The Stephensons V.
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CHAPTER IX.

THE LIVERPOOL AND MANCHESTER RAILWAY PROJECTED.


    WHILE the coal proprietors of the Bishop Auckland district were taking steps to connect their collieries with the sea by means of an iron railroad, the merchants of Liverpool and Manchester were considering whether some better means could not be devised for bringing these important centres of commerce and manufacture into more direct connection.

    There were canals as well as roads between the two places, but all routes were alike tedious and costly, especially as regarded the transit of heavy goods.  The route by turnpike road was thirty-six miles, by the Duke of Bridgewater's Canal fifty miles, by the Mersey and Irwell navigation the same, and by the Leeds and Liverpool Canal fifty-six miles.

    These were all overburdened with traffic.  The roads were bad, the tolls heavy, and the haulage expensive.  The journey by coach occupied from five to six hours, and by wagon nearly a day.  But very few heavy goods went by road.  The canals nearly monopolized this traffic, and, having contrived to keep up the rates, the canal companies charged what they liked.  They conducted their business in a drowsy, sleepy, stupid manner.  If the merchant complained of delay, he was told to do better if he could.  If he objected to the rates, he was warned that if he did not pay them promptly his goods might not be carried at all.

    The canal companies were in a position to dictate their own terms, and they did this in such a way as to disgust alike the senders and the receivers of goods, so that both Liverpool and Manchester were up in arms against them.  Worse even than the heavy charges for goods was the occasional entire stoppage of the canals.  Sometimes they were frozen up; sometimes they were blocked by the press of traffic, so that goods lay on the wharves unmoved for weeks together; and at some seasons it occupied a longer time to bring cotton from Liverpool to Manchester by canal-boat than it had done to bring it from New York to Liverpool by sailing ship.

    Was there no way of remedying these great and admitted evils?  Were the commercial public to continue to be bound hand a foot, and left at the mercy of the canal proprietors?  Immense interests at Liverpool and Manchester were at stake.  The Liverpool merchants wanted new facilities for sending raw materials inland, and the Manchester manufacturers for sending the manufactured products back to Liverpool for shipment.  Vast populations had become settled in the towns of South Lancashire, whom it was of vital importance that the communication with the sea should be regular, constant, and economical.

    These considerations early led to the discussion of some improved mode of transit from Liverpool into the interior for heavy goods, and one of the most favoured plans was that of a tram-road.  It was first suggested by the corn-merchants of Liverpool, who had experienced the great inconveniences resulting from the canal monopoly.  One of the most zealous advocates of the tram-road was Mr. Joseph Sandars, who took considerable pains to ascertain the results of the working of the coal lines in the North, both by horse and engine power, and he satisfied himself that either method would, if adopted between Liverpool and Manchester, afford the desired relief to the commercial and manufacturing interests.  The subject was ventilated by him in the local papers, and in the course of the year 1821 Mr. Sandars succeeded in getting together a committee of Liverpool gentlemen for the purpose of farther considering the subject, and, if found practicable, of starting a company with the object of forming a tram-road between the two towns.

    While the project was still in embryo, the rumour of it reached the ears of Mr. William James, then of West Bromwich, an enthusiastic advocate of tram-roads and railways.  As a land-surveyor and land-agent, as well as coal-owner, he had already laid down many private railroads.  He had also laid out and superintended the execution and the working of canals, projected extensive schemes of drainage and inclosure, and, on the whole, was one of the most useful and active men of his time.  But a series of unfortunate speculations in mines having seriously impaired his fortunes, he again reverted to his original profession of land-surveyor, and was so occupied in the neighbourhood of Liverpool when he heard of the scheme set on foot for the construction of the proposed tram-road to Manchester.

    He at once called upon Mr. Sandars and offered his services as its surveyor.  We believe he at first offered to survey the line at his own expense, to which Mr. Sandars could not object; but his means were too limited to enable him to do this successfully, and Mr. Sandars and several of his friends agreed to pay him £300 for the survey, or at the rate of about £10 a mile.  Mr. James's first interview with Mr. Sandars was in the beginning of July, 1821, when it was arranged that he should go over the ground and form a general opinion as to the practicability of a tram-way.

    A trial survey was then begun, but it was conducted with great difficulty, the inhabitants of the district entertaining much prejudice against the scheme.  In some places Mr. James and his surveying party had even to encounter personal violence.  At St Helen's one of the chain-men was laid hold of by a mob of colliers, and threatened to be hurled down a coal-pit.  A number of men, women, and children assembled, and ran after the surveyors wherever they made their appearance, bawling nicknames and throwing stones at them.  As one of the chain-men was climbing over a gate one day, a labourer made at him with a pitch-fork, and ran it through his clothes into his back; other watchers running up, the chain-man, who was more stunned than hurt, took to his heels and fled.  But that mysterious-looking instrument—the theodolite—most excited the fury of the natives, who concentrated on the man who carried it their fiercest execrations and most offensive nicknames.

    A powerful fellow, a noted bruiser, was hired by the surveyors to carry the instrument, with a view to its protection against all assailants; but one day an equally powerful fellow, a St Helen's collier, cock of the walk in his neighbourhood, made up to the theodolite bearer to wrest it from him by sheer force.  A battle took place, the collier was soundly pommeled, but the natives poured in volley's of stones upon the surveyors and their instruments, and the theodolite was smashed in pieces.

    Met by these and other obstructions, it turned out that the survey could not be completed in time for depositing the proper plans, and the intended application to Parliament in the next session could not be made.  In the mean time, Mr. James proceeded to Killingworth to see Stephenson's locomotives at work.  Stephenson was not at home at the time, but James saw his engines, and was very much struck by their power and efficiency.  He saw at a glance the magnificent uses to which the locomotive might be applied.  "Here," said he, "is an engine that will, before long, effect a complete revolution in society."  Returning to Moreton-in-the-Marsh, he wrote to Mr. Losh (Stephenson's partner in the patent) expressing his admiration of the Killingworth engine.  "It is," said he, "the greatest wonder of the age, and the forerunner, as I firmly believe, of the most important changes in the internal communications of the kingdom."  Shortly after, Mr. James, accompanied by his two sons, made a second journey to Killingworth, where he met both Losh and Stephenson. The visitors were at once taken to where one of the locomotives was working, and invited to "jump up."  The uncouth and extraordinary appearance of the machine, as it came snorting along somewhat alarming to the youths, who expressed their fears lest it should burst; and they were with some difficulty induced to mount.

 

 


    The engine went through its usual performances, dragging a heavy load of coal-wagons at about six miles an hour with apparent ease, at which Mr. James expressed his extreme satisfaction, and declared to Mr. Losh his opinion that Stephenson "was the greatest practical genius of the age" and that, "if he developed the full powers of that engine (the locomotive), his fame in the world would rank equal with that of Watt."  Mr. James informed Stephenson and Losh of his survey of the proposed tram-road between Liverpool and Manchester, and did not hesitate to state that he would thenceforward advocate the construction of a locomotive railroad instead of the tram-road which had originally been proposed.

    Stephenson and Losh were naturally desirous of enlisting James's good services on behalf of their patent locomotive, for as yet it had proved comparatively unproductive.  They believed that he might be able so to advocate it in influential quarters as to insure its more extensive adoption, and with that object they proposed to give him an interest in the patent.  Accordingly, they entered into an agreement by which they assigned to him one fourth of any profits which might be derived from the use of the patent locomotive on any railways constructed south of a line drawn across England from Liverpool to Hull.  The arrangement, however, led to no beneficial results.  Mr. James endeavoured to introduce the engine on the Moreton-on-Marsh Railway, but it was opposed by the engineer of the line, and the attempt failed.  He next urged that a locomotive should be sent for trial upon the Mersham tram-road; but, anxious though Stephenson was to to its extended employment, he was too cautious to risk experiment which might bring discredit upon the engine; and the Mersham Road being only laid with cast-iron plates which would not bear its weight, the invitation was declined.

    The first survey made of the Liverpool and Manchester line having been found very imperfect, it was determined to have a second and more complete one made in the following year.  Robert Stephenson, though then a lad of only nineteen, had already obtained some practical knowledge of surveying, having been engaged on the preliminary survey of the Stockton and Darlington Railway in the previous year, and he was sent over to Liverpool by his father to give Mr. James such assistance as he could.  Robert Stephenson was present with Mr. James on the occasion which he tried to lay out the line across Chat Moss—a proceeding which was not only difficult, but dangerous.  The Moss "was very wet at the time, and only its edges could be ventured on.  Mr. James was a heavy, thick-set man; and one day, when endeavouring to obtain a stand for his theodolite, he felt himself suddenly sinking. He immediately threw himself down, and rolled over and over until he reached firm ground again, in a sad mess.  Other attempts which he subsequently made to advance into the Moss for the same purpose were abandoned for the same reason—the want of a solid stand for the theodolite.

    As Mr. James proceeded with his survey, he found a host of opponents springing up in all directions, some of whom he conciliated by deviations, but others refused to be conciliated on any terms.  Among these last were Lords Derby and Wilton, Mr. Bradshaw, and the Strafford family.  The proposed line passed through their lands, and, regarding it as a nuisance, without the slightest compensating advantage to them, they determined to oppose it at every stage.  Their agents drove the surveyors off the land; the farmers set men at the gates armed with pitchforks to resist their progress; and the survey proceeded with great difficulty.  Mr. James endeavoured to avoid Lord Derby's Knowsley estate, but as he had received instructions from Messrs. Ewart and Gladstone to lay out the line so as to enable it to be extended to the docks, he found it difficult to accomplish this object and at the same time avert the hostility of the noble lord.  The only large land-owners who gave the scheme their support were Mr. Legh and Mr. Wyrley Birch, who not only subscribed for shares, but attended several public meetings, and spoke in favour of the proposed railroad.  Public opinion was, however, beginning to be roused, and the canal companies began at length to feel alarmed.

    "At Manchester," Mr. James wrote to Mr. Sandars,


"the subject engages all men's thoughts, and it is curious as well as amusing to hear their conjectures.  The canal companies (southward) are alive to their danger.  I have been the object of their persecution and hate; they would immolate me if they could; but if I can die the death of Samson, by pulling away the pillars, I am content to die with these Philistines.  Be assured, my dear sir, that not a moment shall be lost, nor shall my attention for a day be diverted from this concern, which increases in importance every hour, as well as in the certainty of ultimate success."


    Mr. James was one of the most enthusiastic of men, especially about railways and locomotives.  He believed, with Thomas Gray, who brought out his book about this time, that railways were yet to become the great high roads of civilization.  The speculative character of the man may be inferred from the following passage in one of his letters to Mr. Sandars, written from London:


"Every Parliamentary friend I have seen—and I have many of both houses—eulogizes our plan, and they are particularly anxious that engines should be introduced in the south.  I am now negotiating about the Wandsworth Railroad.  A fortune is to be made by buying the shares, and introducing the engine system upon it.  I am confident capital will treble itself in two years.  I do not choose to publish my views here, and I wish to God some of our Liverpool friends would take this advantage.  I have bought some shares, but my capital is locked up in unproductive lands and mines."


    As the survey of the Liverpool and Manchester line proceeded, Mr. James's funds fell short, and he was under the necessity of applying to Mr. Sandars and his friends from time to time for farther contributions.  It was also necessary for him to attend to his business as a surveyor in other parts of the country, and he was at such times under the necessity of leaving the work to be done by his assistants.  Thus the survey was necessarily imperfect, and when the time arrived for lodging the plans, it was found that they were practically worthless.  Mr. James's pecuniary difficulties had also reached their climax.  "The surveys and plans," he wrote to Mr. Sandars, "can't be completed, I see, till the end of the week.  With illness, anguish of mind, and inexpressible distress, I perceive I must sink if I wait any longer; and, in short, I have so neglected the suit in Chancery I named to you, that if I do not put in an answer I shall be outlawed."

    Mr. James's embarrassments increased, and he was unable to shake himself free from them.  He was confined for many months in the Queen's Bench Prison, during which time this indefatigable railway propagandist wrote an essay illustrative of the advantages of direct inland communication by a line of engine railroad between London, Brighton, and Portsmouth.  Meanwhile the Liverpool and Manchester scheme seemed to have fallen to the ground.  But it only slept.  When its promoters found that they could no longer rely on Mr. James's services, they determined to employ another engineer.

    Mr. Sandars had by this time visited George Stephenson at Killingworth, and, like all who came within reach of his personal influence, was charmed with him at first sight.  The energy which he had displayed in carrying on the works of the Stockton and Darlington Railway, now approaching completion; his readiness to face difficulties, and his practical ability in overcoming them; the enthusiasm which he displayed on the subject of railways and railway locomotion, concurred in satisfying Mr. Sandars that he was, of all men, the best calculated to help forward the undertaking at this juncture; and having, on his return to Liverpool, reported this opinion to the committee, they approved his recommendation, and George Stephenson was unanimously appointed engineer of the projected railway.  On the 25th of May, 1824, Mr. Sandars wrote to Mr. James as follows:


    "I think it right to inform you that the committee have engaged your friend George Stephenson.  We expect him here in a few days.  The subscription-list for £300,000 is filled, and the Manchester gentlemen have conceded to us the entire management.  I very much regret that, by delays and promises, you have forfeited the confidence of the subscribers.  I can not help it.  I fear now that you will only have the fame of being connected with the commencement of this undertaking."


    It will be observed that Mr. Sandars had held to his original purpose with great determination and perseverance, and he gradually succeeded in enlisting on his side an increasing number of influential merchants and manufacturers both at Liverpool and Manchester.  Early in 1824 he published a pamphlet, in which he strongly urged the great losses and interruptions to the trade of the district by the delays in the forwarding of merchandise; and in the same year he had a Public Declaration drawn up, and signed by upward of 150 of the principal merchants of Liverpool, setting forth that they considered "the present establishments for the transport of goods quite inadequate, and that a new line of conveyance has become absolutely necessary to conduct the increasing trade of the country with speed, certainty, and economy."

    A public meeting was then held to consider the best plan to be adopted, and resolutions were passed in favour of a railroad.  A committee was appointed to take the necessary measures; but, as if reluctant to enter upon their arduous struggle with the "vested interests," they first waited on Mr. Bradshaw, the Duke of Bridgewater's canal agent, in the hope of persuading him to increase the means of conveyance, as well as to reduce the charges; but they were met by an unqualified refusal.  He would not improve the existing means of conveyance; he would have nothing to do with the proposed railway; and, if persevered in, he would oppose it with all his power.  The canal proprietors, confident in their imagined security, ridiculed the proposed railway as a chimera.  It had been spoken about years before, and nothing had come of it then; it would be the same now.

    In order to form a better opinion as to the practicability of the railroad, a deputation of gentlemen interested in the project proceeded to Killingworth to inspect the engines which had been so long in use there.  They first went to Darlington, where they found the works of the Stockton line in progress, though still unfinished.  Proceeding next to Killingworth with George Stephenson, they there witnessed the performances of his locomotive engines.  The result of their visit was, on the whole, so satisfactory, that on their return to Liverpool it was determined to form a company of the proprietors for the construction of a double line of railway between Liverpool and Manchester.

    The original promoters of the undertaking included men the highest standing and local influence in Liverpool and Manchester, with Charles Lawrence as chairman.  Lister Ellis, Robert Gladstone, John Moss, and Joseph Sandars as deputy chairman; while among the ordinary members of the committee were Robert Benson, James Cropper, John Ewart, Wellwood Maxwell, and William Rathbone, of Liverpool, and the brothers Birley, Peter Ewart, William Garnett, John Kennedy, and William Potter, of Manchester.

    The committee also included another important name—that of Henry Booth, then a corn-merchant of Liverpool, and afterwards the secretary and manager of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway.  Mr. Booth was a man of admirable business qualities, sagacious and far-seeing, shrewd and practical, of considerable literary ability, and he also possessed a knowledge of mechanics, which afterward proved of the greatest value to the railway interest; for to him we owe the suggestion of the multitubular boiler in the form in which it has since been employed upon railways, and the coupling-screw, as well as other important mechanical appliances which have come into general use.

    The first prospectus, issued in October, 1824, set forth in clear and vigorous language the objects of the company, the urgent need of additional means of communication between Liverpool and Manchester, and the advantages offered by the railway over all other proposed expedients.  It was shown that the water-carriers not only exacted the most arbitrary terms from the public but were positively unable to carry the traffic requiring accommodation.  Against the indefinite continuance or recurrence of those evils, said the prospectus, the public have but one security: "It is competition that is wanted; and the proof of this assertion may be adduced from the fact that shares in the Old Quay Navigation, of which the original cost was £70, have been sold as high as £1250 each!"  The advantages of the railway over the canals for the carriage of coals was also urged, and it was stated that the charge for transit would be very materially reduced.


    "In the present state of trade and of commercial enterprise (the prospectus proceeded), dispatch is no less essential than economy.  Merchandise is frequently brought across the Atlantic from New York to Liverpool in twenty-one days, while, owing to the various causes of delay above enumerated, goods have in some instances been longer on their passage from Liverpool to Manchester.  But this reproach must not be perpetual.  The advancement in mechanical science renders it unnecessary—the good sense of the community makes it impossible.  Let it not, however, be imagined that, were England to be tardy, other countries would pause in the march of improvement.  Application has been made, on behalf of the Emperor of Russia, for models of the locomotive engine; and other of the Continental governments have been duly apprised of the important schemes for the facilitating of inland traffic, now under discussion by the British public.  In the United States of America, also, they are fully alive to the important results to be anticipated from the introduction of railroads; a gentleman from the United States having recently arrived in Liverpool, with whom it is a principal object to collect the necessary information in order to the establishment of a railway to connect the great rivers Potomac and Ohio."


    It will be observed that the principal, indeed almost the sole, object contemplated by the projectors of the undertaking was the improved carriage of merchandise and coal, and that the conveyance of passengers was scarcely calculated on, the only paragraph in the prospectus relating to the subject being the following: "Moreover, as a cheap and expeditious means of conveyance for travellers, the railway holds out the fair prospect of a public accommodation, the magnitude and importance of which can not be immediately ascertained."  The estimated expense of forming the line was set down at £400,000—a sum which was eventually found quite inadequate.  The subscription list, when opened, was filled up without difficulty.

    While the project was still under discussion, its promoters, desirous of removing the doubts which existed as to the employment of steam-power on the proposed railway, sent a second deputation to Killingworth for the purpose of again observing the action of Stephenson's engines.  The cautious projectors of the railway were not yet quite satisfied, and a third journey was made to Killingworth in January, 1825, by several gentlemen of the committee, accompanied by practical engineers, for the purpose of being personal eye-witnesses of what steam-carriages were able to perform upon a railway.  There they saw a train, consisting of a locomotive and loaded wagons, weighing in all 54 tons, travelling at the average rate of about 7 miles an hour, the greatest speed being about 9½ miles an hour.  But when the engine was run with only one wagon attached containing twenty gentlemen, five of whom were engineers, the speed attained was from 10 to 12 miles an hour.

    In the mean time the survey was proceeded with, in the face of great opposition on the part of the proprietors of the lands through which the railway was intended to pass.  The prejudices of the farming and labouring classes were strongly excited against the persons employed upon the ground, and it was with the greatest difficulty that the levels could be taken.  This opposition was especially manifested when the attempt was made to survey the line through the properties of Lords Derby and Sefton, and also where it crossed the Duke of Bridgewater's Canal.  At Knowsley, Stephenson and his surveyors were driven off the ground by the keepers, and threatened with rough handling if found there again.  Lord Derby's farmers also turned out their men to watch the surveying party, and prevent them entering on any lands where they had the power of driving them off.  Afterward Stephenson suddenly and unexpectedly went upon the ground with a body of surveyors and their assistants who outnumbered Lord Derby's keepers and farmers, hastily collected to resist them, and this time they were only threatened with the legal consequences of their trespass.

    The same sort of resistance was offered by Lord Sefton's keepers and farmers, with whom the following ruse was adopted.  A minute was concocted, purporting to be a resolution of the Old Quay Canal Company to oppose the projected railroad by every possible means, and calling upon land-owners and others to afford every facility for making such a survey of the intended line as should enable the opponents to detect errors in the scheme of the promoters, and thereby insure its defeat.  A copy of this minute without any signature, was exhibited by the surveyors who went upon the ground, and the farmers, believing, them to have the sanction of the landlords, permitted them to proceed with the hasty completion of their survey.

    The principal opposition, however, was experienced from Mr. Bradshaw, the manager of the Duke of Bridgewater's canal property, who offered a vigorous and protracted resistance to the survey in all its stages.  The duke's farmers obstinately refused permission to enter upon their fields, although Stephenson offered to pay for any damage that might be done.  Mr. Bradshaw positively refused his sanction in any case; and being a strict preserver of game, with a large staff of keepers in his pay, he declared that he would order them to shoot or apprehend any persons attempting a survey over his property.  But one moonlight night a survey was effected by the following ruse.  Some men, under the orders of the surveying party, were set to fire off guns in a particular quarter, on which all the gamekeepers on the watch made off in that direction, and they were drawn away to such a distance in pursuit of the supposed poachers as to enable a rapid survey to be made during their absence.  Describing before Parliament the difficulties which he encountered in making the survey, Stephenson said: "I was threatened to be ducked in the pond if I proceeded, and, of course, we had a great deal of the survey to take by stealth, at the time when the people were at dinner.  We could not get it done by night; indeed, we were watched day and night, and guns were discharged over the grounds belonging to Captain Bradshaw to prevent us.  I can state farther that I was myself twice turned off Mr. Bradshaw's grounds by his men, and they said if I did not go instantly they would take me up and carry me off to Worsley."

    The same kind of opposition had to be encountered all along the line of the intended railway.  Mr. Clay, one of the company's solicitors, wrote to Mr. Sandars from the Bridgewater Arms, Prescott, on the 31st of December, that the landlords, occupiers, trustees of turnpike roads, proprietors of bleach-works, carriers and carters, and even the coal-owners, were dead against the railroad.  "In a word," said he, "the country is up in arms against us."  There were only three considerable land-owners who remained doubtful; and "if these be against us," said Mr. Clay, "then the whole of the great proprietors along the whole line are dissentient, excepting only Mr. Trafford."

    The cottagers and small proprietors were equally hostile.  "The trouble we have with them," wrote Mr. Clay, "is beyond belief; and those patches of gardens at the end of Manchester bordering on the Irwell, and the tenants of Hulme Hall, who, though insignificant, must be seen, give us infinite trouble, all of which, as I have reason to believe, is by no means accidental."  There was also the opposition of the great Bradshaw, the duke's agent "I wrote you this morning," said Mr. Clay, in a wrathful letter of the same date, "since which we have been into Bradshaw's warehouse, now called the Knot Mill, and, after traversing two of the rooms, we got very civilly turned out, which, under all the circumstances, I thought very lucky, and more than we deserved.  However, we have seen more than half of his d—d cottagers."

    There were also the canal companies, who made common cause, formed a common purse, and determined to wage war to the knife against all railways.  The following circular, issued by the Liverpool Railroad Company, with the name of Mr. Lawrence, the chairman, attached, will serve to show the resolute spirit in which the canal proprietors were preparing to resist the bill:


    "SIR—The Leeds and Liverpool, the Birmingham, the Grand Trunk, and other canal companies having issued circulars, calling upon 'every canal and navigation company in the kingdom' to oppose in limine and by a united effort the establishment of railroads wherever contemplated, I have most earnestly to solicit your active exertions on behalf of the Liverpool and Manchester Railroad Company, to counteract the avowed purpose of the canal proprietors, by exposing the misrepresentations of interested parties, by conciliating good will, and especially by making known, as far as you have opportunity, not only the general superiority of railroads over other modes of conveyance, but, in our peculiar case, the absolute necessity of a new and additional line of communication, in order to effect with economy and dispatch the transport of merchandise between this port and Manchester.


"(Signed)                             C
HARLES LAWRENCE, Chairman."


    Such was the state of affairs and such the threatenings of war on both sides immediately previous to the Parliamentary session of 1825.

    When it became known that the promoters of the undertaking were determined—imperfect though the plans were believed to be, from the obstructions thrown in the way of the surveying parties—to proceed with the bill in the next session of Parliament, the canal companies appealed to the public through the press.

    Pamphlets were published and newspapers hired to revile the railway.  It was declared that its formation would prevent the cows grazing and hens laying, while the horses passing along the road would be driven distracted.  The poisoned air from the locomotives would kill the birds that flew over them, and render the preservation of pheasants and foxes no longer possible.  Householders adjoining the projected line were told that their houses would be burnt up by the fire thrown from the engine chimneys, while the air around would be polluted by clouds of smoke.  There would no longer be any use for horses; and if railways extended, the species would become extinguished, and oats and hay be rendered unsalable commodities.  Travelling by rail would be highly dangerous, and country inns would be ruined.  Boilers would burst and blow passengers to atoms.  But there was always this consolation to wind up with—that the weight of the locomotive would completely prevent its moving, and that railways, even if made, could never be worked by steam-power.

    Although the press generally spoke of the Liverpool and Manchester project as a mere speculation—as only one of the many bubble schemes of the period—there were other writers who entertained different views, and boldly and ably announced them [p.261].  Among the most sagacious newspaper articles of the day, calling attention to the application of the locomotive engine to the purposes of rapid steam-travelling on railroads, was a series which appeared in 1824, in the "Scotsman" newspaper, then edited by Mr. Charles Maclaren.  In those publications the wonderful powers of the locomotive were logically demonstrated, and the writer, arguing from the experiments on friction made more than half a century before by Vince and Coulomb, which scientific men seemed to have altogether lost sight of, clearly showed that, by the use of steam-power on railroads, the cheaper as well as more rapid transit of persons and merchandise might be confidently anticipated.

    Not many years passed before the anticipations of the writer, sanguine and speculative though they were at that tune regarded, were amply realized.  Even Mr. Nicholas Wood, in 1825, speaking of the powers of the locomotive, and referring doubtless to the speculations of the "Scotsman" as well as of his equally sanguine friend Stephenson, observed: "It is far from my wish to promulgate to the world that the ridiculous expectations, or rather professions, of the enthusiastic speculist will be realized, and that we shall see engines travelling at the rate of twelve, sixteen, eighteen, or twenty miles an hour.  Nothing could do more harm toward their general adoption and improvement than the promulgation of such nonsense." [p.262]

    Among the papers left by Mr. Sandars we find a letter addressed to him by Sir John Barrow, of the Admiralty, as to the proper method of conducting the case in Parliament, which pretty accurately represents the state of public opinion as to the practicability of locomotive travelling on railroads at the time at which it was written, the 10th of January, 1825.  Sir John strongly urged Mr. Sandars to keep the locomotive altogether in the background; to rely upon the proved inability of the canals and common roads to accommodate the existing traffic; and to be satisfied with proving the absolute necessity of a new line of conveyance; above all, he recommended him not even to hint at the intention of carrying passengers.

    "You will at once," said he,


"raise a host of enemies in the proprietors of coaches, post-chaises, innkeepers, etc., whose interests will be attacked, and who, I have no doubt, will be strongly supported, and for what?  Some thousands of passengers, you say—but a few hundreds I should say—in the year."


    He accordingly urged that passengers as well as speed should be kept entirely out of the act; but, if the latter were insisted on, then he recommended that it should be kept as low as possible—say at five miles an hour!

    Indeed, when George Stephenson, at the interviews with counsel held previous to the Liverpool and Manchester Bill going into Committee of the House of Commons, confidently stated his expectation of being able to run his locomotive at the rate of twenty miles an hour, Mr. William Brougham, who was retained by the promoters to conduct their case, frankly told him that if he did not moderate his views, and bring his engine within a reasonable speed, he would "inevitably damn the whole thing, and be himself regarded as a maniac fit only for Bedlam."

 

Mail coach in a thunderstorm on Newmarket Heath, Suffolk, 1827:
artist unknown.


    The idea thrown out by Stephenson of travelling at a rate of speed double that of the fastest mail-coach appeared at the time so preposterous that he was unable to find any engineer who would risk his reputation in supporting such "absurd views."  Speaking of his isolation at the time, he subsequently observed at a public meeting of railway men in Manchester: "He remembered the time when he had very few supporters in bringing out the railway system—when he sought England over for an engineer to support him in his evidence before Parliament, and could find only one man, James Walker, but was afraid to call that gentleman, because he knew nothing about railways.  He had then no one to tell his tale to but Mr. Sandars, of Liverpool, who did listen to him, and kept his spirits up; and his schemes had at length been carried out only by dint of sheer perseverance."

    George Stephenson's idea was at that time regarded as but the dream of a chimerical projector.  It stood before the public friendless, struggling hard to gain a footing, scarcely daring to lift itself into notice for fear of ridicule.  The civil engineers generally rejected the notion of a Locomotive Railway; and when no leading man of the day could be found to stand forward in support of the Killingworth mechanic, its chances of success must indeed have been pronounced but small.

    When such was the hostility of the civil engineers, no wonder the Reviewers were puzzled.  The "Quarterly," in an able article in support of the projected Liverpool and Manchester Railway, while admitting its absolute necessity, and insisting that there was no choice left but a railroad, on which the journey between Liverpool and Manchester, whether performed by horses or engines, would always be accomplished "within the day," nevertheless scouted the idea of travelling at a greater speed than eight or nine miles an hour.  Adverting to a project for forming a railway to Woolwich, by which passengers were to be drawn by locomotive engines moving with twice the velocity of ordinary coaches, the reviewer observed: "What can be more palpably absurd and ridiculous than the prospect held out of locomotives travelling twice as fast as stage-coaches!  We would as soon expect the people of Woolwich to suffer themselves to be fired off upon one of Congreve's ricochet rockets, as trust themselves to the mercy of such a machine going at such a rate.  We will back old Father Thames against the Woolwich Railway for any sum.  We trust that Parliament will, in all railways it may sanction, limit the speed to eight or none miles an hour, which we entirely agree with Mr. Silvester is as great as can be ventured on with safety."

 


――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER X.

PARLIAMENTARY CONTEST ON THE LIVERPOOL AND
MANCHESTER BILL.


    THE Liverpool and Manchester Bill went into Committee of the House of Commons on the 21st of March, 1825.  There was an extraordinary array of legal talent on the occasion, but especially on the side of the opponents to the measure.  Their wealth and influence enabled them to retain the ablest counsel at the bar; Mr. (afterward Baron) Alderson, Mr. Stephenson, Mr. (afterward Baron) Parke, Mr. Hose, Mr. Macdonnell, Mr. Harrison, Mr. Erle, and Mr. Cullen, appeared for various clients, who made common cause with each other in opposing the bill, the case for which was conducted by Mr. Adam, Mr. Sergeant Spankie, Mr. William Brougham, and Mr. Joy.

    Evidence was taken at great length as to the difficulties and delays in forwarding raw goods of all kinds from Liverpool to Manchester, as also in the conveyance of manufactured articles from Manchester to Liverpool.  The evidence adduced in support of the bill on these grounds was overwhelming.  The utter inadequacy of the existing modes of conveyance to carry on satisfactorily the large and rapidly-growing trade between the two towns was fully proved.  But then came the main difficulty of the promoters' case—that of proving the practicability of constructing a railroad to be worked by locomotive power.  Mr. Adam, in his opening speech, referred to the cases of the Hetton and the Killingworth railroads, where heavy goods were safely and economically transported by means of locomotive engines.  "None of the tremendous consequences," he observed, "have ensued from the use of steam in land carriage that have been stated.  The horses have not started, nor the cows ceased to give their milk, nor have ladies miscarried at the sight of these things going forward at the rate of four miles and a half an hour." Notwithstanding the petition of two ladies alleging the great danger to be apprehended from the bursting of the locomotive boilers, he urged the safety of the high-pressure engine when the boilers were constructed of wrought iron; and as to the rate which they could travel, he expressed his full conviction that such engines "could supply force to drive a carriage at the rate of five or six miles an hour."

    The taking of the evidence as to the impediments thrown in the way of trade and commerce by the existing system extend over a month, and it was the 21st of April before the committee went into the engineering evidence, which was the vital part the question.

    On the 25th George Stephenson was called into the witness box.  It was his first appearance before a committee of the House of Commons, and he well knew what he had to expect.  He was aware that the whole force of the opposition was to be directed against him; and if they could break down his evidence, the canal monopoly might yet be upheld for a time.  Many years afterward, when looking back at his position on this trying occasion, he said:


"When I went to Liverpool to plan a line from thence to Manchester, I pledged myself to the directors to attain a speed of ten miles an hour.  I said I had no doubt the locomotive might be made to go much faster, but that we had better be moderate at the beginning.  The directors said I was quite right; for that if, when they went to Parliament, I talked of going a greater rate than ten miles an hour, I should put a cross up the concern.  It was not an easy task for me to keep the engine down to ten miles an hour, but it must be done, and I did my best.  I had to place myself in that most unpleasant of all positions—the witness-box of a Parliamentary committee.  I was not long in it before I began to wish for a hole to creep out at!  I could not find words to satisfy either the committee or myself.  I was subjected to the cross-examination of eight or ten barristers, purposely, as far as possible, to bewilder me.  Some member of the committee asked if I was a foreigner, [p.266] another hinted that I was mad.  But I put up with every rebuff, and went on with my plans, determined not to be put down."


    George Stephenson stood before the committee to prove what the public opinion of that day held to be impossible.  The self-taught mechanic had to demonstrate the practicability of accomplishing that which the most distinguished engineers of the time regarded as impracticable.  Clear though the subject was to himself, and familiar as he was with the powers of the locomotive, it was no easy task for him to bring home his convictions, or even to convey his meaning, to the less informed minds of his hearers.  In his strong Northumbrian dialect, he struggled for utterance, in the face of the sneers, interruptions, and ridicule of the opponents of the measure, and even of the committee, some of whom shook their heads and whispered doubts as to his sanity when he energetically avowed that he could make the locomotive go at the rate of twelve miles an hour!  It was so grossly in the teeth of all the experience of honourable members, that the man ''must certainly be labouring under a delusion!"

    And yet his large experience of railways and locomotives, as described by himself to the committee, entitled this "untaught, inarticulate genius," as he has been described, to speak with confidence on the subject.  Beginning with his experience as a brakesman at Killingworth in 1803, he went on to state that he was appointed to take the entire charge of the steam-engines in 1813, and had superintended the railroads connected with the numerous collieries of the Grand Allies from that time downward.  He had laid down or superintended the railways at Burradon, Mount Moor, Springwell, Bedlington, Hetton, and Darlington, besides improving those at Killingworth, South Moor, and Derwent Crook.  He had constructed fifty-five steam-engines, of which sixteen were locomotives.  Some of these had been sent to France.  The engines constructed by him for the working of the Killingworth Railroad, eleven years before, had continued steadily at work ever since, and fulfilled his most sanguine expectations.  He was prepared to prove the safety of working high-pressure locomotives on a railroad, and the superiority of this mode of transporting goods over all others.  As to speed, he said he had recommended eight miles an hour with twenty tons, and four miles an hour with forty tons; but he was quite confident that much more might be done.  Indeed, he had no doubt they might go at the rate of twelve miles.  As to the charge that locomotives on a railroad would so terrify the horses in the neighbourhood that to travel on horseback or to plough adjoining fields would be rendered highly dangerous, the witness said that horses learned to take no notice of them, though there were horses that would shy at a wheelbarrow.  A mail-coach was likely to be more shied at by horses than a locomotive.  In the neighbourhood of Killingworth, the cattle in the fields went on grazing while the engines passed them, and the farmers made no complaints.

    Mr. Alderson, who had carefully studied the subject, and was well skilled in practical science, subjected the witness to a protracted and severe cross-examination as to the speed and power of the locomotive, the stroke of the piston, the slipping of wheels upon the rails, and various other points of detail.  Stephenson insisted that no slipping took place, as attempted to be extorted from him by the counsel.  He said, "It is impossible for slipping to take place so long as the adhesive weight of the wheel upon the rail is greater than the weight to be dragged after it."  There was a good deal of interruption to the witness's answers by Mr. Alderson, to which Mr. Joy more than once objected.  As to accidents, Stephenson knew of none that had occurred with his engines.  There had been one, he was told, at the Middleton Colliery, near Leeds, with a Blenkinsop engine.  The driver had been in liquor, and put a considerable load on the safety-valve, so that upon going forward the engine blew up and the man was killed.  But he added, if proper precautions had been used with that boiler, the accident could not have happened.  The following cross-examination occurred in reference to the question of speed:

    "Of course," he was asked, "when a body is moving upon a road, the greater the velocity the greater the momentum that is generated?"  "Certainly."  "What would be the momentum of forty tons moving at the rate of twelve miles an hour?"  "It would be very great"  "Have you seen a railroad that would stand that?"  "Yes."  "Where?"  "Any railroad that would bear going four miles an hour: I mean to say, that if it would bear the weight at four miles an hour, it would bear it at twelve."  "Taking it at four miles an hour, do you mean to say that it would not require a stronger railway to carry the same weight twelve miles an hour?"  "I will give an answer to that.  I dare say every person has been over ice when skating, or seen persons go over, and they know that it would bear them better at a greater velocity than it would if they went slower; when they go quick, the weight in a measure ceases."  "Is not than upon the hypothesis that the railroad is perfect?"  "It is; and I mean to make it perfect."

    It is not necessary to state that to have passed through his severe ordeal scatheless needed no small amount of courage, intelligence, and ready shrewdness on the part of the witness.  Nicholas Wood, who was present on the occasion, has since stated that the point on which Stephenson was hardest pressed was that of speed.  "I believe," he says, "that it would have lost the company their bill if he had gone beyond eight or nine miles an hour.  If he had stated his intention of going twelve or fifteen miles an hour, not a single person would have believed it to be practicable."  Mr. Alderson had, indeed, so pressed the point of "twelve miles an hour," and the promoters were so alarmed lest it should appear in evidence that they contemplated any such extravagant rate of speed, that immediately on Mr. Alderson sitting down, Mr. Joy proceeded to re-examine Stephenson, with the view of removing from the minds of the committee an impression so unfavourable, and, as they supposed, so damaging to their case.  "With regard," asked Mr. Joy, "to all those hypothetical questions of my learned friend, they have been all put on the supposition of going twelve miles an hour: now that is not the rate at which, I believe, any of the engines of which you have spoken have travelled?"  "No," replied Stephenson, "except as an experiment for a short distance."  "But what they have gone has been three, five, or six miles an hour?"  "Yes."  "So that those hypothetical cases of twelve miles an hour do not fall within your general experience?"  "They do not."

    The committee also seem to have entertained some alarm as to the high rate of speed which had been spoken of, and proceeded to examine the witness farther on the subject.  They supposed the case of the engine being upset when going at nine miles an hour, and asked what, in such a case, would become of the cargo astern.  To which the witness replied that it would not be upset.  One of the members of the committee pressed the witness a little farther.  He put the following case: "Suppose, now, one of these engines to be going along a railroad at the rate of nine or ten miles an hour, and that a cow were to stray upon the line and get in the way of the engine; would not that, think you, be a very awkward circumstance?"  "Yes," replied the witness, with a twinkle in his eye, "very awkward—for the coo!"  The honourable member did not proceed farther with his cross-examination to use a railway phrase, he was " shunted."  Another asked if animals would not be very much frightened by the engine passing at night, especially by the glare of the red-hot chimney?  "But how would they know that it wasn't painted?" said the witness.

    On the following day (the 26th of April) the engineer was subjected to a most severe examination.  On that part of the scheme with which he was most practically conversant, his evidence was clear and conclusive.  Now, he had to give evidence on the plans made by his surveyors, and the estimates which had been founded on those plans.  So long as he was confined to locomotive engines and iron railroads, with the minutest details of which he was more familiar than any man living, he felt at home and in his element.  But when the designs of bridges and the cost of constructing them had to be gone into, the subject being comparatively new to him, his evidence was much less satisfactory.

    He was cross-examined as to the practicability of forming a road on so unstable a foundation as Chat Moss.

    " 'Now, with respect to your evidence upon Chat Moss,' asked Mr. Alderson, 'did you ever walk on Chat Moss on the proposed line of the railway?'  'The greater part of it, I have.'

    " 'Was it not extremely boggy?' 'In parts it was.'

    " 'How deep did you sink in?'  'I could have gone with shoes; I do not know whether I had boots on.'

    " 'If the depth of the Moss should prove to be 40 feet instead of 20, would not this plan of the railway over this Moss be impracticable?'  'No, it would not.  If the gentleman will allow me, I will refer to a railroad belonging to the Duke of Portland, made over a moss; there are no levels to drain it properly, such as we have at Chat Moss, and it is made by an embankment over the moss, which is worse than making a cutting, for there is the weight of the embankment to press upon the moss.'

    " 'Still, you must go to the bottom of the moss?'  'It is not necessary; the deeper you get, the more consolidated it is.'

    " 'Would you put some hard materials on it before you commenced?'  'Yes, perhaps I should.'

    " 'What?'  'Brushwood, perhaps.'

    " 'And you, then, are of opinion that it would be a solid embankment?'  'It would have a tremulous motion for a time, but would not give way, like clay.' "

    Mr. Alderson also cross-examined him at great length on the plans of the bridges, the tunnels, the crossings of the roads and streets, and the details of the survey, which, it soon appeared, were in some respects seriously at fault.  It seems that, after the plans had been deposited, Stephenson found that a much more favourable line might be laid out, and he made his estimates accordingly, supposing that Parliament would not confine the company to the precise plan which had been deposited.  This was felt to be a serious blot in the Parliamentary case, and one very difficult to get over.

    For three entire days was our engineer subjected to cross-examination by Mr. Alderson, Mr. Cullen, and the other leading counsel for the opposition.  He held his ground bravely, and defended the plans and estimates with remarkable ability and skill, but it was clear they were imperfect, and the result was, on the whole, damaging to the bill.  Mr. (afterward Sir William) Cubitt was called by the promoters, Mr. Adam stating that he proposed by this witness to correct some of the levels as given by Stephenson.  It seems a singular course to have been taken by the promoters of the measure, for Mr. Cubitt's evidence went to upset the statements made by Stephenson as to the survey.  This adverse evidence was, of course, made the most of by the opponents of the scheme.

    Mr. Sergeant Spankie then summed up for the bill on the 2d of May, in a speech of great length, and the case of the opponents was next gone into, Mr. Harrison opening with a long and eloquent speech on behalf of his clients, Mrs. Atherton and others.  He indulged in strong vituperation against the witnesses for the bill, and especially dwelt upon the manner in which Mr. Cubitt, for the promoters, had proved that Stephenson's levels were wrong.

    "They got a person," said he,


"whose character and skill I do not dispute, though I do not exactly know that I should have gone to the inventor of the treadmill as the fittest man to take the levels of Knowsley Moss and Chat Moss, which shook almost as much as a treadmill, as you recollect, for he (Mr. Cubitt) said Chat Moss trembled so much under his feet that he could not take his observations accurately. . . . . In fact, Mr. Cubitt did not go on to Chat Moss, because he knew that it was an immense mass of pulp, and nothing else.  It actually rises in height, from the rain swelling it like a sponge, and sinks again in dry weather; and if a boring instrument is put into it, it sinks immediately by its own weight.  The making of an embankment out of this pulpy, wet moss is no very easy task.  Who but Mr. Stephenson would have thought of entering into Chat Moss, carrying it out almost like wet dung?  It is ignorance almost inconceivable.  It is perfect madness, in a person called upon to speak on a scientific subject, to propose such a plan. . . . . Every part of the scheme shows that this man has applied himself to a subject of which he has no knowledge, and which he has no science to apply."


    Then, adverting to the proposal to work the intended line by means of locomotives, the learned gentleman proceeded:


    "When we set out with the original prospectus, we were to gallop I know not at what rate—I believe it was at the rate of twelve miles an hour.  My learned friend, Mr. Adam, contemplated—possibly alluding to Ireland—that some of the Irish members would arrive in the wagons to a division.  My learned friend says that they would go at the rate of twelve miles an hour with the aid of the devil in the form of a locomotive sitting as postillion on the fore horse, and an honourable member sitting behind him to stir up the fire, and keep it at full speed.  But the speed at which these locomotive engines are to go has slackened: Mr. Adam does not go faster now than five miles an hour.  The learned sergeant (Spankie) says he should like to have seven, but he would be content to go six.  I will show he can not go six; and probably, for any practical purposes, I may be able to show that I can keep up with him by the canal . . . . . Locomotive engines are liable to be operated upon by the weather.  You are told they are affected by rain, and an attempt has been made to cover them; but the wind will affect them; and any gale of wind which would affect the traffic on the Mersey would render it impossible to set off a locomotive engine, either by poking of the fire, or keeping up the pressure of the steam till the boiler was ready to burst."


    How amusing it now is to read these extraordinary views as to the formation of a railway over Chat Moss, and the impossibility of starting a locomotive engine in the face of a gale of wind?

    Evidence was called to show that the house property passed by the proposed railway would be greatly deteriorated—in some places almost destroyed; that the locomotive engines would be terrible nuisances, in consequence of the fire and smoke vomited forth by them; and that the value of land in the neighbourhood of Manchester alone would be deteriorated by no less than £20,000!  Evidence was also given at great length showing the utter impossibility of forming a road of any kind upon Chat Moss.  A Manchester builder, who was examined, could not imagine the feat possible, unless by arching it across in the manner of a viaduct from one side to the other.  It was the old story of "nothing like leather."  But the opposition mainly relied upon the evidence of the leading engineers—not, like Stephenson, self-taught men, but regular professionals.  Mr. Francis Giles, C.E., was their great card.  He had been twenty-two years an engineer, and could speak with some authority.  His testimony was mainly directed to the otter impossibility of forming a railway over Chat Moss.  "No engineer in his senses," said he, "would go through Chat Moss if he wanted to make a railroad from Liverpool to Manchester.  In my judgment, a railroad certainly can not be safely made over Chat Moss without going to the bottom of the Moss."  The following may be taken as a specimen of Mr. Giles's evidence:


    "'Tell us whether, in your judgment, a railroad can be safely made over Chat Moss without going to the bottom of the bog?'  'I say, certainly not.'

    "'Will it be necessary, therefore, in making a permanent railroad, to take out the whole of the moss to the bottom, along the whole line of road?'  'Undoubtedly.'

    "'Will that make it necessary to cut down the thirty-three or thirty-four feet of which you have been speaking?'  'Yes.'

    "'And afterward to fill it up with other soil?'  'To such height as the railway is to be carried; other soil mixed with a portion of the moss.'

    "'But suppose they were to work upon this stuff, could they get their carriages to this place?'  'No carriage can stand on the Moss short of the bottom.'

    "'What could they do to make it stand—laying planks, or something of that sort?'  'Nothing would support it.'

    "'So that, if you would carry a railroad over this fluid stuff—if you could do it, it would still take a great number of men and a great sum of money.  Could it be done, in your opinion, for £6000?'  'I should say £200,000 would not get through it.'

    "'My learned friend wishes to know what it would cost to lay it with diamonds?'"


    Mr. H. R. Palmer, C.E., gave evidence to prove that resistance to a moving body going under four and a quarter miles an hour was less upon a canal than upon a railroad; and that, when going against a strong wind, the progress of a locomotive was retarded "very much."  Mr. George Leather, C.E., the engineer of the Croydon and Wandsworth Railway, on which he said the wagons went at from two and a half to three miles an hour, testified against the practicability of Stephenson's plan.  He considered his estimate a "very wild" one.  He had no confidence in locomotive power.  The Weardale Railway, of which he was engineer, had given up the use of locomotive engines.  He supposed that, when used, they travelled at three and a half to four miles an hour, because they were considered to be then more effective than at a higher speed.

    When these distinguished engineers had given their evidence, Mr. Alderson summed up in a speech which extended over two days.  He declared Stephenson's plan to be "the most absurd scheme that ever entered into the head of man to conceive:"

"My learned friends," said he,


"almost endeavoured to stop my examination; they wished me to put in the plan, but I had rather have the exhibition of Mr. Stephenson in that box.  I say he never had one—I believe he never had one—I do not believe he is capable of making one.  His is a mind perpetually fluctuating between opposite difficulties: he neither knows whether he is to make bridges over roads or rivers of one size or of another, or to make embankments, or cuttings, or inclined planes, or in what way the thing is to be carried into effect.  Whenever a difficulty is pressed, as in the case of a tunnel, he gets out of it at one end, and when you try to catch him at that, he gets out at the other.''


    Mr. Alderson proceeded to declaim against the gross ignorance of this so-called engineer, who proposed to make "impossible ditches by the side of an impossible railway" over Chat Moss; and he contrasted with his evidence that given "by that most respectable gentleman we have called before you, I mean Mr. Giles, who has executed a vast number of works," etc.  Then Mr. Giles's evidence as to the impossibility of making any railway over the Moss that would stand short of the bottom was emphatically dwelt upon; and Mr. Alderson proceeded:


    "Having now, sir, gone through Chat Moss, and having shown that Mr. Giles is right in his principle when he adopts a solid railway—and I care not whether Mr. Giles is right or wrong in his estimate, for whether it be effected by means of piers raised up all the way for four miles through Chat Moss, whether they are to support it on beams of wood or by erecting masonry, or whether Mr. Giles shall put a solid bank of earth through it—in all these schemes there is not one found like that of Mr. Stephenson's, namely, to cut impossible drains on the side of this road; and it is sufficient for me to suggest, and to show, that this scheme of Mr. Stephenson's is impossible or impracticable, and that no other scheme, if they proceed upon this line, can be suggested which will not produce enormous expense.  I think that has been irrefragably made out.  Every one knows Chat Moss—every one knows that Mr. Giles speaks correctly when he says the iron sinks immediately on its being put upon the surface.  I have heard of culverts which have been put open the Moss, which, after having been surveyed the day before, have the next morning disappeared; and that a house (a poet's house, who may be supposed in the habit of building castles even in the air), story after story, as fast as one is added, the lower one sinks!  There is nothing, it appears, except long sedgy grass, and a little soil, to prevent its sinking into the shades of eternal night.  I have now done, sir, with Chat Moss, and there I leave this railroad."


    Mr. Alderson, of course, called upon the committee to reject the bill; and he protested "against the despotism of the Exchange at Liverpool striding across the land of this country.  I do protest," he concluded, "against a measure like this, supported as it is by such evidence, and founded upon such calculations."

    The case of the other numerous petitioners against the bill still remained to be gone into.  Witnesses were called to prove the residential injury which would be caused by the "intolerable nuisance" of the smoke and fire from the locomotives, and others to prove that the price of coals and iron would "infallibly" be greatly raised throughout the country.  This was part of the case of the Duke of Bridgewater's trustees, whose witnesses "proved" many very extraordinary things.  The Leeds and Liverpool Canal Company were so fortunate as to pick up a witness from Hetton who was ready to furnish some damaging evidence as to the use of Stephenson's locomotives on that railway.  This was Mr. Thomas Wood, one of the Hetton Company's clerks, whose evidence was to the effect that the locomotives, having been found ineffective, were about to be discontinued in favour of fixed engines.  The evidence of this witness, incompetent though he was to give an opinion on the subject, and exaggerated as his statements were afterward proved to be, was made the most of by Mr. Harrison when summing up the case of the canal companies.

"At length," he said,


"we have come to this—having first set out at twelve miles an hour, the speed of these locomotives is reduced to six, and now comes down to two or two and a half.  They must be content to be pulled along by horses and donkeys; and all those fine promises of galloping along at the rate of twelve miles an hour are melted down to a total failure; the foundation on which their case stood is cut from under them completely; for the Act of Parliament, the committee will recollect, prohibits any person using any animal power, of any sort, kind, or description, except the projectors of the railway themselves; therefore I say that the whole foundation on which this project exists is gone."


    After farther personal abuse of Mr. Stephenson, whose evidence he spoke of as "trash and confusion," Mr. Harrison closed the case of the canal companies on the 30th of May.  Mr. Adam replied for the promoters, recapitulating the principal point of their case, and vindicating Mr. Stephenson and the evidence which he had given before the committee.

    The committee then divided on the preamble, which was carried by a majority of only one—thirty-seven voting for it, and thirty-six against it.  The clauses were next considered, and on a division, the first clause, empowering the company to make the railway, was lost by a majority of nineteen to thirteen.  In like manner, the next clause, empowering the company to take land, was lost; on which Mr. Adam, on the part of the promoters, withdrew the bill.

    Thus ended this memorable contest, which had extended over two months—carried on throughout with great pertinacity and skill, especially on the part of the opposition, who left no stone unturned to defeat the measure.  The want of a new line of communication between Liverpool and Manchester had been clearly proved; but the engineering evidence in support of the proposed railway having been thrown almost entirely upon George Stephenson, who fought this, the most important part of the battle, single-handed, was not brought out so clearly as it would have been had he secured more efficient engineering assistance, which he was not able to do, as all the engineers of eminence of that day were against the locomotive railway.  The obstacles thrown in the way of the survey by the land-owners and canal companies, by which the plans were rendered exceedingly imperfect, also tended in a great measure to defeat the bill.

    Mr. Gooch says the rejection of the scheme was probably the most severe trial George Stephenson underwent in the whole course of his life.  The circumstances connected with the defeat of the bill, the errors in the levels, his severe cross-examination, followed by the fact of his being superseded by another engineer, all told fearfully upon him, and for some time he was as terribly weighed down as if a personal calamity of the most serious kind had befallen him.  It is also right to add that he was badly served by his surveyors, who were unpractised and incompetent.  On the 27th of September, 1824, we find him writing to Mr. Sandars: "I am quite shocked with Auty's conduct; we must throw him aside as soon as possible.  Indeed, I have begun to fear that be has been fee'd by some of the canal proprietors to make a botch of the job.  I have a letter from Steele, [p.277] whose views of Auty's conduct quite agree with yours."

    The result of this first application to Parliament was so far discouraging.  Stephenson had been so terribly abused by the leading counsel for the opposition in the course of the proceedings before the committee—stigmatized by them as an ignoramus, a fool, and a maniac—that even his friends seem for a time to have lost faith in him and in the locomotive system, whose efficiency he continued to uphold.  Things never looked blacker for the success of the railway system than at the close of this great Parliamentary struggle.  And yet it was on the very eve of its triumph.

    The Committee of Directors appointed to watch the measure in Parliament were so determined to press on the project of a railway, even though it should have to be worked merely by horse-power, that the bill had scarcely been defeated ere they met in London to consider their next step.  They called their Parliamentary friends together to consult as to their future proceedings.  Among those who attended the meeting of gentlemen with this object in the Royal Hotel, St. James's Street, on the 4th of June, were Mr. Huskisson, Mr. Spring Rice, and General Gascoyne.  Mr. Huskisson urged the promoters to renew their application to Parliament.  They had secured the first step by the passing of their preamble; the measure was of great public importance; and, whatever temporary opposition it might meet with, he conceived that Parliament must ultimately give its sanction to the undertaking.  Similar views were expressed by other speakers; and the deputation went back to Liverpool determined to renew their application to Parliament in the ensuing season.

    It was not considered desirable to employ George Stephenson in making the new survey.  He had not as yet established his reputation beyond the boundaries of his own district, and the promoters of the bill had doubtless felt the disadvantages of this in the course of their Parliamentary struggle.  They then resolved now to employ engineers of the highest established reputation, as well as the best surveyors that could be obtained.  In accordance with these views, they engaged Messrs. George and John Rennie to be the engineers of the railway; and Mr. Charles Vignolles, on their behalf, was appointed to prepare the plans and sections.  The line which was eventually adopted differed somewhat from that surveyed by Stephenson, entirely avoiding Lord Sefton's property, and passing through only a few detached fields of Lord Derby's at a considerable distance from the Knowsley domain.  The principal parks and game preserves of the district were also carefully avoided.  The promoters thus hoped to get rid of the opposition of the most influential of the resident land-owners.  The crossing of certain of the streets of Liverpool were also avoided, and the entrance contrived by means of a tunnel and an inclined plane.  The new line stopped short of the River Irwell at the Manchester end, and thus, in some measure, removed the objections grounded on an anticipated interruption to the canal or river traffic.  And, with reference to the use of the locomotive engine, the promoters, remembering with what effect the objections to it had been urged by the opponents of the measure, intimated, in their second prospectus, that, "as a guarantee of their good faith toward the public, they will not require any clause empowering them to use it; or they will submit to such restrictions in the employment of it as Parliament may impose, for the satisfaction and ample protection both of proprietors on the line of road and of the public at large."

    It was found that the capital required to form the line of railway, as laid out by the Messrs. Rennie, was considerably beyond the amount of Stephenson's estimate, and it became a question with the committee in what way the new capital should be raised.  A proposal was made to the Marquis of Stafford, who was principally interested in the Duke of Bridgewater's Canal, to become a shareholder in the undertaking.  A similar proposal had at an earlier period been made to Mr. Bradshaw, the trustee for the property; but his answer was "all or none,'' and the negotiation was broken off.  The Marquis of Stafford, however, now met the projectors of the railway in a more conciliatory spirit, and it was ultimately agreed that he should become a subscriber to the extent of a thousand shares.

    The survey of the new line having been completed, the plans were deposited, the standing orders duly complied with, and the bill went before Parliament.  The same counsel appeared for the promoters, but the examination of witnesses was not nearly so protracted as on the former occasion.  Mr. Erle and Mr. Harrison led the case of the opposition.  The bill went into committee on the 6th of March, and on the 16th the preamble was declared proved by a majority of forty-three to eighteen.  On the third reading in the House of Commons, an animated, and what now appears a very amusing discussion, took place.  The Hon. Edward Stanley (since Earl of Derby, and prime minister) moved that the bill be read that day six months.  In the course of his speech he undertook to prove that the railway trains would take ten hours on the journey, and that they could only be worked by horses; and he called upon the House to stop the bill, "and prevent this mad and extravagant speculation from being carried into effect."  Sir Isaac Coffin seconded the motion, and in doing so denounced the project as a most flagrant imposition.  He would not consent to see widows' premises and their strawberry-beds invaded; and "what, he would like to know, was to be done with all those who had advanced money in making and repairing turnpike roads?  What with those who may still wish to travel in their own or hired carriages, after the fashion of their forefathers?  What was to become of coach-makers and harness-makers, coach-masters and coachmen, innkeepers, horse-breeders, and horse-dealers?  Was the House aware of the smoke and the noise, the hiss and the whirl, which locomotive engines, passing at the rate of ten or twelve miles an hour, would occasion?  Neither the cattle ploughing in the fields or grazing in the meadows could behold them without dismay.  Iron would be raised in price 100 per cent., or more probably exhausted altogether!  It would be the greatest nuisance, the most complete disturbance of quiet and comfort in all parts of the kingdom that the ingenuity of man could invent!"

    Mr. Huskisson and other speakers, though unable to reply to such arguments as these, strongly supported the bill, and it was carried on the third reading by a majority of eighty-eight to forty-one.  The bill passed the House of Lords almost unanimously, its only opponents being the Earl of Derby and his relative the Earl of Wilton.  The cost of obtaining the act amounted to the enormous sum of £27,000.


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CHAPTER XI.

CHAT MOSS-CONSTRUCTION OF THE RAILWAY.


    THE appointment of principal engineer of the railway was taken into consideration at the first meeting of the directors held at Liverpool subsequent to the passing of the act of incorporation.  The magnitude of the proposed works, and the vast consequences involved in the experiment, were deeply impressed on their minds, and they resolved to secure the services of a resident engineer of proved experience and ability.  Their attention was naturally directed to George Stephenson; at the same time, they desired to have the benefit of the Messrs. Rennie's professional assistance in superintending the works.  Mr. George Rennie had an interview with the board on the subject, at which he proposed to undertake the chief superintendence, making six visits in each year, and stipulating that he should have the appointment of the resident engineer.  But the responsibility attaching to the direction in the matter of the efficient carrying on of the works would not admit of their being influenced by ordinary punctilios on the occasion, and they accordingly declined Mr. Rennie's proposal, and proceeded to appoint George Stephenson principal engineer at a salary of £1000 per annum.

    He at once removed his residence to Liverpool, and made arrangements to commence the works.  He began with the "impossible thing"—to do that which some of the principal engineers of the day had declared that "no man in his senses would undertake to do"—namely, to make the road over Chat Moss!  It was, indeed, a most formidable undertaking, and the project of carrying a railway along, under, or over such a material as that of which it consisted would certainly never have occurred to an ordinary mind.  Michael Drayton supposed the Moss to have had its origin at the Deluge.  Nothing more impassable could have been imagined than that dreary waste; and Mr. Giles only spoke the popular feeling of the day when he declared that no carriage could stand on it "short of the bottom."  In this bog, singular to say, Mr. Roscoe, the accomplished historian of Medicis, buried his fortune in the hopeless attempt to cultivate a portion of it which he had bought.

    Chat Moss is an immense peat-bog of about twelve square miles in extent.  Unlike the bogs or swamps of Cambridge and Lincolnshire, which consist principally of soft mud or silt, this bog is a vast mass of spongy vegetable pulp, the result of the growth and decay of ages.  Spagni, or bog-mosses, cover the entire area; one year's growth rising over another, the older growths not entirely decaying, but remaining partially preserved by the antiseptic properties peculiar to peat.  Hence the remarkable fact that, though a semi-fluid mass, the surface of Chat Moss rises above the level of the surrounding country.  Like a turtle's back, it declines from the summit in every direction, having from thirty to forty feet gradual slope to the solid land on all sides.  From the remains of trees, chiefly alder and birch, which have been dug out of it, and which must have previously flourished on the surface of the soil now deeply submerged, it is probable that the sand and clay base on which the bog rests is saucer-shaped, and so retains the entire mass in position.  In rainy weather, such is its capacity for water that it sensibly swells, and rises in those parts where the moss is the deepest.  This occurs through the capillary attraction of the fibres of the submerged moss, which is from twenty to thirty feet in depth, while the growing plants effectually check evaporation from the surface.  This peculiar character of the Moss has presented an insuperable difficulty in the way of draining on any extensive system—such as by sinking shafts in its substance, and pumping up the water by steam-power, as has been proposed by some engineers.  For, supposing a shaft of thirty feet deep to be sunk, it has been calculated that this would only be effectual for draining a circle of about one hundred yards, the water running down an incline of about 5 to 1; indeed, it was found, in the course of draining the bog, that a ditch three feet deep only served to drain a space of less than five yards on either side, and two ditches of this depth, ten feet apart, left a portion of the Moss between them scarcely affected by the drains.

    The three resident engineers selected by Mr. Stephenson to superintend the construction of the line were Mr. Joseph Locke, Mr. Allcard, and Mr. John Dixon.  The last was appointed to that portion which included the proposed road across the Moss, the other two being any thing but desirous of exchanging posts with him.  On Mr. Dixon's arrival, about the month of July, Mr. Locke proceeded to show him over the length he was to take charge of, and to install him in office.  When they reached Chat Moss, Mr. Dixon found that the line had already been staked out and the levels taken in detail by the aid of planks laid upon the bog.  The cutting of the drains along each side of the proposed road had also been commenced, but the soft pulpy stuff had up to this time flowed into the drains and filled them up as fast as they were cut.  Proceeding across the Moss on his first day's inspection, the new resident, when about half way over, slipped off the plank on which he walked, and sank to his knees in the bog.  Struggling only sent him the deeper, and he might have disappeared altogether but for the workmen, who hastened to his assistance upon planks, and rescued him from his perilous position.  Much disheartened, he desired to return, and even for the moment thought of giving up the job; but Mr. Locke assured him that the worst part was now past; so the new resident plucked up heart again, and both floundered on until they reached the farther edge of the Moss, wet and plastered over with bog sludge.  Mr. Dixon's assistants endeavoured to comfort him by the assurance that he might in future avoid similar perils by walking upon "pattens," or boards fastened to the soles of his feet, as they had done when taking the levels, and as the workmen did when engaged in making drains in the softest parts of the Moss.  Still the resident engineer could not help being puzzled by the problem of how to construct a road for a heavy locomotive, with a train of passengers or goods, upon a bog which he had found to be incapable of supporting his own individual weight!

    Stephenson's idea was that such a road might be made to float upon the bog simply by means of a sufficient extension of the bearing surface.  As a ship, or a raft capable of sustaining heavy loads, floated in water, so, in his opinion, might a light road be floated upon a bog which was of considerably greater consistency than water.  Long before the railway was thought of, Mr. Roscoe had adopted the remarkable expedient of fitting his plough-horses with flat wooden soles or pattens, to enable them to walk upon the Moss land which he had brought into cultivation.  These pattens were fitted on by means of a screw apparatus, which met in front of the foot and was easily fastened.  The mode by which these pattens served to sustain the horse is capable of easy explanation, and it will be observed that the rationale alike explains the floating of a railway.  The foot of an ordinary farm-horse presents a base of about five inches diameter, but if this base be enlarged to seven inches—the circles being to each other as the squares of the diameters—it will be found that, by this slight enlargement of the base, a circle of nearly double the area has been secured, and consequently the pressure of the foot upon every unit of ground on which the horse stands has been reduced one half.  In fact, this contrivance has an effect tantamount to setting the horse upon eight feet instead of four.

    Apply the same reasoning to the ponderous locomotive, and it will be found that even such a machine may be made to stand upon a bog by means of a similar extension of the bearing surface.  Suppose the engine to be twenty feet long and five feet wide, thus covering a surface of a hundred square feet, and, provided the bearing has been extended by means of cross sleepers supported upon a matting of heath and branches of trees covered with a few inches of gravel, the pressure of an engine of twenty tons will be only equal to about three pounds per inch over the whole surface on which it stands.  Such was George Stephenson's idea in contriving his floating road—something like an elongated raft—across the Moss; and we shall see that he steadily kept it in view in carrying the work into execution.

    The first thing done was to form a footpath of ling or heather along the proposed road, on which a man might walk without risk of sinking.  A single line of temporary railway was then laid down, formed of ordinary cross-bars about three feet long and an inch square, with holes punched through them at the end and nailed down to temporary sleepers.  Along this way ran the wagons in which were conveyed the materials requisite to form the permanent road.  These wagons carried about a ton each, and they were propelled by boys running behind them along the narrow bar of iron.  The boys became so expert that they would run the four miles across at the rate of seven or eight miles an hour without missing a step; if they had done so, they would have sunk in many places up to their middle. [p.285]  The slight extension of the bearing surface was sufficient to enable the bog to bear this temporary line, and the circumstance was a source of increased confidence and hope to our engineer in proceeding with the formation of the permanent road alongside.

    The digging of drains had been, proceeding for some time along each side of the intended railway, but they filled up almost as soon as dug, the sides flowing in and the bottom rising up, and it was only in some of the drier parts of the bog that a depth of three or four feet could be reached.  The surface-ground between the drains, containing the intertwined roots of heather and long grass, was left untouched, and upon this were spread branches of trees and hedge-cuttings; in the softest places rude gates or hurdles, some eight or nine feet long by four feet wide, interwoven with heather, were laid in double thicknesses, their ends overlapping each other; and upon this floating bed was spread a thin layer of gravel, on which the sleepers, chairs, and rails were laid in the usual manner.  Such was the mode in which the road was formed upon the Moss.  It was found, however, after the permanent road had been thus laid, that there was a tendency to sinking at those parts where the bog was the softest.  In ordinary cases, where a bank subsides, the sleepers are packed up with ballast or gravel, but in this case the ballast was dug away and removed in order to lighten the road, and the sleepers were packed instead with cakes of dry turf or bundles of heath.  By these expedients the subsided parts were again floated up to the level, and an approach was made toward a satisfactory road.  But the most formidable difficulties were encountered at the centre and toward the edges of the Moss, and it required no small degree of ingenuity and perseverance on the part of the engineer successfully to overcome them.

    The Moss, as has been already observed, was highest in the centre, and it there presented a sort of hunchback with a rising and falling gradient.  At that point it was found necessary to cut deeper drains in order to consolidate the ground between them on which the road was to be formed.  But, as at other parts of the Moss, the deeper the cutting the more rapid was the flow of fluid bog into the drain, the bottom rising up almost as fast as it was removed.  To meet this emergency, a quantity of empty tar-barrels was brought from Liverpool, and, as soon as a few yards of drain were dug, the barrels were laid down end to end, firmly fixed to each other by strong slabs laid over the joints, and nailed; they were then covered over with clay, and thus formed an underground sewer of wood instead of bricks.  This expedient was found to answer the purpose intended, and the road across the centre of the Moss having thus been prepared, it was then laid with the permanent materials.

    The greatest difficulty was, however, experienced in forming an embankment on the edge of the bog at the Manchester end.  Moss, as dry as it could be cut, was brought up in small wagons by men and boys, and emptied so as to form an embankment; but the bank had scarcely been raised three or four feet in height when the stuff broke through the heathery surface of the bog and sunk overhead.  More moss was brought up and emptied in with no better result, and for many weeks the filling was continued without any visible embankment having been made.  It was the duty of the resident engineer to proceed to Liverpool every fortnight to obtain the wages for the workmen employed tinder him, and on these occasions he was required to colour up, on a section drawn to a working scale suspended against the wall of the directors' room, the amount of excavation, embankment, etc., executed from time to time.  But on many of these occasions Mr. Dixon had no progress whatever to show for the money expended on the Chat Moss embankment.  Sometimes, indeed, the visible work done was less than it had appeared a fortnight or a month before!

    The directors now became seriously alarmed, and feared that the evil prognostications of the eminent engineers were about to be fulfilled.  The resident himself was greatly disheartened, and he was even called upon to supply the directors with an estimate of the cost of filling up the Moss with solid stuff from the bottom, as also the cost of piling the roadway, and, in effect, constructing a four-mile viaduct of timber across the Moss, from twenty to thirty feet high.  But the expense appalled the directors, and the question then arose whether the work was to be proceeded with or abandoned!

    Stephenson himself afterward described the alarming position of affairs at a public dinner given at Birmingham on the 23d of December, 1837, on the occasion of a piece of plate being presented to his son after the completion of the London and Birmingham Railway.  He related the anecdote, he said, for the purpose of impressing upon the minds of those who heard him the necessity of perseverance.

    "After working for weeks and weeks," said he,


"in filling in materials to form the road, there did not yet appear to be the least sign of our being able to raise the solid embankment one single inch; in short, we went on filling in without the slightest apparent effect.  Even my assistants began to feel uneasy, and to doubt of the success of the scheme.  The directors, too, spoke of it as a hopeless task; and at length they became seriously alarmed, so much so, indeed, that a board meeting was held on Chat Moss to decide whether I should proceed any farther.  They had previously taken the opinion of other engineers, who reported unfavourably.  There was no help for it, however, but to go on.  An immense outlay had been incurred, and great loss would have been occasioned had the scheme been then abandoned, and the line taken by another route.  So the directors were compelled to allow me to go on with my plans, of the ultimate success of which I myself never for one moment doubted."


    During the progress of this part of the works, the Worsley and Trafford men, who lived near the Moss, and plumed themselves upon their practical knowledge of bog-work, declared the completion of the road to be utterly impracticable.  "If you knew as much about Chat Moss as we do," they said, "you would never have entered on so rash an undertaking; and depend upon it, all you have done and are doing will prove abortive.  You must give up altogether the idea of a floating railway, and either fill the Moss up with hard material from the bottom, or else deviate the line so as to avoid it altogether."  Such were the conclusions of science and experience.

    In the midst of all these alarms and prophecies of failure, Stephenson never lost heart, but held to his purpose.  His motto was "Persevere!"  "You must go on filling in," he said; "there is no other help for it.  The stuff emptied in is doing its work out of sight, and if you will but have patience, it will soon begin to show."  And so the filling in went on; several hundreds of men and boys were employed to skin the Moss all round for many thousand yards, by means of sharp spades, called by the turf-cutters "tommy-spades;" and the dried cakes of turf were afterward used to form the embankment, until at length, as the stuff sank and rested upon the bottom, the bank gradually rose above the surface, and slowly advanced onward, declining in height and consequently in weight, until it became joined to the floating road already laid upon the Moss.  In the course of forming the embankment, the pressure of the bog turf tipped out of the wagons caused a copious stream of bog-water to flow from the end of it, in colour resembling Barclays double stout; and when completed, the bank looked like a long ridge of tightly-pressed tobacco-leaf.  The compression of the turf may be understood from the fact that 670,000 cubic yards of raw moss formed only 277,000 cubic yards of embankment at the completion of the work.

    At the western, or Liverpool end of the Chat Moss, there was a like embankment; but, as the ground there was solid, little difficulty was experienced in forming it, beyond the loss of substance caused by the oozing
out of the water held by the moss-earth.

    At another part of the Liverpool and Manchester line, Parr Moss was crossed by an embankment about a mile and a half in extent.  In the immediate neighbourhood was found a large excess of cutting, which it would have been necessary to "put out in spoil-banks" (according to the technical phrase) but for the convenience of Parr Moss, into which the surplus clay, stone, and shale were tipped, wagon after wagon, until a solid but congealed embankment, from fifteen to twenty feet high, was formed, although to the eye it appears to be laid upon the level of the adjoining surface, as at Chat Moss.

    The road across Chat Moss was finished by the 1st of January, 1830, when the first experimental train of passengers passed over it, drawn by the "Rocket;" and it turned out that, instead of being the most expensive part of the line, it was about the cheapest.  The total cost of forming the line over the Moss was £28,000, whereas whereas Mr. Giles's estimate was £270,000!  It also proved to be one of the best portions of the railway.  Being a floating road, it was as smooth and easy to run upon as Dr. Arnott's water-bed is soft and easy to lie upon—the pressure being equal at all points.  There was, and still is, a sort of springiness in the road over the Moss, such as is felt when passing along a suspended bridge; and those who looked along the Moss as a train passed over it said they could observe a waviness, such as precedes and follows a skater upon ice.

    During the progress of the works the most ridiculous rumours were set afloat.  The drivers of the stage-coaches, who feared for their calling, brought the alarming intelligence into Manchester from time to time that "Chat Moss was blown up!"  "Hundreds of men and horses had sunk in the bog; and the works were completely abandoned!"  The engineer himself was declared to have been swallowed up in the Serbonian bog; and "railways were at an end forever!"

    In the construction of the railway, George Stephenson's capacity for organizing and directing the labours of a large number of workmen of all kinds eminently displayed itself.  A vast quantity of ballast-wagons had to be
constructed for the purposes of the work, and implements and materials had to be collected, before the mass of labour to be employed could be efficiently set in motion at the various points of the line.  There were not at that time, as there are now, large contractors, possessed of railway plant, capable of executing earthworks on a large scale.  Our engineer had, therefore, not only to contrive the plant, but to organize the labour, and direct it in person.  The very labourers themselves had to be trained to their work by him; and it was on the Liverpool and Manchester line that Mr. Stephenson organized the staff of that formidable band of railway navvies, whose handiworks will be the wonder and admiration of succeeding generations.  Looking at their gigantic traces, the men of some future age may be found to declare, of the engineer and of his workmen, that "there were giants in those days."

    Although the works of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway are of a much less formidable character than those of many lines that have since been constructed, they were then regarded as of a stupendous kind.  Indeed, few works of such magnitude had before been executed in England.  It had been the engineer's original intention to carry the railway from the north end of Liverpool round the red sandstone ridge on which the upper part of the town is built, and also round the higher rise of the coal formation at Rainhill, by following the natural levels to the north of Knowsley.  But the opposition of the land-owners having forced the line more to the south, it was rendered necessary to cut through the hills, and go over the high grounds instead of round them.  The first consequence of this alteration in the plans was the necessity for constructing a tunnel under the town of Liverpool a mile and a half in length, from the docks at Wapping to the top of Edgehill; the second was the necessity for forming a long and deep cutting through the red sandstone rock at Olive Mount; and the third and worst of all was the necessity for ascending and descending the Whiston and Sutton hills by means of inclined planes of 1 in 96.  The line was also, by the same forced deviation, prevented passing through the Lancashire coal-field, and the engineer was compelled to carry the works across the Sankey valley at a point where the waters of the brook had dug out an excessively deep channel through the marl-beds of the district.

    The principal difficulty was experienced in pushing on the works connected with the formation of the tunnel under Liverpool, 2200 yards in length.  The blasting and hewing of the rock were vigorously carried on night and day; and the engineer's practical experience in the collieries here proved of great use to him.  Many obstacles had to be encountered and overcome in the formation of the tunnel, the rock varying in hardness and texture at different parts.  In some places the miners were deluged by water, which surged from the soft blue shale found at the lowest level of the tunnel.  In other places beds of wet sand were cut through, and there careful propping and pinning were necessary to prevent the roof from tumbling in until the masonry to support it could be erected.  On one occasion, while Stephenson was absent from Liverpool, a mass of loose moss-earth and sand fell from the roof, which had been insufficiently propped.  The miners withdrew from the work; and on the engineer's return he found them in refractory state, refusing to re-enter the tunnel.  He induced them, however, by his example, to return to their labours; and when the roof had been secured, the work went on again as before.  When there was danger, he was always ready to share it with the men; and, gathering confidence from his fearlessness, they proceeded vigorously with the undertaking, boring and mining their way toward the light.

 


    The Olive Mount cutting was the first extensive stone cutting executed on any railway, and to this day it is one of the most formidable.  It is about two miles long, and in some parts more than a hundred feet deep.  It is a narrow ravine or defile cut out of the solid rock, and not less than four hundred and eighty thousand cubic yards of stone were removed from it.  Mr. Vignolles, afterward describing it, said it looked as if it had been dug out by giants.

    The crossing of so many roads and streams involved the necessity for constructing an unusual number of bridges.  There were not fewer than sixty-three, under or over the railway, on the thirty miles between Liverpool and Manchester.  Up to this time bridges had been applied generally to high roads, where inclined approaches were of comparatively small importance, and in determining the rise of his arch the engineer selected any headway he thought proper.  Every consideration was indeed made subsidiary to constructing the bridge itself, and the completion of one large structure of this sort was regarded as an epoch in engineering history.  Yet here, in the course of a few years, no fewer than sixty-three bridges were constructed on one line of railway!  Mr. Stephenson early found that the ordinary arch was inapplicable in certain cases, where the headway was limited, and yet the level of the railway must be preserved.  In such cases he employed simple cast-iron beams, by which he safely bridged gaps of moderate width, economizing headway, and introducing the use of a new material of the greatest possible value to the engineer.  The bridges of masonry upon the line were of many kinds; several of them were skew bridges, while others, such as those at Newton and over the Irwell at Manchester, were straight and of considerable dimensions.  But the principal piece of masonry on the line was the Sankey viaduct.

 


    This fine work is principally of brick, with stone facings.  It consists of nine arches of fifty feet span each.  The massive piers are supported on two hundred piles driven deep into the soil; and they rise to a great height—the coping of the parapet being seventy feet above the level of the valley, in which flow the Sankey brook and Canal.  Its total cost was about £45,000.

    By the end of 1828 the directors found they had expended £460,000 on the works, and that they were still far from completion.  They looked at the loss of interest on this large investment, and began to grumble at the delay.  They desired to see their capital becoming productive; and in the spring of 1829 they urged the engineer to push on the works with increased vigour.  Mr. Cropper, one of the directors, who took an active interest in their progress, said to Stephenson one day, "Now, George, thou must get on with the railway, and have it finished without farther delay: thou must really have it ready for opening by the first day of January next."  "Consider the heavy character of the works, sir, and how much we have been delayed by the want of money, not to speak of the wetness of the weather: it is impossible."  "Impossible!" rejoined Cropper; "I wish I could get Napoleon to thee—he would tell thee there is no such word as 'impossible' in the vocabulary."  "Tush!" exclaimed Stephenson, with warmth, "don't speak to me about Napoleon!  Give me men, money, and materials, and I will do what Napoleon couldn't do — drive a railroad from Liverpool to Manchester over Chat Moss!"  And truly the formation of a high road over that bottomless bog was apparently a more difficult task than the making even of Napoleon's far-famed road across the Simplon.

    The directors had more than once been embarrassed by want of funds to meet the heavy expenditure.  The country had scarcely yet recovered from the general panic and crash of 1825, and it was with difficulty that the calls could be raised from the shareholders.  A loan of £100,000 was obtained from the Exchequer Loan Commissioners in 1826; and in 1829 an act was passed enabling the company to raise farther capital, to provide working plant for the railway.  Two acts were also obtained during the progress of the undertaking, enabling deviations and alterations to be made; one to improve the curves and shorten the line near Rainhill, and the other to carry the line across the Irwell into the town of Manchester.  Thanks to the energy of the engineer, the industry of his labourers, and the improved supply of money by the directors, the railway made rapid progress in the course of the year 1829.  Double sets of labourers were employed on Chat Moss and at other places in carrying on the works by night and day, the night shifts working by torch and fire light; and at length, the work advancing at all points, the directors saw their way to the satisfactory completion of the undertaking.

    It may well be supposed that Stephenson's time was fully occupied in superintending the extensive and for the most part novel works connected with the railway, and that even his extraordinary powers of labour and endurance were taxed to the utmost during the four years that they were in progress.  Almost every detail in the plans was directed and arranged by himself.  Every bridge, from the simplest to the most complicated, including the then novel structure of the "skew bridge," iron girders, siphons, fixed engines, and the machinery for working the tunnel at the Liverpool end, had all to be thought out by his own head, and reduced to definite plans under his own eyes.  Besides all this, he had to design the working plant in anticipation of the opening of the railway.  He must be prepared with wagons, trucks, and carriages, himself superintending their manufacture.  The permanent road, turntables, switches, and crossings — in short, the entire structure and machinery of the line, from the turning of the first sod to the running of the first train of carriages on the railway, went on under his immediate supervision.  And it was in the midst of this vast accumulation of work and responsibility that the battle of the locomotive engine had to be fought — a battle not merely against material difficulties, but against the still more trying obstructions of deeply-rooted mistrust and prejudice on the part of a considerable minority of the directors.

    He had no staff of experienced assistants—not even a staff of draughtsmen in his office—but only a few pupils learning their business, and he was frequently without even their help.  The time of his engineering inspectors was fully occupied in the actual superintendence of the works at different parts of the line, and he took care to direct all their important operations in person.  The principal draughtsman was Mr. Thomas Gooch, a pupil he had brought with him from Newcastle.  "I may say," writes Mr. Gooch, "that nearly the whole of the working and other drawings, as well as the various land-plans for the railway, were drawn by my own hand.  They were done at the company's office in Clayton Square during the day, from instructions supplied in the evenings by Mr. Stephenson, either by word of mouth, or by little rough hand sketches on letter-paper.  The evenings were also generally devoted to my duties as secretary, in writing (mostly from his own dictation) his letters and reports, or in making calculations and estimates.  The mornings before breakfast were not infrequently spent by me in visiting and lending a helping hand in the tunnel and other works near Liverpool—the untiring zeal and perseverance of George Stephenson never for an instant flagging, and inspiring with a like enthusiasm all who were engaged under him in carrying forward the works." [p.295]

    The usual routine of his life at this time—if routine it could be called—was to rise early, by sunrise in summer and before it in winter, and "break the back of the day's work" by midday.  While the tunnel under Liverpool was in progress, one of his first duties in the morning before breakfast was to go over the various shafts, clothed in a suitable dress, and inspect the progress of the work at different points; on other days he would visit the extensive workshops at Edgehill, where most of the "plant" for the line was manufactured.  Then, returning to his house in Upper Parliament Street, Windsor, after a hurried breakfast, he would ride along the works to inspect their progress, and push them on with greater energy where needful.  On other days he would prepare for the much less congenial engagement of meeting the board, which was often a cause of great anxiety and pain to him for it was difficult to satisfy men of all tempers, some of which which were not of the most generous kind.  On such occasions he might be seen with his right-hand thumb thrust through the topmost button-hole of his coat-breast, vehemently hitching his right shoulder, as was his habit when labouring under any considerable excitement.  Occasionally he would take an early ride before breakfast, to inspect the progress of the Sankey viaduct.  He had a favourite horse, brought by him from Newcastle, called "Bobby"—so tractable that, with his rider on his back, he would walk up to a locomotive with the steam blowing off, and put his nose against it without shying.  "Bobby," saddled and bridled, was brought to Stephenson's door betimes in the morning, and, mounting him, he would ride the fifteen miles to Sankey, putting up at a little public house which then stood upon the banks of the canal.  There he had his breakfast of "crowdie," which he made with his own hands.  It consisted of oatmeal stirred into a basin of hot water—a sort of porridge—which was supped with cold sweet milk.  After this frugal breakfast he would go upon the works, and remain there, riding from point to point for the greater part of the day.  If he returned home before midday it would be to examine the pay-sheets in the different departments sent in by the assistant engineers, or by the foremen of the workshops; all this he did himself with the greatest care, requiring a full explanation of every item.

 


    After a late dinner, which occupied very short time and was always of a plain and frugal description, he would proceed to dispose of his correspondence, or prepare sketches of drawings, and give instructions as to their completion. [p.297]  He would occasionally refresh himself for this evening work by a short doze, which, however, he would never admit had exceeded the limits of "winking," to use his own term.  Mr. Frederick Swanwick, who officiated as his secretary after the appointment of Mr. Gooch as resident engineer to the Bolton and Leigh Railway, has informed us that he then remarked—what in after years he could better appreciate—the clear, terse, and vigorous style of Stephenson's dictation; there was nothing superfluous in it, but it was close, direct, and to the point—in short, thoroughly business-like.  And if, in passing through the pen of the amanuensis, his meaning happened in any way to be distorted or modified, it did not fail to escape his detection, though he was always tolerant of any liberties taken with his own form of expression, so long as the words written down conveyed his real meaning.  His strong natural acumen showed itself even in such matters as grammar and composition—a department of knowledge in which, it might be supposed, he could scarcely have had either time or opportunity to acquire much information.  But here, as in all other things, his shrewd common sense came to his help, and his simple, vigorous English might almost be cited as a model of composition.

    His letters and reports written, and his sketches of drawings made and explained, the remainder of the evening was usually devoted to conversation with his wife and those of his pupils who lived under his roof, and constituted, as it were, part of the family.  He then delighted to test the knowledge of his young companions, and to question them upon the principles of mechanics.  If they were not quite "up to the mark" on any point, there was no escaping detection by evasive or specious explanations on their part.  These always met with the verdict of, "Ah! you know naught about it now; but think it over again, and tell me the answer when you understand it."  If there was even partial success in the reply, it would at once be acknowledged, and a full explanation was given, to which the master would add illustrative examples for the purpose of impressing the principle more deeply upon the pupil's mind.

    It was not so much his object and purpose to "cram" the minds of the young men committed to his charge with the results of knowledge as to stimulate them to educate themselves—to induce them to develop their 'mental and moral powers by the exercise of their own free energies, and thus acquire that habit of self-thinking and self-reliance which is the spring of all true manly action.  In a word, he sought to bring out and invigorate the character of his pupils.  He felt that he himself had been made stronger and better through his encounters with difficulty, and he would not have the road of knowledge made too smooth and easy for them.  "Learn for yourselves—think for yourselves," he would say: "make yourselves masters of principles—persevere—be industrious—and there is then no fear of you."  And not the least emphatic proof of the soundness of this system of education, as conducted by George Stephenson, was afforded by the after history of the pupils themselves.  There was not one of those trained under his eye who did not rise to eminent usefulness and distinction as an engineer.  He sent them forth into the world braced with the spirit of self-help—inspired by his own noble example; and they repeated in their after career the lessons of earnest effort and persistent industry which his daily life had taught them.

    Mr. Stephenson's evenings at home were not, however, exclusively devoted either to business or to the graver exercises above referred to.  He would often indulge in cheerful conversation and anecdote, falling back from time to time upon the struggles and difficulties of his early life.  The not infrequent winding up of his story, addressed to those about him, was, "Ah! ye young fellows don't know what wark is in these days!"  Mr. Swanwick delights recalling to mind how seldom, if ever, a cross or captious word, or an angry look, marred the enjoyment of those evenings.  The presence of Mrs. Stephenson gave them an additional charm: amiable, kind-hearted, and intelligent, she shared quietly in the pleasure of the party; and the atmosphere of comfort which always pervaded her home contributed in no small degree to render it a centre of cheerful, hopeful intercourse, and of earnest, honest industry.

 


    When Stephenson retired for the night, it was not always that he permitted himself to sink into slumber.  Like Brindley, he worked out many a difficult problem in bed; and for hours he would turn over in his mind and study how to overcome some obstacle, or to mature some project, on which his thoughts-were bent.  Some remark inadvertently dropped by him at the breakfast-table in the morning served to show that he had been stealing some hours from the night in reflection and study.  Yet he would rise at his accustomed early hour, and there was no abatement of his usual energy in carrying on the business of the day.


――――♦――――


[CHAPTER XII.]

 



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