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Chap, xxix.] THEORY OF UNDULATING RAILWAYS. 409
power of the locomotive was but limited; and, although he had done more to increase its working qualities than any other engineer, it provoked him to find that every improvement which he made in it was neutralised by the steep gradients which the fast school of engineers were setting it to overcome. On one occasion, when Mr. Robert Stephenson stated before a Parliamentary Committee that every improvement which they were making in the locomotive was being rendered virtually nugatory by the difficult and almost impracticable gradients proposed upon so many of the new lines, his father, on his leaving the witness box, went up to him, and said, "Robert, you never spoke truer words than those in all your life."
In the case of passenger lines, where the load is light, and time an object of importance, short lines of comparatively heavy gradients are practicable — thanks to the great power which Mr. Stephenson and his son have given to the engine; but when the traffic consists, in any considerable proportion, of minerals or merchandise, experience has amply proved the wisdom of Mr. Stephenson's preference for level lines, though of greater length.
But engineers were growing bolder, and ambitious to do greater things. Among others, Dr. Eardner, who had originally been somewhat sceptical about the powers of the locomotive, now promulgated the idea that a railway constructed with rising and falling gradients would be practically as easy to work as a line perfectly level. Mr. Badnell went beyond him, for he held that an undulating railway was even much better than a level one for purposes of working.* For a time, this theory found favour, and the "undulating system" was extensively adopted; but Mr. Stephenson never ceased to inveigh against it; and experience has amply proved that his judgment was correct
* Treatise on Railway Improvements. By Mr. Richard Badnell, C.E.
The engineers of the fast school were also becoming increasingly sanguine about the speed of railway travelling. Dr. Lardner considered that an average rate of a hundred miles an hour might be attained by the locomotive upon a railway, though he afterwards found cause to alter hia opinion. Mr. Stephenson, who only a few years before was considered insane for suggesting a speed of twelve miles an hour, was now thought behind the age when he recommended that the rate of railway travelling should not exceed forty miles an hour. He said, " I do not like either forty or fifty miles an hour upon any line; I think it is an unnecessary speed; and if there is danger upon a railway, it is high velocity that creates it." * He had, indeed, constructed for the Great Western Railway an engine capable of running fifty miles an hour with a load, and eighty miles without one. But he never was in favour of a hurricane speed of this sort, believing it could only be accomplished at an unnecessary increase both of danger and expense. On this subject he afterwards observed, "The first time I went to Parliament to give evidence on the locomotive engine, when I stated that I would make that machine travel at twelve miles an hour, I was thought to be mad. You will be surprised when I tell you that, during my recent examination before a Committee of the House of Commons on the management of railways, I stated, in my opinion, that the speed of the locomotive should not exceed forty miles an hour. I have been censured by many for giving that opinion. It is true that I have said the engine might be made to travel 100 miles an hour; but I always put a qualification on this, namely, as to what speed would best suit the public. I assure you I have been buffeted about in Parliament not a little on this question of railway speed." f Although Mr. Stephenson occasionally
* Evidence before the Select Committee on Railways, 27th May, 1841. -f Speech at Belper Mechanics' Institute, 6th July, 1841.
CHAP, xxix.] NEW SYSTEM OF BRAKES. 411
"girded " at Mr. Brunei and his high velocities, there is no doubt that the determination of the latter had the effect of spurring on the Stephensons to exert their ingenuity to the utmost in perfecting the narrow-gauge locomotive, and bringing it to the highest possible rate of speed. By the year 1845, Mr. Robert Stephenson had been enabled to construct the fastest locomotive that had yet run upon any railway, — the celebrated " A " engine, — which performed the fortyfive miles between York and Darlington, with a train of seven carriages behind it, in about forty-seven minutes!
.Mr. Stephenson's evidence before the Select Committee of 1841 bore chiefly upon the safer working of railways, and the means by which they might be improved. One of his suggestions was to the effect that a system of self-acting brakes should be adopted, so that a train might be more speedily and effectually stopped than by the ordinary system. He himself, he stated, had invented for the Liverpool and Manchester Railway a carriage-brake, which he had not patented, although, he understood, a patent for a similar machine had since been taken out. He proposed to fix to every carriage a brake so constructed that, on the moving power of the engine being taken off, every carriage should be brought into a state of sledge, and the rolling motion of the wheels thus interrupted. Mr. Stephenson would also have these brakes worked by the guard, by means of a connecting lever running along the whole of the carriages, by which they should at one and the same time be thrown out of gear. He also suggested, as an additional means of safety, that the signals should be self-acting, and worked by the engines as they passed along the line.
In opposing the views of the fast school of engineers, as to the alteration of the gauge, the employment of atmospheric pressure, the formation of " undulating" lines, and the increase of speed, Mr. Stephenson was actuated by a just regard
to the commercial part of the question. He had no desire to build up a reputation at the expense of railway shareholders, nor to obtain engineering eclat by making "ducks and drakes " of their money. He was persuaded that, in order to secure the practical success of railways, they must be so laid out as not only to prove of decided public utility, but also to be worked economically and to the advantage of their proprietors. They were not government roads, but private ventures, — in fact, commercial speculations. He therefore endeavoured to render them commercially profitable; and he repeatedly declared that if he did not believe they could be "made to pay" he would have nothing to do with them. He frequently refused to act as the engineer for lines which he thought would not prove remunerative, or when he considered the estimates too low.* He was not ambitious to be thought a railway genius, but rather to be regarded as the engineer of useful and profitable railways; and the success which attended his arrangements fully proved the solidity of his judgment in this respect.
* In his evidence on the Great Western Bill, Mr. Stephenson said, " I made out an estimate for the Hartlepool Railway, which they returned on account of its being too high, but I declined going to Parliament with a lower estimate." Another engineer was employed. Then again, "I was consulted about a line from Edinburgh to Glasgow. The directors chalked out a line and sent it to me, and I told them I could not support it in that case." Another engineer was consequently employed to carry out the line which Mr. Stephenson could not conscientiously advocate.
Mr. Stephenson's Partial Retirement From The ProFession — PUBLIC RECOGNITION OF HIS SERVICES — AUTOBIOGRAPHIC SKETCHES.
The more laborious part of Mr. Stephenson's career in connection with railways was now over; and he frequently expressed a desire to retire from its troubles and anxieties into private life. At Blackburn, in 1840, he publicly intimated his intention of retiring from the more active pursuit of his profession; and, shortly after, he proceeded to resign the charge of several of the railways of which he was the chief engineer. He was succeeded, on the Midland and York systems, by his son Robert; on the Chester lines, by Mr. John Dixon; on the Manchester and Leeds lines, by Mr. Hawkshaw; and on the other railways, chiefly by his own pupils — all of whom, from his son downwards, did him honour.
He had removed his home from Alton Grange to Tapton House, in August 1838; but the extent of his railway engagements had, up to this time, prevented his enjoyment of its comforts and retirement. Tapton House is a large, roomy brick mansion, beautifully situated amidst woods, upon a commanding eminence, about a mile to the north-east of the town of Chesterfield. Green fields dotted with fine trees slope away from the house in all directions. The surrounding country is exceedingly varied and undulating. North and south the eye ranges over a vast extent of lovely scenery; and on the west, looking over the town of Chesterfield, with its fine church and crooked spire, the extensive range of the