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?



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Feb 25, 2021
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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.
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    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.

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