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Citap. xxviu.] CHESTER AND HOLYHEAD LINE. 389
formation of a main line from Chester to Holyhead, with the view of improving the railway communication with Dublin, and Ireland generally. Mr. Giles and Mr. Vignolles Were both engaged in surveying lines of railway to Holyhead In 1838, and they presented reports on the subject to their respective promoters. About the same time the directors of the Chester and Crewe Company called upon Mr. Stephenson to make a preliminary survey of the country between Chester and Holyhead, and inquire into the practicability of forming the line by Shrewsbury to Port Dynllaen, which had been suggested by the Irish Railway Commissioners in their published report, as compared with a line to Holyhead passing through Chester. After a careful examination, Mr. Stephenson reported in very strong terms against the line adopted by the Irish Railway Commissioners and by Mr. Vignolles, and in favour of the route by Chester, which, he alleged, could be formed for less money, and would be a shorter line, with much more favourable gradients.*
A public meeting was held at Chester on the 10th of January, 1839, in support of Mr. Stephenson's line, at which the Marquis of Westminster, Mr. Wilbraham, the member for the county, and other influential gentlemen, were present. Mr. Uniacke, the Mayor, in opening the proceedings, observed, that it clearly appeared that the rival line through Shrewsbury was quite impracticable, — " Mr. Stephenson, the first railway authority in the kingdom—in fact, the father of railways—had so characterised it; and, after that opinion, he did not think that any one could be found who would risk money in such a speculation. Their object was, to advance and carry the really practicable project; and he would take the opportunity of saying, that the dissemination of Mr. Stephenson's admirable report had satisfied the people of Ireland, not only that the project was practicable, but that it was the only one that was practicable, and worthy of general support." Mr. Stephenson,he added, was present in the room, ready to answer any questions which might be put to him on the subject; and " it would be better that he should be asked questions than required to make a speech; for, though a very good engineer, he was a bad speaker." One of the questions then put to Mr. Stephenson related to the mode by which he proposed to haul the passenger carriages over the Menai Bridge by horse power; and he was asked whether he knew the pressure the bridge was capable of sustaining. His answer was, that "he had not yet made any calculations; but he proposed getting data which would enable him to arrive at an accurate calculation of the actual strain upon the bridge during the late gale. But he had no hesitation in paying that it was more than twenty times as much as the strain of a train of carriages and a locomotive engine. The only reason why he proposed to convey the carriages over by horses, was in order that he might, by distributing the weight, not increase the waving motion. All the train would be on at once; but distributed. This he thought better than passing them linked together by a locomotive engine."
* Report upon the proposed Railway Communications with Ireland, addressed to the Directors of the Chester and Crewe Railway Company, dated Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Dec. 19th, 1838.
Mr. Vignolles, in the course of the same month, published a defence of his mode of effecting a communication between London and Dublin, although he confessed that to impugn Mr. Stephenson's statements in reference to his measure, or to enter into a professional contest with such high authority, was almost" bearding the lion in his den." The Dublin Chamber of Commerce decided in favour of Mr. Stephenson's plan; and at a meeting of members of Parliament held in London in May 1839, a series of resolutions was adopted in favour of the scheme. At that meeting Mr. Stephenson was present, and
Chap, xxvm.] CHESTER AND HOLYHEAD LINE. 391
gave explanations on many of its essential points. Notwithstanding, however, these important demonstrations of opinion in its favour, Mr. Stephenson's plan of a railway from Chester to Holyhead, like many others projected about the same time, was allowed to drop; and it was not resumed until several years after, when it was taken up by his son, and brought to a successful completion, with certain modifications, including the grand original feature of the tubular bridge across the Menai Straits.*
The completion of a main line of railway communication between London and Glasgow by the western side of the island, was another of the great projects on which Mr. Stephenson was now engaged. In 1837, he was requested by the Caledonian Railway Committee, and also by the Whitehaven, Workington, and Maryport Railway Committee, to make an examination of the country, and report to them as to the best line that could be formed. With this object he made a careful survey of the entire country between Lancaster and Carlisle, by Ulverstone and Whitehaven, and also by Kirby Lonsdale and Penrith. As on the eastern coast, here also he reported in favour of the coast route. Besides the flatness of such a line, and the consequent superiority of the gradients —a point to which he always attached the greatest importance—the coast line could be formed at comparatively small expense; valuable iron mines would be opened out, from which a large traffic might be anticipated, while as a collateral advantage, an extensive tract of valuable land would be reclaimed by the formation of his proposed embankment across Ulverstone sands at the head of Morecombe Bay. There would also be fifteen miles less of new railway to be constructed by the coast line than by the more direct inland route across Shap Fell. The latter route—planned by Mr. Locke—was twenty miles shorter between Lancaster and Carlisle; but the gradients were much heavier, and the works far more difficult and costly. It was, however, eventually preferred to the west coast line of Mr. Stephenson, which was, for a time, lost sight of. Nevertheless it has since been formed; the large traffic in iron ore which he anticipated has been obtained; and his favourite scheme of reclaiming the immense tract of land at the head of Morecombe Bay—from forty to fifty thousand acres in extent — by means of the railway embankment necessary to complete the connection with the Lancaster and Carlisle line, has recently been carried into effect in a modified form, and to some extent after his plans.*
* The Chester and Holyhead Act wai obtained in the session of 1844.
The Leeds and Bradford Railway, surveyed by Mr. Stephenson in 1838, was a line of comparatively small extent, but of considerable importance in a local point of view, as connecting the two principal manufacturing towns of Yorkshire. The scheme was brought out in the following year, under very favourable auspices; but like most of the railway projects of the same period, it was suspended in consequence of the financial embarrassment of the country, which was to some extent caused by the large investments of capital in railways during the few preceding years.
The rapidity with which railways had been extended between the years 1836 and 1839 was extraordinary, although not to be compared with the railway mania of a subsequent period. There was quite a rush for railway acts in the sessions of 1836 and 1837. In the former year, thirty-four bills passed the legislature, authorising the formation of 994 miles of new railway, at an estimated cost of 17,595,000/. The traffic cases got up by the promoters of some of the bills «re very strong. Traffic-taking had become a lucrative
See Reports by Mr. Stephenson on the subject, dated October 12tb, 1836; ""■• 1837; and August 16th, 1837.
Chap, xxvm.] NUMEROUS RAILWAYS AUTHORISED. 393
trade; and ingenious arithmeticians, who devoted themselves to the art of getting up traffic, soon became able to "prove" whatever the promoters of railways wanted. Thus, the traffic case of the Eastern Counties Railway showed that there would be a clear profit on the outlay of 23£ per cent.! The North Midland " proved " a traffic which would yield them a profit of 101 per cent.; the York and North Midland, of 13^-; and the London and Cambridge, of 14£ per cent. Other companies made out equally " strong " traffic cases.
In the following session of 1837, not fewer than 118 notices of new railway bills were given. Seventy-nine of these were actually introduced to Parliament; and forty-two acts were obtained, the principal of which, however, were extensions of previous acts. Fourteen new companies were incorporated, and authorised to construct 464 miles of railway at a cost of 8,087,000/. During this session the traffictakers grew bolder, and reached their highest flights. Thus, the promoters of the Sheffield and Manchester Bill "proved" a traffic which was to yield a net profit of 18^ per cent, on the outlay. One of the fortunate shareholders in the company, in a letter to the " Railway Magazine," even went so far beyond the traffic-taker, as to calculate on a dividend of 80 per cent. I
But the prodigious extent of railway works already authorised was not enough to satisfy the rage for railway extension which still prevailed; for, by the end of 1837, notices were given of seventy-five new bills, to authorise the construction of some 1230 miles of additional railway, at an estimated cost of above nineteen millions sterling. By this time, thirty millions had actually been expended, and nearly 1500 miles of railway constructed and opened, in the course of a very few years; and several hundred thousand labourers and mechanics were still occupied in the making of railways and the manufacture of railway stock. It was estimated