IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - November/December 2015 - 97

short trains since the elevated superstructure couldn't handle the weight of
the locomotive required to pull more
than three or four passenger cars. What
was required was distributed electric
power throughout the train, with each
car a complete motorized independent
system and all the cars being controllable from a single location or locations
throughout the train. This would provide
complete flexibility, more rapid acceleration and deceleration, eliminate the rail
yards, should be less expensive overall,
and would be a beautiful clean method
of transportation (as when New York's
ugly Fourth avenue was transformed
into Park avenue after the electrification
of Grand Central Terminal).
But at first even Sprague wasn't sure it
could be done. When questioned about his
position in a June 1888 IEE paper that such
distributed power wasn't feasible, he replied that the motors would interfere with
each other, the art had not been developed
far enough, and all those motors would
make it too expensive. He then went about
to prove just how wrong he was.
apparently without realizing it at
the time, his first break came during the
early 1890s Postal Telegraph elevator
installation when he temporarily wired
up the individual pilot motors and controlled them from a single location. Pilot motors weren't new (as an analogy,
consider automotive power steering,
once all hydraulic and now mostly electric), but simultaneously controlling
them in multiple from a single location
was new. Even in his temporary circuit,
with time the individual elevators began to get out of synchronization.
Then in mid-1895, while considering how to solve the elevated locomotive weight problem, he flashed back
to the elevator control, realizing that, if
refined, it would be the ideal solution
to not just this problem but all types of
urban horizontal transportation. Thus,
although there was a huge amount of
work ahead, the MU control system
had truly been born.

to the Manhattan Elevated went nowhere.
Then, while inspecting one of his elevator
installations in the Waldorf-astoria Hotel,
he fell backward off a scaffold in the basement and broke both legs. Now on crutches,
but still planning a previously scheduled
april trip to London to bid on the Central
Railway elevator installation, he received

a letter from Leslie Carter, president of
the Chicago South Side Elevated Railway
("alley L"), asking him to consult on the
planned electrification of the line. Believing
that GE already had the inside track with a
locomotive approach, he tried to decline.
However, Frank Shepard, an old friend now
working for GE, and his assistant, William

Chicago Alley L
The year 1897 started very badly for
Sprague. First, a February MU proposal
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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - November/December 2015

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IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - November/December 2015 - Cover3
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