Tom Swift And His Electric Locomotive by Victor Appleton
Chapter XIII. Hopes and Fears
Tom climbed into the huge cab of the electric locomotive. In fact, the cab was the most of it, for every part of the mechanism save the drivers was covered by the eighty-odd foot structure. From the peak of the pilot to the rear bumper the length was ninety feet and some inches.
As Tom slid the monster out upon the yard track the small crowd cheered. At least, the locomotive had the power to move, and to the unknowing ones, at least, that seemed a great and wonderful thing.
What they saw was apparently a box-car--like a mail coach, only with more high windows--ten feet wide, its roof more than fourteen feet from the rails, its locked pantagraph adding two feet more to its height.
Just what was in the cab--the water and oil tanks, the steam- heating boiler to supply heat and hot water to the train the monster was to draw, the motors and the many other mechanical contrivances--was hidden from the spectators.
In fact, since completing the electrical equipment of the Hercules 0001, as Tom had named the locomotive, the young inventor had allowed nobody inside the cab, any more than he allowed visitors inside his private workshop. Even Mr. Swift did not know all the results of Tom's experimental work. In a general way the older inventor knew the trend of his son's attempts, but the details and the results of Tom's experiments, the latter told to nobody.
But as the huge locomotive rolled into the yard and followed the more or less circular track inside the yard fence, it was plain to all of the onlookers that the motive-power was there all right! Just what speed could be coaxed from the feed-cable overhead was another question.
Nor did Tom Swift try for much speed on this first test of the Hercules 0001. He went around the two-mile track several times before bringing his machine to a stop near the crowd of onlookers. He came to the open door of the cab.
"One thing is sure, Tom!" shouted Ned. "It do move!"
"Bless my slippery skates!" exclaimed Mr. Damon, "it slides right along, Tom. You've done it, my boy--you've done it!"
"It looks good from where I stand, my son,~ said Mr. Barton Swift.
It was Mary who suspected that Tom was not wholly satisfied--as yet, at least--with the test of the Hercules 0001. She cried:
"Tom! is it all right?"
"Nothing is ever all right--that is, not perfect --in this old world, I guess, Mary," returned the young inventor. "But I am not discouraged. As Ned says, the old contraption 'do move.' How fast she'll move is another thing."
"What time did you make?" asked Mr. Swift.
"Not above fifteen miles an hour."
"Whew!" whistled Ned dolefully. "That is a long way from--"
Tom made an instant motion and Ned's careless lips were sealed. It was not generally known among the men the speed which Tom hoped to obtain with his new invention.
"It is a wide shoot at the target, that is true," Tom said, soberly. "But remember I cannot test it for speed on this short and almost circular track. Right at the start, however, I see that something about the power-feed must be changed."
"What is that?" asked Mary, curiously.
"I have only had rigged here one trolley wire. There must be two attached alternately to the catenary cable. Such a form of twin conductor trolley will permit the collection of a heavy current through the twin contact of the pantagraph with the two trolley wires, and should assure a sparkless collection of the current at any speed. You noticed that when I took the sharper curves there was an aerial exhibition. I want to do away with the fireworks."
The fact that the Hercules 0001 was a going and apparently powerful draught engine satisfied most of the onlookers that Tom Swift was on the road to final and overwhelming success. The mechanics, indeed, saw no reason why the locomotive could not be run right out of the yard on the freight track and coupled to the first train going West. Of course, the Hercules 0001 could not be delivered to the Hendrickton & Pas Alos under its own power.
When the locomotive was run back into the shed and stood once more on the erection track, Tom confessed to Mary and Ned, while Mr. Damon and Mr. Swift were looking through the huge cab, that he was not at all pleased with the action of the machine.
"I have the best equipment of any electric locomotive on the rails today. I am sure of that," he said. "The Hercules Three- Oughts-One is not as long as those electric locomotives of the C. M. &. St. P. But that's all right. I have built mine more compactly and, properly geared, it should have all the power of either the Baldwin-Westinghouse or the Jandel locomotive."
"Then, Tom dear, what is wrong?" cried Mary.
"Speed. That is what troubles me. Have I got anything like the speed I am aiming for?"
"Two miles a minute!" breathed Ned Newton. "Some speed, boy!"
"And must you have such great speed, Tom?" repeated Mary.
"That is in my contract. Not only that, but to be of much use to the H. & P. A. this locomotive must have such speed--or mighty near it. Of course, under ordinary conditions, two miles a minute for a locomotive and train of heavy freights would burn up the track--maybe melt the flanges and throw everything out of gear."
"Why try for it, then?" demanded Mary.
"It is the power suggested by the possession of such speed that we want in the Hercules Three-Oughts-One. That two miles a minute is a fiction of the imagination, cannot be claimed. It is possible. It is humanly possible. It is coming."
"Then you must be the fellow to first accomplish it, Tom Swift," Ned declared.
"Of course, if anybody can do it, you can, Tom," agreed the girl complacently.
"Thanks--many, many thanks," laughed the young inventor. "I'd be able to harness the sun and stars, and put a surcingle around the moon if I came up to my friends' opinion of my ability.
"Nevertheless, two-miles-a-minute is my objective point, and I do not believe it is visionary. Consider the motor-cycle. Ninety miles an hour has long been possible with that, and some tests have shown a speed of over a hundred and ten. That is not far from my mark.
"Some Mallet locomotives of the oil-burning type have achieved from eighty-five to ninety-five miles an hour with a heavy load behind them. They are very powerful machines. The Mogul mountain climbers are powerful, too, although they are not built for speed.
"The electric Goliaths built for the C. M. & St. P., and the Jandels, are both very speedy under certain conditions. The former has a maximum speed of sixty-five miles and the Jandel slightly faster."
"But that is only half what that Mr. Bartholomew demands of your invention, Tom!" Mary cried.
"That is a fact. I must reach twice sixty miles an hour, anyway, to meet his demand and gain that hundred thousand bonus. But I have the advantage of a knowledge of all that has been done before my time in the matter of electrical locomotive construction."
"The world do move," repeated Ned. "You believe that you have the edge on all the other inventors?"
"Along the line of this development--yes," said Tom. "I am taking up the work where former experimenters ended theirs. Why shouldn't I find the right combination to bring about a two-miles-a-minute drive?"
"Oh, Tom!" cried Mary, with clasped hands, "I hope you do."
"I hope I do, too," said Tom, grimly. "At least, if trying will bring it, success is going to come my way."