Little Bits of History

Stop! Safely

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 5, 2015
George Westinghouse, Jr.

George Westinghouse, Jr.

March 5, 1872: George Westinghouse, Jr. receives US patent # 124,405. Westinghouse was born in Central Bridge, New York in 1846. His father owned a machine shop and George showed aptitude with both machines and business from an early age. At the start of the US Civil War, 15-year-old George enlisted in the New York National Guard. His parents convinced him to return home but he re-enlisted in April 1863 with Company M of the 16th New York Cavalry and eventually made the rank of corporal. He left the army in December 1864 and joined the Navy aboard the USS Muscoota as Third Assistant Engineer. He was discharged in August 1865 and enrolled at Union College but dropped out after the first term, uninterested in the curriculum.

He created his first invention, the rotary steam engine, when he was nineteen. By age 21 he invented a “car replacer” which could guide derailed railroad cars back onto the tracks. He got his first patent for a railroad braking system which used compressed air when he was 22. There was a compressor on the locomotive and reservoirs and special valves on each car with a single pipe running the length of the train. The pipe had flexible connectors and it was responsible for refilling reservoirs and controlling the brakes. The engineer could apply and release brakes on all cars simultaneously.

The patent he received on this day was for an “Improvement in Steam-Air Brakes”. This version had the brakes themselves actuate the pressure of compressed air held in a reservoir. The “steam” in the title refers to the locomotive power of the train itself. Another improvement in this version of his air brake was the auxiliary air reservoir for each car. These were filled from the main reservoir and were able to be used independently on each car. Each car also had a triple valve or control valve to preserve safety. A triple valve has three functions: charging air into the a tank to be ready for use, applying the brake, and releasing the brake. Implicit in the description are properties for exhaust, cylinder pressure, and recharging.

Westinghouse Air Brake Company (WABCO) was founded on September 28, 1869 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They moved the plant to Wilmerding, Pennsylvania in 1889 which was thought to be an ideal place for the plant – right along the Pennsylvania Railroad line. It was a progressive company and one of the first to institute 9 hour work days and a 55 hour work week. They even had holidays and only half days on Saturday, which was a new invention as well. By 1905, more than 2 million railroad cars and 89,000 locomotives were equipped with Westinghouse brakes. In 1999, a merger with MotivePower Industries Corporation formed Wabtec Corporation, still headquartered in Wilmerding. Their revenue from 2013 (last year available) was $2.5 billion. They employ about 8,500 with Albert Neupaver as Executive Chairman and Raymond Betler as President and CEO.

If someday they say of me that in my work I have contributed something to the welfare and happiness of my fellow man, I shall be satisfied. – George Westinghouse

Many of us have been running all our lives. Practice stopping. – Nhat Hanh

As a child I found railroad stations exciting, mysterious, and even beautiful, as indeed they often were. – Paul Johnson

Nothing was more up-to-date when it was built, or is more obsolete today, than the railroad station. – Ada Louise Huxtable

Also on this day: The Royal Italian Opera – In 1856, the Royal Italian Opera house burned to the ground.
Stick ‘Em Up – In 1836, Samuel Colt developed a new type of gun.
Boston Massacre – In 1770, five men were killed during a riot in Boston.
Iron Curtain – In 1946, Winston Churchill first publicly used the term “Iron Curtain”.
Venera 14 is From Venus – In 1982, the Soviet probe landed on Venus.

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