BRYANT'S OTHER INVENTIONS
During the time that Gridley Bryant was superintendent of
the Railway Company, he was not satisfied with completing the railroad. He was always devising ways and means of bettering the operation of the railroad and from time to time introduced
further innovations. Some of these ideas and principles were
still in use today being changed very little. Perhaps the best example of this is the "frog" or switch. Figure 35 is the "frog" invented by Bryant and is located on the Crane Estate on Adams
Street, Quincy. Figure 35A is another "frog" that was exhibited
at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893.
Bryant never patented any of his inventions, but rather
turned them over to the general public for their betterment.
His more prominent inventions included the turntable (mentioned
in Chapter 6), four- and eight-wheel cars and the principle of coupling them, the movable derrick, snow plow, granite polishing machine and the previously mentioned "frog". It is all the more remarkable that all of his inventions were operated by horsepower
and at no time did he ever adopt steam power.
Perhaps the one invention that caused Bryant more trouble and heartbreak than his whole railroad was the coupling feature of his four- and eight-wheeled cars. A man named Ross Winans adopted this same principle on the New York and Erie Railroad. Winans' patent, granted October 1, 1834, for a movable truck used when connecting two or more cars together started a very long and famous lawsuit. Nearly five years; time and $250,000.00 were expended in the litigation before a final decision was obtained against the patent. While the decision did not benefit Bryant financially, it nevertheless sustained his claim as the inventor of the movable trucks.
Further reference to the construction of the trucks or four-wheel carriages shows that they were constructed with two heavy oak timbers, to each of which was bolted an iron axletree. The wheels were made of cast iron with inside flanges and treads running upon edge rails. These wheels were about eighteen inches in diameter and revolved separately upon fixed axles, as in cars now in use. The distance between the bearing points of the wheels was five feet in each truck. Each truck had a platform covering of oak plank fastened to its frame. They had no pedestals or springs and could be used separately when needed as four-wheel cars. When stones of eight or ten tons in weight were to be transported, two of these trucks or cars were connected by a king bolt and a platform, thereby making an eight wheel car.
When longer stones were to be carried, the number of cars was increased. The main body or frame to connect the trucks, when
used as an eight-wheel truck terminated about eighteen inches
beyond the middle of each truck. They had no projecting platform
or bumper and, in the use of two such cars together, their trucks would collide. These cars exhibited the swiveling principle of
two trucks connected to one carrying body adapted to transporting granite or other heavy bodies and not suited to any other purpose. They continued in use on this road for over a quarter a century. Figure 35 shows a "train" of three of these cars coupled together passing through "Railway Village" in East Milton about 1840.³
After many years of invaluable service to numerous railroads, Bryant's physical handicaps curtailed his activities. Owing to his many and great business losses, and promises of financial returns, after settlement of the Winans' case, which never materialized, his circumstances became greatly reduced and his interest waned, finally realizing he would never receive any financial remuneration for his many services for the betterment of his fellow man. Having more or less retired to his old home in Scituate, he passed away on June 13, 1867, being nearly seventy years of age.
An interesting photograph, Figure 37, shows one of the pages from his own ledger, written by himself, and explains in part a section of the wharf area in a letter written to a friend in 1830. The ledger contains letters and notes describing the various sections and operations of the Granite Railway and is in an excellent state of preservation.
Most of the original plans of the first railroad, as drawn by Gridley Bryant, are in the possession of Robert Faxon of Quincy, whose father was president of the Granite Railway. He was given these plans by a Mr. Gove, the great grandson of Bryant, hoping someday to place them in a local museum. Mr. Faxon was kind enough to let me use these plans and make various notes from them.
The only invention I have not mentioned is the car or trucks used in hauling long columns. Figure 38 shows this car loaded with columns and being hauled by a team of oxen through the streets of Quincy and was a familiar sight after 1830. This is apparently one of the columns used in the construction of the Stock Exchange Building in New York and was hauled by this method from the quarries in West Quincy over the road to Boston and then by boat to New York.
Figure 39 shows the remains of a granite carrying cart, possible one part of the type of carts shown in the previous picture. This cart was discovered during the 1930's by the Department of the Interior while doing research and drawing plans about the first railroad and later was incorporated in their book of Historical American Buildings.