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Crap. xxiv.] IMPROVEMENT OF THE ROAD. felt to be a very objectionable feature in the first passenger trains; and everything was done that was calculated to diminish friction or jerking, and make travelling comfortable and easy. Amongst Mr. Stephenson's other inventions of this time were his method of lubricating carriage axles, his spring frames for the carriages, his buffers, and his railway breaks.
Like the engine power and the carriage arrangements, the road was for some time in an experimental state, and was gradually brought into a condition of practical efficiency. As the power and weight of the locomotives were increased, and the speed at which the trains travelled steadily advanced, it soon became clear to Mr. Stephenson that a considerable modification in the road was absolutely necessary. The fishbellied rails, first laid down, were of the weight of only thirty-five pounds to the yard, and calculated only for horse traffic, or at most for engines like the “Rocket,” of very light weight. In the course of a short time it was found necessary to have the road relaid with stronger rails of greater weight and improved form, though at a very considerable expense to the Company. Mr. Stephenson was determined, however, to the best of his power, to fulfil his promise to the Committee of the House of Commons, that he would make his railway as perfect as possible.
EXTENSION OF THE RAILWAY SYSTEM.—THE LONDON AND
WHEN Mr. Stephenson had completed the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, and brought the locomotive engine, by means of which it was to be worked, into a state of practical efficiency, he may be said to have accomplished the great work of his life. By persevering study and observation,- by treasuring up carefully the results of experience, neglecting no fact or suggestion howsoever insignificant it might at first sight appear,— holding fast to his purpose, with a conviction that was never shaken and a determination that was never baffled, — he had established with but small assistance or encouragement, and in the face of every kind of difficulty and opposition, the superiority of the Locomotive system of railways. And it is perhaps not saying too much to aver, that in accomplishing this, Mr. Stephenson did more to advance the civilisation of the world than any single individual of his age. Excepting only the discovery of Printing, no other invention will bear a comparison with that of Railway Locomotion, as affecting the destinies of mankind. 'In former times, the builder of a bridge, and the maker of a road, which brought towns and villages into communication with each other, were regarded as public benefactors. But how much greater a benefactor of his species was the man who invented the Locomotive Railway system, which unites nation with nation, and is now rapidly drawing the ends of the earth together!
CHAP. xxv.) EXTENSION OF THE RAILWAY SYSTEM.
It may be humiliating to our schools of science and learning to confess, that the men who brought the locomotive to perfection - George Stephenson above all — were comparatively unlettered and uneducated, possessing none of the advantages of scholastic or scientific culture. The educated men, and even the scientific engineers, were wholly opposed to the locomotive system, declaring it to be absurd and impracticable. The general public, where not actively hostile, were indifferent. With the performances of the “Rocket,” however, all doubts upon the subject were in a great measure set at rest. What had been ridiculed as an impossibility, was now recognised as a fact. The “ Rocket” showed that a new power had been born into the world, full of activity and strength, with boundless capability of work. It was the simple but admirable contrivance of the steam-blast, and its combination with the multitubular boiler with its large heating surface, that at once gave the high pressure locomotive its vigorous life, and secured the triumph of the. railway system. As has been well observed, this wonderful ability to increase and multiply its powers of performance with the emergency that demands them, has made this giant engine the noblest creation of human wit, the very lion among machines.
The practicability of Railway Locomotion being now proved, its extension was merely a question of time, money, and labour. A fine opportunity presented itself for the wise and judicious action of Government in the matter. The improvement of the internal communications of a country seems to fall peculiarly within its province. The Government was indeed at this very time directing its attention to the improvement of the old turnpike roads, and many committees sat for the special consideration of the subject. But here was a new system of internal communication invented, which was destined entirely to supersede the old Macadamised roads. What was the action of the Legislature in regard to it? They took no part except to retard and obstruct it; until at length their sluggish resistance was overborne, and the railway system was established, by the perseverance of private individuals. The opposition raised by the governing classes to the progress of railway bills in Parliament, would have damped the energy of any people less resolute than the English. But the leading men of industry throughout the kingdom had grasped a great idea, and would not let it go. They had the sagacity to perceive the value of railways, though the Government had not ; and when the Legislature failed to enter, at this juncture, upon the grand enterprise of planning and executing railways upon a national system, there was a sufficient amount of active public spirit in the country to undertake the work on private risk, and to carry it into practical effect in the face of every opposition.
The mode of action was characteristic and national. The execution of the new lines was undertaken entirely by joint-stock associations of proprietors, after the manner of the Stockton and Darlington, and Liverpool and Manchester Companies. These associations are conformable to our national habits, and fit well into our system of laws.
They combine the power of vast resources with individual watchfulness and motives of self-interest; and by their means gigantic enterprises, which elsewhere would be impossible to any but kings and emperors with great national resources at command, were carried out by associations of private persons. And the results of this combination of means and of enterprise have been truly marvellous. Within the life of the present generation, the private citizens of England engaged in railway enterprises have, in the face of Government obstructions, and without taking a penny out of the public purse, executed a system of railways, involving works
of the most gigantic kind, which, in their total mass, their cost, and their eminent public utility, far exceed the most famous national constructions of any age or country.
Mr. Stephenson was of course actively engaged in the construction of the numerous railways now projected by the joint-stock companies. During the formation of the Manchester and Liverpool line, he had been consulted respecting many projects of a similar kind. One of these was a short railway, between Canterbury and Whitstable, about six miles in length. He was too much occupied with the works at Liverpool to give this scheme much of his personal attention. But he sent his assistant, Mr. John Dixon, to survey the line; and afterwards Mr. Locke to superintend the execution of the principal works. The act was obtained in 1826, and the line was opened for traffic in 1830. It was partly worked by fixed-engine power, and partly by Stephenson’s locomotives, similar to the engines used upon the Stockton and Darlington Railway.
But the desire for railway extension principally pervaded the manufacturing districts, especially after the successful opening of the Liverpool and Manchester line. The commercial classes of the larger towns soon became eager for a participation in the good which they had so recently derided. Railway projects were set on foot in great numbers, and Manchester became a centre from which main lines and branches were started in all directions. The interest, however, which attaches to these later schemes is of a much less absorbing kind than that which belongs to the earlier history of the English railway, and the steps by which George Stephenson secured its eventual establishment. We naturally sympathise more with the early struggles of a great principle, its trials and its difficulties, than with its after stages of success; and, however gratified and astonished we may be at its permanent results, the secret charm