Nebraska Authors

Bion Joseph Arnold

Born 1861-08-14 Casnovia, MI (USA)

Died 1942-01-29

Ashland Cemetery, Ashland, NE (USA)

Arnold arrived in Nebraska as a child in 1864. His father settled the family in Ashland, NE and served for a time in the territorial legislature. Bion is remember locally as a precocious mechanic who built a fully operational miniature steam locomotive before he graduated from high school and constructed Nebraska's first bicycle from a picture he found in Youth's Companion magazine.

Bion had an extraordinary career as an electrical engineer and inventor. He has been called "the father of the third rail" found in subways and other electrical railways. As consulting engineer he built, in 1892-3, the first electric elevated railroad in the United States for the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. He helped electrify Grand Central Station, design the subway system in New York City, and set up the Interborough Rapid Transit Company that ran New York City's first subways. A few years thereafter, when the IRT found it was transporting vastly more passengers than expected, he applied automatic speed controls, signals, side doors on passenger cars and other innovations that allowed the system to accommodate its ever expanding volume of passengers. He would go on to serve as a principal designer, consultant and transit commissioner for a number of American cities, including Pittsburg, PA, Providence, RI, and Los Angeles and San Francisco, CA. He served as Chief Subway Engineer for the City of Chicago. He was the author of numerous public reports and appears to have been one of the most influential public transportation planners and engineers of his time.

See: Thomas Commerford Martin, "Bion Joseph Arnold," Scientific American, September 9, 1911.
Suzi Nelson, "Arnold descendants pleased painting is 'back home,'" The Ashland Gazette, June 20, 2018.


Places Lived

Casnovia, MI
Ashland, NE
Chicago, IL

Author Of

  • Nonfiction


Electrical Engineering; Public Transportation; Inventors and Inventions; Railroads and Railways--Electrical


Electrical Engineer


President, American Institute of Electrical Engineers, 1903-1904


Report on an interurban electric railway terminal system for the city of Cincinnati (Cincinnati Interurban rapid transit commission). 1913.
Report on the engineering and operating features of the Chicago transportation problem. (2 Volumes) 1905.
Report of the improvement and development of the transportation facilities of San Francisco. 1913.
Report on the Pittsburgh transportation problem. (privately printed by the mayor of Pittsburgh), 1910.
Report on the re-arrangement and development of the steam railroad terminals of the city of Chicago. 1913.
Report on an interurban electric railway terminal system for the city of Cincinnati. 1912.
Report on the traction improvement and development within the Providence district to the joint committee on railroad franchises. (Addressed to the Providence, RI city council), 1911.
Report on the traction improvement of the Toronto metropolitan district, submitted to G. R. Geary, corporation counsel of the city of Toronto. 1912.
Report to Hon. William C. Hook, circuit judge, on the value of the properties of the metropolitan street rail way system of Kansas City. (3 Volumes) 1913.

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Bion Joseph Arnold

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(e.g. Author is buried in Fremont, not in David City / Also wrote for the Daily Nebraskan during her time as a student)