• Lehigh Valley Railroad Tested Gas Electric cars

  • Discussion related to the Lehigh Valley Railroad and predecessors for the period 1846-1976. Originally incorporated as the Delaware, Lehigh, Schuylkill and Susquehanna Railroad Company.
Discussion related to the Lehigh Valley Railroad and predecessors for the period 1846-1976. Originally incorporated as the Delaware, Lehigh, Schuylkill and Susquehanna Railroad Company.

Moderator: scottychaos

  by Richard1
Most Lehigh Valley historians are aware the road had an unusual number of gas electric cars starting in the mid 1920s. However, new evidence shows they were experimenting with then as early as 1908. Contrary to newspaper accounts, however, none were purchased at this early date, as far as can be determined.

San Francisco Call, Jan. 26, 1908

Test of Coach ; Driven by Power Derived From Vapor Engines May Mark Revolution
New Vehicle Combines the Best in Trolley fraction With Reduced Cost
SCHENECTADY - Jan. 25.— Successful in every was the test today of the new gas electric car built by the General electric company, which is expected to revolutionize motive power on short lines. As a result of the test it is probable that the Delaware and Hudson railroad will install the new car on several of its branch roads.
The car combines all that is best in electric traction without the costly features' of the trolley. The electric generator is driven by a powerful gas engine and the current obtained through this medium supplies power to the motors which drive the car.
The test was made from the new union station, the first ran being to Delanson. From Delanson. It was continued over the Susquehanna branch of the Delaware Hudson road to Albany, thence to Troy and then back to Schenectady via Mechanicville. The new car carried officials of the Delaware and Hudson, American Locomotive and General electric companies.
In order to reduce the air resistance to a minimum the ends of the car are shaped parabolic. The power equipment is the main feature of the car. The eight cylinder gas engine develops 150 horsepower and is coupled to 120 horsepower direct current generators. The two motors each are rated at 60 horsepower and the whole Is operated by one man in a space 8 by 9 feet. The car tested today is a model on which others will be built.
The gas car, which went through a successful test yesterday, threatens downfall of trolley, on short railroad lines.

In 1904, the General Electric Company's Railway Engineering Department recognized the potential of the gas-electric car.
The best engine for their specifications was built by Wolseley of Great Britain. The Delaware & Hudson lent GE a Barney & Smith combine for experimenting. An ALCO motor truck was added on the front. Two 75 h.p. traction motors and a 600-volt generator were added. Once the huge engine was added, the baggage compartment was filled and the car weighed 68 tons. A trial run from Schenectady to Saratoga showed D&H 1000 (sometimes referred to as GE No. 1) could go 40 mph.
The designers decided their next car needed: light weight, greater power, single end control, and a more dependable engine. The engine was the most difficult to accomplish. In 1906, a Gas Engine Department was formed. A new V8 was developed that required an explosive charge to start. It weighed 3,900 pounds as opposed to the 7-ton Wolseley. GE No. 2 was an all-steel from Wason Mfg. Co. of Springfield, MA. The final weight was less than half that of car no. 1. This car trialed on the Lehigh Valley; Chicago Great Western; Dan Patch Lines (Minneapolis, Northfield & Southern); and the D&H. It was extensively damaged by hitting a locomotive on the Rapid City, Black Hills & Western. Car 2 was later sold to the Dan Patch Lines where it was destroyed in a 1914 fire. A third GE demonstrator was built which incorporated even more improvements such as a 125 h.p. engine with compressed air starter. Car 3 eventually traveled 50,000 miles in demonstration service.
An attempt was made in 1909 to break into the street railway business. New York's Third Avenue Railway Company had several "horse-powered" lines. Not wanting the expense of electrification, they had a "bake off" between the GE car and a battery powered one. The battery won.
By 1909, orders were coming in. Southern; Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh; Frisco; and Dan Patch Lines. Many improvements were made by Hermann Lemp. In 1910-11, the Gas Engine Department moved to a new plant in Erie, Pa.
Before production ceased in 1917, almost 100 motorcars were built. Several were oddballs. One for the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie was only 42 feet long (as opposed to 70-foot normal). It was designed to pull a trailer. One was built as a line car for the New York, Westchester & Boston. It was the only GE (except no. 1) without a Wason body. Some cars built for southern railroads had two doors - to comply with "Jim Crow" laws.
Operating costs ranged from 12 to 17 cents a mile. Cost of the cars was between $20,000 and $30,000. They usually ran with a crew of two (not withstanding labor agreements requiring more). Don't forget though gasoline only cost 7 cents a gallon.

Geneva Daily Times, Tuesday, June 30, 1908

New Motor Car Appears Here
Gas-Electric Car Being Tested by the Lehigh on Local Branches.

The new gas and electric motor car which the Lehigh has been trying on a number of its branch lines made its first appearance in Geneva yesterday. The motor, which is made by the General Electric Company, will carry 44 passengers and has a baggage compartment. The engine is torpedo shaped and the motive power is electrically generated by gasoline.
The car contains an easy riding compartment for the passengers and a smoking room, while the baggage room is good sized. There is an arrangement also whereby in cases of heavy traffic a trailer can be added.
The car came over the line yesterday morning from Sayre and was then run over the branch to Seneca Falls. fourteen barrels of gasoline have been received here, so it is understood that the test of the new motor in this vicinity will be quite extensive. In case the car as shown in these trial tests, is found satisfactory, it is expected that it will be used exclusively on the branch lines. the test has ben in progress for some time on the Perth Amboy branch and the reports from there are that it has been satisfactory. It will not continue on the branches in this vicinity.
It is believed that the car will run through from Sayre beginning tomorrow morning on the schedule of the passenger train that at present reaches here about 9 o’clock. From Geneva it will then run up the Middlesex Valley branch on the schedule of the present train running from here. The test of the motor will be continued in this manner for some time on both the Middlesex and the Seneca Falls branches. it is stated that in case the car does come up for what is expected of it that it will eventually displace the steam cars entirely on the branch lines for passenger service and that by the use of the car the railroad can give practically the same service as a trolley to the people living along the branches.

Geneva Daily Times, Sat., Aug. 8, 1908

Lehigh Gets More Motors
Cars Are to be Tested Through the Winter Season to Determine Practicability.

According to the report received today the Lehigh Valley Railroad Company has ordered six more of the gas-electric motor cars which the company has been testing for some time. The test has been in progress between Sayre and Geneva and on the Middlesex Valley branch of the road. So far the tests have been very successful but that it is doubtful if the cars will be put on all of the branch lines, until another year.
The reason for this is that the officials desire to give the cars a thorough test under winter conditions. It has been demonstrated that the cars possess many advantages for summer traffic but on some of the branches the officials are somewhat afraid that the cars would be unable to make regular trips owing to the heavy snows and bad drifts.
Usually the snow drifts badly along the Middlesex branch. Last winter a train was stalled over night and after almost every heavy snow storm the line was blocked for some time. the officials want to see how the cars act under these conditions and it is now stated that if the cars demonstrate they can hold their own during the winter season it is quite likely that the cars will be generally used on the branch lines.
This winter the cars will be tested in the severest weather and the tests will undoubtedly settle the question of using this style car in place of the regular railroad engine and coaches which have been used heretofore. The cars continue to run over the VanEtten division of the road between Sayre and Geneva and the patrons of the line are well satisfied with the car. The general impression among railroad men at present seems to be, however, the cars will not be put to general use, however, until after the winter test has been completed.