IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - November/December 2015 - 98

Clark, urged him to reconsider, especially when they learned
the details of the MU control technology. While GE could
lose the locomotive part of the installation, there would be
a lot more GE-built motors and controllers they would be
happy to supply.
So Sprague recommended that Carter scrap the locomotive approach in favor of self-propelled cars under MU
control. Much more a gambler than his opposites in New
York, Carter finally agreed if Frank Sprague would post a
US$100,000 bond and have a six-car test train running by
15 July 1897. Initially the bid was personal, but it was transferred to Sprague Electric Company when it was incorporated
in early 1898. as with Richmond and the Postal Telegraph,
Sprague agreed to another almost impossible contract, assembled his team with a preliminary work plan, and on 29 april
sailed for London. He wouldn't return until 24 June 1897,
flush with the Central Railway contract, having directed the
alley L commitment from afar by telegraph, and with just 21
days to get the test train running on a borrowed GE test track
in Schenectady, New York (see Figure 4).
Miraculously, the test ran successfully on 27 July,
only a few days late and also Frank Sprague's 40th birthday, and that part of the contract was officially accepted
two weeks later. Then the work on the Chicago alley L
began in earnest. The first 40 MU cars were ready by
November, but powerhouses and third rails still had to
be installed and the first complete systems debugged.
First passenger service began in april 1898 and was
initially "nightmarish." But like all Sprague's previous
endeavors, the bugs were gradually overcome and by
august 1898 all contracted 120 MU cars were up and
running and the last steam locomotive sold (see Figure 5).
as the result of dramatically increased efficiency and
lower costs, by year end South Side's earnings had
soared and its stock value skyrocketed to US$105 per
share, from US$32 before the MU train control system.
Sprague Electric then began to contract installations in
Boston, London, France, and elsewhere. Boston Elevated was especially satisfying since it involved a direct
april 1900 comparative test of the Sprague, GE, and
Westinghouse equipment that Sprague won as his system was judged far superior (see Figure 6). The MU
train control system had arrived but not in New York.

War
When the success of the alley L became known, electrical giants Westinghouse and GE both began crash
competitive programs. While no match in size, assets, and name recognition, Sprague Electric was still
a well-established company with 850 employees in its
Watsessing, New Jersey, manufacturing plant, a small
but extremely talented staff, and very strong intellectual property (see Figure 7). although the Westinghouse
compressed air approach proved noncompetitive, GE
quickly developed an almost exact copy based on work



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