Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

working the tramway used for the conveyance of lime from Merstham to Wandsworth in Surrey. The line has long since been abandoned, though the traveller by the Brighton railway can still discern the marks of the old road along the hillside on the south of Croydon."

“I found delight,” said Sir Richard, “in witnessing at Wandsworth the economy of horse labour on the iron railway. Yet a heavy sigh escaped me as I thought of the inconceivable millions of money which had been spent about Malta, four or five of which might have been the means of extending double lines of iron railway from London to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Holyhead, Milford, Falmouth, Yarmouth, Dover, and Portsmouth. A reward of a single thousand would have supplied coaches and other vehicles, of various degrees of speed, with the best tackle for readily turning out; and we might, ere this, have witnessed our mail coaches running at the rate of ten miles an hour drawn by a single horse, or im

* Charles Knight thus pleasantly describes this old road: — “The earliest railway for public traffic in England was one passing from Merstham to Wandsworth, through Croydon; a small single line, on which a miserable team of lean mules or donkeys, some thirty years ago, might be seen crawling at the rate of four miles an hour, with several trucks of stone and lime behind them. It was commenced in 1801, opened in 1803 ; and the men of science of that day — we cannot say that the respectable name of Stephenson was not among them (Stephenson was then a brakesman at Killingworth] - tested its capabilities, and found that one horse could draw some thirty-five tons at six miles in the hour, and then, with prophetic wisdom, declared that railways could never be worked profitably. The old Croydon Railway is no longer used. The genius loci must look with wonder on the gigantic offspring of the little railway, which has swallowed up its own sire. Lean mules no longer crawl leisurely along the little rails with trucks of stone through Croydon, once perchance during the day, but the whistle and the rush of the locomotive are now heard all day long. Not a few loads of lime, but all London and its contents, by comparison — men, women, children, horses, dogs, oxen, sheep, pigs, carriages, merchandise, food — would seem to be now-a-days passing through Croydon; for day after day, more than 100 journeys are made by the great railroads which pass the place.”

CHAP. xiv.] SPECULATIONS ABOUT RAILWAYS.

159

pelled fifteen miles an hour by Blenkinsop's steam-engine. Such would have been a legitimate motive for overstepping the income of a nation; and the completion of so great and useful a work would have afforded rational ground for public triumph in general jubilee.”

Although Sir Richard Phillips's estimate of the cost of constructing railways was very fallacious, as experience has since proved, his estimate of the admirable uses to which they might be applied- though it was practically impossible for Blenkinsop's engine to have travelled on cogged rails at fifteen miles an hour — was sagacious and far-seeing in a remarkable degree.

There were other speculators who, about the same time, were urging and predicting the adoption of railways as a mode of rapid transit. For instance, Mr. Edgeworth, in a communication to James Watt, dated the 7th of August, 1813, observed :-“ I have always thought that steam would become the universal lord, and that we should in time scorn post-horses. An iron railroad would be a cheaper thing than a road on the common construction.”* These, however, were merely guesses at what might be done, and were of no assistance towards the practical solution of the problem. Yet they show that many advanced minds were already anticipating the adoption of steam power for purposes of railway traction. At the same time there was at work a more profitable class of labourers—the public-spirited men who were engaged in projecting and actually forming railways to supply the wants of important districts of population. Among the most prominent of these were William James of West Bromwich, and Edward Pease of Darlington.

William James was instrumental in giving a great impetus to the question of railway locomotion; and though he did

* Muirhead's Mechanical Inventions of James Watt, vol. i. p. 240.

not discover the locomotive, he did what was the next best thing to it, he discovered George Stephenson. He was a man of considerable fortune, and occupied an influential position in society. Possessed of a good address, and mixing freely with men of the highest ranks, he was enabled to gain a hearing for his speculations where humbler persons had no chance of being listened to. Besides being an extensive landowner and land-agent, he was engaged as an iron and coalminer, and at one time occupied the honourable position of chairman of the Staffordshire iron-masters.

Mr. James was a bold, and, as many considered him, a reckless projector. When he had determined upon any scheme, he was quite regardless of the cost at which he carried it out. He did not confine himself to projects connected with his own particular interests, but was constantly engaged in devising things for the public, which the public shook its cautious head at, and would not have at any price. At a very early period of his life he was an advocate of railways. It was not merely a sober conviction of their utility that influenced him; the idea of railway locomotion haunted him like a passion. He went to Camborne, in Cornwall, to see Trevithick upon the subject, in 1803, and witnessed the performances of his engine at Merthyr Tydvil in the fol. lowing year. In an article which he published in one of the early numbers of the “Railway Magazine,” he stated that as early as 1803 he contemplated the projection of a railway between Liverpool and Manchester.* Many years, however, elapsed before he proceeded to enter upon the survey. In the meantime he was occupied with other projects.

* There were numerous projectors of railways for the accommodation of the large towns, even at that early period. Thus, we find in the Leeds Mercury of the 16th January, 1802, a letter signed “Mercator,” in which the formation of a line of railway from Leeds to Selby was strongly recommended. Thirty years, however, passed, before that railway was formed.

CHAP. Xiv.] SPECULATIONS ABOUT RAILWAYS.

159

pelled fifteen miles an hour by Blenkinsop's steam-engine. Such would have been a legitimate motive for overstepping the income of a nation; and the completion of so great and useful a work would have afforded rational ground for public triumph in general jubilee."

Although Sir Richard Phillips's estimate of the cost of constructing railways was very fallacious, as experience has since proved, his estimate of the admirable uses to which they might be applied- though it was practically impossible for Blenkinsop's engine to have travelled on cogged rails at fifteen miles an hour—was sagacious and far-seeing in a remarkable degree.

There were other speculators who, about the same time, were urging and predicting the adoption of railways as a mode of rapid transit. For instance, Mr. Edgeworth, in a communication to James Watt, dated the 7th of August, 1813, observed :—“I have always thought that steam would become the universal lord, and that we should in time scorn post-horses. An iron railroad would be a cheaper thing than a road on the common construction.”* These, however, were merely guesses at what might be done, and were of no assistance towards the practical solution of the problem. Yet they show that many advanced minds were already anticipating the adoption of steam power for purposes of railway traction. At the same time there was at work a more profitable class of labourers—the public-spirited men who were engaged in projecting and actually forming railways to supply the wants of important districts of population. Among the most prominent of these were William James of West Bromwich, and Edward Pease of Darlington.

William James was instrumental in giving a great impetus to the question of railway locomotion; and though he did

* Muir head's Mechanical Inventions of James Watt, vol. i. p. 240.

suggestion, however, met with no favour, and his speculations soon turned in another direction.

We have before us an engraved plan, dated 1820, of a “ Central Junction Railway” projected by Mr. James, which was extensively circulated by him amongst influential persons, showing a comprehensive scheme of railways, connecting London with Oxford, and, through his railway at Moreton-in-the-Marsh, with Stratford-on-Avon and Birmingham, a branch line giving accommodation to Cheltenham and Gloucester. But this, too, remained merely a project.

Mr. Edward Pease, of Darlington, was a man of an entirely different stamp. He too, like Mr. James, was connected with coal-mines, and interested in improving the internal communications of his neighbourhood, chiefly with the object of opening out new markets for the vast stores of coal found in the Bishop Auckland valley above Darlington. But though he was not so ambitious as Mr. James in reference to the extension of railways, the prosperity which attended his one great enterprise did more for their eventual success than all Mr. James's efforts. It would appear that, at first, Mr. Pease contemplated only a horse tramroad between Stockton and Darlington; but as he proceeded with the project, and especially after he had become personally acquainted with George Stephenson, he gradually, but cautiously, became a convert to the locomotive system.

The Stockton and Darlington Railway was an undertaking of great importance, although it was afterwards thrown into the shade by the more brilliant project of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, which was not commenced for several years after. As the first iron road constructed for the purposes of general traffic, and as the first public highway on which locomotive engines were regularly employed, the Stockton and Darlington project unquestionably exercised

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »