The Stephsons (Footnotes)
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"The Railway Service, its Exigencies, Provisions, and Requirements." By W. F. Mills. London, 1867.


"Lives of the Engineers," vols. i. and ii.


 Harleian MSS, vol. iii, 269.


"Six Months' Tour," vol. iii, p.


"Travels in England, Scotland and the Hebrides," vol. i.,142.


"Railway Locomotion and Steam Navigation, their Principles and Practice." By John Curr. London, 1847.


A curious account of this early project is to be found in the library of the British Museum, under the name "Stevin, 1652."


The writer adds—"I believe he (Sir Humphry Mackworth) is the first gentleman in this part of the world that hath set up sailing engines on land, driven by the wind; not for any curiosity or vain applause, but for real profit; whereby he could not fail of Bishop Malkin's blessing on his undertakings, in case he were in a capacity to bestow it. *"


See farther, "Lives of the Engineers, "vol. iv., Boulton and Watt, p. 182-4.


Soho MSS.


Soho MSS.




"Portfeuille du Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers," Livraison 1, p. 3.


This statement is made in "The Life of John Fitch," by Thompson Westcott, Philadelphia, 1857.  Mr. Thompson there states that the idea employing a steam-engine to propel carriages on land occurred to John Fitch at a time when, he avers, "he was altogether ignorant that a steam-engine had ever been invented!" (p. 120).  Such a statement is calculated to damage the credibility of the entire book, in which the invention of the steam-boat, as well as of the screw propeller, is unhesitatingly claimed for John Fitch.


Horne's "Memoirs of the Most Eminent American Mechanics," New York, 1868, p. 76.


Weale's "Papers on Engineering," vol. i. "On the Dredging Machine,'' p. 7.


Paper read by Henry Boaze, Esq., "On Captain Trevithick's Adventures," at the Anniversary Meeting of September, 1817.—"Transactions of Royal Geological Society of Cornwall," vol. i., p.212.


On the 12th of August, 1831, by which time the Liverpool and Manchester line was in full work, Trevithick appeared as a witness before the select committee of the House of Commons on the employment of steam-carriages on common roads.  He said "he had been abroad a good many years, and had had nothing to do with steam-carriages until very lately.  He had it now, however, in contemplation to do a great deal on common roads, and, with that view, had taken out a patent for an entirely new engine, the arrangements in which were calculated to obviate all the difficulties which had hitherto stood in the way of travelling on common roads."


A tradition exists in the family that Robert Stephenson's father came across the Border on the loss of considerable property.  Miss Stephenson, the daughter of Robert's third son, John, has stated that a suit was commenced for recovery of the property, but was dropped for want of the requisite means to prosecute it.


The family Bible of Robert and Mabel Stephenson, which seems to have come into their possession in November, 1790, contains the following record of the births of these children, evidently written by one hand and at one time:
    "A Rechester of the children belonging Robert and Mabel Stepheson—
    "James Stepheson Was Born March the 4 day 1779
    "George Stepheson Was Born June 9 day 1781
    "Elender Stepheson Was Born April the 10 day 1784
    "Robert Stepheson Was Born March the 10 day 1788
    "John Stepheson Was Born November the 4 day 1789
    "Ann Stepheson Was Born July the 19 day 1792."
Of the two daughters, Eleanor married Stephen Liddell, afterward employed in the Locomotive Factory in Newcastle.  Ann married John Nixon, with whom she emigrated to the United States; she died at Pittsburg in 1860.  John Stephenson was accidentally killed at the Locomotive Factory in January, 1831.


Father of Mr. Locke, M.P., the engineer. He afterward removed to Barnsley, in Yorkshire.


The Stephenson Memorial Schools have since been erected on the site of the old cottage at Willington Quay represented in the engraving at the head of this chapter. A vignette of the Memorial Schools will be found at the end of the volume.


No register was made of Robert Stephenson's birth, and he himself was in doubt whether he was born in October, November, or December.  For instance, a dinner was given to him by the contractors of the London and Birmingham Railway on the 16th of November, 1839, that day being then supposed by his father to have been his birthday.  When preparing the "Life of George Stephenson," Robert stated to the author that the 16th of December was the correct day.  But, after the book had passed through four editions, he desired the date to be corrected to the 16th of October, which, on the whole, he thought the right date, and it was so altered accordingly.


The congregation in a church near Newcastle were one Sunday morning plentifully powdered with chips from the white ceiling of the church, which had been crept under, being above an old mine.  "It is only the pit a-creeping," said the parish clerk, by way of encouragement to the people to remain.  But it would not do; for there was a sudden creep out of the congregation.  The clerk went at last, with a powdered head, crying out, "It's only a creep."—"Our Coal-Fields and our Coal-Pits."


This incident was related by Robert Stephenson during a voyage to the north of Scotland in 1857, when off Montrose, on board his yacht Titania; and the reminiscence was immediately communicated to the author by the late Mr. William Kell, of Gateshead, who was present, at Mr. Stephenson's request, as being worthy of insertion in his father's biography.  Mr. George Elliott, one of the most skilled coal-viewers in the North, was of the party, and expressed his admiration at the ready skill with the difficulty had been overcome, the expedient of the boot being then unknown in the Northumberland and Durham mines.  He acknowledged it to be ''a wrinkle," adding that its application would, in several instances within his own knowledge, have been of great practical value.


As different versions have been given of this affair, it may be mentioned that the above statement is made on the authority of the late Robert Stephenson, and of George Stephenson himself, as communicated by the latter to his friend Thomas L. Gooch, C.E., who has kindly supplied the author with his memoranda on the subject.


Speech at Newcastle, on the 18th of Jane, 1844, at the meeting held in celebration of the opening of the Newcastle and Darlington Railway.


At one part of the road he was once pulled off his donkey by some mischievous boys, and released by a young man named James Burnet.  Many years after, Burnet was taken on as a workman at the Newcastle factory, probably owing his selection in some measure to the above circumstance.


Robert Stephenson was, perhaps, prouder of this little boyish experiment than he was of many of his subsequent achievements.  Not having been quite accurately stated in the first edition of this book, Mr. Stephenson noted the correction for the second, and wrote to the author (Sept. 18th, 1857) as follows: "In the kite experiment, will you say that the copper wire was insulated by a few feet of silk cord; without this, the experiment can not be made."


Evidence given before the Select Committee on Accidents in Mines, 1835.


The same fallacy seems long to have held its ground in France; for M. Granier tells us that some time after the first of George Stephenson's locomotives bad been placed on the Liverpool and Manchester line, a model of one was exhibited before the Academy.  After it had been examined, a member of that learned body said, smiling, "Yes, this is all very ingenious, no doubt, but unfortunately the machine will never move.  The wheels will turn round and round in the same place."


John Steele was one of the many "born mechanics" of the Northumberland district.  When a boy at Colliery Dykes, his native place, he was noted for his "turn for machinery."  He used to take his playfellows home to see and admire his imitations of pit-engines.  While a mere youth he lost his leg by an accident; and those who remember him at Whinfield's speak of his hopping about the locomotive, of which he was very proud, upon his wooden leg.  It was a great disappointment to him when Mr. Blackett refused to take the engine.  One day he took a friend to look at it when reduced to its degraded office of blowing the cupola bellows; and, referring to the cause of its rejection, he observed that he was certain it would succeed, if made sufficiently heavy.  "Our master," he continued, "will not be at the expense of following it up; but depend upon it the day will come when such an engine will be fairly tried, and then it will be found to answer."  Steele was afterward extensively employed by the British government in raising sunken ships; and later in life he established engine-works at Rouen, where he made marine-engines for the French government.  He was unfortunately killed by the explosion of an engine-boiler (with the safety-valve, of which something had gone wrong) when on an experimental trip with one of the steamers fitted up by himself, and on his way to England to visit his family near Newcastle.


Thomas Gray, a native of Leeds, was an enthusiastic believer in the new tractive power, and wherever he went he preached up railways and Blenkinsop's locomotive.  While he was living at Brussels in 1816, a canal to Charleroi was under consideration, on which he seized the opportunity of urging the superior merits of a railway.  When he returned to England in 1820, he wrote a book upon the subject, entitled, "Observations on a General Iron Railway," in which he strongly advocated the advantages of railways generally, giving as a frontispiece to the book an engraving of Blenkinsop's engine.  And several years after the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway we find Thomas Gray, true to his first love, urging in the ''Mechanic's Magazine" the superiority of Blenkinsop's cogged wheel and rail over the smooth road and rail of the modem railway.


Other machines with legs were patented in the following year by Lewis Gompertz and by Thomas Tindall.  In Tindall's specification it is provided that the power of the engine is to be assisted by a horizontal windmill; and the four pushers, or legs, are to be caused to come successively in contact with the ground, and impel the carriage.


Mr. Hedley took out a patent to secure his invention, dated the 13th of March, 1813. Specification No. 3666.  If it be true, as alleged, that the wheels of Trevithick's first locomotive were smooth, it seems strange that the fallacy should ever have existed.


By the year 1825, the progress made on the Wylam Railroad was thus described by Mr. Mackenzie in the "History of Northumberland;" "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 21½ tons; and his surprise is increased on witnessing the extraordinary facility with which the engine is managed.  This invention is a noble triumph of science."


At the Stephenson Memorial meeting at Newcastle-on-Tyne, 26th of October, 1858, Mr. Hugh Taylor, chairman of the Northern Coal-owners, gave the following account of one of such visits made by Stephenson to Wylam, in the company of Mr. Nicholas Wood and himself: "It was, I think, in 1812, that Mr. Stephenson and Mr. Wood came to my house, then at Newburn, and after we had dined, we went and examined the locomotive then on Mr. Blackett's wagon-way.  At that early date it went by a sort of cog-wheel; there was also something of a chain to it.  There was no idea that the machine would be sufficiently adhesive to the rails by the action of its own weight; but I remember a man going before—that was after the chain was abrogated—and scattering ashes on the rails, in order to give it adhesiveness, and two or three miles an hour was about the rate of progress."


Speech at the opening of the Newcastle and Darlington Railway, June 18,1844.


It must, however, be mentioned that Mr. Zerah Colburn, in his excellent work on "Locomotive Engineering and the Mechanism of Railways," points out that Mr. Davies Gilbert noted the effect of the discharge of the waste steam up the chimney of Trevithick's engine in increasing the draught, and wrote a letter to "Nicholson's Journal" (Sept, 1805) on the subject; and Mr. Nicholson himself proceeded to investigate the subject, and in 1806 he took out a patent for "steam-blasting apparatus," applicable to fixed engines, which, however, does not seem to have come into use. (See [ante, p.82.)


Nicholas Wood, "Practical Treatise on Railways" ed. 1825, p. 147.


Ibid., p. 292-3.


Nicholas Wood, "Practical Treatise on Railways" ed. 1825, p. 294.  These passages will be found in the first edition of Mr. Wood's work, published in 1825.  The subsequent editions do not contain them.  A few years' experience wrought great changes of opinion on many points connected with the practical working of railways, and Mr. Wood altered his text accordingly.  But it is most important for our present purpose to note that, in the year 1825, long before the Liverpool and Manchester line opened, Mr. Wood should have so clearly described the steam-blast, which had been in regular use for more than ten years in all Stephenson's locomotives employed in the working of the Killingworth railway.


Evidence given by George Stephenson before the Select Committee on Accidents in Mines, 26th June, 1835.


The accuracy of the above statement having been called in question, it is proper to state that the facts as set forth were verbally communicated to the author in the first place by Robert Stephenson, to whom the chapter was afterward read in MS. in the presence of Mr. Sopwith, F.R.S., and received his entire approval.  But at the time at which Mr. Stephenson communicated the verbal information, he also handed a little book with his name written in it, still in the author's possession, saying, "Read that; you will find it all there."  This little book contains, among other things, a pamphlet, entitled "Report on the Claims of Mr. George Stephenson relative to the Invention of his Safety-lamp.  By the Committee appointed at a Meeting holden in Newcastle, on the 1st of November, 1817.  With an Appendix containing the Evidence."  Among the witnesses examined were George Stephenson, Nicholas Wood, and John Moodie, and their evidence is given in the pamphlet.  Stephenson said that he tried the first lamp "in a part of the mine where the air was highly explosive.  Nicholas Wood and John Moodie were his companions when the trial was made.  They became frightened when they came within hearing of the blower, and would not go any further.  Mr. Stephenson went alone with the lamp to the mouth of the blower," etc.  This evidence was confirmed by John Moodie, who said the air of the place where the equipment was about to be tried was such, that, if a lighted candle had been introduced, an explosion would have taken place that would have been "extremely dangerous."  "Told Stephenson it was foul, and hinted at the danger; nevertheless Stephenson would try the lamp, confiding in its safety.  Stephenson took the lamp and went with it into the place in which Moodie had been, and Moodie and Wood, apprehensive of the danger, retired to a greater distance," etc.  The accuracy of the other statements made in the text relative to the invention of the safety-lamp is confirmed by the same publication.


The early connection of Robert with the Philosophical and Literary Society of Newcastle had brought him into communication with the Rev. William Turner, one of the secretaries of the institution.  That gentleman was always ready to assist the inquirer after knowledge, and took an early interest in the studious youth from Killingworth, with whose father he also became acquainted.  Mr. Turner cheerfully helped them in their joint inquiries, and excited while he endeavoured to satisfy their thirst for scientific information.  Toward the close of his life Mr. Stephenson often spoke of the gratitude and esteem he felt toward his revered instructor.  "Mr. Turner," he said, "was always ready to assist me with books, with instruments, and with counsel, gratuitously and cheerfully.  He gave me the most valuable assistance and instruction, and to my dying day I can never forget the obligations which I owe to my venerable friend."


"A Description of the Safety-lamp, invented by George Stephenson, and now in use in the Killingworth Colliery."  London, 1817.


The committee, in their report, after setting forth in a tabular form the dates at which Stephenson and Davy verified their theories by experiments, and brought out their respective safety-lamps, proceeded to say: "The friends of Mr. Stephenson, with this table before them, conceive their resolution to be fully borne out by the testimony of dates and facts, so far as they are known; and without the slightest idea or wish of detracting from the scientific fame, honour, or veracity of Sir Humphry Davy, they would repeat, and confine themselves to the simple assertion of their belief, that Mr. Stephenson was the first to construct a lamp upon the principle in question.  And when the friends of Mr. Stephenson remember the humble and laborious station of life which he has occupied; when they consider the scanty means and opportunities which he has had for pursuing researches in practical science, and look to the improvements and discoveries which, notwithstanding so many disadvantages, he has been enabled to make by the judicious and unremitting exercise of the energy and acuteness of his natural understanding, they can not persuade themselves that they have said any thing more than any liberal and feeling mind would most readily admit."


The tankard bore the following inscription: "This piece of plate, purchased with a part of the sum of £1,000, a subscription raised for the remuneration of Mr. GEORGE STEPHENSON for having discovered the fact that inflamed fire-damp will not pass through tubes and apertures of small dimensions, and having been the first to apply that principle in the construction of a safety-lamp calculated for the preservation of human life in situations formerly of the greatest danger, was presented to him at a meeting of the subscribers, Charles John Brandling, Esq., in the chair, January 12th, 1818."


The accident above referred to was described in the "Barnsley Times," a copy of which, containing the account, Robert Stephenson forwarded to the author, with the observation that ''it is evidently written by a practical miner, and is, I think, worthy of record in my father's Life."  Mr. John Browne, C.E., Barnsley, in a communication which appeared in the "Times" of December 24th, 1860, observed:

    "At the period of this occurrence we had two kinds of safety-lamps in use in this pit, viz., 'Davy' and 'Stephenson,' and the gas, in going off to the upcast shaft, had to pass great numbers of men, who were at work with both kinds of lamps.  The whole of the 'Davy's' became red-hot almost instantaneously from the rapid ignition of the gas within the gauze; the 'Stephenson's' were as instantly self-extinguished from the same cause, it being the prominent qualification of these lamps that, in addition to affording a somewhat better light than the 'Davy' lamp, they are suddenly extinguished when placed within a highly explosive atmosphere, so that no person can remain working and run the risk of his lamp becoming red-hot, which, under such circumstances, would be the result with the 'Davy' lamp.

    "The red-hot lamps were, most fortunately, all safely put out, although the men in many cases had their hands severely burnt by the gauze; but from that time I fully resolved to adopt the exclusive use of the 'Stephenson' lamps, and not expose men to the fearful risk they must run from working with 'Davy' lamps during the probable recurrence of a similar event.

    ''I may remark that the 'Stephenson' lamp, originally invented by the great George Stephenson, in its present shape combines the merits of his discovery with that of Sir Humphry Davy, constituting, to my mind, the safest lamp at present known, and I speak from the long use of many hundreds daily in various collieries."

    In an account given in the ''Times" of the 10th of August, 1867, of a number of experiments made upon different safety-lamps at the Barnsley Gas-works, occasioned by the terrible explosion at the Lund Hill Colliery, it is stated that the different lamps were tested with the following results: ''The 'Davy' lamp with no shield on the outside exploded the gas in six seconds, and with the shield inside the gauze in nine seconds.  The 'Belgian' lamp exploded in ten seconds; the 'Mozard' in ten seconds; the small 'Clanny' in seven seconds, the large one in ten seconds; and the 'Stephenson' in seventy-five seconds.  Although the 'Stephenson' is undoubtedly the best, it will be seen that none of the so-called safety-lamps can be depended upon when coming in contact with a strong explosive current of fire-damp and air."


The iron wheels of this engine were afterward removed, and replaced with wooden wheels, when it was again put upon the road, and continued working until quite recently.  Its original cost was £750.  It was sold in 1848 for £13, and broken up as old materials.


The act for constructing the Merthyr Tydvil Tram-road was obtained from Parliament as early as 1794; that for the Sirhoway Railroad in 1801; the Carmarthenshire Railroad was sanctioned in the same year; and the Oystermonth Railway in 1803.


Mr. Richardson was founder of the afterward well-known discount-house of Richardson, Overend, and Gurney, Lombard Street, London.


The first clause in any railway act empowering the employment of locomotive engines for the working of passenger traffic.


This incident, communicated to the author by the late Edward Pease, has since been made the subject of a fine picture by Mr. A. Rankley, A.R.A., exhibited at the Royal Academy Exhibition of 1861.


Stephenson's recommendation of wrought-iron instead of cast-iron rails was the cause of a rupture between Mr. Losh and himself.  Stephenson thought his duty was to give his employers the best advice; Losh thought his business was to push the patent cast-iron rails wherever he could. Stephenson regarded this view as sordid; and the two finally separated after a quarrel, in high dudgeon with each other.


The rapid progress of the coal and merchandise traffic of the Stockton and Darlington line, of which Middlesbro' is the principal sea-port, may be inferred from the following brief statement of facts: The original estimate assumed that 165,488 tons of coal would be carried annually, and produce an income of £11,904.  The revenue from other sources was taken at £4104.  In 1827, the first year in which the coal and merchandise traffic was fully worked, the revenue from coal was £14,455; from lime, merchandise, and sundries, £3285; and from passengers (which had not been taken into account}, £563.  In 1860, when the original line of 25 miles had become extended to 125 miles, and the original capital of £150,000 had swelled to £3,800,000, the quantity of coal carried had increased to 3,045,596 tons in the year, besides 1,484,409 tons of ironstone and other minerals, producing a revenue of £280,375; while 1,484,409 tons of merchandise had been carried in the same year, producing £63,478, and 687,728 passengers, producing £45,898.


The coaches were not allowed to be run upon the line without considerable opposition.  We find Edward Pease writing to Joseph Sandars of Liverpool, on the 18th of June, 1837: "Our railway coach proprietors have individually received notices of a process in the Exchequer for various fines, to the amount of £150, in penalties of £20 each, for neglecting to have the plates, with the numbers of their licenses, on the coach doors, agreeably to the provision of the Act 95 George IV.  In looking into the nature of this proceeding and its consequences, it is clear, if the court shall confirm it by conviction that we are undone as to the conveyance of passengers."  Mr. Pease incidentally mentions the names of the several coach proprietors at the time—"Pickersgill and Co., Richard Scott, and Martha Hewson."  The proceeding was eventually defeated, it being decided that the penalties only applied to coaches travelling on common or turnpike roads.


Many years ago I met in a public library with a bulky volume, consisting of the prospectuses of various projects bound up together, and labelled, 'Some of the Bubbles of 1825.'  Among the projects thus described was one that has since been productive of the greatest and most rapid advance in the social condition of mankind effected since the first dawn of civilization: it was the plan of the company for constructing a railway between Liverpool and Manchester."—W. B. Hodge, in "Journal of the Institute of Actuaries," No. 40, July, 1860.


"Wood on Railroads," ed. 1825, p. 290.


George's Northumberland "burr" was so strong that it rendered him almost unintelligible to persons who were unfamiliar with it; and he had even thoughts of going to school again, for the purpose, if possible, of getting rid of it.  In the year 1823, when Stephenson was forty-two years of age, we find his friend Thomas Richardson, of Lombard Street, writing to Samuel Thoroughgood, a schoolmaster at Peckham, as follows: "DEAR FRIEND,—My friend George Stephenson, a man of first-rate abilities as an engineer, but of little or no education, wants to consult thee or some other person to see if he can not improve himself—he has so much Northumberland dialect, etc.  He will be at my house on sixth day next, about five o'clock, if thou could make it convenient to see him.  Thy assured friend, THOS. RICHARDSON."


Hugh Steele and Elijah Galloway afterward proceeded with the survey at one part of the line, and Messrs. Oliver and Blackett at another.  The former couple seem to have made some grievous blunder in the levels on Chat Moss, and the circumstance weighed so heavily on Steele's mind that, shortly after hearing of the rejection of the bill, he committed suicide in Stephenson's office at Newcastle.  Gooch informs us that this unhappy affair served to impress upon the minds of Stephenson's other pupils the necessity of insuring greater accuracy and attention in future, and that the lesson, though sad, was not lost upon them.


When the Liverpool directors went to inspect the works in progress on the Moss, they were run along the temporary rails in the little three-feet gauge wagons used for forming the road.  They were being thus impelled one day at considerable speed when the wagon suddenly ran off the road, and Mr. Moss, one of the directors, was thrown out in a soft place, from which, however, he was speedily extricated, not without leaving a deep mark.  George used afterward laughingly to refer to the circumstance as "the meeting of the Mosses."


Mr. Gooch's letter to the author, December 13th, 1861.  Referring to the preparation of the plans and drawings, Mr. Gooch adds, "When we consider the extensive sets of drawings which most engineers have since found it right to adopt in carrying out similar works, it is not the least surprising feature in George Stephenson's early professional career that he should have been able to confine himself to so limited a number as that which could be supplied by the hands of one person in carrying out the construction of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway; and this may still be said, after full allowance is made for the alteration of system involved by the adoption of the large contract system."


While at Liverpool Stephenson had very little time for "company;" but on one particular occasion he invited his friend Mr. Sandars to dinner, and, as that gentleman was a connoisseur in port wine, his host determined to give him a special treat of that drink.  Stephenson accordingly went to the small merchant with whom he usually dealt, and ordered "half a dozen of his very best port wine," which was promised of first-rate quality.  After dinner the wine was produced; and when Mr. Sandars had sipped a glass, George, after waiting a little for the expected eulogium, at length asked, "Well, Sandars, how d'ye like the port?" "Poor stuff!" said the guest, "poor stuff!"  George was very much shocked, and with difficulty recovered his good humour.  But he lived to be able to treat Mr. Sandars to a better article at Tapton House, when he used to laugh over his first futile attempt at Liverpool to gain a reputation for his port.


Letter to the author.


Letter to Mr. Illingworth, September 25th, 1825.  The reports made to the directors and officers of the company, which we have seen, contain the details of the operations carried on at the mines, but they are as dry and uninteresting as such reports usually are, and furnish no materials calculated to illustrate the subject of the text.


In a letter to Mr. Illingworth, then resident at Bogotá, dated the 24th of March, 1826, Robert wrote as follows: "Nothing but the fullest consent of my partners in England could induce me to stay in this country, and the assurance that no absolute necessity existed to call me home.  I must also have the consent of my father.  I know that he must have suffered severely from my absence, but that having been extended so far beyond the period he was led to expect, may have induced him to curtail his plans, which, had they been accomplished, as they would have been by my assistance, would have placed us both in a situation far superior to any thing that I can hope for as the servant of an association however wealthy and liberal.  What I might do in England is perhaps known to myself only; it is difficult, therefore, for the association to calculate upon rewarding me to the full extent of my prospects at home.  My prosperity is involved in that of my father, whose property was sacrificed in laying the foundations of an establishment for me; his capital being invested in a concern which requires the greatest attention, and which, with our personal superintendence, could not fail to secure that independence which forms so principally the object of all our toil."


Mr. Booth's Account, p.70-1.  While concurring with Mr. Rastrick in recommending "the stationary reciprocating system as the best" if it was the directors' intention to make the line complete at once, so as to accommodate the traffic expected by them, or a quantity approaching to it (i.e., 3750 tons of goods and passengers from Liverpool toward Manchester, and 3950 tons from Manchester toward Liverpool), Mr. Walker added, "but if any circumstances should induce the directors to proceed by degrees, and to proportion the power of conveyance to the demand, then we recommend locomotive engines upon the line generally; and two fixed engines upon Rainhill and Sutton planes, to draw up the locomotive engines as well as the goods and carriages;" and "if on any occasion the trade should get beyond the supply of locomotives, the horse might form a temporary substitute."  As, however, it was the directors' determination, with a view to the success of their experiment, to open the line complete for working, they felt that it would be unadvisable to adopt this partial experiment; and it was still left for them to decide whether they would adopt or not the substantial recommendation of the reporting engineers in favour of the stationary-engine system for the complete accommodation of the expected traffic.


The arguments used by Mr. Stephenson with the directors in favour of the locomotive engine were afterward collected and published in 1830 by Robert Stephenson and Joseph Locke, as "compiled from the Reports of Mr. George Stephenson."  The Pamphlet was entitled "Observations on the Comparative Merits of Locomotive and Fixed Engines."  Robert Stephenson, speaking of the authorship many years after, said, "I believe I furnished the facts and the arguments, and Locke put them into shape.  Locke was a very flowery writer, whereas my style was rather bald and unattractive; so he was the editor of the pamphlet, which excited a good deal of attention among engineers at the time."


The conditions were these:

1. The engine must effectually consume its own smoke.
2. The engine, if of six tons' weight, must be able to draw after it, day by day, twenty tons' weight (including the tender and water-tank) at ten miles an hour, with a pressure of steam on the boiler not exceeding fifty pounds to the square inch.
3. The boiler must have two safety valves, neither of which must be fastened down, and one of them be completely out of the control of the engine-man.
4. The engine and boiler must be supported on springs, and rest on six wheels, the height of the whole not exceeding fifteen feet to the top of the chimney.
5. The engine, with water, must not weigh more than six tons; but an engine of less weight would be preferred on its drawing a proportionate load behind it ; if of only four and a half tons, then it might be put on only four wheels.  The company to be at liberty to test the boiler, etc., by a pressure of one hundred and fifty pounds to the square inch.
6. A mercurial gauge must be affixed to the machine, showing the steam pressure above forty-five pounds per square inch.
7. The engine must be delivered, complete and ready for trial, at the Liverpool end of the railway, not later than the 1st of October, 1829.
8. The price of the engine must not exceed £550.

    Many persons of influence declared the conditions published by the directors of the railway chimerical in the extreme.  One gentleman of some eminence in Liverpool, Mr. P. Ewart, who afterward filled the office of Government Inspector of Post-office Steam Packets, declared that only a parcel of charlatans would ever have issued such a set of conditions; that it had been proved to be impossible to make a locomotive engine go at ten miles an hour; but if it ever was done, he would undertake to eat a stewed engine-wheel for his breakfast!


Some correspondence took place between Boulton and Watt on the subject, when the latter was scheming the application of the steam-engine to locomotive purposes.  In a letter to Boulton, dated the 27th of August, 1784, Watt said, "Perhaps some means may be hit upon to make the boiler cylindrical with a number of tubes passing through, like the organ-pipe condenser, whereby it might be thinner and lighter ; but," he added, "I fear this would be too subject to accidents."


The inventor of this engine was a Swede, who afterward proceeded to United States, and there achieved considerable distinction as an engineer.  His caloric engine has so far proved a failure, but his iron cupola vessel, the "Monitor," must be admitted to have been a remarkable success in its way.


Mr. Wood's speech at Newcastle, 26th of October, 1858.


When heavier and more powerful engines were brought upon the road, the old "Rocket," becoming regarded as a thing of no value, was sold in 1837.  It was purchased by Mr. Thompson, of Kirkhouse, the lessee of the Earl of Carlisle's coal and lime works, near Carlisle.  He worked the engine on the Midgeholme Railway for five or six years, during which it hauled coals from the pits to the town.  There was wonderful vitality in the old engine, as the following circumstance proves.  When the great contest for the representation of East Cumberland took place, and Sir James Graham was superseded by Major Aglionby, the "Rocket" was employed to convey the Alston express with the state of the poll from Midgeholme to Kirkhouse.  On that occasion the engine was driven by Mr. Mark Thompson, and it ran the distance of upward of four miles in four and a half minutes, thus reaching a speed of nearly sixty miles an hour, proving its still admirable qualities as an engine.  But again it was superseded by heavier engines; for it only weighed about four tons, whereas the new engines were at least three times that weight.  The "Rocket" was consequently laid up in ordinary in the yard at Kirkhouse, from whence it has since been transferred to the Museum of Patents at Kensington, where it is still to be seen. [Ed.―now the Science Museum, London, where the "Rocket" exists much rebuilt from its appearance at the Rainhill trials.]


Ed.―the following explanation of the steam road carriage illustration is additional material to Smiles's manuscript.

Explanation of the References:

1. The Guide and Engineer, to whom the whole management of the machinery and conduct of the carriage is intrusted. Besides this man, a guard will be employed.
2. The handle which guides the Pole and Pilot Wheels.
3. The Pilot Wheels.
4. The Pole.
5. The Fore Boot, for luggage.
6. The "Throttle Valve" of the main steam-pipe, which, by means of the handle, is opened or closed at pleasure, the power of the steam and the progress of the carriage being thereby regulated from 1 to 10 or 20 miles per hour.
7. The Tank for Water, running from end to end, and the full breadth of the carriage; it will contain 60 gallons of water.
8. The Carriage, capable of holding six inside-passengers.
9. Outside Passengers, of which the present carriage will carry 15.
10. The Hind Boot, containing the Boiler and Furnace. The Boiler is incased with sheet-iron, and between the pipes the coke and charcoal are put, the front being closed in the ordinary way with an iron door. The pipes extend from the cylindrical reservoir of water at the bottom to the cylindrical chamber for steam at the top, forming a succession of lines something like a horse-shoe, turned edgeways. The steam enters the "separators" through large pipes, which are observable on the Plan, and is thence conducted to its proper destination.
11. "Separators," in which the steam is separated from the water, the water descending and returning to the boiler, while the steam ascends, and is forced into the steam-pipes or main arteries of the machine.
12. The Pump, by which the water is pumped from the tank, by means of a flexible hose, to the reservoir, communicating with the boiler.
13. The Main Steam Pipe, descending from the "separators," and proceeding in a direct line under the body of the coach to the "throttle valve" (No. 6,) and thence, under the tank, to the cylinders from which the pistons work.
14. Flues of the Furnace, from which there is no smoke, coke and charcoal being used.
15. The Perches, of which there are three, conjoined, to support the machinery.
16. The Cylinders. There is one between each perch.
17. Valve Motion, admitting steam alternately to each side of the pistons.
18. Cranks, operating on the axle: at the ends of the axle are crotches (No. 21,) which, as the axle turns round, catch projecting pieces of iron on the boxes of the wheels, and give them the rotatory motion. The hind wheels only are thus operated upon.
19. Propellers, which, as the carriage ascends a hill, are set in motion, and move like the hind legs of a horse, catching the ground, and then forcing the machine forward, increasing the rapidity of its motion, and assisting the steam power.
20. The Drag, which is applied to increase the friction on the wheel in going down a hill. This is also assisted by diminishing the pressure of the steam—or, if necessary, inverting the motion of the wheels.
21. The Clutch, by which the wheel is sent round.
22. The Safety Valve, which regulates the proper pressure of the steam in the pipe. 23. The Orifice for filling the Tank. This is done by means of a flexible hose and a funnel, and occupies but a few seconds.


Letter of Mr. John Herapath in "Mechanics' Magazine," vol. xv., p.123.


Tubbing is now adopted in many cases as a substitute for brick-walling.  The tubbing consists of short portions of cast-iron cylinder fixed in segments.  Each weighs about 4½ cwt., is about three or four feet long, and about three eighths of an inch thick.  These pieces are fitted closely together, length under length, and form an impermeable wall along the sides of the pit.


The word "navvie," or "navigator," is supposed to have originated in the fact of many of these labourers having been originally employed in making the navigations, or canals, the construction of which immediately preceded the railway era.


During this period he was engaged on the North Midland, extending from Derby to Leeds; the York and North Midland, from Normanton to York; the Manchester and Leeds; the Birmingham and Derby, and the Sheffield and Rotherham Railways; the whole of these, of which he was principal engineer, having been authorized in 1836.  In that session alone, powers were obtained for the construction of 214 miles of new railways under his direction, at an expenditure of upward of five millions sterling.


It may be mentioned that these views were communicated to the author by Robert Stephenson, and noted down in his presence.


"Treatise on Railway Improvements."  By Mr. Richard Badnell, C. E.


He often refused to act as engineer for lines which he thought would not prove remunerative, or when he considered the estimates too low.  Thus, when giving evidence on the Great Western Bill, Stephenson said, "I made out an estimate for the Hartlepool Railway, which they returned on account of its being too high, but I declined going to Parliament with a lower estimate.  Another engineer was employed.  Then, again, I was consulted about a line from Edinburg to Glasgow.  The directors chalked out a line and sent it to me, and I told them I could not support it in that case."  Hence the employment of another engineer to carry out the line which Stephenson could not conscientiously advocate.


Speech of Wm. Jackson, Esq., M.P., at the meeting of the Chester and Birkenhead Railway Company, held at Liverpool, October, 1845.


The question of the specific merits of the atmospheric as compared with the fixed engine and locomotive systems will be found fully discussed in Robert Stephenson's able "Report on the Atmospheric Railway System, 1844, in which he gave the result of numerous observations and experiments made by him on the Kingstown Atmospheric Railway, with the object of ascertaining whether the new power would be applicable for the working of the Chester and Holyhead Railway then under construction.  His opinion was decidedly against the atmospheric system.


The Marquis of Clanricarde brought under the notice of the House of Lords, in 1845, that one Charles Guernsey, the son of a charwoman and a clerk in a broker's office at 12s. a week, had his name down as a subscriber for shares in the London and York line for £52,000.


On the 17th of November, 1845, Mr. Spackman published a list of the lines projected (many of which were not afterward prosecuted), from which it appeared that there were then 620 new railway projects before the public, requiring a capital of £563,203,000.


The original width of the coal tram-roads in the North virtually determined the British gauge.  It was the width of the ordinary road-track—not fixed after any scientific theory, but adopted simply because its use had already been established.  George Stephenson introduced it without alteration on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, and the lines subsequently formed in that district were laid down of the same width.  Stephenson from the first anticipated the general extension of railways throughout England, and one of the ideas with which he started was the essential importance of preserving such a uniformity as would admit of perfect communication between them.  When consulted about the gauge of the Canterbury and Whitstable, and Leicester and Swannington Railways, he said, "Make them of the same width: though they may be a long way apart now, depend upon it they will be joined together some day."  All the railways, therefore, laid down by himself and his assistants in the neighbourhood of Manchester, extending from thence to London on the south, and to Leeds on the east, were constructed on the Liverpool and Manchester, or narrow gauge.  Besides the Great Western Railway, where the gauge adopted was seven feet, the only other line on which a broader gauge than four feet eight and a half inches was adopted was the Eastern Counties, where it was five feet, Mr. Braithwaite, the engineer, being of opinion that an increase of three and a half inches in the width of the line would afford better space for the machinery of the locomotive.  But when the northern and eastern extension of the same line was formed, which was to work into the narrow-gauge system of the Midland Railway, Robert Stephenson, its new engineer. strongly recommended the directors of the Eastern Counties Line to alter their gauge accordingly, for the purpose of securing uniformity, and they adopted his recommendation.


The atmospheric lines had for some time been working very irregularly and very expensively.  Robert Stephenson, in a letter to Mr. T. Sopwith, F. R. S., dated the 8th of January, 1846, wrote: "Since my return [from Italy] I have learned that your atmospheric friends are very sickly.  A slow typhus has followed the high fever I left them in about three months ago.  I don't anticipate, however, that the patient will expire suddenly.  There is every appearance of the case being a protracted one, though a fatal termination is inevitable.  When the pipes are sold by auction, I intend to buy one and present it to the British Museum."  During the last half year of the atmospheric experiment on the South Devon line in 1848, the expenditure exceeded the gross income (£26,782) by £2457, or about 9¾ per cent. excess of working expenses beyond the gross receipts.


"When my father came about the office," said Robert, "he sometimes did not well know what to do with himself.  So he used to invite Bidder to have a quiet wrestle with him, for old acquaintance sake.  And the two wrestled together so often, and had so many 'falls' (sometimes I thought they would bring the house down between them), that they broke half the chairs in my outer office.  I remember once sending my father in a joiner's bill of about £2 10s. for the mending of broken chairs."


The simple fact that in a heavy storm the force of impact of the waves is from one and a half to two tons per square foot, must necessarily dictate the greatest possible caution in approaching so formidable an element.  Mr. R. Stevenson (Edinburgh) registered a force of three tons per square foot at Skerryvore during a gale in the Atlantic, when the waves were supposed to run twenty feet high.


See "Lives of the Engineers," vol. ii., p. 445.  It appears that Mr. Fairbairn suggested this idea in his letter to Mr. Stephenson, dated the 3d of June, 1815, accompanied by a drawing.  See his "Account of the Construction of the Britannia and Conway Tubular Bridges," etc. London, 1849.


Robert Stephenson's narrative of the early history of the design, in Edwin Clark's "Britannia and Conway Tubular Bridges," vol. i., p. 25, London, 1850.


Robert Stephenson's narrative in Clark's "Britannia and Conway Tubular Bridges," vol. i., p. 27.


Robert Robert Stephenson's narrative in Clark's "Britannia and Conway Tubular Bridges," vol. i., p. 27.


"Account of the Construction of the Britannia and Conway Tubular Bridges."  By W. Fairbairn, C.E., London, 1849.


Mr. Stephenson continued to hold that the elliptical tube was the right idea, and that sufficient justice had not been done to it.  A year or two before his death, Mr. Stephenson remarked to the author that, had the same arrangement for stiffening been adopted to which the oblong rectangular tubes owe a great part of their strength, a very different result would have been obtained.


"Mr. Fairbairn's Account," p. 22.


The following passage occurs in Robert Stephenson's report to the directors of the Chester and Holyhead Railway, dated the 9th of February, 1846: "You will observe in Mr. Fairbairn's remarks that he contemplates the feasibility of stripping the tube entirely of all the chains that may be required in the erection of the bridge; whereas, on the other hand, Mr. Hodgkinson thinks the chains will be an essential, or, at all events, a useful auxiliary, to give the tube the requisite strength and rigidity.  This, however, will be determined by the proposed additional experiments, and does not interfere with the construction of the masonry, which is designed so as to admit of the tube, with or without chains.  The application of chains as an auxiliary has occupied much of my attention, and I am satisfied that the ordinary mode of applying them to suspension bridges is wholly inadmissible in the present instance; if, therefore, it be hereafter found necessary or desirable to employ them in conjunction with the tube, another mode of employing them must be devised, as it is absolutely essential to attach them in such a manner as to preclude the possibility of the smallest oscillation."


In a letter of Mr. Fairbairn to Mr. Stephenson, dated July 18th, 1846, he says: "To get rid of the chains will be a desideratum; and I have made the tube of such strength, and intend putting it together upon such a principle, as will insure its carrying a dead weight, equally distributed over its hollow surface, of 4000 tons.  With a bridge of such powers, what have we to fear? and why, in the name of truth and in the face of conclusive facts, should we hesitate to adopt measures calculated not only to establish the principle as a triumph of art, but, what is of infinitely more importance to the shareholders, the saving of a large sum of money, nearly equal to half the cost of the bridge?  I have been ably assisted by Mr. Clark in all these contrivances; but in a matter of such importance we must have your sanction and support."—"Mr. Fairbairn's Account," p. 93.


"The The Britannia and Conway Tubular Bridges." By Edwin Clark. Vol. ii., p. 683-4.


No. 34 Gloucester Square, Hyde Park, where he lived.


The hydraulic presses were of an extraordinary character.  The cylinders of those first constructed were of wrought iron (cast iron being found altogether useless), not less than 8 inches thick.  They were tested by being subjected to an internal pressure of 3 or 3½ tons to the circular inch.  The pressure was such that it squeezed the fibres of the iron together; so that, after a few tests of this character, the piston, which at first fitted it quite closely, was found considerably too small.  "A new piston," says Mr. Clark, "was then made to suit the enlarged cylinder; and a farther enlargement occurring again and again with subsequent use, the new pistons became as formidable an obstacle as the cylinders.  The wrought-iron cylinder was on the point of being abandoned, when Mr. Amos (the iron manufacturer), having carefully gauged the cylinder inside and out, found to his surprise that, although the internal diameter had increased considerably, the external diameter had retained precisely its original dimensions.  He consequently persevered in the construction of new pistons, and ultimately found that the cylinder enlarged no longer, and to this day it continues in constant use.  Layer after layer having attained additional permanent set, sufficient material was at length brought into play, with sufficient tenacity to withstand the pressure; and thus an obstacle, apparently insurmountable, and which threatened at one time to render much valuable machinery useless, was entirely overcome.  The workman may be excused for calling the stretched cylinder stronger than the new one, though it is only stronger as regards the amount of its yielding to a given force."—Clark, vol. i., p. 306.  The hydraulic presses used in raising the tubes of the Britannia Bridge, it maybe remembered, were afterward used in starting the Great Eastern from her berth on the shore at Milwall, where she had been built.


While the preparations were in progress for floating the third tube, Mr. Stephenson received a pressing invitation to a public railway celebration at Darlington, in honour of his old friend, Edward Pease.  His reply, dated the 15th of May, 1850, was as follows : "I am prevented having the pleasure of a visit to Darlington on the 22d, owing to that or the following day having been fixed upon for floating the next tube at the Menai Straits; and as this movement depends on the tide, it is, of course, impossible for me to alter the arrangements.  I sincerely regret this circumstance, for every early association connected with my profession would have tended to render my visit a gratifying one.  It would, moreover, have given me an opportunity of saying publicly how much the wonderful progress of railways was dependent upon the successful issue of the first great experiment, and how much that issue was influenced by your great discernment, and your confidence in my late revered father.  In my remembrance you stand among the foremost of his patrons and early advisers; and I know that throughout his life he regarded you as one of his very best friends.  One of the things in which he took especial delight was in frequently and very graphically describing his first visit to Darlington, on foot, to confer with you on the subject of the Stockton and Darlington Railway.


The effect of sunshine in deflecting the bridge is very curious.  When the first main tube was tested, ballast-wagons loaded with iron were drawn into the centre and left standing there.  The first 20 tons increased the deflection an eighth of an inch, and with 50 tons the deflection was 9 inches.  After standing all night, the deflection in the morning was found to be only 8⅜ inches.  How was this to be accounted for?  Mr. Clark says: "This was attributed at the time to an error made in the reading; but this, and many other anomalies in the deflection, were afterward fully accounted for by local changes of temperature.  A gleam of sunshine on the top of the tube raised it on one occasion nearly an inch in half an hour with 200 tons at the centre, the top plates being expanded by increase of temperature, while the lower plates remained constant from radiation to the water immediately beneath them.  In a similar manner, the tube was drawn sidewise to the extent of an inch from the sun shining on one side, and returned immediately as clouds passed over the sun, being, in fact, a most delicate thermometer in constant motion, both vertically and laterally."


This was a favourite notion of George Stephenson's, and he held that what produced light and heat had originally been light and heat.  Mr. Fearon, solicitor, has informed the author that he accompanied Stephenson on one of his visits to Belgium, when it seemed to him that the engineer did not take much interest in the towns, churches, or public buildings of Belgium, probably because he knew little of history, and they recalled no associations with the past.  One day the party went to see the beautiful Hôtel de Ville at Brussels, but Stephenson did not seem moved by it.  On passing out of the square, however, by the little street which leads toward the Montague de la Cour, his interest was thoroughly roused by the sight of an immense fat pig hung up in a butcher's shop.  He immediately took out his foot-rule, measured the pig, and expressed a desire to have some conversation with the butcher as to how it had been fed.  The butcher accordingly waited upon them at the hotel, and told all he knew about the feeding of the pig; and then, says Mr. Fearon, "George went off into his favourite theory of the sun's light, which he said had fattened the pig; for the light had gone into the pease, and the pease had gone into the fat, and the fat pig was like a field of coal in this respect, that they were, for the most part, neither more nor less than bottled sunshine."


The second Mrs. Stephenson having died in 1845, George married a third time in 1848, about six months before his death.  The third Mrs. Stephenson was an intelligent and respectable lady, who had for some years officiated as his housekeeper.


Ed.—Peel was thrown from his horse while riding up Constitution Hill in London on 29 June 1850, the horse stumbled on top of him and he died three days later on 2 July at the age of 62.


The dams of "crib-work" were formed by laying flattened pine logs along the whole outer edge of the work, and at intervals of from 5 to 10 feet parallel therewith throughout the whole of the breadth, connected with transverse timbers firmly tree-nailed and notched into them.  When one course was formed, another was laid upon and firmly tree-nailed to it.  After two or three courses were laid, transverse timbers were placed over them close together, so as to form a flooring, on which stone was placed to suit the crib as the work progressed.  When the underside of the crib touched the bottom, it was carefully filled with loose stones and clay puddle to the water level.  The process of puddling and pumping out the water, and building up the pier within the dam thus formed, then proceeded in the usual manner.  In some cases a powerful steam dredge was employed to clear out the puddle-chambers.


Mr. Stephenson entertained a very strong opinion as to the inexpediency of making this canal, and the impracticability of keeping it open except at an enormous expense.  Of course it was possible to make the canal provided there was money enough raised for the purpose.  But, even if made, he held that it would not long be used, for there would not be traffic enough to pay working expenses.  In 1846, Mr. Stephenson carefully examined the country along the line of the proposed canal, from Tineh on the Mediterranean, to Suez on the Red Sea, in company with the agents of M. Talabot, a French engineer, and M. de Negrelli, an Austrian engineer.  They ascertained that there was no difference of level between the two seas, and that consequently a canal capable of being scoured by the waters of either was impracticable.  On the occasion of Captain Pim's reading a paper on the subject of the revived project of the canal before the Geographical Society on the 11th of April, 1859, Mr. Stephenson took part in the discussion which followed.  He held that any harbour constructed at Port Said, however far it might be extended into the sea, would only act as a mud-trap, and that it would be impracticable to keep such a port open.  Mr. George Rennie had compared the proposed breakwater at Pelusium with the breakwater at Portland, on which Mr. Stephenson observed, "Why, at Portland, the stones are carried out from the shore and thrown into the sea, but at Pelusium there is no solid shore, and all the stones must be brought 100 miles.  Can there be any comparison between a breakwater at Portland and one in the Mediterranean on a lee-shore, where there is no stone and no foundation whatever?  It is only the silt of the Nile.  The Nile brings down millions of tons of mud yearly, and hence the Delta formed at its mouth.  The moment you construct a harbour at Port Said and project piers into the sea, you immediately arrest the course of the mud, and will never be able to keep the port open.  It would be the most extraordinary thing in the world to project two jetties into an open sea on a lee-shore, which has for almost three months in the year a northeast wind blowing upon it.  There is no seaman, except in fair weather, who would venture to approach such a place.  To render it at all accessible and safe, there must be a harbour of refuge made, and we know from experience in our own country what a large question that would open up.  But even suppose such a harbour to be made.  The current carries the mud of the Nile in an easterly direction ; and if you provide a harbour of refuge, which means a quiescent harbour, it will act merely as a gigantic mud-trap.  I believe it to be nearly if not absolutely true, that there is no large harbour in the world maintained on the delta of a large river.  Any such harbour would be silted up in a few years.  And whoever has travelled over the district between Port Said and Suez, and seen the moving sands, must see that it would be necessary to dredge, not only that harbour, but the canal itself."  Mr. Stephenson's conclusion accordingly was that the scheme was impracticable, that it would not justify the expenditure necessary to complete it, and that, if ever executed, it would prove a commercial failure.


Address as President of the Institution of Civil Engineers, January, 1856.



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