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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/436

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422
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

operative parts of the device becomes sufficiently strong to cause it to act. A circuit breaker is simply a switch that is arranged to be opened automatically by the action of a magnet, instead of by the hand of the operator. The switch part of the apparatus is held in place by a catch that is set much after the fashion of the catch in a mouse trap—that is, so that the least pressure will disengage it. A strong spring acts to throw the switch open, and as soon as the catch is tripped by the actuating magnet the force of the spring comes into action and the circuit is opened.

The circuit breaker is a very valuable apparatus, for it frequently happens that, through delays of one kind or another, a large number of cars concentrate at one point on the road, and, as all the motormen are anxious to make headway, they all start up at once at the first opportunity. If there were no circuit breakers at the power house the result would be that some of the generators would be greatly overloaded and perhaps disabled; but, owing to the presence of the circuit breakers, the actual result is that the circuit is broken, and then the motormen have to wait until the current is turned on again. If too many of them try to start their cars at the second trial the current will again stop. After two or three ineffectual efforts have been made to start all the cars together the motormen will conclude to go easy, and set a few in motion at a time. In this way the cars will become more evenly distributed along the line, and the demand for current at the point of blockade will reduce to the normal amount, or nearly so, and the running of the cars will continue without further interruption, for the current drawn by the motors having been reduced to the average amount, the circuit breaker will cease to act.

The bus bars and all the connections between them and the generators and external circuits, as well as with all the instruments, are located behind the switch board. All these connections are so secured that they can not come in contact with each other except where contacts are required; care is also taken to prevent any connection being made with the iron framing that supports the marble slabs. The front of a switch board is generally very attractive, the surface being of highly polished marble, while all the switches and instruments are finely finished and, as a rule, of decidedly ornamental design.

The switch board might be looked upon as the fountain head from which the entire operation of an electric railway system is controlled. By the movement of one set of switches upon it the generators are thrown in or out of service, and by the movement of another set of switches the several branches of the road are rendered active or inactive.