development in the Americas, especially South America.
In fuel South America has been handicapped compared with the United States
and with Europe. The further increase of miners' wages and reduction of the
hours of labor in Wales, hitherto South America's chief source of supply, empha-
size her need to develop local fuel : powdered Brazilian and Chilean coal which gives
good efficiency and the great areas of oil of the Andean slopes both East and
West- Oil is the widest distributed of fuels and is found in quantity where for-
merly geologists considered it impossible to exist, and is not unlikely to be found
in other areas of South America where it is not now known. Cheap fuel is a key to
the problem of cheap transportation in South America, and cheap fuel is not likely
to be obtained from another hemisphere.
New railway construction in the Americas now confronts special difficulties
the high cost of rails, rolling stock, material, supplies and labor for construction and
also fuel for operation, likely to continue indefinitely, and the indisposition on the
part of public authorities and public sentiment in all countries to allow railways
to make much profit even in the rare cases where their rates and concessions would
permit them to do so, to say nothing of the present unusual demands from so
many sources converging on the money markets of the world. It is not easy to
foresee just how the requirements for railway development of the Americas in
the near future are to be met.
This is a grave enough problem in the United States, concerning the danger
of not meeting which we have had repeated warning from one of our greatest
railway authorities, Jas. J. Hill, but it is even more serious for our South American
neighbors whose total railway mileage is 45,000, compared with 270,000 in the
United States, half the area of South America. This disproportion is even greater
than it seems, as half of the area of the United States is arid, semi-arid or roughly
mountainous, which is several times the proportion of South America which must
be subtracted from possible area of development.
Nothing, however, can be worked out which will result in serious railway
development until public sentiment has been educated to the point of view that
capital invested in railways is just as much entitled to a remuneration as capital
in industries such as steel mills or motor companies. It is to be hoped that it is
possible to have the public arrive at this realization without too much delay, as the
railways are the arteries of the national development, and nothing would be more
prejudicial to the public interests than to have them atrophied in any way a state
to which they are too nearly approaching in this country.
I have left out of account as a possible method of handling railway con-
struction and operation that of State owned and operated railways, as recent ex-
perience of Governmental operation in the United States and in England has been
ENGINEERING AIDS TO COMMERCE 313
of a nature to open the eyes of many previous partisans of this course to the in-
evitable objections to it. The palsy which at once creeps through the organization
upon the entry of Government management has been too apparent to the traveling
and shipping public.
In addition to new construction there is a vast amount of deferred better-
ments on the existing railways in the Americas additional rolling stock, sidings,
new rails, additional terminal facilities, etc. The legislation of the Congress of the
United States in connection with turning back the railways here will determine
to what extent these betterments here can be financed and carried out.
The railways in Latin America have been financed practically entirely with
European, especially British capital, and the railway companies concerned have been
organized as a rule in the countries furnishing this capital. It cannot now be de-
termined to what extent Great Britain and other European countries will be able
to finance the requirements of their railway companies in this hemisphere, but it
would seem that the demands on them for capital at home and from their colonies
might not leave available sufficient funds for their railways in Latin America so
that they may wish the United States to join in this financing which will run into
large figures. This at the same time would be in the interest of the stability of the
In such a case some formula must be worked out which would enable the
United States to join. As the world's peace depends largely upon the ability of the
present allies to continue to work closely together, industrial cooperation in invest-
ment in foreign fields would be helpful.
LIGHT RAILWAY TRANSPORTATION SYSTEMS
BY CHARLES F. LANG, PRESIDENT, LAKEWOOD ENGINEERING CORPORATION,
(Read by Mr. Lloyd Brown, Vice-President, at the Afternoon Session of
Thursday, June 5)
The amazing use of the light railway by all the belligerents during the
world war has very naturally given rise to the question as to whether this method
of transportation has received in the past the attention which it deserves as a
means for solving one of the most important phases of transportation, namely,
a cheap method for the initial transport of agricultural products as well as cer-
tain minerals and other raw materials from the place of their origin either to some
trunk line railway or to a nearby market. During the war many thousands of
miles of light railway were built and used by all the warring powers on all fronts.
As is well known, the trunk line railways furnished the back bone of sup-
port for the armies during the war. These trunk lines had to be protected and
held at all costs because of the tremendous quantities of supplies, food and ammu-
nition which were daily needed by the armies. The great defense trench systems,
therefore, were developed some substantial distance in advance of the trunk line
system to be supported, the trunk line railway being sufficiently in the rear of the
trench lines to be entirely beyond the range of artillery fire from the enemy.
Means of transport had to be provided from the trunk line railway to the supports
in the front line trenches. To accomplish this end, means of transportation had
to be used horses, mules, carts, wagons, automobile trucks, and last but not
least, the light, narrow gauge military railway ; this latter because it can be made
available not only for use on or alongside the main highways which were also used
by the horses and motor drawn vehicle, but also because it could be laid in any
direction through the fields so as to reach, by the most direct route, any desired
point. By the liberal use of switches, these narrow gauge railways could radiate
and extend in all directions from the main trunk line, radiating, fan-like, all over
the country to be served.
On these railways much heavier loads were transported and in longer trains
than had ever been considered possible before the war. This was largely due
to the fact that the ties used were of a special oval channel form, nearly twice
as heavy as the ties heretofore used on light railways; and, moreover, these ties
were spaced only two feet from center to center of tie^and the channel dished
314 SECOND PAN AMERICAN COMMERCIAL CONFERENCE
formation wedging itself into the soil made the track more rigid than was possible
in the more common commercial uses of light railways.
The story of the light military railways will undoubtedly be written by
some engineer historian, as it deserves to be, and the study of such a history
should lead to a rapid development of the light railway for commercial, agricul-
tural and industrial development throughout the world.
The marvelous development of the standard gauge railway within the past
century has opened up for development many hundreds of thousands of square
miles of territory throughout the world, but in many countries as yet this develop-
ment sticks close to the line of the railway itself.
Railways being even yet a new system of transportation, many mistakes
have been made in the building of standard gauge railway lines through sections
which could not support and maintain such railways. This has been especially
true in the western part of the United States and even in some sections of the
east, with the result that hundreds of miles of railways have been permanently
unprofitable, and many have been totally abandoned; and as a result of the atten-
tion called to this fact by the unusual conditions growing out of the war the
abandonment of many more is even now being seriously considered.
Another method of transportation which has existed from time immemorial,
but which has only recently begun to have had serious consideration on the
Western Hemisphere, is the highway. The economic value of a well-built high-
way has been recognized in Europe since the time of the Romans, and it is as-
tonishing that this system of transportation should have received so little con-
sideration by the progressive peoples of South and North America.
I regret that I am not able to speak from knowledge regarding highway
construction in South America, but in North America, both Canada and the
United States, we have awakened to the necessity for well constructed and well
maintained highways, and both countries have entered upon an enormous program
for road construction which gives promise of exceeding in volume, the great
rapid growth of railroad construction which followed the Civil War in the
It is my belief, however, that neither the standard gauge railway nor the
well constructed, paved highway will ever solve the transportation/ problem in
countries of the Western Hemisphere. The highway will aid greatly in develop-
ing the sections of the country through which it passes, just as the standard
railway has done, but the development will necessarily remain close to the high-
way. The highway also will do much toward relieving the short-haul problem
to a nearby local market, this short-haul having always heretofore been one of
the sources of loss to the standard gauge railway.
It must be admitted, however, that highway construction, at least the paved,
hard surfaced highway, is so expensive to build of sufficient strength to stand up
for years under the weight of traffic which passes over it that only fairly well
settled communities can afford to make the investment. In other words, the high-
way will be largely built through communities already settled and developed for
the purpose of taking care of the traffic which this developed territory creates.
We have then still before us the problem of some cheap method of trans-
portation for sparsely settled or undeveloped stretches of territory, or for the
purpose of connecting up large plantations or farms with their nearest markets
or with their nearest trunk line railway. This problem has received more atten-
tion in South America than in North America, and it is also being given serious
consideration in such distant countries as the Philippines and South Africa where
long stretches of country now have as their, only means of transportation the
ox-cart. These countries, confronted with the necessity for providing some bet-
ter means of transportation, find it difficult to justify the building of expensive
highways through long stretches of sparsely settled country, and yet must reach
many points considerable distances from the few trunk line railways in the
It is not my purpose within the very brief limits of this paper to go into
the engineering problems involved, nor into the cost either of constructing or
maintaining light railways, nor to compare such construction and maintenance
costs with similar costs for standard gauge railways or paved highways. It is
my intention and desire simply to briefly outline the possibilities of the value and
economy of this method of transportation over the other two systems referred to.
The limitations of the standard gauge railway are so evident that it is
unnecessary to refer further to them here. The paved highway is such a new
ENGINEERING AIDS TO COMMERCE 315
development in the Americas that the most experienced engineers are constantly
revising their opinions and judgment regarding them, due largely of course to
the advent of the automobile and the auto truck with its trailers. Highway engi-
neers with wide experience will verify the fact that it is almost impossible to make
in advance any road census over a particular stretch of road. The development
is so new that it is difficult to judge in advance how much traffic, either passenger
or freight tonnage, will be diverted to the improved highway once it is built.
This difficult question has been further complicated by the very rapidly increas-
ing number of passenger automobiles and the ever-increasing number of automo-
bile trucks with their constantly increasing tonnage capacity, and, recently, the
development of trailers for trucks, that even the most farsighted of American
engineers have been compelled to throw up their hands, and mile after mile of
improved highways in the United States and Canada have been completely worn
out and destroyed within a very short time after their completion, due to the
constantly increasing traffic over them.
With the entry of the United States into the war, the congestion which
developed upon its railways necessitated a tremendous use of the highways for
military transport ,of all kinds, and hundreds of miles of well constructed high-
ways throughout the eastern part of the United States were practically destroyed
by this unexpected use to which they were subjected; and yet the value of the
highway as a means of military transport was recognized as never before, and is
therefore receiving very serious consideration.
The highway, however, permits only of the haulage of comparatively small
loads by power drawn vehicles with perhaps only a limited possible future develop-
ment of the trailer and haulage in short trains behind the automobile truck itself.
These trains necessarily must always be short and of limited tonnage because of
the congestion, confusion and danger of accident which would occur were many
long trains hauled even if such a development were ever possible.
There are also many other items which should be considered aside from
the maintenance of the highway, namely, the large investment by individuals in
motor trucks and other equipment for operation over the highway, the deprecia-
tion and maintenance of such equipment, interest on the investment, cost of operat-
ing, provision for housing, etc.
The light railway in practically all countries in North and South America
can be built and can be maintained with a smaller investment than a well paved
highway. On it much longer trains can be hauled at a lower per ton mile cost.
Such a railway could, as might be more advantageous, either be built alongside
of and paralleling unimproved highways now existing, or, following the practice
of standard gauge railways, could be built more directly from point to point
without following the meanderings of the average highway. At a comparatively
small expense, every plantation owner or farmer could have one or more switches
with branch lines running to his barns or to his fields, and could load his products
directly into the railway car either in the field or at his barn, hauling the car by
means of horses, oxen or mules to the main line of the narrow gauge railway
where it could be switched into the train for transportation to market.
In the operation of the system, the conductor of the train could be pro-
vided with the necessary bills of lading, so that proper documents could be pre-
pared at each farm to cover the articles to be transported, saving to all the farmers
on the route the necessity for taking their own time to transport their goods to
local markets or to a standard gauge railway station for retransportation to
Trains could be run with greater or less frequency as the traffic may demand
so that operating costs would be quite flexible with the traffic. It has even been
suggested that in sparsely settled territories which might not warrant the ex-
pense for a first-class highway, the narrow gauge railway could be used, first,
for the construction of a cheaper improved highway which would be sufficient
to carry light passenger traffic, and, second, the railway hayfng been used for
such construction could be used as a railway for the heavier traffic, both the
railway and highway put together costing less per mile than a hard surfaced road
would cost at the present time in the United States or Canada.
It has been my intention merely to present this skeleton suggestion of a cheap
method of transportation, realizing full well the many engineering problems in-
volved in the development of such a system, among which would be better methods
of laying track, various improved types of cars for different kinds of produce and
freight, the question of whether the car bodies should not be of such type as they
316 SECOND PAN AMERICAN COMMERCIAL CONFERENCE
could be transferred from the narrow gauge trucks onto standard gauge trucks
at the standard gauge railway without the necessity for unloading from narrow
gauge cars into standard gauge cars, the matter of more satisfactory locomotives
or motive power for such railways, whether such railways should be privately
owned and operated or owned and operated by the national government or the
local community government. These questions would be beyond the limits of the
time allowed, but I believe the whole question merits the very serious considera-
tion of the engineers of North and South America.
AERIAL WIRE ROPE CONVEYORS AS FEEDERS FOR RAILWAY AND
BY DR. WALTER C. KRETZ, M. E., JOHN ROEBLING COMPANY, NEW YORK.
(Read at the Afternoon Session of Thursday, June 5)
In South and Central America transportation is one of the most urgent prob-
lems. There are many localities rich in mineral or timber, or, again, capable of
being developed into agricultural centers which are not utilized because the product
cannot be brought to market and because the workers could not be kept supplied
with the necessities of life, and there are others to which access is extremely diffi-
cult and costly under present conditions. The result is that the population is largely
concentrated at certain points where a great proportion of it lives very poorly, while
productive areas lie waste. Many of these centers are connected by trunk line
railways with each other, or with seaboard, but branch lines opening up the inter-
vening stretches are scarce. The reason for this is that as yet the southern conti-
nent is but sparsely inhabited, and that so far, at least, the rate of increase is slow.
There is not sufficient tonnage, therefore, to be moved from and to points off the
main line to make standard gauge branches a paying proposition, and the prospects
of developing such tonnage through speculative construction as was done in the
United States are not sufficiently good to tempt capital. And even of those dis-
tricts which have direct rail connection to seaboard many are held back due to the
great difficulty and sometimes danger of transporting freight and passengers be-
tween the shore and the vessel. This is particularly true on the West Coast.
That these conditions must be improved before South and Central America
can be developed effectively is not open to doubt, and a discussion of one method
of transportation which has proved very useful in certain cases should therefore
prove of interest. This method is that of transportation by means of aerial wire
There are two classes of such conveyors, viz. : "Cableways" and "Tramways."
Of the former there are two general types, namely, "Transporting" and "Hoisting-
Transporting," and of the latter there are also two types, namely, "Single Rope"
and "Double Rope." In both cableways and tramways the loads are suspended from
carriers by means of appropriate devices, and these carriers are taken from one
point to another free from the ground by means of wire rope. Usually the car-
riers are equipped .with wheels which run on a rope stretched from tower to tower
as a track, the motion being controlled by a second rope called the "traction rope,"
but in one type of plant the carriers are fixed directly to this traction rope which
moves them along and supports them at the same time.
The difference between a cableway and a tramway is that in the former the
carrier of which, with very few exceptions, only one is used may be moved in
either direction along the track cable, while in the latter the carriers of which
now there is generally quite a large number travel in one direction only. Cable-
ways may be so arranged that they merely transport loads between two fixed
points this being the "Transporting" type or so that they can pick -up or lower
a load at any point along the run, and also carry it from point to point, this being
the "Hoisting-Transporting" type.
The transporting type of cableway is the cheapest form of aerial wire rope
conveyor which can be built. It requires but a single track cable, a single carrier,
and an endless traction rope operated by a simple reversible engine; or, if gravity
can be used as the motive power, two track cables, two carriers, and a brake-
system, but no engine. A plant has been built at the Rosas Mine in Sardinia, where
two carriers run on one cable, one going up while the other goes down, and the two
ENGINEERING AIDS TO COMMERCE 317
being arranged to pass each other by means of a rail carried on top of each in a
special manner, but this system is unusual.
While the type last mentioned is, as stated, the cheapest to build and operate,
it has very limited applicability, for the restriction that only one carrier can be
used on one track cable necessarily results in a low capacity, except when the dis-
tance is quite short say 800 meters or less and the contour of the ground over
which the line runs is of a special nature so that the track cable can be stretched
in a single span and individually large loads can be moved at high speed. As soon
as the track cable must be supported at points intermediate to the two ends, the
speed at which the carrier may be moved along it is cut down to a maximum of
200 meters per minute, which, of course, makes the operation quite slow. So that
this type of conveyor is in general used only for specific cases, such as that of a
mine on a side-hill located some hundreds of meters away from and some distance
above a railway track, or for mines with a small output of say 25 tons per day
which are located a few kilometers from the nearest loading point.
On a. hoisting-transporting cableway the carriers and engine are so arranged,
as previously stated, that a load may be picked up and deposited at any point along
the run. This, of course, necessitates the use of at least three ropes, namely, a
track-cable, an endless rope for moving the carriage back and forth, and a hoisting
rope for raising and lowering the load, and an engine with two independent drums.
Owing to these complications the length to which a hoisting-transporting
cableway can be built is definitely restricted to that at which a cable of the maximum
useful size, when stretched in a single span between two supports, will safely carry
the loads. Of course, the greater the sag which the track-cable has, the less the
stress in it, and consequently with a large sag, or deflection, a long span could be
installed, but as the sag is a percentage of the span, a heavy sag would mean ex-
cessively high end supports except under unusual conditions, and it is objectionable
also, because the load has to climb a very steep grade near the towers. So that,
on the whole, 400 meters is about the maximum length if loads of several tons are
to be transported, and 1,000 meters could probably not be exceeded under any
Hoisting-transporting cableways also are quite expensive to build, and for all
these reasons they are useful only where a very large mass of material distributed
over a reasonable small space is to be moved to a certain point. Stone quarries or
heavily timbered areas offer good examples. In both, cableways have proved very
valuable in collecting blocks of stone or logs, and moving them to railway cars on
a siding running near one of the towers and under the track cable.
A certain modification of the hoisting-transporting cableway is sometimes
found of service. This is known as the "radial type." In plants of this nature