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Chapter 1: E36 The Models

Greg Hudock Brooklands Books ePub
Medium 9780253006332

4 Legacy

H. Roger Grant Indiana University Press ePub

LEGACY

4

THE LEGACY OF THE RAILROAD IN AMERICAN LIFE IS ENORMOUS, extensively documented, and remembered by passing generations. In the twentieth century the automobile became the dominant form of personal transport and in the process helped to shape the national identity. Still, the railroad had a greater initial impact; after all, the iron horse represented a radical change from previous forms of intercity travel. Prior to the Railway Age transportation options involved slow-moving ships, steamboats, and canal packets and only slightly faster stagecoaches. Then there was the matter of dependability. Weather conditions – floods, snows, ice, winds, and fogs – repeatedly hampered the incumbent forms of transportation more than they did even pioneer railways. The adoption of motor cars also proved to be more gradual than that of passenger trains, the result of primitive technologies, high costs, and poor roads. For years citizens considered automobiles to be impractical toys, noisy and dangerous nuisances, appropriate only for tinkerers and the wealthy.

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Chapter 14: Modifying the E36

Greg Hudock Brooklands Books ePub
Medium 9780253019066

9 Panic and Innovation

Cordery, Simon Indiana University Press ePub

Regulators could do little to help the railroad industry in the face of global economic downturns, though their strictures did not help the bottom line. The capital needed to build railroads came from the Netherlands and Great Britain, from New York and Rock Falls. Financiers and farmers proffered their savings in hopes of earning a profit, but sometimes disaster struck. Connecting with a transatlantic economy could prove painful, as events in 1873 would demonstrate. In that year another of the recurring crises of capitalism forced numerous railroads into bankruptcy, demonstrating the dangers of relying on the invisible and far-flung forces of capital accumulation.

The vulnerability of railroads to financial forces they unleashed but could not control was stunningly demonstrated in 1873. Railroad construction virtually stopped and operations were threatened when the New York office of the country’s largest private banker, Jay Cooke, suddenly closed its doors. This unexpected catastrophe was the culmination of a series of smaller failures and precipitated a downturn lasting on and off to the end of the century. The Panic of 1873—which initiated a frenzied effort to convert stocks, bonds, and savings into cash—revealed the dangers of overcapitalization and overbuilding. The cultural scale tipped against speculators again, and a new round of corporate consolidations kicked off.1

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11 An Inventor and Engineer to the End

William D. Middleton Indiana University Press ePub

In July 1927 Frank Sprague moved into the 70th year of his life, and one might have expected him to begin easing up on the level of his work, or to have begun to enjoy the pleasures of a life of semiretirement. But this, of course, would not have been Frank Sprague. From the time of his youth onward he had always held these strong interests in an extraordinary range of diverse topics, and he would hold them throughout his life.

Sprague, working with his eldest son, Desmond, would continue his long-running work on his Sprague Safety Control & Signaling Corp. until well into the 1930s. He was in his 69th year when he began work on his innovative dual car elevator design in 1926. And before the end of the decade he would begin his work on his patented Universal Electric Sign System which would use massed electric lamps to display a great variety of signs in either still or moving arrangements, and which could move in different arrangements and at different speeds. At least one example of the Sprague sign technology used was a large moving sign that he designed as part of the Time-Fortune exhibit at the 1933–1934 Chicago Century of Progress Exhibition.

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