During the 1930's the Pennsylvania Rail
Road electrified the New York to Washington line. In addition, it
also powered the freight branch. That line paralleled Viaduct Street,the
road that ran from Newark Airport to the Pulaski Skyway.
Copper cables, to carry the current, were strung between steel
towers that were spaced hundred feet apart. Wires ran at several
levels,the lower one from which the pantograph on the locomotives
received energy. The upper level wires conducted voltage from sub
station to sub station and was maintained at a much higher voltage.
We were in the midst of The Great Depression and to make money
many innovative schemes were tried. A new entrepreneur seeing these
great copper cables decides to invest in metal. Climbing the seventy
foot tower to reach the upper strands,our contractor armed with
bolt cutters,proceeds to slide out on the cross arm. First one cable
is cut,followed by severing the other two. Climbing down, he proceeds
to the next tower, shinning up this spire. Once there, at the upper
cross arm, he attacks the other end of the conductors. Snip, snip
and snip, one conductor goes followed by the other two.
Returning to terra firma our man continues his job, the felled
wire must be rolled up to make transportation easier. They are coiled
up in rolls about the size of automobile tires.Down the embankment
to be loaded on waiting carts,since it is night time the loot is
secreted. Next morning wagons clatter, we are off to a metal recovery
industrial site, better known in those days as a Junk Yard.
The entrepreneur presents his merchandise to the facility manager
and inquires about what he will receive for his product. The proprietor
suggests that he place a call to his buyer for prices and heads
for the office, our new owner of the copper simply waits. In his
office the manager places a call to the Newark Police Department
and returns to our seller engaging him in some small talk. Soon
a Police Patrol Car arrives at the scene, two officers exit the
car and question our entrepreneur about where and when he obtained
the product. After much questioning the suspect acknowledges his
To make a long story short, our guy is arrested, after a trial
he is convicted and given a jail sentence. He doesn't know how lucky
he is, as the day after he cut those wires the Pennsylvania Rail
Road activated that section of the power lines with eleven thousands
volts. In place of being incarcerated he would have been entombed
after being electrocuted.
It pays to be an honest entrepreneur.