A Journey in Other Worlds HTML version

steady. The operation of our ordinary electric railways is very simple: the current is taken
from an overhead, side, or underneath wire, directly through the air, without the
intervention of a trolley, and the fast cars, for they are no longer run in trains, make five
miles a minute. The entire weight of each car being used for its own traction, it can
ascend very steep grades, and can attain high speed or stop very quickly.
"Another form is the magnetic railway, on which the cars are wedge-shaped at both ends,
and moved by huge magnets weighing four thousand tons each, placed fifty miles apart.
On passing a magnet, the nature of the electricity charging a car is automatically changed
from positive to negative, or vice versa, to that of the magnet just passed, so that it repels
while the next attracts. The successive magnets are charged oppositely, the sections being
divided halfway between by insulators, the nature of the electricity in each section being
governed by the charge in the magnet. To prevent one kind of electricity from uniting
with and neutralizing that in the next section by passing through the car at the moment of
transit, there is a "dead stretch" of fifty yards with rails not charged at all between the
sections. This change in the nature of the electricity is repeated automatically every fifty
miles, and obviates the necessity of revolving machinery, the rails aiding communication.
"Magnetism being practically as instantaneous as gravitation, the only limitations to
speed are the electrical pressure at the magnets, the resistance of the air, and the danger of
the wheels bursting from centrifugal force. The first can seemingly be increased without
limit; the atmospheric resistance is about to be reduced by running the cars hermetically
sealed through a partial vacuum in a steel and toughened glass tube; while the third has
been removed indefinitely by the use of galvanized aluminum, which bears about the
same relation to ordinary aluminum that steel does to iron, and which has twice the
tensile strength and but one third the weight of steel. In some cases the rails are made
turned in, so that it would be impossible for a car to leave the track without the road-bed's
being totally demolished; but in most cases this is found to be unnecessary, for no
through line has a curve on its vast stretches with a radius of less than half a mile. Rails,
one hundred and sixty pounds to the yard, are set in grooved steel ties, which in turn are
held by a concrete road-bed consisting of broken stone and cement, making spreading
rails and loose ballast impossible. A large increase in capital was necessary for these
improvements, the elimination of curves being the most laborious part, requiring bridges,
cuttings, and embankments that dwarf the Pyramids and would have made the ancient
Pharaohs open their eyes; but with the low rate of interest on bonds, the slight cost of
power, and great increase in business, the venture was a success, and we are now in sight
of further advances that will enable a traveller in a high latitude moving west to keep
pace with the sun, and, should he wish it, to have unending day."