Railway Adventures and Anecdotes - extending over more than fifty years
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The Railway Traveller's Handy Book.


Shortly after telegraphs were laid alongside of railways, a principal officer of a railway company got into a compartment of a stopping train at an intermediate station. The train had hardly left, when an elderly gentleman, in terms of endearment, invited what turned out to be a little Skye terrier to come out of its concealment under the seat. The dog came out, jumped up, and appeared to enjoy his journey until the speed of the train slackened previous to stopping at a station, the dog then instinctively retreated to its hiding place, and came out again in due course after the train had started. The officer of the company left the train at a station or two afterwards. On its arrival at the London ticket platform the gentleman delivered up the tickets for his party. "Dog ticket, sir, please." "Dog ticket, what dog ticket?" "Ticket, sir, for Skye terrier, black and tan, with his ears nearly over his eyes; travelling, for comfort's sake, under the seat opposite to you, sir, in a large carpet bag, red ground with yellow cross-bars." The gentleman found resistance useless; he paid the fare demanded, when the ticket-collector—who throughout the scene had never changed a muscle—handed him a ticket that he had prepared beforehand. "Dog ticket, sir; gentlemen not allowed to travel with a dog without a dog ticket; you will have to give it up in London." "Yes, but how did you know I had a dog? That's what puzzles me!" "Ah, sir," said the ticket-collector, relaxing a little, but with an air of satisfaction, "the telegraph is laid on our railway. Them's the wires you see on the outside; we find them very useful in our business, etc. Thank you, sir, good morning." It is needless to tell what part the principal officer played in this little drama. On arrival in London the dog ticket was duly claimed, a little word to that effect having been sent up by a previous train to be sure to have it demanded, although, as a usual practice, dog tickets are collected at the same time as those of passengers.

Roney's Rambles on Railways.


The first application of the telegraph to police purposes took place in 1844, on the Great Western Railway, and, as it was the first intimation thieves got of the electric constable being on duty, it is full of interest. The following extracts are from the telegraph book kept at the Paddington Station:—

"Eton Montem Day, August 28, 1844.—The Commissioners of Police having issued orders that several officers of the detective force shall be stationed at Paddington to watch the movements of suspicious persons, going by the down train, and give notice by the electric telegraph to the Slough station of the number of such suspected persons, and dress, their names (if known), also the carriages in which they are."

Now come the messages following one after the other, and influencing the fate of the marked individuals with all the celerity, certainty, and calmness of the Nemesis of the Greek drama:—

"Paddington, 10.20 a.m.—Mail train just started. It contains three thieves, named Sparrow, Burrell, and Spurgeon, in the first compartment of the fourth first-class carriage."

"Slough, 10.50 a.m.—Mail train arrived. The officers have cautioned the three thieves."

"Paddington, 10.50 a.m.—Special train just left. It contained two thieves; one named Oliver Martin, who is dressed in black, crape on his hat; the other named Fiddler Dick, in black trousers and light blouse. Both in the third compartment of the first second-class carriage."

"Slough, 11.16 a.m.—Special train arrived. Officers have taken the two thieves into custody, a lady having lost her bag, containing a purse with two sovereigns and some silver in it; one of the sovereigns was sworn to by the lady as having been her property. It was found in Fiddler Dick's watch fob."

It appears that, on the arrival of the train, a policeman opened the door of the "third compartment of the first second-class carriage," and asked the passengers if they had missed anything? A search in pockets and bags accordingly ensued, until one lady called out that her purse was gone.

"Fiddler Dick, you are wanted," was the immediate demand of the police officer, beckoning to the culprit, who came out of the carriage thunder-struck at the discovery, and gave himself up, together with the booty, with the air of a completely beaten man. The effect of the capture so cleverly brought about is thus spoken of in the telegraph book:—

"Slough, 11.51 a.m.—Several of the suspected persons who came by the various down-trains are lurking about Slough, uttering bitter invectives against the telegraph. Not one of those cautioned has ventured to proceed to the Montem."


Sir Francis Head in his account of the London and North-Western Railway remarks:—"During a marriage which very lately took place at —, one of the bridesmaids was so deeply affected by the ceremony that she took the opportunity of the concentrated interest excited by the bride to elope from church with an admirer. The instant her parents discovered their sad loss, messengers were sent to all the railway stations to stop the fugitives. The telegraph also went to work, and with such effect that, before night, no less than four affectionate couples legitimately married that morning were interrupted on their several marriage jaunts and most seriously bothered, inconvenienced, and impeded by policemen and magistrates."


An incident of an amusing though of a rather serious nature occurred some years ago on the London and South-Western Railway. A gentleman, whose place of residence was Maple Derwell, near Basingstoke, got into a first-class carriage at the Waterloo terminus, with the intention of proceeding home by one of the main line down trains. His only fellow-passengers in the compartment were a lady and an infant, and another gentleman, and thus things remained until the arrival of the train at Walton, where the other gentleman left the carriage, leaving the first gentleman with the lady and child. Shortly after this the train reached the Weybridge station, and on its stopping the lady, under the pretence of looking for her servant or carriage, requested her male fellow-passenger to hold the infant for a few minutes while she went to search for what she wanted. The bell rang for the starting of the train and the gentleman thus strangely left with the baby began to get rather fidgety, and anxious to return his charge to the mother. The lady, however, did not again put in any appearance, and the train went on without her, the child remaining with the gentleman, who, on arriving at his destination took the child home to his wife and explained the circumstance under which it came into his possession. No application has, at present, it is understood, been made for the "lost child," which has for the nonce been adopted by the gentleman and his wife, who, it is said, are without any family of their own.


Sir Francis Head remarks:—"The gigantic power of the locomotive engines hourly committed to the charge of these drivers was lately strangely exemplified in the large engine stable at the Camden Station. A passenger engine, whose furnace-fire had but shortly been lighted, was standing in this huge building surrounded by a number of artificers, who, in presence of the chief superintendent, were working in various directions around it. While they were all busily occupied, the fire in the furnace—by burning up faster than was expected—suddenly imparted to the engine the breath of life; and no sooner had the minimum of steam necessary to move it been thus created, than this infant Hercules not only walked off, but without the smallest embarrassment walked through the 14-inch brick wall of the great building which contained it, to the terror of the superintendent and workmen, who expected every instant that the roof above their heads would fall in and extinguish them. In consequence of the spindle of the regulator having got out of its socket the very same accident occurred shortly afterwards with another engine, which, in like manner, walked through another portion of this 14-inch wall of the stable that contained it, just as a thorough-bred horse would have walked out of the door. And if such be the irresistible power of the locomotive engine when feebly walking in its new-born state, unattended or unassisted even by its tender, is it not appalling to reflect what must be its momentum when, in the full vigour of its life, it is flying down a steep gradient at the rate of 50 miles an hour, backed up by, say, 30 passenger carriages, each weighing on an average 5.5 tons? If ordinary houses could suddenly be placed in its path, it would, passengers and all, run through them as a musket-ball goes through a keg of butter; but what would be the result if, at this full speed, the engine by any accident were to be diverted against a mass of solid rock, such as sometimes is to be seen at the entrance of a tunnel, it is impossible to calculate or even to conjecture. It is stated by the company's superintendent, who witnessed the occurrence, that some time ago an ordinary accident happening to a luggage train near Loughborough, the wagons overrode each other until the uppermost one was found piled 40 feet above the rails!"


In the early days of railway enterprise there was often much difficulty in obtaining the punctual payment of calls from the shareholders. The Leicester and Swannington line was thus troubled. The Secretary, adopting a rather novel way to collect the calls, wrote to the defaulters:—"I am therefore necessitated to inform you, that unless the sum of 2 pounds is paid on or before the 22nd instant, your name will be furnished to one of the principal and most pressing creditors of the company." The missives of the Secretary generally had the desired effect.


The elder Brunel was habitually absent in society, but no man was more remarkable for presence of mind in an emergency. Numerous instances are recorded of this latter quality, but none more striking than that of his adventure in the act of inspecting the Birmingham Railway. Suddenly in a confined part of the road a train was seen approaching from either end of the line, and at a speed which it was difficult to calculate. The spectators were horrified; there was not an instant to be lost; but an instant sufficed to the experienced engineer to determine the safest course under the circumstances. Without attempting to cross the road, which would have been almost certain destruction, he at once took his position exactly midway between the up and down lines, and drawing the skirts of his coat close around him, allowed the two trains to sweep past him; when to the great relief of those who witnessed the exciting scene, he was found untouched upon the road. Without the engineer's experience which enabled him to form so rapid a decision, there can be no doubt that he must have perished.

The Temple Anecdotes.


Mr. Charles F. Adams thus describes it:—"On the 8th of May, 1842, there happened in France one of the most famous and horrible railroad slaughters ever recorded. It was the birthday of the king, Louis Phillipe, and, in accordance with the usual practice, the occasion had been celebrated at Versailles by a great display of the fountains. At half-past five o'clock these had stopped playing, and a general rush ensued for the trains then about to leave for Paris. That which went by the road along the left bank of the Seine was densely crowded, and was so long that it required two locomotives to draw it. As it was moving at a high rate of speed between Bellevue and Menden, the axle of the foremost of these two locomotives broke, letting the body of the engine drop to the ground. It instantly stopped, and the second locomotive was then driven by its impetus on top of the first, crushing its engineer and fireman, while the contents of both the fire-boxes were scattered over the roadway and among the debris. Three carriages crowded with passengers were then piled on top of this burning mass, and there crushed together into each other. The doors of the train were all locked, as was then, and indeed is still, the custom in Europe, and it so chanced that the carriages had all been newly painted. They blazed up like pine kindlings. Some of the carriages were so shattered that a portion of those in them were enabled to extricate themselves, but no less than forty were held fast; and of these such as were not so fortunate as to be crushed to death in the first shock perished hopelessly in the flames before the eyes of a throng of impotent lookers-on. Some fifty-two or fifty-three persons were supposed to have lost their lives in this disaster, and more than forty others were injured; the exact number of the killed, however, could never be ascertained, as the telescoping of the carriages on top of the two locomotives had made of the destroyed portion of the train a visible holocaust of the most hideous description. Not only did whole families perish together—in one case no less than eleven members of the same family sharing a common fate—but the remains of such as were destroyed could neither be identified nor separated. In one case a female foot was alone recognisable, while in others the bodies were calcined and fused into an undistinguishable mass. The Academy of Sciences appointed a committee to inquire whether Admiral D'Urville, a distinguished French navigator, was among the victims. His body was thought to be found, but it was so terribly mutilated that it could be recognized only by a sculptor, who chanced some time before to have taken a phrenological cast of his skull. His wife and only son had perished with him.

"It is not easy now to conceive the excitement and dismay which this catastrophe caused throughout France. The new invention was at once associated in the minds of an excitable people with novel forms of imminent death. France had at best been laggard enough in its adoption of the new appliance, and now it seemed for a time as if the Versailles disaster was to operate as a barrier in the way of all further railroad development. Persons availed themselves of the steam roads already constructed as rarely as possible, and then in fear and trembling, while steps were taken to substitute horse for steam power on other roads then in process of construction."


Mr. Williams in his book, Our Iron Roads, gives an account of a foolish act of signalling to stop a train; he says:—"An Irishman, who appears to have been in some measure acquainted with the science of signalling, was on one occasion walking along the Great Western line without permission, when he thought he might reduce his information to practical use. Accordingly, on seeing an express train approach, he ran a short distance up the side of the cutting, and began to wave a handkerchief very energetically, which he had secured to a stick, as a signal to stop. The warning was not to be disregarded, and never was command obeyed with greater alacrity. The works of the engine were reversed—the tender and van breaks were applied—and soon, to the alarm of the passengers, the train came to a 'dead halt.' A hundred heads were thrust out of the carriage windows, and the guard had scarcely time to exclaim, 'What's the matter?' when Paddy, with a knowing touch of his 'brinks,' asked his 'honour if he would give him a bit of a ride?' So polite and ingenuous a request was not to be denied, and, though biting his lips with annoyance, the officer replied 'Oh, certainly; jump in here,' and the pilgrim was ensconced in the luggage van. But instead of having his ride 'for his thanks,' the functionary duly handed him over to the magisterial authorities, that he might be taught the important lesson, that railway companies did not keep express trains for Irish beggars, and that such costly machinery was not to be imperilled with impunity, either by their freaks or their ignorance."


In the early days of railways, the signal of alarm was given by the blowing of a horn. In the year, 1833, an accident occurred on the Leicester and Swannington railway near Thornton, at a level crossing, through an engine running against a horse and cart. Mr. Bagster, the manager, after narrating the circumstance to George Stephenson, asked "Is it not possible to have a whistle fitted on the engine, which the steam can blow?" "A very good thought," replied Stephenson. "You go to Mr. So-and-So, a musical instrument maker, and get a model made, and we will have a steam whistle, and put it on the next engine that comes on the line." When the model was made it was sent to the Newcastle factory and future engines had the whistle fitted on them.


Mr. C. F. Adams, remarks:—"Indeed, from the time of Mr. Huskisson's death, during the period of over eleven years, railroads enjoyed a remarkable and most fortunate exemption from accidents. During all that time there did not occur a single disaster resulting in any considerable loss of life. This happy exemption was probably due to a variety of causes. Those early roads were in the first place, remarkably well and thoroughly built, and were very cautiously operated under a light volume of traffic. The precautions then taken and the appliances in use would, it is true, strike the modern railroad superintendent as both primitive and comical; for instance, they involve the running of independent pilot locomotives in advance of all night passenger trains, and it was, by the way, on a pioneer locomotive of this description, on the return trip of the excursion party from Manchester after the accident to Mr. Huskisson, that the first recorded attempt was made in the direction of our present elaborate system of night signals. On that occasion obstacles were signalled to those in charge of the succeeding trains by a man on the pioneer locomotive, who used for that purpose a bit of lighted tarred rope. Through all the years between 1830 and 1841, nevertheless, not a single serious railroad disaster had to be recorded. Indeed, the luck—for it was nothing else—of these earlier times was truly amazing. Thus on this same Liverpool and Manchester road, as a first-class train on the morning of April 17, 1836, was moving at a speed of some thirty miles an hour, an axle broke under the first passenger carriage, causing the whole train to leave the rails and throwing it down the embankment, which at that point was twenty feet high. The carriages were rolled over, and the passengers in them turned topsy-turvy; nor, as they were securely locked in, could they even extricate themselves when at last the wreck of the train reached firm bearings. And yet no one was killed."


In rails, the same system has prevailed. Ironmasters have been pitted against each other, as to which should produce an apparent rail at the lowest price. At the outset of railways the rails were made of iron. Competition gradually produced rails in which a core, of what is technically called "cinder," is covered up with a skin of iron; and the cleverest foreman for an ironmaster was the man who could make rails with the maximum of cinder and the minimum of iron. In more than one instance has it been known in relaying an old line the worn-out rails have been sold at a higher price per ton than the new ones were bought for; yet this would hardly open the eyes of the buyers. The contrivances which are resorted to to get hold of one another's prices beforehand by competing contractors are manifold; and, when they attend in person, they commonly put off the filling up of their tender till the last moment. Once a shrewd contractor found himself at the same inn with a rival who always trod close on his heels. He was followed about and cross-questioned incessantly, and gave vague answers. Within half-an-hour of the last moment he went into the coffee room and sat himself down in a corner where his rival could not overlook him. There and then he filled up his tender, and, as he rose from the table, left behind him the paper on which he had blotted it. As he left the room his rival caught up the blotting paper, and, with the exulting glee of a consciously successful rival, read off the amount backwards. "Done this time!" was his mental thought, as he filled up his own tender a dollar lower, and hastened to deposit it. To his utter surprise, the next day he found that he had lost the contract, and complainingly asked his rival how it was, for he had tendered below him. "How did you know you were below me?" "Because I found your blotting paper." "I thought so. I left it on purpose for you, and wrote another tender in my bedroom. You had better make your own calculations next time!"

Roads and Rails, by W. B. Adams.


A writer in the Encyclopaedia Britannica remarks:—"The expenses, direct and incidental, of obtaining an Act of Parliament have been in many cases enormous, and generally are excessive. The adherence to useless and expensive forms of Parliamentary Committees in what are called the standing orders, or general regulations for the observance of promoters of railway bills, on the one part, and the itching for opposition of railway companies, to resist fancied inroads on vested rights, supposed injurious competition, on the other part, have been amongst the sources of excessive expenditure. Mr. Stephenson mentioned an instance showing how Parliament has entailed expense upon railway companies by the system complained of. The Trent Valley Railway was under other titles originally proposed in 1836. It was, however, thrown out by the standing orders committee, in consequence of a barn of the value of 10 pounds, which was shown upon the general plan, not having been exhibited upon an enlarged sheet. In 1840, the line again went before Parliament. It was opposed by the Grand Junction Railway Company, now part of the London and North-Western. No less than 450 allegations were made against it before the standing orders subcommittee, which was engaged twenty-two days in considering those objections. They ultimately reported that four or five of the allegations were proved, but the committee nevertheless allowed the bill to proceed. It was read a second time and then went into committee, by whom it was under consideration for sixty-three days; and ultimately Parliament was prorogued before the report could be made. Such were the delays and consequent expenses which the forms of the House occasioned in this case, that it may be doubted if the ultimate cost of constructing the whole line was very much more than was expended in obtaining permission from Parliament to make it. This example serves to show the expensive formalities, the delays, and difficulties, with which Parliament surround railway legislation. Another instance, quoted by the same authority, will show not only the absurdity of the system of legislation, but also the afflicting spirit of competition and opposition with which railway bills are canvassed in Parliament, and the expensive outlay incurred by companies themselves.

"In 1845, a bill for a line now existing went before Parliament with eighteen competitors, each party relying on the wisdom of Parliament to allow their bill at least to pass a second reading! Nineteen different parties condemned to one scene of contentious litigation! They each and all had to pay not only the costs of promoting their own line, but also the costs of opposing eighteen other bills. And yet conscious as government must have been of this fact, Parliament deliberately abandoned the only step it ever took on any occasion of subjecting railway projects to investigation by a preliminary tribunal. Parliamentary committees generally satisfied themselves with looking on and watching the ruinous game of competition for which the public are ultimately to pay. In fact, railway legislation became a mere scramble, conducted on no system or principle. Schemes of sound character were allowed to be defeated on merely technical grounds, and others of very inferior character were sanctioned by public act, after enormous Parliamentary expenses had been incurred. Competing lines were granted, sometimes parallel lines through the same district, and between the same towns."


A writer in the Popular Encyclopaedia observes:—"But the most conspicuous example in recent times, which overshadowed all others, of excessive expenditure in Parliamentary litigation as well as in land and compensation, is supplied in the history of the Great Northern Company. The preliminary expenses of surveys, notices to landowners, etc., commenced in 1844, and the Bill was introduced into the House of Commons in 1845, when it was opposed by the London and North-Western, the Eastern Counties, and the Midland Railways. It was further opposed successively by two other schemes, called the London and York and the Direct Northern. The contest lasted eighty-two days before the House of Commons, more than half the time having been consumed by opposition to the Bill. The Bill was allowed to stand over till next year (1846), when it began, before the Committee of the House of Lords, where it left off in the Lower House in the year 1845 on account of the magnitude of the case. The Bill was before the Upper House between three and four weeks, and in the same year (1846) it was granted. The promoters of the rival projects were bought off, and all their expenses paid, including the costs of the opposition of the neighbouring lines already named, before the Great Northern bill was passed; and the 'preliminary expenses,' comprising the whole expenditure of every kind up to the passing of the bill was 590,355 pounds, or more than half-a-million sterling, incurred at the end of two years of litigation. Subsequently to the passing of the Act an additional sum of 172,722 pounds was expended for law engineering expenses in Parliament to 31st December, 1857, which was spent almost wholly in obtaining leave from Parliament to make various alterations. Thus it would appear that a sum total of 763,077 pounds was spent as Parliamentary charges for obtaining leave to construct 245 miles, being at the rate of 3,118 pounds per mile."


"I have been a rector for many years," writes a clergyman, "and have often heard and read of tithe-pigs, though I have never met with a specimen of them. But I had once a little pig given to me which was of a choice breed, and only just able to leave his mother. I had to convey him by carriage to the X station; from thence, twenty-three miles to Y station, and from thence, eighty-two miles to Z station, and from there, eight miles by carriage. I had a comfortable rabbit-hutch of a box made for him, with a supply of fresh cabbages for his dinner on the road. I started off with my wife, children, and nurse; and of these impediments piggy proved to be the most formidable. First, a council of war was held over him at X station by the railway officials, who finally decided that this small porker must travel as 'two dogs.' Two dog tickets were therefore procured for him; and so we journeyed on to Y station. There a second council of war was held, and the officials of Y said that the officials of X (another line) might be prosecuted for charging my piggy as two dogs, but that he must travel to Z as a horse, and that he must have a huge horse-box entirely to himself for the next eighty-two miles. I declined to pay for the horse-box—they refused to let me have my pig—officials swarmed around me—the station master advised me to pay for the horse-box and probably the company would return the extra charge. I scorned the probability, having no faith in the company—the train (it was a London express) was already detained ten minutes by this wrangle; and finally I whirled away bereft of my pig. I felt sure that he would be forwarded by the next train, but as that would not reach Z till a late hour in the evening, and it was Saturday, I had to tell my pig tale to the officials; and not only so, but to go to the adjacent hotel and hire a pig-stye till the Monday, and fee a porter for seeing to the pig until I could send a cart for him on that day. Of course the pig was sent after me by the next train; and as the charge for him was less than a halfpenny a mile, I presume he was not considered to be a horse. Yet this fact remains—and it is worth the attention of the Zoological Society, if not of railway officials—that this small porker was never recognised as a pig, but began his railway journey as two dogs, and was then changed into a horse."


Mr., afterwards Sir S. Morton Peto, having undertaken the construction of certain railways in East Anglia, was at this time in the habit of spending a considerable part of the year in the neighbourhood of Norwich, and, with his family, joined Mr. Brock's congregation. It will afterwards appear how many important movements turned upon the friendship which was thus formed; but it is only now to be noted that, in the course of frequent conversations, the practicability was discussed of attempting something which might serve to interest and improve the large number of labourers employed on the works in progress. They were part of that peculiar body of men which had been gradually formed during a long course of years for employment in the construction, first of navigable canals, and then of railways, and called, from their earlier occupation, "navvies." They were drawn from diverse parts of the British Islands, and professed, in some instances, hostile forms of religion, but were distinguished chiefly by extreme ignorance and all but total spiritual insensibility. They had, at the same time, a common life and an unwritten law, affecting their relations to each other, their employers, and the rest of the world. That they were accessible to kind attentions—clearly disinterested—followed from their being men, but they required to be approached with the greatest caution and patience. Mr. Brock's wide and various sympathy, joined with his friend's steady support, led—under the divine blessing—to measures which proved very successful. Mr. Peto constructed commodious halls capable of being moved onward as the line of railway advanced, and affording comfortable shelter for the men in their leisure hours, and furnished with books and publications supplying amusement, useful information, and religious knowledge. To give life to this apparatus, Christian men, carefully selected, mingled familiarly with the rude but grateful toilers, helping them to read and write, encouraging them to acquire self-command, and above all, especially when they were convened on Sundays, presenting and pressing home upon them the words of eternal life.

Mr. Brock had liberty to draw on the "Railway Mission Account," at the Norwich Bank, to any extent that he found necessary, and in a short time he had a body of the best men, he was accustomed to say, that he ever knew at work upon all the chief points of the lines. No part of his now extended labours gave him greater delight than in superintending these missionaries, reading their weekly journals, arranging their periodical movements, counselling and comforting them in their difficulties, and visiting them, sometimes apart and at other times at conferences for united consultation and prayer, held at Yarmouth, Ely, or March.

Results of the best character, of which the record is on high, arose out of these operations.

—Birrell's Life of the Rev. W. Brock, D.D.


A few days ago (1845), a gentleman left Glasgow in one of the day trains, with a large sum of money about his person. On the train arriving at the Edinburgh terminus, the gentleman left it, along with the other passengers, on foot for some distance. It was not long, however, before he discovered that his pocket book, containing 700 pounds, in bank notes was missing. He immediately returned to the terminus, where the first person he happened to find was the stoker of the train that had brought him to Edinburgh, who, on being spoken to, remembered seeing the gentleman leaving the terminus, and another person following close behind him, whom he supposed to be his servant; he further stated, that the supposed servant had started to return with the train which had just left for Glasgow. The gentleman immediately ordered an express train, but as some time elapsed before the steam could be got up, it was feared the gentleman and the stoker would not reach Glasgow in time to secure the culprit. However, having gone the distance in about an hour, they had the satisfaction of seeing the train before them close to the Cowlairs station, just about to descend the inclined plane and tunnel, and thus within a mile and a half of the end of their journey. The stoker immediately sounded his whistle, which induced the conductor of the passenger train to conclude that some danger was in the way, who had his train removed to the other line of rails, which left the road then quite clear for the express train, which drove past the other with great speed, and arrived at the terminus in sufficient time to get everything ready for the apprehension of the robber. The stoker, who thought he could identify the robber, assisted the police in searching the passenger train, when the person whom he had taken for the gentleman's servant was found with the pocket book and also the 700 pounds safe and untouched. The gentleman then offered a handsome reward to the stoker, who refused it on the plea that he had only done his duty; not satisfied, however, with this answer, he left 100 pounds with the manager, requesting him to pay the expenses of the express train, and particularly to reward the stoker for his activity, and to remit the remainder to his address. Shortly after he received the whole 100 pounds, accompanied with a polite note, declining any payment for the express train, and stating that it was the duty of the company to reward the stoker, which they would not omit to do.

Stirling Journal.


Mr. Williams, in Our Iron Roads, gives much interesting information upon the subject of compensation for land and buying off opposition to railway schemes. He says:—"One noble lord had an estate near a proposed line of railway, and on this estate was a beautiful mansion. Naturally averse to the desecration of his home and its neighbourhood, he gave his most uncompromising opposition to the Bill, and found, in the Committee of both Houses, sympathizing listeners. Little did it aid the projectors that they urged that the line did not pass within six miles of that princely domain; that the high road was much closer to his dwelling; and that, as the spot nearest the house would be passed by means of a tunnel, no unsightliness would arise. But no; no worldly consideration affected the decision of the proprietor; and, arguments failing, it was found that an appeal must be made to other means. His opposition was ultimately bought off for twenty-eight thousand pounds, to be paid when the railway reached his neighbourhood. Time wore on, funds became scarce, and the company found that it would be best to stop short at a particular portion of their line, long before they reached the estate of the noble lord who had so violently opposed their Bill, by which they sought to be released from the obligation of constructing the line which had been so obnoxious to him. What was their surprise at finding this very man their chief opponent, and then fresh means had to be adopted for silencing his objections!

"A line had to be brought near to the property of a certain Member of Parliament. It threatened no injury to the estate, either by affecting its appearance or its intrinsic worth; and, on the other hand, it afforded him a cheap, convenient, and expeditious means of communication with the metropolis. But the proprietor, being a legislator, had power at head-quarters, and by his influence he nearly turned the line of railway aside; and this deviation would have cost the projectors the sum of sixty thousand pounds. Now it so happened that the house of this honourable member, who had thus insisted on such costly deference to his peculiar feelings respecting his property, was afflicted with the dry rot, and threatened every hour to fall upon the head of its owner. To pull down and rebuild it, would require the sum of thirty thousand pounds. The idea of compromise, beneficial to both parties, suggested itself. If the railway company rebuilt the house, or paid 30,000 pounds to the owner of the estate, and were allowed to pursue their original line, it was clear that they would be 30,000 pounds the richer, as the enforced deviation would cost 60,000 pounds; and, on the other hand, the owner of the estate would obtain a secure house, or receive 30,000 pounds in money. The proposed bargain was struck, and 30,000 pounds was paid by the Company. 'How can you live in that house,' said some friend to him afterwards, 'with the railroad coming so near?' 'Had it not done so,' was the reply, 'I could not have lived in it at all.'

"One rather original character sold some land to the London and Birmingham Company, and was loud and long in his outcries for compensation, expatiating on the damages which the formation of the line would inevitably bring to his property. His complaints were only stopped by the payment of his demands. A few months afterwards, a little additional land was required from the same individual, when he actually demanded a much larger price for the new land than was given him before; and, on surprise being expressed at the charge for that which he had declared would inevitably be greatly deteriorated in value from the proximity of the railway, he coolly replied: 'Oh, I made a mistake then, in thinking the railway would injure my property; it has increased its value, and of course you must pay me an increased price for it.'

"On one occasion, a trial occurred in which an eminent land valuer was put into the witness box to swell the amount of damages, and he proceeded to expatiate on the injury committed by railroads in general, and especially by the one in question, in cutting up the properties they invaded. When he had finished the delivery of this weighty piece of evidence, the counsel for the Company put a newspaper into his hand, and asked him whether he had not inserted a certain advertisement therein. The fact was undeniable, and on being read aloud, it proved to be a declaration by the land valuer himself, that the approach of the railway which he had come there to oppose, would prove exceedingly beneficial to some property in its immediate vicinity then on sale.

"An illustration of the difference between the exorbitant demands made by parties for compensation, and the real value of the property, may be mentioned. The first claim made by the Directors of the Glasgow Lunatic Asylum on the Edinburgh and Glasgow railway is stated to have been no less than 44,000 pounds. Before the trial came on, this sum was reduced to 10,000 pounds; the amount awarded by the jury was 873 pounds.

"The opposition thus made, whether feigned or real, it was always advisable to remove; and the money paid for this purpose, though ostensibly in the purchase of the ground, has been on many occasions immense. Sums of 35,000, 40,000, 50,000, 100,000, and 120,000 pounds, have thus been paid; while various ingenious plans have been adopted of removing the opposition of influential men. An honourable member is said to have received 30,000 pounds to withdraw his opposition to a Bill before the House; and 'not far off the celebrated year 1845, a lady of title, so gossip talks, asked a certain nobleman to support a certain Bill, stating that, if he did, she had the authority of the secretary of a great company to inform him that fifty shares in a certain railway, then at a considerable premium, would be at his disposal.'

"One pleasing circumstance, however, highly honourable to the gentleman concerned, must not be omitted. The late Mr. Labouchere had made an agreement with the Eastern Counties Company for a passage through his estate near Chelmsford, for the price of 35,000 pounds; his son and successor, the Right Honourable Henry Labouchere, finding that the property was not deteriorated to the anticipated extent, voluntarily returned 15,000 pounds.

"The practice of buying off opposition has not been confined to the proprietors of land. We learn from one of the Parliamentary Reports that in a certain district a pen-and-ink warfare between two rival companies ran so high, and was, at least on one side, rewarded with such success, that the friends of the older of the two projected lines thought it expedient to enter into treaty with their literary opponent, and its editor very soon retired on a fortune. It is also asserted, on good authority, that, in a midland county, the facts and arguments of an editor were wielded with such vigour that the opposing company found it necessary to adopt extraordinary means on the occasion. Bribes were offered, but refused; an opposition paper was started, but its conductors quailed before the energy of their opponent, and it produced little effect; every scheme that ingenuity could devise, and money carry out, was attempted, but they successively and utterly failed. At length a Director hit on a truly Machiavellian plan—he was introduced to the proprietor of the journal, whom he cautiously informed that he wished to risk a few thousands in newspaper property, and actually induced his unconscious victim to sell the property, unknown to the editor. When the bargain was concluded, the plot was discovered; but it was then too late, and the wily Director took possession of the copyright of the paper and the printing office on behalf of the company. The services of the editor, however, were not to be bought, he refused to barter away his independence, and retired—taking with him the respect of both friends and enemies."


In Herepath's Railway Journal for 1845 we meet with the following:—"A learned counsel, the other day, gave as a reason for a wealthy and aristocratic landowner's opposition to a great line of railway approaching his residence by something more than a mile distance, that 'His Lordship rode horses that would not bear the puff of a steam engine.' Truly this was a most potent reason, and one that should weigh heavily against the scheme in the minds of the Committee. His Lordship has a wood some two miles off, between which and his residence this railway is intended to pass. His lordship is fond of amusing himself there in hunting down little animals called hares, and sometimes treats himself to a stag hunt. Not the slightest interference is contemplated with his lordship's pastime, or rather pursuit, for such it is, occupying nearly his whole time, and exercising all the ability of which he is possessed; but still he objects to the intrusion. The bridge that is to be constructed by the Company to give access to the wood, or forest, is in itself all that could be wished, forming, rather than otherwise, an ornamental structure to his lordship's grounds; but then he fears that should an engine chance (of course, these chances are not within his control) to pass under the bridge at the same moment as he is passing over, his high blood horses would prance and rear, and suffer injury therefrom. His lordship is very careful and proud of his horse-flesh, and thinks it hard, and what the legislature ought not to tolerate, that they (his horses) are to be worried, or subjected to the chance of it, by making a railway to serve the public wants!

"This noble man is of opinion, too, that, should the railway be made, he is entitled to an enormous amount of compensation; and, through his agent, assigns as a reason for his extravagant demand—we do not exaggerate the fact—that he is averse to railways in general, and considers the system as an unjustifiable invasion of the province of horse-flesh. This horse jockey lord thereby excuses his conscience in opposing and endeavouring to plunder the railway company as far as he possibly can."


Amongst laughable occurrences that enlivened the committee rooms during the gauge contest, was a scene occasioned by a parliamentary counsel putting in as evidence, before the committee on the Southampton and Manchester line, a printed picture of troubles consequent on a break of gauge. The picture was a forcible sketch that had appeared a few days before in the pages of the Illustrated London News. Opposing counsel of course argued against the production of the work of art as testimony for the consideration of the committee. After much argument on both sides the chairman decided in favour of receiving the illustration, which was forthwith put, amidst much laughter, into the hands of a witness, who was asked if it was a fair picture of the evils that arose from a break of gauge. The witness replying in the affirmative, the engraving was then laid before the committee for inspection.

Railway Chronicle, June 13, 1846.


Oct. 7, 1847. An extraordinary instance has occurred of the application of the electric telegraph at the London Bridge terminus of the South Eastern Railway.

Hutchings, the man found guilty and sentenced to death for poisoning his wife, was to have been executed at Maidstone Goal at twelve o'clock. Shortly before the appointed hour for carrying the sentence into effect, a message was received at the London Bridge terminus, from the Home Office, requesting that an order should be sent by the electric telegraph instructing the Under-Sheriff at Maidstone to stay the execution two hours. By the agency of the electric telegraph the communication was received in Maidstone with the usual rapidity, and the execution was for a time stayed. Shortly after the transmission of the order deferring the execution, a messenger from the Home Office conveyed to the railway the Secretary of State's order, that the law was to take its course, and that the culprit was to be at once executed. The telegraph clerk hesitated to sending such a message without instructions from his principals. The messenger from the Home Office could not be certain that the order for Hutchings's execution was signed by the Home Secretary, although it bore his name; and Mr. Macgregor, the chairman, with great judgment and humanity, instantly decided that it was not a sufficient authority in such a momentous matter.

An officer of confidence was immediately sent to the Secretary of State, to state their hesitation and its cause, as the message was, in fact, a death warrant, and that Mr. Walter must have undoubted evidence of its correctness. On Mr. Walter drawing the attention of the Secretary of State to the fact, that the transmission of such a message was, in effect, to make him the Sheriff, the conduct of the railway company, in requiring unquestionable evidence and authority, was warmly approved. The proper signature was affixed in Mr. Walter's presence; and the telegraph then conveyed to the criminal the sad news, that the suspension of the awful sentence was only temporary. Hutchings was executed soon after it reached Maidstone.

Annual Register, 1847.


Sir Francis Head, giving an account of the contents of the Lost Luggage Office, at Euston Station, observes:—"But there were a few articles that certainly we were not prepared to meet with, and which but too clearly proved that the extraordinary terminus-excitement which had suddenly caused so many virtuous ladies to elope from their red shawls—in short, to be all of a sudden not only in 'a bustle' behind, but all over—had equally affected men of all sorts and conditions.

"One gentleman had left behind him a pair of leather hunting breeches! another his boot-jacks! A soldier of the 22nd regiment had left his knapsack containing his kit. Another soldier of the 10th, poor fellow, had left his scarlet regimental coat! Some cripple, probably overjoyed at the sight of his family, had left behind him his crutches!! But what astonished us above all was, that some honest Scotchman, probably in the ecstasy of suddenly seeing among the crowd the face of his faithful Jeanie, had actually left behind him the best portion of his bagpipes!!!

"Some little time ago the superintendent, on breaking open, previous to a general sale, a locked leather hat-box, which had lain in this dungeon two years, found in it, under the hat, 65 pounds in Bank of England notes, with one or two private letters, which enabled him to restore the money to the owner, who, it turned out, had been so positive that had left his hat-box at an hotel at Birmingham that he made no inquiry for it at the railway office."


A lady in conversation with a railway engineer observed, "It must be very nice to be a railway engineer, and be able to travel about anywhere you want to go to for nothing."

"Yes, madam," was the reply, "It would, as you say, be very nice to travel about for nothing, if we were not paid for it. But you see," he remarked, "railway engineers are like the cabman's horse. The cabman has a very thin horse. 'Doesn't your horse have enough to eat?' inquired a benevolent lady passenger. 'Oh yes, ma'am,' replied cabby, 'I give him lots o' victuals to eat, only, you see, he hasn't any time to eat 'em.' So it is with the railway engineer; he has lots of pleasure of all kinds, only he has not any time to take it."


One railway of some scores of miles hung fire; the directors were congested with their fears of exceeding the estimates, and so a shrewd man of business, a contractor, i.e., a man with a mind contracted to profit and a keen eye to discern the paths of profit, called on them. This man had made his way upward, and passing through the process of sub-contracting, had obtained a glimpse of the upper glories. And thus he relieved the directors from their difficulties, by proffering to make the railway complete in all its parts, buy the land at the commencement, and, if required, to engage the station-clerks at the conclusion, with all the staff complete, so that his patrons might have no trouble, but begin business off-hand. But the latter condition—the staff and clerks—being simply a matter of patronage, the directors kept that trouble in their own hands.

Our contractor loomed on the directors' minds as a guardian angel, a guarantee against responsibilities, backed by sufficient sureties, so the matter was without delay handed over to him, and he knew what to do with it.

Roads and Rails, by W. B. Adams.


The following amusing anecdote is related of a commercial traveller who happened to get into the same railway carriage in which the Dukes of Argyle and Northumberland were travelling. The three chatted familiarly until the train stopped at Alnwick Junction, where the Duke of Northumberland got out, and was met by a train of flunkeys and servants. "That must be a great swell," said the "commercial," to his remaining companion. "Yes," responded the Duke of Argyle, "he is the Duke of Northumberland." "Bless my soul!" exclaimed the "commercial." "And to think that he should have been so condescending to two little snobs like us!"


Never had there occurred, in the history of joint-stock enterprise, such another day as the 30th of November, 1845. It was the day on which a madness for speculation arrived at its height, to be followed by a collapse terrible to many thousand families. Railways had been gradually becoming successful, and the old companies had, in many cases, bought off, on very high terms, rival lines which threatened to interfere with their profits. Both of these circumstances tended to encourage the concoction of new schemes. There is always floating capital in England waiting for profitable employment; there are always professional men looking out for employment in great engineering works; and there are always scheming moneyless men ready to trade on the folly of others. Thus the bankers and capitalists were willing to supply the capital; the engineers, surveyors, architects, contractors, builders, solicitors, barristers, and Parliamentary agents were willing to supply the brains and fingers; while, too often, cunning schemers pulled the strings. This was especially the case in 1845, when plans for new railways were brought forward literally by hundreds, and with a recklessness perfectly marvellous.

By an enactment in force at that time, it was necessary, for the prosecution of any railway scheme in Parliament, that a mass of documents should be deposited with the Board of Trade, on or before the 30th of November in the preceding year. The multitude of these schemes in 1845 was so great that there could not be found surveyors enough to prepare the plans and sections in time. Advertisements were inserted in the newspapers offering enormous pay for even a smattering of this kind of skill. Surveyors and architects from abroad were attracted to England; young men at home were tempted to break the articles into which they had entered with their masters; and others were seduced from various professions into that of railway engineers. Sixty persons in the employment of the Ordnance Department left their situations to gain enormous earnings in this way. There were desperate fights in various parts of England between property-owners who were determined that their land should not be entered upon for the purpose of railway surveying, and surveyors who knew that the schemes of their companies would be frustrated unless the surveys were made and the plans deposited by the 30th of November. To attain this end, force, fraud, and bribery were freely made use of. The 30th of November, 1845, fell on a Sunday; but it was no Sunday at the office near the Board of Trade. Vehicles were driving up during the whole of the day, with agents and clerks bringing plans and sections. In country districts, as the day approached, and on the morning of the day, coaches-and-four were in greater request than even at race-time, galloping at full speed to the nearest railway station. On the Great Western Railway an express train was hired by the agents of one new scheme. The engine broke down; the train came to a stand-still at Maidenhead, and, in this state, was run into by another express train hired by the agents of a rival project; the opposite parties barely escaped with their lives, but contrived to reach London at the last moment. On this eventful Sunday there were no fewer than ten of these express trains on the Great Western Railway, and eighteen on the Eastern Counties! One railway company was unable to deposit its papers because another company surreptitiously bought, for a high sum, twenty of the necessary sheets from the lithographic printer, and horses were killed in madly running about in search of the missing documents before the fraud was discovered. In some cases the lithographic stones were stolen; and in one instance the printer was bribed, by a large sum, not to finish in proper time the plans for a rival line. One eminent house brought over four hundred lithographic printers from Belgium, and even then, and with these, all the work ordered could not be executed. Some of the plans were only two-thirds lithographed, the rest being filled up by hand. However executed, the problem was to get these documents to Whitehall before midnight on the 30th of November. Two guineas a mile were in one instance paid for post-horses. One express train steamed up to London 118 miles in an hour-and-a-half, nearly 80 miles an hour. An established company having refused an express train to the promoters of a rival scheme, the latter employed persons to get up a mock funeral cortege, and engage an express train to convey it to London; they did so, and the plans and sections came in the hearse, with solicitors and surveyors as mourners!

Copies of many of the documents had to be deposited with the clerks of the peace of the counties to which the schemes severally related, as well as with the Board of Trade; and at some of the offices of these clerks, strange scenes occurred on the Sunday. At Preston, the doors of the office were not opened, as the officials considered the orders which had been issued to keep open on that particular Sunday, to apply only to the Board of Trade; but a crowd of law agents and surveyors assembled, broke the windows, and threw their plans and sections into the office. At the Board of Trade, extra clerks were employed on that day, and all went pretty smoothly until nine o'clock in the evening. A rule was laid down for receiving the plans and sections, hearing a few words of explanation from the agents, and making certain entries in books. But at length the work accumulated more rapidly than the clerks could attend to it, and the agents arrived in greater number than the entrance hall could hold. The anxiety was somewhat allayed by an announcement, that whoever was inside the building before the clock struck twelve should be deemed in good time. Many of the agents bore the familiar name of Smith; and when 'Mr. Smith' was summoned by the messenger to enter and speak concerning some scheme, the name of which was not announced, in rushed several persons, of whom, of course, only one could be the right Mr. Smith at that particular moment. One agent arrived while the clock was striking twelve, and was admitted. Soon afterwards, a carriage with reeking horses drove up; three agents rushed out, and finding the door closed, rang furiously at the bell; no sooner did a policeman open the door to say that the time was past, than the agents threw their bundles of plans and sections through the half-opened door into the hall; but this was not permitted, and the policeman threw the documents out into the street. The baffled agents were nearly maddened with vexation; for they had arrived in London from Harwich in good time, and had been driven about Pimlico hither and thither, by a post-boy who did not, or would not, know the way to the office of the Board of Trade.

The Times newspaper, in the same month, devoted three whole pages to an elaborate analysis, by Mr. Spackman, of the various railway schemes brought forward in 1845. "There were no less than 620 in number, involving an (hypothetical) expenditure of 560 millions sterling; besides 643 other schemes which had not gone further than issuing prospectuses. More than 500 of the schemes went through all the stages necessary for being brought before Parliament; and 272 of these became Acts of Parliament in 1846—to the ruin of thousands who had afterwards to find the money to fulfil the engagements into which they had so rashly entered.

Chambers's Book of Days.


About the time of the bursting of the railway bubble, or the collapse of the mania of 1844-5, the following clever lines appeared:—

"There was a sound of revelry by night."—Childe Harold.

"There was a sound that ceased not day or night, Of speculation. London gathered then Unwonted crowds, and moved by promise bright, To Capel-court rushed women, boys, and men, All seeking railway shares and scrip; and when The market rose, how many a lad could tell, With joyous glance, and eyes that spake again, 'Twas e'en more lucrative than marrying well;— When, hark! that warning voice strikes like a rising knell.

Nay, it is nothing, empty as the wind, But a 'bear' whisper down Throgmorton-street; Wild enterprise shall still be unconfined; No rest for us, when rising premiums greet The morn to pour their treasures at our feet; When, hark! that solemn sound is heard once more, The gathering 'bears' its echoes yet repeat— 'Tis but too true, is now the general roar, The Bank has raised her rate, as she has done before.

And then and there were hurryings to and fro, And anxious thoughts, and signs of sad distress Faces all pale, that but an hour ago Smiled at the thoughts of their own craftiness. And there were sudden partings, such as press The coin from hungry pockets—mutual sighs Of brokers and their clients. Who can guess How many a stag already panting flies, When upon times so bright such awful panics rise?"


A gentleman went to Liverpool in the morning, purchased, and took back with him to Manchester, 150 tons of cotton, which he sold, and afterwards obtained an order for a similar quantity. He went again, and actually, that same evening, delivered the second quantity in Manchester, "having travelled 120 miles in four separate journeys, and bought, sold, and delivered, 30 miles off, at two distinct deliveries, 300 tons of goods, in about 12 hours." The occurrence is perfectly astounding; and, had it been hinted at fifty years ago, would have been deemed impossible.

Railway Magazine, 1840.


It might naturally be thought that the new and quicker means of transport afforded by the railway would be eagerly utilised by the Post-office. There were, however, difficulties on both sides. The railway companies objected to running trains during the night, and the old stage-coach offered the advantage of greater regularity. The railway was quicker, but was at least occasionally uncertain. Thus, in November, 1837, the four daily mail trains between Liverpool and Birmingham on ten occasions arrived before the specified time, on eight occasions were exact to time, and on 102 occasions varied in lateness of arrival from five minutes to five hours and five minutes. There were all sorts of mishaps and long delays by train. The mail guard, like the passenger guard, rode outside the train with a box before him called an "imperial," which contained the letters and papers entrusted to his charge. In very stormy weather the mail guard would prop up the lid of his imperial and get inside for shelter. On one occasion when the mail arrived at Liverpool the guard was found imprisoned in his letter-box. The lid had fallen and fastened in the male travesty of "Ginevra." Fortunately for him it was a burlesque and not a tragedy. Bags thrown to the guards at wayside stations not unfrequently got under the wheels of the train and the contents were cut to pieces. On one occasion, on the Grand Junction, an engine failed through the fire-bars coming out. The mails were removed from the train and run on a platelayer's "trolly," but unfortunately the contents of the bags took fire and were destroyed. But many of these mishaps were obviated by the invention of Mr. Nathaniel Worsdell, a Liverpool coachbuilder, in the service of the railway, who took out a patent in 1838 for an appliance for picking up and dropping mail bags while the train was at full speed. This is still used. The loads of railway vehicles, it may be mentioned, were limited by law to four tons until the passage of the 5 and 6 Vic., c. 55. In 1837, when the weight of the mails passing daily on the London and Birmingham line was only about 14cwt., the late Sir Hardman Earle suggested that a special compartment should be reserved for the mail guard in which he could sort the letters en route. The first vehicle specially set apart for mail purposes was put upon the Grand Junction in 1838. From this humble beginning has gradually developed the express mails, in which the chief consideration is the swift transit of correspondence, and which are therefore limited in the number of the passengers they are allowed to carry. The cost of carrying the mails in 1838 and 1839 between Manchester and Liverpool by rail, including the guard's fare, averaged about 1 pound a trip, or half of the cost of sending them by coach. The price paid to the Grand Junction for carriage of mails between Manchester and Liverpool and Birmingham was 1d. a mile for the guard and 0.75d. per cwt. per mile for the mails. This brought a revenue of about 3,000 pounds a year. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed and carried the imposition of the passenger duty, in 1832, the company intimated to the Post-office that they should advance the mail guard's fare 0.5d. per mile. In 1840 an agreement was negotiated between the Post-office and railway authorities to convey the mails between Lancashire and Birmingham four times daily for 19 pounds 10s. a day, with a penalty of 500 pounds on the railway company in case of bad time keeping. This agreement was not carried into effect.

Manchester Guardian.


The history of railway signals is a curious page in the annals of practical science. For some years signals seem scarcely to have been dreamt of. Holding up a hat or an umbrella was at first sufficient to stop a train at an intermediate station. At level crossings the gates had to stand closed across the line of rails, and on the top bar hung a lamp to indicate to drivers that the way was blocked. In 1839, Colonel Landman, of the Croydon line, said that he should avoid the danger at a junction during a fog by going slowly, tolling a bell, beating a drum, or sounding a whistle. The first junction signal was denominated a lighthouse. The difficulties attending junctions may be judged of by the fact that when the Bolton and Preston line was ready for opening it was agreed that no train should attempt to enter or leave the North Union line at Euxton junction within fifteen minutes of a train being due on the main line which might interfere with it. The movable rails at junctions had to be removed by hand and fixed into position by hammer and pin. Mr. Watts, engineer to the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, is believed to have been one of the first to use the tapering movable switch. One of Mr. Watts's men invented the back weight, another designed the crank, while a third suggested the long rod. These improvements were all about the year 1846. The first fixed signal set up at stations was an ordinary round flag pole having a pulley on the top, upon which was hoisted a green flag to stop a train and a red one to indicate danger on the road. The night signal was a hand lamp hoisted in the same way. These were superseded by a signal on which an arm was worked at the end of a rod, and a square lamp with two sides, red and white, having blinkers working on hinges to shut out the light. These were used until 1848. The semaphores only came into practical use some 20 years ago, and it is remarkable that the first time they were used on the Liverpool and Manchester line they were the cause of a slight collision. The use of signal lights on trains was much advanced by two accidents which occurred on the North Union line on the 7th September, 1841. One of these happened at Farrington, where two passenger trains came into collision. The other happened at Euxton, where a coal train ran into a stage coach which was taking passengers to Southport. The Rev. Mr. Joy was killed, and several others, including the station master, who lost one leg, were injured. These were the first serious accidents investigated by the now Government Inspector of Railways, Sir Frederic Smith, who was appointed by the Board of Trade under Lord Seymour's Act.

Manchester Guardian.


During the prevalence of fogs, when neither signal-posts nor lights are of any use, detonating signals are frequently employed, which are affixed to the rails, and exploded by the iron tread of the advancing locomotive. All guards, policemen, and pointsmen who are not appointed to stations, and all enginemen, gatemen, gangers and platelayers, and tunnel-men, are provided with packets of these signals, which they are required always to have ready for use whilst on duty; and every engine, on passing over one of these signals, is to be immediately stopped, and the guards are to protect their train by sending back and placing a similar signal on the line behind them every two hundred yards, to the distance of six hundred yards; the train may then proceed slowly to the place of obstruction. When these detonating signals were first invented, it was resolved to ascertain whether they acted efficiently, and especially whether the noise they produced was sufficient to be distinctly heard by the engine driver. One of them was accordingly fixed to the rails on a particular line by the authority of the company, and in due time the train having passed over it, reached its destination. Here the engine driver and his colleague were found to be in a state of great alarm, in consequence of a supposed attack being made on them by an assassin, who, they said, lay down beside the line of rails on which they had passed, and deliberately fired at them. The efficiency of the means having thus been tested, the apprehensions of the enginemen were removed, though there was at first evident mortification manifested that they had been made the subjects of such a successful experiment.

—F. S. Williams's Our Iron Roads.


The following anecdote, illustrative of railroad facility, is very pointed. A traveller inquired of a negro the distance to a certain point. "Dat 'pends on circumstances," replied darkey. "If you gwine afoot, it'll take you about a day; if you gwine in de stage or homneybus, you make it half a day; but if you get in one of dese smoke wagons, you be almost dar now."


Lines written by Wordsworth as a protest against making a railway from Kendal to Windermere:—

"Is there no nook of English ground secure From rash assault? Schemes of retirement sown In youth, and 'mid the world kept pure As when their earliest flowers of hope were blown, Must perish; how can they this blight endure? And must he, too, his old delights disown, Who scorns a false, utilitarian lure 'Mid his paternal fields at random thrown? Baffle the threat, bright scene, from Orrest-head, Given to the pausing traveller's rapturous glance! Plead for thy peace, thou beautiful romance Of nature; and if human hearts be dead, Speak, passing winds; ye torrents, with your strong And constant voice, protest against the wrong!"


The Hon. Edward Everett in the course of his speech at the Boston Railroad Jubilee in commemoration of the opening of railroad communication between Boston and Canada, observed, "But, sir, as I have already said, it is not the material results of this railroad system in which its happiest influences are seen. I recollect that seven or eight years ago there was a project to carry a railroad into the lake country in England—into the heart of Westmoreland and Cumberland. Mr. Wordsworth, the lately deceased poet, a resident in the centre of this region, opposed the project. He thought that the retirement and seclusion of this delightful region would be disturbed by the panting of the locomotive and the cry of the steam whistle. If I am not mistaken, he published one or two sonnets in deprecation of the enterprise. Mr. Wordsworth was a kind-hearted man, as well as a most distinguished poet, but he was entirely mistaken, as it seems to me, in this matter. The quiet of a few spots may be disturbed, but a hundred quiet spots are rendered accessible. The bustle of the station-house may take the place of the Druidical silence of some shady dell; but, Gracious Heavens, sir, how many of those verdant cathedral arches, entwined by the hand of God in our pathless woods, are opened to the grateful worship of man by these means of communication?

"How little of rural beauty you lose, even in a country of comparatively narrow dimensions like England—how less than little in a country so vast as this—by works of this description. You lose a little strip along the line of the road, which partially changes its character; while, as the compensation, you bring all this rural beauty,

'The warbling woodland, the resounding shore, The pomp of groves, the garniture of fields,'

within the reach, not of a score of luxurious, sauntering tourists, but of the great mass of the population, who have senses and tastes as keen as the keenest. You throw it open, with all its soothing and humanizing influences, to thousands who, but for your railways and steamers, would have lived and died without ever having breathed the life-giving air of the mountains; yes, sir, to tens of thousands who would have gone to their graves, and the sooner for the prevention, without ever having caught a glimpse of the most magnificent and beautiful spectacle which nature presents to the eye of man, that of a glorious curving wave, a quarter-of-a-mile long, as it comes swelling and breasting toward the shore, till its soft green ridge bursts into a crest of snow, and settles and digs along the whispering sands."


The most astonishing kind of property to leave behind at a railway station is mentioned in an advertisement which appeared in the newspapers dated Swindon, April 27th, 1844. It gave notice "That a pair of bright bay horses, about sixteen hands high, with black switch tails and manes," had been left in the name of Hibbert; and notice was given that unless the horses were claimed on or before the 12th day of May, they would be sold to pay expenses. Accordingly on that day they were sold.

Household Words.


In 1845, during the discussions on the Midland lines before the Committee of the House of Commons, Mr. Hill, the Counsel, was addressing the Committee, when Sir John Rae Reid, who was a member of it, handed the following lines to the chairman:—

"Ye railway men, who mountains lower, Who level locks and valleys fill; Who thro' the hills vast tunnels bore; Must now in turn be bored by Hill."


A certain gentleman of large property, and who had figured, if he does not now figure, as a Railway Director, applied for shares in a certain projected railway. Fifty, it seems were allotted to him. Whether that was the number he applied for or not, deponent saith not; but by some means nothing (0) got added to the 50 and made it 500. The deposit for the said 500 was paid into the bankers', the scrip obtained, and before the mistake could be detected and corrected—for no doubt it was only a mistake, or at most a lapsus pennae—the shares were sold, and some 2000 pounds profit by this very fortunate accident found its way into the pocket of the gentleman.

Herepath's Journal, 1845.


Whittlesea Will, William Elthorpe, from Cambridgeshire, had a large railway experience; during the construction of Longton Tunnel, he told me the following story:—"Ye see, Mr. Smith (Samuel Smith, of Woodberry Down), I was a ganger for Mr. Price on the Marseilles and Avignon Line in France, and I'd gangs of all nations to deal with. Well, I could not manage 'em nohow mixed—there were the Jarman Gang, the French Gang, the English, Scotch, and Irish Gangs, of course; the Belgic Gang, the Spanish Gang, and the Peamounter Gang—that's a Gang, d'ye see, that comes off the mountains somewhere towards Italy." "Oh, the Piedmontese, you mean." "Well, you may call 'em Peedmanteeze if you like, but we call'd 'em Peamounters—and so at last I hit on the plan of putting each gang by itself; gangs o' nations, the Peamounter gang here, the Jarman gang there, and the Belgic gang there, and so on, and it worked capital, each gang worked against the other gang like good 'uns.

"Well one day our master, Mr. Price, gave the English gang a great entertainment at a sort of Tea Garden place, near Paris, called Maison Lafitte, and we were coming home along the road before dark—it was a summer's evening—singing and shouting pretty loud, I dare say, when a fat, oldish gentleman rode into the midst of us and pulling up said, taking off his hat—'I think you are English Navigators.' 'Well, and what if we are, old fellow, what's that to you?' 'Why, you are making a very great noise, and I noticed you did not make way for me, or salute me as we met, which is not polite—every one in France salutes a gentleman. I've been in England, I like the English,' by this time his military attendants rode up, and seeing him alone in the midst of us were going to ride us down at once but the old boy beckoned with his hand for them to hold back, and continued his sarmont. 'I should wish you,' says he, quite pleasant, 'whilst you remain in France to be orderly, obliging, civil, and polite; it's always the best—now remember this: and here's something for you to remember Louis Philippe by;' putting his hand into his pocket, he pulled out what silver he had, I suppose, threw it among us, and rode off—but, my eyes, didn't we give him a cheer!"


We cannot help repeating a narrative which we heard on one occasion, told with infinite gravity by a clergyman whose name we at once inquired about, and of whom we shall only say, that he is one of the worthiest and best sons of the kirk, and knows when to be serious as well as when to jest. "Don't tell me," said he to a simple-looking Highland brother, who had apparently made his first trial of railway travelling in coming up to the Assembly—"don't tell me that tunnels on railways are an unmitigated evil: they serve high moral and aesthetical purposes. Only the other day I got into a railway carriage, and I had hardly taken my seat, when the train started. On looking up, I saw sitting opposite to me two of the most rabid dissenters in Scotland. I felt at once that there could be no pleasure for me in that journey, and with gloomy heart and countenance I leaned back in my corner. But all at once we plunged into a deep tunnel, black as night, and when we emerged at the other end, my brow was clear and my ill-humour was entirely dissipated. Shall I tell you how this came to be? All the way through the tunnel I was shaking my fists in the dissenters' faces, and making horrible mouths at them, and that relieved me, and set me all right. Don't speak against tunnels again, my dear friend."

Fraser's Magazine.


It is related that the President of the Fitchburg Railroad, some thirty years ago, settled with a number of passengers who had been wet but not seriously injured by the running off of a train into the river, by paying them from $5 to $20 each. One of them, a sailor, when his terms were asked, said:—"Well, you see, mister, when I was down in the water, I looked up to the bridge and calculated that we had fallen fifteen feet, so if you will pay me a dollar a foot I will call it square."


An action was tried before Mr. Justice Maule, July 30, 1846—the first case of the kind—which established the liability of railway engineers for the consequences of any errors they commit.

The action was brought by the Dudley and Madeley Company against Mr. Giles, the engineer. They had paid him 4,000 pounds for the preparation of the plans, etc., but when the time arrived for depositing them with the Board of Trade they were not completely ready. The scheme had consequently failed. This conduct of the defendant it was estimated had injured the company to the extent of 40,000 pounds. The counsel for the plaintiff did not claim damages to this amount, but would be content with such a sum as the jury should, under the circumstances, think the defendant ought to pay, as a penalty for the negligence of which he had been guilty. For Mr. Giles, it was contended, that the jury ought not, at the worst, to find a verdict for more than 1,700 pounds, alleging that the remainder 2,300 pounds had been paid by him in wages for work done, and materials used.

The jury, however, returned a verdict to the tune of 4,500, or 500 pounds beyond the full sum paid him.

But, what said the judge? That "it was clear that the defendant had undertaken more work than he could complete, and that he should not be allowed to gratify with impunity, and to the injury of the plaintiffs, his desire to realise in a few months a fortune which should only be the result of the labour of years."


Yesterday afternoon, as the Leeds train, which left that terminus at a quarter-past one o'clock, was approaching Rugby, and within four miles of that station, an umbrella behind the private carriage of Earl Zetland took fire, in consequence of a spark from the engine falling on it, and presently the imperial on the roof and the upper part of the carriage were in a blaze. Seated within it were the Countess of Zetland and her maid. The train was proceeding at the rate of forty miles an hour. Under these circumstances, Her Ladyship and maid descended from the carriage to the truck, when—despite the caution to hold on given by a gentleman from a window of one of the railway carriages—the maid threw herself headlong on the rail, and was speedily lost sight of. On the arrival of the train at Rugby an engine was despatched along the line, when the young woman was found severely injured, and taken to the Infirmary at Leicester. Lady Zetland remained at Rugby, where she was joined by His Lordship and the family physician last night, by an express train from Euston-square. How long will railway companies delay establishing a means of communication between passengers and the guard?

Times, Dec. 9th, 1847.


On Monday, at the New Bailey, two men, named William Hatfield and Mark Clegg, the former an engine-driver and the latter a fireman in the employ of the London and North-Western Railway, were brought up before Mr. Trafford, the stipendiary magistrate, and Captain Whittaker, charged with drunkenness and gross negligence in the discharge of their duty. Mr. Wagstaff, solicitor, of Warrington, appeared on behalf of the Company, and from his statement and the evidence of the witnesses it appeared that the prisoners had charge of the night mail train from Liverpool to London, on Saturday, December 25, 1847. The number of carriages and passengers was not stated, but the pointsman at the Warrington junction being at his post, waiting for the train, was surprised to hear it coming at a very rapid rate. He had been preparing to turn the points in order to shunt the train on to the Warrington junction, but as the train did not diminish in speed, but rather increased as it approached, he, anticipating great danger if he should turn the points, determined on the instant upon letting the train take its course, and not turning them. Most fortunate was it that he exercised so much judgment and sagacity, for, in consequence of the acuteness of the curve at Warrington junction and the tremendous rate at which the train was proceeding—not less than forty miles an hour—it does not appear that anything could have otherwise prevented the train from being overturned, and a frightful sacrifice of human life ensuing. Meantime the train continued its frightful progress; but the mail guard seated at the end of the train, perceiving that it was going on towards Manchester, instead of staying at the junction, signalled to the engine-driver and fireman, but without effect, no notice whatever being taken of the signal. Finding this to be the case, he, at very considerable risk, passed over from carriage to carriage till he reached the engine, where he found both the prisoners lying drunk. At length, at Patricroft, however, he succeeded in stopping the train just before it reached that station, a distance of 14 miles from Warrington. This again appears to be almost a miraculous circumstance, for at the Patricroft station, on the same line as that on which the mail train was running was another train, containing a number of passengers, who thus escaped from the consequences of a dreadful collision. The prisoners were, of course, immediately given into custody, and convoyed to the New Bailey prison, while, other assistance being obtained, the train was taken back again to Warrington junction. The regulation is in consequence of the sharp curve at this junction, that the trains shall not run more than five miles an hour. The bench sentenced both prisoners to two months hard labour.

Manchester Examiner.


An English traveller in Germany entered a first-class carriage in which there was only one seat vacant, a middle one. A corner seat was occupied by a German, who evidently had placed his portmanteau on the opposite one—at least the traveller suspected that this was the case. The latter asked, "Is this seat engaged?" "Yes," was the reply. When the time for the departure of the train had almost arrived, the Englishman said, "Your friend is going to miss the train, if he is not quick." "Oh, that is all right. I'll keep it for him." Soon the signal came and the train started, when the passenger seized the portmanteau, and threw it out of the window, exclaiming, "He's missed his train but he mustn't lose his baggage!" That portmanteau was the German's.


The gradual rise of the railway book-trade is a singular feature of our marvellous railway era. In the first instance, when the scope and capabilities of the rail had yet to be ascertained, the privilege of selling books, newspapers, etc., at the several stations was freely granted to any who might think proper to claim it. Vendors came and went, when and how they chose, their trade was of the humblest, and their profits were as varying as their punctuality. By degrees the business assumed shape, the newspaper man found it his interest to maintain a locus standi in the establishment, and the establishment, in its turn, discerned a substantial means of helping the poor or the deserving among its servants. A cripple maimed in the company's service, or a married servant of a director or secretary, superseded the first batch of stragglers and assumed responsibility by express appointment. The responsibility, in truth, was not very great at starting. Railway travelling, at the time referred to, occupied but a very small portion of a man's time. The longest line reached only thirty miles, and no traveller required anything more solid than his newspaper for his hour's steaming. But as the iron lengthened, and as cities remote from each other were brought closer, the time spent in the railway carriage extended, travellers multiplied, and the newspaper ceased to be sufficient for the journey. At this period reading matter for the rail sensibly increased; the tide of cheap literature set in. French novels, unfortunately, of questionable character were introduced by the newsman, simply because he could buy them at one-third less than any other publication selling at the same price. The public purchased the wares they saw before them, and very soon the ingenious caterers for railway readers flattered themselves that there was a general demand amongst all classes for the peculiar style of literature upon which it had been their good fortune to hit. The more eminent booksellers and publishers stood aloof, whilst others, less scrupulous, finding a market open and ready-made to their hands were only too eager to supply it. It was then that the Parlour Library was set on foot. Immense numbers of this work were sold to travellers, and every addition to the stock was positively made on the assumption that persons of the better class, who constitute the larger portion of railway readers, lose their accustomed taste the moment they smell the engine and present themselves to the railway librarian.

—Preface to a Reprinted Article from the Times, 1851.


The following appeared in the Athenaeum, 27th Jan., 1849. "The new business in bookselling which the farming of the line of the North-Western Railway by Mr. Smith, of the Strand, is likely to open up, engages a good deal of attention in literary circles. This new shop for books will, it is thought, seriously injure many of the country booksellers, and remove at the same time a portion of the business transacted by London tradesmen. For instance, a country gentleman wishing to purchase a new book will give his order, not as heretofore, to the Lintot or Tonson of his particular district, but to the agent of the bookseller on the line of railway—the party most directly in his way. Instead of waiting, as he was accustomed to do, till the bookseller of his village or of the nearest town, can get his usual monthly parcel down from his agent 'in the Row'—he will find his book at the locomotive library, and so be enabled to read the last new novel before it is a little flat or the last new history in the same edition as the resident in London. A London gentleman hurrying from town with little time to spare will buy the book he wants at the railway station where he takes his ticket—or perhaps at the next, or third, or fourth, or at the last station (just as the fancy takes him) on his journey. It is quite possible to conceive such a final extension of this principle that the retail trade in books may end in a great monopoly:—nay, instead of seeing the imprimatur of the Row or of Albermarle Street upon a book, the great recommendation hereafter may be 'Euston Square,' 'Paddington,' 'The Nine Elms,' or even 'Shoreditch.' Whatever may be the effect to the present race of booksellers of this change in their business—it is probable that this new mart for books will raise the profits of authors. How many hours are wasted at railway stations by people well to do in the world, with a taste for books but no time to read advertisements or to drop in at a bookseller's to see what is new. Already it is found that the sale at these places is not confined to cheap or even ephemeral publications;—that it is not the novel or light work alone that is asked for and bought.

"The prophecy of progress contained in the above paragraph has been fulfilled so far as the North-Western and Mr. Smith are concerned. His example, however, was not infectious for other lines; and till within the last three months, when the Great Northern copied the good precedent, and entered into a contract with Mr. Smith and his son, the greenest literature in dress and in digestion was all that was offered to the wants of travellers by the directors of the South-Western, the Great Western, and other trunk and branch lines with which England is intersected. A traveller in the eastern, western, and southern counties who does not bring his book with him can satisfy his love of reading only by the commonest and cheapest trash—for the pretences to the appearance of a bookseller's shop made at Waterloo, at Shoreditch, at Paddington, and at London Bridge, are something ridiculous. This should not be. It shows little for the public spirit of the directors of our railways that such a system should remain. Mr. Smith has, we believe, as many as thirty-five shops at railway stations, extending from London to Liverpool, Chester and Edinburgh. His great stations are at Euston Square, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Edinburgh. He has a rolling stock of books valued at 10,000 pounds. We call his stock rolling, because he moves his wares with the inclinations of his readers. If he finds a religious feeling on the rise at Bangor, he withdraws Dickens and sends down Henry of Exeter or Mr. Bennett; if a love for lighter reading is on the increase at Rugby, he withdraws Hallam and sends down Thackeray and Jerrold. He never undersells and he gives no credit. His business is a ready-money one, and he finds it his interest to maintain the dignity of literature by resolutely refusing to admit pernicious publications among his stock. He can well afford to pay the heavy fee he does for his privilege; for his novel speculation has been a decided hit—of solid advantage to himself and of permanent utility to the public."

Athanaeum, Sept. 5, 1851.


Shortly after the first locomotives were placed on the London and Birmingham Railway, a scientific civilian, who had given very positive evidence before Parliament as to the injury to health and other intolerable evils that must arise from the construction of tunnels, paid a visit to the line. The resident engineer accompanied him in a first-class carriage over the newly-finished portion of the works. As they drew near Chalk Farm the engineer attracted the attention of his visitor to the lamp at the top of the carriage. "I should like to have your opinion on this," he said. "The matter seems simple, but it requires a deal of thought. You see it is essential to keep the oil from dropping on the passengers. The cup shape effectually prevents this. Then the lamps would not burn. We had to arrange an up-cast and down-cast chimney, in order to ensure the circulation of air in the lamp. Then there was the question of shadow;"—and so he continued, to the great edification of his listener, for five or six minutes. When a satisfactory conclusion as to the lamp had been arrived at, the learned man looked out of the window. "What place is this?" said he. "Kensal Green." "But," said the other, "how is that? I thought there was one of your great tunnels to pass before we came to Kensal Green." "Oh," replied the Resident, carelessly, "did you not observe? We came through Chalk Farm Tunnel very steadily." The man of science felt himself caught. He made no more reports upon tunnels.

Personal Recollections of English Engineers.


A most extraordinary and unprecedented scene occurred on Monday morning at the Clifton station, about five miles from Manchester, where the East Lancashire line forms a junction with the Lancashire and Yorkshire. The East Lancashire are in the habit of running up-trains to Manchester, past the Clifton junction, without stopping, afterwards making a declaration to the Lancashire and Yorkshire Company of the number of passengers the trains contain, and for whom they will have to pay toll. The Lancashire and Yorkshire Company object to this plan, and demand that the trains shall stop at Clifton, so that the number of passengers can be counted, and give up their tickets. The East Lancashire Company say that in addition to their declaration, the other parties have access to all their books, and to the returns of their (the East Lancashire Company's) servants; and that the demand to take tickets, or to count, is only one of annoyance and detention, adopted since the two companies have become competitors for the traffic to Bradford. Towards the close of last week, the dispute assumed a serious aspect, by one of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Company's agents at Manchester (Mr. Blackmore) threatening that he would blockade or stop up the East Lancashire line, at the point of junction, with a large balk of timber. The East Lancashire Company got out a summons against Mr. Blackmore on Saturday; but, notwithstanding this, the Lancashire and Yorkshire Company's manager proceeded on Monday to carry the threat into execution, despite the presence of a large body of the county police. The East Lancashire early trains were allowed to pass upon the Lancashire and Yorkshire line without obstruction; but at half-past 10 o'clock in the morning, as the next East Lancashire train to Manchester was one which would not stop at Clifton, but attempt to pass on to Manchester, a number of labourers, under the direction of Captain Laws, laid a large balk of timber, secured by two long iron crowbars, across the down rails to Manchester of the Lancashire and Yorkshire line, behind which was brought up a train of six empty carriages, with its engine at the Manchester end. When the East Lancashire train came in sight, it was signalled to stop, and the Lancashire and Yorkshire Company's servants went and demanded the tickets from the passengers. This demand, however, was fruitless, inasmuch as the East Lancashire parties had taken the tickets from the passengers at the previous station—Ringley. The first act of the East Lancashire Company's servants was to remove the balk of timber, and this they did without hindrance. They next attempted to force before them the Lancashire and Yorkshire blockading train. This they were not able to do. The East Lancashire Company then brought up a heavy train laden with stone, and took up a position on the top line to Manchester. Thus the Lancashire and Yorkshire Company's double line of rails was completely blocked up—one line by their own train, and the other by the stone train of the East Lancashire Company. In this position matters remained till near 12 o'clock. There were altogether eight trains on the double lines of rails of the two companies, extending more than half a mile. After which the blockade was broken up, and the various trains were allowed to pass onwards—fortunately without accident or injury to the passengers.

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