CHAPTER ELEVEN. THE VALLEY OF LEBANON
THE SICK TURKEY
It was four o'clock, next day, when we left Albany, going down Green Street and crossing the long bridge, taking the straight road over the ridges for Pittsfield.
Immediately on leaving the eastern end of the bridge the ascent of a long steep grade is begun. This is the first ridge, and from this on for fifteen miles is a succession of ridges, steep rocky hills, and precipitous declines. These continue until Brainerd is reached, where the valley of Lebanon begins.
These ridges can be partially avoided by turning down the Hudson to the right after crossing the bridge and making a detour to Brainerd; the road is about five miles longer, but is very commonly taken by farmers going to the city with heavy loads, and may well be taken by all who wish to avoid a series of stiff grades.
Many farmers were amazed to hear we had come over the hills instead of going around, and wondered how the machine managed to do it.
Popular notions concerning the capabilities of a machine are interesting; people estimate its strength and resources by those of a horse. In speaking of roads, farmers seem to assume the machine - like the horse - will not mind one or two hills, no matter how steep, but that it will mind a series of grades, even though none are very stiff.
Steam and electric automobiles do tire, - that is, long pulls through heavy roads or up grades tell on them, - the former has trouble in keeping up steam, the latter rapidly consumes its store of electricity. The gasoline machine does not tire. Within its limitations it can keep going indefinitely, and it is immaterial whether it is up or down grade - save in the time made; it will go all day through deep mud, or up steep hills, quite as smoothly, though by no means so fast, as on the level; but let it come to one hole, spot, or hill that is just beyond the limit of its power, and it is stuck; it has no reserve force to draw upon. The steam machine can stop a moment, accumulate two or three hundred pounds of steam, open the throttle and, for a few moments, exert twice its normal energy to get out of the difficulty.
It is not a series of hills that deters the gasoline operator, but the one hill, the one grade, the one bad place, which is just beyond the power he has available. The road the farmer calls good may have that one bad place or hill in it, and must therefore be avoided. The road that is pronounced bad may be, every foot of it, well within the power of the machine, and is therefore the road to take.
In actual road work the term "horse-power" is very misleading.
When steam-engines in early days began to take the place of horses, they were rated as so many horse-power according to the number of horses they displaced. It then became important to find out what was the power of the horse. Observing the strong dray horses used by the London breweries, Watt found that a horse could go two and one-half miles per hour and at the same time raise a weight of one hundred and fifty pounds suspended by a rope over a pulley; this is equivalent to thirty-three thousand pounds raised one foot in one minute, which is said to be one horse-power.
No horse, of course, could raise thirty-three thousand pounds a foot or any portion of a foot in a minute or an hour, but the horse can travel at the rate of two and one-half miles an hour raising a weight of one hundred and fifty pounds, and the horse can do more; while it cannot move so heavy a weight as thirty-three thousand pounds, it can in an emergency and by sudden strain move much more than one hundred and fifty pounds; with good foothold it can pull more than its own weight along a road, out of a hole, or up a hill. It could not lift or pull so great a weight very far; in fact, no farther than the equivalent of approximately thirty-three thousand pounds raised one foot in one minute; but for the few seconds necessary a very great amount of energy is at the command of the driver of the horse. Hence eight horses, or even four, or two can do things on the road that an eight horse-power gasoline machine cannot do; for the gasoline machine cannot concentrate all its power into the exertion of a few moments. If it is capable of lifting a given load up a given grade at a certain speed on its lowest gear, it cannot lift twice the load up the same grade, or the same load up a steeper grade in double the time, for its resources are exhausted when the limit of the power developed through the lowest gear is reached. The grade may be only a mud hole, out of which the rear wheels have to rise only two feet to be free, but it is as fatal to progress as a hill a mile long.
Of course it is always possible to race the engine, throw in the clutch, and gain some power from the momentum of the fly-wheel, and many a bad place may be surmounted step by step in this way; but this process has its limitations also, and the fact remains that with a gasoline machine it is possible to carry a given load only so fast, but if the machine moves it all, it will continue to move on until the load is increased, or the road changes for the worse.
When the farmer hears of an eight horse-power machine he thinks of the wonderful things eight good horses can do on the road, and is surprised when the machine fails to go up hills that teams travel every day; he does not understand it, and wonders where the power comes in. He is not enough of a mechanic to reflect that the eight horse-power is demonstrated in the carrying of a ton over average roads one hundred and fifty miles in ten hours, something eight horses could not possibly do.
Just as we were entering the valley of Lebanon, beyond the village of Brainerd, while going down a slight descent, my Companion exclaimed, -