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MR. STEPHENSON APPOINTED ENGINEER OF THE STOCKTON
AND DARLINGTON RAILWAY.
SOME time elapsed after the passing of the Act authorising the construction of the Stockton and Darlington Railway, before any active steps were taken to carry it into effect. Doubts had been raised whether the line was the best that could be adopted for the district; and the subscribers generally were not so sanguine about their undertaking as to induce them to press on the formation of the railway.
One day, about the end of the year 1821, two strangers knocked at the door of Mr. Pease's house in Darlington; and the message was brought to him that some persons from Killingworth wanted to speak with him. They were invited in, on which one of the visitors introduced himself as Nicholas Wood, viewer at Killingworth, and then, turning to his companion, he introduced him to Mr. Pease as George Stephenson, of the same place. Mr. Stephenson came forward and handed to Mr. Pease a letter from Mr. Lambert, the manager at Killingworth, in which it was stated that the bearer was the engine-wright at the pits, that he had had experience in the laying out of railways and had given satisfaction to his employers, and that he would therefore recommend him to the notice of Mr. Pease if he stood in need of the services of such a person. Mr. Pease entered into conversation with his visitors, and soon ascertained the object of their errand. Stephenson had heard of the passing of the Stockton and Darlington Act, and desiring to increase his railway experience, and also to employ in some larger field the practical knowledge he had already gained, he determined to visit Mr. Pease, the known projector of the undertaking, with the view of being employed to carry it out. He had brought with him his friend Nicholas Wood, for the purpose at the same time of relieving his diffidence, and supporting his application.
Mr. Pease liked the appearance of his visitor. “ There was,” as he afterwards remarked, in speaking of Stephenson, “ such an honest, sensible look about him, and he seemed so modest and unpretending. He spoke in the strong Northumbrian dialect of his district, and described himself as only the engine-wright at Killingworth; that's what he was.'”
Mr. Pease very soon saw that his visitor was the man for his purpose. The whole plans of the railway being still in an undetermined state, Mr. Pease was glad to have the opportunity of gathering from Mr. Stephenson the results of his experience. The latter strongly recommended a railway in preference to a tramroad, in which Mr. Pease was disposed to concur with him. The conversation next turned on the tractive power which the company intended to employ, and Mr. Pease said that they had based their whole calculations on the employment of horse power. “I was so satisfied,” said he afterwards, “that a horse upon an iron road would draw ten tons for one ton on a common road, that I felt sure that before long the railway would become the King's Highway."
But Mr. Pease was scarcely prepared for the bold assertion made by his visitor, that the locomotive engine with which he had been working the Killingworth Railway for many years past was worth fifty horses, and that engines
VISIT TO MR. PEASE.
made after a similar plan would yet entirely supersede all horse power upon railroads. Mr. Stephenson was daily becoming more positive as to the superiority of his locomotive; and on this, as on all subsequent occasions, he strongly urged Mr. Pease to adopt it. “Come over to Killingworth,” said he, “and see what my Blutcher can do; seeing is believing, sir.” And Mr. Pease promised that on some early day he would go over to Killingworth with his friend Thomas Richardson, and take a look at this wonderful machine that was to supersede horses.
On Mr. Pease referring to the difficulties and the opposition which the projectors of the railway had had to encounter, and the obstacles which still lay in their way, Stephenson said to him, “ I think, sir, I have some knowledge of craniology, and from what I see of your head, I feel sure that if you will fairly buckle to this railway, you are the man successfully to carry it through.” “I think so, too,” rejoined Mr. Pease; " and I may observe to thee, that if thou succeed in making this a good railway, thou may consider thy fortune as good as made.” He added that all they would require at present was an estimate of the cost of re-surveying the line, with the direction of which the company were not quite satisfied; and as they had already paid away several hundred pounds, and found themselves very little advanced, Mr. Pease asked that this new survey should be done at as little expense as possible. This Stephenson readily assented to; and after Mr. Pease had pledged himself to bring his application for the appointment of engineer before the Directors on an early day, and to support it with his influence, the two visitors prepared to take their leave, informing Mr. Pease that they intended to return as they had come, “ by nip; ” that is, they would obtain a sort of smuggled lift on the stage coach, by tipping Jehu,- for in those days the stage coachmen were wont to regard all casual roadside passengers as their special perquisite. And thus the two contrived to make a cheap journey of it between Darlington and Killingworth.
Mr. Pease having made further inquiries respecting the character and qualifications of George Stephenson, and having received from John Grimshaw - also a Friend, the inventor of endless spinning-a very strong recommendation of him as the right man for the intended work, he brought the subject of his application before the directors of the Stockton and Darlington Company. They resolved to adopt his recommendation that a railway be formed instead of a tramroad; and they further requested Mr. Pease to write to Mr. Stephenson, which he accordingly did, requesting him to report as to the practicability, or otherwise, of the line as laid out by Mr. Overton, and to state his recommendations as to any deviations or improvements in its course, together with estimates of comparative expenses. “In short,” said Mr. Pease, “ we wish thee to proceed in all thy levels, estimates, and calculations, with that care and economy which would influence thee if the whole of the work were thy own."
Mr. Stephenson replied (August 2nd, 1821) that the resurvey of the line would occupy at least four weeks, and that his charge would include all necessary assistance for the accomplishment of the survey, estimates of the expense of cuts and batteries (since called cuttings and embankments) on the different projected lines, together with all remarks, reports, &c., on the same ; also the comparative cost of malleable and cast-iron rails, laying the same, winning and preparing the blocks of stone, and all other materials wanted to complete the line. “I could not do this,” said he, “ for less than 1401., allowing me to be moderately paid. Such a survey would of course have to be made before the work could be begun, as it is impossible to form any idea of contracting for the cuts and batteries by the former one; and I
RE-SURVEY OF THE LINE.
assure you I shall, in completing the undertaking, act with that economy which would influence me if the whole of the work was my own."
About the end of September Mr. Stephenson went over the line of the proposed railway, for the purpose of suggesting such improvements and deviations as he might consider desirable. He went over every foot of the ground himself, accompanied by an assistant and a chainman,-his son Robert, who had recently returned from college, entering the figures while his father took the sights. After being engaged in the work at intervals for about six weeks, Mr. Stephenson reported the result of his survey to the Board of Directors, and showed that by certain deviations, a line shorter by about three miles might be constructed at a considerable saving in expense, while at the same time more favourable gradients, an important consideration — would be secured.
The directors of the company, being satisfied that the improvements suggested in the line, and the saving which would thus be effected in mileage and in money, fully warranted them in incurring the trouble, delay, and expense of making a further application to Parliament for an amended Act, took the requisite steps with this object. And in the meantime they directed Mr. Stephenson to prepare the specifications for the rails and chairs, and make arrangements to enter into contracts for the supply of the stone and wooden blocks on which the rails and chairs were to be laid. It was determined in the first place to proceed with the works at those parts of the line where no deviation was proposed; and the first rail of the Stockton and Darlington Railway was laid with considerable ceremony, by Thomas Meynell, Esq., of Yarm, at a point near St. John's Well, Stockton, on the 23rd of May, 1822.
It is worthy of note that Mr. Stephenson, in making his