Lives of George and Robert Stephenson by Samuel Smiles: Preface
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 engineer.
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 8,300 miles of double railway, it has during the last ten years expended about 200 millions more in constructing 5,600 additional miles.
But the construction of railways has proceeded with equal rapidity on the Continent. France has now 9,624 miles at work; Germany (including Austria), 13,392 miles; Spain, 3,161 miles; Sweden, 1,100 miles; Belgium, 1,073 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 2,800 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-utan 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 Kiviere 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.
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, 1,843 miles were finished and in operation. In ten more years, 8,827 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.
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 bugle-man 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.
Every thing was found to have been in the first instance made too light and too slight. The prize "Rocket," which weighed only 4-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 railway.
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 London and 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! 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 relaid 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 of steel.
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 5e?. a mile; whereas above 313 millions are now carried by railway an average distance of 8 miles each, at an average cost of Is. \\d. per passenger, or about three halfpence 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, V276 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 Inverness.
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 already realized.
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 years.
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, points-men 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 186,000 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 tram 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 84f 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 daily.
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 "Ville traversee, 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.
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 Beef -eater 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 unnecessary.
As a show, the Greenwich Railway proved tolerably successful. During the first eleven months it carried 456,750 passengers, or an average of about 1,300 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 Railway 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.
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, 17,535,502; the South Eastern Railway, 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.
To accommodate this vast traffic, not fewer than 3,600 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 miles! 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 ???? between 1851 and 1861; and during the same period, that of Holborn, the Strand, St. Martin's-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 958,863, 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, 441,753; 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!" 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 character.
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 seacoast, 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 metropolis.
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, 151,757 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 rattle 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 \d. 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 24,500 tons were delivered by the former, and 22,000 tons, brought from much longer distances, 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.
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, for 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 of eggs.
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 Railway 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. Headers 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 country towns.
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 186Y; then the Great Northern, 455,916 gallons; the South Eastern Railway, 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. K. 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 consumer:
Sea-borne Coal Coals brought by Railway.
Price per Ton.
1827 1847 1857 1867 Tons.
1,882,321 3,280,420 3,133,459 3,016,416 Tons.
nil 19,336 1,206,775 3,295,652 8. d.
28 6 20 10 18 8 20 8
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.
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 5 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 44J 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 98 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 must be very considerable.
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 15 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 3 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 weight, 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,  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.
PREFACE 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 publication.
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, C.E.; and Mr. Binns, of Claycross, 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 enginewright, 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.
- Lives of George and Robert Stephenson by Samuel Smiles
- Lives of George and Robert Stephenson by Samuel Smiles: Part 1: Chapter 1
- "The Railway Service, its Exigencies, Provisions, and Requirements." By W. F. Mills. London, 1867.