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270 LINE ACROSS MORECAMBE BAT. Chap. XIV.
in the engineer's opinion, was, that by forming the railway directly across Morecambe Bay, on the north-east coast of Lancashire, a large tract of valuable land might be reclaimed from the sea, the sale of which would considerably reduce the cost of the works. He estimated that by means of a solid embankment across the bay, not less than forty thousand acres of rich alluvial land would be gained. His scheme was, to carry the road across the ten miles of sands which lie between Poulton, near Lancaster, and Humphrey Head on the opposite coast, forming the line in a segment of a circle of five miles' radius. His plan was to drive in piles across the entire length, forming a solid fence of stone blocks on the land side for the purpose of retaining the sand and silt brought down by the rivers from the interior. The embankment would then be raised from time to time as the deposit accumulated, until the land was filled up to highwater mark; provision being made, by means of sufficient arches, for the flow of the river waters into the bay. The execution of the railway after this plan would, however, have occupied more years than the promoters of the West Coast line were disposed to wait; and eventually Mr. Locke's more direct but uneven line by Shap Fell was adopted. A railway has, however, since been carried across the head of the bay, in a greatly modified form, by the Ulverstone and Lancaster Eailway Company; but it is not impossible that Mr. Stephenson's larger scheme of reclaiming the vast tract of land now left bare at every receding tide, may yet be carried out.
To give an idea of the number of railway projects which at this time occupied Mr. Stephenson's attention, and of the extent and rapidity of his journeys, we subjoin from his private secretary's journal the following epitome of one of them, on which he entered immediately at the conclusion of the heavy parliamentary session of 1836.
"August 9th.—From Alton Grange to Derby and Matlock; and forward by mail to Manchester, to meet the committee of the South Union Eailway. August 10th.—Manchester to Stockport, to meet Committee of the Manchester and Chap. XIV. EPITOME OF A MONTH'S OCCUPATION. 271
Leeds Eailway; thence to Liverpool, to meet directors of the Chester and Birkenhead, and Chester and Crewe Eailways. August 11th.—Liverpool to Woodside, to meet committee of the Chester and Birkenhead line; journey with them along the proposed railway to Chester; then back to Liverpool. August 12th.—Liverpool to Manchester, to meet directors of the Manchester and Leeds Eailway, and travelling with them over the works in progress. August 13th.—Continued journey over the works, and arrival at Wakefield; thence to York. August 14th.—Meeting with Mr. Hudson at York, and journey from York to Newcastle. August 15th.—At Newcastle, working up arrears of correspondence. August 16th.—Meeting with Mr. Brandling, as to the station for the Brandling Junction at Gateshead, and stations at other parts of the line. August 17.—Carlisle to Wigton and Maryport, examining the railway. August 19th.—Maryport to Carlisle, continuing the inspection. August 20th.—At Carlisle, examining the ground for a station; and working up correspondence. August 21st.— Carlisle to Dumfries by mail; forward to Ayr by chaise, proceeding up the valley of the Nith, through Thornhill, Sanquhar, and Cumnock. August 22nd.—Meeting with promoters of the Glasgow, Kilmarnock, and Ayr Eailway, and journey along the proposed line; meeting with the magistrates at Kilmarnock at Beith, and journey with them over Mr. Gale's proposed line to Kilmarnock. August 23rd.—From Kilmarnock along Mr. Miller's proposed line to Beith, Paisley, and Glasgow. August 24th.—Examination of site of proposed station at Glasgow; meeting with the directors; then from Glasgow, by Falkirk and Linlithgow, to Edinburgh, meeting there with Mr. Grainger, engineer, and several of the committee of the proposed Edinburgh and Dunbar Eailway. August 25th.—Examining the site of the proposed station at Edinburgh; then to Dunbar, by Portobello and Haddington, examining the proposed line of railway. August 26th.—Dunbar to Tommy Grant's, to examine the summit of the country towards Berwick, with a view to a through line to Newcastle; then return 272 EPITOME OF A MONTH'S OCCUPATION. Chap. XIV.
to Edinburgh. August 27th.—At Edinburgh, meeting the provisional committee of the proposed Edinburgh and Dunbar Bailway. August 28th.—Journey from Edinburgh through Melrose and Jedburgh to Horsley, along the route of Mr. Eichardson's proposed railway across Carter Fell. August 29th.—From Horsley to Mr. Brandling's, then on to Newcastle; engaged on the Brandling Junction Railway. August 30th.—Engaged with Mr. Brandling; after .which, meeting a deputation from Maryport. August 31st.—Meeting with Mr. Brandling and others as to the direction of the Brandling Junction in connexion with the Great North o England line, and the course of the railway through Newcastle; then on to York. September 1st.—At York; meeting with York and North Midland directors; then journeying over Lord Howden's property, to arrange for a deviation ; examining the proposed site of the station at York. September 2nd.—At York, giving instructions as to the survey; then to Manchester by Leeds. September 3rd.—At Manchester; journey to Stockport, with Mr. Bidder and Mr. Bourne, examining the line to Stockport, and fixing the crossing of the river there; attending to the surveys; then journey back to Manchester, to meet the directors of the Manchester and Leeds Eailway. September 4th.—Sunday at Manchester. September 5th.—Journey along part of the Manchester and Leeds Eailway. September 6th.—At Manchester, examining and laying down the section of the South Union line to Stockport; afterwards engaged on the Manchester and Leeds working plans, in endeavouring to give a greater radius to the curves; seeing Mr. Seddon about the Liverpool, Manchester, and Leeds Junction Eailway. September 7th.— Journey along the Manchester and Leeds line, then on to Derby. September 8th.—At Derby; seeing Mr. Carter and Mr. Beale about the Tamworth deviation; then home to Alton Grange. September 10th.—At Alton Grange, preparing report to the committee of the Edinburgh and Dunbar Eailway."
Such is a specimen of the enormous amount of physical and mental labour undergone by Mr. Stephenson during the Chap. XIV. THE ROBINS AT ALTON GRANGE. 273
busy years above referred to. He was no sooner home, than he was called away again by some other railway or business engagement. Thus in four days after his arrival at Alton Grange from the above journey into Scotland, we find him going over the whole of the North Midland line as far as Leeds; then by Halifax to Manchester, where he stayed for several days on the business of the South Union line; then to Birmingham and London; back to Alton Grange, and next day to Congleton and Leek; thence to Leeds and Goole, and home again by the Sheffield and Rotherham and the Midland works. And early in the following month (October) he was engaged in the north of Ireland, examining the line, and reporting upon the plans, of the projected Ulster Eailway. He was also called upon to inspect and report upon colliery works, salt works, brass and copper works, and such like, in addition to his own colliery and railway business. He usually staked out himself the lines laid out by him, which involved a good deal of labour since undertaken by assistants. And occasionally he would run up to London, attending in person to the preparation and depositing of the plans and sections of the projected undertakings for which he was engaged as engineer.
It is pleasant to record that, in the midst of these engrossing occupations, his heart remained as soft and loving as ever. Thus, during one of his brief sojourns at Alton Grange, he found time to write to his son a touching account of a pair of robins that had built their nest within one of the empty upper chambers of the house. One day he observed a robin fluttering outside the windows, and beating its wings against the panes, as if eager to gain admission. He went up stairs, and there found, in a retired part of one of the rooms, a robin's nest, with one of the parent birds sitting over three or four young—all dead. The excluded bird outside still beat against the panes; and on the window being let down, it flew into the room, but was so exhausted that it dropped upon the floor. Mr. Stephenson took up the bird, carried it down stairs, and had it warmed and fed.
274 VISITS BELGIUM. Chap. XIV.
The poor robin revived, and for a time was one of his pets. But it shortly died too, as if unable to recover from the privations it had endured during its three days' fluttering and beating at the windows. It appeared that the room had been unoccupied, and, the sash having been let down for some time, the robins had taken the opportunity of building their nest within it; but the servant having accidentally closed the window, the calamity befell them which so dtrongly excited Mr. Stephenson's sympathies. An incident such as this, trifling though it may seem, gives the true key to the heart of the man.
Besides his journeys at home, Mr. Stephenson was on more than one occasion called abroad on railway business. Thus, at the desire of King Leopold, he made several visits to Belgium to assist the Belgian engineers in laying out the national lines of that kingdom. That enlightened monarch at an early period discerned the powerful instrumentality of railways in developing a country's resources, and he determined at the earliest possible period to adopt them as the great high-roads of Belgium. The country, being rich in coal and minerals, had great manufacturing capabilities. It had good ports, fine navigable rivers, abundant canals, and a teeming, industrious population. Leopold-perceived that railways were eminently calculated to bring the industry of the country into full play, and to render the riches of his provinces available to all the rest of the kingdom. He therefore openly declared himself the promoter of public railways throughout Belgium. The country had scarcely escaped from the throes of the revolution, when, by his command, the first project of a Belgian railway was laid before him. It was only a line from Antwerp to Liege, involving a capital expenditure of 400,0007. But modest though the project was, his ministers even feared that it was too ambitious, and that the king was about to embark his government in an enterprise beyond its strength. The bill struggled through the Chambers, and became law in 1834. But before the measure received legislative sanction, the plan liad been enlarged, and powers were taken to construct an