Posts Tagged ‘concrete’

Edison’s Concrete Road



In the late 1800’s the best highways and roads were in Europe. The US State Depts 600 page report confirmed this and determined it was because of government action in European countries that made them of higher quality. In all Europe the best roads were in France, thanks to the planning of Napoleon. Quality roads, they said, helped make their economy strong. “All roads in France receive perpetual attention. Roads in America receive perpetual inattention” it said. Congress, however, disputed the study however, and little was done to implement a federal government role in road construction and maitenance for the next 20 years.  In 1908, France held the first international Road Congress, where methods of road construction and maitenance were  discussed. In 1913 a report was again commisioned and it stated that “the resultant organization would assume very large proportions.” In 1915 the committee recommended a federal aid program, but warned against concentration of control in Washington as well as concerns about pork barrel projects.

When Americans soldiers traveled French roads in WWI they experienced French roads first hand and were envious. Modern society was grappling with the issue of cars using roads designed for horse & carriages. Thomas Edison was a friend of Henry Ford & Harvey Firestone and noted that “I have have traveled over 4,000 miles of French roads built by the central government, and kept in perfect repair. I note with pain and humiliation the horrible mess made by us in our road building, arising from dense ignorance.”

Concrete and asphalt would become the future of the modern road. Concrete is created by combining sand or crushed stone with a binding agent.  There are various types of cement, and one of the earliest was Portland cement. Edison became infatuated with concrete and began exploring it’s uses for homebuilding, as furniture, and for roads.  Not much is known about Edison’s attempts at using concrete. He was responsible for the building of the first concrete road in the US. Located in Franklin Twp, NJ it was built in 1912 happen for another 30 years…

The Germans made great progress in roadbuilding, and after WWII Dwight Eisenhower was inspired to built a large national intrastate highway system which gave us such highways as route 80 and route 95.

The concrete ship

During WWI there was a shortage of steel and research was begun in earnest to find alternate ship designs. From this came one of the most bizarre concepts ever created: the concrete ship. 38 concrete ships were planned, by the US Shipping Board, and 12 were actually built and went into service. The “Atlantus” was a 3,000 ton 250 foot long freighter, built with a 5 inch thick hull of special concrete aggregate, to correct shattering and brittleness problems found in the first concrete ship. (ya think?)

The “Atlantus” was built by the Liberty Shipbuilding Corporation, of Brunswick, Georgia. She was launched on November 21st, 1918, at Wilmington, North Carolina. Commissioned June 1st, 1919, the “Atlantus” served for a year as a government owned privately-operated commercial coal steamer in New England. With the end of the war, the more efficient steel ships were again available. The “Concrete Fleet” was de-commissioned, and the Atlantus was sent to the “Bone Yard” at “Pigs Point”, in Norfolk, Virginia in September of 1920. A year later, the Atlantus was stripped after being purchased by a salvage company.

In 1926, the Atlantus was towed to Cape May, New Jersey. A Baltimore firm was attempting to start a ferry service from Cape May, New Jersey to Lewes, Delaware. It was planned to have a channel dredged well into shore. The Atlantus would then be forced into the channel. A special drawbridge type of device was to be mounted on the exposed end. Two other bulks would be sunk at angles creating a “Y” shape. The ferry would dock by wedging in and cars and passengers would load and unload by use of the drawbridge. While awaiting positioning, the Atlantus broke loose of her moorings during a storm in 1926 and went aground. Several attempts were made to free the Atlantus – they were futile.

The ship remains partially exposed above the water off the shore of Cape may beach, although as you can see in the pics here, there used to be a helluva alot more of that shipwreck then there is today

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