« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
Chap. IX. OPPOSITION TO THE SURVEY. 155
against the persons employed upon the ground, and it was with the greatest difficulty that the levels could be taken. This opposition was especially manifested when the attempt was made to survey the line through the properties of Lords Derby and Sefton, and also where it crossed the Duke of Bridgewater's canal. At Knowsley, Mr. Stephenson was driven off the ground by the keepers, and threatened with rough handling if fcrand there again. Lord Derby's farmers also turned out their men to watch the surveying party, and prevent them entering upon any lands where they had the power of driving them off. Afterwards, Mr. Stephenson suddenly and unexpectedly went upon the ground with a body of surveyors and their assistants who out-numbered Lord Derby's keepers and farmers, hastily collected to resist them; and this time they were only threatened with the legal consequences of their trespass. The same sort of resistance was offered by Lord Sefton's keepers and farmers, with whom the following ruse was adopted. A minute was concocted, purporting to be a resolution of the Old Quay Canal Company to oppose the projected railroad by every possible means, and calling upon landowners and others to afford every facility for making such a survey of the intended line as should enable the opponents to detect errors in the scheme of the promoters, and thereby to ensure its defeat. A copy of this minute, without any signature, was exhibited by the surveyors who went upon the ground, and the farmers, believing them to have the sanction of the landlords, permitted them to proceed with the hasty completion of their survey.
The principal opposition, however, was experienced from Mr. Bradshaw, the manager of the Duke of Bridgewater's canal property, who offered a vigorous and protracted resistance to the railway in all its stages. The Duke's farmers obstinately refused permission to enter upon their fields, although Mr. Stephenson offered to pay for any damage that might be done. Mr. Bradshaw positively refused his sanction in any case; and being a strict preserver of game, with a large staff of keepers in his pay, he declared that he 156 OVERTURES OF CONCILIATION. Chap. IX.
would order them to shoot or apprehend any persons attempting a survey over his property. But one moonlight night, a survey was obtained by the following ruse. Some men, under the orders of the surveying party, were set to fire off guns in a particular quarter; on which all the gamekeepers on the watch made off in that direction, and they were drawn away to such a distance in pursuit of the supposed poachers, as to enable a rapid survey to be made during their absence.
Mr. Stephenson, afterwards describing the difficulties which he had encountered in the course of the survey, said: —" I was threatened to be ducked in the pond if I proceeded, and, of course, we had a great deal of the survey to take by stealth, at the time when the people were at dinner. We could not get it done by night: indeed, we were watched day and night, and guns were discharged over the grounds belonging to Captain Bradshaw to prevent us. I can state further, that I was myself twice turned off Mr. Bradshaw's grounds by his men; and they said if I did not go instantly, they would take me up and carry me off to Worsley."
When the canal companies found that the Liverpool merchants were determined to proceed with their scheme,—that they had completed their survey, and were ready to apply to Parliament for an Act to enable them to form the railway, —they at last reluctantly, and with a bad grace, made overtures of conciliation. They promised to employ steam-vessels both on the Mersey and on the canals. One of the companies offered to reduce its length by three miles, at a considerable expenditure. At the same time they made a show of lowering their rates. But it was all too late; for the project of the railway had now gone so far that the promoters (who might have been conciliated by such overtures at an earlier period) felt they were fully committed to the scheme, and that now they could not well draw back. Besides, the remedies offered by the canal companies could only have had the effect of staving off the difficulty for a brief season,—the absolute necessity of forming a new line Chap. IX. THE OPPOSITION ORGANIZED. 157
of communication between Liverpool and Manchester becoming more urgent from year to year. Arrangements were therefore made for proceeding with the bill in the parlia. mentary session of 1825. On this becoming known, the canal companies prepared to resist the measure tooth and nail. The public were appealed to on the subject; pamphlets were written and newspapers were hired to revile the railway. It was declared that its formation would prevent cows grazing and hens laying. The poisoned air from the locomotives would kill birds as they flew over them, and render the preservation of pheasants and foxes no longer possible. Householders adjoining the projected line were told that their houses would be burnt up by the fire thrown from the engine-chimneys ; while the air around would be polluted by clouds of smoke. There would no longer be any use for horses; and if railways extended, the species would become extinguished, and oats and hay be rendered unsaleable commodities. Travelling by road would be made highly dangerous, and country inns would be ruined. Boilers would burst and blow passengers to atoms. But there was always this consolation to wind up with—that the weight of the locomotive would completely prevent its moving, and that railways, even if made, could never be worked by steam-power!
Nevertheless, the canal companies of Leeds, Liverpool, and Birmingham, called upon every navigation company in the kingdom to oppose railways wherever they were projected, but more especially the projected Liverpool and Manchester line, the battle with which they evidently regarded as their Armageddon. A Birmingham newspaper invited opposition to the measure, and a public subscription was entered into for the purpose of making it effectual. The newspapers generally spoke of the project as a mere speculation; some wishing it success, although greatly doubting; others ridiculing it as a delusion, similar to the many other absurd projects of that madly-speculative period. It was a time when balloon companies proposed to work passenger traffic through the air at forty miles an hour, and 158 NEWSPAPER ARTICLES. Chap. IX.
when road companies projected carriages to run on turnpikes at twelve miles an hour, with relays of bottled gas instead of horses. There were companies for the working of American gold and silver mines,—companies for cutting ship canals through Panama and Nicaragua,—milk companies, burying companies, fish companies, and steam companies of all sorts; and many, less speculatively disposed than their neighbours, were ready to set down the projected railways of 1825 as mere bubbles of a similarly delusive character.
Among the most remarkable newspaper articles of the day calling attention to the application of the locomotive engine to the purposes of rapid steam-travelling on railroads, was a series which appeared in 1824, in the Scotsman newspaper, then edited by Mr. Charles Maclaren. In those publications the wonderful powers of the locomotive were logically demonstrated, and the writer, arguing from the experiments on friction made more than half a century before by Vince and Coulomb, which scientific men seemed to have altogether lost sight of, clearly showed that, by the use of steam-power on railroads, the more rapid, as well as cheaper transit of persons and merchandise might be confidently anticipated.
Not many years passed before the anticipations of the writer, sanguine and speculative though they were regarded at the time, were amply realised. Even Mr. Nicholas Wood, in 1825, speaking of the powers of the locomotive, and referring doubtless to the speculations of the Scotsman as well as of his equally sanguine friend Stephenson, observed :—" It is far from my wish to promulgate to the world that the ridiculous expectations, or rather professions, of the enthusiastic speculator will be realised, and that we shall see engines travelling at the rate of twelve, sixteen, eighteen, or twenty miles an hour. Nothing could do more harm towards their general adoption and improvement than the promulgation of such nonsense."
Indeed, when Mr. Stephenson, at the consultations of counsel previous to the Liverpool and Manchester bill going Chap. IX. OPINIONS OF CIVIL ENGINEERS. 159
into Committee of the House of Commons, confidently stated his expectation of being able to impel his locomotive at the rate of twenty miles an hour, Mr. William Brougham, who was retained by the promoters to conduct their case, frankly told him, that if he did not moderate his views, and bring his engine within a reasonable speed, he would "inevitably damn the whole thing, and be himself regarded as a maniac fit for Bedlam."
The idea of travelling at a rate of speed double that of the fastest mail coach appeared at that time so preposterous that Mr. Stephenson was unable to find any engineer who would risk his reputation in supporting his " absurd views." Speaking of his isolation at this time, he subsequently observed, at a public meeting of railway men in Manchester: "He remembered the time when he had very few supporters in bringing out the railway system—when he sought England over for an engineer to support him in his evidence before Parliament, and could find only one man, James Walker, but was afraid to call that gentleman, because he knew nothing about railways. He had then no one to tell his tale to but Mr. Sandars of Liverpool, who did listen to him, and kept his spirits up; and his schemes had at length been carried out only by dint of sheer perseverance."
George Stephenson's idea was indeed at that time regarded as but the dream of a chimerical projector. It stood before the public friendless, struggling hard to gain a footing, but scarcely daring to lift itself into notice for fear of ridicule. The civil engineers generally rejected the notion of a Locomotive Eailway; and when no leading man of the day could be found to stand forward in support of the Killingworth mechanic, its chances of success must have been pronounced small. But, like all great truths, the time was surely to come when it was to prevail.
When such was the hostility of the civil engineers, no wonder the reviewers were puzzled. The Quarterly, in an able article in support of the projected Liverpool and Manchester Railway,—while admitting its absolute necessity,