Forty Second Street NY Conduit Streetcars

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Forty Second Street NY Conduit Streetcars
Posted by M636C on Thursday, October 29, 2020 8:36 PM

I often check out a site which publishes historic photographs, many from the Library of Congress. The site, called "Shorpy" today included a photo of streetcars outside the old Grand Central Station in 1905.

This is the photo in question:

https://www.shorpy.com/node/25949?size=_original#caption

What immediately drew my attention was that the streetcars used offset conduit current collection. In the scene linked above there are two conduits side by side, apparently one each for two separate routes. Check out the junction in the foreground.

I'm sure Dave Klepper can explain this, but I'd welcome any other comments.

Also note that none of the three streetcars in the foreground have any trolley poles, nor do they appear ever to have had them. So these cars were dedicated to the routes with the (offset) conduit system.

I'm currently trying to understand the French APS third rail system where the power rail is energised only by the approach of a car, being isolated at all other times.

But to return to the photo in the link. Was the conduit offset for its whole length? Or could the conduit collector move from side to side?

Peter

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Posted by Overmod on Friday, October 30, 2020 12:47 AM

There are pictures of the conduit pickup arrangement in the contemporary trade press and early accounts of electrification methods. They generally did have lateral accommodation.  As I recall most of them were constructed in multiple parts, the 'plow' being attached to the car (with the lateral accommodation being at its top) and the pickup brought up from below and attached in a pit).

What i read of the APS system is that it uses 10 to 11-meter sections of rail, with insulating gaps between.  These are actuated by short-range "radio" so that only the two segments under a car are 'live' at a time.  A description from Alstom is here

https://www.alstom.com/our-solutions/infrastructure/aps-service-proven-catenary-free-tramway-operations

A much more intriguing approach is that used by TramWave, which (fortunately!) appears to have thorough technical explanation on the Web and YouTube.  This uses relatively short 'modules' of integrated contact and ferromagnetic material, arranged into sealed 'channels' in the same general location of the APS rail structure; inside this channel is a magnetic 'belt' lifted by strong permanent magnets in the pickup (which is like an inverted pantograph), this lifting energizing the contact areas of the modules only under the train.  Note that both negative and positive contacts can be alternated in the module faces, which can in theory eliminate the need to use 'earth return' via one or both running rails as in overhead-wire supply.  That approach may also be useful for 'partial recharge' of a battery-based car design.

I still think I prefer the GE stud-contact system as it was described This used intermittent 'point' contacts in the road spanned by a 'shoe' under the car that could touch more than one at a time.  Doing so caused a small current to flow which then closed a relay putting 'traction potential' on just those studs under the car.  To my knowledge GE always used only positive studs with ground return.  There were other safeguards I don't remember offhand.  (Apparently one of the European alternatives used a special grounded shoe to blow fuses in any 'stud's' circuit which failed to disengage when its relay did, excessive traction-current surges apparently tending to weld contractors ***!) but the intermittent contacts seems better than a similar approach using 'current-detecting' apparatus in sequential sections of a third rail, some part of which is exposed beyond the end of a car as appears to be the case in APS.

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Posted by daveklepper on Friday, October 30, 2020 5:58 AM

In answer to your question, two pairs of concuit rails, one trench, two street slots, existed between Park Avenue and Madison Avenue on 42nd Street, one used by Third Avenue RR., later Third Avenue Ry., later Third Avenue Transit 42 Street Crosstown "X" (bus M42  today?) and Broadway & 42nd St. "B," (bus M104 today) and one by New York & Harlem (NY Central System), later, New York Railways under indrect General Motors ownership, 4th & Madison Avenue (bus line M1 today, but using 41st and 40th Streets between Avenues and using 5th instead of Madison southbound.  The New York and Harlem Line was the successor to the original street railway, and for a time steam trains and horse cars shared the tracks on Park Avenue, but when the "new Grand Central Depot" was built, moving the railroad terminal from 29th-30th Street to 42nd Street, the horsecar line was moved from Park Avenue to Madison to provide local service without delaying the steam trains.

Another location where dual conduit existed was between 66th Street and 72nd Street on Broadway, where a NY Railiways subsidiary's 9th and Amsterdam Avenues line (today M11bus, also somewhat changed route for one-way avenues) shared tracks with Third Avenue's "B."

Places where the two systems used the same conuit, the same power rails, on the assumption that usage would balance, included the western side of the southern half of Times Square, and tracks within Columbus Circle.

The plow carriers of all Manhattan streetcars allowed more lateral mortion than the similar truck-boltster-mounted carriers in Washington, DC.  London's were body-mounted and plows could exist the car body at conduit-to-wire changeover.

There is a thread devoted to conduit that should interest you.

 

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Posted by timz on Friday, October 30, 2020 11:28 AM

That curve this side of car 1229 seems impossible -- looks like the gauge is narrowing as you curve thru it. That parallelogram in the very corner of the pic -- can that possibly be a rhombus, as we assume it has to be?

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Posted by Overmod on Friday, October 30, 2020 8:15 PM

timz
That curve this side of car 1229 seems impossible -- looks like the gauge is narrowing as you curve thru it.

There is more: note that one of the two conduit channels stops at the curve (its channel is clearly filled in beyond that point) while the other one staggers irregularly through the pavement, not in a smooth curve, to continue in the center of the diverging routes at lower left.

The narrowing-curve effect has to be the result of an early telephoto lens, compressing the field of view from front to back and perhaps inducing some anamorphic distortion as well.  Note that the conduit-opening and flangeway dimensions also seem to narrow, as would be expected.

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Posted by M636C on Friday, October 30, 2020 8:52 PM

Overmod wrote

What i read of the APS system is that it uses 10 to 11-meter sections of rail, with insulating gaps between.  These are actuated by short-range "radio" so that only the two segments under a car are 'live' at a time.  A description from Alstom is here

https://www.alstom.com/our-solutions/infrastructure/aps-service-proven-catenary-free-tramway-operations

I've found a rather more detailed paper on the Sydney Light Rail system which I'm sure Overmod and Dave Klepper will enjoy...

https://www.engineersaustralia.org.au/sites/default/files/resource-files/2017-01/sydney_light_rail.pdf

In particular, if you can scroll through pages 34 to 43 as they would appear in a Powerpoint presentation you get an animation of the third rail sections as they are energised and grounded as the tram passes,

I particularly liked the diagram of the third rail shoe on page 30...

But there is all the data anyone could need (even if the actual tramcar dimensions are a little blurry when enlarged) of the whole system. It does seem to have all been built to match the plans, even to the colour of the seatcovers in the computer generated image.

Peter

 

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Posted by daveklepper on Saturday, October 31, 2020 1:29 PM

Pictures on the Third Avenue home=made lightweight thread, Park Row was also a location where BY&Harlem and Third Avenue shared the sane conduit.  The track was NY&Harmem's the 1830s, Third Ave horsecars started sharing around 1850, trench and slot for Third Avenue cable around 1884, and Third Avenue power rails around 1896, with NY & Harlem mving from horse to electric a few years later.  Third Avenue was always responsible for maintrnance beginning with their use, but I am not sure who paid for the power used.

For a while both systems were leased to Metropolitan Rys, ending some time before WWI.

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Posted by daveklepper on Tuesday, November 3, 2020 7:42 AM

Will check to see if cable was used on 42nd Street.  Think it went electric direrctly from horsecar.

For the interim:

  8/31/85    125th & 8th to 186th and Amsterdam
12/01/86    125th St from river to river
12/05/93    3rd Ave from 130th to 6th
  2/11/94    3rd Ave line from 6th to Park Row

Note that at 125th and Third, the north-south cables were located below the original east-west ones.

End of cable operation (the following day electric operation began):

  9/10/99    125th Street from river to river and Amsterdam
10/22/99    3rd Ave from 130th to 65th
11/18/99    3rd Ave line from 65th to Park Row (65th to 6th electric and 6th to Park Row horse starting 11/19, 6th to Park Row electric from 11/24

 

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Posted by rcdrye on Tuesday, November 3, 2020 12:36 PM

42nd missed cable, but not by much... Both Metropolitan and Third Avenue systems used double-jaw grips and a duplicate cable system, so a grip could "take rope" from either side.  The Metropolitan also had the most famous "Dead Man's Curve" in the cable railway industry at 14th and Broadway,

The conductor rails for conversion to electric conduit operation were installed under traffic with moving cables.  No reports of any workers getting killed, but it must not have been a pleasant experience.

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Posted by daveklepper on Saturday, November 7, 2020 2:39 PM

Note that in the 1st photo, one can see the 6th Avenue Elevated's 42nd Street Station in the distance.

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Posted by daveklepper on Sunday, November 8, 2020 12:07 PM

The Terminal at 12th Avenue, across from the Weehawken Ferry. laast week iof operation of the 10th Avenue and 42nd Street Crosstown lines.  Broaway-42nd :B: would continue to use 42nd east of Times Square for another month to 1 Jan. 1947.

The scene was quite different before 1936.

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Posted by daveklepper on Monday, November 9, 2020 6:52 AM

Arrangemnents  before 1936.   After 1 jan. 1936, only red streetcar tracks ewmained in use.

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Posted by M636C on Tuesday, November 10, 2020 6:19 PM

Dave,

Thanks for the diagram, it helps to explain the situation.

Shorpy have published another later view of 42nd street...

https://www.shorpy.com/node/25969?size=_original#caption

and another of Broadway, showing a stepless car...

https://www.shorpy.com/node/25966?size=_original#caption

For those unfamiliar with these cars

https://www.shorpy.com/node/25966

provides an illustration of a similar car in Vancouver BC (and recent views of the same scene).

Peter

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