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Life of Robert Stephenson by William Pole: Chapter IX

From Graces Guide

Note: This is a sub-section of Life of Robert Stephenson by William Pole

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CHAPTER IX. Residence in Newcastle - continued. (age 25-28)

ROBERT STEPHENSON’S wedding trip was a short one. No sooner had he introduced his bride to her new home in Greenfield Place than he devoted all his energies to the superintendence of ‘ the works,’ and especially to the construction of the ‘Rocket.’ The great and decisive battle of the locomotive, to be fought at Rainhill during the ensuing October, was fast approaching. He had to carry out the instructions which he had received from Mr. Booth and his father. A fearful responsibility it was for so young a man, still only five and twenty years of age. He knew that on the result of the contest his after-success would greatly depend. The ‘ Rocket ’ was to him what ‘ Chat-Moss ’ had just been to his father. It was a grand trial of his capability as a practical engineer.

In making the drawings and calculations for the new engine, he was assisted by Mr. G. H. Phipps, who recalls with enthusiastic admiration the fine qualities displayed by his ‘ chief’ at that trying period. Punctual to a moment, and methodical to nicety, the young engineer was always at his post, and ready for every emergency. No mishap found him unprovided with a remedy. And in laying his plans he did not disdain to profit by the practical experience of men, who in all that concerned the science of engineering were mere artizans. ‘ Come, this is a touchy point,’ he would cry good- naturedly, shaking his head after discussing a difficult question ; ‘ let’s call in “ the oracle.” ’ ‘ The oracle ’ was Mr. Hutchinson, a practical engineer, and the superintendent of the factory, to whom the subsequent success of ‘the works’ was greatly due, and who eventually became a partner in the concern. On his judgement Robert had such reliance, that he invariably spoke of him as ‘the oracle.’ Had Robert Stephenson been an ordinary man, endowed only with the mere cunning which often passes current for genius, he would have picked the brains of ‘ the oracle ’ without letting him be aware of the operation.

At length the tubes, with their thickened ends brazed in, were screwed into the ends of the boiler. The work looked well enough, but no sooner was it tested by hydraulic pressure than from the extremities of the tubes jets of water flew out upon the dismayed beholders. Here was a conclusion to months of toil and hope. For the first time in the protracted labour Robert Stephenson’s self-command gave way, and, hastening to his office, he wrote a hasty report to his father of ‘ another failure.’ Scarcely, however, was the letter posted for Liverpool, when his nobler nature reasserted itself, and he looked about for a way to overcome the difficulty. In a happy moment the right plan occurred to him. The brass screws could not be relied upon, but the copper of which the tubes themselves were made might be trusted. Forthwith he bored, in the ends of the boiler, holes exactly corresponding to the size of the tubes. Into these holes the tubes were inserted, and steel ferrules, or hollow conical wedges, were driven into their ends. By this means the copper of each tube was forced powerfully against the circumference of the hole, and caused to fit perfectly watertight. The steam having been raised, the result equalled Robert Stephenson’s most sanguine expectations, and he despatched another letter to his father, announcing his success. That second letter was crossed on its way to Liverpool by one from his father telling his son to try the very same means which had already proved successful.

The engine was at last taken from ‘the works ’ on Tyne side and conveyed to the Killingworth Railway for trial. Much as there was yet to be effected before the locomotive should be raised to its present state of efficiency, a decided progress had been made. The capability of evaporation had been so raised that, while in the Killingworth engines of 1829 the evaporating power was 16 cubic feet of water per hour, in the ‘ Rocket ’ engine, at the Rainhill experiments, it was 18‘24 cubic feet per hour. The vast room still left for improvement may be appreciated, even by an unprofessional reader, when it is stated that the evaporative capability of Stephenson’s patent locomotive (of 1849) was ‘ seventy-seven cubic feet of water per hour, or nearly five times the power of the engine of 1829.’

After trial at Killingworth, the ‘ Rocket ’ was taken to the Tyne and shipped for Liverpool, an insurance of £500 having been effected against the peril of the voyage, which was unusually rough and bad. The vessel arrived at Liverpool so long after her time that she had been given up for lost, and the sum for which the locomotive had been insured had been actually paid to ‘Robert Stephenson and Co.’ when the ship and her cargo entered Liverpool water safe and sound.

At length October arrived, and on Tuesday, the 6 th day of the month, the famous locomotive display at Rainhill began. The story of the competition has been often told, but it is a story that will bear repetition.

The running ground was a dead level, about ten miles from Liverpool, on the Manchester side of the Rainhill Bridge, at a place called Kenrick’s cross. The whole country round was alive to the great event. From 10,000 to 15,000 people of both sexes and all ranks assembled to witness the novel contest. To accommodate the ladies, amongst whom was Robert Stephenson’s wife - anxious and hopeful for her husband - a booth had been erected at either end of the race-course a few yards from the rails. Bands of music enlivened the entertainment.

On the course appeared four locomotive carriages—

No. 1. Messrs. Braithwaite and Erichson’s, of London, ‘The Novelty' / weight 3 tons 15 cwt.

No. 2. Mr. Hackworth’s, of Darlington, ‘The Sans Pareil,’ weight 4 tons 8 cwt. 2 qrs.

No. 3. Mr. Robert Stephenson’s, of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, ‘ The Rocket,’ weight 4 tons 3 cwt.

No. 4. Mr. Brandreth’s, of Liverpool, ‘ The Cyclops.’

Mr. Burstall of Leith had entered his ‘Perseverance,’ but it did not make its appearance on the 6th, in consequence of an accident which it had sustained on its way to Liverpool.

Mr. Brandreth’s ingenious horse-power locomotive was worked by two horses in a frame which, whilst they themselves moved not more than a mile and a quarter per hour, propelled their load of five tons at the rate of five miles an hour. This curious contrivance was an object of general admiration; but as a mere freak of ingenuity, not fulfilling the requisitions of the directors, it of course did not contest for the prize.

The ‘Novelty,’ ‘Sans Pareil,’ and ‘Perseverance,’ not being ready at the appointed time, the race was put off much to the dissatisfaction of spectators. Two days having been spent in preliminary exercise and mishaps,§ ‘The first systematic trial of the power of the engines, under the inspection of the judges, took place on Thursday, when Mr. Stephenson’s engine, the “ Pocket,” was brought out to perform the assigned task.’ The distance appointed to be run was seventy miles. When fairly started, the engine was to draw, at the rate of at least ten miles per hour, a gross weight of 3 tons for every ton of its own. weight. The prescribed seventy miles were to be accomplished on a level plane of one mile and a half; consequently the course had to be travelled over by the successful locomotive forty times —the same number of stops being made—with consequent loss of momentum which had to be regained.

On Thursday, the 8th, the ‘Rocket,’ weighing with the water in her boiler 4 tons 5 cwt., began her seventy miles at 10:30 A.M., and accomplished the first thirty- five of them in three hours and twelve minutes. The average rate therefore of this first burst was nearly eleven miles per hour. After a quarter of an hour spent in taking up a fresh supply of water and coke, the engine started again, and accomplished the second thirty-five miles in two hours and fifty-seven minutes, making an average speed of twelve miles per hour. Thus, all stoppages included, the entire time from the commencement to the end of the running was under six hours and a half. At its fullest speed the engine frequently carried its burden at more than eighteen miles per hour, and occasionally it exceeded the rate of twenty miles per hour. It had therefore beaten all previous locomotives, and more than fulfilled the stipulations of the directors.

It remains to speak of the other competing locomotives, the ‘ Novelty,’ the ‘ Sans Pared,’ and the ‘ Perseverance.’ Scarcely had the ‘ Novelty’ commenced running when an accident to its machinery, or pipes necessitated a stoppage for repair. Another trial, on a subsequent day, was only the occasion of another accident. It was therefore withdrawn from the contest. The ‘ Sans Pared,’ built by Mr. Hackworth of Darlington, was also unfortunate. On being furnished with its complement of water, it was found to exceed the stipulated weight by 5 cwt. Still, though it was thus disqualified for competition, it was permitted to display its powers over the course. Its speed averaging fourteen miles per hour, with the appointed load, was satisfactory; but an accident stayed its operations at the eighth trip. As for the ‘ Perseverance,’ it was so far inferior, to its antagonists—never travelling more than six miles per hour—that its name was scratched from the list shortly after the commencement of the running.

The result was that the ‘Pocket ’ was proclaimed the winner, and the premium was consequently awarded by the directors to Mr. Booth and the Messrs. Stephenson, the former being the inventor of the multitubular boiler, and the latter the manufacturers of the successful locomotive.

One principal feature of the ‘Rocket ’ was the efficiency of its blast, which scarcely in a less degree than the boiler contributed to the victory at Rainhill. With regard to the blast there has been much animated and some acrimonious discussion ; and more than one person has been pointed to as the first to devise it. In the first locomotive that ran with smooth wheels on smooth rails — namely, the first of Mr. Hedley’s Wylam engines-— the waste steam was emitted over the wheels at the side. In the second of Mr. Hedley’s Wylam locomotives, built, as the reader recollects, prior to George Stephenson’s first locomotive, a different course was employed. To obviate the noise and render the smoke less objectionable, a chamber was constructed in the boiler, into which the waste steam was conveyed from the cylinder by an eduction pipe that was turned upwards. From this chamber the steam in an expanded state passed through another pipe into the chimney. This arrangement precluded anything like an efficient blast, but doubtless the passage of the steam up the chimney, as far as it was in any way influential, quickened the draught. This is a fact which should be remembered. In the second Wylam locomotive the waste steam was emitted into the chimney.

In George Stephenson’s first Killingworth locomotive engine the waste steam (either from the first, or at a date shortly subsequent to the completion of the engine) was conveyed through a pipe directly into the chimney, without passing through any intermediate receiver ; and the noise of the steam forcing its way through the exit pipe and up the chimney, soon procured for the engine the sobriquet of ‘Puffing Billy.’ No attempt had been made to deaden the noise. There was the blast in unquestionable action, although of trivial efficiency.

In the history of mechanical science there are few points more singular than that the origin of such a power as ‘ the blast in the steam locomotive ’ should be involved in obscurity. Amongst the Wylam workmen, it is a matter of firm belief that the ability of the waste steam to quicken the draught through the fire-box was discovered by accident. They state that two workmen, the brothers John and Henry Bell, the one still managing, in the autumn of 1860, a fixed engine at Blaydon, the other driving, at the same date, a locomotive on the Wylam line, effected the discovery in the following manner: — It was their duty periodically to clean the boiler of the Wylam locomotive, and also the exit pipe communicating between the receiver and the chimney. This pipe had a tendency to become furred up, and every time the men scoured off the deposit they also removed some of the metal. The pipe thus gradually became thin, and in the course of years needed repair. After the fashion of Northumbrian engine-drivers, who tinker up their engines as unconcernedly as a Suffolk ploughman ties up his horses’ tails, the Bells inserted a small rim of iron into the enlarged pipe, thus rendering the mouth far more contracted than it was originally. The current of vapour passing through the narrow orifice, was, of course, much quickened by the alteration. Its upward passage was proportionately accelerated ; and with corresponding increase of velocity, the air rushed in from below through the fire-box to fill the vacuum caused by the ascending steam. So marked was the effect of ‘the iron rim’ on the speed of the engine, that when the men took their first drive on it, after the work of cleaning and repairing, they were for a few seconds positively alarmed by the speed of their progression. This is one story. Another tradition, credited by the present representative of the Stephenson family, is that James Stephenson hit on the secret also by accident. According to this tradition, James Stephenson, whilst acting as driver, turned the eduction pipe of the first Killingworth engine into the chimney for the purpose of abating the nuisance of the waste steam, which, on being emitted from the side of the locomotive, covered him with moisture and interfered with his line of sight.

Certain it is, that the first Killingworth engine, at a very early date of its existence, had ‘ the blast; ’ that is to say, the steam went into the chimney in distinct puffs. The assertion that George Stephenson himself ‘applied the steam-blast’ to his first locomotive in order to increase the draught and the heating power of the fire, is improbable. The statement that the blast, when so applied, ‘ more than doubled the power of the engine,’ is unquestionably erroneous — although it was made to Mr. Smiles in all good faith by Robert Stephenson himself. The fact is, the size of the chimney and the small power of the engine, the chimney being altogether out of proportion to the power of a two-horse engine, precluded the possibility of having so efficient a blast. Mr. Nicholas Wood, a scientific engineer, intimately acquainted with the locomotive in question, has publicly stated**—‘The blast in the chimney, which afterwards formed so important an element in the evaporation of steam, was then comparatively inoperative, from the imperfect mode in which it was applied, and from the low rate of speed at which the engine moved.’

Of course George Stephenson knew that the tendency of the ascending vapour was to quicken the draught up the chimney. But not the less is it true that the influence of the blast was scarcely appreciable in the Killingworth engines. Years were to elapse before George Stephenson was to awaken to a knowledge of the full capability of the blast. The inability to generate a sufficient supply of steam was, from 1814 to 1829, the reason why the locomotive, instead of being generally adopted on railways, was regarded by sound judges as having only a slight advantage over the stationary engine — an advantage not great enough to secure for it a wide popularity. Throughout the greater part of that time, George Stephenson saw clearly that the two great needs of the locomotive were — more heat, and better means of diffusing that heat. Without a fierce fire, and a large heating surface, it was impossible to generate the requisite amount of steam. He therefore racked his brains to invent a boiler offering a wide field of contact for the heat and the water, and to construct bellows that should make his fire-box a perpetual furnace. The reader, of course, bears in mind the agreement between George Stephenson and Mr. Losh and the Messrs. James as to boiler tubes, in 1821. In a former part of this work a letter appears, which shows how George and Robert Stephenson, in seeking to send an adequate current of air through the fire of a locomotive, fixed their thoughts on an artificial and not a natural draught. There are extant many letters between the father and son, which accord with the one referred to. Such was the state of things in 1828. Such, too, was the case in 1829, until, whilst the ‘ Rocket' was being built, George Stephenson became alive to the full importance of a principle which, notwithstanding the structure of his own early locomotives, he had for fifteen years at least not duly estimated.

During the building of the ‘ Rocket ’ Mr. G. H. Phipps had an engagement at the factory at Newcastle, having charge of the drawing office, and he was Robert Stephenson’s active coadjutor, and trusted friend. During a temporary absence of Robert Stephenson from ‘ the works,’ Mr, Phipps received the following letter from George Stephenson: —

Liverpool: August 13, 1829.

DEAR PHIPPS,— As I understand Robert is gone to Canterbury, I may mention to you that I have put on to the coke engine a longer exarsting pipe, riching nearly to the top of the chimney, but find it dose not do so well as putting it into the chimney lower down. I think it will be best near the level of the top of the boiler, by doing so it will look neater, the coke engine is doing extremely well—but the ‘ Lankshire Witch ’ is rely doing wonders. A statement of her performance you will see in the paper in a few days. I am, dear Phipps, Yours truly. GEO. STEPHENSON.

Had George Stephenson been for fifteen years aware of the full value of ‘ the blast ’ as a natural bellows, he would scarcely at so late a date have thought of putting the mouth of his ‘ exarsting pipe ’ nearly at the top of the chimney. But it was at this very time — August 1829 — that George Stephenson, whilst he was making experiments on the eduction pipe, to see if the rapid current of its vapour could not be employed with greater effect for the creation of chimney draught, hit upon the full importance of a principle which for years he most probably had regarded lightly.

No time was lost in giving the ‘ Rocket’ the full benefit of the new discovery. When the engine astonished the spectators at Rainhill, the draught of the chimney was accelerated by two blast-pipes. ‘Mr. Robert Stephenson’s carriage,’ says the ‘ Liverpool Courier,’ Wednesday, Oct. 7, 1829, ‘attracted the most attention during the early part of the afternoon. It ran, without any weight being attached to it, at the rate of twenty-four miles in the hour, shooting past the spectators with amazing velocity, emitting very little smoke, but dropping red-hot cinders as it proceeded.’ The ‘ Sans Pareil ’ had also at Rainhill a very powerful blast, but causes independent of the waste-pipe shut it out from success.

The combination of the midtitubular boiler and the blast was most felicitous, and achieved the triumph of the locomotive. They acted and reacted upon each with beautiful effect. A good fire was a necessary condition for the proper action of the multitubular boiler; that good fire was secured by the forcible jets of the exhaust-pipe ; those forcible jets were a consequence of the boiler being able to supply the cylinders continuously with steam. Without the blast the multitubular boiler would have been comparatively inoperative;- and, apart from the multitubular boiler, a strong, continuous, and regular blast was impossible.

Robert Stephenson went home from Liverpool triumphant. It was a happy meeting between him and his wife in Greenfield Place, whither she had preceded him. He was a made man. Henceforth there was no fear for the locomotive; its speedy and universal adoption had been secured. Not less certain was it that Robert Stephenson and Co. would for many years be the first locomotive manufacturers in the world; but the victory, far from inducing the engineer to relax, only spurred him to increase his exertions. He resolved to lose no time in producing engines superior to the ‘Rocket.’ Having, however, done so much in the way of professional action, he could afford a little time for professional polemics. As long as the locomotive required him to labour in the workshop, he had abstained from controversy; but now he took pen in hand with the purpose of convincing the public mind that the reports of Messrs. Walker and Rastrick were not supported by the facts which they, previous to the production of the ‘ Rocket,’ had undertaken to examine. It might seem that the time was past for replying to statements which had been exploded by events. But the fact was, Mr. Walker’s report had taken a firm hold of the public mind, and its author was by no means disposed to modify his views in deference to recent improvements.

On December 17, 1829, Robert Stephenson wrote to Mr. Richardson —-

I am now engaged in preparing an answer to James Walker’s report on locomotive and stationary engines. I am induced to do this from the industrious manner with which he has been circulating his report in every quarter of England. He left one with Kingsford, the solicitor at Canterbury, doubtless with some object.

In the February of 1830, therefore, Robert Stephenson, in conjunction with Mr. Joseph Locke, published ‘Observations on the Comparative Merits of Locomotive and Fixed Engines.’ In this treatise facts were closely adhered to, and idle speculation was studiously avoided. Robert Stephenson did not want to startle uninformed readers with the . marvels which he hoped to accomplish, but to tell them how much he could assuredly achieve. He was, therefore, content to say: ‘ On a level railway, a locomotive engine weighing from four to five tons, will convey twenty tons of goods, exclusive of carriages, at the rate of twelve miles an hour.’ The moderation and caution of the writer were characteristics that marked his entire professional career, and contributed in no small measure to his success.

A glance at the following extracts from Robert Stephenson’s letters to Mr. Richardson will give the reader a vivid picture of a portion of his professional fife during the next few months after the Rainhill contest.

Newcastle-on-Tyne: Dec. 17, 1829.

DEAR SIR,— I was sorry that you passed through Newcastle before I returned from Liverpool, as I had many things to mention respecting railways which are projected in Cheshire and Lancashire. , . . The proprietors of the Warrington and Newton Railways a little time ago proposed a line from the former place towards Birmingham, but at the outset only intended taking it up as far as Sandbach, a distance of twenty-two miles from Warrington; the remaining distance to Birmingham is, I believe, about 53 miles. Should this line go on, it will join the Liverpool and Manchester sixteen miles from Liverpool, through the medium of the Warrington and Newton Railway, and will consequently be of great advantage to both these lines now in progress. I made a survey about three weeks ago, and lodged the plans in the customary manner. This plan or line of communication to Birmingham did not meet the views of the Liverpool people. They therefore employed Vignoles as engineer to survey a line from Liverpool to Runcorn, where they proposed making a bridge over the Mersey at an enormous cost, and in this direction opening a communication to Birmingham. The Liverpool directors were not agreeable that my father or I should be concerned in the Sandbach line, as it would be opposed by the Marquis of Stafford; and as my father might be employed to oppose the line in Parliament, he and I would thus be brought into direct collision, which would certainly not be very pleasant. Having made this survey, I was of course bound in honour to sign the plan and section. What will be the result in Parliament I cannot guess. There will doubtless be a strong opposition, and perhaps a fatal one. It is averse to my feelings to be concerned with any undertaking which might interfere with Mr, Locke’s views, as his kindness to my father has been very great. Being, however, engineer for the Warrington directors, I could not refuse with any appearance of consistency to attend to an extension of this line — an extension which, if made, will be of immense benefit to that which I am now executing. I heard from Liverpool the other day that another Birmingham line had been suggested which was likely to obtain supporters. It is to pass underneath the Mersey opposite Liverpool, continue on to Chester, and thence to Birmingham, in the same route as the line my father laid down in 1825. I am not aware of the merits of this line, but it strikes me that it will be a more expensive one than that from Warrington by way of Sandbach, and it will certainly never be of so much importance to the Liverpool and Manchester line. There are several other branch railways projected in Lancashire. The trials at Rainhill of the locomotives seem to have set people railway mad We are getting rapidly on with four locomotive engines for Liverpool, which I am confident will exceed the ‘ Rocket ’ in powers. One of them will leave here about New Year’s Day, and the other three about the end of January. Yours very faithfully, Rob. Stepgenson

MY DEAR SIR,— On my written after you left Newcastle.

I wish much I had seen you at Newcastle, were it only for receiving your instructions concerning the Duke of Norfolk’s coal-^eld and railway to Sheffield, which I intend visiting on my way to London the latter end of this month. I am at present engaged in getting up the parliamentary plans and estimate for the Warrington and Sandback railway. As soon as they are finished I shall proceed to Canterbury. By that time I hope the line will be ready for opening.....

Liverpool: Jan. 25, 1830.

MY DEAR SIR ... I have consulted my father on the subject of the Carlisle end of the railway. He is quite agreeable to take the west end of the line and leave it chiefly to my management for something between :g500 and £700 a year. They would not expect my whole time to be devoted to it, as an assistant to be always attending would be requisite; so that it would not require me to conflne my attention to that neighbourhood entirely. I should then have the Lancashire and the Warrington and Newton to attend to. Amongst them I should divide my attention, and I see no difficulty in doing that, when I have a confidential assistant at each place to see that my plans are carefully and strictly attended to Canterbury: April 28, 1830.

DEAE SIR .... I regret we are too high for the Darlington Bridge, but I am afraid we are a great deal too high for the winding engine at St. Helens, Auckland, but we really cannot compete with those engine-builders in the neighbourhood of Newcastle, who not only work for nothing, but who make bad workmanship. The engine you require for St. Helens is the same power as one we made for the Liverpool Railway Company, and will require more workmanship. For the Liverpool engine we had £1,600, but I daresay you will soon have offers for £1,000; but it is useless attempting to make engines for such prices, because I know it is impossible to make a good and substantial job without reasonable prices. 22 Broad Street Buildings ; May 6, 1830.

Canterbury: April 28, 1830

DEAR SIR,— I returned from Canterbury on Tuesday, and would have answered your letters that day had I not been Unwell.

The Warrington business is closed in the Lords, and the Leicester committee sits to-day, when my business in London for this session will be ended. I intend leaving London for Liverpool, where, according to your letter of the 1st inst., you will probably be

The opening of the Canterbury Railway went off remarkably well, without a single mishap. The paper will be forwarded to you by Joshua. I have not seen any detailed account published.

Still only twenty-six years of age, Robert Stephenson had made a distinguished position for himself, and every succeeding year was henceforth to add to his dignity and worldly prosperity. In the spring of 1830 was opened the Canterbury and Whitstable line, constructed under Robert Stephenson’s supervision, his father being responsible for the engineering. The same season saw the Bill for the Warrington Railway safe through both Houses of Parliament, and Robert Stephenson forthwith began to construct the line as engineer-in-chief—he having made the survey, sections, and estimates for the parliamentary application. In the same session permission was sought to make another line from Leicester to Swannington ; and the leave being granted, Robert Stephenson was appointed principal engineer to that undertaking also. He had thus two railways on his hands, whilst at the same time he continued to direct the operations of the Newcastle factory, and was actively engaged in improving the locomotive.

The heads of most young men would have been turned by such a tide of success. It was, however, remarked that Robert Stephenson did not forget the modesty of bearing which characterised him in youth. Indeed, conscious as he was of his power, he in a certain way mistrusted himself, and feared that he might fail from want of experience, if not from want of innate force. Whilst he was in London, during the progress of the Warrington Bill through Parliament, he was accosted by an old comrade of his South American adventures, whom he had not seen since quitting Colombia. His friend, of the same age as himself, had recently returned from America to seek fortune in his native land. ‘ And here I am back in Old England,’ he said, ‘ looking about for something to do, whilst the business which fills your hands is on every man’s lips.’ The friends dined together at an hotel in Bridge Street, and over a bottle of wine talked of past times, and discussed their future prospects. ‘ Of course you congratulate me on my advance towards fortune,’ Robert Stephenson said earnestly, ‘but I can assure you I sometimes feel very uneasy about my position. My courage at times almost fails me ; and I fear that some fine morning my reputation may break under me like an egg-shell! ’

As the works on the Liverpool and Manchester line were being brought to a conclusion, the directors busied themselves with plans for a public celebration of their labours. In August 1829 Mr. Huskisson visited Liverpool, and was present at an inspection of the line, and at a celebration preliminary to greater rejoicings in the following year. Writing by the hand of his secretary to Mr. Longridge, George Stephenson (August 23,1829) thus described the preliminary entertainment:—

We had a grand day last Friday - Huskisson visited the greater part of the line with the directors, of course I was one of the party. We first went to the great viaduct, thence along the line to the bridge at Rainhill: then to the commencement of the deep cutting at Olive Mount, where we were met by the locomotive engine, which took the whole party, amounting to about 135, through the deep cutting at the rate of nine miles an hour, to the great delight of the whole party: the engine really did well. We next went to the tunnel, where a train of waggons was in readiness to receive the party. Many of the first families in the county were waiting to witness the procession which, accompanied by a band of music occupying one of the waggons, descended in grand style through the tunnel, which was brilliantly lighted up, the gas-lights being placed at intervals of twenty-five yards. The whole went off most pleasantly, without the slightest accident attending our various movements. Huskisson expressed himself to me highly delighted with what he had seen. Mr. Huskisson and the directors dined with Mr. Lawrence in the evening; the engineer was one of the party, and a most splendid set-out there was, I assure you. The evening was spent in a very pleasant manner.

So pleased was Mr. Huskisson with this demonstration in 1829, that he exerted all his influence to assemble people of high importance to witness the formal opening of the line in the following year. Of that later event the engineer could not say- ‘ The whole went off most pleasantly, without the slightest accident attending our various movements.’

On September 15,1830, the Liverpool and Manchester Railway was opened with an imposing ceremonial and a disaster that struck to the heart of the country. Amongst those who assembled to witness the event were some of the highest personages of the land, the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel being conspicuous amongst a crowd of celebrities.

The morning of September 15, 1830, was fine and bright, and the towns of Liverpool and Manchester were in a state of great excitement. For several days exertions had been made to clear the entire fine of obstructions — such as earth-waggons, machinery, and masses of timber —which were collected at various points of the route. The ‘ points and crossings, at that time by far the most defective part of the railway system, were all carefully removed, excepting at Huyton (about six miles from Liverpool) and at the two termini, so that with these exceptions there was one unbroken fine of rails through the whole way, the risk of carriages leaving the line being thus reduced to a minimum.

At Parkside, the half-way point on the line, adequate preparations were made for renewing the supply of water to the tenders of the engines. The arrangements for obtaining fresh water not being perfected at Manchester, the requisite supply was provided at Eccles (about four miles distant from the great cotton town) — directions having been given that the engines and tenders should be replenished at that station, after performing the entire journey. The time occupied by the engines and tenders in running out the four miles from Manchester to Eccles, getting a fresh stock of water, and returning to Manchester, would (it was calculated) be less than the time which the visitors conveyed to Manchester by the trains would require for a lunch provided by the Company in a building adjacent to the terminus. The directors, also, having good reason to fear that persons would put obstructions on the rails, stationed men at intervals along the entire line to see that the way was kept clear.

Every precaution for safety and expedition hawing thus been taken, the procession was formed of eight trains. The following order of progress was drawn out by Joseph Locke, with the assistance of Mr. T. L. Gooch, his coadjutor in arranging the day’s proceedings.

(Missing table - see PDF version)

The principal train was drawn by the ‘ Northumbrian ’ engine, under the care of George Stephenson. It consisted of four state-carriages, built for the occasion, open at the sides, and made with the awnings and roofs so high that passengers could walk about with ease. This train, containing the Duke of Wellington, Sir Robert Peel, and other personages of high distinction, was placed alone on the southern line of rails. The seven other trains ?were placed upon the northern line, an interval of about six hundred yards being allowed between each train and the one following it.

The trains were started by bomb of cannon ; and for the first half of the journey all went well. At the commencement the speed was slow, but as the carriages passed through Olive Mount cutting the pace astonished the thousands who fined the slopes. Crowds who had assembled at the bridges along the fine testified their satisfaction with renewed cheers. At Parkside, where a stop was made for a fresh supply of water, an accident, however, occurred that altogether changed the character of the day’s proceedings. Mr. Huskisson, who had made the journey in the first of the seven trains on the northern fine, left his carriage at the station, and, crossing over to the state-carriages on the southern fine, paid his respects to the Duke of Wellington, with whom he had for some time been at variance. The soldier and the Member of the House of Commons had just time to exchange words of reconciliation — the Duke retaining his seat, and Mr. Huskisson standing on the fine—when the ‘Rocket’ engine, conveying its train at a moderate pace, swept up, and bore the latter gentleman to the ground, crushing his thigh bones. Without delay the injured man was lifted into one of the state-carriages, and conveyed at the rate of thirty-six miles an hour to Eccles, where in the vicar’s house he expired during the evening of the same day.

The dismay of the passengers in the other trains, as on reaching Parkside they received the sad news, was followed by uncertainty as to what course it would, under the circumstances, be best to pursue. Some thought it would be more delicate to return to Liverpool and leave the day’s journey uncompleted. Others, thinking of the multitude who awaited their arrival at Manchester, and the panic their non-appearance would create in that city, argued in favour of proceeding. The debate lasted so long that an hour and a half slipped away before the 600 or 700 passengers left Parkside. Finally, it was decided to go on to Manchester. The engines on the northern line were once more set in motion—the three state-carriages on the southern line (one carriage of the original train together with the ‘ Northumbrian’ engine was engaged in Mr. Huskisson’s service) having been previously attached by chains to the two leading locomotives on the northern line. No new difficulty awaited the expedition until it reached the commencement of the three miles of cutting, through which the line enters Manchester. At that point, to the surprise and terror of the engine-drivers, the slopes of the cutting on either side, and the railway itself, were found in the possession of a dense mass of people. Through this multitude the trains had to pass before they could reach Manchester. The authorities of the town and populous district had taken the precaution of calling out a large military force to guard the station from the encroachments of the mob. But a Lancashire mob is never docile ; and just then political discontents had made the lower orders especially unruly. The delay in the arrival of the trains, vague rumours of a fearful accident, and anxiety to behold ‘ the Duke,’ whom they cordially detested, had put the excited populace beyond the control of the military. Pushing out into the country, the crowds soon outflanked the soldiers, and took possession of the rails.

It was a trying position for Robert Stephenson, who headed the procession with the Phoenix engine, to which were attached the five carriages that constituted its train at starting. The state-carriages on the south line (from the windows of one of which the Duke of Wellington surveyed the rabble) had been once more annexed to the ‘Northumbrian.’ Slackening speed, Robert Stephenson proceeded cautiously. But caution had its disadvantages; for the more reckless of the multitude caught hold of the carriages and climbed up their sides whilst they were slowly rolling along. To complete the confusion, the political animosities of the mob broke out in acts of insult and violence. At various points of the cutting placards reflecting on the ministry were exhibited, and weaving machines were set out for inspection with brief announcements upon them of the prices of labour and bread. Brickbats also were aimed at the state-carriages. Eventually the trains reached Manchester without accident or loss of life; but only to find the station occupied by another mob. All communication between the different trains was cut off. Many of the excursionists left their seats, and fought their way through the crowd to the apartments where the Company had provided lunch. The Duke of Wellington refused to descend from his carriage, to which the mob continued to press. For some time he kept the rioters in good humour by shaking hands with their women and children; but the uproar round the state-carriages increased so much and rapidly, that, to secure the Duke from risk of assault, it was thought necessary to remove him from the tumult. Without much difficulty the ‘Northumbrian’ engine was brought round, and the train of state-carriages, containing their due complement of occupants, slowly wormed its way out of the station and through the excited multitude.

At Eccles, on the return of the Duke’s party, another mishap was added to the tale of accidents. At that station four of the seven engines from the northern were found on the southern line, taking in a fresh stock of water. Had it been possible to carry out the programme, of course these four engines would have returned to Manchester and taken up their position on the northern line before the ‘ Northumbrian ’ started but it had been found necessary to carry off the Duke without delay at any cost of trouble and confusion. The consequence was that ‘ the points and crossings ’ having been all removed except at Huyton and the two termini, there were only two moves on the board open to the players — either to take the state-carriages back to Manchester, where the Duke would certainly be received with insults, and not improbably with a shower of brickbats, or to drive the four engines before the ‘ Northumbrian ’ to Huyton (six miles from Liverpool), where they could be passed over to the northern rails and find their way to Manchester. The latter course was taken.

The four engines were ordered on before the state-train to Huyton, and the managers of the remaining three engines of the northern line, after taking in water at Eccles, conveyed to Manchester the pleasant intelligence that they were left to convey the excursionists back to Liverpool. It was not till late that these three engines (the ‘Rocket,’ the ‘North Star,’ and the ‘Arrow’) reached Manchester. Darkness was rapidly coming on. In those early days of the railway system signal lamps had not come into use. To lessen the chances of collision, which were strong in the case of three separate trains following each other closely, the carriages were formed into one train, and the three engines were connected. This long train worked through the crowd, and safely reached Eccles, where the train was stopped for the purpose of enquiring after Mr. Huskisson. On starting again, the couplings of some of the carriages broke, and had to be supplied with strong ropes. At Parkside the train was met by three of the engines which had gone on to Huyton: and these three engines, having at Huyton crossed to the north line, were ready to assist in drawing the carriages. It was determined still to adhere to the plan of having only one train. Two of the recently arrived engines were annexed to the load, and the third engine, the ‘ Comet,’ was directed to precede them at the distance of half a mile, clearing the way before them, and signalling obstacles by holding out a lighted tar-rope.

All went on favourably till Rainhill was reached, when the ascent brought the train to a standstill. To lighten the load the male passengers quitted their seats and walked up the incline, when the engines, relieved of more than half their living burden, managed to get to the summit of the rising ground. On the old racing level of Rainhill a good pace was attained, a wheelbarrow (maliciously placed on the line) being at that point run over and broken to pieces by the pilot-engine. Broad Green embankment and Olive Mount cutting were in like manner passed safely; and the train, after leaving the locomotives at Edge Hill, rattled through the tunnel to the terminus, the mile and a quarter of archway being brilliantly lighted with gas, and the feelings of an anxious multitude, who for hours had been waiting for M 2 the arrival of the excursionists, breaking forth in deafening cheers.††

An old friend of Mr. Stephenson makes the following statement:—

‘Eventful as Robert Stephenson’s life had been, the year 1830 was perhaps as much marked as any by important occurrences. In that year the Leicester and Swannington Railway was commenced, to which undertaking he was appointed engineer, the object of the line being chiefly to convey to Leicester the coal from the collieries then existing in the neighbourhood of Swannington. Early in 1831, during the progress of the Railway, the Snibston Estate, lying close to the line, was advertised to be sold by public auction. Forming his opinion from the geological features of the country, and from the coal seams which had been already worked near the surface, on a very limited scale, Robert Stephenson was satisfied that other and more valuable seams existed under the Snibston Estate. This opinion he urged upon his father so forcibly, that the latter persuaded two of his Liverpool friends, Mr. Joseph Sandars and Sir Joshua Walmsley, to join him in purchasing the Snibston Estate. In 1831 operations were commenced, and two shafts were sunk on the dip, or east side of the estate, but after getting through the keuper, or new red sandstone formation, which in that part of the district overlies the coal measures, they came upon a narrow strip of “ green whinstone,” which had descended in a fused state from the neighbouring volcanic hills of the Charnwood Forest range. This deposit proved a most formidable obstacle; but after a long process of sinking, during which so much time was expended that even Mr. Stephenson’s perseverance was nearly exhausted, the sinkers drove a bore-hole through it, and proved the coal measures underneath. This strip of “whinstone” was 20 feet thick, and so hopeless had the task of penetrating it at one time appeared, that a second pair of shafts were commenced to the westward, and in these latter pits this serious difficulty was not encountered. After two years of labour Mr. Stephenson’s foresight was rewarded by discovering at a depth of 200 yards from the surface an excellent seam, called the “ main coal,” which was shortly afterwards worked scarcely more to the advantage of the speculators than to the benefit of Leicester, the inhabitants of which town had in a great measure depended for coal on Derbyshire, the coal being brought to Leicester by canal. Upon the opening of the Leicester and Swannington Railway, the price of coals in Leicester fell nearly 40 per cent., whereby the town gained nearly £40,000 a year. The Snibston Colliery, under the intelligent management of Mr. Vaughan, has proved to be a most lucrative concern.’

In 1830 Robert Stephenson became a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers. In that same year (1830), in consequence of the success of the Stockton and Darlington line, the triumph of the locomotive, and the satisfactory state of works on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway,‡‡ a project was revived that had slept for the preceding five years. As early as 1824 a proposal was made to lay down a railway between London and Birmingham. The route of the proposed railway was surveyed in 1825, but in those hard times for speculative enterprise the project was set aside. The year 1830, however, witnessed two proposals, instead of one, for an iron road between Birmingham and the capital. The one set of projectors advocated a fine by Coventry; the other adventurers being in favour of a route through Banbury and Oxford. George Stephenson being applied to for an opinion by the competing parties, decided in favour of the Coventry route. The consequence of this decision was that the rival Companies, instead of aiding the external enemies who were ready to destroy both of them, prudently joined their forces, and with united influence applied to Parliament for a line through Coventry. George Stephenson was at first employed in conjunction with his son as engineer to make the surveys and plans, and carry the line through Parliament.

The agreement (signed September 18, 1830) between the Company and the engineers, stipulated that George Stephenson was to receive for his time actually expended on the work seven guineas per diem, and Robert Stephenson five guineas, free of all expenses. George Stephenson’s appointment, however, was little more than nominal. The surveys were made by Robert Stephenson, who in the subsequent parliamentary battles was the engineering authority of the projectors, and ultimately, on the Bill being obtained, was made ‘ engineer-in-chief ’ for carrying out the works, his father being in no way whatever associated with him. It is right that this fact should be borne in mind, as a succession of writers have credited George Stephenson with the construction of the first of our existing ‘great railways,’—the first railway connecting London with a distant seat of industry. In some inaccurate works the ‘ London and Birmingham Railway ’ is spoken of as having been constructed by George Stephenson, in others by George Stephenson and Son, in others by Messrs. Stephenson. The line was, however, constructed by Robert Stephenson alone, and to him is due the entire merit of overcoming all the gigantic obstacles to its construction.

Robert Stephenson made three distinct surveys for the London and Birmingham line, besides several minor surveys of different portions of the country, for the purpose of ascertaining whether the route could not be improved. The first survey was made in the autumn of 1830. In 1831 a second line was marked out, almost identical with the one eventually executed. The plans and sections having been deposited, and the requisite amount of shares subscribed for, an application was made to Parliament, and a Bill to enable the Company to make their proposed railway was read the first time on February 20, 1832. The third survey was made in the autumn following the last date.

The two first surveys were no slight addition to the labours and responsibilities of a young engineer, with the construction of two lines of railway already on his hands, besides the superintendence of a large engine-factory in Northumberland, and extensive mining operations in Leicestershire. In every parish through which Robert Stephenson passed, he was eyed with suspicion by the inhabitants, and not seldom was menaced with violence. The landed gentry were not alone in expressing aversion to a set of men tramping through their fields, and proposing to drive a road, with their leave or without it, across their property. The aristocracy regarded the irruption as an interference with territorial rights. The humbler classes were not less exasperated, as they feared the railway movement would injure those industrial interests by which they lived. To the residents of a market town on a turnpike road, with its ten or fifteen coaches per diem, dropping passengers at its chief hotels, a railway engineer and a ruiner of trade were convertible terms. ‘ Suppose railroads answered,’ asked critics, ‘what would be the result? would not the wealthier residents of the neighbourhood invariably travel up to London to make their purchases, and leave the poor country shopkeepers to starve?’

Nor was the opposition confined to the rural population. In London, journalists and pamphleteers, whilst they professed to discuss the new project dispassionately and ‘without prejudice,’ distributed criticisms which at the time of their delivery were manifestly absurd, and prophecies which time has signally falsified.

‘Investigator’ (in 1831), taking for the motto of his pamphlet ‘No argument like matter of fact is,’ undertook to prove by facts, that a railroad between Birmingham and London could not answer. The success of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway he accounted for by the peculiarities of the trade between those two towns, and maintained that the same system of locomotion which was admirably adapted for bales of cotton wool would fail when employed for the general convenience of the public.

Touching on the dangers and inconveniences of railway travelling ‘ Investigator ’ says —

That there are other dangers, and most formidable ones too, besides accidents to the engine, there have been too many and too melancholy proofs on the Liverpool and Manchester line. There was the late Mr. Huskisson, there was the engineer’s own brother, and there has been a number of others; the amount of whom there is said to be considerable reluctance in disclosing. In short, during the few months that elapsed between September 15, and December 15,1830, there occurred more fatal accidents upon the thirty-one miles of railway between Liverpool and Manchester, than upon all the road between Birmingham and London in as many years.

The causes of greater danger on the railway are several. A velocity of fifteen miles an hour is in itself a great source of danger, as the smallest obstacle might produce the most serious consequences. If, at that rate, the engine, or any forward part of the train, should suddenly stop, the whole would be cracked by the collision like nutshells. At all turnings there is a danger that the latter part of the train may swing off the rails; and, if that takes place, the most serious consequences must ensue before the whole train can be stopped. The line, too, upon which the train must be steered admits of little lateral deviation, while a stage coach has a choice of the whole roadway. Independently of the velocity, which in coaches is the chief source of danger, there are many perils on the railway: the rails stand up like so many thick knives, and anyone alighting on them would have but a slight chance for his life. On a road crowded with engines, the escape from the rails would avail him but little, as before he could recover himself from a slight stunning, a train on the next rails would be up, and before the conductor could arrest the progress of that he would be cut asunder.....Another consideration which would deter travellers, more especially invalids, ladies, and children, from making use of the railways, would be the want of accommodation along the line, unless the directors of the railway chose to build inns, as commodious as those on the present line of road. But those inns the directors would have in part to support also, because they would be out of the way of any business except that arising from the railway, and that would be so trifling and so accidental that the landlords could not afford to keep either a cellar or a larder.

Commercial travellers, who stop and do business in all the towns, and by so doing render commerce much cheaper than it otherwise would be, and who give that constant support to the houses of entertainment which makes them able to supply the occasional traveller well and at a cheap rate, would, as a matter of course, never by any chance go by the railroad; and the occasional traveller, who went the same route for pleasure, would go by the coach-road also, because of the cheerful company and comfortable dinner.

Not one of the nobility, the gentry, or those who travel in their own carriages, would, by any chance, go by the railway. A nobleman would really not like to be drawn at the tail of a train of waggons, in which some hundreds of bars of iron were jingling with a noise that would drown all the bells of the district, and in the momentary apprehension of having his vehicle broke to pieces and himself killed or crippled by the collision of those thirty-ton masses.

An unfair attempt has been made in various quarters to throw obloquy on the aristocratic classes of the country, by representing them as the especial opponents of the earlier railways. As the chief owners of property required by the projectors of the new roads, the functions of opposition were principally discharged by them; but their antagonism to the novel system was admired and encouraged by all sections of society. Corporations of provincial boroughs, tradesmen of petty towns, small yeomen, trustees and mortgagees of turnpike tolls, in short, all holders of vested interests, were zealous to crush at their first appearance undertakings which were sure to disturb and not unlikely to prejudice existing arrangements. Small proprietors fought against the Stephensons to their utmost. The great ones of the earth could do no more. At this date the reader laughs at ‘ Investigator’s ’ arguments and fears; but thirty years since, before railways were affairs of familiar knowledge, many a reader who now despises ‘ Investigator ’ would have thought him very clever, sound, and practical.

In spite of the prevailing antagonism to railways the Bill for the London and Birmingham line passed the Commons in 1832 after hard fighting. In the House of Lords, however, the result was different. The Lords’ Committee came to the conclusion, ‘That the case for the promoters of the Bill having been concluded, it does not appear to the Committee that they have made out such a case as would warrant the forcing of the proposed railway through the lands and property of so great a proportion of the dissentient landowners and proprietors.’

In the parliamentary progress of the Bill, Robert Stephenson was subjected to searching cross-examination, but, ready as well as resolute, quick as well as patient, he was a difficult witness for opposing lawyers to deal with.

It was, however, a trying ordeal — trying alike to his temper and his knowledge. His want of professional experience was superciliously suggested, his answer was a curt statement of what he had done. It was insinuated that he and his father would supply the petitioning Company with inferior locomotives, and shut out from competition the superior engines of rival manufacturers. His reply was that the Company would know how to take care of themselves.

Of the exertions made by Robert Stephenson to get the Bill through Parliament the following story will afford an example. The opposing counsel directed all their powers before the Commons’ Committee to show that Robert Stephenson was ignorant of the geological conditions of the country, and consequently proposed to make his cuttings through the Tring Ridge at so small an angle that the sides of the excavation would fall in upon the way. The argument of course was that, since this mistake had been made by the engineer, the estimates were enormously beneath the sum required for the undertaking, as the increase of the angle of a cutting would greatly increase the labour and expense at which it could be completed. It was to no purpose that Robert Stephenson offered to stake his reputation that his calculations were reliable. The barristers ridiculed his assurances, and the Committee were evidently impressed by the objection. Leaving the Committee- room with his examination still unfinished, though he had been subjected for three days to a cross-fire of questions, Robert Stephenson took counsel within himself what he should do. He remembered that there was at Dunstable a cutting through the same formation. The cutting was Telford’s work. How could he ascertain the angle of Telford’s cutting ? How could he establish the point? The question was soon answered. He had not been in bed for four nights, and he had work before him that would keep him in town till past midnight; but nevertheless he determined to visit Dunstable before again entering the Committeeroom. At midnight he supped, and then had a short nap, from which he roused himself to get into a postchaise with his friend Mr. Thomas Longridge Gooch. By dawn the two young men were at Dunstable. By ten o’clock they were in counsel’s chambers in London, with the intelligence that they could go into the Committee-room and testify that the angle of Telford’s cutting, which had stood the test of time, was the same as the angle of the cuttings provided for in the estimates.

But toil, patience, forbearance, were all thrown away. The result of the enquiry, foreseen as it was by those who were better acquainted with the animus of the Committee, had not been anticipated by Robert Stephenson, and he was deeply chagrined at the rejection. His mortification was so manifest that Lord Wharncliffe, the chairman of the Committee, took him aside and said with characteristic kindness, ‘ My young friend, don’t take this to heart. The decision is against you; but you have made such a display of power that your fortune is made for life.' These words of sympathy and commendation, coming from a nobleman who, as one of the ‘grand alhes,’ had been amongst his father’s earhest employers and patrons, went to the young man’s heart, and with emotion he often recalled them in after life, when he reviewed the earlier battles of his career, or himself held out an aiding hand to struggling merit.

The adverse decision which called forth Lord Wharnclifie’s generous sympathy was the signal for the enemies of the two Stephensons to renew their efforts to make both father and son the objects of pubhc suspicion. Robert Stephenson was no exception to the rule that envy is the shadow of success. At this date it would be an ungrateful and a useless task to drag into notoriety the persons who from private pique or professional jealousy used unworthy means to lower the reputation of the two greatest engineers of this or any other age. Robert Stephenson wisely paid no attention to malicious rumours.

But when a distinguished scientific writer, who had been misled by detractors, availed himself of his position, on the staff of the ‘ Edinburgh Review,’ to give the stamp of authority to erroneous statements, Mr. Charles Lawrence, the chairman of the ‘ Liverpool and Manchester Railway,’ officially published a complete refutation of the writer’s groundless accusations.

Notwithstanding the rejection of their Bill, the projectors of the London and Birmingham Railway Company were not disheartened. On Friday, July 13, 1832, the first Friday after the rejection of the petition, a public meeting of persons favourably disposed to the Railway was held at the Thatched House Tavern. Sixteen peers and thirty-three members of the House of Commons were present. The chairman of the Commons’ Committee was one of the representatives of the Lower House, and Lord Wharnchffe, the chairman of the Lords’ Committee, presided at the meeting. Two resolutions were put and carried unanimously. The first resolution, moved by the Earl of Denbigh, and seconded by Sir J. Skipwith, M.P., was —

That, in the opinion of this meeting a railway from London to Birmingham will be productive of very great national benefit.

The second resolution, moved by the Earl of Aylesford, and seconded by Sir Edward D. Scott, Bart., M.P., was—

That the Bill for effecting this important object having passed the House of Commons after a long and rigorous examination of its merits, it must be presumed that its failure in the House of Lords has arisen from apprehensions on the part of landowners and proprietors respecting its probable effect on their estates, which this meeting firmly and conscientiously believes to be ill-founded.

This demonstration had an immediate effect on the country. It was felt by those who had opposed the measure from jealous anxiety for the interests of property, that they had not much to fear from the new road, when landed proprietors of high character and hereditary possessions could be found to support such resolutions. It was learnt also that Lord Sefton and Lord Derby, the strenuous opponents of the Liverpool and Manchester line, had become so far converts to the railway system as to have been supporters of the London and Birmingham project. The opposition, which refused to be influenced by such authority, was found not unwilling to listen to other considerations. The bribe reached where reason could find no entrance. In some cases enormous sums of money were paid for the acres of obstinate landowners. The consequence was that in the session of 1833, on the renewal of the petition (Robert Stephenson having in the meantime made a third survey of the fine) a Bill was obtained, giving the directors power to construct their line.

It now remained for the directors to appoint an engineer for the accomplishment of the task. Robert Stephenson had high hopes of getting the post. His energy in making the survey, and his conduct as a witness before committees, had won for him many new and powerful friends. But he was still young - very young - to be engineer-in- chief to such an undertaking. In the directory, there were of course several persons who honestly mistrusted young genius.

Writing to Robert Stephenson on May 28, 1838, Mr. Creed, one of the secretaries of the Railway, says — ‘ Nothing is said as to the appointment of engineer or solicitor, but I think you may be easy on that head. You have friends here and at Birmingham who appreciate your merits and services.’ It was not, however, till just four months after the date of this letter that Robert Stephenson signed the contract that secured to him the post for which he had fought so zealously. In his notebook, under date September 20, 1833, is the following entry: — ‘ Signed contract with the London and Birmingham Railway directors, before Mr. Barker, at the Hum- mums, Covent Garden. Dined with Stanhope directors.’

On receiving the appointment of engineer-in-chief to the London and Birmingham Railway, Robert Stephenson broke up his modest establishment in Greenfield Place and took a comfortable house on Haverstock Hill, Hampstead Road, where he continued to reside for many years. Prom this time London became his home, and though he frequently visited Newcastle (the spirit of which enterprising and noble town had contributed greatly to form his character) and continued till his death to superintend the affairs of the engine manufactory, he never again had a home on the banks of the Tyne.

His residence in Newcastle had been broken by repeated periods of absence, during which he superintended works •for his father, made trips to London and the continent, constructed the Warrington line, and the Leicester and Swannington Railway, surveyed the route for the London and Birmingham line, and directed the first operations at the Snibston colliery. These periods of absence reduce the time of his Newcastle life to a comparatively short term.

Still into that brief space much work and happiness had been compressed.

Numerous engagements left him little time for society. His domestic life, therefore, was strictly private, only three or four close friends being admitted to his house. One of those few intimate associates still lives to recall the happy evenings they occasionally spent in Greenfield Place, with music, talk, and cigars.

To these evening parties the pupils at the works were frequently invited. To limit the number of these pupils it was soon found necessary to raise the premium. Even at the increased rate there were found too many candidates for admission to ‘ the works and Robert Stephenson, whose sense of duty would not allow him to pocket a premium and give just nothing in return for it, resolutely declined to receive more than such a number of pupils as he conscientiously believed would profit by the opportunities offered them of acquiring information.

Inasmuch (Robert wrote from Dieppe, July ll, 1833, to his partner Mr. Richardson) as my own feelings are concerned, I should have no objections to receiving another apprentice into our establishment. The objections that exist are these. We have at present as many, indeed more, young men than we can sufficiently employ. If we increase the number (which we have very frequent opportunities of doing) we should only be doing the young men injustice, because they would not have proper and sufficient experience to learn the profession. They would be inadequately employed, and would consequently contract habits not calculated to advance them in after life. We are at present under an engagement to take a friend of Mr. Lock’s (the Marquis of Stafford’s agent), and when he comes our office will be really too full, even when I look forward to the London and Birmingham Railway going on. Taking young men, although it may be a profitable part of our business, is one that incurs great responsibility, which we feel is now as great as it ought to be. If these objections had not existed, it would have afforded both my father and self very great pleasure to take any young man introduced by you.

One of the pleasant features of Robert Stephenson’s career was the strong personal attachment he formed for his pupils when they were young men of capacity and character. He never forgot or lost sight of them. A pupil of the ‘ right sort ’ was sure to win his approval and notice, and the pupil who had so earned his good opinion was sure to reap advantage from it. On the other hand, Robert Stephenson never considered himself either bound, or at liberty, to recommend for advancement an old apprentice, when he could not do so honestly. I can do nothing for you, unless you like to stop here as an ordinary workman,’ he said to more than one pupil when his time was out: but then the young men to whom he so spoke merited no other treatment.

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