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American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Pre-WWII Racing


The New York Times
November 10, 1895

Trial of Carriages to be Made in Chicago Nov. 28.


Types of the Various Engines That May Be Used and the Firms That Will Compete for the Prizes.

While New-York is preparing for her annual Horse Show, Chicago is about to grapple with the horseless-carriage problem in a truly Western practical fashion.

H. H. Kohlsaat, the proprietor of the Chicago Times-Herlald, offered $5,000 in prizes more than four months ago, to be awarded, after open competition, for the best forms of horseless carriages.  The trial was to be made on Nov. 2, but as many of the inventors were not then ready the final trial was postponed, by the consent of those interested, until Nov. 28.

There have been over fifty entries for this contest, most of them coming from the West.  It is safe to say that some of the vehicles entered will never come to the starting post, because their inventors are relying upon getting more work out of the machines which they proposed to make than they put into them.

Belonging to this class may be mentioned the machines run by coiled springs, which are expected to rewind themselves going down hill, and various types of cylinders, which are expected by their inventors to be cold when nature prescribes that they shall be hot.

Roughly speaking, the successful machines at the Chicago contest will be operated either by gasoline engines or by the energy derived from storage batteries.  In some cases, compressed gas may be substituted for liquid gasoline, though no carriage has hitherto been a permanent success which depended on compressed air or gas for its motive power.

All the gasoline engines are constructed on the same principal, though they have each a different measure of success in practical working.  In some instances an oil as heavy and non-inflammable as ordinary kerosene is used.  In others, a much lighter and more inflammable oil has to be used.

The oil is first distributed in a fine spray in a heated chamber until it becomes vaporized.  It is then mixed with air until the mixture forms an explosible compound, which is set on fire by either a lighted jet, by a spark of electricity, or by the heat of the combustion chamber.  In the latter case, outside heat has to be applied until the machine has been working long enough to make its contained gases self-igniting.

Beyond the explosion chamber is a piston connected by a rod with the fly-wheel, toothed-wheel, or axle.  The machine is arranged so that an explosion occurs when the piston is down the cylinder as far as it will go. The immense expansion of the gases drives the piston violently up to the top of the cylinder, at the same time opening valves for the admission of another supply of air.  When the piston returns to the bottom of the cylinder another explosion takes place, with the same result.

This is, of course, the prniciple of an ordinary gas engine using oil as a substitute for gas.  In a stationary gas engine, however, there is no pressing demand for economy of space and no lack of water to keep the cylinder as cool as it ought to be in order to get the best results.

The motion of an ordinary gas engine, too, is usually jerky and spasmodic in character, as any one may see by looking at such an engine in operation.  To economize space some engineers have substituted double cylinders and pistons in place of single ones.  They have also perfected their apparatus that as long as the water which surrounds the cylinder keeps merely at the boiling point and does not evaporate so rapidly as to turn into steam as fast as it touches the cylinder, the piston does not choke in the cylinder, and fresh water, which is easy to obtain, can be added to the reservoir every few hours.

To get rid of the jerkiness, the same inventors have adopted high speed and very small explosions for each revolution.  There remains only the smell, which the inventors have got rid of by making the valve for the admission of air large enough to produce perfect combustion.  When this is done properly there is no more smell from a gasoline engine than from a well-trimmed kerosene lamp.

Cost of fuel is not a serious item in any good gasoline motor.  It averages about 1 cent per horse power per hour.  Were all the other difficulties so easily surmounted, New-York City would not have a working horse in its streets to-day.

The motor of a horseless carriage is one part, the revolving and steering mechanism another.  If storage battery cells of any of the common types are used instead of a gasoline motor, the chief difference is in the weight of the cells and in the use of armatures rotating within fixed field magnets to give the motion instead of the crank of a gasoline engine.

Steam has not been successful as a means of furnishing power for light road carriages partly because the boiler and its supplies of fuel and water take up too much space, and partly because everything expected from its use can be accomplished more efficiently and economically from gasoline motors.

Among the horseless carriages which are entered for competition at Chicago on Nov. 28 is one manufactured by the De La Vergne Refrigerating Company of New-York.  Its weight is 1,500 pounds, of which the motor takes up 375 pounds.  It has accommodation for four persons and a considerable quantity of baggage.

This trap is to be worked by a gasoline motor, controlled in speed by a friction clutch, and transmitting its power by a sprocket and chain arrangement.  As in nearly all other horseless vehicles, the steering is effected by pivoting the front wheels on their axle, close to the hub.

The only other entry from New-York is one from Stone & Maynard.  Springfield, Mass., and Philadelphia furnish the remainder of the entries from cities in the East.

The Philadelphia entry is by Morris & Salom, who are bringing forward a compact-looking carriage propelled by power derived from storage batteries.  This vehicle will seat two or four persons, and weighs, with storage batteries on board, only 1,600 pounds.

Duryea of Springfield, Mass., has entered a horseless carriage propelled by a gasoline engine.  This carriage was at the preliminary trials made in Chicago on Nov. 2.

Only three vehicles were at these trials, all operated by gasoline motors.  A prize of $500 was given for the best performance, all things considered, and it was awarded to H. Mueller of Decatur, Iowa, whose carriage went 92 miles in 8 hours and 50 seconds.

The judges of the competition on Nov. 28 will be Gen. Merritt, United States Army, assisted by Col. Ludlington; Prof. John Barrett, City Electrician of Chicago, assisted by L. L. Summers, and Henry Tinkem, President of the National Carriage Builders' Association, assisted by C. P. Kimball.

The contestants will start from Jackson Park at its junction with the Midway Plaisance, and will follow the boulevards until the Chicago and Milwaukee gravel road is reached.  Thence they will go by the gravel road until they strike Waukegan.  There they will turn and come home by the road which keeps close to the shores of Lake Michigan.  The finish will be at Grant Monument in Lincoln Park.

The judges will take into account general utility, speed, cost, economy of operation, and general appearance in the order named.

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