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Alba F. Smith

Historical Development of the Locomotive

Alba F. Smith

Alba F. Smith, the man responsible for the purchase of the Pioneer locomotive, was born in Lebanon, Connecticut, June 28, 1817. Smith showed promise as a mechanic at an early age and by the time he was twenty-two had established leadpipe works in Norwich. His attention was drawn particularly to locomotives since the tracks of the Norwich and Worcester Railroad passed his shop.

His attempts to develop a spark arrester for locomotives brought Smith to the favorable attention of Captain Daniel Tyler (1799-1882), president of the Norwich and Worcester Railroad. When Tyler was hired by the Cumberland Valley Railroad in 1850 to supervise the line's rebuilding, he persuaded the managers of that road to hire Smith as superintendent of machinery.

Smith was appointed as superintendent of the machine shop of the Cumberland Valley Railroad on July 22, 1850. On January 1, 1851, he became superintendent of the road. In March of 1856 Smith resigned his position with the Cumberland Valley Railroad and became superintendent of the Hudson River Railroad, where he remained for only a year. During that time he designed the coalburning locomotive Irvington, rebuilt the Waterman condensing dummy locomotive for use in hauling trains through city streets, and developed a superheater.

After retiring from the Hudson River Railroad he returned to Norwich and became active in enterprises in that area, including the presidency of the Norwich and Worcester Railroad. While the last years of Smith's life were devoted to administrative work, he found time for mechanical invention as well. In 1862 he patented a safety truck for locomotives, and became president of a concern which controlled the most important patents for such devices. Alba F. Smith died on July 21, 1879, in Norwich, Connecticut.

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