Cassatt, president of the Pennsylvania Railroad, once said that the friction draft gear was equal in importance to the air brake. Increase in railroad traffic necessitated a system of signals and switches that were interlocked with one another to ensure adequate distance between trains and to give the right of way to one train over another, avoiding collisions. From to , Westinghouse patented 18 inventions in switch and signal control.
Backed by critical patents and a broad vision of where the field was going, Union Switch and Signal came to dominate the business. Along with the friction draft gear, signal interlocking unleashed the full potential of the air brake. Together they gave us the modern rail system that we know today. In , Westinghouse became interested in natural gas. As usual, he wasted little time.
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He applied for 28 patents in and , with 10 more to follow. His most intriguing invention is innocuously termed: well drilling apparatus, Patent , When Westinghouse went into a new industry such as natural gas, he jumped in with both feet.
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Much to the dismay doubtless of Mrs. Westinghouse and his neighbors, George punched down a well right in his own back yard at Solitude, his residence in Homewood. As usual, he was successful; gas was struck in a moderate amount at feet. This was quite sufficient to serve his own needs and those of a few neighbors; but now caught up in the excitement, Westinghouse pushed on. A few hundred feet later, with a roar, came a flaming blast of gas along with tools and the casing head.
For several weeks he brightened his neighborhood with a roaring torch feet high. He had his own Spindletop. In order to market the inventions, Westinghouse founded the Philadelphia Company in It produced and distributed natural gas as well as electricity in the Pittsburgh area and for many years ran the streetcar systems of Pittsburgh and San Francisco. Unlike many other inventors, Westinghouse never sold a patent. He brought his inventions to life with the sole aim of expanding a business enterprise in which he played a triple role of inventor, executive and financier.
With Westinghouse it was not so much a matter of money as it was always making things better by solving a succession of technological challenges. As abruptly as he had thrust himself into the natural gas business, he now moved on to a much bigger challenge. Had the life of Westinghouse been tragically foreshortened before the age of 40 , his reputation as an inventor of the first rank and industrialist of note would have been secure.
Fortunately, all this was merely prelude to an extraordinary 30 years to come. In , the electrical revolution was at hand. Having conceived of a product of great practical utility and universal application, Edison was driven to build a generating and transmission system to bring light to the millions. For starters he announced he would light up lower Manhattan.
Edison made good on his claim. The direct current generator had one serious drawback.
The low voltage incandescent bulb limited the DC service area to yards. Alternating current operating at high voltage can be transmitted great distances. Moving with his usual dispatch, Westinghouse bought the U. The newly founded Westinghouse Electric Company improved upon the Gaulard Gibbs transformer turning it into a workable product, which provided the backbone for an AC distribution system. By the end of Westinghouse Electric had orders for 27 new systems. He worked for Edison briefly but struck out on his own. At the end of he filed for seven U.
They covered AC motors supported by a complete system, including generation, transformers, transmission lines and lighting. Westinghouse Electric had been patiently putting pieces of this puzzle together, and the company brain trust in Pittsburgh told Westinghouse they could get to the finish line. Instead, Westinghouse, with a Hail Mary pass, went for the main chance.
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It was the best deal he ever made; it was the best deal Tesla ever made. The contract called for 92 , lights to illuminate the fair. Westinghouse, the underdog, was confident that by providing a complete AC system to power the exposition it would be worth the price.
It was. Unfortunately, weeks before the fair opened, Westinghouse lost a patent case with GE denying them the use of the GE incandescent bulb. From Chicago it was on to Niagara Falls.
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Water has long been used as a direct power source, and in the closing years of the 19 th century it began to be used to generate elec— tricity. There was no better opportunity than Niagara Falls.
The Niagara Falls contract was sure to settle the question of leadership once and for all. After six months of twists and turns, including purloined Westinghouse blueprints that found their way to GE and a futile attempt on the part of the Cataract Company to design its own generators, by October of Westinghouse had the contract. One more piece of the puzzle remained. The bulk of the power generated at Niagara Falls had to go to Buffalo and beyond. The power was stepped up and then stepped down to volts and delivered at first to Buffalo streetcars and then throughout the city.
His technological versatility, his entrepreneurialism, his manufacturing capability, and above all, his force of personality carried the day. This triumph was all the more remarkable in the face of the dire financial straits in which he found himself. The collapse of the British Barings Bank in tightened the credit markets, which hit home just as Westinghouse Electric was riding a surge of growth with inadequate capital. Financially, Westinghouse simply cut it too thin. Here he stands in sharp contrast to fiscally prudent Andrew Carnegie who was always prepared to ride out a downturn and gain ground on his rivals at the same time.
Turned down by Pittsburgh bankers in , Westinghouse got the money he needed in New York, but a critical stumbling block was the generous royalties he had agreed to pay Tesla. In a dramatic gesture Tesla tore up his contract, thus saving Westinghouse Electric from reorganization and the loss of control by its founder. After Niagara Falls, Westinghouse Electric grew to be a major industrial corporation.
The financial panic of struck Westinghouse hard.
Westinghouse Air Brake Company Machine Shop, Wilmerding, P… | Flickr
Westinghouse lost control, and the East Coast bankers put their own man in to rein in the expansionist bent of the founder. By Westinghouse was no longer on the board. As he traveled from Homewood to Wilmerding, the sight of the mammoth works at East Pittsburgh was always painful.
Taking his measure. As an inventor Westinghouse was second only to Thomas Edison — a close second. He founded 60 companies, a number of them significant, including two Fortune companies. At its peak the Westinghouse Air Brake Company ranked th in Westinghouse Electric was the 13 th largest industrial corporation in America in , and Westinghouse was also recognized as one of the most progressive industrial employers.
The traveling carnival as we know it was but 12 years young in when there were 46 recorded traveling carnivals. These early shows traveled mostly by rail in unmarked box cars. Visible by the railroad tracks is the merry-go-round or "flying jenny" which was the heart of all carnivals at the time. The side curtains are yet down but one set of wooden horses can be seen under the one rolled flap. There are at least visible four show tents set up on the street following the outline of the town square. The James E. Strates Shows is the only remaining railroad carnival today with all others traveling by truck.