Изображения страниц



The project of a line of railway from Liverpool to Manchester was revived in the speculative year 1824. It had not, indeed, been lost sight of by its advocates, who had merely waited for a time in the hope of mitigating the opposition of the powerful canal companies and land-owners. But the interruptions to the conveyance of goods between the two towns had at length become intolerable; and it was a matter of absolute necessity that some mode should be adopted for remedying the evil.

Mr. Sandars continued to hold by his project of a railway; and his first idea, of a solidly constructed tramway, to be worked by horse power, gradually assumed a more comprehensive form. He continued to propagate his ideas upon 'Change, and gradually succeeded in enlisting on his side an increasing number of influential merchants and manufacturers both at Liverpool and Manchester. In 1824 he published a pamphlet, in which he strongly urged the great losses and interruptions to the trade of the district by the delays in the transport of goods; and in the same year a Public Declaration was drawn up, and signed by upwards of 150 of the principal merchants of Liverpool, setting forth that they considered "the present establishments for the transport of goods quite inadequate, and that a new line of


conveyance has become absolutely necessary to conduct the increasing trade of the country with speed, certainty, and economy."

The formation of a third line of water conveyance, in addition to the Mersey and Irwell Canals, was also considered; but it was almost immediately dismissed as impracticable, as the two existing establishments had already possession of all the water. There was no choice left but a tram or railroad, and the very necessities of the case forced on the adoption of the measure. Even though worked by horses, the proposed tramroad would be a valuable auxiliary to the existing means of conveyance. A public meeting was held at Liverpool to consider the best plan to be adopted, and a railway was determined on. A committee was appointed to take the necessary measures; but, as if reluctant to enter upon their arduous struggle with "vested interests," they first waited on Mr. Bradshaw, the Duke of Bridgewater's canal agent, in the hope of persuading him to increase the means of conveyance, as well as to reduce the charges; but they were met by an unqualified refusal. They suggested the expediency of a railway, and invited Mr. Bradshaw to become a proprietor of the shares in it. But his reply was—" All or none!" The canal proprietors were confident in their imagined security. They revelled in the prospect of enjoying in perpetuity their enormous dividends, which were so great that one of their undertakings (the Old Quay) had paid to its thirty-nine proprietors, every other year for half a century, the total amount of their original investment; and the income derived from the Duke of Bridgewater's canal amounted to not less than 100,000Z. a year. As for the proposed railway, the canal proprietors ridiculed it as a chimera. It had been spoken about years before, when Mr. James made his survey, and nothing had come of it then. It would be the same now. The thing,

[ocr errors]


they said, was got up merely to frighten them; but they were not so to be intimidated. The old system must therefore continue; and there was no alternative for the merchants of Liverpool and the manufacturers of Manchester but to submit with the best grace possible to the obstructions and extortions of the canal companies.

In order to form an opinion of the practicability of a railroad, a deputation, consisting of Mr. Sandars, Mr. Lister Ellis, Mr. Henry Booth of Liverpool, and Mr. Kennedy of Manchester, proceeded to Killingworth, to inspect the engines which had been so long in use there. They first went to Darlington, where they found the works of the Stockton line in full progress, though still unfinished. Proceeding next to Killingworth with Mr. Stephenson, they there witnessed the performances of his locomotive engines. The result of their visit was, on the whole, so satisfactory, that on their report being delivered to the committee at Liverpool, it was finally determined to form a company of proprietors for the construction of a double line of railway beween Liverpool and Manchester.

The first prospectus of the scheme was dated the 29 th of October, 1824, and had attached to it the names of the leading merchants of Liverpool,—amongst them those of Gladstone, Lawrence, Ewart, Ellis, Moss, Cropper, and other well-known men, representatives of the wealth, the enterprise, and the energy of that great seaport. Nor were the manufacturers of Manchester behind the merchants and bankers of Liverpool in signifying their adhesion to the measure; for amongst the first subscribers we find the influential names of Birley, Potter, Sharpe, and Garnett, of that town. Mr. Charles Lawrence, mayor of Liverpool, was appointed chairman of the provisional committee.

The prospectus was a carefully prepared document, very

p a

[ocr errors]

unlike the inflated balloons which were sent up by railway speculators in succeeding years. It set forth as its main object the establishment of a safe and cheap mode of transit for merchandise, by which the conveyance of goods between the two towns would be effected in four or five hours (instead of thirty-six hours, as by the canal), whilst the charges would be reduced one-third. On looking at the prospectus now, it is curious to note that, while the advantages anticipated from the carriage of merchandise were strongly insisted upon, the conveyance of passengers—which proved to be the chief source of profit—was only very cautiously referred to. "As a cheap and expeditious means of conveyance for travellers," says the prospectus in conclusion, "the railway holds out the fair prospect of a public accommodation, the magnitude and importance of which cannot be immediately ascertained."

The estimated expense of forming the line was set down at 400,000/.,—a sum which was eventually found to be quite inadequate. A subscription list was opened, and speedily filled up. Four thousand shares of 100/. each were created; and it was a condition of the subscription that no one person was to hold more than ten shares. This secured a large and influential proprietary; and such was the interest felt in the measure at Liverpool and Manchester,—so strongly convinced were the merchants, manufacturers, and tradesmen of the necessity of the undertaking, and so determined that it should now be carried out,—-that if the amount of capital had been ten times as great, it would immediately have been subscribed for.

"While the project was still under discussion in its earlier stages, its promoters, desirous of removing the doubts which existed as to the employment of steam-carriages on the proposed railway, sent a second deputation to Killingworth for

the purpose of again observing the action of Mr. Stephenson's


Chap, Xviii.] MR. SYLVESTER'S REPORT. 213

engines. The deputation was on this occasion accompanied by Mr. Sylvester, an ingenious mechanic and engineer, who afterwards presented an able report on the subject to the committee.* Mr. Sylvester showed that the high-pressure engines employed by Mr. Stephenson were both safe and economical in their working. With respect to the speed of the engines, he says:—"Although it would be practicable to go at any speed, limited by the means of creating steam, the size of the wheels, and the number of strokes in the engine, it would not be safe to go at a greater rate than nine or ten miles an hour." This was considered a very high rate of speed in those days; and speculators were considered reckless who ventured to express themselves in favour of any more accelerated pace.

Satisfactory though the calculations and statements of Mr. Sylvester were, the cautious projectors of the railway were not yet quite satisfied; and a third journey was made to Killingworth, in January, 1825, by several gentlemen of the committee, accompanied by practical engineers, for the purpose of being personal eye-witnesses of what steam-carriages were able to perform upon a railway. There they saw a train, consisting of a locomotive and loaded waggons, weighing in all fifty-four tons, travelling at the average rate of about seven miles an hour, the greatest speed being about nine and a half miles an hour. But when the engine was run by itself, with only one waggon attached, containing twenty gentlemen, five of whom were engineers, the speed attained was from ten to twelve miles an hour. In the following month, Mr. (afterwards Sir Wm.) Cubitt, then an ingenious millwright at Ipswich, made a separate

* Report of Railroads and Locomotive Engines, addressed to the Chairman and Committee of the Liverpool and Manchester projected Railroad. By Charles Sylvester, Civil Engineer. Liverpool: 1825.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »