|Locomotive to Aeromotive
- Octave Chanute and the Transportation Revolution
Author: Simine Short
Cloth Hardcover, 360 pages, 67 black & white photographs, 5 maps, 2 tables
Dimensions: 6.125 x 9.25 inches
(165 x 235)
Release Date: August, 2011
Forward by Tom D. Crouch, Senior Curator, Aeronautics, National Air and
Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution
The first in-depth look at an influential engineer and aviation
French-born and self-trained civil engineer Octave Chanute designed
America's two largest stockyards, created innovative and influential
structures such as the Kansas City Bridge over the previously
"unbridgeable" Missouri River, and was a passionate aviation pioneer
whose collaborative approach to aeronautical engineering problems
encouraged other experimenters, including the Wright brothers. Drawing
on rich archival material and exclusive family sources, Locomotive to
Aeromotive is the first detailed examination of Chanute's life and his
immeasurable contributions to engineering and transportation, from the
ground transportation revolution of the mid-nineteenth century to the
early days of aviation.
Aviation researcher and historian Simine Short brings to light in
colorful detail many previously overlooked facets of Chanute's
professional and personal life. In the late nineteenth century, few
considered engineering as a profession on par with law or medicine, but
Chanute devoted much time and energy to the newly established
professional societies that were created to set standards and serve the
needs of civil engineers. Though best known for his aviation work, he
became a key figure in the opening of the American continent by laying
railroad tracks and building bridges, experiences that later gave him
the engineering knowledge to build the first stable aircraft structure.
Chanute also introduced a procedure to treat wooden railroad ties with
an antiseptic that increased the wood’s lifespan in the tracks.
Establishing the first commercial plants, he convinced railroad men that
it was commercially feasible to make money by spending money on treating
ties to conserve natural resources. He next introduced the date nail to
help track the age and longevity of railroad ties.
A versatile engineer, Chanute was known as a kind and generous colleague
during his career. Using correspondence and other materials not
previously available to scholars and biographers, Short covers Chanute's
formative years in antebellum America as well as his experiences
traveling from New Orleans to New York, his apprenticeship on the Hudson
River Railroad, and his early engineering successes. His multiple
contributions to railway expansion, bridge building, and wood
preservation established his reputation as one of the nation's most
successful and distinguished civil engineers. Instead of retiring, he
utilized his experiences and knowledge as a bridge builder in the
development of motorless flight. Through the reflections of other
engineers, scientists, and pioneers in various fields who knew him,
Short characterizes Chanute as a man who believed in fostering and
supporting people who were willing to learn. This well-researched
biography cements Chanute's place as a preeminent engineer and mentor in
the history of transportation in the United States and the development
of the airplane.
"An impressive, truly significant addition to the field of engineering
and aeronautical history. Simine Short shows how Octave Chanute's
personality and method of problem-solving enabled him to make meaningful
contributions in diverse fields such as railroad and bridge engineering,
stockyard design, and the early phase of aviation." --Robert W. Jackson,
licensed glider pilot and author of Rails across the Mississippi: A
History of the St. Louis Bridge
"As the first detailed biography of civil engineer and aeronautic
pioneer Octave Chanute, this book fills a gap in the existing literature
and is suitable for both the lay reader and the expert."--Anthony M.
Springer, editor of Aerospace Design: Aircraft, Spacecraft, and the Art
of Modern Flight
"We have waited a long time for a solid biography of Octave Chanute.
Simine Short has given us a book worth waiting for. She succeeds in
situating the details of Chanute’s long life and extraordinary career
squarely in the context of his time.”--from the foreword by Tom D.
Crouch, senior curator of aeronautics, National Air and Space Museum,
About the Author
Simine Short is an aviation historian who has researched and written
extensively on the history of motorless flight. Her first book, Glider
Mail: An Aerophilatelic Handbook, received numerous research awards
worldwide and is considered a standard reference by aerophilatelists and
aviation researchers. She lives with her husband (sailplane pilot Jim
Short) outside Chicago, Illinois.
Dedication: "This book is dedicated to Jim, my favorite glider pilot,
who is just as interested in the history of the sport as in flying."
Cool quote in the front of the book
"From the locomotive to the
aeromotive," shouted the noisiest of all, who had turned on the
trumpet of publicity to awaken the Old and New Worlds. ... A
flying machine must be constructed to take advantage of the natural
laws, but it is not necessary to copy Nature completely.
Locomotives are not copied from the hare, nor are ships copied from
the fish. To the first we have put wheels, which are not legs;
to the second we have put screws, which are not fins.
Besides, what is this mechanical movement in the flight of birds,
whose action is so complex? - Jules Verne, The Clipper of the
Review by Paul Remde
Few people (even well-read glider pilots) understand just how much
Octave Chanute contributed to the development of aviation in the late
1800's and early 1900's. Did you know that hundreds of gliding
flights were safely performed over the Indiana dunes near Lake Michigan
in the years around 1896 in gliders designed by Octave Chanute?
Did you know that he acted as a mentor to the Wright brothers and
witnessed some of their early flights? At the 1904 World's Fair in
St. Louis, William Avery performed glider flying exhibitions in a glider
designed by Chanute and using an electric winch that was also designed
by Chanute. Octave also acted as a clearinghouse of aviation
information - meticulously collecting every document he could find on
the subject and sharing them along with friendly letters of support to
aviation pioneers around the world.
Simine Short has a passion for aviation
history and has thoroughly researched and documented the life and work
of Octave Chanute in this book. She also included many wonderful
photographs and diagrams. Well done Simine!!!
As a mechanical engineer, MBA graduate, and glider pilot, I found the entire book very
interesting. It is an amazing trip back in time - to the time of
steam ships and steam locomotives. Octave Chanute was an amazing
man, engineer, and pioneer. The first half of the book covers his
early life and his work for railroads - helping them extend across the
central U.S. He was a respected railroad bridge designer (first in
wood - later in steel) and was responsible for innovated work in
railroad tie preservation (life extension through the injection of
preserving chemicals). Any glider pilot will find his life and
fascinating. The life history and engineering parts of the
beginning of the book are a welcome look into what makes-up the character and experiences of the man - helping to
explain his later aviation achievements. Glider pilots will find
the last 1/3 of the book the most interesting - which details his
The 2 images above are the front and back
sides of a brochure I found at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
Visitor Center in Porter, Indiana.
The images below are from the Chanute
Aquatorium in Marquette Park on the Miller Beach dunes on the shore of
Lake Michigan in Gary, Indiana.
The Chanute statue, erected in 2003, is
located in the front of the Aquatorium. The statue is pointing to
the actual site on the dunes where his flight experiments took place.
The dunes are somewhat overgrown - which may just protect them from