A patent for a suspension railway was granted to Mr. J. G. Fisher, on the 2d of April, 1825. This gentleman, it will be observed, suspends his carriages to a double line of rail; in this respect, however, he was anticipated in idea by Mr. Palmer, who, in his little interesting book, entitled, Description of a Railway upon a New Principle, observes, - "to elevate two line3 of rail for the purpose of supporting a carriage, could not be done at a sufficiently moderate expense; I therefore endeavoured to arrange the form of a carriage in such a manner that it would travel upon a single line of rail without the possibility of overturning." Nevertheless, if an inventor can succeed in carrying into beneficial operation that which was thought of by another as ineligible to attempt, he is entitled to respectful consideration.
Mr. Fisher's plan is, however, not without originality, and, with some modifications, may be rendered useful in many situations. The chief object is stated to be the throwing of a railroad across rivers, swamps, etc.; and the means proposed of effecting it will be readily perceived upon inspecting the following diagrams, and referring to the subjoined explanation of them.
Fig. 1 is a side view of the proposed rail, attached by vertical rods to a chain of bars, which form a catenarian curve; Fig. 2 is a similar view, but giving only a portion of Fig. 1 on a larger scale; Fig. 3 is an end or sectional view of Fig. 2; Fig. 4 is also a sectional view, but of another form of rail, which we shall describe lastly. The letters of reference denote similar parts in each of the figures, a is the rail, made of stout cast-iron plates, of uniform dimensions, bolted together, having a horizontal projection, or plate, b b, on each side, for the wheels of the carriages, d d, to run upon (seen best in Fig. 3); ffshows the frame of the carriage: the manner of constructing the wheels on either side of the rail, in pairs, is exhibited in Fig. 3, and the mode of joining the front with the hind pair of wheels, in Fig. 2. Iron rings, g g, pass through the centres of the lower parts of the carriage-frame, to which are suspended the boxes or receptacles for holding the goods or passengers, one of which is shown attached at h, Fig. 1. The loops or holes in the upper part of the rail a, Fig. 2, are, of course, for the convenience of bolting it to the suspension bars, as seen connected in Fig. 1. Each of the bars is to be provided with a wedge or screw adjustment, so as to regulate the uniformity of the plane when any part sinks.
To give an idea of the other form of rail, the section Fig. 4 is sufficient. Here it will be seen that the rail (if we may so term it) is of the form of a square tube or hollow trunk, i i, with an opening or slit on the lower side for the bar j (which is fixed to the axletree of the carriage) to pass through, for the purpose of being connected to a box or receptacle underneath. This square cast-iron trunk, or. rail, is to be suspended, as in the previously described rail, to a chain of iron bars or wires, drawn nearly tight, so as to form a catenarian curve when stretched over the place to be crossed.
The mode of propelling the carriages is, we believe, not stated in the specification, but we understand it is to be performed, when the crossing of rivers or ravines is the object, by elevating that end in which the carriages are placed, and letting them find their way to the other end by their own gravity. By such a proposition, it is probable that the patentee does not intend it for any extensive work, as the means proposed of producing motion are applicable only to such cases as we have mentioned.
As it is indispensable that carriages which have to run upon edge railways should be provided with wheels that have lateral flanges upon their peripheries to prevent them from running off it; and as such projecting flanges render them inapplicable to carriages on the common road, into which they would make deep destructive incisions, if drawn or propelled over them, it necessarily became of importance to contrive such a wheel, or periphery of a wheel, as would run without detriment on either road or rail. We think we have noticed several methods of providing for this object: but that which appertains to our present chronological position is the subject of a patent granted to R. W. Brandling, Esq., of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, on the 12th of April, 1825. The wheels he uses for this purpose have tires, provided, as it were, with two peripheries or external circles of different diameters. Thus, upon an edge rail, the periphery of the smaller diameter of the tire runs upon it, and the larger diameter becomes the guiding flange to keep the carriage in its course.
And when the same are run upon a common road, the larger diameter only comes into operation, keeping the smaller diameter clear of the ground, unless the latter should be in a soft state, when it will tend to keep the wheel from sinking deeper in the road. This patentee has likewise included in his specification some plans for making turns or curves in the roads, by means of projecting ribs on the surface of the rail of different elevations, with wheels designed to correspond thereto; but as in these contrivances Mr. Brandling was anticipated a few weeks prior by Mr. W. II. James (already described), we shall not here enlarge on the subject.
In the invention patented by Mr. Thomas Hill, Jan., of Ashton-under-Line, dated the 10th of May, 1825, that gentleman proposes to construct a steam-carriage equally adapted to run upon edge-rails, tram-plates, and the common road. For this purpose he makes the guiding flanges removable at pleasure by the withdrawal of bolts, by which they are connected to the fellies of the wheels. Another invention consists in making the running wheels of the carriage revolve loosely upon a fixed axletree, which, when applied to railways, he considers to be a new and useful invention. This is, however, a mistake, as they have been so used, but were abandoned on account of their unsteadiness, and other defective action. A third contrivance is to lock the fore-axle to the perch, to prevent its turning round when upon a Railway, by means of a square staple entering loops or eyes. A fourth invention consists in making the rails of tubes instead of solid bars, to save metal, and obtain strength. There are some other trifling appendages or alterations to steam-carriages and railroads, for the description of which we must refer the reader, who may require more information, to the enrolled document.