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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 46.djvu/770

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Rudolph II to torment his mind with self-made horoscopes of evil import, let us unscientifically imagine that the sun could suddenly burst out with several hundred times its ordinary amount of heat and light, thereby putting us into a proper condition for spectroscopic examination by curious astronomers in distant worlds.

But no, it is far pleasanter to keep within the strict boundaries of science, and not imagine anything of the kind.



WITHIN the few years remaining to the nineteenth century, if not indeed already, will certainly pass away the human being who can remember a date when there were no railways. A railway then will be, if it is not already, as much part of a natural landscape as a mountain or a river, since no one can then recall a time at which railways as well as rivers did not run.

Our nineteenth century has been the railway age. Within its bounds the railway has been entirely conceived, invented, utilized, and perfected. But will the century which has been the birth and genesis of the railway witness also its exodus and its death? Perhaps not; and yet—perhaps. It has been anticipated and foreseen that electricity was to be the successor of steam, and experimental electric locomotives have already been operated with more or less satisfactory results. But the question appears at this moment to be, not whether the electric locomotive will supersede the steam locomotive, but whether locomotives themselves are not to be dispensed with, and tossed, together with drawings, models, plans, specifications, and estimates for a substitution of power, upon the scrap heap, while the substitution shall be, not of the motive power, but of the motor.

It looks, indeed, as if the next century, whatever it may have in the way of aërial flight in store for us, will have no difficulty, if it desires the honor, of being christened "the trolley age." For it is to this new traction system that the railway companies are already looking with that apprehension with which an heirless landed proprietor regards his hostile next of kin. Loaded down with their vast burden of fixed charges and costly maintenance, crippled by all sorts of parasites, legal, illegal, and mixed, there seems to be nothing for them to do but to wait patiently to be superseded.

For many years the railway companies had come to philosophize helplessly at the prospective diminution of suburban profits from the horse or dummy-operated tramway, and had missed the