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| Home | Reading Room Tom Swift And His Electric Runabout

Tom Swift And His Electric Runabout
or The Speediest Car on the Road
by Victor Appleton

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"What do you mean?" asked Mr. Damon. "Will the electric trolley

pull us to a charging station?"

"No, we'll not need to go to a station," answered the youth.

"If we can get my car to the trolley tracks I can charge my

battery from there. And I think we can push the auto near enough.

It's down hill, and I've got a long wire so we won't have to go

too close."

"Good!" cried Mr. Sharp. "But attach the rope to the front of

the car, Tom. Mr. Damon and I will pull it. You'll have to ride

in it to steer it."

"We can take turns at riding," was Tom's answer, for he did not

want his companions to do all the work.

"Nonsense! You ride," said Mr. Damon. "You're lighter than we

are, and can steer better. It won't be any trouble at all to pull

this car down hill."

It proved to be an easy task, and in a short time the "dead"

auto was near enough to the electric line to permit Tom to run

his charging wire over to it.

"Why bless my soul!" exclaimed Mr. Damon, looking up. "There's

no overhead trolley wire. The car must run on storage batteries."

"Third rail, more likely," was the opinion of Mr. Sharp and so it proved.

"I can charge from either the third rail or the trolley wire,"

declared Tom, who was insulating his hands in rubber gloves, and

getting his wires ready. In a short time he had the proper

connections made, and the much-needed current was soon flowing

into the depleted battery, or batteries, for there were several

sets, though the whole source of motive power was usually

referred to as a "storage battery."

"How long will it take?" asked Mr. Damon.

"About two hours," answered the lad. "We'll probably have to

disconnect our wires several times, whenever a trolley car comes

past. By my system I can recharge the battery very quickly.

"Do you suppose the owners of the road will make any

objection?" asked the balloonist.

"I'm going to pay for the current I use," explained the young

inventor. "I have a meter which tells how much I take."

The hum of an approaching car was heard, and Tom took the wires

from the third rail. The car came to a stop opposite the

automobile, the passengers, as well as the crew, looking

curiously at the queer racing machine. Tom explained to the

conductor what was going on, and asked the fare-collector to

notify those in charge of the power station that all current used

would be paid for. The conductor said this would be satisfactory,

he was sure, and the car proceeded, Tom resuming the charging of

his battery.

Allowing plenty of reserve power to accumulate, and making sure

that the gauge would not stick again, and deceive him, the owner

of the speedy electric was soon ready to proceed again. They had

been delayed a little over three hours, for they had to make

several shifts, as the cars came past.

They reached their shore cottage late that night, and, after

seeing that the runabout was safely locked in the big shed where

the submarine had been built, they all went to bed, for they were

very tired.

Tom sent word, the next day, to the managers of the race, that

he would be on hand at the time stipulated, and announced that he

had made part of the trip, as required, under the power of the

auto itself.

The next day was spent in overhauling the machinery, tightening

up some loose bearings, oiling different parts, and further

charging the battery. Tires were looked to, and the ones on the

spare wheels were gone over to prepare for any emergency that

might arise when the race was started.

On the third day, Tom, Mr. Sharp and Mr. Damon, leaving the

cottage completed the trip to Havenford, Long Island, where the

new track had been constructed.

They reached the place shortly before noon, and, if they had

been unaware of the location they could not have missed it, for

there were many autos speeding along the road toward the scene of

the race, which would take place the following day.

Several electric cars passed Tom and his friends, whizzing

swiftly by, but the young inventor was not going to show off his

speed until the time came. Besides, he did not want to run any

risks of an accident. But some of the contestants seemed anxious

for impromptu "brushes," and more than one called to our hero to

"speed up and let's see what she can do." But Tom smiled, and

shook his head.

There were many gasolene and some steam autos going out to the

new track, which was considered a remarkable piece of

engineering. It was in the shape of an octagon, and the turns

were considered very safe. It was a five mile track, and to

complete the race it would be necessary to make a hundred circuits.

Through scores of autos Tom and his friends threaded their way,

the young inventor keeping a watchful eye on the various types of

machine with which he would soon have to compete.

There were many kinds. Some were larger and some smaller than

his. Many obviously carried very large batteries, but whether

they had the speed or not was another question. Some, in spurts,

seemed to Tom, to be fully as fast as his own, and he began to

have some doubts whether he would win the race.

"But I'm not going to give up until the five hundredth mile is

finished," he thought, grimly.

They were now in sight of the track, and noted many machines

speeding around it.

"Go on in and try your car, Tom," urged Mr. Sharp.

"Yes, do," added Mr. Damon. "Let's see how it travels."

"I will, after I notify the proper officials that I have

arrived," decided the lad.

The formalities were soon complied with. Tom received his entry

card, after paying the fee, made affidavit that he had completed

the entire trip from home under his own power, save for the

little stretch when the car was pulled, which did not count

against him, and was soon ready to go on the track. Only electric

cars were allowed there.

As the young inventor guided his latest effort in the machine line

onto the big track there were murmurs of surprise from the throngs.

"That's a queer machine," said one.

"Yes, but it looks speedy," was another's opinion.

"There's the car for my money," added a third, pointing to a

big red electric which was certainly whizzing around the track.

Tom noted the red car. Behind it was a green one, also moving at

a fast rate of speed.

"Those will be my nearest rivals," thought the lad, as he

guided his car onto the track. A moment later he was sending the

auto ahead at moderate speed, while the other contestants looked

at the new arrival, as if trying to discover whether in it they

would have a dangerous competitor.



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