Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Boiler


Boiler

Boiler, device for heating water or generating steam above atmospheric pressure. All boilers consist of a separate compartment where the fuel is burned and a compartment where water can be evaporated into steam.
II
EARLY HISTORY
The first evidence of the idea of using steam energy to produce power appeared in the Pneumatica of the Greek inventor and mathematician Hero of Alexandria in the 1st century ad. In it he described an aeolipile, a steam turbine consisting of a boiler connected by two hollow tubes to the poles of a freely spinning hollow sphere. The sphere was equipped with two canted nozzles that issued steam, causing the sphere to rotate. Other references are found in works from the Middle Ages and Renaissance, but no practical devices seem to have been built until the Italian architect and inventor Giovanni Branca designed a boiler that emitted steam that struck blades projecting from a wheel, causing it to rotate.
The first practical steam engine, built by the English engineer Thomas Savery in 1698, used two copper vessels alternately filled with steam from a boiler. Savery's engine was used for pumping water out of mines, as was the one developed in 1712 by the British inventor Thomas Newcomen.
The Scottish inventor James Watt improved upon Newcomen's steam engine design and introduced the first significant boiler advance, the spherical or cylindrical vessels heated from below by an open fire. Watt's boiler, built in 1785, consisted of a horizontal shell encased in brick, with flues to circulate the hot combustion gases over the boiler. Watt was one of the first engineers to apply new knowledge about the thermodynamic properties of steam in his design. He used the lever safety valve, pressure gauges, and water cocks to control the flow of water and steam in his boilers.
III
FIRE-TUBE BOILER
Savery, Watt, and Newcomen engines all operated at pressures only slightly above atmospheric pressure. In 1800 the American inventor Oliver Evans built a high-pressure steam engine utilizing a forerunner of the fire-tube boiler. Evans's boiler consisted of two cylindrical shells, one inside the other; water occupied the region between them. The fire grate and flue were housed inside the inner cylinder, permitting a rapid increase in steam pressure. Simultaneously but independently, the British engineer Richard Trevithick developed a similar “Cornish” boiler. The first major improvement over Evans's and Trevithick's boilers was the fire-tube “Lancashire Boiler,” patented in 1845 by the British engineer Sir William Fairbairn, in which hot combustion gases were passed through tubes inserted into the water container, increasing the surface area through which heat could be transferred. Fire-tube boilers were limited in capacity and pressure and were also, sometimes, dangerously explosive.
IV
WATER-TUBE BOILER
Boiler pressures, however, remained limited until the first successful design of a water-tube boiler, patented in 1867 by the American inventors George Herman Babcock and Stephen Wilcox. In the water-tube boiler, water flowed through tubes heated externally by combustion gases, and steam was collected above in a drum. This arrangement used both the convection heat of the gases and the radiant heat from the fire and the boiler walls. Wide application of the water-tube boiler became possible in the 20th century with such developments as high-temperature steel alloys and modern welding techniques, which made the water-tube boiler the standard type for all large boilers.
Modern water-tube boilers can operate at pressure in excess of 5000 psig (lb/sq in gauge) and generate more than 9 million lb of steam per hour. Because combustion temperatures may exceed 1650° C (3000° F), the water flow is controlled by natural or forced circulation. By using so-called superheaters, modern boilers can achieve almost 90 percent fuel efficiency. Air preheaters heat the incoming air with combustion gases that are discharged to the stack; water preheaters use the flue gases to heat the feedwater before it enters the boiler. Draft control and chemical treatment of the water to avoid scale deposits and corrosion also contribute to efficient operation.



Steam Engine


Steam Engine

Steam Engine, mechanical device used to transfer the energy of steam into mechanical energy for a variety of applications, including propulsion and generating electricity. The basic principle of the steam engine involves transforming the heat energy of steam into mechanical energy by permitting the steam to expand and cool in a cylinder equipped with a movable piston. Steam that is to be used for power or heating purposes is usually generated in a boiler. The simplest form of boiler is a closed vessel containing water, which is heated by a flame so that the water turns to saturated steam. The ordinary household-heating system usually has a boiler of this type, but steam-generating plants used for power purposes are more complex in design and are equipped with various auxiliary devices. The efficiency of a steam engine is generally low, and therefore, in most power generation applications, the steam engines have been replaced by steam turbines (see Turbine).
II
HISTORY
Parts of a Steam Engine
Harnessing the power of steam marked a significant step in technology. The introduction of the steam engine led to many new inventions, most notably in transportation and industry. Steam engines transfer the energy of heat into mechanical energy, often by allowing steam to expand in a cylinder equipped with a movable piston. As the piston moves up and down (or alternatively, from side to side), an attached arm converts this motion into parallel motion that drives a wheel. Models of the steam engine were designed as early as 1690, but it was not until 70 years later that James Watt arrived at the design of the modern steam engine.

The first piston engine was developed in 1690 by the French physicist and inventor Denis Papin and was used for pumping water. Papin's engine, which was little more than a curiosity, was a crude machine in which the actual work was done by air rather than steam pressure. It consisted of a single cylinder that also served as a boiler. A small amount of water was placed in the bottom of the cylinder and heated until steam was formed. The pressure of this steam raised a piston fitting in the cylinder, and, after it was raised, the source of heat was removed from the bottom of the cylinder. As the cylinder cooled, the steam condensed and air pressure on the upper side of the piston forced the piston down.
In 1698, the English engineer Thomas Savery built a steam engine that used two copper vessels alternately filled with steam from a boiler. Savery's engine was used for pumping water, but could only raise water about 6 m (20 ft) without using pressures which risked explosion, and was quickly abandoned. The first practical steam engine, the so-called atmospheric engine, was built by the English inventor Thomas Newcomen in 1712. This device had a vertical cylinder and a piston that was counterweighted. Steam admitted to the bottom of the cylinder at very low pressure acted with the counterweight to move the piston to the top of the cylinder. When the piston reached this point, a valve opened automatically and sprayed a jet of cold water into the cylinder. The water condensed the steam, and atmospheric pressure forced the piston back to the bottom of the cylinder. A rod attached to the arm of the pivoted beam that connected piston and counterweight moved up and down as the piston moved, actuating a pump. Newcomen's engine was not efficient, but it was sufficiently practical to be used extensively for pumping water from coal mines.
In the course of making improvements to the Newcomen engine, the Scottish engineer and inventor James Watt produced a series of inventions that made possible the modern steam engine. Watt's first important development was the design of an engine that incorporated a separate condensing chamber for the steam. This engine, patented in 1769, greatly increased the economy of the Newcomen machine by avoiding the loss of steam that occurred in alternate heating and cooling of the engine cylinder. In Watt's engine, the cylinder was insulated and remained at steam temperature. The separate condenser chamber, which was water-cooled, was equipped with a pump to maintain a vacuum so that the steam was drawn from the cylinder to the condenser. The pump was also used to remove the water from the condenser chamber.
Another radical departure in the design of the early Watt engines was the use of steam pressure instead of atmospheric pressure to perform the actual work of the engine. Watt also devised a method in which the reciprocating pistons of engines drove a revolving flywheel. He accomplished this first by a system of gearing (see Gear), and later by means of a crankshaft, as in modern engines. Watt's other improvements and inventions included application of the principle of double action, whereby steam was admitted to each end of the cylinder alternately to drive the piston back and forth. He also equipped his engines with throttle valves to control speed and also with governors in order to maintain automatically a constant speed of operation.
The next important development in the field of steam engines was the introduction of practical noncondensing engines. Although Watt had recognized the principle of the noncondensing engine, he had been unable to perfect machines of this type, probably because he used steam at extremely low pressure. At the beginning of the 19th century the British engineer and inventor Richard Trevithick and the American inventor Oliver Evans devised successful noncondensing engines using the high-pressure steam. Trevithick used this model of steam engine to power the first railroad locomotive ever made (see Locomotive). Both Trevithick and Evans also built steam-powered carriages for road travel.
At about the same time, the first compound steam engines were built by the British engineer and inventor Arthur Woolf. In the compound engine, steam at high pressure is used in one cylinder and then, after it has expanded and consequently lessened in pressure, is piped to another cylinder, in which it expands still further. Woolf's original engines were of the two-cylinder type, but later types of compound engines used triple and even quadruple expansion. The advantage of compounding two or more cylinders is that less energy is lost in the heating of the cylinder walls; as a result, the engine is more efficient.
III
MODERN STEAM ENGINES
Steam Engine: Figures 1a-d
In a steam engine, the slide valve alternately routes steam to the back and front of the cylinder to drive the piston. The diagram at right shows some of the important components of a steam engine, while Figures 1a through 1d depict a steam engine’s complete cycle of operation.

The operation of a typical modern steam engine is depicted in Figures 1a-d, which show a steam engine's cycle of operation. In Fig. 1a, when the piston is at the left end of the cylinder, steam admitted to the valve chest flows through the port into the cylinder at the left-hand side of the piston. The position of the slide valve also allows the used steam at the right-hand end of the cylinder to escape through the exhaust port. The piston's motion drives a flywheel, which in turn drives the rod that controls the slide valve. The relative positions of the piston and the slide valve are governed by the relative positions of where the crankshaft and the slide valve rod are fastened to the flywheel.
In the second position, shown in Fig. 1b, the steam at the left side of the cylinder has expanded and moved the piston to the center point of the cylinder. At the same time, the valve has moved to the closed position so that the cylinder is entirely sealed and neither the steam in the cylinder nor the steam in the valve chest can escape.
As the piston continues to move toward the right under the pressure of the expanding steam, as shown in Fig. 1c, the port at the left end of the cylinder is connected to the exhaust by the valve, and, at the same time, the valve chest, which contains steam, is connected to the right end of the cylinder. In this position, the engine is prepared for the second stroke of its double-action cycle. Finally, in the fourth position (Fig. 1d), the valve again covers the ports from both ends of the cylinder, and the piston moves toward the left, driven by the expansion of steam at the right end of the cylinder.
The type of valve illustrated in the figure is the simple slide valve, which is the basis for most valves used on modern steam engines. Such valves have the advantage of being reversible; their position relative to the piston can be varied by varying the position of the eccentric that drives them, as shown in Fig. 2. Moving the eccentric through 180° makes it possible to reverse the direction of rotation of the engine.
The slide valve, however, has a number of drawbacks, the most important of these being the friction caused by steam pressure on the back of the valve. To avoid the wear caused by this pressure, steam-engine valves are frequently made in a cylindrical form entirely enclosing the piston, so that the pressure is equal all around the valve and friction is minimized. The development of this type of valve is attributed to the American inventor and manufacturer George Henry Corliss. In other types of slide valves, the moving portion of the valve is designed so that steam does not press directly on the back of the valve.
The linkage between the piston of the engine and the valve supplying steam to the engine is very important in determining the power and efficiency of an engine. By varying the point in the engine cycle at which steam is admitted to the cylinder, it is possible to vary the amount of compression and expansion in the cylinder and hence to vary the power output of the engine. A number of different types of valve gears for linking the piston to the valve have been developed that permit not only reversing of the engine, but also a range of control of the admission time and cutoff of the steam. Valve gears are of particular importance in steam locomotives in which the effort required from the engine varies widely; the effort is at a maximum when the locomotive is starting and less when it is running at full speed.
An important adjunct to all types of reciprocating steam engines is the flywheel, which is driven by the piston crank. Because of its inertia, the flywheel, usually a heavy metal casting, makes continuous the individual surges of power of the steam expanding within the cylinder, and permits the engine to provide a uniform flow of power.
In single-cylinder steam engines, the engine can stop when the piston is at one end of the cylinder or the other. If the cylinder is in this position, the engine is said to be on dead center and is impossible to start. To eliminate the dead-center points, steam engines are frequently equipped with two or more coupled cylinders, arranged in such a way that no matter what the position of the pistons, the engine is able to start. The simplest way of coupling two cylinders in an engine is to arrange the two cranks on the flywheel as shown in Fig. 3. For better balance, it is also possible to use a three-cylinder engine in which the various cranks are set at an angle of 120°. The coupling of engines not only eliminates difficulties in starting but also produces a power plant that operates more reliably.
The cylinder of a compound engine, unlike that of a single-cylinder engine of the ordinary type, can be kept close to a uniform temperature, which makes the engine more efficient.
Further improvement in the design of steam engines is afforded by the uniflow engine, which uses the piston itself as a valve and in which all portions of the cylinder remain at approximately the same temperature when the engine is operating. In the uniflow engine, steam moves in only one direction while entering the cylinder of the engine, expanding, and then leaving the cylinder. This unidirectional flow is accomplished by employing two sets of inlet ports at either end of the cylinder, together with a single set of outlet ports in the cylinder wall at the center. The flow of steam into the two sets of inlet ports is controlled by separate valves. The inherent advantages of the uniflow system are such that engines of this type were usually chosen for use in large installations, although the initial cost of the engines is considerably higher than that of conventional steam engines. One virtue of the uniflow engine is that it permits the efficient use of high-pressure steam in a single cylinder engine without the necessity of compounding.

1960: Aeronautical Research


1960: Aeronautical Research

Archives consist of articles that originally appeared in Collier's Year Book (for events of 1997 and earlier) or as monthly updates in Encarta Yearbook (for events of 1998 and later). Because they were published shortly after events occurred, they reflect the information available at that time. Cross references refer to Archive articles of the same year.
1960: Aeronautical Research
Aircraft Takeoff and Landing Modifications.
Aeronautical research in 1960 focused on projects to shorten required runway lengths and reduce airports of excessive size for aircraft of all sizes and mission profiles. STOL (Short Takeoff and Landing) and VTOL (Vertical Takeoff and Landing) projects moved from the drawing board to the experimental stage for civilian, commercial, and military use. Much of this work went unseen by the public, for the emphasis was upon experimental results rather than immediate implementation of research findings for operational use. Virtually every major aircraft company in the country was involved in programs to develop the short and vertical takeoff and landing abilities of aircraft.
Boundary Layer Control Project.
The Boundary Layer Control Project (BLC) came in for intensive experimental engineering application in the continuing industry-government program to reduce runway lengths for large aircraft. The key to the program in 1960 was a modified Lockheed C-130B Hercules turboprop assault transport of the Air Force. Two auxiliary jet engines pod-mounted beneath the wings provided boundary airflow over all control and lift surfaces for very slow flight and control. At a weight of 105,000 lb., the BLC C-130B landed at a speed of 70 mph compared to 105 mph for the unmodified transport, reducing the landing roll from a normal 1,800 ft. to only 450 ft. Moreover, pilots stated that even this amazing performance would soon be bettered. The unmodified C-130B stalls at 85-90 mph, but the BLC-equipped version could be stalled at only 50 mph, better than many small private airplanes.
Fighter Aircraft.
For the next-generation tactical fighter aircraft to follow the Air Force F-104 Starfighter and F-105 Thunder-Chief, the emphasis was placed on minimum takeoff and landing characteristics, and a new series of STOL and VTOL projects were inaugurated. The next tactical fighter airplane of the Tactical Air Command was committed to an STOL configuration, but the Air Force announced that there would be sufficient funds to continue design research on a VTOL fighter capable of Mach-3 speeds.
Engineers felt that special lift devices—rotary fans in the wings, deflected airflows, and other systems—must be implemented with a wing capable of variable sweepback to meet the requirements of specific speed regimes: minimum sweepback for slow speed, and a high angle of sweep for supersonic flight. The United States maintained a close working relationship with a West German group (Messerschmitt, Heinkel, and Bolkow) in developing a supersonic VTOL fighter for NATO. Bell Aerosystems Co. was invited by the German group to contribute its design experience from its own D-188A research project. And Fokker of Holland, designing its work activities around the successes of the Republic Aviation Corp., was preparing at year's end to submit to NATO a variable-sweep-wing, all-weather, supersonic VTOL fighter.
Because power requirements were more readily met with tactical fighters, large aircraft in the STOL and VTOL categories received less attention, although the military ordered a priority engineering study for the earliest possible development of a large, vertically rising transport for use by all three services.
Still another research effort in this area emphasized the drive to produce aircraft that are not dependent upon airfields. The Army Transportation Research Command, already engaged in studying many ground-cushion (aircar) designs for possible tactical application, announced a competition for a design study and preliminary design of a ground-effect takeoff and landing (GTOL) vehicle. The Vertol Division of the Boeing Airplane Co. was awarded the contract.
Jet Transport Developments.
The gains achieved in transport machines emphasized the fact that concern with the utility value of aircraft had replaced the desire for 'exotic breakthroughs' in research. The Boeing Airplane Co. moved toward the first flight test of the nation's first three-engine jet transport, its Model 727, with one engine mounted in a pod on each side of the tail, and a single engine mounted within the tailcone. Weighing 135,000 lb. and intended as a shorthaul jet transport, the 727 promised a new spectrum of commercial jet operations. United Air Lines was the first big customer for the new transport, with a tentative order for 40 Model-727 airliners.
Electra Modifications.
Through the separation of a wing in flight, two Lockheed Electra turboprop transports revealed in tragic fashion a hitherto unexperienced phenomenon of flight, induced by a combination of complex, interrelated factors.
Both airplanes that suffered wing loss in flight had previously been damaged by 'hard landings,' or some other factor, that caused damage to the wing mounts holding the two outboard engines in place. Under turbulent conditions at sustained high speed, the propellers underwent a rhythmic wobble; if the condition was severe enough and lasted long enough, the wobble was transmitted to the engine mounts and finally to the wings. In these two instances, when the damaged Electras flew at sustained high speed under severe turbulence the wobble became so severe that the 'torsion limit' of the wing was exceeded, and the wing separated from the airplane.
An order of the Federal Aviation Agency reducing the Electra cruising speed by 50 knots made the re-occurrence of the same factors impossible at this speed. Moreover, in the course of the reduced operations of the Electra, the airplane was modified to guarantee not only its original requirements of structural integrity, but also to increase its strength. Tests of modified Electras subjected the giant airliners to 'torture flights' under maximum loads, including vertical dives that yielded 'perfect structural integrity' results.
Turbofan-Engine Transports.
As 1960 came to a close, American Airlines was about to place in service its new turbofan-engine transports, improved models of its 707 and 720 airliners. The turbofan engine, which was lighter, more powerful, and more economical than previous turbojets, improved performance over a wide spectrum, in addition to promising quieter operation at airports where jet-engine noise has proved to be a major nuisance factor to homeowners living adjacent to the airports.
All-Cargo Airliners.
The jet transport category that promised to create a new transportation revolution, however, was the all-cargo jet airliner, rapidly nearing operational status. The demand for air cargo service increased to such an extent that an engineering program was initiated to eliminate unnecessary loading and unloading operations. The project resulted in the design and production of a 'swing-tail' cargo liner, in which the rear of the airplane is hinged, and swings completely to the side, thereby exposing the fuselage interior for rapid loading and unloading work. First into the air with a swing-tail transport was Canada, with its turboprop CL-44. In the United States, Boeing rushed development of a swing-tail 707 variant, and Douglas did the same with the DC-8.
Electronic Aids and Air-Traffic Control.
The entire aviation community moved rapidly toward a more wide-scale implementation of electronic navigational aids, and elaborate automatic air-traffic control systems. Under the FAA, an exhaustive program to modernize air traffic facilities, procedures, and rules promised greater safety in the context of an enormous increase in traffic density. Additional height-plusdistance radar, IFR (Instrument Flight Rule) equipment, homing devices, airport lighting, and other aids, considerably enhanced the ability of the airlines (as well as military, executive, business, and private aircraft) to operate with greater margins of safety under normal and inclement weather conditions.
Among other automatic and revolutionary electronic systems, substantial gains were scored in the development of special instrumentation for airliners that would permit completely automatic approach and landing. This new system involves 'hands-off' approaches in which the electronic-computer controls, 'locked on' to ground facilities, provide through a new automatic pilot system the necessary compensation for drift and crab as well as last-second corrective maneuvers prior to touchdown. An FAA C-54 four-engine transport completed nearly 1,500 'hands-off' approaches and landings without a mishap. This program, as well as others for the accelerated development of aviation aids, was carried out at the FAA's National Aviation Facilities Experimental Center (NAFEC) at Atlantic City, N.J.
Supersonic Aircraft.
Airliners.
The development of the supersonic airliner received greater impetus through the reinstatement of a major portion of previously canceled funds for the supersonic B-70 bomber program. Still in its infancy, the supersonic airliner faced a brighter future as a result of intensified interest on the part of both industry and government. The Weapon System 110 program (North American B-70 Valkyrie) called for the development of an XB-70 test vehicle, and three complete B-70 weapon-system aircraft. Capable of sustained flight at 2,000 mph at altitudes of approximately 75,000 ft., the B-70 will attack the myriad and complex problems of large-aircraft supersonic flight, especially in respect to heating and vibration. Although the major companies were advancing basic design proposals (Convair Division of General Dynamics, for example, offered a modification of its B-58 supersonic bomber as an interim testbed), the industry was agreed that the cost of developing a supersonic transport, capable of 2,000-mph flight over intercontinental range, must be shared between industry and government. Target date: Not before 1970-1975 for an operational supersonic airliner.
Thermal Barrier Research.
The problem of the thermal barrier, i.e., limits of operations of aircraft because of friction with the atmosphere, came in for steadily increasing research. While the thermal barrier constitutes a great hurdle for supersonic atmospheric aircraft, the problem is critical for the development of hypersonic machines (five times the speed of sound or greater), which include manned re-entry space vehicles that would function as aerodynamic, stabilized machines during re-entry and subsequent descent to a landing site. During 1960, intensive laboratory work was under way, as it has been for years, to develop heat-resistant metals, ceramics, and other materials, as well as special cooling structures and devices. One example was a special program of Bell Aircraft Corp., which was under Air Force contract to develop an insulated double-wall cooling structure for hypersonic aircraft operating as re-entry vehicles, or for high-speed supersonic vehicles sustaining maximum performance within the atmosphere. Basically, the structure consists of an outer-wall radiation shield and, separated by a layer of thermal insulation, an inner wall, which incorporates tubes through which liquid circulates to cool the airframe.
Rocket-Powered Aircraft.
Both atmospheric hypersonic vehicles and those with a dual mission of space-and-atmospheric performance moved from the research stage to active engineering status. Highlighting in-flight speed and altitude advances was the highly publicized X-15 rocket-aircraft program. Long delayed because of power-plant difficulties, the X-15, equipped with an interim motor, managed to reach new world speed and altitude records slightly higher than those established by the older X-2 research vehicle. These record-breaking flights established a clear path for flights with a 57,000-lb.-thrust rocket engine, which will bring the X-15 into its designed performance spectrum of 4,000 mph and altitudes of up to 500,000 ft.
All elements of the aeronautical and aerospace industry would benefit from the X-15's flights, but the one program immediately able to benefit from X-15 flight performance was the Dyna-Soar project of the Air Force. Although its mission profile called for performance in actual space, beyond the atmosphere, the go-ahead signal for the Dyna-Soar manned boost-glider vehicle signified the single greatest step forward for hypersonic aerodynamics. In order to fulfill its space mission, the Dyna-Soar must function as a winged aerodynamic vehicle from space during re-entry into the atmosphere and subsequent descent to the ground, passing down from hypersonic to supersonic and finally subsonic performance. The 'maximum priority' schedule for Dyna-Soar, as laid down in 1960, called for air drops of the Boeing-built glider, boosted by a modification of the Titan ICBM, from a B-52 sometime in 1963; launch of an unmanned vehicle in 1964; and the first manned shot by 1965.
Space Plane.
The single most exciting development in research was unquestionably the Air Force's Space Plane, a giant, manned winged vehicle which would race at great speed through the atmosphere while scooping up oxygen for use as an oxidizer for flight in airless space. Lockheed, Republic, Boeing, Douglas, and Convair submitted their design proposals to the Air Force. At the same time, the entire industry was closely watching the Marquardt Co., which in 1960 embarked on an exhaustive program for perfecting the technique of scooping oxygen out of the atmosphere and liquefying it for storage as a propulsion oxidizer in space.
Nuclear-Powered Aircraft.
Paralleling the stirring aerodynamic research events in other areas was the continuing research and development in the field of nuclear-powered aircraft, involving engine development in atomic turbojets and ramjets. The nuclear airplane moved closer to realization with problems encountered more in propulsion than in airframe development. Accelerated testing of various nuclear propulsion devices in remote areas produced outstanding results, and there were reports that a nuclear program for spaceships was proving successful beyond all expectations.
In preparation for the actual design competition to win the contract award, the major aircraft companies (some acting as teams in a joint effort) were busy designing a variety of proposals, all of which showed several basic similarities. The airplane would have to operate from existing airfields (just as the B-70 must operate from fields used by the B-52); the crew would be far removed and well-shielded from the reactor; the aircraft would be large, grossing from 225 to 300 tons; the first models would probably be subsonic; and the airplane would be able to remain aloft for five days of uninterrupted flight. The canard (tail-first) approach seemed the most promising, and experience here would be gained from the B-70 program.
Military Developments.
U-2 Plane.
The attention of the entire world was drawn to a research effort in aerodynamics that years ago moved into the practical phase, but had been withheld from the public for security reasons. The loss on May 1 of a U-2 reconnaissance plane over the heart of the U.S.S.R. revealed that Lockheed, by designing a high-performance sailplane wing around the turbojet engine, had produced an aircraft with unprecedented sustained altitude performance. With a 10,000-lb.-thrust J-57 engine, the U-2 could soar for hours at altitudes of 70,000 to 75,000 ft. With a J-75 engine of 16,000-lb. thrust, the airplane had a sustained cruise capability in excess of 96,000 ft., and reached its 'coffin corner' at approximately 100,000 ft.—a height at which thrust and lift could no longer sustain flight and the aircraft would suffer a high-speed stall. The success of the U-2 signified years of engineering design and a practical use of engineering factors to produce sensational performance.
Anti-Submarine Systems.
Less sensational but of equal value to military operations was the art of ASW (Anti Sub Warfare) as practiced by aircraft, and maximum priority was given to developing airborne systems to cope with a growing Russian submarine menace. In addition to new radar and electronic equipment placed in fleet operation, details of which were kept under the heaviest security restrictions, the single most outstanding addition to ASW capabilities was the development and production of specialized aircraft and helicopters with detection equipment. Supplementing this ASW capability was the production order by the Navy for a revolutionary AEW (Airborne Early Warning) aircraft, the Grumman W2F Hawkeye. The heavy, twin-engined machine uses an aircraft carrier as its home base. With its extensive radar gear, the W2F, operating in teams flying race-track patterns 200 mi. from a fleet center, enabled task forces at sea to be enveloped in 'radar cocoons.'
A vital military gain for combat capabilities of Air Force and Navy equipment came directly from the research laboratory. One of the major problems faced by the Air Force's high-flying bombers were the vapor trails (contrails) emitted by its jets, which visually marked the aircraft for many miles. A new process developed by the Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory reduced the production of contrails so markedly that they were invisible to the naked eye on the ground when the airplanes flew at 40,000 to 50,000 ft.
Other Aeronautical Research.
The diversity of aeronautical research was shown by the launching of a program designed to help an airplane create its own weather. The aim of this project, conducted with great promise by the Air Force's Cambridge Research Laboratories, was to develop airborne seeding equipment that would enable aircraft trying to land on fields covered with clouds—but not equipped with electronic navigational aids—actually to disperse the clouds. The aircraft would circle the airport and dispense dry-ice crystals into supercooled fog or stratus, producing gaps in the clouds that would then permit a visual approach and landing. Paralleling this work was a similar program in the U.S.S.R.
As part of Project Excelsior, the Air Force program to give life-saving equipment and procedures to pilots flying at extreme heights, Capt. Joseph Kittinger of the Air Force stepped out of an open balloon gondola at an altitude of 102,800 ft. to make an unprecedented parachute jump from an altitude of more than 19 mi.
Man—and not simply his equipment—proved able to cross the operational gap between atmosphere and space. It was an auspicious bridge to the coming year.


1958: Automotive Industry


1958: Automotive Industry

Archives consist of articles that originally appeared in Collier's Year Book (for events of 1997 and earlier) or as monthly updates in Encarta Yearbook (for events of 1998 and later). Because they were published shortly after events occurred, they reflect the information available at that time. Cross references refer to Archive articles of the same year.
1958: Automotive Industry
Automobile production and sales in 1958 dropped to ten-year lows, and the industry became a symbol of the U.S. business recession. Because 10,000,000 Americans — one in seven job holders in the nation — were employed directly or indirectly in the manufacture, selling, or servicing of motor vehicles, or in building roads for them to travel on, the sharp decline in the automotive industry had wide effect throughout the economy. Layoffs of production workers in the major assembly plants, concentrated in comparatively few cities, resulted in exceptional economic hardship for those communities. Depressed conditions in the automotive field were regarded as a symptom and a cause of the general downturn.
In the 1958 model year — from September 1957 through August 1958 — the automotive industry produced 4,306,000 passenger cars, 30 per cent less than the 6,212,000 cars made in the preceding model year, and 40 per cent below the all-time high of 7,131,000 cars in the 1955 model year. Truck production also fell markedly; in the 1958 calendar year, some 870,000 trucks and buses were turned out, a drop of 21 per cent from the 1,108,000 that came off the production lines in 1957. As the 1959 passenger cars were introduced in the fall of 1958, a wave of brief but costly strikes plagued some of the largest manufacturers. Prices in general rose from the level of the 1958 models, although the general wage settlement which averted a major work stoppage at the beginning of the new model year was the least costly to the industry of any since the end of World War II.
A notable event was the switch in consumer credit for automobile financing during 1958. For the first time since 1954, repayments of automobile loans caught up with and passed the extensions of new loans, resulting in a net contraction of outstanding credit. This indicated that a larger number of consumers would be in a position to buy new automobiles in the 1959 model year. Another optimistic factor was the growing age of automobiles in service; in 1958 the average age of cars on the road was five and one-half years.
With 95 per cent of domestic automobile production in the hands of the 'Big Three' of the industry — General Motors, Ford Motor Company, and Chrysler Corporation — the number of brands offered to the public continued to decrease in 1958. Packard, one of the oldest names in the industry, dating back to 1899, was discontinued by the Studebaker-Packard Corporation at the end of the 1958 model year. The company also abandoned all models except the Studebaker Silver Hawk and brought out a series named the Lark, the only completely new model introduced in 1958. The Lark, a compact car priced from $1,925 to $2,590, was an effort to capitalize on the small-car market, most of which has gone in recent years to foreign-made automobiles and to the Rambler, the only remaining model of American Motors, which discontinued its larger Nash and Hudson lines at the beginning of the 1958 model year.
Increasing public criticism of the automobile industry resulted in the enactment by Congress of a law requiring that manufacturers affix price tags to each car shipped to dealers, showing the list prices of the basic automobile and each of the accessories. The law was aimed at the 'price pack,' a widespread practice among dealers intended to conceal actual prices for competitive reasons. Criticism was also directed at the 1958 styling, similar to that of the previous year, stressing a long, low, and wide silhouette, with prominent tail fins. Auto manufacturers insisted, however, that this styling was actually preferred by car buyers, and they cited sales figures from previous high-volume years to show that the more radically styled models were the leading sellers.
Production.
Virtually the only bright spot in the industry's record for the 1958 model year was the performance of American Motors' Rambler, which sold 162,000 units, almost double the 84,700 units produced in the previous year. This small car, priced well below the standard-sized models, continued to sell strongly in the last quarter of 1958, when 100,000 units of its 1959 model came off the assembly line, double the volume in the last quarter of 1957. The only other 1958 model that was able to record an increase over its 1957 production level was Ford's Thunderbird, a sports-type car whose sales shot up 59 per cent to 34,000. The Edsel, Ford's new entry into the medium-priced field in the 1958 model year, was not considered a success; it sold 60,800 units, however, and was continued into 1959. The overall leader in number of cars sold was Chevrolet, which recaptured the leadership for General Motors after having fallen behind the Ford in 1957. Although Chevrolet production declined from 1,552,000 in 1957 to 1,283,000 in 1958, the drop was not as severe as that of Ford, which plunged from 1,655,000 in 1957 to 961,000 in 1958. Plymouth, the leading make for Chrysler, was in third place in 1958 volume, with 399,000 cars produced, sharply off from its 1957 figure of 663,000.
Prices.
The general price level of 1959 cars was between $50 and $175 higher than the price level on 1958 models, which in turn had been increased slightly in price over the 1957 lines. For the 1959 model year, both General Motors and Chrysler discontinued the least expensive models of their low-priced makes, Chevrolet and Plymouth respectively. Ford moved its new Edsel's price range down a notch, so that at $2,320-$2,800 it could compete with the top of the Chevrolet and Plymouth range. Ford also brought back, after a year's absence, the Continental; its top price for 1959 was set at $10,238, compared with $7,500 for the Continental's 1957 convertible.
Styling.
The industry spent some $750,000,000 to restyle its 1959 models, although major changeovers were not involved. Tail fins, the most prominent feature of recent-model cars, were even more accentuated in 1959 models although less chrome finish was in evidence. Car length and width continued to increase slightly and the low-slung appearance remained in favor. Two-tone color combinations were more popular than single-color finishes.
Engineering.
The 'horsepower race,' in which the major producers had engaged for several years, came to an end in 1958. The 1959 models had only minor changes in engine performance, and there was little emphasis on power for its own sake. There was, however, an increase in 'gadgetry'; more cars were equipped with power steering, power brakes, power windows, and power seats. Auto makers were planning to introduce power radio antennae, power lubrication, and power operation of the rear luggage compartment door, but these innovations were offered sparingly in the 1959 models. Safety belts, which had been introduced a few years earlier and had been heavily promoted by the industry, all but disappeared in 1958, owing to lack of public acceptance.
Foreign Cars.
Importing of foreign-made cars, from the lowest-priced to the most expensive, shot up rapidly in 1958. From 200,000 in 1957, imports rose to 350,000 in 1958 — an increase from three to eight per cent of a shrinking domestic market. Many dealers in U.S.-made automobiles took on foreign cars to serve as a hedge against declining sales of the domestic product. Except for American Motors and Studebaker-Packard, none of the American manufacturers had produced smaller cars, although it was expected that 1960 lines would contain one or more small or 'compact' models designed to recapture some of the market from the foreign makes.
Employment and Labor Relations.
The often stormy relations between management and labor in the automotive field threatened to break out into work stoppages many times in 1958, but there were no real difficulties until the 1959 models came out. Contracts between the United Auto Workers, A.F.L.-C.I.O. and the major automobile companies expired in the spring, but the union chose to continue work without contracts because of the depressed condition of the industry. Eventually, the 'Big Three' settled for three-year contracts, providing for increases of about 28 cents an hour over the contract period. The settlement was less costly to the companies than any previous agreement in the postwar period. A wave of strikes at individual plants followed the general settlement, however, when local issues could not be resolved satisfactorily, and some curtailment of production was experienced in the fall. Earlier, slow production had forced widespread layoffs, lowering average weekly gross earnings of auto workers to $96.50 from the 1957 level of $99.54. Average hourly gross earnings were actually high — $2.51 in 1958 compared with $2.47 in 1957; but weekly earnings were brought down by a decline in the length of the average work week, which stood at 38.5 hours in 1958, against 40.3 hours in 1957.
Company Earnings.
The disappointing sales of 1958 were reflected in the industry's profit-and-loss record, which turned down as soon as volume declined. Of the 'Big Three,' only General Motors was able to show a profit through most of the year. Ford and Chrysler registered losses. General Motors' net profit after taxes in the first nine months of 1958 was $399,100,000, but this was a sharp drop from the $603,400,000 earnings in the first nine months of 1957. Ford's nine-month deficit was $16,200,000, compared with a profit of $229,500,000 in 1957. Chrysler recorded the biggest loss — $45,200,000 in the nine-month period, against a profit of $103,600,000 in 1957.

1957: Rail Transportation


1957: Rail Transportation

Archives consist of articles that originally appeared in Collier's Year Book (for events of 1997 and earlier) or as monthly updates in Encarta Yearbook (for events of 1998 and later). Because they were published shortly after events occurred, they reflect the information available at that time. Cross references refer to Archive articles of the same year.
1957: Rail Transportation
Traffic.
In recent years the railroad industry has failed to keep pace with the American economy. Despite the nation's great increase in production, the amount of railroad freight traffic was almost the same in 1956 as in 1947. This is especially significant because freight transportation provides about 85 per cent of the total railroad operating revenue. The rest comes from passenger transportation, 7 per cent; mail and express, 4 per cent; and miscellaneous, 4 per cent. Rail passenger traffic has a poorer record than freight, having declined every year since the end of World War II.
The tendency of the railroads to fall behind is evidenced by their diminishing proportion of the total intercity traffic. In 1956, according to preliminary figures, they carried only 48.2 per cent of the total amount (in ton-miles) of freight, express, and mail. This figure may be compared with the railroads' 49.4 per cent share in 1955, 65.2 per cent in 1947, and 75.2 in 1930. In passenger traffic the decline has been even more abrupt. From 8.0 per cent of the total number of intercity passenger-miles (including those in private automobiles) as recently as 1949, the railroads' share dropped to 4.3 per cent in 1955 and, by preliminary estimates, to 4.1 per cent in 1956.
Revenue and Rate of Return.
The trend of annual railroad revenue has been upward, for inflation has forced the railroads to raise their charges from time to time. The rate of increase in railroad revenue, however, has been slower than the rate of increase in the nation's total income. Thus, in 1947 the ratio of railroad revenue to national income was about 4.6 per cent; in 1955 it was only 3.2 per cent.
According to preliminary figures, the railroads' deficit from their passenger service in 1956 was about $697,000,000 — the largest in any year except 1953. Every large railroad lost money on its passenger service. In 1957 the ICC held hearings in its investigation of the passenger-deficit problem; at the end of the year it had not completed the investigation.
As railroad expenses in 1956 and the early months of 1957 increased more than revenues, the industry's rate of return (revenue minus expenses and taxes, as a percentage of investment) fell from 4.22 per cent in 1955 to 3.95 per cent in 1956; the trend in 1957 was sharply downward. The railroad industry in general believes that its rate of return should not be below 6 per cent.
Means of Recovery.
The railroads' poor record in recent years is largely a consequence of the naturally rapid development of newer modes of transportation, especially transportation by motor vehicle. Railroad interests assert, in addition, that their difficulties have been made unnecessarily severe by governmental policies, under which other forms of transportation enjoy government aid (subsidies). The railroads, however, are subjected to unduly restrictive regulations, especially regarding their rates and their freedom to abandon unprofitable passenger service.
To prevent the loss of additional traffic to other modes of transportation and to win back traffic already lost, the railroads pursue a variety of courses. They oppose the granting of subsidies to their competitors in the field of transportation, they urge removal of regulations which discriminate against them to their competitors' advantage, and some of them propose a government agency to lease equipment to the railroads (Symes Plan). They seek permission to reduce the rates on some of the competitive traffic. In addition, there are proposals, some of them extensions of programs already under way, intended to improve the quality and reduce the cost of railway freight service, including an expansion of the 'piggyback' system, increased automation, and the possible merging of the railroad systems. Finally, in the field of passenger service, they seek to discontinue certain unprofitable services and improve those which would be retained.
Subsidies.
Railroads have long opposed, in vain, the policy of the Federal government, continued in 1957, under which barge lines make no payments in return for the large expenditures by which the government maintains and improves the inland waterways. The fact that those costs are borne by the taxpaying public rather than by the barge lines enables these carriers to compete more advantageously with the railroads. A somewhat similar problem is presented by the Canadian-U.S. St. Lawrence Seaway project, which will permit large ocean vessels to operate in 1959 and thereafter between the Atlantic Ocean and Lake Erie. Much import and export traffic now moving by rail between the interior and such Atlantic ports as Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, will be carried directly by ocean vessels between foreign and Great Lakes ports.
Unlike other river waterways, the improved St. Lawrence will be operated on a toll basis. In 1957 spokesmen for the Great Lakes interests urged that the tolls be set at levels that will not meet the full costs of the Seaway, because of the promotional effect that such low tolls would have on Seaway traffic. Eastern railroads, on the contrary, maintained that the Seaway should be self-liquidating and that the tolls should therefore cover the Seaway's full costs. Although Eastern railroads view the approaching competition of the Seaway with trepidation, some of them anticipate partially compensating benefits through the enhanced industrial activity of the Great Lakes region and the rail traffic that it will stimulate. Western railroads, in general, think that the Seaway will be advantageous to them.
Related to the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence improvements, and also feared by some railroads, is the project to increase the capacity of the Illinois Waterway, which connects Chicago on Lake Michigan with the Mississippi River. Completion of the first phase of this project is expected about 1962. No tolls are contemplated. Railroads may be able to compete successfully through rate reductions on competitive traffic.
Railroad interests have long maintained that the structure of taxes on highway users permits operators of heavy trucks to pay less than their proper share of highway costs, thereby giving truckers an unfair competitive advantage. Railroads have sought to arouse public and legislative opinion on this and related subjects. The public-relations efforts of some of the railroads in this connection received a setback in October 1957, when a Federal court held that they violated the antitrust laws.
Discriminatory Regulations.
Railroad spokesmen maintain that government regulation is discriminatory because it applies to virtually all rail transportation, while about 90 per cent of the inland-waterway transportation and 65 per cent of the truck transportation is unregulated. The exempt transportation includes, among other elements, the large amount of movement by trucks or barges operated by the owners of the goods transported. Such transportation, called private carriage, is also exempt from the transportation excise tax of 3 per cent on freight charges.
Railroads are often prevented by state regulatory agencies from discontinuing unprofitable passenger services, a handicap that has little parallel among highway and inland-waterway carriers. A relatively minor type of regulatory discrimination is the requirement of more detailed reports to the government than are required of other carriers. The railroads spend at least $7,000,000 each year in preparing statistics to be submitted to the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC).
In planning a specific rate reduction to combat the diversion of traffic to another mode of transportation, a railroad often faces the question of whether or not the ICC will permit the reduction. The ICC, an agency of the Federal government, has authority to prevent interstate rates from becoming unreasonably low or unreasonably high. It has sometimes protected other modes of transportation by preventing railroads from fixing rates for competitive services at the relatively low levels that the railroads considered necessary.
A 1957 ICC decision indicates that this obstacle still exists. The case involved rates on petroleum products from a pipeline terminal in North Carolina to certain points in Virginia and West Virginia. The railroads wanted to charge rates 1' cents per 100 pounds below the trucking rates. The proposed rates would have been low enough to enable the railroads to obtain most of the traffic, and yet would have been high enough to cover all the costs of the rail service. The ICC, however, refused to let the railroad rates be set more than 1 cent below the trucking rates.
Thus, the railroads have been prevented in some cases from attracting as high a proportion of the traffic as rates reflecting their costs would have enabled them to attract. Accordingly, the railroads are seeking legislation that would forbid the ICC to consider the effect of a proposed rate on other modes of transportation or its relation to the rates charged by other modes.
Rate Increases.
To counterbalance rising costs, the railroads sometimes request the permission of the ICC to increase the general level of their rates. An ICC decision in August 1957, together with earlier interim decisions in the case, raised the over-all level of railroad freight rates about 10 per cent, bringing it to 108 per cent above the July 1946 level. The railroads had asked for a larger increase.
The railroads' contracts with some labor unions contain escalator clauses, under which wage increases totaling $125,000,000 a year went into effect on Nov. 1, 1957. A week later, the railroads announced that they would apply to the ICC for rate increases on many commodities. For competitive reasons, there were no general increases in rail passenger fares in 1954 and 1955; an increase of 5 per cent was granted in 1956 and another of 5 per cent became effective early in 1957. These increases, which brought the basic rail coach fare per mile to 2.7563 cents in the West, and 3.0318 in the South and Southwest, and 3.7212 in the Northeast, are not considered adequate to make the service generally profitable. Substantially higher rates, however, might greatly increase the diversion of passenger traffic to other modes of transportation.
Symes Plan.
In recent years, serious freight-car shortages have occurred during the fall period of peak demand. The railroads need to acquire additional cars at a much more rapid rate than in the recent past, but they lack the financial capacity to do so. To solve the problem, James M. Symes, president of the Pennsylvania Railroad, speaking in July 1957 on behalf of 34 Eastern railroads, proposed that a Federal agency be established with capital of $500 million and power to borrow $2 billion more, for the purpose of buying freight cars and other rolling stock. The agency would lease the equipment to railroads at rentals high enough to cover all costs. Some railroads have refused to endorse the plan, chiefly for fear that governmental supply of equipment will lead to additional government control and perhaps ultimately government ownership of railroads. A bill to carry out the Symes Plan has been introduced in Congress for consideration in 1958.
Piggyback.
The transportation of loaded highway trailers on railroad flat cars is intended to reconcile the low cost of longhaul rail transportation with the flexibility of local motor-vehicle movement by eliminating the costly and time-consuming transfer of goods between motor vehicles and railroad cars. Through this service, sometimes called piggyback, railroads hope to recapture some of the traffic lost to motor carriers. One railroad president is reported to have said that 96 per cent of his railroad's piggyback freight consists of traffic formerly moved by highway.
The future of piggyback rests largely on the level of the rates that can profitably be charged for the service; this level, in turn, depends on the cost of the service. According to a recent study by transportation engineer E. C. Poole (Railway Age, Aug. 26, 1957), piggyback tends to be less costly than all-highway transportation for distances of 100 miles or more; for distances of more than 500 miles it tends to cost less than half as much.
An outstanding new development in piggyback is the determination of the New York Central Railroad to enter this field, utilizing a novel technique. In Central's 'Flexi-Van' service, the wheel assembly is separated from a loaded highway trailer; the trailer, without wheels, is carried on a flat car. The process of freeing the trailer from its wheel assembly and placing it on the car, or the reverse at destination, ordinarily takes only four minutes. The railroad expects to initiate this service before the end of 1957.
Automation.
Through automation and other mechanization, the railroad industry in recent years has reduced the number of workers it employs (23 per cent fewer in 1956 than in 1946) and, in some cases, it has provided a faster service. Perhaps the outstanding event in this field in 1957 was the completion of the world's largest 'push-button' freight classification yard — the Pennsylvania Railroad's Conway Yard, located near Pittsburgh. In a classification yard, cars are sorted according to destination for attachment to the proper trains. With its radar, micro-talkie radios, and other equipment, the Conway Yard is able to classify 9,000 cars per day. The speed and capacity of this yard causes shipments in some cases to arrive at destination a full day earlier than they did under previous classification methods.
Mergers.
A far-reaching means of reducing costs is the merger of railroads, especially of those that compete with one another. In November 1957 two competing railroads, the nation's two largest in assets and in revenues, announced that they were considering a merger. If these railroads — the Pennsylvania and the New York Central — actually decide to merge, they will face the requirement of law that a railroad merger cannot take place without the ICC's approval.
Passenger Service.
To cope with the passenger-deficit problem, the railroads have followed a two-sided policy, that of decreasing certain services while improving others. In 1956 the railroads operated passenger trains on about 3,700 fewer miles than in 1955. Also in 1956 the railroads retired more than four passenger-train cars for every new one installed. The experience of the New York Central in the past few years was summarized in 1957 by one of its vice-presidents: 'When we spent substantial sums of money and vigorously promoted our [passenger] service, we increased our losses. When we contracted, we decreased our losses.'
In a few cases improvements initiated in 1957 involved the acquisition of new equipment. The Pennsylvania Railroad, for example, ordered 6 commuter coaches of the lightweight, electric Pioneer III type, first exhibited in 1956. On long runs, patronage of lightweight trains, in which some railroads had sought a solution of their passenger problem, was generally disappointing, partly because of vibration and other comfort considerations. New York Central's Xplorer and Rock Island's Jet Rocket were shifted to commuter or short-haul services. Experimental operations with General Motors' two Aerotrains proved of doubtful success; in November 1957 one was being remodeled and the other was soon to be leased to a Mexican railroad. The Baltimore & Ohio became the first railroad in the East to order 40-passenger, private-room, low-fare sleeping cars of the type introduced by the Burlington in 1956 as Slumbercoaches. The Baltimore & Ohio plans to call them Siesta coaches and to place them in operation in 1958 on its Washington-Chicago run.
Some railroads have sought recently to streamline their reservations and ticketing procedures. Especially notable in 1957 was the opening of an electronic system at the Pennsylvania Station in New York City. The making of a reservation and the issuance of a ticket by this system, which includes the world's largest closed-circuit TV installation, is said to require, on the average, only 2 minutes in contrast to 8 minutes previously required.