Johnson Rail Welding, 1894

Electric Rail Welding in Brooklyn, 1894


The Johnson Company used electric rail welding for laying track in Brooklyn, in 1894, as shown in the following article:

Electric Welding in Brooklyn

Rail welding at Johnson Co, 1894
The Street Railway Journal. Vol. X, No. 7, July 1894, p. 460.[1]

Work on the track construction of the Nassau Electric Railway of Brooklyn is going on rapidly on 39th Street, South Brooklyn (in July 1994).


From the plans of this company, which have already been published in the Street Railway Journal, it will be remembered that from fifty to sixty miles of track will be laid this summer (i.e. 1894), and that the company contemplates the ultimate installation of an exceedingly important system in Brooklyn.


Fig. 1.— Rail welding equipment— Nassau Electric Railway, Brooklyn.


A. L. Johnson, of Cleveland, Ohio, is largely interested in the road, and is president of the Nassau Electric Railway Company, while the work of installation is carried on under the direction of Mr. Heffton, of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Electrically welded rails will be used throughout. Fig. 1 gives a view of the electric welder now at work on 39th Street, near Fifth Avenue. This machine differs in a number of particulars from that in use in St. Louis and elsewhere, the equipment being in two cars instead of one. The car farthest from the observer in Fig. 1 contains the transformer or motor-dynamo. This is operated by current taken from the overhead wire, which at present is receiving its current from the power station of the Atlantic Avenue Railroad Company. Leads from this motor-dynamo carry the alternating current, which is at 300 Volts, to the forward car. This contains the welder, consisting of an enormous clamp made of gun metal, so as to be non-magnetic, supported on a frame operated by an hydraulic jack. The 300 Volt current is transformed at the point of use to an alternating current of about four volts and 50,000 Amperes, the amount of current being varied by a reactive coil carried on the forward car.

Fig. 2.— Interior of transformer car— Brooklyn.
When the rails are laid the ends of two joints out of three are butted, and at the third joint a space of one-sixteenth of an inch is left. The process of welding then is as follows: The sides of the webs for a distance of three to three and a half inches from the end at each joint are ground with an emery wheel carried on a tender car. This is to make good contact at all points and to insure a perfect weld. At the butted joints two pieces of soft steel, conforming in shape to the rail, are then placed on each side of the joint, there being four pieces in all, two for the head of the rail and two for the lower flange. The jaws of the clamp are then brought to bear on the joint by a handwheel holding the pieces of steel tightly to the joint.

Fig. 3.— Method of welding rails.
The current is then thrown on, when the steel pieces rapidly fuse together and to the rail. Against the head of the rail is pressed a non-conductor of heat, so that the temper of the rail at the joint is not reduced. A circuit of water is kept up through the welder so as to keep it cool during the process. Where the joints are not butted a thin section of rail is slipped in between the ends so that there may be no break in the rail. After the process of welding, which takes about thirty seconds, is completed the clamp is removed and the joint is ready for use. The rails are also connected together for the return circuit by welding a flat steel bar, ½ by 2½ ins. (12.7 by 63.5 mm) from rail to rail every 600 ft (183 m). In a double track the interior rails of each track are also connected by similar bars, also located every 600 ft (183 m).



  1. Electric Welding in Brooklyn. In: The Street Railway Journal. Vol. X, No. 7, July 1894, p. 460.