Monday, August 11, 2014

Brick Road Versus Steel Roads

I recently had an experience of riding along an 11 mile stretch of the "Old Brick Road" in Florida. It was built in 1914 so it's too late for this blog. However, the experience had me thinking about the development of roads during the 19th Century. Below is an article from Industrial Management ©1897 talking about whether a steel road was better than a brick road.

The General Government Fostering Good Roads.
IN an elaborate article in Brick (July 15) the subject of good roads is treated: first, historically, beginning with the ancient Roman roads and their builders; second, from an engineering standpoint; and, lastly, in its present aspects in the United States. What the general govemment is doing to further good-road building is also set forth at considerable length, in a quotation from a letter written by W. E. Curtis to the Chicago Record. The department of agriculture has directed General Roy Stone, chief of the bureau of good roads, to construct and exhibit an example of a steel road at the Nashville Exposition. The use of this material for roads in regions where stone and gravel are scarce and where the soil is deep and sticky will, in the opinion of Secretary Wilson, be "the easiest solution of the good road problem" for such localities. At present prices these steel roads can be cheaply constructed. Flat, or slightly trough-shaped, bars of steel are to be used as supports for the wheels of vehicles, and, to prevent the slipping of horses, the rails will be transversely indented sufficiently to afford a foothold for the calks of horseshoes without materially affecting the smoothness of the surface for the wheeltreads. The joints of the flat bars. or rails, will be made strong enough to prevent them from giving way under use, and thus forming depressions. While forty pounds per ton is the average required to pull a load on a level macadam road, it is claimed that eight pounds will do this about $2,000 per mile work on a steel road. In this respect, however, a good brick road can be scarcely inferior to steel. It is believed that a good brick road will outlast a steel road. Another way in which the government is helping on the cause of good roads is by using the agricultural experiment stations as sources of instruction in road-building to the public at large. On this point Mr. Curtis says: “ The limited funds at command have not encouraged any practical work in this direction, but cobperation has now been established by the director of roads, under which the manufacturers of road machinery furnish the necessary plant free of charge, the county or city authorities provide the material and the labor of men and teams, and the government furnishes an engineer to oversee the work and instruct students and visitors, and pay for one or two skilled operators for the machines. In this way avery slight outlay of public funds accomplishes a large amount of instructive work." Experiments with brick roads are already in progress in some of the western States. At Monmouth, in central Illinois, a road of vitrified brick set on edge in a single course on a bed of sand between oak plank curbs is now undergoing probation, _and is regarded with favor. Brick trackways, with intervening gravel paths for horses, have been proposed. Where macadarn roads are practicable. and under the most favorable c0nditions,—z'.e., where laborers can be obtained for seventy-five cents per day, where fuel for steam power is cheap, and where suitable road metal is close at hand,—they may be constructed and bridged for $100 per mile for each foot -of width. Thus a road thirty feet wide would cost 3,000 per mile. Good gravel roads cost from $1,000 to $2,000 per mile. The material for the heaviest class of steel roads costs, at present prices, $3,500 per mile; for lightest steel roads the cost of material is estimated at $1,000. For long lines of the heavier class of roads, it is thought, the steel will ultimately cost Brick for roadbuilding will cost more per mile than steel for tramways, but, taking the intermediate path for animals and the side ways into account–for these must be well built and maintained also, we are inclined to agreed with Brick that a road paved from curb to curb with vitrified brick, is in proportion to its costs, the best road known to modern engineering.

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