The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 3, Issue 7 (November 1, 1928)
The Famous Palmer Railway — An Early Nineteenth Century Wonder
The Famous Palmer Railway
An Early Nineteenth Century Wonder
In the “Register of Arts and Sciences,” (an interesting journal published in London in the early days of last century) there appears in its issue of 10th January, 1824, an account of an iron railway constructed by Mr. H. R. Palmer, a noted civil engineer of the period. The “Palmer Railway” was on the mono-rail principle and created considerable interest in the transport world of the early nineteenth century.
The Origin Of Railways
The Palmer Railway.
The illustration (Fig. 1) is of a greatly-improved construction of railway, by Mr. H. R. Palmer, the civil engineer; in calling it merely an improvement, however, we fear we shall be misleading the judgment of some of our readers, and omit doing justice to the talents and genius of the inventor; in fact, we might quite as reasonably say that the important invention of the plough was merely an improvement of the spade. If we had never seen a plough, and were told that an improvement had been made on the spade, we should certainly never think of such a form of machine as the plough; so it is with Mr. Palmer's Railway, which is a bold innovation upon all former plans and altogether original.
A One-Line Railway.
The above is an illustration (taken from the “Register of Arts and Sciences,” January 1824) of a further suggested improvement of the famous Palmer railway, in which case sails were to be employed for propulsion when the wind was favourable. “I would propose” (says the inventor) “that a horse should always be in attendance, so that when employed in drawing a train along the rail, if a breeze of wind should spring up, the sails might be spread, and the horse clapped into a carriage properly constructed to accommodate his noble person, where, in comfort, feasting over his bag of corn, his frame would be reinvigorated for fresh exertion should the wind happen to fail.”
The Structure of the Wagons.
A number of the carriages are linked together, and towed along the rail by a horse, as barges on a canal. Owing to the undulation of the country the horse will sometimes be much below the rail, in consequence of which he is provided with a sufficient length of rope, to preserve a proper angle of draught.
Fig. 1 is an end view of the carriage, with a cross section of the rail, and of a pillar shewing its form, and manner of fixing.
A. Fig. 1 is an upright pillar of cast iron, having at the shoulder a flanch which rests upon the surface of the ground. The pillar is formed with ribs at right angles, which converge toward the lower extremity, and are notched on the edges for the better securing it firmly in the ground, with the page 54 broken hard materials which are rammed around it; the hole into which it is inserted being previously well prepared by ramming with a sort of pile driving engine.
E E (Fig. 1) are the arms or axles, and H H are the receptacles for the goods. The receptacles are made of plate iron, and are suspended to the arms or axles by the inflexible rods I I I I. To one of the arms a chain is hooked, to which a towing rope may be connected. Any number of carriages may be attached together by chains hooked on to the angles.
With respect to loading; if both receptacles be not loaded at the same time, that which is to be loaded first must be supported until the second is full. Where there is a permanent loading place the carriage is brought over a step or block, but when it is loaded promiscuously it is provided with a support connected with it, which is turned up when not in use. From the small height of the carriage, the loading of those articles which are done by hand becomes less laborious.
The unloading may be done in various ways, according to the substance which is to be discharged; the receptacles being made to open at the bottom, the sides or the ends: in some cases it may be desirable to suspend them by their ends, when turning on their own centres they are easily discharged sideways.
Advantages of Palmer Railway.
Among the principal advantages that result from the adoption of Mr. Palmer's plan, may be mentioned, that of enabling the engineer, in most cases, to construct a Railway on that plane which is most effectual, and where the shape of the country would occasion too great an expenditure on former plans; that of being maintained in a perfectly straight line, and in the facility with which it may be always adjusted; in being unencumbered with extraneous substances lying upon it; in receiving no interruption by snow, as the little that may lodge on the rail is cleared off by merely fixing a brush before the first carriage in the train; in the facility with which the loads may be transferred from the Railway on to other carriages, by merely unhooking the receptacles, without displacing the goods, or from other carriages to the Railway by the reverse operation; in the preservation of the articles conveyed from being fractured, owing to the uniform gliding motion of the carriages; in occupying less land than any other Railway; in requiring no levelling or road-making; in adapting itself to all situations, as it may be constructed on the side of any public road; on the waste and irregular margins of rivers; on the beach or shingles of the sea shore; indeed, where no other road can be made; in the original cost not being much less, and the impediments and great expense occasioned by repairs in the ordinary mode being, by this method, almost wholly avoided, etc., etc.
In conclusion, we think it due to the ingenious inventor of this railway to state (it having been proved by actual experiment) that in the best Rail-road on the old plan in the kingdom, the amount of resistance in a straight line is equal to the 170th part of the whole weight of the carriages and their contents, and that the resistance on Mr. Palmer's Railway is only the 300th part; that on the former an average good horse will draw at the rate of two and a half miles per hour, throughout the day, 25,500 pounds weight, and that the same force employed upon Mr. Palmer's will draw 45,000 pounds weight.
“Last year there was an average of 61 million journeys taken by railway passengers in this country to one passenger killed in a train accident, and 206 ½ million passenger and freight train-miles run to each servant killed in a train accident.” —From “The Railway Gazette,” London.