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But, as at other parts of the Moss, the deeper the cutting the more rapid was the flow of fluid bog into the drain, the bottom rising up almost as fast as it was removed. To meet this emergency, a number of empty tar-barrels were brought from Liverpool; and as soon as a few yards of drain were dug, the barrels were laid down end to end, firmly fixed to each other by strong slabs laid over the joints and nailed; they were then covered over with clay, thus forming an underground sewer of wood instead of bricks. This expedient was found to answer the purpose intended, and the road across the centre of the Moss was thus successfully finished and laid with the permanent materials. The greatest difficulty was, however, experienced in forming an embankment upon the edge of the bog at the Manchester end. Moss, as dry as it could be cut, was brought up in small waggons, by men and boys, and emptied so as to form an embankment; but the bank had not been raised to three or four feet in height, ere the stuff broke through the heathery surface of the bog and sunk overhead. More moss was brought up and emptied in with no better result; and for many weeks the filling was continued without any visible embankment having been made. It was the duty of the resident engineer to proceed to Liverpool every fortnight to obtain the wages for the workmen employed under him; and on these occasions he was required to colour up, on a section drawn to a working scale, suspended against the wall of the directors' room, the amount of excavations embankments, &c. executed from time to time. But on many of these occasions, Mr. Dixon had no progress whatever to show for the money expended upon the Chat Moss embankment. Sometimes, indeed, the visible work done was less than it had appeared a fortnight or a month before The directors now became seriously alarmed, and feared that the evil prognostications of the eminent engineers was
cHAP. xx.] DIFFICULTIES PRESENTED BY CHAT MOSS. 255
about to be fulfilled. The resident himself was greatly disheartened, and he was even called upon to supply the directors with an estimate of the cost of filling up the Moss with solid stuff from the bottom, as also of the cost of filling the roadway, and, in effect, constructing a four mile viaduct of timber across the Moss, from twenty to thirty feet high. But the expense appalled the Directors, and the question then arose, whether the work was to be proceeded with or abandoned! Mr. Stephenson himself afterwards described the transaction at a public dinner given at Birmingham, on the 23rd of December, 1837, on the occasion of a piece of plate being presented to his son, the engineer of the London and Birmingham Railway. He related the anecdote, he said, for the purpose of impressing upon the minds of those who heard him the necessity of perseverance. “After working for weeks and weeks,” said he, “in filling in materials to form the road, there did not yet appear to be the least sign of our being able to raise the solid embankment one single inch ; in short we went on filling in without the slightest apparent effect. Even my assistants began to feel uneasy, and to doubt of the success of the scheme. The directors, too, spoke of it as a hopeless task; and at length they became seriously alarmed, so much so, indeed, that a board meeting was held on Chat Moss to decide whether I should proceed any further. They had previously taken the opinion of other engineers, who reported unfavourably. There was no help for it, however, but to go on. An immense outlay had been incurred; and great loss would have been occasioned had the scheme been then abandoned and the line taken by another route. So the directors were compelled to allow me to go on with my plans, of the ultimate success of which I myself never for one moment doubted.” During the progress of this part of the works, the Worsley and Trafford men, who lived near the Moss, and plumed themselves upon their practical knowledge of bog-work, declared the completion of the road to be utterly impracticable. “If you knew as much about Chat Moss as we do,” they said, “you would never have entered on so rash an undertaking; and depend upon it, all you have done and are doing will prove abortive. You must give up altogether the idea of a floating railway, and either fill the Moss up with hard material from the bottom, or else deviate the line so as to avoid it altogether.” Such were the conclusions of science and experience. In the midst of all these alarms and prophecies of failure, Mr. Stephenson never lost heart, but held to his purpose. His motto was “Persevere !” “You must go on filling in,” he said; “there is no other help for it. The stuff emptied in is doing its work out of sight, and if you will but have patience, it will soon begin to show.” And so the filling in went on ; the Moss was skimmed all round for many thousand yards, until at length, as the stuff poured in for the purpose rested upon the bottom, the embankment gradually stood above the surface, and slowly advanced onwards into the Moss, declining in height and consequently in weight, until at length it joined the floating road already laid upon the Moss. In the course of its formation, the pressure of the Moss tipped out of the waggons caused a copious stream of bog-water to flow from the end of the embankment, in colour resembling Barclay's double stout; and when completed, the bank looked like a long ridge of lightly pressed tobacco-leaf. The compression of the Moss may be understood from the fact that 670,000 cubic yards of raw moss formed only 277,000 cubic yards of embankment at the completion of the work. The embankment so formed was found in no way liable to slips, like London or Oxford clay; and when completed, it formed one of the best parts of the road.
cuAP. xx.] ROAD ACROSS CHAT MOSS FINISHED. 257
At the western, or Liverpool end, there was a like embankment; but, as the ground was there solid, little difficulty was experienced in forming the embankment, beyond the loss of substance caused by the oozing out of the water held by the moss-earth. At another part of the Liverpool and Manchester line, Parr Moss was crossed by an embankment about a mile and a half in extent. In the immediate neighbourhood was found a large excess of cutting, which it would have been necessary to “put out in spoil banks” (according to the technical phrase), but for the convenience of Parr Moss, into which the surplus clay, stone, and shale, was tipped, waggon after waggon, until a solid but concealed embankment, from fifteen to twenty-five feet high, was formed; although to the eye it appears to be laid upon the level of the adjoining surface, as at Chat Moss. The road across Chat Moss was finished by the 1st of January, 1830, when the first experimental train of passengers passed over it, drawn by the “Rocket;” and it turned out that, instead of being the most expensive part of the line, it proved about the cheapest, —its cost being only about 7,000l. per mile, or considerably under the average. The total cost of forming the line over the Moss was 28,000l., whereas Mr. Giles's estimate was 270,000l. It also proved to be one of the best portions of the railway. Being a floating road, it was smooth and easy to run upon, just as Dr. Arnott's water-bed is soft and easy to lie upon— the pressure being equal at all points. There was, and still is, a sort of springiness in the road over the Moss, such as is felt when passing along a suspended bridge; and those who looked along the Moss as a train passed over it, said they could observe a waviness, such as precedes and follows a skater upon ice. During the progress of these works the most ridiculous s
rumours were set afloat. The drivers of the stage-coaches, who feared for their calling, brought the alarming intelligence into Manchester from time to time, that “ Chat Moss was blown up!” “Hundreds of men and horses had sunk in the bog; and the works were completely abandoned l’” The engineer himself was declared to have been swallowed up in the Serbonian bog; and “railways were at an end for ever !” Although the other works of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway are of a much less formidable character than those of many lines which have since been constructed, they were then regarded as of the most stupendous description. Indeed the like of them had not before been executed in England. There were sixty-three bridges over and under the line at different points. The great Sankey viaduct, consisting of nine arches of fifty feet span, was a noble structure, rising to a height of nearly seventy feet above the level of the Sankey canal. The skew bridge at Rainhill, the bridge at Newton, and the bridge over the Irwell at Manchester, are still looked upon as good specimens of railway work, and at the time of their formation were regarded with high admiration by engineers. The tunnel under part of the town of Liverpool, and the Olive Mount excavation — a deep cutting through solid sandstone rock, extending for upwards of two miles—were formidable works, occupying much time in the quarrying and removal of the stone. Some idea of the extensive character of the cuttings may be formed from the fact that upwards of three millions of cubic yards of stone, clay, and soil, were removed and formed into embankments at various parts of the line. In the construction of the railway, Mr. Stephenson's capacity for organising and directing the labours of a large number of workmen of all kinds eminently displayed itself. A vast quantity of ballast-waggons had to be constructed for the purposes of the work, and implements and materials had