The New York Subway: Chapter 06, Electrical Equipment of Cars

From nycsubway.org


200-H.P. Motor.

In determining the electrical equipment of the trains, the company has aimed to secure an organization of motors and control apparatus easily adequate to operate trains in both local and express service at the highest speeds compatible with safety to the traveling public. For each of the two classes of service the limiting safe speed is fixed by the distance between stations at which the trains stop, by curves, and by grades. Except in a few places, for example where the East Side branch passes under the Harlem River, the tracks are so nearly level that the consideration of grade does not materially affect determination of the limiting speed. While the majority of the curves are of large radius, the safe limiting speed, particularly for the express service, is necessarily considerably less than it would be on straight tracks.

The average speed of express trains between City Hall and 145th Street on the West Side will approximate 25 miles an hour, including stops. The maximum speed of trains will be 45 miles per hour. The average speed of local and express trains will exceed the speed made by the trains on any elevated railroad.

To attain these speeds without exceeding maximum safe limiting speeds between stops, the equipment provided will accelerate trains carrying maximum load at a rate of 1.25 miles per hour per second in starting from stations on level track. To obtain the same acceleration by locomotives, a draw-bar pull of 44,000 pounds would be necessary-a pull equivalent to the maximum effect of six steam locomotives such as were used recently upon the Manhattan Elevated Railway in New York, and equivalent to the pull which can be exerted by two passenger locomotives of the latest Pennsylvania Railroad type. Two of these latter would weigh about 250 net tons. By the use of the multiple unit system of electrical control, equivalent results in respect to rate of acceleration and speed are attained, the total addition to train weight aggregating but 55 net tons.

If the locomotive principle of train operation were adopted, therefore, it is obvious that it would be necessary to employ a lower rate of acceleration for express trains. This could be attained without very material sacrifice of average speed, since the average distance between express stations is nearly two miles. In the case of local trains, however, which average nearly three stops per mile, no considerable reduction in the acceleration is possible without a material reduction in average speed. The weight of a local train exceeds the weight of five trail cars, similarly loaded, by 33 net tons, and equivalent adhesion and acceleration would require locomotives having not less than 80 net tons effective upon drivers.


The multiple unit system adopted possesses material advantages over a locomotive system in respect to switching at terminals. Some of the express trains in rush hours will comprise eight cars, but at certain times during the day and night when the number of people requiring transportation is less than during the morning and evening, and were locomotives used an enormous amount of switching, coupling and uncoupling would be involved by the comparative frequent changes of train lengths. In an eight-car multiple-unit express train, the first, third, fifth, sixth, and eighth cars will be motor cars, while the second, fourth, and seventh will be trail cars. An eight-car train can be reduced, therefore, to a six-car train by uncoupling two cars from either end, to a five-car train by uncoupling three cars from the rear end, or to a three-car train by uncoupling five cars from either end. In each case a motor car will remain at each end of the reduced train. In like manner, a five-car local train may be reduced to three cars, still leaving a motor car at each end by uncoupling two cars from either end, since in the normal five-car local train the first, third, and fifth cars will be motor cars.


The motors are of the direct current series type and are rated 200 horse power each. They have been especially designed for the subway service in line with specifications prepared by engineers of the Interborough Company, and will operate at an average effective potential of 570 volts.

They are supplied by two manufacturers and differ in respect to important features of design and construction, but both are believed to be thoroughly adequate for the intended service.

The photographs on this page illustrate motors of each make. The weight of one make complete, with gear and gear case, is 5,900 pounds The corresponding weight of the other is 5,750 pounds. The ratio of gear reduction used with one motor is 19 to 63, and with the other motor 20 to 63.

Motor Control

By the system of motor control adopted for the trains, the power delivered to the various motors throughout the train is simultaneously controlled and regulated by the motorman at the head of the train. This is accomplished by means of a system of electric circuits comprising essentially a small drum controller and an organization of actuating circuits conveying small currents which energize electric magnets placed beneath the cars, and so open and close the main power circuits which supply energy to the motors. A controller is mounted upon the platform at each end of each motor car, and the entire train may be operated from any one of these points, the motorman normally taking his post on the front platform of the first car. The switches which open and close the power circuits through motors and rheostats are called contactors, each comprising a magnetic blow-out switch and the electro-magnet which controls the movements of the switch. By these contactors the usual series-multiple control of direct-current motors is effected. The primary or control circuits regulate the movement, not only of the contactors but also of the reverser, by means of which the direction of the current supplied to motors may be reversed at the will of the motorman.

The photograph on this page shows the complete control wiring and motor equipment of a motor car as seen beneath the car. In wiring the cars unusual precautions have been adopted to guard against risk of fire. As elsewhere described in this publication, the floors of all motor cars are protected by sheet steel and a material composed of asbestos and silicate of soda, which possesses great heat-resisting properties. In addition to this, all of the important power wires beneath the car are placed in conduits of fireproof material, of which asbestos is the principal constituent. Furthermore, the vulcanized rubber insulation of the wires themselves is covered with a special braid of asbestos, and in order to diminish the amount of combustible insulating material, the highest grade of vulcanized rubber has been used, and the thickness of the insulation correspondingly reduced. It is confidently believed that the woodwork of the car body proper cannot be seriously endangered by an accident to the electric apparatus beneath the car. Insulation is necessarily combustible, and in burning evolves much smoke; occasional accidents to the apparatus, notwithstanding every possible precaution, will sometimes happen; and in the subway the flash even of an absolutely insignificant fuse may be clearly visible and cause alarm. The public traveling in the subway should remember that even very severe short-circuits and extremely bright flashes beneath the car involve absolutely no danger to passengers who remain inside the car.

The photograph on page 120 illustrates the control wiring of the new steel motor cars. The method of assembling the apparatus differs materially from that adopted in wiring the outfit of cars first ordered, and, as the result of greater compactness which has been attained, the aggregate length of the wiring has been reduced one-third.

The quality and thickness of the insulation is the same as in the case of the earlier cars, but the use of asbestos conduits is abandoned and iron pipe substituted. In every respect it is believed that the design and workmanship employed in mounting and wiring the motors and control equipments tinder these steel cars is unequaled elsewhere in similar work up to the present time.

The motors and car wiring are protected by a carefully planned system of fuses, the function of which is to melt and open the circuits, so cutting off power in of failure of insulation.

Express trains and local trains alike provided with a bus line, which interconnects the electrical supply to all cars and prevents interruption of the delivery of current to motors in case the collector shoes attached to any given car should momentarily fail to make contact with the third rail. At certain cross-overs this operates to prevent extinguishing the lamps in successive cars as the train passes from one track to another. The controller is so constructed that when the train is in motion the motorman is compelled to keep his hand upon it, otherwise the power is automatically cut off and the brakes are applied.

This important safety device, which, in case a motorman be suddenly incapacitated at his post, will promptly stop the train, is a recent invention and is first introduced in practical service upon trains of the Interborough Company.

All cars are heated and lighted by electricity. The heaters are placed beneath the seats, and special precautions have been taken to insure uniform distribution of the heat. The wiring for heaters and lights has been practically safe-guarded to avoid, so far as possible, all risk of short-circuit or fire, the wire used for the heater circuits being carried upon porcelain insulators from all woodwork by large clearances, while the wiring for lights is carried in metallic conduit.

All lamp sockets are specially designed to prevent possibility of fire and are separated from the woodwork of the car by air spaces and by asbestos.

The interior of each car is lighted by twenty-six 10-candle power lamps, in addition to four lamps provided for platforms and markers. The lamps for lighting the interior are carefully located, with a view to securing uniform and effective illumination.

Image 17585

(31k, 525x415)
Photo by: IRT Company
Location: Interborough Subway

Image 17586

(31k, 555x349)
Photo by: IRT Company
Location: Interborough Subway

Image 17587

(43k, 632x480)
Photo by: IRT Company
Location: Interborough Subway

Image 17589

(29k, 525x329)
Photo by: IRT Company
Location: Interborough Subway

Image 17590

(47k, 640x480)
Photo by: IRT Company
Location: Interborough Subway

Webmaster's Note: Additional photos from the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection have been added to this document where appropriate. The Library of Congress is not aware of any U.S. copyright or any other restrictions in the photographs in this collection.

nycsubway.org is not affiliated with any transit agency or provider.
Not mobile.