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stimulate that rapidity in the improvement of the locomotive, which the reviewer so distinctly admitted to have been effected, its temporary adoption in favour of the indefatigable and industrious Stephensons would have been amply justified. But the simple truth was, that the Newcastle factory was at that time the only source from which efficient engines could be obtained. The directors were fully alive to the importance of inducing competition in this new branch of manufacture; and they offered every inducement to mechanical engineers, with the view of enlarging the sources from which they could draw their supplies of engines. And so soon as they could rely upon the quality of the article supplied to them by other firms, they distributed their orders indiscriminately and impartially. Mr. Thomas Gray" also proclaimed his opposition to the Stephenson “monopoly,” but on another ground. The Stephenson rails were smooth, and consequently the engines were adapted for travelling on them at high speeds; whereas Mr. Gray was still an adherent of the long-exploded cograil of Blenkinsop. He urged that the railroad should be greased, and cog-rails placed outside the smooth rails, the propulsive agency working in the former, while the burden of the engine travelled on the latter. “It will certainly,” said he, “answer the private views of engineers, mechanics, and others employed in manufacturing rails, steam-engines, &c., to recommend the application of numerous engines and the most costly machinery.” And he added:—“Had the recent grand feat, accomplished by the two new ponderous engines, been performed by means of cog-rails, I do not hesitate to assert that the very same engines would have effected five times more; ”—which assertion serves further
* Mechanics' Magazine, 1831, vol. xv. p. 167. The “Mechanics' Magazine” supported the cog-rail as opposed to the smooth rail, probably because the smooth rail was adopted by Stephenson. See vol. xv. p. 190.
cHAP. xxiv.] SELECTION OF WORKMEN. 315
to prove, that the founding of the modern railway system could not have been effected by Thomas Gray. The charge brought against Mr. Stephenson, as engineer of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, of employing men under him to carry out his instructions, whom he knew, in preference to persons belonging to the parishes through which the line passed, whom he did not know, was of a piece with many other charges gravely advanced against him at the time. Even the drivers of stage-coaches were not then selected by the proprietors because they belonged to the respective parishes through which the coaches ran, but because they knew something of stage-coach driving. But in the case of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, it was insisted that the local population had the first claim to be employed"; and the engineer was strongly censured “for introducing into the country a numerous body of workmen in various capacities, strangers to the soil and to the surrounding population, thus wresting from the hands of those to whom they had naturally belonged, all the benefits which the enterprise and capital of the district in this case conferred.” But the charge was grossly exaggerated, and, for the most part, unfounded. As respected the working of the engines, it was natural and proper that Mr. Stephenson, who was responsible for their efficiency, should employ men to work them who knew something about their construction and mode of action. And as the only locomotive railways previously at work in England were those in the neighbourhood of Newcastle, he of course sought there for engine-drivers, stokers, and other workmen of practical experience on railways, to work the Liverpool and Manchester line. But it was from the first one of Mr. Stephenson's greatest difficulties to find able workmen enough to make his engines as well as to construct his roads. It was a saying of his that “he could engineer matter very well, and make it bend to his purpose, but his greatest difficulty was in engineering men.” Of the 600 persons employed in the working of the Liverpool line, not more than sixty had been recommended by him in his capacity of engineer, and of these a considerable proportion were personally unknown to him. Some of them, indeed, had been brought up under his own eye, and were men whose character and qualifications he could vouch for. But these were not enough for his purpose; and he often wished he could procure heads and hands on which he could rely, as easily as he could manufacture locomotives. As it was, Stephenson's engine-men were in request all over England, and they never were in want of remunerative employment. Indeed, for many years after, the Newcastle school of engineers, of which he was the head, continued to furnish the chief part of the locomotive superintendents and drivers on railways, not only in this country, but all over Europe; preference being given to them by the directors of these undertakings, in consequence of their previous practical experience, as well as their generally excellent qualities as steady and industrious workmen. Mr. Stephenson had, no doubt, a warm heart for Northumberland men; and who will blame him for it? But that he ever permitted his love for canny Newcastle to bias his judgment or stand in the way of his duty to his employers in recommending the best men for appointment to the offices under him, those who knew him best most confidently deny.
* Edinburgh Review for October, 1832, p. 130.
Before leaving the subject of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, we may briefly mention that Mr. Stephenson's ingenuity continued for some time to be employed in perfecting the working arrangements of the line. The springs of the carriages were improved: buffers were contrived to prevent that hard bumping of the carriage ends, which was
chAP. xxiv.] IMPROVEMENT OF THE ROAD. 317
felt to be a very objectionable feature in the first passenger trains; and everything was done that was calculated to diminish friction or jerking, and make travelling comfortable and easy. Amongst Mr. Stephenson's other inventions of this time were his method of lubricating carriage axles, his spring frames for the carriages, his buffers, and his railway breaks. Like the engine power and the carriage arrangements, the road was for some time in an experimental state, and was gradually brought into a condition of practical efficiency. As the power and weight of the locomotives were increased, and the speed at which the trains travelled steadily advanced, it soon became clear to Mr. Stephenson that a considerable modification in the road was absolutely necessary. The fishbellied rails, first laid down, were of the weight of only thirty-five pounds to the yard, and calculated only for horse traffic, or at most for engines like the “Rocket,” of very light weight. In the course of a short time it was found necessary to have the road relaid with stronger rails of greater weight and improved form, though at a very considerable expense to the Company. Mr. Stephenson was determined, however, to the best of his power, to fulfil his promise to the Committee of the House of Commons, that he would make his railway as perfect as possible.
EXTENSION OF THE RAILWAY SYSTEM. — THE LONDON AND BIRMINGHAM LINE.
WHEN Mr. Stephenson had completed the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, and brought the locomotive engine, by means of which it was to be worked, into a state of practical efficiency, he may be said to have accomplished the great work of his life. By persevering study and observation,-by treasuring up carefully the results of experience, neglecting no fact or suggestion howsoever insignificant it might at first sight appear, holding fast to his purpose, with a conviction that was never shaken and a determination that was never baffled,—he had established with but small assistance or encouragement, and in the face of every kind of difficulty and opposition, the superiority of the Locomotive system of railways. And it is perhaps not saying too much to aver, that in accomplishing this, Mr. Stephenson did more to advance the civilisation of the world than any single individual of his age. Excepting only the discovery of Printing, no other invention will bear a comparison with that of Railway Locomotion, as affecting the destinies of mankind. In former times, the builder of a bridge, and the maker of a road, which brought towns and villages into communication with each other, were regarded as public benefactors. But how much greater a benefactor of his species was the man who invented the Locomotive Railway system, which unites nation with nation, and is now rapidly drawing the ends of the earth together!