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much too low. The works were, it is true, let to the contractors under the sum estimated, but in consequence of the adverse circumstances which occurred in the course of their execution, the expenditure had reached the immense amount of 5,000,0001., or about double the original estimate, before the line was opened for public traffic.
Strong animadversions were made at the time upon this excessive expenditure; but the circumstances which we have stated,- the obstacles encountered in the Kilsby and other tunnels, the rapid rise in the price of labour and materials, the extortions of the landowners (which it was impossible accurately to estimate), were sufficient in a considerable degree to account for the excess: in addition to which, it was a matter of the greatest difficulty for men of the very highest talent and experience then to form accurate estimates of the labour attending works of so stupendous a character, in the absence of the data since furnished by experience. Mr. Robert Stephenson, in his evidence before a committee of the House of Commons in 1839, gave this further explanation:-“ The principal excess, or at least a very large item of the excess, arose from the stations on the line. The public required much larger accommodation at the stations than was originally contemplated. In fact, at the time the estimate of the London and Birmingham Railway was made, it was apprehended that something like 25,0001. or 30,0001. for a station at each end of the line was ample; but they have exceeded 100,0001. I have no hesitation in saying that the expense of stations has been eight or ten-fold beyond the parliamentary estimate. The plans were on much too small a scale in the stations originally contemplated.” “ But,” he remarked on another occasion *, “let individuals who make observations as to the excessive cost of the works as compared with the estimates, look not at the commencement but at their close. Let them recollect that those great works now spreading irresistibly like network all over the country, are exciting commercial enterprise, augmenting the national wealth, increasing our social comforts, and raising the nation in the scale of civilisation. It is the end, therefore, that ought to be looked at, and not the beginning; and you, contractors, have all contributed your mite, as well as myself, to produce those glorious results.”
* Speech of Mr. Robert Stephenson at the dinner given to him by the contractors for the London and Birmingham Railway, on the occasion of presenting him with a testimonial. November 16th, 1839.
It is probable, indeed, that had the projectors of the undertaking foreseen that it would cost as much as five millions sterling, they would have been deterred from entering upon it. As it was, however, the expenditure, though immense, was justified by the result; for the excess in the traffic beyond the estimates was even greater in proportion than the . excess in the capital expenditure. The line of 112 miles in length was opened on the 17th of September, 1838, and in the following year the receipts from passenger traffic alone amounted to 608,5641. The company was enabled to pay its proprietors a large dividend; and the results of the working were cited as sufficient grounds for pushing railways in all directions.
The magnitude of the works, which were unprecedented in England, was one of the most remarkable features in the undertaking. The following striking comparison has been made between this railway and one of the greatest works of ancient times. The great Pyramid of Egypt was, according to Diodorus Siculus, constructed by three hundred thousand — according to Herodotus, by one hundred thousand — men. It required for its execution twenty years, and the labour expended upon it has been estimated as equivalent to lifting 15,733,000,000 of cubic feet of stone one foot high. Whereas, if in the same manner the labour expended in constructing
the London and Birmingham Railway be reduced to one common denomination, the result is 25,000,000,000 of cubic feet more than was lifted for the Great Pyramid; and yet the English work was performed by about 20,000 men in less than five years. And whilst the Egyptian work was executed by a powerful monarch concentrating upon it the labour and capital of a great nation, the English railway was constructed, in the face of every conceivable obstruction and difficulty, by a company of private individuals out of their own resources, without the aid of Government or the contribution of one farthing of the public money.
ADVANCE OF PUBLIC OPINION IN FAVOUR OF RAILWAYS.
NOTWITHSTANDING the decisive success of the Liverpool and Manchester project, the prejudices against railways and railway travelling continued very strong. Their advantages were already fully known to the inhabitants of those districts through which they passed, for they had experienced their practical benefits in substantial reductions in the price of coal, in the carriage of merchandise of all kinds, and in the cheap and rapid transit of their persons from place to place. The Liverpool and Manchester Railway was regarded as a national wonder from the first; and strangers resorted to Lancashire from all quarters, to witness the trains and to travel in the wake of the locomotive. To witness a railway train some five-and-twenty years ago was an event in one's life.
But people at a distance did not see railways and railway travelling in the same light. The farther off, and the greater the ignorance which prevailed as to their modes of working, the greater, of course, was the popular alarm. The towns of the South only followed the example of Northampton when they howled down the railways. It was proposed to carry a line through Kent, by the populous county town of Maidstone, on which a public meeting was held to oppose the project; and the railway had not a single supporter amongst the townspeople. When at length formed through Kent, it passed Maidstone at a distance; but in a few years the
CHAP. XXVI.] LEGISLATORS' OPINIONS ON RAILWAYS.
Maidstone burgesses, like those of Northampton, became clamorous for a railway; and a branch was formed for their accommodation. Again, in a few years, they complained that the route was circuitous, as they had compelled it to be; consequently another and shorter line was formed, to bring Maidstone into more direct communication with the metropolis. In like manner the London and Bristol (afterwards the Great Western) Railway was vehemently opposed by the people of the towns through which the line was projected to pass; and when the bill was thrown out by the Lords,-after 30,0001. had been expended by the promoters,— the inhabitants of Eton assembled, under the presidency of the Marquis of Chandos, to rejoice and congratulate themselves and the country on the defeat of the measure.
When Colonel Sibthorpe openly declared his hatred of “ those infernal railroads," he only expressed in a strong manner the feeling which then pervaded the country gentry and many of the middle classes in the southern districts. That respectable nobleman, the late Earl of Harewood, when it was urged by the gentlemen who waited upon him on behalf of the Liverpool and Manchester company, that great advantages to trade and commerce were to be anticipated from the facilities which would be afforded by railways, refused to admit the force of the argument, as he doubted whether any new impetus to manufactures would be advantageous to the country. And Mr. H. Berkeley, the intelligent member for Cheltenham, in like manner, strongly expressed the views of his class, when at a public meeting held in that town, he declared his utter detestation of railways, and wished that the concoctors of every such scheme, with their solicitors and engineers, were at rest in Paradise!“ Nothing," said he, “is more distasteful to me than to hear the echo of our hills reverberating with the noise of hissing railroad-engines running through the heart of our hunting country, and destroying