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When Westinghouse, the inventor of the air brake, was working on his great invention, he made an application for a trial of his device to the New York Central Railroad. Vanderbilt, the president of the railroad, thought the inventor’s claims were absurd. In comparison with the handbrake then in use, Westinghouse stated that his brake could be operated by one man, instead of two and that his brake would stop a fifty-car train in fifty yards, compared to a sixty-five car train in two hundred yards with hand brakes.
It is said that Vanderbilt roared with laughter. The idea of stopping a train of cars by wind appeared to him to be a joke. So he returned the letter, with these words scribbled at the bottom: “I have no time to waste on fools.”
The young inventor next turned to the head of another railroad. He was younger and more progressive than his New York rival. He sent for Westinghouse, listened to his explanations, and even advanced him money to continue his experiments. Best of all, he tested the new brake and found that Westinghouse was on the right track. Vanderbilt, hearing of the test, regretted his curt dismissal of the idea. He wrote a courteous note to the inventor, fixing a time for an interview. The note came back with the brief inscription: “I have no time to waste on fools.” George Westinghouse.
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