« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
those concerned.” Adverting to a project for forming a railway to Woolwich, by which passengers were to be drawn by locomotive engines, moving with twice the velocity and with greater safety than ordinary coaches, the reviewer proceeded: — " What can be more palpably absurd and ridiculous than the prospect held out of locomotives travelling twice as fast as stage coaches! We should as soon expect the people of Woolwich to suffer themselves to be fired off upon one of Congreve's ricochet rockets, as trust themselves to the mercy of such a machine going at such a rate. We will back old Father Thames against the Woolwich Railway for any sum. We trust that Parliament will, in all railways it may sanction, limit the speed to eight or nine miles an hour, which we entirely agree with Mr. Sylvester is as great as can be ventured on with safety."
The article in the Quarterly, in which these passages occur, was nevertheless an able argument in favour of the formation of the proposed railway from Liverpool to Manchester. It denounced the monopoly of the carriage of merchandise between the two towns, attempted to be upheld by the canal companies,-argued against their so-called “vested rights,” which, it averred, could not stand for a moment against the rights of the million, if it could be shown that by an improved application of steam the transport of goods can be effected in a more safe, certain, expeditious, and economical manner, and it also combated the fears of the landlords lest their property should be injured by the proposed new line of communication. “It has been said,” observed the writer, “ that an opposition to railroads will be made on the part of the landed proprietors; but the absurdity of this is so glaring that it must defeat itself. Country gentlemen may not at first see their own interest, but their tenants will find it out for them; they will discern immediately the advantage which a railroad will confer along
CHAP. XVII.] ARTICLE IN THE “ QUARTERLY.”
the whole line of country through which it passes, by the increased facility of sending their produce to market, and of receiving the objects of their wants in return."
The article was so strongly favourable to the proposed railway, that allegations were even made by the opponents of the bill, when in committee, that the writer had been bought by the Liverpool and Manchester party; which was, of course, a mere licence of counsel. The objections urged by the reviewer against the high speed attainable on railways,—then a mere matter of speculation,—were also entertained by nearly all the practical and scientific men of the kingdom, and by the public generally. Taken as a whole, the article was well-timed, and eminently useful.
MR. STEPHENSON EXAMINED BEFORE THE PARLIAMEN
TARY COMMITTEE ON THE LIVERPOOL AND MANCHESTER BILL.
The Liverpool and Manchester Bill went into Committee of the House of Commons on the 21st of March, 1825. There was an extraordinary array of legal talent on the occasion, but especially on the side of the opponents to the measure. Their wealth and influence enabled them to retain the ablest counsel at the bar. Mr. (since Baron) Alderson and Mr. Stephenson appeared on behalf of Mrs. Atherton, Miss Byrom, and the Rev. John Clowes; Mr. (afterwards Baron) Parke appeared for Charles Orrell, Esq., and Sir W. Gerrard, Bart.; Mr. Rose for the Barton Road Trustees; Mr. Macdonnell and Mr. Harrison for the Duke of Bridgewater's Trustees; Mr. Erle for the Mersey and Irwell Navigation Company; and Mr. Cullen for the Leeds and Liverpool Canal Company. These gentlemen made common cause with each other in their opposition to the bill, the case for which was conducted by Mr. Adam, Mr. Serjeant Spankie, Mr. William Brougham, and Mr. Joy.
Evidence was taken at great length as to the difficulties and delays in forwarding raw goods of all kinds from Liverpool to Manchester, as also in the conveyance of manufactured articles from Manchester to Liverpool. The evidence adduced in support of the bill on these grounds was overwhelming. The utter inadequacy of the existing modes chap. xix.] THE LIVERPOOL AND MANCHESTER BILL. 227
of conveyance to carry on satisfactorily the large and rapidlygrowing trade between the two towns was fully proved. But then came the gist of the promoters' case — the evidence to prove the practicability of a railroad to be worked by locomotive power. Mr. Adam, in his opening speech, referred to the cases of the Hetton and the Killingworth railroads, where heavy goods were safely and economically transported by means of locomotive engines. “ None of the tremendous consequences,” he observed,“ have ensued from the use of steam in land carriage that have been stated. The horses have not started, nor the cows ceased to give their milk, nor have ladies miscarried at the sight of these things going forward at the rate of four miles and a half an hour." Notwithstanding the petition of two ladies, alleging the great danger to be apprehended from the bursting of the boilers of such engines, he urged the safety of the high-pressure engine when the boilers were constructed of wrought-iron; and as to the rate at which they could travel, he expressed his full conviction that such engines “could supply force to drive a carriage at the rate of five or six miles an hour.”
The taking of the evidence on the impediments thrown in the way of trade and commerce by the existing system extended over a month, and it was the 21st of April before the Committee went into the engineering evidence, which was the vital part of the question. Mr. Rastrick, then a manufacturer of steam-engines at Stourbridge, near Birmingham, was examined as to the safety of high-pressure engines. He had made a travelling engine of this sort for Mr. Trevithick about twelve years before (in 1813), which was exhibited in London, when a circular railroad was laid down, and the engine was run against a horse for a wager. He had also seen the locomotive engines of Mr. Stephenson at work on the Killingworth and Hetton railroads. He had examined them
together with Mr. Cubitt, Mr. James Walker, Mr. Sylvester, and others, and was satisfied of their applicability to the purposes of railway traction. He described to the Committee the proper form of the boiler, and the arrangement of the valves, so as to secure complete safety in the working of the locomotive. He was of opinion that such an engine might be constructed as would take forty tons’ weight, at the rate of six miles an hour, with perfect ease and safety.
On the 25th of April, Mr. George Stephenson was called into the witness-box. It was his first appearance before a Committee of the House of Commons, and he well knew what he had to expect. He was aware that the whole force of the opposition was to be directed against him ; and if they. could break down his evidence, the canal monopoly might yet be upheld for a time. Many years afterwards, when looking back at his position on this trying occasion, he said : -“When I went to Liverpool to plan a line from thence to Manchester, I pledged myself to the directors to attain a speed of ten miles an hour. I said I had no doubt the locomotive might be made to go much faster, but that we had better be moderate at the beginning. The directors said I was quite right; for that if, when they went to Parliament, I talked of going at a greater rate than ten miles an hour, I should put a cross upon the concern. It was not an easy task for me to keep the engine down to ten miles an hour, but it must be done, and I did my best. I had to place myself in that most unpleasant of all positions—the witnessbox of a Parliamentary Committee. I was not long in it, before I began to wish for a hole to creep out at ! I could not find words to satisfy either the Committee or myself. I was subjected to the cross-examination of eight or ten barristers, purposely, as far as possible, to bewilder me. Some member of the Committee asked if I was a foreigner, and another hinted that I was mad. But I put up with every rebuff,