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attained by the Rocket during the trial trip was twenty-nine miles an hour, or about three times the speed that one of the judges of the competition had declared to be the limit of possibility. The average speed at which the whole of the journeys were performed was fifteen miles an hour, or five miles beyond the rate specified in the conditions published by the company. The entire performance excited the greatest astonishment among the assembled spectators; the directors felt confident that the enterprise was now on the eve of success; and George Stephenson rejoiced to think that, in spite of all false prophets and fickle counsellors, his locomotive system was now safe. When the Rocket, having performed all the conditions of the contest, arrived at the platform at the close of its day's successful run, Mr. Isaac Cropper, one of the directors favourable to the fixed engine system, lifted up his hands, and exclaimed, “Now is George Stephenson at last delivered.’
The prize of £500 was awarded to Stephenson’s engine. It had done what no travelling engine had ever done before. It had decided for ever the question of stationary or locomotive engines. One would have thought that a thing of such historical interest would have been carefully preserved by the authorities of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. But they were practical men, and free from sentimentalism. More powerful engines came into use, and the poor Rocket met the fate of many a high-mettled racer. It was sold to a coal-work in 1837, and gradually it became unequal even to hauling the wagons. At last it was purchased by Mr. Stephenson, and it is now preserved in the works at Newcastle. The little factory started by George Stephenson about 1823 has grown into a gigantic establishment, which for years supplied locomotives to all the world. But there is nothing about
it that possesses half the interest of the old engine which, in 1829, confuted all the scientific men of Britain, and ushered in a revolution incomparably more important than any change in a royal house. A single line of rails was completed between Liverpool and Manchester on the 1st of January, 1830. The works were retarded by a very rainy season ; but
the Liverpool and Manchester Railway was publicly
opened on the 15th September, 1830. Eight locomotive engines had by this time been constructed at Stephenson's factory, and placed upon the line. The completion of the railway was justly regarded as a great national event; and the Duke of Wellington, then Prime Minister; Mr. Peel, Home Secretary; Mr. Huskisson, member for Liverpool, and an earnest supporter of the railway from its first projection ; with a host of distinguished persons, were present on the occasion. The ‘Northumbrian' engine led the procession; and other engines followed with trains, which conveyed six hundred persons. The trains started from Liverpool, and pursued their way towards Manchester amid the cheers of many thousands of spectators. At Parkside, seventeen miles from Liverpool, the engines stopped to take in water. The Northumbrian engine, with the carriage containing the Duke of Wellington, was drawn up on one line, that the other trains might pass in review before him on the other. Mr. Huskisson, who had alighted from his carriage, was standing on the opposite line of rails, when the Duke recognised him, and held out his hand. The
Rocket was now seen rapidly approaching; and there was a cry from the by-standers of “Get in, get in '' Mr. Huskisson became confused, and remained in the track of the approaching engine. He was struck down, and one of his legs was crushed by the wheel. His words on being raised were, ‘I have met my death; ? and he died that evening. A gloom was cast upon the day by this deplorable accident. But the railway had been opened, and the triumph of the locomotive was complete. A great passenger traffic immediately sprang up. The coaches previously running had conveyed from four to five hundred persons daily, and the promoters of the railway had calculated on obtaining about half that number; but the railway was scarcely opened before the passengers averaged twelve hundred a day. The usual speed of the passenger trains was twenty-five miles an hour. It excited great wonder in the mind of two Edinburgh engineers sent to report on the railway that even at this unprecedented speed they “could observe the passengers, among whom were a good many ladies, talking to gentlemen with the utmost sang froid.’ The clear profit of the company amounted to £80,000 per annum. The land along the line, which was to have been utterly ruined, rose greatly in value; and when the company needed more of it they had to pay at a higher rate than formerly, on the ground that the proximity of the railway had improved it so much. Every day’s experience suggested alterations upon the locomotives, and each new engine placed upon the line was an improvement upon those which had gone before it.
Now that it had been proved that railways could be made, that locomotives could draw trains, and that the result of the whole might be a good return to the shareholders, it was merely a question of time how far the railway system should be extended. It might have been well, had the Government planned a national scheme of railways, instead of leaving them to be made by joint-stock associations of private individuals. As it was, lines were speedily mapped out between the great cities of the kingdom, and railway engineers sprang up in abundance. In conjunction with his son Robert, George Stephenson was appointed engineer of most of the great lines projected. Among these were the Manchester and Leeds, the Grand Junction, and the London and Birmingham. The chief labour of laying out and executing the last-named line fell to the share of Robert Stephenson; and how he carried on the vast work is well known to all readers of Sir Francis Head’s lively Stokers and Pokers.
The battle of the railway and locomotive was fought in the Liverpool and Manchester case; and, except where some extraordinary natural difficulty had to be overcome, as in the case of the Menai. Bridge, the history of subsequent roads is a commonplace affair. Stephenson soon found that the world had come over to his way of thinking; and not many years passed before the opponents, not the advocates, of railways came to be regarded as the fit inhabitants of “Bedlam.” Colonel Sibthorp, indeed, to the last, was staunch against ‘those infernal railroads; ’ declaring that “he would rather meet a highwayman or see a burglar on his premises than an engineer; he should be much more safe ; and of the two classes he regarded the former as the more respectable.” In 1840 Stephenson settled at Tapton Hall, near Chesterfield, and gradually withdrew from active employment in constructing railways. His disposition was too active for idleness, and he entered on several mining speculations, with various success. It is quite consistent with our experience of the way of the world, when Mr. Smiles assures us that in Stephenson's latter years some of the brisk young engineers of the day regarded him as a man of antiquated notions in railway matters, and considerably behind the age. He did not approve the design of the atmospheric railway; he opposed railways on ‘the undulating principle,’ with considerable ups and downs; he maintained the narrow gauge against the broad; and he had no fancy for higher rates of speed than forty miles an hour. It is worthy of notice that a little further experience has proved that in all these respects Stephenson's views were sound and just. Many a ruined shareholder would have cause for thankfulness if all engineers had, like Stephenson, eschewed dashing and brilliant works executed without regard to their cost, and persisted in regarding a line of railway as a commercial speculation which must be made ‘to pay.” The period of the ‘railway mania’ of 1845–6 is too near our own time to need much remark. Stephenson held completely apart from all the new lines which were so recklessly projected, and in such numbers.