The Meigs Elevated Railway

Gallery opened 18 Dec 2020

Updated: 26 Dec 2020

New pic of passenger car
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The Meigs elevated railway is often spoken of as a monorail, but in fact it had three rails; it was promoted by Josiah Vincent Meigs. Each car had two bogies, with four wheels. These were angled inwards. In addition each bogie had a pair of horizontal gripper wheels, between the two pairs of angled load-bearing wheels, which squeezed the central rail.

Left: The Meigs' test train posed with its crew: Boston circa 1886

This is the full-sized experimental train on a short test section of the elevated railway, which was built next to company headquarters in Bridge Street. The locomotive is in front, and behind it is presumably the tender, though it does appear to have windows; perhaps they were dummys for the look of it? On close inspection, the locomotive also has windows in the side. The picture shows the lowest track format; the elevated railway was intended to be carried on single iron pillars, minimising the amount of shade thrown on the street below.

The locomotive was a cab-forward type, with the driver at the front and the fireman at the rear the boiler, at the rear of the locomotive; it is not currently known how they communicated. The locomotive had a conventional loco-type firetube boiler, 15 feet in length and 5 feet in diameter.

Left: The Meigs' test train on elevated track: 1886

The driver can be seen in the penthouse window.

This drawing is from the front cover of Scientific American for 10 July 1886.

Left: The inside of the Meigs passenger car: 1886

Left: Aftermath of the Meigs fire: Feb 1887

On the 4th of February 1887, Meigs's car shed and the experimental coach were destroyed in a fire which is generally spoken of as arson. The locomotive and its tender survived. Men can be seen in the remains of the coach. The locomotive is at right and the passenger car at left, with the tender in the middle.

The promotion of the system did not go well because of Meigs' entrenched opposition to electric traction, which was coming to the fore at the time.

The Meigs elevated railway has a Wikipedia page. This goes into detail about the complicated wheel arrangements.

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