The Steel Railroad Car

It is difficult to understand why that universal material of construction - steel - should have made so late an entrance into the important field of American railroad car construction. For a given weight, the steel car is far stronger than one of wood; its period of useful life is much longer; it lends itself more readily to a concentration of strength in those parts of the car where it is most needed; it is incombustible; costs less for up-keep and, most important of all, removes forever from railroad operation those two frightful causes of death and injury in railroad wrecks - fire and telescoping of the cars.

But when the age of the steel passenger car finally arrived, it was ushered in on a scale which reflects the greatest credit upon the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, to whose enterprise some tribute is certainly due in any article dealing with this most important subject. At the same time it should be recorded that while this company was the first to make extensive use of steel cars in trunk line express and local service, credit is also due to the Interborough Company which operates the system of subways through New York city for being, we believe, the first to use all-steel cars in passenger service. Limitations of space prevent any detailed description of the fine equipment which the Pennsylvania Railroad Company has placed in service; but in the current issue of the SUPPLEMENT will be found an illustrated article dealing with this subject at some length.

Briefly stated, the principal advantages of the new construction are - first the provision of a massive, longitudinal, box-girder running entirely beneath the center of the car from buffer to buffer, to which are attached the couplings and through which are transmitted the heavy shocks incidental to railroad service. Second, the provision of means for locking the abutting platforms of cars very firmly together so as to prevent one platform from mounting the other and acting as a knife to cut its way through the adjoining car in the process of telescoping. Third, the provision in this last connection of massive, vertical steel framing at the vestibule and the car entrances, of sufficient strength to resist telescoping in case the platforms should overlap in collision; and, lastly, the complete elimination of wood and other combustible material so as to shut out the possibility of fire in case of a bad wreck.

The unqualified success of steel car equipment in active service has led to its adoption by several leading roads, including the New York Central, the New Haven, the Lackawanna, and the Chicago Rock Island & Pacific, all of which are placing steel cars in service as soon as they are available. But in this connection we wish to utter a word of warning. In a long, heavy, and fast train made up of mixed steel and wooden cars, the very elements of strength and resistance to telescoping which render the car a protection to those who use it, make it a menace to the weaker wooden cars which may be sandwiched in between. In case of a head-on collision the momentum of the train is expended in crushing up or splitting open the weakest element in the train. Hence it would be advisable, if a train is to be made up of both wooden and steel cars, that care to be taken always to place the latter immediately behind the locomotive.

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