Publication: Electrical World and Engineer
New York, NY, United States
The New Station of the New York Electric Vehicle
By R. A. FLIESS.
THE Twentieth Century—the much heralded horseless age--is here and its advent has been happily commemorated in the City of New York by the opening of the new station of the Electric Vehicle Transportation Company, at Forty-ninth Street and Eighth Avenue.
It is probable that the opening, at this particular time, of the largest automobile operating, charging, storage and repair station yet constructed emphasizes more strongly than would otherwise be the case the remarkable progress that has taken place in methods of transportation on land during the century just closed.
When one recalls the fact that at the beginning of the nineteenth century the only practical method of transportation available on land for commercial or pleasure purposes was the lumbering stage coach or a horse's back, the wonderful advance that has been made in this branch of human industry alone during the short period of the last one hundred years is truly marvelous and causes speculation on the possibilities of the twentieth century to carry one irresistible, far into a field which to our great grandfathers would have been the realm of wonders.
In this connection it may not be uninteresting to note that it is just one hundred years since the first attempt to construct an automobile in America was made. To some this may appear surprising, but it is on record that one Oliver Evans—a mechanic, born at Newport. Delaware, in 1755—in the year 1801, started to build a horseless vehicle to operate on common roads. Owing to the inability of the inventor to find a single one of his contemporaries who was willing to speculate to the necessary extent in the experiments which he desired to make or even to lend him the benefit of moral support, he gave up his attempt to build his automobile, but not before he has: made considerable progress towards the construction of a steam carriage designed to be driven by a non-condensing engine of his own design. This farsighted inventor predicted, however, at the time he gave up his attempt to construct a horseless carriage, that eventually vehicles would be propelled on common roads without the aid of horses, and that the time would come when people would travel in vehicles, moved by steam engines from one city to another, almost as fast as birds can fly. How fully this prediction, made just one hundred years ago, has been fulfilled, the thousands of miles of railroads and the rapidly increasing number of horseless vehicles now operating on our common roads bear eloquent testimony.
It was, however, only in the latter years of the last century that the great strides which have brought horseless vehicle locomotion on common roads to its present advanced stage of development, were made. Especially is this true in the case of electric vehicles, for it is only the developments that have taken place within the last twenty years that have made the electric automobile a commercial possibility. In fact, less than four years have elapsed since the first electric vehicle, built in this country to compete commercially with horse traction on common roads, was placed in operation. Since then the rapid strides that have been made in the development of this infant industry have been remarkable.
Perhaps, at the moment, no better idea of the magnitude of the development that has taken place in four short years can be obtained than is furnished by the brief history of the growth of the Electric Wagon and Carriage Company, from its small experimental beginning into the present Electric Vehicle Transportation Company, the new station of which has just been placed in operation.
On the evening of Jan. 20, 1897, the American Institute of Electrical Engineers devoted its 112th meeting to a topical discussion on "Electrically Driven Vehicles," during the course of which it was stated that the Electric Carriage & Wagon Company was equipping a station in New York City, for the purpose of running a dozen or more electric carriages for public and private service. It was said at the time that at first the service would be more or less selective, as the impossible or impracticable was not to he attempted. It was also said that, as this station was the first of its kind that had probably ever been equipped, a number of new problems was constantly arising, and that it would be some months before it would be known, with any degree of accuracy, what the probable results would be. Looking back from our present point of vantage it would seem as though even the most sanguine of the promoters of that pioneer company could hardly have foreseen the rapid expansion which it was destined to ensue in such a short space of time.
In its issues of August 14 and at, 1897, the Electrical World described the station of this company. The single room, 40 x 100 ft., which constituted its ground floor, was utilized as battery-charging room, vehicle-loading room, battery-switchboard room, washing room for vehicles and rental office, all in one.
The building, which was situated in Thirty-ninth Street, just west of Broadway, was a three-story one, and occupied a ground space of about 40x100 feet. Its total available floor space was 12,000 square feet, which, it may be interesting to note, is less than 10 per cent of that available in the Forty-ninth Street station. This pioneer station was equipped with 20 battery-charging stands, each of which would accommodate a battery of 44 cells. The new Forty-ninth Street station is equipped at present with charging racks enough to accommodate 640 batteries of 44 cells, and has been so planned and laid out that the battery-charging room can be extended in two directions, when desired, until it can be made to accommodate over woo batteries.
The rolling stock equipment of the Thirty-ninth Street station consisted of 12 hansom cabs and 1 brougham. The Forty-ninth Street station can accommodate 540 vehicles, with ample space left for their proper and easy manipulation, while over 700 vehicles could be crowded into the building, should the necessity arise. In fact, the Electric Vehicle Transportation Company expects to have the 300 vehicles, which make up its rolling stock equipment at present, in full operation in from thirty to sixty days provided they can get enough competent drivers in that time.
Not long after the Electric Carriage & Wagon Company began to operate its pioneer station, it became evident that its Thirty-ninth Street quarters would soon become inadequate. In fact, in less than nine months after its first service had been inaugurated the company, which in the interim had changed its name to the Electric Vehicle Company, moved its station to a building, situated between Fifty-second and Fifty-third Streets, the main entrance to which was on Broadway. This building occupied a ground space of about 75x185 ft., of which part was given up to offices. A space, about 36x130 ft., was partitioned off as a battery-charging room, the ceiling of which was 11 ft. high. This room could accommodate some 200 battery charging stands. The space above this room, some 4600 sq. ft., was used as a storage loft for vehicles. In the Forty-ninth Street station the battery-charging room occupies a floor space of 42x302 ft. and its ceiling is 20 ft. high. When enlarged to accommodate woo batteries, it will have a length of 474 ft. The storage room for vehicles in the new station is over 63,000 sq. ft.
As an indication of the growth of the business of the Electric Carriage & Wagon Company in its first months of business, the following data is interesting: During the month of March 1897, the company had 8 vehicles in actual operation. No record was kept in this month of the number of calls received, but the number of passengers carried was estimated at about 30o. Two more vehicles were placed in operation towards the end of the month