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Engineers and Mechanics Encyclopedia 1839: Railways: Benjamin Wyatt

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It was not, we believe, until the beginning of the present century that edge-rails were much known; as it appears that Benjamin Wyatt, of Lime Grove, near Bangor, imagined himself to have originated them. This gentleman's invention, as applied to the Penrhyn Slate Works, is thus described by himself in a letter to the editor of the Repertory of Arts, and is inserted in the third volume of the second series of that valuable work. In allusion to the peculiar rails then in use, he says:

"The rail hitherto made use of in most railways is a flat one, three feet in length, with a rib on one edge, to give it strength, and to prevent the wheels, which have a flat rim, from running off. Observing that these rails were frequently obstructed by stories and dirt lodging upon them; that they were obliged to be fastened to single stories or blocks on account of their not rising sufficiently above the sills, to admit of gravelling the horse-path; that the sharp rib standing up was dangerous for the horses; that the strength of the rail was applied the wrong way; and that less surface would produce less friction; led me to consider if some better form of rail could not be applied. The oval presented itself as the best adapted to correct all the faults of the flat rail, and I have the satisfaction to say, that it has completely answered the purpose in a railway lately executed for Lord Penryhn, for his lordship's slate quarries in Caermarthenshire, to Port Penryhn, the place of shipping. The wheel made use of on this rail has a concave rim, so contrived in its form, and the wheels so fixed upon their axes, as to move with the greatest facility on the sharpest curves that can be required."

It is obvious by the annexed section, which represents the rail, a, of its full and exact size, that no dirt can lodge upon it, and that it must be very strong for its weight; and is calculated to resist both the perpendicular and lateral pressure.

That it must occasion but little friction, that it may be placed upon the sills so as to admit a sufficient quantity of gravel to cover them, and present no danger to the horse, they were cast 4 feet 6 inches long, and weighed 36 lbs. each. The lower part b is cast to each end of the rail, three inches long, to let into the sills, which have a dovetailed notch to receive them.

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