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not unfrequent winding up of his story, addressed to the pupils about him, was — “ Ah! ye young fellows don't know what wark is in these days!” Mr. Swanwick delights recalling to mind how seldom, if ever, an angry or captious word, or an angry look, marred the enjoyment of those evenings. The presence of Mrs. Stephenson conferred upon them an additional charm : amiable, kind-hearted, and intelligent, she shared quietly in the pleasure ; and the atmosphere of comfort which always pervaded her home, contributed in no small degree to render it a centre of cheerful, hopeful intercourse, and of earnest, honest industry. She was a wife who well deserved, what she through life retained, the strong and unremitting affection of her husband.
When Mr. Stephenson retired for the night, it was not always that he permitted himself to sink into slumber. Like Brindley, he worked out many a difficult problem in bed; and for hours he would turn over in his mind and study how to overcome some obstacle, or to mature some project, on which his thoughts were bent. Some remark inadvertently dropped by him at the breakfast-table in the morning, served to show that he had been stealing some hours from the past night in reflection and study. Yet he would rise at his accustomed early hour, and there was no abatement of his usual energy in carrying on the business of the day.
Such is a brief sketch of Mr. Stephenson's private life and habits while carrying on the works of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway.
A PRIZE OFFERED FOR THE BEST LOCOMOTIVE ENGINE.
THE works were far advanced towards completion before the directors had determined as to the kind of tractive power to be employed in working the railway when opened for traffic. It was necessary that they should now come to a decision, and many board meetings were held for the purpose of discussing the subject. The old-fashioned and well-tried system of horse haulage was not without its advocates; but, looking at the large amount of traffic which there was to be conveyed, and at the probable delay in the transit from station to station, if this method were adopted, the directors, after a visit made by them to the Northumberland and Durham railways in 1828, came to the conclusion that the employment of horse power was inadmissible.
The tunnel at Liverpool had been finished, a firm road had been formed over Chat Moss, and yet the directors had got no further than this decision against the employment of horse power. It was felt that some mechanical agency must be adopted; but whether fixed or locomotive power, was still a moot point. Fixed engines had many advocates, the locomotive very few: it stood as yet almost in a minority of one — George Stephenson. The prejudice against the employment of the latter power had even increased since the Liverpool and Manchester Bill underwent its first ordeal in the House of Commons. In proof of this, we may mention that the Newcastle and Carlisle Railway Act was CHAP. XXI.] PREJUDICE AGAINST THE LOCOMOTIVE.
conceded in 1829, on the express condition that it should not be worked by locomotives, but by horses only.
Grave doubts existed as to the practicability of working a large traffic by means of travelling engines. Thus, Sir William Cowling, who was appointed by the Emperor Alexander of Russia to examine the internal communications of England, and who visited the Stockton and Darlington Railway after it was opened for traffic, declared that it could never answer as a route for passengers, in comparison with stage coaches. He expressed his decided preference for the Atmospheric Railway, then proposed by Mr. Vallance between Brighton and Shoreham, which he considered “ very far superior” to the locomotive system. Mr. Palmer, in his “ Description of a Railway,” declared that “there is no instance of any locomotive engine having (regularly, and as a constant rate) travelled faster than, if so fast as, six miles an hour.” Vallance, in his letter to Ricardo, pronounced that “locomotive engines cannot, on an open railway, ever be driven so fast as horses will draw us ;” and that railways as an investment would be unproductive, and as an effective means of transit a failure. Tredgold, in his “ Practical
Treatise on Railroads and Carriages,” dismissed the locomotive in favour of the fixed-engine system, which he pronounced to be cheaper as well as safer. “ Locomotives," he said, “must always be objectionable on a railroad for general use, where it is attempted to give them a considerable degree of speed.” As to the speed of railway travelling being equal to that of horses on common roads, Mr. Tredgold entertained great doubts. “That any general system of carrying passengers would answer, to go at a velocity exceeding ten miles an hour, or thereabouts, is extremely improbable.” *
* Tredgold on Railroads, 2nd ed. p. 119.
The most celebrated engineers offered no opinion on the subject. They did not believe in the locomotive, and would not even give themselves the trouble to examine it. The ridicule with which George Stephenson had been assailed by the barristers before the Parliamentary Committee had pleased them greatly. They did not relish the idea of a man who had picked up his experience at Newcastle coal-pits appearing in the capacity of a leading engineer before Parliament, and attempting to establish a new system of internal communication in the country. Telford and the Rennies were then the great lights of the engineering world. The former was consulted by the Government on the subject of the power to be employed to work the Liverpool line, on the occasion of the directors applying to the Exchequer Loan Commissioners to forego their security of 30 per cent of the calls, which the directors wished to raise to enable them to proceed more expeditiously with the works. Mr. Telford's report was, however, so unsatisfactory that the Commissioners would not release any part of the calls. All that Mr.
Telford would say on the subject of the power to be employed was, that the use of horses * had been done away with by in
* The engineers who were examined before Parliament in support of the second Liverpool and Manchester Bill, were opposed to the locomotive, in their entire ignorance of its construction and properties ; indeed they would not give themselves the trouble to understand it. Their intention was so to lay out the line that it should be worked by horses. One of the gradients at Rainhill, as originally planned by them, was very steep, about one in fifty, and the counsel for the opposition, in cross-examining one of the eminent engineers employed for the promoters, asked him if he knew “how much additional power would be required to surmount a gradient of one in fifty.” “Not very much," replied the engineer; "a little more whip-cord will do it.” The counsel for the opposition, in the course of his reply, alluded to this evidence. “Mr. — ," said he,“ has told you, that by means of a little whip-cord, a rising gradient, so steep as one foot in fifty, is to be overcome. I know where the whip-cord, and not a little whip-cord, ought to have been applied, before that witness left school.” Some years after, when the Brighton Railway Bill was before Parliament, the same eminent engineer was asked by counsel
troducing two sets of inclined planes, and he considered this an evil, inasmuch as the planes must be worked either by locomotive or fixed engines ; “but,” he said, “which of the two latter modes shall be adopted, I understand has not yet been finally determined ; and both being recent projects, in which I have had no experience, I cannot take upon me to say whether either will fully answer in practice.” And yet the locomotive engine had been in regular use on the Killingworth Railway for fifteen years, at the time when Mr. Telford made this report in 1829. He himself had laid out railways, and it was part of his business to make himself familiar with the best mode of working them. But
the only successful engines were those of George Stephenson; , and Mr. Telford, in common with the leading professional men of his day, studiously kept aloof from him. Indeed, had the establishment of the locomotive system depended upon the leading engineers, it would have been swamped at the beginning. In the meantime it was absolutely necessary that the directors of the Liverpool Railway should come to a decision whether fixed or locomotive engines were to be employed. Mr. Stephenson urged, as usual, the superiority of the latter, in point of efficiency, convenience, and economy, over any other mode of traction. The directors, who were no engineers, could not disregard the adverse opinions of professional men, and they declined to endorse his recommendation. But Mr. Stephenson had so repeatedly and earnestly urged upon them the propriety of making a trial of the locomotive before coming to any decision against it, that they at length authorised him to proceed with the construction of one of his engines by way of experiment.
“ whether the wheels of the locomotive revolved on the axle or were fixed to it?” The engineer was rather taken aback, for he did not know ; but he adroitly got out of the difficulty by saying, “ Really, that is a matter entirely of detail, to be settled by mechanics !"