This article was originally written and submitted as part of a Canada 150 Project, the Innovation Storybook, to crowdsource stories of Canadian innovation with partners across Canada. The content has since been migrated to Ingenium’s Channel, a digital hub featuring curated content related to science, technology and innovation.
The real McCoy.
It was so much better than all the other kinds that railroad engineers asked for it by name. The “it” is Elijah McCoy’s automatic lubricating cup for oiling the steam engines of locomotives and ships. When the mechanical engineer developed it in 1872, McCoy’s cup was a boon to railroaders throughout the world. The device supplied lubricating oil to the cylinders, bearings, and axle box mountings of locomotives automatically. This method boosting productivity, enabling trains to run faster and more profitably, because they didn’t need to be stopped en route to their destinations to have their engines greased. Over the years, McCoy refined his signature device and created new ones, ending up with fifty patents related to his lubricating devices. In a pleasing symmetry, McCoy was born of another kind of railroad. He was the son of slaves who escaped to Canada via the Underground Railroad and settled in Colchester, Ontario, near Windsor. A son of one railroad, a father of another. He’s the real McCoy.