George Westinghouse was another of those men who invented a long list of items that makes our lives better today.

In the 1860s trains were having many wrecks, and there were many reasons, but a major problem was the braking system did not work well. It was larger in size, but it really was the same brake design used on covered wagons.

In the train's cab was a lever, which when pulled pressed a wooden block against one of the drivers (power wheels). If the wood did not start to burn, it would slow a short train, going slow. It could cause the rear cars to derail, or be crushed into the back of the next car forward.

The only other choice was to reverse the engine. This damaged the drivers as they were now spinning the wrong way, and the size of the train could still result in the rear of the train jumping the track.

They tried adding the lever system to cars along the length of the train, but this required a "brakeman" to be at each lever. There was no system to tell the last brakeman what was going on up front. To work required them all to be applied at an even rate, meaning the system only added to the danger.

All of these troubles kept the trains short and speed slow, even when the locomotive design had made great improvements. If you look at early photos of trains, they will be only be about six to eight cars long.

Going down a grade the only thing that slowed the train was the engine. Keeping the wood brake pressed on the steel wheel would cause them

to overheat, and fail.

Then Westinghouse invented the train air brake system. His brakes worked because of a valve which was operated at one location by the brakeman riding in the locomotive.

His first valve was invented in 1869, and it was better than anything before, but still had problems. The brakes on all cars could not be applied at one time. He made an improved, "automatic air brake" valve in 1872, then the "triple valve" in 1887.

Now, the system has much more details than I've shared here; the issue is space and I'm not sure I could explain the triple valve, and the air pumps, tanks, etc. It made all the brakes along the whole train be applied at the same time, with equal pressure. The rear cars were now under control, by one brake handle in the cab.

His invention allowed trains to now be longer, faster and safer. The larger locomotives added tons, that required this new brake system, and it worked. Soon there were trains a mile long that on level ground could be pulled at 55 mph. The number of engines could increase, and brake as one unit.

George was not finished with the air brake system. His next invention was the size of a wheel barrel, with an air tank, hand valve, and hose. Before the train departed one man could check the air brake system.

He hooked up to the train's air lines, and pulled the brake handle, and then could watch a pressure valve. If it held the pressure, it was safe to go.