« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
had secured leisure, and could call his time his own, he was always ready to give an ear to those who consulted him upon such subjects. Thus, when Mr. Smith of Nottingham, an ingenious person in humble life, waited upon him with his invention, of a steam-gauge, for the purpose of obtaining his patronage and assistance, Mr. Stephenson at once saw its uses, and said, “Oh ! I understand it altogether; it will do very well.” Overjoyed with this approval, and with the practical suggestions with which it was accompanied, the inventor said, “Before I leave, will you be pleased to tell me what is your charge?” “Chargel” replied Mr. Stephenson, “oh, nonsense, I make no charge; but I’ll tell you what you must do. Send your instrument down to my works, and I'll attach it to one of my boilers and prove it. I will do more; I will put it in the papers for you, and invite the public to come and examine it at work, and afterwards pur. chase it myself, if it answers as I expect it will do.” He was as good as his word; for he shortly after published the following letter in the daily papers, dated Tapton House, Chesterfield, Oct. 15th, 1847: “A most important invention has been submitted to me for my approval, patented by a Mr. Smith of Nottingham, and intended to indicate the strength of steam in steam-engine boilers. It is particularly adapted for steam-boats, and can be placed in the cabin, on deck, or on any other part of the vessel, where it may be seen by every passenger on board. It may also be fixed in the office of every manufactory where a steam-engine is used, at a considerable distance from the boiler. I am so much pleased with it that I have put one up at one of my own collieries; it is some distance from the boiler, in another house, and works most beautifully, showing the rise and fall of the steam in the most delicate manner. The indicator is like the face of a clock, with a pointer, making one revolution in measuring from 11b. to 100lbs, upon the square inch
chap. xxxv.] THREE-CYLINDER LOCOMOTIVE. 485
of the pressure of steam; it is quite from under the control of the engineer, or any other person, so that its indications may be relied upon ; and the construction is so simple, that it is scarcely possible for it to get out of order. I might give a full explanation of the machine, but I think it best to leave that to the inventor himself. The numerous and appalling accidents which have occurred from the bursting of steam-boat boilers have induced me to give you these observations, which I think desirable to be laid before the public. I may state that I have no pecuniary interest in the scheme; but being the first person to whom it has been shown, and the first to make use of it, I feel it a duty I owe to the inventor, as well as the public, to make it as universally known as possible. The indicator is put up at Tapton colliery, near Chesterfield, and may be seen any day, by any respectable person.” Mr. Stephenson also occupied some of his spare time, while at Tapton, in devising improvements in locomotive engines and railway carriages, still aiming at perfecting the great system which he had originated. Thus, in 1846, he brought out his design of a three-cylinder locomotive, the two outside cylinders acting together in the same plane, the third cylinder, with a crank in the middle of the axle, acting at right angles to the plane and crank pins of the two other cylinders. The middle cylinder was double the diameter of the others; and its compensating action neutralised the tendency to oscillate, which was a defect in the long-boiler outside-cylinder engines as originally constructed. Although this new engine was very ingenious, and acted with great power, it has not come into general use, in consequence of the somewhat greater expense of its construction and working. The oscillation, also, of the outside-cylinder engines, which this invention was designed to correct, has since been obviated by an improvement in their design and structure. A three-cylinder engine was, however, constructed by way of experiment for the North Eastern Railway, on which line it still continues in efficient work. Shortly after, Mr. Stephenson invented a new self-acting brake, after a plan which had occupied his attention for many years, and which had been partially adopted on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway during the time that he was its acting engineer. He now communicated a paper on the subject, accompanied by a beautiful model, to the Institute of Mechanical Engineers at Birmingham, of which he was president. The great recommendation of the plan was its simplicity and cheapness. “Any effectual plan,” he said, “for increasing the safety of railway travelling is, in my mind, of such vital importance, that I prefer laying my scheme open to the world to taking out a patent for it; and it will be a source of great pleasure to me to know that it has been the means of saving even one human life from destruction, or that it has prevented one serious concussion.”” In 1847, the year before his death, Mr. Stephenson was invited to join a distinguished party at Sir Robert Peel's mansion at Drayton Manor, and to assist in the ceremony of formally opening the Trent Valley Railway, which had been originally designed and laid out by him many years before. The first sod of the railway was cut by the Prime Minister himself, in November, 1845, during the time when Mr. Stephenson was abroad on the business of the Spanish rail
* See the “Practical Mechanic's Journal,” vol. i. p. 53, for a description of the Self-acting Brake, since revived by M. Guérin, with the addition of a centrifugal apparatus. Mr. Stephenson's original idea, of employing the momentum or surplus velocity of the train for the purpose of braking the wheels of the carriages, and thereby stopping the train, has been ingeniously worked out by M. Guérin, who admits that his invention is but the complement of the Self-acting Brake above referred to.
chap. xxxv.] OPENING OF TRENT VALLEY RAILWAY. 487
way. The formal opening took place on the 26th of June, 1847, the line having thus been constructed in less than two years. What a change had come over the spirit of the landed gentry since the time when George Stephenson had first projected a railway through that district Then they were up in arms against him, characterising him as a devastator and spoiler of their estates; now he was hailed as one of the greatest benefactors of the age. Sir Robert Peel, the chief political personage in England, welcomed him as a guest and a friend, and spoke of him as the chief of our practical philosophers. A dozen members of parliament, seven baronets, with all the landed magnates of the district, assembled to celebrate the opening of the railway. The clergy were there to bless the enterprise, and to bid all hail to railway progress, as “enabling them to carry on with greater facility those operations in connection with religion which were calculated to be so beneficial to the country.”" The army, speaking through the mouth of General A'Court, acknowledged the vast importance of railways, as tending to improve the military defences of the country. And representatives from eight corporations were there to acknowledge the great benefits which railways had conferred upon the merchants, tradesmen, and working classes of their respective towns and cities. Amongst those present who could not fail to contrast the now triumphant success of railways with the dismal forebodings uttered twenty years before, was Mr. William Yates Peel, one of the earliest supporters of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. Sir Robert Peel made a capital speech on the occasion, pointing out that, at a remote period in the history of British high roads 2000 years ago, Julius"Agricola, who united in his person both engineer and contractor, being the Stephenson and Brassey of his day, - had formed a direct line of communication between London and Chester, though with unfavourable gradients. As to the immense advantages of railways, there could be no manner of doubt; they were, in his judgment, “destined to effect a greater social revolution than any invention since the art of printing was discovered; ” tending, as they did, to promote the moral and social welfare, and to advance the political security of the kingdom, to establish new bonds of connection between England and Ireland, and to develope the industrial energies and resources of both countries. Sir Robert, in the course of his speech, invited “the lions of the broad and narrow gauge" to forget the memory of all former grievances for that day, even if, unfortunately, they were doomed to be revived again on the morrow. Mr. Stephenson, however, was so strongly convinced of the great mistakes which had been committed of late years —mistakes which had, in no small measure, been encouraged by Sir Robert Peel himself, greatly to the damage of railway property,+that he would not omit the opportunity, as he said, of “giving him a rub” on the occasion, and speaking out his mind freely on the subject of direct lines, steep gradients, and the atmospheric “humbug,” all of which had at one time been patronised by Sir Robert, when Premier. In the course of his reply, he said, “When I look back to the time when I first projected a locomotive railway in this neighbourhood, I cannot but feel astonished at the opinions which then prevailed. We were told, even by celebrated engineers, that it would be impossible ever to establish railways. Judge, then, how proud must now be the feelings of one who, foreseeing the results of railways, has risen from the lower ranks on their success! I may venture to make a reference to what the right honourable baronet said relative
* Speech of Archdeacon Hodson at the opening of the Trent Valley Railway.