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an average cost of eight-tenths of a penny per mile, the average fare for all classes of passengers not exceeding one penny farthing per mile. The safety with which this immense traffic was conducted is not the least remarkable feature of the system; for it appears, from Captain Galton's report to the Board of Trade, that the proportion of accidents to passengers, from causes beyond their own control, was only 1 person killed to 16,168,449 conveyed.* Those who desire statistical evidence as to the extent to which this new means of communication is employed for the conveyance of manufactures, minerals, and agricultural produce, will find abundant proofs in the same report.
In Canada and the United States, the railroad is of greater value even than in England; it is there regarded as the pioneer of colonisation, and as instrumental in opening up new and fertile territories of vast extent — the foodgrounds of future nations.
What may be the eventual results of the general adoption of railways in the civilised countries of Europe, remains to be seen; but it is probable that, by abridging distance, bringing nations into closer communication, and enabling them more freely to exchange the products of their industry, they may tend to abate national antipathies and bind together more closely the great families of mankind.
Disastrous though railway enterprises and speculations have proved to many concerned in them, and mixed up though they have been with much fraud and folly, the debt which the public at large owe to railways cannot be disputed; and after all temporary faults and blots have been admitted and disposed of, they must, nevertheless, be recognised as the most magnificent system of public intercommunication that has yet been given to the world.
* Captain Galton's Report to the Committee of Council for Trade, &c, 21st July, 1857.
What manner of men were they by whom this great work was accomplished? How did the conception first dawn upon their minds? By what means did railways grow and quicken into such vigorous life? By what moral and material agencies did the inventors and founders of the system work out the ideas whose results have been so prodigious?
These questions the Author has endeavoured to answer in the following Biography of George Stephenson, to whose labours the world is mainly indebted for the locomotive railway system. Indeed, he has been so closely identified with its origin, progress, and eventual establishment on a sound practical basis, that his life may be said to include the history of Railway Locomotion almost down to the present time.
Independently, however, of these considerations, the life of George Stephenson will be found to furnish subject of interest as well as instruction. Strongly self-reliant, diligent in self-culture, and of indomitable perseverance, the characters of such men — happily numerous in England — are almost equivalent to institutions. And if the Author have succeeded in delineating, however imperfectly, the life and character of George Stephenson, the perusal of this book may not be without some salutary influence.
The Author's acknowledgments are due to the following gentlemen, amongst others, for much valuable information as to the successive improvements effected by Mr. Stephenson in the locomotive engine, and also with reference to the various railways at home and abroad, with which he was professionally connected:—Mr. Robert Stephenson, M. P.: Mr. Edward Pease, of Darlington; Mr. John Dixon, C. E; Mr. John Bourne, C.E.; Mr. Thomas Sopwith, C.E.; Sir Joshua Walmsley; Mr. Jonathan Foster, of Wylam; Mr. Charles Parker; Mr. William Kell, and Mr. Clephan, of Gateshead.
Many interesting facts, relating to Mr. Stephenson's early career, have been obtained from William Coe and other humble persons, who were only too proud to have the opportunity of communicating what they remembered of their distinguished fellow-workman.
The Author is also under obligations to Mr. F. Swanwick, C.E., Mr. C. Binns, of Clay Cross, and Mr. Vaughan, of Snibston, for various particulars illustrative of Mr. Stephenson's private life and habits while residing at Liverpool, Alton Grange, and Tapton House, and which supply an admitted defect in the earlier editions of this biography.
The Portrait prefixed to this volume is copied, by their special permission, from a very beautiful engraving of Lucas's whole-length portrait, published by Messrs. Ilenry Graves and Co., Pall Mall.