IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - November/December 2015 - 94

figure 3. The test track at Durant Sugar
Refinery, East 24th Street, New York City
(photo courtesy of John L. Sprague).

tough Charles a. Coffin, changed its
name to plain General Electric (GE),
cutting out the Edison name.
Frustrated in his new position and
diminished responsibilities, Sprague resigned in mid-1890 and soon found himself in the electric elevator business. Following the Postal Telegraph installation
and expansion of the overall business, in
1897 he was successful in winning a huge

US$500,000 contract for the world's
largest elevator installation, 49 high-rise
elevators for the Central London Railway
Station. Yet, in the following year, most
of the elevator interests were sold to Otis
Elevator so that Sprague could concentrate his efforts on the Sprague Electric
Company, incorporated in the spring of
1898, to capitalize on the exploding MU
train control opportunity.
although the subsequent sale of
Sprague Electric to GE in 1902 seemed
the end of Frank Sprague's most productive years, he was anything but
marginalized. His second marriage in
1899 to Harriett Chapman Jones led
to the birth of three more children,
Robert, Julian, and althea, and a rich
social life with such new friends as
Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), author
albert Paine, and dramatist Brander
Matthews. He also continued to work,
playing a key role in the electrification
of Grand Central Terminal and serving
with distinction during World War I on
the Naval Consulting Board, which was
chaired by Thomas Edison. There were
also new companies, the most important being the Sprague Safety Control
and Signal Corporation (1906). While
the Safety Company included some of
his best work, none of the companies
that followed Sprague Electric was a
commercial success.
During his career, Sprague was an
active member of the american Institute

figure 4. A drawing of a basic MU architecture for two cars (image courtesy of
John L. Sprague).
94

ieee power & energy magazine

of Electrical Engineers (aIEE), a predecessor of today's IEEE, serving as vice
president in 1890-1892 and president in
1892-1893. He also received the aIEE
Edison Medal in 1910 "for meritorious
achievement in electrical science, engineering, and arts." With his 93 patents
and numerous other rewards, when he
died of pneumonia on 25 October 1934,
he richly deserved his accolade as the
father of electric traction.

Multiple Unit Control
The following is a generic description
of the MU train control system developed by the author using information
from various sources:
There is a train made up of cars,
each one of which can be run independently; a train line runs through and
connects the cars; and there are electrical circuits, controllers, and switches
so connected that each car can be independently or collectively controlled
from any desired point on the train.

From Steam to Electricity
While riding back and forth to the 1882
Crystal Palace Electrical Exposition
on the dirty, smoky, rider-unfriendly
London steam subway, young Frank
Sprague concluded how much nicer the
ride would be if the motive power were
clean, silent, and more efficient electricity. While there, he even considered
resigning from the Navy to attack the
problem. But this would have to wait a
few years.
While the new dc motors of his first
company, the Sprague Electric Railway
and Motor Company, were the starting
point, he quickly envisioned their advantages as motive power for different
types of railway systems. and an ideal
application seemed to be the New York
elevated railways, whose small steam
engines were universally hated for the
soot and hot cinders they spewed as
they rumbled above the street.
So Sprague developed a unique electric motorized truck (the structure to
which the rail wheels are attached, one
at each end of the passenger car) and
rented a 200-ft (61-m) stretch of track
at the Durant Sugar Refinery on New
november/december 2015



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