Amongst the numerous suggestions for new modes of propulsion, that proposed by Mr. Thomas Parkin is one which the less informed portion of the public have been led to believe would supersede the use of locomotive and stationary steam engines. The contempt with which Mr. Parkin treats these latter is somewhat amusing. Speaking of a locomotive engine, he says, "it is obnoxious to fearful casualties. Now and then it breaks axles and wheels, and tears up rails, involving consequences so dreadful as to render even allusion to them painful; and it has, on these accounts, too truly been compared to the arch-fiend himself in harness. The weight of a locomotive also constantly injures the road, and subjects it to the necessity of frequent reconstruction; and when it is occasionally out of breath, the discovery is made that it sometimes amuses itself in polishing the rails, instead of making the best of its way home! For all the purposes of locomotion, an enormous fire (which now and then sets trains, standing corn, ricks, farm-yards, and other buildings in a blaze!) is made, and kept up, in order to have a constant enormous supply of boiling water, (which now and then scalds men to death!) the vapour whereof is confined in an iron case, and gives motion (when unable to burst the case) to a piston, which turns a crank, and thereby the 'driving' wheels of the engine, and this is designated the locomotive lever: but where is the fulcrum? Ay, that is the question! Why, the engineers having had as much difficulty in finding a fulcrum for this lever, as Archimedes experienced in finding one to lift the globe, have contented themselves with the weight of the engine for a fulcrum!"
After much similar sneering at the most extensively useful invention of modern times, our inventor proceeds to describe what he calls the new system (and we prefer his description to our own, for obvious reasons): he says -
"Having disposed of locomotives and tenders, and developed a plan for existing railways, we are brought to the new system of locomotion, which dispenses with tunnels, bridges, rails, steam-tenders, and carriages with wheels and springs, and requires very little land to be bought, and very little earthwork to be done.
"The road is formed of parallel lines of stanchions, mounted with wheels, on which a platform glides, carriages being built thereon, and ribs underneath are its guide. A small amount of power only is required to give motion to the platform, and the saving in the construction of this mode of conveyance is immense. The road, for the most part, will present a series of inclined planes, which the trains will ascend by means of windmills, when there is wind, and by counterbalances on parallel lines of road when there is none, or not enough. The counterbalances will consist of water, stones, gravel, etc. which the wind will pump and draw up to a height, when not employed to work the platform; and tens of thousands of tons of these substances may always be kept on reserve, to be used when there is no wind, as wind costs nothing; as the above-mentioned substances cost nothing, and as compressed air, when used, will cost nothing either, locomotion (incredible as this at first sight may appear) will in reality cost next to nothing. The system, however, may of course be worked by those who would be horror-struck at the idea of getting rid of all expenditure at a tangent, by small steam engines.
The platform may be of any length, and will always have a bearing on six or eight wheels in succession, and may weigh two tons, carrying as many passengers as ten railway carriages accommodate. The carriages, and truck or baggage waggon, weigh about 45 tons; consequently here will be a diminution of weight of 43 tons, say 40. A point is thus gained of inappreciable value, but when we add 15 tons, at least, for the weight of the locomotive and tender, we have a saving in weight of 55 tons in each train; that is, we save the fire necessary to reproduce steam enough to waft 55 tons through the air at railway speed! A single comment upon the advantages here offered to the public would be unnecessary." We have been induced to notice this invention, solely from the circumstance of its being publicly stated to be under course of trial in France, and not from having the remotest idea of its success.