Ukrainian Engineers: Fyodor Pirotsky

7 mins.

July 6, 2021

Fyodor Pirotsky’s family descends from a Cossack petty officer. In the early 1870s Pirotsky elaborated a draft for transmitting electricity through an iron wire fixed with telegraph insulators on wooden poles and two alternating current machines of his own design. As a return conductor he used ground.
Pirotsky pays attention to the “free” electric lines – the railway tracks. In 1875 he started and in 1876 completed a series of successful experiments on a 1 km long section of railway. In these experiments one rail was a direct, and another a return (ground) conductor; the energy receiver was an electric motor.
In an application for an invention dated 5th April 1880, he described a project for an electric railway and on 12th April, in front of a large audience, including a representative of the Siemens company, he presented a project for using electricity “for the movement of railway trains with the supply of electricity through the same rails on which the wheels are rolling”.
During the summer Pirotsky worked on the implementation of his invention. For that he chose the heaviest double-decker horse-drawn carriage with 40 seats and a weight of 6550 kg and converted it to electric traction.
Finally, on 22 August 1880, the world’s first electric-powered tram car started moving. It moved at a horse trot (8-12 km/h), made a sharp turn, stopped and moved backwards. The show was successfully held until 16 September.
So, only 12 years after Pirotsky’s invention, the tram was made for the first time in his homeland, Ukraine.
Today, people all over the world use trams to get to work, for walks or just to go for a ride here and there. This mode of transport is romanticized in books and songs. And in some cities the tram has become a highlight and has been transferred onto postcards and paintings.
The tram is further proof of how engineers are changing the world.

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