COLBURN AND HOLLEY'S COMPARISON OF AMERICAN AND EUROPEAN RAILWAYS. * THE
authors of this elaborately "got up" folio were originally deputed by a few American railway companies to examine the European lines in order to compare their working expenditure with those of America. The results of this examination, chiefly carried on in England and France, were embodied in a report to the particular companies who employed its authors. This report received so much attention from the .American railway world that Messrs. Colburn and Holley were induced to rewrite and extend their official report, and publish it in the form of a volume. The term "working" expenses must receive a large interpreta- tion. It not only embraces the payments for salaries, the charge for locomotives, fuel, carriages, &c., and the renewal of rails, but extends to the permanent way itself, and even to its original for- mation; since the subsequent outlay greatly depends upon the thorough construction of the way. Where the earthwork has been solidly " built " and completely drained, and the ballast has been formed of proper materials, the road itself of course lasts much longer, and is finally mach cheaper than if badly made ill • The Permanent ifay and Coal-Burning Locomotive Boilers of European Roil. ways. With a comparison of the Working Economy of European and Amer lines and the principles upon which improvement must proceed . By Zerah ColbuM and Alexander L. Holley. With fifty-one engraved plates by J. Bien. Published by Holley and Colburn, New York.
k is unsettled, loose, and imperfectly drained, or not drained
:tior au, the
road is continually liable to partial destruction
from taw, frost, thaw, and other atmospheric action, involving Jieavv expenses in continual repairs. In like manner, if the ast," or upper surface of the road, which is designed to form a bed for the sleepers on which the iron rails are fixed, to spread au equal bearing over the whole way, and to equalize the elas- ticity in working (for if the road were too rigid, the iron-rails would quickly be destroyed) ; if, we say, this ballast is bad, or it is pretty well dispensed with, then not only are the earthworks an sleepers more liable to injury from exposure, and the iron rails to damage from the irregularities that take place, owing to the rails unequally sinking ; but the locomotives and carriages are subject to unnecessary wear and tear from the shocks this state of the /ails causes. As it also creates a greater resistance to be over- come, there is greater expense both for traction power, and for wear. It is to these points and the combustion of coal that our authors most fully address themselves, with a view of inducing a more really economical construction and management of American railways • as upon all these points it appears that America is greatly behind Europe. In considering the following summary comparison, an allowance ought probably to be made for those European, or at all events English railways, that postpone the annual repairs of their permanent way, to swell the annual divi- dend, as did the Eastern Counties some years ago ; but with every allowance the discrepancy is startling. The authors have turned the pound sterling into dollars, at 4 dollars 88 cents, but if the reader, desirous of reducing the amounts to pounds, divides them by 5, the result will be near enough. the first instance. Nor is this all. It is obvious that if the earth- "In comparing our railways, in these respects [permanent way and lo- comotives] with those of Europe, we find that while the first cost of the roadbed and superstructure of those of the latter is but little greater, their expenses per mile run, for maintenance of way, is but two-,fifths that in this country, while their consumption of fuel for equal mileage, is less than 60 per cent of the quantity burned in our locomotives.
"The railways of this country are operated at an annual expense of 6120,000,000. fhe cost of operating the English railways for the same mileage, is but 680,000,000—the difference alone being nearly equal to the annual production of the gold mines of California. The expense of main- tenance of way of American lines, is from 631,000.000 to $35,000,000 an- nually. That of English lines for the same mileage, 612,500,000—differ- ence say $20,000,000 annually. The cost of fuel for the former is $18,000,000 yearly, that of the latter, for the same mileage, is but 67,500,000 or 610,500,000 against our system. "The circumstances affecting English railway 'working are easily esti- mated, excepting that of climate, the comparative effects of which, in the two countries, must be a matter of judgment. The loads are 20 per cent lighter on English railways, (the percentage of fixed charges being thus greater,) the speeds 25 per cent higher ; prices average 20 per cent less, for the usual items of materials employed in repairs. The English lines do not have the great advantage commonly supposed, in respect to easy grades, and, as the expenses are reduced to a standard of so much per mile run, the effects of grades are shown rather by increasing the number of miles run to effect a given amount of tonnage, than in increased cost for each mile run. In alluding to fuel, we consider quantities only, but in respect to prices, the difference is still more in favour of English railways, very few paying more than six cents per mile run, for fuel.
"Equating all these circumstances, there remains a large economy in the working of English lines which can only be explained by referring to their engineering and physical condition. It is very common to attribute all ex- amples of economy to 'management,' implying thereby, organization, disci- pline, retrenchment, devotion, integrity, and business talent, These are of the greatest importance, but in none of these respects are English railways managed greatly different from those of this country, excepting that the former have, in nearly all cases, a responsible engineering head perma- nently retained in the service. But in character and quality of structure, English lines are materially different from those of America.
"Works which eat themselves up so fast as do ours, must be founded on a low standard of engineering."
The pith of a good many statistical and other facts—not very new to English readers are exhibited on the legal and Parlia- mentary costs of English railways, and the large sums paid for land ; but the principal texts of the work are contained in the Passage above quoted. Each branch of the subject is elaborately entered into under its respective heads of earthworks, sleepers, rails with their joints, and above all, as regards the space occu- pied, the combustion of coal and the formation of boilers. And this is done not only generally, 'but with particular railways where they offer any peculiar point, or are distinguished for the
extent of their business or otherwise. In its results, the compa- rison has a general interest. Except for engineers the interest of the minutice is less in themselves, than for the suggestions they present touching the economical condition of America and the American character. In a new country, whose capital is dispro- portion to its field of industry and still more to its speculations and aspirations, we are not to expect artistical outlay, or needless finish. It would be folly to look for as it would argue folly to find such stations as those of Euston Square, King's Cross, or Birmingham, or the picturesque little cottages of small station- pytsters, or even porters, that stud the English lines. In single lilies of railway, through wild or thinly-peopled tracts of country, the rough and ready with even the riskful added, may be in keep- ing; but the go-a-head principle prevails throughout, mingled with
penny wise .and pound foolish." This is evidently a habit, clftd a national characteristic. Individually, Americans are
perhaps more lavish than Englishmen ; more free with their money ; less disposed to run after mere "cheapness." But no railway Directory in this country dared or even could open such lines as are common, if not universal, in America; public opinion —even the Board's innate sense of "the fitness of things," would forbid it. The loose imperfect anode in which railways' are eon- strutted and worked in America is really very costly in the end, and on some points these results must be obvious. Fraudful or stock-jobbing motives may, as our authors seem to intimate, be the cause of some of this cheapness ; but we really think national impatience has much to do with it. Americans will not wait for good work. Thus, our authors after urging the great importance of " ballast," and deciding that after a road " is in established use it is to a great extent inconvenient and expensive " to lay ballast down, yet winds up with this naive remark—" The bal- lasting should in all cases be finished as soon as possible after the opening of the road, as it would be expecting too much at present, that our roads should be ballasted before opening for use, as is always done abroad." Then again impatience of delay, mingled perhaps with an impatience to clutch present profit, not altogether confined to America, seems, as much as want of knowledge, to produce this state of things on the New York and Erie railway. "In striking contrast to foreign lines-may be mentioned one of the most important railways of our country, the new York and Erie; its whole length having been in average use for over eight years, and having an abundance of gravel along its entire route. The engineer reports 169 miles at present unballasted, and 203 miles but half ballasted ; 1,623,000 yards of ballast being now required to put the road in good order. He also estimates that the increased wear of locomotives alone, above what would have been incurred with a good track, was sufficient, in the two years ending Septem- be 30th, 1857, to have paid for 1,000,000 yards of ballast. The repairs of cars were also $140,000 more, in but one year, than he estimates would have been sufficient with a road in good order. This is independent of the re- pairs of the road itself, and of its bridges, fences, and buildings, all of which averaged 28 cents per mile run by trains or 6856,453 for the whole road. And to make this statement complete, it is to be said that iron for 180 miles,
and sleepers for 200 miles, still required immediate renewal. • • *
"Economy alone dictates thorough ballasting. The great railway of the world—the London and North-Western—cost, in 1855, but one-fourth as much per mile run for maintenance of way as the great road of America, the New York Central. Had the cost for the latter been only double that for the former, the saving would have been $418,281; equal to a dividend of 1-8 per cent on the entire capital stock of the company. Earthwork, drainage, and ballast, influence all of this expenditure, as well as wear and tear of machinery and consumption of fuel."
The same impatience, though in a latent form, shows itself in the boilers. The number of patented engines in America is legion ; but, with a few exceptions, they all proceed in ignorance of the chemical laws of combustion. The inventors were too much in a hurry to realize their notions, to study chemistry. "In Europe, as in this country, bituminous coal is naturally the staple locomotive fuel. The success with which it is used in its raw state has been seen. English coal-burning boilers are not interesting from their variety ; for while ours, in distinct plan, number a score, they are but three or four. But these combine principles which have been quite overlooked in most of the contrivances in this line in which American inventive genius has been so fruitful. These principles are the admission of air in divided streams over the fire ; means for deflecting this air into thorough mixture with the gas ; means of igniting the compound, and space for it to expend itself in flame. No possible arrangement of bent or upright tubes, shaking grates, ' sub-treasuries,' variable exhausts, or smoke-box details, of whatever na- ture, can supply the absence of these vital provisions. With scarcely an exception, American coal-burning boilers have been wanting in comprehen- siveness, each having a one-idea character—a torturing of a single hobby into an all-in-all importance • and hence, while each patent-proprietor claims perfection for his own bantling, all are deficient, and the main ques-
tion for a cautious railway manager is which is worst ?' *
"Raw bituminous coal has been successfully burned in English passen- ger and freight locomotives for upwards of four years, and is rapidly super- seding coke. It is found not only to burn freely and to maintain a uniform pressure of steam, but it is burned absolutely without smoke, with a high rate of evaporation and without unusual injury to the boiler. It is an esta- blished fuel for railway locomotives, and the form of boiler adapted to it has been determined and generally agreed upon. "In this country, bituminous coal is not an established locomotive fuel, unless in a crude way for freight locomotives in the coal regions ; and the proper form of boiler is not determined nor agreed upon. The most approved form of English coal-burning locomotive boiler has not been practically developed by any one man nor is its plan secured by any one patent. A few individuals have indee4 taken patents in England, each on some detail of arrangement, but for the railways of this country there is nothing necessary for the successful use of coal, which is not com- mon property to all.
"The success in the use of coal in English locomotives is a direct result of the application of sound chemical principles."
This subject might be pursued further ; but enough has been said to indicate the nature of the book, which is rather too technical to be developed at great length in a journal like the Spectator. The treatment exhibits much fairness and industry, with a popular power of stating complicated or dry facts, though as regards mere composition the work is not entitled to praise. In details relating to matters that require a social or personal knowledge of this country, the authors naturally fall into errors. In noticing the legal and Parliamentary costa of English rail- ways, they speak of "a Mr. Charles Austin" as a " solicitor " who "made 200,000 dollars yearly for three years ; " and they describe the present Chief Justice of the Common Pleas as "a Mr. A. Cockburn [who] did nearly as well." Again' in giving the cost per mile of the Greenwich and Blackwell railways, they omit to state (what they might easily not know) that both limn are constructed on brick arches, and that both railways run more or less over the site of houses' which had to be purchased Cat railway prices) and destroyed, the Blackwell indeed for nearly the whole way.