Now that all the world travel by railways, it is a circumstance of universal interest to determine what influence railway traveling exerts upon the health of the community, and more particularly since a suspicion has arisen that the great rate at which an express train runs produces an injurious effect upon the mind. A paper upon this subject, read before the Royal Society by Dr. Smith, contains some curious information, according to the London Engineer's abstract of it. Dr. Ed. Smith, the author of the paper, is one of the physicians attached to the hospital lor consumption and diseases of the chest, at Brompton, England. The plan he adopted was to determine the effect of railway traveling upon the respiration and pulsation, on the principle that the wear of the system will be in proportion to the activity of those functions. Dr. Smith, therefore, traveled repeatedly in each of the three classes of English railway carriages, and upon the engine, and at various rates of speed, and the influence on the quantity of air breathed was ascertained by the use of a spirometer. The greater part of the experiments were made upon the broad gage, but some were prosecuted on the narrow gage. The result of seventy-three series of experiments went to show that the greatest wear on the system occurred whilst sitting upon the engine. The precise average increase of air inspired was about 250 cubic inches per minute on the engine, 200 cubic inches in the second class, and 150 cubic inches in the first class; but, on many occasions, the quantity of air breathed in a first class carriage was scarcely more than would have been breathed when sitting quietly at home rocking in an easy chair. Upon the whole, the wear of system may be be better understood by stating, that, five hours of railway traveling in a first class carriage are equal to six hours quietly sitting at home ; or upon the engine, to eight hours. As compared with the old coach traveling, it is vastly lessened taking distance for distance. In reference to the speed of the train, Dr. Smith found that the greatest wear was not with the greatest speed of fifty-five miles per hour, but at a rate of from thirty to forty miles per hour. The effect varied much at K the same speed in different carriages of the Ssame class ; but there was the greatest conqstancy in the first class and the least upon the engine. The general expression of the results of the inquiry was, that the quantity of air breathed was as the oscillation of the" body and not as the speed, except so far as that -speed and inequality of road tended to induce greater oscillation. It was rendered very evident that traveling in our days is very far less an exercise than it was in the days of our forefathers. It was also proved that of all modes of traveling, none is so inexpensive to the system, so fitted to the necessities oF invalids, as that of British first class railway carriages ; and that traveling in private carriages on the common roads, hour for hour, and distance for distance, induces a far greater amount of wear. This is a very cheering result, as showing that one of the greatest improvements of the age is tending not only to the comfort but to the health of the community. In our country there is neither first, second nor third class railway carriages—all are equal on the train. The first class carriages in England are for the superlatively rich, and are very comfortable, but not much more so than some of the carriages on our railroads. Railway traveling in England is smoother than with us ; there is therefore less oscillation on the railroads in that country, consequently there is more wear of the body in traveling on our railroads. The improvement in ease and ipeed is incalculable in comparison with traveling on the old stage coach.
This article was originally published with the title "Wear of the System by Railway Traveling" in Scientific American 13, 36, 283 (May 1858)