Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB
[merged small][ocr errors]

viously must, in one form or another, have premiums to meet compensation. Hence, proposals to reduce fares to their minimum are constantly met by the consideration that the larger the number of passengers, the greater the liability to accident, and to the pecuniary loss incidental to it. It is, indeed, fortunate for the public that the proportion of accidents is so small. If the proportion was large, fares must no doubt be raised. And, let it be observed that the Companies, thus driven to insure their passengers, are obliged to do so apart from all proper apportionment of premium to the risk incurred. A man travelling one hundred miles obviously incurs more risk than a man travelling six miles; yet, as we have seen, the family of the latter may get enormous compensation from the Company, whilst that of the former gets nothing. · Nothing can be less equitable, or more opposed to every sound commercial principle. If Railway Companies are to be taxed in this way at all, the proper course would be, that each passenger should declare the value of his life, when he takes his ticket, and be charged in proportion to the distance he is travelling. But no consideration can be expected from those who have thought themselves justified in applying special legislation to a case in which that law applies only in the proportion of 1 to every 7,195,343 !

Having now directed attention to the principal and more important topics of this great subject, it is desirable, before bringing this address to a close, to endeavour to lay before you some of the general results of the system.

You have heard that there are more than 90,000 men directly employed by the railways of the United Kingdom. Collaterally, in the manufacture of iron, the felling and transporting of timber, the production of stores, the erection and improvement of buildings, &c., these lines give employment to at least 50,000 more men. Now, 140,000 men represent, with their wives and children, a population of more than half a million of souls. The result, therefore, is, that no less than 1 in 50, of the total population of these realms, is directly dependent on its railways! Having regard to this most startling fact, you will not be disposed to think that this is an interest which should be neglected, or be harshly treated by the Legislature, or which should be the subject of imperfect and unsatisfactory legislation. The financial results of railways will occasion no less sur

the totals.ro The result

prise, when they are considered. In the gross, £20,000,000 of revenue are now realised annually by the Railway Companies of the United Kingdom — an amount nearly equal to one-half the ordinary revenue of the state. Now, consider how the national wealth is affected by this large amount received from the people by the Railway Companies. Suppose that to-morrow there was a stoppage of all the railways-a cessation of the existing railway means of transporting human beings, merchandise, and animals. In the first place, it is certain that the traffic, represented by £20,000,000, could not be accommodated at all. But assume that it could be, it is certain that the accommodation could only be offered at more than three times the charge now made by the railways. The result then is, that upon the existing traffic of the nation, railways are effecting a direct saving to the people of not less than £40,000,000 per annum; and that sum exceeds by about 50 per cent. the entire interest of our National Debt. It may be said, therefore, that the railway system neutralises to the people the bad effects of the debt with which the state is encumbered. It places us in as good a position as if the debt did not exist. And here the doubt arises as to which would be the most advantageous condition,- a nation without a national debt and also without a railway system; or a nation hampered by a national debt, but having the advantage of cheap internal intercourse by railway.

Again, “ Time is money.” At least 111,000,000 passengers travel every year by our railways an average of 12 miles each. They perform the journey in half an hour. At the average rate of speed of the stage-coach, a journey of twelve miles would have occupied an hour and a half. Here is a direct saving of one hour upon every average journey performed by 111,000,000 of persons annually. These 111,000,000 hours saved are equal to 14,000,000 days or 38,000 years, supposing the working man to labour eight hours a day; and allowing at the rate of 3s. a day for his labour, the annual saving to the nation, on this low average scale, is not less than £2,000,000 per annum.

Regard some of the moral results of the railway system. Observe how it operates in equalising the value of land. Railways enable the farmer in Scotland to send his beasts to Smithfield, and gardeners in the West of England to send their early fruits to Covent Garden. Distant properties, therefore, become as

[merged small][ocr errors]

valuable as those nearer to the centres of consumption. Nor is this all. Railways, by facilitating the transit of artificial manures, enable the farmers of poor land to compete with those who till superior soils; thus tending still further to equalise the value of the land, and thereby giving increased employment to, and improving the condition of, all classes of the population.

People are too apt to think and talk of railways as mere machines, whereby the speed of conveyance from one point to another is increased. You have seen them to-night in other and more important points of view. Let us look at them in other phases.

As stimulating national industry, perhaps the most familiar illustration will be the hard-metal trade. Look at the boilerplate manufacture-comparatively insignificant before iron vessels and steam locomotion came into existence, and now one of the most important elements of the trade to which it appertains. Such is the extent of this branch of manufacture, that, extensive as they are, the iron-works are not even yet able to render the supply equal to the demand.

Again, before railways existed, the inland counties of England were unsupplied with fish from the coast. Now, fresh sea-fish enters into the consumption of almost every family of the middle class, in every considerable town. In the fish trade, indeed, railways have caused and are causing a prodigious revolution. Large fishing establishments have been formed at different parts of the east coast. Before the Norfolk railway was constructed, the conveyance of fish from Yarmouth to London was entirely conducted in light vans with post-horses, and was represented by a bulk of about 2,000 tons a year. At present 2,000 tons of fish are, not unfrequently, carried on the Norfolk railway, not in a year, but in a fortnight.

But perhaps there is no respect in which railways contribute so greatly to the public advantage as in the inland coal traffic; still in its infancy, but becoming most rapidly developed. The waggons which carry chalk from one county, return home laden with coals from another. Large reductions are being effected in the price of this prime necessary of life. Districts in which the peasantry, only a few years since, made their fires with a few scanty sticks gathered from a hedge, are now abundantly and cheaply supplied with the fuel which is so important to comfort

and civilisation. Railways have been already presented to you as public educators ; here you have them as agents of benevolence and ameliorators of the condition of the human race; for it may be safely said that there is no contribution to the social comfort of society equal to warmth. Comfort, indeed, implies warmth; and warmth, chemically considered, is an addition to the supply of food.

Before railways were brought into existence, the internal communication of this country was restricted by its physical circumstances. Canals, apparently, allow an infinite series of boats to pass along them ; but it must be borne in mind, that Nature opposes a practical limit to that description of transit. Every canal-boat has to pass a summit more or less abundantly supplied with water. Without a steam-engine at every lock, the extent of the traffic by this inland navigation must, therefore, be dependent upon the supply of water which can be commanded at the summits to be traversed. But, more than this, all canals are subject to the vicissitudes of dry seasons, which may occur at periods when the traffic is at a maximum, and to the frost of severe seasons, during which Nature may compel a total cessation of traffic for several weeks. In comparison with these difficulties, railway communication has none; and hitherto, whatever barriers NATURE has opposed, SCIENCE has entirely surmounted.

Before concluding this address, I am desirous of adding a few words by way of practical application of the great subject we have been considering.

I have directed attention to our railway system as it is. I have endeavoured to show you the importance of that system, as regards the works which have been executed, the capital invested, and the multitudes to whom it gives employment. I have endeavoured to point out some of the defects of the system, and to indicate the causes from which those defects arise. I have shown you the magnitude and importance of the results attained, and that the system under which they have been achieved must inevitably be progressive. There is, however, a great duty still unperformed, which devolves less upon myself than upon you. It should be one of the most earnest efforts of Civil Engineers to improve and perfect this vast and comprehensive system.

It is not merely upon works of magnitude that your attention should be fixed: the railway system is so vast, that every item,

[merged small][ocr errors]

however minute in itself, becomes of the greatest importance when multiplied by the extent of work performed. You must consider that every farthing saved upon the train mileage of our country represents to the railways no less an aggregate than £80,000 per annum. This fact may help to realise to you how important it is that your attention should be directed carefully to every department of the railway system. The perfection of the permanent way, its maintenance in sound condition, the durability of materials of construction, the simplification and improvement of locomotives, the economy of fuel, - even the consumption of grease and cotton waste, — all these are items in which economical arrangements may be turned to the highest advantage.

There are other points which will, doubtless, suggest themselves to many who are present; and I can only say, for my own part, that nothing will afford me higher satisfaction, than to feel that any observations I have addressed to you may elicit practical suggestions for the improvement of the system with which my name, chiefly in consequence of my Father's works, is so intimately associated. For it is my great pride to remember, that whatever may have been done, and however extensive may have been my own connection with railway development, all I know and all I have done, is primarily due to the Parent whose memory I cherish and revere.

When I consider how intimately associated is the railway system with the profession to which I have the honour to belong - when I reflect, not only how much that system owes to the profession, but also how much the profession owes to railways, I cannot doubt that the Civil Engineers of England will fulfil their duty. For, looking around to-night, who can doubt that, whilst Railways owe their construction to Civil Engineers, they, in return, owe to railways a large proportion of that improved position, that increased intelligence, and that familiar knowledge of abstract science, which within the last twenty years, has so largely developed itself both within and without these walls ? Our business, from a craft, has become a profession; and that profession, I rejoice to say, is daily exhibiting itself, not only as one of increased importance, but also as one of increasing cordiality and co-operation. There was a time, amid the many exciting competitions occasioned by railway enterprise, when the spirit of rivalry amongst the Civil Engineers of England was

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »