Electric Railways

Electrical Review

With each succeeding year we approach nearer to the final electrification of the main line railway, and to-day we are very close to the happy era when the steam locomotive shall be no more in the thickly inhabited section of cities. It has been everywhere a tendency of population in this country to gather itself in large centres, and, as if by a re-action, subsequently to tend to spread into the region surrounding those centres, and while increasing in numerical total to decrease in density in city areas. In other words, the great suburban movement has begun, and this has called for classes of transit unknown twenty years ago, and has made demands upon all varieties of engineering for its improvement and perfection. It is still far from perfect.

In all quarters where great centres of population exist we hear accounts of the change of existing steam railways serving this suburban travel into eletric railways. During the next year a large and important installation of medium-class railways is to be made in New York City and its adjacent neighborhood. This variety of work can only be considered as a step in the direction of electric power for heavy railway uses.

The question of motive power for a railway, alone and uncomplicated with other considerations, resolves itself into a purely economical problem. It is not difficult to calculate with great exactness what it will cost to equip a certain line of railroad with electricity, and what it will cost to operate it afterward. In any given instance a comparison between this cost, and that for steam locomotives may be made, but even as a basis for argument it is scarcely worth making. The reason for this statement is that the mere cost of motive power is by no means the largest factor in determining the choice of an electric system. It will probably be hard to convince railroad superintendents and presidents that a more expensive power might be advantageous, or that a change in equipment involving the expenditure of a large amount of money would produce an entirely new and highly profitable condition of affairs as regards passenger traffic; yet one has only to look around and see what has already been done to gather an idea of what it is possible to do in the same direction. It is not possible to know the magnitude of the future of the electric railway, as every one may realize who will think back ten years ago and consider the derision with which he would then have met a plain statement of the growth of the electric railway in the decade now ending.

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Typewriting by Wire
September 27, 1900

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