The Stephensons VIII.
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CHAPTER XVI.

GEORGE STEPHENSON'S COAL-MINES—APPEARS AT MECHANICS' INSTITUTES—HIS OPINION ON RAILWAY SPEEDS—ATMOSPHERIC SYSTEM—RAILWAY MANIA—VISITS TO BELGIUM AND SPAIN.

 


    WHILE George Stephenson was engaged in carrying on the works of the Midland Railway in the neighbourhood of Chesterfield, several seams of coal were cut through in the Claycross Tunnel, when it occurred to him that if mines were opened out there, the railway would provide the means of a ready sale for the article in the midland counties, and even as far south as the metropolis itself.

    At a time when everybody else was sceptical as to the possibility of coals being carried from the midland counties to London, and sold there at a price to compete with those which were sea-borne, he declared his firm conviction that the time was fast approaching when the London market would be regularly supplied with North-country coals led by railway.  One of the great advantages of railways, in his opinion, was that they would bring iron and coal, the staple products of the country, to the doors of all England.  "The strength of Britain," he would say,


"lies in her iron and coal beds, and the locomotive is destined, above all other agencies, to bring it forth.  The lord chancellor now sits upon a bag of wool; but wool has long since ceased to be emblematical of the staple commodity of England.  He ought rather to sit upon a bag of coals, though it might not prove quite so comfortable a seat.  Then think of the lord chancellor being addressed as the noble and learned lord on the coal-sack!  I am afraid it wouldn't answer, after all."


To one gentleman he said:


"We want from the coal-mining, the iron-producing and manufacturing districts, a great railway for the carriage of these valuable products.  We want, if I may so say, a stream of steam running directly through the country from the North to London.  Speed is not so much an object as utility and cheapness.  It will not do to mix up the heavy merchandise and coal-trains with the passenger-trains.  Coal and most kinds of goods can wait, but passengers will not.  A less perfect road and less expensive works will do well enough for coal-trains, if run at a low speed; and if the line be flat, it is not of much consequence whether it be direct or not.  Whenever you put passenger-trains on a line, all the other trains must be run at high speeds to keep out of their way.  But coal-trains run at high speeds pull the road to pieces, besides causing large expenditure in locomotive power; and I doubt very much whether they will pay, after all; but a succession of long coal-trains, if run at from ten to fourteen miles an hour, would pay very well.  Thus the Stockton and Darlington Company made a larger profit when running coal at low speeds at a halfpenny a ton per mile, than they have been able to do since they put on their fast passenger-trains, when everything must needs be run faster, and a much larger proportion of the gross receipts is consequently absorbed by working expenses."


    In advocating these views, George Stephenson was considerably ahead of his time; and although he did not live to see his anticipations fully realized as to the supply of the London coal-market, he was nevertheless the first to point it out, and to some extent to prove, the practicability of establishing a profitable coal-trade by railway between the northern counties and the metropolis. So long, however, as the traffic was conducted on main passenger-lines at comparatively high speeds, it was found that the expenditure on tear and wear of road and locomotive power—not to mention the increased risk of carrying on the first-class passenger traffic with which it was mixed up—necessarily left a very small margin of profit, and hence our engineer was in the habit of urging the propriety of constructing a railway which should be exclusively devoted to goods and mineral traffic run at low speeds as the only condition on which a large railway traffic of that sort could be profitably conducted.

    Having induced some of his Liverpool friends to join him in a coal-mining adventure at Chesterfield, a lease was taken of the Claycross estate, then for sale, and operations were shortly after begun.  At a subsequent period Stephenson extended his coal-mining operations in the same neighbourhood, and in 1841 he himself entered into a contract with owners of land in the townships of Tapton, Brimington, and Newbold for the working of the coal thereunder, and pits were opened on the Tapton estate on an extensive scale.  About the same time he erected great lime-works, close to the Ambergate station of the Midland Railway, from which, when in full operation, he was able to turn out upward of two hundred tons a day.  The limestone was brought on a tramway from the village of Crich, about two or three miles distant from the kilns, the coal being supplied from his adjoining Claycross Colliery.  The works were on a scale such as had not before been attempted by any private individual engaged in a similar trade, and we believe they proved very successful.

 


    Tapton House was included in the lease of one of the collieries, and as it was conveniently situated—being, as it were, a central point on the Midland Railway, from which the engineer could readily proceed north or south on his journeys of inspection of the various lines then under construction in the midland and northern counties—he took up his residence there, and it continued his home until the close of his life.

    Tapton House is a large, roomy brick mansion, beautifully situated amid woods, upon a commanding eminence, about a mile to the northeast of the town of Chesterfield.   Green fields dotted with fine trees slope away from the house in all directions.  The surrounding country is undulating and highly picturesque.  North and south the eye ranges over a vast extent of lovely scenery; and on the west, looking over the town of Chesterfield, with its church and crooked spire, the extensive range of the Derbyshire hills bounds the distance.  The Midland Railway skirts the western edge of the park in a deep rock cutting, and the locomotive's shrill whistle sounds near at hand as the trains speed past.  The gardens and pleasure-grounds adjoining the house were in a very neglected state when Mr. Stephenson first went to Tapton, and he promised himself, when he had secured rest and leisure from business, that he would put a new face upon both.  The first improvement he made was in cutting a woodland footpath up the hill-side, by which he at the same time added a beautiful feature to the park, and secured a shorter road to the Chesterfield station; but it was some years before he found time to carry into effect his contemplated improvements in the adjoining gardens and pleasure-grounds.  He had so long been accustomed to laborious pursuits, and felt himself still so full of work, that he could not at once settle down into the habit of quietly enjoying the fruits of his industry.

 


    He had no difficulty in usefully employing his time.  Besides directing the mining operations at Claycross, the establishment of the lime-kilns at Ambergate, and the construction of the extensive railways still in progress, he occasionally paid visits to Newcastle, where his locomotive manufactory was now in full work, and the proprietors were reaping the advantages of his early foresight in an abundant measure of prosperity.  One of his most interesting visits to the place was in 1838, on the occasion of the meeting of the British Association there, when he acted as one of the Vice-Presidents in the section of Mechanical Science.  Extraordinary changes had taken place in his own fortunes, as well as in the face of the country, since he had first appeared before a scientific body in Newcastle—the members of the Literary and Philosophical Institute—to submit his safety-lamp for their examination.  Twenty-three years had passed over his head, full of honest work, of manful struggle, and the humble "colliery engine-wright of the name of Stephenson" had achieved an almost world-wide reputation as a public benefactor.  His fellow-townsmen, therefore, could not hesitate to recognize his merits and do honour to his presence.  During the sittings of the Association, the engineer took the opportunity of paying a visit to Killingworth, accompanied by some of the distinguished savans whom he numbered among his friends.  He there pointed out to them, with a degree of honest pride, the cottage in which he had lived for so many years, showing what parts of it had been his handiwork, and told them the story of the sun-dial over the door, describing the study and the labour it had cost him and his son to calculate its dimensions and fix it in its place.  The dial had been serenely numbering the hours through the busy years that had elapsed since that humble dwelling had been his home, during which the Killingworth locomotive had become a great working power, and its contriver had established the railway system, which was now rapidly becoming extended in all parts of the civilized world.

    About the same time, his services were very much in request at the meetings of Mechanics' Institutes held throughout the northern counties.  From a very early period in his history he had taken an active interest in these valuable institutions.  While residing at Newcastle in 1824, shortly after his locomotive foundry had been started in Forth Street, he presided at a public meeting held in that town for the purpose of establishing a Mechanics' Institute.  The meeting was held; but, as George Stephenson was a man comparatively unknown even in Newcastle at that time, his name failed to secure "an influential attendance."  Among those who addressed the meeting on the occasion was Joseph Locke, then his pupil, and afterward his rival as an engineer.  The local papers scarcely noticed the proceedings, yet the Mechanics' Institute was founded and struggled into existence.  Years passed, and it was felt to be an honour to secure Mr. Stephenson's presence at any public meetings held for the promotion of popular education.  Among the Mechanics' Institutes in his immediate neighbourhood at Tapton were those of Belper and Chesterfield, and at their soirees he was a frequent and a welcome visitor.  On these occasions he loved to tell his auditors of the difficulties which had early beset him through want of knowledge, and of the means by which he had overcome them.  His grand text was—PERSEVERE; and there was manhood in the word.

    On more than one occasion the author had the pleasure of listening to George Stephenson's homely but forcible addresses at the annual soirees of the Leeds Mechanics' Institute.  He was always an immense favourite with his audiences there.  His personal appearance was greatly in his favour.  A handsome, ruddy, expressive face, lit up by bright dark blue eyes, prepared one for his earnest words when he stood up to speak, and the cheers had subsided which invariably hailed his rising.  He was not glib, but he was very impressive.  And who, so well as he, could serve as a guide to the working-man in his endeavours after higher knowledge?  His early life had been all struggle—encounter with difficulty—groping in the dark after greater light, but always earnestly and perseveringly.  His words were therefore all the more weighty, since he spoke from the fullness of his own experience.

    Nor did he remain a mere inactive spectator of the improvements in railway working which increasing experience from day to day suggested.  He continued to contrive improvements in the locomotive, and to mature his invention of the carriage-brake.  When examined before the Select Committee on Railways in 1841, his mind seems to have been impressed with the necessity which existed for adopting a system of self-acting brakes, stating that, in his opinion, this was the most important arrangement that could be provided for increasing the safety of railway travelling.  "I believe," he said, "that if self-acting brakes were put upon every carriage, scarcely any accident could take place."  His plan consisted in employing the momentum of the running train to throw his proposed brakes into action immediately on the moving power of the engine being checked.  He would also have these brakes under the control of the guard, by means of a connecting line running along the whole length of the train, by which they should at once be thrown out of gear when necessary.  At the same time he suggested, as an additional means of safety, that the signals of the line should be self-acting, and worked by the locomotives as they passed along the railway.  He considered the adoption of this plan of so much importance that, with a view to the public safety, he would even have it enforced upon railway companies by the Legislature.  He was also of opinion that it was the interest of the companies themselves to adopt the plan, as it would save great tear and wear of engines, carriages, tenders, and brake-vans, besides greatly diminishing the risk of accidents upon railways.

    While before the same committee, he took the opportunity of stating his views with reference to railway speeds, about which wild ideas were then afloat, one gentleman of celebrity having publicly expressed the opinion that a speed of a hundred miles an hour was practicable in railway travelling!  Not many years had passed since Mr. Stephenson had been pronounced insane for stating his conviction that twelve miles an hour could be performed by the locomotive; but, now that he had established the fact, and greatly exceeded that speed, he was thought behind the age because he recommended it to be limited to forty miles an hour.  He said: "I do not like either forty or fifty miles an hour upon any line—I think it is an unnecessary speed; and if there is danger upon a railway, it is high velocity that creates it.  I should say no railway ought to exceed forty miles an hour on the most favourable gradient; but upon a curved line the speed ought not to exceed twenty-four or twenty-five miles an hour."  He had, indeed, constructed for the Great Western Railway an engine capable of running fifty miles an hour with a load, and eighty miles without one.  But he never was in favour of a hurricane speed of this sort, believing it could only be accomplished at an unnecessary increase both of danger and expense.

    "It is true," he observed on other occasions,


"I have said the locomotive engine might be made to travel a hundred miles an hour, but I always put a qualification on this, namely, as to what speed would best suit the public. [p.399]  The public may, however, be unreasonable; and fifty or sixty miles an hour is an unreasonable speed.  Long before railway travelling became general, I said to my friends that there was no limit to the speed of the locomotive, provided the works could be made to stand.  But there are limits to the strength of iron, whether it be manufactured into rails or locomotives, and there is a point at which both rails and tires must break.  Every increase of speed, by increasing the strain upon the road and the rolling stock, brings us nearer to that point.  At thirty miles a slighter road will do, and less perfect rolling stock may be run upon it with safety.  But if you increase the speed by say ten miles, then everything must be greatly strengthened.  You must have heavier engines, heavier and better-fastened rails, and all your working expenses will be immensely increased.  I think I know enough of mechanics to know where to stop.  I know that a pound will weigh a pound, and that more should not be put upon an iron rail than it will bear.  If you could insure perfect iron, perfect rails, and perfect locomotives, I grant fifty miles an hour or more might be run with safety on a level railway.  But then you must not forget that iron, even the best, will 'tire,' and with constant use will become more and more liable to break at the weakest point—perhaps where there is a secret flaw that the eye can not detect.  Then look at the rubbishy rails now manufactured on the contract system—some of them little better than cast metal: indeed, I have seen rails break merely on being thrown from the truck on to the ground.  How is it possible for such rails to stand a twenty or thirty ton engine dashing over them at the speed of fifty miles an hour?  No, no,"


he would conclude,


"I am in favour of low speeds because they are safe, and because they are economical; and you may rely upon it that, beyond a certain point, with every increase of speed there is a certain increase in the element of danger."


    When railways became the subject of popular discussion, many new and unsound theories were started with reference to them, which Stephenson opposed as calculated, in his opinion, to bring discredit on the locomotive system.  One of these was with reference to what were called "undulating lines."  Dr. Lardner, who at an earlier period was sceptical as to the powers of the locomotive, now promulgated the idea that a railway constructed with rising and falling gradients would be practically as easy to work as a line perfectly level.  Mr. Badnell went even beyond him, for he held that an undulating railway was much better than a level one for purposes of working. [p.400]  For a time this theory found favour, and the "undulating system" was extensively adopted; but George Stephenson never ceased to inveigh against it, and experience has proved that his judgment was correct.  His practice, from the beginning of his career until the end of it, was to secure a road as nearly as possible on a level, following the course of the valleys and the natural line of the country; preferring to go round a hill rather than to tunnel under it or carry his railway over it, and often making a considerable circuit to secure good workable gradients.  He studied to lay out his lines so that long trains of minerals and merchandise, as well as passengers, might be hauled along them at the least possible expenditure of locomotive power.  He had long before ascertained, by careful experiments at Killingworth, that the engine expends half its power in overcoming a rising gradient of 1 in 260, which is about 20 feet in the mile; and that when the gradient is so steep as 1 in 100, not less than three fourths of its power is sacrificed in ascending the acclivity.  He never forgot the valuable practical lessons taught him by these early trials, which he had made and registered long before the advantages of railways had become recognized.  He saw clearly that the longer flat line must eventually prove superior to the shorter line of steep gradients as respected its paying qualities.  He urged that, after all, the power of the locomotive was but limited; and, although he and his son had done more than any other men to increase its working capacity, it provoked him to find that every improvement made in it was neutralized by the steep gradients which the new school of engineers were setting it to overcome.  On one occasion, when Robert Stephenson stated before a Parliamentary committee that every successive improvement in the locomotive was being rendered virtually nugatory by the difficult and almost impracticable gradients proposed on many of the new lines, his father, on his leaving the witness-box, went up to him, and said, "Robert, you never spoke truer words than those in all your life."

    To this it must be added, that in urging these views George Stephenson was strongly influenced by commercial considerations.  He had no desire to build up his reputation at the expense of railway shareholders, nor to obtain engineering éclat by making "ducks and drakes" of their money.  He was persuaded that, in order to secure the practical success of railways, they must be so laid out as not only to prove of decided public utility, but also to be worked economically and to the advantage of their proprietors.  They were not government roads, but private ventures—in fact, commercial speculations.  He therefore endeavoured to render them financially profitable; and he repeatedly declared that if he did not believe they could be "made to pay," he would have nothing to do with them. [p.401]  Nor was he influenced by the sordid consideration merely of what he could make out of any company that employed him, but in many cases he voluntarily gave up his claim to remuneration where the promoters of schemes which he thought praiseworthy had suffered serious loss.  Thus, when the first application was made to Parliament for the Chester and Birkenhead Railway Bill, the promoters were defeated.  They repeated their application on the understanding that in event of their succeeding the engineer and surveyor were to be paid their costs in respect of the defeated measure.  The bill was successful, and to several parties their costs were paid.  Stephenson's amounted to £800, and he very nobly said, "You have had an expensive career in Parliament; you have had a great struggle; you are a young company; you can not afford to pay me this amount of money; I will reduce it to £200, and I will not ask you for the £200 until your shares are at £20 premium; for, whatever may be the reverses you have to go through, I am satisfied I shall live to see the day when your shares will be at £20 premium, and when I can legally and honourably claim that £200." [p.402]  We may add that the shares did eventually rise to the premium specified, and the engineer was no loser by his generous conduct in the transaction.

 

Atmospheric propulsion—drawing showing cross-section of vacuum pipe, sealable slot and connection to the railway vehicle (above).

Ed.—an atmospheric railway is a railway that uses air pressure to provide power for propulsion.  A pneumatic tube is laid between the rails, with a piston running in it suspended from the train through a sealable slot in the top of the tube.  By means of stationary pumping engines along the route, air is exhausted from the tube leaving a vacuum in advance of the piston, and there is an arrangement for admitting air to the tube behind the piston so that atmospheric pressure propels it (and the train to which it is attached) forward.


    Another novelty of the time with which George Stephenson had to contend was the proposed substitution of atmospheric pressure for locomotive steam-power in the working of railways.  The idea of obtaining motion by means of atmospheric pressure originated with Denis Papin more than a century and a half ago; but it slept until revived in 1810 by Mr. Medhurst, who published a pamphlet to prove the practicability of carrying letters and goods by air.  In 1824, Mr. Vallance, of Brighton, took out a patent for projecting passengers through a tube large enough to contain a train of carriages, the tube ahead of the carriages being previously exhausted of its atmospheric air.  The same idea was afterward taken up, in 1835, by Mr. Pinkus, an ingenious American.  Several scientific gentlemen, Dr. Lardner and Mr. Clegg among others, advocated the plan, and an association was formed to carry it into effect. Shares were created, and £18,000 raised; and a model apparatus was exhibited in London.  Mr. Vignolles took Mr. Stephenson to see the model; and after carefully examining it, he observed emphatically, "It won't do: it is only the fixed engines and ropes over again, in another form; and, to tell you the truth, I don't think this rope of wind will answer so well as the rope of wire did."  He did not think the principle would stand the test of practice, and he objected to the mode of applying the principle.  The stationary-engine system was open to serious objections in whatever form applied; and every day's experience showed that the fixed engines could not compete with locomotives in point of efficiency and economy.  Stephenson stood by the locomotive engine, and subsequent experience proved that he was right.

    Messrs. Clegg and Samuda afterward, in 1840, patented their plan of an atmospheric railway, and they publicly tested its working on a portion of the West London Railway.  The results of the experiment were considered so satisfactory, that the directors of the Dublin and Kingstown line adopted it between Kingstown and Dalkey.  The London and Croydon Company also adopted the atmospheric principle; and their line was opened in 1845.  The ordinary mode of applying the power was to lay between the line of rails a pipe, in which a large piston was inserted, and attached by a shaft to the framework of a carriage.  The propelling power was the ordinary pressure of the atmosphere acting against the piston in the tube on one side, a vacuum being created in the tube on the other side of the piston by the working of a stationary engine.  Great was the popularity of the atmospheric system; and still George Stephenson said, "It won't do; it's but a gimcrack."  Engineers of distinction said he was prejudiced, and that he looked upon the locomotive as a pet child of his own.  "Wait a little," he replied, "and you will see that I am right."  It was generally supposed that the locomotive system was about to be snuffed out.  "Not so fast," said Stephenson.  "Let us wait to see if it will pay."  He never believed it would.  It was ingenious, clever, scientific, and all that; but railways were commercial enterprises, not toys; and if the atmospheric railway could not work to a profit, it would not do.  Considered in this light, he even went so far as to call it "a great humbug,"

    No one can say that the atmospheric railway had not a fair trial.  The government engineer, General Pasley, did for it what had never been done for the locomotive—he reported in its favour, whereas a former government engineer had inferentially reported against the use of locomotive power on railways.  The House of Commons had also reported in favour of the use of the steam-engine on common roads; yet the railway locomotive had vitality enough in it to live through all.  "Nothing will beat it," said George Stephenson, "for efficiency in all weathers, for economy in drawing loads of average weight, and for power and speed as occasion may require." The atmospheric system was fairly and fully tried, and it was found wanting.  It was admitted to be an exceedingly elegant mode of applying power; its devices were very skilful, and its mechanism was most ingenious.  But it was costly, irregular in action, and, in particular kinds of weather, not to be depended upon.  At best, it was but a modification of the stationary-engine system, and experience proved it to be so expensive that it was shortly after entirely abandoned in favour of locomotive power. [p.404]

    One of the remarkable results of the system of railway locomotion which George Stephenson had by his persevering labours mainly contributed to establish was the outbreak of the railway mania toward the close of his professional career.  The success of the first main lines of railway naturally led to their extension into many new districts; but a strongly speculative tendency soon began to display itself, which contained in it the elements of great danger.

    The extension of railways had, up to the year 1844, been mainly effected by men of the commercial classes, and the shareholders in them principally belonged to the manufacturing districts—the capitalists of the metropolis as yet holding aloof, and prophesying disaster to all concerned in railway projects.  The Stock Exchange looked askance upon them, and it was with difficulty that respectable brokers could be found to do business in the shares.  But when the lugubrious anticipations of the City men were found to be so entirely falsified by the results—when, after the lapse of years, it was ascertained that railway traffic rapidly increased and dividends steadily improved—a change came over the spirit of the London capitalists.  They then invested largely in railways, the shares in which became a leading branch of business on the Stock Exchange, and the prices of some rose to nearly double their original value.

    A stimulus was thus given to the projection of farther lines, the shares in most of which came out at a premium, and became the subject of immediate traffic.  A reckless spirit of gambling set in, which completely changed the character and objects of railway enterprise.  The public outside the Stock Exchange became also infected, and many persons utterly ignorant of railways, but hungering and thirsting after premiums, rushed eagerly into the vortex.  They applied for allotments, and subscribed for shares in lines, of the engineering character or probable traffic of which they knew nothing.  Provided they could but obtain allotments which they could sell at a premium, and put the profit—in many cases the only capital they possessed—into their pockets, it was enough for them. [p.405]  The mania was not confined to the precincts of the Stock Exchange, but infected all ranks.  It embraced merchants and manufacturers, gentry and shop-keepers, clerks in public offices, and loungers at the clubs.  Noble lords were pointed at as "stags;" there were even clergymen who were characterized as "bulls," and amiable ladies who had the reputation of "bears," in the share-markets.  The few quiet men who remained uninfluenced by the speculation of the time were, in not a few cases, even reproached for doing injustice to their families in declining to help themselves from the stores of wealth that were poured out on all sides.

    Folly and knavery were for a time in the ascendant.  The sharpers of society were let loose, and jobbers and schemers became more and more plentiful.  They threw out railway schemes as lures to catch the unwary.  They fed the mania with a constant succession of new projects.  The railway papers became loaded with their advertisements.  The post-office was scarcely able to distribute the multitude of prospectuses and circulars which they issued.  For a time their popularity was immense.  They rose like froth into the upper heights of society, and the flunkey Fitz Plushe, by virtue of his supposed wealth, sat among peers and was idolized.  Then was the harvest-time for scheming lawyers, Parliamentary agents, engineers, surveyors, and traffic-takers, who were ready to take up any railway scheme however desperate, and to prove any amount of traffic even where none existed.  The traffic in the credulity of their dupes was, however, the great fact that mainly concerned them, and of the profitable character of which there could be no doubt.

    Parliament, whose previous conduct in connection with railway legislation was so open to reprehension, interposed no check—attempted no remedy.  On the contrary, it helped to intensify the evils arising from this unseemly state of things.  Many of its members were themselves involved in the mania, and as much interested in its continuance as the vulgar herd of money-grubbers.  The railway prospectuses now issued—unlike the original Liverpool and Manchester, and London and Birmingham schemes—were headed by peers, baronets, landed proprietors, and strings of M.P's.  Thus it was found in 1845 that no fewer than 157 members of Parliament were on the lists of new companies as subscribers for sums ranging from £291,000 downward!  The projectors of new lines even came to boast of their Parliamentary strength, and of the number of votes which they could command in "the House."  At all events, it is matter of fact, that many utterly ruinous branches and extensions projected during the mania, calculated only to benefit the inhabitants of a few miserable boroughs accidentally omitted from Schedule A, were authorized in the memorable sessions of 1844 and 1845.

    George Stephenson was anxiously entreated to lend his name to prospectuses during the railway mania, but he invariably refused.  He held aloof from the headlong folly of the hour, and endeavoured to check it, but in vain.  Had he been less scrupulous, and given his countenance to the numerous projects about which he was consulted, he might, without any trouble, have thus secured enormous gains; but he had no desire to accumulate a fortune without labour and without honour.  He himself never speculated in shares.  When he was satisfied as to the merits of an undertaking, he would sometimes subscribe for a certain amount of capital in
it, when he held on, neither buying nor selling.  At a dinner of the Leeds and Bradford directors at Ben Rydding in October, 1844, before the mania had reached its height, he warned those present against the prevalent disposition toward railway speculation.  It was, he said, like walking upon a piece of ice with shallows and deeps; the shallows were frozen over, and they would carry, but it required great caution to get over the deeps.  He was satisfied that in the course of the next year many would step on to places not strong enough to carry them, and would get into the deeps; they would be taking shares, and afterward be unable to pay the calls upon them.  Yorkshiremen were reckoned clever men, and his advice to them was to stick together and promote communication in their own neighbourhood—not to go abroad with their speculations.  If any had done so, he advised them to get their money back as fast as they could, for if they did not they would not get it at all.  He informed the company, at the same time, of his earliest holding of railway shares; it was in the Stockton and Darlington Railway, and the number he held was three—"a very large capital for him to possess at the time."  But a Stockton friend was anxious to possess a share, and he sold him one at a premium of 33s.; he supposed he had been about the first man in England to sell a railway share at a premium.
 

George Hudson, "The Railway King."
(1800-71)

    During 1845, his son's office in Great George Street, Westminster, was crowded with persons of various conditions seeking interviews, presenting very much the appearance of the levee of a minister of state.  The burly figure of Mr. Hudson, the "Railway King," surrounded by an admiring group of followers, was often to be seen there; and a still more interesting person, in the estimation of many, was George Stephenson, dressed in black, his coat of somewhat old-fashioned cut, with square pockets in the tails.  He wore a white neck-cloth, and a large bunch of seals was suspended from his watch-ribbon.  Altogether, he presented an appearance of health, intelligence, and good humour, that it gladdened one to look upon in that sordid, selfish, and eventually ruinous saturnalia of railway speculation.

    Being still the consulting engineer of several of the older companies, he necessarily appeared before Parliament in support of their branches and extensions.  In 1845 his name was associated with that of his son as the engineer of the Southport and Preston Junction.  In the same session he gave evidence in favour of the Syston and Peterborough branch of the Midland Railway; but his principal attention was confined to the promotion of the line from Newcastle to Berwick, in which he had never ceased to take the deepest interest.

    Powers were granted by Parliament in 1845 to construct not less than 2883 miles of new railways in Britain, at an expenditure of about forty-four millions sterling!  Yet the mania was not appeased; for in the following session of 1846, applications were made to Parliament for powers to raise £389,000,000 sterling for the construction of farther lines; and they were actually conceded to the extent of 4790 miles (including 60 miles of tunnels), at a cost of about £120,000,000 sterling. [p.408]  During this session Mr. Stephenson appeared as engineer for only one new line—the Buxton, Macclesfield, Congleton, and Crewe Railway—a line in which, as a coal-owner, he was personally interested; and of three branch lines in connection with existing companies for which he had long acted as engineer.  At the same period all the leading professional men were fully occupied, some of them appearing as consulting engineers for upward of thirty lines each!

    One of the features of this mania was the rage for "direct lines" which every where displayed itself.  There were "Direct Manchester," "Direct Exeter," "Direct York," and, indeed, new direct lines between most of the large towns.  The Marquis of Bristol, speaking in favour of the "Direct Norwich and London" project at a public meeting at Haverhill, said, "If necessary, they might make a tunnel beneath his very drawing-room rather than be defeated in their undertaking!"  And the Rev. F. Litchfield, at a meeting in Banbury on the subject of a line to that town, said, "He had laid down for himself a limit to his approbation of railways—at least of such as approached the neighbourhood with which he was connected—and that limit was, that he did not wish them to approach any nearer to him than to run through his bedroom, with the bedposts for a station!"  How different was the spirit which influenced these noble lords and gentlemen but a few years before!

    The course adopted by Parliament in dealing with the multitude of railway bills applied for during the prevalence of the mania was as irrational as it proved unfortunate.  The want of foresight displayed by both houses in obstructing the railway system so long as it was based upon sound commercial principles was only equalled by the fatal facility with which they now granted railway projects based upon the wildest speculation.  Parliament interposed no check, laid down no principle, furnished no guidance, for the conduct of railway projectors, but left every company to select its own locality, determine its own line, and fix its own gauge.  No regard was paid to the claims of existing companies, which had already expended so large an amount in the formation of useful railways; and speculators were left at liberty to project and carry out lines almost parallel with theirs.

    The House of Commons became thoroughly influenced by the prevailing excitement.  Even the Board of Trade began to favour the views of the new and reckless school of engineers.  In their "Report on the Lines projected in the Manchester and Leeds District," they promulgated some remarkable views respecting gradients, declaring themselves in favour of the "undulating system."  They there stated that lines of an undulating character "which gave gradients of 1 in 70 or 1 in 80 distributed over them in short lengths, may be positively better lines, i.e., more susceptible of cheap and expeditious working, than others which have nothing steeper than 1 in 100 or 1 in 120!"  They concluded by reporting in favour of the line which exhibited the worst gradients and the sharpest curves, chiefly on the ground that it could be constructed for less money.

    Sir Robert Peel took occasion, when speaking in favour of the continuance of the Railways Department of the Board of Trade, to advert to this report in the House of Commons on the 4th of March following, as containing "a novel and highly important view on the subject of gradients, which, he was certain, never could have been taken by any committee of the House of Commons, however intelligent;" and he might have added, that the more intelligent, the less likely would they be to arrive at any such conclusion.  When George Stephenson saw this report of the premier's speech in the newspapers of the following morning, he went forthwith to his son, and asked him to write a letter to Sir Robert Peel on the subject.  He saw clearly that if such views were adopted, the utility and economy of railways would be seriously curtailed.  "These members of Parliament," said he, "are now as much disposed to exaggerate the powers of the locomotive as they were to underestimate them but a few years ago."  Robert accordingly wrote a letter for his father's signature, embodying the views which he so strongly entertained as to the importance of flat gradients, and referring to the experiments conducted by him many years before in proof of the great loss of working power which was incurred on a line of steep as compared with easy gradients.  It was clear, from the tone of Sir Robert Peel's speech in a subsequent debate, that he had carefully read and considered Mr. Stephenson's practical observations on the subject, though it did not appear that he had come to any definite conclusion thereon farther than that he strongly approved of the Trent Valley Railway, by which Tamworth would be placed upon a direct main line of communication.

    The result of the labours of Parliament was a tissue of legislative bungling, involving enormous loss to the nation.  Railway bills were granted in heaps.  Two hundred and seventy-two additional acts were passed in 1846.  Some authorized the construction of lines running almost parallel with existing railways, in order to afford the public "the benefits of unrestricted competition."  Locomotive and atmospheric lines, broad-gauge and narrow-gauge lines, were granted without hesitation.  Committees decided without judgment and without discrimination; and in the scramble for bills, the most unscrupulous were usually the most successful.  As an illustration of the legislative folly of the period, Robert Stephenson, speaking at Toronto, in Upper Canada, some years later, adduced the following instances:


"There was one district through which it was proposed to run two lines, and there was no other difficulty between them than the simple rivalry that, if one got a charter, the other might also.  But here, where the committee might have given both, they gave neither.  In another instance, two lines were projected through a barren country, and the committee gave the one which afforded the least accommodation to the public.  In another, where two lines were projected to run, merely to shorten the time by a few minutes, leading through a mountainous country, the committee gave both.  So that, where the committee might have given both, they gave neither, and where they should have given neither, they gave both."


    Among the many ill effects of the mania, one of the worst was that it introduced a low tone of morality into railway transactions.  The bad spirit which had been evoked by it unhappily extended to the commercial classes, and many of the most flagrant swindles of recent times had their origin in the year 1845.  Those who had suddenly gained large sums without labour, and also without honour, were too ready to enter upon courses of the wildest extravagance; and a false style of living arose, the poisonous influence of which extended through all classes.  Men began to look upon railways as instruments to job with.  Persons sometimes possessing information respecting railways, but more frequently possessing none, got upon boards for the purpose of promoting their individual objects, often in a very unscrupulous manner; land-owners, to promote branch lines through their property; speculators in shares, to trade upon the exclusive information which they obtained; while some directors were appointed through the influence mainly of solicitors, contractors, or engineers, who used them as tools to serve their own ends. In this way the unfortunate proprietors were in many cases betrayed, and their property was shamefully squandered, much to the discredit of the railway system.

    One of the most prominent celebrities of the mania was George Hudson, of York.  He was a man of some local repute in that city when the line between Leeds and York was projected.  His views as to railways were then extremely moderate, and his main object in joining the undertaking was to secure for York the advantages of the best railway communication.  The company was not very prosperous at first, and during the years 1840 and 1841 the shares had greatly sunk in value.  Mr. Alderman Meek, the first chairman, having retired, Mr. Hudson was elected in his stead, and he very shortly contrived to pay improved dividends to the proprietors, who asked no questions.  Desiring to extend the field of his operations, he proceeded to lease the Leeds and Selby Railway at five per cent.  That line had hitherto been a losing concern; so its owners readily struck a bargain with Mr. Hudson, and sounded his praises in all directions.  He increased the dividends on the York and North Midland shares to ten per cent., and began to be cited as the model of a railway chairman.

    He next interested himself in the North Midland Railway, where he appeared in the character of a reformer of abuses.  The North Midland shares also had gone to a heavy discount, and the shareholders were accordingly desirous of securing his services.  They elected him a director.  His bustling, pushing, persevering character gave him an influential position at the board, and he soon pushed the old members from their stools.  He laboured hard, at much personal inconvenience, to help the concern out of its difficulties, and he succeeded.  The new directors, recognizing his power, elected him their chairman.

    Railways revived in 1842, and public confidence in them as profitable investments was gradually increasing.  Mr. Hudson had the benefit of this growing prosperity.  The dividends in his lines improved, and the shares rose in value.  The Lord-mayor of York began to be quoted as one of the most capable of railway directors.  Stimulated by his success and encouraged by his followers, he struck out or supported many new projects—a line to Scarborough, a line to Bradford, lines in the Midland districts, and lines to connect York with Newcastle and Edinburgh.  He was elected chairman of the Newcastle and Darlington Railway; and when—in order to complete the continuity of the main line of communication—it was found necessary to secure the Durham junction, which was an important link in the chain, he and George Stephenson boldly purchased that railway between them, at the price of £88,500.  It was an exceedingly fortunate purchase for the company, to whom it was worth double the money.  The act, though not strictly legal, proved successful in the issue, and was much lauded.  Thus encouraged, Mr. Hudson proceeded to buy the Brandling Junction line for £500,000 in his own name—an operation at the time regarded as equally favourable, though he was afterward charged with appropriating 1600 of the shares created for the purchase, when worth £21 premium each.  The Great North of England line being completed, Mr. Hudson had thus secured the entire line of communication from York to Newcastle, and the route was opened to the public in June, 1844.  On that occasion Newcastle eulogized Mr. Hudson in its choicest local eloquence, and he was pronounced to be the greatest benefactor the district had ever known.

    The adulation which followed Mr. Hudson would have intoxicated a stronger and more self-denying man.  He was pronounced the man of the age, and hailed as "the Railway King."  The highest test by which the shareholders judged him was the dividends that he paid, though subsequent events proved that these dividends were in many cases delusive, intended only "to make things pleasant."  The policy, however, had its effect.  The shares in all the lines of which he was chairman went to a premium, and then arose the temptation to create new shares in branch and extension lines, often worthless, which were issued at a premium also.  Thus he shortly found himself chairman of nearly 600 miles of railway, extending from Rugby to Newcastle, and at the head of numerous new projects, by means of which paper-wealth could be created as it were at pleasure.  He held in his own hands almost the entire administrative power of the companies over which he presided: he was chairman, board, manager, and all.  His admirers for the time, inspired sometimes by gratitude for past favours, but oftener by the expectation of favours to come, supported him in all his measures.  At the meetings of the companies, if any suspicious shareholder ventured to put a question about the accounts, he was snubbed by the chair and hissed by the proprietors.  The Railway King was voted praises, testimonials, and surplus shares alike liberally, and scarcely a word against him could find a hearing.  He was equally popular outside the circle of railway proprietors.  His entertainments at Albert Gate were crowded by sycophants, many of them titled; and he went his rounds of visits among the peerage like a prince.

    Of course Mr. Hudson was a great authority on railway questions in Parliament, to which the burgesses of Sunderland had sent him.  His experience of railways, still little understood, though the subject of so much legislation, gave value and weight to his opinions, and in many respects he was a useful member.  During the first years of his membership he was chiefly occupied in passing the railway bills in which he was more particularly interested; and in the session of 1845, when he was at the height of his power, it was triumphantly said of him that "he walked quietly through Parliament with some sixteen railway bills under his arm."

    One of these bills, however, was the subject of a severe contest—we mean that empowering the construction of the railway from Newcastle to Berwick.  It was almost the only bill in which George Stephenson was concerned that year.  Mr. Hudson displayed great energy in supporting the measure, and he worked hard to insure its success both in and out of Parliament; but he himself attributed the chief merit to Stephenson.  He accordingly suggested to the shareholders that they should present the engineer with some fitting testimonial in recognition of his services.  Indeed, a Stephenson Testimonial had long been spoken of, and a committee was formed for raising subscriptions for the purpose as early as the year 1839.  Mr. Hudson now revived the subject, and appealed to the Newcastle and Darlington, the Midland, and the York and North Midland Companies, who unanimously adopted the resolutions which he proposed to them amid "loud applause," but there the matter ended.

    The Hudson Testimonial was a much more taking thing, for Hudson had it in his power to allot shares (selling at a premium) to his adulators.  But Stephenson pretended to fill no man's pocket with premiums; he was no creator of shares, and could not therefore work upon shareholders' gratitude for "favours to come."  The proposed testimonial to him accordingly ended with resolutions and speeches.  The York, Newcastle, and Berwick Board—in other words, Mr. Hudson—did indeed mark their sense of the "great obligations" which they were under to George Stephenson for helping to carry their bill through Parliament by making him an allotment of thirty of the new shares authorized by the act.  But, as afterward appeared, the chairman had at the same time appropriated to himself not fewer than 10,894 of the same shares, the premiums on which were then worth, in the market, about £145,000.  This shabby manner of acknowledging the gratitude of the company to their engineer was strongly resented by Stephenson at the time, and a coolness took place between him and Hudson which was never wholly removed, though they afterward shook hands, and Stephenson declared that all was forgotten.

    Mr. Hudson's brief reign drew to a close.  The saturnalia of 1845 was followed by the usual reaction.  Shares went down faster than they had gone up; the holders of them hastened to sell in order to avoid payment of the calls, and many found themselves ruined.  Then came repentance, and a sudden return to virtue.  The betting man, who, temporarily abandoning the turf for the share-market, had played his heaviest stake and lost; the merchant who had left his business, and the doctor who had neglected his patients, to gamble in railway stock and been ruined; the penniless knaves and schemers who had speculated so recklessly and gained so little; the titled and fashionable people, who had bowed themselves so low before the idol of the day, and found themselves deceived and "done;" the credulous small capitalists, who, dazzled by premiums, had invested their all in railway shares, and now saw themselves stripped of everything, were grievously enraged, and looked about them for a victim.  In this temper were shareholders when, at a railway meeting in York, some pertinent questions were put to the Railway King.  His replies were not satisfactory, and the questions were pushed home.  Mr. Hudson became confused.  Angry voices rose in the meeting.  A committee of investigation was appointed.  The golden calf was found to be of brass, and hurled down, Hudson's own toadies and sycophants eagerly joining the chorus of popular indignation.  Similar proceedings shortly after followed at the meetings of other companies, and the bubbles having by that time burst, the Railway Mania thus came to an ignominious end.

    While the mania was at its height in England, railways were also being extended abroad, and George Stephenson continued to be invited to give the directors of foreign undertakings the benefit of his advice.  One of the most agreeable of his excursions with that object was his third visit to Belgium in 1845.  His special purpose was to examine the proposed line of the Sambre and Meuse Railway, for which a concession had been granted by the Belgian Legislature.  Arrived on the ground, he went carefully over the entire length of the proposed line, by Couvins, through the Forest of Ardennes, to Rocroi, across the French frontier, examining the bearing of the coal-field, the slate and marble quarries, and the numerous iron-mines in existence between the Sambre and the Meuse, as well as carefully exploring the ravines which extended through the district, in order to satisfy himself that the best possible route had been selected.  Stephenson was delighted with the novelty of the journey, the beauty of the scenery, and the industry of the population.  His companions were entertained by his ample and varied stores of practical information on all subjects, and his conversation was full of reminiscences of his youth, on which be always delighted to dwell when in the society of his more intimate friends.  The journey was varied by a visit to the coal-mines near Jemappe, where Stephenson examined with interest the mode adopted by the Belgian miners of draining the pits, inspecting their engines and braking machines, so familiar to him in early life.

    The engineers of Belgium took the opportunity of the engineer's visit to invite him to a magnificent banquet at Brussels.  The Public Hall, in which they entertained him, was gaily decorated with flags, prominent among which was the Union Jack, in honour of their distinguished guest.  A handsome marble pedestal, ornamented with his bust crowned with laurels, stood at one end of the room.  The chair was occupied by M. Massui, the Chief Director of the National Railways of Belgium; and the most eminent scientific men of the kingdom were present.  Their reception of the "father of railways" was of the most enthusiastic description.  Stephenson was greatly pleased with the entertainment.  Not the least interesting incident of the evening was his observing, when the dinner was about half over, the model of a locomotive engine placed upon the centre table, under a triumphal arch.  Turning suddenly to his friend Sopwith, he exclaimed, "Do you see the 'Rocket?'" It was, indeed, the model of that celebrated locomotive; and the engineer prized the delicate compliment thus paid him perhaps more than all the enconiums of the evening.

    The next day (April 5th) King Leopold invited him to a private interview at the palace.  Accompanied by Mr. Sopwith, he proceeded to Laaken, and was cordially received by his majesty.  The king immediately entered into familiar conversation with him, discussing first the railway project which had been the object of his visit to Belgium, and then the structure of the Belgian coal-fields, his majesty expressing his sense of the great importance of economy in a fuel which had become indispensable to the comfort and well-being of society, which was the basis of all manufactures, and the vital power of railway locomotion.  The subject was always a favourite one with George Stephenson, and, encouraged by the king, he proceeded to explain to him the geological structure of Belgium, the original formation of coal, its subsequent elevation by volcanic forces, and the vast amount of denudation.  In describing the coal-beds he used his hat as a sort of model to illustrate his meaning, and the eyes of the king were fixed upon it as he proceeded with his description.  The conversation then passed to the rise and progress of trade and manufactures, Stephenson pointing out how closely they everywhere followed the coal, being mainly dependent upon it, as it were, for their very existence.

    The king seemed greatly pleased with the interview, and at its close expressed himself as obliged by the interesting information which the engineer had communicated.  Shaking hands cordially with both the gentlemen, and wishing them success in their important undertakings, he bade them adieu.  As they were leaving the palace, Stephenson, bethinking him of the model by which he had just been illustrating the Belgian coal-fields, said to his friend, "By-the-by, Sopwith, I was afraid the king would see the inside of my hat; it's a shocking bad one!"

    George Stephenson paid a farther visit to Belgium in the course of the same year, on the business of the West Flanders Railway, and he had scarcely returned from it ere he was requested to proceed to Spain, for the purpose of examining and reporting upon a scheme then on foot for constructing "the Royal North of Spain Railway."  A concession had been made by the Spanish government of a line of railway from Madrid to the Bay of Biscay, and a numerous staff of engineers was engaged in surveying the proposed line.  The directors of the company had declined making the necessary deposits until more favourable terms had been secured; and Sir Joshua Walmsley, on their part, was about to visit Spain and press the government on the subject.  George Stephenson, whom he consulted, was alive to the difficulties of the office which Sir Joshua was induced to undertake, and offered to be his companion and adviser on the occasion, declining to receive any recompense beyond the simple expenses of the journey.  He could only arrange to be absent for six weeks, and he set out from England about the middle of September, 1845.

    The party was joined at Paris by Mr. Mackenzie, the contractor for the Orleans and Tours Railway, then in course of construction, who took them over the works and accompanied them as far as Tours.  They soon reached the great chain of the Pyrenees, and crossed over into Spain.  It was on a Sunday evening, after a long day's toilsome journey through the mountains, that the party suddenly found themselves in one of those beautiful secluded valleys lying amid the Western Pyrenees.  A small hamlet lay before them, consisting of some thirty or forty houses and a fine old church.  The sun was low on the horizon, and under the wide porch, beneath the shadow of the church, were seated nearly all the inhabitants of the place.  They were dressed in their holiday attire.  The bright bits of red and amber colour in the dresses of the women, and the gay sashes of the men, formed a striking picture, on which the travellers gazed in silent admiration. It was something entirely novel and unexpected.  Beside the villagers sat two venerable old men, whose canonical hats indicated their quality as village pastors.  Two groups of young women and children were dancing outside the porch to the accompaniment of a simple pipe, and within a hundred yards of them some of the youths of the village were disporting themselves in athletic exercises, the whole being carried on beneath the fostering care of the old church, and with the sanction of its ministers.  It was a beautiful scene, and deeply moved the travellers as they approached the principal group.  The villagers greeted them courteously, supplied their present wants, and pressed upon them some fine melons, brought from their adjoining gardens.  George Stephenson used afterward to look back upon that simple scene, and speak of it as one of the most charming pastorals he had ever witnessed.

    They shortly reached the site of the proposed railway, passing through Irun, St. Sebastian, St. Andero, and Bilbao, at which places they met deputations of the principal inhabitants who were interested in the object of their journey.  At Raynosa Stephenson carefully examined the mountain passes and ravines through which a railway could be made.  He rose at break of day, and surveyed until the darkness set in, and frequently his resting-place at night was the floor of some miserable hovel.  He was thus laboriously occupied for ten days, after which he proceeded across the province of Old Castile toward Madrid, surveying as he went.  The proposed plan included the purchase of the Castile Canal, and that property was also examined.  He next proceeded to El Escorial, situated at the foot of the Guadarama Mountains, through which he found it would be necessary to construct two formidable tunnels; added to which, he ascertained that the country between El Escorial and Madrid was of a very difficult and expensive character to work through.  Taking these circumstances into account, and looking at the expected traffic on the proposed line, Sir Joshua Walmsley, acting under the advice of Mr. Stephenson, offered to construct the line from Madrid to the Bay of Biscay on condition that the requisite land was given to the company for the purpose; that they should be allowed every facility for cutting such timber belonging to the crown as might be required for the purposes of the railway; and also that the materials required from abroad for the construction of the line should be admitted free of duty.  In return for these concessions the company offered to clothe and feed several thousand convicts while engaged in the execution of the earthworks.  General Narvaez, afterward Duke of Valencia, received Sir Joshua Walmsley and Mr. Stephenson on the subject of their proposition, and expressed his willingness to close with them; but it was necessary that other influential parties should give their concurrence before the scheme could be carried into effect.  The deputation waited ten days to receive the answer of the Spanish government, but no answer of any kind was vouchsafed.  The authorities, indeed, invited them to be present at a Spanish bull-fight, but that was not quite the business Stephenson had gone all the way to Spain to transact, and the offer was politely declined.  The result was that Stephenson dissuaded his friend from making the necessary deposit at Madrid.  Besides, he had by this time formed an unfavourable opinion of the entire project, and considered that the traffic would not amount to one eighth of the estimate.

    Mr. Stephenson was now anxious to be in England.  During the journey from Madrid he often spoke with affection of friends and relatives, and when apparently absorbed by other matters he would revert to what he thought might then be passing at home.  Few incidents worthy of notice occurred on the journey homeward, but one may be mentioned.  While travelling in an open conveyance between Madrid and Vittoria, the driver urged his mules down hill at a dangerous pace.  He was requested to slacken speed; but, suspecting his passengers to be afraid, he only flogged the brutes into a still more furious gallop.  Observing this, Stephenson coolly said, "Let us try him on the other tack; tell him to show us the fastest pace at which Spanish mules can go."  The rogue of a driver, when he found his tricks of no avail, pulled up and proceeded at a more moderate speed for the rest of the journey.

    Urgent business required Mr. Stephenson's presence in London on the last day of November.  They travelled, therefore, almost continuously, day and night, and the fatigue consequent on the journey, added to the privations endured by the engineer while carrying on the survey among the Spanish mountains, began to tell seriously on his health.  By the time he reached Paris he was evidently ill, but he nevertheless determined on proceeding.  He reached Havre in time for the Southampton boat, but when on board pleurisy developed itself, and it was necessary to bleed him freely.  After a few weeks' rest at home, however, he gradually recovered, though his health remained severely shaken.

 


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CHAPTER XVII.

ROBERT STEPHENSON'S CAREER—THE STEPHENSONS AND BRUNEL—EAST COAST ROUTE TO SCOTLAND—ROYAL BORDER BRIDGE, BERWICK—HIGH-LEVEL BRIDGE, NEWCASTLE.


    THE career of George Stephenson was drawing to a close.  He had for some time been gradually retiring from the more active pursuit of railway engineering, and confining himself to the promotion of only a few undertakings, in which he took a more than ordinary personal interest.  In 1840, when the extensive main lines in the Midland districts had been finished and opened for traffic, he publicly expressed his intention of withdrawing from the profession.  He had reached sixty, and, having spent the greater part of his life in very hard work, he naturally desired rest and retirement in his old age.  There was the less necessity for his continuing "in harness," as Robert Stephenson was now in full career as a leading railway engineer, and his father had pleasure in handing over to him, with the sanction of the companies concerned, nearly all the railway appointments which he held.

    Robert Stephenson amply repaid his father's care.  The sound education of which he had laid the foundations at school, improved by his subsequent culture, but more than all by his father's example of application, industry, and thoroughness in all that he undertook, told powerfully in the formation of his character not less than in the discipline of his intellect.  His father had early implanted in him habits of mental activity, familiarized him with the laws of mechanics, and carefully trained and stimulated his inventive faculties, the first great fruits of which, as we have seen, were exhibited in the triumph of the "Rocket" at Rainhill.  "I am fully conscious in my own mind," said the son at a meeting of the Mechanical Engineers at Newcastle in 1858,


"how greatly my civil engineering has been regulated and influenced by the mechanical knowledge which I derived directly from my father, and the more my experience has advanced, the more convinced I have become that it is necessary to educate an engineer in the workshop.  That is, emphatically, the education which will render the engineer most intelligent, most useful, and the fullest of resources in times of difficulty."


    Robert Stephenson was but twenty-six years old when the performances of the "Rocket" established the practicability of steam locomotion on railways.  He was shortly after appointed engineer of the Leicester and Swannington Railway; after which, at his father's request, he was made joint engineer with himself in laying out the London and Birmingham Railway, and the execution of that line was afterward entrusted to him as sole engineer. The stability and excellence of the works of that railway, the difficulties which had been successfully overcome in the course of its construction, and the judgment which was displayed by Robert Stephenson throughout the whole conduct of the undertaking to its completion, established his reputation as an engineer, and his father could now look with confidence and pride upon his son's achievements.  From that time forward, father and son worked together cordially, each jealous of the other's honour; and on the father's retirement it was generally recognized that, in the sphere of railways, Robert Stephenson was the foremost man, the safest guide, and the most active worker.

    Robert Stephenson was subsequently appointed engineer of the Eastern Counties, the Northern and Eastern, and the Blackwall Railways, besides many lines in the midland and southern districts.  When the speculation of 1844 set in, his services were, of course, greatly in request.  Thus, in one session, we find him engaged as engineer for not fewer than thirty-three new schemes.  Projectors thought themselves fortunate who could secure his name, and he had only to propose his terms to obtain them.  The work which he performed at this period of his life was indeed enormous, and his income was large beyond any previous instance of engineering gain.  But much of the labour done was mere hackwork of a very uninteresting character.  During the sittings of the committees of Parliament, much time was also occupied in consultations, and in preparing evidence or in giving it.

 

Joseph Locke, civil engineer (1805-60)


    The crowded, low-roofed committee-rooms of the old houses of Parliament were altogether inadequate to accommodate the press of perspiring projectors of bills, and even the lobbies were sometimes choked with them.  To have borne that noisome atmosphere and heat would have tested the constitutions of salamanders, and engineers were only human.  With brains kept in a state of excitement during the entire day, no wonder their nervous systems became unstrung.  Their only chance of refreshment was during an occasional rush to the bun and sandwich stand in the lobby, though sometimes even that resource failed them.  Then, with mind and body jaded—probably after undergoing a series of consultations upon many bills after the rising of the committees the exhausted engineers would seek to stimulate nature by a late, perhaps a heavy dinner.  What chance had any ordinary constitution of surviving such an ordeal?  The consequence was, that stomach, brain, and liver were alike injured, and hence the men who bore the heat and brunt of those struggles—Stephenson, Brunel, Locke, and Errington—have already all died, comparatively young men.

 

Isambard Kingdom Brunel against the launching chains
of the Great Eastern  at Millwall in 1857.


    In mentioning the name of Brunel, we are reminded of him as the principal rival and competitor of Robert Stephenson.  Both were the sons of distinguished men, and both inherited the fame and followed in the footsteps of their fathers.  The Stephensons were inventive, practical, and sagacious; the Brunels ingenious, imaginative, and daring.  The former were as thoroughly English in their characteristics as the latter perhaps were as thoroughly French.  The fathers and the sons were alike successful in their works, though not in the same degree.  Measured by practical and profitable results, the Stephensons were unquestionably the safer men to follow.

    Robert Stephenson and Isambard Kingdom Brunel were destined often to come into collision in the course of their professional life.  Their respective railway districts "marched" with each other, and it became their business to invade or defend those districts, according as the policy of their respective boards might direct.  The gauge of 7 feet fixed by Brunel for the Great Western Railway, so entirely different from that of 4 feet 8½ inches adopted by the Stephensons on the Northern and Midland lines, [p.424] was from the first a great cause of contention.  But Brunel had always an aversion to follow any man's lead; and that another engineer had fixed the gauge of a railway, or built a bridge, or designed an engine in one way, was of itself often a sufficient reason with him for adopting an altogether different course.  Robert Stephenson, on his part, though less bold, was more practical, preferring to follow the old routes, and to tread in the safe steps of his father.

    Mr. Brunel, however, determined that the Great Western should be a giant's road, and that travelling should be conducted upon it at double speed.  His ambition was to make the best road that imagination could devise, whereas the main object of the Stephensons, both father and son, was to make a road that would pay.  Although, tried by the Stephenson test, Brunel's magnificent road was a failure so far as the shareholders in the Great Western Company were concerned, the stimulus which his ambitious designs gave to mechanical invention at the time proved a general good.  The narrow-gauge engineers exerted themselves to quicken their locomotives to the utmost.  They improved and re-improved them.  The machinery was simplified and perfected.  Outside cylinders gave place to inside; the steadier and more rapid and effective action of the engine was secured, and in a few years the highest speed on railways went up from thirty to about fifty miles an hour.  For this rapidity in progress we are in no small degree indebted to the stimulus imparted to the narrow-gauge engineers by Mr. Brunel.

    It was one of the characteristics of Brunel to believe in the success of the schemes for which he was professionally engaged as engineer, and he proved this by investing his savings largely in the Great Western Railway, in the South Devon Atmospherical line, and in the Great Eastern steam-ship, with what results are well known.  Robert Stephenson, on the contrary, with characteristic caution, toward the latter years of his life avoided holding unguaranteed railway shares; and though he might execute magnificent structures, such as the Victoria Bridge across the St. Lawrence, he was careful not to embark any portion of his own fortune in the ordinary capital of these concerns.  In 1845 he shrewdly foresaw the inevitable crash that was about to succeed the mania of that year, and while shares were still at a premium he took the opportunity of selling out all that he held.  He urged his father to do the same thing, but George's reply was characteristic.  "No," said he, "I took my shares for an investment, and not to speculate with, and I am not going to sell them now because people have gone mad about railways."  The consequence was, that he continued to hold the £60,000 which he had invested in the shares of various railways until his death, when they were at once sold out by his son, though at a great depreciation on their original cost.

    One of the hardest battles fought between the Stephensons and Brunel was for the railway between Newcastle and Berwick, forming part of the great East Coast route to Scotland.  As early as 1836 George Stephenson had surveyed two lines to connect Edinburgh with Newcastle: one by Berwick and Dunbar along the coast, and the other, more inland, by Carter Fell, up the vale of the Gala, to the northern capital.  Two years later he made a farther examination of the intervening country, and reported in favour of the coast line.  The inland route, however, was not without its advocates.  But both projects lay dormant for several years longer, until the completion of the Midland and other main lines as far north as Newcastle had the effect of again reviving the subject of the extension of the route as far as Edinburgh.

    On the 18th of June, 1844, the Newcastle and Darlington line—an important link of the great main highway to the north—was completed and publicly opened, thus connecting the Thames and the Tyne by a continuous line of railway.  On that day George Stephenson and a distinguished party of railway men travelled by express train from London to Newcastle in about nine hours.  It was a great event, and was worthily celebrated.  The population of Newcastle held holiday; and a banquet given in the Assembly Rooms the same evening assumed the form of an ovation to Mr. Stephenson and his son.

    After the opening of this railway, the project of the East Coast line from Newcastle to Berwick was revived, and George Stephenson, who had already identified himself with the question, and was intimately acquainted with every foot of the ground, was again called upon to assist the promoters with his judgment and experience.  He again recommended as strongly as before the line he had previously surveyed; and on its being adopted by the local committee, the necessary steps were taken to have the scheme brought before Parliament in the ensuing session.  The East Coast line was not, however, to be allowed to pass without a fight.  On the contrary, it had to encounter as stout an opposition as Stephenson had ever experienced.

    We have already stated that about this time the plan of substituting atmospheric pressure for locomotive steam-power in the working of railways had become very popular.  Many eminent engineers avowedly supported atmospheric in preference to locomotive lines; and many members of Parliament, headed by the prime ministers, were strongly disposed in their favour.  Mr. Brunel warmly espoused the atmospheric principle, and his persuasive manner, as well as his admitted scientific ability, unquestionably exercised considerable influence in determining the views of many leading members of both houses.  Among others, Lord Howick, one of the members for Northumberland, advocated the new principle, and, possessing great local influence, he succeeded in forming a powerful confederacy of the landed gentry in favour of Brunel's atmospheric railway through the country.

    George Stephenson could not brook the idea of seeing the locomotive, for which he had fought so many stout battles, pushed to one side, and that in the very county in which its great powers had been first developed.  Nor did he relish the appearance of Mr. Brunel as the engineer of Lord Howick's scheme, in opposition to the line which had occupied his thoughts and been the object of his strenuous advocacy for so many years.  When Stephenson first met Brunel in Newcastle, he good-naturedly shook him by the collar, and asked "what business he had north of the Tyne?"  George gave him to understand that they were to have a fair stand-up fight for the ground, and shaking hands before the battle like Englishmen, they parted in good-humour.  A public meeting was held at Newcastle in the following December, when, after a full discussion of the merits of the respective plans, Stephenson's line was almost unanimously adopted as the best.

    The rival projects went before Parliament in 1845, and a severe contest ensued. The display of ability and tactics on both sides was great. Robert Stephenson was examined at great length as to the merits of the locomotive line, and Brunel at equally great length as to the merits of the atmospheric. Mr. Brunel, in his evidence, said that, after numerous experiments, lie had arrived at the conclusion that the mechanical contrivance of the atmospheric system was perfectly applicable, and he believed that it would likewise be more economical in most cases than locomotive power. "In short," said he, "rapidity, comfort, safety, and economy are its chief recommendations."

    Notwithstanding the promise of Mr. Sergeant Wrangham, the counsel for Lord Howick's scheme, that the Northumberland atmospheric was to be "a respectable line, and not one that was to be converted into a road for the accommodation of the coal-owners of the district," the locomotive again triumphed.  The Stephenson Coast line secured the approval of Parliament, and the shareholders in the Atmospheric Company were happily prevented from investing their capital in what would unquestionably have proved a gigantic blunder.  For, less than three years later, the whole of the atmospheric tubes which had been laid down on other lines were pulled up and the materials sold, including Mr. Brunel's immense tube on the South Devon Railway—to make way for the working of the locomotive engine.  George Stephenson's first verdict of "It won't do" was thus conclusively confirmed. [p.428-1]

    Robert Stephenson used afterward to describe with gusto an interview which took place between Lord Howick and his father, at his office in Great George Street, during the progress of the bill in Parliament.  His father was in the outer office, where he used to spend a good deal of his spare time, occasionally taking a quiet wrestle with a friend when nothing else was stirring. [p.428-2]  On the day in question, George was standing with his back to the fire, when Lord Howick called to see Robert.  Oh! thought George, he has come to try and talk Robert over about that atmospheric gimcrack; but I'll tackle his lordship.  "Come in, my lord," said he; "Robert's busy; but I'll answer your purpose quite as well; sit down here, if you please."  George began, "Now, my lord, I know very well what you have come about: it's that atmospheric line in the North; I will show you in less than five minutes that it can never answer."  "If Mr. Robert Stephenson is not at liberty, I can call again," said his lordship.  "He's certainly occupied on important business just at present," was George's answer, "but I can tell you far better than he can what nonsense the atmospheric system is: Robert's good-natured, you see, and if your lordship were to get alongside of him you might talk him over; so you have been quite lucky in meeting with me.  Now just look at the question of expense," and then he proceeded in his strong Doric to explain his views in detail, until Lord Howick could stand it no longer, and he rose and walked toward the door.  George followed him down stairs to finish his demolition of the atmospheric system, and his parting words were, "You may take my word for it, my lord, it will never answer."  George afterward told his son with glee of "the settler" he had given Lord Howick.

    So closely were the Stephensons identified with this measure, and so great was the personal interest which they were both known to take in its success, that, on the news of the passing of the bill reaching Newcastle, a sort of general holiday took place, and the workmen belonging to the Stephenson Locomotive Factory, upward of eight hundred in number, walked in procession through the principal streets of the town, accompanied by music and banners.

    It is unnecessary to enter into any description of the works of the Newcastle and Berwick Railway.  There are no fewer than a hundred and ten bridges of all sorts on the line—some under and some over it—the viaducts over the Ouseburn, the Wansbeck, and the Coquet being of considerable importance.  But by far the most formidable piece of masonry work on this railway is at its northern extremity, where it passes across the Tweed into Scotland, immediately opposite the formerly redoubtable castle of Berwick.  Not many centuries had passed since the district amid which this bridge stands was the scene of almost constant warfare.  Berwick was regarded as the key of Scotland, and was fiercely fought for, being sometimes held by a Scotch and sometimes by an English garrison.  Though strongly fortified, it was repeatedly taken by assault.  On its capture by Edward I., Boetius says, 17,000 persons were slain, so that its streets "ran with blood like a river."  Within sight of the ramparts, a little to the West, is Halidon Hill, where a famous victory was gained by Edward III. over the Scottish army under Douglas; and there is scarcely a foot of ground in the neighbourhood but has been the scene of contention in days long past.  In the reigns of James I. and Charles I., a bridge of fifteen arches was built across the Tweed at Berwick; and now a railway bridge of twenty-eight arches was built a little above the old one, but at a much higher level.  The bridge built by the kings out of the national resources cost £15,000, and occupied twenty-four years and four months in the building; the bridge built by the Railway Company, with funds drawn from private resources, cost £120,000, and was finished in three years and four months from the day of laying the foundation stone.

 


    This important viaduct, built after the designs of Robert Stephenson, consists of a series of twenty-eight semicircular arches, each 61 feet 6 inches in span, the greatest height above the bed of the river being 126 feet.  The whole is built of ashlar, with a beaming of rubble, excepting the river parts of the arches, which are constructed with bricks laid in cement.  The total length of the work is 2160 feet.  The foundations of the piers were got in by coffer-dams in the ordinary way, Nasmyth's steam-hammer being extensively used in driving the piles.  The bearing piles, from which the foundations of the piers were built up, were each capable of carrying 70 tons.

    Another bridge, of still greater importance, necessary to complete the continuity of the East Coast route, was the master-work erected by Robert Stephenson between the north and south banks of the Tyne, at Newcastle, commonly known as the High-Level Bridge.  Mr. R. W. Brandling, George Stephenson's early friend, is entitled to the merit of originating the idea of this bridge, as it was eventually carried out, with a central terminus for the northern railways in the Castle Garth.  The plan was first promulgated by him in 1841; and in the following year it was resolved that George Stephenson should be consulted as to the most advisable site for the proposed structure.  A prospectus of a High-Level Bridge Company was issued in 1843, the names of George Stephenson and George Hudson appearing on the committee of management, Robert Stephenson being the consulting engineer.  The project was eventually taken up by the Newcastle and Darlington Railway Company, and an act for the construction of the bridge was obtained in 1845.

    The rapid extension of railways had given an extraordinary stimulus to the art of bridge-building; the number of such structures erected in Great Britain alone, since 1830, having been above thirty thousand, or far more than all that previously existed in the country.  Instead of the erection of a single large bridge constituting, as formerly, an epoch in engineering, hundreds of extensive bridges of novel design were simultaneously constructed.  The necessity which existed for carrying rigid roads, capable of bearing heavy railway trains at high speed, over extensive gaps free of support, rendered it apparent that the methods which had up to that time been employed for bridging space were altogether insufficient.  The railway engineer could not, like the ordinary road engineer, divert his road, and make choice of the best point for crossing a river or a valley.  He must take such ground as lay in the line of his railway, be it bog, or mud, or shifting sand.  Navigable rivers and crowded thoroughfares had to be crossed without interruption to the existing traffic, sometimes by bridges at right angles to the river or road, sometimes by arches more or less oblique.  In many cases great difficulty arose from the limited nature of the headway; but, as the level of the original road must generally be preserved, and that of the railway was in a measure fixed and determined, it was necessary to modify the form and structure of the bridge in almost every case, in order to comply with the public requirements.  Novel conditions were met by fresh inventions, and difficulties of an unusual character were one after another successfully surmounted.  In executing these extraordinary works, iron has been throughout the sheet-anchor of the engineer.  In the various forms of cast and wrought iron it offered a valuable resource where rapidity of execution, great strength and cheapness of construction in the first instance were elements of prime importance, and by its skilful use the railway architect was enabled to achieve results which thirty years since would scarcely have been thought possible.

    In many of the early cast-iron bridges the old form of the arch was adopted, the stability of the structure depending wholly on compression, the only novel feature consisting in the use of iron instead of stone.  But in a large proportion of cases, the arch, with the railroad over it, was found inapplicable in consequence of the limited headway which it provided.  Hence it early occurred to George Stephenson, when constructing the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, to adopt the simple cast-iron beam for the crossing of several roads and canals along that line—this beam resembling in some measure the lintel of the early temples—the pressure on the abutments being purely vertical.  One of the earliest instances of this kind of bridge was that erected over Water Street, Manchester, in 1829; after which, cast-iron girders, with their lower webs considerably larger than their upper, were ordinarily employed where the span was moderate, and wrought-iron tie-rods below were added to give increased strength where the span was greater.

    The next step was the contrivance of arched beams or bowstring girders, firmly held together by horizontal ties to resist the thrust, instead of abutments.  Numerous excellent specimens of this description of bridge were erected by Robert Stephenson on the original London and Birmingham Railway; but by far the grandest work of the kind—perfect as a specimen of modern constructive skill—was the High-Level Bridge, which we owe to the genius of the same engineer.

    The problem was to throw a railway bridge across the deep ravine which lies between the towns of Newcastle and Gateshead, at the bottom of which flows the navigable river Tyne.  Along and up the sides of the valley—on the Newcastle bank especially—run streets of old-fashioned houses, clustered together in the strange forms peculiar to the older cities.  The ravine is of great depth—so deep and gloomy-looking toward dusk, that local tradition records that when the Duke of Cumberland arrived late in the evening, at the brow of the hill overlooking the Tyne, on his way to Culloden, he exclaimed to his attendants, on looking down into the black gorge before him, "For God's sake, don't think of taking me down that coal-pit at this time of night!"  The road down the Gateshead High Street is almost as steep as the roof of a house, and up the Newcastle Side, as the street there is called, it is little better.  During many centuries the traffic north and south passed along this dangerous and difficult route, across the old bridge which spans the river in the bottom of the valley.  For some thirty years the Newcastle Corporation had discussed various methods of improving the communication between the towns; and the discussion might have gone on for thirty years more, but for the advent of railways, when the skill and enterprise to which they gave birth speedily solved the difficulty and bridged the ravine.  The local authorities adroitly took advantage of the opportunity, and insisted on the provision of a road for ordinary vehicles and foot passengers in addition to the railroad.  In this circumstance originated one of the most remarkable peculiarities of the High-Level Bridge, which serves two purposes, being a railway above, with a carriage roadway underneath.

    The breadth of the river at the point of crossing is 515 feet, but the length of the bridge and viaduct between the Gateshead station and the terminus on the Newcastle side is about 4000 feet.  It springs from Pipewell Gate Bank, on the south, directly across to Castle Garth, where, nearly fronting the bridge, stands the fine old Norman keep of the New Castle, now nearly eight hundred years old; and a little beyond it is the spire of St. Nicholas Church, with its light and graceful Gothic crown, the whole forming a grand architectural group of unusual historic interest.  The bridge passes completely over the roofs of the houses which fill both sides of the valley, and the extraordinary height of the upper parapet, which is about 130 feet above the bed of the river, offers a prospect to the passing traveller the like of which is perhaps nowhere else to be seen.  Far below lie the queer shares and closes, the wynds and lanes of old Newcastle; the water is crowded with pudgy, black coal keels; and, when there is a lull in the great clouds of smoke which usually obscure the sky, the funnels of steamers and the masts of the shipping may be seen far down the river.  The old bridge lies so far beneath that the passengers crossing it seem like so many bees passing to and fro.

    The first difficulty encountered in building the bridge was in securing a solid foundation for the piers.  The dimensions of the piles to be driven were so huge that the engineer found it necessary to employ some extraordinary means for the purpose.  He called Nasmyth's Titanic steam-hammer to his aid—the first occasion, we believe, on which this prodigious power was employed in bridge pile-driving.  A temporary staging was erected for the steam-engine and hammer apparatus, which rested on two keels, and, notwithstanding the newness and stiffness of the machinery, the first pile was driven on the 6th of October, 1846, to a depth of 32 feet in four minutes.  Two hammers of 30 cwt. each were kept in regular use, making from 60 to 70 strokes per minute, and the results were astounding to those who had been accustomed to the old style of pile-driving by means of the ordinary pile-frame, consisting of slide, ram, and monkey.  By the old system the pile was driven by a comparatively small mass of iron descending with great velocity from a considerable height—the velocity being in excess and the mass deficient, and calculated, like the momentum of a cannon-ball, rather for destructive than impulsive action.  In the case of the steam pile-driver, on the contrary, the whole weight of a heavy mass is delivered rapidly upon a driving-block of several tons weight placed directly over the head of the pile, the weight never ceasing, and the blows being repeated at the rate of a blow a second, until the pile is driven home.  It is a curious fact, that the rapid strokes of the steam-hammer evolved so much heat, that on many occasions the pile-head burst into flame during the process of driving.  The elastic force of steam is the power that lifts the ram, the escape permitting its entire force to fall upon the head of the driving-block; while the steam above the piston on the upper part of the cylinder, acting as a buffer or recoil-spring, materially enhances the effect of the downward blow.  As soon as one pile was driven, the traveller, hovering overhead, presented another, and down it went into the solid bed of the river with almost as much ease as a lady sticks pins into a cushion.  By the aid of this formidable machine, what before was among the most costly and tedious of engineering operations was rendered simple, easy, and economical.

    When the piles had been driven and the coffer-dams formed and paddled, the water within the enclosed spaces was pumped out by the aid of powerful engines, so as to lay bare the bed of the river.  Considerable difficulty was experienced in getting in the foundations of the middle pier, in consequence of the water forcing itself through the quicksand beneath as fast as it was removed.  This fruitless labour went on for months, and many expedients were tried.  Chalk was thrown in in large quantities outside the piling, but without effect.  Cement concrete was at last put within the coffer-dam until it set, and the bottom was then found to be secure.  A bed of concrete was laid up to the level of the heads of the piles, the foundation course of stone blocks being commenced about two feet below low water, and the building proceeded without farther difficulty. It may serve to give an idea of the magnitude of the work when we state that 400,000 cubic feet of ashlar, rubble, and concrete were worked up in the piers, and 450,000 cubic feet in the land-arches and approaches.

    The most novel feature of the structure is the use of cast and wrought iron in forming the double bridge, which admirably combines the two principles of the arch and suspension, the railway being carried over the back of the ribbed arches in the usual manner, while the carriage-road and footpaths, forming a long gallery or aisle, are suspended from these arches by wrought-iron vertical rods, with horizontal tie-bars to resist the thrust.  The suspension-bolts are enclosed within spandrel pillars of cast iron, which give great stiffness to the superstructure.  This system of longitudinal and vertical bracing has been much admired, for it not only accomplishes the primary object of securing rigidity in the roadway, but at the same time, by its graceful arrangement, heightens the beauty of the structure.  The arches consist of four main ribs, disposed in pairs, with a clear distance between the two inner arches of 20 feet 4 inches, forming the carriage-road, while between each of the inner and outer ribs there is a space of 6 feet 2 inches, constituting the footpaths.  Each arch is cast in five separate lengths or segments, strongly bolted together.  The ribs spring from horizontal plates of cast iron, bedded and secured on the stone piers.  All the abutting joints were carefully executed by machinery, the fitting being of the most perfect kind.  In order to provide for the expansion and contraction of the iron arching, and to preserve the equilibrium of the piers without disturbance or racking of the other parts of the bridge, it was arranged that the ribs of every two adjoining arches resting on the same pier should be secured to the springing-plates by keys and joggles; while on the next piers, on either side, the ribs remained free, and were at liberty to expand or contract according to temperature—a space being left for the purpose.  Hence each arch is complete and independent in itself, the piers having simply to sustain their vertical pressure.  The arches are six in number, of 125 feet span each, the two approaches to the bridge being formed of cast-iron pillars and bearers in keeping with the arches.

 


    The result is a bridge that for massive solidity may be pronounced unrivalled.  It is one of the most magnificent and striking of the bridges to which railways have given birth, and has been worthily styled "the King of railway structures."  It is a monument of the highest engineering skill of our time, with the impress of power grandly stamped upon it.  It will also be observed from the drawing placed as the frontispiece to this Life, that the High-Level Bridge forms a very fine object in a picture of great interest, full of striking architectural variety and beauty.  The bridge was opened on the 15th of August, 1849.  A few days after, the royal train passed over it, halting for a few minutes to enable her majesty to survey the wonderful scene below.  In the course of the following year the queen opened the extensive stone viaduct across the Tweed above described, by which the last link was completed of the continuous line of railway between London and Edinburgh.  Over the entrance to the Berwick station, occupying the site of the once redoubtable Border fortress, so often the deadly battle-ground of the ancient Scots and English, was erected an arch under which the royal train passed, bearing in large letters of gold the appropriate words, "The last act of the Union."

    The warders at Berwick no longer look out from the castle walls to descry the glitter of Southron spears.  The bell-tower, from which the alarm was sounded of old, though still standing, is deserted; the only bell heard within the precincts of the old castle being the railway porter's bell announcing the arrival and departure of trains.  You see the Scotch Express pass along the bridge and speed southward on the wings of steam.  But no alarm spreads along the Border now.  Northumbrian beeves are safe.  Chevy Chase and Otterburn are quiet sheep-pastures.  The only men-at-arms on the battlements of Alnwick Castle are of stone.  Bamborough Castle has become an asylum for shipwrecked mariners, and the Norman Keep at Newcastle has been converted into a Museum of Antiquities.  The railway has indeed consummated the Union.


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[CHAPTER XVIII.]

 



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