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Railroad Air Brakes

The first air brakes were developed during the 1860's by George Westinghouse, a young engineer who got the idea after reading about a compressed-air drill. The same principle used by the drill produced railroad brakes so safe that the system is still in use.

To set the brakes, an engineer pulls a lever which reduces the air presure in a hose connecting all the cars. This reduction releases the valve of a pressurized air reservoir under each car (above), allowing air to flow into a brake cylinder between the wheels (below).

Here the pressurized air forces down a piston, which sets a pair of brake shoes against the wheels. Any accident which breaks the air hose will thus stop the train automatically.

PRINT SOURCE
C.C. Furnas and Joe McCarthy The Engineer New York: Time Incorporated, 1966

SEE ALSO
George Westinghouse

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The Robinson Library >> Technology >> Railroad Engineering and Operation >> Railway Equipment and Supplies

This page was last updated on March 18, 2017.