The Present Aspect of Electric Traction.
No branch of the great electrical industries has progressed with such rapid and gigantic strides as electric traction. Four years ago the electric car was struggling for recognition as a commercial possibility; a year later it was a pronounced commercial success; to-day about one-half of the capital invested in the street railways of this country is employed in the operation of roads employing electric motive power. Within these few years numerous competing systemsof electric traction have sprung up, and a vast amount of ingenuity and patient effort has been expended on the improvement of motors, gearing, generators, systems of conductors and feeders, accumulators, underground conduits and all the numerous units which combine together to move passengers from place to place by means of the subtle influence of the electric current.
The single trolley system of electric traction has held its own by reason of its economy and simplicity, against all rivals, but the inevitable law of survival of the fittest promises, before very long, to cause the relegation of the single trolley to the background. It is true that the single trolley gives excellent results in some towns and cities, where it is well received and welcomed in spite of difficulties with the telephone, but for great cities and crowded streets the overhead trolley system is emphatically not the thing. There is no more profitable field for electric traction than great cities, but the field will not be thrown open until cither a thoroughly satisfactory underground conduit system has been produced, or the storage battery emerges financially triumphant from the long period of repression which wearisome legislation has imposed on it. With reganl to underground conduit methods, we cannot help thinking that our electrical engineers are somewhat backward in this respect ; the problem is surrounded by many difficulties, it is true, but these difficulties have been successfully overcome abroad, and there is no reason why the same result should not be achieved here. We sometimes think that the will, rather than the way, is absent, and that as long as the overhead trolley is accepted by the public, no serious effort will be made to produce a satisfactory underground conduit system.
Of the storage battery great hopes may reasonably be conceived, and a bright luture seems to admit it. There is no doubt, as we have frequently said, that the storage battery car provides the ideal system of electric surface traction for cities. Each car is self-contained and absolutely independent, and no breakdown of an ordinary nature can affect more than one car at a time. In fact, storage battery cars are simple horse cars without the horses, with the additional advantage that they are more easily controlled and more sightly. If the storage battery can be made to compete financially with animal power, in a very few years horses will be entirely freed from the bondage of the surface car in all our great cities. According to the views of those interested in storage battery traction, this dcvoutly-to-be-wished-for consummation is now in a fair way to be realized.
No less halcyon a future can be foreseen for the electric motor in competition with the steam locomotive for heavy passenger traffic, ltcspite the scoffing of carping spirits, ignorant of the achievements of electric engineering, and too prejudiced to learn, there can he no doubt that the electric motor is fully capable of taking care of the fast passenger traffic of a great city, and providing efficient rapid transit for suffering multitudes. The working of the underground electric railway in London has proved this beyond a doubt, and in this line of work a new and vastly important field has liecn opened up for the electric motor.
It would lie idle to attempt to prophecy, at this time, what the future achievements of the electric motor for traction purposes may be. The foregoing brief review of the present situation. although but a mere sketch of what really has been and is being done, affords abundant evidence that the progress made within the short period during which electric traction has been a prominent factor in the electrical industries has been accomplished with surprising energy and rapidity. If progress be made at a similar rate during the next five years, we shall have some very satisfactory facts to chronicle during that time. —Electrical Review.