Only thirty years ago the first electric

locomotive in the United States, and so far
as it is known, in the world, designed for
hauling freight made its trial trip form
Ansonia to Derby, Connecticut. This
locomotive, which was the forerunner of
the huge electric motors in use to-day, was
considered a marvel of engineering
a c hi e v e me nt a t t he t i me o f i t s
The original locomotive which is nowin
the Hartford barns of the Connecticut
Company, and a model of which appears in
the accompanying photograph, was
constructed by the Pullman Palace Car
Company and weighs 35,000 pounds. The
electric equipment, consisting of a 76 H.P.
motor, was Manufactured by the Depoele
Electric Manufacturing Company.
The first trial trip took place May 1,
1 8 8 8 , o v e r t h e An s o n i a - De r b y,
Birmingham route. In ordering the car it
had apparently been forgotten that a low
railroad trestle existed near the Derby
dock, for it was found that the body of the
car was too high to allow clearance. The
roof was accordingly removed and a
collapsible trolley frame improvised for the
initial trip. On one side of the passage
under the railroad trestle was kept a box
containing a flexible insulated cable which
was connected to the trolley wire, the free
end being a brass contact piece. When the
collapsible frame was lowered to the roof,
the plug was inserted in a socket contained
in the wooden block on top of the car
beneath the base of the trolley frame, and
the cable was paid out, thereby providing
power for the car to operate under the
Laminated copper brushes were used,
and as the brush holders would sometimes
work loose, the motorman usually stood
with his had pressing on the handle of the
brush holder to secure good contact! As a
result of sparking the ends of the brushes
frequently fused, making it necessary to
trim them with a pair of sheers carried for
the purpose. Think of it!! In case the
locomotive moved backward unexpectedly
the ends of the brushes would catch in the
commutator bars and bend over, also
necessitating trimming the copper before
Lightning arrestors had not been
introduced and burnouts often resulted
fromelectric storms. So frequent were the
del ays f rom t hi s source t hat t he
management adopted the practice of
suspending operations during storms.
The freight motor had the distinction of
being reversible and therefore could be
operated from either end, a feature which
the passenger cars did not have at this
The motorman’ s posi ti on when
operating was inside of the body, where he
stood in a pit or depression in the car floor,
a provision necessary to give him “head
The only untoward event of the firs trip
was a derailment half way to Derby
junction, but no serious delay resulted and
the management considered the first trip a
“huge success.” The Ansonia said Sentinel
of the trip: “. . . ‘All aboard for Derby.’
someone shouted and a man seated on the
top of the car swung the traveler around to
the wire, the current descended, and away
spedthe car like a thing of life.”
This Photo Perhaps, is One of the Most Interesting Imaginable, Showing As It Does,
the Exact Model of the First Electric Locomotive Built in the United States, and
Probably the First Practical Engine of Its Type in the World. Its Trial Trip Occurred In
1888. Its Initial Journey Was Hailedas aHugeSuccess, at theTime.
August 1920 Science & Invention
Note: This article was re-set to afford easier reading. Every attempt was taken to make it as close to the original as possible.