Sailing On The B & O Railroad In 1830The sail in a basket rail-car was created by Evan Thomas (1781-1863), who with his brother Philip, promoted the building of a railroad from Baltimore. He traveled to Europe and studied a new railroad in UK. Upon Evan's return, John Eager Howard hosted a dinner at Belvidere in 1825 (or 1826) to discuss the possibility of a railroad. In Feb, 1827, 25 merchants and influential men met at the home of George Brown to form the B&O.
The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. 1830 -
One of the principal objects that will attract the attention of the traveller who spends a little time in Baltimore, is the great railroad, commenced under such flattering prospects, to connect the city with the Ohio river. Cars with sails sometimes go at the rate of 25 miles an hour, and can move within four points of the wind. About twelve miles of it were completed in 1829; and various cars are in operation upon it, some moved by steam, and some by wind. ... The work will be executed to Ellicott's mills early in 1830. The stranger will find a passage of a few miles very novel and interesting. [Dwight]
from First Locomotives in America -
Following the horse-power car came the Meteor [or "Aeolus"]. This was a sailing-vehicle, the invention of Mr. Evan Thomas, who was, perhaps, the first person, as already mentioned, who advocated railroads in Baltimore. The Meteor required a good gale to drive it, and would only run when the wind was what sailors call abaft, or on the quarter. Head-winds were fatal to it, and Mr. Thomas was afraid to trust a strong side-wind lest the vehicle might be upset; so it rarely made its appearance except a northwester was blowing, when it would be dragged out to the farther end of the Mount Clair embankment, and come back, literally with flying colors. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad being the first in operation in this country, and almost the first in the world for the transportation of passengers and merchandise, of course was visited by crowds from almost every section of the United States, as well as from parts of Europe.
Among them was Baron Krudener, envoy from Russia, who, by invitation of Mr. Thomas, made an excursion in the sailing-car, managing the sail himself. On his return from the trip, he declared he had never before travelled so agreeably. Mr. Thomas caused a model sailing-car to be constructed, which he presented to the baron, with the respects of the company, to be forwarded to the emperor. This courtesy on the part of Mr. Thomas was handsomely acknowledged by the baron.Like the horse-car, the sailing-car had its day. It was an amusing toy—nothing more—and is referred to now as an illustration of the crudity of the ideas prevailing forty years ago in reference to railroads. [Brown]
"AEolus" from Great Railway Celebrations of 1857 -"There being no settled mode of propulsion fixed upon for travel on railroads, during the first year of the opening of the road, Evan Thomas, Esq., had constructed, as an experiment, a car with sails, which he called " the AEolus," which attracted much attention.The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, being the first road in operation in the country, and almost in the world, for the transportation of passengers and merchandise, of course attracted visitors from almost every section of the United States, as well as from some parts of Europe. Among these, as detailed in a letter from Evan Thomas to George Brown, was Baron Krudener, Envoy from the Emperor of Russia, who made an excursion in the sailing car, managing the sail himself. On his return from the excursion he declared that he had never before travelled so agreeably, and remarked that he "would send his suite from "Washington to enjoy sailing on the railroad."
The President of the Company, to whom he had been introduced, caused a model sailing car to be constructed, fitted with Winans' friction wheels, which he presented to him, with the reports that had been published by the company, to be forwarded to the Emperor." [Smith]
South Carolina sailing car, rigged by sailors -
"A sailing-car, or a car propelled by the wind, was also tested upon the road in 1829-30. A description of one of the trips upon this machine we copy from the Charleston Courier, March 20, 1830:
Sailing On Land.—A sail was set on a car on our railroad yesterday afternoon, in the presence of a large concourse of spectators. Fifteen gentlemen got on board and flew off at the rate of twelve to fourteen miles an hour. Thirteen persons and three tons of iron were carried about ten miles an hour.
The preparations for sailing were very hastily got up, and of course were not of the best kind; but owing to this circumstance the experiment afforded high sport. The wind blew very fresh from about northeast, which, as a sailor would say, was 'abeam,' and would drive the car either way with equal speed. When going at the rate of about twelve miles an hour and loaded with fifteen passengers, the mast went by the board, with the sail and rigging attached, carrying with them several of the crew.
The wreck was descried by several friendly shipmasters who kindly rendered assistance in rigging a jury-mast, and the car was' again soon put under way. During the afternoon the wind changed so as to bring it nearly ahead when going in one direction; but this did not stop the sport, as it was ascertained that the car would sail within four points of the wind. We understand it is intended by some of our seamen to rig a car properly, and shortly to exhibit their skill in managing a vessel on land." [Brown]
Brown, William Henry. The History of the First Locomotives in America: from original documents ... NY: 1871
Dwight, Theodore. The Northern Traveller, and Northern Tour. NY: 1830
Smith, William Prescott. The Book of the Great Railway Celebrations of 1857. NY: 1858
©2017 Patricia Bixler Reber
Forgotten history of Ellicott City & Howard County MD