The railway over Mont Cenis, which is a temporary method of transit only until the tunnel is completed, is called the American railway, its inventor, Mr. Pell, who built the one up Mount Washington, being styled an American ; and we were promised a ride in real American cars. The time of starting was 7 A. M. There was a great crowd of all sorts at the sta-' tion, a lively fight for tickets at the box office (for the perfect French system has not reached the other side of the Alps), and then we waited till half-past 7 before we were let out to the cars. The train ready to go consisted of an engine and two first-class passenger carriages. The carriages were about half the length of ours at home, with seats on each side, so that passengers face each other as in an omnibus, and with windows at the sides from which it is difficult to see out when one is squeezed in tight on the seat with his back to them. The cars are also very narrow, the track being only three feet six or seven inches gage, so that they are not much more comfortable than an omnibus. The fare, first class, was twenty-five, second class, twenty-two francs, from Susa to St. Michel, the time occupied in the passage being from four to jive hours. ? The locomotives of these trains are small, compact, and [powerful; their trucks, as well as those of the carriages, set ?well in the middle, so that they can turn very short curves. The track has three rails, one elevated in the centre. Beside its ordinary driving wheels, the locomotive has two horizontal wheels which press this third rail on either side, and it is by this strong traction that the train is pulled up. The carriages have corresponding who :1s for tho center rail, but their only use is to keep the train on the track. Both cars and locomotive have double sets of brakes, one for the ordinary and one for the central rail, so that they can screw the cars to the track with the grip of a vise, an! render it almost impossible for the carriages to run away. There is every precaution against accident; and I should only fear the snow storms of winter, and perhaps an avalanche in some places high up, which are not roofed in. We bqgan to climb the hill directly we left the station, exactly an a carriage drawn by horses would do. In fact, our track ran parallel to the carriage road all the way, was just as steep, and made the short turns of the latter. Our train seemed to be a huge live reptile with legs and claws, that crawled up by its own power; it litei-ally dug right up hill, and we felt ourselves mounting-, and, looking back, we could see the steep incline. On ihj* *rves,' wfeere the wheels got a good grip of the rail, we moved with ease and more rapidly than on a straight pull, where the locomotive evidently labored more, and we rose more sle"1; The steepest grade on the road is one foot in nine feet, but this is only for short distances. The rise of one in twelve is more common ; and the least (of which any note is taken) is one in twenty-five. The curves are so short as to be startling. We seemed to turn in a space as small as an ordinary wagon could. The shortest curves are on a radius of only 120 feet; that is, our train would run round a circle only 240 feet in diameter. Our track was all the time in sight, behind and before, running along the steep hillsides, and constantly doubling, like a compressed letter S. You march up with triumphant ease, rising among the grand snow peaks like a conqueror. 'Fhe valleys open behind you, with .their rivers and brown villages, the great panorama expanding with evesy revolution of the wheels. You skirt precipices and look down upon nestling villages and green fields ; you push your way up among the snow regions, the stone huts of the begging, half naked, dirty peasants, and the refuge houses of the road ; are whisked round rocky headlands, through tunnels and covered ways, over deep gullies : and tracks of avalanches, rising always higher and higher, as by no expenditure of strength, into a purer air, among peaks of virgin snow, among the silent summits of the enduring Alps. The day was superb, with blue sky and fine air, and it was so warm, even in the snow regions, that I needed no overcoat. Our view was, for the most part, uninterruped and magnificent. The summit level is about 6,400 feet above the sea, and before we reached it we passed into a covered way, built of wood at the sides and arched with iron, and were immured in this, in tho ascent, descent, and on the level forfour or five miles, I should think ; dark, unpleasant passages, madeworse by the pmoke and fumes of the locomotive. These covered ways are absolutely necessary as a protection against avalanches in many places and against the falls of snow for long distances. Through tho chinks of the boards I could see the snow piled up high along the way. The summit station is in one of these long sheds, and is gloomy enough. Wo made the descent more rapidly than the ascent, swinging round the short bends with considerable velocity. The brakes were jammed hard down until I could Smell the odor caused by the friction. On the descent I saw tho frowning forts of Brumont d' EssilloHj on peaks high above the abyss through which the Arc foams and roars, connected with the road by a thread of a suspension bridge over fhe gorge, called the Pont du Diable. The forts are being demolished now, under the agreement between France and Italy. Lower down, and about ten miles tip .the mountain from St. Michel, we caught sight of the rubbish at the opening of the great tunnel, which entefw'flip mmftrtain sd, Fovifiionii, It Is ia tie 8J miles long, and it is expected to be completed in'1871. It is, no doubt, a great and most interesting bore, but if I desired a pleasure trip, I think I should prefer the raid of Mr. Fell over the mountain to this hole through it. I talked with a locomotive driver on our train (by the way an Englishman, as they all are on this road), who insisted that Mr. Fell is not an American. He knew him well, lived near him in the north of England, and said he was not an engineer at all, except so far as this invention was concerned, but a dissenting clergyman. He is certainly a dissenter from the ordinary style of railways. The engineer was an excellent specimen of an intelligent, illiterate English mechanic, with a drawl and nasal twang in his speech that a Cape Cod man might envy ; and he gave me a great deal of valuable information about the road, which I might here impart, if your readers cared for valuable information, which I suppose they do not. He was takin' a day h'off for pleasure, he said, and goin' down to see the work on the big bore. 'Twas a nasty bit of work this of running twice over the road daily, as he did, and only getting twelve pound a month for the job, especially in the winter, with the snow and beastly wind. There had been only six days in the past winter when they couldn't run on account of snow, and then the passengers had been carried over the break on sledges. He explained to me the construction of the locomotive, the application of its power, the working of the brakes, and the whole thing, so that I think I can build a road out to West Hartford, over Prospect Hill and to the Tower, if anybody desires, when I return. Sealed proposals, inclosing stamp and photograph, can be left on the Probate steps. I said to the engineer that I supposed it impossible for the locomotive, with three rails, to get off the track. Well, he said, his machine got off once last winter. The fact was, that the t"ling got the upper hand of him, and ran away with him. Hepoke of it as if it were a horse. He was running with the locomotive alone, takin' her down the mountain, not mindin' exactly, when he found he had got on so much steam that he couldn't hold her. He was goin' down the one in nine, round them ere nasty curves, when she started. He shut off, and jammed down all the breaks, reserve and all, but she only appeared to go the faster. Away she went, like the-(so he said), whisking round, and at last bounded off and went slam ag'in a rock. " If she'd a gone over the ravine on t'other side, I wouldn't be here to tell ye of it." It was nearly one o'clock when we ran into St. Michel, and, passing the humbug of a custodi house, took comfortable cars for Lyons. 0. D. W. in Hartford Oourant.
This article was originally published with the title "Fell's Railway over Mont Cenis" in Scientific American 20, 24, 371 (June 1869)