The Roanoke Times April 1, 1892
RIDING ON A FENCE.
The Mount Holley and Smithville Bicycle Railroad.
Unique Invention of a Connecticut Genius
How He Proposes to Revolutionize Traveling Methods
Description of the New Road.
One of the most unique ideas in railroad construction is about being put into practice between two New Jersey towns - Mount Holley and Smithville - and if everything is true it will revolutionize short-distance travel. Every passenger runs his own train, doing away with the expense of engineers, conductors, brake men and firemen.
This new idea of locomotion, says the New York Herald, is a bicycle railroad, it will run in a direct line over fields, roads and creek, crossing the latter ten times in two miles, the distance between the towns, and the time will depend much on the record-breaking disposition of the individual who has the thing in hand.
When completed the railroad will look like a fence with a bicycle inverted running on top of it. There is a bicycle for the exclusive use of each individual, and it would be possible to travel at the rate of a mile in two minutes.
The road will start with about seventy-five or one hundred machines. There will be two depots - one on the ground of the H. B. Smith Company, Smithville, the other on Pine street, Mount Holley. Agents for the company will have charge of the bicycles, collecting fares and furnishing machines to passengers, and side tracking the bicycles when not in use.
The inventor of this wonderful railroad system comes from New Haven, Conn. His name is Arthur E. Hotchkiss. The famous walking doll was invented by this same genius eighteen years ago. He was the first to accomplish the manufacture of miniature clocks in this country - in fact, devoted ten years of his life exclusively to improvements on clocks and watches.
Mr. Hotchkiss had never mounted a bicycle and yet with keen perception and love of invention he saw a good field to work in, and four years ago commenced his railroad scheme. This track is built by bedding cross ties in the ground once in six feet and erecting upon them a post and rail structure about three and a half feet high. The post is secured to the cross ties by means of bolts and angle irons. Narrow wooden stringer pieces connect the posts, and the top stringer piece has a T shaped rail screwed to it, on which the bicycle runs.
This railroad requires for its use a special form of bicycle, although the ordinary saddle, handle bar and propelling mechanism are employed.
The upper part of the frame are two grooved wheels which run one in advance of the other on the single track rail. The position of the saddle is between the wheels, so that the rider is carried above the trackway and astride the track-supporting structure. This handle bar is located in front of the rider in the usual way, and, while not required for balancing or steering, serves to steady the rider and to assist when propelling rapidly. The frame is made double.
It extends downward below the track rail on opposite sides of the track structure about two and a half feet and has at the lower end small guide wheels running horizontally on opposite sides of the lower stringpiece of the trackway to keep the machine in an upright position.
The driving wheel in front of the rider is about twenty inches in diameter and is connected with a ratchet and chain to the propelling treadles, which are located at the lower part of the frame on either side of the fence. The machine is geared up by its ratchet mechanism to a higher speed than is practicable in an ordinary road bicycle.
Other forms of vehicles for use in connection with this system have been devised, so that ladies may ride them or several passengers may be carried at a time.
It is also proposed in most cases to construct two fences or tracks to admit of travel in either direction. This double track can also be used for a bicycle to run on both rails, as in case of any other railway system.
The road will be called the "Mount Holley and Smithville Bicycle railroad."
There is more or less danger attached to bicycle riding at night. This will be obviated by the elevated track, and, what is still more in its favor, it can be used in all seasons and, by arranging a parachute over it, can be used in all weathers. There will be head and rear lights for use at night. There can be no danger of the vehicle jumping the track, and no previous skill in managing a bicycle is necessary.
The land has been secured. In many cases right of way has been conceded by owners. All specifications are prepared and ground for depots secured. Inventor Hotchkiss says it will be the cheapest railroad in the world to maintain.
Better pic of Arthur and his bike:
From the "Encyclopedia of New Jersey." Maxine N. Lurie, Marc Mappen - 2004
One of his original bikes survived somehow...
Mount Holly Herald
September 24, 1892
THE BICYCLE RAILROAD A SUCCESS
That the bicycle railroad is a success goes without saying. It is the biggest and most complete success Mount Holly has had for a long time, as the crowds that gather nightly will testify. Fully five thousand people have been carried since the road was opened last week, and the cash receipts have been sufficient to pay one year’s interest on the bonds. At this rate the road will be one of the best dividend earners in the country. Every night there is a crowd of people at the depot waiting their turn for a ride, and the machines are kept busy until eleven o’clock at night. In a short time the double track will be extended to Smithville. To say that Prof. Hotchkiss is delighted at the success of his invention does not half express it. The failure of the road was predicted by so many people, and it was ridiculed so on all sides that an ordinary man would have lost heart, and given up in despair, but Prof. Hotchkiss, in this respect is no ordinary man. Obstacles only urge him on to greater effort, and there was no happier man in town when he realized that the representations he had made to the stock and bondholders had been fully verified, and in fact had exceeded his expectations.
He received congratulations on all sides. About fifty machines will be built, and this will be about enough to accommodate the travel. The roadway is illuminated at night, and each machine carries a light to avoid collisions. Derailment of a machine is impossible and the road is absolutely safe.
Nice writeup here:
Hotchkiss Bicycle Railway: On September 13, 1892, eccentric entrepreneur Hezekiah Smith opened his suspended bicycle commuter railway system built between his bicycle factory and nearby Mount Holly, NJ, home to most of his employees. Several resort towns in southern Jersey soon built their own, but to the best of my knowledge, none survive. A sole remaining rail bike can be seen at Smith’s factory compound, which is now a museum. (An additional note: Smith went on to become a bigamist, keep a small harem in his walled garden, and train a bull moose to pull his carriage. Just thought that might be of interest.)
Turns out several of Arthurs bicycle railways were built in the UK, but only as fairground amusements... Norfolk:
The Switchback and Bicycle Railway Thompson's Gravity Switchback was opened on the beach opposite Norfolk Square in 1887. It moved onto the Parade in 1887 and moved again in 1892, this time to a site just north of Cemetery (now Sandown) Road. The Hotchkiss Bicycle Railway opened on the same site in 1895. Both ventures moved to a site between Beaconsfield and Salisbury Roads in 1900. They remained there until the end of the 1909 season when they were closed and moved to Honley in Yorkshire.
Smithville - Mount HollyIn 1892, Arthur Hotchkiss received a patent for a bicycle railroad and contracted with the H. B. Smith Machine Company to manufacture it. The initial track ran 1.8 miles from Smithville, in a nearly straight line, crossing the Rancocas Creek 10 times, and arrived at Pine Street, Mount Holly. It was completed in time for the Mount Holly Fair in September, 1892, and the purpose of the railway was supposed to have been enabling employees to commute quickly from Mount Holly to the factory at Smithville. Monthly commuter tickets cost $2.00. The record speed on the railway was 4.5 minutes, and the average trip took 6–7 minutes. The railway was exhibited at the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893. It only had one track so that it was impossible to pass another rider, and if riders travelling in opposite directions met, one had to pull off onto a siding. By 1897 ridership had declined, and the railway fell into disrepair.
The Railway was built to allow employees to commute quickly from Mount Holly to a bicycle factory at Smithville. The railway was not a success, the impossibility of overtaking being one reason; another was that a second track was never completed, so if riders travelling in opposite directions met, one had to pull off onto a siding. One might imagine this leading to disagreements about who had the right of way. The railway was in a severe state of disrepair by 1898 when the Mount Holly and Smithville Bicycle Railway Company (as it appears to have been known) declared bankruptcy. Presumably the system was repaired at some point, and opened for recreational use. The Bicycle Railroad gave Smithville its nickname for many years, "The Bicycle Town." This helped to distinguish it from the Smithville near my childhood home in Atlantic County, which was known mainly for its 'pig iron' ore deposits. Both are now popular historical sites.
The Star Bicycle was developed and built in Smithville by the H.B Smith Machine Company in 1881, and its proprietor, Hezekiah Bradley Smith, busied himself with its production and marketing. The Star differed from conventional bicycles of the time by having the larger wheel at the rear, where rider sat, and the smaller wheel up front. This allowed for greater control especially when traveling downhill. To illustrate this, Hezekiah hired a professional rider to successfully ride a Star bicycle down the steps of the United States Capital in front of dozens of photographers and reporters. Hezekiah also arranged for races all over the country that the Star would often win. Both the marketing and the design proved successful, and the Star was another moneymaker for the H.B Smith Machine Company.
In the 1880's, as Hezekiah was approaching 70, his behavior was becoming more eccentric. Although he still oversaw the village and dabbled in politics, he also began to collect wild animals for his private zoo in the mansion's courtyard. He became determined to harness one of his moose and train it to pull his coach, and he finally succeeded much to the terror of his neighbors. More and more he confined himself to the mansion and gardens. In 1885, a full sized statue in the likeness of his departed wife Agnes arrived from Italy that he had mounted as a shrine to her in one of the gardens. Around this time Hezekiah also invited six young ladies to stay at the mansion, and rumors circulated that they were servants, students or his harem. They would often join him in the garden, along with the violinist he kept on staff, for music and conversation. His health would continue to deteriorate, and on November 3, 1887, the great Hezekiah Bradley Smith died of pneumonia at the age of 71.
Blackpool again! (Surprised they didn't try and electrify the line...)
http://www.pleasurebeachpostcards.org/e ... shows.html
William Bean's original ride - The Hotchkiss Bicycle Railway - looking East. Printed by JM & Co London, this card was sent to Elland, Yorkshre from Blackpool on 8th October 1908. The young Lady on the ride appears to be having to make a considerable effort in order to make progress - perhaps this was why the ride was none too popular!
William George Bean was influential in the growth of the fairground enterprise around seaside resorts in England and during the town’s pioneer years leading to the launch of the Pleasure Beach. It is easily believed and imagined that Blackpool at the turning point of the twentieth century was up and coming, rough and ready, much like the old American West frontier towns, as it is a common descriptive term used by writers in authoring books about its early beginnings.
Bean was born on June 6th 1868 and on the birth certificate, written is his father a Thames River Pilot, stating he drove steamboats through the ancient lochs on the most famous of all rivers in England. Bean considered himself a Londoner foremost and at the point of his career when he had been living in Blackpool thirty years, still made the habit of managing his business from the offices he maintained in London, visiting them every five or six weeks. He was no academic but worldly read and was later to astound Blackpool councillors with his self-acquired knowledge and learning from books.
In 1887 aged nineteen Bean left London to seek fame and fortune in the United States, as did many others at that time. He worked in advertising for a while on Madison Avenue. He had the makings of a designer but when questioned by his daughter Lillian Doris as to why he turned his interests elsewhere, he replied, “Well I would have gone on with it but I wasn’t eating very well. So I decided I had to turn my attention to something else.”
Bean went to Philadelphia and was involved in manufacturing for the then growing amusement park industry. Coney Island was just starting out with the tram companies of the major cities developing their own interest in amusement parks finding the market profitable. His interested would have culminated with the enthusiasm of the day in the Chicago 1893 Columbian Exposition in White City.
There Bean would have seen Arthur Ethelbert Hotchkiss’s design, the man rumoured to be a relative of the inventor of the Hotchkiss machine gun, a ‘Bicycle Railroad’ on display in the Midway. A railroad with bicycles propelled mechanically along a track by way of an operator perched on a fence at the side of it with the patrons sitting astride the bikes as it amusingly removed all the legwork involved ordinarily for the rider.
The ride bombed in its first outing to the public at the Exposition, grossing $185.00, Hotchkiss having patented the device by December of 1892 in London stating he was a resident of Mount Holly, New Jersey. He had convinced H.B. Smith Manufacturing Company of Smithville to build single and tandem bicycles to run upon a fixed track. It had intended to be a serious design for the future with the Smithville Bicycle Railroad opened to travel citizens of Mount Holly to jobs and back home again. The improved safety of the bicycle soon made it an obsolete idea and worthless franchise. Six years on the bicycles and the line dismantled, Hotchkiss tried operating systems elsewhere usually in seaside resorts but all of his aims dwindled to nothing with its practice.
Amazingly, Bean returned to England bringing with him the sole U.K. rights to build and operate Hotchkiss’s idea believing there was a brighter future in British seaside resorts. Being a Londoner Great Yarmouth and Brighton were the first places he tried his apparatus on the unsuspecting public.
Bean’s elder brother, Alfred Charles Bean, was a stockbroker in the City. A Company was set-up in London called, using a more presentable sounding name, The Hotchkiss Patent Bicycle Railway Syndicate, Limited for the English market on the 25th April 1896.
Out of the 3,000 original £1 shares, Bean took 1,500, while his brother Charles’s accepted 400. The remaining six shareholders were members of the London Stock Exchange and believed to have been associates of Charles Bean. The responsibilities of the new company mainly consisted of the manufacturing and leasing of several designs of bicycles used in Hotchkiss’s railway system. There are special references in Company articles to tracts of land in Great Yarmouth and the Devil’s Dyke near Brighton, as Bean had a formal agreement to lease, opening and operating his Bicycle Railway in these towns.
Bean was already formulating where next to take his business entrepreneurial ideas as a Bicycle Railway was erected and running in Blackpool in July of that same year in 1896 at South Shore with a Mr T.W. Potts as its manager, as it appears Bean remained in London keeping his interest on his businesses from the hub of his enterprise.
Lots of pics on the web for a new, improved design but I don't see that any full-scale railways were EVer built...