« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
cHAP. xxi.] PREJUDICE AGAINST THE LOCOMOTIVE. 269
conceded in 1829, on the express condition that it should not be worked by locomotives, but by horses only.
Grave doubts existed as to the practicability of working a large traffic by means of travelling engines. Thus, Sir William Cowling, who was appointed by the Emperor Alexander of Russia to examine the internal communications of England, and who visited the Stockton and Darlington Railway after it was opened for traffic, declared that it could never answer as a route for passengers, in comparison with stage coaches. He expressed his decided preference for the Atmospheric Railway, then proposed by Mr. Wallance between Brighton and Shoreham, which he considered “very far superior” to the locomotive system. Mr. Palmer, in his “Description of a Railway,” declared that “there is no instance of any locomotive engine having (regularly, and as a constant rate) travelled faster than, if so fast as, six miles an hour.” Wallance, in his letter to Ricardo, pronounced that “ locomotive engines cannot, on an open railway, ever be driven so fast as horses will draw us; ” and that railways as an investment would be unproductive, and as an effective means of transit a failure. Tredgold, in his “Practical Treatise on Railroads and Carriages,” dismissed the locomotive in favour of the fixed-engine system, which he pronounced to be cheaper as well as safer. “Locomotives,” he said, “must always be objectionable on a railroad for general use, where it is attempted to give them a considerable degree of speed.” As to the speed of railway travelling being equal to that of horses on common roads, Mr. Tredgold entertained great doubts. “That any general system of carrying passengers would answer, to go at a velocity exceeding ten miles an hour, or thereabouts, is extremely improbable.””
* Tredgold on Railroads, 2nd ed. p. 119.
The most celebrated engineers offered no opinion on the subject. They did not believe in the locomotive, and would not even give themselves the trouble to examine it. The ridicule with which George Stephenson had been assailed by the barristers before the Parliamentary Committee had pleased them greatly. They did not relish the idea of a man who had picked up his experience at Newcastle coal-pits appearing in the capacity of a leading engineer before Parliament, and attempting to establish a new system of internal communication in the country. Telford and the Rennies were then the great lights of the engineering world. The former was consulted by the Government on the subject of the power to be employed to work the Liverpool line, on the occasion of the directors applying to the Exchequer Loan Commissioners to forego their security of 30 per cent. of the calls, which the directors wished to raise to enable them to proceed more expeditiously with the works. Mr. Telford's report was, however, so unsatisfactory that the Commissioners would not release any part of the calls. All that Mr. Telford would say on the subject of the power to be employed was, that the use of horses” had been done away with by in
* The engineers who were examined before Parliament in support of the second Liverpool and Manchester Bill, were opposed to the locomotive, in their entire ignorance of its construction and properties; indeed they would not give themselves the trouble to understand it. Their intention was so to lay out the line that it should be worked by horses. One of the gradients at Ramhill, as originally planned by them, was very steep, about one in fifty, and the counsel for the opposition, in cross-examining one of the eminent engineers employed for the promoters, asked him if he knew “how much additional power would be required to surmount a gradient of one in fifty.” “Not very much,” replied the engineer; “a little more whip-cord will do it.” The counsel for the opposition, in the course of his reply, alluded to this evidence. “Mr. —,” said he, “has told you, that by means of a little whip-cord, a rising gradient, so steep as one foot in fifty, is to be overcome. I know where the whip-cord, and not a little whip-cord, ought to have been applied, before that witness left school.” Some years after, when the Brighton Railway Bill was before Parliament, the same eminent engineer was asked by counscl
CHAP. xxi.] MR. TELFORD'S REPORT. 271
troducing two sets of inclined planes, and he considered this an evil, inasmuch as the planes must be worked either by locomotive or fixed engines; “but,” he said, “which of the two latter modes shall be adopted, I understand has not yet been finally determined; and both being recent projects, in which I have had no experience, I cannot take upon me to say whether either will fully answer in practice.” And yet the locomotive engine had been in regular use on the Killingworth Railway for fifteen years, at the time when Mr. Telford made this report in 1829. He himself had laid out railways, and it was part of his business to make himself familiar with the best mode of working them. But the only successful engines were those of George Stephenson; and Mr. Telford, in common with the leading professional men of his day, studiously kept aloof from him. Indeed, had the establishment of the locomotive system depended upon the leading engineers, it would have been swamped at the beginning. In the meantime it was absolutely necessary that the directors of the Liverpool Railway should come to a decision whether fixed or locomotive engines were to be employed. Mr. Stephenson urged, as usual, the superiority of the latter, in point of efficiency, convenience, and economy, over any other mode of traction. The directors, who were no engineers, could not disregard the adverse opinions of professional men, and they declined to endorse his recommendation. But Mr. Stephenson had so repeatedly and earnestly urged upon them the propriety of making a trial of the locomotive before coming to any decision against it, that they at length authorised him to proceed with the construction of one of his engines by way of experiment.
“whether the wheels of the locomotive revolved on the axle or were fixed to it?” The engineer was rather taken aback, for he did not know; but he adroitly got out of the difficulty by saying, “Really, that is a matter entirely of detail, to be settled by mechanics "
In their report to the proprietors at their annual meeting on the 27th March, 1828, they state that they had, after due consideration, authorised the engineer “to prepare a locomotive engine, which, from the nature of its construction and from the experiments already made, he is of opinion will be effective for the purposes of the company, without proving an annoyance to the public.” In the same report the directors express their confidence in Mr. Stephenson, whose ability and unwearied activity they are glad to take the opportunity of acknowledging. The locomotive thus ordered, was placed upon the line in 1829, and was found of great service in drawing the waggons full of marl from the two great cuttings. In the meantime the discussion proceeded as to the kind of power to be permanently employed for the working of the railway. The directors were inundated with schemes of all sorts for facilitating locomotion. The projectors of England, France, and America, seemed to be let loose upon them, There were plans for working the waggons along the line by water power. Some proposed hydrogen, and others carbonic acid gas. Atmospheric pressure had its eager advocates. And various kinds of fixed and locomotive steam power were suggested. Thomas Gray urged his plan of a greased road with cog rails; and Messrs. Vignolles and Ericsson recommended the adoption of a central friction rail, against which two horizontal rollers under the locomotive, pressing upon the sides of this rail, were to afford the means of ascending the inclined planes. The directors felt themselves quite unable to choose from amidst this multitude of projects. Their engineer expressed himself as decidedly as heretofore in favour of smooth rails and locomotive engines, which, he was confident, would be found the most economical and by far the most convenient moving power that could be em
chap. xxi.] THE LOCOMOTIVE REPORTED AGAINST. 273
ployed.” The Stockton and Darlington Railway being now at work, another deputation went down personally to inspect the fixed and locomotive engines on that line, as well as at Hetton and Killingworth. They returned to Liverpool with much information; but their testimony as to the relative merits of the two kinds of engines was so contradictory, that the directors were as far from a decision as ever. They then resolved to call to their aid two professional engineers of high standing, who should visit the Darlington and Newcastle railways, carefully examine both modes of working — the fixed and locomotive —and report to them fully on the subject. The gentlemen selected were Mr. Walker of Limehouse, and Mr. Rastrick of Stourbridge. After carefully examining the modes of working the northern railways, they made their report to the directors in the spring of 1829. These engineers concurred in the opinion that the cost of an establishment of fixed engines would be somewhat greater than that of locomotives to do the same work; but that the annual charge would be less if the former were adopted. They calculated that the cost of moving a ton of goods thirty miles by fixed engines would be 6'40d., and by locomotives, 8:36d., -assuming a profitable traffic to be obtained both ways. At the same time it was admitted that there appeared more ground for expecting improvements in the construction and working of locomotives than of stationary engines. “On the whole, however, and looking especially at the computed annual charge of working the road on the two systems on a large scale, Messrs. Walker and Rastrick were of opinion that fixed engines were preferable, and accordingly recommended their adoption to the directors.”f
* Booth's Account, p. 71.
f Mr. Booth's Account, pp. 70–1. While concurring with Mr. Rastrick in recommending “the stationary reciprocating system as the best,” if it was the directors' intention to make the line complete at once, so as to accommodate