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chap. xiv.] SPECULATIONS ABOUT RAILWAYS. 159
pelled fifteen miles an hour by Blenkinsop's steam-engine. Such would have been a legitimate motive for overstepping the income of a nation; and the completion of so great and useful a work would have afforded rational ground for public triumph in general jubilee.” Although Sir Richard Phillips's estimate of the cost of constructing railways was very fallacious, as experience has since proved, his estimate of the admirable uses to which they might be applied—though it was practically impossible for Blenkinsop's engine to have travelled on cogged rails at fifteen miles an hour—was sagacious and far-seeing in a remarkable degree. There were other speculators who, about the same time, were urging and predicting the adoption of railways as a mode of rapid transit. For instance, Mr. Edgeworth, in a communication to James Watt, dated the 7th of August, 1813, observed:—“I have always thought that steam would become the universal lord, and that we should in time scorn post-horses. An iron railroad would be a cheaper thing than a road on the common construction.”" These, however, were merely guesses at what might be done, and were of no assistance towards the practical solution of the problem. Yet they show that many advanced minds were already anticipating the adoption of steam power for purposes of railway traction. At the same time there was at work a more profitable class of labourers—the public-spirited men who were engaged in projecting and actually forming railways to supply the wants of important districts of population. Among the most prominent of these were William James of West Bromwich, and Edward Pease of Darlington. William James was instrumental in giving a great impetus to the question of railway locomotion; and though he did not discover the locomotive, he did what was the next best thing to it, he discovered George Stephenson. He was a man of considerable fortune, and occupied an influential position in society. Possessed of a good address, and mixing freely with men of the highest ranks, he was enabled to gain a hearing for his speculations where humbler persons had no chance of being listened to. Besides being an extensive landowner and land-agent, he was engaged as an iron and coalminer, and at one time occupied the honourable position of chairman of the Staffordshire iron-masters. Mr. James was a bold, and, as many considered him, a reckless projector. When he had determined upon any scheme, he was quite regardless of the cost at which he carried it out. He did not confine himself to projects connected with his own particular interests, but was constantly engaged in devising things for the public, which the public shook its cautious head at, and would not have at any price. At a very early period of his life he was an advocate of railways. It was not merely a sober conviction of their utility that influenced him; the idea of railway locomotion haunted him like a passion. He went to Camborne, in Cornwall, to see Trevithick upon the subject, in 1803, and witnessed the performances of his engine at Merthyr Tydvil in the fol. lowing year. In an article which he published in one of the early numbers of the “Railway Magazine,” he stated that as early as 1803 he contemplated the projection of a railway between Liverpool and Manchester.” Many years, however, elapsed before he proceeded to enter upon the survey. In the meantime he was occupied with other projects.
* Muirhead's Mechanical Inventions of James Watt, vol. i. p. 240,
* There were numerous projectors of railways for the accommodation of the large towns, even at that early period. Thus, we find in the Leeds Mercury of the 16th January, 1802, a letter signed “Mercator,” in which the formation of a line of railway from Leeds to Selby was strongly recommended. Thirty years, however, passed, before that railway was formed.
chAP. xlv.) WILLIAM JAMES. 161
In 1806 he contemplated the formation of a tramway from Birmingham towards Wedgebury and the Staffordshire coal districts. We next find him projecting and partly forming a tramway from the Clutton Colliery, belonging to the Earl of Warwick,-about twelve miles in length, to Bristol. And about the same time he entered into an arrangement with Mr. Protheroe to construct another tramway from the Forest of Dean to Gloucester. About 1814 he was cutting, at his own expense, a canal between Birmingham and Stratford-onAvon; and some years after, in conjunction with Lord Redesdale, he constructed a railway from Stratford-on-Avon to Moreton-in-the-Marsh, – the first railway in that district laid with wrought-iron rails, for the special purpose of being worked by locomotive power.
In the year 1815, we find Mr. James addressing a “Letter to the Prince Regent,” in which he showed that he anticipated rapid locomotion by steam and other means. His project was to form a railway between London and Chatham, together with a capacious war-dock at the latter place, the gates of which were to be formed with caissons, after the plan of the docks of the then unknown Russian war-port of Sebastopol. Those caissons were then being manufactured in England; and Mr. James had got his idea of them from Upton, the engineer, with whom he was well acquainted. Nothing however came of this grand Chatham project.
Being a shareholder in the Wandsworth and Merstham Railway, which had thus far proved an abortive project, paying not more than about one per cent. per annum to its proprietors, Mr. James came up to London in 1818, to urge the formation of a line of railway from the neighbourhood of the Waterloo Bridge, to join the Merstham line; but the project was abandoned. He next endeavoured to have the Merstham tramroad converted into a locomotive railway. His
suggestion, however, met with no favour, and his speculations soon turned in another direction. We have before us an engraved plan, dated 1820, of a “Central Junction Railway” projected by Mr. James, which was extensively circulated by him amongst influential persons, showing a comprehensive scheme of railways, connecting London with Oxford, and, through his railway at Moreton-in-the-Marsh, with Stratford-on-Avon and Birmingham, a branch line giving accommodation to Cheltenham and Gloucester. But this, too, remained merely a project. Mr. Edward Pease, of Darlington, was a man of an entirely different stamp. He too, like Mr. James, was connected with coal-mines, and interested in improving the internal communications of his neighbourhood, chiefly with the object of opening out new markets for the vast stores of coal found in the Bishop Auckland valley above Darlington. But though he was not so ambitious as Mr. James in reference to the extension of railways, the prosperity which attended his one great enterprise did more for their eventual success than all Mr. James's efforts. It would appear that, at first, Mr. Pease contemplated only a horse tramroad between Stockton and Darlington; but as he proceeded with the project, and especially after he had become personally acquainted with George Stephenson, he gradually, but cautiously, became a convert to the locomotive system. The Stockton and Darlington Railway was an undertaking of great importance, although it was afterwards thrown into the shade by the more brilliant project of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, which was not commenced for several years after. As the first iron road constructed for the purposes of general traffic, and as the first public highway on which locomotive engines were regularly employed, the Stockton and Darlington project unquestionably exercised
cHAP. XIV.] EDWARD PEASE. 163
very great influence upon the future history of railway locomotion.
Of this railway Edward Pease was the projector. A thoughtful and sagacious man, ready in resources, possessed of indomitable energy and perseverance, he was eminently qualified to undertake what appeared to many the desperate enterprise of obtaining an Act of Parliament to construct a railway through a rather unpromising district. One who knew him in 1818 said, “he was a man who could see a hundred years ahead.” When the writer last saw him, in the autumn of 1854, Mr. Pease was in his eighty-eighth year; yet he still possessed the hopefulness and mental vigour of a man in his prime. Hale and hearty, full of interesting reminiscences of the past, he yet entered with interest into the life of the present, and displayed a warm sympathy for all current projects calculated to render the lives of men happier. Still sound in health, his eye had not lost its brilliancy, nor his cheek its colour; and there was an elasticity in his step which younger men might have envied. His vigorous judgment and genuine native shrewdness, together with that courageous strength and tenacity of purpose which made him, when once convinced, stand by the railway project upon which he had set his heart, when all the world called him schemer and fool, had not yet departed from him; and he could now afford to crack a lively joke at the prejudiced blindness of those who had so long made him the subject of their ridicule. Pointing to a fine prospect from his drawing-room window, extending to the wooded knolls on the further side of the valley, the numerous full-grown trees within sight, gay in all the gorgeous livery of autumn, Mr. Pease observed:—“What changes happen in a single lifetime ! Look at those fine old trees; every one of them has been planted by my own hand. When I was a boy I was fond of planting, and my father indulged me in my pastime.