The Hippo


May 24, 2020








Photo credit the Mount Washington Cog Railway.

The measure of a man
Rapid Rule goes the distance
Prior to the invention of the Rapid Rule, rulers were clunky wooden instruments, and to measure long lengths, there were expandable Zigzag Rule rulers that could fold up. When Hiram Augustus Farrand Jr. invented the Farrand Rapid Rule, the invention allowed for a length of bendable steel to be expanded out of a small hand-held container, similar to the measuring tape we know today.
“I’ve kind of known about the Rapid Rule since I was a little kid, even though there weren’t any around,” Berlin & Coos County Historical Society Vice President Walter Nadeau said. “They sold millions of those things; they sold all over the world.”
Farrand moved from New Jersey to Berlin to work for the Brown Company. He received a patent for his invention in 1922, and opened the Hiram A. Farrand Inc. company at the corner of Coos and Champlain streets in Berlin in 1927. The Rapid Rule quickly gained global popularity, and was even used by Commander Admiral Byrd during his expedition to the South Pole. 
The company was only in operation for about five years — the Great Depression hit and Farrand sold his patent for $50,000 to Stanley Works. The Rapid Rule became the Stanley Tape Rule and production was moved to Connecticut. 

Mountain climber
‘Crazy’ idea becomes cog railway

By Hippo Staff

Sylvester Marsh, born in Campton at the turn of the 19th century, made his fortune out west as one of the founders of the meat-packing stockyards of Chicago, and later patented a number of inventions, including Marsha’s Caloric Meal, arguably the first breakfast cereal. But that wasn’t all he had up his sleeve. After Marsh returned home to the White Mountains, he took a hike up Mount Washington, and his idea for a mountain climbing railway was born.

“I think it had a very profound effect [on New Hampshire],” cog railway historian Donald Bray said. “It was the world’s first mountain climbing cog railway. No one had attempted to build a railroad on the side of a mountain before.”
The Swiss had thought about it, Bray said, and even sent men over to learn more about New Hampshire’s cog railway. The first mountain-side railway that was built in Switzerland was based largely on the cog railway in New Hampshire.
Marsh visited the state legislature in 1858 with a clockwork model of the train he had built and proposed to build a railroad that would scale Mount Washington or Mount Lafayette. The legislature responded jokingly that it would amend his charter to take the railroad to the moon.
“They openly laughed at him and thought it was crazy,” Bray said. “This was supposed to be a taunt I guess, and it’s often been called the railroad to the moon.”
Marsh had a steam engine built and shipped by railroad in pieces to Littleton. It was assembled at the base of the mountain and in August 1866 he demonstrated the steam-powered engine and cog technology, which made it possible to scale the steep incline of the mountain. His demonstration convinced investors, and the Mount Washington Steam Railway Company was born. Old Peppersass climbed Mount Washington for the first time in 1869.
“It is probably one of New Hampshire’s most popular tourist attractions,” Bray said. “The people of New Hampshire, they just like to know it’s there. I think it’s something they value, sort of like a possession, something that’s unique to New Hampshire.”
Today, there is still one steam-powered locomotive train that climbs Mount Washington, and it’s the first train of the day. The company has always been under the management of private hands, Bray said, and it has only stopped operations twice in its history: for a brief period during World War I and for three years during World War II. 
As seen in the October 9, 2014 issue of the Hippo.

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