Stimpson v. Baltimore & Susquehanna R. Co.
51 U.S. 329 (1850)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Stimpson v. Baltimore & Susquehanna R. Co., 51 U.S. 10 How. 329 329 (1850)

Stimpson v. Baltimore & Susquehanna Railroad Company

51 U.S. (10 How.) 329

Syllabus

Stimpson's patent

"for an improvement for the purpose of carrying railroads through the streets of towns or in other situations where it may be desirable that the wheels of ordinary carriages should not be subjected to injury or obstruction"

decided to be a combination or application of means already known and in use, and not to be original as to the invention or discovery of those means.

That the mode given by him for the application of those means and the objects proposed thereby differ materially from the apparatus used by the Baltimore & Susquehanna Railroad Company for turning the corners of streets. The latter therefore is no infringement of Stimpson's patent.

The practice of bringing cases up to this Court upon an agreed state of facts has been sanctioned, and is now pronounced to be correct.

The plaintiff in error brought an action in the court below for an alleged infringement of his patent right by the defendant in error.

The cause was not tried by a jury, but was submitted to the court upon the statement of facts hereinafter inserted. Judgment for the defendant, upon which the plaintiff sued out this writ of error.

"Statement of Facts"

"It is agreed that the privilege of the invention set forth or referred to in the declaration was intended to be secured to the plaintiff by letters patent dated 23 August, 1831, that said patent, for defectiveness of specification, was surrendered, and another instead thereof issued on 26 September, 1835, and that this last was for like reason surrendered and another issued in place of it bearing date 27 August, A.D. 1840, and that said patent right was duly extended for the term of seven years from 23 August, A.D. 1845, the period of the expiration of the term of said original letters patent. The invention is described in the specification in the words following, to-wit:"

"Specification"

"The schedule referred to in these letters patent, and making part of the same."

" To all whom it may concern: "

" Be it known that I, James Stimpson, of the City of Baltimore in the State of Maryland, have invented a new and useful improvement in the mode of forming and using cast or wrought iron plates or rails for railroad carriage wheels to run upon; more especially for those to be used on the streets of

Page 51 U. S. 330

cities, on wharves, and elsewhere, and I do hereby declare that the following is a full and exact description of my said inventions or improvements: "

" For the purpose of carrying railroads through the streets of towns or cities and in other situations where circumstances may render it desirable that the wheels of ordinary carriages should not be subjected to injury or obstruction, I so construct or form the rails that the flanges of the wheels of railroad cars or carriages may be received and run within narrow grooves or channels formed in or by said rails, said grooves not being sufficiently wide to admit the rims of the wheels of gigs or other ordinary carriages having wheels of the narrowest kind. These plates or rails may be varied in form according to circumstances."

" In the accompanying drawing, figure 1 represents a railroad track supposed to be formed in a street, a part of it being shown as straight and a part as curved. The other figures give sectional views of various forms in which I make my railway bars or plates, which are usually of cast iron, and are laid down and secured upon rails of wood. Figure 2 is a section of the form of cast iron rail plate which I most commonly use where the track is slightly curved, and figure 3, a plate nearly the same with figure 2, which I use where the track is nearly or quite straight. In these plates I make a groove or channel, as at a, which is to receive the flange of the wheel. This channel should be about an inch and a half wide at the top and about an inch and a quarter at bottom; it is sufficiently deep to admit the flange of the wheel to run in it without touching its bottom. The lower corners of the interior of this channel I make rounding or curved in order that any dirt or other foreign matter collected therein may be the more readily forced out by the action of the flanges. The cheek or jam, which is on the inside of the channel, should be about three-fourths of an inch wider at top and as high, or nearly so, as the face c of the plate upon which the tread of the wheel is to run. These plates I cast hollow at d, to save weight. They should be about two inches and a quarter deep, six inches and a half wide at the bottom, and about six inches and a quarter at the top; the taper at their sides, when thus formed, aiding in confining them in place by the wedging of the stones and earth of the pavement against them; they may be cast three or four feet in length; their ends should be beveled, say at an angle of forty-five degrees, or they may be formed with a tenon and mortise. They have spike holes through them in order to fasten them down to the rails of wood or of stone upon which they are placed. "

Page 51 U. S. 331

" Figure 3 is the same with figure 2 excepting that it has a slight chamfer or rounding off of the angle of the face, as shown at e, to admit the cone or curve on the tread of the wheel where it joins the flange to run free, so that the general tread of the wheel may bear on the face c of the plate, which face I prefer to make a little crowning."

" Where the road is perfectly straight, as at A, on the track, this chamfered edge plate is to be preferred; but where it is slightly curved, as at B, on the track, I use on the outside of the curve the rails shown in figure 2, which are not chamfered, as the conical or larger part of the tread of the wheel close to the flange will then bear upon the edge e, and this being larger than the tread, will cause the wheels to roll round such curved parts of the road with little or no slipping."

" Where it is necessary to turn a curve of shorter radius than that which could be readily effected by the aid of the conical part of the wheel, as at C, on the track, I then resort to the plan, secured to me by letters patent, for 'turning short curves on railroads,' which letters patent bear the same date, having been granted on the same day with the letters patent of which this instrument makes a part, for railroad plates to be used on the streets of cities &c. -- that is to say I apply 'the flanges of the wheels on one side of the railroad carriages, and the tread of the wheels on the other side, to turn curves on railways.' In this case, a railroad plate may be made, like that shown in figure 4, to form the channel for the wheel on the larger or outer curve. In this case, the groove or channel is not to be equal in depth to the rise or projection of the flange, so that the flange alone bears on the rail on this outer side and takes the whole weight of the load, thus freeing the tread of the wheel on that side from the face of the plate for the distance necessary to turn the curve; for a full exemplification of which plan, I refer to said letters patent for 'turning short curves.' Such curves, however, will rarely if ever occur excepting in the turning of the corners of streets, and to this particular mode I make no claim in the present patent. When the wheels arrive at the straight part of a track after having run upon a curved part, the rails shown in figure 3 are used, or others of a like nature."

" It is to be understood that the object had in view in varying the form of the rails by chamfering, as in figure 3, or by omitting the chamfer, as in figure 2, is to attain the same end -- namely the running with little friction or dragging around curves in the streets, which is attained on the ordinary railroad tracks out of cities by allowing the cars to vibrate from side to side so that the varying diameter on the conical parts of the

Page 51 U. S. 332

treads of the wheels may cause them to adapt themselves to curvatures on the road. The narrow channel used by me and so essential in cities does not admit of this lateral vibration, but by the devices above described a similar result is attained."

" In most cases for passing along streets, and more especially when the iron rails are embedded in rails or sills of stone, I prefer so to construct the said iron rails as that the wheels shall run altogether on the flanges. In this case, I use iron plates such as are represented in figure 4. These plates may be made two inches and three quarters wide at top and three inches at the bottom; the channel or groove may be about five-eighths of an inch in depth and an inch and a quarter wide at the top and an inch at the bottom, the corners at the bottom of the groove being curved as in figures 2 and 3. The thickness below the bottom of the groove or channel may be three-fourths of an inch; the plates would then be one inch and three eighths in depth. These shallow-channeled plates present several advantages, among to the motion of the cars; offer less resistance than others to the motion of the cars; they are much lighter than others; they will not require any cleaning out, the flanges effecting this perfectly, which may not always be the case in deeper channels. These shallow channels may be made narrower than the deeper ones, the flanges being much thinner at their outer edges than they are near to the treads of the wheels. The wheels will undoubtedly be as safely guided in the shallow as in the deeper channels, and the rails will be equally durable with those of greater weight. When rails of this description are sunk into a channel in a rail of stone or wood, the base being wider than their upper sides, the pressure of sand into the seams on each side of the iron caused by the running of common carriage wheels over them will effectually confine the iron plates between the jambs of the stone or wood. Figure 6 shows a rail plate resembling figure 4, but having a channel the whole depth of the flange."

" Should it be preferred to use the ordinary flat wrought-iron rails, they may be laid double, at such a distance apart as to form the proper channel for the flange between them; f f, figure 5, are sections of two such iron plates, and are shown as used at D on the track. Wrought plates may also be formed in the manner represented in figure 7. This plate is rolled so as to have a channel, a, in it, which may be one inch and a quarter wide at top, one inch at bottom, and five-eighths of an inch deep. The plate, g g, on each side of the channel may be two inches wide; the whole plate may be of uniform thickness and furnished with spike holes alternately on each side of the channels; these are supposed to be used at E on the track. Where

Page 51 U. S. 333

it is necessary to cross a water gutter in the street, I use a cast iron plate or plates to cross said gutter, the flange channels being in such plate or plates. The whole surface between the channels is cast rough to prevent the slipping of the feet of horses. The aforesaid cast iron plate is best cast in one piece, as it will be stronger than if divided; although of the same thickness, it must, of course, be of a width sufficient for the particular gutter to which it is to be applied, and it should be strengthened by having ribs cast on its lower side; these should be about an inch and a quarter deep, exclusive of the thickness of the plate. In some cases I cover the gutters the whole width of the street with such cast iron plates, and extend them to some distance beyond the curbings. I thus make a great improvement in streets for the ordinary purposes of travel. Such a plate is shown in figure 8, a a being the grooved channels cast therein and h h the upper face of the plate, cast rough or checkered."

" Having thus fully described the nature of my improvements and pointed out various modes in which the same may be carried into effect, what I claim as constituting my invention and desire to secure by letters patent is the employment of plates or rails, either of cast or of wrought iron, constructed and operating upon the principle or in the manner herein described, having narrow grooves on each side of the track for the flanges of car wheels to run in, by which they are adapted to the unobstructed passing over them of the various kinds of common carriages, and to the running of the wheels on slight curves without dragging. I also claim, in combination with such grooved rails or tracks, the employment of plates of cast iron for the covering and crossing of gutters, such plates being constructed as described and having the necessary flange channels cast in them. And I do hereby declare that I do not intend to confine myself to the precise forms and dimensions herein given, these being designed merely to exemplify in a clear manner the nature, object, and mode of carrying into effect of my said invention."

"JAMES STIMPSON"

" Witnesses:"

" J. M. STIMPSON"

" S.E. STIMPSON."

" Whereas, upon the petition of James Stimpson for an extension of the within patent, granted to the said Stimpson on the 25th day of August, 1831, the Board of commissioners, under the eighteenth section of Act of Congress approved 4 July, 1836, entitled 'An act to promote the progress of the useful arts, and to repeal all acts and

Page 51 U. S. 334

parts of acts heretofore made for that purpose,' did, on 21 August, 1845, certify that said patent ought to be extended, now therefore I, Edmund Burke, Commissioner of Patents, by virtue of the power vested in me by said eighteenth section, do renew and extend said patent and certify that the same is hereby extended for the term of seven years from and after the expiration of the first term, viz., 23 August, 1845, which certificate of the said Board of commissioners, together with this certificate of the Commissioner of Patents, having been duly entered of record in the Patent Office, the said patent now has the same effect in law as though the same had been originally granted for the term of twenty-one years."

" In testimony whereof, I have caused the seal of the Patent Office to be hereunto affixed this 21 August, 1845."

"[SEAL] EDMUND BURKE, Commissioner of Patents"

"It is admitted that for the invention of the plaintiff referred to in the above-mentioned specification as being for 'turning short corners,' a patent, dated 23 August, 1831, duly issued to him which, for defect in specification, was surrendered, and that another in place of it issued to him dated 26 September, 1835, and that said patent was duly extended for the term of seven years from 23 August, 1845, when the term of said original patent ended."

"It is admitted that the invention for 'turning short corners,' as described in the specification in the patent of 26 September, 1835, was as follows, to-wit:"

"Specification"

" The schedule referred to in these letters patent and making part of the same, containing a description in the words of the said James Stimpson himself of his improvement in the mode of turning short curves on railroads, for which letters patent were granted dated 23 August, 1831, which letters patent are hereby cancelled on account of a defective specification."

"To all to whom these presents shall come: "

" Be it known that I, James Stimpson, of the City and County of Baltimore and State of Maryland, have invented a new and useful improvement in the mode of turning short curves upon railroads with railroad carriages, particularly those round the corners of streets, wharves &c., and that the following is a full and exact description of said invention or improvements as invented or improved by me, viz.: "

Page 51 U. S. 335

" I use or apply the common peripheries of the flanges of the wheels for the aforesaid purpose in the following manner:"

" I lay a flat rail, which, however, may be grooved, if preferred, at the commencement of the curvature, and in a position to be centrally under the flanges of the wheels upon the outer track of the circle, so that no other part of the wheels which run upon the outer circle of the track rails shall touch or bear upon the rails but the peripheries of the flanges, they bearing the whole weight of the load and carriage, while the opposite wheels which run upon the inner track of the circle, are to be run and bear upon their treads in the usual way, and their flanges run freely in a groove or channel, which treads are ordinarily about three inches in diameter less than the peripheries of the flanges. Were the bearing surfaces of the wheels which are in contact with the rails while thus turning the curve to be connected by straight lines from every point, there would thus be formed the frustums of two cones if there be four wheels and two axles to the carriage, or if but one axle and two wheels, then but one cone, which frustums, or the wheels representing their extremities, will, if the wheels are thirty inches in diameter and are coupled about three feet six inches apart, turn a curve of about sixty feet radius of the inner track rail. The difference in diameter between the flanges and treads being as before stated and the tracks of the usual width, the wheels coupled as stated would turn a curve of a somewhat smaller radius if the axles were not confined to the carriage and in a parallel position with each other, but this generally deemed necessary, the wheels run upon lines of tangents, and those upon the inner track, being as wide apart in the coupling as the outer ones, keep constantly inclining the carriage outwards, and thus cause the carriage to tend to run upon a larger circle than the difference in diameter of the treads and flanges would otherwise give; but the depth of the flanges and the couplings may be so varied as to turn any other radius of a circle desired. What I claim as my invention or improvement is the application of the flanges of the wheels on one side of railroad carriages, and of the treads of the wheels on the other side, to turn curves upon railways, particularly such as turning the corners of streets, wharves &c., in cities and elsewhere, operating upon the principle herein set forth."

"JAMES STIMPSON"

" Witnesses:"

" JAMES H. STIMPSON"

" GEO. C. PENNIMAN "

Page 51 U. S. 336

" Whereas, upon the petition of James Stimpson for an extension of the within patent granted to the said Stimpson on 23 August, 1831, the Board of Commissioners, under the eighteenth section of Act of Congress approved 4 July, 1836, entitled 'An act to promote the progress of the useful arts, and to repeal all acts and parts of acts heretofore made for that purpose,' did, on 21 August, 1845, certify that said patent ought to be extended: "

" Now therefore, I, Edmund Burke, Commissioner of Patents, by virtue of the power vested in me by said eighteenth section, do renew and extend said patent and certify that the same is hereby extended for the term of seven years from and after the expiration of the first term -- namely 23 August, 1845, which certificate of the said Board of commissioners, together with this certificate of the Commissioner of Patents, having been duly entered of record in the Patent Office, the said patent now has the same effect in law as though the same had been originally granted for the term of twenty-one years."

" In testimony whereof, I have caused the seal of the Patent Office to be hereunto affixed this 21 August, 1845."

" [SEAL] EDMUND BURKE, Commissioner of Patents"

"It is further admitted that before and since the period of said extension of the first above-mentioned patent, the defendant, a corporation created by the General Assembly of Maryland for the business of and engaged in the transportation of passengers and goods by railways belonging to it, did, upon its railway and as part thereof in the City of Baltimore, and at the corner of two streets, to be turned in the course of said transportation, construct, and has ever since kept up and used, a curve furnished and fitted as follows, to-wit: on the inner side of the curve is placed a double iron rail cast in one piece, with the interval between large enough to allow the admission of the flange of the wheel, the rail on the outer side being the usual one throughout the curve, without difference of any kind except that it is curved, and it is admitted that the passage of the cars round the curve is throughout, and always has been, upon the treads of the wheels, and these rails were intended and used for the purpose of enabling the cars to turn the curves of the streets above mentioned."

"Upon this statement of facts it is submitted to the court to determine whether the defendant, under a just construction of said patent declared upon, has been guilty of any violation thereof. And it is agreed that if the court shall, in the premises,

Page 51 U. S. 337

be of opinion in favor of the plaintiff, judgment shall thereupon be rendered for the plaintiff for the damages laid in the declaration, to be released on payment of such sum as shall be found for actual damages by a jury, to be empanelled by consent for that purpose, subject to be increased by the court, according to the act of Congress in such case made and provided."

"The court to render an absolute judgment for the defendant if of opinion in the premises with the defendant, and either party having the right to sue out a writ of error from the judgment of the court."

"It is further agreed that the railway above mentioned used by the defendant is not sunk into the ground so as to make the top of the rail on a level with the surface, but projects above the surface the height of the rail, and that the court shall have the power to draw all inferences from the facts herein stated which could be drawn by a jury."

"CHARLES F. MAYER, Plaintiff's Attorney"

"J. M. CAMPBELL, Defendant's Attorney"

Page 51 U. S. 341

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