We who live in the 21th centrury can think of many ways to describe it. One way would be to say that it is the "age of speed". This description
allow us to say that the 19th century ushered in the speed of the 20th and 21th century. It is particularly true in America where, in the conquest
of a new land, people saw the steamboats on the Mississippi River; heard the puffing engines of the railroads as they spanned the continent; and
launched the Yankee clippers, those graceful sailing ships built in New England and Baltimore and known as "the greyhounds of the sea". For
twenty years before the civil war, under acres of canvas, the Clippers tore down the Atlantic coast to cape Horn, on their incredible runs to the
The Clipper ships were the "expresses" that carried tea cargoes to the marquets of the world. They were built along extremely sharp lines and
were able to achieve a speed that was barely equalled by power-driven ships of a later period. "Getting there first" to pick up precious cargoes
in the Orient meant handsome rewards to both the owners and captain of ships. And, while Yankee Clippers runs the seas, the "landlovers"
were also thinking of speed. They felt that with railroads they could develope more speed on land. For a while, America was in the grip of a
"canal-building craze". It soon died down because of the lack of speed on the narrow waterways. By 1830 the public was clamoring for railroad.
However, a lot of wood from the forest should be used at that time, it was later that coal came to replace wood as a fuel for trains.
The wooden tracks used with horse-drawn trains were now impractical. They were neither strong enough nor durable enough for iron locomotive.
Robert Steven was ready with an iron t-rail that could be attached to the track by an iron spike. The "lip" or flange of the rail kept the train
from falling off the track. John B. Jervis built a locomotive called the experimental and invented the swivel-truck for it. This was placed under the
front end of the boiler to support the locomotive. The swivel-truck allowed the engine to follow the curves of the rails. The principle was the same
as that for the front wheels of a carriage. Jevis, agead of his time, built his locomotive bo burn anthracite or hard coal. Other engines, built for
burning wood, continued to blaze across the country-side well into the late 19th century.
The whistle, the bell and the "cowcatcher" were the work of other inventors. the cowcatcher, invented by Isaac Dripps, was a metal fram attached
to the front of a locomotive to remove obstruction from the track. It was said that the cowcatcher was certain to kill the cow. Later a cowcatcher
was invented that only brushed the cow. Railroads ran, but they also had to stop. Of all the railroad inventions, the most combersome was the
method used for stopping trains. Men called breakmen stopped the car by truning a hand wheel on each car which reeled in a chain and forced
heavy iron shoes against the wheels. One trouble with this method was that each car needed a sepatate breakmen. When the engineer blew a
certain toth on the train whistle, or sounded the bell in a certain way, the brakemen knew that it mean put the brakes on, no wonder there were
never enough brakemen. Some times the man had to run back and forth between the cars. As the railroads expanded, there were many serious
wrecks. Train collided, they fell off high twistle, or broke in two and tumble down steep grades. The man who made the railroads safe was
George Westinghouse was born in upper New York State in 1846. As a youngster George used to "tinker" in his father's machine shop. When he
was seventeen he joined the Union army. The following year, he was appointed an assistant engineer in the navy, where he served until the end of
the civil war. Colleges had begun to teach engineering after the war and George attended Union College where he took up the study of rairoads
problems. Soon after leaving college, he began to work on inventions for railroads. In the course of his life, George Westinghouse acquired over
400 patents. His most important inventions were those that had to do with safety on railroads, such as the railroad "frog". It was a device to return
cars to the tracks after they had been derailed. Failing to interest his father in this device, Westinghouse found two businessmen who were willing
to advance him $5,000.00 each. With this money he started a small factory to turn out derailers. The invention was badly needed and sold both
in this country and abroad.
From his "frog" he went on to work on better ways of stopping trains. His idea was that instead of brakemen running frantically from car to car,
the ingineer should be able to "brake" the whole train at once. The chain idea was not practical, and steam was only briefly considered. One day
a magazine saleslady sold him a copy which had an article about the Mount Cenis tunnel then being constructed at the border between france and
Italy. Westinghouse read that the tunnel was being bored by pneumatic drilling machinery. Air from a compressor was being piped to a rock drill
3,000 feet away. Why couldn't compressed air be used for railroad brakes, though Westinghouse? Compressed air would not condense in pipes
and it could be transmitted just as quickly as steam.
The men who had first backed Westinghouse were satisfied with the derailer. They were not, however, willing to put money into the air brake.
They felt that it was a rash idea and that it would fail. A wealthy young Pittsburgh man lent Westinghouse money to make the sample brake.
After much persuasion, the president of the pensylvania railroad, who had doubts about the invention, allowed the inventor to use his sample
brake on the railroad. Not, however, before Westinghouse had promised to pay all costs and guaratee the train against damage. It was a
dramatic and exiting trial. Just as the train started, it jerked to a sudden stop, spilling officials and guests from their seats. When they scrambled
out of the cars, they found that a teamster had whipped up his horses to get across the railroad tracks before the train started. The teamster had
been thrown from his wagon in front of the train. The engineer had given a mighty pull or "yank" on the new brake, and stopped the train four
feet from the fallen man. The air brake needed no further demonstration.
Westinghouse was on his way to the success he deserved. Railroads in America and Europe clamored for his new brakes. Westinghouse quickly
followed the air brake with the invention of pneumatic signaling. His basic signal system, although improved over the years, remains in use to
this day. At thirty-seven, financial success made it possible for him to turn to inventions in other fields besides railroading.
Natural gas had not yet been exploited. Westinghouse moved his factory to the Pittsburgh area where natural gas had been found. Interested
in its use as a fuel, he decided to drill for gas on the property he had bought. The result was a rush of gar that blew the tools out of the well
and took weeks to bring under control. In gas operation alone, Westinghouse took out thirty-six patents. The gas meter, the automatic cut-off valve,
and a leak-proof piping system soon put gas in homes for cooking, heating, and lighting. Westinghouse next turned his attention to the electric
field. He was interested in the development of alternating current. Edison, who was operating his plant on direct current, made a caustic remark
that Westinghouse should stick to his air brakes. Westinghouse retaliated by continuing to further the development of alternating current. In 1895
he formed the Westinghouse Electrical and manufacturing company. Many of the patents that his company held were based on inventions of
George Westinghouse himself.
This giant company, like the equally large General electric company, now makes everything from huges turbines for powering utilities, to small
household appliaces. George Westinghouse, a pioneer in many fields, well deserves his place as a titan in America Invention.