Railway Adventures and Anecdotes - extending over more than fifty years
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This ebook was transcribed by Les Bowler.




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"The only bona fide Railway Anecdote Book published on either side of the Atlantic."—Liverpool Mercury.

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Although railways are comparatively of recent date we are so accustomed to them that it is difficult to realize the condition of the country before their introduction. How different are the present day ideas as to speed in travelling to those entertained in the good old times. The celebrated historian, Niebuhr, who was in England in 1798, thus describes the rapid travelling of that period:—"Four horses drawing a coach with six persons inside, four on the roof, a sort of conductor besides the coachman, and overladen with luggage, have to get over seven English miles in the hour; and as the coach goes on without ever stopping except at the principal stages, it is not surprising that you can traverse the whole extent of the country in so few days. But for any length of time this rapid motion is quite too unnatural. You can only get a very piece-meal view of the country from the windows, and with the tremendous speed at which you go can keep no object long in sight; you are unable also to stop at any place." Near the same time the late Lord Campbell, travelling for the first time by coach from Scotland to London, was seriously advised to stay a day at York, as the rapidity of motion (eight miles per hour) had caused several through-going passengers to die of apoplexy.

It is stated in the year 1825, there was in the whole world, only one railway carriage, built to convey passengers. It was on the first railway between Stockton and Darlington, and bore on its panels the motto—"Periculum privatum, publica utilitas." At the opening of this line the people's ideas of railway speed were scarcely ahead of the canal boat. For we are told, "Strange to say, a man on horseback carrying a flag headed the procession. It was not thought so dangerous a place after all. The locomotive was only supposed to go at the rate of from four to six miles an hour; an ordinary horse could easily keep ahead of that. A great concourse of people stood along the line. Many of them tried to accompany the procession by running, and some gentlemen on horseback galloped across the fields to keep up with the engine. At a favourable part of the road Stephenson determined to try the speed of the engine, and he called upon the horseman with the flag to get out of his way! The speed was at once raised to twelve miles an hour, and soon after to fifteen, causing much excitement among the passengers."

George Stephenson was greatly impressed with the vast possibilities belonging to the future of railway travelling. When battling for the locomotive he seemed to see with true prescience what it was destined to accomplish. "I will do something in course of time," he said, "which will astonish all England." Years afterwards when asked to what he alluded, he replied, "I meant to make the mail run between London and Edinburgh by the locomotive before I died, and I have done it." Thus was a similar prediction fulfilled, which at the time he uttered it was doubtless considered a very wild prophecy, "Men shall take supper in London and breakfast in Edinburgh."

From a small beginning railways have spread over the four quarters of the globe. Thousands of millions of pounds have been spent upon their construction. Railway contractors such as Peto and Brassey at one time employed armies of workmen, more numerous than the contending hosts engaged in many a battle celebrated in history. Considering the mighty revolutions that have been wrought in social affairs and in the commerce of the world by railways, John Bright was not far wrong when he said in the House of Commons "Who are the greatest men of the present age? Not your warriors, not your statesmen. They are your engineers."

The Railway era, although of modern date, has been rich in adventures and incidents. Numerous works have been written upon Railways, also memoirs of Railway Engineers, relating their struggles and triumphs, which have charmed multitudes of readers. Yet no volume has been published consisting exclusively of Railway Adventures and Anecdotes. Books having the heading of Railway Anecdotes, or similar titles, containing few of such anecdotes but many of a miscellaneous character, have from time to time appeared. Anecdotes, racy of the Railway calling and circumstances connected with it are very numerous: they are to be found scattered in Parliamentary Blue Books, Journals, Biographies, and many out-of-the-way channels. Many of them are highly instructive, diverting, and mirth-provoking, having reference to persons in all conditions. The "Railway Adventures and Anecdotes," illustrating many a quaint and picturesque scene of railway life, have been drawn from a great variety of sources. I have for a long time been collecting them, and am willing to believe they may prove entertaining and profitable to the railway traveller and the general reader, relieving the tedium of hours when the mind is not disposed to grapple with profounder subjects.

The romance of railways is in the past and not in the future. How desirable then it is that a well written history of British Railways should speedily be produced, before their traditions, interesting associations, and early workers shall be forgotten. A work of such magnitude would need to be entrusted to a band of expert writers. With an able man like Mr. Williams, the author of Our Iron Roads, and the History of the Midland Railway, presiding over the enterprise, a history might be produced which would be interesting to the present and to future generations. The history although somewhat voluminous would be a necessity to every public and private library. Many of our railway companies might do worse than contribute 500 or 1000 pounds each to encourage such an important literary undertaking. It would give an impetus to the study of railway matters and it is not at all unlikely in the course of a short time the companies would be recouped for their outlay.

Before concluding, it is only right I should express my grateful acknowledgments to the numerous body of subscribers to this work. Among them are noblemen of the highest rank and distinction, cabinet ministers, members of Parliament, magistrates, ministers of all sections of the Christian church, merchants, farmers, tradesmen, and artisans. Through their helpful kindness my responsibility has been considerably lightened, and I trust they will have no reason to regret that their confidence has been misplaced.


A.B.C. and D.E.F. 171 Accident, Abergele, The 220 ,, Beneficial Effect of a Railway 186 ,, Extraordinary 128 ,, ,, 265 ,, Remarkable 172 ,, Versailles, The 96 Action, A Novel 255 Advantages of Railway Tunnels 126 Advertisement, Remarkable 124 Adventure, Remarkable 146 Affrighted Toll Keeper 19 Agent, The Insurance 269 Air-ways, instead of Railways 83 Alarmist Views 28 Almost Dar Now 122 American Patience and Imperturbability 183 A'penny a Mile 170 Army with Banners, An 207 Atmospheric Railroad Anticipated 14 Baby Law 216 Balloonists, Extraordinary Escape of 275 Bavarian Guards and Bavarian Beer 198 Bill, Expensive Parliamentary 102 ,, First Railway 16 Bishop, A Disingenuous 267 ,, An Industrious 248 Blunder, An Extraordinary 254 Bookshops, Growth of Station 130 Booking-Clerk and Buckland, The 248 Bookstalls, Messrs. Smith's 131 Brahmin, The Polite 260 Bride's Lost Luggage, A 142 Brassey's, Mr., Strict Adherence to his Word 264 Brougham's, Lord, Speech 60 Box, Shut up in a large 273 Buckland's, Mr. Frank, First Railway Journey 175 Buckland, Mr. Frank, and his Boots 261 Bridge, Awful Death on a Railroad 273 Bully Rightly Served, The 190 Burning the Road Clear 179 Business, Railway Facilities for 118 Calculation as to Railway Speed 28 Capture, Clever 105 Catastrophe 165 Carlist Chief as a Sub-contractor, A 213 Carriage, The Duke's 60 Casuality, Curious 193 Chase after a Runaway Engine, A 136 Child's Idea on Railways, A 179 Child, Remarkable Rescue of a 249 Claim for goodwill for a Cow killed on the Railway 268 Clergy, Appealing to the 83 Clever, Quite too 181 Coach versus Railway Accidents 198 Compensation for Land 106 ,, A Widow's Claim for 242 Competition, Early Railway 27 ,, For Passengers 167 ,, Goods 135 Conductor, A Wide-awake 184 Coincidences, Remarkable 291 Cook's Railway Excursions, Origin of 87 Cool Impudence and Dishonesty 248 Coolness, A Little Boy's 258 Constable, The Electric 92 Contracts, Expensive 263 Contractor, An Accommodating 113 Contractors and the Blotting Pad, Rival 99 Contrast, National 171 Conversion of the Gauge 243 Counsel, The bothered Queen's 247 Courting on a Railway thirty miles an hour 159 Crimea, The First Railway in the 156 Croydon. It's 271 Curious Classification, A 294 Custom of the Country, The 234 Cuvier's Description of the Locomotive 21 Damages easily adjusted 127 Day. The Great Railway Mania 114 Death. Faithful unto 153 Decision. A Quick 95 Decoy Trunk, The 224 Deodand. The 88 Difficulties encountered in making Surveys 31 Difficulty solved, A 181 Discovery, A Great 144 Discussion, An Unfortunate 89 Disguise, Duty in 283 Dissatisfied Passengers 236 Doctor and the Officers, The 246 Dog Ticket 91 Down Brakes, or Force of Habit 192 Drink. That accursed 274 Drinking from the Wrong Bottle 262 Driving a last spike 224 Dropping the letter "L" 267 Dukes and the traveller, The two 114 Dying Engine Driver, The 191 Early American Railway Enterprise 66 Early Morning Ride 187 Early Steam Carriages 15 Elevated Sight-seers Wishing to Descend 59 Engine Driver, A Brave 247 ,, A Mad 278 Engine Driver's Presence of Mind 232 ,, Driving 230 ,, Fascination 166 Engineer and Scientific Witness 133 ,, Very Nice to be a Railway 113 Entertaining Companion 195 Epigram, Railway 124 Epitaph, An Engine Driver's 86 ,, on the Victim of a Railway Accident 85 Escape, Providential 128 Escapes from being Lynched, Narrow 153 Everett's Reply to Wordsworth's Protest 123 Evidence of General Salesman 78 ,, Picture 111 Evil, A Dreaded 145 Excursionists put to the proof 294 Extracts from Macready's Diaries 138 Fares, Cheap 188 Fault, At 241 Female Fragility 250 Flutter caused by the murder of Mr. Briggs 253 Fog Signals 121 Forged Tickets 217 Fourth of July Facts 244 Fraud on the Great Northern Company, Immense 161 Frauds, Attempted 140 Freak, Singular 170 Freaks of Concealed Bogs 138 Frightened at a Red Light 223 Girl, A Brave 273 Goat and the Railway, The 155 Good Things of Railway Accidents 186 Gravedigger's Suggestion, A 257 Gray, Thomas. A Railway Projector 22 Greenlander's First Railway Ride, A 255 Growing Lad, A 217 Hartington, The Marquis of, on George Stephenson 283 Hair-Dresser, The anxious 79 Heroism of a Driver 270 Highlander and a Railway Engine, The 138 Hoax, Accident 167 Horses versus Railways 262 How to bear losses 214 Impressions, A Mexican Chief's Railway 278 Incident, An amusing 258 ,, An Electric Tramway 282 Information, Obtaining 154 Insulted Woman, An 235 Insured 202 Judge's feeling against Railways, A County Court 150 Kangaroo Attacking a Train, A 209 Kemble's Letter, Fanny 35 Kid-Gloved Samson, A 184 Kiss in the Dark, A 256 Lady and her Lap-dog, The 242 ,, An Exacting 183 Legislation, Railway 100 Liabilities of Railway Engineers for Errors 127 Liability of Companies for Delay of Trains 191 Life upon a Railway, by a Conductor 148 Loan Engineering, or Staking out a Railway 172 Locomotive, A Smuggling 234 ,, Dangerous 292 Luggage, Lost 112 ,, in Railway Carriages 281 ,, What is Passengers' 243 Madman in a Railway Carriage, A 201 Marriage, A Railway 139 ,, and Railway Dividends 228 Match, A Runaway 93 Merchant and his Clerk, The 160 Mistake, A slight 263 Monetary Difficulties in Spain 212 Money. Lost and Found 87 Monkey Signalman, A 294 Navvy's Reason for not going to Church, A 80 Nervousness 259 New Trick. A 203 Newspaper Wonder, A 211 Newton, Sir Isaac's Prediction of Railway Speed 14 Notice, Copy of a 237 ,, A curious 154 ,, A remarkable 252 ,, to Defaulting Shareholders, A Novel 95 Not to be caught 246 Novel Attack, A 197 ,, Obstruction 215 Objections, Sanitary 77 Opposition, A Landowner's 110 ,, English and American 71 ,, Parliamentary 29 ,, to Making Surveys 75 Orders, My 280 Parody upon the Railway Mania 118 Passengers and other Cattle 158 ,, Third-class 143 Peto, Sir Morton, and the Balaclava Railway 156 Peto's, Sir Morton, Railway Mission 104 Phillippe and the English Navvies, Louis 125 Photographing an Express Train 259 Polite Irishman, The 194 Portmanteau, His 130 Post Office and Railways. The 119 Power of Locomotive Engines, Gigantic 94 Practice, Sharp 80 Prejudice against carrying Coals by Railways 84 ,, Removed 81 Presentiment, Mrs. Blackburne's 56 Profitable Damages 295 Prognostications of Failure 73 Pullman's Carriages 295 Race, A Curious 254 Railway, An Early 20 ,, An Early Ride on the Liverpool and Manchester 61 ,, Announcement 17 ,, Enterprise 296 ,, Travelling, Early 63 ,, Destroyers in the Franco-German War 223 ,, from Merstham to Wandsworth 16 ,, Liverpool and Manchester 32 ,, Manners 272 ,, Merthyr Tydvil 17 ,, A Profitable 260 ,, Opening of the Darlington and Stockton 26 ,, Romance 93 ,, Sleeper, A 246 ,, Signals 120 ,, Switch Tender and his Child 199 ,, Train turned into a Man-trap 185 ,, Up Vesuvius 274 Railways, Elevated 214 ,, A Judgment 268 ,, Origin of 13 Railroad Incident 214 ,, Tracklayer 216 Rails, Expansion of 158 Rector and his Pig. The 103 Redstart, The Black 199 Rejoinder, A smart 158 Reproof for Swearing 189 Request, A Polite 136 Ride from Boston to Providence in 1835, A 81 Robinson's, Crabb, First Railway Journey 65 Ruling Occupation strong on Sunday 186 Safety on the Floor 147 Seat, The Safest 268 Scotch Lady and her Box 272 Scene at a Railway Junction, Extraordinary 134 ,, Before a Sub-Committee on Standing Orders 176 Security for Travelling 229 Sell, A 241 Seizure of a Railway Train for Debt 208 She takes Fits 210 Shrewd Observers 20 Signalman, An Amateur 97 Singular Circumstance 125 Sleeper, A Heavy 276 Sounds, Remarkable Memory for 266 Snag's Corners 210 Snake's Heads 81 Snowed up on the Pacific Railway 237 Speed of Railway Engines 30 Steam defined 137 ,, Pulling a Tooth by 276 Steel Rails 193 Stephenson Centenary, The 284 ,, ,, George Robert Stephenson's Address 286 ,, ,, Rev. T. C. Sarjent's Address at the 288 ,, ,, Sir William Armstrong's Address at the 284 Stephenson's Wedding Present, George 194 Stopping a Runaway Couple 200 Stumped 293 Swindling, Ingenious 292 Taken Aback 152 Taking Him Down a Peg 252 Taste, Loss of 291 Tay Bridge Accident 245 Telegraph, Extraordinary use of the Electric 111 Ticket, A Lost 164 ,, Your 271 Traffic-Taking 86 Train Stopped by Caterpillars, A 204 Travelling, Effects of Constant Railway 281 ,, in Russia 204 ,, Improvement in Third-Class 143 Trent Station 192 Trip, An Unpleasant Trial 72 Tunnel, In a Railway 137 Very Cool 199 Waif, An Extraordinary 245 Ward's, Artemus, Suggestion 197 Watkin, Sir Edward, on Touting for Business 269 Way, A Quick 138 Way-Leaves 13 Wedding at a Railway Station 166 What are you going to do? 189 Whistle, Steam 98 Wolves on a Railway 197 Wordsworth's Protest 122 Yankee Compensation Case, A 218


The immediate parent of the railway was the wooden tram-road, which existed at an early period in colliery districts. Mr. Beaumont, of Newcastle, is said to have been the first to lay down wooden rails as long ago as 1630. More than one hundred and forty years elapsed before the invention was greatly improved. Mr. John Carr, in 1776 (although not the first to use iron rails), was the first to lay down a cast-iron railway, nailed to wooden sleepers, for the Duke of Newcastle's colliery near Sheffield. This innovation was regarded with great disfavour by the workpeople as an interference with the vested rights of labour. Mr. Carr's life, as a consequence, was in much jeopardy and for four days he had to conceal himself in a wood to avoid the violence of an indignant and vindictive populace.


Roger North, referring to a visit paid to Newcastle by his brother, the Lord Keeper Guildford, in 1676, writes:—"Another remarkable thing is their way-leaves; for when men have pieces of ground between the colliery and the river, they sell the leave to lead coal over the ground, and so dear that the owner of a rood of ground will expect 20 pounds per annum for this leave. The manner of the carriage is by laying rails of timber from the colliery down to the river exactly straight and parallel, and bulky carts are made with four rowlets fitting these rails, whereby the carriage is so easy that one horse will draw four or five chaldron of coals, and is an immense benefit to the coal merchants."


In a tract by the Rev. Mr. Craig, Vicar of Leamington, entitled "Astral Wonders," is to be found the following remarkable passage:—"Let me narrate to you an anecdote concerning Sir Isaac Newton and Voltaire. Sir Isaac wrote a book on the Prophet Daniel, and another on the Revelations; and he said, in order to fulfil certain prophecies before a certain date terminated, namely 1260 years, there would be a certain mode of travelling of which the men in his time had no conception; nay, that the knowledge of mankind would be so increased that they would be able to travel at the rate of fifty miles an hour. Voltaire, who did not believe in the Holy Scriptures, got hold of this, and said, 'Now look at that mighty mind of Newton, who discovered gravity, and told us such marvels for us all to admire, when he became an old man and got into his dotage, he began to study that book called the Bible; and it appears that in order to credit its fabulous nonsense, we must believe that mankind's knowledge will be so much increased that we shall be able to travel fifty miles an hour. The poor 'dotard!' exclaimed the philosophic infidel, Voltaire, in the complaisancy of his pity. But who is the dotard now?"


First Voice.

"But why drives on that ship so fast, Without or wave or wind?"

Second Voice.

"The air is cut away before, And closes from behind."

The Ancient Mariner.

This is the exact principle of the atmospheric railroad, and it is, perhaps, worthy of note as a curious fact that such a means of locomotion should have occurred to Coleridge so long ago.

W. Y. Bernhard Smith, in Notes and Queries.


Stuart, in his "Historical and Descriptive Anecdotes of Steam Engines and of their Inventors and Improvers," gives a description of what was supposed to be the first model of a steam carriage. The constructor was a Frenchman named Cugnot, who exhibited it before the Marshal de Saxe in 1763. He afterwards built an engine on the same model at the cost of the French monarch. But when set in motion it projected itself onward with such force that it knocked down a wall which stood in its way, and—its power being considered too great for ordinary use—it was put aside as being a dangerous machine, and was stowed away in the Arsenal Museum at Paris. It is now to be seen in the Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers.

Mr. Smiles also remarks that "An American inventor, named Oliver Evans, was also occupied with the same idea, for, in 1772, he invented a steam carriage to travel on common roads; and, in 1787, he obtained from the State of Maryland the exclusive right to make and use steam carriages. The invention, however, never came into practical use.

"It also appears that, in 1784, William Symington, the inventor of the steamboat, conceived the idea of employing steam power in the propulsion of carriages; and, in 1786, he had a working model of a steam carriage constructed which he submitted to the professors and other scientific gentlemen of Edinburgh. But the state of the Scotch roads was at that time so horrible that he considered it impracticable to proceed further with his scheme, and he shortly gave it up in favour of his project of steam navigation.

"The first English model of a steam carriage was made in 1784 by William Murdoch, the friend and assistant of Watt. It was on the high-pressure principle and ran on three wheels. The boiler was heated by a spirit lamp, and the whole machine was of very diminutive dimensions, standing little more than a foot high. Yet, on one occasion, the little engine went so fast that it outran the speed of the inventor. Mr. Buckle says that one night after returning from his duties in the mine at Redruth, in Cornwall, Murdoch determined to try the working of his model locomotive. For this purpose he had recourse to the walk leading to the church, about a mile from the town. The walk was rather narrow and was bounded on either side by high hedges. It was a dark night, and Murdoch set out alone to try his experiment. Having lit his lamp, the water shortly began to boil, and off started the engine with the inventor after it. He soon heard distant shouts of despair. It was too dark to perceive objects, but he shortly found, on following up the machine, that the cries for assistance proceeded from the worthy pastor of the parish, who, going towards the town on business, was met on this lonely road by the hissing and fiery little monster, which he subsequently declared he had taken to be the Evil One in propria persona. No further steps, however, were taken by Murdoch to embody his idea of a locomotive carriage in a more practical form."


The first Railway Bill passed by Parliament was for a line from Wandsworth to Croydon, in 1801, but a quarter of a century elapsed before the first line was actually constructed for carrying passengers between Stockton and Darlington. People still living can remember the mail coaches that plied once a month between Edinburgh and London, making the journey in twelve or fourteen days. The Annual Register of 1820 boasts that "English mail coaches run 7 miles an hour; French only 4.5 miles; the former travelling, in the year, forty times the length of miles that the French accomplish." These coaches were a great improvement on the previous method of sending the mails. In 1783 a petition to Parliament stated that "the mails are generally entrusted to some idle boy, without character, mounted on a worn-out hack."

"Progress of the World" by M. G. Mulhall.


Charles Knight thus describes this old line:—"The earliest railway for public traffic in England was one passing from Merstham to Wandsworth, through Croydon; a small, single line, on which a miserable team of donkeys, some thirty years ago, might be seen crawling at the rate of four miles an hour, with several trucks of stone and lime behind them. It was commenced in 1801, opened in 1803; and the men of science of that day—we cannot say that the respectable name of Stephenson was not among them, (Stephenson was then a brakesman at Killingworth)—tested its capabilities and found that one horse could draw some thirty-five tons at six miles an hour, and then, with prophetic wisdom, declared that railways could never be worked profitably. The old Croydon railway is no longer used. The genius loci must look with wonder on the gigantic offspring of the little railway, which has swallowed up its own sire. Lean mules no longer crawl leisurely along the little rails with trucks of stone through Croydon, once perchance during the day, but the whistle and the rush of the locomotive are now heard all day long. Not a few loads of lime, but all London and its contents, by comparison—men, women, children, horses, dogs, oxen, sheep, pigs, carriages, merchandise, food,—would seem to be now-a-days passing through Croydon; for day after day, more than 100 journeys are made by the great railroads which pass the place."


The following announcement was published in a London periodical, dated August 1, 1802:—"The Surrey Iron Railway is now completed over the high road through Wandsworth town. On Wednesday, June 8, several carriages of all descriptions passed over the iron rails without meeting with the least obstacle. Among these, the Portsmouth wagon, drawn by eight horses and weighing from eight to ten tons, passed over the rails, and did not appear to make the slightest impression upon them."


An Act of Parliament was granted for a railway to Merthyr Tydvil in 1803, and the following year the first locomotive which ran on a railway is described in a racy manner by the Western Mail, as follows:—"Quaint, rattling, puffing, asthmatic, and wheezy, the pioneer of ten thousand gilding creations of beauty and strength made its way between the white-washed houses of the old tramway at Merthyr. It has a dwarf body placed on a high framework, constructed by the hedge carpenter of the place in the roughest possible fashion. The wheels were equally rough and large, and surmounting all was a huge stack, ugly enough when it was new, but in after times made uglier by whitewash and rust. Every movement was made with a hideous uproar, snorting and clanking, and this, aided by the noise of the escaping steam, formed a tableau from which, met in the byeway, every old woman would run with affright. The Merthyr locomotive was made jointly by Trevithick, a Cornishman, and Rees Jones, of Penydarran. The day fixed for the trial was the 12th of February, 1804, and the track a tramway, lately formed from Penydarran, at the back of Plymouth Works, by the side of the Troedyrhiw, and so down to the navigation. Great was the concourse assembled; villagers of all ages and sizes thronged the spot; and the rumour of the day's doings even penetrated up the defiles of Taff Vawr and Taff Vach, bringing down old apple-faced farmers and their wives, who were told of a power and a speed that would alter everything, and do away with horses altogether. Prim, cosy, apple-faced people, innocent and primitive, little thought ye then of the changes which the clanking monster was to yield; how Grey Dobbin would see flying by a mass of wood and iron, thousands of tons of weight, bearing not only the commerce of the country, but hundreds of people as well; how rivers and mountains would afford no obstacle, as the mighty azure waves leap the one and dash through the other. On the first engine and trains that started on the memorable day in February, twenty persons clustered like bees, anxious, we learn in the 'History of Merthyr,' to win immortality by being thus distinguished above all their fellows; the trains were six in number, laden with iron, and amidst a concourse of villagers, including the constable, the 'druggister,' and the class generally dubbed 'shopwors' by the natives, were Richard Crawshay and Mr. Samuel Homfray. The driver was one William Richards, and on the engine were perched Trevithick and Rees Jones, their faces black, but their eyes bright with the anticipation of victory. Soon the signal was given, and amidst a mighty roar from the people, the wheels turned and the mass moved forward, going steadily at the rate of five miles an hour until a bridge was reached a little below the town that did not admit of the stack going under, and as this was built of bricks, there was a great crash and instant stoppage. Trevithick and Jones were of the old-fashioned school of men who did not believe in impossibilities. The fickle crowd, too, who had hurrahed like mad, hung back and said 'It won't do'; but these heroes, the advance-guard of a race who had done more to make England famous than battles by land or sea, sprang to the ground and worked like Britons, never ceasing until they had repaired the mishap, and then they rattled on, and finally reached their journey's end. The return journey was a failure, on account of gradients and curves, but the possibility of success was demonstrated; and from this run on the Merthyr tramway the railway age—marked with throes and suspense, delays, accidents, and misadventures—finally began."


There is a story told by Coleridge about the steam engine which Trevithick exhibited at work on a temporary railroad in London. Trevithick and his partner Captain Vivian, prior to this exhibition were riding on the carriage on the turnpike road near to Plymouth. It had committed sundry damage in its course, knocking down the rails of a gentleman's garden, when Vivian saw the toll-bar in front of them closed he called to Trevithick to slacken speed which he did just in time to save the gate. The affrighted toll-keeper instantly opened it. "What have us got to pay?" asked Captain Vivian, careful as to honesty if reckless as to grammar.

"Na-na-na-na!" stammered the poor man, trembling in every limb, with his teeth chattering as if he had got the ague.

"What have us got to pay, I ask?"

"Na-noth-nothing to pay! My de-dear Mr. Devil, do drive as fast as you can! Nothing to pay!"


More than twenty years before the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, the celebrated engineer Trevithick constructed, not only a locomotive engine, but also a railway, that the London public might see with their own eyes what the new high pressure steam engine could effect, and how greatly superior a railway was to a common road for locomotion. The sister of Davies Gilbert named this engine "Catch me who can." The following interesting account in a letter to a correspondent was given by John Isaac Hawkins, an engineer well known in his day.

"Sir,—Observing that it is stated in your last number (No. 1232, dated the 20th instant, page 269), under the head of 'Twenty-one Years' Retrospect of the Railway System,' that the greatest speed of Trevithick's engine was five miles an hour, I think it due to the memory of that extraordinary man to declare that about the year 1808 he laid down a circular railway in a field adjoining the New Road, near or at the spot now forming the southern half of Euston Square; that he placed a locomotive engine, weighing about ten tons, on that railway—on which I rode, with my watch in hand—at the rate of twelve miles an hour; that Mr. Trevithick then gave his opinion that it would go twenty miles an hour, or more, on a straight railway; that the engine was exhibited at one shilling admittance, including a ride for the few who were not too timid; that it ran for some weeks, when a rail broke and occasioned the engine to fly off in a tangent and overturn, the ground being very soft at the time. Mr. Trevithick having expended all his means in erecting the works and enclosure, and the shillings not having come in fast enough to pay current expenses, the engine was not again set on the rail."


Sir Richard Phillips was a man of foresight, for, in the year 1813, he wrote the following words in his "Morning Walk to Kew," a book of some popularity in its day:—"I found delight in witnessing at Wandsworth the economy of horse labour on the iron railway. Yet a heavy sigh escaped me as I thought of the inconceivable millions of money which had been spent about Malta, four or five of which might have been the means of extending double lines of iron railway from London to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Holyhead, Milford, Falmouth, Yarmouth, Dover, and Portsmouth. A reward of a single thousand would have supplied coaches and other vehicles of various degrees of speed, with the best tackle for readily turning out; and we might ere this have witnessed our mail coaches running at the rate of ten miles an hour, drawn by a single horse, or impelled fifteen miles an hour by Blenkinsop's steam engine. Such would have been a legitimate motive for overstepping the income of a nation; and the completion of so great and useful a work would have afforded rational ground for public triumph in general jubilee." Mr. Edgeworth, writing to James Watt on the 7th of August, 1813, remarks, "I have always thought that steam would become the universal lord, and that we should in time scorn post-horses. An iron railroad would be a cheaper thing than a road on the common construction."


The celebrated Cuvier, in an address delivered by him before the French Institute in the year 1816, thus referred to the nascent locomotive:—"A steam engine, mounted upon a carriage whose wheels indent themselves along a road specially prepared for it, is attached to a line of loaded vehicles. A fire is lit underneath the boiler, by which the engine is speedily set in motion, and in a short time the whole are brought to their journey's end. The traveller who, from a distance, first sees this strange spectacle of a train of loaded carriages traversing the country by the simple force of steam, can with difficulty believe his eyes."

The locomotive thus described by Cuvier was the first engine of the kind regularly employed in the working of railway traffic. It was impelled by means of a cogged wheel, which worked into a cogged rail, after the method adopted by Mr. Blenkinsop, upon the Middleton Coal Railway, near Leeds; and the speed of the train which it dragged behind it was only from three to four miles an hour.

Ten years later, the same power and speed of the locomotive were still matters of wonderment, for, in 1825, we find Mr. Mackenzie, in his "History of Northumberland" thus describing the performances on the Wylam Coal Railroad:—"A stranger," said he, "is struck with surprise and astonishment on seeing a locomotive engine moving majestically along the road at the rate of four or five miles an hour, drawing along from ten to fourteen loaded wagons, weighing about twenty-one-and-a-half tons; and his surprise is increased on witnessing the extraordinary facility with which the engine is managed. This invention is indeed a noble triumph of science."

In the same year, the first attempt was made to carry passengers by railway between Stockton and Darlington. A machine resembling the yellow caravan still seen at country fairs was built and fitted up with seats all round it, and set upon the rails, along which it was drawn by a horse. It was found exceedingly convenient to travel by, and the number of passengers between the two towns so much increased that several bodies of old stage coaches were bought up, mounted upon railway wheels, and added to the carrying stock of the Stockton and Darlington Company. At length the horse was finally discarded in favour of the locomotive, and not only coals and merchandise, but passengers of all classes, were drawn by steam.

Railway News.


In the year 1819, Thomas Gray—a deep thinker with a mind of comprehensive grasp—was travelling in the North of England when he saw a train of coal-wagons drawn by steam along a colliery tramroad. "Why," he questioned the engineer, "are not these tramroads laid down all over England, so as to supersede our common roads, and steam engines employed to convey goods and passengers along them, so as to supersede horse power?" The engineer replied, "Just propose you that to the nation, sir, and see what you will get by it! Why, sir, you will be worried to death for your pains." Nothing daunted by this reply, Thomas Gray could scarcely think or talk upon any other subject. In vision he saw the country covered with a network of tramroads. Before his time the famous Duke of Bridgewater might have some misgivings about his canals. It is related on a certain occasion some one said to him, "You must be making handsomely out of your canals." "Oh, yes," grumbled he in reply, "they will last my time, but I don't like the look of these tramroads; there's mischief in them." Mr. Gray, with prophetic eye, saw the great changes which the iron railway would make in the means of transit throughout the civilized world. In 1820 he brought out his now famous work, entitled "Observations on a General Iron Railway, or Land Steam Conveyance, to supersede the necessity of horses in all public vehicles; showing its vast superiority in every respect over all the present pitiful methods of conveyance by Turnpike-roads, Canals, and Coasting Traders: containing every species of information relative to Railroads and Locomotive Engines." The book is illustrated by a plate exhibiting different kinds of carriages drawn on the railway by locomotives. He evidently anticipated that the locomotive of the future would be capable of going at a considerable speed, for on the plate is engraved these lines:—

"No speed with this can fleetest horse compare; No weight like this canal or vessel bear. As this will commerce every way promote, To this let sons of commerce grant their vote."

Mr. Gray in his book exhibits a marvellous insight into the wants and requirements of the country. He remarks, "The plan might be commenced between the towns of Manchester and Liverpool, where a trial could soon be made, as the distance is not very great, and the commercial part of England would thereby be better able to appreciate its many excellent properties and prove its efficacy. All the great trading towns of Lancashire and Yorkshire would then eagerly embrace the opportunity to secure so commodious and easy a conveyance, and cause branch railways to be laid down in every possible direction. The convenience and economy in the carriage of the raw material to the numerous manufactories established in these counties, the expeditious and cheap delivery of piece goods bought by the merchants every week at the various markets, and the despatch in forwarding bales and packages to the outposts cannot fail to strike the merchant and manufacturer as points of the first importance. Nothing, for example, would be so likely to raise the ports of Hull, Liverpool, and Bristol to an unprecedented pitch of prosperity as the establishment of railways to those ports, thereby rendering the communication from the east to the west seas, and all intermediate places, rapid, cheap, and effectual. Anyone at all conversant with commerce must feel the vast importance of such an undertaking in forwarding the produce of America, Brazils, the East and West Indies, etc., from Liverpool and Bristol, via Hull, to the opposite shores of Germany and Holland, and, vice versa, the produce of the Baltic, via Hull, to Liverpool and Bristol. Again, by the establishment of morning and evening mail steam carriages, the commercial interest would derive considerable advantage; the inland mails might be forwarded with greater despatch and the letters delivered much earlier than by the extra post; the opportunity of correspondence between London and all mercantile places would be much improved, and the rate of postage might be generally diminished without injuring the receipts of the post office, because any deficiency occasioned by a reduction in the postage would be made good by the increased number of journeys which mail steam carriages might make. The London and Edinburgh mail steam carriages might take all the mails and parcels on the line of road between these two cities, which would exceedingly reduce the expense occasioned by mail coaches on the present footing. The ordinary stage coaches, caravans, or wagons, running any considerable distance along the main railway, might also be conducted on peculiarly favourable terms to the public; for instance, one steam engine of superior power would enable its proprietors to convey several coaches, caravans, or wagons, linked together until they arrive at their respective branches, when other engines might proceed on with them to their destination. By a due regulation of the departure and arrival of coaches, caravans, and wagons along these branches the whole communication throughout the country would be so simple and so complete as to enable every individual to partake of the various productions of particular situations, and to enjoy, at a moderate expense every improvement introduced into society. The great economy of such a measure must be obvious to everyone, seeing that, instead of each coach changing horses between London and Edinburgh, say twenty-five times, requiring a hundred horses, besides the supernumerary ones kept at every stage in case of accidents, the whole journey of several coaches would be performed with the simple expense of one steam engine. No animal strength will be able to give that uniform and regular acceleration to our commercial intercourse which may be accomplished by railways; however great animal speed, there cannot be a doubt that it would be considerably surpassed by mail steam carriages, and that the expense would be infinitely less. The exorbitant charge now made for small parcels prevents that natural intercourse of friendship between families resident in different parts of the kingdom, in the same manner as the heavy postage of letters prevents free communication, and consequently diminishes very considerably the consumption of paper which would take place under a less burdensome taxation."

Mr. Gray's book would no doubt excite ridicule and amazement when published sixty years ago. The farmers of that day might well be excused for incredulity when perusing a passage like the following:—"The present system of conveyance," says Mr. Gray, "affords but tolerable accommodation to farmers, and the common way in which they attend markets must always confine them within very limited distances. It is, however, expected that the railway will present a suitable conveyance for attending market-towns thirty or forty miles off, as also for forwarding considerable supplies of grain, hay, straw, vegetables, and every description of live stock to the metropolis at a very easy expense, and with the greatest celerity, from all parts of the kingdom."

A writer in Chambers's Journal, 1847, remarks:—"It was not until after four or five years of agitation, and several editions of Mr. Gray's work had been published and successively commented upon by many newspapers, that commercial men were roused to give the proposed scheme its first great trial on the road between Liverpool and Manchester. The success of that experiment, insured by the engineering skill of Stephenson, was the signal for all that has since been done both in this island and in other parts of the world. Unfortunately, the public has been too busy these many years in making railways to inquire to whom it owes its gratitude for having first expounded and advocated their claims; and probably there are few men now living who have served the public as effectually, with so little return in the way of thanks or applause, as Mr. Thomas Gray, the proposer in 1820 of a general system of transit by railways."

Poor Gray! He was far ahead of his times. Public men called him a bore, and people in Nottingham, where he resided, said he was cracked. The Quarterly Review declared such persons are not worth our notice, and the Edinburgh Review said "Put him in a straight jacket." Thus the world is often ignorant of its greatest benefactors. Gray died in poverty. His widow and daughters earned their living by teaching a small school at Exeter.


In the autumn of 1825 the Times gave an account of the origin of one of the most gigantic enterprises of modern times. In that year the Darlington and Stockton Railway was formally opened by the proprietors for the use of the public. It was a single railway, and the object of its promoters was to open the London market to the Durham Collieries, as well as to facilitate the obtaining of fuel to the country along its line and certain parts of Yorkshire. The account of the opening says:—

A train of carriages was attached to a locomotive engine of the most improved construction, and built by Mr. George Stephenson, in the following order:—(1) Locomotive engine, with the engineer and assistants; (2) tender with coals and water; next six wagons loaded with coals and flour; then an elegant covered coach, with the committee and other proprietors of the railway; then 21 wagons fitted up on the occasion for passengers; and, last of all, six wagons loaded with coals, making altogether a train of 38 carriages, exclusive of the engine and tender. Tickets were distributed to the number of nearly 300 for those whom it was intended should occupy the coach and wagons; but such was the pressure and crowd that both loaded and empty carriages were instantly filled with passengers. The signal being given, the engine started off with this immense train of carriages. In some parts the speed was frequently 12 miles per hour, and in one place, for a short distance, near Darlington, 15 miles per hour, and at that time the number of passengers was counted to 450, which, together with the coals, merchandise, and carriages, would amount to nearly 90 tons. After some little delay in arranging the procession, the engine, with her load, arrived at Darlington a distance of eight miles and three-quarters, in 65 minutes, exclusive of stops, averaging about eight miles an hour. The engine arrived at Stockton in three hours and seven minutes after leaving Darlington, including stops, the distance being nearly 12 miles, which is at the rate of four miles an hour, and upon the level part of the railway the number of passengers in the wagons was counted about 550, and several more clung to the carriages on each side, so that the whole number could not be less than 600.


The first Stockton and Darlington Act gave permission to all parties to use the line on payment of certain rates. Thus private individuals might work their own horses and carriages upon the railway and be their own carriers. Mr. Clepham, in the Gateshead Observer, gives an interesting account of the competition induced by the system:—"There were two separate coach companies in Stockton, and amusing collisions sometimes occurred between the drivers—who found on the rail a novel element for contention. Coaches cannot pass each other on the rail as on the road; and at the more westward public-house in Stockton (the Bay Horse, kept by Joe Buckton), the coach was always on the line betimes, reducing its eastward rival to the necessity of waiting patiently (or impatiently) in the rear. The line was single, with four sidings in the mile; and when two coaches met, or two trains, or coach and train, the question arose which of the drivers must go back? This was not always settled in silence. As to trains, it came to be a sort of understanding that light wagons should give way to loaded; as to trains and coaches, that the passengers should have preference over coals; while coaches, when they met, must quarrel it out. At length, midway between sidings a post was erected, and a rule was laid down that he who had passed the pillar must go on, and the coming man go back. At the Goose Pool and Early Nook, it was common for these coaches to stop; and there, as Jonathan would say, passengers and coachmen 'liquored.' One coach, introduced by an innkeeper, was a compound of two mourning coaches, an approximation to the real railway coach, which still adheres, with multiplying exceptions, to the stage coach type. One Dixon, who drove the 'Experiment' between Darlington and Shildon, is the inventor of carriage lighting on the rail. On a dark winter night, having compassion on his passengers, he would buy a penny candle, and place it lighted amongst them, on the table of the 'Experiment'—the first railway coach (which, by the way, ended its days at Shildon, as a railway cabin), being also the first coach on the rail (first, second, and third class jammed all into one) that indulged its customers with light in darkness."


The Editor of The Scotsman, having engaged in researches into the laws of friction established by Vince and Coloumb, published the results in a series of articles in his journal in 1824 showing how twenty miles an hour was, on theoretic grounds, within the limits of possibility; and it was to his writings on this point that Mr. Nicholas Wood alluded when he spoke of the ridiculous expectation that engines would ever travel at the rate of twenty, or even twelve miles an hour.


A writer in the Quarterly Review, in 1825, was quite prophetical as to the dangers connected with railway travelling. He observes:—"It is certainly some consolation to those who are to be whirled at the rate of 18 or 20 miles an hour by means of a high-pressure engine, to be told that there is no danger of being sea-sick while on shore, that they are not to be scalded to death, nor drowned, nor dashed to pieces by the bursting of a boiler; and that they need not mind being struck by the flying off or breaking of a wheel. What can be more palpably absurd or ridiculous than the prospect held out of locomotives travelling twice as fast as stage coaches! We should as soon expect the people of Woolwich to suffer themselves to be fired off upon one of Congreve's Ricochet Rockets, as trust themselves to the mercy of such a machine going at such a rate. We will back old Father Thames against the Woolwich Railway for any sum. We trust that Parliament will, in all railways it may sanction, limit the speed to eight or nine miles an hour, which we entirely agree with Mr. Sylvestor is as great as can be ventured on with safety."


On the third reading of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway Bill in the House of Commons, The Hon. Edward Stanley moved that the bill be read that day six months, assigning, among other reasons, that the railway trains worked by horses would take ten hours to do the distance, and that they could not be worked by locomotive engines. Sir Isaac Coffin seconded the motion, indignantly denouncing the project as fraught with fraud and imposition. He would not consent to see widows' premises invaded, and "how," he asked, "would any person like to have a railroad under his parlour window? . . . What, he would like to know, was to be done with all those who had advanced money in making and repairing turnpike-roads? What with those who may still wish to travel in their own or hired carriages, after the fashion of their forefathers? What was to become of coach-makers and harness-makers, coach-masters and coachmen, innkeepers, horse-breeders, and horse-dealers? Was the House aware of the smoke and noise, the hiss and whirl, which locomotive engines, passing at the rate of ten or twelve miles an hour, would occasion? Neither the cattle ploughing in the fields or grazing in the meadows could behold them without dismay. . . . Iron would be raised in price 100 per cent., or, more probably, exhausted altogether! It would be the greatest nuisance, the most complete disturbance of quiet and comfort in all parts of the kingdom, that the ingenuity of man could invent!"


At the present day it is amusing to read the speeches of the counsel employed against an act of Parliament being passed in favour of the railway between Liverpool and Manchester. Mr. Harrison, who appeared on behalf of certain landowners against the scheme, thus spoke with regard to the powers of the locomotive engine:—"When we set out with the original prospectus—I am sorry I have not got the paper with me—we were to gallop, I know not at what rate, I believe it was at the rate of twelve miles an hour. My learned friend, Mr. Adam, contemplated, possibly in alluding to Ireland, that some of the Irish members would arrive in wagons to a division. My learned friend says, that they would go at the rate of twelve miles an hour, with the aid of a devil in the form of a locomotive, sitting as a postillion upon the fore-horse, and an Honourable Member, whom I do not see here, sitting behind him to stir up the fire, and to keep it up at full speed. But the speed at which these locomotive engines are to go has slackened; Mr. Adam does not now go faster than five miles per hour. The learned Sergeant says, he should like to have seven, but he would be content to go six. I will show you he cannot go six; and probably, for any practical purposes, I may be able to show, that I can keep up with him by the canal. Now the real evidence to which you alone can pay attention shows, that practically, and for useful purposes, upon the average, and to keep up the rate of speed continually, they may go at something more than four miles an hour. In one of the collieries, there is a small engine with wheels four feet in diameter, which, with moderate weights has gone six; but I will not admit, because, in an experiment or two, they may have been driven at the rate of seven or eight miles an hour—because a small engine has been driven at the rate of six, that this is the average rate at which they can carry goods upon a railroad for the purpose of commerce, for that is the point to which the Committee ought to direct their attention, and to which the evidence is to be applied. It is quite idle to suppose, that an experiment made to ascertain the speed, when the power is worked up to the greatest extent, can afford a fair criterion of that which an engine will do in all states of the weather. In the first place, locomotive engines are liable to be operated upon by the weather. You are told that they are affected by rain, and an attempt has been made to cover them; but the wind will affect them, and any gale of wind which would affect the traffic on the Mersey, would render it impossible to set off a locomotive engine, either by poking up the fire, or keeping up the pressure of the steam till the boiler is ready to burst. I say so, for a scientific person happened to see a locomotive engine coming down an inclined plane, with a tolerable weight behind it, and he found that the strokes were reduced from fifty to twelve, as soon as the wind acted upon it; so that every gale that would produce an interruption to the intercourse by the canals, would prevent the progress of a locomotive engine, so that they have no advantage in that respect."


Difficulties connected with making surveys of land were encountered from the very commencement of railway enterprise. The following dialogue on the subject took place in the Committee of the House of Commons, April 27, 1825. Mr. Sergeant Spankie was the questioner and George Stephenson was the respondent.

Q. "You were asked about the quality of the soil through which you were to bore in order to ascertain the strata, and you were rather taunted because you had not ascertained the precise strata; had you any opportunity of boring?"

A. "I had none; I was threatened to be driven off the ground, and severely used if I were found upon the ground."

Q. "You were right, then, not to attempt to bore?"

A. "Of course, I durst not attempt to bore, after those threats."

Q. "Were you exposed to any inconvenience in taking your surveys in consequence of these interruptions?"

A. "We were."

Q. "On whose property?"

A. "On my Lord Sefton's, Lord Derby's, and particularly Mr. Bradshaw's part."

Q. "I believe you came near the coping of some of the canals?"

A. "I believe I was threatened to be ducked in the pond if I proceeded; and, of course we had a great deal of the survey to make by stealth, at the time the persons were at dinner; we could not get it by night, and guns were discharged over the grounds belonging to Captain Bradshaw, to prevent us; I can state further, I was twice turned off the ground myself (Mr. Bradshaw's) by his men; and they said, if I did not go instantly they would take me up, and carry me off to Worsley."

Committee. Q. "Had you ever asked leave?"

A. "I did, of all the gentlemen to whom I have alluded; at least, if I did not ask leave of all myself, I did of my Lord Derby, but I did not of Lord Sefton, but the Committee had—at least I was so informed; and I last year asked leave of Mr. Bradshaw's tenants to pass there, and they denied me; they stated that damage had been done, and I said if they would tell me what it was, I would pay them, and they said it was two pounds, and I paid it, though I do not believe it amounted to one shilling."

Q. "Do you suppose it is a likely thing to obtain leave from any gentleman to survey his land, when he knew that your men had gone upon his land to take levels without his leave, and he himself found them going through the corn, and through the gardens of his tenants, and trampling down the strawberry beds, which they were cultivating for the Liverpool market?"

A. "I have found it sometimes very difficult to get through places of that kind."

In some cases, Mr. Williams remarks, large bodies of navvies were collected for the defence of the surveyors; and being liberally provided with liquor, and paid well for the task, they intimidated the rightful owners, who were obliged to be satisfied with warrants of committal and charges of assault. The navvies were the more willing to engage in such undertakings, because the project, if carried out, afforded them the prospect of increased labour.


Mr. C. F. Adams, jun., remarks:—"It was this element of spontaneity, therefore,—the instant and dramatic recognition of success, which gave a peculiar interest to everything connected with the Manchester and Liverpool railroad. The whole world was looking at it, with a full realizing sense that something great and momentous was impending. Every day people watched the gradual development of the thing, and actually took part in it. In doing so they had sensations and those sensations they have described. There is consequently an element of human nature surrounding it. To their descriptions time has only lent a new freshness. They are full of honest wonder. They are much better and more valuable and more interesting now than they were fifty years ago, and for that reason are well worth exhuming.

"To introduce the contemporaneous story of the day, however, it is not necessary even to briefly review the long series of events which had slowly led up to it. The world is tolerably familiar with the early life of George Stephenson, and with the vexatious obstacles he had to overcome before he could even secure a trial for his invention. The man himself, however, is an object of a good deal more curiosity to us, than he was to those among whom he lived and moved. A living glimpse at him now is worth dwelling upon, and is the best possible preface to any account of his great day of life triumph. Just such a glimpse of the man has been given to us at the moment when at last all difficulties had been overcome—when the Manchester and Liverpool railroad was completed; and, literally, not only the eyes of Great Britain but those of all civilized countries were directed to it and to him who had originated it. At just that time it chanced that the celebrated actor, John Kemble, was fulfilling an engagement at Liverpool with his daughter, since known as Mrs. Frances Kemble Butler. The extraordinary social advantages the Kemble family enjoyed gave both father and daughter opportunities such as seldom come in the way of ordinary mortals. For the time being they were, in fact, the lions of the stage, just as George Stephenson was the lion of the new railroad. As was most natural the three lions were brought together. The young actress has since published her impressions, jotted down at the time, of the old engineer. Her account of a ride side by side with George Stephenson, on the seat of his locomotive, over the as yet unopened road, is one of the most interesting and life-like records we have of the man and the enterprise. Perhaps it is the most interesting. The introduction is Mrs. Kemble's own, and written forty-six years after the experience:—

"While we were acting at Liverpool, an experimental trip was proposed upon the line of railway which was being constructed between Liverpool and Manchester, the first mesh of that amazing iron net which now covers the whole surface of England, and all civilized portions of the earth. The Liverpool merchants, whose far-sighted self-interest prompted to wise liberality, had accepted the risk of George Stephenson's magnificent experiment, which the committee of inquiry of the House of Commons had rejected for the Government. These men, of less intellectual culture than the Parliament members, had the adventurous imagination proper to great speculators, which is the poetry of the counting house and wharf, and were better able to receive the enthusiastic infection of the great projector's sanguine hope than the Westminster committee. They were exultant and triumphant at the near completion of the work, though, of course, not without some misgivings as to the eventual success of the stupendous enterprise. My father knew several of the gentlemen most deeply interested in the undertaking, and Stephenson having proposed a trial trip as far as the fifteen-mile viaduct, they, with infinite kindness, invited him and permitted me to accompany them: allowing me, moreover, the place which I felt to be one of supreme honour, by the side of Stephenson. All that wonderful history, as much more interesting than a romance as truth is stranger than fiction, which Mr. Smiles's biography of the projector has given in so attractive a form to the world, I then heard from his own lips. He was rather a stern-featured man, with a dark and deeply marked countenance: his speech was strongly inflected with his native Northumbrian accent, but the fascination of that story told by himself, while his tame dragon flew panting along his iron pathway with us, passed the first reading of the Arabian Nights, the incidents of which it almost seemed to recall. He was wonderfully condescending and kind, in answering all the questions of my eager ignorance, and I listened to him with eyes brimful of warm tears of sympathy and enthusiasm, as he told me of all his alternations of hope and fear, of his many trials and disappointments, related with fine scorn, how the "Parliament men" had badgered and baffled him with their book-knowledge, and how, when at last they had smothered the irrepressible prophecy of his genius in the quaking depths of Chat Moss, he had exclaimed, 'Did ye ever see a boat float on water? I will make my road float upon Chat Moss!' The well-read Parliament men (some of whom, perhaps, wished for no railways near their parks and pleasure-grounds) could not believe the miracle, but the shrewd Liverpool merchants, helped to their faith by a great vision of immense gain, did; and so the railroad was made, and I took this memorable ride by the side of its maker, and would not have exchanged the honour and pleasure of it for one of the shares in the speculation."

"LIVERPOOL, August 26th, 1830.

"MY DEAR H—: A common sheet of paper is enough for love, but a foolscap extra can only contain a railroad and my ecstasies. There was once a man born at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, who was a common coal-digger; this man had an immense constructiveness, which displayed itself in pulling his watch to pieces and putting it together again; in making a pair of shoes when he happened to be some days without occupation; finally—here there is a great gap in my story—it brought him in the capacity of an engineer before a Committee of the House of Commons, with his head full of plans for constructing a railroad from Liverpool to Manchester. It so happened that to the quickest and most powerful perceptions and conceptions, to the most indefatigable industry and perseverance, and the most accurate knowledge of the phenomena of nature as they affect his peculiar labours, this man joined an utter want of the 'gift of gab;' he could no more explain to others what he meant to do and how he meant to do it, than he could fly, and therefore the members of the House of Commons, after saying 'There is a rock to be excavated to a depth of more than sixty feet, there are embankments to be made nearly to the same height, there is a swamp of five miles in length to be traversed, in which if you drop an iron rod it sinks and disappears; how will you do all this?' and receiving no answer but a broad Northumbrian, 'I can't tell you how I'll do it, but I can tell you I will do it,' dismissed Stephenson as a visionary. Having prevailed upon a company of Liverpool gentlemen to be less incredulous, and having raised funds for his great undertaking, in December of 1826 the first spade was struck in the ground. And now I will give you an account of my yesterday's excursion. A party of sixteen persons was ushered into a large court-yard, where, under cover, stood several carriages of a peculiar construction, one of which was prepared for our reception. It was a long-bodied vehicle with seats placed across it back to back; the one we were in had six of these benches, and was a sort of uncovered char a banc. The wheels were placed upon two iron bands, which formed the road, and to which they are fitted, being so constructed as to slide along without any danger of hitching or becoming displaced, on the same principle as a thing sliding on a concave groove. The carriage was set in motion by a mere push, and, having received this impetus, rolled with us down an inclined plane into a tunnel, which forms the entrance to the railroad. This tunnel is four hundred yards long (I believe), and will be lighted by gas. At the end of it we emerged from darkness, and, the ground becoming level, we stopped. There is another tunnel parallel with this, only much wider and longer, for it extends from the place we had now reached, and where the steam carriages start, and which is quite out of Liverpool, the whole way under the town, to the docks. This tunnel is for wagons and other heavy carriages; and as the engines which are to draw the trains along the railroad do not enter these tunnels, there is a large building at this entrance which is to be inhabited by steam engines of a stationary turn of mind, and different constitution from the travelling ones, which are to propel the trains through the tunnels to the terminus in the town, without going out of their houses themselves. The length of the tunnel parallel to the one we passed through is (I believe) two thousand two hundred yards. I wonder if you are understanding one word I am saying all this while? We were introduced to the little engine which was to drag us along the rails. She (for they make these curious little fire horses all mares) consisted of a boiler, a stove, a platform, a bench, and behind the bench a barrel containing enough water to prevent her being thirsty for fifteen miles,—the whole machine not bigger than a common fire engine. She goes upon two wheels, which are her feet, and are moved by bright steel legs called pistons; these are propelled by steam, and in proportion as more steam is applied to the upper extremities (the hip-joints, I suppose) of these pistons, the faster they move the wheels; and when it is desirable to diminish the speed, the steam, which unless suffered to escape would burst the boiler, evaporates through a safety valve into the air. The reins, bit, and bridle of this wonderful beast, is a small steel handle, which applies or withdraws the steam from its legs or pistons, so that a child might manage it.

"The coals, which are its oats, were under the bench, and there was a small glass tube affixed to the boiler, with water in it, which indicates by its fullness or emptiness when the creature wants water, which is immediately conveyed to it from its reservoirs. There is a chimney to the stove, but as they burn coke there is none of the dreadful black smoke which accompanies the progress of a steam vessel. This snorting little animal, which I felt rather inclined to pat, was then harnessed to our carriage, and Mr. Stephenson having taken me on the bench of the engine with him, we started at about ten miles an hour. The steam horse being ill adapted for going up and down hill, the road was kept at a certain level, and appeared sometimes to sink below the surface of the earth and sometimes to rise above it. Almost at starting it was cut through the solid rock, which formed a wall on either side of it, about sixty feet high. You can't imagine how strange it seemed to be journeying on thus, without any visible cause of progress other than the magical machine, with its flying white breath and rhythmical, unvarying pace, between these rocky walls, which are already clothed with moss and ferns and grasses; and when I reflected that these great masses of stone had been cut asunder to allow our passage thus far below the surface of the earth, I felt as if no fairy tale was ever half so wonderful as what I saw. Bridges were thrown from side to side across the top of these cliffs, and the people looking down upon us from them seemed like pigmies standing in the sky. I must be more concise, though, or I shall want room. We were to go only fifteen miles, that distance being sufficient to show the speed of the engine, and to take us to the most beautiful and wonderful object on the road. After proceeding through this rocky defile, we presently found ourselves raised upon embankments ten or twelve feet high; we then came to a moss or swamp, of considerable extent, on which no human foot could tread without sinking, and yet it bore the road which bore us. This had been the great stumbling-block in the minds of the committee of the House of Commons; but Mr. Stephenson has succeeded in overcoming it. A foundation of hurdles, or, as he called it, basket-work, was thrown over the morass, and the interstices were filled with moss and other elastic matter.

"Upon this the clay and soil were laid down, and the road does float, for we passed over it at the rate of five and twenty miles an hour, and saw the stagnant swamp water trembling on the surface of the soil on either side of us. I hope you understand me. The embankment had gradually been rising higher and higher, and in one place where the soil was not settled enough to form banks, Stephenson had constructed artificial ones of woodwork, over which the mounds of earth were heaped, for he said that though the woodwork would rot, before it did so the banks of earth which covered it would have been sufficiently consolidated to support the road. We had now come fifteen miles, and stopped where the road traversed a wide and deep valley. Stephenson made me alight and led me down to the bottom of this ravine, over which, in order to keep his road level, he has thrown a magnificent viaduct of nine arches, the middle one of which is seventy feet high, through which we saw the whole of this beautiful little valley. It was lovely and wonderful beyond all words. He here told me many curious things respecting this ravine; how he believed the Mersey had once rolled through it; how the soil had proved so unfavorable for the foundation of his bridge that it was built upon piles, which had been driven into the earth to an enormous depth; how while digging for a foundation he had come to a tree bedded in the earth, fourteen feet below the surface of the ground; how tides are caused, and how another flood might be caused; all of which I have remembered and noted down at much greater length than I can enter upon here. He explained to me the whole construction of the steam engine, and said he could soon make a famous engineer of me, which, considering the wonderful things he has achieved, I dare not say is impossible. His way of explaining himself is peculiar, but very striking, and I understood, without difficulty, all that he said to me. We then rejoined the rest of the party, and the engine having received its supply of water, the carriage was placed behind it, for it cannot turn, and was set off at its utmost speed, thirty-five miles an hour, swifter than a bird flies (for they tried the experiment with a snipe). You cannot conceive what that sensation of cutting the air was; the motion is as smooth as possible, too. I could either have read or written; and as it was, I stood up, and with my bonnet off 'drank the air before me.' The wind, which was strong, or perhaps the force of our own thrusting against it, absolutely weighed my eyelids down.

"When I closed my eyes this sensation of flying was quite delightful, and strange beyond description; yet strange as it was, I had a perfect sense of security, and not the slightest fear. At one time, to exhibit the power of the engine, having met another steam-carriage which was unsupplied with water, Mr. Stephenson caused it to be fastened in front of ours; moreover, a wagon laden with timber was also chained to us, and thus propelling the idle steam-engine, and dragging the loaded wagon which was beside it and our own carriage full of people behind, this brave little she-dragon of ours flew on. Farther on she met three carts, which, being fastened in front of her, she pushed on before her without the slightest delay or difficulty; when I add that this pretty little creature can run with equal facility either backwards or forwards, I believe I have given you an account of all her capacities. Now for a word or two about the master of all these marvels, with whom I am most horribly in love. He is a man from fifty to fifty-five years of age; his face is fine, though careworn, and bears an expression of deep thoughtfulness; his mode of explaining his ideas is peculiar and very original, striking, and forcible; and although his accents indicates strongly his north country birth, his language has not the slightest touch of vulgarity or coarseness. He has certainly turned my head. Four years have sufficed to bring this great undertaking to an end. The railroad will be opened upon the fifteenth of next month. The Duke of Wellington is coming down to be present on the occasion, and, I suppose, what with the thousands of spectators and the novelty of the spectacle, there will never have been a scene of more striking interest. The whole cost of the work (including the engines and carriages) will have been eight hundred and thirty thousand pounds; and it is already worth double that sum. The directors have kindly offered us three places for the opening, which is a great favour, for people are bidding almost anything for a place, I understand."

Even while Miss Kemble was writing this letter, certainly before it had reached her correspondent, the official programme of that opening to which she was so eagerly looking forward was thus referred to in the Liverpool papers:

"The day of opening still remains fixed for Wednesday the fifteenth instant. The company by whom the ceremony is to be performed, is expected to amount to eight or nine hundred persons, including the Duke of Wellington and several others of the nobility. They will leave Liverpool at an early hour in the forenoon, probably ten o'clock, in carriages drawn by eight or nine engines, including the new engine of Messrs. Braithwaite and Ericsson, if it be ready in time. The other engines will be those constructed by Mr. Stephenson, and each of them will draw about a hundred persons. On their arrival at Manchester, the company will enter the upper stories of the warehouses by means of a spacious outside wooden staircase, which is in course of erection for the purpose by Mr. Bellhouse. The upper storey of the range of warehouses is divided into five apartments, each measuring sixty-six feet by fifty-six. In four of these a number of tables (which Mr. Bellhouse is also preparing) will be placed, and the company will partake of a splendid cold collation which is to be provided by Mr. Lynn, of the Waterloo Hotel, Liverpool. A large apartment at the east end of the warehouses will be reserved as a withdrawing room for the ladies, and is partitioned off for that purpose. After partaking of the hospitality of the directors, the company will return to Liverpool in the same order in which they arrive. We understand that each shareholder in the railway will be entitled to a seat (transferable) in one of the carriages, on this interesting and important occasion. It may be proper to state, for the information of the public, that no one will be permitted to go upon the railway between Ordsall lane and the warehouses, and parties of the military and police will be placed to preserve order, and prevent intrusion. Beyond Ordsall lane, however, the public will be freely admitted to view the procession as it passes: and no restriction will be laid upon them farther than may be requisite to prevent them from approaching too close to the rails, lest accidents should occur. By extending themselves along either side of the road towards Eccles any number of people, however great, may be easily accommodated."

Of the carrying out on the 15th the programme thus carefully laid down, a contemporaneous reporter has left the following account:—

"The town itself [Liverpool] was never so full of strangers; they poured in during the last and the beginning of the present week from almost all parts of the three kingdoms, and we believe that through Chester alone, which is by no means a principal road to Liverpool, four hundred extra passengers were forwarded on Tuesday. All the inns in the town were crowded to overflowing, and carriages stood in the streets at night, for want of room in the stable yards.

"On the morning of Wednesday the population of the town and of the country began very early to assemble near the railway. The weather was favourable, and the Company's station at the boundary of the town was the rendezvous of the nobility and gentry who attended, to form the procession at Manchester. Never was there such an assemblage of rank, wealth, beauty, and fashion in this neighbourhood. From before nine o'clock until ten the entrance in Crown street was thronged by the splendid equipages from which the company was alighting, and the area in which the railway carriages were placed was gradually filling with gay groups eagerly searching for their respective places, as indicated by numbers corresponding with those on their tickets. The large and elegant car constructed for the nobility, and the accompanying cars for the Directors and the musicians were seen through the lesser tunnel, where persons moving about at the far end appeared as diminutive as if viewed through a concave glass. The effect was singular and striking. In a short time all those cars were brought along the tunnel into the yard which then contained all the carriages, which were to be attached to the eight locomotive engines which were in readiness beyond the tunnel in the great excavation at Edge-hill. By this time the area presented a beautiful spectacle, thirty-three carriages being filled by elegantly dressed persons, each train of carriages being distinguished by silk flags of different colours; the band of the fourth King's Own Regiment, stationed in the adjoining area, playing military airs, the Wellington Harmonic Band, in a Grecian car for the procession, performing many beautiful miscellaneous pieces; and a third band occupying a stage above Mr. Harding's Grand Stand, at William the Fourth's Hotel, spiritedly adding to the liveliness of the hour whenever the other bands ceased.

"A few minutes before ten, the discharge of a gun and the cheers of the assembly announced the arrival of the Duke of Wellington, who entered the area with the Marquis and Marchioness of Salisbury and a number of friends, the band playing 'See the conquering hero comes.' He returned the congratulations of the company, and in a few moments the grand car, which he and the nobility and the principal gentry occupied, and the cars attached to it, were permitted to proceed; we say permitted, because no applied power, except a slight impulse at first, is requisite to propel carriages along the tunnel, the slope being just sufficient to call into effect the principle of gravitation. The tunnel was lighted with gas, and the motion in passing through it must have been as pleasing as it was novel to all the party. On arriving at the engine station, the cars were attached to the Northumbrian locomotive engine, on the southern of the two lines of rail; and immediately the other trains of carriages started through the tunnel and were attached to their respective engines on the northern of the lines.

"We had the good fortune to have a place in the first train after the grand cars, which train, drawn by the Phoenix, consisted of three open and two close carriages, each carrying twenty-six ladies and gentlemen. The lofty banks of the engine station were crowded with thousands of spectators, whose enthusiastic cheering seemed to rend the air. From this point to Wavertree-lane, while the procession was forming, the grand cars passed and repassed the other trains of carriages several times, running as they did in the same direction on the two parallel tracks, which gave the assembled thousands and tens of thousands the opportunity of seeing distinctly the illustrious strangers, whose presence gave extraordinary interest to the scene. Some soldiers of the 4th Regiment assisted the railway police in keeping the way clear and preserving order, and they discharged their duty in a very proper manner. A few minutes before eleven all was ready for the journey, and certainly a journey upon a railway is one of the most delightful that can be imagined. Our first thoughts it might be supposed, from the road being so level, were that it must be monotonous and uninteresting. It is precisely the contrary; for as the road does not rise and fall like the ground over which we pass, but proceeds nearly at a level, whether the land be high or low, we are at one moment drawn through a hill, and find ourselves seventy feet below the surface, in an Alpine chasm, and at another we are as many feet above the green fields, traversing a raised path, from which we look down upon the roofs of farm houses, and see the distant hills and woods. These variations give an interest to such a journey which cannot be appreciated until they are witnessed. The signal gun being fired, we started in beautiful style, amidst the deafening plaudits of the well dressed people who thronged the numerous booths, and all the walls and eminences on both sides the line. Our speed was gradually increased till, entering the Olive Mountain excavation, we rushed into the awful chasm at the rate of twenty-four miles an hour. The banks, the bridges over our heads, and the rude projecting corners along the sides, were covered with masses of human beings past whom we glided as if upon the wings of the wind. We soon came into the open country of Broad Green, having fine views of Huyton and Prescot on the left, and the hilly grounds of Cheshire on the right. Vehicles of every description stood in the fields on both sides, and thousands of spectators still lined the margin of the road; some horses seemed alarmed, but after trotting with their carriages to the farther hedges, they stood still as if their fears had subsided. After passing Whiston, sometimes going slowly, sometimes swiftly, we observed that a vista formed by several bridges crossing the road gave a pleasing effect to the view. Under Rainhill Bridge, which, like all the others, was crowded with spectators, the Duke's car stopped until we passed, and on this, as on similar occasions, we had excellent opportunities of seeing the whole of the noble party, distinguishing the Marquis and Marchioness of Salisbury, the Earl and Countess of Wilton, Lord Stanley, and others, in the fore part of the car; alongside of the latter part was Mr. Huskisson, standing with his face always toward us; and further behind was Lord Hill, and others, among whom the Mayor of Liverpool took his station. At this place Mr. Bretherton had a large party of friends in a field, overlooking the road. As we approached the Sutton inclined plane the Duke's car passed us again at a most rapid rate—it appeared rapid even to us who were travelling then at, probably, fifteen miles an hour. We had a fine view of Billings Hill from this neighbourhood, and of a thousand various coloured fields. A grand stand was here erected, beautifully decorated, and crowded with ladies and gentlemen from St. Helen's and the neighbourhood. Entering upon Parr Moss we had a good view of Newton Race Course and the stands, and at this time the Duke was far ahead of us; the grand cars appeared actually of diminutive dimensions, and in a short time we saw them gliding beautifully over the Sankey Viaduct, from which a scene truly magnificent lay before us.

"The fields below us were occupied by thousands who cheered us as we passed over the stupendous edifice; carriages filled the narrow lanes, and vessels in the water had been detained in order that their crews might gaze up at the gorgeous pageant passing far above their masts heads. Here again was a grand stand, and here again enthusiastic plaudits almost deafened us. Shortly, we passed the borough of Newton, crossing a fine bridge over the Warrington road, and reached Parkside, seventeen miles from Liverpool, in about four minutes under the hour. At this place the engines were ranged under different watering stations to receive fresh water, the whole extending along nearly half a mile of road. Our train and two others passed the Duke's car, and we in the first train had had our engine supplied with water, and were ready to start, some time before we were aware of the melancholy cause of our apparently great delay. We had most of us, alighted, and were walking about, congratulating each other generally, and the ladies particularly, on the truly delightful treat we were enjoying, all hearts bounding with joyous excitement, and every tongue eloquent in the praise of the gigantic work now completed, and the advantages and pleasures it afforded. A murmur and an agitation at a little distance betokened something alarming and we too soon learned the nature of that lamentable event, which we cannot record without the most agonized feelings. On inquiring, we learnt the dreadful particulars. After three of the engines with their trains had passed the Duke's carriage, although the others had to follow, the company began to alight from all the carriages which had arrived. The Duke of Wellington and Mr. Huskisson had just shaken hands, and Mr. Huskisson, Prince Esterhazy, Mr. Birch, Mr. H. Earle, Mr. William Holmes, M.P., and others were standing in the road, when the other carriages were approaching. An alarm being given, most of the gentlemen sprang into the carriage, but Mr. Huskisson seemed flurried, and from some cause, not clearly ascertained, he fell under the engine of the approaching carriages, the wheel of which shattered his leg in the most dreadful manner. On being raised from the ground by the Earl of Wilton, Mr. Holmes, and other gentlemen, his only exclamations were:—"Where is Mrs. Huskisson? I have met my death. God forgive me." Immediately after he swooned. Dr. Brandreth, and Dr. Southey, of London, immediately applied bandages to the limb. In a short time the engine was detached from the Duke's carriage, and the musician's car being prepared for the purpose, the Right Honourable gentleman was placed in it, accompanied by his afflicted lady, with Dr. Brandreth, Dr. Southey, Earl of Wilton, and Mr. Stephenson, who set off in the direction of Manchester.

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