Tuesday, February 24, 2009

mile a minute Murphy

“The signal was passed on to Sam Booth in the engine cab and I was off for the famous ride. I soon settled down to business. I was determined to win. I bent over and gripped the handlebars as I never did before. The train gained impetus surprisingly fast. Sam Booth pulled the locomotive and car up to the mile-a-minute speed . . . With eyes glued on the vertical strip on the back of the car, with each push of the pedal I was putting every ounce of energy into the ride . . Although I was riding perfectly, still in dead air and going strong, I could not understand the violent vibration in the track, as though the boards were rapping the bottom of my wheel, the effect being as though I was riding over an undulation instead of level track; feeling hot missiles striking my face and body. I learned afterwards it was burning rubber from under the car.

Within five seconds, the rate of speed was terrific; I was riding in a maelstrom of swirling dust & hot cinders. I heard the cheers from the officials and spectators as I rode and they had a fine effect on me. I was riding against hope; I expected the worst. The first quarter-mile was reached in 15 seconds.

I then observed that the hearty cheers of the officials had given place to appeals to "Come on, don't give up.'' They realized that something was wrong because I was losing ground. Fred Burns asked through the megaphone “what was the matter?” I raised my head from the bent position on the handlebars to reply to “Burns”. Quick as a flash I fell back fifty feet. With all the energy and power at my command I tried to regain the lost ground. It was no use, I was doomed to failure. I could feel myself getting weaker every second. As I looked up, I saw the agonized faces, yelling, holding out stretched hands as if they would like to get hold of, or assist me somehow. They sent the thrill of determination through me. I felt better and stronger. I could see myself gaining lost ground. The half was passed in 29 seconds. . . The car was crowded with men who had been used to seeing any and all things that were dangerous, but the howling and screaming of sturdy officials and newspaper men from all over the United States that stood on the platform put all on edge.

In the midst of nervous pressure, the moment that was half minute seemed an hour down there behind the platform; I kept a terrific pace. Suddenly, three-quarters was passed in 43 seconds. My eyes were glued upon Hal Fullerton, my friend who had made my dream to revolutionize railroading and cycling possible. Second by second I crept back into view. Phew, what a relief! Signal of the American flag signifying the finish, the joy in my heart of success.

As Sam Booth passed the mile he shut off the steam. The locomotive slowed too suddenly; on I came, and crashed head on into the rear of the train. The front wheel recoiled while the back wheel rebounded and continued to revolve in the air. I pitched head forward. A frantic yell of despair went up from the officials on the rear platform. They expected me to be dashed to pieces and surely dead. The men on the back of the platform reached out in sheer nervousness and gradually drew me close. The pleasure and glory of this long cherished idea was not to be taken from me by death. I reached forward and grabbed an upright on the rear of the car. Simultaneously, Hal Fullerton caught me by one arm and Joseph H. Cummin by the other and pulled both bicycle and myself upon the platform of the rear car.”

Murphy's time for the measured mile: 57.8 seconds. On that victorious note, he ended his cycling career and became a New York City policeman on a motorcycle.

Taken from arts-arrchives.com/mmm.html

No comments: