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reservoir, the steam gradually escaped into the atmosphere without noise.* This arrangement was devised expressly for the purpose of preventing any blast in the chimney, the value of which was not detected until George Stephenson, adopting it with a preconceived design and purpose, demonstrated its importance and value, — as being, in fact, the very life-breath of the locomotive engine.
* A drawing of the Wylam engine is given in the first edition of Nicholas Wood's Treatise on Railroads, 1825. The engine was placed on eight wheels, having seven rack-wheels working inside them, distributing the motion; while a barrel fixed behind the engine on two other wheels contained the water:-an exceedingly clumsy, uncouth-looking machine.
GEORGE STEPHENSON'S FIRST LOCOMOTIVES.
WHILE Mr. Blackett was thus experimenting and building locomotives at Wylam, George Stephenson was anxiously brooding over the same subject at Killingworth. He was no sooner appointed engine-wright of the collieries than his attention was directed to the more economical haulage of the coal from the pits to the river side. We have seen that one of the first important improvements which he made, after being placed in charge of the colliery machinery, was to apply the surplus power of a pumping steam-engine, fixed underground, for the purpose of drawing the coals out of the deeper workings of the Killingworth mines, — by which he succeeded in effecting a large reduction in the expenditure on manual and horse labour.
The coals, when brought above ground, had next to be laboriously dragged by means of horses to the shipping staiths on the Tyne, several miles distant. The adoption of a tramroad, it is true, had tended to facilitate their transit; nevertheless the haulage was both tedious and expensive. With the view of economising labour, inclined planes were laid down by Mr. Stephenson, where the nature of the ground would admit of this expedient being adopted. Thus, a train of full waggons let down the incline by means of a rope running over wheels laid along the tramroad, the other end of which was attached to a train of empty waggons placed at the bottom of the parallel road on the same incline, dragged them up by the single power of gravity — an exceedingly economical mode of working the traffic. But this applied only to a comparatively small portion of the entire length of road. An economical method of working the coal trains, instead of by means of horses — the keep of which was at the time very costly in consequence of the high price of corn, — was still a great desideratum; and the best practical minds in the collieries were actively engaged in the attempt to solve the problem. Although Mr. Stephenson from an early period entertained and gave utterance to his sanguine speculations as to the “travelling engine,” this was his first practical object in studying it, and endeavouring to make it an effective power; and he now proceeded to devote the entire energy of his strong practical intellect to the subject.
First, he endeavoured to make himself thoroughly acquainted with what had already been done. Mr. Blackett's engines were working daily at Wylam, past the cottage in which he had been born; and thither he frequently went, sometimes in the company of Nicholas Wood, to inspect Trevithick’s patent engine, and observe the improvements which were from time to time made by Mr. Blackett, both in the locomotive and in the plateway along which it worked. He carefully inspected the “Black Billy," with its single cylinder and fly-wheel, its pumps, plugs, and spur gear. After mastering its arrangements and observing the working of the machine, he did not hesitate to declare to Jonathan Foster on the spot, his firm conviction that he could make a much better engine than Trevithick’s — one that would draw steadier and work more cheaply and effectively.
In the meantime he had also the advantage of seeing one of Blenkinsop's Leeds engines, constructed by Fenton Murray and Wood, of that town. The engine was a very
excellent piece of workmanship, and a great improvement upon the clumsy machines which Mr. Stephenson had inspected at Wylam. It was placed on the tramway leading from the collieries of Kenton and Coxlodge, on the 2nd of September, 1813; and a large concourse of spectators assembled to witness its first performances. This locomotive drew sixteen chaldron waggons containing an aggregate weight of seventy tons, at the rate of about three miles an hour. George Stephenson and several of the Killingworth men were amongst the crowd of spectators that day; and after examining the engine and observing its performances, he observed to his companions, as related by Heppel, who was present, that “ he thought he could make a better engine than that, to go upon legs.” Probably he had heard of the invention of Brunton, whose patent had by this time been published, and proved the subject of much curious speculation in the colliery districts. Certain it is that, shortly after the inspection of the Coxlodge engine, Stephenson contemplated the construction of a new locomotive, which was to surpass all which had preceded it. He observed that those engines which had been constructed up to this time, however ingenious in their arrangements, had proved practical failures. Mr. Blackett's were both clumsy and expensive. Chapman's had been removed from the Heaton tramway in 1812, and was regarded as a total failure. And the Blenkinsop engine at Coxlodge was found very unsteady and costly in its working ; besides, it pulled the rails to pieces, the entire strain being upon the rack-rail on one side of the road. The boiler, however, having shortly blown up, there was an end of the engine; and the colliery owners did not feel encouraged to try any further experiment.
An efficient and economical working locomotive engine, therefore, still remained to be invented; and to accomplish this object Mr. Stephenson now applied himself. Profiting
by what his predecessors had done, warned by their failures, and encouraged by their partial successes, he commenced his important labours. There was still wanting the man who should accomplish for the locomotive what James Watt had done for the steam-engine, and combine in a complete form the separate plans of others, embodying with them such original inventions and adaptations of his own as to entitle him to the merit of inventing the working locomotive, in the same manner as James Watt is regarded as the inventor of the working condensing engine. This was the great work upon which George Stephenson now entered, probably without any adequate idea of the immense consequences of his labours to society and civilisation.
He proceeded to bring the subject of constructing a “ Travelling Engine,” as he then denominated the locomotive, under the notice of the lessees of the Killingworth colliery, in the year 1813. Lord Ravensworth, the principal partner, had already formed a very favourable opinion of Stephenson, from the important improvements which he had effected in the colliery engines, both above and below ground; and, after considering the matter, and hearing Stephenson's statements, he authorised him to proceed with the construction of a locomotive, - though his lordship was, by some, called a fool for advancing money for such a purpose. “The first locomotive that I made,” said Mr. Stephenson, many years after*, when speaking of his early career at a public meeting in Newcastle, “was at Killingworth colliery, and with Lord Ravensworth's money. Yes, Lord Ravensworth and partners were the first to entrust me with money to make a locomotive engine. That engine was made thirty-two years ago, and we called it 'My Lord.'
* Speech at the opening of the Newcastle and Darlington Railway, June 18th, 1844.