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David Gwyn - Tredegar, Newcastle, Baltimore: The Swivel Truck as Paradigm of Technology Transfer - Technology and Culture 45:4 Technology and Culture 45.4 (2004) 778-794

Tredegar, Newcastle, Baltimore

The Swivel Truck as Paradigm of Technology Transfer

Claims and counterclaims of precedence of invention were once the stock-in-trade of technical history. Not only were engineers' professional reputations and fortunes at stake but aggressive nationalism also stood to lose or gain. Even now, it is the nation-state, whether initiating or receiving, that focuses scholarly studies of technology transfer.1 These have concentrated on industries in which governments restrict the movement of labor and devices—and perhaps also actively support industrial espionage. In contrast, studies of individual technologies are more likely to emphasize how they were freely observed and diffused. Innovations in ship design, for instance, were adapted at the governmental level by navy yards and from creek to creek by shipwrights.2 The dynamics of transfer clearly varied considerably from one type of technology to another, and the scale might be local or regional as well as national. Local economic factors might ensure that diffusion was not uniform within the national group. Frederick Gamst [End Page 778] developed this point in his study of early British-American railroad technology transfer: "Diffusion is neither ensured, nor, when it occurs, slavishly imitative. Specific elements of the technology and operations of British railroads not useful for the particular conditions in America—such as the limited amount of investment funds and the sparse and dispersed population—were not fully adopted." Gamst categorizes railroad technology transfer from the "mother culture" under four types: first, the movement of graphics, including writing, drawings, and diagrams; second, the personal observation and experience of visiting engineers; third, migration of technicians; and fourth, diffusion of machines, including models.3

John White Jr. and others have also extensively researched railroad technology transfer from Britain in the early period, yet detailed accounts of particular aspects of this process can still add to our understanding both of railroad history and of the dynamics of transfer. Railroads were there for all to see, simple enough in conception but calling for significant levels of capital investment. Their development reflects the work of both artisans and college-educated engineers. Furthermore, we now know much more about the minutiae of development and about the important regional dimensions within British technical cultures. This article offers just such an account, concerning the transfer of the swivel truck or bogie—the separate wheeled subframes found on both locomotives and cars, attached to a main frame or platform by kingpins or the equivalent—during the period from 1797 to the mid-1830s.

* * *

"It is generally believed that the railroad system was imported into this country from England full grown, but such is not the case." So wrote Horatio Allen to William Brown, who added his own explanation: "There was this difficulty in the way of introducing an English engine upon an American road: In England the roads were virtually straight or with very long curves; but in America they were full of curves."4 The American railroad system was, by this reckoning, only a very partial transfer of technology from England; the topography and natural resources of the United States, as well as the different amounts of capital available, called for different answers to both civil engineering and mechanical engineering problems. Among these answers, it has been claimed, was the swivel truck. [End Page 779]

Yet at least one American authority suggested that the swivel truck was not an American invention. Zerah Colburn wrote in 1871 that it had been recommended by Robert Stephenson to a deputation of American engineers in 1828.5 This might seem unlikely, in that the swivel truck did not form part of the Stephenson traction system.6 The Stephenson railroad had to that point only operated through comparatively undemanding territory—the low hills of northeast England, where it evolved from the wooden colliery wagon way, and the farmlands of Lancashire. There had been no need to negotiate mountain bluffs and deep valleys such as faced American railroad pioneers, and consequently little need to develop rolling stock adapted for tight curves. However, the Stephenson railroad, though fast gaining ground, was by no means the only type of rail system to be found in the United Kingdom. Some of the others had been driven through much more difficult terrain, which posed entirely different technical problems. The South Wales valleys were home to a system of sinuous plateways (L-section rails for flangeless wheels) that evolved a swivel-truck design some time before its appearance in the United States. I will suggest that both these major United Kingdom railroad engineering cultures were instrumental in the adoption of the swivel truck in America, although this does not preclude the possibility that knowledge of the technology may have crossed the Atlantic by other channels as well.7

The swivel-truck principle was propounded and put into practice over many years by William Chapman (1749-1832), a civil and mechanical engineer based in the northeast of England. In 1797 he outlined a rail-borne cradle on a canal incline that "should move on eight wheels, four on each side, and resting on two axes passing through the middle of parallel bars connecting each pair of wheels"—equalizing beams to accommodate changes in gradient, not swivel trucks to allow for changes in alignment.8 His locomotive patent of 1812 specified either a trailing swivel truck or a double [End Page 780] swivel truck.9 Three experimental locomotives were built to that patent. The first, which hauled itself on a chain along the Heaton wagon way between 1813 and 1815, made use of a four-wheel swivel truck and a fixed axle.10 Next was an eight-wheel joint chain and adhesion locomotive on two subframes, which ran on the Lambton wagon way from 1814 to 1816, followed by an eight-wheel adhesion locomotive, also running on two subframes for the Croft wagon way in Whitehaven, designed in 1814 and supplied two years later.11 Chapman also advocated eight-wheel passenger cars. In 1813 he suggested "long carriages . . . placed on two separate sets of wheels, 8 in all" for a proposed Sheffield railway, and by 1825 he had gone so far as to suggest the eight-wheel dining car.12 Even so, it is not clear whether he was thinking of swivel trucks or bogies on a horizontal pivot, but it is the latter that are illustrated (fig. 1) in Thomas Tredgold's 1825 Practical Treatise on Railroads. These show a concern, in the absence of springs, to spread the load on the track while making sure that as many of the wheels as possible remain in contact with the running surface of the rail.13

 Subassemblies on a horizontal pivot. (Thomas Tredgold, A Practical Treatise on Railroads [London, 1825], 179.)
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Figure 1
Subassemblies on a horizontal pivot. (Thomas Tredgold, A Practical Treatise on Railroads [London, 1825], 179.)
[End Page 781]

Chapman may also have inspired the conversion of William Hedley's locomotives for Wylam colliery—Puffing Billy, Wylam Dilly, and Lady Mary (fig. 2)—to eight-wheelers around 1815. A contemporary account speaks of one of them as "an engine placed upon the bottom of two waggons resembling coal waggons which bottoms are placed upon 8 coal waggon wheels," leaving it unclear whether these frames could swivel or slide or whether they were fixed.14 Nicholas Wood claimed, accurately or not, that the trucks could slide laterally.15 With all these early locomotives, part of the concern was to spread the load over as much of the flimsy wooden or cast-iron track as possible, but the three Wylam locomotives were unusual for the northeast of England in that they ran on a plateway.

 William Hedley's Wylam colliery locomotives, as adapted to eight-wheelers. (Nicholas Wood, Practical Treatise on Rail-Roads and Interior Communication [London, 1825], plate VI.)
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Figure 2
William Hedley's Wylam colliery locomotives, as adapted to eight-wheelers. (Nicholas Wood, Practical Treatise on Rail-Roads and Interior Communication [London, 1825], plate VI.)

The plateway was a technology that barely touched the United States, yet from the 1790s to the 1820s this unsatisfactory system was the dominant technical form, particularly on the extensive networks laid to serve the ironworks and mines of South Wales.16 Other than Wylam, the collieries of [End Page 782] northeast England remained loyal to edge rails derived from the first wooden wagon ways of the seventeenth century, and it was this technology that in the 1820s would be triumphantly vindicated by the Stephensons and brought forward into the age of wrought-iron rails and locomotive traction.

Plateways pose entirely different problems than edge rails. Both suffer from the problem that curved rails try to bend rigid-wheeled stock, just as surely as the stock straightens out curved rails. But the problems of plateways are compounded by the fact that wheels run on what is effectively a flat cast-iron beam, the brittleness of which is only partly alleviated by the vertical flange. There is consequently every need to spread the load over consecutive plates. Furthermore, whereas on an edge rail the conical profile of the wheels rather than the flange does most of the guiding, and also obviates some of the problems of fixed axle sets, on a plateway the flange guides, and constantly batters, the wheels. The problem can be to some extent avoided by the use of broader treads on curves, but this necessitates individual castings.17 Plateways were therefore only suitable for comparatively slow speeds and could not accommodate long-wheelbase vehicles. It seems likely that as a practical and long-term solution to the problem of carrying heavy or bulky loads, the swivel truck evolved in an ad hoc way from the need to transport loads long enough to form platforms themselves, and it seems certain that this occurred in South Wales.18

The introduction of rolling mills in South Wales ironworks created a need for wagons capable of carrying comparatively long loads on tightly curved plateways. The Tredegar Iron Company introduced a four-wheel vehicle capable of carrying six tons when the mill was installed in 1807, and an etching of Penydarren ironworks in 1811 shows two horses pulling what may have been very similar long-wheelbase four-wheelers, each loaded with iron bars.19 A painting of Dowlais ironworks circa 1817 (fig. 3) shows what may be the next stage: a four-wheeled plateway vehicle with a swiveling bolster. The painting depicts two such bolster wagons loaded with iron bars in the middle distance, though it does not show how they were attached to each other—whether by a chain or, more probably, a drawbar. Evan Powell, Tredegar's chronicler, though unspecific as to dates, remarks that something similar came into being in his own neck of the woods, perhaps still without a deck to which the trucks were permanently attached. "Small low carriages were also constructed for the purpose of conveying rails, &c.; two or three of these carriages were placed together under a length of rails, [End Page 783] and were connected together with iron hooks."20 The likelihood is that these various concerns, all operating within ten miles of each other, rapidly evolved similar methods.

 Thomas Horner, Rolling Mills, watercolor, circa 1817. (Courtesy Glamorgan Record Office.)
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Figure 3
Thomas Horner, Rolling Mills, watercolor, circa 1817. (Courtesy Glamorgan Record Office.)

The next stage, the use of swivel trucks permanently attached to a deck by a bolt or kingpin, is marked by an 1821-22 painting by John Thomas of trains carrying coal from Tredegar.21 Two four-horse teams are shown hauling trains of nine loaded vehicles, made up variously of eight-wheelers mounted on two subframes and twelve-wheelers on three subframes, plus one four-wheeler.22 The sharp curves on the Monmouthshire plateways make it certain that these were swivel trucks; in the case of the twelve-wheelers it is probable that they anticipate the Cleminson principle, in which the central truck can slide laterally and is attached by a drawbar to leading and trailing trucks pivoting on the deck. [End Page 784]

Tredegar's example was heeded elsewhere in South Wales and the English borders. In September 1822 the specification for a new weighing machine on the Hay Railway stipulated that it be "sufficient for weighing double tram waggons," suggesting that one of the haulers was following Tredegar's lead.23 Neath Abbey Ironworks prepared plans for a powered swivel-truck 0-4-0+0-4-0 rack-and-adhesion locomotive for Dowlais in 1831 and built a powered swivel truck adhesion locomotive (fig. 4) for the Rhymney Iron Company seven years later.24 Possibly the "carriages" stipulated for the Brecon Forest tramroad in 1834 ran on swivel trucks.25

 Neath Abbey Ironworks locomotive for the Rhymney Iron Company. (Engineering, 15 November 1867, 456.)
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Figure 4
Neath Abbey Ironworks locomotive for the Rhymney Iron Company. (Engineering, 15 November 1867, 456.)

Stone-carrying railways in the southwest of England may have been [End Page 785] going through a similar evolutionary process. The first train on the Haytor granite tramway in Devon in 1820 was, in the words of a local poet, a "twelve-wheeled car" pulled by no fewer than nineteen horses. However, it is possible that the versifier, never having seen a train before, saw three wagons as one. A later history states that the "trucks . . . were merely modified road waggons."26 A still later source describes the tramway's rolling stock as made up of "wagons . . . about 13 ft in length, with a wheelbase of 10 ft. The wheels, 2 ft in diameter and 3 in. wide on tread, were loose on the axle."27 The Severn and Wye Railway made provision for large blocks of stone to be carried on more than one car in its bylaws of 1811, and was running eight-wheel cars by 1841. Several survived in use on the Bicslade branch into the 1940s, one of the last plateways to see service in Britain; the remains of one vehicle, complete with wheels and a deck, survived partly submerged long enough for measurements to be taken in 1961. This confirmed an eight-wheel flatbed in which the load was taken through iron drawbars in the swivel trucks themselves and a connecting link between them, in which there was a limited amount of play to allow for curves (fig. 5). Clearly the concern, here at least, was to spread the load on the tram plates rather than to negotiate sharp curves.28

 A model plateway vehicle from the Severn and Wye, constructed by Alex Pope from a part-surviving example. (Photo courtesy of Ian Pope.)
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Figure 5
A model plateway vehicle from the Severn and Wye, constructed by Alex Pope from a part-surviving example. (Photo courtesy of Ian Pope.)
[End Page 786]

By 1821, then, swivel trucks constituted a typical technology in Wales and possibly elsewhere in the United Kingdom, and an exceptional technology in the northeast of England. There is, as we shall see, one strong, though indirect, link that connects the Tredegar rolling stock with early American users of the swivel truck.

The first recorded proposal to use independent subassemblies (though not yet a truck system as such) on a railed vehicle in the United States appears to have been made in December 1826. The committee appointed to examine the proposal by James Renwick (1792-1863) of Columbia College for an inclined plane on the Morris Canal in New Jersey recommended an improvement in the means by which the floating caissons were to be transported: "The committee are of opinion, that this defect [the possibility of the wheels supporting unequal proportions of the weight of the caisson on imperfectly laid track] may be partially obviated by a contrivance similar to that which may be observed in the arrangements of the wheels of some of the locomotive steam engines of Great Britain; viz. the wheels may be attached, in pairs, to a connecting beam, which will support the carriage by a pivot attached to its centre, on which it will traverse."29 This was what Chapman had suggested in 1797, but the reference to locomotives indicates that the committee was aware of, but had misunderstood, Nicholas Wood's account of the alterations to Puffing Billy, Wylam Dilly and Lady Mary, itself possibly inaccurate. Whatever device was put into effect when the canal opened, von Gerstner describes a truck system here in 1838: "special 8-wheeled cradle cars are employed . . . each set of 4 wheels is set in a special iron frame that moves in its middle along a horizontal axis. . . . By this means, the axles of the four pairs of wheels can change their reciprocal position without having the slightest effect on the body of the cradle car."30

The idea for an eight-wheel passenger car first appeared in print in the United States in 1829, when Richard P. Morgan of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, proposed the construction of what would have been a massive two-floor car, with berths on the lower part and a promenade above, covered by an awning. The "captain" was to have a cupola lookout, and the car was shown coupled to a locomotive. It is possible, though it cannot be confirmed, that Morgan patented the idea even earlier, in 1827.31 He perhaps saw the opportunity to apply to rail travel the luxuries that were becoming [End Page 787] available on riverboats, and the combination of onboard services for passengers and swivel trucks suggests that he might even have been familiar with Chapman's ideas. In 1828 or 1829 Joseph Smith of Philadelphia tried to interest the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in a long rectangular passenger car, of which nothing more is known. Richard Imlay, who built four-wheel cars for the B&O and various other lines, later claimed that in 1829 he had suggested long-bodied cars on eight wheels to the directors of the Newcastle and Frenchtown Railroad, who were only won over in 1834.32 Imlay was not to produce eight-wheelers until 1832.33 In 1829 Ephraim Morris also obtained a patent for eight-wheel cars, though as John White observes, American patent law was so liberal at the time that it is a surprise that the wheel was not patented.34

Evidently, knowledge of the technology first reached the United States through the movement of graphics, but crucial to its development was a series of visits to northeast England and to the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in the late 1820s. A dozen American civil engineers visited Britain to learn more about railway technology in the period 1825-31, and though none, so far as is known, visited South Wales, it is highly likely that some of them heard how Tredegar coal was then being transported.35 In December 1828 Samuel Homfray of Tredegar, "having heard of the wonderful travelling engines at Newcastle which were reducing the cost of haulage by 50 per cent," sent his engineer Thomas Ellis and his mining agent Theophilus Jones with a list of questions for Robert Stephenson. After traveling by coach for six days, they arrived at Killingworth to inspect the locomotives, a visit that resulted in an order from Tredegar.36 It was then, according to Zerah Colburn, that Stephenson recommended the swivel-truck principle to a deputation of visiting American engineers.37 Jonathan Knight, William Gibbs McNeill, and George Washington Whistler of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad had been sent over to Newcastle in October 1828, and spent five months consulting with Stephenson, Timothy Hackworth, Nicholas Wood, and Benjamin Thompson, as well as visiting Killingworth colliery, the Stockton and Darlington Railway, and the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. These were no Jamesian encounters between brash American engineers and old-world sophistication; the suave West Point graduate Whistler [End Page 788] in particular was disdainful of the ill-educated Englishmen he was obliged to meet, but there is, unfortunately, no record of any discussion with the two Welshmen.38 But it is remarkable that soon after Ellis and Jones' visit, swivel-truck cars first began to appear in a Stephenson context in the United Kingdom, and then in the United States.

At this stage an individual appeared who was to have a profound effect on American railroad practice. Ross Winans was a farmer in Sussex County, New Jersey, who turned up in Baltimore with a small working model of a car equipped with what he called "friction wheels"—in effect, a primitive roller bearing. The short-lived enthusiasm of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad for this device meant that Winans was also sent over to England to confer with the Stephensons and to witness the construction of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway.39 Here he again succeeded in interesting a railway management committee in friction wheels, which he applied to a hand-operated trolley that he paraded at the Rainhill trials.40 More significantly, Winans may have had a chance to see a swivel-truck car under construction and in service; it is possible that he might even have had a hand in its design. This was the sumptuous 32-foot, eight-wheel car provided for the Duke of Wellington on the day the Liverpool and Manchester Railway opened in September 1830 (fig. 6). The axles are grouped in pairs toward the end of the frame, and though there is nothing in the Liverpool and Manchester Railway papers to confirm details of its construction, it is at least a strong possibility that the design was the result of discussions between Stephenson and the Tredegar men.41 If it ran on swivel trucks, it was a one-off; when the L&M found itself carrying long lengths of timber, it opted for separate bolster wagons rather than for swivel-truck flat cars.42

On his return to the United States, Winans, by now an assistant engineer on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, became an enthusiastic advocate of [End Page 789] swivel-truck cars. They were first used to transport freight. One authority suggests that the first example came about through an ad hoc use of two gondolas by contractors carrying bridge timbers in April or May 1830—much as they had evolved in South Wales. However, by the latter part of that year flour cars derived from Liverpool and Manchester Railway practice were being used as swivel trucks in eight-wheel firewood cars, soon followed by open-sided eight-wheelers carrying hay, barrels, and cattle.43 Though the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad began passenger service with Imlay four-wheel cars, when steam passenger haulage began in July 1831 the inaugural train included "the large double-car Columbus," about 24 feet long.44 Both Winans and Conduce Gatch, the B&O master carpenter, claimed credit for the design. Drawings made in connection with Winans's patent suit confirm that the Columbus ran on swivel trucks, with the coupling pin at each end mounted on a member projecting from the truck frame.45

 Isaac Shaw, The Opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, showing the eight-wheel car built for the Duke of Wellington. (Courtesy of the Manchester Central Library, Local Studies Department.)
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Figure 6
Isaac Shaw, The Opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, showing the eight-wheel car built for the Duke of Wellington. (Courtesy of the Manchester Central Library, Local Studies Department.)

It was soon joined by others. At the opening of the Frederick branch on 1 December 1831, one of the cars may have run on swivel trucks; in any event, the local paper described it as "In shape and general appearance . . . more like a house on wheels than a travelling vehicle."46 The Winchester followed [End Page 790] in 1832, made up of three stagecoach-style bodies, and the Dromedary in 1834, in which four stagecoach bodies were carried on a drop frame with an overhead truss.47 There was also a Sea-Serpent and a Washington.48 The cars built for the Washington branch in 1835, however, with the platforms at each end, set the pattern for future American passenger transport. Their swivel trucks were equipped with steel leaf springs, and were attached to the body with rose bolts.49

By the time Winans attempted to patent the application it had become a matter of considerable moment, as other railways were then extensively using the swivel-truck principle. The story of his twenty years' legal struggle has been told elsewhere; as John White puts it, "The history of railroads was thoroughly investigated from their origin both in the United States and England. Every old workshop was searched for plans and drawings . . . every venerable engineer and machinist was questioned."50 Ultimately the Supreme Court decided against Winans, on the grounds that before he took out his patent Gridley Bryant (1792-1870) had been using eight-wheel articulated cars on the three-mile Granite Railway, often referred to as the Quincy Railroad. This had been built in 1826 to transport granite from quarries to a landing on the Neponset river in Norfolk County, Massachusetts. Though its first cars were built like farm wagons, in 1828 Bryant started building smaller four-wheel cars and soon discovered that stones of up to 10 tons could be carried on a timber bridge spanning two of the cars. Indeed, in 1834 stones up to 64 tons for the Boston courthouse were carried on a framework mounted on no fewer than four cars.51 The diagrams published in connection with Winans's court case do not make it clear whether these were all held on the cars by their own weight or whether the platforms were joined by kingpins—that is, whether they were, in fact, true swivel trucks.52 Though it has been suggested that Bryant's wagons were built without reference to existing British prototypes, there remains the possibility of direct influence from the stone-carrying railways of England, possibly even from the "twelve-wheeled car" and the Haytor tramway.53 Or [End Page 791] perhaps we should look further back into Bryant's own career; he had been a carpenter's apprentice in Boston at the time of the construction and operation of the Beacon Hill railroad of 1805.54 Though the Quincy in turn influenced Baltimore and Ohio Railroad practice in some respects, it is unlikely that Winans's enthusiasm for eight-wheel cars was in any way affected by developments on the Quincy.55

Winans made little effort to apply the principle to the locomotives he built from 1835 onward, preferring to construct all-coupled designs, culminating in the "camel"-type locomotive in 1848.56 John B. Jervis appears to have been the first to apply the technology to locomotives in the United States, at much the same time it appeared on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad's cars. Jervis himself explicitly stated that he was not the originator of the locomotive truck and that it had been derived from British practice—from Hedley's locomotives in their eight-wheel phase as illustrated in Wood's 1825 Practical Treatise on Rail-Roads and Interior Communication in General (which Jervis clearly assumed did run on swivel trucks, whatever Wood himself suggested). He and Horatio Allen, his assistant on the Delaware and Hudson Canal, spent the summers of 1830 and 1831 together at Albany, where they discussed the options—though it may well also be significant that Allen was one of the other engineers who had made his way to England, arriving in Liverpool on 15 April 1828 and beating a path to Newcastle.57

Allen's answer to the need for a light and flexible locomotive followed Chapman in that it was based on swiveling power trucks, though the four 2-2-2-2s he constructed for the South Carolina Railroad also anticipated the Fairlie patent in being double ended. They incorporated other unusual features as well, such as two boiler barrels at each end, side by side, and a single cylinder for each truck. Allen's concern was to spread the weight of the locomotive as much as possible on his ill-considered trestle formation. The first of these entered traffic on 24 February 1832.58 [End Page 792]

Jervis's answer was less radical but more enduring. The 4-2-0 locomotive Experiment, later renamed Brother Jonathan, built by the West Point Foundry to his design for the Mohawk and Hudson Railroad in 1831, was effectively the prototype of the distinctively American locomotives that came after. Baldwin and other builders soon followed his example.59 Some continued to be ordered from Newcastle. In 1833 Robert Stephenson built a very similar 4-2-0 to Jervis's plans, the Davy Crockett for the Saratoga and Schenectady Railroad, with which the Mohawk and Hudson connected. A similar Stephenson locomotive for the Mohawk and Hudson followed in 1834. Three 4-2-0s for the South Carolina were built in 1835, and in 1839 Congress recorded thirty-five Stephenson locomotives in the United States. But thereafter Newcastle built few more for the American export market.60 Truck locomotives were in fact going in the other direction; between 1838 and 1842 one hundred Norris 4-2-0s were exported, seventeen of them to England, others to Italy, France, and Austria, as well as some Baldwins to Austria and Cuba, while Eastwick and Harrison relocated to St. Petersburg in 1843.61

By the late 1830s the truck was accepted technological practice in the United States, as a component of the locomotive, the passenger car, or the freight car, and it remains accepted practice today.

* * *

The swivel truck and the eight-wheel car had their origins in the British Isles, rather than the United States of America. Knowledge of the idea flowed from one to the other through different information channels, undoubtedly including graphics and writing, also quite possibly the migration of craftsmen. But the clearest evidence points to a succession of individual engineers who, in their different cultures, made the idea a practical proposition. The eight-wheel car was almost certainly first used systematically as a means of carrying substantial loads on the plateways of South Wales, where it evolved in an ad hoc fashion from earlier methods of carrying wrought-iron bars. That it should have made its way to the United States does not reflect any direct links between South Wales and America, but rather the centrality of Newcastle in the evolution of railway technology [End Page 793] in this period and the readiness of the Stephensons to disseminate rather than conceal developments, despite the fact that the swivel truck did not then form a component of the Stephenson traction system.

In this instance, the movement of ideas between national or supranational groups needs to be understood in terms of their movement within regional and local technical cultures; transatlantic technology transfer is regional technology transfer writ large. The American visitors' opportunity to learn about the swivel truck in 1828-29 came about largely by chance, with the arrival of the two Welshmen from Tredegar, the representatives of a technical culture that perhaps had less in common with Newcastle than Newcastle had with Baltimore. The enthusiastic adoption and development of the eight-wheel car in the United States would not have been long delayed, since the necessary conditions were in place.62 But it is likely that this chance meeting inspired the crucial earliest phase of experimentation on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, the "Railroad University of the United States."

The adoption of the swivel truck also illustrates why a technological system is rarely simply duplicated in another culture. To Frederick Gamst's point that diffusion is selective we can add that components that had already become peripheral in the initiating culture might find a future in the recipient culture. As the stagecoach vanished from English turnpikes, it came into its own, suitably adapted, in the United States, Australia, and South Africa, where it lasted into the twentieth century. In the case of the swivel truck, the technology not only survived in the recipient culture but eventually made its way back whence it came. Though the Stephenson traction system won the day in the 1830s, components of the technology that it superseded were not only to find a new lease of life in the coming dispensation, but were in fact to alter it profoundly.

Dr. Gwyn is an independent archaeological consultant and a part-time lecturer at the University of Wales, Bangor. He is editor of Industrial Archaeology Review. He thanks the members of the Railway and Canal Historical Society's Tramroad Group, who have discussed the origins of the swivel truck in the context of early railways in Britain; the extent to which this article has profited from their researches will be clear from the notes. The author owes a particular debt of gratitude to Michael Bailey, Adrian Ettinger, Andy Guy, Jim Rees, Paul Reynolds, John Ransom, Frederick Gamst, and, above all, Michael Lewis. He also thanks John H. White for reminding him of the perennial truth that whereas some engineers may haunt libraries—John B. Jervis among them—the shop-floor culture is entirely different.


1. R. J. Ballon, "The Acquisition of Technology by Non-Initiating Countries: ICOHTEC Symposium, Pont-à-Mousson, June 29-July 4, 1970," Technology and Culture 12 (1971): 217-27. For more recent examples, see David Jeremy, Transatlantic Industrial Revolution (Cambridge, Mass., 1981), and J. R. Harris, Industrial Espionage and Technology Transfer: Britain and France in the Eighteenth Century (Aldershot, Hants., 2000).

2. D. R. MacGregor, Merchant Sailing Ships, 1775-1815: Sovereignty of Sail (London, 1985), 77-231.

3. Frederick C. Gamst, "The Transfer of Pioneering British Railroad Technology to North America," in Proceedings of the Durham Early Railways Conference, 1998, ed. Andy Guy and Jim Rees (London, 2001), 252-55. See also John H. White, "Old Debts and New Visions: The Interchange of Ideas in Railway Engineering" in Common Roots—Separate Branches: Railway History and Preservation, ed. Rob Shorland-Ball (London, 1994), 65-87.

4. William H. Brown, The History of the First Locomotives in America (New York, 1871), chap. 19.

5. Zerah Colburn, Locomotive Engineering and the Mechanism of Railways (London, 1871), 96.

6. Though, of course, the Stephensons made use of the subframe when carrying out contracts from America, starting with an order from the Saratoga and Schenectady Railroad in 1833. J. G. H. Warren, A Century of Locomotive Building by Robert Stephenson and Co. (Newton Abbot, 1970), 305.

7. What is called in the United States a swivel truck is in Britain a "bogie," a word of Newcastle origin, occasionally applied in the north of England from 1794 to underground trams and from slightly later to road vehicles with a swiveling front axle: see
M. J. T. Lewis, Early Wooden Railways (London, 1970), 313, and the Oxford English Dictionary. "Bogie" is common British parlance in connection with both locomotives and rolling stock, but while it is occasionally applied in the United States to the swiveling or radial subframe on a locomotive, it is not applied to rolling stock. What would in British terms be the bogie itself is in the United States a "swivel truck," and a bogie wagon or carriage in British terms is an "eight-wheel car" in America.

8. William Chapman, Observations on the Various Systems of Canal Navigation (London, 1797), 42 n.

9. Patent specification 3632, quoted in C. F. Dendy Marshall, A History of British Railway Locomotives Down to the Year 1833 (London, 1953), 61-62.

10. Ibid., 64-71.

11. Ibid. Andy Guy, "North Eastern Locomotive Pioneers 1805 to 1827: A Reassessment," and Jim Rees, "The Strange Story of the Steam Elephant," both in Early Railways, ed. Andy Guy and Jim Rees (London, 2001), 123-25 and 155-56. See also P. Mulholland, "The First Locomotive in Whitehaven," Industrial Railway Record, February 1978, 177- 79.

12. William Chapman, Report of William Chapman, Civil Engineer, on Various Projected Lines of Navigation from Sheffield (Sheffield, 1813), 24; Dendy Marshall, 76.

13. Thomas Tredgold, A Practical Treatise on Railroads (London, 1825), 95, 179.

14. Guy, 121. See also Rees, 147.

15. Dendy Marshall (n. 9 above), 88.

16. Gamst (n. 3 above), 256-62, does not identify a single plateway among the first twenty-five railroads in the United States and Canada.

17. John van Laun, Early Limestone Railways (London, 2001), 19.

18. An early stage in this evolutionary process is depicted in Joseph von Baader's Neues System der fortschaffenden Mechanik (Munich, 1822), which shows a four-wheel farm wagon carried on two trucks coupled by a feeble length of rope. See John H. White, The American Railroad Freight Car (Baltimore, 1993), 391.

19. Evan Powell, History of Tredegar (Cardiff, 1885), 35; J. G. Wood, The Principal Rivers of Wales (London, 1813).

20. Powell, 62.

21. National Museums and Galleries of Wales, accession number A2384. The painting depicts the inaugural run of these vehicles on 18 December 1821. See D. Rh. Gwyn, "Artists, Chartists, Railways and Riot," Early Railways 2, ed. M. J. T. Lewis (London, 2003), 37-51.

22. The arrangement of the subframes is not immediately apparent in the painting. However, Paul Reynolds pointed out in "John Thomas's Painting of Homfray's Coal Trains Now Restored" (Railway and Canal Historical Society Tramroad Group occasional paper 150, September 1999) that the numbers painted on the cars correspond to the subframes and not to the cars themselves—in other words, the eight-wheelers have two numbers, the twelve-wheelers three.

23. Gordon Rattenbury and Ray Cook, The Hay and Kington Railways (Gwernymynydd, 1996), 52-53; W. A Young, "A Stock Book of 1828 and Other Finds," Transactions of the Newcomen Society 18 (1937-38): 196.

24. M. J. T. Lewis, "Steam on the Penydarren," Industrial Railway Record, April 1975, 18-20; Rodney Weaver, "Ancient Britons," Industrial Railway Record, March 1983, 93-94.

25. Stephen Hughes, The Archaeology of an Early Railway System (Aberystwyth, 1990), 178.

26. R. Hansworth Worth, Early Western Railroads (Western-super-Mare, n.d.; reprint of an article in Transactions of Plymouth Institution and Devon and Cornwall Natural History Society for 1888), 6.

27. M. C. Ewans, The Haytor Granite Tramway and Stover Canal (Newton Abbot, 1977), 24-25.

28. H. W. Paar, The Severn and Wye Railway (Newton Abbot, 1963), 38-39; Harry

Paar and Alec Pope, "Bogie Wagons on Welsh Tramroads" (Railway and Canal Historical Society Tramroad Group occasional paper 116, January 1997).

29. Franklin Journal and American Mechanics' Magazine, December 1826, 328. The committee was made up of John Wilson, a civil engineer; Hartman Bache, a topographical engineer; George W. Smith; and Gerald Ralston. Dictionary of American Biography (New York, 1968), s.v. "James Renwick."

30. Frederick C. Gamst, ed., Early American Railroads: Franz Anton Ritter von Gerstner's "Die innern Communicationem" (1842-1843) (Stanford, Calif., 1997), 514.

31. John H. White, The American Railroad Passenger Car (Baltimore, 1978), 9.

32. Ibid., 9, 12.

33. Ibid., 12-13.

34. Ibid., 18.

35. Darwin H. Stapleton, "The Origin of American Railroad Technology, 1825- 1840," in The Civil Engineering of Canals and Railways before 1850, ed. Mike Chrimes (Aldershot, Hants., and Brookfield, Vt., 1997), 339-352. I owe the suggestion that this was how knowledge of the Tredegar bogies reached American engineers to M. J. T. Lewis, "Bogie Waggons on Welsh Tramroads" (Railway and Canal Historical Society Tramroad Group occasional paper 110, October 1996), 4-5.

36. Warren (n. 6 above), 32, 154.

37. Ibid., 32, 154-55, 305.

38. James D. Dilts, The Great Road: The Building of the Baltimore and Ohio, the Nation's First Railroad, 1828-1853 (Stanford, Calif., 1993), 69, 85-86. McNeill and Whistler were both West Pointers, and were to become brothers-in-law in 1831; William Gibbs McNeill's sister Anna was the model for James Abbot McNeill Whistler's Arrangement in Grey and Black, aka "Whistler's Mother." See also Robert E. Carlson, "British Railroads and Engineers and the Beginnings of American Railroad Development," Business History Review 34 (summer 1960): 147-48.

39. Dilts, 2.

40. R. H. G. Thomas, The Liverpool and Manchester Railway (London, 1980), 183.

41. Michael Bailey, personal communication with the author. The illustration on page 66 of Thomas J. Donaghy, Liverpool and Manchester Railway Operations, 1831-1845 (Newton Abbot, 1972), shows the wheels grouped together at the end. This was issued by the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, which argues for its accuracy. It also resembles both written descriptions and Shaw's drawing of the duke's train in Edge Hill on the opening day, reproduced in Thomas, 85. The depiction of the car in White, Passenger Car (n. 31 above), 344, which shows the axles placed equidistant from each other, presumably derives from the handkerchief illustrated in C. F. Dendy Marshall (n. 9 above), 210.

42. Donaghy, 67.

43. White, Freight Car (n. 18 above), 160-62, 166.

44. Dilts (n. 38 above), 148-49; Dendy Marshall, 250.

45. White, Passenger Car, 10-11.

46. Dilts, 148.

47. Ibid., unpaginated illustrations between 158-59.

48. Brown (n. 4 above), chap. 19.

49. Dilts, 183-84, unpaginated illustrations between 158-59.

50. White, Passenger Car (n. 31 above), 20.

51. White, Freight Car (n. 18 above), 156.

52. J. R. Day, More Unusual Railways (London, 1960), 21.

53. White, Freight Car, 155. Both the Haytor and the Quincy used stone rails. James E. Vance Jr. suggests that the Quincy railroad was sui generis, and credits Bryant with the invention of the eight-wheel freight car; The North American Railroad: Its Origins, Evolution, and Geography (Baltimore, 1995), 19. Gamst argues for British influence; "Transfer of Pioneering British Railroad Technology" (n. 3 above), 259. Dilts (n. 38 above, 416) prefers the claims of the Chevalier Joseph de Baader, who described a stone-built railway in 1825, over those of Minus Ward, who advocated a stone-track railway in the Baltimore American of 1825.

54. Frederick C. Gamst, "The Context and Significance of America's First Railroad," Technology and Culture 33 (1992): 92. Gamst elsewhere suggests that the 1805 Beacon Hill railroad was designed by "a technician, now unknown, of British birth living in America"; "Transfer of Pioneering British Railroad Technology," 257.

55. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad's decision to use wrought-iron strap rail on stone came about from a recommendation by its engineer Stephen H. Long, who had seen the Quincy's stone rails. See Dilts, 128.

56. Though Winans built five 4-4-0s between 1843 and 1849. See John H. White, American Locomotives (Baltimore, 1997), 297.

57. Ibid., 167. David Fort, "The Stourbridge Lion, Delaware and Hudson," in Stourbridge and Its Historic Locomotives, ed. Paul Collins (Dudley, 1989), 30-40.

58. John H. White, "Tracks and Timber," in Chrimes (n. 35 above), 353-64, and American Locomotives, 509-11; Dendy Marshall (n. 9 above), 246. Marshall observes that its claim to be the world's first articulated locomotive is challenged by an 0-4-0+0-4-0 geared locomotive built by the Neath Abbey Ironworks in 1831. In fact, this locomotive was never constructed; see M. J. T. Lewis, "Steam on the Penydarren" (n. 24 above), 20. But, as we have seen, Allen's locomotives were preceded by Chapman's.

59. White, American Locomotives, 34, 168-69. For Jervis, see J. K. Finch, "John B. Jervis, Civil Engineer," Transactions of the Newcomen Society 11 (1930-31): 108-19. For the Experiment, see Jervis Main Collection, document 100, Jervis Public Library, Rome, New York.

60. Warren (n. 6 above), 305-9.

61. White, American Locomotives (n. 56 above), 27-28; P. C. Dewhurst, "'Norris' Locomotives in England," Transactions of the Newcomen Society 26 (1947-49): 13-45.

62. For simultaneous inventions and antecedent prerequisites, see D. S. L. Cardwell, "Power Technologies and the Advance of Science, 1700-1825," Technology and Culture 6 (1965): 188-207. This discusses the examples of the coeval harnessing of high-pressure steam by Oliver Evans in the United States and Richard Trevithick in Britain, and the independent construction in the 1740s of water-pressure engines in France, southern Germany, and what was then Hungary.

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