Bion J. Arnold

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Bion Joseph Arnold (April 14, 1861 – January 29, 1942) is remembered as "father of the third rail",[1] a pioneer in electrical engineering, and an urban mass transportation expert who helped design New York's Interborough Rapid Transit subway system. After the IRT opened in 1904, the subway proved to be more popular than envisioned. By 1908, a system designed for a maximum of 600,000 passengers per day was being used by 800,000. Arnold was called upon again to solve the problem. His solution was to place automatic speed control devices on the trains themselves, so that more trains could be run during each hour.[2]

Arnold also assisted in the conversion of electrified railways in Chicago, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh, and the cable car systems in San Francisco. After graduating from Hillsdale College in Michigan, Arnold set up his own company in Chicago at a time when railroads were converting their power sources from steam to electricity. Between 1898 and 1912, he assisted the New York Central Railroad and the Hudson River Railroad in conversion of their lines leading into the Grand Central Terminal.[3] Arnold was president of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers from 1903 to 1904.[4]


  1. ^ Current Biography 1942, p33
  2. ^ Clifton Hood, "The Impact of the IRT on New York City", Historical American Engineering Record survey number HAER NY-122, pp.146-147, from, retrieved September 3, 2007
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Bion J. Arnold". IEEE Global History Network. IEEE. Retrieved 8 August 2011.