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the other detail of the machine. His father, on the contrary,
cHAP. XIII.] SENDS HIS SON TO COLLEGE. 155
introductions to men of science in Edinburgh, the reputation of his father in connection with the safety lamp and the locomotive being of some service to him in this respect. Though he studied at Edinburgh College for only one session of six months, he entered upon the work with such zest and interest —his mind was so ripe for the pursuit and reception of knowledge—that it is not too much to say, that in that short period he learnt more than most students do during a three years' course. He attended the chemical lectures of Dr. Hope, the lectures on natural philosophy by Sir John Leslie, and the natural history classes of Jameson; and his evenings were sedulously devoted to the study of practical chemistry under Dr. John Murray, himself one of the numerous speculators respecting the safety lamp. This six months’ study cost his father 80l., a considerable sum with him in those days; but he was amply repaid when his son returned to Killingworth in the summer of 1821, bringing with him the prize for mathematics, which he had gained at the university.
RAILWAY PIONEERS. —WILLIAM JAMES, EDWARD PEASE, AND THOMAS GRAY.
It is somewhat remarkable that, although George Stephenson's locomotive engines were in daily use for many years on the Killingworth railway, they excited comparatively little interest. Yet by them he had already solved the great problem of the employment of steam power for the purposes of railway traction. In his hands the locomotive was no longer an experiment, for he had ascertained and proved, by the experience of years, that it worked more steadily, drew heavier loads, and was, on the whole, a more economical power to employ on railways than horses. Nevertheless eight years passed before another locomotive railway was constructed and opened for the purposes of coal traffic. It is difficult to account for this early indifference on the part of the public to the merits of the greatest mechanical invention of the age. Steam carriages were exciting great interest; and numerous and repeated experiments were made with them. The improvements effected by Mr. M'Adam in the mode of constructing turnpike roads were the subject of frequent discussions in the legislature, on the grants of public money being proposed, which were from time to time made to him. Yet here at Killingworth, without the aid of a farthing of government money, a system of road locomotion had been in existence since 1814, which was destined, before many years, to revolutionise the internal communications of England and of the world, but of which
CHAP. XIV.] RAILWAY PIONEERS. 157
the English public and the English government as yet knew nothing. Mr. Stephenson had no means of bringing his important invention prominently under the notice of the public. He himself knew well its importance, and he already anticipated its eventual general adoption; but being an unlettered man, he could not give utterance to the thoughts which brooded within him on the subject. Killingworth Colliery lay far from London, the centre of scientific life in England. It was visited by no savans nor literary men, who might have succeeded in introducing to notice the wonderful machine of Stephenson. Even the local chroniclers seem to have taken no notice of the Killingworth railway. The “Puffing Billy” was doing its daily quota of hard work, and had long ceased to be a curiosity in the neighbourhood. Blenkinsop's clumsier and less successful engine— which has long since been disused, while Stephenson's Killingworth engines continue working to this day— excited far more interest, partly, perhaps, because it was close to the large town of Leeds, and used to be visited by strangers as one of the few objects of interest in that place. Blenkinsop was also an educated man, and was in communication with some of the most distinguished personages of his day upon the subject of his locomotive, which thus obtained considerable notoriety. The thinkers and observers on the subject of railway locomotion were yet few in number. Amongst these, however, was the late Sir John Sinclair, who had some correspondence with Mr. Blenkinsop on the subject, and also that sagacious observer, Sir Richard Phillips. As early as the year 1813, the latter writer, with clear foresight of the uses to which the railway locomotive might be applied, used the following remarkable words in his “Morning Walk to Kew,” for some time a popular book. The reflections occurred to him on witnessing the performances of the horses then employed in working the tramway used for the conveyance of lime from Merstham to Wandsworth in Surrey. The line has long since been abandoned, though the traveller by the Brighton railway can still discern the marks of the old road along the hillside on the south of Croydon.* “I found delight,” said Sir Richard, “in witnessing at Wandsworth the economy of horse labour on the iron railway. Yet a heavy sigh escaped me as I thought of the inconceivable millions of money which had been spent about Malta, four or five of which might have been the means of extending double lines of iron railway from London to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Holyhead, Milford, Falmouth, Yarmouth, Dover, and Portsmouth. A reward of a single thousand would have supplied coaches and other vehicles, of various degrees of speed, with the best tackle for readily turning out; and we might, ere this, have witnessed our mail coaches running at the rate of ten miles an hour drawn by a single horse, or im
* Charles Knight thus pleasantly describes this old road: —“The earliest railway for public traffic in England was one passing from Merstham to Wandsworth, through Croydon; a small single line, on which a miserable team of lean mules or donkeys, some thirty years ago, might be seen crawling at the rate of four miles an hour, with several trucks of stone and lime behind them. It was commenced in 1801, opened in 1803; and the men of science of that day—we cannot say that the respectable name of Stephenson was not among them [Stephenson was then a brakesman at Killingworth]—tested its capabilities, and found that one horse could draw some thirty-five tons at six miles in the hour, and then, with prophetic wisdom, declared that railways could never be worked profitably. The old Croydon Railway is no longer used. The genius loci must look with wonder on the gigantic offspring of the little railway, which has swallowed up its own sire. Lean mules no longer crawl leisurely along the little rails with trucks of stone through Croydon, once perchance during the day, but the whistle and the rush of the locomotive are now heard all day long. Not a few loads of lime, but all London and its contents, by comparison— men, women, children, horses, dogs, oxen, sheep, pigs, carriages, merchandise, food — would seem to be now-a-days passing through Croydon; for day after day, more than 100 journeys are made by the great railroads which pass the place.”