THE present is a
revised edition of the life of George Stephenson and of his son
Robert Stephenson, to which is prefixed a history of the Railway and
the Locomotive in its earlier stages, uniform with the early history
of the Steam-engine given in vol. iv. of "Lives of the Engineers"
containing the memoirs of Boulton and Watt. A memoir of
Richard Trevithick has also been included in this introductory
portion of the book, which will probably be found more complete than
any notice which has yet appeared of that distinguished mechanical
Since the appearance of this Life in its original form ten
years ago, the construction of railways has continued to make
extraordinary progress. The length of lines then open in
Europe was estimated at about 18,000 miles: it is now more than
50,000 miles. Although Great Britain, first in the field, had
then, after about twenty-five years' work, expended nearly 300
millions sterling in the construction of 8300 miles of double
railway, it has during the last ten years expended about 200
millions more in constructing 5600 additional miles.
But the construction of railways has proceeded with equal
rapidity on the Continent. France has now 9624 miles at work;
Germany (including Austria), 13,392 miles; Spain, 3161 miles;
Sweden, 1100 miles; Belgium, 1073 miles; Switzerland, 795 miles;
Holland, 617 miles; besides railways in other states. These
have, for the most part, been constructed and opened during the last
ten years, while a considerable length is still under construction.
Austria is actively engaged in carrying new lines across the plains
of Hungary to the frontier of Turkey, which Turkey is preparing to
meet by lines carried up the valley of the Lower Danube; and Russia,
with 2800 miles already at work, is occupied with extensive schemes
for connecting Petersburg and Moscow with her ports in the Black Sea
on the one hand, and with the frontier towns of her Asiatic empire
on the other.
Italy also is employing her new-born liberty in vigorously
extending railways throughout her dominions. The length of
Italian lines in operation in 1866 was 2752 miles, of which not less
than 680 were opened in that year. Already has a direct line
of communication been opened between Germany and Italy through the
Brenner Pass, by which it is now possible to make the entire journey
by railway (excepting only the short sea-passage across the English
Channel) from London to Brindisi on the south-eastern extremity of
the Italian peninsula; and, in the course of a few more years, a
still shorter route will be opened through France, when that most
formidable of all railway borings, the seven-mile tunnel under Mont
Cenis, has been completed.
During the last ten years, nearly the whole of the existing
Indian railways have been made. When Edmund Burke in 1783
arraigned the British government for their neglect of India in his
speech on Mr. Fox's Bill, he said, "England has built no bridges,
made no high roads, cut no navigations, dug out no reservoirs. . . .
. Were we to be driven out of India this day, nothing would remain
to tell that it had been possessed, during the inglorious period of
our dominion, by any thing better than the orang-outang or the
tiger." But that reproach no longer applies. Some of the
greatest bridges erected in modern times—such as those over the Sone
near Patna, and over the Jamna at Allahabad—have been erected in
connection with the Indian railways, of which there are already 3637
miles at work, and above 2000 more under construction. When
these lines have been completed, at an expenditure of about
£88,000,000 of British capital guaranteed by the British government,
India will be provided with a magnificent system of internal
communication, connecting the capitals of the three
Presidencies—uniting Bombay with Madras on the south, and with
Calcutta on the northeast—while a great main line, 2200 miles in
extent, passing through the north-western provinces, and connecting
Calcutta with Lucknow, Delhi, Lahore, Moultan, and Kurrachee, will
unite the mouths of the Hooghly in the Bay of Bengal with those of
the Indus in the Arabian Sea.
When the first edition of this work appeared in the beginning
of 1857, the Canadian system of railways was but in its infancy.
The Grand Trunk was only begun, and the Victoria Bridge—the greatest
of all railway structures—was not half erected. Now, that fine
colony has more than 2200 miles in active operation along the great
valley of the St. Lawrence, connecting Rivière du Loup at the mouth
of that river, and the harbour of Portland in the State of Maine,
via Montreal and Toronto, with Sarnia on Lake Huron, and with
Windsor, opposite Detroit, in the State of Michigan. The Australian
Colonies also have during the same time been actively engaged in
providing themselves with railways, many of which are at work, and
others are in course of formation. Even the Cape of Good Hope has
several lines open, and others making. France also has constructed
about 400 miles in Algeria, while the Pasha of Egypt is the
proprietor of 360 miles in operation across the Egyptian desert.
Victoria Bridge, Montreal, ca. 1898. See also
But in no country has railway construction been prosecuted
with greater vigour than in the United States. There the
railway furnishes not only the means of intercommunication between
already established settlements, as in the Old World, but it is
regarded as the pioneer of colonization, and as instrumental in
opening up new and fertile territories of vast extent in the
west—the food-grounds of future nations. Hence railway
construction in that country was scarcely interrupted even by the
great Civil War; at the commencement of which Mr. Seward publicly
expressed the opinion that "physical bonds, such as highways,
railroads, rivers, and canals, are vastly more powerful for holding
civil communities together than any mere covenants, though written
on parchment or engraved on iron."
The people of the United States were the first to follow the
example of England, after the practicability of steam locomotion had
been proved on the Stockton and Darlington and Liverpool and
Manchester Railways. The first sod of the Baltimore and Ohio
Railway was cut on the 4th of July, 1828, and the line was completed
and opened for traffic in the following year, when it was worked
partly by horse-power, and partly by a locomotive built at
Baltimore, which is still preserved in the Company's workshops.
In 1830 the Hudson and Mohawk Railway was begun, while other lines
were under construction in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and New
Jersey; and in the course of ten years, 1843 miles were finished and
in operation. In ten more years, 8827 miles were at work; at
the end of 1864, not less than 35,000 miles, mostly single tracks;
while about 15,000 miles more were under construction. One of
the most extensive trunk-lines still unfinished is the Great Pacific
Railroad, connecting the lines in the valleys of the Mississippi and
the Missouri with the city of San Francisco on the shores of the
Pacific, by which, when completed, it will be possible to make the
journey from England to Hong Kong, via New York, in little
more than a month.
The results of the working of railways have been in many
respects different from those anticipated by their projectors.
One of the most unexpected has been the growth of an immense
passenger-traffic. The Stockton and Darlington line was
projected as a coal line only, and the Liverpool and Manchester as a
merchandise line. Passengers were not taken into account as a
source of revenue; for, at the time of their projection, it was not
believed that people would trust themselves to be drawn upon a
railway by an "explosive machine," as the locomotive was described
to be. Indeed, a writer of eminence declared that he would as
soon think of being fired off on a ricochet rocket as travel on a
railway at twice the speed of the old stage-coaches. So great
was the alarm which existed as to the locomotive, that the Liverpool
and Manchester Committee pledged themselves in their second
prospectus, issued in 1825, "not to require any clause empowering
its use;" and as late as 1829, the Newcastle and Carlisle Act was
conceded on the express condition that it should not be worked by
locomotives, but by horses only.
Nevertheless, the Liverpool and Manchester Company obtained
powers to make and work their railway without any such restriction;
and when the line was made and opened, a locomotive passenger-train
was ordered to be run upon it by way of experiment. Greatly to
the surprise of the directors, more passengers presented themselves
as travellers by the train than could conveniently be carried.
Inaugural journey, Liverpool and Manchester Railway,
15 Sept. 1830.
The first arrangements as to passenger-traffic were of a very
primitive character, being mainly copied from the old stage-coach
system. The passengers were "booked" at the railway office,
and their names were entered
in a way-bill which was given to the guard when the train started.
Though the usual stage-coach bugleman could not conveniently
accompany the passengers, the trains were at first played out of the
terminal stations by a lively tune performed by a trumpeter at the
end of the platform, and this continued to be done at the Manchester
Station until a comparatively recent date.
But the number of passengers carried by the Liverpool and
Manchester line was so unexpectedly great, that it was very soon
found necessary to remodel the entire system. Tickets were
introduced, by which a great saving of time was effected. More
roomy and commodious carriages were provided, the original
first-class compartments being seated for four passengers only.
Everything was found to have been in the first instance made too
light and too slight. The prize "Rocket," which weighed only
4½ tons when loaded with its coke and water, was found quite
unsuited for drawing the increasingly heavy loads of passengers.
There was also this essential difference between the old stage-coach
and the new railway train, that, whereas the former was "full" with
six inside and ten outside, the latter must be able to accommodate
whatever number of passengers came to be carried. Hence
heavier and more powerful engines, and larger and more substantial
carriages, were from time to time added to the carrying stock of the
The Rocket, built by Robert Stephenson and Company,
The speed of the trains was also increased. The first
locomotives used in hauling coal-trains ran at from four to six
miles an hour. On the Stockton and Darlington line the speed
was increased to about ten miles an hour; and on the Liverpool and
Manchester line the first passenger-trains were run at the average
speed of seventeen miles an hour, which at that time was considered
very fast. But this was not enough. When the
Birmingham line was opened, the mail-trains were run at twenty-three
miles an hour; and gradually the speed went up, until now the fast
trains are run at from fifty to sixty miles an hour—the pistons in
the cylinders, at sixty miles, travelling at the inconceivable
rapidity of 800 feet per minute!
Bury-type freight locomotive, ca. 1840.
To bear the load of heavy engines run at high speeds, a much
stronger and heavier road was found necessary; and shortly after the
opening of the Liverpool and Manchester line, it was entirely
re-laid with stronger materials. Now that express
passenger-engines are from thirty to thirty-five tons each, the
weight of the rails has been increased from 35 lbs. to 75 lbs. or 86
lbs. to the yard. Stone blocks have given place to wooden
sleepers; rails with loose ends resting on the chairs, to rails with
their ends firmly "fished" together; and in many places, where the
traffic is unusually heavy, iron rails have been replaced by those
Bury-type passenger locomotive, ca. 1840.
And now see the enormous magnitude to which railway
passenger-traffic has grown. In the year 1866, 274,293,668
passengers were carried by day tickets in Great Britain alone. But
this was not all; for in that year 110,227 periodical tickets were
issued by the different railways; and assuming half of them to be
annual, one fourth half-yearly, and the remainder quarterly tickets,
and that their holders made only five journeys each way weekly, this
would give an additional number of 39,405,600 journeys, or a total
of 313,699,268 passengers carried in Great Britain in one year.
It is difficult to grasp the idea of the enormous number of
persons represented by these figures. The mind is merely
bewildered by them, and can form no adequate notion of their
magnitude. To reckon them singly would occupy twenty years,
counting at the rate of one a second for twelve hours every day.
Or take another illustration. Supposing every man, woman, and
child in Great Britain to make ten journeys by rail yearly, the
number would fall short of the passengers carried in 1866.
Mr. Porter, in his "Progress of the Nation," estimated that
thirty millions of passengers, or about eighty-two thousand a day,
travelled by coaches in Great Britain in 1834, an average distance
of twelve miles each, at an average cost of 5s. a passenger,
or at the rate of 5d. a mile; whereas above 313 millions are
now carried by railway an average distance of 8½ miles each, at an
average cost of 1s. l½d. per passenger, or about three
half-pence per mile, in considerably less than half the time.
But, besides the above number of passengers, one hundred and
twenty-four million tons of minerals and merchandise were carried by
railway in the United Kingdom in 1866, and fifteen millions of
cattle, besides mails, parcels, and other traffic. The
distance run by passenger and goods trains in the year was
142,807,853 miles, to accomplish which it is estimated that four
miles of railway on an average must be covered by running trains
during every second all the year round.
To perform this service, there were, in 1866, 8125
locomotives at work in the United Kingdom, consuming about three
million tons of coal and coke, and flashing into the air every
minute some thirty tons of water in the form of steam in a high
state of elasticity. There were also 19,228
passenger-carriages, 7276 vans and breaks attached to
passenger-trains, and 242,947 trucks, wagons, and other vehicles
appropriated to merchandise. Buckled together, buffer to
buffer, the locomotives and tenders would extend for a length of
about 54 miles, or more than the distance from London to Brighton;
while the carrying vehicles, joined together, would form two trains
occupying a double line of railway extending from London to beyond
First, second and third class passengers setting off
for Epsom races, 1847.
A notable feature in the growth of railway traffic of late
years has been the increase in the number of third-class passengers,
compared with first and second class. Sixteen years since, the
third-class passengers constituted only about one third; ten years
later they were about one half; whereas now they form nearly two
thirds of the whole number carried. Thus George Stephenson's
prediction "that the time would come when it would be cheaper for a
working man to make a journey by railway than to walk on foot" is
The degree of safety with which this great traffic has been
conducted is not the least remarkable of its features. Of
course, so long as railways are worked by men, they will be liable
to the imperfections belonging to all things human. Though
their machinery may be perfect, and their organization as complete
as skill and forethought can make it, workmen will at times be
forgetful and listless, and a moment's carelessness may lead to the
most disastrous results. Yet, taking all circumstances into
account, the wonder is that travelling by railway at high speeds
should have been rendered comparatively so safe.
To be struck by lightning is one of the rarest of all causes
of death, yet more persons were killed by lightning in Great
Britain, in 1866, than were killed on railways from causes beyond
their own control; the number in the former case having been
nineteen, and in the latter fifteen, or one in every twenty millions
of passengers carried. Most persons would consider the
probability of their dying by hanging to be extremely remote; yet,
according to the Registrar General's returns for 1867, it is thirty
times greater than that of being killed by railway accident.
Taking the number of persons who travelled in Great Britain in 1866
at 313,699,268, of whom fifteen were accidentally killed, it would
appear that, even supposing a person to have a permanent existence,
and to make a journey by railway daily, the probability of his being
killed in an accident would occur on an average once in above 50,000
The remarkable safety with which railway traffic is on the
whole conducted, is due to constant watchfulness and highly-applied
skill. The men who work the railways are for the most part the
picked men of the country, and every railway station may be regarded
as a practical school of industry, attention, and punctuality.
Where railways fail in these respects, it will usually be found that
it is because the men are personally defective, or because better
men are not to be had. It must also be added that the onerous
and responsible duties which railway workmen are called upon to
perform require a degree of consideration on the part of the public
which is not very often extended to them.
Few are aware of the complicated means and agencies that are
in constant operation on railways day and night to insure the safety
of the passengers to their journeys' end. The road is under a
system of continuous inspection, under gangs of men—about twelve to
every five miles, under a foreman or "ganger"—whose duty it is to
see that the rails and chairs are sound, all their fastenings
complete, and the line clear of obstructions.
Then, at all the junctions, sidings, and crossings, pointsmen
are stationed, with definite instructions as to the duties to be
performed by them. At these places signals are provided,
worked from the station platforms, or from special signal-boxes, for
the purpose of protecting the stopping or passing trains. When
the first railways were opened the signals were of a very simple
kind. The station-men gave them with their arms stretched out
in different positions; then flags of different colours were used;
next fixed signals, with arms or discs, or of rectangular or
triangular shape. These were followed by a complete system of
semaphore signals, near and distant, protecting all junctions,
sidings, and crossings.
When government inspectors were first appointed by the Board
of Trade to examine and report upon the working of railways, they
were alarmed by the number of trains following each other at some
stations in what then seemed to be a very rapid succession. A
passage from a Report written in 1840 by Sir Frederick Smith, as to
the traffic at "Taylor's Junction," on the York and North Midland
Railway, contrasts curiously with the railway life and activity of
the present day: "Here," wrote the alarmed inspector, "the passenger
trains from York, as well as Leeds and Selby, meet four times a day.
No less than 23 passenger-trains stop at or pass this station in the
24 hours—an amount of traffic requiring not only the most perfect
arrangements on the part of the management, but the utmost vigilance
and energy in the servants of the Company employed at this place."
Contrast this with the state of things now. On the
Metropolitan Line, 667 trains pass a given point in one direction or
the other during the eighteen hours of the working day, or an
average of 36 trains an hour. At the Cannon-street Station of
the South-eastern Railway, 527 trains pass in and out daily, many of
them crossing each others' tracks under the protection of the
station signals. Forty-five trains run in and out between 9
and 10 A.M., and an equal number between 4 and 5 P.M. Again,
at the Clapham Junction, near London, about 700 trains pass or stop
daily; and though to the casual observer the succession of trains
coming and going, running and stopping, coupling and shunting,
appears a scene of inextricable confusion and danger, the whole is
clearly intelligible to the signal-men in their boxes, who work the
trains in and out with extraordinary precision and regularity.
The inside of a signal-box reminds one of a piano-forte on a
large scale, the lever-handles corresponding with the keys of the
instrument; and, to an uninstructed person, to work the one would be
as difficult as to play a tune on the other. The signal-box
outside Cannon-street Station contains 67 lever-handles, by means of
which the signal-men are enabled at the same moment to communicate
with the drivers of all the engines on the line within an area of
800 yards. They direct by signs, which are quite as
intelligible as words, the drivers of the trains starting from
inside the station, as well as those of the trains arriving from
outside. By pulling a lever-handle, a distant signal, perhaps
out of sight, is set some hundred yards off, which the approaching
driver—reading it quickly as he comes along—at once interprets, and
stops or advances, as the signal may direct.
The precision and accuracy of the signal-machinery employed
at important stations and junctions have of late years been much
improved by an ingenious contrivance, by means of which the setting
of the signal prepares the road for the coming train. When the
signal is set at "Danger," the points are at the same time worked,
and the road is "locked" against it; and when at "Safety," the road
is open—the signal and the points exactly corresponding.
The Electric Telegraph has also been found a valuable
auxiliary in insuring the safe working of large railway traffics.
Though the locomotive may run at sixty miles an hour, electricity,
when at its fastest, travels at the rate of 288,000 miles a second,
and is therefore always able to herald the coming train. The
electric telegraph may, indeed, be regarded as the nervous system of
the railway. By its means the whole line is kept throbbing
with intelligence. The method of working electric signals
varies on different lines; but the usual practice is to divide a
line into so many lengths, each protected by its signal-stations,
the fundamental law of telegraph working being that two engines are
not to be allowed to run on the same line between two
signal-stations at the same time. When a train passes one of
such stations, it is immediately signalled on—usually by electric
signal-bells—to the station in advance, and that interval of railway
is "blocked" until the signal has been received from the station in
advance that the train has passed it. Thus an interval of
space is always secured between trains following each other,
which are thereby alike protected before and behind. And thus,
when a train starts on a journey of it may be hundreds of miles, it
is signalled on from station to station, and "lives along the line,"
until at length it reaches its destination, and the last signal of
"train in" is given. By this means an immense number of trains
can be worked with regularity and safety. On the South-eastern
Railway, where the system has been brought to a state of high
efficiency, it is no unusual thing during Easter week to send
570,000 passengers through the London Bridge Station alone; and on
some days as many as 1200 trains a day.
While such are the expedients adopted to insure safety,
others equally ingenious are adopted to insure speed. In the
case of express and mail trains, the frequent stopping of the
engines to take in a fresh supply of water occasions a considerable
loss of time on a long journey, each stoppage for this purpose
occupying from ten to fifteen minutes. To avoid such stoppages
larger tenders have been provided, capable of carrying as much as
2000 gallons of water each. But as a considerable time is
occupied in filling these, a plan has been contrived by Mr.
Ramsbottom, the locomotive engineer of the London and North-western
Railway, by which the engines are made to feed themselves
while running at full speed! The plan is as follows: An open
trough, about 440 feet long, is laid longitudinally between the
rails. Into this trough, which is filled with water, a
dip-pipe, or scoop attached to the bottom of the tender of the
running train, is lowered, and, at a speed of 50 miles an hour, as
much as 1070 gallons of water are scooped up in the course of a few
minutes. The first of such troughs was laid down between
Chester and Holyhead, to enable the Express Mail to run the distance
of 84¾ miles in two hours and five minutes without stopping; and
similar troughs have since been laid down at Bushey, near London; at
Castlethorpe, near Wolverton; and at Parkside, near Liverpool.
At these four troughs about 130,000 gallons of water are scooped up
Wherever railways have been made, new towns have sprung up,
and old towns and cities been quickened into new life. When
the first English lines were projected, great were the prophecies of
disaster to the inhabitants of the districts through which they were
proposed to be forced. Such fears have long since been
dispelled in this country. The same prejudices existed in
France. When the railway from Paris to Marseilles was
projected to pass through Lyons, a local prophet predicted that if
the line were made the city would be ruined—"ille traversée,
ville perdue;" while a local priest denounced the locomotive and
the electric telegraph as heralding the reign of Antichrist.
But such nonsense is no longer uttered. Now it is the city
without the railway that is regarded as the "city lost;" for it is
in a measure shut out from the rest of the world, and left outside
the pale of civilization.
Perhaps the most striking of all the illustrations that could
be offered of the extent to which railways facilitate the
locomotion, the industry, and the subsistence of the population of
large towns and cities, is afforded by the working of the railway
system in connection with the capital of Great Britain.
The extension of railways to London has been of comparatively
recent date, the whole of the lines connecting it with the provinces
and terminating at its outskirts having been opened during the last
thirty years, while the lines inside London have for the most part
been opened within the last ten years.
Map of railways running into London from the south
(Greenwich at top centre)
The first London line was the Greenwich Railway, part of
which was opened for traffic to Deptford in February, 1836.
The working of this railway was first exhibited as a show, and the
usual attractions were employed to make it "draw." A band of
musicians in the garb of the Beef-eaters was stationed at the London
end, and another band at Deptford. For cheapness' sake, the
Deptford band was shortly superseded by a large barrel-organ, which
played in the passengers; but when the traffic became established,
the barrel-organ, as well as the Beefeater band at the London end,
were both discontinued. The whole length of the line was lit
up at night by a row of lamps on either side like a street, as if to
enable the locomotives or the passengers to see their way in the
dark; but these lamps also were eventually discontinued as
As a show, the Greenwich Railway proved tolerably successful.
During the first eleven months it carried 456,750 passengers, or an
average of about 1300 a day. But the railway having been found
more convenient to the public than either the river boats or the
omnibuses, the number of passengers rapidly increased. When
the Croydon, Brighton, and South-eastern Railways began to pour
their streams of traffic over the Greenwich Viaduct, its
accommodation was found much too limited, and it was widened from
time to time, until now nine lines of railway are laid side by side,
over which more than twenty millions of passengers are carried
yearly, or an average of about 60,000 a day all the year round.
The entrance to London Euston station, 1838.
Philip Hardwick's splendid 'Euston Arch'
was demolished amidst much public protest in 1962.
Since the partial opening of the Greenwich Railway in 1836, a
large extent of railways has been constructed in and about the
metropolis, and convenient stations have been established almost in
the heart of the city. Sixteen of these stations are within a circle
of half a mile radius from the Mansion House, and above three
hundred stations are in actual use or in course of construction
within about five miles of Charing Cross. The most important lines
recently opened for the accommodation of the London local traffic
have been the London, Chatham and Dover Metropolitan Extensions
(1861), the Metropolitan (1863), the North London Extension to
Liverpool Street (1865), the Charing Cross and Cannon-street
Extensions of the South-eastern Railway (1864-6), and the South
London Extension of the Brighton Railway (1866). Of these railways,
the London, Chatham and Dover carried 5,228,418 passengers in 1867;
the Metropolitan, 23,405,282; the North London, 17,585,502; the
South-eastern, 17,473,934; and the Brighton, 12,686,417. The total
number carried into and out of London, as well as from station to
station in London, in the same year, was 104 millions of passengers.
The Metropolitan Railway. Trial run, 1862.
To accommodate this vast traffic, not fever than 3600 local
trains are run in and out daily, besides 340 trains which depart to
and arrive from distant places, north, south, east, and west.
In the morning hours, between 8.30 and 10.30, when business men are
proceeding inward to their offices and counting-houses, and in the
afternoon between four and six, when they are returning outward to
their homes, as many as two thousand stoppages are made in the hour,
within the metropolitan district, for the purpose of taking up and
setting down passengers, while about two miles of railway are
covered by the running trains.
One of the remarkable effects of railways has been to extend
the residential area of all large towns and cities. This is
especially notable in the case of London. Before the
introduction of railways, the residential area of the metropolis was
limited by the time occupied by business men in making the journey
outward and inward daily; and it was for the most part bounded by
Bow on the east, by Hampstead and Highgate on the north, by
Paddington and Kensington on the west, and by Clapham and Brixton on
the south. But now that stations have been established near
the centre of the city, and places so distant as Waltham, Barnet,
Watford, Hanwell, Richmond, Epsom, Croydon, Reigate, and Erith can
be more quickly reached by rail than the old suburban quarters were
by omnibus, the metropolis has become extended in all directions
along its railway lines, and the population of London, instead of
living in the city or its immediate vicinity as formerly, have come
to occupy a residential area of not less than six hundred square
Pursuit of Pleasure under Difficulties: Getting home
from the Crystal Palace on a Fête day.
The number of new towns which have consequently sprung into
existence near London within the last twenty years has been very
great; towns numbering from ten to twenty thousand inhabitants,
which before were but villages, if indeed, they existed. This
has especially been the case along the lines south of the Thames,
principally in consequence of the termini of those lines being more
conveniently situated for city men of business. Hence the
rapid growth of the suburban towns up and down the river, from
Richmond and Staines on the west, to Erith and Gravesend on the
east, and the hives of population which have settled on the high
grounds south of the Thames, in the neighbourhood of Norwood and the
Crystal Palace, rapidly spreading over the Surrey Downs, from
Wimbledon to Guildford, and from Bromley to Croydon, Epsom, and
Dorking. And now that the towns on the south and southeast
coast can be reached by city men in little more time than it takes
to travel to Clapham or Bayswater by omnibus, such places have
become, as it were, parts of the great metropolis, and Brighton and
Hastings are but marine suburbs of London.
The improved state of the communications of the city with the
country has had a marked effect upon its population. While the
action of the railways has been to add largely to the number of
persons living in London, it has also been accompanied by their
dispersion over a much larger area. Thus the population of the
central parts of London is constantly decreasing, whereas that of
the suburban districts is as constantly increasing. The
population of the city fell off more than 10,000 between 1851 and
1861; and during the same period, that of Holborn, the Strand, St
Martin-in-the-Fields, St James's, Westminster, East and West London,
showed a considerable decrease. But, as regards the whole mass
of the metropolitan population, the increase has been enormous,
especially since the introduction of railways. Thus, starting
from 1801, when the population of London was 958,868, we find it
increasing in each decennial period at the rate of between two and
three hundred thousand, until the year 1841, when it amounted to
1,948,369. Railways had by that time reached London, after
which its population increased at nearly double the former ratio.
In the ten years ending 1851, the increase was 413,867; and in the
ten years ending 1861, 441,768; until now, to quote the words of the
Registrar General in his last annual Report, "the population within
the registration limits is by estimate 2,993,513; but beyond this
central mass there is a ring of life growing rapidly, and extending
along railway lines over a circle of fifteen miles from Charing
Cross. The population within that circle, patrolled by the
metropolitan police, is about 3,463,771!"
King's Cross station, London, opened 1852.
The aggregation of so vast a number of persons within so
comparatively limited an area—the immense quantity of food required
for their daily sustenance, as well as of fuel, clothing, and other
necessaries—would be attended with no small inconvenience and danger
but for the facilities again provided by the railways. The
provisioning of a garrison of even four thousand men is considered a
formidable affair; how much more so the provisioning of nearly four
millions of people!
The whole mystery is explained by the admirable organization
of the railway service, and the regularity and dispatch with which
it is conducted. We are enabled by the courtesy of the general
managers of the London railways to bring together the following
brief summary of facts relating to the food supply of London, which
will probably be regarded by most readers as of a very remarkable
Generally speaking, the railways to the south of the Thames
contribute comparatively little toward the feeding of London.
They are, for the most part, passenger and residential lines,
traversing a limited and not very fertile district bounded by the
sea-coast, and, excepting in fruit and vegetables, milk and hops,
they probably carry more food from London than they bring to it.
The principal supplies of grain, flour, potatoes, and fish are
brought by railway from the eastern counties of England and
Scotland; and of cattle and sheep, beef and mutton, from the grazing
counties of the west and northwest of Britain, as far as from the
Highlands of Scotland, which, through the instrumentality of
railways, have become part of the great grazing-grounds of the
Take first "the staff of life"—bread and its constituents.
Of wheat, not less than 222,080 quarters were brought into London by
railway in 1867, besides what was brought by sea; of oats, 151,767
quarters; of barley, 70,282 quarters; of beans and peas, 51,448
quarters. Of the wheat and barley, by far the largest
proportion was brought by the Great Eastern Railway, which delivered
in London last year 155,000 quarters of wheat and 45,500 quarters of
barley, besides 600,429 quarters more in the form of malt. The
largest quantity of oats was brought by the Great Northern Railway,
principally from the north of England and the east of Scotland—the
quantity delivered by that company in 1867 having been 97,500
quarters, besides 24,664 quarters of wheat, 5560 quarters of barley,
and 103,917 quarters of malt. Again, of 1,250,566 sacks of
flour and meal delivered in London last year, the Great Eastern
brought 654,000 sacks, the Great Northern 232,022 sacks, and the
Great Western 136,312 sacks; the principal contribution of the
London and North-western Railway toward the London bread-stores
being 100,760 boxes of American flour, besides 24,300 sacks of
English. The total quantity of malt delivered at the London
railway stations in 1867 was thirteen hundred thousand sacks.
Next, as to flesh meat. Last year not fewer than
172,300 head of cattle were brought into London by railway, though
this was considerably less than the number carried before the cattle
plague, the Great Eastern Railway alone having carried 44,672 less
than in 1864. But this loss has since been more than made up
by the increased quantities of fresh beef, mutton, and other kinds
of meat imported in lieu of the live animals. The principal
supplies of cattle are brought, as we have said, by the western,
northern, and eastern lines: by the Great Western from the western
counties and Ireland; by the London and North-western, the Midland,
and the Great Northern, from the northern counties and from
Scotland; and by the Great Eastern from the eastern counties, and
from the ports of Harwich and Lowestoft
Last year also, 1,147,609 sheep were brought to London by
railway, of which the Great Eastern delivered not less than 265,371
head. The London and North-western and Great Northern between
them brought 390,000 head from the northern English counties, with a
large proportion from the Scotch Highlands; while the Great Western
brought up 130,000 head from the Welsh mountains, and from the rich
grazing districts of Wilts, Gloucester, Somerset, and Devon.
Another important freight of the London and North-western Railway
consists of pigs, of which they delivered 54,700 in London last
year, principally Irish; while the Great Eastern brought up 27,500
of the same animal, partly foreign.
While the cattle plague has had the effect of greatly
reducing the number of live-stock brought into London yearly, it has
given a considerable impetus to the Fresh Meat traffic. Thus,
in addition to the above large numbers of cattle and sheep delivered
in London last year, the railways brought 76,175 tons of meat,
which—taking the meat of an average beast at 800 lbs., and of an
average sheep at 64 lbs.—would be equivalent to about 112,000 more
cattle, and 1,267,500 more sheep. The Great Northern brought
the largest quantity; next, the London and North-western—these two
companies having brought up between them, from distances as remote
as Aberdeen and Inverness, about 42,000 tons of fresh meat in 1867,
at an average freight of about ½d. a lb.
Again, as regards Fish, of which six tenths of the whole
quantity consumed in London is now brought by rail. The Great
Eastern and the Great Northern are by far the largest importers of
this article, and justify their claim to be regarded as the great
food lines of London. Of the 61,358 tons of fish brought by
railway in 1867, not less than 24,600 tons were delivered by the
former, and 22,000 tons, brought from much longer distance, by the
latter company. The London and North-western brought about
6000 tons last year, the principal part of which was salmon from
Scotland and Ireland. The Great Western also brought about
4000 tons, partly salmon, but the greater part mackerel from the
southwest coast. During the mackerel season, as much as a
hundred tons at a time are brought into the Paddington Station by
express fish-train from Cornwall.
The Great Eastern and Great Northern Companies are also the
principal carriers of turkeys, geese, fowls, and game, the quantity
delivered in London last year by the former company having been 5042
tons. In Christmas week no fewer than 30,000 turkeys and geese
were delivered at the Bishopsgate Station, besides about 300 tons of
poultry, 10,000 barrels of beer, and immense quantities of fish,
oysters, and other kinds of food. As much as 1600 tons of
poultry and game were brought last year by the South-western
Railway; 600 tons by the Great Northern Railway; and 130 tons of
turkeys, geese, and fowls by the London, Chatham and Dover line,
principally from France.
a constituent of what became the
Of miscellaneous articles, the Great Northern and Midland each
brought about 3000 tons of cheese, the South-western 2600 tons, and
the London and North-western 10,034 cheeses in number; while the
South-western and Brighton lines brought a splendid contribution to
the London breakfast-table in the shape of 11,259 tons of
French eggs; these two companies delivering between them an average
of more than three millions of eggs a week all the year round!
The same companies last year delivered in London 14,819 tons of
butter, the most part the produce of the farms of Normandy, the
greater cleanness and neatness with which the Normandy butter is
prepared for market rendering it a favourite both with dealers and
consumers of late years compared with Irish butter. The
London, Chatham and Dover Company also brought from Calais 96 tons
Next, as to the potatoes, vegetables, and fruit brought by
rail. Forty years since, the inhabitants of London relied for
their supply of vegetables on the garden-grounds in the immediate
neighbourhood of the metropolis, and the consequence was that they
were both very dear and limited in quantity. But railways,
while they have extended the grazing-grounds of London as far as the
Highlands, have at the same time extended the garden-grounds of
London into all the adjoining counties—into East Kent, Essex,
Suffolk, and Norfolk, the vale of Gloucester, and even as far as
Penzance in Cornwall. The London, Chatham and Dover, one of
the youngest of our main lines, brought up from East Kent last year
5279 tons of potatoes, 1046 tons of vegetables, and 5386 tons of
fruit, besides 542 tons of vegetables from France. The
South-eastern brought 25,163 tons of the same produce. The
Great Eastern, brought from the eastern counties 21,315 tons of
potatoes, and 3596 tons of vegetables and fruit; while the Great
Northern brought no less than 78,505 tons of potatoes—a large part
of them from the east of Scotland—and 3768 tons of vegetables and
fruit. About 6000 tons of early potatoes were last year
brought from Cornwall, with about 5000 tons of broccoli, and the
quantities are steadily increasing. "Truly London hath a large
belly," said old Fuller two hundred years since. But how much
more capacious is it now!
One of the most striking illustrations of the utility of
railways in contributing to the supply of wholesome articles of food
to the population of large cities is to be found in the rapid growth
of the traffic in Milk. Readers of newspapers may remember the
descriptions published some years since of the horrid dens in which
London cows are penned, and of the odious compound sold by the name
of milk, of which the least deleterious ingredient in it was
supplied by the "cow with the iron tail." That state of
affairs is now completely changed. What with the greatly
improved state of the London dairies and the better quality of the
milk supplied by them, together with the large quantities brought by
railway from a range of a hundred miles and more all round London,
even the poorest classes in the metropolis are now enabled to obtain
as wholesome a supply of the article as the inhabitants of most
The milk traffic has in some cases been rapid, almost sudden,
in its growth. Though the Great Western is at present the
greatest of the milk lines, it brought very little into London prior
to the year 1865. In the month of August in that year it
brought 23,474 gallons, and in the month of October following the
quantity had increased to 103,214 gallons. Last year the total
quantity delivered in London by this single railway was 1,514,836
gallons, or an average of 30,000 gallons a week. The largest
proportion of this milk was brought from beyond Swindon in
Wiltshire, about 100 miles from London; but considerable quantities
were also brought from the vale of Gloucester and from Somerset.
The London and South-western also is a great milk-carrying line,
having brought as much as 1,480,272 gallons to London last year, or
an average of 28,000 gallons a week. The Great Eastern brought
nearly the same quantity, 1,322,429 gallons, or an average of about
25,400 gallons a week. The London and North-western ranks
next, having brought 643,432 gallons in 1867; then the Great
Northern, 455,916 gallons; the South-eastern, 435,668 gallons; and
the Brighton, 419,254 gallons. The total quantity of milk
delivered in London by railway last year was 6,309,446 gallons, or
above 120,000 gallons a week. Yet this traffic, large though
it may appear, is as yet but in its infancy, and in the course of a
few more years it will be found very largely increased, according as
facilities are provided for its accommodation and transit.
These great streams of food, which we have thus so summarily
described, flow into London so continuously and uninterruptedly,
that comparatively few persons are aware of the magnitude and
importance of the process thus daily going forward. Though
gathered from an immense extent of country— embracing England,
Scotland, Wales, and Ireland—the influx is so unintermitted that it
is relied upon with as much certainty as if it only came from the
counties immediately adjoining London. The express meat-train
from Aberdeen arrives in town as punctually as the Clapham omnibus,
and the express milk-train from Aylesbury is as regular in its
delivery as the penny post. Indeed, London now depends so much
upon railways for its subsistence, that it may be said to be fed by
them from day to day, having never more than a few days' food in
stock. And the supply is so regular and continuous, that the
possibility of its being interrupted never for a moment occurs to
any one. Yet, in these days of strikes among workmen, such a
contingency is quite within the limits of possibility. Another
contingency, arising in a state of war, is probably still more
remote. But, were it possible for a war to occur between
England and a combination of foreign powers possessed of stronger
iron-clads than ours, and that they were able to ram our ships back
into port and land an enemy of overpowering force on the Essex
coast, it would be sufficient for them to occupy or cut the railways
leading from the north, to starve London into submission in less
than a fortnight.
Besides supplying London with food, railways have also been
instrumental in insuring the more regular and economical supply of
fuel—a matter of almost as vital importance to the population in a
climate such as that of England. So long as the market was
supplied with coal brought by sea in sailing ships, fuel in winter
often rose to a famine price, especially during long-continued
easterly winds. But, now that railways are in full work, the
price is almost as steady in winter as in summer, and the supply is
more regular at all seasons. The following statement of the
coals brought into London by sea and by railway, at decennial
periods since 1827, as supplied by Mr. J. R Scott, Registrar of the
Coal Exchange, shows the effect of railways in increasing the supply
of fuel, at the same time that they have lowered the price to the
Coals brought by Railway.
Price per Ton.
Thus the price of coal has been reduced 7s.10d.a
ton since 1827, while the quantity delivered has been enormously
increased, the total saving on the quantity consumed in the
metropolis in 1867, compared with 1827, being equal to £2,388,000.
But the carriage of food and fuel to London forms but a small
part of the merchandise traffic carried by railway. Above
600,000 tons of goods of various kinds yearly pass through one
station only, that of the London and North-western Company, at
Camden Town; and sometimes as many as 20,000 parcels daily.
Every other metropolitan station is similarly alive with traffic
inward and outward, London having since the introduction of railways
become more than ever a great distributive centre, to which
merchandise of all kinds converges, and from which it is distributed
to all parts of the country. Mr. Bazley, M.P., stated at a
late public meeting at Manchester that it would probably require ten
millions of horses to convey by road the merchandise traffic which
is now annually carried by railway.
Engine shed at Camden, London and North-Western
Railways have also proved of great value in connection with
the Cheap Postage system. By their means it has become
possible to carry letters, newspapers, books, and post parcels in
any quantity, expeditiously and cheaply. The Liverpool and
Manchester line was no sooner opened in 1830 than the Post-office
authorities recognized its utility, and used it for carrying the
mails between the two towns. When the London and Birmingham
line was opened eight years later, mail trains were at once put on,
the directors undertaking to perform the distance of 113 miles
within 5 hours by day and 5½ hours by night. As additional
lines were opened, the old four-horse mail-coaches were gradually
discontinued, until, in 1858, the last of them, the "Derby Dilly"
which ran between Manchester and Derby, was taken off on the opening
of the Midland line to Rowsley.
The increased accommodation provided by railways was found of
essential importance, more particularly after the adoption of the
Cheap Postage system; and that such accommodation was needed will be
obvious from the extraordinary increase which has taken place in the
number of letters and packets sent by post. Thus, in 1839, the
number of chargeable letters carried was only 76 millions, and of
newspapers 44½ millions; whereas, in 1865, the number of letters had
increased to 720 millions, and in 1867 to 775 millions, or more than
tenfold, while the number of newspapers, books, samples, and
patterns (a new branch of postal business begun in 1864) had
increased, in 1865, to 98½ millions.
To accommodate this largely-increasing traffic, the bulk of
which is carried by railway, the mileage run by mail trains in the
United Kingdom has increased from 25,000 miles a day in 1854 (the
first year of which we have any return of the mileage run) to 60,000
miles a day in 1867, or an increase of 240 per cent. The
Post-office expenditure on railway service has also increased, but
not in like proportion, having been £364,000 in the former year, and
£559,575 in the latter, or an increase of 154 per cent. The
revenue, gross and net, has increased still more rapidly. In
1841, the first complete year of the Cheap Postage system, the gross
revenue was £1,359,466, and the net revenue £500,789; in 1854, the
gross revenue was £2,574,407, and the net revenue £1,173,723; and in
1867, the gross revenue was £4,548,129, and the net revenue
£2,127,125, being an increase of 420 per cent compared with 1841,
and of 180 per cent compared with 1854. How much of this net
increase might fairly be credited to the Railway Postal service we
shall not pretend to say, but assuredly the proportion most be very
One of the great advantages of railways in connection with
the postal service is the greatly increased frequency of
communication which they provide between all the large towns.
Thus Liverpool has now six deliveries of Manchester letters daily,
while every large town in the kingdom has two or more deliveries of
London letters daily. In 1863, 393 towns had two mails daily
from London; 50 had three mails daily; 7 had four mails a day
from London, and 16 had four mails a day to London; while
3 towns had five mails a day from London, and 6 had five
mails a day to London.
Another feature of the railway mail train, as of the
passenger train, is its capacity to carry any quantity of letters
and post parcels that may require to be carried. In 1838, the
aggregate weight of all the evening mails dispatched from London by
twenty-eight mail-coaches was 4 tons 6 cwt., or an average of about
3¼ cwt each, though the maximum contract weight was 15 cwt.
The mails now are necessarily much heavier, the number of letters
and packets having, as we have seen, increased more than tenfold
since 1839. But it is not the ordinary so much as the
extraordinary mails that are of considerable weighty more
particularly the American, the Continental, and the Australian
mails. It is no unusual thing, we are informed, for the
last-mentioned mail to weigh as much as 40 tons. How many of
the old mail-coaches it would take to carry such a mail the 79
miles' journey to Southampton, with a relay of four horses every
five or seven miles, is a problem for the arithmetician to solve.
But even supposing each coach to be loaded to the maximum weight of
15 cwt per coach, it would require about sixty vehicles and about
1700 horses to carry the 40 tons, besides the coachmen and guards.
A few words, in conclusion, as to the number of men employed
in working and maintaining railways. According to Mr. Mills, [xxviii]
166,047 men and officers were employed in the working of 13,289
miles open in the United Kingdom in 1865, besides 53,923 employed on
lines then under construction. The most numerous body of
workmen is that of the labourers (81,284) employed in the
maintenance of the permanent way. Being mostly picked men from
the labouring class of the adjoining districts, they are paid
considerably higher wages, and hence one of the direct effects of
railways on the labouring population (besides affording them greater
facilities for locomotion) has been to raise the standard of wages
of ordinary labour at least 2s. a week in all the districts into
which they have penetrated. The workmen next in number is that
of the artificers (40,167) employed in constructing and repairing
the rolling-stock; the porters (25,381), the plate-layers (12,901),
guards and brakesmen (5799), firemen (5266), and engine-drivers
(5171). But, besides the employees directly engaged in the
working and maintenance of railways, large numbers of workmen are
also occupied in the manufacture of locomotives and rolling-stock,
and in providing the requisite materials for the permanent way.
Thus the consumption of rails alone averages nearly 400,000 tons a
year in the United Kingdom alone, while the replacing of decayed
sleepers requires about 10,000 acres of forest to be cut down
annually and sawn into sleepers. Taking the various railway
workmen into account, with their families, it will be found that
they represent a total of about three quarters of a million persons,
or about one in fifty of our population, who are dependent on
railways for their subsistence.
While the practical working of railways has, on the whole,
been so satisfactory, the case has been very different as regards
their direction and financial management. The men employed in
the working of railways make it their business to learn it, and,
being responsible, they are under the necessity of taking pains to
do it well; whereas the men who govern and direct them are
practically irresponsible, and may possess no qualification whatever
for the office excepting only the holding of so much stock.
The consequence has been much blundering on the part of these
amateurs, and great loss on the part of the public. Indeed,
what between the confused, contradictory, and often unjust
legislation of Parliament on the one hand, and the carelessness or
incompetency of directors on the other, many once flourishing
concerns have been thrown into a state of utter confusion and
muddle, until railway government has become a by-word of reproach.
And this state of things will probably continue until the
fatal defect of government by Boards—an extremely limited
responsibility, or no responsibility at all—has been rectified by
the appointment, as in France, of executives consisting of a few men
of special ability and trained administrative skill, personally
responsible to their constituents for the due performance of their
respective functions. But the discussion of this subject would
require a treatise, whereas we are now but writing a preface.
Whatever may be said of the financial mismanagement of
railways, there can be no doubt as to the great benefits conferred
by them on the public wherever made. Even those railways which
have exhibited the most "frightful examples" of scheming and
financing, so soon as placed in the hands of practical men to work,
have been found to prove of unquestionable public convenience and
utility. And notwithstanding all the faults and imperfections
that are alleged against railways have been admitted, we think that
they must, nevertheless, be recognized as by far the most valuable
means of communication between men and nations that has yet been
given to the world.
The author's object in publishing this book in its original
form, some ten years since, was to describe, in connection with the
"Life of George Stephenson," the origin and progress of the railway
system, and to show by what moral and material agencies its founders
were enabled to carry their ideas into effect, and to work out
results which even then were of a remarkable character, though they
have since, as above described, become so much more extraordinary.
The favour with which successive editions of the book have been
received has justified the author in his anticipation that such a
narrative would prove of general, if not of permanent interest, and
he has taken pains, in preparing for the press the present, and
probably final edition, to render it, by careful amendment and
revision, more worthy of the public acceptance.
London, May, 1868.
TO THE EIGHTH EDITION, 1864.
The following is a revised and improved edition of "The Life
of George Stephenson," with which is incorporated a Memoir of his
son Robert, late President of the Institute of Civil Engineers.
Since its original appearance in 1857, much additional information
has been communicated to the author relative to the early history of
Railways and the men principally concerned in establishing them, of
which he has availed himself in the present edition.
In preparing the original work for publication, the author
enjoyed the advantage of the cordial co-operation and assistance of
Robert Stephenson, on whom he mainly relied for information as to
the various stages through which the Locomotive passed, and
especially as to his father's share in its improvement.
Through Mr. Stephenson's instrumentality also, the author was
enabled to obtain much valuable information from gentlemen who had
been intimately connected with his father and himself in their early
undertakings—among others, from Mr. Edward Pease, of Darlington; Mr.
Dixon, C.E.; Mr. Sopwith, F.R.S.; Mr. Charles Parker; and Sir Joshua Walmsley.
Most of the facts relating to the early period of George
Stephenson's career were collected from colliers, brakesmen,
enginemen, and others, who had known him intimately, or been
fellow-workmen with him, and were proud to communicate what they
remembered of his early life. The information obtained from
these old men—most of them illiterate, and some broken down by hard
work—though valuable in many respects, was confused, and sometimes
contradictory; but, to insure as much accuracy and consistency of
narrative as possible, the author submitted the MS. to Mr.
Stephenson, and had the benefit of his revision of it previous to
Mr. Stephenson took a lively interest in the improvement of
the "Life" of his father, and continued to furnish corrections and
additions for insertion in the successive editions of the book which
were called for by the public. After the first two editions
had appeared, he induced several gentlemen, well qualified to supply
additional authentic information, to communicate their recollections
of his father, among whom may be mentioned Mr. T. L. Gooch, C.E.;
Mr. Vaughan, of Snibston; Mr. F. Swanwick, CE.; and Mr. Binns, of
Clayross, who had officiated as private secretaries to George
Stephenson at different periods of his life, and afterward held
responsible offices either under him or in conjunction with him.
The author states these facts to show that the information
contained in this book is of an authentic character, and has been
obtained from the most trustworthy sources. Whether he has
used it to the best purpose or not, he leaves others to judge.
This much, however, he may himself say—that he has endeavoured, to
the best of his ability, to set forth the facts communicated to him
in a simple, faithful, and straightforward manner; and, even if he
has not wholly succeeded in doing this, he has, at all events, been
the means of collecting information on a subject originally
unattractive to professional literary men, and thereby rendered its
farther prosecution comparatively easy to those who may feel called
upon to undertake it.
The author does not pretend to have steered clear of errors
in treating a subject so extensive, and, before he undertook the
labour, comparatively uninvestigated; but, wherever errors have been
pointed out, he has taken the earliest opportunity of correcting
them. With respect to objections taken to the book because of
the undue share of merit alleged to be therein attributed to the
Stephensons in respect of the Railway and the Locomotive, there will
necessarily be various opinions. There is scarcely an
invention or improvement in mechanics but has been the subject of
dispute, and it was to be expected that those who had counter claims
would put them forward in the present case; nor has the author any
reason to complain of the manner in which this has been done.
While George Stephenson is the principal subject in the
following book, his son Robert also forms an essential part of it.
Father and son were so intimately associated in the early period of
their career, that it is difficult, if not impossible, to describe
the one apart from the other. The life and achievements of the
son were in a great measure the complement of the life and
achievements of the father. The care, also, with which the
elder Stephenson, while occupying the position of an obscure engine-wright,
devoted himself to his son's education, and the gratitude with which
the latter repaid the affectionate self-denial of his father,
furnish some of the most interesting illustrations of the personal
character of both.
These views were early adopted by the author and carried out
by him in the preparation of the original work, with the concurrence
of Robert Stephenson, who supplied the necessary particulars
relating to himself. Such portions of these were accordingly
embodied in the narrative as could with propriety be published
during his life-time, and the remaining portions are now added with
the object of rendering more complete the record of the son's life,
as well as the early history of the Railway System.
P A R T I.
SCHEMERS AND PROJECTORS.
Man's Desire for rapid Transit.—Origin of the Railway. — Early Coal
Wagon-ways in the North of England. — Early Attempts to apply the
Power of Wind to drive Carriages.—Sailing-coaches.—Sir Isaac
Newton's Proposal to employ Steam-power.—Dr. Darwin's Speculations
on the Subject.—Mr. Edgeworth's Speculations.—Dr. Darwin's Prophecy.
EARLY LOCOMOTIVE MODELS.
Watt and Robison's proposed Steam-carriage.—Memoir of Joseph Cugnot
and his Road-locomotive.—Francis Moore.—James Watt's Specification
of a Locomotive-engine.—William Murdoch's Model.—William Symington's
model Steam-carriage.—Oliver Evans's model Locomotive.
THE CORNISH LOCOMOTIVE—MEMOIR OF TREVITHICK.
Early Welsh Railway Acts.—Wandsworth, Croydon, and Merstham
Railway.—Boyhood of Trevithick.—Becomes an Engineer.—His
Career.—Constructs a Steam-carriage.—Its Exhibition in
London.—Constructs a Tram-engine.—Its Trial on the Merthyr
Railroad.—Trevithick's Improvements in the Steam-engine.—Attempts to
construct a Tunnel under the Thames.—His numerous Inventions and
Patents.—Engines ordered of him for Peru.—Trevithick a Mining
Engineer in South America.—Is ruined by the Peruvian Revolution.—His
return Home.—His last Patents.—Death and Characteristics.
P A R T II.
THE NEWCASTLE COAL-FIELD—GEORGE STEPHENSON'S EARLY
Newcastle in ancient Times.—The Coal-trade.—Modern Newcastle.—The
Colliery Workmen.—The Pumping-engines.—The Pitmen.—The Keelmen.—Wylam
Colliery and Village.—George Stephenson's Birthplace.—The Stephenson
Family.—Old Robert Stephenson.—George's Boyhood.—Employed as a
Herd-boy.—Makes Clay Engines.—Employed as Corf-bitter.—Drives the
Gin-horse.—Appointed assistant Fireman.
NEWBURN AND CALLERTON—GEORGE STEPHENSON LEARNS TO BE
Stephenson's Life at Newburn.—Appointed Engine-man.—Duties of
Flagman.—Study of the Steam-engine.—Experiments in
Bird-hatching.—Learns to Read.—His Schoolmasters.—Progress in
Arithmetic.—His Dog.—Learns to Brake.—Duties of Brakesman.—Begins
Shoe-mending.—Fight with a Pitman.
ENGINE-MAN AT WILLINGTON QUAY AND KILLINGWORTH.
Sobriety and Studiousness.—Removal to Willington Quay, and
Marriage.—Attempts a Perpetual-motion Machine.—William Fairbairn,
C.E., and George Stephenson.—Ballast-heaving.—Cottage Chimney takes
fire.—Birth of his son Robert.—Removal to West Moor,
Killingworth.—Death of his Wife.—Appointed Engine-man at
Montrose.—Return to Killingworth.—Appointed Brakesman at West
Moor.—Is drawn for the Militia.—Thinks of Emigrating.—Takes a
contract for Brakeing.—Improves the Winding-engine.—Cures a
Pumping-engine.—Is appointed Engine-wright of the Colliery.
THE STEPHENSONS AT KILLINGWORTH—EDUCATION AND
Efforts at Self-improvement.—John Wigham.—Studies in Natural
Philosophy.—Education of Robert Stephenson.—Sent to Brace's School,
Newcastle.—His boyish Tricks.—Stephenson's Cottage, West
Moor.—Mechanical Contrivances.—The Sun-dial at West
Moor.—Stephenson's various Duties as Colliery Engineer.
THE LOCOMOTIVE ENGINE—GEORGE STEPHENSON BEGINS ITS
Slow Progress heretofore made in the Improvement of the
Locomotive.—The Wylam Wagon-way.—Mr. Blackett orders a
Locomotive.—Mr. Blenkinsop's Leeds Locomotive.—Mr. Blackett's second
Engine a Failure.—The improved Wylam Engine.—George Stephenson's
Study of the Subject.—His first Locomotive constructed.—His
Improvement of the Engine, as described by his Son.—Invention of the
INVENTION OF THE "GEORDY" SAFETY LAMP.
Frequency of Colliery Explosions.—Accidents in the Killingworth
Pit.—Stephenson's heroic Conduct.—Proposes to invent a
Safety-lamp.—His first Lamp and its Trial.—Cottage Experiments with
Coal-gas.—His second and third Lamps.—Scene at the Newcastle
Institute.—The Stephenson and Davy Controversy.—The Davy and
Stephenson Testimonials.—Merits of the "Geordy" Lamp.
GEORGE STEPHENSON'S FARTHER IMPROVEMENTS IN THE
LOCOMOTIVE—ROBERT STEPHENSON AS VIEWER'S APPRENTICE AND STUDENT.
Stephenson's Improvements in the Mine-machinery.—Farther
Improvements in the Locomotive and in the Road.—Experiments on
Friction.—Early Neglect of the Locomotive.—Stephenson again
meditates emigrating to America. —Employed as Engineer of the Hetton
Railway.—Robert Stephenson put Apprentice to a Coal-viewer.—His
Father sends him to Edinburg University.—His Studies
there.—Geological Tour in the Highlands.
GEORGE STEPHENSON ENGINEER OF THE STOCKTON AND
Failure of the first public Railways near London.—Want of improved
communications in the Bishop Auckland Coal-district.—Various
Projects devised.—A Railway projected at Darlington.—Edward
Pease.—George Stephenson employed as Engineer.—Mr. Pease's Visit to
Killingworth.—A Locomotive Factory begun at Newcastle.—The Stockton
and Darlington Line constructed.—The public Opening.—The
Coal-traffic.—The first Passenger-traffic by Railway.—The Town of
Middlesborough-on-Tees created by the Railway.
THE LIVERPOOL AND MANCHESTER RAILWAY PROJECTED.
Insufficiency of the Communication between Liverpool and
Manchester.—A Tram-road projected by Mr. Sandars.—The Line surveyed
by William James.—The Survey a failure.—George Stephenson appointed
Engineer. —A Company formed and a Railroad projected.—The first
Prospectus issued.—Opposition to the Survey.—Speculations as to
Railway Speed.—George Stephenson's Views thought
extravagant.—Article in the "Quarterly".
PARLIAMENTARY INTEREST ON THE LIVERPOOL AND
The Bill before Parliament.—The Evidence.—George Stephenson in the
Witness-box.—Examined as to Speed.—His Cross-examination.—Examined
as to the possibility of constructing a Line on Chat Moss.—Mr.
Harrison's Speech.—Mr. Giles's Evidence as to Chat Moss.—Mr.
Alderson's Speech.—The Bill lost.—Stephenson's Vexation.—The Bill
revived, with the Messrs. Rennie as Engineers.—Sir Isaac Coffin's
prophecies of Disaster.—The Act passed.
CHAT MOSS—CONSTRUCTION OF THE LIVERPOOL AND
George Stephenson again appointed Engineer of the Railway.—Chat Moss
described.—The resident Engineers of the Line.—George Stephenson's
Theory of a Floating Road on the Moss.—Operations begun.—The
Tar-barrel Drains.—The Embankment sinks in the Moss.—Proposed
Abandonment of the Works.—Stephenson's Perseverance.—The Obstacles
conquered.—The Tunnel at Liverpool.—The Olive Mount Cutting.—The
Sankey Viaduct.—Stephenson's great Labours.—His daily Life.—Evenings
ROBERT STEPHENSON'S RESIDENCE IN COLUMBIA AND
RETURN—THE "BATTLE OF THE LOCOMOTIVE."
Robert Stephenson appointed Mining Engineer in Colombia. — Mule
Journey to Bogotá—Mariquita.—Silver Mining.—Difficulties with the
Cornishmen.—His Cottage at Santa Anna.—Resigns his
Appointment.—Meeting with Trevithick.—Voyage to New York, and
Shipwreck.—Returns to Newcastle, and takes Charge of his Locomotive
Factory. — Discussion as to the Working Power of the Liverpool and
Manchester Railway.—Walker and Rastrick's Report.—A Prize offered
for the best Locomotive.—Invention of the Multitubular Boiler.—Henry
Booth.—Construction of the "Rocket."—The Locomotive Competition at
Rainhill.— Triumph of the "Rocket."
OPENING OF THE LIVERPOOL AND MANCHESTER RAILWAY, AND
EXTENSION OF THE RAILWAY SYSTEM.
The Railway finished.—Organisation of the Working.—The public
Opening.—Fatal Accident to Mr. Huskisson.—The Traffic
begun.—Improvements in the Road, Rolling Stock, and
Locomotive.—Steam-carriages tried on common Roads.—New Railway
Projects.—Opposition to Railways in the South of England.—Stephenson
appointed Engineer of Leicester and Swannington Railway.—George
removes to Snibston and sinks for Coal —His character as a Master.
ROBERT STEPHENSON CONSTRUCTS THE LONDON AND
The London and Birmingham Railway projected.—George and Robert
Stephenson appointed Engineers.—An Opposition organised.—Public
Meetings against the Scheme—Robert Stephenson's Interview with Sir
A. Cooper.—The Survey obstructed.—The Line resurveyed.—The Bill in
Parliament.—Thrown out in the Lords.—The Project revived.—The Act
obtained.—The Works let in Contracts.—Difficulties of the
Undertaking.—The Line described.—Blisworth Cutting.—Primrose Hill
Tunnel.— Kilby Tunnel.—Its Construction described.—Failures of
Contractors.—Magnitude of the Works.—The Railway navies.
MANCHESTER AND LEEDS, MIDLAND, AND OTHER
RAILWAYS—GENERAL EXTENSION OF RAILWAYS AND THEIR RESULTS.
Projection of new Lines.—Dutton Viaduct on the Grand Junction. —The
Manchester and Leeds.—Incident in Committee.—Summit Tunnel,
Littleborough.—The Midland Railway.—The Works compared with the
Simplon Road.—Slip near Ambergate.—Bull Bridge.— The York and North
Midland,—The Scarborough Branch.—George Stephenson on
Estimates.—Stephenson on his Surveys.—His quick Observation.—His
extensive Labours.—Travelling and Correspondence.—Life at Alton
Grange.— Stephenson's London Office. —Journeys to
Belgium.—Interviews with the King.—Public Openings of English
Railways—Stephenson's Assistants.—Results of Railroads.
GEORGE STEPHENSON'S COAL MINES— OPINIONS ON RAILWAY
SPEEDS— RAILWAY MANIA.
George Stephenson on Railways and Coal Traffic.—Leases the Claycross
Estate.—His Residence at Tapton.—His Appearance at Mechanics'
Institutes.—His Views on Railway Speed.—Undulating Lines
favoured.—Stephenson on Railway Speculation,—Atmospheric Railways
projected.—Opposed by Stephenson.—The Railway Mania.—Action of
Parliament.—Rage for direct Lines.—Stephenson's Letter to Peel.—
George Hudson, the "Railway King."—His Fall.—Stephenson again visits
Belgium.—Interview with King Leopold.—Journey into Spain.
ROBERT STEPHENSON'S CAREER—EAST COAST ROUTE TO
SCOTLAND—HIGH LEVEL BRIDGE, NEWCASTLE.
Robert Stephenson's Career.—His extensive Employment as
Parliamentary Engineer.—His rival, Brunel.—The Great Western
Railway.—Width of Gauge.—Robert Stephenson's caution as to
Investments.—The Newcastle and Berwick Railway.—Contest in
Parliament.—George Stephenson's Interview with Lord Howick.—The
Royal Border Bridge, Berwick.—Progress of Iron
Bridge-building.—Robert Stephenson constructs the High-Level Bridge,
Newcastle.—Pile-driving by Steam.—Merits of the Structure.—The
through Railway to Scotland completed.
CHESTER AND HOLYHEAD RAILWAY—MENAI AND CONWAY
George Stephenson Surveys a line from Chester to Holyhead.—Robert
Stephenson afterward appointed Engineer.—The Railway Works under
Penmaen Mawr.—The Crossing of the Menai Strait.—Various Plans
proposed.—A Tubular Beam determined on.—Strength of wrought-iron
Tubes.—Mr. William Fairbairn consulted.—His Experiments.—Professor
Hodgkinson.—Chains proposed, and eventually discarded.—The Bridge
Works.—The Conway Bridge.—Britannia Bridge described.—Floating of
the Tubes.—Robert Stephenson's great Anxiety.—Raising of the
Tubes.—The Hydraulic Press bursts.—The Works completed.—Merits of
the Britannia Bridge.
CLOSING YEARS OF GEORGE STEPHENSON'S LIFE— ILLNESS
George Stephenson's Life at Tapton.—Experiments in Horticulture.—His
Farming Operations.—Affection for Animals.—Bee-keeping.—Reading and
Conversation.—Rencounter with Lord Denman.—Hospitality at Tapton.—His
Microscope.—A "Crowdie Night"—Visits to London.—Visits Sir Robert
Peel at Drayton Manor.—His Conversation.—Encounter with Dr.
Buckland.—Coal formed by the Sun's Light.—Opening of the Trent
Valley Line and its Celebration.—Meeting with Emerson.—Illness,
Death, and Funeral.—Statues of George Stephenson.—Personal
ROBERT STEPHENSON'S VICTORIA BRIDGE, LOWER
CANADA—ILLNESS AND DEATH—THE STEPHENSON CHARACTERISTICS.
Robert Stephenson's gradual Retirement from the profession of
Engineer.—His Tubular Bridge over the Nile.—Railways in
Canada.—Proposed Bridge at Montreal.—A Tubular Bridge
proposed.—Robert Stephenson appointed Engineer.—Design of the
Victoria Bridge.—The Piers.—Getting in of the Foundations.—Progress
of the Works.—Erection of the Tubes.—Scene at the breaking-up of the
Ice in 1858.—The Night-work.—Erection of main central
Tube.—Completion of the Works.—Robert Stephenson in Parliament.—His
Opinion of the Suez Canal.—His Honours.—Launch of the Great
Eastern.—Last Illness and Death.—The Stephenson