Evolution of the Barbed-Wire Fence. To the Editor of the Scientific American: In regard to the evolution of barbed-wire fence, I would state in the year 1861, while a boy of ten summers, I was riding in a new section with my father; and noticing a new kind of fence to me, asked my father why the fence was made that way, with one board at the top and one board at the bottom, leaving a space about two feet wide, with two wires stretched at equal distance in the space, from post to post. My father said that the snow drifted very hard along there, and thus the wires would let the wind blow through, and not leave an eddy for the "now to drift. I said: "Father, let's build such a fence in front of our place, so you will not have so much snow to shovel." Father said: "All right." After a while, father drove the posts and put on most of the boards. I drove some nails and put on the wire; the wire was put on tight, so it would stay in place. All was well until the next spring, when every wire was broken. Needing counsel again, I asked father why the wires broke. He explained expansion and contraction. Having more of the same kind of wire, I doubled the wires and twisted them, and put them on again, and was ready for another winter. Meanwhile there were neighbors who let their hogs run in the highway. The hogs got a notion of jumping through, between the lower board and wire and destroying our garden. Being determined to kee;) the hogs out, I proceeded with my wire pliers and pieces of wire; inserted the pieces between the twisted wires, and wound the pieces arohnd one of the long wires, putting the pieces or barbs in about six inches apart, and cutting the ends off, leaving them as sharp as I could, with the pliers. The hogs got through a few times after the barbs were put in. However, the barbs had the desired effect, as the owner saw his hogs were getting terribly marked, and kept them at home. The abovedescribed fence stood beside a public highway for about fifteen years, and did good service. Adrian C. Latta. Friendship, N. Y. * III Ielegraph vs. Telephone Cor Train Dispatching. To the Editor of the Scientific American: Referring to the article by E. J. Burke, president of the Blake Signal and Manufacturing Company, on Telephone vs. Telegraph Train Orders, in your issue of October 12, I wish to state I do not agree with the method he advances for the dispatching of trains by the use of the telephone. Telephony as it is to-day is impractical as a means for dispatching trains. It is plain to one who has had experience in railroading and railroad telegraphy, that the teleJhone has no advantages over the telegraph, and the disadvantages are more in evidence. Among which are the following: The telephone is a slower method of transmitting an order or message than the telegraph, notwithstanding Mr. Burke's statement to the contrary. It is true that the dispatcher or operator could speak an order or message faster into a telephone transmitter than he could send it by telegraph; but as it is necessary that this be copied at the receiving end, it would be useless to talk at a faster rate than the recipient could copy; besides, it requires a good penman to write thirty words a minute and at the same time make an intelligible copy, such as is necessary. Owing to the inability of the telephone at times to transmit sounds perfectly, many words which sound similar could be easily misunderstood, and even when spelled out could also be misunderstood because of the likeness in sounds of letters, such as a. i. k' and d, e. b. etc. With these disadvantages alone, it would be impossible to copy correctly at this rate. It has been advanced that the telegraph operator is as liable to mistakes as the telephone operator, but we should remember that the former has spent years qualifying himself in the art of distinguishing sounds, while the conductor has not. Atmospheric disturbances and general line interferences are other disadvantages which would also be encountered. We must not lose sight of the fact that the telegraph operator is of necessity a more rapid and better copier than the conductor, owing to the nature of the work of the latter, and hence this would result in adding to the loss of time. We have yet to consider the impracticability of the telephone method for double-track work, in that it would be impossible for trains "on the run" to receive orders or messages. This stopping of trains to allow the conductor to receive telephonic instructions, would cause unnecessary congestion of traffic. Another objection is the difficulty sometimes encountered in starting trains owing to certain weather and grade conditions, which result in further delay. If we substitute the telephone for the telegraph, we would find it almost impossible for station agents, operators, or others, whose duties require them to be well posted on the movements of all trains, to furnish information regarding same to those requiring it. With the telegraph, when one operator reports to the dispatcher the "arrival," "departing," or "by" time of a train at his station or tower, all other operators may be cognizant of the fact; while with the telephone it would be practically impossible unless the operators kept the telephone receivers or "lugs" constantly to their ears. This would, of course, be out of the question. As thirty words a minute is only an average working speed of a telegraph line, while with the telephone it has been shown that it is impossible for that number of words to be correctly copied, therefore for this reason, and others presented, I can plainly see that the telegraph is a much q11icker and safer medium or method of dispatching trains than the telephone. R. H. Sawler, Principal, Boston Telegraph Institute. .Boston, Mass., October 17, 1907. quadruple Meteor. To the Editor of the ScieStific Arerican: The accompanying illustration shows very accurately a strange meteor which fell near Angelica, October 1, 1907. The balls of fire traveled rapidly in an oblique course, and when near the ground turned red and then disappeared. Since these remained a uniform distance apart, they seem to have been connected. Niagara Falls, . John W. HoGue. '('elephone vs. Telegraph Transmission of Train Orders. To the Editor of the Scientific American: I have read with much interest the articles written by F. H. Sidney and E. J. Burke as to the relative merits of the telephone and telegraph for the transmission of train orders. I would like to take exceptions to some of the statements made by Mr. Burke. If the telephone is a safer, better, and quicker method of handling train orders, why have several of our leading railroads that have tried the system returned to the telegraph? One drawback to the telephone is the ease with which a light electrical storm can put it out of commission; while such a storm does not affect the telegraph at all. As regards time, the plan for the conductor to go to a booth, answer a call, copy the order, repeat it to the dispatcher and get his O. K., and wait for the engineer to go through about the same performance. is impractical for two reasons: 1. It would consume entirely too much time. 2. The order given may affect one or a dozen trains, opposing the train for which the conductor in question receives the order; and according to standard rules, if his train is inferior to the opposing trains, all the conductors of opposing trains must repeat their orders before this one could get his order completed. The time required for this would vary in proportion to the number of opposing trains, which in itself would be prohibitive; while with the telegraph, as a usual thing, the orders are always ready for the conductor's signature upon arrival of his train, and can be delivered within one minute. if it be a "31" order, after his arrival; but if it be a "19" order, it would be delivered to the engineer and conductor without stopping or even slowing down his train. Again, when an order is given simultaneously to one or more offices, the order has to be repeated to the dispatcher, who with all offices addressed must check the order as repeated, thereby placing several checks against the possibility of an error in receipt of order, which could not be done by the telephone system. As to the telegraph being slow, and cumbersome in the transmission of messages, it is just the reverse. Let Mr. Burke take his pencil and write from thirty to thirty-five words per minute from dictation, as this is the usual rate of transmission by dispatchers, and see if there is anything slow about it. How much faster would a conductor CoP) an order from a telephone? How many conductors could copy a legible order at twenty-flve or even twenty words per minute? And r will say there are no words left out of an order that wouid give a better understanding of it. Now, I am an ordinary railroad telegrapher, not an expert, and still not a "ham," and my duties require me to copy a great many messages from our local 'phone. Therefore I feel competent to say that, of the two, the telegraph is much faster, more easily copied, and far less liable to error than the telephone; and anyone who has had any experience in copying from a 'phone knows how often it is almost impossible to distinguish separated letters and sometimes whole words; many times having to ask three or four times before getting it correctly, while the telegraph is ordinarily plain as print. Of course, occasionally we find a telegrapher who does not transmit plainly, just as we find persons who do not talk or write plainly; but they are exceptions. The simple fact that the railroads of this country are not using the telephone for train dispatching, seems to me to be conclusive proof that the telegraph is a better, safer, and quicker means of communication than the telephone. O. C. Knight, Telegrapher. Peebles, Ohio, October 13, 1907. . . Longitudinal Sleepers. To the Editor of the Scientific American: Kindly allow me to point out that the suggestions made by Mr. A. J. Allen in the Scientific American of the 21st ultimo in respect to the construction of railroads are very far from being new or original. What are known as "longitudinal sleepers" were in use on the Great Western Railway (of England) from the earliest days of its existence to the time of its conversion, some fifteen years ago, from the Brune' gage to the standard (4 feet 8%' inches) gage; in all, about fifty years. The engineers of that line evidently had good rea sons for doing away with the longitudinal sleepers and adopting instead cross-ties, or they would hardly have gone to the troubleinvolving great inconvenience and expenseof taking up and relaying several hundreds of miles of railroad track. But this is what was done. I am told that the great objection to the longitudinal sleeper is that the heavy locomotives used nowadays on passing onto a sleeper tilt it up at the opposite end, thus not only increasing the amount of resistance to be overcome and consequently lessening the relative power of the engine, but also making the upkeep of the track more expensive. I know from experience that the old Great Western broad-gage trains running over longitudinal sleepers were far more comfortable than the narrow-gage trains running over cross-ties are; but how far this might be due to their breadth or to the sleepers, and how far it might be advisable to adopt the longitudinal sleeper on American lines, where the "overhang" of the car is greater than on EngEsh ones, I do not know. T. C. L. Southport, England, October 2. 1907. The Current Supplement. The effect of burning coal gas on the air of our dwelling rooms, and the health of the occupants, is as old a subject as the use of coal gas itself. Still, Prof. Vivian B. Lewes, a well-known British gas engineer, throws a wonderful amount of new light upon the subject in an admirable article published in the current SI'ppLJo;mi'-St, No. 1661. The products and the amount of the products obtained from the distillation of soft wood are enumerated. Mr. J. H. Morrison contributes two articles, the one being the tenth installment of his treatise, "The Development of Armored War Vessels," and the other discussing Robert Fulton and the sidewheel steamboat. The most important technical article of the paper is one on floating cranes, in which the more important types are illustrated and described by diagrams and photographs. C. Vickers writes on the many methods of making solid copper castings. "Iron Hands" is the title of an article which gives much curious information. Hector Macpherson writes on the distribution of the stars. Large quarry Blast. One of the largest blasts ever fired in France was discharged recently at the quartzite quarries at Cherbourg, and is said to have displaced 120,000 tons of stone. A tunnel measuring 6 feet wide and 6 feet high was driven into the face of the cliff for a distance of 70 feet, and at its end two branch tunnels, each 20 feet long, were driven to the right and left respectively. These branches ended in chambers 40 feet apart and 70 feet from the face of the cliff, and measuring each 10 feet by 6 feet by 6 feet. The chambers were charged with 8% tons of blasting powder and 280 pounds of dynamite, and the blast was fired electrically. The quartzite obtained from this quarry finds much favor in England as a road material.
This article was originally published with the title "Correspondence"