SHEILA TERRY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY SHEILA TERRY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Today, the air brake is the standard, fail-safe train brake used by railways worldwide. Early train brakes were hand operated and largely ineffective. To achieve higher and safe speeds, the American inventor George Westinghouse brought out an air brake in 1869. Unfortunately, if a hose burst or the train broke in two the brakes on the entire train became useless. Also the brakes worked unevenly throughout the train and could cause the carriages or cars to collide. Westinghouse introduced the automatic air brake in 1873. Putting a quick-action triple valve and an auxiliary reservoir under each vehicle ensured independent braking power and the automatic application of the brakes on the whole train. The illustration shows the essential parts of the automatic air brake and their arrangement on the engine, tender, and passenger car current at the end of the 19c.
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