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bridge in Derbyshire, where the line at the same point passes over a bridge which here spans the river Amber, and under the bed of the Cromford Canal. Water, bridge, railway, and canal, were thus piled one above the other, four stories high; such another curious complication probably not existing. In order to prevent the possibility of the waters
bull-bridge, near Ambergate.
of the canal breaking in upon the works of the railroad, Mr. Stephenson had an iron tank made 150 feet long, of the width of the canal, and exactly fitting the bottom. It was brought to the spot in three pieces, which were firmly welded together, and the trough was then floated into its place and sunk; the whole operation being completed without in the least interfering with the navigation of the canal; and the railway works underneath were then proceeded with and finished.
One of Mr. Stephenson's most important series of opera266 COALS VERSUS WOOL. Chap. XIV.
tions, upon which he shortly after entered, originated in his professional connexion with the Midland Eailway as its engineer. There was an abundance of coal in the district, and his strong sagacity early detected the importance of the line in opening up new markets for its sale in the southern counties. At a time when everybody else was sceptical as to the possibility of coals being carried to London from the midland counties, and sold there at a price to compete with seaborne coals, he declared his firm conviction that the time was fast approaching when the London market would be regularly supplied with north-country coals led by railway. One of the greatest advantages of railways, in his opinion, was that they would bring coal and iron, the staple products of the country, to the doors of all England. "The strength of Britain," he would say, "lies in her ooal-beds; and the locomotive is destined, above all other agencies, to bring it forth. The Lord Chancellor now sits upon a bag of wool; but wool has long ceased to be emblematical of the staple commodity of England. He ought rather to sit upon a bag of coals, though it might not prove quite so comfortable a seat. Then think of the Lord Chancellor being addressed as the noble and learned lord on the coal-sack! I am afraid it wouldn't answer, after all."
- To one gentleman he said: "We want from the coalmining, the iron-producing, and manufacturing districts, a great railway for the carriage of these valuable products. We want, if I may so say, a stream of steam running directly through the country, from the North to London, and from other similar districts to London; speed is not so much an object as utility and cheapness." And at a meeting of railway proprietors at York, in 1840, he told them "there was little doubt in his mind that coals would in a very short time be supplied to the London market from that county by means of their line." In this, as in some other matters, Mr. Stephenson was rather ahead of his time; and though he did not live to see his anticipations as to the supply of the London coal-market fully realised, yet he was the first to point out, and, to some extent, to prove, the practicability Chap. XIV. YORK AND NORTH MIDLAND LINE. 267
of establishing a profitable coal trade by railway between the northern counties and the metropolis.
The York and North Midland line extended from Normanton—a point on the Midland Eailway—to York; it was a line of easy formation, traversing a comparatively level country. The inhabitants of Whitby, as well as York, were busy projecting railways as early as 1832; and in the year following, Whitby succeeded in obtaining a horse line of twenty-four miles, connecting it with the small market-town of Pickering. The York citizens were more ambitious, and agitated the question of a locomotive line to connect them with the town of Leeds. A company was formed in 1833, and Mr. George Eennie was called upon to survey the road. About the same time, however, other engineers—Mr. Walker, Mr. Cundy, and Mr. Gibbs—were severally engaged in getting up the surveys of a direct main line from London to York. The local committee were perplexed by the conflicting views of the engineers, and at length called to their assistance Mr. George Stephenson, who had already been consulted by the provisional committee of the Midland Company as to the best line from Derby to Leeds. He recommended the York gentlemen to adapt their railway to that proposed line of communication, and they embraced his views. The company was formed, the shares were at once subscribed for, and Mr. Stephenson appointed his pupil and assistant, Mr. Swanwick, to lay out the line in October, 1835. The act was obtained in the following year, and the works were constructed without difficulty.
As the best proof of his conviction that the York and North Midland would prove a good investment, Mr. Stephenson invested in it a considerable portion of his savings, being a subscriber for 420 shares; and he also took some trouble in persuading several wealthy gentlemen in London and elsewhere to purchase shares in the concern. The interest thus taken in the line by the engineer was on more than one occasion specially mentioned by Mr. Hudson, then Lord Mayor of York, as an inducement to other persons of capital to join the undertaking; and had it not afterwards been
268 SCARBOROUGH BRANCH. Chap. XIV.
encumbered and overlaid by comparatively useless, and therefore profitless branches, in the projection of which Mr. Stephenson had no part, the sanguine expectations which he early formed of the paying qualities of the line would have been more than realised.
There was one branch, however, of the York and North Midland line in which he took an anxious interest, and of which he may be pronounced the projector—the branch to Scarborough; which proved to be one of the most profitable parts of the railway. He was so satisfied of its value, that, at a meeting of the York and North Midland proprietors, he volunteered his gratuitous services as engineer until the company was formed, in addition to subscribing largely to the undertaking. At that meeting he took an opportunity of referring to the charges brought against engineers of so greatly exceeding the estimates:—" He had had a good deal to do with making out the estimates of the North Midland Eailway, and he believed there never was a more honest one. He had always endeavoured to state the truth as far as was in his power. He had known a director, who, when he (Mr. Stephenson) had sent in an estimate, came forward and said, 'I can do it for half the money.' The director's estimate went into Parliament, but it came out his. He could go through the whole list of the undertakings in which he had been engaged, and show that he had never had anything to do with stock-jobbing concerns. He would say that he would not be concerned in any scheme, unless he was satisfied that it would pay the proprietors; and in bringing forward the proposed line to Scarborough, he was satisfied that it would pay, or he would have had nothing to do with it."
During the same period in which he was engaged in superintending the execution of these great undertakings, he was occupied in surveying other lines of railway in various parts of the country. Thus he was called upon to examine districts in Scotland, in the neighbourhood of Glasgow; and on several occasions he surveyed routes along the east coast from Newcastle to Edinburgh, with the view of comChap. XIV. FLYING SURVEYS 269
pleting the main line of communication with London. On those occasions his companions noted with wonder his remarkable quickness of observation. Nothing escaped his attention—the trees, the crops, the birds, the farmer's stock; and he was usually full of lively conversation, everything in nature affording him an opportunity for making some striking remark, or propounding some ingenious theory. When taking a flying survey of a new line, this faculty proved very useful to him, for he rapidly noted the general configuration of the country, and inferred its geological structure. He afterwards remarked to a friend, "I have planned many a railway travelling along in a postchaise, and following the natural line of the country." And it was remarkable that his first impressions of the direction to be taken almost invariably proved the right ones; and there are few of the lines surveyed and recommended by him which have not been executed, either during his lifetime or since. As an illustration of his quick and shrewd observation on such occasions we may mention that when employed about this time to lay out a line to connect Manchester, through Macclesfield, with the Potteries, the gentleman who accompanied him on the journey of inspection cautioned him to provide large accommodation for carrying off the water, observing—" You must not judge by the appearance of the brooks: after heavy rains these hills pour down volumes of water, of which you can have no conception." "Pooh! pooh! don't I see your bridges?" replied the engineer. He had noted the details of each as he passed along.
Among the other projects which occupied his attention about the same time, were the projected lines between Chester and Holyhead, between Leeds and Bradford, and between Lancaster and Maryport by the western coast. This latter was intended to form part of a west-coast line to Scotland, Mr. Stephenson favouring it partly because of the flatness of the gradients, and also because it could be formed at comparatively small cost, whilst it would open out a valuable iron-mining district, from which a large traffic in ironstone was expected. One of its collateral advantages,