Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

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

In their report to the proprietors at their annual meeting on the 27th March, 1828, they state that they had, after due consideration, authorised the engineer “ to prepare a locomotive engine, which, from the nature of its construction and from the experiments already made, he is of opinion will be effective for the purposes of the company, without proving an annoyance to the public.” In the same report the directors express their confidence in Mr. Stephenson, whose ability and unwearied activity they are glad to take the opportunity of acknowledging. The locomotive thus ordered, was placed upon the line in 1829, and was found of great service in drawing the waggons full of marl from the two great cuttings.

In the meantime the discussion proceeded as to the kind of power to be permanently employed for the working of the railway. The directors were inundated with schemes of all sorts for facilitating locomotion. The projectors of England, France, and America, seemed to be let loose upon them. There were plans for working the waggons along the line by water power. Some proposed hydrogen, and others carbonic acid gas. Atmospheric pressure had its eager advocates. And various kinds of fixed and locomotive steam power were suggested. Thomas Gray urged his plan of a greased road with cog rails; and Messrs. Vignolles and Ericsson recommended the adoption of a central friction rail, against which two horizontal rollers under the locomotive, pressing upon the sides of this rail, were to afford the means of ascending the inclined planes. The directors felt themselves quite unable to choose from amidst this multitude of projects. Their engineer expressed himself as decidedly as heretofore in favour of smooth rails and locomotive engines, which, he was confident, would be found the most economical and by far the most convenient moving power that could be em

CHAP. xxi.] THE LOCOMOTIVE REPORTED AGAINST.

273

ployed.* The Stockton and Darlington Railway being now at work, another deputation went down personally to inspect the fixed and locomotive engines on that line, as well as at Hetton and Killingworth. They returned to Liverpool with much information; but their testimony as to the relative merits of the two kinds of engines was so contradictory, that the directors were as far from a decision as ever.

They then resolved to call to their aid two professional engineers of high standing, who should visit the Darlington and Newcastle railways, carefully examine both modes of working — the fixed and locomotive — and report to them fully on the subject. The gentlemen selected were Mr. Walker of Limehouse, and Mr. Rastrick of Stourbridge. After carefully examining the modes of working the northern railways, they made their report to the directors in the spring of 1829. These engineers concurred in the opinion that the cost of an establishment of fixed engines would be somewhat greater than that of locomotives to do the same work; but that the annual charge would be less if the former were adopted. They calculated that the cost of moving a ton of goods thirty miles by fixed engines would be 6.40d., and by locomotives, 8:36d., - assuming a profitable traffic to be obtained both ways. At the same time it was admitted that there appeared more ground for expecting improvements in the construction and working of locomotives than of stationary engines. “On the whole, however, and looking especially at the computed annual charge of working the road on the two systems on a large scale, Messrs. Walker and Rastrick were of opinion that fixed engines were preferable, and accordingly recommended their adoption to the directors.”+

* Booth's Account, p. 71.

† Mr. Booth's Account, pp. 70-1. While concurring with Mr. Rastrick in recommending “ the stationary reciprocating system as the best,” if it was the directors' intention to make the line complete at once, so as to accommodate

And in order to carry the system recommended by them into effect, they proposed to divide the railroad between Liverpool and Manchester into nineteen stages of about a mile and a half each, with twenty-one engines fixed at the different points to work the trains forward.

Here was the result of George Stephenson's labours ! The two best practical engineers of the day concurred in reporting in favour of the employment of fixed engines ! Not a single professional man of eminence could be found to coincide with him in his preference for locomotive over fixed engine power. He had scarcely a supporter; and the locomotive system seemed on the eve of being abandoned. Still he did not despair. With the profession against him, and public opinion against him,- for the most frightful stories were abroad respecting the dangers, the unsightliness, and the nuisance which the locomotive would create,- Mr. Stephenson held to his purpose. Even in this, apparently the darkest hour of the locomotive, he did not hesitate to declare that locomotive railroads would, before many years had passed, be “ the great highways of the world.”

At the meetings of the directors, and in his numerous re

the traffic expected by them, or a quantity approaching to it (i,e 3750 tons of goods and passengers from Liverpool towards Manchester, and 3950 tons from Manchester towards Liverpool), Mr. Walker added, —" but if any circumstances should induce the directors to proceed by degrees, and to proportion the power of conveyance to the demand, then we recommend locomotive engines upon the line generally; and two fixed engines upon Ramhill and Sutton plains, to draw up the locomotive engines as well as the goods and carriages.” And “if on any occasion the trade should get beyond the supply of locomotives, the horse might form a temporary substitute." As, however, it was the directors' determination, with a view to the success of their experiment, to open the line complete for working, they felt that it would be unadvisable to adopt this partial experiment, and it was still left for them to decide whether they would adopt or not the substantial recommendation of the reporting engineers in favour of the stationary engine system for the complete accommodation of the expected traffic.

CHAP. XXI.] HIS DEFENCE OF THE LOCOMOTIVE.

275

ports, he combated in detail the reports of the consulting engineers, — urged that the simplicity of the locomotive engine power, and its application to any quantity of trade, would best answer the purpose of the railway,– pointed out that the Messrs. Walker and Rastrick had under-estimated the working expense of fixed engines, while they had overstated that of locomotives; but, above all, he insisted that the adoption of fixed engines and ropes — an accident to any of which would involve the stoppage of the entire arrangements — would render the Liverpool and Manchester line altogether unfitted for the purposes of a public railway. The convenience of locomotives, which could be increased in power and number according to the requirements of the traffic, appeared to him one of their chief advantages; they would form a series of short unconnected chains, any one of which could be removed and another at once substituted, in event of an accident, without interruption to the traffic, whereas, according to the admission of Mr. Walker himself, the fixed engine system would constitute a continuous chain, extending from Liverpool to Manchester," the failure of one link of which would derange the whole.” This, in Mr. Stephenson's view, constituted a capital objection to the adoption of the latter plan. Besides, he did not hesitate to express his decided conviction that, in reporting against the locomotive, the consulting engineers had not made themselves fully acquainted with its powers, and especially that they had not taken into account the value of the steam blast. They had obviously overlooked the most important property of this beautiful contrivance, by which it increases the production of steam exactly in proportion to the velocity of the engine. The quicker the strokes of the piston, the stronger the draught in the chimney, the more intense the combustion of fuel in the furnace, and the more rapid the production of steam, on which the power of the engine depends.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »