Friday, July 31, 2015

Friday Photo - Mile a Minute Murphy

Charles "Mile a Minute" Murphy breaking the one minute barrier for the cycling mile record
Near the end of the 19th century, a number of different cyclists held the one mile record for cycling behind a pacing vehicle (usually a motorcycle). One of those was Indy's own Major Taylor. In addition to being a powerful cyclist, it required a fast pacing vehicle, which was hard to find in 1899. A cyclist named Charles Murphy realized there was a pacing vehicle that would let him obliterate the record: A locomotive. Obviously a cyclist cannot ride over railroad ties, so he got the Long Island Rail Road to lay planks between the rails for two miles.

The record attempt was extremely dangerous. If Murphy fell too far behind the train, turbulence would probably knock him off the boards. A bicycle wreck at 60 milers per hour would almost certainly be fatal. In addition, the wooden planks were vibrating due to the passing of the trail. Murphy also reported the train kicked up a " Terrible storm of dust, pebbles, hot rubber and cinders." Nonetheless, he was able to travel one mile in 57.8 seconds, and became forever known as "Mile a Minute" Murphy. When he heard about Murphy's exploit, Major Taylor indicated he wanted nothing to do with riding behind trains.

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