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Post Info TOPIC: Aerial Ropeways and H.G. Wells.


Legend

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Aerial Ropeways and H.G. Wells.
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It all began when I decided to try to clarify the extent to which Wells could be said (as he frequently is) to have "invented the tank." This produced a great deal of interesting reading, some of it fascinatingly ill-informed, misguided, or badly researched. But that's for another time.

A side issue is that some sources that would have us believe that Wells foresaw or invented everything up to and including the hydrogen bomb (and the H.G. Wells Society is among them) say that he also invented a powered overhead ropeway to carry supplies. He then pestered the Army, insisting that they adopt it. Of course, these accounts ignore the fact that such a structure would not have lasted 5 minutes at the Front, and claim that it saved not only much labour but also many lives. He allegedly called the principle "telpherage."

Unfortunately, it seems that H.G. began to believe that nothing existed until he either invented or discovered it. The fact that it was described as the "Leeming Aerial Ropeway" would seem to imply that it was invented by a Mr. Leeming, and that Wells's admirers are so besotted with him that they are unfairly pinning this one on him. The point is that some more sensible authors say that the Army did adopt at least one of these systems, and also that aerial ropeways were in widespread use in industry and mining long before the War.

Can anyone supply any info that might clear this up?



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Legend

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This article -http://www.lowtechmagazine.com/2011/01/aerial-ropeways-automatic-cargo-transport.html - seems to be a good overview and history of ropeways.

It looks as though Wells was promoting a technology from ignorance - there were hundreds (if not thousands) of ropeways operating at the turn of the 20th century.

Regards,

Charlie



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Legend

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Looking at Google patents it seems to have been a reasonably popular subject for inventors between 1880-1910...

aerial tramway"tramway" seems a lot more common then "ropeway"

Best Regardssmile



-- Edited by Ironsides on Saturday 31st of August 2013 07:54:02 AM

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Legend

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Capt. James Arthur Leeming, R.E. applied for at least six patents relating to "Improvements in and relating to aerial ropeways" - patent.ipexl.com/inventor/Leeming_James_Arthur_1.html I'm sure he never claimed to invent the concept which, as Charlie has pointed out, was a mature technology long before the Trench Warfare Department Outside Engineering Branch got involved with it (and one enjoying some revitalisation, as Ironsides points out).

Old Herbert George may have made some remarkable claims in his declining years (something all sorts of ageing British writers once seemed to do, thinking of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and, before him, Charles Dickens) but I am not sure he might have claimed to be the "inventor" at any time he was promoting ropeways as a logistical solution of some sort. Certainly the idea of portable apparatus might have been more familiar to sailors and to the Royal Engineers than to most but there would have been countless examples all around the world, particularly on the frontiers of settlement.

Wells would surely have seen himself as a Nexialist (before AE van Vogt even invented the word) and his contribution to the war effort in making connections between the (already) vast assemblage of science and technology and their principle proponents and the problems to be solved. Something the rest of us are much better at doing in hindsight. I shall tend to this more charitable view in the absence of hard evidence otherwise (equally ignoring the apparently fantastic assertions of the Wells enthusiasts). I am minded of Jules Verne and "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea". Verne is popularly imagined as practically "inventing" the entire body of undersea technology on the basis of that novel - not on the basis of his words but on the basis of subsequent depictions, informed by the real-world developments of others since.



-- Edited by Rectalgia on Saturday 31st of August 2013 09:02:07 AM

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Legend

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Thank you, citizens, for responses. I enclose a few paragraphs from Wells's autobiography, published in 1934, in which he describes how he invented this device, despite the fact that, as the replies have shown, it had already been in existence for many decades, if not centuries. It's a bit long, but it illustrates some aspects of Wells's character of which I have recently become aware. False modesty appears to have been one of them. Some of his biographers point out that quite a lot of his prophetic ideas were elaborations on other people's. Even the Land Ironclads were, apparently, suggested to him by a friend, John William Dunne.

Anyway, this is HGW's account, beginning during his tour of the Front in 1916:

I was lying snug in bed one night and I could not sleep. My window was open and the rain was pouring down outside and suddenly in an imaginative flash I saw the communication trenches swamped and swimming in mud and a miserable procession of overloaded Tommies struggling up to the front line along the wet planks. Some stumbled and fell. I knew men were often drowned in this dismal pilgrimage and that everyone who got to the front line arrived nearly worn out and smothered in mud. Moreover the utmost supplies these men could carry were insufficient. Suddenly I saw that this was an entirely avoidable strain. I tumbled out of bed and spent the rest of the night planning a mobile telpherage system. My idea was to run forward a set of T shaped poles with an erector wire, so that they could be all pulled up for use or allowed to lie flat and that two tractor wires could then work on the arms of the T. Power could be supplied by a motor lorry at the base of this line.

Either just before this or just after it I met Winston Churchill at lunch in Clare Sheridans studio in St. Johns Wood. I think it was just before. I had aired my grievance about the tanks and so I was able to get going with him about this telpherage project forthwith. He saw my points and put me in touch with capable men to supplement my mechanical insufficiency. Upon his instructions, E. V. Haigh, who was at the Ministry of Munitions, set the Trench Warfare Department in motion, and a temporary lieutenant Leeming I think from Lancashire worked out the apparatus with a group of men and made a reality of my dream.

We invented a really novel war accessory I contributed nothing except the first idea and a few comments and it was available as a perfected pattern before the end of the war, though never in sufficient quantity to produce perceptible effects. The tin hats did not like it. It would have saved multitudes of casualties and greatly facilitated the opening phases of the Allied offensive in 1918.

This telpherage of ours was no mere static transport system. It could be run forward almost as fast as infantry could advance; any part could be carried by a single man, it could be hauled up for action and lie when not in use; an ordinary lorry, the lorry that had brought up the poles and wire, could work it from a protected emplacement and it could carry an endless string of such loads as a wounded man on a stretcher or an equivalent weight of food or ammunition. We worked a rough trial length on Clapham Common and then installed, in Richmond Park, more than a mile which behaved admirably. If the line were disabled by a shell it was easy to repair and replace, and it was extremely light to bring up. It was practically invisible from the air, since its use wore no track and it could be shifted laterally and dismantled as easily as it was erected. (A description of the Leeming Portable and Collapsible Aerial Ropeway is documented with prints and photographs, under date November 26th 1917, in the archives of the Ministry of Munitions.)

Aldershot, I presently realized, was resolved not to have anything to do with this telpherage of ours at least as we had devised it. It was bad enough for soldiers and gentlemen to be bothered with tanks, but this affair of sticks and string was even worse. After mechanical toys cats cradle. It was the sort of contraption any one might make mistakes about and then where were you? However, in its earnest desire to keep the business in professional hands, Aldershot produced alternative systems. They were much heavier and clumsier than ours and one, much in favour, required men to walk along the track, so as we had to explain to these professional soldiers exposing the system to air photography and air-directed fire. A bugbear we could never banish from these inflexible minds was the dread that our lines which could be lowered in an instant and cleared away in an hour would interfere with lateral movements.

This in no-mans land with its shell holes and old trenches and jungle thickets of cut wire! The thought of a line, any line, hypnotized these warriors, just as a chalk line will hypnotize a hen.

I was baffled and worried beyond measure by these perverse difficulties. I felt my practical incompetence acutely. I did not know whom to get at and how to put the thing through. I had only a dim apprehension of the forces and instincts that were holding back not merely our little contrivance, but a multitude of other innovations that might have changed the face of the war. Meanwhile on every wet night so many poor lads fell and choked in the mud, and the little inadequate offensives squittered forward beyond their supports and succumbed to the counter-attack. I could not sleep for it. I was so worried and my nerves were so fatigued that I was presently afflicted with allopecia areata, well known in the flying corps of those days as an anxiety disease, in which the hair comes out in patches. Ridiculous patches of localized shiny baldness appeared and did not vanish for a year or so, when first they sprouted a down of grey hair and then became normally hairy again. It was not much in the way of a war wound, but in all modesty I put it on record.

P.S. A.E. van Vogt? I'm impressed.



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Legend

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""Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea". Verne is popularly imagined as practically "inventing" the entire body of undersea technology on the basis of that novel"

My first thoughts exactlywink though it was less invention then many might suppose the submersible CSS "Hunley" had successfully sunk a Union warship during the ACW though it cost the lives of the entire crew+ and france had a Submarine the "Plongeur" about the same time..

Its seems to me that H.G Wells is proposing the idea of a portable Aerial Tramway/Ropeway that could be lowered from sight presumably during the day to hide it, but I think aerial observation would likely still pick it up....Still it would not be difficult to create false tramways in the lowered position a series of poles laying down, but then why not build a bunch of false ropeways permanently up with a few real ones intermixed, I would have though it would have been very difficult to destroy a simple system of poles with artillery... however I note from Charlies article that this idea of portable ropeways is also well known, at least on the Italian front so perhaps the novelty of the idea only lies in the ability to raise and lower it.....

After Some searching found These:

http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/SearchUI/Details/AssetMain?iaid=C3378512

Leeming(James Arthur) Improvements in and Relating to Ropeways, Patent Specification GB130008 GB130031GB126110(A)GB130105(A)GB130033(A)GB130033(A) Six patents total dated 1919 filed 1917

Leeming Patents

Edit... now I've had a chance to look at the patent he really does mean a folding telegraph pole!

Edit Much later: GB130105 shows an X frame support arrangement this is pretty late though, I cant help thinking the device is rather too large and perhaps to complex to be practical....

Best Regardssmile



-- Edited by Ironsides on Monday 2nd of September 2013 08:58:18 AM

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Legend

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Anyone who knows anything about Wells is aware that he was arrogant, ruthless, disingenuous etc. but these aspects of his personality don't in the slightest detract from his abilities as a writer and the fact that he anticipated numerous developments with an incisiveness often lacking in his more sensationalist peers.

And the fact that various of his 'inventions' had been suggested by others also fails to detract from the fact that whilst that may very well be so, it was Wells who elaborated on them and made them come to life in his fiction. It is one thing to made a passing comment along the lines of, say, "Wouldn't it be nice to have mobile armoured covers for troops," an idle fancy instantly forgettable, and then to write a story still talked about 110 years after it was published! For example, it is well known (indeed, Wells himself always mentioned this) that it was his brother Frank who gave him the idea for one of his most famous works The War of the Worlds - but could Frank Wells have written that story?

The same goes for Dunne. In The Land Ironclads - which, I note, it has become quite fashionable to knock in some quarters - what Wells did which none of his contemporaries did was to make the idea of a tank seem feasible because he didn't over-complicate it. Other, more hack-like, writers would have been tempted to make their AFVs trench diggers as well or fly or some other absurd feature but Wells had clearly analysed the situation and boiled it down to the essentials: how do you protect gunners on the battlefield from enemy fire whilst preserving, enhancing even, their mobility? And in answer he didn't merely create a big armoured car, as some have accused him of doing. He created the concept of the tank in all of its essentials: armour; firepower; and, in the chief quality that distinguishes the tank from the armoured car, cross-country mobility. Armoured cars, being cars, must travel by road; the tank takes its road with it, and that is what Wells's Land Ironclads do too.

The fact that Wells got details wrong such as giving his Land Ironclads Diplock's Pedrail wheels is irrelevant. The point is that Wells realised that ordinary wheels cannot give a vehicle cross-country qualities, the ability to cross trenches, shell craters, surmount obstacles etc. and so he needed something unusual. Being a writer, rather than a practising engineer, Wells plumped for what he had read about: Diplock's Pedrail which, in the usual manner of new inventions, was probably being promoted far beyond its abilities. I have seen Wells criticised for not using Holt-type tracks, but this is a fatuous criticism in my opinion. Wells's story was published in 1903. He may have been working on it much earlier (The War of the Worlds, for example, despite publication in 1897 was being worked on as early as 1895). Whatever the case, chain tracks were virtually unknown in 1903 despite numerous isolated and easily forgotten experiments over the preceding century or so.

It is very easy to forget in these days of the internet, with virtually all of the world's knowledge at one's fingertips, how difficult it would have been to keep abreast of developments at the turn of the twentieth century when the only media for disseminating information was printed on paper. It was before radio (and before any pedants point out military experiments with Marconi's equipment, I mean domestic radio), decades before television, even the cinema was still an amusing novelty. Few would have been aware of, say, the development of a tracked crawler by an obscure American company (Lombard) in 1901, probably only those 'in the trade'.

As for Verne, yes, it is popularly imagined now that he 'invented' undersea technology. But any educated person when it was published knew that Verne hadn't invented the submarine. As noted it was only a few years before that CSS Hunley had sunk the Housatonic and Verne's own compatriots were experimenting, with little effect, with Le Plongeur.

Actually, I'll back-pedal here: Verne had invented the concept of the submarine. What had been experimented with in his own time, and what was to become practical for decades after, was the submersible. Submersibles are vessels which can submerge for limited periods of time to achieve stealth, but their natural home is not underwater. The true submarine is capable of indefinite submersion, limited only by the tolerance of her crew. Verne's Nautilus only became a reality with the advent of nuclear submarines (of which the first example was named, not coincidentally, Nautilus - that shows you what the submarine men themselves thought of Verne).

Furthermore, what Verne had done was plausibly evoke a true sense of wonder with his high-performance Nautilus able to dive deep and reveal the exotic undersea world, something no real-world vessel could do for decades.

Anyway, I've strayed right off the subject at hand, but I did feel the need to make a few corrective comments, lest people go overboard indulging in "Verne and Wells were just a pair of over-rated frauds" type arguments.



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Legend

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Here's a Book from 1898Aerial Or Wire-rope Tramways: Their Construction and Managementhas some mention of a portable rope-way used for field work on page 129... capable of transporting 50 tons per day over 1 mile and can be taken down and put up again in a day...

Also on the Internet Archive a number of books on the subject dating from 1850-1914: Wire Rope Transportation

Best Regardssmile



-- Edited by Ironsides on Monday 2nd of September 2013 12:28:09 PM

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Good source. Not in the archives yet but evidently a prime source on the history and development of "ropeways":

Title: Milestones in ropeway history
Author: Karl Bittner
Subjects: Europe ; Bleichert-Zuegg system ; Funiculars ; Italy ; Switzerland ; Hollbrunnbuhel ; Monocable systems ; Bicable systems ; Austria ; Alps ; Dnjepr ; Russia ; Military ; Danzig ; Wurm ; Alberta ; History
Publisher: S.l. : s.n.
Creation Date: 1984
Description: Austrian authority details by drawings and dated descriptions the milestones in materials and passenger ropeway history from 1400's to date. (CFD)
Format: P. 184-192..
Language: English

The Colorado School of Mines, with access to that and other sources, has this to say (in part):...History

The first indication of transport using rope comes from the rugged Asiatic countries of China, Japan, and India. Men used fiber rope to cross the chasms, initially transferring themselves, hand over hand, with the body suspended by a crude harness. The next application was to pull oneself in a basket that also had a few belongings of the traveler. Although Fausto Veranzio of Venice illustrated a bicable passenger ropeway in 1616, the ropeway industry generally credits Wybe Adam, a Dutchman, with erecting the first successful operational system in 1644. Early ropeway technology and development were lead by the Europeans, particularly Germany and the alpine countries, Austria and Switzerland; later Italy and France. Most rapid development followed introduction of wire rope and later, the electric drive. Many innovations were introduced by extensive use of military tramways in the ferocious mountain warfare between Italy and Austria in World War I. ...
(inside.mines.edu/About_Ropeways)

Brooding still over the moody Wells - after a lifetime of reading Science Fiction (well, I didn't start until I was 8, three-score years ago) and about SF authors, there is one (near) constant - they never set great value in their "ideas", not during their productive years anyway. This is something few "outsiders" could imagine (as it were). Those authors have so many concepts and (mostly) "slants" on concepts to develop in their store (they have to have to survive in that genre) and are generally chuffed when the real world collides with a few of those or when others borrow them (unless those others make a markedly better job of exploitation and there's no licensing/royalty/attribution arrangement). In their declining years (particularly) it can be a different matter, with some at least. I fancy you could detect a little of that in Isaac Asimov and in Arthur C Clarke, two who wrote for a good long time and, notably, wrote about themselves with absolutely no hesitation given the least opportunity or provocation. But not a hint of it from Robert Silverberg.


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Wells tells the story in his autobiography titled An Experiment in Autobiography. 

 

 



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Sergeant

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I wonder if this chap's work may have been the origin of all such devices.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Trengrouse

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