National Geographic : 1956 Nov
618 Robert F. Sisson, National Geographic Staff A Radar Car Clocks Speeds on the Thruway near Batavia A transmitter-receiver mounted on the patrol car's trunk beams a constant microwave at vehicles approaching from the rear. As each object comes within range, the signal bounces back, changing wave length in proportion to the speed of the target. The meter above the dashboard indicates miles per hour. concrete cell where a rocket lay locked in a cradle. The loudspeaker intoned, "There will be a test in Cell D-Dog immediately." A siren began to wail. A deafening blast engulfed our hut, and a funnel of flame spewed from the test cell. Yellow, diamond-shaped shock waves pulsed in the rocket's exhaust, the visible indication of supersonic flow. In one brief moment we stood on the threshold of the unknown, for mounting knowledge from such tests is lead ing mankind toward adventures in space.* Next day Bob and I put on safety glasses to tour an automatized factory that the Ford Motor Company proudly calls the world's most modern stamping plant. Mechanical gargantuas cut clattering stacks of automobile parts destined to be speeded by truck and train to Ford's assembly plant near Suffern. Nobody appreciates the Thruway more than the truckers, a hardy breed of men reminis cent of yesteryear's canallers. I rode east with one on a huge tractor-trailer truck carry ing 38,000 pounds of trichlorethylene, a clean ing chemical, from a Niagara Falls electro chemical plant to a consignee in New Jersey. The driver called his tractor "Old Girl." As we roared through the murky, rainy night at a steady 50 miles an hour, the limit for trucks, it occurred to me that the Thru way is a superb modern counterpart of the Appian Way. It took 68 years-20 times as long-to complete that 412-mile road from Rome to the heel of the Italian boot. Just as wagons rumbling over its lava pavement sus tained the power of the Roman Empire for centuries, so the Thruway adds to the wealth and well-being of the Empire State-and the Nation as a whole. At midnight and again at 4:30 a.m., the trucker and I stopped at Thruway restaurants to drink mugs of steaming coffee. The Suffern tollgates loomed ahead of us at 7:30 a.m. Our time from Buffalo was four hours better than we could have made on the old cross-State roads. "Good trip?" asked the toll collector. He took the trucker's ticket and a $20 bill, re turned 45 cents in change. "You know it," the trucker said. The driver of a car behind tapped his horn. Though the day was young, traffic was get ting heavy on New York State's new main street. * See, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, "Space Satellites, Tools of Earth Research," by Heinz Haber, April, 1956; and "Aviation Medicine on the Threshold of Space," by Allan C. Fisher, Jr., August, 1955.