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describe that to me — the arrangement and the action." Thus he taught him to read a drawing as easily as he would read a page of a book. This practice soon gave to both the greatest facility in apprehending the details of even the most difficult and complicated mechanical drawing.
The son, like his father, was very fond of reducing his scientific reading to practice. On one occasion, after reading Franklin's description of the lightning experiment, he expended all his hoarded Saturday's pennies in purchasing about half a mile of copper wire at a brazier's shop in Newcastle. After privily preparing his kite, he sent it up at the cottage door, insulating the wire by means of a few feet of silk cord. His father's pony was standing near, waiting for the master to mount. Bringing the end of the wire just over the pony's crupper, so smart an electric shock was given it, that the brute was almost knocked down. At this juncture the father issued from the door with riding-whip in hand, and was witness to the scientific trick just played off upon his galloway. “Ah! you mischievous scoundrel ! ” cried he to the boy, who ran off. But he inwardly chuckled with pride, nevertheless, at his son's successful experiment.
The connexion of Robert with the Philosophical and Literary Society of Newcastle brought him into communication with the Rev. William Turner, one of the secretaries of the institution. That gentleman was always ready to assist the inquirer after knowledge, and took an early interest in the studious youth from Killingworth, with whose father also he soon became acquainted. Mr. Turner cheerfully and even zealously helped them in their joint inquiries, and excited while he endeavoured to satisfy their eager thirst for scientific information. Many years afterwards, towards the close of his life, Mr. Stephenson expressed most warmly the gratitude and esteem he felt towards his revered instructor. “ Mr. Turner,” he said, “was always ready to assist me with books, with instruments, and with counsel, gratuitously and cheerfully. He gave me the most valuable assistance and instruction, and to my dying day I can never forget the obligations which I owe to my venerable friend."
Mr. Turner's conduct towards George Stephenson was all the more worthy of admiration, because at that time the object of his friendly instruction and counsel occupied but the position of a comparatively obscure workman, of no means or influence, who had become known to him only through his anxious desire for information on scientific subjects. He could little have dreamt that the object of his almost fatherly attention would achieve a reputation so distinguished as that to which he afterwards reached, and that he would revolutionise by his inventions and improvements the internal communications of the civilised world. The circumstance is encouraging to those who, like Mr. Turner, are still daily devoting themselves with equal disinterestedness to the education of the working-classes in our schools and mechanics' institutes. Though the opportunity of lending a helping hand to such men as George Stephenson may but rarely occur, yet the labours of such teachers are never without excellent results.
THE BEGINNINGS OF RAILWAYS AND LOCOMOTIVES.
RAILWAYS, like most other important inventions, had very humble beginnings. The first railway, properly so called, consisted of a rude line of wooden or iron rails, laid down for the easier guidance of waggons in which coal was hauled from the pit to the shipping place. This germ of the modern railroad, planted by some unknown hand, grew to maturity gradually and slowly. Progress, in this as in almost all branches of mechanics, was effected through the exertions of many; one generation entering upon the labours of that which preceded it, and carrying onwards their improvements.
There is, doubtless, a vast difference between the old road track, on which pack-horses carried the main traffic of the country down to a comparatively recent date, and the modern railroad worked by powerful locomotives; yet the change was effected by comparatively easy stages. From an early period the growing trade and commerce of the country demanded constantly increased facilities for the transport of heavy articles. This was especially necessary in the mining districts, where it is to be observed that nearly all the modern improvements in road-making have originated, and that principally in the necessities of the coal trade. The colliery owners along the Tyne, in order to send their coals to market, found it necessary to form waggon-roads between their collieries and the river, where they had quays formed at which the coals could be delivered into the “ keels” alongside. The “ keel“ is a craft peculiar to the Tyne - a pudgy grim-looking sort of ressel, with a single sail, said to be of the same model as the ships of the Danish invaders who so often raraged the northern coasts long ago. Every evening, a fleet of some hundreds of these skeelsmight be seen floating down their cargoes of coal to the ships lying at anchor in deep water at Shields, and other ports down the river, into which they were transferred. In this process there was much waste of labour, as well as damage to the coal. To obriate this where practicable, loading staiths were erected and extended into the river, so that ships might lie there and have the ecal emptied into them direct. Connected with these staiths were the colliery wagson-ways, many of them several miles in length, along which the coal was dragged by means of horses. The prime object of all the improvements made in the road was so to diminish friction by increasing the smoothness of the surface, that the haulage of the coal-waggons by horses should be rendered as easy as possible. With this object, wooden rails were first laid down by one Master Beaumont* between his coal pits, near Newcastle, and the staiths by the river side, probably about the year 1630). On these rails a large loaded waggon would be drawn by one line.
The same msle of transport was shortly after generally einployed in the principal colliery districts. Old Roger North thus deutikas the railroarls as they were laid down in the neighlysurhood of the Tyne, in 1676:
“ Another remarkable thing is their way-leaves; for when men have pieces of ground between the colliery and the river, they sell the leave to lead coals over their ground, and so
* This enterprising gentleman expended not less than 30,0002 in his mining speculations, the result of which is described by a local chronicler, one Mr. Gray, writing in 1649, who quaintly observes, that “ within a few years he consumed all his money, and rode home upon his light horse."
dear that the owner of a rood of ground will expect 201. per annum for this leave. The manner of the carriage is, by laying rails of timber from the colliery down to the river exactly straight and parallel, and bulky carts are made with four rowlets fitting these rails, whereby the carriage is so easy that one horse will draw down some four or five chaldron of coals, and is an immense benefit to the coal merchants.” *
A century later (in 1770—1772) the same roads were found in general use by Arthur Young. The roadway was little improved, but the works on which the road was formed were sometimes of a formidable cbaracter. Speaking of the waggon roads near Newcastle, Mr. Young observes :-" The coal-waggon roads, from the pits to the water, are great works, carried over all sorts of inequalities of ground, so far as the distance of nine or ten miles. The tracks of the wheels are marked with pieces of wood let into the road for the wheels of the waggons to run on, by which means one horse is enabled to draw, and that with ease, fifty or sixty bushels of coals." f.
An intelligent French traveller, named Saint-Fond, who visited Newcastle in 1791, speaks in terms of high admiration of the colliery waggon ways, as superior to everything of the kind that he had seen. He describes the wooden rails as formed with a rounded upper surface, like a projecting moulding, and the waggon wheels as being “ made of castiron, and hollowed in the manner of a metal pulley," that they might fit the rounded surface of the rails. The economy with which the coal was thus hauled to the shipping places was strongly urged upon his own countrymen, as an inducement to them to adopt a similar mode of transit. I
* Roger North's Life of Lord Keeper Guildford, A.D. 1676. † Six Months' Tour, vol, iii. p. 9.
| Travels in England, Scotland, and the Hebrides, translated from the French, vol i. pp. 142-6.