Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Paper Wheel

It may sound like a joke, but this is actually thought to be a "paper wheel" under our old wooden Soo Line coach 67.  The "paper" is actually a type of stiff cardboard pressed between the hub and the rim, and it's the same basic idea of employing an elastic material to cushion the ride and deaden the sound as later used on PCCs.
(Photo by Bill Wulfert)

The paper wheel was invented about 1870 by Richard Allen, a former locomotive engineer.  He had been persuaded by his brother-in-law to invest in a factory making cardboard for textbook covers and so on, but the market was glutted and the factory was losing money.   So he began looking for new uses for the material, and came up with the idea of using the material to dampen the noise of the wheels on the rail from being transmitted into the cars.  At one time these paper wheels were widely used by Pullman and others on passenger cars.  The paper is held between two plates bolted together, and you can see the bolt heads inside the rim of the wheel.  At some point it might be interesting to examine the wheel more closely, but for now, it's another historic artifact in storage.  IRM has lots of hidden treasures.


David Church said...

Paper wheels were implicated in many accidents that Pullman worked to hush up. In a book on Passenger cars that I have.

Anonymous said...

Is it snowing inside the passenger car barn?

Randall Hicks said...

I don't have time to summarize it all now, but John H. White Jr.'s book "The American Railroad Passenger Car" has a thorough discussion of paper wheels. Maybe that's the one you're referring to. The paper wheels were not significantly less reliable than the cast iron wheels of the time, which had their own problems. But as time went on, better alternatives were found.

And of course that's not snow, it's nice clean ballast inside the barn. Maybe a geologist could identify exactly what it is.

Anonymous said...

It is amazing that any of the paper wheels survived in use long enough for IRM to acquire some.


Anonymous said...

As an aside (and just for fun), here are links to three old US patents covering paper railway wheels




Really old technology?

Anonymous said...

Soo Line (Wisconsin Central) car 67 was built in 1905. Around 1929 the car was stripped of seats and used as a station in Allentown, Wisconsin. That may be why the paper wheel lasted so long. Bill Wulfert