George Westinghouse II

Lead: Aware of repeated and often deadly railroad accidents, George Westinghouse developed the air brake.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: At first Westinghouse tried to harness the steam generated by the locomotive, but found that by the time steam reached the rear of the train it had begun to condensing thus losing its power to force the brakes. His solution came while reading a magazine article describing the construction of the huge railroad tunnel through Mont Cenis in the Italian Alps. Instead of generating steam deep in the mountain for drilling which would eat up precious oxygen, engineers compressed air on the outside and pumped it to the tunnel face. Westinghouse applied the same principle to stopping trains, some of which were dozens of cars in length.


George Westinghouse I

Lead: On a dark February night in 1871, the chief engineer of the New York Central's crack Pacific Express, Doc Simmons, peered beyond a rounded bend south of Poughkeepsie, New York and saw disaster coming and could do absolutely nothing about it.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Everything was executed precisely. Simmons blew the emergency whistle. Trainmen between each of the passenger cars went to their stations. The icy handles began to turn. The brakes began to bite. Too little. Too late. A wrecked freight train lay tumbled across the small drawbridge just ahead. The Pacific Express, its useless brakes complaining loudly, drove through the oil-filled tank cars and pitched into Wappinger Creek. The tanks ignited. Thirty people died including Doc Simmons. Pity. Had the New York Central not been so cheap, Simmons would surely have been able to save lives that night. Already available was a device so effective that it was to revolutionize the railroad industry. In the public outcry following the Wappinger Creek disaster, New York Central and most other major lines began to equip their passenger stock with an invention by a little-known engineer. It was the air brake. His name was George Westinghouse.

Battle of Midway III

Lead: In the late spring of 1942, two great armadas met off the Midway Islands.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Isoroku Yamamoto opposed the war with America. He had served as Naval Attaché at the Japanese Embassy in Washington and knew first-hand how lethal was the power of the giant American democracy once awakened. However, when the decision to go to war was made he insisted that Japan’s only hope for victory was a surprise attack which would cripple U.S. forces in the Pacific. Pearl Harbor proved him right but he had missed the American aircraft carriers on December 7th, because they were at sea on maneuvers. Yamamoto was back in the Central Pacific in late May 1942 to take out those carriers and to establish an early warning picket line anchored by the two tiny Midway Islands at the tip of the Hawaiian archipelago 1300 miles northeast of Honolulu.

Battle of Midway II

Lead: Samuel Johnson, the author of the first great English Dictionary once said, “the prospect of hanging clears the mind, wonderfully.” In the early summer of 1942 with two great armadas converging on Midway Island, the mind of the Admiral Chester W. Nimitz was very clear.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Since civilian Eugene Ely first flew an airplane off a specially constructed platform on the USS Birmingham in November 1910, aircraft carriers played an increasingly important role in strategic planning. If there were any lingering doubts as to the value of the aircraft carrier, these doubts departed with the Japanese dive bombers leaving Hawaii on December 7, 1941. The Japanese attack was very destructive but it failed to take out the greatest prize of all. The three aircraft carriers assigned to the U.S. Pacific fleet were out at sea when Pearl Harbor was pulverized. In the early summer of 1942, a fleet under Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto returned to the Central Pacific to provoke a battle which he was confident he could win, take out those carriers, and establish an early warning line using the Midway Islands as an anchor.

Battle of Midway I

Lead: In the early summer of 1942 United States forces in the Pacific could have been defeated at the distant tip of the Hawaiian archipelago.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: When the last Japanese dive bombers departed through the smoke that billowed from the ruined U.S. Naval Station at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, they left a job undone. While the line of battleships was hard hit and some of vessels such as the USS Arizona were lost for good, battleships were headed for a diminished role in strategic military planning. Hickam and Wheeler Air Fields were filled with many burning wrecks, but the aircraft could be easily replaced. Japanese had missed the greatest prize. Three aircraft carriers assigned to the Pacific fleet were absent on that fateful Sunday morning and to the Japanese command these ships remained a deadly threat.

Aerial Refueling


Lead: Almost from the beginning of powered flight, aviators recognized that one of the major problems they faced was having enough fuel to keep aircraft aloft for extended time and distance. They solved this with aerial refueling.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: On June 27, 1923 two U.S. Army Air Service planes accomplished the first mid-air refueling. Two months later, with two tankers attending, a DH-4B Army biplane set a world-wide endurance record remaining in the air for 37 hours. Experiments continued on both sides of the Atlantic with the United States desiring to enhance postal service to Europe and the British seeking to extend the range of their flying boats to the far reaches of the Empire.

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Elisha Graves Otis’s Elevator (Invention)

Lead: An experimental safety device developed by Elisha Graves Otis, a Yonkers, New York machinist, gradually transformed the urban landscape. His creativity added a new dimension to city living. Things could now go up.

Intro: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts

Content: From almost the dawn of civilization, human society came to value communal living. Families would draw together for protection and commerce, their clan gatherings became villages which became towns, which in turn became cities. Increasingly complex urban living came to symbolize the power and wealth of a people. In Babylon, Carthage, Rome, and other capitols, wealth and monuments to imperial greatness were designed to intimidate and seduce enemies and friends alike. These cities attracted large populations, but most lived in poverty and squalor - too many people, too little space. The obvious solution was to build vertically, but until the modern era, buildings were limited in height. Buildings constructed of wood and mortar could be only be pushed so high because of structural weakness. In addition, excessively tall buildings were impractical since people and goods could not efficiently be moved between floors. High-grade steel and reinforced concrete solved the structural problem, Elisha Graves Otis solved the other.

Suez Canal III

Lead: Facing almost universal skepticism, the Suez Canal Company under Ferdinand de Lesseps raised the money and dug the Canal.

Intro: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Prime Minister Palmerston of Britain called him a swindler and a fool. Bankers such as Baron de Rothschild rejected his pleas for capital. Yet, de Lesseps succeeded against all odds. Raising money from small investors and operating with a design approved by the International Commission for the Piercing of the Isthmus of Suez, he broke ground in 1859 near the future Port Said. It took ten years to construct the canal. At any given point 30,000 workers were employed often under harsh, forced conditions. More than a million were so engaged and thousands of laborers died on the project. Progress was often delayed by labor disputes and the outbreak of diseases such as cholera, but in the end the canal was completed primarily due to the importation of giant French-designed steam shovels and dredges.