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American Government Special Collections Reference Desk


The New York Times
October 5, 1902

October the Best Month of the Year for Touring—Varied Scenery of New York's Suburbs—"Tom" Cooper's New Racer—British Reliability Tests

October is above all others the ideal month of the year for touring.  The roads, dried out by the Summer sun and then sprinkled by the early fall rains, are in their very best condition, firm and yet elastic, the air is cool and refreshing, yet not too cool for comfort, and the foliage, tinged with bright autumnal tints, adds a new attraction to even the most familiar routes.  Touring under these conditions is a pastime whose delights are unsurpassed by those of any other sport, and the multitude of motor vehicles which throng the suburban highways and byways indicate how generally the automobilists are enjoying their opportunities.

The average citizen of New York, unless he is a long-distance cyclist or the owner of one or more excellent horses, is likely to have a very limited knowledge of the remarkable extent and variety of scenery which may be found within a few miles of this city.  The magnificent Hudson, with its lofty Palisades and highlands; Long Island Sound, with its rocky island and beautifully diversified shore line on one hand and great sandy beaches and rolling hills on the other; the Upper Bay, with its shipping; the Narrows and their guardian forts, the Lower Bay, with sandy beaches and wide ocean views; the rural beauties of Westchester County, the wide cultivated plains of Long Island, the rough hills of New Jersey and Staten Island, and finally the grand panorama of the city itself, as seen from the heights of the New Jersey shore, afford a variety of scenery which is probably unequaled.

In addition to the beauty of the scenery there is much of historic and legendary interest to be found in any and every direction, the roads are excellent as a rule, and the hotels are well kept.  The possessor of an automobile who has not previously explored the suburbs with either bicycle or horse, finds a new world open to him.


One of the pleasantest short tours in the vicinity of the city is a trip of forty miles over the well-known Hudson County Boulevard in New Jersey and the good roads on Staten Island.  Take the West Forty-second Street Ferry and, crossing to Weehawken, ascend the long hill to the Hudson County Boulevard, which is a fine macadamized avenue 100 feet wide, extending through Union Hill, West Hoboken, Jersey City Heights, Greenville, and Bayonne to Bergen Point.  At Bergen Point take the ferry to Port Richmond, Staten Island, where a good road will be found through Graniteville, Bulls Head, and Springfield.  Here cross the long bridge over the Fresh Kills, and, turning to the left, take the old post road to New Dorp.  From New Dorp take the main road to Vanderbilt Avenue and follow this road to the Shore road, which, passing through Clifton, Stapleton, and Tompkinsville, gives some charming views of the Narrows and the Upper Bay.  From St. George the ferry may be taken to the Battery, or the Shore road may be continued to Port Richmond and the return trip be made through Jersey City, where the ferry may be taken to West Twenty-third Street.  The roads are excellent throughout, and except at Weehawken there are practically no hills.


Three local automobilists recently completed an interesting tour from this city to Pittsfield, Mass., passing through Peekskill, Poughkeepsie, Hudson, and Chatham.  New York was left at 2 P. M., and Peekskill, about fifty miles distant, was reached at 6 P. M., and the night was spent there.  Leaving Peekskill the next morning, Poughkeepsie was reached in time for dinner, and Hudson in the evening.  The roads between Rhinebeck and Hudson were found to be in very bad condition.  The next day the Berkshire Hills were crossed, and Pittsfield reached early in the afternoon, after some hard hill climbing and exciting coasting.

Another tourist made a trip from Watertown, N. Y., to the Delaware Water Gap and thence to the New Jersey sea coast at Long Branch with but a single trifling accident, which caused a delay of only one hour.  The total distance was 708 miles, and the speed average between eight and nine miles an hour.  The consumption of gasoline was one gallon to 6.43 miles, approximately half a cent a mile.  The roads from Watertown to the Water Gap were found to be mostly poor, but from the Water Gap to the seashore they were good most of the way.


There is much complaint among automobilists, cyclists, horsemen, and, in fact, all road users who have occasion to travel between this city and Newark, the Oranges, and, in fact, every point in New Jersey east of the Passaic River, regarding the wretched condition of the roads across the Hackensack Meadows between Jersey City and Newark, and surprise is often expressed that a part of the State noted for its fine roads should contain two such wretched thoroughfares.  The fact of the matter is that Jersey City and Newark are in different counties, and the Passaic River is the boundary line.  The roads in question are used almost exclusively by the inhabitants of Newark, Elizabeth, Orange, and other parts of Essex County, and hardly at all by the people of Bergen County, in which they are situated.  The Bergen County authorities are so lacking in public spirit that they refuse to keep the roads in good condition on the ground that they make little use of them, while Essex County officials are unwilling to spend money on the roads of another county even if they had the legal authority.  It seems likely that the only hope of the road users is in action by the Legislature of the State either to apportion the expense of the upkeep of the roads between the two counties or to make them State roads.

Travelers for points beyond Newark or Elizabeth may avoid these roads by going by way of Staten Island, Perth Amboy, and New Brunswick.  They will also avoid considerable traveling over rough pavements through Newark and Elizabeth.  When the bridge over the Raritan River, between Perth Amboy and South Amboy is completed, it will open a direct route between this city and Philadelphia by way of Staten Island, Perth Amboy, South Amboy, Freehold, and Hightstown, which will avoid all the large cities, and by its freedom from speed restrictions make up for the rather sandy roads of a part of the route.  From South Amboy there is now a good road to Redbank and Long Branch, and from Freehold there is a direct road to Lakewood.


Six additional entries for the 500 miles endurance test of the Automobile Club of America, from this city to Boston and return, which will begin next Thursday, were received after the closing of the entries and were accepted, bringing the total up to seventy-eight.  All but one are gasoline vehicles.  The details follow:

Name of Maker and Entrant
E. R. Thomas Motor Company, Buffalo. N. Y.—Machaloy Brothers, Stamford, Conn....................6995
Thomas B. Jeffery & Co., Kenosha, Wis.—Machaloy Brothers, Stamford, Conn.............................1,100
Fournier - Searchmont Company, Philadelphia, Penn.—John Wanamaker, Philadelphia, Penn.........82,100
Thomas B. Jeffery & Co., Kenosha, Wis.—Columbus Auto. Exchange, Boston ............................41,200
A. Darracq & Co., Paris—Col. W. P. Harlow ...........................161,700
Foster Steam Carriage—Dr. M. A. Carman, New York City...................


The Automobile Club of America has requested all members to supply detailed information of all tours they take, for the guidance of members who may wish to make the same trips.  This information is printed on heavy cards of a size suitable to be carried in the pocket and is issued to the members.  Two such cards have been recently issued, compiled from information supplied by President Albert R. Shattuck and Cortlandt F. Bishop.  One describes the route from New York to the Berkshire Hill and the other that from the Hudson to the Connecticut River, through the Berkshires.  The consecutive mileage and the intermediate distances between the towns are given in columns at the left and are followed by the names of the towns in black, with detailed directions.  The best hotels and stations are also named.


"Tom" Cooper, the former cycle racer, and Henry Ford of Detroit have completed the seventy-horse power gasoline racing car upon which they have been working for the past year or so, and the machine will soon make its appearance upon the track.  At its first trial a mile was made in 1:08, but no attempt was made to force the machine to its limit.

Aside from its high power and large size, the machine is chiefly remarkable for the extent to which it has been stripped of all unneccessary or superfluous weight.  Even the corrugated metal apron over the engine, which is such a characteristic feature of the ordinary high-powered gasoline car, is omitted, though its weight is small.  There is but one small seat for the driver, and there is practically no body to the vehicle, the seat, tanks, and mechanism all being supported on a frame of white ash, stiffened with steel plates.  The side bars of the frame are also trussed with steel rods.  There are no springs on the rear axle, but the front has the usual semi-elliptic springs.  the wheels are of wire, with detachable tires; the wheel base is 9 feet 9 inches, and the tread 5 feet 2 inches.

The engine has four vertical seven-inch cylinders, which, with the heads and exhaust valve chambers, are cast in one piece and have a continuous water jacket.  The crank shaft is mounted in rigid bearings and there is no crank casing.  The exhaust valves open into boxes, which exhaust downward into the open air.  The water tank is in the centre of the frame under the driver's seat and the gasoline tank is carried alongside of the motor.  The radiator is square in form and contains sixty-four plain three-quarter-inch brass pipes.  The battery comprises five cells, which are carried on the frame on one side of the seat.

The transmission mechanism is very simple.  A block clutch in the flywheel enables the two sections of the main shaft to be coupled, but there is no knuckle join in the shaft.  The rear end of the shaft terminates in a bevel gear, which engages a pinion mounted rigidly on the rear axle.  The ratio of the gearing is as four to five, requiring 707 motor revolutions to a mile.  As the motor is planned to run at 1,200 revolutions per minute loaded, the builders expect a maximum speed which will approximate 1.7 miles in a minute, or about 100 miles an hour.  As there is no differential gear, the minimum speed depends on the extent to which the motor can be slowed by retarding the spark and throttling the engine, which so far has been found to be about nine or ten miles an hour.


After a series of exhaustive trials of heavy motor vehicles for transport use the committee of the British War Office has reported that the trials have shown that the steam trucks are good and serviceable machines suitable for present supply, and likely to be of great advantage to the transport service in countries where sufficient quantities of both fuel and water are available.  The committee, however, calls particular attention to the greater possibilities for military purposes of the truck driven by an internal combustion engine burning heavy oil, as shown by the small fuel consumption and practical independence of water supply of the one which was tried, and the committee strongly recommend that steps to develop vehicles of this class be taken at once.

The trials have shown that the self-propelled trucks can transport five tons of stores at about six miles an hour over very considerable distances on average hilly roads under Winter conditions.  The five-ton load of each truck, if carried in horse-drawn wagons of service pattern, would overload three wagons, requiring twelve draught horses, besides riding horses, whose rate would not ordinarily exceed three miles an hour.  Moreover, the marching of 197 miles in six consecutive days over hilly roads would not have been accomplished by horses even at that speed without the assistance of spare horses.  The committee found that for handy and rapid work of distribution among troops and near the front of an army a truck without a trailer is preferable, but for the heavier work of moving stores in large quantities to the depots a powerful tractor drawing a train of wagons is more suitable.

The committee recommends a truck to carry three tons, driven by an internal combustion engine burning heavy oil, as light in weight as is consistent with due adhesion, the wheels large, broad, and fitted with means for applying numerous spuds for use on boggy ground, and the vehicle capable of a speed up to eight miles an hour.


Eighty-eight vehicles competed in the annual reliability trials of the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland, of which number fifty-five completed the entire six days' run of 650 miles.  Six broke down and one was disqualified.  There were also hill climbing and braking contests, and a tire test which was to be continued until 3,000 miles were run.  A feature of the tests was the failure of a majority of the cars in the hand-brake test.  Most drivers depend upon the footbrake for ordinary use, and often find when they attempt to use the emergency brakes that they fail to work on account of faulty adjustment or lack of use, and such was the case in this contest, though the competitors knew in advance of the test that it would be required.


Although the Secretary of the Department of the Interior recently made a ruling excluding motor vehicles from the Yellowstone National Park, the Monida and Yellowstone Park Stage Company of Butte, Mon., has contracted for a number of motor stages to be used next Summer on the stage route from Monida to the Park, and it is also said that the park officials are arranging for a number of motor trucks to carry supplies from the railroad stations to the various posts in the park, so that it is expected that the ruling against automobiles will be rescinded before the opening of the season next year.


A curious state of affairs to which the ordinary laws of supply and demand do not seem to apply now exists in this city and to a lesser extent throughout the country.  On the one hand there is a demand for experienced drivers of large heavy automobiles and on the other hand there is practically no way open for the would-be chauffeurs to acquire the experience to fit themselves for positions.  The pay is high, from $60 to $100 a month, with board generally included, and the work, as a rule, is easy and requires a knowledge of the machinery of the automobile and its operation, but not much mechanical ability is required.  Under ordinary circumstances there would be no lack of applicants for such places.  Most of the professional chauffeurs now operating the high-powered cars of wealthy automobilists are, like the cars, imported.  As a rule they were originally mechanics or helpers in some factory or repair shop and very frequently they are very clumsy and unskillful mechanics.  As such, if not more damage is done to motor vehicles by improper handling as by accidents of the road.

As the average American machinist who understands automobile construction or operation can make as much or more money by repairing or demonstrating vehicles to prospective customers, that source of supply is not available until the opportunities in the trade are restricted by competition, and in the meantime many young men who would be glad of an opportunity to qualify themselves for place as chauffeurs have no chance to learn.  It would seem that the Automobile Club of America, having succeeded in its school for horses, might now open a school for chauffeurs.

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