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HAVING now supplied the more important districts of Yorkshire and Lancashire with efficient railway communication, connected with the metropolis by means of the London and Birmingham Railway, and the Midland lines which radiated from it, Mr. Stephenson's attention was next directed to the completion of the system, so as to embrace Scotland on the north, and Ireland on the west, and place the capitals of those divisions of the United Kingdom in more direct communication with the great heart of the nation—the city of London. He had already, with the assistance of his son, been instrumental in carrying the great main line of road as far northward as Newcastle-on-Tyne; and his advice was from time to time anxiously solicited as to the best mode of completing the remaining links. As early as 1836, he had been called upon, by the committee of a proposed railway between ! Edinburgh and Dunbar, to inspect the route, and report thereon, with a view to the line being afterwards connected with Newcastle. He proceeded to comply with this request, and, at the same time, he personally examined the other routes by which such a line could pass from Edinburgh to the south—traversing the vale of the Gala, and the mountainous district of Carter Fell,—while he also carefully inspected the coast route, by way of Berwick-uponTweed. In his report to the directors of the projected line,
cHAp. xxviii.J REPORT ON THE EAST COAST LINE. 385
he stated his opinion to be in favour of the latter route, on account both of the more favourable nature of the gradients, and the less expensive character of the works.” The project, however, slept until August, 1838, when Mr. Stephenson was requested to make a further careful inspection of the country between Newcastle and Edinburgh, and “report his opinion on the best line of railway between those places, upon levels to which locomotive steam power can be advantageously applied, preparatory to such line being more minutely surveyed, and ultimately adopted.” After again making a careful inspection of the country, he sent in his report.f. He went at great length into the comparative merits of the routes by Carter Fell and by Berwick, and expressed a decided opinion, as before, on the superiority of the latter route. As the report presented by him on this subject contains many points of interest, and may be taken as a fair specimen of the character of his railway reports, we venture to give the following extract: — “In laying out a line of railway from England to the two principal cities in Scotland, and as a great thoroughfare between the two countries, there are many circumstances to be taken into consideration. The first and most important of all, considering it as a great national work, and desirable for the convenience and advantage of the whole community, is to endeavour to obtain a railway with such inclinations as will secure a certain, speedy, and safe conveyance between the two countries, not merely for the conveyance of passengers, but more especially for the mails. We should endeavour to obtain a railway on which the engines should at all times be enabled to perform the duties required of them, without
* Report to the Directors of the Edinburgh and Dunbar Railway, dated Alton Grange, September 11th, 1836. f Report, September 13th, 1838.
having to encounter steep inclined planes totally unfit for the profitable employment of the locomotive engine, and also without having to depend in a great measure upon the peculiar state of the atmosphere, in order to enable the engines to surmount such inclined planes at all. “It is extremely desirable, in laying out a main line of railway like this, to avoid as much as possible passing through a high country, as in so doing you not only invariably meet with difficulties in the form of extensive works to be executed, and inclined planes to be overcome, but you also traverse a country much more subject to the inclemency of the weather, especially in winter, where in high countries the snow, a great impeder to railway travelling, remains so long a time upon the ground. “In consequence of the line I propose to you running so near the coast, it is entirely free from those great disadvantages. It passes through a low country; it possesses levels of a most favourable nature; and in the neighbourhood of the sea-coast, the snow remains a very short time upon the ground. The line itself runs so near the coast, that it may be found of great advantage in conveying troops from station to station, and, in case of war, in conveying despatches from the seat of government to any part of the North, and also for keeping up a communicatoin with the sea. If it should be found necessary, the whole line from Newcastle to Edinburgh might be formed into one continuous battery, by erecting a mound in exposed places to protect the engines from any attack from the sea. The whole troops of the country might also by its means be concentrated in one spot on the shortest notice. “The line of railway which I am proposing will constitute the last link in the great chain of railway communication from London to Edinburgh and Glasgow: in the whole of this chain there will not be between London and Edinburgh
chap. xxvii.I.] REPORT ON THE EAST COAST LINE. 387
one inclination exceeding 20 feet a mile (except at the London and Birmingham station), and the characteristic inclination will be 16 feet a mile. The same description of engine will be enabled to work the whole of the lines included in this chain, so that, if it should be necessary, either from necessity or despatch being requisite, or in case of accident, an engine may be transferred from one line to another capable of performing the work. But, as I stated before, it appears to me, that both in a national and commercial point of view, the most important consideration in procuring easy inclinations is, that it ensures a certain, speedy, and punctual performance of the duties required from the engines. “In looking at the subject in a local point of view, I may state that it has always been my practice to lay out main lines of railway through the lowest country, unless some important consideration, such as a large and populous town, induced me to diverge into a higher country. I consider that by adopting the low country I have many advantages which are lost by taking a high one. Considering the subject locally, I afford great facilities in procuring cheap branches from the main line into the interior of the country, and up the various valleys which run nearly at right angles to the main line; for instance, as regards the present railway, those productions, both agricultural and mineral, which are found in Northumberland and Scotland, may be conveyed on branch railways running up the valleys of the Blyth, the Wansbeck, the Coquet, and the Tweed, on declining railways from the places where they are produced to the main line of railway, when they can be carried north or south as may be required. “It is a very important consideration indeed, that branch railways should possess a falling inclination towards the main line, as the productions of the country are invariably conveyed either to the coast for shipment, or to populous towns through which the main railways of the kingdom are carried; and the traffic conveyed from populous towns and the coast into the interior of the country is generally of a light description, consisting of groceries, and what may be called the luxuries of life. There is, however, in this case, an exception, and that is the river Tweed. It will be a great advantage to the valley of the Tweed, inasmuch as the inhabitants will procure both lime and coal from Berwick at a cheap rate, and as that river is crossed at the height of 90 feet, and being a sluggish stream near its mouth, you will be enabled to have a level branch along the valley for many miles. “The towns of Morpeth, Belford, Alnwick, and Kelso, may be easily accommodated by branches up the different valleys in which they are situated. “I will now conclude this Report, congratulating you upon the favourable nature of the country, and the great facilities which exist for constructing the works on the coast line, with a firm conviction on my own mind that it is the only feasible and desirable line of railway, with levels to which locomotive steam power can be advantageously applied, between the town of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and the cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow.” The recommendations contained in this able report were eventually adopted, although several years elapsed before the line was actually constructed. This delay was caused by unavoidable circumstances, to which we shall afterwards recur. In the meantime, the alternative route to Edinburgh by Carter Fell was not without its advocates, Mr. Nicholas Wood heading the opposition to Mr. Stephenson, and alleging that the east coast route by Berwick “ could neither answer the purpose of the public in general nor the subscribers.”* Mr. Stephenson was also consulted with reference to the