Michelin tried in his day that all railways carry tires, like cars. He came out…regular

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Around the summer of 1929, Andre Jules Michelinthe engineer and successful founder of the tire brand, spent one of the worst nights of their life. Not because of the worries. Nor the heat of the summer evenings on the French Riviera. Nor because of the infirmities of age, which at the gates of 80 years probably made her sleep lighter and more convulsive. No. What annoyed the night of the famous industrialist was the annoying rattle of the hotel train in which he was travelling.

During a journey in car bed Between Paris and Cannes, Michelin found that the system of metal wheels and rails used by the railway was a nuisance. The pounding, the rattling of the wheels going over the joints, the jumps and the more than improved suspension of the vehicle made the experience a nuisance. And about sleeping, directly, an unattainable dream.

Annoyed with that experience —they relate in train stories— the businessman had an idea: why not transfer the advantages of the modern tires manufactured in his factory to the trains? The idea could certainly be attractive to both parties. The railways would gain in comfort and André’s company and his brother Édouard would get diversify your business and open up to a new and flourishing market. It was not a bad prospect at the gates of the crash of 1929.

A dream that did not come to fruition

What the French company proposed was to retire the steel wheels in favor of a new design that incorporated special rims, with tires, metal flanges and a kind of inner wooden ring that reduced the risk in the event of a puncture. Its creators claimed that thanks to that prototype adherence was improved and increased the train’s ability to accelerate and brake. And all with a system that was also quieter and absorbed shocks.

The thing about tires for trains logically also had certain difficulties. One of the trickiest was the scarce rolling surface, which conditioned their design, the weight they could support and even the configuration of the wagons themselves. There was also, of course, the risk of them deflating or losing pressure. Even despite all these difficulties, Michelin decided to go ahead: in 1929 they already had a prototype assembled with a Renault 40 Cv and shortly after, he began a campaign to facilitate its implementation inside and outside of France.

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early 1932 it was tested for example in the United Kingdomin the LMS (London, Midland and Scottish Railway) as it passes through the Bletchley-Oxford corridor. A pressure gauge installed in each of the wheels was in charge of controlling the air pressure and guaranteeing that they remained at 85 pounds per square inch. If it fell by more than 14, the system issued an audible warning to change it for a spare wheel in an operation that barely took five minutes.

No screeching in the corners and the tire life has been determined to be about 20,000 miles (32,200 km) and the allowable wheel load to be 121 cwt. As for the vehicle, the model shown is known as a Micheline type 9 and has a 27hp sleeve valve engine from Panhard and Levassor.” details an item published in February 1932 in which it is explained that the vehicle included four front wheels with traction and six rear ones to carry the load.

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The newspapers of the time claimed that adherence was three times higher than that of the steel wheels and it took only 88 seconds to go from a complete state of rest to 40 mph (about 64 km/h). “The driving qualities of the car were pronounced and the stability in all circumstances was equally remarkable,” the chronicle ended of that first test.

Despite Michelin’s efforts and his ability for publicity and self-promotion, the so-called Micheline Railcar it didn’t finish curdling. What explains Colin G. Maggs in A 1930s Childhood“to the authorities of the LMS they didn’t like how it worked almost silent and they did not adopt it”. The “Michelines” circulated for some time on the routes of countries such as France or Mozambique. The company reached offer their prototypes to Spainbut neither here reaped great success.

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The convulsive second third of the 20th century, both in Spain and in the rest of the world, did not help André Michelin’s old dream to gain strength. Nor did the handicaps of the system itself make it any easier: despite the brand’s promises, the tires wore out quickly and the vehicles had to be adapted, with wagons requiring continuous maintenance.

There were exceptions and more supporters than Michelin itself, of course. On the complicated routes of Madagascar, an effective and could be seen circulating successfully trains with rubber wheels. In the US the giant Budd Company embarked on the commitment to new models and built some wagons in the 1930s. Perhaps neither one of them managed to retire the traditional system, but they did mark a fascinating chapter in railway history.

And they laid the foundations, in a certain way, of the meters with tires.

Images | Jan Saudek (Flickr) Y Hugh Llewelyn (Flickr)

Around the summer of 1929, Andre Jules Michelinthe engineer and successful founder of the tire brand, spent one of the…

Around the summer of 1929, Andre Jules Michelinthe engineer and successful founder of the tire brand, spent one of the…

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