearing fruit. New models followed - each larger and more powerful, until in 1913, he was ready to fly his latest - a four-engined ship weighing 9000 pounds called the "Grand."
Before the flight, some said that the plane was too heavy to rise from the ground. Others were sure that the plane was too large to be controlled. But regardless of these warnings, a successful trial flight was made. In 1931, after coming to America, he was still in favor of four-engined ships and launched the S-40, the first of the Clipper ships for ocean travel.
But in 1938 his thoughts turned again to the helicopter, for he realized, as is so often the case, his ideas of 1910 were far ahead of the materials and engineering possibilities of that time. Now things seemed to have caught up with the ideas and, in addition, many new developments had come into aviation. So he built the weird looking machine designated the VS-300. The old process began again - experiment, rebuild and adjust. Practice and more practice!
We all have seen some of the results - helicopters landing on shipboard and on water - others landing in a yard, backing and going straight up. The sketch of da Vinci's vitalized by Sikorsky and many others is just now beginning to materialize. We know it may still be a long time before helicopters will be in our back yards, because experience has taught us that much development work is yet ahead - development that must take place after you and I become actual customers.
Once in awhile, someone makes a prophecy that comes true with remarkable accuracy many years later. Tennyson, over 100 years ago in the poem "Locksley Hall," described "The nations' airy navies grappling in the central blue," and Jules Verne had written "Around The World in 80 Days." These men used their imaginations - but their concepts were not factual enough to include things as they are actually happening today. These ideas or predictions though very interesting, usually have to wait a long time until some practical man can give them a physical form. The first concept of an idea is one thing - the working model is another, and as every inventor knows, popular acceptance - still another.
But occasionally we see a fine example of a man's practical thinking that was a century or more ahead of industry. As a case in point, let us take that military vehicle called the "Duck." This unique land and water conveyance has been developed during this war to make possible invasion of enemy territory. Its versatility lies in the fact that it can leave a ship offshore and travel through the water as a boat. Upon reaching the land, it goes ashore and continues its course as a truck - it can go from land to sea just as easily.
Recently, in Philadelphia, thousands of people lined Market Street and the banks of the Schuylkill River to watch a "Duck" travel along the street, slide into the water and proceed up the river. It was an amazing demonstration.
However, just 140 years before the people of Philadelphia had gathered along the same street and river to witness a demonstration of inventor Oliver Evans' strange vehicle which he called the Orukter Amphibolos or Amphibious Digger. Here is his own description of the event. "To show that both steam carriages and steamboats were practicable, I first put wheels to the boat and propelled it by the engine a mile and a half up Market Street and around Center Square to the River Schuylkill. I then fixed a paddle-wheel at the stern and propelled it by the engine down the Schuylkill and up the Delaware sixteen miles leaving all the vessels that were under sail full halfway behind me."
This was not only a demonstration of the first "Duck" but also an exhibition of the first self-propelled vehicle to be built in this country preceding both the locomotive and steamboat by many years. It sometimes happens that men live in an age that has neither the market or production equipment to take advantage of their advanced ideas. Only after the motor boat and the automotive truck had been highly developed did the amphibious vehicle become a practical mechanism.
Oliver Evans was one of those unusual persons who at an early age exhibited an exceptional skill and interest in things mechanical. At the age of 22 he developed a machine for making wire teeth used in carding wool. He also invented an automatic flour mill which processed the flour from the grain to the barrel without its being touched by human hands.
He was also much interested in steam. One day he came across a book describing Newcomen's steam engine which had been developed in England. Newcomen used atmospheric pressure to do the work steam was condensed to produce a vacuum under the piston. Evans however, thought the steam should be used directly. Obsessed with this idea, he designed and built a high pressure engine. Newcomen was interested only in pumping water, but Evans visualized steam power being used to do all sorts of work.
By 1803 he seriously entered the steam engine business, and one of his first jobs was to build a steam dredge ordered by the city of Philadelphia. This was the amphibious vehicle which he demonstrated and described in 1804. Unfortunately Evans was ahead of his time as far as a market was concerned for he found the building and selling of steam engines full of disappointments and financial reverses. A fire destroyed his factory in 1819 and ended his active work, but his contributions along with thousands of others have made this country a great industrial nation.
Evans lived in the days when America was still largely undeveloped. The frontier then was a definite, physical thing to be overcome by whatever tools were available.
Today, the geographical frontier has almost disappeared, but many other frontiers - such as music, science and medicine are as great as ever. We must not only mentally explore these unknown fields by using our imaginations but, in addition to theorizing, we should put some of the advanced ideas into physical form and try them out, for we must build the future on fact as well as on fancy.
The Turning Wheel
When we think of our modern civilization - both in Peace and War, we must marvel at the ingenuity and complexity of the many things that make up our World of today. We hear about such things as the Electron Microscope - Radar - jet propulsion and the atom smasher, and we know of the marvelous devices that helped us win the war - the tanks, the huge bombers, submarines and amphibious vehicles.
While we may think of the complicated nature of all this, in my judgment if we took away just one simple invention, an idea now over 4,000 years old, warfare on all fronts and a good part of the activity of our present civilization would cease almost instantly. That invention, as you may have guessed, is the wheel. You might suggest other elements such as bearings, lubrication, steel and wood which may be equally important. Just who invented the wheel is not known as it is one of those natural evolutions that has come about as the result of men contributing their ideas throughout thousands of years.
This useful idea probably started when some prehistoric ancestor of ours tried to move a heavy object. He might have first put runners or skids under it and tried to drag it over the ground. And one day as he pulled it through the forest, it passed over a log which began to roll and the whole thing moved much easier. So he began to use runners and rollers together and gradually he used larger and larger rollers, and then sections of rollers and at last he put these on axles.
But the time interval between the prehistoric rolling log and the Egyptian chariot wheel must have been thousands of years. With the coming of the new method of moving things, various types of problems put in their appearance. The discs wore badly on the edges so some ingenious man split a sapling and wrapped the thin, flexible strips around the rim - this was the first tire. The axle shaft would wear, so the development of lubricants and bearings started. And when people began to ride in the carts, the question of comfort arose and the spring was born. All of these inventions improved the various pieces of apparatus and great progress started, particularly when the railroad and automobile came along. But, up to the time of the bicycle and the pneumatic tire, the Egyptian chariot and the wagon wheel of today were basically the same.
But the use of rolling vehicles had a powerful influence on civilization - distances were shortened - commerce and communication moved ahead. The people gave up walking and began to ride. Whether it was a Roman cart rolling into Gaul or a prairie schooner crossing our western plains, they both did their share in expanding the frontiers.
But the principle of the wheel has served man in other ways besides transportation. Centuries ago men learned to add teeth and called them gears thereby discovering a new means of transmitting power and increasing leverage. He put them in watches and clocks and later these gears made the gasoline automobile and thousands of other things possible.
Practically all land transportation and many of our every day jobs are made possible by the use of wheeled devices. Our factories are mazes of rotating pulleys and belts as they produce weapons for our armies - the turning wheel is the symbol of the mechanical age.
It may seem a far cry from the rolling log of our prehistoric ancestors to the tremendous rubber tired wheels of a B-29 bomber, but the principle is the same. Dunlop, with the pneumatic tire, and hundreds of other men have contributed in many ways to its development, and it is interesting to note that even today many constructive inventions are being made to improve this simple device.
If we are still finding ways and means of improving an invention made over 4,000 years ago, we must realize the tremendous field that lies ahead in improving more recent inventions. And what is still more important, think of the opportunities in the field of principles yet undiscovered. Although man may be very dependent upon this invention, the fact remains that Nature found other means of travel, because the animals, the fish and the birds have been moving on the land, and in the water and air for millions of years. Yet, in all of her myriad of living creatures, Nature has never used our very necessary principle of the wheel.
Harnessing the Iron Horse
America emerges from this War as the strongest military Nation in the world. This may seem strange to many of us because we are not a military minded people. A second look into this seeming contradiction shows our military strength came in part from our great pre-war industries. One of the oldest of these is the railroad. It has played a major role in achieving the great Victory today. But it has also been an important factor in building America for more than 100 years.
The year 1830 is an important one to all Americans because it was in that year the locomotive "Tom Thumb" ran a race with a horse-drawn car at Baltimore. It was in that year that the first locomotive, "Best Friend of Charleston," was placed in regular service on any American railroad. And the next year the "De Witt Clinton" made its first run from Albany to Schenectady.
To appreciate what this meant in those days we should remember our country at that time was largely a rich, unexplored wilderness. It needed transportation for its development. There were waterways and a few turnpikes but the country needed more than that - it must have an all year round transportation system. From this great need came the Railroad. Horses were used for power before the locomotive. The first tracks were wooden rails, then wooden rails topped with iron straps, and then the iron "T" rail.
In 1870 men said railroad development had reached the end because the iron rails would not stand the increased loads. But Henry Bessemer in England invented a process to produce a cheap steel just a few years before, so the path was again opened. But another handicap existed-railroad tracks were of different gauges which prevented the interchange of freight and passenger equipment. In 1871 the railroads began to standardize on a distance of 4 feet 8-1/2 inches between the rails and by 1887 nearly all the roads were changed over.
But rails and locomotives were not the only drawbacks to this new form of transportation. There was the problem of lighting the track. The first American trains could travel only in the daytime. Then a large candle lantern was placed on the locomotive and in 1840 a reflector was added. After the discovery of petroleum, kerosene lamps were used, then gas, and now, electricity. When trains began to travel at night the sleeping problem arose. The early sleeping facilities were crude until 1858 when George Pullman began his experiments and came out in 1864 with the "Pioneer A" - the first Pullman.
All the pioneer railroad equipment was crude and accidents were quite frequent. One cause of these accidents were link and pin couplings which had to be guided into place by trainmen standing between the cars. In the 1890's this hazard was eliminated by the invention of the automatic coupler. As the train speeds and weights increased the matter of adequate brakes also arose. Many devices were tried but the hand brake was standard until 1868 when George Westinghouse invented the air brake.
These are only a few highlights of the background of our modern railroads. It was these things that helped our forefathers push back the wilderness and create the richest Nation in the world.
It was these railroad pioneers who made possible that event on May 10, 1869, when our East Coast and West Coast were linked together with the golden spike ceremony that connected the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads.
Today there are over 400 thousand miles of railway track in the United States over which move some 45 thousand locomotives. To operate and maintain our railroads requires nearly a million and a half people, one of our greatest industries.
During this war with less equipment and fewer employees than in the first World War it has handled 98 per cent more traffic - a remarkable record of efficiency.
What the train of Tomorrow will look like, how it will perform will depend, like so many other things, on what you, the public, would like.
Great new things are ahead in both freight and passenger service. You will see more streamlined trains with Vista-Domes and Diesel Engines as the different lines compete for your travel.
While our railroads have a remarkable record of serving the Nation for over 100 years, they also have a keen pioneering outlook for the World of Tomorrow. We owe this great transportation system a vote of sincerest appreciation.
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