We borrow, from our contemporary La Nature, the annexed figure, illustrating an ingenious type of locomotive designed for equally efficient use on both level surfaces and heavy grades.
COTTRAU'S LOCOMOTIVE FOR ASCENDING STEEP
As well known, all the engines employed on level roads are provided with large driving wheels, which, although they have a comparatively feeble tractive power, afford a high speed, while, on the contrary, those that are used for ascending heavy grades have small wheels that move slowly, but possess, as an offset, a tractive power that enables them to overcome the resistances of gravity.
M. Cottrau's engine possesses the qualities of both these types, since it is provided with wheels of large and small diameter, that may be used at will. These two sets of wheels, as may be seen from the figure, are arranged on the same driving axle. The large wheels are held apart the width of the ordinary track, while the small wheels are placed internally, or as in the case represented in the figure, externally. These two sets of wheels, being fixed solidly to the same axle, revolve together.
On level surfaces the engine rests on the large wheels, which revolve in contact with the rails of the ordinary track, and it then runs with great speed, while the auxiliary wheels revolve to no purpose. On reaching an ascent, on the contrary, the engine meets with an elevated track external or internal to the ordinary one, and which engages with the auxiliary wheels. The large wheels are then lifted off the ordinary track and revolve to no purpose. In both cases, the engine is placed under conditions as advantageous as are those that are built especially for the two types of roads. The idea appears to be a very ingenious one, and can certainly be carried out without disturbing the working of the locomotive. In fact, the same number of piston strokes per minute may be preserved in the two modes of running, so as to reduce the speed in ascending, in proportion to the diameters of the wheels. There will thus occur the same consumption of steam. On another hand, there is nothing to prevent the boiler from keeping up the same production of steam, for it has been ascertained by experience, on the majority of railways, that the speed of running has no influence on vaporization, and that the same figures may be allowed for passenger as for freight locomotives.
The difficulties in the way of construction that will be met with in the engine under consideration will be connected with the placing of the double wheels, which will reduce the already limited space at one's disposal, and with the necessity that there will be of strengthening all the parts of the mechanism that are to be submitted to strain.
The installation of the auxiliary track will also prove a peculiarly delicate matter; and, to prevent accidents, some means will have to be devised that will permit the auxiliary wheels to engage with this track very gradually. Still, these difficulties are perhaps not insurmountable, and if M. Cottrau's ingenious arrangement meets with final success in practice, it will find numerous applications.