Thomas Edison’s Cars Get a Needed Lift

Visiting the Thomas Edison garage at the Glenmont home estate is a treat for many visitors each year. On a good day, over 200 members of the public enjoy the vintage cars-in particular, the electric cars that used Edison’s famous nickel-iron alkaline storage batteries. Recently these cars were conserved and given much needed cleaning and primping.

Shown below is the 1914 Detroit Electric Model 47, the preferred vehicle of Mrs. Edison. Folks marvel at its “teapot” shaped appearance. In the day, this well-recognized vehicle was seen traversing Essex County on various philanthropic and social missions as Mrs. Edison “gave back” to her fellow citizens. She often served on many committees and working groups engaged in charities, education, and other important issues of the day. She and her vehicle epitomized the independent “home executive”.

1914 Model 47 electric vehicle

1914 Model 47 electric vehicle

Behind the vehicle, to the left as shown above, is the battery charging station Thomas built in 1908—and today, perhaps the oldest garage-based charging station in existence (and we think charging a modern electric vehicle in a garage is something new)! The Model 47 has three on-board battery compartments; one forward, one rear and one underneath for auxiliary applications like headlamps, clock and perhaps some heating for the interior. It was advertised as having a range of 80 miles, at a speed of 20 mph.

Below is the 1911 Detroit Electric L-1 vehicle, the forerunner of the Model 47. Many photos exist of Thomas being driven in this vehicle by either Mrs. Edison, his then young sons, or laboratory assistants. The great inventor was a not a very good driver, often making contact with ditches and trees! He soon became content with sitting peacefully and thinking up new ideas, while being driven around safely by others.

1911 Model L-1 electric vehicle (front and side view)

1911 Model L-1 electric vehicle (front and side view)

Notice the absence of a steering wheel (the same for the 1914 model too). Dual “tillers” were used: the lower one for steering the front wheels right or left; the upper tiller for acceleration. This took some getting used to, and may have been what caused Mr. Edison trouble when he drove. The upper tiller is an adaptation of the “Johnson Bar”, borrowed from locomotive design.

Full steering wheel capability becomes evident in the 1922 Ford Model T, also on display in the garage; and shown below alongside a beautiful 1936 Ford-Brewster owned by Thomas’s son Charles when he was Governor of NJ. Notice the incredible technology and styling changes between the 1922 Model T and the 1936 Brewster.

The Brewster has a 65 Hp, V-8 engine [the famous flathead Ford V-8], and with its rejuvenated internals is capable of 100 mph. The Model T had a 4 cylinder, 20 Hp engine with a top speed of about 45 mph; but it also had a multi-fuel surprise built in….the little engine could burn gasoline, kerosene, or alcohol!

1922 Model T (right) alongside a 1936 Ford Brewster

1922 Model T (right) alongside a 1936 Ford Brewster

The entire first floor of the garage, walls and ceiling, have been freshened as well to show the Edison concrete used to build this magnificent structure. The same Edison concrete formulation used here is what was used to build the original Yankee Stadium in the 1920s.

The Edison Innovation Foundation www.thomasedison.org is now raising money to convert the second floor of this building into an educational facility for the many students and teachers who visit to learn about Edison and his role in creating the very popular STEM educational philosophy and team-based problem solving.

Did you know?
In 1914:

  • 38% of all the cars on the road were electric; 22% gasoline, 40% steam powered.
  • Average annual wage was about $625. Cost of Model 47 was about $3,700.

Thomas Edison said, “I never perfected an invention that I did not think about in terms of the service it might give others… I find out what the world needs, then I proceed to invent …”

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

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Hyperloop Revisited — the Edison Spirit Alive and Well

Prologue
Almost exactly four years ago, we ran a story about Elon Musk’s Hyperloop concept, a pod based, rapid transit system to traverse long distances. Original literature discussed being able to traverse Los Angeles to San Francisco in about 30 minutes. The article below updates our readers on the significant advances since then.

Original concept drawing for a Hyperloop pod

Original concept drawing for a Hyperloop pod

Imagine a pod that will someday carry human passengers and probably freight too, something that resembles a bus with 16 retractable wheels….perhaps 28 feet long, pointed at the business end, composed of aluminum and fiber composites. Load this structure into a an 11 foot concrete test tube evacuated of air, and shoot it down the track using an electromagnetic propulsion system –think magnetic levitation (Mag-Lev)- and record the results. How about 192 mph in about 5 seconds!

Hyperloop test pod

Hyperloop test pod

Check-out a recent test of the pod and test track:
https://www.teslarati.com/hyperloop-one-192-mph-test-video/

All this work adds up to what engineers call a “proof of concept”; and now the details get filled in to make it practical…and that means lots of hard core engineering tempered with tough-minded business analysis. There will be lots of coordination with safety and environmental agencies, and discussions and analyses to determine where to locate such facilities, the location of station stops, the ergonomics of passenger travel and lots more.

Maybe we shall see these lines located along established high voltage power line rights of way. It makes sense. Those lines move “electrons” (electricity) between populations centers, so why not move people and freight the same way? Perhaps such lines can parallel roads or railroad rights of way too. No doubt there will be very many interesting questions and points of view to be addressed and various constraints to be dealt with.

Thomas Edison would applaud the work done so far and anxiously await more progress!

Thomas Edison said, “If we all did the things we are really capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves …”

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

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Thomas Edison – Home Schooled by his Mother

All you technology/engineering teachers, educators and STEM facilitators…listen up!

Down through the years, the wisdom of Edison’s mother (Nancy Elliot Edison) still rings true to us today. Here are the simple truisms she urged young Tom to keep uppermost in his mind. She home-schooled him when the local one-room schoolhouse could not motivate him. Young Tom was certainly a different kind of learner.

Fortunately, Mrs. Edison was a formally education normal school teacher, but was not practicing at the time, busy with raising her family. Here are the four maxims she taught young Tom…so relevant to your classrooms today.

Samuel and Nancy Edison - Tom’s parents

Samuel and Nancy Edison – Tom’s parents

Do not be afraid to fail. Keep trying, learn from failure; and try again. This later gives birth to the old Edison adage …  “fail your way to success”. Empower young minds to look at the world as an intellectual challenge-often composed of iterative cycles that improve solutions or even the development of new products. Empower students to fail, not be ashamed or overwhelmed by it. That is why erasers are on the backs of pencils!

It is OK to work with your hands and your head. Not everything important comes from books. Experience the world and learn from it. There is a world beyond the classroom that is brimming with learning opportunities. Take advantage of all this information and knowledge-just as valid as what books my teach you. Bring experts from the world of work into class to show the relevancy of school work to life –on-the-job. Every company is a learning campus, filled with on-the-job experts and leaders who can inspire young employees to reach for the stars. Help your students learn early the value of head and hands learning. After all … isn’t this what STEM, technology education and maker spaces are all about?

Young Tom Edison

Young Tom Edison

Read across the entire span of literature, not just what you like. Reading and studying literature brings new ideas into your mind acting as a catalyst for mental stimulation. Throughout his life, Edison read and memorized poetry, prose and literature. This made him a great communicator, able to draw on the great lessons of written culture and history. One of his great historical heroes was Thomas Paine and his writings leading to the Revolutionary War.

Never stop learning, keep improving yourself. This can be seen in the great Edison library and office from which he ran his legendary West Orange Labs. Probably 10,000-20,000 volumes were there at his fingertips to support his enormous appetite for information and knowledge. He knew to lag behind in his constant quest to learn meant competitors would soon catch up. He may have been the first great corporate innovator to consider retaining a corporate library for himself and his staff to use. With the Internet at our fingertips, continuous learning is a snap. Promote this important life lesson.

The Edison home in Milan, Ohio

The Edison home in Milan, Ohio

Throughout his life, Edison credited his mother’s love and patience with giving him a firm footing in the world as a precursor to his great success.

Keep all this in mind when school once again resumes in September. Draw inspiration from the great inventor. Check out this website often, especially its webpage dedicated to free resources for the classroom teacher. Also, check out our sister website at thomasedison.org.

Thomas Edison said, “I never perfected an invention that I did not think about in terms of the service it might give others… I find out what the world needs, then I proceed to invent …”

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

 

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