19th Century: The Boynton Bicycle Railroad

I can't seem to get off the trains train, lol. The below photograph attracted my attention a few years ago. I think this particular system was used a bit more than we could possibly imagine. Luckily there is some info we can play with.
Boynton Bicycle Railroad Steam-1.jpg

As you can see, there are a few additional surviving photographs of this steam powered bicycle locomotive.



The locomotive above looks like it was parked there for a few days. What do you think?

Boynton Bicycle Railroad Steam-2.jpg

Unfortunately we mostly have sketches, but what else is new?



Boynton Bicycle Railroad
The Boynton Bicycle Railroad was a monorail in Brooklyn on Long Island, New York. It ran on a single load-bearing rail at ground level, but with a wooden overhead stabilizing rail engaged by a pair of horizontally opposed wheels. The railway operated for only two years, but the design was adopted elsewhere.


According to the Scientific American of 28 March 1891, the steam locomotive and cars were in regular and continuous operation for passenger service during several weeks in the summer of 1890. The service was provided between the Gravesend and Coney Island areas of Brooklyn, on an abandoned section of an old standard gauge track of the Sea Beach and Brighton Railroad. The first locomotive weighed nine tons, and had two 10 by 12 inch cylinders, the piston rods of both being connected with cranks on each side the single 6 foot driving wheel, and the front of the locomotive being also supported by two 38 inch pony wheels, one behind the other. These wheels had double flanges, to contact with either side of the track rail, as also had similarly arranged pairs of 38 inch wheels arranged under and housed in the floors near each end of the passenger cars.
  • I don't know who writes these wikipedia articles. In the first paragraph they tell us that our railway operated for two years.
  • In the third paragraph they say that it was in service for only several weeks. What's up with that?
Let's see what this 1891 publication has to offer.






KD: I was borderline laughing when I made it to the end of this article. It sounds like our "green new deal" people found a time machine.

Electric Cars
It's important to emphasize, that our contemporary bag of knowledge, failed to mention that Boynton Bicycle Railroad had electric trains in operation as well.

Anyone else thinks that the below image (and some other ones above) were altered?



Our wiki article specified that the Boynton Bicycle Railroad ran at ground level only. But... who knows, may be it ran above the ground level as well... who knows?


Those little contrasting abnormalities... right? It's like watching a dystopian movie.


The above "man with scythe" image is originally from the Scientific American published on 17 February 1894. It also has this info in there.



SA: Page 100



The "Inventor"
The concept was invented by Eben Moody Boynton, who hoped that this would eventually replace the conventional rail road, because it was cheaper to build and could be used for a double track on the space available for a conventional single track right of way.
  • This Eben Moody Boynton was such an insignificant inventor, that wikipedia chose not to provide him with his personal page.
If we were to believe the writing on the image, and this source, below is our hero-inventor, who singlehandedly designed the entire contraption.

Eben Moody Boynton
Eben Moody Boynton.jpg

23 July 1840 - 10 March 1927

The info on the above gentleman is somewhat scarce. Here is what FamiliSearch.ORG tells us:
  • When Eben Moody Boynton was born on 23 July 1840, in Harrisville, Harrison, Ohio, United States, his father, Alfred Methusaleh Boynton, was 33 and his mother, Abigail Minott Moody, was 29. He married Anna Bartlett Gale on 1 May 1872, in Newburyport, Essex, Massachusetts, United States. They were the parents of at least 5 daughters. He lived in Massachusetts, United States in 1870 and West Newbury, Essex, Massachusetts, United States for about 30 years. He died on 10 March 1927, in Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, United States, at the age of 86.
According to Worthpoint.COM, in 1872 he either patented, or started producing his earlier invention, the so-called "M" Tooth-Cutting 'Lightning Saw'.
  • This 1872 Billhead is for the "M" Tooth-Cutting 'Lightning Saw' manufactured by inventor Eben Moody Boynton.
  • As a youth, Boynton went into the shipment of black walnut lumber from southern Michigan, where he first perceived the need of improvement in saw teeth.
  • He first suggested the "M"-cutting teeth to his brother, Alfred Boynton, who was in his employ, and whose hook and gauge-tooth Lightning saw was supposed to be the principal element in the first invention, though it afterward proved too complicated for the low state of skill among those using saws.
    • Yet it was the first practical cutting saw ever known in the history of saw manufacture for cross-cutting. Subsequently Eben Moody Boynton obtained patents on the several improvements now in use for simple "M"-shaped teeth, slightly retreating, which have been found greatly superior to the former projecting plough-shaped teeth.
    • These saws had proved a great success, and Mr. Boynton had manufactured several million of them, which had been sold throughout the world.
    • They were the first practical and scientific gain ever made in the cutting points of saw-teeth, providing, as they do, the front cut of a hand-saw, cutting both ways by means of a two-pointed "M"-tooth, perforating the wood in opposite directions as drawn back and forth, the two points of the "M" dressed and set to cut in line, and occupying the same space as the old pyramidical single tooth, the cutting being thrown upon the outer surface of the "M", the two parts of which cut and clean simultaneously with unexampled speed and simplicity.
  • The difficulty of introducing any new mechanical invention or improvement without capital, experience and skilled labor, is well known, and the intense opposition of the manufacturers of saws, the numerous infringements of the Boynton patents, and the protracted suits at law to maintain them, are matters of historic interest.
  • Eben Moody Boynton was a prolific inventor holding many patents.
  • This Ultra-Rare Billhead in it's present Excellent state of condition is one of the first of it's kind found on the open market in many years.
    • I don't think a better quality image of this billhead exists on the internet.
    • It looks like Mr. Boynton had his personal Coat of Arms.
Yup, in 1872 Mr. Boynton was inventing saw teeth. But he was a "prolific inventor"...


Sounds like in 1920, when Eben Moody Boynton was 79 years old, he was held at the Government Hospital for the Insane aka Insane Asylum. Wondering what crazy thoughts got him locked up... remembered or knew too much?

1891/07 and 1907/08 Certificates
I am not sure what the true meaning of the below certificates was supposed to be. If you know, please share your understanding. Per the narrative, the Boynton Railway Company only operated in the state of New York. Below, we have two certificates (of incorporation?).
  • West Virginia: Hard dated with 1891 and signed in 1897.
  • Massachusetts: Hard dated with 1907 and signed in 1908.
Are we being lied to, or there is an explanation for this? My questions are:
  1. If this system operated in NY state only, than why do we have certificates of incorporation from West Virginia and Massachusets?
  2. If it only operated for either few weeks, or 2 years in the early 1890s, than why do we have a certificate of incorporation signed in 1908?


Links and Sources:

KD: Apart from hundreds of different regular looking and operating locomotives, we have a fairly extensive collection of some "ahead of its time" designs. Well, based on my school education, I do not think that these designs fit the time frame. That's just my opinion.
Once again we have a single person (E. M. Boynton) responsible for developing the entire system. We have steam locomotives, electric cars and god knows what else. For a prolific inventor of the 19th century even sky could not be the limit, right?

Anyways, if you have any thoughts on the above, please share in the comments section below. Where did this technological ecosystem come from, for we are not talking about cars and trains only.
  • And where did it go?

Good research and an interesting idea I hadn't heard of. The electric version in an elevated format seems very practical for use in cities. I don't think having to build and maintain that strong upper rail and supports makes much sense for long distances through rural areas. As far as when the concept really came about, who can say. It was probably killed by the petroleum industry though for not burning oil and wearing out tires.
As far as I understand, the contraption was supposed to be exhibited during the 1893 Chicago Exposition. Unfortunately, I was unable to find any definitive photographs.
I thought this might make an interesting addition to this thread. I happened to watch this video

and right at the 5:48 minute mark in the video, so right before the end, there's a shot of a train, a bottom monorail, cornering the way you would have to if you didn't want to have that upper rail. Have you done a thread on that train? Looks like it says ALWEG on the side. Wish I had the know how to pull the photo out of the video for you.
Looks like it says ALWEG on the side. Wish I had the know how to pull the photo out of the video for you.
Here you go:


It is indeed ALWEG:
There once was a Swedish industrialist who had a lot of money in postwar Germany. Because of laws at that time, he was only allowed to spend the money within the German borders. He chose to invest ot in a new advanced straddle-type monorail, and he named the company based on his own...Axel Lennart WEnner-Gren. The first test track made its debut in 1952 and was geared more towards demonstrating a high-speed intercity rail system. With further study, it was found that the simple elegant design would be ideal for modern urban transit. In July of 1957 the first full-sized ALWEG monorail began testing at the Fühlingen test track. It caught the eye of a visiting tourist in 1958, who wanted a monorail for his theme park. Walt Disney made agreements with ALWEG to build a 5/8 scale monorail which opened in 1959 in Anaheim, California at his then new park Disneyland. The Disneyland-ALWEG monorail captured the world's imagination and attention more than any other monorail had to date.
Looking up the Fühlingen test track, I was able to find this much higher quality version picture of the monorail train. It looks like it's in a slightly different location from the picture in the video, but seems like both could be from the same track:


The Disney connection is interesting, and Mr. Wenner-Gren looks like he had his fingers in many different pies, from a non-descript career as a salesman to "one of the wealthiest men of the 1930s":
Wenner-Gren amassed a fortune from his early insight that the industrial vacuum cleaner could be adapted for domestic use. Soon after the First World War he persuaded the Swedish lighting company (called Lux at the time, but with his suggestion to rename it to Electrolux) for which he then worked (securing the contract to floodlight the opening ceremony of the Panama Canal, among other successes), to buy the patent to a home vacuum cleaner. He asked that instead of compensating him in cash, he would receive company stock based on the sales of the vacuum cleaner. The Electrolux cleaner was so successful that by the early 1930s, Wenner-Gren had become the majority owner of Electrolux, and the firm was a leading brand in both vacuum cleaner and refrigerator technology.

Wenner-Gren also diversified his interests into the ownership of newspapers, banks and arms manufacturers, and acquired many of the holdings of the disgraced safety-match tycoon Ivar Kreuger....

...In the 1950s, Wenner-Gren also got involved in the early computer business. For a railroad project connecting California with Alaska, he got in touch with Glenn Hagen, previously an engineer with Northrop Aircraft, who had founded Logistics Research in Redondo Beach outside Los Angeles, developing computers based on magnetic drum memory.
Also, he was, uh, Nazi-adjacent at the very least:
Wenner-Gren returned to the Bahamas and created Bank of the Bahamas. It’s affiliate bank in Germany would become the Stein Bank of Cologne. Through the Bank of the Bahamas and the Stein Bank of Cologne, Axel Wenner-Gren was funding the Gestapo...

...Wenner-Gren was placed on the American blacklist for being pro-Nazi and for the activities that were taking place right under the nose of the Bahamas Governor, The Duke of Windsor. Wenner-Gren found himself on the British blacklist as well. He fled the Bahamas and spent the rest of World War Two in exile in Mexico. (McIver, S. (1995) Murder in the Tropics, The Florida Chronicles, Volume 2, Pineapple Express, 28)

There is no way of knowing how much money passed through Bank of the Bahamas and into the hands of the Nazis between 1939 and 1942.

What is telling is that even after Axel Wenner-Gren was black listed and exiled to his Mexico mansion Cuernavaca, even after his Bank of Bahamas was confiscated, hampering his funding and money transfer activities to the Nazis, Wenner-Gren simply became a principle in a Mexican bank (Banco Continental, a bank established to help the Nazis launder foreign money), and continued his banking activities from there.

It is little wonder that when World War II ended, Wenner-Gren emerged one of the world’s richest men, more wealthier than prior to 1939.
As they say, it's a small world, after all...

Sorry if this is a bit of a detour from the topic of railroads, but if we speculate that those pushing these technologies were essentially stealing from our past, it's worth noting that often the folks behind these companies have a character (or lack thereof) that doesn't render such accusations implausible.

Other monorail threads:
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Very cool, Banta. With my motorcycle background I'm very familiar with managing weight while cornering and that was one of the problems I saw with the bicycle railroad. During cornering a large part of the weight of the vehicle would try to lean outward and would fall on that upper rail, making it necessary to make it heavy duty enough to take it. By leaning the train into the corner, a la motorcycles or even roller coasters, the weight of the train is kept vertical to the axis of the train/wheels. The problem is that the speed of the vehicle determines how much lean is required so if the train was not moving fast enough the weight would fall to the inside and could cause the train to fall off the track, so it would be important to make sure the train was moving at a certain speed when it hit the corner. In this case it looks like they might have had something between the two rails, above and below, to help hold the train to the track, though we can't see it because it is covered by the bodywork of the train. This whole problem is eliminated with the Boynton Bicycle Train by adding the upper rail. Sometimes the simple answer is the way to go.
I would have liked to take a ride in that thing, though.

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