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CHAP. xx.] DIFFICULTY IN FORMATION OF TUNNEL.
and overcome in the formation of the tunnel, the rock vary. ing in hardness and texture at different parts. In some places the miners were deluged by water, which surged from the soft blue shale found at the lowest level of the tunnel. In other places, beds of wet sand were cut through; and there careful propping and pinning were necessary to prevent the roof from tumbling in, until the masonry to support it could be erected. On one occasion, while Mr. Stephenson was absent from Liverpool, a mass of loose moss-earth and sand fell from the roof, which had been insufficiently propped. The miners withdrew from the work; and on Mr. Stephenson's return, he found them in a refractory state, refusing to re-enter the tunnel. He induced them, however, by his example, to return to their labours; and when the roof had been seeured, the work went on again as before. When there was danger, he was always ready to share it with the men; and gathering confidence from his fearlessness, they proceeded vigorously with the undertaking, boring and mining their way towards the light.
By the end of 1828, the directors found they had expended 460,0001. on the works, and that they were still far from completion. They looked at the loss of interest on this large investment, and began to grumble at the delay. They desired to see their capital becoming productive; and in the spring of 1829, they urged the engineer to push on the works with increased vigour. Mr. Cropper, one of the directors, who took an active interest in their progress, said to him one day, “ Now, George, thou must get on with the railway, and have it finished without further delay: thou must really have it ready. for opening by the first day of January next.” “ Consider the heavy character of the works, sir, and how much we have been delayed by the want of money, not to speak of the wetness of the weather: it is impossible.” “Impossible!” rejoined Cropper; “I wish I could get Napoleon to thee-he
would tell thee there is no such word as 'impossible' in the vocabulary.” “Tush! ”exclaimed Stephenson, with warmth; “don't speak to me about Napoleon! Give me men, money, and materials, and I will do what Napoleon couldn't dodrive a railroad from Liverpool to Manchester over Chat Moss !” And truly, the formation of a high road over that bottomless bog was, apparently, a far more difficult task than the hewing even of Napoleon's far-famed road across the Simplon.
The directors had more than once been pressed by want of funds to meet the heavy expenditure. The country had scarcely yet recovered from the general panic and crash of 1825; and it was with difficulty that the calls could be raised from the shareholders. A loan of 100,0001. was obtained from the Exchequer Loan Commissioners in 1826; and in 1829 an Act was obtained enabling the company to raise further capital, to provide working plant for the railway. Two Acts were also obtained during the progress of the works, enabling deviations and alterations to be made, one to improve the curves and shorten the line near Rainhill, and the other to carry the line across the Irwell into the town of Manchester. Thanks to the energy of the engineer, the industry of his labourers, and the improved supply of money by the directors, the railway made rapid progress in the course of the year 1829. Double sets of labourers were employed on Chat Moss and at other points, in carrying on the works by night and day, the night shifts working by torch and fire-light; and at length, the work advancing at all points, the directors saw their way to the satisfactory completion of the undertaking.
It may well be supposed that Mr. Stephenson's time was fully occupied in superintending the extensive and, for the most part, novel works connected with the railway, and that even his extraordinary powers of labour and endurance were
chap. xx.] ROUTINE OF HIS LIFE AT THIS TIME.
taxed to the utmost during the four years that they were in progress. Although he had able helpers in the young engineers whom he had selected to take charge of the different “ lengths” of the line, every detail in the plans was directed and arranged by himself. Every bridge, from the simplest to the most complicated, including the then novel structure of the “ skew bridge,” iron girders, siphons, fixed engines, the machinery for working the tunnel at the Liverpool end, had all to be thought out by his own head, and reduced to definite plans by his own hands. Besides all this, he had to design the working plant in anticipation of the opening of the railway. He planned the waggons, trucks, and carriages, and himself superintended their manufacture. The turntables, switches, crossings, and signals,-in short, the entire structure and machinery of the line, from the turning of the first sod to the running of the first train of carriages upon the railway,— went on under his immediate supervision.
He had no staff of experienced assistants,—not even a staff of draughtsmen in his office,- but only a few young pupils learning their business; and frequently he was without even their help. The time of his engineering inspectors was fully occupied in the actual superintendence of the works at different parts of the line; and he directed all their more important operations in person. It was in the midst of this vast accumulation of work and responsibility that the battle of the locomotive engine had to be fought,- a battle, not merely against material difficulties, but against the still more trying obstructions of deeply-rooted mistrust and prejudice on the part of a considerable minority of the directors.
The usual routine of his life at this time — if routine it might be called — was, to rise early, by sunrise in summer and before it in winter, and thus “ break the back of the the extensive workshops at Edgehill, where most of the “plant" for the line was manufactured. Then, returning home, after a hurried breakfast, he would ride along the works to inspect their progress, and push them on with greater energy where needful. On other days he would prepare for the much less congenial engagement of meeting the board, which was often a cause of great anxiety and pain to him ; for it was difficult to satisfy men of all tempers, and some of these not of the most generous sort. On such occasions he might be seen with his right-hand thumb thrust through the topmost button-hole of his coat-breast, vehemently hitching his right shoulder, as was his habit when labouring under any considerable excitement. On other days he would take an early ride before breakfast, to inspect the progress of the Sankey viaduct. He had a favourite horse, brought by him from Newcastle, called “ Bobby,”— 80 tractable that, with his rider on his back, he would walk up to a locomotive with the steam blowing off, and put his nose against it without shying. “Bobby," saddled and bridled, was brought to Mr. Stephenson's door betimes in the morning; and mounting him, he would ride the fifteen miles to Sankey, putting up at a little public house which then stood upon the banks of the canal. There he had his breakfast of " crowdie,” which he made with his own hands. It consisted of oatmeal stirred into a basin of hot water,— a sort of porridge,— which was supped with cold sweet milk. After this frugal breakfast, he would go upon the works, and remain there, riding from point to point, for the greater part of the day. If he returned home before mid-day, it would be to examine the paysheets in the different departments, sent in by the assistant engineers, or by the foremen of the workshops; all this he did himself, with the greatest care, requiring a full explanation of every item.
was always of a plain and frugal description, he would proceed to dispose of his correspondence, or prepare sketches of drawings, and give instructions as to their completion. He would occasionally refresh himself for this evening work by a short doze, which, however, he would never admit had exceeded the limits of “ winking,” to use his own term. Mr. Frederick Swanwick, one of his most rising pupils, officiated as his amanuensis ; and he then remarked — what in after years he could better appreciate — the clear, terse, and vigorous style of his dictation; there was nothing superfluous in it; but it was close, direct, and to the point,-in short, thoroughly business-like. And if, in passing through the pen of the amanuensis, his meaning happened in any way to be distorted or modified, it did not fail to escape his detection, though he was always tolerant of any liberties taken with his own form of expression, so long as the words written down conveyed his real meaning. His strong natural acumen showed itself even in such matters as grammar and composition,-a department of knowledge in which, it might be supposed, he could scarcely have had either time or opportunity to acquire much information. But here, as in all other things, his shrewd common sense came to his help; and his simple, vigorous English might almost be cited as a model of composition.
His letters and reports written, and his sketches of drawings made and explained, the remainder of the evening was usually devoted to conversation with his wife and those of his pupils who lived under his roof, and constituted, as it were, part of the family. He delighted to test the knowledge of his young companions, and to question them upon the principles of mechanics. If they were not quite “ up to the mark” on every point, there was no escaping detection by any evasive or specious explanations on their part. These always met