Victor Appleton.

Tom Swift and His Electric Locomotive, or, Two Miles a Minute on the Rails online

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Two Miles a Minute on the Rails







Chapter I

A Tempting Offer

"An electric locomotive that can make two miles a minute over a
properly ballasted roadbed might not be an impossibility," said Mr.
Barton Swift ruminatively. "It is one of those things that are coming,"
and he flashed his son, Tom Swift, a knowing smile. It had been a
topic of conversation between them before the visitor from the West had
been seated before the library fire and had sampled one of the elder
Swift's good cigars.

"It is not only a future possibility," said the latter gentleman,
shrugging his shoulders. "As far as the Hendrickton and Pas Alos
Railroad Company goes, a two mile a minute gait - not alone on a level
track but through the Pas Alos Range - is an immediate necessity. It's
got to be done now, or our stock will be selling on the curb for about
two cents a share."

"You do not mean just that, do you, Mr. Bartholomew?" asked Tom Swift
earnestly, and staring at the big-little man before the fire.

Mr. Richard Bartholomew was just that - a "big-little man." In the
railroad world, both in construction and management, he had made an
enviable name for himself.

He had actually built up the Hendrickton and Pas Alos from a
narrow-gauge, "jerkwater" road into a part of a great cross-continent
system that tapped a wonderfully rich territory on both sides of the
Pas Alos Range.

For some years the H. & P. A. had a monopoly of that territory. Now,
as Mr. Bartholomew intimated, it was threatened with such rivalry from
another railroad and other capitalists, that the H. & P. A. was being
looked upon in the financial market as a shaky investment.

But Tom Swift repeated:

"You do not mean just that, do you, Mr. Bartholomew?"

Mr. Bartholomew, who was a little man physically, rolled around in his
chair to face the young fellow more directly. His own eyes sparkled in
the firelight. His olive face was flushed.

"That is much nearer the truth, young man," he said, somewhat harshly
because of his suppressed emotion, "than I want people at large to
suspect. As I have told your father, I came here to put all my cards on
the table; but I expect the Swift Construction Company to take anything
I may say as said in confidence."

"We quite understand that, Mr. Bartholomew," said the elder Swift,
softly. "You can speak freely. Whether we do business or not, these
walls are soundproof, and Tom and I can forget, or remember, as we
wish. Of course if we take up any work for you, we must confide to a
certain extent in our close associates and trusted mechanics."

"Humph!" grunted the visitor, turning restlessly again in his chair.
Then he said: "I agree as the necessity of that last statement; but I
can only hope that these walls are soundproof."

"What's that?" demanded Tom, rather sharply. He was a bright looking
young fellow with an alert air and a rather humorous smile. His father
was a semi-invalid; but Tom possessed all the mental vigor and muscular
energy that a young man should have. He had not neglected his Athletic
development while he made the best use of his mental powers.

"Believe me," said the visitor, quite as harshly as before, "I begin to
doubt the solidity of all walls. I know that I have been watched, and
spied upon, and that eavesdroppers have played hob with our affairs.

"Of late, there has been little planned in the directors' room of the
H. & P. A. that has not seeped out and aided the enemy in foreseeing
our moves."

"The enemy?" repeated Mr. Swift, with mild surprise.

"That's it exactly! The enemy!" replied Mr. Bartholomew shortly. "The
H. & P. A. has got the fight of its life on its hands. We had a hard
enough time fighting nature and the elements when we laid the first
iron for the road a score of years ago. Now I am facing a fight that
must grow fiercer and fiercer as time goes on until either the H. & P.
A. smashes the opposition, or the enemy smashes it."

"What enemy is this you speak of?" asked Tom, much interested.

"The proposed Hendrickton & Western. A new road, backed by new capital,
and to be officered and built by new men in the construction and
railroad game.

"Montagne Lewis - you've heard of him, I presume - is at the head of the
crowd that have bought the little old Hendrickton & Western, lock,
stock and barrel.

"They have franchises for extending the road. In the old days the
legislatures granted blanket franchises that allowed any group of
moneyed men to engage in any kind of business as side issues to
railroading. Montagne Lewis and his crowd have got a 'plenty-big'

"They have begun laying iron. It parallels, to a certain extent, our
own line. Their surveyors were smarter than the men who laid out the H.
& P. A. I admit it. Besides, the country out there is developed more
than it was a score of years ago when I took hold.

"All this enters into the fight between Montagne Lewis and me. But
there is something deeper," said the little man, with almost a snarl,
as he thrashed about again in his chair. "I beat Montagne Lewis at one
big game years ago. He is a man who never forgets - and who never
hesitates to play dirty politics if he has to, to bring about his own

"I know that I have been watched. I know that I was followed on this
trip East. He has private detectives on my track continually. And
worse. All the gunmen of the old and wilder West are not dead. There's
a fellow named Andy O'Malley - well, never mind him. The game at present
is to keep anybody in Lewis's employ from getting wise to why I came to
see you."

"What you say is interesting," Mr. Swift here broke in quietly. "But I
have already been puzzled by what you first said. Just why have you
come to us - to Tom and me - in reference to your railroad difficulties?"

"And this suggestion you have made," added Tom, "about a possible
electric locomotive of a faster type than has, ever yet been put on the

"That is it, exactly," replied Bartholomew, sitting suddenly upright in
his chair. "We want faster electric motor power than has ever yet been
invented. We have got to have it, or the H. & P. A. might as well be
scrapped and the whole territory out there handed over to Montagne
Lewis and his H. & W. That is the sum total of the matter, gentlemen.
If the Swift Construction Company cannot help us, my railroad is going
to be junk in about three years from this beautiful evening."

His emphasis could not fail to impress both the elder and the younger
Swift. They looked at each other, and the interest displayed upon the
father's countenance was reflected upon the features of the son.

If there was anything Tom Swift liked it was a good fight. The clash of
diverse interests was the breath of life to the young fellow. And for
some years now, always connected in some way with the development of
his inventive genius, he had been entangled in battles both of wits and
physical powers. Here was the suggestion of something that would entail
a struggle of both brain and brawn.

"Sounds good," muttered Tom, gazing at the railroad magnate with
considerable admiration.

"Let us hear all about it," Mr. Swift said to Bartholomew. "Whether we
can help you or not, we're interested."

"All right," replied the visitor again. "Whether I was followed East,
and here to Shopton, or not doesn't much matter. I will put my
proposition up to you, and then I'll ask, if you don't want to go into
it, that you keep the business absolutely secret. I have got to put
something over on Montagne Lewis and his crowd, or throw up the sponge.
That's that!"

"Go ahead, Mr. Bartholomew," observed Tom's father, encouragingly.

"To begin with, four hundred miles of our road is already electrified.
We have big power stations and supply heat and light and power to
several of the small cities tapped by the H. & P. A. It is a paying
proposition as it stands. But it is only paying because we carry the
freight traffic - all the freight traffic - of that region.

"If the H. & W. breaks in on our monopoly of that, we shall soon be so
cut down that our invested capital will not earn two per cent. - No, by
glory! not one-and-a-half per cent. - and our stock will be dished. But
I have worked out a scheme, Gentlemen, by which we can counter-balance
any dig Lewis can give us in the ribs.

"If we can extend our electrified line into and through the Pas Alos
Range our freight traffic can be handled so cheaply and so effectively
that nothing the Hendrickton & Western can do for years to come will
hurt us. Get that?"

"I get your statement, Mr. Bartholomew," said Mr. Swift. "But it is
merely a statement as yet."

"Sure. Now I will give you the particulars. We are using the Jandel
locomotives on our electrified stretch of road. You know that patent?"

"I know something about it, Mr. Bartholomew," said the younger
inventor. "I have felt some interest in the electric locomotive, though
I have done nothing practical in the matter. But I know the Jandel

"It is about the best there is - and the most recent; but it does not
fill the bill. Not for the H. & P. A., anyway," said Mr. Bartholomew,

"What does it lack?" asked Mr. Swift.

"Speed. It's got the power for heavy hauls. It could handle the freight
through the Pas Alos Range. But it would slow up our traffic so that
the shippers would at once turn to the Hendrickton & Western. You
understand that their rails do not begin to engage the grades that our
engineers thought necessary when the old H. & P. A. was built."

"I get that," said Tom briskly. "You have come here, then, to interest
us in the development of a faster but quite as powerful type of
electric locomotive as the Jandel."

"Stated to the line!" exclaimed Mr. Bartholomew, smiting the arm of his
chair with his clenched fist. "That is it, young man. You get me
exactly. And now I will go on to put my proposition to you."

"Do so, Mr. Bartholomew," murmured the old inventor, quite as much
interested as his son.

"I want you to make a study of electric motive power as applied to
track locomotives, with the idea of utilizing our power plants and
others like them, and even with the possibility in mind of the
continued use of the Jandel locomotives on our more level stretches of

"But I want your investigation to result in the building of locomotives
that will make a speed of two miles a minute, or as near that as
possible, on level rails, and be powerful enough to snake our heavy
freight trains through the hills and over the steep grades so rapidly
that even two engines, a pusher and a hauler, cannot beat the electric

"Some job, that, I'll say," murmured Tom Swift.

"Exactly. Some job. And it is the only thing that will save the H. & P.
A.," said Mr. Bartholomew decidedly. "I put it up to you Swifts. I have
heard of some of your marvelous inventions. Here is something that is
already invented. But it needs development."

"I see," said Mr. Swift, and nodded.

"It interests me," admitted Tom. "As I say, I have given some thought
to the electric locomotive."

"This is the age of speed," said Mr. Bartholomew earnestly. "Rapidity
in handling freight and kindred things will be the salvation, and the
only salvation, of many railroads. Tapping a rich territory is not
enough. The road that can offer the quickest and cheapest service is
the road that is going to keep out of a receivership. Believe me, I

"You should," said Mr. Swift mildly. "Your experience should have
taught you a great deal about the railroad business."

"It has. But that knowledge is worth just nothing at all without swift
power and cheap traffic. Those are the problems today. Now, I am going
to take a chance. If it doesn't work, my road is dished in any case. So
I feel that the desperate chance is the only chance."

"What is that?" asked Tom Swift, sitting forward in his chair. "I, for
one, feel so much interested that I will do anything in reason to find
the answer to your traffic problem."

"That's the boy!" ejaculated Richard Bartholomew. "I will give it to
you in a few words. If you will experiment with the electric locomotive
idea, to develop speed and power over and above the Jandel patent, and
will give me the first call on the use of any patents you may contrive,
I will put up twenty-five thousand dollars in cash which shall be yours
whether I can make use of a thing you invent or not."

"Any time limit in this agreement, Mr. Bartholomew?" asked Tom, making
a few notes on a scratch pad before him on the library table.

"What do you say to three months?"

"Make it six, if you can," Tom said with continued briskness. "It
interests me. I'll do my best. And I want you to get your money's

"All right. Make it six," said Mr. Bartholomew. "But the quicker you
dig something up, the better for me. Now, that is the first part of my

"All right, sir. And the second?"

"If you succeed in showing me that you can build and operate an
electric locomotive that will speed two miles a minute on a level track
and will get a heavy drag over the mountain grades, as I said, as
surely as two engines of the coal-burning or oil-burning type, I will
pay you a hundred thousand dollars bonus, besides buying all the
engines you can build of this new type for the first two years. I've
got to have first call; but the hundred thousand will be yours free and
clear, and the price of the locomotives you build can be adjusted by
any court of agreement that you may suggest."

Tom Swift's face glowed. He realized that this offer was not only
generous, but that it made it worth his while dropping everything else
he had in hand and devoting his entire time and thought for even six
months to the proposition of developing the electric locomotive.

He looked at his father and nodded. Mr. Swift said, calmly:

"We take you on that offer, Mr. Bartholomew. Tom has the facts on
paper, and we will hand it to Mr. Newton, our financial manager, in the
morning. If you will remain in town for twenty-four hours, the contract
can be signed."

"Suits me," declared. Richard Bartholomew, rising quickly from his
chair. "I confess I hoped you would take me up quite as promptly as you
have. I want to get back West again.

"We will see you in the office of the company at two o'clock tomorrow,"
said Tom Swift confidently.

"Better than good! And now, if that trailer that I am pretty sure
Montagne Lewis sent after me does not get wise to the subject of our
talk, it may be a slick job we have done and will do. I admit I am
rather afraid of the enemy. You Swifts must keep your plans in utter

After a little talk on more ordinary affairs, Mr. Bartholomew took his
departure. It was getting late in the evening, and Tom Swift had an
engagement. While old Rad, their colored servant, was helping him on
with his coat preparatory to Tom's leaving the house, his father called
from the library:

"Got those notes in a safe place, Tom?"

"Safest in the world, Dad," his son replied. But he did not go into
details. Tom considered the "safest place in the world" just then was
his own wallet, which was tucked into an inside pocket of his vest "I'm
going to see Mary Nestor, Father," said Tom, as he went to the front
door and opened it.

He halted a moment with the knob of the door in his hand. The porch was
deep in shadows, but he thought he had seen something move there.

"That you, Koku?" asked Tom in an ordinary voice. Sometimes his
gigantic servant wandered about the house at night. He was a strange
person, and he had a good many thoughts in his savage brain that even
his young master did not understand.

There was no reply to Tom's question, so he walked down the steps and
out at the gate. It was not a long distance to the Nestor house, and
the air was brisk and keen, in spite of the fact that threatening
clouds masked the stars.

Two blocks from the house he came to a high wall which separated the
street from the grounds of an old dwelling. Tom suddenly noticed that
the usual street lights on this block had been extinguished - blown out
by the wind, perhaps.

Involuntarily he quickened his steps. He reached the archway in the
wall. Here was the gate dividing the private grounds from the street.
As he strode into the shadow of this place a voice suddenly halted Tom

"Hands up! Put 'em up and don't be slow about it!" A bulky figure
loomed in the dark. Tom saw the highwayman's club poised threateningly
over his head.

Chapter II

Trouble Starts

The fact that he was stopped by a footpad smote Tom Swift's mind as not
a particularly surprising adventure. He had heard that several of that
gentry had been plying their trade about the outskirts of the town. To
a degree he was prepared for this sudden event.

Then there flashed into Tom's mind the thought of what Mr. Richard
Bartholomew had said regarding the spy he believed had followed him
from the West. Could it be possible that some hired thug sent by
Montagne Lewis and his crooked crowd of financiers considered that Tom
Swift had obtained information from the president of the H. & P. A.
that might do his employers signal service?

Tom Swift had fallen in with many adventures - and some quite thrilling
ones - since, as a youth, he was first introduced to the reader in the
initial volume of this series, entitled "Tom Swift and His Motor
Cycle." His first experiences as an inventor, coached by his father,
who had spent his life in the experimental laboratory and workshop, was
made possible by his purchase from Mr. Wakefield Damon, now one of his
closest friends, of a broken-down motor cycle.

Through a series of inventions, some of them of a marvelous kind, Tom
Swift, aided by his father, had forged ahead, building motor boats,
airships, submarines, monoplanes, motion picture cameras, searchlights,
cannons, photo-telephones, war tanks. Of late, as related in "Tom Swift
Among the Fire Fighters," he had engaged in the invention of an
explosive bomb carrying flame-quenching chemicals that would, in time,
revolutionize fire-fighting in tall buildings.

The matter that Mr. Richard Bartholomew, the railroad magnate, had
brought to Tom's and his father's attention had deeply interested the
young inventor. Thought of the electric locomotive, the development of
which the railroad president stated was the only salvation of the
finances of the H. & P. A., had so held Tom's attention as he walked
along the street that being stopped in this sudden way was even more
startling than such an incident might ordinarily have been.

Tom was a muscular young fellow; but a club held over one's head by a
burly thug would have shaken the courage of anybody. Dark as it was
under the archway the young fellow saw that the bulk of the man was
much greater than his own.

"That's right, sonny," said the stranger, in a sneering tone. "You got
just the right idea. When I say 'Stick 'em up' I mean it. Never take a
chance. Ah - ah!"

The fellow ripped open Tom's overcoat, almost tearing the buttons off.
Another masterful jerk and his victim's jacket was likewise parted
widely. He did not lower the club for an instant. He thrust his left
hand into the V-shaped parting of the young fellow's vest.

It was then that Tom was convinced of what the fellow was after. He
remembered the notes he had made regarding the contract that was to be
signed on the morrow between the Swift Construction Company and
President Richard Bartholomew of the H. & P. A. Railroad. He
remembered, too, the figure he thought he had seen in the dark porch of
the house as he so recently left it.

Mr. Bartholomew had considered it very possible that he was being spied
upon. This was one of the spies - a Westerner, as his speech betrayed.
But Tom was suddenly less fearful than he had been when first attacked.

It did not seem possible to him that Mr. Bartholomew's enemies would
allow their henchman to go too far to obtain information of the
railroad president's intentions. This fellow was merely attempting to
frighten him.

A sense of relief came to Tom Swift's assistance. He opened his lips to
speak and could the thug have seen his face more clearly in the dark he
would have been aware of the fact that the young inventor smiled.

The fellow's groping hand entered between Tom's vest and his shirt. The
coarse fingers seized upon Tom's wallet. Nobody likes to be robbed, no
matter whether the loss is great or small. There was not much money in
the wallet, nor anything that could be turned into money by a thief.

These facts enabled Tom, perhaps, to bear his loss with some fortitude.
The highwayman drew forth the wallet and thrust it into his own coat
pocket. He made no attempt to take anything else from the young

"Now, beat it!" commanded the fellow. "Don't look back and don't run or
holler. Just keep moving - in the way you were headed before. Vamoose."

More than ever was Tom assured that the man was from the West. His
speech savored of Mexican phrases and slang terms used mainly by
Western citizens. And his abrupt and masterly manner and speech aided
in this supposition. Tom Swift stayed not to utter a word. It was true
he was not so frightened as he had at first been. But he was quite sure
that this man was no person to contend with under present conditions.

He strode away along the sidewalk toward the far corner of the wall
that surrounded this estate. Shopton had not many of such important
dwellings as this behind the wall. Its residential section was made up
for the most part of mechanics' homes and such plain but substantial
houses as his father's.

Prospering as the Swifts had during the last few years, neither Tom nor
his father had thought their plain old house too poor or humble for a
continued residence. Tom was glad to make money, but the inventions he
had made it by were vastly more important to his mind than what he
might obtain by any lavish expenditure of his growing fortune.

This matter of the electric locomotive that had been brought to his
attention by the Western railroad magnate had instantly interested the
young inventor. The possibility of there being a clash of interests in
the matter, and the point Mr. Bartholomew made of his enemies seeking
to thwart his hope of keeping the H. & P. A. upon a solid financial
footing, were phases of the affair that likewise concerned the young
fellow's thought.

Now he was sure that Mr. Bartholomew was right. The enemies of the H. &
P. A. were determined to know all that the railroad president was
planning to do. They would naturally suspect that his trip East to
visit the Swift Construction Company was no idle jaunt.

Tom had turned so many fortunate and important problems of invention
into certainties that the name of the Swift Construction Company was
broadly known, not alone throughout the United States but in several
foreign countries. Montagne Lewis, whom Tom knew to be both a powerful
and an unscrupulous financier, might be sure that Mr. Bartholomew's
visit to Shopton and to the young inventor and his father was of such
importance that he would do well through his henchmen to learn the
particulars of the interview.

Tom remembered Mr. Bartholomew's mention of a name like Andy O'Malley.
This was probably the man who had done all that he could, and that
promptly, to set about the discovery of Mr. Bartholomew's reason for
visiting the Swifts.

Without doubt the man had slunk about the Swift house and had peered
into one of the library windows while the interview was proceeding. He
had observed Tom making notes on the scratch pad and judged correctly
that those notes dealt with the subject under discussion between the

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Online LibraryVictor AppletonTom Swift and His Electric Locomotive, or, Two Miles a Minute on the Rails → online text (page 1 of 10)