The Battle of the Wires.
The overhead wire is in many of our larger cities being vigorously discussed and criticised, says Age of Steel. Up to a certain date, and within certain limits, the suspended wire was accepted as a necessity, its service to public good more than covering its possible faults and dangers. The copper thread has, however,’multiplied its lines, and its intersections in public thoroughfares are a metal web where in too many instances electricity is the fatal spider and man the unfortunate fly. To such an extent has this aerial invasion been carried on that public streets areas unsightly as they are perilous; fire departments are hindered, with not a little grave suspicion that some of their work is due to the silent agencies over their heads. There is, of course, a wide margin for exaggeration and panic in this instance, as in all others, but with this reasonably allowed the fact remains that the hazards involved in the present system are not to be controverted, and that public sentiment is increasingly earnest in demanding improved and less menacing methods. This is specially forceful in the matter of the trolley wire that has taken so large a place in the equipment of electric traction. Street car service has become essential to modern life. It is practically co-extensive with the city growth of nations. It is here to stay, and to develop into a universal method of urban and possibly suburban transportation. To present date the trolley is the most easily available’ and economic method. It is, however, by no means final, and apart from the risks incurred to human life in its use, the progress of intelligence in methods of applied power must eventually improve or remove it. This is simply a question of time and science, and for the causes named a matter of urgency. Among other instances we note the recent action of the Metropelitan Traction Company of New York. A prize has been offered by this body of $50,000 for the invention of a system of street railroad propulsion superior to the cable and trolley methods. It is stated that the application of the trolley systems in the streets of New York will not meet with the approval of the community. To give an impulse to the development and perfection of a better system the following proposition has been submitted to the board of railroad commissioners :
First.-We will set aside the sum of $50,000 to be awarded as a prize to any person who shall, before March 1, 1894, submit to your honorable board an actual working system of motive power for street railway cars demonstrated to be superior or equal to the overhead trolley.
Second.-The qualities necessary to meet this requirement shall be left to your decision ; but with the present state of the art, a system to win the award must necessarily approximate the trolley as a standard of economy in operation, but should be without the features objectionable to the public that are in it.
Third.-We shall exact no rights in the invention in return for the $50,000, and shall have nothing whatever to do with the making of the award further than to pay any expenses which your honorable board may deem it necessary or wise to incur, either in the employment of experts, the giving of hearings or the conduct of experiments-this in order that no effort may be spared to achieve the desired result.
In answer to this proposition, S. II. Beardsley, in behalf of the railroad commissioners, sent a letter to President John D. Crimmins, undertaking to co-operate with the company with certain limitations.
It is to be presumed that any system of street car propulsion showing superior methods of economy and service will be carefully considered, and if suitable to the requirements of the company may be practically adopted.