[X120CAP], Letter from Frank Julian Sprague to Edward Hibberd Johnson, January 31st, 1889


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[X120CAP], Letter from Frank Julian Sprague to Edward Hibberd Johnson, January 31st, 1889

Editor's Notes

In view of the many complaints about motors, and on account of the apparently unsatisfactory condition of affairs in Cleveland, I deemed it necessary a fortnight ago to make a personal investigation of affairs there. This was further necessitated by the proposition to place our entire manufacture in the hands of the Edison Machine Works, and the general strictures, both in and out of this Company, upon the design and character of the workmanship in the railroad motors. For the benefit of all concerned, I think it is advisable to specify sundry facts instead of leaving them to verbal communication, as has been so often done, and frequently without, apparently, the result which we should expect.##I have often insisted that a large part of the troubles experienced with railway motors, both in the past and at present, were not due in any way to lack of capacity or bad design, but rather to a carelessness of workmanship and inspection, and ignorance on the part of many of our young men outisde as to how to avoid difficulties which existed or arose, and that these defects would to a greater or less extent exist in any machine, no matter what its design, with the same method of supervision and manufacture which now exist. That these things are so, is no claim tha thte machines are by any means perfect in design, and that radical improvements cannot be made. [goes ont to list several problems] Every one of these defects,--and I do not here mention what I have so often complained of, continual variation in dimensions which have never been changed--are things easily remedied by careful constructive management. They are intolerable in either ours or any other machine. Ignorance of them, with the consequent trouble and loss, is due to the lack o knowledge on the part of oru young men outside as to what to expect, the method of inspection which we now have, and, above all, to the reliance upon the honesty and intelligence of the Edison Machine Works and their present method of manufacture. Many of these defects have frequently had attention called to them. The remedies of many of them have been long ago suggested; but yet in our latest and what should be our best road they are more frequently shewn than in almost any other. It is difficult to conceive of or appreciate the [annoyance?] and loss, both pecuniarily and to our reputation, which these defects bring upon us, and I think it is impossible to appreciate them and their importance without a personal, pracitcal experience in operating a road under the conditions of commercial practice. These defects are inexcusable, and have no more to do with the general plan or design of this machine than they have with that of the standard motor. [goes on to list specific problems in Cleveland - letter is incomplete]
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Thomas A. Edison Papers, School of Arts and Sciences, Rutgers University
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