Elijah McCoy an American engineer, who lived between 1843 and 1929, is known for his important contribution concerning the design of railroad locomotives especially after the civil war. His ability to keep up with the dynamic designed of locomotives during the twentieth century enabled him to design lubricating systems that were in a position to be used in the steam engines of the time[ CITATION Hab70 \l 1033 ].
McCoy’s parents were responsible for his existence in Canada. His father; George McCoy had enlisted himself with the British force and fought in the 1837 rebellion, that was launched by Louis riel a Canadian leader who was against slavery. They managed to subdue the rebels and in return the government rewarded the soldiers with land due to their loyalty in service to the nation. It is through this that McCoy’s father was able to secure a 60 acre piece of land where he raised his twelve children, McCoy being one of them[ CITATION Hay72 \l 1033 ].
As a teenager, McCoy was deeply intrigued with machines, devices, as well as tools. His passion was so intense that at this young age he was able to travel all the way to Edinburgh in Scotland where he was able to take a course in mechanical engineering. His brilliant mind won him a master in engineering and mechanics. He later came back to the United States where he sought a job amidst racial prejudice and was able to secure a job in the Michigan Central Railroad. Here he served as a fireman and oiler. His job was quite demanding as it involved the frequent shoving of coal into the locomotive firebox. The coal was quite heavy, close to three tons we he was supposed to shove at a span of an hour. McCoy was also supposed to lubricate the parts of the locomotive that were in constant motion. This he deed by walking round the locomotive with oil for the duration the locomotive stopped to get some refill of water[ CITATION Has91 \l 1033 ].
In light of this experience, McCoy believed that there was a way that could facilitate the lubrication process while still running the engine. He was of the notion that the engine could be kept running during lubrication by using pressure from steam to pump the oil in the moving parts of the locomotive. McCoy therefore invented a device to do the lubricating work and was popularity known as the lubricating cup. This invention was quite a milestone in the locomotive industry as well as the brainchild of most improvements and inventions about the McCoy’s lubricating cup concept. A century later McCoy’s invention still accords respect in the locomotive industry if its massive use is anything to go by[ CITATION Hay72 \l 1033 ].
After having witnessed how engineers had designed the lubrication mechanism in such a manner as that one could not refill the lubricants whilst the engine was running, this was because the engine would push the lubricants from the bearings since the engines were using steam pressure. Elijah McCoy thought of a way one could refill the lubricants without turning the engines off by using steam pressure pump in pumping the oil directly to where it was needed. The device, which was also known as the lubricating cup, relied on a piston which was pushed by the steam into the specific parts of the engines. McCoy obtained ownership rights for the property (patent rights) for the device and took it the Michigan Central railroad. The device was found to be efficient compared to the manners in which the railroad used in lubricating their machines as the method ensured that the machine maintenance cost was reduced and the whole process made easier. The locomotives also indicated signs of lasting longer leading the success of the machine. The lubricating cup was then adopted by other steam powered engines in factories and the sea[ CITATION Hay72 \l 1033 ].
Elijah moved from Michigan to Detroit and continued on working on his invention. With the invention of more powerful engines and increase in passengers needing the services of a train and the industrialization that occurred after the world war, McCoy’s device was in higher demand and needed modifications. The device was modified and the steam power needed to push the oil to the engine parts multiplied, this increased its efficiency.
Later other versions of the lubricating cup emerged but agents insisted on the original copy, they referred to this as the ‘real McCoy’[ CITATION Tow93 \l 1033 ].
He married in 1868 to Ann who died at twenty five prompting McCoy to marry another lady; Mary. At 77 McCoy was approached by investors and established the McCoy company where he acted as the vice president. He died six years after the death of May in 1928. McCoy’s memory include a street named after him in Detroit and a figure erected in his home by officials[ CITATION Hay72 \l 1033 ].
Haber, Louis. Black Pioneers of Science and Invention. San Diego: Harcout Brace Jovanovich, 1970.
Haskens, Jim. Outward Dream. New York: Walker, 1991.
Hayden, Robert C. Eight Black American Inventors. Boston: Addison-Wesley, 1972.
Towle, Wendy. The Real McCoy. New York: Scholastic, 1993.