Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/289

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THE GROWTH OF THE STEAM-ENGINE.

cent, of the average cost of horse-power, a traction-engine capable of doing the work of twenty-five horses being worked at as little expense as six or eight horses.

68. Now, thirty years after the defeat of the intelligent, courageous and persistent Hancock and his co-workers in the scheme of applying the steam-engine usefully on the common road, we find strong indications that, in a new form, the problem has been again attacked and at least partially solved. It was formerly supposed that success in the transportation of passengers by steam on post-routes would lead to the application of that motor to the movement of heavy loads and to agricultural purposes generally. When, after so long a trial, the experiment finally seemed to have failed of success, it was believed that steam could not be applied to heavier work on common roads. As we have now seen, however, it appears probable that the inventors of that day attacked the problem at the wrong point, and that, on the common road, the transportation of heavy loads by steam being accomplished with economical success, under ordinarily favorable circumstances, it may prove introductory to the use of steam in carrying passengers and light freight at higher velocities.

One of the most important of the prerequisites to ultimate success in the substitution of steam for animal power on the highway is that our roads shall be well made.

As the greatest care and judgment are exercised, and an immense outlay of capital is considered justifiable, in securing easy grades and a smooth track on our railroad routes, we may readily believe that similar precaution and outlay will be found advisable in adopting the common road to the road-locomotive.

It is undeniably the fact that, even when relying upon horse-power, far less attention has been paid to the improvement of our roads than true economy would dictate. With steam-power, the gain by careful grading and excellence of construction of the road-bed becomes still more important. The animal mechanism is less affected in its power of drawing heavy loads than is the machine. With the horse, a bad road impedes transportation principally by resisting the movement of the load rather than of the animal, while with the traction-engine the motor is as seriously retarded as the train which follows it, and frequently much more, on soft ground.

Steam, therefore, cannot be expected to attain its full measure of success on rough and ill-made roads; but where highways are intelligently engineered and thoroughly well built, or where Nature has relieved the engineer and the road-builder of the expensive work of grading, as throughout a very large extent of the Western and Southern portion of our country, we may expect to see the road-locomotive rapidly introduced.

The earliest and most perfect success of the traction-engine, and its probable successor, the steam-carriage, may be expected to occur