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ELECTRIC TRAMWAYS., Issue 7983, 12 August 1889
We published on Saturday Councillor Kimbell's intended speech on electric motors, as we consider through the ruling of the Mayor the public were deprived of the opportunity of learning whether any valid objection to the proposed system of overhead wires had been really discovered by him. "We quite believe that in his opposition he was actuated by a sincere wish to avert some serious danger, though evidently it is but a bogie born of his own vivid imagination. Only a very cursory perusal of his intended oration is needed to discover that he lias formed his opinions upon very slender information. Lest he should be charged with presumption, apparently, he premises he is not an expert; a fact which he need hardly have taken the trouble to mention, so plain is it to those who have only the most rudimentary knowledge of electrical science and who read his oration throughout. The only reasons given for his desire "to conserve the "citizens' rights to use the public " streets without danger to life and "property, and without obstruction," are that, according to his reading, in New York a "Board of Electrical Control" have found it their duty to remove all overhead wires. Now, supposing this to be their duty, this is true, but not the whole truth. The overhead wires in New York formed a perfect network. They were not overhead wires for the propulsion of tramcars merely, butfor telegraphic, and telephonic purposes, and electric lighting; and if Councillor Kimbell had read enough to acquire correct information he would have found that, at immense expense, the city authorities (we believe) had provided a channel or subway for conducting the wires of the various companies underground, and that the "cutting down of the poles and wires by the Subway Board " was mainly "to compel the Western " Union Company to acknowledge the " Board's authority." (See the ' Electrician,' May 17, 1889, p. 42.) The same journal continues : " Although " the poles are not perhaps the most " ajsthetic objects we are wont to look " upon, there are many among us who "have a feeling of regret at seeing " them disappear. The streets are un- " doubtedly a great deal more sightly "than they were before the crusade " began, but the question is now agita- " ting electricians here as to the effect "on all the electrical services. It is " feared that they will be crippled in "more than one way. For, even if " the Subways proved equal to their " work, the prices charged for opera- " ting on them is so high, it is claimed, "as to place some of the services " beyond the range of commercial "possibility."
It is evident that this anti-overhead movement is not based upon any apprehension of danger from the use of overhead conductors, but has been caused by the resistance of one company to what really appears to be an arbitrary act. Councillor Kimbell, as an illustration of the danger to life and property, gives a list of casualties which occurred while cutting down the poles. " One rotten pole fell on a street car," a young lady was lamed, and " a lineman" jerked from a window." It would just be as pertinent to say that a man was killed by a tree being felled. The casualties occurred when the poles were being felled, not while they were in use as supports to electric conductors. If, while pulling down a house, some bricks fell and killed a workman, that would be no argument against the utility of a house. Councillor Kimbell seems to have forgotten one duty of a city councillor in addition to those he has enumerated —viz., to facilitate as much as possible the adoption of every invention that will add to the comfort, intercommunication, and convenience of the inhabitants of the municipality. In striking contrast to the New York raid upon the electric companies, the 'Electrician' of May 24, p. 72, has the following:—" One of the most " important electrical events of recent "occurrence in this country (United "States) is the action taken by "the Boston Board of Aldermen "in granting unanimous consent to "the application of the West End "Railway Company for power to " establish and maintain a single trolly " overhead system on each and all of "the streets, squares, and thorough- " fares in the City of Boston, where it "is already operating. This is a "momentous decision, for it simply " means that if the plans of the coni'pany are carried out in their entirety " Boston will have at least 300 or 400 "miles of electric railway service "using overhead conductors. As I " have already noted in this correspon"dence, the Board of Aldermen, as "well as the State authorities, have "been investigating the subject for "some time past." Recommending the adoption of the overhead system of conductors, we have permission to quote the following paragraph from a letter addressed to a well - known firm in Dunedin : " I may say that while lately in the "States I had an opportunity of " travelling on the overhead conductor " lines of Meriden, and over two other " lines in Massachusetts and Oonnecti"cut, and think we could not do " better than adopt this system in the "meantime, as the plant required " would still mostly be of commercial "use if superseded by improved " systems." As far as safety to the person is concerned, it is ascertained that there is no danger, as the intensity of the electric current for tram propulsion is
only required to be 500 volts. The shock would be, of course, unpleasant, says an expert writing on the subject, " but not dangerous. No man, woman, " or child has ever been killed, or even " seriously injured, by a 500 volt cur"rent. . . . The danger limit " with the electric current is probably "about 1,000 or 1,200 volts."
Councillor Kimbell draws a very illogical conclusion from the answers given by Mr Thomson to the questions as to the possibility of constructing a subway or underground channel for electric wires. As a matter of course, he said in substance it could be done, but he states one difficulty: "In order to get your " current into your car, you have got " to get access to the current all along " the line." No hint of danger here. Another very substantial objection is the cost, which, to the Dunedin Tram Company, would be £50,000 to ,£6o,ooo—and no compensating advantage. Councillor Kimdell's intentions are good, no doubt, but his fears have frightened away from him logic, fact, and common sense—his doggerel poetry notwithstanding.
ELECTRIC TRAMWAYS., Issue 7983, 12 August 1889
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