Behr, Fritz Bernhard

Behr, Fritz Bernhard
b. 9 October 1842 Berlin, Germany
d. 25 February 1927
German (naturalized British in 1876) engineer, promoter of the Lartigue monorail system.
Behr trained as an engineer in Britain and had several railway engineering appointments before becoming associated with C.F.M.-T. Lartigue in promoting the Lartigue monorail system in the British Isles. In Lartigue's system, a single rail was supported on trestles; vehicles ran on the rail, their bodies suspended pannier-fashion, stabilized by horizontal rollers running against light guide rails fixed to the sides of the trestles. Behr became Managing Director of the Listowel \& Ballybunion Railway Company, which in 1888 opened its Lartigue system line between those two places in the south-west of Ireland. Three locomotives designed by J.T.A. Mallet were built for the line by Hunslet Engine Company, each with two horizontal boilers, one either side of the track. Coaches and wagons likewise were in two parts. Technically the railway was successful, but lack of traffic caused the company to go bankrupt in 1897: the railway continued to operate until 1924.
Meanwhile Behr had been thinking in terms far more ambitious than a country branch line. Railway speeds of 150mph (240km/h) or more then lay far in the future: engineers were uncertain whether normal railway vehicles would even be stable at such speeds. Behr was convinced that a high-speed electric vehicle on a substantial Lartigue monorail track would be stable. In 1897 he demonstrated such a vehicle on a 3mile (4.8km) test track at the Brussels International Exhibition. By keeping the weight of the motors low, he was able to place the seats above rail level. Although the generating station provided by the Exhibition authorities never operated at full power, speeds over 75mph (120 km/h) were achieved.
Behr then promoted the Manchester-Liverpool Express Railway, on which monorail trains of this type running at speeds up to 110mph (177km/h) were to link the two cities in twenty minutes. Despite strong opposition from established railway companies, an Act of Parliament authorizing it was made in 1901. The Act also contained provision for the Board of Trade to require experiments to prove the system's safety. In practice this meant that seven miles of line, and a complete generating station to enable trains to travel at full speed, must be built before it was known whether the Board would give its approval for the railway or not. Such a condition was too severe for the scheme to attract investors and it remained stillborn.
Further Reading
H.Fayle, 1946, The Narrow Gauge Railways of Ireland, Greenlake Publications, Part 2, ch. 2 (describes the Listowel \& Ballybunion Railway and Behr's work there).
D.G.Tucker, 1984, "F.B.Behr's development of the Lartigue monorail", Transactions of
the Newcomen Society 55 (covers mainly the high speed lines).
See also: Brennan, Louis

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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