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and Leeds, and the Maryport and Carlisle Railways, were all publicly opened in whole or in part. Thus 321 miles of railway constructed under Mr. Stephenson's superintendence, at a cost of upwards of eleven millions sterling, were, in the course of about two years, added to the traffic accommodation of the country.
The ceremonies which accompanied the public opening of these lines were often of an interesting character. The adjoining population held general holiday ; bands played, banners waved, and assembled thousands cheered the passing trains amidst the occasional booming of cannon. The proceedings were usually wound up by a public dinner; and on such occasions Mr. Stephenson would often revert to his favourite topic— the difficulties which he had early encountered in the establishment of the railway system, and in proving, to the satisfaction of the public, the superiority of the locomotive. At the dinner which followed the opening
“When this railway was first projected, or rather when a railway was first projected between Chester and Birkenhead, the Company failed in their efforts to get a bill. Mr. George Stephenson was the engineer. When the second measure was taken up, he was also the Company's engineer, as it was understood that the same engineer and the same surveyors should be employed, and that in the event of the bill being carried, they should receive their costs for the defeated measure. To several parties their costs were paid. Mr. George Stephenson's amounted to 8001., and he very nobly said, “ You have had an expensive career in Parliament ; you have had a great struggle ; you are a young Company ; you cannot afford to pay me this amount of money ; I will reduce it to 2001., and I will not ask you for that 2001. until your shares are at 201. premium ; for, whatever may be the reverses you will go through, I am satisfied I shall live to see the day when I can legally and honourably claim that 2001., when your shares will be at 20l. premium.' The time had now arrived when Mr. Stephenson's foreboding proved true. The shares were selling at 60 in the market, and the new ones were at a high premium, and he (the chairman) thought, that in asking for a vote of 500l. for conduct so noble, he was asking only for what was amply due. He left the matter in the hands of the proprietors.” The proprietors immediately voted the full amount of
of the Sheffield and Rotherham line, the Earl Fitzwilliam presided, and most of the notable personages of the district, including the Master Cutler, were present, and made speeches. When Mr. Stephenson's turn came to speak, he could not resist the opportunity of contrasting the recent success of railways with the obstacles which had early beset them, and the now proved efficiency of the locomotive with the former dismal prophecies of its failure. “He ventured to say that he might lay claim to some credit for what he had done with respect to locomotive engines. He had now fought their battles for twenty-five years, and for more than twenty years of that time single-handed. Though all other engineers had been against him, he still persevered. The most severe trials which he had to go through were in going to Parliament, where he had the barristers to encounter. When they put him into the witness-box, they generally looked about to measure their man. He was quite aware that they had certain tools to work with if he was not a good witness. They did not care a pin about a locomotive engine; their object was to put him off his guard, and then they could bring him down. He must say, that he had gone into the witness-box many and many a time with the utrnost possible reluctance. The only thing which gave him courage was, that he knew he had nothing but truth to state. He knew enough of mechanics to know where to stop. He knew that a pound would weigh a pound, and that more should not be put upon a line than it would bear. He never was an advocate for unfavourable gradients — he wanted low levels. They had been passing that day upon a beautiful low level, and it was in a situation where no low level line would ever be brought to compete with it."
Mr. Stephenson always took great pleasure in alluding to the services rendered to himself and the public by the young men brought up under his eye-his pupils at first, and after
wards his assistants. No great master ever possessed a more devoted band of assistants and fellow-workers than he did. And, indeed, it was one of the most marked evidences of his own admirable tact and judgment that he selected, with such undeviating correctness, the men best fitted to carry out his plans. The ability to accomplish great things, to carry grand ideas into practical effect, depends in no small measure on an intuitive knowledge of character, which Mr. Stephenson possessed in a remarkable degree. Thus, on the Liverpool and Manchester line, he secured the able services of Messrs. Vignolles and Locke; the latter had been his pupil, and had laid down for him several coal-lines in the North.* John Dixon, trained by him on the Stockton and Darlington Railway, afterwards ably carried out his views on the Canterbury and Whitstable, the Liverpool and Manchester, and the Chester Railways. Thomas Gooch was his able representative in superintending the execution of the formidable works of the Manchester and Leeds line. Swanwick on the North Midland, Birkenshaw on the Birmingham and Derby, and Cabrey on the York and North Midland, seconded him well and ably, and established their own reputation while they increased the engineering fame of their master. All these men, then comparatively young, became, in course of time, engineers of distinction, and were employed to conduct on their own account numerous railway enterprises of great magnitude.
* An unhappy difference afterwards occurred between Mr. Stephenson and Mr. Locke, on the latter being appointed the principal engineer of the Grand Junction Railway, during the progress of the works. Considerable personal feeling was thrown into the affair, which had no small influence upon the railway politics (so to speak) of the time ; and in determining the direction of the new lines of railway between Manchester and the South. The projectors of the Manchester and Birmingham Railway--a rival line to the Grand Junction -- at once invited Mr. Stephenson to act as their engineer ; and it was alleged that a personal feeling actuated him in the professional support which he gave to the undertaking. The declared object of the promoters, however, was to secure a more direct communication between Manchester and London than was afforded by the circuitous route riâ Warrington. Mr. Crawshay, at one of their meetings, asserted, that he for one would never cease going to Parliament until they had got the nearest and best way to the metropolis. In like manner, the Trent Valley line, projected with the same object, had the strong support of the Manchester men : indeed, the project originated almost
At the dinner at York, which followed the partial opening of the York and North Midland Railway, Mr. Stephenson, as was his wont, prominently acknowledged the merit of his engineering pupils and assistants, and accompanied the recognition with many encouragements drawn from his own life and experience. On this occasion he said, “he was sure they would appreciate his feelings when he told them, that when he first began railway business, his hair was black, although it was now grey; and that he began his life's labour as but a poor ploughboy. He was only eight years old when he went to work, and he had been labouring hard ever since. About thirty years since, he had applied himself to the study of how to generate high velocities by mechanical means. He thought he had solved that problem. But when he afterwards appeared before a Committee of Parliament, and stated that, in his opinion, a locomotive machine might, with safety, travel upon a railway at a speed of ten miles an hour, he was told that his evidence was not worth listening to. That, however, did not prevent him going forward with his plans, and they had for themselves seen, that day, what perseverance had brought him to. He was, on that occasion, only too happy to have an opportunity of acknowledging that he had, in the later portion of his career, received much most valuable assistance, particularly from young men brought up in his manufactory. Whenever talent showed itself in a young man, he had always given that talent encouragement where he could, and he would continue to do so.”
That this was no exaggerated statement, is amply proved by facts which redound to Mr. Stephenson's credit. He was no niggard of encouragement and praise when he saw honest industry struggling for a footing. Many were the young men whom, in the course of his useful career, he took by the hand and led steadily up to honour and emolument, simply because he had noted their zeal, diligence, and integrity. One youth excited his interest while working as a common carpenter on the Liverpool and Manchester line; and before many years had passed, he was recognised as an engineer of distinction. Another young man he found industriously working away at his bye-hours, and, admiring his diligence, engaged him for his private secretary; the gentleman shortly after rising to a position of eminent influence and usefulness. Indeed, nothing gave Mr. Stephenson greater pleasure than in this way to help on any deserving youth who came under his observation, and, in his own expressive phrase, to “make a man of him.”