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RAILWAY SYSTEM AND ITS RESULTS.
BY ROBERT STEPHENSON, Esq., M.P.
[As a fitting conclusion to the Life of George Stephenson, we append the following résumé of the Railway system and its results, as delivered by his distinguished son before the Institution of Civil Engineers, on taking the chair after his election as their President, in January, 1856, and which we republish from the Minutes of Proceedings of that Institution, by permission of the Council.]
OUR British RAILWAYS present a fertile theme for observation, and in considering them, in their varied relations, my chief object will be to suggest topics for communications and discussion at the meetings over which I hope to have the honour of presiding.
The general extent and scheme of the network of railways stretching from beyond Aberdeen in the north, to Portsmouth in the south; and between Yarmouth and Milford Haven on the east and west of the United Kingdom, are well known to you. To these must be added the Irish lines, now becoming very extensive, and exercising the most beneficial influence on that portion of the Empire.
Let us look, in the first instance, to the length of these railways. At the end of 1854 the total length of the lines authorised by
Parliament was 13,983 miles ; but as 1,177 miles had been abandoned, and there still remained about 4,752 miles to be constructed, the aggregate length of railways opened in Great Britain and Ireland at that time measured about 8,054 miles, – about the diameter of the globe, and nearly 500 miles more than the united lengths of the Thames, the Seine, the Rhone, the Ebro, the Tagus, the Rhine, the Elbe, the Vistula, the Dnieper, and the Danube, or the ten chief rivers of Europe.
Of these 8,054 miles completed, 1,962 miles are single lines. Taking double and single lines together the total length of railway in the kingdom is, therefore, 14,146 miles.
To this must be added the very considerable extent of rails laid for sidings, which, on an average, may be said to be equal in length to one-third of the total mileage. Add, then, say 4,000 miles for sidings, and there is a total of 18,000 miles of railway in Great Britain and Ireland.
These 18,000 miles have been the work of only twenty-five years, and in that short space of time there have been laid rails within these islands, far more than are sufficient to "put a girdle round about the earth!”.
It will naturally be asked, what amount of Capital has been required for the construction of these vast works? The amount authorised by Parliament to be raised for railway works amounted at the end of 1854, to £368,000,000. Of that amount £286,000,000 has absolutely been raised. It is difficult to realise to the imagination what is 286,000,000 sterling. Let us try to test the importance of the amount by some familiar comparisons. It is more than four times the amount of the annual value of all the real property of Great Britain. It is more than one-third of the entire amount of the National Debt. We have, indeed, already spent nearly a third of this sum, in two years, in the prosecution of the war in which this country is engaged; but it is impossible not to reflect that if nearly £100,000,000 expended by the State has only gained for us the advantage of occupying one side of the city, which the valour of England and of France has doomed to destruction, the expenditure of £286,000,000 by the people has secured to us the advantages of internal communication all but perfect, of progress in science and arts unexampled at any period of the ** When this Address was delivered, the south side of Sebastopol had been taken possession of by the allied armies.
history of the world, -of national progress almost unchecked, and of prosperity and happiness increased beyond all precedent.
In considering the results produced, it is impossible to pass over the magnitude of the Works. Our tunnels have traversed hills and penetrated beneath mountains to the extent of nearly 70 miles. Of our viaducts I am not able, at present, to give the precise extent; but some estimate may be formed from the fact of there being, in London and the suburbs, nearly 11 miles of viaduct, passing through the streets. Of Railway Bridges there must have been built at least twenty-five thousand; far more than all the bridges ever previously known in England. But perhaps the magnitude of the railway works undertaken in this country will be still more clearly exhibited, if you consider the extent of the Earth-Works. Taking them at an average of 70,000 cubic yards to a mile, they will measure 550,000,000 cubic yards. What does this represent? We are accustomed to regard St. Paul's as a test for height and space; but by the side of the pyramid of earth these works would rear, St. Paul's would be but as a pigmy by a giant. Imagine a mountain half a mile in diameter at its base, and soaring into the clouds one mile and a half in height;
- that would be the size of the mountain of earth which these earth-works would form ; while St. James's Park, from the Horse Guards to Buckingham Palace, would scarcely afford space for its base.
It is computed, that no less than 80,000,000 miles are annually traversed on our railways. Now, to run 80,000,000 miles per annum, 2 miles of railway, at least, must be covered by trains, during every second of time, throughout the entire year.
To work our railways, even to their present extent, there must be at least 5,000 locomotive engines; and supposing an engine with its tender to measure only 35 feet, it will be seen, that the whole number required to work our railway system would extend, in one straight line, over 30 miles, or the whole distance from London to Chatham. But these are only the engines and tenders. The number of vehicles of every sort employed cannot be much less than 150,000. Taking the length of each vehicle at 20 feet, you will find that, could 150,000 be linked together in one train, they would reach from London to Aberdeen, or a distance of 500 miles.
Has any one present considered the value of this railway
stock? Take the cost of each engine and tender at £2,000, and the average cost of each carriage, truck and waggon at £100, and you have a total exceeding £25,000,000 invested in rolling stock alone.
But these are far from being all the startling facts connected with railway enterprise. There are as many as 2,416 railway stations in the United Kingdom, -one at least for every 45,000 passengers. The various Companies have, in their direct employment, no less than 90,409 officers and servants. The consumption of coke by railway engines amounts to no less than 1,300,000 tons of that fuel, representing upwards of 2,000,000 tons of coals; 80 that in every minute of time, throughout the year, 4 tons of coals are consumed, and 20 tons of water are flashed into steam of high elasticity. What does this represent? The water would afford a supply to the population of Liverpool at the rate of 22 gallons per head per diem, and the steam evolved is adequate to the maintenance of stationary engines of more than 130,000 horse power. The consumption of fuel is almost equal to the amount of coal exported from Great Britain to foreign countries, and is more than one-half the whole consumption of the Metropolis. If to this be added the amount that must be used in producing the rails and other iron required for the whole system, the value of railways to the coal-owner must be evident.
Ten years ago, in 1845, the entire number of passengers carried upon railways was 33,791,000 in the year. The railway system was, at that time, thought to be pretty well developed, at least as regarded the main channels of communication. Five years afterwards, in 1850, the number of passengers conveyed was 72,854,000, and in 1854, the number conveyed was 111,206,000. Thus the number of passengers has been more than trebled in ten years; and assuming an average of 14 persons to a ton, there would be a gross weight of upwards of 8,000,000 tons of pas. sengers conveyed annually.
The average distance which these passengers are conveyed appears to be about 12 miles. The average number carried per day is about 300,000. Under the old coach system it was assumed, that on an average 10 passengers could be carried by each coach ; therefore, to carry 300,000 passengers a day, 12 miles each, at least 10,000 coaches and 120,000 horses would be necessary. The national saving will be forcibly illustrated, if you
consider the cost of running these coaches and maintaining these horses, against the fact that locomotive expenses on railways do not, on an average, exceed 9 d. per mile.
The railway receipts for passengers have been in the following proportions :
The total receipts for goods, passengers, and from all other sources, were for the same years :
There has been no instance in the annals of any railway, where the annual traffic has not been of continuous growth. Some remarkable facts illustrate this truth. At one period the Midland Railway had the monopoly of the whole traffic to the North; that line being “the route” to the North of England and to Scotland. When the Caledonian was opened, some years ago, the North Western Railway, working in conjunction with it, was able to abstract the bulk of the Scotch traffic from the Midland line. Nevertheless, the Midland traffic continued to increase. At a later period the Great Northern was opened, affording almost a direct route to Nottingham, to Leeds, to York, and to Edinburgh. The Scotch traffic of the Midland was thereby annihilated, and its trade to the large towns named almost entirely abstracted; yet, with all this, the Midland receipts continued to increase largely, chiefly in consequence of its local growth and the development of its mineral traffic.
This is one only of the many illustrations that might be offered of the rapid progress of a system which is now producing a gross annual revenue exceeding TWENTY MILLIONS STERLING.
Looking at all the circumstances of a Railway, the nature of its component parts, and the enormous amount of traffic over it, the constant depreciation necessarily becomes a source of serious consideration.