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Engineers and Mechanics Encyclopedia 1839: Railways: Ross Winans

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The introduction of railroads and other facilities of transport has for many years past occupied the attention of the citizens and legislature of the United States of America, and every improvement made in that country of a decided or specious character, soon after makes its appearance here, under the protection of the great seal.

Amongst the many ingenious men who have imported themselves along with their inventions, is Ross Winans, of Vernon, in New Jersey, whose patent is dated the 28th of May 1830, and is entitled, "Certain improvements in diminishing the friction of wheel carriages, to be used on rail or other roads." Mr. Winans proposition for effecting this desirable achievement, is a very ingenious modification of various other abortive plans (which, in the language of mechanics, and for the want of a more suitable term, is denominated) on the same principle. Mr. Winans suspends the weight of the carriage on the interior of a set of friction wheels, whose peripheries extend considerably beyond the axes on which they turn. One of the advantages pointed out by the patentee is, that in cases of slight turnings, or inequalities in the railroad, the pivots resting on the peripheries of the friction wheels will pass a little backwards or forwards, and thus permit the wheels to accommodate themselves to the rails.

Some comparative experiments on the friction of the axles of these carriages were instituted by the Manchester and Liverpool Railway Company, under the superintendence of Messrs. Hartley and Rastrick, of which Mr. Wood has given us an account, which we are induced to insert in this place, as it tends to throw considerable light on a subject upon which much study and ingenuity has been wasted.

The carriages tried were the several contrivances of Messrs. Winans, Brandreth, and Stephenson, and were of the following construction. In Mr. Winans' carriage the axles, projected through the naves of the wheel, were made to run upon the interior of the periphery, or inside of the rim of the frictions wheels. The body of the carriage No. 1 of the experiments, consisted of a platform, with four cast-iron wheels, each 20 inches diameter, which ran upon the rails; the axles of these projected through the naves, the ends being 1.5 inches in diameter, and 2 inches long, and rolled upon the inside of the rim of four friction wheels, 8 inches in diameter, which friction wheels were supported by a journal, 1 inch in diameter, and 1.5 inch long. No. 2 did not differ from this in construction, except the travelling wheels, which were in this case 30 inches in diameter, and case hardened.

Mr Brandreth's carriage was also mounted on friction wheels, but the axles of the travelling wheels in this ran upon the outside of the rim of the friction wheels, and were kept upon the apex thereof, by guides. The carriage No. 1 was a platform, resting on four case-hardened wheels, 30 inches in diameter; the axles 3 inches in diameter. One of the axles rolled upon the apex of the rim of two friction wheels, 12 inches in diameter, and 3 inches broad on the rim: the other axle rested on the middle upon one friction wheel, similar to the other; this arrangement was for the purpose of causing the four travelling wheels always to preserve their parallelism with the rails. These friction wheels ran upon bearings 2 inches diameter, and 2.5 inches long. No. 2 was another carriage of similar construction, with a body for the loading.

Mr. Stephenson's carriage consisted of a platform resting on four travelling wheels, 3 feet diameter, case hardened; the axles, as shown in the draining, passed through the nave, were turned down to 1375 inch in diameter, and rested upon bearings of brass, 3.25 inches in length, working upon springs. Knowing that the friction of rolling is less than that of attrition, Messrs. Brandreth and Winans expected, by disposing a much greater portion of the motion of the working parts into a rolling motion, than in the common carriages they would effect a corresponding reduction in the amount of friction.

The experiments given in the following table were made upon a part of the Liverpool Railway, wrought iron rails 2.25 inches broad on the top, and the experiments were conducted by Mr. Rastrick in the following manner:—

The carriages were allowed to run down a descending plane, at the bottom of which the inclination was in a contrary direction, along which the momentum acquired in their descent on the other plane caused them to run until the friction brought them to rest: the difference of level between the two planes, (in the space passed over) with the distance traversed, giving the amount of friction. The Table below will show the result.


In making these experiments, the rails were swept quite clean, and kept free from any extraneous matter that would have the effect of diminishing friction; though when worn bright with use, the surfaces will be much smoother than the state in which the rails were when the experiments were made, and therefore we may, perhaps, take them as the average resistance with experimental carriages. During the time of making the experiments, the wind is stated to have been blowing across the use of the road, sometimes with a velocity equal to three miles per hour, and at other times quite calm: temperature varying from 32 degrees to 35 degrees.

On examining these experiments, it will be seen, that the reduction of friction which was anticipated by the adoption of friction wheels, does not appear to have been realised; neither does the reduction in the diameter of the axles of Mr. Stephenson's carriage produce that effect which might have been expected.

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