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®lje i. H. ItU ffitbrarg 

North CEarohna ^tatp Mmopraity 








VOL. I. 





















IN TWO VOLUMES ff^ Q ^^^ ^^^^ 

VOL. I. 





T70UE YEAE3 have elapsed since with Professor 
-*- Pole I undertook to write the Life of Egbert 

A careful examination of the many pubhshed works 
which, either specially or incidentally, treat of the 
labours of the two Stephensons, was amongst the first 
steps which I took towards the performance of my task. 
I read critically a large number of scientific volumes, 
biographies, lectures, and articles bearing upon the 
history of the locomotive, upon the art of building 
bridges, and upon the careers of the men who, during the 
last sixty years, have brought our railway system to its 
present state of efficiency. My surprise was great at 
finding that the statements of the various treatises were 

In the summer and autumn of 1860 I passed some 
time in Northumberland and Durham, collecting mate- 
rials for this work firom the oral communications of 
Eobert Stephenson's numerous relations, from the remin- 
iscences of men who had been the companions or the 
patrons of both the Stephensons, and from entries in 




parish registers, and the account-books of colUeries and 
factories. I was fortunate in meeting with cordial 
response from all of the many persons whose assistance 
Avas solicited. The resuU of these enquiries was the dis- 
covery tliat many mistakes had been made in telhng the 
story of the elder Stephenson's Hfe, and that no Hfe of 
the younger Stephenson would be complete that shoidd 
neglect to give a correct account of the misapprehended 
passages in the life of the elder. The only course, there- 
fore, open to me was to re-'vvrite the Life of George 
Stephenson, so far as it affected Eobert Stephenson's 
career, and to tell the whole truth of the son's hfe to the 
best of my abihty. 

On my return from the North of England I gathered 
documentary materials from many different quarters, and 
ere long I was fortunate enough to bring together a 
mass of evidence which the representatives of Eobert 
Stephenson did not know to be in existence. "Besides 
letters submitted to my perusal by a great number of the 
engineer's friends, and besides papers sent to me by his 
executors, I obtained custody of several important collec- 
tions of documents. Mr. Longridge put into my hands 
the Stephenson papers which his father preserved. Mr. 
lUingworth allowed me to peruse his South-American 
papers. Mr. Charles Empson, shortly before his death, 
contributed to my store of materials a most interesting 
collection of letters and documents ; consisting of Eobert 
Stephenson's early journals, and of nearly all the letters 
which he either received from or had written to friends 


or relations, between the termination of his life on 
KiUingworth Moor and his return from South America. 
I have also to acknowledge the assistance of Mr. George 
Parker Bidder, late President of the Institution of Civil 
Engineers ; Mr. Cliarles Manb/, F.E.S. ; and Mr. George 
Eobert Stephenson, C.E. 

In expressing my thanks to the gentlemen who have 
assisted me with information or papers, I render no 
mere formal act of courtesy. Gratitude is a solemn duty 
when acknowledgment has to be made of services con- 
ferred by those who no longer tarry in the ways of men. 
Of those to whom I am indebted for facts or counsel, 
many have passed to another world. Mr. Losh and Mr. 
WeaUens of Newcastle, Mr. KeU of Gateshead, Mr. Charles 
Empson of Bath, Admiral Moorsom, and Mr. Charles 
. Parker, are amongst those who wiU never see this page. 


The task of describing some of the more important 
professional subjects which occupied the attention of 
Eobert Stephenson has been confided to me. There 
was some difficulty in determining what subjects should 
be chosen, for many of his works were so mixed up with 
the current events of his life, that they could scarcely 
be separated from the narrative of his biography. 


I determined, finally, to select the Atmospheric system 
of Kailway Propulsion, and the great Iron Eailway 
Bridges erected by him. 

The length at which I have treated the former of 
these subjects demands some explanation, inasmuch as 
Eobert Stephenson, far from promoting the Atmospheric 
system, was always one of its strongest opponents. But 
judges on whom I can fully rely were of opinion that 
it deserved a prominent place in his life, as well from 
the great interest he took in it, as from the extent 
to which it must have affected the whole course of 
Eailway engineering. The facts of its history, with the 
results and lessons to be drawn from it, seemed likely 
soon to be forgotten, and were considered worthy of 
being put fully on record. 

The prehminary chapter on Iron Bridges has been 
written in order to bring out more clearly the pecu- 
liarities and merits of the magnificent structures of tliis 
kind, to which probably Eobert Stephenson will even- 
tually owe his widest fame. 

I have to acknowledge information kindly supplied 
by many friends in the profession. 

The chapters which I have contributed to the work 
are XIV. in Vol. L, and IL, III., IV., VIIL, in Vol. II. 


London: September 1864, 






Various Stepliensons of Newcastle — ' Old Eobert Stephenson ' — Mabel 
Carr — George Stephenson's Birth — Fanny Henderson — George Ste- 
phenson moves to Willington — Robert Stephenson's Birth — The Christen- 
ing Party at Willington Quay — Mxs. George Stephenson's delicate Health 

— George Stephenson removes to Killingworth Township, Long Benton 

— Site of George Stephenson's House at Willington — ' The Stephenson 
Memorial '....... Pase 1 


(^TAT. 1-9.) 

The West Moor Colliery —' The Street' of Long Benton — Road from 
Newcastle to Killingworth — ' The Cottage ' on the West Moor — View 
from the Cottage Windows — Apparent Amendment of Mrs. Stephenson s 
Health — Robert and his Mother visit Black Callerton — Robert Ste- 
phenson's Sister — Death of his Mother — George Stephenson's Joiuney 
to Montrose — Eleanor Stephenson — Her gi-eat Disappointment — ' The 
Artificials ' — Little Robert's Visits to the Red House Farm, Wolsing- 
ham — ' The Hempy Lad ' — Tommy Rutter's School — The young Gleaner 
— A Lesson for the Lord's Day — George Stephenson's Sundays — His 
Friends, Robert Hawthorn and John Steele — The first Locomotive ever 
built on the Banks of the Tyne — Anthony Wighaui— Captain Robson — 
Evenings at the West Moor . . . . . .12 



(.BTAT. 9-15.) 

Robert and the Pitman's Picks — • Mind the Biiiks ' — George Stephenson's 
pecuniary Position whilst his Son attended Rutter's School — George 
appointed Engineer to the Collieries of 'The Grand ^Vllies' — The 
Locomotive on the Wylam Line — Geoi-ge Stephenson's first Locomo- 
tive — His Appointment to the ' Walker Iron-works ' — 'Bruce's Academy' 
— The Cost of Robert's Tuition at the School — Robert Stephenson's 
Reception by his new Schoolfellows — The Boy's delicate Health — The 
Purchase of his Donkey — John Tate — Rival Safety Lamps — Testi- 
monial and Public Dinner to George Stephenson for his Lamp — Home 
Gossip — 'Throwmg the Hammer' — George Stephenson's Views with 
regard to the Education of his Son — Robert Stephenson's Plan of a Sun- 
Dkl . Page 29 



(mtjlT. 15-20.) 

Robert Stephenson leaves School — He is apprenticed to Mr. Nicholas Wood 
— George Stephenson lays down the Hetton Colliery Railway — Father and 
Son — Robert's Economy in his personal Expenses — The ' Three Tuns ' 
— The Circumferentor — George Stephenson's increasing Prosperity — His 
Second Marriage — He builds the 'Friar's Goose Pumping Engine' — 
He embarks in a small Colliery Speculation — The Locomotive Boiler 
Tubes of the Messrs. James — Explosion in the Killingworth Mine — George 
Stephenson's First Visit to INIi*. Edward Pease — Robert Stephenson and 
his Father survey the Stockton and Darlington Line — Robert Stephen- 
son's First Visit to London — His delicate State of Health — Survey for 
the Second Stockton and Darlington Act — Robert Stephenson goes to 
Edinburgh — Professor Leslie's Testimonial — Letters written at Edin- 
burgh by Robert Stephenson to Mr. Longiidge — Robert Stephenson 
accompanies Professor Jamieson on a Geological Excursion — George 
Stephenson's Letter to his friend Locke — Eobert Stephenson and his 
Father visit Ireland — Robert Stephenson's Letters from that Country 4G 


(JETA.T. 20-21.) 

George Stephenson's Rupture with Mr. Losh — The Establishment of the 
Firm of R. Stephenson and Co. of Newcastle — The Colombian Miuuig 


Association — George Stephenson a Chief Agent for the Project — Robert 
Stephenson visited with renewed and aggravated Symptoms of Pul- 
monary Disease — Robert Stephenson proposed as Engineer to the 'Co- 
lombian Mining Association ' — His Visits to Cornwall and other Places 
— Newcastle — The London CoiFee House, Ludgate Hill — Robert Ste- 
phenson accepts the Post of Eugineer-in-Chief to the Colombian Mining 
Association — In London — Preparations and Hard Work — ' Home, sweet 
Home ' — Letter to ' the North ' — Conduct of 'the Association ' — Liver- 
pool — Sails for South America . . « . Page 64 



(iETAT. 20-24.) 

La Guayra — Caraccas — Proposed Breakwater and Pier at La Guayra 
— Survey for Railroad between La Guayra and Caraccas — Santa Fe de 
Bogota — Mariqiuta — Life on the Magdalena — Explores the Comitry — 
Road between the Magdalena and the Mines — Santa Ana — Descriptions 
of Scenery — Arrival of the Cornish Miners — Insubordination of Miners 
— Friends, Pursuits, and Studies — Inclination and Duty — Disappointment 
of the Directors — Their Secretary . . . . .78 


(iETAT. 23-24.) 

Leaves Santa Ana — Goes up to Oarthagena — Encounters Trevithick 
— Trevithick's Peculiarities — Sails for New York — Becalmed amongst 
the Islands — Terrible Gales in the open Sea — Two Wrecks — Can- 
nibalism — Shipwrecked off New York — Strange Conduct of a Mate — Is 
made a Master Mason — Pedestrian Excursion to Montreal — Remarkable 
Conversation on the Banks of the St. Lawi'ence — Returns to New York 
— Arrives at Liverpool — Meeting with his Father — Goes up to London 
and sees the Directors of the Colombian Mining Association — Trip to 
Brussels — Retm'n to Newcastle — Liverpool . . . 100 


(iETAT. 24-25.) 

State of the Locomotive in 1828 — Efforts to improve the Locomotive 
— The Reports of Messrs. Walker and Rastrick — A Premiimi of £600 
offered by the Directors of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway for 


the best Locomotive — Mr. Henry Booth's Invention of the Multitubular 
Boiler — Commencement of the ' Rocket ' Steam Engine — A Tunnel across 
the Mersey — Survey for a Junction Line between the Bolton and Leigh 
and Liverpool and Manchester Railways — Sun-ey for Branch Line from 
the Livei-pool and Manchester Railway to Warrington — Robert Stephen- 
son's liOve Affairs — His Access to Society in Livei-pool and London — 
Miss Fanny Sanderson — Proposal that Robert Stephenson should live 
at Bedlinglon — Mr. Richardson's Expostulations — No. 5 GreenBeld Place 
— The Sofa a la mode — Marriage .... Page IIG 



(..ETAT. 25-28.) 

Wedding Trip — Battle of the ' Locomotive ' — ' The Oracle ' — Construc- 
tion of the 'Rocket' Steam Engine — The Rainhill Contest — Particulars 
concerning the ' Rocket ' — History of ' the Blast-Pipe ' — Triuniplijmt 
return from Liverpool to Newcastle — Answer to Mr. Walker's Report 
— Letters to Mr. Richardson — Numerous Engagements — More Loco- 
motives — Opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway — Robert 
Stephenson appointed Engineer to the 'Wan-ington' and 'Leicester and 
Swanuington' Lines — Discovery of Coal Strata, and Purchase of Snib- 
stone — Loudon aud Birmingham Railway — Robert Stephenson employed 
to cany the Line through Parliament — Opposition to the Line — ' Inves- 
tigator's ' Pamphlet — Robert Stephenson's Evidence before the Lords' 
Committee— Rejection of the Bill in 1832 — Calumnies — Public Meeting 
at Thatched House Tavern in support of the London and Birmingham 
Railway — Bill passes Parliament in 18o3 — Robert Stephenson appointed 
sole- Engineer-in-Chief to the Loudon and Bu'mingham Railway — 
Leaves Newcastle-on-Tyue — Pupils .... 138 



(.ETAT. 29-34.) 

Appointment as Engineer-in-Chief to the London and Birmingham Line 

— Contract Plans — Drawing-Office in the Cottage on the Edgeware 
Road, and subsequently at the Eyre Arms, St. .John's Wood — Health 
and Habits of Life — Staff of Assistant and Sub-Assistant Engineers — 
The principal Contractors — Primrose Hill Tunnel — Blisworth Cutting 

— Wolverton Embankment aud Viaduct — Kilsby Timnel — Interview 
with Dr. Arnold at Rugby — Conduct and Character of Navvies — Anec- 


dotes — Eobert Stephenson proposes the Extension of the Line from 
Camden Town to Euston Square — Proposition first rejected and then 
adopted by Directors — Act of Parliament obtained for Extension of the 
Line — The Lacliue from Camden Town to Euston Square originally 
worked by Stationary Engines and Ropes — Lieut. Lecoimt's Comparison 
of Labour expended on the London and Birmingham Railway, and Labom- 
expended on the Great Pyi-amid — Conduct of a certain Section of the 
Du-ectors to Robert Stephenson — Opening of the Line — Dinner at Dee's 
Royal Hotel, Manchester — Robert Stephenson's Anger with a Director — 
Dinner and Testunonial given to Robert Stephenson at Dunchurch — 
Brmiel uses Robert Stephenson's System of Drawing on the Great Western 
— Robert Stephenson's Appointment as Consulting Engineer Pag-e 184: 



(^TAT. 29-35.) 

Stanhope and Tyne Railway Company — Robert Stephenson appointed 
their Engineer — Opening of the Line and its rapidly increasing Em- 
barrassments — Robert Stephenson visits Belgium with his Father — 
Offices in Duke Street, and George Street, "Westminster — The Session of 
1836 — Various proposed Lines between London and Brighton : Sir John 
Rennie's, Robert Stephenson's, Gibbs's, Cimdy's — London and Blackwall 
Railway, and the Commercial Road Railway — Robert Stephenson strongly 
opposes the Use of Locomotives in Towns — Life at Haverstock Hill — 
Reading, Friends, Horses, Sunday Dinners — Newcastle Correspondence — 
Mrs. Stephenson's Accident to Knee-Cap — Professor WTieatstone's and 
Robert Stephenson's Adoption of the Electiic Telegraph — Robert Ste- 
phenson assumes Arms — That ' Silly Picture ' . . . 214 



{JEIKT. 35-41.) 

Railways undertaken in various Directions — Brunei, Giles, Braithwaite 
— Robert Stephenson's Trip to Italy — On his Return again immersed 
in Projects — The Contractors' Dinner at ' The Albion' — Letters to New- 
castle — Cigars for the Continent — Stanhope and Tyne Crisis — Robert 
Stephenson threatened with Insolvency — Acts for the Pontop and South 
Shields and the Newcastle and Darlington Junction Railways — Robert 



Stephenson appointed to execute the Newcastle and Darlington Lines 

— Robert Stephenson created a Knight of the Order of Leopold — 
Mrs. Stephenson's Death — Opening of Newcastle and Darlington Line 

— Public Dinner and Speeches — Continentnl Engagements — Leaves 
ILaverstoek Hill and moves to Cambridge Square — Fire in Cambridge 
Square — George Hudson and Robert Stephenson — A Contrast Page 238 



First Act of Parliament authorising the Construction of a Railway — Rail- 
way Developement from the year 1801 to 184G inclusive — The Railway 
Mania of 1825-26— The Railway Mania of 183G-37— The Railway 
Mania of 1845-46— Difference between the Crises of 1825-26 and 1836 
-37 and of 1845-46 — Report from Committees, 1837 — Bubble Com- 
panies — Parliamentary Influence — Parliamentary Corruption — Compen- 
sation ; Stories of — The Parliamentary Committee as a Tribunal — Robert 
Stephenson's Views on Parliamentary Legislation — Observations on his 
Project for a ' Preliminary Board of Inquiry ' — Causes of Parliamentary 
Inconsistency — Stories of the Parliamentaiy Bar — Professional Wit- 
nesses in the House of Commons: Robert Stephenson, Brunei, Locke, 
Lardner, Bidder — Great Britain compared with other Coimtries in 
respect of Railway Developement — Results — Proposal for Railway 
Farmers — Proposal for a Railway Bank .... 263 



Remarkable Episode in the History of Railways — Correction of Nomen- 
clature — Objects of this Chapter — General Modes of Locomotion — 
Constant rivalry between Locomotive and Stationary Steam-power — Liver- 
pool and Manchester Railway — Walker and Rastrick's Report — Ste- 
phenson and Locke's Reply — Triumph of the Locomotive — Renewal of 
the Stationary Plan in the Atmospheric form — Early Inventors — Papin 

— Medhurst — Features of his Schemes — Vallance — Pinkus — Clegg — 
Jacob and Joseph Samuda — Private Experiments — Trial of their I'lan 
on the Thames Junction Railway — Description of the Apparatus — Pro- 
posal to apply it in Ireland — Smith and Barlow's Report — Application 
on the Kingstown and Dalkey Line — Arguments in favour of the Plan 

— Robert Stephenson's attention called to it in reference to the Chester 
and Holyhead Railway — His Report — Public Interest excited — Croydon 
Railway Parliamentaiy Committee — The Railway Mania — Appointment 
of a Committee of the House of Commons to enquire into the Merits of 


the Plan — Their Report in its favour — Culminating point of the History 
— Contests in Parliament — Application of the Atmospheric System in 
practice — Thames Junction Line — Kingstown and Dalkey Line — Croydon 
Line — South Devon Line — Paris and St. Germain Line — Summaiy of 
Results — Mechanical Efficiency — Economy — General Applicability to 
Railway Traffic — Reasons for its Abandonment — Conclusion Page 292 


Portrait of Egbert Stephenson, by George Eiclimond To face Title. 


M. C. StaU ailefc 





Various Stepliensons of Newcastle — ' Old Eobert Stephenson ' — 
Mabel Carr — George Stephenson's Bu-th — Fanny Henderson — 
George Stephenson moves to WilHngton — Eobert Stephenson's 
Birth — The Christening Party at Willington Quay — Mrs. George 
Stephenson's delicate Health — George Stephenson removes to 
Killing-worth Township, Long Benton — Site of George Stephenson's 
House at Willing ton — 'The Stephenson Memorial.' 

I^HE records of Newcastle show that the name of 
Stephenson has been frequent in every rank of 
the town for the last two hundred and fifty years. 
Eut no attempt has ever been made to establish a family 
connection between the subject of this memoir and the 
many worthy citizens of Newcastle who, in the seven- 
teenth and eighteenth centuries, bore the same name. A 
gentleman of high attamments, residing in the neighbour- 
hood of Newcastle, in answer to enquiries for ancestors 



in the male line of George Stephenson, stated that George 
Stephenson on a certain occasion said that his family 
were natives of Castleton, in Liddisdale, and that his 
grandfather came into England in the service of a Scotch 

There is no doubt that the grandfather of the greatest 
engineer of the present century lived and toiled and died 
in humble cu-cumstances. He worked as fireman to 
the engines of the various colliery pits in the neighbour- 
hood of Wylam, till an accident deprived him of sight 
and rendered him dependent on others for his daily bread. 
Gentle beyond the wont of rude North-countrymen, and 
fond of spinning out long stories of adventure and 
romance to village children, he was known as ' Bob the 
story-teller.' He is now remembered by the few of his 
associates who hnger on the earth as ' Old Eobert Stephen- 
son.' In early hfe he married Mabel, the daughter of 
George Carr, a bleacher and dyer of Ovingham, a village 
standing on an ascent which rises from the north bank of 
the Tyne, and faces the ancient ruins of Prudhoe Castle, 
that crown the hill on the opposite bank. The maiden 
name of Mabel Carr's mother was Eleanor Wilson. 
Eleanor was the daughter of a wealthy Northumbrian 
yeoman, who possessed a good estate in the parishes of 
Stocksfield and Bywell. Indignant at her marriage with 
the bleacher and dyer of Ovingham, Mr. Wilson turned 
his back upon her, and died without bequeathing her a 

By his wife Mabel ' Old Eobert Stephenson ' had four 
sons (James, George, Eobert, and John) and two 
daughters (Eleanor and Ann). James, the eldest son, 
closely resembled his fiither ; but George, Eobert, and 


John, were all slirewcl and observant men, self-reliant and 

Born June 9, 1781, George Stephenson could neither 
A\Tite nor read when he had attained the age of eighteen 
years. Up to that age he displayed no signs of unusual 
intelligence, but he had always been a good, sober, steady 
lad. Like most pit-children, he used to grub about in 
the dirt, and for his amusement fashion models of steam- 
engines in clay. From his earliest years, also, he kept 
as pets pigeons, blackbirds, guinea-pigs, and rabbits ; an 
almost universal trait amongst the colhery labourers of 
the Newcastle field. 

In 1801, he became brakesman of the engine of the 
Dolly Pit, in Black Callerton, and lodged in the house 
of Thomas Thompson, a small farmer of that parish. 
George Stephenson was at that time a light-hearted young 
fellow, famous for practical jokes, and proud of his 
muscular power. At this period, also, he acquired the 
art of shoe-cobbhng. 

The most important farmer of the parish was Mr. 
Thomas Hindmarsh, who occupied land which his an- 
cestors had farmed for at least two centuries. To his grave 
displeasure, his daughter Ehzabeth accepted the addresses 
of the young brakesman, giving him clandestine meetings 
in the orchard and behind the garden-fence, until such 
effectual measures were taken as prevented a repetition 
of the suitor's visits. Ehzabeth, however, remained faith- 
ful to the lover, whom her fatlier drove from his premises, 
and she eventually became his second, but not his last, 

George Stephenson took this disappointment hghtly. 
He soon fixed his aflections on Ann Henderson, daugliter 

U 2 


of Jolin Henderson, a small and impoverished farmer, 
near Caplieaton. Like her two sisters Hannah and 
Franees (wlio Avere the female servants in Thomas Thomp- 
son's house) Ann was a domestic servant. At first she 
seemed well pleased with her lover, who, amongst other 
attentions, paid her one which deserves a few passing 
words.* Observing that her shoes wanted to be re-soled, 
he begged leave to mend them, and, the permission being 
granted, he not only repaired them, but boastfully dis- 
played them to his companions. His triumph, however, 
was of short duration ; for on returning the shoes to 
Ann, witli a request for a warmer acknowledgement of 
his services than mere thanks, he was informed by her 
that he wooed where he could never win. 

This second rejection was for a time deeply felt, but 
he concealed his chagrin, and then made up his mind 
that, since he could not have Ann, he would try his luck 
■with her sister Fanny. 

Fanny Henderson had for years been a servant in the 
house where George Stephenson was a lodger. When 
Thomas Thompson, more than ten years before, took the 
farm from the outgoing tenant, George Alder, she came 
into his service as part of the concern, with the following 
character : — 

• ISfr. Pattison, the nephew of ardently admired ; but not succeed- 
Ann Henderson, and son of Elizabeth ing with her, he said he would have 
Henderson (who married Thomas one of the family, and he turned his 
Pattison, a tenant fanner of Black attention to Fanny.' Mr. Pattison, 
Callerton), wi-ites thus : ' The pair the author of this statement, is era- 
of shoes mentioned in the " Life of ployed in the factory of Messrs. 
George Stephenson," as having been Robert Stephenson and Co., New- 
made for Fanny Henderson, after- castle. His statement is corroborated 
wards his wife, were not for her, by all the members of his mother's 
but for her sister Ann, whom he respectable family. 


Black CallertoQ : April 10, 1791. 
The bearer, Frances Henderson, is a girl of a sober disposition, 
an honest servant, and of a good family, as witness my hand, 

George Aldee. 

Slie was no longer young, and it was the village gossip 
that she would never find a husband. As a girl, she had 
plighted her troth to John Charlton, the village school- 
master of Black Callerton, but their long engagement was 
terminated in 1794 by the young man's death, when 
she was in her twenty-sixth year. She was therefore 
George's senior by twelve years ; but it was not for her 
to object to the disparity of their ages, since he was 
wilhng to marry a woman so much older than himself. 
So, to the good-natured amusement of neighbours, and 
to the vexation of Ann Henderson, who did not enjoy 
the apparent unconcern with which her lover had passed 
from her to her old maid sister, George Stephenson was 
married at Newburn cliurch on November 28th, 1802, 
to Fanny Henderson, the mother of the subject of this 

Mr. Thomas Thompson gave the wedding breakfast to 
his faithful domestic servant and his young lodger, and 
signed his name in the parish register, as a witness of the 
marriage ceremony. George Stephenson had at that time 
so far advanced in the art of A\Titiug, that he was able to 
sign his own name (and his wife's maiden name also — if 
handwriting may be trusted as evidence on such a point) 
on the certificate. The signature is blurred — possibly 
by the sleeve of his coat, as he stretched out his pen for 
another dip of ink before acting as his wife's secretary ; 
but the handwriting is legible, and is a good specimen of 
George Stephenson's caligraphy. 


For a short time after liis marriage George Stephenson 
continued to reside at Black Callerton, lodging with his . 
wife in a cottage not far from the Lough House, as Mr. 
Thomas Thompson's residence was called. This arrange- 
ment, however, did not last long. While he was act- 
ins; as brakesman at Black Callerton, his father and his 
brothers James and John continued to work at Walbottle 
colliery, where the engineer was Eobert Hawthorn, the 
ingenious and enterprising man whose sons still carry on 
the important locomotive foctory at Newcastle that bears 
their name. At the opening of the present century, 
Eobert Hawthorn, then known as one of the best 
enginewrights in the Newcastle country, erected the 
first ballast machine that ever worked on the banks 
of the Tyne. This machine was erected at Willington 
Quay (a station on the river side, about six miles below 
Newcastle), and was placed upon the quay, on the edge 
of the river.* Wlien the work was completed. Hawthorn 
exerted his influence in favour of the Dolly Pit brakes- 
man, the consequence of which was, that the latter 
quitted Black Callerton (situated a few miles above 
Newcastle), and became the brakesman of the Ballast 
Hill engine. It was while he held this appointment that 
George Stephenson first set up as a housekeeper on 
his own humble account — that is to say, first bought 
bedding and such modest furniture as he required for 

* It has been represented that incline, say that the former was 

this machine was placed on the near the water. ' If,' say these 

summit of the Ballast Hill. The gentlemen, ' the machine had been 

JNIessrs. Hawthorn, however (the erected on the open Ballast Hill, it 

sons of the contractor), who remem- woidd have been buried up.' 
ber well both the engine and the 


two rooms in a cottage stationed hard by the engine on 
Wilhngton Quay. As everything connected with the 
career of this remarkable man is interesting, it is worthy 
of mention that at the time of his marriage he had not 
saved sufficient money to buy the upliolstery and fittings 
of his new home. In marrjing Panny Henderson, how- 
ever, he had, in a pecuniary sense, bettered himself 
When they mounted the horse which 'Mr. Bmii of the 
Eed House farm, Wolsingham, put at their service, and 
made their progress from their furnished lodgings at 
Black Callerton to their new domicile on the other side 
of Newcastle, George had m his pocket a handsome 
number of gold pieces — the savings of his careful ^vife 
dm'ing long years of domestic service. A portion of 
tliis money was expended on household goods, the rest 
being laid by against a rainy day. 

Marriage made a great difference in George Ste- 
phenson, and on setthng at Wilhngton he apphed himself 
earnestly to the work of self-education. On October IGth, 
1803,* his wife gave birth to a son, who was christened 
Eobert : the ceremony was performed in the Wallsend 
school-house, as the parish church was unfit for use. The 
sponsors were Eobert Gray and Ann Henderson, but 
they were by no means the only guests at the christen- 
ing. Proud of being a father, George called together 
his kinsmen fi'om the Wylam and Newburn districts, 
and gave them hospitable entertamment. His father, 
mother, and brothers answered the summons. So 
Eobert Stephenson was received into the family with 

* Robert Steplienson stated that celebrated at tbat time ; but the ex- 
lie was born in the month of No- tract from the registerproves his birth 
vember, and his birthday was always to have been in October. 


all honour, being named, according to nortli-countiy 
fashion, after his grandfather, and having long hfe and 
health and success drunk to him in sound ale and 
Scotch whisky. But the uncles and aunts who were 
present at the festivities remarked that the babe was 
' a wee sickly bairn not made for long on this earth.' 

Dehcate the child both was and remamed until he had 
made several years' entry into manhood. From his father 
he inherited strong thews and a strong ^vill ; but from 
his mother's blood there was a taint imparted to what 
otherwise would have been a magnificent constitution. 
The disease — consumption — which carried off Jolm 
Charlton, now made insidious advances on Islis. Stephen- 
son ; and her husband, whilst he was still only two and 
twenty years old, saw his hfe darkened by the heaviest 
misfortune that can befall a poor man — an invahd wife. 
In this respect his career sadly resembled the lot of his 
father, and years afterwards it was mournfully reproduced 
in the experiences of his only son. 

But the young father was not the man to crouch 
at the fii^st blast of adversity. If his wife could not 
help him, the more reason that he should help himself. 
He worked steadily at his engine during the appointed 
hours, and employed his evenings in shoemaking and 
cobbling and in acquiring the rudiments of mechanics. 
Whilst he was spelhng out the secrets of his books, and 
often as he worked, hammer in hand, he reheved his 
sickly wife by taking his son from her cough-racked 
breast and nursing him for hours together. Eobert's 
earliest recollections were of sitting on his father's knee, 
watching his brows knit over tlie difficult points of a 
page, or marldng the deftness and precision with which 


his right hand phed its craft, Tlie child, too, bore in 
body as well as heart a memorial of his father's tender- 
ness. His seat was always on George's left knee, his 
body encircled by his father's left arm. The consequence 
was that the left hand and arm, left at liberty by the 
position, became stronger and were more often used than 
the right ; and the child's habit of trusting the left hand, 
strengthening with time, graduaUy developed into a per- 
manent defect. 

George Stephenson did not remain long at Wilhngton, 
but his brief residence on the quay side was marked 
by other incidents besides the birth of his child. It 
was there that his intercourse with Eobert Hawthorn 
first took the form of personal intimacy. It was at 
Wilhngton, too, that he first took to clock-mending and 
clock-cleaning as an additional field of industry. The 
pit-man's cabin has points by which it may be dis- 
tinguished from the southern peasant's cottage. Its 
prominent article of furnitm^e is a good and handsome 
bed. Not seldom a colhery workman spends ten, or 
fifteen pounds on his bedstead alone, and when he has 
bought the costliest he can afford he j)laces it in the 
middle of his principal apartment. Invariably he has also a 
clock — usually a valuable one — amongst his possessions. 
Every viUage, therefore, abounds in clocks, and as the 
people are very particular and even fanciful about them, 
a brisk business is everywhere carried on by clock- 
cleaners. Each petty district has its own clock-cleaner, 
who is supported by aU the inhabitants ; and it is to 
be observed that this artificer almost invariably has been 

George Stephenson, therefore, in occupying his spare 


time in cleaning clocks, did only what tlie superior and 
more intelligent workmen of his time and country were 
in the habit of doing. His new employment was lucra- 
tive, and enabled him, for the first time in his hfe, to 
lay by money out of his own earnings. 

Eecent circumstances have connected the Stephensons 
in the public mind with Willington ; but their relations 
with that township were neither lasting nor intimate. 
Scarcely had George Stephenson formed attachments to 
his neighbours when he moved to the parish of Long 
Benton, where he was engaged as brakesman of the 
West Moor coUiery engine. On receiving his new ap- 
pointment, George, now twenty-three years old, with his 
wife and little Eobert (then in his second year), settled in 
a cottage in Killingworth township, close to the West 
Moor colliery — about four or five miles to the north of 
Newcastle, and about the same distance from Willington 

The cottage in which George Stephenson lived on 
Willington Quay has been pulled down, but before it 
was destroyed the pubhc interest attaching to it was so 
great, that photographic pictures and engravings of it 
had been circulated in every direction. The site, how- 
ever, of Eobert Stephenson's birthplace is appropriately 
preserved. Of the objects which arrest the attention of 
a person makmg the passage up the river from Tyne- 
mouth to Newcastle, there is nothing of greater archi- 
tectural merit than the Gothic edifice that stands out 
upon Willington Quay. This structure, generally spoken 
of as the ' Stephenson Memorial,' comprises (besides 
rooms for officers and teachers) two school-rooms, one 
for boys and another for girls, and a reading-room 


for mechanics. The entire building is a model of what 
such a structure ought to be, and the children's play- 
grounds are as spacious and well-appointed as the in- 
terior of their excellent institution. The exact spot on 
which the Stephenson cottage stood, is now the boys' 
play-groundj in the rear of the school. 




(-^TAT. 1-9.) 

The West Moor Colliery —'The Street' of Long Benton — Road 
from Newcastle to Killingwortk — ' The Cottage ' on the West Moor 
— View from the Cottage Windows — Apparent Amendment of Mrs. 
Stephenson's Health — Robert and his Mother visit Black Caller- 
ton — Robert Stephenson's Sister — Death of his Mother — George 
Stephenson's Jom-ney to Montrose — Eleanor Stephenson — Her 
gi-eat Disappointment — 'The Artificials' — Little Robert's Visits 
to the Red House Farm, Wolsingham — 'The Henipy Lad' — 
Tommy Rutter's School — The young Gleaner — A Lesson for the 
Lord's Day — George Stephenson's Sundays — His Friends, Robert 
Hawthorn and John Steele — The first Locomotive ever built on the 
Banks of the TjTie— Anthony Wigham —Captain Robson — Evenings 
at the West Moor. 


OWAEDS the close of 1804, George Stephenson 
J- moved to the West Moor colliery, and fixed himself 
and family in the little cottage where he resided, till 
he made rapid strides to opulence and fame. Long 
Benton,* a wide stragghng parish, comprising in its five 
townships numerous colonies of operatives, presents those 
contrasts of wealth and poverty for which mining and 
manufacturing districts are proverbial. The long irregidar 
street of the village is not without beauty. The vicarage 

• In this parish Smoaton, in 1772, erected the large atmospheric engine, 
•which formed the standard engine before Watt's improvements. — W. P. 


is a picturesque dwelling, and on either side of tlie road, 
surrounded by gardens, with paths of crushed slag and 
refuse coal, and plantations of a somewhat sooty hue, are 
the houses of prosperous agents and employers. The 
general aspect of the place, however, is humble, and the, 
abodes of the poorer inhabitants are comfortless. 

The road from Newcastle to Long Benton quits the 
town at the northern outskirt, and, leaving ' the moor ' 
on the left, passes through the picturesque plantations 
of Jesmond Vale (watered by the brawhng Dean that 
flows to Ouseburn), and, having ascended the bold and 
richly wooded sweep of Benton Banks, leads on over a 
bleak and unattractive level to Long Benton, where art 
and nature again combine to render the landscape attrac- 
tive. Pursuing its course down the disjointed village, the 
road descends to the church, where it turns to the left 
over a rustic stone bridge, curves round a corner of the 
churchyard, and bears away to Kilhngworth township 
and the West Moor colliery. 

The cottage in which the young brakesman and his 
middle-aged wife settled, was a small two-roomed tenement. 
Even as it now stands, enlarged by George Stephenson to 
the dignity of a house with four apartments, it is a quaint 
httle den — a toy-house rather than a habitation for a 
family. The upper rooms are very low, and one of them 
is merely a closet. The space of the lower floor is made 
the most of, and is divided into a vestibule and two apart- 
ments. Over the httle entrance door, in the outer wall, 
is a sun-dial, of which mention will be made hereafter. 
The principal room of the house is on the left hand of the 
entrance, and in it stands to this day a piece of furniture 
which is now the property of J\Ii'. Lancelot Gibson, the 


hospitable occupant of tho cottage. Tliis article of furni- 
ture is a high strong-built cheffonier, with a book-case 
surmounting it, and it was placed in the apartment by 
George Stephenson himself. Of this chattel mention will 
be made elsewhere in these pages. 

The view from the little garden, in front of this cabin, is 
as fine as any in the neighbourhood of Newcastle. A road- 
way leading to the North Shields turnpike road runs along 
the garden rails ; on the other side of the road is a small 
paddock, not a hundred yards in width, beyond the farther 
confine of which are the mud walls of the glebe farm- 
house, of which George Stephenson's friend Wigham was 
tenant. On the right hand, buried in trees, is Gosforth 
Hall, formerly the residence of the Mr. Brandhng who 
fought George's battle in the matter of the safety lamp, 
and Avhose name — though he has long been dead — is 
never mentioned by the inhabitants of the district without 
some expression of affectionate regard. Newcastle cannot 
be seen ; but clearly visible is the blue-hill ridge beyond 
it, on the farther declme of which rests tlie seat of the 
Liddells — Eavensworth Castle. 

The excitement of moving to KilUngworth was for a 
time beneficial to Mrs. Stephenson's health. She became 
more cheerful ; and, that she might have every chance 
of amendment, George Stephenson prevailed on her 
to visit her sister Elizabeth, who had married Thomas 
Pattison, a farmer of Black Callerton. 

This apparent improvement in health, wliich her hus- 
band attributed altogether to the excitement of moving 
to a new home, was, however, httle more than the or- 
dinary consequence of pregnancy, which is well known 
to stay for a brief space the treacherous incursions of 


plitliisical malady. In the July of 1805 she was put to 
bed, and Eobert Stephenson had a sister who lived just 
three weeks * — long enough to be named Frances after 
her mother, to be admitted into Christ's Church, and to 
taste something of human suffering. Her little girl born, 
dead, and buried, the bereaved mother relapsed into her 
previous condition. The cold winter and spring, with its 
keen north-eastern winds sweeping over the country, 
completed the slow work of consumption, and before 
Benton banks and Jesmond vale had again put forth 
their green leaves, she was quiet in her last earthly rest in 
Benton churchyard. 

Deprived of his mother, before he had completed his 
thii'd year, Eobert Stephenson was placed under the 
care of the Avomen who were successively George's 
housekeepers. Of the three housekeepers who lived in 
the West Moor cabin, the first and last were superior 
women. Soon after the death of his -wife, George 
Stephenson went for a few months to Scotland, where 
he was employed as engineer in a large factory near 
Montrose. On making this journey, he left Httle Eobert 
in the custody of his first housekeeper, at Killing- 
worth. On his return he was surprised, and shghtly 
angry, at finding his house shut up, and -without inmates. 
In his absence, the housekeeper (who was in every 
respect an excellent woman) had become the wdfe of his 

* The Long Benton registers con- Aged 3 weeks. 

tain the following entries : — 2. Buried 1806, Frances Stephen- 
I.Frances Stephenson, West Moor son, late Henderson, West Moor, 

Collieiy, d. of George Stephenson wife of George Stevenson (sic). Died 

and Frances his wife, late Henderson. May 14. Buried May 16. Aged 37 

Died Aug. .3, 1805. Buried Aug. 4. years. 


brother Eobert, in whose dwelling the little boy then 
was. Eecovering possession of his child, George Stephen- 
son again established himself at the West Moor, engaged 
a second housekeeper, and, having well-nigh emptied 
his pockets by paying some debts of his poor blind 
father, and by purchasing a substitute for service in the 
militia, once more set to work resolutely as brakesman, 
cobbler, and clock-cleaner. The burden of an invalid 
wife, of which he had been relieved, was replaced by 
the burden of a helpless father. Struck blind by an 
accident which has been already mentioned, ' Old Eobert ' 
was maintained in comfort by his sons until the time of 
his death. 

George's second selection of a housekeeper was not so 
fortunate as his first, but he soon dismissed her, and 
received into his cottage his sister Eleanor, or, as her 
name is spelt in the family register, Elender. This 
worthy and pious woman, born on April 16, 1784, 
was nearly three years the junior of her brother, and 
consequently was still young when she came to keep 
his house. But young as she was, she had made ac- 
quaintance with sorrow. A merry lass, she • went up 
to London to fill a place of domestic service, having 
first phghted her troth to a young man in her own 
rank of hfe, under a promise to return and become 
his bride whenever he wished to marry her. A year or 
two passed, when, in accordance with this agreement, 
her lover summoned her back to Northumberland. 
Eleanor went on board a Newcastle vessel homeward 
bound. Hi-fortune sent adverse breezes. The passage 
from the Thames to the Tyne consumed three weeks, and 
Avhen the poor girl placed her foot on the quay side of 


tlie Northumbrian capital, the first piece of intelUgence 
she received was that her faithless lover was akeacly the 
husband of another. 

George Stephenson invited his sister to his house, and 
she, seeing a field of usefulness before her, wisely accepted 
the invitation. Her sister Ann ha\dng already married, 
and migrated to the United States, Eleanor was to George 
as an only sister. 

The record of one trifling but pathetic difference 
between George and Eleanor is still preserved by family 
gossip. When Eleanor first took up her abode at the 
West Moor colhery, she wore some cheap artificial 
flowers in her bonnet. The sad experiences of the four 
preceding years had made the young brakesman less 
gentle in his temper and more practical in his views. 
Eude love of truth and dislike of shams caused him 
to conceive a dislike for these 'artificials,' as he con- 
temptuously termed them. He asked Eleanor to throw 
them away, but she, averring that they cost good money, 
dechned to do so. 

' Nay, then,' said George, stretching out his hand, ' let 
me take them out and tlu'ow them away, and I '11 give 
thee a shilhng.' 

But Eleanor, usually so meek and gentle, drew back. 
George saw her secret and blundered out an apology. 
The poor girl had put those flowers in her bonnet, in the 
vain hope that they would render her comely face more ac- 
ceptable to her false lover. She had been rightl}^ punished 
for what she called her worldly vanity ; and in humble 
acknowledgment of her error, she determined to wear 
' the artificials ' as a memorial of her foohshness. 

Erom her early days she had been seriously inclined ; 

VOL. I. C 


and her recent disappointment gave a tone to her mind 
that was not to be outgrown. Joining the Wesleyan 
Methodists, she regularly attended their prayer-meetings ; 
and all who remember her bear witness that her labours 
of unassuming charity aptly enforced the teaching of her 
lips. Her spare hours were employed in visiting the 
sick, and repeating long passages from the Bible to those 
who were themselves unable to spell out the secrets of 
' the Word.' 

It was a bright day for httle Eobert when this young 
woman entered the cottage at the West Moor, and took 
him into her affectionate keeping. The best and most 
pleasant glimpses that can be obtained of his childliood, 
show the healthiest relations to have subsisted between 
him and this good aunt. 

Every few months Aunt Nelly used to take the child 
to visit his various relatives scattered about the country. 
Ann Henderson had become the wife of Joseph Burn of 
the Eed House farm, Wolsingham. She had done better 
had she been content with the poor young brakesman ; 
but she was for a time the most important personage in the 
family. She had a strong feehng of kindliness for George, 
and when her sister Fanny was no more, she v»^as con- 
stant in her hospitahty to her nephew. A visit to Wol- 
singham was the child's highest ideal of happiness ; and 
when he was there he used to repay his relations for 
their goodness by mimickmg the pecuharities of his 
Kilhngworth acquaintance. Aunt Burn was in the habit 
of giving the httle fellow, for his breakfast, fresh eggs with 
butter in them. This luxiu-ious fare, so unlike what he 
was accustomed to in his father's cottage, appeared to 
him in the hght of a strange and important discovery. 


and it is still remembered how he gravely informed his 
Amit Burn that 'when he went home, he'd teach his 
Aunt Eleanor to eat eggs and butter.' 

Another excursion made by the child was to Eyle, 
where his aunt Hannah Henderson had married Mr. 
Elhot, a small innkeeper. The time of the year was sum- 
mer, and as the journey was made on foot, little Bobby 
and his aunt rested several times on the dusty road, and 
refreshed themselves at wayside houses of entertain- 
ment. A gill of mild ' yell ' was the modest order, inva- 
riably made by the aunt, and the half pint of drink 
was always divided between herself and her charge. On 
reaching Eyle the child found his tongue and impudence, 
and astounded his relatives by asserting that his staid 
aunt could not pass an ale-house without entering it. 
' Ah ! he was a hempy lad,' is the conclusion given 
amongst his humble relations to nearly all the stories of 
Eobert Stephenson's early life. 

Midway in the stragghng street of Long Benton, on 
the right hand of the traveller going from Newcastle 
to Kilhngworth township, stands a stone cottage, com- 
posed of two rooms — one on the ground-floor, the other 
upstan-s. For many years this has been the village school. 
At the present time the schoohnaster, in addition to his 
vocation of teacher, holds the office of postmaster — a fact 
set forth m bold characters on the exterior of the dwelling. 
On one side of the school-room, at a rude desk, sit eight or 
ten boys, whilst on the opposite side are ranged the same 
number of girls. At one end of the stone floor, between 
the two companies, sits the instructor, whose terms for 
instruction vary from threepence to sixpence per week for 
each pupil. When Eobert Stephenson was a little boy, 

c 2 


the master of this school was Thomas Riitter. Fifty years 
ago the village schoolmaster had in many districts a more 
lucrative business than he enjoys in the present genera- 
tion. A majority of the surrounding men of business 
were dependent on a neighbour endowed with 'learn- 
ing ' for the management of their accounts. By keeping 
the books of prosperous mechanics and petty traders, 
and by instructing adults bent on self-education, the 
village schoolmaster found the chief part of his work 
and payment, apart from his classes for the young. 
Tommy Eutter, as he is still familiarly called by the aged 
inhabitants of Long Benton, w^as both successful and well 

To Tommy Eutter 's school Eobert Stephenson was sent, 
and there he learnt his letters, at the same desk and 
under the same master as another distinguished child of 
Long Benton — Dr. Addison, the eminent physician, whose 
death under mournful circumstances recently created wide 
and painful sensation. In Eutter's time the girls were 
taught by Mrs. Eutter in the room upstairs, the ground- 
floor apartment being filled with lads — the sons of work- 
men at the surrounding colHeries, and of small dealers 
living in adjacent townships. Many of them had never 
worn shoe or boot ; but, though bare-footed, they were 
canny, hardy youngsters, and several of them have raised 
themselves to conditions of prosperity. 

The exact year of Eobert's entry into Eutter's school 
cannot be ascertained, but he was quite a httle fellow 
when he first felt his master's cane. The w^alk over the 
glebe farm and past the churchyard from the West Moor 
to Long Benton Street — a distance of about a mile, or a 
mile and a Jialf — was a long way for him, and Aunt. 

CiRC. 1809.] THE GLEiVNING. 21 

Nelly used to pity her bairn for having to trudge so 
far, to and fro. He had not been long at school when 
the season of harvest came, and Aunt Nelly went out 

Little Eobert Stephenson petitioned his father for leave 
to accompany Aunt Eleanor and the gleaners. George by 
no means approved the request, as he argued that he 
did not pay fourpence, or possibly sixpence, a week for 
his son's schooling, in the expectation that the young 
scholar should leave his books at the first temptation. 

But the petition was granted in the following terms : — 

' Weel, gan; but thou maun be oot a' day. Nae skulk- 
ing, and nae shu-king. And thou maun gan through fra 
the first t' th' end o' gleaning.' 

On this understanding Eobert and Aunt Eleanor started 
for their vagrant toil, but long before sunset the boy was 
very tired. He kept up manfully, however, and as he 
trotted homewards at nightfall by the side of his aunt, 
he, Hke her, carried a full bag. At the gate of the West 
Moor cabin stood George Stephenson, ready to welcome 
them. Quickly discerning the effort Eobert was making 
to appear gallant and fresh, the father enquired : 

' Weel, Bobby, hoo did the' come on ? ' 

' Vara weel, father,' answered Bobby stoutly. 

The next day, bent on not giving in, the boy rose early, 
and for a second time accompanied the gleaners. The 
poor cliild slept for hours under the hedgerows ; and 
when evening came he trotted home, bag in hand, but 
holding on to Aunt Nelly's petticoats. Again at the 
garden wicket George received them, with amused look, 
and the same enquiry : 

' Weel, Bobby, hoo did the' come on ? ' 


' Middling fatlier,' answered Bobby sulkily ; and, drop- 
ping his bag, he hastened into the cottage, and was asleep 
in a couple of minutes. 

The third day came, and little Eobcrt did his bravest 
amongst the gleaners : but the day was too much for 
him ; his pride gave in, and on lagging home at night- 
fall, when he was once more asked by his father, ' Weel, 
Bobby, hoo did the' come on ? ' he burst into tears, and 
cried, ' Oh, father, warse and warse, warse and warse : 
let me gan to school agyen.' 

It was not the time then to point the moral of those 
last three days, but the next day (Sunday, when even 
gleaners rest) the young father took his child under his 
arm, and placing him on the knee where he had so often 
sat, told him to be a good boy over his book, to leave 
hard work of the body for a few years to his elders, anfl 
to thank God that he (unlike his father) was not in child- 
hood required to toil hard all day for a few pence. It 
was a sermon fit for a day of rest, and from no lips could 
it have come more appropriately than from the lips of 
George Stephenson. 

Aunt Eleanor sat by, and heard George's paternal 
admonition, and was well pleased with its grave and 
serious tone. To tell the truth, the Sundays at the West 
Moor cottage were not altogether in accordance with 
Aunt Eleanor's views. George resolutely dechned to 
accompany his sister to the meetings of the Wesleyan 
Methodists; and, what to her seemed even worse, he 
was by no means a regular attendant at Long Benton 
church. Sunday was tlie day when, walking up and down 
the colliery railway, he pondered over the mechanical 
problems which Avere then vexing the brains of all the 


intelligent workmen of the neighbouring country. It was 
his day, too, for receiving friends. 

Of George's early associates Eobert Hawthorn has 
been already specially mentioned — and the relations 
between them have been briefly stated. Whilst George 
Stephenson and William Locke worked under Haw- 
thorn, they found him an exacting and tyrannical su- 
pervisor. They both resented his domination, believing 
that he was jealous of their mechanical genius, afraid of 
being supplanted or surpassed by them, and anxious to 
keep them under. George Stephenson retained for many 
years a grudge against Hawthorn, but he was too pru- 
dent openly to quarrel with the cleverest engine-wright 
of the district. Slowly advancing himself from the 
position of a brakesman, whose duty it is simply to 
regulate the action of a steam-engine, to the higher 
status of the smith, or wright, who mends and even 
constructs the machine itself, George stood in frequent 
need of the counsel and countenance of Hawthorn, then 
his superior in knowledge, as he was also in age. The 
practice of the engine-wrights of George Stephenson's 
Killingworth days was very different from that of the 
educated engineers of a later date. 

John Steele, another of George Stephenson's early and 
most valued friends, was a man worthy of especial men- 
tion ; as his relations with Trevi thick, and his ascertained 
influence on the history of the locomotive, give value to 
the few particulars that can be picked up with regard to 
him. The son of a poor North-countryman, who was 
originally a coachman and afterwards a brakesman on 
the Pontop Eailway, John Steele in his early childhood 
displayed remarkable ingenuity in the construction of 


models of machines. His schoolfellows at Colliery Dykes 
used to marvel at the correctness of ' his imitations of pit- 
engines,' and remember how in school ' the master could 
never set him fast ' in figures. Wliile he was still a 
school-lad, his leg was accidentally crushed on the 
Pontop tramway. After leaving the Newcastle infirmary, 
where the limb was amputated, he was apprenticed by 
the proprietary of the Pontop Eailway to Mr. John 
Whinfield, the iron-founder and engineer of the Pipewell- 
gate, Gateshead. Wliilst serving his apprenticeship he 
attracted the attention, not only of his masters, but also 
of Trevithick, who in nothing displayed his consummate 
genius more forcibly than in the sagacity with which he 
selected his servants and apprentices. In the autumn of 
1860, the only sister of John Steele was still h\dng, at a 
very advanced age, at Ovingham, under the benevolent 
protection of Mr. T. Y. Hall, of Newcastle, and could re- 
member that Trevithick invited her brother to leave 
Whinfield's factory during his apprenticeship and to join 
him. Steele, however, remained at Gateshead until he 
had ' served his time,' and then joined Trevithick, during 
the manufacture of the locomotive constructed by that 
original mechanician m 1803 and 1804, in the latter of 
which years the engine won the memorable wager 
between Mr. Homfray, of Penydarren works, and Mr. 
Kichard Crawshay, of the Cyfarthfa works. Eeturning 
from Trevithick's works to Gateshead, Steele, in 1804, 
built the first locomotive which ever acted on the 
banks of the Tyne.* This engine was made in Whin- 

* The facts connected with this columns of the Gateshead Obso-ver 
engine were brought to light in the and the Mining Journal. The curious 



field's factory for Mr. Blackett of the Wylam colliery ; 
but owing to tlie imperfections in its structure, it was 
never put on the Wylam line, but was used as a fixed 
engine in a Newcastle iron-foundry. Speaking of this 
engine, Mr. Nicholas Wood, whose book on Eailroads has 
been copied by all writers on the subject, observes : — 
' The engme erected by ]\Ir. Trevithick had one cyhn- 
der only, with a fly-wheel to secure a rotatory motion 
m the crank at the end of each stroke. An engine of 
this kind was sent to the North for Mi\ Blackett of 
Wylam, but was, for some cause or other, never used 
upon his railroad, but was apphed to blow a cupola at 
the iron-foundry at Newcastle.' In this statement Mr. 
Wood fell into a pardonable but not unimportant error. 
The engine was undoubtedly in all essential points a re- 
production of the one akeady made by Trevithick, with 
whose name, even more than with those of Leopold, 
Cugnot, Ohver Evans, or William Murdock, ^vill be 
associated the practical introduction of the steam loco- 
motive ; but it was made in Gateshead about the year 
1804. It is equally certain that John Steele made it, 
and that when it was finished it ran on a temporary 
way laid down in Whinfield's yard at Gateshead. John 
TurnbuU, of Eighton Banks, living in 1858, remembered 
the engine being made, whilst he was serving his appren- 
ticeship at WQiinfield's factory. When it was completed, 
it ran, according to Turnbull's accoimt, backwards and 
forwards quite well, much to the gratification of ' the 
quahty ' who came ' to see her run.' 

are referred for farther infoi-mation tlie Gateshead Observer for August 
to the 3Iming Journal for October 2, 28, September 18, October 2, and 
1858, and October 16, 1858, and to October 9, in the same year, 1858. 


The subsequent career of John Steele was adventurous. 
He was employed by the British Government to raise 
sunken ships ; and, according to his sister's account, re- 
ceived a medal for his efforts to raise the ' Royal George.' 
Subsequently he went abroad, and having estabhshed 
a foundiy and machine factory at La Gare, near Paris, 
was commissioned to make some engines for several 
boat companies. His death occurred under painful but 
characteristic circumstances. Whilst engaged at Lyons 
in fitting engines on board a boat, he met with Mr. 
Charles Manby, a gentleman since well kno^vn as the 
Secretary of the Listitution of Civil Engineers, but who 
at that time (1824-5) was engaged in engineering pur- 
suits in France. On the day when Steele's vessel was 
tried, l^lr. Manby took his workmen on board to assist 
his countryman. On going below, he perceived that the 
engineman had fastened down the safety-valve, with the 
avowed intention of 'making her go or biu"sting her.' 
Seeing the danger, Mr. Manby and his men hastily quitted 
the ill-starred vessel. A few minutes later the boiler 
burst, and by the explosion Steele was killed, togetlier 
with several important persons of Lyons and many of the 
spectators on the quays.* 

Anthony Wigham, another of George's intimate asso- 
ciates, was the farmer occupying the glebe farm of Long 
Benton, the cottage-house on which small holding stands 
within sight of the West Moor cabin. He was a bad 
farmer, and, as bad farmers usually are, a poor one ; but 
he liad mastered the principal rules of arithmetic, and 
had a smattering of natural philosophy. George culti- 

Mmutcs of Proceediugs lust. C. E., vol. xii. p. 143. 

1805-12.] THE SAFETY LAMP. 27 

vated tlie farmer's acquaintance, and gained from him all 
the little knowledge he could impart. The teacher was 
in after hfe amply repaid for his lessons. Bad farming 
was in due course followed by commercial failure, and 
when the farmer was at a loss where to look for daily 
bread, George Stephenson — then gTOwn a rich man — 
took him to Tapton House, and, having made him the 
superintendent of his stables, treated him kindly to the 

Another of George Stephenson's early friends was 
Captain Eobson, a hale, hearty, manly sailor. His early 
hfe had been j)assed on board a man-of-war, and he 
afterwards became captain of a Newcastle trading 
vessel, built for him by his father. Marrying the only 
daughter of a prosperous farmer. Captain Eobson gave up 
sea-hfe, and became a farmer in Kilhngworth township. 
It was in his house that George discussed his schemes for 
the construction of the famous safety-lamp. After again 
turmng sailor and again rehnquishing the sea, the captain 
still lives to tell his version of the way in which the 
secret of the invention of the lamp was foohshly blabbed 
by Dr. Bm^net, the colhery-doctor, to his brother-m-law, 
Mr. Buddie, the viewer, who, he alleges, speedily conveyed 
the information to Sk Humphry Davy. The captain's 
story, thoroughly believed as it is by the veteran, is, of 
course, not to be rehed upon ; but it forms an amusing 
counterpart to the angiy accusations preferred by Sir 
Humphry's friends against George Stephenson, of having 
siurreptitiously possessed liimself of the philosopher's 

Hawthorn and Steele, hving at a distance, were com- 
paratively rare visitors at Kilhngworth. George saw 


more of them on pay-niglits at Newcastle, when he and all 
the clever mechanics of the country round met together, 
and exchanged views on the difficult 'jobs' then engaging 
the attention of the local engine-wrights ; the simple 
workmen thus unconsciously creating the earhest and 
the finest school of practical engineering. When, how- 
ever, either Hawthorn or Steele did make an appear- 
ance at the West Moor, the favourite topic was the 
possibility of employing steam for purposes of locomo- 
tion. Every word that came from Steele — Trevithick's 
pupil and workman, who had himself within six miles 
of Kilhngworth built a machine which, with all its 
defects, had actually travelled under the influence of 
steam — George Stephenson stored up in his memory. 
Steele was never weary of prophesjdng, that ' the day 
would come when the locomotive engine would be fairly 
tried, and would then be found to answer.' No wonder 
that George Stephenson caught enthusiasm from such a 




(JETAT. 9-15.) 

Robert and the Pitman's Picks — ' Mind tlie Biiiks ' — George Ste- 
phenson's pecuniary Position whilst his Son attended Rutter's 
School — George appointed Engineer to the Collieries of 'The 
Grand Allies ' — The Locomotive on the Wylam Line — George 
Stephenson's first Locomotive — Bjs Appointment to the ' Walker 
L'on-Tvorks ' — ' Bruce's Academy ' — The Cost of Robert's Tuition at 
the School — Robert Stephenson's Reception by his new Schoolfellows 

— The Boy's delicate Health — The Purchase of his Donkey — John 
Tate — Rival Safety Lamps — Testimonial and Public Dinner to George 
Stephenson for his Lamp — Home Gossip — ' Throwing the Hammer' 

— George Stephenson's Views with regard to the Education of his 
Son — Robert Stephenson's Plan of a Sun-Dial, 

AS soon as little Eobert was strong enough to help 
his father, he was put to do such jobs as were 
suited to his powers. One of his earhest recollections 
in after life was of having to carry the pitmen's picks 
to the smith's shop in Long Benton, when they needed 
repak. This commission he executed on his way to 
Tommy Eutter's school, and as he returned home he 
used to bring the implements back. Two years before 
his death, after his brilliant career of adventure and suc- 
cess, he visited Long Benton with some friends, and 
pointed out to them the route over the fields, along 
which he used to trudge laden with the hewers' 


implements. But George's chief injunction to liis only 
child was to 'mind the bulks.' The father was deter- 
mined that his boy should not commence the real battle 
of life, as he had done, unable to cipher, or write, or 
even to read. 

An erroneous impression exists that George Stephen- 
son denied himself the indulgences appropriate to his 
condition in order that he might give his boy a 
superior education, and that in sending his son to school 
he showed his superiority to most of his fellow-work- 
men. He felt personally the disadvantages of a very 
defective education, and he determined that his sou 
should not labour under the same want. 

In 1812, on the death of Cree, the engine-wright of the 
Killingworth coUiery, George Stephenson was appointed 
engineer, with a salary of £100 per annum, to the con- 
tiguous coUieries possessed by Sir Thomas Liddell, Mr. 
Stuart Wortley, and the Earl of Strathmore — the 'grand 
alhes,' as they were called m the neighbourhood. In 
addition to this salary, George had the proceeds of 
his clock-mending and clock-cleaning business — a much 
more important somxe of gain than has hitherto been 
supposed. He not only kept in order the clocks of the 
pitmen and superior workmen, but performed the same 
service for surrounding farmers. Farmer Eobson paid 
him half-a-crown for cleaning watch or clock. He was 
also regularly employed at a fixed annual sum to 
attend to the clocks in the establishments of several 
wealthy gentlemen of the vicinity. Moreover, throughout 
the term of his Killingworth residence, he hved rent-free 
and had his fuel from the pit. During the year, also, 
lie increased his income considerably by jobs connected 

1812.] EDUCATION. 31 

with the repair of machinery. His income therefore 
amounted in 1812 to about £150. With such means 
at his command it was only natural that he should 
give his son the rudiments of education at the village 
school. Thus in sending Eobert Stephenson to Eutter's 
school, George Stephenson only did as every reputable 
ftxther of his own station and of similar means in the 
parish of Long Benton did as a matter of course. 

On gainmg the important post of engineer to the 
collieries of the 'grand alhes,' George Stephenson's 
advances towards success became quicker, and at the 
same time easier. Watchful of all that was going on in 
the neighbourhood relative to the steam engine, he 
knew the result of the memorable experiments on the 
Wylam line, as soon as they were accomphshed. On 
that hue it was first proved by Mr. Hedley, the viewer of 
Mr. Blackett's coUiery, that the adhesion* of smooth 

* 'About tliis time Mr. Blackett 'It was, however, a question of 
had considerably improved his en- the utmost importance to ascertain 
giues, and by experiments had as- if the adhesion of the wheels of the 
certained the quantity of adhesion engine upon the rails were sufficient 
of the wheels upon the rails, and had to produce a progressive motion in 
proved that it was sufficient to effect the engine, when loaded with a 
the locomotion of the engine upon train of carnages, without the aid 
railroads approaching nearly to a of any other contrivance j and it 
level, or with a moderate inclination. was by the introduction and con- 
His railroad was a plate-rail, and tinned use of them upon the Wylam 
would consequently present more railroad that this question was de- 
friction, or resistance, to the wheels cided : and it was proved that upon 
than the edge-rail, and on that ac- railroads nearly level, or with very 
coimt the amount of adhesion woidd moderate inclination, the adhesion 
be greater than upon the other rail. of the wheels alone was sufficient, in 
Still the credit is due to Mr. Blackett all the different kinds of weather, 
for proving that locomotion could be when the sm-face of the rails was 
applied by that means only.' — Mr. not covered with snow. 
Nicholas Wood's Treatise on Rail- ' Mr. Hedley informs us that they 
roads, third ed. p. 285. first tried by manual labour how 


wheels on smooth rails would afford sufficient resistance to 
enable an engine to drag a train of loaded carriages. And 
it was 01^ that same Hne, between Wylam and Lemington, 
that engines with smooth wheels, running on smooth rails, 
first took the place of horses and oxen for purposes of 

The alacrity ^vith which George Stephenson, the self- 
taught engineer, comprehended the importance of the 
Wylam discoveries, and put them in practice upon the 
Killiugworth Hne, in locomotives of his own construction, 
which were fully equal in efficiency to those on the Wylam 
way, attracted general attention to his proceedings. It 
was seen that he was a man who, with favourable oppor- 
tunities, would become a distinguished engineer. The 
Wylam way was laid wdth plate rails, whilst the KiUing- 
worth line had edge rails. George Stephenson therefore 
built ' the first locomotive engine that propelled itself by 
the adhesion of its wheels on edge rails.' The first trial 
of the engine took place on July 25, 1814, with marked 
success. When the training and antecedents of the 
young workman (then only thirty-three years of age) are 
taken into consideration, the achievement seems almost 

Amongst the gentlemen of the neighbourhood who 
Avatched the progress and hailed the success of George 
Stephenson's first engine, no one was more enthusiastic 
than liir. Losh, the senior partner of the firm of ' Losh, 

mucli Aveight the wheels of a com- eugine would produce sufficient ad- 

nion carriage would overcome with- hesion to drag after it, upon their 

out slipping romid upon the rail ; railroad, a requisite number of car- 

aud ha\-ing found the proportion it riages.'— Wood's Treatise mi Ridl- 

bore to the weight, they thence as- roaih, third ed. p. 287. 
certained that the weight of the 


Wilson, and Bell.' This highly cultivated gentleman, 
the fellow-student and friend of Humboldt, survived in a 
venerable old age in the autumn of 1860, to tell the 
story of his intercourse with George Stephenson. With 
a large capital embarked in the Walker iron-works, as 
well as in his chemical factories, he saw in the engine- 
wright a man well fitted to carry out his enterprises and 
to suggest new ones. He made overtiu^es to him ; and, 
in the beginning of the year 1815, an arrangement was 
made that George Stephenson should come to the Walker 
iron-works for two days in each week, receiving for his 
services a salary of £100 per annum, besides participation 
in aU profits arising from his inventions. To secure his 
good fortune in tliis compact from all drawback, the 
' grand alhes,' with proper hberality to an engineer who 
had served them weU, gave him permission to accept 
Mr. Losh's ofier, and at the same time retain his post at 
Kilhngworth with an undiminished salary. 

George Stephenson, with these two concurrent ap- 
pointments yielding him a clear £200 per annum, besides 
perquisites and the participation in profits reserved to 
him by Losh, Wilson, and Bell, began to feel himself a 
rising man. Industrious as ever, he retained his clock- 
cleaning business ; and he had made some not unim- 
portant savmgs, A prosperous mechanic, with a good 
income, unmarried, and with brighter prospects opening 
before him, coidd not think of giving his only cliild no 
better education than that which a village schoolmaster 
imparted to the children of ordinary workmen. 

It was no part of his plan to bring up his son with 
an expense and refinement unusual in his station, but he 
wished to educate him in accordance with the rules of 

VOL. I. D 


his rank. He placed liim, therefore, when he was nearly 
twelve years old, as a day-pupil in an academy at New- 
castle, kept by ]\ir. Bruce. 

The friend and biographer of Dr. Hutton, and the 
author of several educational works of great merit, 
Mr. John Bruce had raised his school to such excellence 
that it then ranked higher than the Newcastle grammar- 
school, where Lord Stowell, Lord Eldon, and Lord Col- 
Hngwood received their early instruction. The 'Percy 
Street Academy ' — as Mr. Bruce's seminary was and still 
is called — was then attended by more than a hundred 
pupils, who might be described as a good style of 
'middle-class boys.' Some few were the sons of the 
minor gentry of the vicinity, but the majority were the 
sons of professional men and traders of Newcastle and 
Gateshead. Not one half of the boys learned either 
Greek or Latin. Amongst those who did not receive 
classical instruction was Eobert Stephenson, who entered 
the school on August 14, 1815, and remained there 
four years. During that time, the whole sum paid for 
his education fell short of £40. The expenditure, there- 
fore, for a father in George Stephenson's circumstances, 
was sufficient and appropriate, but nothing more. 

On Eobert Stephenson's appearance at the Percy Street 
academy he had to encounter the criticisms of lads 
who regarded him as beneath them in social condition. 
'A thin-framed, thin-faced, dehcate boy, with his face 
covered with freckles,'* dressed in corduroy trowsers 
and a blue coat-jacket, the handiwork of the tailor 

* Such is the description of him given by a Ne-wcastle gentleman who 
distinctly remembers his first coming to Bruce's school. 

1815.] MR. BRUCE'S SCHOOL. .35 

employed by the Killingworth pitmen, the new-comer 
presented many marks for play-ground satire. On his 
shoulder he carried a bag containing his books and a 
dinner of rye-bread and cheese. The clattering made 
by the heavy iron-cased soles of his boots on the school 
floor did not escape the notice of the lads. Mr. 
Bruce was on the look-out to see that he was not im- 
properly annoyed ; but there was no occasion for the 
master's interference. In Eobert's dark eyes there was 
a soft hght of courtesy that concihated the elder boys. 
When they entered into conversation with him, however, 
they could not refrain from laughing outright. Gruff as 
their own voices were with ISTorthumbrian 'biu-r,' they 
were unused to the deep, guttm\al pit-intonations with 
which Eobert expressed himself. It was no sUght trial to 
a sensitive child just twelve years old to find liimself the 
object of ridicule. Puzzled as to what he had said that 
was ludicrous, and deeply mortified, he tiurned away, and 
kept silence till the business of school-hours commenced. 
At first Eobert Stephenson walked to and from school 
— a distance in aU of about ten miles ; and this labour dis- 
inchned him for joining in the sports of the play-ground. 
At dinner he held no intercoiu-se with his schoolfellows ; 
for while they consumed the more luxurious fare pro- 
vided for them by Mrs. Bruce, he ate the inexpensive 
provision put into his satchel by Aimt Eleanor, or par- 
took of the frugal fare of an uncle's family. Gradually, 
however, he became a favourite with the lads. But it 
soon became clear that Eobert Stephenson was not strong 
enough to bear the long walk each night and morning. 
He was hable to catch cold, and the tendency it had 
to strike at his lungs made his father apprehensive 
D 2 


that tubercular consumption miglit attack liim. At this 
time, too, the boy was afflicted with profuse niglitly 
perspirations, to obviate whicli the doctors made him 
sleep on a hay mattress. A step more hkely to do good 
was taken by George Stephenson, who piurchased for 
the boy a donkey, whicli was for years the pride of 
Long Benton. Eobert had for a long time been in pos- 
session of a dog and a blackbird, which he used to aver 
were the cleverest inhabitants of the village. His new 
acquisition gave him lively satisfaction, and he was prouder 
of it than he was in after life of any horse in his stable. 
To spare his ' cuddy,' he used, in fine weather, to walk 
and ride to school on alternate days. 

John Tate (in 1860 the foreman blacksmith at the 
colliery,) the son of George Stephenson's old fi^iend, 
Eobert Tate, formerly the landlord of the Killing- 
worth ' Three Tuns,' was in early boyhood the fami- 
liar companion of Eobert Stephenson. The two lads 
had many a prank together. Shortly before Eobert 
left Eutter's school, they were out birds'-nesting, when 
Eobert fell from a high branch of a tree to the ground, 
and lay for a minute stunned. On recovering his con- 
sciousness, he experienced so much pain on moving one 
of Ms arms that he nearly fainted. ' My arm is broken, 
John Tate,' the Httle fellow said quietly ; ' you must 
carry me home.' Luckily John Tate had not far to 
carry him. In due course the broken arm was set ; but 
throughout the operation, and indeed from the time 
when he told John Tate to carry him home until he was 
asleep, he did not utter a cry of pain. A child of eleven 
years who could evince such fortitude was clearly made 
of the riujht stuff. 


The first half year of Eobert Stephenson's career at 
the Percy Street academy was an eventful one with his 
father. It saw the invention of the Geordie safety- 
lamp, and the outbreak of that contest between Sir 
Humphry Davy and the Northumbrian engine-wright, in. 
which the latter unquestionably displayed the greater 
dignity and moderation. George Stephenson's first lamp 
was tried on October 21, 1815. In the Northumbrian coal 
fields three lamps are used more than any of the others 
which inventors have contrived for the protection of the 
miner, — Dr. Clanny's lamp of the year 1813, and the 
lamps invented two years later by the scientific rea- 
soner Sir Humphry Davy, and the practical mechanician 
George Stephenson. The principle in each of these 
last-named lamps is identical, but the two originators 
arrived at it by very different processes. To decide on 
the respective merits of these lamps is no part of this 
work. Each has its supporters ; and the partizans of a 
particular kind of ' safety-lamp ' are scarcely less vehe- 
ment and uncharitable in their zeal, than are the de- 
fenders of a particular school of rehgious opinion. In 
the mines where ' the Clanny ' is used, nothing but ' the 
Clanny' has a chance of trial, or a good word. The 
same is the case with ' the Davy ' and ' the Geordie.' One 
thing, however, is certain. An efiicient and luminous 
safety-lamp is still to be invented. It is amusing to hear 
the virtuous indignation of those who, never having 
visited the narrow passages of a coal mine, vehemently 
condemn the fool-hardiness and perversity of miners who 
prefer the candle to the lamp. So dim a ray is emitted 
by ' the Davy ' or ' the Geordie,' it is far fi'om won- 
derfid that underground toilers should regard them as 


obstacles to industry rather than as agents for the pre- 
servation of Hfe. 

With regard to George Stephenson and his invention, 
the time has come for the final sweeping away of a 
fiction. The true nobility of the elder Stephenson is 
only insulted by those who would surround it with the 
vulgar glare of melodramatic heroism. Amongst the 
many anecdotes by which indiscreet eulogists have hoped 
to exalt the fame of a remarkable man, is the story that 
George Stephenson, to test the worth of his lamp, took 
it on the memorable night of October 21, 1815, into 
the foulest part of a foul mine, at the peril of instant 
destruction. Had such a risk been necessary to pre- 
serve the hves of his fellow-creatures, such conduct 
would have entitled him to endless praise for self- 
sacrificing intrepidity. But as he knew there was no 
need to incur such danger, the act attributed to him 
would have deserved no commendation. Wilfully and 
dehberately to encounter extreme peril, Avith the full 
knowledge that it is needless, is the part of a fool — not of 
a hero. Whatever may be George Stephenson's claim to 
be regarded as the latter, he certainly had nothing in 
common with the former. The important experiment, 
which has been so greatly misrepresented, was made 
on a certain insulated quantity of gas, and under cir- 
cumstances that precluded the possibility of serious 
disaster. Mr. Nicholas Wood, the well-known writer 
on Eailroads, at that time the 'viewer ' of the colliery, 
assisted at that trial, and says, ' the box, or cabin, in 
which the lamp was tried was not of such dimensions as 
would, if an explosion had taken place, have produced 
the effect described ; as only a small quantity of gas was 


requii'ed, and we had had sufficient experience not to 
employ more gas than was necessary : at most, an ex- 
plosion might have burnt the hands of the operator, but 
would not extend a few feet from the blower.' 

To George Stephenson one of the best consequences of 
his invention was the quarrel which it provoked between 
his friends and the supporters of Sir Humphry Davy. The 
coal-owners of the district formed themselves into two 
parties. A newspaper war was waged, in which the ad- 
vocates of Stephenson were altogether victorious. The 
partizans of Sir Humphry gave him as a reward for his 
invention £2,000, awarding to George Stephenson 100 
guineas for the lamp they professed to regard as a clumsy 
contrivance, if not an imitation. This award was officially 
communicated to George Stephenson by his dogged, but 
honest, opponent, Mr. Buddie. 

To make head against this demonstration of Sir 
Humphry's friends, George's supporters got up another 
testimonial, amounting to £1,000. A part of this sum was 
expended on a silver tankard* which, together with the 
balance of the money, was presented to the inventor of 
' the Geordie,' after a public dinner given at the Assembly 
Eooms at Newcastle. The chair was taken by George's 

* The tankard was inscribed the presen-ation of liiinian life in 

— 'This piece of plate, piu-chased situations formerly of the greatest 

with a pai-t of the sum of £1,000, a danger, was presented to him at a 

subscription raised for the remime- General Meeting of the Subscribers, 

ration of Mr. George Stephenson for Charles John Brandling, Esq., in 

ha-v-ing discovered the fact, that in- the chair, January 12, 1818.' Among 

flamed fire-damp will notpass through the numerous pieces of ' presentation 

tidies and apertm-es of small dimen- plate ' on Eobert Stephenson's side- 

sions, and having been the Jirst to board in after days, Th£ Tankard 

apply that principle in the construe- was always the most prized, 
tion of a safety-lamp, calculated for 


hearty patron, ]\[i\ Brandling, of "Gosfortli Hall ; and of 
course George, as the chstinguished guest of the night, 
had to return thanks for the honour done him. In his 
palmiest days George Stephenson was not an orator, 
although when he spoke on subjects which he tho- 
roughly comprehended he expressed himself in a plain, 
sensible, and terse manner, which carried conviction of 
his sincerity and of the truthfulness of his narration. 

Sorely did he stand in need of eloquence when he 
stood up in the Newcastle Assembly Eooms, and ad- 
dressed a company of wealthy merchants and enhght- 
ened gentlemen. His speech he had learnt by heart, 
having composed it and written it out with great care. 
Fortunately, this interesting document, which ought to 
be committed to the custody of the Newcastle Literary 
and Philosophical Institution, has been preserved, and a 
fac-simile is given in the Appendix. The speech ran 
thus : — 

Sir, — In Receiving this valuable present which you and the 
Gentleman of this Meeting has bean pleas'd to present me 
with this day I except with Gratitude But permit me to say 
valuable as this present is and gratefull as I feal for it I still 
feal more by being honour'd by such and highley respectable 
meeting the Gentlemen of which having not only rewarded me 
beyond any hopes of mine for my endeavours in construting a 
safity Lamp but has supported me in my claims as to priority in 
my invention to that of that distinguished Pholosipher S H 
Davy. For when I conseder the manner that 1 have been 
brought up and liv'd the manner of which is known to many of 
the Gentleman present and when I consider the high station of 
S H. Davy his high Charactor that he holds among society 
and his influence on scientific men and scientific bodys. all of 
which Sir lays me under a Debt of Gratitude to the Gentlemen 
of this meeting which Gratitude shall remain with me so long 


as ever I shall live. I shall conclude, sir, with my heart felt 
thanks to the Gentlemen of this meeting for their gi-eat reward 
thare support in my struggle with my competitor and hear I 
beg leave to thank in particular E Brandling, Esqr. which I 
trust the Grentleman of this meeting will give me Credit for. for 
I beleive this meeting knows well the active part he has taken in 
my behalf And I hear do thank him publicly for it.* 

Keeping close to tlie letter of this programme, lie 
acquitted himself creditably, but at a family gathering 
where the great event of the dinner was discussed in all 
its bearings, he confessed that his embarrassment whilst 
he delivered the oration was so great, that his face seemed 
to him ' all on fire.' ' Oh, Grace,' he said to his sister- 
in-law Grace Henderson, who had become the wife of 
Bartholomew Twizell, ' if thou could but ha' seen ma 
meeting so many gentlemen at the 'Sembly Eooms, thou 
maught ha' lit a canle at ma face.' On this, Jane, another 
married sister-in-law, laughed, and made a joke at his 
rise in hfe. ' Noo thou 'U be for having a bra' ruffle 
to th' shirt, and then thou '11 be looking doon on a' 
th' own frien's.' 

' No, Jane,' he answered slowly and seriously, ' thou '11 
nivar see no change in ma.' 

* It has been tliought right to matically nor spell con-ectly, but 

retain the faults of ortbogi-aphy and bad to rely on bis secretary. Whilst 

grammar to be found in this and he was braking the ballast engine at 

other of George Stephenson's writ- WUlington Quay, he borrowed a 

ings incorporated in this work. It gi'ammar of Mr. John Dobson, still 

is desirable that everything relating a distinguished architect at New- 

to such a man should be known, his castle. He could not, however, master 

weakness as well as his strength. It its secrets, and in a few days brought 

is a fact to be pondered over, that the book back, saying, ' I oonder- 

with his powerful intellect and re- stond tha vow'ls, but I canna gat 

solute will, George Stephenson to hold o' tha verbs.' 
the last could neither write "ram- 


At the narration of tliis story nearly three years since, 
more than one of George's liumble kin who were present 
bore testimony, tliat ' he never did change — he was always 
the same — ^riches made no difference in him towards his 
poor relations.' 

Whilst George Stephenson steadily progressed in his 
professional career, his son continued his attendance at 
Bruce's school. He did not figure conspicuously in the 
Percy Street play-ground, but at home he displayed no 
less physical than mental energy. Every evening his 
father kept him hard at work over the tasks set him 
at school, and over plans of steam-engines and other 
mechanical contrivances. The neighbours sometimes 
thought George was an ' o'er strict father,' and pitied the 
poor boy who was kept so close to his books. Eobert, 
however, had leisure for amusement. Every autumn he 
and his friends stripped of fruit the best trees in Captain 
Eobson's orchard. Like his father, too, the boy excelled 
in athletic sports, throwing the hammer and putting the 
stone with skill and force. 

In throwuig the hammer — a favourite sport with 
JSTorthumbrian workmen — the thrower stands with his legs 
w4de apart, when, putting his arms behind his back, and 
grasping the hammer by the handle with both hands, he 
casts it forwards between his legs. Apart from the mus- 
cular force employed, the knack greatly consists in let- 
ting the hammer go at the right moment. Eelmquished 
too soon, the missile strikes the ground close at the 
player's feet ; retained after the proper moment, it is apt 
to rise up into the thrower's face. In his sixteenth year, 
Eobert was engaged at this pastime, and made the mis- 
take of keeping the hammer too long in hand. The 


consequence was that the ponderous implement, weighing 
a little under 28 lb., rose, struck him on the forehead, 
and laid him flat and perfectly stunned upon the ground. 
John Tate mtnessed the accident ; but on the following 
day he saw Eobert throwing the hammer with as much 
resolution as ever. 

Eobert's schoolfellows at the Percy Street academy 
failed to detect in him any remarkable signs of talent, 
and some of them stiU express their astonishment at 
his subsequent scientific acquu'ements and professional 

Before leaving Eobei't Stephenson's school-life, we 
may remark, that his father's experiences and difiiculties 
were the measure of what he thought requisite for the 
instruction of his son. The subtler influence of letters 
and the more valuable results of cultm^e were matters 
about which George Stephenson thought httle. Learn- 
ing he regarded in a strictly utilitarian sense, as an 
engine necessary for the achievement of certain ends. 
His ambition was to be a skilful engineer, and a per- 
fect man of business ; and in his efibrts to achieve 
this ambition he found two perplexing obstacles in his 
ignorance of mathematics and his inabihty to write 
with facility, or logical exactness. What he desired to 
be himself, that he also wished his son to be, Eobert 
Stephenson should be an engineer and a director of 
labour ; but he should not have his bravest exertions 
baffled by defective knowledge. In this spirit George 
caused his son to learn French, because it would be 
useful to him in business. 

Up to the time when he left Bruce's school, Eobert 
did not exhibit any marked enthusiasm for the pursuits 


in which his father was most warmly interested. Possibly 
George Stephenson was too urgent that he should pro- 
secute the study of mechanics, and by continually goaduig 
him to Avork harder and harder ' at his buiks ' gave him 
a transient distaste for subjects to which he was naturally 
inclined. As a member of the Philosophical and Literary 
Society of Newcastle, Eobert brought home standard 
popular works and encyclopa3dic volumes treating of 
natural science and of inventions. These books his 
father read and compelled him to read ; but the labour 
went veiy much against the boy's grain. 

The earliest ' di\awing ' by Eobert Stephenson's hand 
of which there is any record, was that of a sun-dial, 
copied from Ferguson's ' Astronomy,' and presented by 
the lad to Mr. Losh, in the year 1816, in token of his 
gratitude to him as his father's benefactor. Tliis dra-wing 
set the father and son on another work — the construction 
of a real sun-dial, which, on its completion, was fixed over 
George's cottage door, where it still remains, bearing the 
date, ' August 11th, mdcccxvl' 

A good story is told of ' the hempy boy,' who dearly 
loved mischief From the meadow before the West 
Moor cabin he sent up his enormous kite, reined in by 
copper "wire instead of string, the copper Avire being in- 
sulated by a piece of silk cord. Anthony Wigham's cow, 
peacefully grazing in the meadow, was first favoured with a 
smart dose of electricity, one end of the copper wire being 
brought down to the top of the animal's tail. Standing 
at his cottage window, George Stephenson watched the 
discomfiture of liis neighbour's cow in high glee ; but 
when tlie operator, ignorant whose eyes were upon him, 
reUnquished the torture of the 'coo,' and proceeded to 


give Ills father's pony a fillip with the subtle fluid, George 
rushed out from his cottage with upraised whip, exclaim- 
ing, 'Ah! thou mischeevous scoondrel — aal paa thee.' 
It is needless to say that Eobert Stephenson did not wait 
to ' be paid.' 




(iETAT. 15-20.) 

Robert Stephenson leaves Scliool — He is apprenticed to Mr. Nicliolas 
Wood— George Stepliensou lays do-wn the Hettou Collieiy Railway — 
Father and Sou — Robert's Economy in his personal Expenses — The 
' Three Tuns' — The Circumfereutor — George Stephenson's increasing 
Prosperity — His Second Maniage — He builds the ' Friar's Goose 
Pumping Engine ' — He embarks in a small CoUieiy Speculation — 
The Locomotive Boiler Tubes of the Messrs. James — Explosion in 
the KiUingworth Mine — George Stephenson's First Visit to Mr. 
Edward Pease — Robert Stephenson and his Father survey the 
Stockton and Darlington Line — Robert Stephenson's First Visit 
to London — His delicate State of Health — Survey for the Second 
Stockton and Darlington Act — Robert Stephenson goes to Edin- 
burgh — Professor Leslie's Testimonial — Letters wi-itten at Edin- 
burgh by Robert Stephenson to Mr. Longridge — Robert Stephenson 
accompanies Professor Jamieson on a Geological Excursion — George 
Stephenson's Letter to his friend I^ocke — Robert Stephenson and 
his Father visit Ireland — Robert Stephenson's Letters £i-om that 

LEAVING school in the year 1819 — the year in wliich 
his father commenced the construction of his first 
hne of railway, the Hetton Colliery hne — Eobert Ste- 
phenson entered on his duties as apprentice to Mr. 
Nicholas Wood, the mining engineer, who was at that 
time the viewer of the KiUingworth and other adjacent 
collieries. During his apprenticeship, he had therefore 
to concern himself with the internal working of the 


mines to which his father, was engine-wright. The 
father and son now came closer together, and strength- 
ened the firm league of confidence and afiection wliich 
bound them throughout life. There was between them 
far less difference of age than usually exists between 
father and son, George Stephenson being only twenty-two 
years his boy's senior. When Eobert Stephenson was a 
young man, his father was still only at the entrance of 
middle life ; indeed, the latter was, in some respects, a 
young man even to the last, anxious for fresh know- 
ledge, capable after a struggle of rehnquishing old errors, 
and moreover endowed with high animal spmts. 

Eobert Stephenson was apprenticed to Mr. Nicholas 
Wood for three years, and during his apprenticeship he 
manifested that quiet resolution and genuine modesty 
which characterised liim even when he became the 
leader of his profession. He worked very hard, and 
hved with careful economy. George Stephenson saw 
clearly that the only chance he had of reaping a rich 
harvest from his own and his son's intellects, lay in saving 
and putting by out of his yearly earnings, until he 
should be in a pecimiary position to embark in business 
as a manufacturer as well as an operative engineer. He 
knew well that the inventor without capital makes others 
rich, whilst he himself starves and is neglected. His 
great object, therefore, was to accumulate funds in order 
that he might enter into business as a manufacturing 

At this period of his Hfe Eobert never spent a penny on 
any article whatever, until he had put to himself Sydney 
Smith's three questions — Is it worth the money? Do 
I want it ? Can I do without it ? Once every fortnight 


]\ir. Wood, as head viewer, used to descend the KilUng- 
worth ijdne in discharge of his regular duties. The 
hour at which he ' left bank ' was nine o'clock, punc- 
tual to the minute, and Eobert always accompanied his 
master. At mid-day, when the mornuig's work was 
over, Eobert and the under viewer, hot and fatigued, 
used to enter the 'Three Tuns' — a small, thatched, 
three-roomed beer-house, long since puUed down — and 
take refreshment. When herrings were in season, the 
ordinary repast of each was 'a herring, a penny roll, 
and a glass of small beer.' Young gentlemen, serving 
their pupilage under distinguished engmeers, would some- 
times do well to think of Eobert Stephenson's two-penny- 
halfpenny meals. 

About two years before Eobert Stephenson's death, a 
workman of Washino;ton viUaj^e found in a collection of 
old stores a circumferentor, or mining compass. It was 
unusually large — even for a cn-cumferentor made forty 
years since. The brass stand and measuring-plate had long 
been obscured by corrosion ; and it was not till the latter 
had been well scoured and pohshed that it revealed the 
inscription, ' Eobert Stephenson fecit.' The workman, on 
reading these words, brought the instrument to the works 
of Eobert Stephenson and Co., Newcastle, and left it with 
Eobert Stephenson's friend and partner — the late Mr. 
Weallens. At his next visit to Newcastle, Mr. Stephenson's 
attention was directed to the instrument, when at the sight 
of his long-forgotten work, he exclaimed with emotion, 
' All, that circumferentor was measured off at Watson's 
Works, in the High Bridge.* I made it when I was 

i. e. the Ilicli Biitlefe of Newcastle. 


quite a lad — when I was Wood's apprentice — when I had 
but httle money, and could not afford to buy one.' 

Whilst Eobert Stephenson was serving his apprentice- 
ship^ events were being crowded into his father's hfe. In 
1819, George Stephenson began to lay down the Hetton 
Colliery Eailway, which was finished in 1822. He could 
now afford to indulge in romance. Elizabeth Hind- 
marsh, his first love, was still unmarried. When her 
father drove the young brakesman from his door, she had 
vowed never to have another husband, and that vow she 
kept. The time was now come for her constancy to be 
rewarded. The poor brakesman had made himself ' a 
man of mark,' and — a more important matter still in the 
estimation of some of his canny north-country friends — 
had made himself a ' man of substance.' ' The grand 
alhes,' in their conduct towards their agent, showed a 
liberahty becoming their rank, wealth, and name. In the 
same way that, years before, they had given him two out 
of every six working days, allowing him to devote them 
to the service of Messrs. Losh, Wilson, and Bell, so they 
now also permitted him to act as engineer to the Hetton 
Coal Company, for the construction of the Hetton Eail- 
way, without making any diminution in his salary. Thus 
during the three years in which he was laying down the 
Hetton line, George Stephenson had three concurrent 
appointments. His savings were by this time consider- 
able, and were invested at good interest and on good 
security. Mortgage on land at five per cent, interest 
was at that time George's notion of a sufficiently profit- 
able and safe investment, and on such terms he had 
for some years lent £1,300 to a gentleman in the neigh- 
bourhood of Darhngton. So George Stephenson (no 

VOL. I. E 


longer a poor brakesnican) again paid his addresses to 
the woman whose love he had won twenty years before ; 
and he married her in the same church where he had 
wedded his ' old maid ' bride, Fanny Henderson. . The 
ceremony took place in tlie parish church of Newburn on 
March 29, 1820, the bridegroom's son, Eobert, being one 
of the attesting witnesses.* 

As soon as the wedding festivities were at an end, 
George Stephenson went back to his work and his cottage 
at Killingworth. Still pursuing his prudent course, he 
made no diiTerence in his plan of hfe ; nor, to her 
lasting honour be it said, did Mrs. Stephenson wish 
liim in any respect to alter it. Never did woman more 
cordially devote herself to the interests of her hus- 
band and husband's child. Entering the Killingworth 
cottage, which 'Aunt Eleanor' had left to marry an 
honest and well-reputed workman, she gave a beauty 
and completeness to her husband's life which it had 
previously wanted. Of this excellent lady mention will 
be made in subsequent pages. Possibly his step-mother's 
tastes turned Eobert Stephenson's attention to music. 
He purchased a flute, and acquired so much profi- 
ciency on the instrument, that he was permitted to act 
as flutist in a band, which, instead of an organ, took 
part in the rehgious services of Long Benton Church. 

* Copy of the record of George year One thousand eight hundred 

Stephenson's second marriage, in and twenty, 

the Newburn Register : — 'By me, J. Edmonson, vicar. 

' George Stephenson, of the parish ' In presence of — 

of Long Benton, widower, and Eliza- ' Thomas Ilindmarsh. 

beth Hindmarsh, of this parish, spin- ' Robert Stephenson, 

eter, were man-ied in this church by ' George Stephenson. 

license, with consent of , this ' Elizabeth Hindmarsh.' 

twcnty-nmth day of Marcli, in the 


At the same time that George Stephenson was laying 
down the last rails of the Hetton Colliery Eailway, he was 
busy in constructing for Messrs. Losh, Wilson, and Bell, a 
pumping engine, of hitherto unusual dimensions, known 
as the Friar's Goose Pumping Engine,* which aided in 
' the whining ' of the famous Woodside coals. The 
opening of this mine commenced in 1820, and the first 
cargo of coals was shipped November 21st, 1824. The 
cost of winning was about £22,354 ; and George 
Stephenson's engine, which speedily became famous 
throughout the Northumbrian coal district, commenced 
pumping in July 1823. The increase of reputation 
which the engineer gained by this achievement was of 
great service to him. He had also another important 
undertaking on his hands. In conjunction with Thomas 
Mason, he took a lease of the Willow Bridge coUiery 
for twenty-one years, the two partners embarking in 
the undertaking £700 in equal shares. The deed of 
partnership was signed December 5th, 1820. 

Another incident of importance marks this period of 
George Stephenson's career. Anxious to improve the 
locomotive engines, for which he and Mr. Losh had taken 
out letters patent, George and his copatentee resolved to 
introduce into their boilers the tubes recommended by 

* The following particulars con- the main beam, and one to inside, by 
ceming the ' Friar's Goose Pumping diagonal spear to quadrant in pit, 
Engine,' furnished by Mr. Losh, are about 7 fathoms down from surface, 
valuable : — Three sets of pumps in bottom, each 

* Friar's Goose Pumping Engine. set 16|- inches diameter, and length 
Commenced pumping in July, 1823. of sets about 50 fathoms. Average 
Diameter of cylinder 72| inches ; quantity of water per minute, 1,000 
length of stroke, ditto, 9 feet ; length gallons. 

of pit, ditto,? feet 2 inches. Two sets ' Tyv^a Main Colliery, Aug. 29, 

of pumps attached to the out end of 18G0.' 

E 2 


Messrs. William James and William Henry James, giving 
those gentlemen a share in their patent rights in return 
for the permission crrantecl them ' to adopt any improve- 
ments, and the introduction of tubes to their boilers, as 
contained in the letters patent of William Henry James, 
son of the said WilHam James, as granted to him in the 
reign of his present Majesty.' The agreement between 
Wilham Losh and George Stephenson on the one part, 
and the Messrs. James on the other, bears date September 1, 
1821. These tubes must not, however, be confounded 
with the multitubular boiler, which ultimately decided 
the triumph of the locomotive. Almost countless un- 
successful experiments were made, before ]\Ii\ Henry 
Booth (with the concurrence of the Stephensons) pro- 
duced his beautiful arrano-ement. The a^i^reement of 
September 1st, 1821, is of interest, as it gives a date 
when George Stephenson was intent on increasing the 
lieating surface of his boilers by the introduction of 
tubes, and also preserves the reputation of two other 
inventors, whose services to the locomotive ought not 
to be forgotten, although they have been exaggerated 
by indiscreet friends. 

Eobert Stephenson's work during his apprenticeship 
was not only hard but hazardous. On one occasion 
when he was accompanying his master, ]\Ir, Nicholas 
Wood, and ]\ir. Moodie, the under-viewer, through the 
passages of the KiUingworth mine, by the aid of ' the 
Geordie's ' dim ray, they grew impatient of the darkness, 
and lighted a candle. The spot was more foul than 
the viewer supposed, and an explosion instantly ensued. 
]\ir. Wood was picked up from the ground bruised, 
bleeding, and stunned. Eobert Stephenson and Mr. 


Moodie escaped uiiliurt ; but the alarm of such an 
escape strongly impressed the former with the value of 
his father's invention. 

The lad's apprenticeship had not expired, when he 
made trial of a safer, but not less laborious, occupa- 
tion. On April 19, 1821, the same day on which the 
royal assent was given to the first Stockton and Darling- 
ton Eailway Act, George Stephenson went over to Dar- 
lington, accompanied by ]\ii\ Nicholas Wood, for the 
purpose of sohciting Mr. Edward Pease, the chief pro- 
jector of the new line, to secure for him the job of 
making the railroad. 

In consequence of this interview with Mr. Pease, 
George Stephenson was employed by the Stockton and 
Darlington Company to make a careful survey of the 
route, for which the Act had been obtained. This survey 
was made in the autumn of 1821, and certain modifica- 
tions and changes of the hue were proposed by the 
engineer. To carry out these proposals, a new Act (the 
second Stockton and Darlington Eailway Bill) was, after 
renewed opposition, obtained in 1823 ; and George 
Stephenson was forthwith instructed to form the line in 
accordance with the new Act, receiving for his salary as 
the Company's engineer-in-chief £300 per amium. In 
making the survey of 1821, Eobert Stephenson, then 
just eighteen years of age, accompanied and assisted his 

Before entering on the survey, Eobert Stephenson made 
a trip to London. Easy and secure in his circumstances, 
his father gave him a purse of money and a holiday. It 
was the first time in his life that he had been more than 
a day's journey from Killiugworth, and the prospect of 


visiting the capital greatly excited him. Having reached 
London, the tall shght boy, still dressed in ill-fitting coarse 
garments made by the pitmen's tailor, hastened from place 
to place. The journal still exists in which he began to 
take notes of all he saw. Before he had been in town 
many days the diary was discontinued ; but enough was 
written to show that he was still unable to spell correctly. 
He went to St. Paul's, the Custom House, the London 
Water Works, ' Sommersite ' House, and to an exhibition 
of a model of an Egyptian tomb sent home by Belzoni, 

The visit to London was a short one ; and when it was 
over, Eobert Stephenson returned to Kilhngworth to 
resume his work in the coal-mines. But by this time he 
had found the labour of a viewer exliausting as well as 
perilous. His lungs were weak and manifested symptoms 
of tubercular disease. He welcomed, therefore, the change 
to a more healthful occupation now offered to him, and 
in the early autumn assisted his father and Mr. John 
Dixon in makmg the survey for the second Stockton and 
Darlington Eailway Act. He heartily enjoyed the work. 
Spending the entu-e day in tlie clear balmy air, eating 
frugal meals of ' bread, butter, milk, and potatoes ' under 
sheltering hedgerows, and lodging by night in roadside 
imis, George Stephenson and his assistants made hohday 
of their toil. 

Mr. Joseph Pease of Darhngton, then a young man, 
was a frequent attendant on the party, and remembers 
well the animation witli which George and Eobert 
Stephenson conversed at the top of their voices, in a 
scarcely intelhgible Nortliumbrian brogue, on the diffi- 
culties of their undertaking. The ' slight, spare, bronzed 
boy,' as Mr. Pease recalls the Eobert Stephenson of 1821, 


often supported his arguments with a respectful mention 
of Mr. Bruce's opinions ; and to the authority of the 
worthy schoolmaster, George Stephenson invariably paid 
marked, and almost superstitious, homage. 

When the survey was completed, and the map was 
plotted, Eobert Stephenson's name was put upon it as ' the 
engineer,' and no mention was made of his father. This 
was done at George's particular direction ; and a more 
affecting instance of paternal devotion it would be difficult 
to imagine. 

In consequence of being thus designated engineer, 
Eobert Stephenson had to make a second visit to London, 
and this time not for the purpose of inspecting the Tower 
and St. Paul's Cathedral, but that he miglit be examined 
by a parhamentary committee on an affair of great com- 
mercial importance. 

Before making his first pubhc appearance as engineer of 
the Stockton and Darlington Eailway, Eobert Stephenson 
resided for a few months in the university of Edinburgh. 
Several gentlemen who came in contact with him during 
the survey for the line had been so struck with his natural 
force of intellect that they represented to his father the 
propriety, and indeed the imperative duty, of giving him 
a college education. George Stephenson could, as far as 
money went, have well afforded to send him to Cambridge, 
but it was not his wish to ' make his son a gentleman.' 
Such were his own words. 'Eobert must wark, wark, 
as I hae warked afore him,' the father used to say. 
Finding, however, that Ms son could reside at Edinburgh, 
and attend the classes for a comparatively small sum, 
he allowed him to go to that university for one term, 
a space of time that was, in all, something less than six 


months. This permission was accorded in the October 
of the year 1822, and forthwith Eobert Stephenson 
started for the Scotch capital. As the date of his 
residence in Edinburgh has been misstated, so also has 
the importance of it been exaggerated. To call it 
by the imposing title of a ' university education ' would 
be to mislead the reader. Brilliant as the assembly 
of professors in Edinburgh then was, the educational 
system of the university was faulty, and the students 
were allowed to pursue their own courses, without disci- 
phne, and in some cases without encouragement. Eobert 
Stephenson certainly worked hard whilst he was at 
Edinburgh, but his stay there was too short for efficient 
study. He was, however, resolute in his attendance at 
lectures, and he even declined to enjoy for an hour the 
society of Mr. Joseph Pease (who paid him a flying visit) 
in order that he might be present at the address of the 
Professor of Natural Philosophy. 

After the term he accompanied Jamieson on a geological 
excursion. The students who were permitted to attend 
the Professor on such trips walked with knapsacks on theh^ 
backs, and led the same sort of wild vagrant life which 
Eobert had more than a year before enjoyed during 
the railway survey. To the last he retained a lively 
recollection of this expedition ; and as late as 1857, on 
passing in his yacht an imposing headland of the northern 
coast, he told his friends that, ' as a student on a tour with 
Professor Jamieson, a quarter of a century before, he had 
examined the structure of the cliffs.' ' The Professor,' he 
added, ' on such occasions mounted a hillock and de- 
scribed the geological formation of the surrounding rocks, 
illustrating his lecture by reference to the face of nature 


as his black-board, while we lads stood round the good 
old man with a j)leasure which I can never forget.' 

It has been erroneously stated that Eobert Stephenson 
bore off at Edinburgh ' most of the prizes of the year.' 
The fact is, that he did not gain a single university prize, 
in the sense in which an university man would use the term. 

Professor Leslie, however, was in the habit of present- 
ing periodically a book to the student attending his class 
with whom he was most pleased. According to the 
character of the pupil to whom it was presented, it was 
sometimes a tribute to moral worth as well as scientific 
attainments. In the case of Eobert Stephenson, the Pro- 
fessor's testimonial was awarded in recognition of the 
ability displayed by the pupil in answering certain ma- 
thematical questions in the regular weekly examination 

The following letters written by Eobert Stephenson to 
his early friend and adviser, Mr. Michael Longridge, during 
his brief stay at Edinburgh, will give the reader an insight 
into his life in the university. The first of the three was 
written soon after his arrival in the capital of Scotland, 
and whilst he was making a first acquaintance with the 

Edinbro' : Nov. 20, 1822. 
SiK, — Not having received the books, as you intimated, 
I begin to be apprehensive of their safety. If you have not 
sent them off yet, I hope you will not be long. I met with 
very kind reception from Mr. Bald, who introduced me to 
Dr. Brewster, Professor Jameson, and some other professional 
gentlemen. He gave me two tickets, one for the Wernerian 
Society, and one for the Eoyal Society, and desired me par- 
ticularly to call and have any book out of his library that I 
might want. Mr. Jameson seems to be a very intelligent man. 


and I think liim and I will soon be friends. My father would 
likely inform you of my intercourse with Dr. Hope. He 
seemed much interested about the lamps, and desired me to 
give him every information relative to them. 

I remain, Sir, yours sincerely, 

R. Stephenson. 
M. Longridge, Esq. 

The tone of the next letter, penned a fortnight after 
the preceding epistle, is less cheerful. 

Sir, — I would have sent my Lectures ere now had they 
contained anything new. Mr. Jameson's Lectures have hitherto 
been confined chiefly to Zoology, a part of Natural History 
which I cannot say I am enraptured with ; nor can I infer from 
many of his Lectures any ultimate benefit, unless to satisfy the 
curiosity of man. Natural historians spend a great deal of time 
in enquiring whether Adam was a black or white man. Now I 
really cannot see what better we should be, if we could even 
determine this with satisfaction ; but our limited knowledge 
will always place this question in the shade of darkness. The 
Professor puzzles me sadly with his Latin appellations of the 
various divisions, species, genera, &c., of the animal kingdom. 
He lectures two days a week on Meteorology and three on 
Zoology. This makes the course very unconnected. 

I have taken notes on Natural Philosophy, but have not 
written them out, as there has been nothing but the simplest 
parts, and which I was perfectly acquainted with. Therefore I 
thought I might spend my time better in reading. I shall send 
you them when he comes to the most difficult parts. Leslie 
intends giving a Lecture on Saturdays to those who wish to 
pursue the most abstruse parts of Natural Philosophy. I have 
put my name down for one of those : he gives questions out 
every Friday to answer on the Saturday. I have been highly 
delighted vnth Dr. Hope's Lectures. He is so plain and familiar 
in all his elucidations. I have received the books all safe. 

The next letter, written in the April of 1823, marks 
the time when the writer's brief stay at the university 
w^as brouiilit to a close, and also indicates with exact- 


ness the subjects to which he directed his attention 
during the period. 

Edinburgh : April 11, 1823. 

Sir, — I wrote home on the 5th, but from yours it appears 
my father would be set off for London before the arrival of my 
letter, in which I desired him to send me a bill for £26. I 
should feel obliged if you will send me it at your first con- 
venience, as I am rather in want of it at present. 

The Natural History finishes next Tuesday. The Natural 
Philosophy on Friday the 18th. Chemistry finishes on the 27th 
or 28th. 

I have been fortunate in winning a prize in the Natural 
Philosophy class, for some mathematical questions given by 
Professor Leslie relative to various branches of Natural Philo- 
sophy. I remain. Sir, 

Yours very sincerely, 

EoB. Stephenson. 

Mich. Longridge, Esq. 

The following letter, written by George Stephenson to 
his friend WiUiam Locke, during his son's brief sojourn 
at Edinburgh, -svill be read with interest : — 

March 31, 1823. 
Deak Sie, — From the great elapse of time since I seed 
you, you will hardley know that such a man is in the land of 
the living. I fully expected to have seen you about two years 
ago, as I passed throw Barnsley on my way to south Wales but 
being informed you was not at home I did not call I expect to 
be in London in the course of a fortnight or three weaks, when 
I shall do my self the pleasure of calling, either in going or 
coming. This will be handed to you by Mr. Wilson a friend of 
mine who is by profeshion an Atomey at law and intends to 
settle in your neighbourhood, you will greatley oblidge me by 
throughing any Business in his way you conveniently can I 
think you will find him an active man in his profeshion. There 
has been many upes and downs in this neighbourhood since you 
left you would no doubt have heard that Charles Nixon was 


throughing out at Walbottle Collery by his partnei'S some years 
ago he has little to depend on now but the profets of the ballast 
machine at Willington Quey wich I darsay is verey small many 
of his Familey has turned out verey badley he has been verey 
unfortunate in Famaley affairs. If, I have the pleasure of 
seeing you I shall give you a long list of occurences since you 
and I worked together at Newburn. Hawthorn is still at Wal- 
battle I darsay you will well remember he was a great enamy 
to me but much more so after you left. I left Walbattle Collery 
soon also after you and has been verey prosperous in my 
concerns ever since I am now far above Hawthorn's reach. 
I am now concerned as Civil Engineer in different parts of the 
Kingdom. I have onley one son who I have brought up in my 
own profeshion he is now near 20 years of age I have had him 
educated in the first Schools and is now at Colledge in Edinbro' 
I have found a great want of education myself but fortune has 
made a mends for that want. 

I am dear sir yours truly 

GrEO. Stephenson. 
Killiiigwortli Collery. 

George had, indeed, raised himself thus early to be 
' concerned as a civil engineer in different parts of the 
kingdom.' With a salary of £300 from the Stockton 
and Darhngton Eaihvay, with a rapidly increasing busi- 
ness, and with important accumulations, he found himself, 
in 1823, a made man. He could therefore well afford to 
defray the expenses of his son's visit to the university of 

Of that visit perhaps the most important result was 
the commencement of Eobert Stephenson's fiiendship 
with Mr. George Parker Bidder, late President of the 
Institution of Civil Engineers. Mr. Bidder, wdio had 
already been for two years studying at the university, 
was immediately attracted to Eobert Stephenson by the 
mildness of his disposition, and at the same time by his 
plain common-sense intellect. During the university term 


tliey were nearly inseparable, as in after life they fought 
their parKamentary battles side by side. To the close of 
his life Eobert Stephenson's happiest days were spent in 
his friend Bidder's family circle. 

With Eobert Stephenson's return from Edinburgh to 
KiUingworth, the period of his West Moor life may be 
regarded as closed. On receiving his formal appointment 
as engineer to the Stockton and Darhngton hne, George 
Stephenson left Long Benton, and Eobert accompanied 
his father as assistant m the new undertaking. 

The construction of the Stockton and Darhno^ton line 


did not preclude George Stephenson and his son from 
making long journeys to various parts of the United 
Kingdom in the discharge of professional duties. In the 
September of 1823 they went to t-eland, from which 
country Eobert wrote with his accustomed energy and 
confidence to 'Mr. Longridge. 

Dublin : Sept. 10, 1823. 

Dear Sir, — We have just arrived at Paddy's Land ' in far 
Dublin city.' We left London on Monday, at half-past one 
o'clock, travelled all night, and reached Bristol the next morning, 
and expected to have got the steam packet to Cork, but we 
were disappointed on being informed that the Cork packet had 
broken her machinery a few days before, and was laid up for 
repair. We were therefore obhged to come ou to Dublin, 
upwards of two hundred miles out of our way. We leave here 
this evening in the mail, and shall arrive at Cork to-morrow 
evening, where we shall probably remain a few days, and then 
make the best of our way into Shropshire. The concern we are 
going to at Cork was set fire to by the mob, where the disturb- 
ance has been for some time. We expect to reach home in the 
course of a fortnight. WTien we were in London my father 
called at Mr. Grordon's office, but found he had set off the pre- 
ceding evening to the North. My father desires to be remem- 


bered to him with his sincere respects. We hope by this time 
we have got our fortunes made safe with the Lord of Carlisle's 
agents. We have some hopes of some orders for steam engines 
for South America, in the Columbian States. This, hoivever, 
depends on the success of PerJdns's neiu enr/ine. My father 
and he have had a severe scold. Indeed the most of the birkies 
were embittered at my father's opinion of the engine. He one 
day stopped the engine by his hand, and when we called the 
next day Perkins had previously got the steam to such a pitch 
(equal 15 atmosphere) that it was impossible for one man to 
stop it, but by a little of my assistance, we succeeded in stopping 
it by laying hold of the fly-wheel. This engine he formerly 
called an 8 or 10 horse-power, but now only a 4. I am con- 
vinced, as well as my father, that Perkins knows nothing about 
the principle of steam engines. 

I remain, dear Sir, 
Yours sincerely, 

Egbert Stephenson. 

P.S. — You shall hear from us at Cork. 

Tlie story of George Stephenson's practical criticism on 
tlie merits of Perkins' engine is well known. 

From Cork, Eobert Stephenson wrote to Mr. Long- 

Cork : Sept. 16, 1823. 

Deae Sir, — We left Dublin on the evening of the day we 
wrote our last, for Cork, in the mail, and we were not a little 
alarmed, when it stopped at the post office, to see four large 
cavalry pistols and two blunderbusses handed up to the guard, 
who had also a sword hung by his side. I can assure you, my 
father's courage was daunted, though I don't suppose he will 
confess with it. We proceeded on, however, without being in 
the least disturbed, except, now and then having our feelings 
excited by the driver, or some of our fellow-passengers, relating, 
and at the same time pointing towards the situation, where some 
most barbarous murder had recently been committed. In one 
instance, a father, mother, and son had been murdered one 
evening or two before. As we passed along, everywhere distress 


seemed to be the prevailing feature of the country, and this to 
an incredible degree among the poor. Indeed, numbers of them 
appeared literally starving. We frequently have read accounts 
in the English newspapers of the distressed state of Ireland, but 
how far they fall short of conveying a just idea of it. With 
regard to the appearance of the cities Dublin and Cork, I must 
say the former falls far short of the description given of it by 
some Irishman in the steam packet, as we came over from Eng- 
land. I asked some of them if it was equal to Edinburgh, and 
they seemed insulted at the comparison, but I can now say 
they ought to have felt highly honoured. Dublin excels cer- 
tainly in size and business, but as to scenery and beauty of 
building, it shrinks into insignificance. 

We were very kindly received at the Dripsey Paper Works by 
Macnay's family, and have just finished our business with them 
for the present, and intend leaving Cork in the steam packet this 
day for Bristol. From there we shall make the best of our way 
to Shifnal in Shropshire, and our business there will probably 
detain us five or six days. A small boiler will be wanted to 
send to Ireland. You will receive the order by George 
Marshall, or some of our people, in a few days. I hope Mr. 
Birkinshaw will see the plates nicely cut, as we want it neatly 

The most valuable part of Eobert Stephenson's educa- 
tion was, however, yet to come. 




(^TAT. 20-21.) 

George Stephenson's Rupture with Mr. Losh — The Establishment of 
the Firm of R. Stephenson and Co. of Newcastle — The Colombian 
Mining Association — George Stephenson a Chief Agent for the Pro- 
ject — Robert Stephenson visited with renewed and aggravated 
Symptoms of Pulmonaiy Disease — Robert Stephenson proposed as 
Engineer to the ' Colombian Mining Association ' — His Visits to 
Cornwall and other Places — Newcastle — The London Coffee 
House, Ludgate Hill — Robert Stephenson accepts the Post of 
Engineer-in-Chief to the Colombian Mining Association — In London 
— Preparations and Hard Work — ' Home, sweet Home ' — Letter to 
' the North ' — Conduct of ' the Association ' — Liverpool — Sails for 
South America. 

IN forming his new connection at Darlington, George 
Stephenson made the acquaintance not only of Mr. 
Pease, but also of Mi. Mcliael Longridge of the Bedhng- 
ton Iron Works, and the influential associates of both those 
gentlemen ; and by his conduct towards them he gained 
their respect and confidence. Unfortunately, however, in 
acting honourably towards his new friends, he was com- 
pelled to give offence to an old patron. On being asked 
what rails he would recommend to be laid down on the 
Stockton and Darlington Eailway, he frankly rephed to 
the directors — 'Gentlemen, I might put £500 into my 
pocket by getting you to buy my patent cast-iron rails. 
But I know them. Take my advice, and don't lay down 


a single cast-iron rail.' Of course it was his paramount 
duty to give this advice to his employers, but his con- 
demnation of cast-iron rails, and recommendation of 
malleable bars, not only kept £500 out of his own 
pocket, but withheld the same sum from the purse of 
his co-patentee and old employer, Mr. Losh. The latter, 
not then beheving in the relative inferiority of the cast- 
iron rails which he and George Stephenson had patented 
in 1816, was naturally irritated, and imprudently wrote 
a letter to Mr. Pease reflecting on George's conduct in 
violent and unjust terms. The contents of this epistle 
were inconsiderately imparted by Mr. Pease to George 
Stephenson ; and the consequence was a stormy interview 
between the latter and Mr. Losh, in which the capitahst 
accused the engineer of ingratitude, and the engineer re- 
torted on the capitahst a charge of self-interest and 
cupidity. The consequence of this was, that the rupture 
between the elder Stephenson and Messrs. Losh, Wilson, 
and Bell was final ; and George attached himself to an- 
other interest. 

Wliilst he was superintending the construction of the 
Stockton and Darlington Eailway, George Stephenson 
induced Mr. Edward Pease, Mr. Eichardson, and Mr. 
Longridge, to join him in establishing the 'manufactory,' 
now celebrated, wherever locomotive engines are used, 
under the name of 'Eobert Stephenson and Co.' It has 
been already seen how he put Eobert Stephenson's name 
on the map as engineer of the Stockton and Darlington 
hne. Li hke manner, now that he was about to embark in 
a great commercial speculation, he made his son the pro- 
minent engineer, as well as an actual partner, and was 



pleased to keep himself in the background. The partner- 
sliip was formed in 1823, and forthwith the ground was 
purchased on which the factory of ' Eobert Stephenson 
and Co.' yet stands — an imposing and extensive mass 
of building, visible to travellers through smoke and 
fog, as the train bears them along the superior road 
of the High Level Bridge. The originators of the 
factoiy, interested deeply in the Stockton and Darling- 
ton Eailway, were bent on supplying the new hne with 
the steam locomotives, which their influence would cause 
to be adopted in preference to fixed engines. With 
the commencement of 1824 the factory was at work. 
George Stephenson, fully engaged with the Stockton and 
Darlington Hne, thirty or forty miles distant from New- 
castle, could give but httle personal care to the new 
factory. Eobert Stephenson was, therefore, called upon 
to superintend its earhest operations. It was a trying 
position for a young man, only twenty years of age. To 
be so trusted was the grandest sort of education — but 
it was an education fitted only for an able man. He 
had to supervise the building operations, engage men, 
take orders, advise on contracts, draw plans, make esti- 
mates, keep the accounts, and in all matters, great or 
small, govern the young establishment on his own re- 

AU this, however, was mere child's play compared with 
his next task. 

A more fascinating scheme than that of the ' Colombian 
Mining Association ' had not for years roused the imagina- 
tions of speculators. The proposal was to recommence 
worKing in Spanish America the gold and silver mines, 
which, it was averred, had been wrought with great profit 


before the Eevolution. The cautiously expressed ophiion 
of Humboldt, that such operations might lead to suc- 
cessful results, induced men of wealth and high reputation 
in the money market to support the project with their 
names and their gold. The first plan of the projectors 
was departed from in important particulars ; and when 
the Company took form as a working power, its title 
was the ' Colombian Mining Association,' and the at- 
tention of the du-ectors was concentrated on the mineral 
wealth of Colombia. 

Amongst the most sanguine projectors of this specu- 
lation was ]\'Ir. Thomas Eichardson, the founder of the 
famous discount house of Eichardson, Overend, and 
Gurney. Mr. Eichardson was an intimate friend and 
family connection of Mr. Pease of Darlington. He took 
shares hi the Stockton and Darhngton Eailway, and 
became a partner in the firm of 'Eobert Stephenson 
and Co., of Newcastle.' Frequently coming into contact 
with George Stephenson, he admn-ed his soundness of 
judgement as much as he did his genius for mechanical 
contrivance, and consequently consulted him on the ar- 
rangements of the ' Colombian Mining Association.' Of 
course, steam-engines and iron goods would be required 
in abundance for effectually working the old mines ; and 
Mr. Eichardson calculated that his influence would obtain 
large orders for the house of ' Eobert Stephenson and 
Co.' On George Stephenson, therefore, it eventually' 
devolved to select miners, artisans, inspectors, and im- 
plements, and to make heavy shipments of iron and 
goods for America. Indeed, not only Mr. Eichardson, 
but the general body of directors, rehed on George's 

F 2 


guidance in all tlie engineering part of their preliminary 

Although the earher commissions were sent to his father, 
young Eobert Stephenson had to attend to many of them ; 
and he did the work in such a manner that Mr. Eichardson 
formed a yet higher opinion of his energy and capacity. 
Mr. Longridge, with whom George Stephenson had now, 
for more than three years, been in communication, also 
formed the highest estimate of Eobert's abihties. Over- 
tures were then made through Mr. Eichardson to Eobert 
Stephenson, soundmg him whether he would hke to ac- 
company the expedition. The proposal put the young 
man in a fire of excitement. He was pining to get 
away fi"om Newcastle. The threatening symptoms of 
pulmonary disease, which had from childhood made his 
friends anxious for him, seemed decidedly on the in- 
crease; and in his secret heart he believed that the 
harsh winds of Newcastle would, before many years, 
lay him in a premature grave. In the warm luxurious 
atmosphere of Colombia, surrounded by the gorgeous 
beauties of animal and vegetable hfe, which had stured 
Humboldt from his philosophic calm, he anticipated 
renewed vigour of mind and body. Moreover, the 
dreams of wealth, which had fascinated apparently cau- 
tious and practical men hke Mr. Eichardson, seemed to 
Eobert Stephenson's young mind no visionary hopes, 
but realities beyond the reach of doubt. He argued, not 
unreasonably, the Spaniards, with imperfect appliances 
and a rude knowledge of their art, extracted from those 
mines vast revenues, and therefore greater wealth will 
flow to labourers aided by the latest inventions of science, 
and having a supply of skilled artisans. 


It was true ' the works ' had been scarcely estabhshed 
at Newcastle, and needed vigilant direction. But the 
principal object for which they had been started — the 
construction of locomotives — could not be attained until 
there was a pubhc demand for the commodity ; and even 
to Eobert Stephenson, not less sanguine than his father as 
to the ultimate success of the locomotive, it seemed 
highly improbable that the demand would be either 
urgent or general for some years. At all events he 
might with advantage to his health and prospects go 
to South America for three years. George Stephenson 
did not at all like the proposal. Not even the annual 
salary of £500, mth allowances for travelhng expenses, 
could lessen his disapproval. 

In the spring of 1824, Eobert Stephenson, at the direc- 
tion of the Colombian Association, went on a trip to 
Cornwall, accompanied by his uncle Eobert (the father of 
the present Mr. George Eobert Stephenson), and made a 
careful examination of the mining system of that country. 
The result of this trip was an elaborate report by the 
uncle and nephew on Cornish mining — its usages, im- 
plements, engines, and commercial organisation. Writing 
to his father from Oakhampton, Devonshire, March 5, 
1824, Eobert Stephenson said: — 

As far as I have proceeded on my journey to the Cornish 
mines, I have every reason to think it will not be misspent 
time ; for when one is travelling about, something new gene- 
rally presents itself, and though it is perhaps not superior to 
some scheme of our own for the same purpose, it seldom fails 
to open a new channel of ideas, which may not unfrequently 
prove advantageous in the end. This I think is one of the 
chief benefits of leaving the fireside where the young imagina- 
tion received its first impression. 


In this same letter he speaks of having inspected the 
Bristol steam-boats, and especially the ' George IV.,' in 
which he and his father had crossed from Ireland in 
the previous year. He mentions also having been at 
Swansea, where the engine for drawing coals, put up 
by George Stephenson, was seen working admirably. 
Speaking of the Neath Abbey Works, he observes : — 

When I was at Neath Abbey I had the pleasure of being 
introduced to Mr. Brunton the engineer : he is a very sensible 
man, but there is not one of them who understands the parallel 
motion thoroughly. They seemed to doubt me when I told 
them I had never seen one mathematically true, not even in 

In the firm and self-reliant tone of this passage may be 
seen the young man of twenty-one conscious of his power 
to be a leader of others. 

Eeturning to Newcastle, Eobert Stephenson found that 
he could not settle down to his work. He wrote to his 
father, begging him no longer to oppose his wish to go to 

But now (he wrote) let me beg of you not to sa}'^ anything 
against my going out to America, for I have already ordered 
so many instruments that it would make me look extremely 
foolish to call off. Even if I had not ordered any instruments, 
it seems as if we were all working one against another. You 
must recollect I will only be away for a time ; and in the mean 
time you could manage with the assistance of Mr. Longridge, 
who, together with John Nicholson, would take the whole of 
the business part off your hands. And only consider what an 
opening it is for me as an entry into business ; and I am in- 
formed by all who have been there that it is a very healthy 
country. I must close this letter, expressing my hope that you 
will not go against me for this time. 

Sorely against his will, Georo-e gave his consent ; and 


Eobert Stephenson, once more going up to London, took 
up his quarters (April 27, 1824) at the London Coffee 
House, Ludgate Hill, and made his preparations for de- 
partiu-e. It was a terribly wet season, and he walked about 
day after day m the flooded streets, soaked to the skin, 
buying implements and stores and engaging workmen. 
Nor did he confine his attention to the concerns of the 
Colombian Association. Already he was a man of 
mark, invited to the tables of wealthy merchants, and 
carried liither and tliither to give his opinion on engi- 
neering questions relating to gas works, water works, and 
marine engines. He examined minutely ]\ir. Brown's 
* vacuum engine,' which was making as great a stir as 
Perkins' machine did, until George Stephenson, by the 
simple apphcation of muscular force, stopped the action 
of the pretty toy. The ' vacuum engine ' Eobert Ste- 
phenson significantly described in a letter to his father 

as ' extremely ingenious, but .' At the same time 

he busied himself in inventing, for a company of London 
merchants, a machine for stamping coin, wliich he hoped 
to see employed in the Colombian mint. The Messrs. 
Magnays had given him an order for a paper-drying 
machine. Whilst he was deciding how he should con- 
struct the machine for stamping coin and the drying ma- 
chine, he visited the Mint and the ' Times ' Newspaper 
Office; with which estabhshments he was so pleased 
that he "svrote his father a long account of them. 

The Magnays (he wTote) got me an introduction to the 
' Times ' printing office, where I was almost as much delighted 
as I was in the Mint. The facility with which they print is 
truly wonderful. They were working papers at the rate of 
2,000 per hour, which they can hold for any length of time. 


The mode they have of conveying the sheet of paper from one 
part of the machine to the other, is, I think, precisely what is 
wanted in the drying machine. 

Hitherto Eobert Stephenson's experience as a mining 
engineer had been principally confined to coal mines, 
whereas he was now about to search for the precious 
metals. That he might be possessed of all the requisite 
practical information, he took lessons of Eichard Phillips, 
the Professor of IVIineralogical Chemistry — the Colombian 
Company paying five guineas for each lesson. At the 
same time he was acquiring the Spanish language. 

After staying for a short time at the London Coffee 
House, he removed to lodgings in No. 6 Finsbury Place 
South, and there remained till he left London. Li ' the 
city' he underwent much disappointment. Arrange- 
ments which had been spoken of as completed had still 
to be begun. Heavy arrears of labour fell upon the 
young engineer, in respect of matters about which he 
ought to have had no trouble whatever. Even about 
his appointment — the salary and exact character of the 
position — there were difficulties ; and he had to haggle 
and insist before he could get any recognition whatever 
of his engagement with the Colombian Mining Company; 
and after all his agreement was not with the Company, 
but with the Company's agents, Messrs. Herring, Graham, 
and Powles, in their individual capacity. Thus after all 
Eobert Stephenson sailed from England the agent of the 
firm, although he was to preside over the engineering 
affairs of the Association. All this augured ill for the 
state of affairs in South America. 

During his protracted stay in London, whilst he was 
acquiring scientific information, purchasing stores, and 


vainly endeavouring to ascertain what his duties would 
be in South America, Eobert Stephenson wrote to his 
friend, Mr. Longridge, in March, and again in April. 
The March letter was written at a time of great distrac- 
tion and uncertainty, just after his return from Cornwall. 
The April letter was penned after a brief excursion in the 

Imperial Hotel, Covent Garden : 
March 9, 1824. 

Deae Sie, — Your letter the other day gave me pleasure in 
hearing you were going on (I suppose, of course, at Forth 
Street) pretty regularly. I wrote to my father this morning, 
but positively I durst not mention how long it would be before 
I should be able to reach once more the North. Indeed, I 
scarcely dare give it a thought myself. I saw Mr. Newburn 
yesterday, and he informed me it would at least be fourteen 
days before I could get my liberty. For heaven's sake don't 
mention this to my father. Joseph Pease will perhaps give him 
the information : it will, I know, make him extremely dissatisfied, 
but you know I cannot by any means avoid it. There are some 
new prospects here in agitation, which I look forward to with 
great satisfaction. It is the making of a road in Colombia. 
What a place London is for prospects ! This new scheme of the 
road or railway is also connected with four silver mines at 
Mariquita. The road is projected between La Guayra and the 
city of Caraccas. You may find La Guayra on the coast, I 
believe, of the G-ulf of Mexico. The climate, from Humboldt, 
is not quite so salubrious as that of Mexico. Mr. Powles is the 
head of the concern, and he assures me there is no one to 
meddle with us. We are to have all the machinery to make, 
and we are to construct the road in the most advisable way we 
may think, after making surveys and levellings. 

Well might Eobert Stephenson say, 'What a place 
London is for prospects ! ' He had come up to London 
to settle about going to South America as engineer of 
the Colombian Minino; Association, and after all the 


principal promoters of that association now proposed 
to send liim out on a distinct expedition to another 
spot, althongli in the same quarter of the globe. Even- 
tually, as it has already been stated, he went out as the 
servant of Messrs. Graham, Herring, and Powles ; and it 
was his intention, when he had attended to their business, 
to enter on the work of the Mining Company. 

After many delays the agent of Messrs. Herring, 
Graham, and Powles, and Engineer-in-chief of the 
Colombian Mining Company, received orders to proceed 
immediately to Falmouth, and there take ship to 
Carthagena. The principal goods and the first lot of 
miners had already quitted England, and the interpreter 
to the expedition was already en route for Falmouth. 
Obeying his instructions, Eobert Stephenson had actually 
mounted the Falmouth coach, and had loaded it witli 
extra luggage, to the amount of a £30 fare, when he 
received orders to descend, to unload the coach, and to 
start for Liverpool. Of course he complied. 

On reaching Liverpool he wrote to his father (June 8, 
1824), giving an account of his journey from towm that 
affords a striking picture of the troubles of ' the good 
old coaching days.' 

We have arrived safe in Liverpool, after an extremely 
fatiguing journey. I never recollect in all my travels being so 
terrified on a coach. I expected every moment for many miles 
that we should be upset, and if such an accident had happened 
we must have literally been crushed to pieces. We had 21 cwt. 
of luggage to remove from London to Liverpool by coach. This 
may serve to give you a faint idea of the undertaking. This 
weight was sent in twice. The coach-top on which we came 
was actually rent ; all the springs, when we arrived at Liverpool, 
were destitute of any elasticity, one of them absolutely broken 


and the body of the coach resting on the framework, so that, in 
fact, we rattled into this town more like a stage-waggon than a 
light coach. 

On June 12, George Stephenson arrived in Liverpool 
to bid his son farewell, and took an affecting leave of 
him on the 18 th. 

During his stay at Liverpool with his son, George 
Stephenson, by the hand of a friend, wrote the fol- 
lowing characteristic and entertaining letter to Mr. 
Longridge : — 

Liverpool : June 15, 1824. 
Deae Sir, — I arrived here on Saturday afternoon, and 
found Mr. Sanders, Eobert, and Charles, waiting for me at the 
coach office. It gave me great pleasure to see Eobert again 
before he sails. He expects to leave the country on Thursday 
next. We dined with JMr. Sanders on Saturday, and with Mr. 
Ellis yesterday. He had three men-servants waiting in the en- 
trance-hall to show us to the drawing-room. There was a party 
to meet us, and kindly we were received. The dinner was very 
sumptuous, and the wine costly. We had claret, hock, cham- 
pagne, and madeira, and all in great plenty; but no one took 
more than was proper. It is a good custom not to press people 
to take so much as does them harm. We dined at seven and left 
at twelve o'clock. Sanders and Ellis are magnificent fellows, 
and are very kind; Mrs. Sanders is a fine woman, and Mrs. 
Ellis very elegant. I believe she is niece to Sir James Graham, 
M. P. ; I must say that we have been very kindly received by 
all parties. I am teased with invitations to dine with them, but 
each indulgence cannot be attended by me. What changes one 
sees ! — this day in the highest life, and the next in a cottage — 
one day turtle soup and champagne, and the next bread and 
milk, or anything that one can catch. Liverpool is a splendid 
place — some of the streets are equal to London. The merchants 
are clever chaps, and perseverance is stamped upon every brow. 
There is a Doctor Trail, a clever mineralogist, and some famous 
mathematicians that we have dined with. I was much satisfied 
to find that Robert could acquit himself so well amongst them. 


He was much improved in expressing himself since I had seen 
him before ; the poor fellow is in good sj)irits about going 
abroad, and I must make the best of it. It was singular good- 
fortune that brought us together at this time, but the weather 
is very bad ; it has poured with rain for the last three days. To- 
day I am going over part of the line, but have not been able to 
commence yet. Eobert will endeavour to write to you before 
he sails, and desires his kindest remembrance. 
Grod bless you, Sir ! 

Believe me to remain 

Yours sincerely, 


As soon as his father had said farewell, Eobert Ste- 
phenson, before he went on board, wrote a hasty line, 
fiill of fihal tenderness, to his mother, explaining that he 
had directed Messrs. Herring, Graham, and Powles to 
pay £300 per annum, i. e. three-fifths of his salary, to 
his father. For several years after their estabhshment 
'the works' at Newcastle did not pay their expenses. 
George Stephenson's partners were far from sanguine 
as to their ultimate success, and George, confident as he 
was that they would prove a source of great wealth, was 
often pinched for ready money to meet his share of the 
capital required to feed them : Eobert Stephenson knew 
this well, and did his utmost to meet the difficulty. 

On the evening of that same June 18, on wliich he 
took leave of liis father, Eobert Stephenson wrote in his 
log-book : — 

June 18, 1824. — Set sail from Liverpool in the 'Sir William 
Congreve,' at three o'clock in the afternoon: wind from the 
south-east, sea smooth, day beautiful ; temperature of the air 
towards evening in the shade, 58°. Made some experiments 
Avith ' Eegister Thermometer ' to ascertain the temperature of 
the sea at various depths, but failed on account of the velocity 


of the vessel through the water not allowing: the instrument to 
sink. The temperatm-e of the surface water appeared to be 
54° at seven o'clock in the evening — this ascertained by 
lifting a bucket of water on board and immediately immersing 
the thermometer. This was considered as sufficiently accurate, as 
the temperature could not sensibly change in the time occupied 
by the experiment. 

Piu-suing the system commenced on that first lovely 
evening at sea, Eobert Steplienson jotted down in his 
log-book the mutations of temperature and light, and 
other natural phenomena, until on July 23, 1824, he 
records : — 

Early in the morning saw the Colombian coast, and at two 
o'clock cast anchor opposite La Guayra ; observed with silence 
the miserable appearance of the town. The hills behind the 
town rise to a height that gives a degree of sublimity to the 
scenery in the eyes of a stranger. 

Tlie voyage was at an end. 




(iETAT. 20-24.) 

La Guayra — Caraccas — Proposed Breakwater and Pier at La 
Guayra — Survey for Raili-oad between La Guayi-a and Caraccas — 
Santa Fe de Bogota — Mariquita — Life on the Magdalena — Explores 
the Countiy — Road between the Magdalena and the Mines — Santa 
Ana — Descriptions of Scenery — Arrival of the Cornish Miners — 
Insubordination of Miners — Friends, Pm-suits, and Studies — Inclina- 
tion and Duty — Disappointment of the Directors — Their Secretary. 

LANDING in La Guayra on July 23, 1824, Eobert 
Stephenson had to direct his attention to three 
important affairs and report thereon to Messrs. Herring, 
Graham, and Powles — the propriety of constructmg a 
breakwater before the harbour of La Guayra, the cost 
and pohcy of building a pier for the same port, and the 
possibihty of uniting La Guayra and Caraccas by a hne 
of railway. 

His reports on these three propositions were full and 
decisive. Having ascertained the characteristics of the 
harbour, the natiu-e and dechvity of the bottom of the 
shore, and the direction and force of the seas at different 
seasons, he pronounced that the construction of the 
breakwater would be a dangerous experiment. 

A correct idea of the seas (he wrote) sometimes experienced 
in this port cannot well be conveyed by description. One 


circumstance, however, which may give some idea of their force 
is worthy of remark. It occurred during a storm last year, 
when a number of ships were wrecked. A large block of 
stone, upwards of two tons weight, measuring about eight feet 
long, four feet broad, and one foot thick, was thrown up by the 
waves four feet above the usual level of the sea, and such was 
the violence with which it was projected, that on its coming in 
contact with the other fragments of rocks on the shore, it was 
divided into two pieces, one of which now lies considerably out 
of the reach of ordinary seas. It is very remarkable that 
during the storm to which I have just now alluded, scarcely a 
breath of wind prevailed, while the sea raged with such violence 
as to drive every ship in the harbour from her anchors, and 
several were wrecked on the coast. The cause of this extra- 
ordinary phenomenon is yet unknown to us. It is not im- 
probable that it was some branch of the Grulf Stream, modified 
by the conformation of the coast, the nature of the soundings, 
and many other circumstances combined, with which we are 
totally unacquainted. 

Though he condemned the project of a breakwater, he 
advised the construction of a pier ; and in support of this 
counsel he gave returns of the imports and exports of the 
harbom% the amount annually raised for wharfage of 
goods, and the insufficiency of the existing pier for the 
business of the port. The cost of such a pier as he 
advised (140 yards long and 24 feet wide at the top) 
would be £6,000, including the fi^eight of workmen and 
of the necessary machinery to be sent out from England. 
The principal material of the structure would be the stone 
of the adjacent mountains, which could be conveyed by a 
short railroad to the site of the pier. In sinking the 
blocks of stone, he advised that care should be taken to 
' give the pier a gradual slope on the seaward side, so that 
the waves might be completely broken, and consequently 


tlieii' force almost totally extinguished, before reacliing 
the body of the pier.' 

Wlien he came to consider the third and most im- 
portant of the three propositions — the construction of a 
railway between La Guayra and Caraccas — the ad- 
vantages likely to follow fi^om the undertaking, and the 
natural obstacles to the work, caused him much anxious 
thought. The ground was very different from any on 
which he had ever seen rails laid. Mounting a mule, 
he surveyed the road between the two towns, and found 
it ' a wonderful example of human industry — not of 
human skill.' The ascents and descents were so pre- 
cipitous that he wondered how his brute contrived to 
keep on its legs. 

To give you an idea (he wrote to his father) of the trouble 
I have already had in seeking for a new road, and the trouble 
I shall yet have, would be an impossibility. You may attempt 
to conceive it by imagining to yourself a country, the whole 
surface of which, as far as the eye can reach, is thickly set with 
hills, several thousand feet high, from six to eight times as large 
as Brusselton Hill. There is a valley, however, which extends 
the whole way nearly between La Gruayra and Caraccas, up 
which I think is the only situation we could get a good road ; 
but even in this valley there are hills as high as Brusselton. I 
dare not attempt any tuDnelling, because the first earthquake — 
and there is no knowing how soon it may come — would close it 
up, or at all events render it useless. This circumstance, you 
will agree with me, puts tunnelling out of the question. And 
to make any very extensive excavations with high sides would 
prove equally fatal on the occurrence of an earthquake. 

As he rode up the valley of Caraccas, with moun- 
tains on either side, he saw that to put down a col- 
liery tramway in Northumberland, and to lead a line of 
rails through such a ravine, were widely diflerent tasks. 


Having thoroughly exammed the proposed Hue, he came 
to the conchision that, with everything in his favour, 
he could lay down the contemplated railway for about 
£160,000. The great risks, however, that would attend 
the operations made him see that speculators would 
not embark their money in the affair unless there was 
a probability of at least a 10 per cent, dividend. The 
annual goods traffic between La Guayra and Caraccas 
did not amount to more than 5,571 tons. Therefore, 
if the road were made and opened, Eobert Stephenson 
could not see his way to more than £14,180 profit on 
each year's transactions — an annual revenue that would 
only pay 10 per cent, on a capital of £140,000. Against 
the probability that the estimated £160,000 would be 
exceeded, he put the fact, that large quantities of goods, 
of which he could get no returns, were annually con- 
veyed between the two towns. Again, traffic would be 
augmented by the stimulus which a railway would give 
to commerce and agriculture. The question admitted of 
much debate ; but Eobert Stephenson, with that prudence 
which preserved him in after life from brilhant indiscre- 
tions, concluded his report with saying : ' I think it would 
not be prudent at the present moment to commence the 

Whilst he was thus engaged at La Guayra and Caraccas, 
the miners with whom he had come out from Liverpool 
went on to Carthagena, and thence along the Eiver 

As soon as he could get away from Caraccas, he 
mounted his mule, and, accompanied by a black servant 
and by Mr. Walker, the interpreter to the expedition, 
proceeded across the country to Santa Fe de Bogota. 

VOL. I. G 


The journey was one of fatigue and peril. Cut-tliroats 
and ruffians were numerous in the country; but behig 
well armed, Eobert Stephenson went his way unconcerned. 
He was very anxious to reach Mariquita, near which 
place the principal mines of the Colombian Association 
were situated ; but the nature of his duties forced him 
to travel slowly. Messrs. Herring, Graham, and Powles 
had instructed him to examine the mineralogical charac- 
teristics of the country in every direction ; and in spite 
of the care he took to conceal the object of liis journey, 
it soon leaked out that he was the engineer of a new 
mining company, and daily he was accosted by strangers, 
ready to mislead him with false information. More than 
once he was induced, by misrepresentations, to ride a 
hundred miles after a mare's nest. On one occasion he 
spent several days in following a guide, who promised 
to bring him to a fissm^e in a rock abounding mth quick- 
silver. On reaching the spot the quicksilver was there ; 
and he could not account for its presence, till a former 
governor of the district told him tliat a bullock-wagon 
loaded -with quicksilver had, some years before, been 
upset in that spot. On reaching Bogota, however, he 
wrote to his father on January 19, 1825, expressing great 
confidence in the mineral wealth of the country. 

Having reached Mariquita, he forthwith proceeded to 
examine the mines of the surrounding country. On every 
side he found workings ; some of which had evidently 
been deserted because they offered no prospect of gain, 
whilst the appearance of the others induced a belief that 
scarcity of labour and capital, during the revolutionary 
struggles of the country, had been the sole reason for 
leaving them. 

1825.] MARIQUITA. 83 

Mariqnita was a spectacle at once imposing and mourn- 
ful. Two-thirds of its habitations were in ruins. Heaps 
of rubbish covered sites formerly occupied by palaces. 
Of the public buildings, none were in a state of repair, 
except five churches. The convents were untenanted, 
and m dilapidation. Such was the havoc wrought by 
earthquakes, stagnation of trade, and disturbed pohtics, 
that of the population of 20,000 who had once inhabited 
the city, only 450 persons remained to see the entrance 
of Eobert Stephenson, and wonder what had brought liim 
to their ill-starred city. 

Honda being the extreme point of the Magdalena 
navigable by craft coming from Carthagena, he hastened 
to inspect the route between the river port and the city 
in the interior, to which his men with their ponderous 
implements and machinery were advancing. The distance 
between Honda and Mariquita is about twelve miles, 
and the features of the country can be briefly stated. On 
leaving Honda the road is for a short distance precipitous, 
after which it rises gently for about two miles to an 
extensive breadth of table-land, beautifully covered with 
dehcate grasses, and studded with groups of trees, some 
of which are in blossom at all seasons of the year. At 
points this magnificent plain is bounded by small isolated 
ridges of alluvial rocks. Some of these rocks are almost 
perpendicular from their bases up to their irregularly 
serrated peaks. Onwards the scenery is of increasing 
loveliness, and before Mariquita is reached, the route 
passes through groves of palm and coco, orange, cinnamon, 
and almond trees, pines and mangoes. 

On the whole, the roads from the Magdalena to the mines 
in the immediate vicinity of Mariquita (the mines of Santa 

G 2 


Ana, La Manta, San Juan, and El Christo de Laxas) were 
good — that is to say, good for Spanish America. A 
moderate amount of labour would have rendered them 
passable for wheeled carriages, except at certain points 
where it was clear that wheels could never run. In these 
precipitous portions of the route, which mules took two 
hours to cross, Eobert Stephenson saw at a glance dif- 
ficulties of which he had not been forewarned, and for 
wliich he consequently was unprovided. The heavier 
portion of the machinery could not be moved across 
country except on wheeled carriages. 

In due course the first party of miners arrived, but they 
had to leave the greater part of their machinery on the 
banks of the Magdalena, and proceed to the mines with 
only the lighter implements, which could be packed upon 
the backs of mules. Of course an urgent request was 
despatched to London that other machinery might be 
sent out, so constructed, that each large machine could 
be taken to pieces, smaU enough for transport on mules. 
But before this message reached the directors, they had 
shipped off from Newcastle a large quantity of iron goods, 
which, on being thrown upon shore by the peons at Honda, 
remained, and to this day probably remain, useless and 
cased with rust. Eobert Stephenson, however, did not lose 
heart. Taking his men, and the few implements which 
they could carry with them, he hastened to the mines, 
reopened them, explored their workings, and commenced 
working for ore. 

The best mines, of which the Association had obtained 
leases from the Colombian Government, were those of 
St. Ana and La Manta, adjacent to the village of St. Ana. 
The distance between Mariquita and St. Ana is about 

1825.] SCENERY OF SANTA ANA. • 85 

twelve miles ; but those twelve miles comprised the worst 
portions of the way from the river. After leaving Mari- 
quita, the miners had to traverse a plain for six miles, 
when they entered on a broken tract watered by two 
rivers, which it was necessary to ford. The next six 
miles lay up the sides of mountains. Often the way ran 
over bare rocks, through narrow passages worn by the 
floods of the wet season, and down dechvities so nearly 
perpendicular that no beast of burden, except a mule, 
could descend them. Standing on an eastern slope of 
the Andes, the village of Santa Ana (containing when the 
miners first reached it about nine cottages) afforded a 
grateful contrast to the desolate grandeiu- of the city m the 
plain. Instead of the intense heat of the valley beneath, 
its temperature was about 75° in the shade, and during 
the night 6° or 8° lower. A breeze played through the 
trees ; and the soil, rich as the mould of an artificial 
garden, yielded fruit and vegetables in abundance. 

On all sides (Eobert Stephenson wrote to his stepmother) is an 
immense forest of fine trees, which are always green, no winter 
being known in these climates. The leaves are always gradually 
falling, but they are immediately succeeded by fresh green leaves. 
The ground descends suddenly from the front of our house for 
above a mile, in which small distance the fall is no less than 800 
feet. From the bottom of this descent, the ground rises 
rapidly to the height of 1,000 feet, forming a mountain ridge 
which is covered to the very summit with strong trees that are 
al^fays green. Beyond this small ridge of hills rise others still 
higher and higher, until their tops are covered with everlasting 
snows, and where not a spot of vegetation is to be seen, all 
being white with snow and ice. 

A grander panorama than that enormous ravine, walled 
by forests, and crowned with peaks of gleaming whiteness. 


cannot be conceived. Clothing the curves of the interior 
hills were tree-ferns and magnolias, groves of bamboo, 
acacias, palms, and cedars. Another picturesque feature 
added charm to the landscape. Fed by the gradual dis- 
solution of distant snow, a river ran from the cool heights 
into the hot air of the valley. By tranquil pools peUcans 
watched for their prey, and overhead, in the branches, 
parrots and mocking-birds, monkeys and macaws, gave 
coloiu- and animation to the picture. Flashing with 
metalHc lustre humming-birds darted from flower to 
flower, disturbing the clouds of butterflies which floated 
through the luxurious atmosphere. 

Amidst such scenery Eobert Stephenson spent more 
than two years, endeavouring vdth inadequate means to 
cope with gigantic difficulties, and suffering imder those 
petty troubles which are more vexatious than greater 

In the immediate vicinity of Santa Ana, the mountain- 
river, falling over ledges of granite, had worn deep basins 
in the rock. One of these tarns Eobert Stephenson se- 
lected for a swimming bath. The granite sides of the 
pit being almost perpendicular, bathers could not walk 
gradually into the deep water. In the centre, however, 
was fixed a flat block of stone, the top of which was 
about thirty-six inches below the surface of the water, 
the distance between the bank and the stone being at one 
point not more than three feet. Bathers who could not 
swim used to jump from the side to this natural table. 
Unfortunately a sudden fall of rain caused a torrent 
of water to .raise this ponderous mass of stone, and 
bear it downwards to the plain. A few days later, a 
gentleman attached to the mining expedition, Avho was 


unable to swim, went to the tarn. Having leaped from 
the point, where he expected to ahght on the block, the 
bather in another instant was struggUng in the pool. 
Fortunately Eobert Stephenson, who was an expert 
swimmer, came up just in time to plunge into the basin, 
and catching the sinking man by the back of his neck, 
conveyed him safe to shore. 

It was not tni the end of October, 1825, that miners 
had been collected in sufficient numbers to commence 
great operations. In that month a strong staff of Cor- 
nish miners made their appearance, and with them for 
a time Eobert Stephenson's troubles greatly increased. 
Proper care had not been taken to select sober and 
steady men. It was right that Enghsh workmen engaged 
to encounter the perils of a South American chmate 
should be weU paid, but the terms on which these 
miners had been .hii^ed were far too high. Insolent 
from prosperity, and demorahsed by the long-continued 
idleness of the voyage, they no sooner entered Honda 
than they roused the indignation of the inhabitants by 
excesses which outraged even South American morals. 
Before Eobert Stephenson made the acquaintance of 
the men, he received a formal and angry remonstrance 
from the Governor of Honda with regard to their con- 
duct. The only thing to be done was to get them to 
work with aU speed. 

I have no idea, (wrote Eobert Stephenson from Mariquita to 
Mr. Ilhngworth, the commercial manager at Bogota,) of letting 
them Hnger out another week without some work being done. 
Indeed, some of them are anxious to get on with something. 
Many of them, however, are ungovernable. I dread the 
management of them. They have ah-eady commenced to drink 
in the most outrageous manner. Their behaviour in Honda 


has, I am afraid, incurred for ever the displeasure of the 
Governor, at all events so far as induces me to despair of being 
able to calculate upon his friendly cooperation in any of our 
future proceedings. I hope when they are once quietly settled 
at Santa Ana and the works regularly advancing, that some 
improvement may take place. To accomplish this, I propose 
residing at Santa Ana with them for awhile. 

There was reason for uneasiness. Eobert Stephenson 
spoke firixdy to the men, but he saw that his language, 
though moderate and judicious, merely roused their re- 
sentment. Scarcely a day passed without some petty ex- 
hibition of disrespect and hostihty ; and though in 6anta 
Ana they had fewer opportunities for gross licentiousness, 
they could not be weaned at once from habitual drunken- 
ness and indolence. The supervisors or ' captains,' as 
they were called, accorduig to the custom of the Cornish 
miners, were the most mutinous. Mere workmen, and 
altogether ignorant of the science of their vocation, they 
were incredulous that any man could understand mining 
operations who had not risen from the lowest employ- 
ments connected with them. In the Northumbrian coal 
field, a distich popular a generation since runs — 

Trapper, trammer, hewer, 
Under, overman, and then viewer. 

Tlie Cornish ' captains ' in like manner were strongly in 
favour of promotion from the ranks, and were reluctant 
to obey the orders of a mere lad, and, what was worse still, 
a north-country lad. Their insolence was fostered by the 
ludicrous respect paid to ' the captains ' by the natives, 
both Spaniards and Indians, who, misled by the title, re- 
garded them as superior to the young engineer-in-chief. 
The 'captains' themselves immediately saw their advantage 


— and in tlieir drunkenness told botli the workmen and 
the native population that Eobert Stephenson was merely 
a clerk, sent out to pay them their wages and see that 
the expedition did not fail from want of frmds. 

Quitting Mariqnita, where the riimbhng of earthquakes 
had not allowed him many nights of unbroken rest, 
Eobert Stephenson took up his residence on the mountains, 
the curate of Santa Ana putting a cottage at his disposal. 
A few weeks passed on, and there were alarming sym- 
ptoms of a general mutiny of the workmen against his 
authority. A new arrangement of the men at the dif- 
ferent mines was the occasion of open revolt. One night 
early in December, the most dangerous and reckless of 
the Cornish, party assembled m an apartment of the 
curate's cottage. Wearied with a long day's work, 
Eobert Stephenson had retired to rest in the next room, 
and was roused from liis first slumber by the uproar 
of the rascals, who, mad with hquor, yelled out their 
determination not to obey a beardless boy. For more 
than an hour he lay on his bed hstening to the riot 
— fearfid that the disturbance might lead to bloodshed, 
and prudently anxious to avoid personal coUision with 
the drunken rabble. Of course he knew that their 
insolent speeches were intended for his ears, yet he 
remained quiet. He was alone — his opponents were 
many. If the difficulty became an affair of blows, the 
weight of evidence would be all against him ; and 
even if he were killed, he would be beheved to have 
provoked the conflict by his own rashness. But when 
the insurgents proposed that the ' clerk ' should forthwith 
be taught his proper place, he rightly judged that it 
would not do for him to remam longer in his private room 


when his presence might still the storm, and could not 
aggravate it. Rising, therefore, from his bed, he walked 
into the midst of the rioters — imarmed, and with no 
more clothing on him than his trousers and shirt. 

At his first appearance there was a low murmur, fol- 
lowed by a deep silence. Taking up his place in the 
middle of the room, he drew himself up and calmly sur- 
veyed them. Silence having had its effect, he said quietly, 
' It won't do for us to fight to-night. It wouldn't be fair ; 
for you are drunk, and I am sober. We had better wait 
till to-morrow. So the best thing you can do is to break 
up this meeting, and go away quietly.' 

Cowed by his coohiess, the men made no reply. 
For a minute they were silent, and turned their eyes on 
the ground ; and then, rising from their seats, they 
stumbled out of the room into the open air, to surround 
the cottage and pass two or three hours in shouting, ' One 
and all ! — one and aU! ' thereby declaring that they were 
one and aU determined on revolt. Thus far master of the 
position, Eobert Stephenson ht a cigar, and, sitting down 
in the room, allowed the tipsy scoundrels to see him 
through the open door calmly smoking. 

The riot being renewed on a subsequent night, he 
left his cottage, and, accompanied by two friends, found 
refuge in the house of a native. 

It appears remarkable (wrote Eobert Stephenson to JMr. 
Illingworth, December 8, 1825) that having been all my life 
accustomed to deal with miners, and having had a body of them 
under my control, and I may say in my employ, that I should 
now find it difficult to contribute to their comfort and welfare. 
They plainly tell me that I am obnoxious to them, because I 
was not born in Cornwall; and although they are perfectly 
aware that I have visited some of the principal mines in that 


county, and examined the various processes on the spot, yet 
they tell me that it is impossible for a north-countryman to 
know anything about mining. 

Fortunately, Eobert Stephenson had a cordial ally in 
Mr. Ulingworth at Bogota, who lost no time in sending 
word that Eobert Stephenson was the head of the expedi- 
tion, and that the men from high to low were to obey 
him, and him alone. And in due course these representa- 
tions were rendered yet more emphatic by letters from 
the Board of Directors in London. 

When a better feehng had been estabhshed between 
the miners and himself, Eobert Stephenson encouraged 
them to spend their evenings in athletic sports. In cast- 
ing quoits, hftiug anvils, reaching beams suspended by 
cords, and throwing the hammer, he had few equals ; 
and by displaying his prowess in these and similar sports, 
he gradually gained the respect and affection of his men ; 
but he was unable to work a complete reformation in 
their habits. To the last he could never get from any 
man more than half a day's work each day, and he always 
had nearly a third of his hundred and sixty subordinates 
disabled by drink. 

Having moved from Mariquita to Santa Ana, he 
had a cottage built for his own habitation. It contained 
two rooms, the outer and inner walls being composed 
of flattened bamboo, and the ceilings of smooth reeds, 
palm-leaves being used for the roof. The entire frame- 
work was tied together with cords of the tough and 
pliant bijuco. In this cottage, commanding a view of 
the ravine, he was so fortunate as to have congenial 
society. Visitors came from Bogota and Mariquita, and 
for weeks together he had with him M. Boussingault and 


Dr. Eoullin. The former was an accomplished chemist 
•and geologist ; and the latter had been invifed by the 
Government to become Professor of Mathematics in an 
University which it was proposed to estabhsh in the new 
repubhc. Under their guidance Eobert Stephenson studied 
with system and accuracy the higher branches of mathe- 
matics, and various departments of natural science. Occa- 
sionally he made excursions to Bogota and Mariquita, to 
attend the horse-races or the balls ; but such trips were 
only occasional relaxations, after weeks of work and study 
at Santa Ana. At this time, also, he took especial pains 
to rub off the remains of that provincial roughness 
which had marked him in boyhood. With characteristic 
simpHcity he begged the few English gentlemen of his 
acquaintance to correct him whenever he used the diction, 
idioms, or intonations of north-country dialect. Kno^ving 
the disposition with which they had to deal, his friends 
took him at his word ; and though at first their criticisms 
were frequent and far from pleasant, they never produced 
in him even momentary irritation. In one of his letters 
to his mother at this period he speaks of himself as 
dividmg his time ' between eating and study.' In study 
he was perhaps intemperate, but in his diet he was 
habitually sparing and moderate. Occasionally he took 
wine and spirits, but his usual drink was water. He 
smoked regularly, but not immoderately. 

To have a complete picture of Eobert Stephenson's 
South American hfe, the reader must remember his 
strong love of animals, and imagine the bamboo cottage 
of the Andes peopled with four or five monkeys, as 
many parrots, and a magnificent mule named 'Hurry,' 
who, as soon as his master's dinner-hour arrived, used 


to enter the sitting-room, and patiently wait beside the 
table until he was presented with a loaf of bread. 

Wliilst he was thus Kving in his mountain-home he 
received on the whole but few letters from England. 
During the first twelve months, indeed, of his absence 
from his native land, he heard frequently from his father, 
as also from Mr. Edward Pease, Mr. Joseph Pease, Mr. 
Eichardson, Mr. Longridge, Mr. John Dixon, Mr. Edward 
Storey, worthy Anthony Wigham of Killingworth, and Mr. 
Nicholas Wood ; but as time went on, these correspondents 
became remiss, and Eobert Stephenson learnt what grief 
it is to pine in a foreign land for one's own country, and 
at the same time to feel neglected by those at home. 
During the last twelve months of his stay in Colombia he 
did not hear once from home, either through the mis- 
carriage of letters or the neglect of his father and step- 
mother to write. In a letter to Mrs. George Stephenson 
in the Jime of 1826, he observes, with a burst of that 
strong affection which inspired him to the last : — 

My dear father's letter, which I received a few days ago, was 
an affectionate one, and when he spoke of his head getting grey 
and finding himself descending the hill of life, I could not re- 
frain from giving way to feehngs which overpowered me, and 
prevented me from reading on. Some, had they seen me, would 
perhaps call me childish : but I would tell them such feelings 
and reflections as crossed me at that moment are unknown to 
them. They are unacquainted with the love and affection due 
to attentive parents, which in me seems to have become more 
acute, as the distance and period of my absence have in- 

The longer he remained in South America the more 
pamful was his position. A very brief acquaintance 
with the country satisfied him he was at the head of an 
enterprise projected by visionary speculators, who had 


no real knowledge of its difficulties. The letters which 
he received from England during the first year of his 
absence, showed that the unsoundness of the scheme was 
kno^vn to the best judges of such matters in London. 
It is not agreeable to be tied to a losing concern. He 
felt that no credit could come to him from his connec- 
tion with the Colombian Mning Association, and he 
would gladly have ended it. This feeling was strength- 
ened by his English correspondents. His partners in the 
concern at Newcastle begged him to return to look after 
the affairs of the factory, wliich were suffering by his 
absence. They represented to him that he had no legal 
agreement with the Company, and that Messrs. Herring, 
Graham, and Powles would not disapprove his immediate 

But Eobert Stephenson felt that he was bound to stay 
at the mines. It was true the Company had not a 
hold upon him in law, but it had in honour; and he 
resolved to remain, at any cost, till the stipulated three 
years had expired, or until he had obtained formal per- 
mission from the directors to leave his post. 

The following letter, written to Mi\ Lougridge at the 
close of 1825, when he had hopes of honourable libera- 
tion from his distasteful engagement before the expiration 
of the three years, shows his state of mind : — 

Mariquita : December 15, 1825. 
My Dear Sir, — About a fortnight ago I received your kind 
letter, dated July 21, 1825. I was glad to learn your family 
was in good health, to whom I beg to be remembered in the 
kindest manner, as well as to my other friends in your part of 
the world. Your account of affairs in England was to me 
exceedingly interesting, particularly that part respecting the 
progress of the railway undertakings. The failure of the 


Liverpool and Manchester Act, I fear, will retard mucli this kind 
of speculation ; but it is clear that they will eventually succeed, 
and I still anticipate with confidence the arrival of a time when 
we shall see some of the celebrated canals filled up. It is to be 
regretted that my father placed the conducting of the levelling 
under the care of young men without experience. Simple as 
the process of levelling may appear, it is one of those things 
that requires care and dexterity in its performance. Your 
advice regarding my leaving this country, should my agreement 
be transferred to the Colombian Association, I refrained from 
following, principally from what Mr. Eichardson said in his 
letter, contained in the same sheet with yours, in which he 
requested me not to leave the country without the consent of 
my employers. This I was inclined to think was the most 
advisable, especially as I have already been so long from 
England, and that the stay of a few months longer might 
secure me their interest on my return, and I still entertain 
hopes of being able to leave this country previous to the 
expiration of three years, as the agents in Bogota have recently 
represented to the Board of Directors the assistance that I might 
be to them in England in arranging such machinery as may be 
required in this country. What they have sent out is a pretty 
good specimen of the ideas they have of the difficulties to be 
encountered in the conveyance of heavy materials. If Mexico 
presents as many obstacles, and of equal magnitude, as Colombia, 
I can say at once that a great number of the steam-engines that 
were being made when I left may as well be made use of at home. 
Since I wrote to you last about the Isthmus of Darien, 
things have taken a turn. Messrs. Herring & Co. appear to 
have relinquished, in a great measure, the idea of embarking 
largely in making roads, and in consequence have raised a 
private association, consisting of a few of the most respectable 
houses in London, who have made such propositions to the 
Colombian Government as seem to leave little doubt but they 
will succeed in obtaining the privilege. Their wish is not so 
much to retain the road, after it is made, altogether to them- 
selves, as to lend the Grovernment money and supply them with 
English engineers under a certain interest, and afterwards to 
share with the Grovernment a proportion of the profits arising 
from the road. These propositions display liberahty, and are 


of such a nature as, in my opinion, will induce the acceptance of 
them. This arrangement put an end to those that had heen 
entered into by the agents in Bogota, and consequently renders 
it uncertain whether I shall have to go or not. For the same 
reason, I suppose, the models that I wrote you about are lost 
sight of. At all events, I shall visit the isthmus in order to get 
local information which may be of use to me in England, as I 
feel quite satisfied that the scheme will go on. We have heard 
many objections urged against the project, such as the difficulty 
of procuring European workmen in sufficient numbers, and more 
especially the nature of the climate, which is said to be ex- 
tremely bad, from the excessive and continual humidity which 
reigns more or less throughout the whole year, and gives rise to 
fever and ague. Much doubt, however, exists on this score. In 
obtaining the privilege for sending steam machinery to the 
country for the use of the road, I fear some obstacles have 
arisen since I wrote you. Congress, I believe, has thrown out 
some hints that more attention would hereafter be paid to 
granting monopolies of that description. I have had a good 
deal of conversation with the house in Bogota. They seem to 
think it better to mention it to Mr. Powles. I see no advantage 
in that ; but I shall make such arrangements with R. S. 11 ling- 
worth, the representative of the house, that, if nothing should 
be done before I leave, a correspondence may exist between us. 
I have had so much to do lately that I have not been able to 
pay any attention to this matter. 

I have my health just now very well, though I cannot say am 
so strong as when I left England. The tropical climates are far 
from being so unhealthy as is generally supposed by those in 
northern latitudes. The rainy season is the only objectionable 
part. It occurs twice in one year. The first season of rain at 
Mariquita commences about the middle of March and continues 
till the middle of May. The second commences near the 11 th 
and 12th of October, and is just now terminating. The remain- 
ing parts of the year are dry and hot, though not unhealthy. 
Thermometer hot : in the morning 79° or 80°, at mid-day 82° to 
84°. During the rainy season it is 2° or 3° lower. I have 
once seen the thermometer as low as 73°, when I found it 
uncomfortably chilly. And at this moment it stands at 82°, and 
not the least sign of perspiration about me, though I have been 


walking. It is extraordinary how soon the human body becomes 
inured to high temperatures, without suffering much inconve- 
nience. We have now got a steam-boat in action on the river 
Magdalena, being the second experiment ; but the boat they 
have built last has the same fault as the first one — that is, 
drawing too much water. Much money has been spent in this 
speculation, chiefly from bad management. The engines are 
from the United States, where I have heard they have the finest 
steam-boats in the world; and as the communication from 
Carthagena to that country is frequent, I have some intention 
of seeing their steam machinery. It is the best way home, a regu- 
lar packet being established between New York and Liverpool. 
I hope soon to be able to give you some more certain details 
respecting my route home, as I fully expect from what has been 
said to the Board that I shall be liberated. I wrote to my 
father and mother about three weeks ago. I hope they have 
received my letter safe; but much uncertainty is connected 
with the forwarding of letters here. The post-office regulations 
are bad. The last letter that Mr. Pease wrote me came to hand 
open, from having been stuck to others by the melting of the 
sealing-wax, which almost invariably melts in these climates. 
Wafers are much preferable. 

My kind love to my father and mother, and believe me, 
My dear Sir, 

Yours most sincerely, 

Egbert Stephenson. 

P.S. — May I beg the favour of your attending to the payment 
of my yearly subscription to the Lit. and Phil. Society ? * I 
rather suspect it has been neglected. 

Miclaael Longridge, Esq. 

Bedlington Iron Works, near Moi-petb, Nortliiunberland. 

So lie remained, doing liis best, and fighting witli 
great difficulties. The amount of work he performed in 

* The Literary and Philosoplaical at Killingworth, and of -wbich Robert 

Society of Newcastle, from wbicb Stepbenson ultimately became cbief 

both tbe Stepbensons derived so benefactor, 
much benefit during their residence 



the service of his employers was very great. He ex- 
plored the country far and near ; made assays of speci- 
mens of ore ; wrote reams of letters and reports, many 
of which, besides being unexceptionable as business 
statements, have considerable Hterary merits ; drew out a 
sketch for an efficient administration of mines ; and in 
every way strove to earn and save money for the Asso- 

All these exertions met with no proper response in 
London. Instead of supplying him with the machinery 
for which he had written, the Dkectors sent out fresh 
cargoes of costly and ponderous apparatus, which could 
no more be conveyed over bridgeless rivers, and up 
mountain passes, than they could be wafted from the 
earth's siurface to another planet ; and to add to his 
chagrin, the projectors wrote to him, complainuig that 
he had not already sent home a freight of silver. 
Some ignorant and self-sufficient persons reported to 
him the careless speeches and votes of the directors in 
the most offensive form. In answer to a statement in 
one of Eobert Stephenson's reports, that the operations 
at Santa Ana might be accelerated if they had either 
steam, or water power wherewith to work certain ma- 
chinery, one of the worthy officials reprimanded the 
engineer for not avaihng himself of such a noble 
river as the Magdalena. Of course he could only laugh 
at a proposition to turn the Magdalena up to the 
Andes. But when the Secretary undertook to criticise 
the investigations of M. Boussingault, the geologist and 
chemist employed by the Company, and presumed to sneer 
at the ' theoretical services' of the man of science, Eobert 
Stephenson became indignant. ' These men,' he wrote, 


' prate about the superiority of practical men over scien- 
tific men, being themselves neither the one nor the other.' 
In his comments on M. Boussingault's proceedings, 
however, the London Secretary caused as much amuse- 
ment as anger. In his report, the French savant had 
mentioned the advisabihty of using 'chiens' in the mines. 
On this information, the Secretary condemned in the 
strongest terms the cruelty of employing dogs as beasts 
of burden. In his next homeward despatch Eobert 
Stephenson took an opportunity to inform the zealous 
protector of the canine race that the word chien in 
French, and Hund in German, was a mining term, 
signifying a kind of carriage with four wheels, wliich 
was not known in England by the name of dog, but by 
tram\ and that in the north of England a somewhat 
similar sort of carriage was known as a roUey. 




(i:TAT. 23-24.) 

Leaves Santa Ana — Goes up to Carthaprena — Encounters 
Trevithick — Trevitliick's Peculiarities — Sails for New York — Be- 
calmed amongst the Islands — Tenible Gales in the open Sea — 
Two Wrecks — Cannibalism — Shipwrecked off New York — Strange 
Conduct of a Mate — Is made a Master Mason — Pedestrian Excursion 
to Montreal — Remarkable Conversation on the Banlcs of the St. 
Lawi-ence — Returns to New Y^ork — Arrives at Liverpool — Meeting 
with his Father — Goes up to London and sees the Directors of 
the Colombian Mining Association — Trip to Brussels — Retm-n 
to Newcastle — Liverpool. 

EGBERT STEPHENSON was aware that liis prolonged 
sojourn in America was highly prejudicial to his 
interests. Mr. Longridge, who during his absence had 
undertaken the active management of the affairs of 
' Eobert Stephenson and Co. of Newcastle,' wrote urgent 
entreaties for his return home. His heart told him how 
much his father needed him. He knew, too, that all liis 
most influential friends — Mr. Eicliardson, Mr. Pease, and 
other capitalists to whom he looked for countenance — 
were of opinion that he might with propriety consult his 
own advantage, in deciding whether he should quit, or 
keep at his post. His word, however, was given ; and 
he kept it. 

At length the time came when he could honourably 
start homewards : and as he looked back on the previous 


three years lie was not altogether dissatisfied with their 
results. From December 30, 1824, to December 31, 
1827, the entire expenditure of the Colombian Mining 
Association had been httle short of £200,000. A large 
portion of this sum had been wasted by maladministra- 
tion in London, but the great operations carried on with 
the remainder had been directed by him — a mere boy 
between twenty-one and twenty-four years of age. And 
in everything for which he individually coidd be held 
accountable the expedition had been successful. Had he 
worked the mines, as the Spaniards worked them, with 
the cheap labour of slaves, they would have yielded him 
as much profit as preceding engineers had extracted from 
them. As it was, on bidding official farewell to the di- 
rectors, he was in a position to tell them that their pro- 
perty, under economical management and with the agency 
of proper machinery, could be made to pay them a 
handsome, though not an enormous, dividend. 

In the July of 1827, Eobert Stephenson wrote his last 
South American letter to Mr. Longridge. 

July 16, 1827. 
Mt Dear Sir, — The period of my departure from this 
place has at last really and truly arrived, though not longer than 
a month or two ago I was despairing of being able to get away 
without incurring the displeasure of the Board of Directors, as 
they wrote to the principal agent at Bogota, expressing an 
earnest wish that I would remain in St. Ana, notwithstanding 
my agreement having terminated, until the arrival of a new 
superintendent, whom they say they found great difficulty in 
procuring. Just about the same time I received a letter from 
Mr. Eichardson, in which he states that the factory was far 
from being in a good condition, and that unless I returned 
promptly to England it would not improbably be abandoned. 
He further stated that the Board had not met with a person to 


succeed me; but uotw-ithstanding this, he supposed I woukl 
leave at the expiration of my agreement. Tliis induced n\e 
immediately to advise the agents in Bogota of my intention to 
leave with all convenient despatch, and of my hope that they 
would make such arrangements as might seem most expedient 
to them, respecting the filling up my situation. In answer 
to my letter, they determined upon coming down from Bogota 
to St. Ana, and attending the establishment themselves up to 
the tu'rival of another person from England. In pursuance of 
this resolution, Mr. Illingworth is now in this place, and it is 
my intention to leave on the 24th or 2oth of the present month. 
By the oOth I shall have procured a boat at Honda for my 
passage to the coast. At present it is my intention to proceed 
direct to Carthagena, and I still have an itching to visit the 
Isthmus of Panama, so that I may know something about the 
possibility, or impossibility of forming a communication between 
the two seas ; though the very short time that I can stay there 
will evidently prevent me getting more than a very general 
idea of such a scheme. From the information I have gathered 
from one or two gentlemen who have visited that coast, it would 
appear most judicious to proceed from Carthagena to Chagres by 
sea, and from the latter place to pass by the main road to 
Panama, on the Pacific — these being the situations between 
which a communication is most likely to be effected. It is 
extraordinar}' that the recent proposals which were made by 
British capitalists for undertaking this scheme to the Colombian 
Government did not excite more interest. When they were 
brought before Congress, they scarcely elicited a consideration ; 
at leixst nothing was said, or done which the importance of the 
subject demanded. Some individuals of power connected with 
the Government were weak enough to imagine that a free com- 
munication between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans would be 
productive of serious inconvenience to Colombia. Upon what 
grounds such an opinion was founded I am not well informed ; 
but there can be no doubt but that interested views of this kind 
^y^\\ in time ftxll to the ground, especially when civilisation has 
made more advances, and a more intimate intercourse between 
the inhabitants of the e:vst and west parts of this continent shall 
be rendered almost, if not absolutely, necessary. From what I 
have seen of this republic, I feel thoroughly convinced that 


inland communication will ever remain imperfect — nay, probably 
little better than it now is. Produce in the interior cannot pos- 
sibly be conveyed to the coa«t, and thence exported to foreign 
markets, with profitable results ; cultivation will consequently 
always be confined to the provinces bordered by the sea; I 
mean, of course, for such articles as are to be exported. What- 
ever is yielded by the interior will be consumed at home. 

If, therefore, a connection between the east and west popu- 
lations of this continent is cut ofif by the natural difficulties 
presented by the surface, it seems reasonable to conclude that 
an opening by the isthmus to admit of conveyance by water 
will become indispensable. This is only contemplating the 
advantage which such an undertaking would be to Colombia and 
the other South American powers. But how the magnificence of 
such a work augments in our ideas when we consider the 
advantages which would arise from it — how it would influence 
commerce in every quarter of the earth I The grounds of the 
proposal made by a number of the most respectable merchants' 
houses in London, for undertaking the examination and execu- 
tion of a road, or canal across the isthmus, were objected to, 
principally from the way in which the capital was to be raised 
and the parties guaranteed against loss. The cash was to be 
raised by a joint stock company, which was to be repaid to the 
parties by the Colombian Government, in bonds bearing a 
specific interest from the completion of the work. This was, in 
fact, inviting the Government to make another loan for this 
specific pui-pose, and, in short, increasing their national debt 
without appropriate revenues to meet its demands. One would 
have thought with a young country that this proposal would 
have met with immediate sanction ; but on the contrary, the 
Government, seeing the low state of their finances, and the great 
difficulties they would have in getting the revenue of the 
republic to cover the expenditure, trembled at the idea of 
augmenting their inconveniences, which they even at that time 
knew must sooner or later plunge the whole country into its 
present difficulties. I cannot well explain the unsettled state of 
the whole of this country, and the fiuctuatirons of opinion which 
daily take place among the people. One day we hear of nothing 
but civil war, another brings forward some displeasing decree 
from Bolivar, whose character as a disinterested man has lost 


ground very much amongst his o^^^l people. The laws in many 
parts are held in contempt, and a disposition for changing the 
present constitution is pretty general throughout every depart- 
ment. A division of the republic into states appears inevitable, 
but the precise basis upon which such a change is to be accom- 
plished is yet undetermined, and probably will remain so for a 
twelvemonth. If the country had not already suffered severely 
from internal war, or if the effects were not so fresh in the 
memory of the present generation, I should say that contention 
in the shape of war would again break out ; but the apathetic 
disposition of the people, together with the worn-out resources 
of the nation, will, I think, effectually counteract any such 

I w^as much pleased to learn from your letter of half-a-dozen 
dates, the arrangements you had made respecting your little 
daughter, and I hope she enjoys good health, with the whole of 
your family. I shall be most happy to relate some travellers' 
stories to her when I return, but I must be careful in my 
selection, as, if all were told, it might give her ideas a turn too 
much towards romance. 

In the close of your last letter, dated Feb. 2, 1827, you men- 
tion that the calisthenic exercises have just come into fashion. 
This puzzled me not a little. T could not find for the life of me 
any signification for the new-coined word, and therefore I am 
as ignorant of the kind of exercise which has become fashionable 
amongst the ladies as I was before I left England, and I suppose 
I must remain so until I return. 

I was delighted to hear you were studying Spanish, but I am 
afraid (on my part only) our conversation in that beautiful 
language must be very limited — ' pero quaudo nos vemos lo 

Quedo su afectuoso amigo, 

Egbert Stephenson. 

Michael Longridge, Esq. 

Bedlington Iron Works, Morpeth, Northumberland. 

The Association having notified to him tlie appointment 
of his successor, Eobert Stephenson, after being enter- 
tained at a pnl)Uc dimier, by his coadjutors of all ranks, 


quitted Santa Ana, and with his friend Charles Empson, 
who had been his constant associate in his American 
labours, proceeded to Carthagena to take ship. He had 
much wished to visit the isthmus before his return to Ensr- 


land, but the delay which such a trip would occasion caused 
him to dismiss all thought of making it. At Carthagena 
he was joined by Mr. Gerard, an employe of the Association, 
who was bound for Scotland, having under his charge two 
httle boys, named Monteleagre. Another addition was 
made to the party in the person of Trevithick, whom Eobert 
Stephenson accidentally met in an hotel. Without funds 
and without credit, Trevithick, after undergoing inde- 
scribable hardships in exploring the isthmus, had made 
his way foot-sore and almost starved to Carthagena. A 
strange reverse had come over his fortunes since the time 
when the Peruvians received him with the honours of 
a conqueror, and, in anticipation of the fabulous wealth 
which it was expected would flow to them from his genius, 
had shod his horses' hoofs with silver. An instructive 
study was that rude, gaunt, half-starved ' Cornish giant ' — 
eager for fresh knowledge, liberal, daring, self-reliant, 
and original in all questions pertaining to his own profes- 
sion, but on all other subjects untaught and unobservant. 
There is no doubt that the original and daring views of 
Trevithick with respect to the capabilities of the locomo- 
tive made a deep impression on Eobert Stephenson. 

As there was no suitable vessel about to start without 
delay from Carthagena for a British port, Eobert Stephen- 
son decided to take passage on a ship bound for New 
York, and thence to proceed to London, or Liverpool. 
The entire party, including Trevithick, quitted the un- 
Avholesome little town of Carthngena, where yellow fever 



[Cn. VII. 

Avas raging, and set out for New York. The voyage was 
eventful. At first the weather was serene, and for several 
days the ship was becalmed amongst the islands. From 
the stillness of the atmosphere the sailors predicted that 
on clearing off from there they would learn that a 
fearful storm had raged in the open ocean. A few de- 
grees farther north, they came upon the survivors of a 
Avreck, who had been for days drifting about in a dis- 
mantled hull, without provisions and almost without 
hope. Two more days' sailing brought tliem in with a 
second dismantled hull full of miserable creatures, the 
relics of another wreck, whom hunger had reduced to 

The voyage was almost at an end, and they had made 

• As it has been a matter of 
question whether civilised men in re- 
cent times have ever been driven by 
liuuger to cannibalism, the curious 
and the incredulous will like to 
have before them Robert Stephen- 
son's account of an occurrence which 
seafaring men, who dare to teU the 
truth, will admit to be by no means 
a solitary instance of such horror. 
' We had,' Robert wi'ote from New- 
castle on March 1, 1828, to his 
friend Mr. Illingworth, at Santa Fe 
de Bogota, ' very little foul weather, 
and were several days becalmed 
amongst the islands; which so 
far was extremely fortunate, for a 
few degi-ees farther north the most 
tremendous gales were blowing ; and 
they appear (from our subsequent 
information) to have wrecked eveiy 
vessel exposed to their violence, of 
which we had two appalling ex- 
amples as we sailed north. We took 
on board the wrecks of two crews 
who were floating about in dis- 

mantled hulls. The one had been 
nine days without food of any kind, 
except the carcasses of two of their 
companions who had died a day or 
two previous from fatigue and hun- 
ger. The other crew had been driven 
about for six days, and were not so 
dejected, but were reduced into such 
a weak state that they were obliged 
to be drawn on board our vessel by 
ropes. A brig bound to Havannah 
took part of the unfortunate crews, 
and we took the remainder, having 
met us near where they were taken 
up. To attempt any description of 
my feelings on witnessing such a 
scene would be useless. You will 
not be surprised to know that I felt 
somewhat uneasy when I recollected 
that I was so far from England, and 
that we might also be wrecked.' 
Farther particulars of this tragedy, 
it may be added, have been obtained 
from Robert Stephenson's fellow- 

1827.] A STORM AT SEA. 107 

land, when about midnight the vessel struck and instantly 
began to fill. The wind blew a hurricane, and the deck 
was crowded with desperate people, to whom death 
within gunshot of land appeared more dreadful than 
perishing in the open sea. The masts and rigging were cut 
away, but no good was gained by the measure. Sur- 
rounded by broken water, the vessel began to break up, 
whilst the sea ran so high that it was impossible to put 
off the boats. By morning, however, the storm lulled, 
and with dawn the passengers were got ashore. 

Eobert Stephenson and his companions naturally pushed 
forward in the scramble to get places in the boat which 
was the first to leave the sinking ship ; and they had 
succeeded in pushing their way to the ladder, when the 
mate of the vessel threw them back, and singled out for 
the vacant places a knot of humble passengers who stood 
just behind them. The cliief of the party was a petty 
trader of Carthagena. He was, moreover, a second-class 
passenger, well known to be without tliose gifts of fortune 
which might have made it worth a mate's while to render 
him especial service. 

On the return of the boat, Eobert Stephenson had better 
luck, and by 8 o'clock a.m. he was landed, safe and sound, 
on the wished-for shore. Not a life was lost of either 
passengers or crew : but when Stephenson and his com- 
panions found themselves in New York, they had lost 
all their luggage, and almost all their money. A col- 
lection of mineral specimens, on which he had spent 
much time and labour, was luckily preserved : but he 
lost a complete cabinet of the entomological curiosities 
of Colombia, and the box containing his money, on which 
his fellow-travellers were dependent. 


Fortunately, lie found no difficulty in obtaining money 
in New York. He was therefore in a position to pro- 
ceed homewards without delay ; but as he was in America 
he determined to see a little of the country, and to pay 
a visit to Canada before crossing the Atlantic for Great 
Britain. At New York Trevithick bade him farewell; 
but Mr. Gerard, the two Monteleagres, and Mr. Empson, 
agreed to accompany him on a pedestrian excursion 
from New York over the border to Montreal. 

This arrangement made, Eobert Stephenson said fare- 
well to the captain in whose ship he had made the un- 
fortunate passage from Carthagena,and on parting with him 
asked if he could account for the mate's conduct when the 
passengers were leaving the vessel. ' I am the more at a 
loss to find the reason for his treatment of me,' he observed, 
' because on the voyage we were very good friends.' 
' Well, sir,' answered the captain, ' I can let you into the 

secret. My mate had no special Hking for Mr. , 

indeed, I happen to know he dishked him as strongly as 
you and the rest of the passengers disliked him. But Mr. 

is a freemason, and so is my mate, and freemasons 

are bound by their oath to help their brethren in moments 
of peril, or of distress, before they assist persons not of their 
fraternity.' The explanation made so impressed Eobert 
Stephenson that lit forthwith became a mason, — the 
master, wardens, and members of the St. Andrew's Lodge 
No. 7, constituted under the auspices of the Grand Lodge 
of the State of New York, presenting him (September 21, 
1827*) with a document under their seal, in which he is 

* They had most probably held one or more Lodges of emergency for the 
purpose of passing him through the several degrees. 

1827.] LETTER FROM NEW YORK. .109 

styled ' a master-mason of good report, beloved and es- 
teemed among us.' 

The master-mason then started for his Northern excur- 
sion. A conservative from his cradle, Kobert Stephenson, 
during his residence in Colombia, had seen the worst side 
of repubhcan institutions. The corruption of the Colom- 
bian Government was excessive. From high to low, the 
bribe and the dagger were regarded as necessary ele- 
ments of pohtical existence. Of course the venality of 
the governing classes and the servihty of the mob were 
produced by the system that preceded the revolution, 
quite as much as by the revolution itself. But however 
they may be accounted for, young Stephenson, naturally 
averse to liberalism in pohtics, saw the worst vices of 
corrupt despotism openly defended and practised by the 
champions of popular opinions. It was natural that he 
should leave South America with yet stronger opinions 
in favour of vigorous monarchical government. Wliat 
he saw in North America did not tend to modify his 

On entering New York (he wrote to Mr. Illingworth) we felt 
ourselves quite at home. All outward appearances of things 
and persons were indicative of English manners and customs ; 
but on closer investigation we soon discovered the characteristic 
impudence of the people. In many cases it was nothing short 
of disgusting. We stayed but a short time in the city, and 
pushed into the interior for about 500 miles, and were much 
delighted with the face of the country, which in every direction 
is populated to a great extent, and affords to an attentive 
observer a wonderful example of human industry ; and it is 
gratifying to a liberal-minded Englishman to observe how far 
the sons of his own country have outstripped the other European 
powers which have transatlantic possessions. 


We visited the Falls of Niagara, which did not surprise me so 
much as the Tequindama. Their magnitude is certainly pro- 
digious ; but there is not so much minute beauty about them as 
the Salta. 

After seeing all that our time would permit in the States 
we passed over into Canada, which is far behind the States in 
everything. The people want industry and enterprise. Every 
Englishman, however partial he may be, is obliged to confess 
the disadvantageous contrast. Whether the cause exists in the 
people or the system of government I cannot say — perhaps it 
rests with both. 

The expedition was made on foot, Eobert Stephenson 
and his companions having with them no apparel save 
what they wore and one change of Hnen. A picture, 
painted in 1828, represents the young man as he ap- 
peared en route from New York to Montreal, habited in 
the variegated poncho which he ordinarily wore in 
Colombia, and holding in his hand a straw paramUtta hat 
with an enormous brim. 

One feature of the rural population of the State of 
New York greatly dehghted him. Their hospitahty was 
only bounded by their means. Unknown, and appa- 
rently poor, wherever the pedestrians halted they were 
welcomed to bed and board, and could only rarely in- 
duce their entertainers, who usually were httle farmers, 
or storekeepers, to accept payment for their services. 
Often after receiving them for the night, a farmer brought 
out his light wagon, and drove them ten or fifteen miles 
on their way, and then said good-bye to them, declining 
remuneration for his entertainment, his time, and the 
wear of his hickory springs. 

At Montreal he threw aside his Colombian dress, and, 
equipping himself in the ordinary costume of an English 


gentleman, went into the best society of the city. After 
attending a succession of balls and routs given by the 
colonial dignitaries, he returned to New York, and with 
his four companions and a servant took his passage to 
Liverpool in a first-class packet — 'the Pacific' 

At Liverpool he found his father settled in a comfortable 
house, and superintending the construction of the railway 
then in progress between that place and Manchester. 
The years of Eobert Stephenson's absence had been 
years of stern trial to George Stephenson, turning his 
hair prematurely white, and biting deep fines in his 
countenance. On September 27, 1825, more than 
twelve months after Eobert's departure for America, the 
Stockton and Darlington Eailway was opened with proper 
ceremony. The fine fiad been worked witfi satisfactory 
results, but stiU the employment of locomotives on its 
rafis was regarded as fittle more than an interestmg ex- 
periment. It was not tiU the Liverpool and Manchester 
fine was near completion that the real struggle for the 
use of the locomotive commenced. Jn the meantime 
George Stephenson had hard work to maintain his 
position in the engineering world. The defeat of the 
Liverpool and Manchester Eailway Bifi in the June of 
1825 — a defeat due in a great degree to serious mistakes 
made by the engineer's assistants in taking the levels for 
the proposed fine — had for a time a most injurious 
efiect on his prospects. Writing to Eobert, November 1, 
1825, Mr. Longridge observed — 

Eailways stiU continue the fashion, though I am sorry to add 
that your father has not that share of employment which his 
talents merit. It is expected the Liverpool and Manchester 
Bill will pass this session ; perhaps an Amended Act will after- 


wards be procured. The Newcastle and Carlisle Railway Bill 
will not be brought iuto parliament until another year. Your 
father has been emplo3^ed by the party who oppose this railway, 
and in examining the line has found greater errors in the- levels 
than were committed by his assistants in the Liverpool Eoad. 
Robert ! my faith in engineers is wonderfully shaken. I hope 
when you return to us your accuracy will redeem their cha- 
racter. I feel anxious for your return, and I think that you will 
find both your father and your friend considerably older than 
when you left us. 

Of the letters which Robert Stephenson received 
from England whilst he was in Colombia, the majority 
contained words that caused him hvely uneasiness for 
his father, who w^as strugghng hard to recover ground 
which had been lost chiefly through the blunders of his 
subordinates. In 1826 permission was obtained to lay 
down the Liverpool and Manchester line, and George 
Stephenson was appointed engineer-in-chief to the under- 
taking, with a salary of £1,000 a year. It was said by 
his enemies, and was also thought by some of his friends, 
that his success in getting the post was only the forerunner 
of his ruin. Whilst the result of the attempt to make 
the hne across Chat-Moss was a matter of doubt, George 
Stephenson was generally regarded as being on his trial ; 
and he well knew that in accordance with the success or 
faiku-e of that attempt, he would be proclaimed a man of 
stupendous genius, or an ignorant and impudent quack. 

With his own profession George Stephenson set himself 
right sooner than with the public at large. On February 
28, 1827, Locke, writing to Eobert Stephenson, said — 

Since I last wrote you, many circumstances, at that time highly 
improbable, have occurred ; and that shade which was unfortu- 
nately cast on the fame of your father has disappeared, and 

1827.] RETUEN TO ENGLAXD. 113 

the place which he must often have reflected on with pain is 
now such a scene of operations as sheds lustre on his character, 
and will no doubt immortalise his name. All our Directors 
are unanimous in placing the utmost confidence in him, which 
is certainly the best proof of their good opinion. 

Before Eobert's arrival in Liverpool at the end of 
November in the same year, the shade had indeed 
passed from George Stephenson's fame, and the father 
and son were able to exchange words of triumphant con- 
gratulation as well as of affection. 

It was a happy meeting. If the events of the preceding 
three years had whitened George Stephenson's locks, and 
given him at forty-six years of age the aspect of advanced 
hfe, his head and heart were stiU young. On the other 
hand, his son had changed fi^om a raw Northumbrian 
lad into a poUshed gentleman, having, at an age when 
many young men of the upper ranks of Enghsh hfe are 
still shu-king college lectures and lounging about clubs 
and theatres, reaped the advantages of extended travel, 
continued mental exertion, and intercourse ^vith men 
widely differing in rank, nationahty, and experience. 

The friend who had shared the perils and trials of 
Eobert's American life became a guest in George Stephen- 
son's house at Liverpool. When the young men awoke 
on the morning after their arrival they found on their 
dressing-tables two handsome watches, whicli had been 
placed there whilst they were asleep. In this manner 
George Stephenson made good a part of the losses they 
had sustained through the shipwiTck. 

Eobert Stej)henson had too much business on his hands 
to think of making a long stay at Liverpool. With all 
speed he went up to London, and had an interview 

VOL. I. I 


with the Directors of the Colombian Mining Associa- 
tion, who received him with gratifying expressions of 
respect. Though he had ceased to preside over their 
interests in South America, they pressed him to con- 
tinue to give them counsel as to their future operations. 
In London he was quickly immersed in business, in- 
specting machinery, and entering into contracts for the 
house of 'Eobert Stephenson and Co.' In connection 
with a contract and negotiations entered into with a 
foreign house he found it necessary to visit Brussels 
in December 1827. The journey was purely one of 
business; an excursion to Waterloo being almost the 
only diversion he permitted himself during the trip. 
Christmas Day he spent in London ; but with the new 
year he was in Newcastle, which for the next five 
years was his head-quarters, superintending the factory, 
and originating, or developing, those improvements in 
the structure of the locomotive which raised it to its 
present efficiency from the unsatisfactory position it 
held at the opening of the Stockton and Darlington line. 
The following letter, written to Mr. Longridge from 
Liverpool on New Year's Day 1828, will show how oc- 
cupied the writer's mind was with the possibihty of im- 
proving the locomotive. 

Liverpool : January 1, 1828. 

My Dear Siii, — On my arrival here last Thursday I received 
your letter containing the notice of the Darlington meeting on 
the 5th instant, which I will attend at your request. I had 
hoped that my father would accompany me to the north this 
time, hut he finds that all his attention must be devoted to this 
road * alone. 

I have just returned from a ride along tlic line for seven 

e. tlie Livei-pool and Mancl)est(!r Railwn 


miles, in which distance I have not been a little surprised to 
find excavations of such magnitude. Since I came down from 
London, I have been talking a great deal to my father about 
endeavouring to reduce the size and ugliness of our travelling- 
engines, by applying the engine either on the side of the boiler 
or beneath it entirely, somewhat similarly to Grurney's steam- 
coach. He has agreed to an alteration which I think will 
considerably reduce the quantity of machinery as well as the 
liability to mismanagement. Mr. Jos. Pease writes my father 
that in their present complicated state they cannot be managed 
by 'fools,' therefore they must undergo some alteration or 
amendment. It is very true that the locomotive engine, or 
any other kind of engine, may be shaken to pieces ; bul such 
accidents are in a great measure under the control of engine- 
men, which are, by the by, not the most manageable class of 
beings. They perhaps want improvement as much as the 

There was nothing new when I left London, except a talk 
that the Thames Tunnel was about to be abandoned for want of 
funds, which the subscribers had declined advancing, from the 
apparent improbability of the future revenue ever being ade- 
quate to paying a moderate interest. There are three new 
steam-coaches going on with, all much on the same principle 
as Grurney's. 

Very shortly after my arrival at Newcastle I shall have to 
set off to Alston Moor to engage some miners, both for the 
Colombian and the Anglo-Mexican Association. 

The New Year therefore opened with an abundance 
of business for the young engineer. 




(JETAT. 24-25.) 

State of the Locomotive in 1828 — Efforts to improve tbe Loco- 
motive — The Reports of Messrs. AValker and Rastrick — A Premium 
of £500 offered by the Directors of the Livei-pool and Manchester 
Railway for the best Locomotive — Mr. Henry Booth's invention 
of the Multitubular Boiler — Conmiencement of the ' Rocket' Steam 
Engine — A Tunnel across the Mersey — Survey for a Jimction Line 
between the Bolton and Leigh and Liverpool and Manchester 
Railways — Sun-ey for Branch Line from the Livei"pool and INIan- 
chester Railway to Warrington — Robert Stephenson's Love Affairs — 
His Access to Society in Livei-pool and London — Miss Fanny 
Sanderson — Proposal that Robert Stephenson should live at Bed' 
lington — Mr. Richardson's Expostulations — No. 5 Greenfield Place — 
The Sofa a la mode — Marriage. 

THE great and immediate work before Eobert Stephen- 
son, when at the opening of 1828 he once more 
took up his residence in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, was to 
raise the efficiency of the locomotive so that, on the com- 
pletion of the Liverpool and Manchester hne, it should 
be adopted by the directors as the motive power of 
their railway. At that time the prospects of the loco- 
motive were most discouraging. The speed of live or 
six miles per hour attained on the Killingworth and 
Darlington lines by no means justified an enthusiastic 
support of the travelling engines. It was true that they 
had not been built with a view to speed, Init for the 


purpose of obtaining cheap carriage for coals. Indeed, 
not many years before, the problem had been to make 
them move at all. But progression having been accom- 
phshed, the next thing was to increase their powers. 

No engineer questioned the possibihty of improving 
the locomotive ; but improvement comes slowly, when 
each experiment leading to it costs several hundreds of 
pounds. No railway company could be asked to pay 
for costly trials. That they would use the new machine 
when inventors and manufacturers had made it a 
serviceable power was all that could be expected of 
the directors of railways. As for the pubhc at large, 
there was amongst all ranks a general opposition to the 
new method of conveyance. Dishke to novelty, and 
suspicion of a system not perfectly understood, com- 
bined to make enemies for the locomotive. So far was 
this the case that, notwithstanding the commercial suc- 
cess of the Stockton and Darhngton Eailway, the Bill 
for the Newcastle and Carhsle line was obtained in 1829, 
only on condition that horses, and not locomotives, should 
be used in workinsj it. 

The proprietary of the Liverpool and Manchester 
Eailway shared largely in feelings which were almost 
universal with the less enlightened multitude. In 
October 1828, a deputation of the directors visited Dar- 
hngton and the neighbourhood of Newcastle to inspect 
the locomotives, and come to a conclusion as to the 
advisabihty of emplojdng them between Liverpool and 
Manchester. 'By this journey,' says Mr. Booth, the 
treasurer and historian of the Company, ' one step was 
gained. The deputation was convinced, that for the 
immense traffic to be anticipated on the Liverpool and 


Manchester line, horses were out of question. The de- 
batable ground being thus narrowed, how was the re- 
maining point to be decided ? Was a capital of £100,000 
to be invested in stationary engines, or were locomotives 
to be adopted ? ' 

Wliilst this question was under discussion, and for. 
several months preceding the October trip just mentioned, 
Eobert Stephenson had been racldng his brains to settle 
another and much more important matter — How to im- 
prove the locomotive ? how to increase at the same time 
its power and speed ? It was as clear to him, as it had 
been to his father, that above all things it was requisite 
to increase in the locomotive the capability of rapidly 
generating steam. Sufficient heat, with adequate means 
for rapidly applying that heat to the water, was the 
desideratum. Eventually the multitubular boiler and the 
steam-blast of the ' Eocket ' gave the required conditions ; 
but previous to their attainment, Eobert and his father 
made numerous failures in attempting to build a really 
satisfactory travelhng engine. 

To increase the heatmg surface, they introduced into 
the boilers of two engines made for the St. Etienne 
Eailway small tubes that contained water ; but the 
scheme was futile — the tubes soon becoming furred with 
deposit and burning out. In other engines they with the 
same object inserted two flues, each with a separate fire. 
On this principle was constructed ' The Twin Sisters ' 
— the name being suggested by the tubes. A third 
method adopted was to return the tube through the 
boiler. A fourth plan — in which may be perceived a 
nearer approach to the multitubular system — was 
adopted in a boiler made, at tlie_ beginning of 1828, 


with two small tubes branching off from the main 
flue. The sketch for this last engine was sent from 
Liverpool by George Stephenson to his son on January 8, 
1828, and in the postscript the sanguine father says — 
' The small tubes will not require to be so strong as the 
other parts of "the boiler, and you must take care that 
you have no thick plates and thin ones, as is often the 
case with those which come from Bedhngton. You must 
calculate that this engine will he for all the engineers in 
the kingdom — nay^ indeed, the world — to look at.' 

During his residence at Liverpool, George Stephenson 
had the great advantage of close personal intimacy with 
Mr. Booth, the treasurer of the Liverpool and Manchester 
Railway. Mr. Booth was not only an enthusiastic advo- 
cate of the locomotive, but he had a strong natural 
taste for mechanics, and would probably have distm- 
guished himself had he made engineering a pursuit 
instead of a pastime. As it is, the multitubular boiler, 
as a practical agent, must be attributed to him, what- 
ever may be the merit due to such claimants as M. Seguin 
and Mr. Stevens. Mr. Booth was consulted on all the 
plans introduced by the Stephensons, and his name 
continually appears m the letters which passed between 
the father and son. Writing to Eobert, on January 31, 
1828, George, referring to the experiment then in hand, 
says — ' With respect to the engine for Liverpool, I 
think the boiler ouo;ht not to be lonsrer than eight feet. 
The engine ought to be made light, as it is intended to 
run fast. Mr. Booth and myself think two chimneys 
would be better than one, say eight inches in diameter 
and not to exceed fifteen feet.' In conclusion the father 
adds — ' I trust the locomotive engine will be pushed. 


Its answering is tlie most important thing to you, and 
recollect what a number we shall want — I should think 

On April 15, 1828, George Stephenson, still sanguine 
as to the result of the boiler with diverging tubes, wrote 
to Eobert — 

I am quite aware that the bent tubes are a comphcated job 
to make, but after once in and well done it cannot be any com- 
plication in the working of the engine. This bent tube is a 
child of your own, which you stated to me in a former letter. 
The interior of a watch looks complicated, but when once well 
fit up, there needs very little more trouble for one hundred 
years, and I expect the engine you are fitting up will be some- 
thing similar to this watch Avith respect to its working parts. 

Five days later George Stephenson, with regard to this 
same engine, wrote a letter to his son, which is important, 
as it bears on a question that has been a subject of much 
w^arm controversy amongst engineers. 

Liverpool : April 20, 1828. 

Dear Egbert, — I duly received yours dated the 16th inst. 
I do not think there can be much difficulty in cleaning the 
refuse matter of the fire from the locomotive-engine boiler. 
I would make the nozzle pipe that goes in from the blast to be 
a kind of grating rather than of a conical shape, and to project 
about two feet into the fire. The grating to be on the upper 
side. The nozzle piece to be made with a flange, fitting very 
nicely to the plate at the front of the fire to prevent the escape 
of air, and kept on by a bolt and cotter, or two screw-bolts. 
This nozzle piece could easily be taken out at any time and the 
fire cleaned at the hole. This I think may be done while the 
engine is working upon an easy part of the road. It appears to 
me it will be found better to feed one time with coke and the 
next with coal. I think the one would revive the other. 

I do not think there can be so much difficulty in firing on 
this plan as on the old one. 


If you wish me to see the boiler tried before it is put into its 
seat I will endeavour to come. 

If this new engine is found to answer, it will be the bestway 
to alter all the Darlington engines to the same plan. By doing 
so the last engine will not be found too heavy for the road. 

This engine with the bent tubes, like other attempts 
made in that year to improve the locomotive, was a 
failure. Time was running short ; the period for opening 
the new line was fast approaching, and yet George 
Stephenson and his son had not hit on the way to build 
such an engine as should sweep the ground from under 
the advocates of stationary machines. 

Writing from Liverpool to Mr. Longridge at the close 
of the year 1828, Eobert communicated the success attend- 
ing the result of his new boiler made to burn coke. 

Liverpool Railway Office : Dec. 1, 1828. 

My Deak Sib, — It was arranged that I should leave this 
place to-morrow, but the directors of the Liverpool and 
Manchester have resolved to-day that my father and I are to 
meet the deputation which was recently in the north, and enter 
into detailed calculations relative to the much-contested question 
of locomotive and stationary engines. Since I wrote you last 
we have had my new boiler tried at Laird's Boiler Manufactory 
in Cheshire. You are probably aware that this boiler was made 
to burn coke. The experiment was completely successful — 
indeed, exceeded my expectations. Six of the directors went 
the other day to witness a second experiment. They were all per- 
fectly satisfied. The enemies to the locomotives .... said the 
experiment had answered to the fullest extent. The boilers were 
shipped to-day in the steam-boat via Carlisle, from which place 

they will be forwarded to Newcastle I have had two 

letters from Forman about the locomotive engine, and he has 
given us the order at last, but nothing can be done to it until 
I reach the manufactory. 

I am really as anxious to be at Newcastle again as you can be 
to see me. I cannot say that I like Liverpool. Do not answer 


's letter until I see you, as he has left me one also, full of 

such close queries on engineering- that I rather hesitate giving 
him the information in such an offliand manner as he calculates 

I am much pleased that you are interesting yourself in the 
suit of Locomotive versus Stationary. It is a subject worthy 
of your aid and best wishes ; but you must bear in mind, 
wishes alone won't do. Ellis has got settled, and I have 
got up a proposal in my father's name, which is now before the 
directors of the Canterbury Eailway Co. I expect at a general 
meeting next Thursday, which will be held at Canterbury, they 
will decide upon it. I cannot explain it fully in a letter, and 
therefore defer it till I see you. I have thanked Mr. Booth as 
you requested. 

In January 1829, ]\Ii\ James Walker, then of Lime- 
house,ancl 'Mi\ James Urpeth Eastrick, then of Stourbridge, 
Avere commissioned by the Liverpool and Manchester 
Eailway directors to visit Darlington and the Newcastle 
country, and report to them on the advantages and 
disadvantages of the locomotive system. ]\Ir. Walker and 
Mr. Eastrick were practical engineers of high reputation ; 
and they conscientiously discharged the duties which they 
undertook. The task assigned them was not to argue 
on the possibihty or probability of speedy improve- 
ments in the locomotive. They were to inspect the 
travelling engines, observe their capabihties, and judge 
them as they were, not as they might or Avould be. 
On the Stockton and Darlington line the two commis- 
sioners found locomotives travelling at paces varying 
between four and six miles an hour. An engine weighing, 
with its tender, fifteen tons, would drag twenty-three and a 
half tons' weight of carriages, containing forty-seven and 
three-quarters tons of goods, at the rate of five miles per 
hour. So much, and no more, could the locomotive of 


1829 accomplish. Of coiu-se Messrs. Walker and Eastrick 
well knew that the locomotive was in its infancy. Still 
they had to concern themselves with the present, and not 
the future. On March 9, they dehvered in their separate 
reports, which recommended the adoption of stationary 

Eobert Stephenson strongly disapproved the reports 
He saw in them an obstacle raised to the success of 
the locomotive, upon which the extension of the railway 
system depended. Writing to a friend on March 11, 
two days after the delivery of the hostile reports, he 
said — 'The report -of Walker and Eastrick has been 
received, but it is in favour of fixed engines. We are 
preparing for a counter-report in favour of locomotives, 
which I beheve still wiU ultimately get the day, but from 
present appearances nothing decisive can be said: rely 

* In his summary of tliese reports traffic both tcays. But -witli <i system 

Mr. Bootli says : ' The advantages of locomotives the cost of the first 

and disadvantages of each system, establishment need only be propor- 

as far as deduced from their own tioned to the demands of trade, while 

immediate observation, were fully ^vith stationary engines an outlay for 

and fairly stated, and, in the opinion a complete establishment would be 

of the engineers themselves, were required in the first instance. And 

pretty equally balanced. The cost it was fm-ther to be considered that 

of an establishment of fixed engines there appeared more gToimd for ex- 

between Livei"pool and Manchester, pecting improvements in the con- 

they were of opinion, would be struction and working of locomotives, 

something gi-eater than of locomo- than of stationaxy engines. On the 

tives to do the same work ; but the whole, however, and looking espe- 

ammal charge, including interest on cially at the computed annual charge 

capital, they computed would be of working the road on the two 

less on a system of fixed engines systems on a large scale, Messrs. 

than with locomotives. The cost of AValker and Eastrick were of opinion 

moving a ton of goods thirty miles, that fixed engines were preferable, 

that is, from Livei-pool to Manchester, and accordingly recommended their 

by fixed engines, they estimated at adoption to the directors.' — Henri/ 

G-4:0d., and hy locomotives at 8*3Gd., BootKs Account. 
supposing iu each case a profitable 


upon it, locomotives shall not be cowardly given up. / 
will fight for them until the last. They are icorthy of a 

The ' battle of the locomotive ' had indeed begun, 
and Eobert Stephenson was fighting bravely in the con- 
test ; but with characteristic prudence he postponed his 
counter-statement to a triumpliant course of counter- 
action. It was no time for words, at least for words in 
the shape of a paper controversy. Amongst the directors 
there was, in spite of the reports, a strong party, if not a 
majority, in favour of the locomotive. Led by Mr. 
Booth, and influenced by the enthusiasm of their chief 
engineer, they gave the most liberal interpretation to the 
admission of Messrs. Walker and Eastrick, that there was 
ground ' for expecting improvements in the construction 
and work of locomotives.' Would it not be well, they 
asked, to stimulate inventors by a premium to make the 
expected improvements in time for the opening of the 
hne ? The consequence was that on April 20, 1829, 
the directors offered a premium of £500 for an im- 
proved locomotive engine. The following circular an- 
nounced the conditions and stipulations of the offer : — 

Eailway Office, Liverpool : April 25, 1829. 

Stipulations and Conditions on which the Directors of the 
Liverpool and Manchester Eailway offer a Premium of £500 
for the most improved Locomotive Engine. 

1st. The said engine must ' effectually consume its own 
smoke,' according to the provisions of the Eailway Act, 7th 
Geo. IV. 

2nd. The engine, if it weighs six tons, must be capable of 
drawing after it, day by day, on a well-constructed railway, on 
a level plane, a train of carriages of the gross weight of twenty 


tons, including- the tender and water tank, at the rate of ten 
miles per hour, with a pressure of steam in the boiler not 
exceeding 50 lbs. on the square inch. 

3rd. There must be two safety valves, one of which must be 
completely out of the reach or control of the engine-man, and 
neither of which must be fastened down while the engine is 

4th. The engine and boiler must be supported on springs, 
and rest on six wheels ; and the height from the ground to the 
top of the chimney must not exceed fifteen feet. 

5th. The weight of the machine, with its complement of 
ivater in the boiler, must, at most, not exceed six tons ; and a 
machine of less weight will be preferred, if it draw after it a 
proportionate weight ; and if the weight of the engine, &c., do 
not exceed five tons, then the gross weight to be drawn need not 
exceed fifteen tons ; and in that proportion for machines of still 
smaller weight — provided that the engine, &c., shall still be on 
six wheels, unless the weight (as above) be reduced to four tons 
and a half, or under, in which case the boiler, &c., may be placed 
upon four wheels. And the Company shall be at liberty to put 
the boiler, fire-tube, cylinders, &c., to the test of a pressure of 
water, not exceeding 1 50 lbs. per square inch, without being 
answerable for any damage the machine may receive in conse- 

6th. There must be a mercurial gauge afiixed to the machine, 
with index rod, showing the steam pressure above 45 lbs. per 
square inch, and constructed to blow out a pressure of 60 lbs. 
per inch. 

7th. The engine to be delivered complete for trial at the 
Liverpool end of the railway not later than the 1st of October 

8th. The price of the engine which may be accepted, not to 
exceed £550, delivered on the railway ; and any engine not 
approved to be taken back by the owner. 

N.B. — The Eailway Company will provide the engine tender 
with a supply of water and fuel for the experiment. The 
distance ^^dthin the rails is four feet eight inches and a half. 

Never was premium more opportunely offered. It 


set engineers throughout the kingdom on the alert. 
Now was the time for a house to put itself at the head of 
the trade. If an efficient locomotive could be produced 
at the crisis, locomotives would be universally accepted 
as the tractive power for iron roads ; and the manufac- 
turers who should produce the engine would, for years to 
come, have a monopoly of the best business throughout 
Europe. Eobert Stephenson was keenly alive to the 
nature of the contest. Thro^ving aside his unfinished 
criticism of ' the reports ' of Messrs. Walker and Eastrick 
till a more convenient tiine, the young engineer grappled 
with the task before him. As he walked from ' the 
works ' to his lodgings, he racked his brains with thinking 
what ought to be done. At times he was despondent. 
He had so often felt triumph in the behef that he had dis- 
covered how to increase the heating surface of the boiler, 
and keep an ever-glowing and fierce furnace in the fire-box. 
As often he had been disappointed. The last fifteen months 
of his Newcastle labour had been an unbroken series of ap- 
parent victories followed by actual defeat. He wrote to his 
father ; and for weeks George Stephenson held an ominous 
silence. One morning, however, Eobert received a mo- 
mentous budget from Liverpool — a design for a new 
engine and a letter from his father. The design was the 
original sketch, dra^vn by ]\Ir. T. L. Gooch, of the multi- 
tubular boiler.* The letter explained the scheme, viz. 
to pass heated air, current from the furnace, through nu- 

* Wlien Mr. Smiles was engaged Stephenson's chai'acteristic modesty 

on his biogi-aphy of George Stephen- in passing over, vpithout a word, his 

son, Robert Stephenson gave him share in the undertaking, 
the following account of the origin ' After the opening of the Stockton 

of the Multitubular Boiler. The and Darlington, and before that of 

reader will not fail to remark Robert the Liverpool and Manchester, Rail- 




meroiis small tubes fitted in the boiler and surrounded 
mth water, and thus, by offering to the water an ex- 

way, my father directed his attention 
to various methods of increasing the 
evaporative power of the boiler of 
the locomotive engine. Amongst 
other attempts he introduced tubes 
(as had before been done in other 
engines), small tubes containing 
water, by which the heating surface 
was natm-ally increased. Two en- 
gines with such tubes were con- 
structed for the St. Etieune Railway, 
in France, which was in progress of 
consti'uction in the year 1828 ; but 
the expedient was not successful ; the 
tubes became furred with deposit, 
and burned out. 

' Other engines with boilers of a 
variety of construction, were made, 
all having in view the increase of 
the heating sm'face, as it then be- 
came ob\-ious to my father that the 
speed of the engine coidd not be in- 
creased without increasing the eva- 
porative power of the boiler. Increase 
of siu-face was in some cases obtained 
by inserting two tubes, each contain- 
ing a separate fire, into the boiler. 
In other cases the same result was 
obtained by returning the same tube 
through the boiler. But it was not 
until he was engaged in making 
some experiments, during the pro- 
gress of the Liverpool and Manches- 
ter Railway, in conjunction with 
Mr. Henry Booth, the weU-known 
secretary of the Company, that any 
decided movement in this direction 
was effected, and that the present 
midtitubidar boiler assumed a prac- 
ticable shape. It was in conjimction 
with Mr. Booth that my father con- 
structed the '* Rocket " engine. 

' At this stage of the locomotive 

engine, we have in the multitubular 
boUer the only important principle 
of construction introduced in addi- 
tion to those which my father had 
brought to bear at a very early age 
(between 1815 and 1821) on the 
Killing-woi-th Colliery Railway. In 
the " Rocket " engine, the power of 
generating steam was prodigiously 
increased by the adoption of the 
multitubular system. Its efficiency 
was further augmented by narrowing 
the orifice by which the waste steam 
escaped into the chinmey ; for by 
this means the velocity of the air in 
the chimney — or, in other words, 
the di-aught of the fire — was in- 
creased to an extent that far siuv- 
passed the expectations even of those 
who had been the authors of the 

' From the date of running the 
" Rocket " on the Liverpool and 
Manchester Railway, the locomotive 
engine has received many minor im- 
provements in detail, and especially 
in accuracy of workmanship ; but in 
no essential particular does the ex- 
isting locomotive differ from that 
which obtained the prize of the cele- 
brated competition at Rainhill. 

' In this instance, as in every other 
important step in science of art, 
various claimants have arisen for the 
merit of having suggested the mul- 
titubular boiler as a means of ob- 
taining the necessary heating surface. 
Whatever may be the value of their 
respective claims, the public, useful, 
and extensive application of the in- 
vention, must certainly date from 
the experiments made at Rainhill. 
M. Seguin, for whom engines had 



[Cn. YIII, 

tensive heating surftice, obtain the means of generating 
steam with unprecedented rapidity. 

At length tlie problem had been solved. Eobert 
Stephenson immediately was in correspondence with his 
father as to the details of the new undertaking. It was 
determined that twenty-four copper tubes should be in- 
serted in the boiler of the new engine, each tube being 
of a diameter of three inches. In subsequent engines 
the heating surface was increased with great effect by 
reducing the size of the tubes, and doubling and even 
trebhng their number. A point, however, was soon 
reached, where the diminution of the tubes, although 
it increased the extent of heating surface, had the evil ' 
consequence of diminishing the di'aught from the fire- 
box to the chimney.* 

been made by my father some few 
years previously, states that he pa- 
tented a similar multitubular boiler 
in France several years before. A 
still prior claim is made by Mr. 
Stevens, of New York, who was all 
but a rival to Mr. Fulton in the in- 
troduction of steam-boats on the 
American rivers. It is stated that 
as early as 1807 he used a multi- 
tubular boiler. These claimants may 
be all entitled to great and inde- 
pendent merit ; but certain it is that 
the perfect establishment of the suc- 
cess of the multitubular boiler is 
more immediately due to the sug- 
gestion of Mr. Henry Booth, and to 
my father's practical knowledge in 
cai'rying it ovit.' 

* Unprofessional readers may like 
to glance at the following lucid 
explanation of the structure and 
rationale of the multitubular boiler, 

taken from '■ Tredgold on the Steam 

' By causing all the flame and 
heated air to pass through a great 
number of small tubes surrounded 
by the water, a very gi-eat and rapid 
means of heating the water is ob- 
tained, as a very large heated surface 
is thus exposed to the water. The 
first locomotive engines had merely 
a large flue passing from the fire- 
place to the chimney. It was bent 
round at the end and returned again 
to the back, the chinmey being placed 
at the same end as the fireplace. 
The fire was contained in the com- 
mencement of the flue, which was 
made larger for the pui-pose. This 
is the general principle of the con- 
struction of the boilers for stationary 
engines, Avhere the size and weiglit 
of the boiler are not of so much im- 
portance, and the flues can be made 



Eobert Stephenson was soon busy at work on the new 
engine, afterwards famous under the name of ' The 

large enough to get a sufficient area 
of heated surface in contact with 
the water. But as in a locomotive 
engine all the machineiy has to he 
moved at a gi-eat velocity, the size 
and weight of the boUer are obliged 
to be diminished veiy much, and 
some other means has to be adopted 
to obtain the requisite heating sur- 

* The " Rocket " engine, made by 
Mr. R. Stephenson, which was the 
engine that gained the prize for the 
best locomotive at the opening of 
the Liverpool and Manchester Rail- 
way in 1829, was the first engine 
made with tubes in this country. 

' The former locomotives, with 
only a flue through the boiler, had 
never been able to travel faster than 
about eight miles an horn-, as they 
had not sufficient heating surface in 
the boiler to generate steam for sup- 
plying the cyhnders more rapidly ; 
the speed attainable by a locomotive 
being limited only by the quantity 
of steam that can be generated in a 
given time. The introduction of 
tubes into the boiler is one of the 
greatest improvements that has been 
made in the construction of loco- 
motives, and was the cause of the 
superiority of the " Rocket " engine 
to those that competed with it, and 
to all former engines. The velocity 
it attained at the competition trial 
was 29 miles an hour, and the average 
14i miles an hour, 

' The tubes of the " Rocket " en- 
gine were three inches in diameter, 
and only twenty-four in number. In 
the engines made subsequently the 
size was reduced, and the number of 
VOL. I. ] 

them doubled and trebled, by which 
means the heating surface was very 
much increased, and with it the 
power of the engine. The smaller 
the tubes are, the greater is the 
heating surface obtained, as small 
circles have a much larger circum- 
ference in proportion to their area 
than large ones. But when the 
tubes are diminished in size, the 
total area of passage through them 
from the fire-box to the chimney is 
also diminished; and consequently 
if the diameter of the tubes were 
much diminished, the draught of 
the fire woidd be checked from the 
passage to the chimney being too 
small. The heating power of the 
boiler would thusbe i nj ured, although 
the amount of heating surface ex- 
posed to the water was increased, 
and the abstraction of the heat from 

the hot air more perfect 

' The tubes open into the upper 
part of the smoke-box, and the hot 
air passes from them up the chimney. 
No smoke is produced, , except at 
first lighting the fire, as the fuel 
used is coke, which does not cause 
any smoke in burning, but only a 
light dust. The height of the chim- 
ney is obliged to be small, as it can 
never exceed 14 feet height from 
the rails ; so that the draught pro- 
duced by it is not at all sufficient to 
urge the fire to the intense degree of 
ignition that is necessary to produce 
steam at the pressui-e and in the 
quantity that is required, and some 
other more powerfid means has, 
therefore, to be adopted to produce 
the draught. This is done by making 
the waste steam issue through a 


Eocket,' whicli won the £500 premium offered by the 
directors of the Liverpool and Manchester Eailway. 

The young engineer had, however, other objects of 
interest besides the locomotive, in 1828 and 1829. 

In the early part of 1828 he was busy constructing ma- 
chinery for the Colombian IViining Association, and en- 
gaging workmen for the mines. In the same year also 
he afforded his father personal assistance in superintending 
some of the works on the Liverpool and Manchester 
Eailway. In the March of 1828, he went to Euncorn in 
Cheshire to advise on a proposed tunnel under the 
Mersey. In June he was at Canterbury. A few weeks 
later he was making a survey for the junction hue 
between the Bolton and Leigh and the Liverpool and 
Manchester lines. At the same time, also, he was busy 
with a survey for the branch line between the Liverpool 
and Manchester Eailway and Warrington, eventually the 
first hue constructed under his sole direction and manace- 

pipe, called the blast-pipe, which is is i-uuning fast, an almost constant 

directed into the centre of the chim- current of steam in the chimney is 

ney, and is gradually contracted produced, and the interval between 

throughout its length to make the the blasts can scarcely be perceived, 

steam rush out with more force. By this method the fire is not blo-^Ti, 

This pipe is made of copper one- as is usual, by forcing air into it, but 

eighth of an inch thick, and is 3J by extracting the air from the flues 

inches in diameter inside at the bot- and drawing air through the fire, 

torn where it joins on to the cylin- In the first locomotives no means 

ders, and tapers to 2^ inches at the were used for increasing the draught 

top. of the chimney, and their power of 

' The waste steam rushes out of generating steam was consequently 

the pipe with great force up the very limited. The introduction of 

chimney, carrying the air with it, the steam-blast for urging the fire, 

and causing a very powerfid draught and of the tubes for conveying the 

through the tubes and the fire. A air through the water, ai'e the prin- 

whole cylinder full of steam is let cipal causes of the great power of 

out at each stroke, and the two cy- the present locomotives.' — Trech/old 

linders deliver their waste steam al- on the Steam Miffine. Edinburgh, 

ternately ; so that when the engine 1838. 

1828.] VARIOUS WORKS IN 1828-9. 131 

ment. These undertakings were ' the trifles ' with which he 
filled up the time left on his hands by the superintendence 
of the engine manufactory at Newcastle. 

Sometimes he fretted under the caprices of directors 
and projectors, and once or twice he nearly lost his 
temper with a ' board.' 

Writing from Liverpool on August 27, 1828, he in- 
formed an intimate fiiend — 

I had prepared this morning to get my things packed up for 
going off to Newcastle to-morrow morning, but there was a 
meeting of the directors of a short line of railway which I have 
got the management of near Bolton. The plans and section had 
been previously laid before them with an estimate. To-day they 
came to a resolution that, although the line pointed out by the 
engineer was the best, they were alarmed at the expense of it, 
and in consequence ordered a fresh survey and section to be 
made, so as to reduce the expense, even at the risk of having a 
less advisable line. This is one way of doing things, but proud 
as I am I must submit. I have tried in my cool and solitary 
moments to look with patience on such proceedings, but, by 
heavens, it requires a greater store than I have. I would 
patiently bear this alteration if they did it from principle ; but 
knowing, and indeed hearing, them say from what the alteration 
does really spring, I cannot but consider it unworthy of Liver- 
pool merchants. I plainly perceive a man can only be a man. 
As soon as ever he aspires to be anything else he becomes 
ridiculous. Come, come, away with moralising thus gloomily. 
Affairs go on smoothly in London, at least, the last time I heard 
from thence, and as I have not written anything disrespectful 
since, they cannot have undergone any material change. 

Those who hold that love is merely the amusement of 
idleness mil find it difficult to account for the fact that 
Eobert Stephenson at twenty-five years of age, pressed as 
he was with various and weighty affairs, found leisure 
for indidging the tenderest of human affections. His 


father and stepmother had early impressed upon him 
the advantages of early marriage, and when they endea- 
voiired to withhold him from sailing for Colombia their 
arguments concluded with an assurance that he ought to 
be thinking of a wife. In his farewell letter from Liver- 
pool, before starting for South America, he laughingly 
promised Mrs. Stephenson to marry as soon as he returned 
to England, after the appointed three years of absence. 
In America he of course saw but little of ladies' society. 
Beyond an occasional ball at Mariquita he had no means 
of becoming acquainted with women more cultivated than 
Senora Manuela, the fat negress who presided over the 
cuisine of his Santa Ana cottage. His Colombian letters 
abound with expressions of dissatisfaction at being thus 
isolated from the poetry and refinement of woman's in- 

On returning to England, he availed himself of every 
attainable means of entering society. At Liverpool, as 
w^ell as m town, he was w^eU received in the families of 
those affluent merchants who were mterested in the 
progress of mechanical science. In many quarters there 
w^as a flattering and not unnatural preference shown for 
him over men his superiors in rank and wealth, by ladies 
anxious for the estabhshment of theu* daughters. 

In March 1828, writing to a friend, he said : ' If I may 
judge from appearances I am to get the Canterbury Eail- 
way, which you know is no inconvenient distance from 
London. How strange ! Nay, why say strange, that all 
my arrangements instinctively regard Broad Street as the 
pole ? ' 

The attraction in Broad Street was Miss Fanny San- 
derson, the daughter of Mr. John Sanderson, a gentleman 


of good repute in the City. Eobert Stephenson had been 
introduced to the young lady before leaving England for 
South America, and even at that date he had entertained 
for her sentiments which, if not those of love, closely 
resembled them. On returning from Colombia, amongst 
his first calls made in London he paid a visit to Broad 
Street, where he met with a cordial reception from Miss 
Sanderson, and an urgent invitation from her father to 
be a frequent visitor at his house. He waited some time, 
however, before he committed himself to the position of 
a suitor. In the October of 1828 he wrote to a friend, 
who was also Miss Sanderson's cousin : ' When in London 
I met my father by pure chance, and as he remained a 
day I had him introduced to Fanny. He likes her ap- 
pearance, and thinks she looks intelhgent. I took him to 
the house without her having the most distant idea of 
Jiis coming. She did not appear confused, and the visit 
passed off extremely v/ell.' 

But it was not till the close of 1828 was near at hand 
that Eobert Stephenson asked the lady to become his 

Having made his offer and been accepted, Eobert Ste- 
phenson did not wish for a long engagement. Indeed, 
there was no reason for deferring the marriage. Mr. Long- 
ridge was very anxious that the young couple should 
settle at Bedhngton ; and Eobert Stephenson so nearly 
complied wdth his partner's wishes, that he arranged to 
take a house there, and even made preparations for furnish- 
ing it. But to this plan his father and stepmother as well 
as other friends were so averse that he relinquished the 
scheme, although the alteration delayed his marriage 
for some months. 


At lenfTtli a suitable house was found — a small and 
unassuming dwelling (No. 5 Greenfield Place, Newcastle). 
The surroimding land has, during the last thirty years, 
been built upon in every direction, and the inhabitants 
of Greenfield Place would at the present date look in 
vain from their windows for a picturesque landscape, but 
when Eobert Stephenson took his young bride there, the 
outskirts of Newcastle had few more pleasant places. 

Between January and June in 1829, he spent much of 
his time in Broad Street. Wherever he was stationed — 
at Liverpool or Canterbury or Newcastle — it was to 
London that his thoughts turned, and under the pretext 
of ' business ' he made frequent visits to the capital. The 
visits were brief, but they could scarcely be called flying 
visits, as the journeying to and fro had to be effected by 
stage-coaches. The men of grave years, given over — 
heart, soul, and strength — to business, to wliom Eobert 
Stephenson looked for support, and who had hitherto 
regarded him as ' a promising young man,' shook their 
heads ominously. Mr. Eichardson, taldng a paternal 
interest in him, even went so far as to reprove him for 
wasting on a pair of bright laughing eyes the time that 
might be more profitably spent in paying court to the 
magnates of Change. Eobert Stephenson deemed it 
prudent to defend himself against the reproaches of the 
worthy quaker, who, after reading the exculpatory epistle, 
laid it aside to be kept — but not until he had inserted 
at the proper place, ' 3 mo. 31, 1829,' — the giddy lover 
(in his sane moments most careful to date his letters, and 
mark off with a dash the spot on the outer sheet to be 
occupied by a seal) having actually omitted to put down 
the date. 


29 Ai-undel Street, Strand. 
* Dear Sir, — You do me injustice in supposing that the 
ladies in Broad Street engross the whole of my time ; I am at 
present so ardently engaged in the Carlisle opposition that I 
have neither time to visit Broad Street or the Hill (i. e. Stamford 
Hill, Mr. Eichardson's residence), though a visit to either place 
would give me great pleasure. You are really too severe when 
you imagine, or rather conclude, that I neglect business for con- 
siderations of minor importance. I am well aware that it is 
only by close attention to my business that I can get on in the 
world. If any appearance of neglect on my part has been 
observed by you, I should esteem it a mark of friendship to have 
it pointed out by you. The valuation of the mill would have 
been forwarded to you immediately on my arrival in London 
but for the reason I stated in my last, the 28th. John Dixon 
having told me that you thought I was lazy, induced me to 
forward it to you in an unfinished state, inasmuch as concerned 
the tenor of occupation, which I have not been able to determine 
satisfactorily. I saw John Leigh this morning, who it appears 
had a lease of the mill from Lord Turner. He mentioned that 
some circumstances had removed the lease from his hands, but 
on what terms he was holding the establishment was not satis- 
factorily explained by him. Further than this, I fear I have no 
means of furnishing you with the requisite information. There 
seems to be some outs and ins which are not easily come at by 
ordinary enquiries. 

Yours most respectfully, 

EoB. Stephenson. 

As soon as we get through the Carlisle business, I will let 
you know when I shall be at Stamford Hill. 

In spite of hard work and petty annoyances, however, 
he contrived to enjoy himself in London. The prepa- 
rations for marriage were modest, and precluded all un- 
necessary expense ; for Miss Sanderson had no fortune, 
and Eobert Stephenson — though he was confident and 
hopeful for the future — was far from a rich man. His 


principal occupation was the superintendence of a fac- 
tory whicli, instead of being a lucrative concern, absorbed 
all the money that he and his father could gather to- 
gether. So the young people prudently adapted their 
expenditure to their means. They determined to keep 
only one domestic servant, and even debated whether 
they should spend money on a dra^ving-room sofa. 
Eobert Stephenson opposed the outlay as umiecessary, 
and therefore bad in principle. ' Season or no reason,' 
he ^vrote to a friend in Newcastle, ' Fanny will have a 
sofa k la mode in the drawing-room. I shall see you 
soon, when we will talk this over.' Of course the ' talking 
over' residted in his comphance with the lady's wish. 
In May the young people sliipped from London for New- 
castle a piano, whicli in due course was placed in the 
little drawing-room in Greenfield Place. 

In June Eobert Stephenson went up to London from 
Newcastle to be married. On the 4th of that month, 
writmg to an old friend, with characteristic frankness he 
avowed how profoundly his feehngs were moved by the 
prospect before him — 

I was very much upset (he wrote) when I parted with you on 
Gateshead Fell. So many new feelings and novel reflections 
darted across my mind. It was no ordinary feeling that I was 
not to meet you again before my relation, and indeed connec- 
tion, with the world would be materially changed. These 
sentiments you can appreciate more readily than I can describe 

The near approach of his wedding unsettled him for 
the performance of business, but did not make him less 
anxious to attend to the many calls on his time and care. 
The evening before his marriage he received depressing 

1829.] MAREIAGE. 137 

intelligence of a serious accident to one of the bridges 
on the Liverpool and Manchester line. On that same 
evening also he wrote to his good friend, but stern 
monitor, Mr. Eichardson : — 

London : June 16, 1829. 
Dear Sie, — When speaking of the ' Tourist ' steam-packet, I 
forgot to ask to whom the report of the boilers and flues was to 
be addressed. I have written to-day full particulars to Dickin- 
son, saying that you would drop a line informing him how to 
address the report. 

I am reluctant to trouble you thus much, but hope you will 
excuse me. / am perhaps excusable for neglecting some little 
particulars last night. You will have the goodness to inform 
Mrs. Eichardson that, unless something very extraordinary take 
place, I shall be married to-morrow morning. Afterwards I 
shall proceed by way of Wales to Liverpool, where I purpose 
arriving on Monday next. 

I remain, dear Sir, 

Yours most respectfully, 

KoB. Stephenson. 

On Wednesday, June 17, 1829, the bells of the 
parish church of Bishopsgate rang for Eobert Stephen- 
son's marriage. As far as bystanders could see, he had 
made a wise selection of a wife. Mrs. Stephenson was 
not beautiful, but she had an elegant figure, a delicate 
and animated countenance, and a pair of singularly 
expressive dark eyes. A near relation, who knew her 
intimately from childhood, bears testimony: 'She was an 
unusually clever woman, and possessed of great tact in 
influencing others, without lettmg anyone see her power. 
To the last her will was law with her husband ; but, 
though she always had her way, she never seemed to 
care about having it.' 




(^TAT. 25-28.) 

Wedding Trip — Battle of the < Locomotive ' — ' The Oracle'— 
Construction of the '■ Rocket ' Steam Engine — The Rainhill 
Contest — Particulars concerning the ' Rocket ' — History of ' the 
Blast-Pipe' — Triumphant return from Livei-pool to Newcastle — 
Answer to Mr. Walker's Report — Letters to Mr. Richardson — 
Numerous Engagements — More Locomotives — Opening of the 
Liverpool and Manchester Railway — Robert Stephenson appointed 
Engineer to the 'Wamngton' and 'Leicester and Swannington' Lines 
— Discovery of Coal Strata, and Purchase of Snibstone — London and 
Birmingham Railway— Robert Stephenson employed to carry the 
Line through Parliament — Opposition to the Line — ' Investigator's ' 
Pamphlet — Robert Stephenson's Evidence before the Lords' Com- 
mittee — Rejection of the Bill in 1832 — Calutunies — Public 
Meeting at Thatched House Tavern in support of the London and 
Birmingham Railway — Bill passes Parliament in 1833 — Robert 
Stephenson appointed sole Engineer- in- Chief to the London and 
Birmingham Railway — Leaves Newcastle-on-Tyne — Pupils. 

KOBEET STEPHENSON'S wedding trip was a short 
one. No sooner had he introduced his bride to 
her new home in Greenfield Place than he devoted all 
his energies to the superintendence of ' the works,' and 
especially to the construction of the 'Eocket.' The great 
and decisive battle of the locomotive, to be fought at 
Eainhill during the ensuing October, was fast approach- 
ing. He had to carry out the instructions which he 
had received from Mr. Booth and his father. A fearful 


responsibility it was for so young a man, still only five 
and twenty years of age. He knew that on the result 
of the contest his after-success would greatly depend. 
The ' Eocket ' was to him what ' Chat-Moss ' had just been 
to his father. It was a grand trial of his capabihty as a 
practical engineer. 

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

At length the tubes, with their thickened ends brazed 
in, were screwed into the ends of the boiler. The work 
looked well enough, but no sooner was it tested by 


hydraulic pressure than from the extremities of the tubes 
jets of water flew out upon the dismayed beholders. Here 
was a conclusion to months of toil and hope. For the first 
time in the protracted labour Eobert Stephenson's self- 
command gave way, and, hastening to his office, he wrote 
a hasty report to his father of ' another failure.' Scarcely, 
however, was the letter posted for Liverpool, when his 
nobler nature reasserted itself, and he looked about for a 
way to overcome the difficulty. In a happy moment the 
right plan occurred to him. The brass screws could not 
be rehed upon, but the copper of wliich the tubes them- 
selves were made might be trusted. Forthwith he bored, 
in the ends of the boiler, holes exactly corresponding to 
the size of the tubes. Into these holes the tubes were 
inserted, and steel ferrules, or hollow conical wedges, 
were driven into their ends. By this means tlie copper 
of each tube was forced powerfully against the circum- 
ference of the hole, and caused to fit perfectly water- 
tight. The steam having been raised, the result equalled 
Eobert Stephenson's most sanguine expectations, and he 
despatched another letter to his father, announcing his 
success. That second letter was crossed on its way to 
Liverpool by one from his father telhng his son to try the 
very same means which had already proved successful. 

The engine was at last taken from 'the works ' on Tyne 
side and conveyed to the Kilhngworth Eailway for trial. 
Much as there was yet to be efiected before the locomotive 
should be raised to its present state of efficiency, a decided 
progress had been made. The capability of evapora- 
tion had been so raised that, while in the Killingworth 
engines of 1829 the evaporating power was 16 cubic 
feet of water per hour, in the ' Eockct ' engine, at the 


Eainliill experiments, it was 18-24 cubic feet per hour. 
The vast room still left for improvement may be ap- 
preciated, even by an unprofessional reader, when it is 
stated that the evaporative capabihty of Stephenson's 
patent locomotive (of 1849) was ' seventy-seven cubic feet 
of water per hour, or nearly five times the power of 
the engine of 1829.'* 

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

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

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

* Nicholas Wood's 'Address/ 1860. 


On the course appeared four locomotive carriages — 

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

No. 2. Mr. Haekworth's, of Darlington, *The Sans Pareil,' 
weight 4 tons 8 cwt. 2 qrs. 

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

No. 4. Mr. Brandxeth's, of Liverpool, * The Cyclops.' 

Mr. Burstall of Leitli had entered his 'Perseverance,' 
but it did not make its appearance on the 6th, in con- 
sequence of an accident which it had sustained * on its 
way to Liverpool. 

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

The 'Novelty,' 'Sans Pareil,' and 'Perseverance,' not 
being ready at the appointed time, the race was put 
oflf, much to the dissatisfaction of spectators. Two days 
having been spent in preliminary exercise and mishaps,* 
'The first systematic trial of the power of the engines, 
under the inspection of the judges, took place on Thurs- 
day, when Mr. Stephenson's engine, the "Eocket," was 
brought out to perform the assigned task.' The distance 
appointed to be run was seventy miles. When fairly 
started, the engine was to draw, at the rate of at least ten 
miles per hour, a gross weight of 3 tons for every ton of 

■ Livci-pool Times/ Monday, Oct. 13, 1839. 


its own weight. The prescribed seventy miles were to be 
accomplished on a level plane of one mile and a half; 
consequently the course had to be travelled over by the 
successful locomotive forty times — the same number of 
stops being made — with consequent loss of momentum 
which had to be regained. 

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

It remains to speak of the other competing locomotives, 
the 'Novelty,' the 'Sans Pareil,' and the 'Perseverance.' 
Scarcely had the ' Novelty ' commenced running when an 
accident to its machinery, or pipes necessitated a stoppage 
for repair. Another trial, on a subsequent day, was only 
the occasion of another accident. It was therefore with- 
drawn from the contest. The ' Sans Pareil,' built by 
Mr. Hackworth of Darlington, was also unfortunate. On 
being furnished with its complement of water, it was 


found to exceed the stipulated weight by 5 cwt. Still, 
though it was thus disquahfied for competition, it was 
permitted to display its powers over the course. Its 
speed averaging fourteen miles per hour, with the ap- 
pointed load, was satisfactory ; but an accident stayed 
its operations at the eighth trip. As for the ' Perse- 
verance,' it was so far inferior to its antagonists — never 
travelling more than six miles per hour — that its name 
was scratched from the hst shortly after the commence- 
ment of the running. 

The result was that the ' Eocket ' was proclaimed the 
winner, and the premium was consequently aAvarded by 
the directors to Mr. Booth and the Messrs. Stephenson, 
the former being the inventor of the multitubular boiler, 
and the latter the manufacturers of the successful loco- 

One principal feature of the ' Eocket ' was the efficiency 
of its blast, which scarcely in a less degree than the 
boiler contributed to the victory at Eainhill. With re- 
gard to the blast there lias been much animated and some 
acrimonious discussion ; and more than one person has 
been pointed to as the first to devise it. In the first 
locomotive that ran with smooth wheels on smooth rails 
— namely, the first of Mr. Hedley's Wylam engines — 
the waste steam was emitted over the wheels at the side. 
In the second of Mr. Hedley's Wylam locomotives, built, 
as the reader recollects, prior to George Stephenson's first 
locomotive, a difierent course was employed. To obviate 
the noise and render the smoke less objectionable, a 
chamber was constructed in the boiler, into whicli the 
waste steam was conveyed from the cylinder by an 
eduction pipe that was turned upwards. From this 

1829.] 'PUFFING BILLY.' 145 

chamber the steam in an expanded state passed through 
another j)ipe into the chimney. This arrangement pre- 
chided anything hke an efficient blast, but doubtless the 
passage of the steam up the chimney, as far as it was in 
any way influential, quickened the di^aught. This is a 
fact which should be remembered. In the second Wylam 
locomotive the waste steam was emitted into the chimney. 

In George Stephenson's first Killingworth locomotive 
engine the waste steam (either from the first, or at a date 
shortly subsequent to the completion of the eiigine) was 
conveyed through a pipe directly into the chimney, with- 
out passing through any intermediate receiver ; and the 
noise of the steam forcing its way through the exit pipe 
and up the chimney, soon procured for the engine the 
sobriquet of ' Puffing BiUy.' No attempt had been made 
to deaden the noise. There was the blast in unquestion- 
able action, although of trivial efficiency. 

In the history of mechanical science there are few 
points more singular than that the origin of such a 
power as ' the blast in the steam locomotive ' should be 
involved in obscurity. Amongst the Wylam workmen, 
it is a matter of firm belief that the abihty of the waste 
steam to quicken the draught through the fire-box was 
discovered by accident. They state that two workmen, 
the brothers John and Henry Bell, the one still managing, 
in the autumn of 1860, a fixed engine at Blaydon, the 
other driving, at the same date, a locomotive on the 
Wylam line, effected the discovery in the following 
manner : — It was their duty periodically to clean the 
boiler of the Wylam locomotive, and also the exit pipe 
communicating between the receiver and the chimney. 
This pipe had a tendency to become furred up, and every 



time the men scoured off the deposit they also removed 
some of the metal. The pipe thus gradually became thin, 
and in the course of years needed repair. After the 
fashion of Northumbrian engine-drivers, who tinker up 
their engines as unconcernedly as a Suffolk ploughman 
ties up his horses' tails, the Bells inserted a small rim of 
iron into the enlarged pipe, thus rendering the mouth far 
more contracted than it was originally. The current of 
vapour passing through the narrow orifice, was, of course, 
much quickened by the alteration. Its upward passage 
was proportionately accelerated ; and with corresponding- 
increase of velocity, the air rushed in from below through 
the fire-box to fill the vacuum caused by the ascending 
steam. So marked was the effect of 'the iron rim' on the 
speed of the engine, that when the men took their first 
drive on it, after the work of cleaning and repairing, they 
were for a few seconds positively alarmed by the speed of 
their progression. This is one story. Another tradition, 
credited by the present representative of the Stephenson 
family, is that James Stephenson hit on the secret also 
by accident. According to this tradition, James Stephen- 
son, whilst acting as driver, turned the eduction pipe of 
the first Killingworth engine into the chimney for the 
purpose of abating the nuisance of the waste steam, Avhich, 
on being emitted from the side of the locomotive, covered 
him with moisture and interfered with his line of sight. 

Certain it is, that the first Killingworth engine, at a 
very early date of its existence, had ' the blast ; ' that is 
to say, the steam went into the chimney in distinct puffs. 
The assertion that George Stephenson himself 'applied 
the steam-blast' to his first locomotive ^?^ order to in- 
crease the draught and the heating power of the fire, is 

1829.] 'THE BLAST/ 147 

improbable. The statement that the blast, when so ap- 
plied, ' more than doubled the power of the engine,' is 
unquestionably erroneous — although it was made to 
Mr. Smiles ki all good faith by Eobert Stephenson 
himself. The fact is, the size of the chimney and the 
small power of the engine, the chimney being altogether 
out of proportion to the power of a two-horse engine, 
precluded the possibihty of having so efficient a blast. 
Mr. Nicholas Wood, a scientific engineer, intimately 
acquainted with the locomotive in question, has pubhcly 
stated* — 'The blast in the chimney, which afterwards 
formed so important an element in the evaporation 
of steam, was then comparatively inoperative, from the 
imperfect mode in which it was apphed, and from the 
low rate of speed at wliich the engine moved.' 

Of course George Stephenson knew that the tendency 
of the ascending vapour was to quicken the draught up 
the chimney. But not the less is it true that the in- 
fluence of the blast was scarcely appreciable in the Kil- 
lingworth engines. Years were to elapse before George 
Stephenson was to awaken to a knowledge of the full 
capability of the blast. The inabihty to generate a suffi- 
cient supply of steam was, from 1814 to 1829, the reason 
why the locomotive, instead of being generally adopted 
on railways, was regarded by sound judges as having 
only a sHght advantage over the stationary engine — 
an advantage not great enough to secure for it a wide 
popularity. Throughout the greater part of that time, 
George Stephenson saw clearly that the two great needs 
of the locomotive were — more heat, and better means 

Mr, Nicholas Wood's ' Address. 
L 2 


of diffusing tliat heat. Without a fierce fire, and a large 
heating surfoce, it was impossible to generate the re- 
quisite amount of steam. He therefore racked his brains 
to invent a boiler offering a wide field of contact for the 
heat and the water, and to construct bellows that should 
make his fire-box a perpetual furnace. The reader, of 
course, bears in mind the agreement between George 
Stephenson and Mr. Losh and the Messrs. James as to 
boiler tubes, in 1821. In a former part of this work 
a letter appears, which shows how George and Eobert 
Stephenson, in seeking to send an adequate current of air 
through the fire of a locomotive, fixed their thoughts on 
an artificial and not a natural draught. There are extant 
many letters between the father and son, which accord 
with the one referred to. Such was the state of things in 
1828. Such, too, was the case in 1829, until, whilst the 
' Bochet ' was being built, George Stephenson became alive 
to the full importance of a principle which, notwithstand- 
ing the structure of his own early locomotives, he had for 
fifteen years at least not duly estimated. 

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

Liverpool : August 1.3, 1829. 
Dear Phipps, — As I understand Robert is gone to Canter- 
bury, I may mention to you that I have put on to the coke 
engine a longer exarsting pipe, riching nearly to the top of the 
chimeney, but find it dose not do so well as puttirigr^t into the 
chiraeney lower down. I think it will be^igf^ar tl^j|#m^' of 

1829.] 'THE BLAST' IN 1828 AND 1829. 149 

the top of the boiler, by doing so it will look neater, the 
coke engine is doing extremely well — but the ' Lankshire Witch ' 
is rely doing wonders. A statement of her performance you 
will see in the paper in a few days. 

I am, dear Phipps, 
Yours truly, 

Geo. Stephenson. 

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

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

The combination of the multitubular boiler and the 
blast was most felicitous, and achieved the triumph of the 


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

Eobert Stephenson went home from Liverpool tri- 
umphant. It was a happy meeting between him and his 
wife in Greenfield Place, whither she had preceded him. 
He was a made man. Henceforth there was no fear for 
the locomotive ; its speedy and universal adoption had 
been secured. ]^ot less certain was it that Eobert Ste- 
phenson and Co. would for many years be the first loco- 
motive manufacturers in the world; but the victory, 
far from inducing the engineer to relax, only spurred him 
to increase liis exertions. He resolved to lose no time in 
producing engines superior to the 'Eocket.' Having, 
however, done so much in the way of professional action, 
he could afford a little time for professional polemics. 
As long as the locomotive required him to labour in 
the workshop, he had abstained from controversy ; but 
now he took pen in hand with the purpose of convincing 
the public mind that the reports of Messrs. Walker and 
Eastrick were not supported by the facts which they, 
previous to the production of the ' Eocket,' had under- 
taken to examine. It miglit seem that the time was past 
for replying to statements which had been exploded by 
events. But the fact was, Mr. Walker's report had taken 


a firm hold of the pubhc mind, and its author was by no 
means disposed to modify his views in deference to 
recent improvements. 

On December 17, 1829, Eobert Stephenson wrote to 
Mr. Eichardson — 

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

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

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

Newcastle-on-Tyne : Dec. 17, 1829. 
Dear Sir, — I was sorry that you passed through Newcastle 
before I returned from Liverpool, as I had many things to 


mention respecting railways which are projected in Cheshire and 
Lancashire. . . . The proprietors of the Warrington and Newton 
Kailways a little time ago proposed a line from the former place 
towards Birmingham, but at the outset only intended taking it 
up as far as Sandbach, a distance of twenty-two miles from War- 
rington; the remaining distance to Birmingham is, I believe, 
about 53 miles. Should this line go on, it will join the Liverpool 
andManchester sixteen miles from Liverpool, through the medium 
of the Warrington and Newton Kail way, and will consequently be 
of great advantage to both these lines now in progress. I made a 
survey about three weeks ago, and lodged the plans in the cus- 
tomary manner. This plan or line of communication to Bir- 
mingham did not meet the views of the Liverpool people. They 
therefore employed Vignoles as engineer to survey a line from 
Liverpool to Euncorn, where they proposed making a bridge 
over the Mersey at an enormous cost, and in this direction 
opening a communication to Birmingham. The Liverpool direc- 
tors were not agreeable that my father or I should be concerned 
in the Sandbach line, as it would be opposed by the Marquis of 
Stafford ; and as my father might be employed to oppose the line 
in Parliament, he and I would thus be brought into direct colli- 
sion, which would certainly not be very pleasant. Having made 
this survey, I was of course bound in honour to sign the plan 
and section. What will be the result in Parliament I cannot 
guess. There will doubtless be a strong opposition, and perhaps 
a fatal one. It is averse to my feelings to be concerned with 
any undertaking which might interfere with Mr. Locke's views, 
as his kindness to my father has been very great. Being, 
however, engineer for the Warrington directors, I could not 
refuse with any appearance of consistency to attend to an exten- 
sion of this line — an extension which, if made, will be of 
immense benefit to that which I am now executing. I heard 
from Liverpool the other day that another Birmingham line had 
been suggested which was likely to obtain supporters. It is to 
pass underneath the Mersey opposite Liverpool, continue on 
to Chester, and thence to Birmingham, in the same route as the 
line my father laid down in 1825. I am not aware of the merits 
of this line, but it strikes me that it will be a more expensive 
one than that from Warrington by way of Sandbacli, and it will 
certainly never bo of so much importance to the Liverpool and 


Manchester line. There are several other branch railways pro- 
jected in Lancashire. The trials at Eainhill of the locomotives 

seem to have set people railway mad We are getting 

rapidly on with four locomotive engines for Liverpool, which I 
am confident will exceed the ' Eocket ' in powers. One of them 
will leave here about New Year's Day, and the other three 
about the end of January. 

Yours very faithfully, 

EoB. Stephenson. 

Liverpool : Jan. 3, 1830. 

My Deak Sir, — On my arrival here I found your letter 
written after you left Newcastle. 

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

Livei-pool : Jan. 25, 1830. 
My Dear Sir . . . I have consulted my father on the subject 
of the Carlisle end of the railway. He is quite agreeable to take 
the west end of the line and leave it chiefly to my management 
for something between £500 and £700 a year. They would not 
expect my whole time to be devoted to it, as an assistant to be 
always attending would be requisite ; so that it would not 
require me to confine my attention to that neighbourhood 
entirely. I should then have the Lancashire and the Warrington 
and Newton to attend to. Amongst them I should divide my 
attention, and I see no difficulty in doing that, when I have a 
confidential assistant at each place to see that my plans are 
carefully and strictly attended to 

Canterbmy : April 28, 1830. 
Dear Sir .... I regret we are too high for the Darlington 
Bridge, but I am afraid we are a great deal too high for the 


winding engine at St. Helens, Auckland, but we really cannot 
compete with those engine-builders in the neighbourhood of 
Newcastle, who not only work for nothing, but who make bad 
workmanship. The engine you require for St. Helens is the 
same power as one we made for the Liverpool Eailway Company, 
and will require more workmanship. For the Liverpool engine we 
had £1,600, but T daresay you will soon have offers for £1,000; 
but it is useless attempting to make engines for such prices, 
because I know it is impossible to make a good and substantial 
job without reasonable prices. 

22 Broad Street Buildings : May 6, 1830. 

Dear Sir, — I returned from Canterbury on Tuesday, and 
would have answered your letters that day had I not been 

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

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

Still only twenty-six years of age, Eobert Stephenson 
had made a distinguished position for himself, and every 
succeeding year was henceforth to add to his dignity and 
worldly prosperity. In the spring of 1830 was opened 
the Canterbury and Whitstable hne, constructed under 
Eobert Stephenson's supervision, his father being respon- 
sible for the engineering. The same season saw the Bill 
fOT the Warrington Eailway safe through both Houses of 
Parliament, and Eobert Stephenson forthwith began to 
construct the line as engineer-in-chief — he having made 
the survey, sections, and estimates for the parliamentary 
application. In the same session permission was sought 


to make another line from Leicester to Swannington ; and 
the leave being granted, Eobert Stephenson was appointed 
principal engineer to that undertaking also. He had thus 
two railways on his hands, whilst at the same time he 
continued to direct the operations of the Newcastle 
factory, and was actively engaged in improving the loco- 

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

As the works on the Liverpool and Manchester fine 


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

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

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


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

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

At Parkside, the half-way point on the Ime, adequate 
preparations were made for renewing the supply of water 
to the tenders of the enmnes. The arransrements for ob- 
taining fresh water not being perfected at Manchester, 
the requisite supply was provided at Eccles (about four 
miles distant from the great cotton town) — directions 
having been given that the engines and tenders should 
be replenished at that station, after performing the entire 
journey. The time occupied by the engines and tenders 
in running out the four miles from Manchester to Eccles, 
sjettmo; a fresh stock of water, and returninsj to Manchester, 
would (it was calculated) be less than the time which the 


visitors conveyed to Manchester by the trains would 
require for a huich provided by the Company in a build- 
ing adjacent to the terminus. The directors, also, having 
good reason to fear that persons would put obstructions 
on the rails, stationed men at intervals along the entire 
line to see that the way was kept clear. 

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

Northun.- j George Stephenson Mark Thompson {^\^^ 

Directed by Flagmen Brakesmen 

fJas. Scott 

^ jun. 

Phoenix . Rob. Stephenson, jun. Jas. Thompson | ^^^^ CTre°e°nshields 

North Star Rob. Stephenson, sen. W. E. GiUespie { ^h^as Heaton° 

Rocket . Joseph Locke .... { ^i S^^f'^^ 

Dart . . Thos.L. Gooch . {J^^'.^SSSs 

Comet . . Wm. AUcard . . Josh. Richardson 1 1^^' Cwmmins 

[J no. Melling, s 

Arrow, . F. Swanwick . Jno. Birkinshaw j ^^^^^^^-J^^^^^'^^^^ 

Meteor . Anthony Harding . Wm. Gray . { Thos. I'lberry 

The principal train was drawn by the ' Northumbrian ' 
engine, under the care of George Stephenson. It con- 
sisted of four state-carriages, built for the occasion, open 
at the sides, and made with the awnings and roofs so 
high that passengers could walk about with ease. This 
train, containing the Duke of Wellington, Sir Eobert Peel, 
and other personages of high distinction, was placed alone 
on the southern hue of rails. The seven other trains 
were placed upon the northern line, an interval of about 


six hundred yards being allowed between each train and 
the one following it. 

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

The dismay of the passengers in the other trains, as 
on reaching Parkside they received the sad news, was 
followed by uncertainty as to what course it would, 
under the circumstances, be best to pursue. Some 
thought it would be more dehcate to return to Liverpool 
and leave the day's journey uncompleted. Others, think- 


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

It was a trying position for Eobert Stephenson, who 
headed the procession with the Phoenix engine, to which 


were attaclied the five carriages that constituted its train 
at starting. The state-carriages on the south Hne (from 
the windows of one of which the Duke of Welhngton 
surveyed the rabble) had been once more annexed to the 
'Northumbrian.' Slackenmg speed, Eobert Stephenson 
proceeded cautiously. But caution had its disadvantages; 
for the more reckless of the multitude cauoht hold of 


the carriages and climbed up their sides whilst they were 
slowly rolling along. To complete the confusion, the 
poHtical animosities of the mob broke out in acts of 
insult and violence. At various points of the cutting- 
placards reflecting on the ministry were exhibited, and 
weavuig machines were set out for inspection with brief 
announcements upon them of the prices of labour and 
bread. Brickbats also were aimed at the state-carriages. 
Eventually the trains reached Manchester without acci- 
dent or loss of hfe ; but only to find the station occu- 
pied by another mob. All communication between the 
different trains was cut off. Many of the excursionists 
left their seats, and fought their way through the crowd 
to the apartments where the Company had provided 
lunch. The Duke of Wellington refused to descend from 
his carriage, to which the mob continued to press. For 
some time he kept the rioters in good humour by shaking 
hands with their women and children; but the uproar 
round the state-carriages increased so much and rapidly, 
that, to secure the Duke from risk of assault, it was 
thought necessary to remove him from the tumult. 
Without much difiiculty the ' Northumbrian ' engine was 
brought round, and the train of state-carriages, contain- 
ing their due complement of occupants, slowly wormed 

VOL. I. M 


its way out of the station and through tlie excited midti- 

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

The four engines were ordered on before the state-train 
to Huyton, and the managers of the remaining three en- 
gines of the northern line, after taking in water at Eccles, 
conveyed to Manchester the pleasant intelligence that 
they were left to convey the excursionists back to Liver- 
pool. It was not till late that these three engines (the 
' Kocket,' the ' North Star,' and the ' Arrow ') reached 
Manchester. Darkness was rapidly coming on. In those 
early days of the railway system signal lamps had not 
come into use. To lessen the clianccs of collision, wliich 

1830.] THE RETUEN TKIP. 163 

were strong in the case of three separate trains following 
each other closely, the carriages were formed into one 
train, and the three engines were connected. This long 
train worked through the crowd, and safely reached 
Eccles, where the train was stopped for the purpose of 
enqumng after Mr. Huskisson. On starting again, the 
couphngs of some of the carriages broke, and had to 
be supphed with strong ropes. At Parkside the train 
was met by three of the engines which had gone on to 
Huyton : and these three engines, having at Huyton 
crossed to the north line, were ready to assist in drawing 
the carriages. It was determined still to adhere to the 
plan of having only one train. Two of the recently 
arrived engines were annexed to the load, and the third 
engine, the ' Comet,' was directed to precede them at the 
distance of half a mile, clearing the way before them, and 
signalling obstacles by holding out a hghted tar-rope. 

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

M 2 


tlie arrival of tlic excursionists, breaking forth in deafen- 
ing cheers.* 

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

* Eventful as Robert Stephenson's life had been, the 
year 1830 was perhaps as much marked as any by 
important occurrences. In that year the Leicester and 
Swannington Eailway was commenced, to which under- 
taking he was appointed engineer, tlie object of the line 
being chiefly to convey to Leicester the coal from the 
collieries tlien existing in the neighbourhood of Swan- 
nington. Early in 1831, durmg the progress of the 
Eailway, the Snibston Estate, lying close to the line, 
Avas advertised to be sold by public auction. Forming 
his opinion from the geological features of the country, 
and from the coal seams wdiich had been already worked 
near the surface, on a very Hmited scale, Eobert Stephen- 
son w^as satisfied that other and more valuable seams 
existed under the Snibston Estate. This opinion he urged 
upon his father so forcibly, that the latter persuaded two 
of his Liverpool friends, Mr. Joseph Sandars and Sir 
Joshua Walmsley, to join him m purchasing the Snibston 
Estate. In 1831 operations were commenced, and two 
shafts were sunk on the dip, or east side of the estate, but 
after getting through the keuper, or new red sandstone 
formation, which in that part of the district overhes the 
coal measures, they came upon a narrow strip of " green 
wdiinstone," which had descended in a fused state from 
the neighbouring volcanic hills of the Charnwood Forest 
range. This deposit proved a most formidable obstacle ; 

• The foregoing particulars of the communication made by Mr. T. L. 
oponiug of the Liveii)ool mul Man- Uooch. 
Chester Line are tiiken frouj a written 


but after a long process of sinldng, during which so much 
time was expended that even Mr. Stephenson's perseve- 
rance was nearly exhausted, the sinkers drove a bore-hole 
through it, and proved the coal measures underneath. 
This strip of " whinstone " was 20 feet thick, and so 
hopeless had the task of penetrating it at one time 
appeared, that a second pair of shafts were commenced 
to the westward, and in these latter pits this serious 
difficulty was not encountered. After two years of labour 
]\ir. Stephenson's foresight was rewarded by discovering 
at a depth of 200 yards from the surface an excellent 
seam, called the " main coal," which was shortly after- 
wards worked scarcely more to the advantage of the 
speculators than to the benefit of Leicester, the inhabi- 
tants of which town had in a great measure depended for 
coal on Derbyshire, the coal being brought to Leicester 
by canal. Upon the opening of the Leicester and Swan- 
nington Eailway, the price of coals in Leicester fell nearly 
40 per cent., whereby the town gained nearly £40,000 a 
year. The Snibston Colhery, under the intelligent 
management of Mr. Vaughan, has proved to be a most 
lucrative concern.' 

Li 1830 Eobert Stephenson became a member of the 
Institution of Civil Engineers. In that same year (1830), in 
consequence of the success of the Stockton and Darlington 
Ime, the triumph of the locomotive, and the satisfactory 
state of works on the Liverpool and Manchester Eail- 
way,* a project was revived that had slept for the pre- 

* A note ought to preserve a story mind on tlie subject of railways gave 

connected with the construction of a new turn to the eccentric humours 

the Liverpool and Manchester Rail- of disordered intellects. Many were 

way. The excitement of the public the delusions and extravagances of 


ceding five years. As early as 1824 a proposal was made 
to lay down a railway between London and Birmingham. 
The route of the proposed railway was surveyed in 1825, 
but in those hard times for speculative enterprise the 
project was set aside. The year 1830, however, witnessed 
two proposals, instead of one, for an iron road between 
Birmingham and the capital. The one set of projectors 
■ advocated a hue by Coventry ; the other adventurers 
bemg in favour of a route through Banbury and Oxford. 
George Stephenson being apphed to for an opinion by 
the competing parties, decided in favour of the Coventrj^ 
route. The consequence of this decision was that the 
rival Companies, instead of aiding the external enemies 
who were ready to destroy both of them, prudently joined 
their forces, and with united influence applied to Parha- 
ment for a line through Coventry. George Stephenson 
was at first employed in conjunction with his son as 
engineer to make the surveys and plans, and carry the 
line through Parhament. 

The agreement (signed September 18, 1830) between 
the Company and the engineers, stipulated that George 

persons afflicted witli railTvay mania. tlien near its completion. George 
One inofiensive elderly gentleman, Stephenson liad heai*d nothing of 
residing in a suburb of Livei-pool, the monomaniac's proceedings; he 
conceived a passion for timnelling, was, therefore, not a little astonished 
and a noble ambition to sm'pass the one morning, as he passed along his 
achievements of George Stephenson. tunnel, to hear a noise of a human 
Without making any unnecessary voice cheering over his head, and on 
noise he hired a number of workmen, looking up to see, through a hole 
and amused himself for awhile with knocked in the briclrwork of the 
driving tunnels imder the surface of tunnel, the protruded face, glowing 
his own gromids. At length, wish- with exultation, of an elderly gen- 
ing to astonish the 'professional tleman, who persisted in demon- 
hands,' he burrowed beyond the strations of satisfaction and excla- 
boundaries of his own property, and mations of ' IIow are you ? ' 
bored into the great railway tmmel, 

1830.] AN AGREEMENT. 167 

Stephenson was to receive for liis time actually expended 
on the work seven guineas per diem, and Eobert Stephen- 
son five guineas, free of all expenses. George Stephenson's 
appointment, however, was little more than nominal. 
The surveys were made by Robert Stephenson, who in 
the subsequent parhamentary battles was the engineering 
authority of the projectors, and ultimately, on the Bill 
being obtained, was made ' engineer-in-chief ' for carrjdng 
out the works, liis father being in no way whatever 
associated with him. It is right that this fact should be 
borne in mmd, as a succession of writers have credited 
George Steplienson with the construction of the first of 
our existing 'great railways,' — the first railway connecting- 
London with a distant seat of industry. In some inac- 
curate works the ' London and Birmingham Eailway ' is 
spoken of as having been constructed by George 
Stephenson, in others by George Stephenson and Son, in 
others by Messrs. Stephenson. The line was, however, 
constructed by Eobert Stephenson alone, and to him is 

* As public interest may be gra- cessary plans, sections, and book of 

tified, and undesirable discussion ob- reference for the proposed railway 

viated, by the publication of the from Bii-miagbam to London, and to 

agreement just aUuded to, it is here do everything that is necessaiy for 

printed. that purpose in time to comply with 

the Standmg Orders of the House of 

^Birmingham: Sept. 18, 1830. Commons, so as to enable the soli- 

< Memorandum of Agreement entered '^^^^^'^ *° "^^^^'^ t^e necessary notices 

into between Messrs. George Ste- ^^ ^he newspapers during three weeks 

phenson and Son, of the one part, ^^^^^re the sitting of Parliament, and 

and the Committee of the London *» affix necessaiy notices on the 

and Birmingham Railway Com- ^^'^°^'^ ^" ^^^ several sessions houses 

pany, of the other part. ^* ^^^ ^^^t Quarter Sessions, and to 

deposit the plan and book of refer- 

'Fh'st, the said George Stephenson ence, &c., with the clerks of the 

and Son imdertake and agree, so far peace of the several counties, and in 

as their best and utmost exertions the Private Bill Office, on or before 

will enable them, to make the ne- the 24th day of October next, and in 



[Cn. IX. 

due the entire merit of overcoming all the gigantic ob- 
stacles to its construction. 

Eobert Stephenson made three distinct siu"veys for the 
London and Birmingham Ime, . besides several minor 
surveys of different portions of the country, for the 
piu-pose of ascertaining whether the route could not be 
improved. The first survey was made in the autumn of 
1830. In 1831 a second hne was marked out, almost 
identical with the one eventually executed. The plans and 
sections having been deposited, and the requisite amount 
of shares subscribed for, an application was made to Par- 
liament, and a Bill to enable the Company to make their 
proposed railway was read the first time on February 20-, 

every other respect to comply with 
the Standing Orders of the Houses 
of Parliament, so fai' as the duty of 
an engineer extends. 

' In consideration of which the 
Committee agree to pay to Mr. 
George Stephenson the sum of seven 
guineas a day dui-ing the time that 
he shall be occupied in the business, 
and to Mr. Robert Stephenson the 
siun of five guineas a day during 
such time as he shall be employed 
in the business, and to pay the usual 
charges to surveyors employed by 
Messrs. Stephenson and Son, and to 
pay to Messrs. Stephenson and Son 
the usual travelling expenses. 

' And the said George Stephenson 
and Son agi-ee that Mr. Brmiton 
shall be the resident engineer at the 
London end, and fully undertake 
and bind themselves not to be con- 
cerned in any line of railway what- 
ever that can be injurious to this 
Company's line, or any part of it, 
during such time as they are em- 
ployed as engineers to this Com- 

' (Signed) John Come, on behalf 
of the London and 
Birmingham Com- 
Geo. Stephenson. 
Rob. Stephenson. 
' Witness to the sigiiatm-e, . 
' Josiah Corrie.' 

The appointment made legally 
binding by this unartistic and loosely 
drawn agi'eement, was an appoint- 
ment of George and Robert Ste- 
phenson to lay out — not to consti-uct 
and make — the contemplated line. 
It referred only to the survey and 
parliamentaiy engineering. In the 
following year it was superseded by 
another agreement. It was, there- 
fore, in reality a most unimportant 
feature of the history of the London 
and Birmingham line; but it has 
misled numerous writers into think- 
ing that the elder Stephenson was 
united with the younger in designing 
and carrying to triumphant comple- 
tion the vast engineering operations 
on the railway in question. 


1832. The third survey was made m the autumn fol- 
lowmg the last date. 

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

Nor was the opposition confined to the nu^al population. 
In London, jom-nahsts and pamphleteers, whilst they 
professed to discuss the new project dispassionately and 
'without prejudice,' distributed criticisms which at the 
time of their dehvery were manifestly absurd, and pro- 
phecies which time has signally falsified. 


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

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

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

The causes of greater danger on the railway are several. A 
velocity of fifteen miles an hour is in itself a great source of 
danger, as the smallest obstacle might produce the most serious 
consequences. If, at that rate, the engine, or any forward part 
of the train, should suddenly stop, the whole would be cracked 
by the collision like nutshells. At all turnings there is a danger 

• Remarks on the Proposed Rail- 'No argument like matter of fact is.' 

way between Birmingliam and Lon- By Investigator. London : T. M. 

don, proving by Facts and Argu- Richardson, 23 Coniliill; J. Ridg- 

ments that that Work woidd cost way, 1G9 Piccadilly. 

Seven Millions and a Hdf ; that it t The reader must bear in mind 

would be a Burden upon the Trade ' Investigator's " motto — ' No argu- 

of the Country, and would never pay. ment like matter of fact is.' 


that the latter part of the train may swing off the rails ; and, if 
that takes place, the most serious consequences must ensue before 
the whole train can be stopped. The line, too, upon which the 
train must be steered admits of little lateral deviation, while a 
stage coach has a choice of the whole roadway. Independently 
of the velocity, which in coaches is the chief source of danger, 
there are many perils on the railway : the rails stand up like 
so many thick knives, and anyone alighting on them would 
have but a slight chance for his life. On a road crowded with 
engines, the escape from the rails would avail him but little, as 
before he could recover himself from a slight stunning, a train 
on the next rails would be up, and before the conductor could 

arrest the progress of that he would be cut asunder 

. . . Another consideration which would deter travellers, 
more especially invalids, ladies, and children, from making use 
of the railways, would be the want of accommodation along the 
line, unless the du-ectors of the railway chose to build inns, as 
commodious as those on the present line of road. But those 
inns the directors would have in part to support also, because 
they would be out of the way of any business except that arising 
from the railway, and that would be so trifling and so accidental 
that the landlords could not afford to keep either a cellar or a 

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

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


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

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

In the parhamentary progress of the Bill, Eobert 
Stephenson was subjected to searching cross-examination, 


but, ready as well as resolute, quick as well as patient, lie 
was a difficult witness for opposing la^vyers to deal with.* 

* The following extracts from the 
e\'iclence will give the reader some 
idea of the duels fought on this oc- 
casion between Robert Stephenson 
and Mr. Harrison, who, in conjimc- 
tion with Mr. D. Pollock, appeared 
as counsel for the trustees of the 
tolls of the Sparrow's Heme Road. 

' Cross-examined hy Mr. Marrismi. 

' " That piece of board would also 
have to be put on the top of the em- 
bankments ?" 

' " It woidd." 

' " The line given in the section 
deposited with the clerk of the 
peace, is not the line that will ulti- 
mately be the line of the raih-oad ? " 

' " It is the smface of the em- 
bankment before the metaling is 
laid on." 

' " Any embankment would be 
two feet higher than what is de- 

' " Yes." 

' " Have not marks been put in 
describing the line of the surface ? " 

' " Yes." 

' " And have they not since been 
scratched out ? " 

' " I believe not," 

' " Were they on the section de- 
posited in the other House ?" 

' " Yes." 

' " Any individual who looks at 
the section will see that this line is 
ultimately not to be the surface line 
by two feet ? " 

' " It is the line that is always 
put on the section to represent the 
surface invariably." 

' " Do you mean to state that ? " 

' " I do not know a single exceii- 
tion to it." 

' " Do you mean to state that the 
line so marked on the section has 
not always invariably been considered 
at all times as the surface line ? " 

' " Certainly, in my practice it 
never has." 

' " Then how came you to describe 
it as the surface ? " 

' " It is the surface of the em- 
bankment before the rails are put 
on it." 

' " Will not common people sup- 
pose that the surface of the embank- 
ment means the top of the place on 
which the things travel ? " 

' " 1 do not think any engineer 
would ever so consider it ; they al- 
ways look on the line laid down in 
the sections as top of the cuttings." 

* " If every one of the engineers 
have made a mistake in supposing 
the direct contrary, should you at- 
tribute it to their ignorance ? ' ' 

' " There was not a single discus- 
sion that took place on that point 
with me. The engineers that were 
employed to make the estimate went 
through the estimate without asking 
a question as to what the line repre- 

' " That is not an answer to my 
question. If all the engineers em- 
ployed by the opposers of the Bill to 
examine the line as to the injury done 
to their land, and estimate the quan- 
tity of it taken by the embankments 
— if they have all considered that that 
is the surface on which the carriages 
run, do you attribute that to theu- 
ignorance ? " 

' " Not to their ignorance, but to 
a disposition to increase the cost of 
the work." 



[Cii. IX. 

It was, however, ji trying ordeal — tiying alike to his 
temper and his knowledge. His want of professional 

' " Do you think that they would 
wilfully do that ? " 

' " I do not believe that any im- 
partial engineer would suppose the 
line to mean anything difierent to 
what I suppose it to mean." ' 

On a subsequent day Mr. Harrison, 
having in vain endeavoured to show 
that Robert Stephenson's * borings ' 
were wi-ong, and his estimates for 
bridges and arches altogether incor- 
rect, proceeded to thi-ow out insinu- 
ations which were immediately seized 
upon by Dr. Lardner, and formed an 
important feature of his well-known 
attack upon the Stephensons in the 
' Edinburgh Review ' for October, 

' " In page 115 there is a clause 
preventing any horse being driven 
or ridden on the railroad. Is that to 
preclude the use of horses in dragging 
carriages on the railroad ? " 

' " I suppose it is." 

' " Are persons to be allowed to 
draw railway carriages by horses ? " 

* " I conceive that is totally in- 
compatible with a line where loco- 
motive engines are used." 

' " All the engines are to be ap- 
proved by the Company ? " 

' " Yes." 

' " The engines are not to be ex- 
clusively furnished by the Com- 
pany? " 

' '" No." 

' " Ai'e you and your father great 
manufacturers of steam-engines ? " 

* " We do manufacture them." 

' " For this railroad, do you not, 
and for others ? " 

' " For any"- 

' " You are the persons who are 
to be applied to ? " 

' " I do not know that that may 
be the case. / am only emjineer for 
the lime being ^ 

' " As long as you and your father 
are the engineers, you are the people 
to decide what engines shall be used 
by other people ? " 

* " If there is any fear of preju- 
diced opinions being given by us, I 
apprehend the committee may easily 
find a remedy by calling in other 
engineers to decide the point." 

' " There would be no remedy in 

' " Pie would still be the Com- 
pany's engineer." 

* '^ The engines to be used are to 
be approved of by the engineer for 
the railroad company ; and there is 
no appeal from this decision, if he 
says he does not like the engines ? " 

' " I may not be the engineer for 
the Company. I apprehend I may 
be done with the railroad as soon as 
the railroad is completed, if I am 
there so long. I may not be tlie 
resident engineer." ' 

On the next day Mr. Harrison re- 
sumed his cross-examination of the 
yoimg engineer, whom, in his zeal 
for his clients, he had depicted as 
one who would recommend his own 
inferior locomotives, and exclude by 
base influence the superior produc- 
tions of rival manufacturers. On 
the present occasion the comisel 
endeavoured to break dowTi Robert 
Stephenson's e\'idence on the subject 
of * friction,' by the statements ad- 
vanced in his ' Answer ' to IMr. 
Walker's report three j'ears before. 

' '' You stated from sixteen to 
twenty feet of elevation is equal to 
a mile. Is it not more than that ? " 




experience was superciliously suggested, his answer was 
a curt statement of ichat he had clone. It was insinuated 

' ''■ I am quite convinced it is not 

' '' Then it is not twenty-six ? " 
' " I am quite sure it is not." 
' " I only caution you, in order 
tliat you may be supposed to commit 
yom-self too hastily to that answer. 
Do you stand by that answer ? " 

' " That elevation — that is, equal 
to a mile going roimd. It depends 
very much on the friction of the 
wagons employed on the railroad." 

' '^ What is the friction on a 
level ? " 

' " It varies from 6 lbs. to 9 lbs. 
What I consider 8 lbs. is amply suf- 
ficient for friction on level ground. 
I am quite sure I am overstating the 
thing when I say 8 lbs." 

' " Eight is equal to the friction 
for a ton, you say ? " 

' " Eight is supposed to be so. 
You might overhang a pulley and it 
would di'aw a ton. The experiments 
I have made with wagons make it 
considerably less. They are liable to 
get out of order." 

' " You abide by your answer, 
and state distinctly it is not twenty- 
six feet, but sixteen aad twenty?" 
'■ " Yes, I do." 

' " Now you published some cal- 
ciUations on it, did you not ? " 
' " No, I did not." 
' '^ Did you not publish some ex- 
periments in reply to the report made 
by Mr. James W^alker ? " 
' " Yes." 

< '' Was it not put at 1 to 200 on 
a plain surface ? " 

' " If I had taken the greatest 
advantages of the circumstances that 
were allowed me in reply to Mr. 
James Walker's report, I should 

have stated it at eight. He took it 
at twelve or thirteen : upwards of 
thirty per cent, more than experi- 
ments proved to me to be correct." 

' " He took it at twelve. Did you 
not in your answer put it at 1 in 
200 .P" 

' " Yes ; which is the friction 
actually existing on the coal wagons 
in the north of England on a very 
bad raih-oad, when compared with 
good ones. On the Livei-pool and 
Manchester I am quite sure there is 
not a wagon moving with the friction 
of 8 lbs. to a ton." 

' " What would that be instead of 
1 to 200 ? " 

' " It will be 1 to 280." 
' '^ Instead of its being 1 to 200, 
the calculation you put it at, you 
now put it at 1 to 280 ? " 

' " It is calculated to give an un- 
favourable impression. The reason 
I put it at 1 to 200 at that part was 
this — that the wagons on the rail- 
roads in the north of England are 
employed there with axle-trees of 
considerably larger size than in the 
Livei^Dool and Manchester. There 
the bearings are put on the outside 
of the wheels ; the size of the axle- 
trees are reduced to each one inch 
and three-quarters. For coal wagons 
in the north of England the diameter 
of the axle-trees is a full three 

* " These are reasons for taking it 
at 1 to 280 ? " 

' " Yes ; from the improvement 
in the wagons." 

' " The construction of wagons in 
the north creates a greater degree of 
friction ? " 

' " Most decidedly." 



[Cn. IX. 

tliat he and his fatlier would supply the petitiomng 
Company with mferior locomotives, and shut out from 
competition the superior engines of rival manufacturers; 
Ilis reply was that the Company would know how to 
take care of themselves. 

Of the exertions made by Robert Stephenson to get 
the Bill through Parhament the following story will afford 

' " That was tlie report of Mr. 
James Walker on the Manchester 
and Liverpool Railway ? " 

' " Yes, it was." 

' " The Court of Directors desired 
him to take into consideration the 
difference between locomotive power 
and stationaiy engines ? " 

* " Yes." 

' " He made a report, on which 
you made observations, putting it at 
1 to 200 ? " 

' « Yes." 

' " You would not wish to be 
bound by that ? " 

' '^ Certainly not ; I am making 
calculations on recent facts.'''' 

' " At that time you took from 
the Liverpool and Manchester ? " 

' " Mr. James Walker went to 
the north of England by way of 
examining circumstances connected 
with locomotive engines travelling 
and stationary engines working 
there. He took the friction at twelve 
and a half; and he cannot produce a 
single instance where it was twelve 
and a half. I took the friction of 
wagons in the district he had been 
examining." ' 

Unable to shake the witness, the 
counsel proceeded to suggest tliat so 
young a man necessarily lacked ex- 
perience, and Avas, indeed, merely 
his father's puppet. 

' " Have you ever," was the en- 
quiiy, "constructed a public work 
of that sort yourself ? " 

' " Yes ; the Warrington Railway 
and the Leicester Railway." 

' " What length is the Warring- 
ton ? " 

' " Only five miles." 

* " Is it consti'ucting or con- 
structed ? " 

' " It is completed some time." 

< " What is the length of the 
Leicester ? '' 

' " Sixteen miles." 

' " Is it now at work ? " 

' " More than twelve or thirteen 
miles of it ought to have been 
opened yesterday, but they defeiTed 
it till the 9th of this month." 

' " Between what points is it ? " 

' " Between the town of Leicester 
and the coal field of Swannington." 

' " Where is Swanninglou ? " 

* " Near Ashby do la Zouch.' 

' •' The only two you consti'ucted 
yom-self ?" 

' '' The only two under my own 
charge." ' 

{Vide Minutes of Evidence taken 
before the Lords' Committees to ^ohom 
ivas referred the Bill, intitided, 'An 
Act for making a Raihouy from 
London to Birmingham.^) 


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

VOL. I. N 


with the intelligence that they could go into the Com- 
mittee-room and testify that the angle of Telford's cutting, 
which had stood the test of time, was the same as the 
angle of the cuttings provided for in the estimates. 

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

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


But when a distinguished scientific wi^iter, who had been 
misled by detractors, availed himself of his position, on 
the staff of the ' Edinburgh Eeview,' to give the stamp of 
authority to erroneous statements, Mr. Charles Lawrence, 
the chairman of the ' Liverpool and Manchester Eailway,' 
officially pubhshed a complete refutation of the writer's 
groundless accusations.* 

NotAvithstanduig the rejection of their Bill, the projec- 
tors of the London and Birmingham Eailway Company 
were not disheartened. On Friday, July 13, 1832, the 
first Friday after the rejection of the petition, a pubhc 
meeting of persons favourably disposed to the Eailway 
was held at the Thatched House Tavern. Sixteen peers 
and thirty-three members of the House of Commons were 
present. The chaii^man of the Commons' Committee was 
one of the representatives of the Lower House, and Lord 
Wliarnchffe, the chairman of the Lords' Committee, pre- 
sided at the meeting. Two resolutions were put and 
carried unanimously. The first resolution, moved by the 
Earl of Denbigh, and seconded by Sir J. Skip^vith, M.P., 

That, in the opinion of this meeting a railway from London 
to Birmingham will be productive of very gi-eat national 

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

That the Bill for effecting this important object having 
passed the House of Commons after a long and rigorous exami- 
nation of its merits, it must be presumed that its failure in the 

* Liverpool and Manchester Rail- article in the ' Edinbm-gh Review ' 
way. Answer of the Directors to an for October 1832. Liverpool, 1832. 
N 2 


House of Lords has arisen from apprehensions on the part of 
landowners and proprietors respecting its probable effect on their 
estates, which this meeting firmly and conscientiously believes to 
be ill-founded. 

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

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


Writing to Eobert Stephenson on May 28, 1833, Mr. 
Creed, one of the secretaries of the Eailway, says — 
'Nothing is said as to the appointment of engineer or 
sohcitor, but I think you may be easy on that head. 
You have friends here and at Bkmingham who appreciate 
your merits and services.' It was not, however, till just 
four months after the date of this letter that Eobert 
Ste]3henson signed the contract that secm^ed to him the 
post for which he had fought so zealously. In his note- 
book, under date September 20, 1833, is the followmg 
entry : — ' Signed contract with the London and Birming- 
ham Eailway du^ectors, before Mr. Barker, at the Hum- 
mums, Co vent Garden. Dined with Stanhope directors.' 

On receiving the appointment of engineer-in-chief to the 
London and Birmingham Eailway, Eobert Stephenson 
broke up his modest estabhshment in Greenfield Place 
and took a comfortable house on Haverstock Hill, Hamp- 
stead Eoad, where he continued to reside for many years. 
From this time London became his home, and though 
he frequently visited Newcastle (the spuit of which enter- 
prising and noble town had contributed greatly to form 
his character) and continued till his death to superintend 
the affairs of the engine manufactory, he never again had 
a home on the banks of the Tyne. 

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


Sti]l iiito that brief space much work and happiness had 
been compressed. 

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

To these evening parties the pupils at the works were 
frequently invited. To hmit the number of these pupils 
it was soon found necessary to raise the premium. Even 
at the increased rate there were found too many candi- 
dates for admission to * the works ;' and Eobert Stephen- 
son, whose sense of duty would not allow him to pocket 
a premium and give just nothing in return for it, reso- 
lutely declined to receive more than such a number of 
pupils as he conscientiously believed would profit by the 
opportunities offered them of acquiring information. 

Inasmuch (Eobert wrote from Dieppe, July 11, 1833, to his part- 
ner Mr. Richardson) as my own feelings are concerned, I should 
have no objections to receiving another apprentice into our esta- 
blishment. The objections that exist are these. We have at present 
as many, indeed more, young men than we can sufficiently employ. 
If we increase the number (which we have very frequent op- 
portunities of doing) we should only be doing the young men 
injustice, because they would not have proper and sufficient ex- 
perience to learn the profession. They would be inadequately 
employed, and woidd consequently contract habits not calcu- 
lated to advance them in after life. We are at present under 
an engagement to take a friend of Mr. Lock's (the Marquis of 
Stafford's agent), and when he comes our office will be really 
too full, even when I look forward to the London and Birming- 
ham Railway going on. Taking 5^oung men, although it may be 
a profitable part of our business, is one that incurs great respon- 
sibility, which we feel is now as great as it ought to be. If 

1833.] OLD PUPILS. 183 

these objections had not existed, it would have afforded both 
my father and self very great pleasure to take any young man 
introduced by you. 

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




(JETAT 29-34.) 

Appointment as Engineer-in-Chief to the London and Birmingham 
Line — Contract Plans — Dra-wang-Office in the Cottage on the 
Edgeware Road, and subsequently at the Eyre Arms, St. John's 
Wood — Health and Habits of Life — Staff of Assistant and Sub- 
Assistant Engineers — The principal Contractors — Primrose Hill 
Tunnel — Blisworth Cutting — Wolverton Embankment and Viaduct 
— Kilsby Tunnel — Interview with Dr. Arnold at Rugby — Conduct 
and Character of Na^^aes — Anecdotes — Robert Stephenson proposes 
the Extension of the Line from Camden Town to Euston Square — 
Proposition fii-st rejected and then adopted by Directors — Act of 
Parliament obtained for Extension of the Line — The Incline from 
Camden Town to Euston Square originally worked by Stationary 
Engines and Ropes — Lieut. Lecount's Comparison of Labour 
expended on the London and Birmingham Railway, and Labour 
expended on the Great Pyi-amid — Conduct of a certain Section of 
the Directors to Robert Stephenson — Opening of the Line — Dinner 
at Dee's Royal Hotel, Manchester — Robert Stephenson's Anger with 
a Director — Dinner and Testimonial given to Robert Stephenson at 
Dunchurch — Brunei uses Robert Stephenson's System of Drawing 
on the Great Western — Robert Stephenson's Appointment as Con- 
sulting Engineer. 

TIIE labours of three surveys having been accomphshed, 
the inordinate demands of htndliolders of every 
rank and condition having been satisfied, and a defeat as 
iniquitous on the part of the conquerors as any to be found 
in the chronicles of parliamentary warfare having been 
sustained, the London and Birmingham Eailway Company 
had at length obtained their Bill. They had gained their 

1833.] ENGINEER-IN-CHIEF. 185 

poiiit on a new trial : but when Parliament reverses the 
unjust decision of a preceding session, the injured party- 
has still to pay the costs of previous injustice. The sum 
of £72,869 recorded in the Company's books as paid for 
obtaining their Act of Incorporation is an eloquent me- 
morial of a conflict that stirred Westminster thirty years 

The Bill however was won, the Koyal assent being 
granted on May 6, 1833. Mr. Isaac Solly, the first 
chairman, was succeeded in 1834 by Mr. George Carr 
Glyn, M.P., under whose able direction the line was 
completed, and was brought to its present high state of 
prosperity. The appointment of an engineer was the 
next affair for consideration. Three years' indefiitigable 
attention to the interests of the Company gave Piobert 
Stephenson a claim upon their gratitude. His display 
of capacity during successive examinations before par- 
hamentary committees had raised him high in the esteem 
of his profession and the public. A strong party, com- 
posed principally of his father's Liverpool antagonists, 
spared no pains, however, to snatch from him the ap- 
pointment of engineer-in-chief. ' He is a promising 
young man, but stdl he is only a young man^ these 
gentlemen repeated in every quarter, forgetting that pubhc 
railways were young things, and that the men best 
qualified to construct the new roads were aU young men — 
the pupils of George Stephenson, who was himself still in 
the middle period of life. 

Fortunately Eobert Stephenson's enemies were borne 
down by more prudent and more honest directors ; and 
on September 7, 1833, the board resolved — ' That Mr. 
Eobert Stephenson be appointed engineer-in-chief for the 


whole line at a salary of £1,500 per annum, and an addi- 
tion of £200 per annum to cover all contingent expenses, 
subject to the rules and regulations for the engineers' 
department, as approved by the respective committees.' * 
On Mr. Brunei's appointment as engineer to lay down 
the Great Western Eailway, with an annual stipend of 
£2,000, Eobert Stephenson's smaller salary was increased 
to the same amount, the directors of the London and 
Birmingham line rightly thinking that their character was 
concerned in treating their engineer not less Hberally than 
Brunei was treated by a similar association. 

In their next pubHshed report, dated September 19, 
1833, the directors thus speak of their engineer's appoint- 
ment — ' The directors, considering it indispensable that, 
in the execution of the works, one engineer should have 
entire direction, and that his time and services should be 
exclusively devoted to the Company, have under these con- 
ditions appointed Mr. Eobert Stephenson engineer-in-chief 
for the whole line ; and they are persuaded that to no one 
could this charge be more safely or more properly confided. 
He has received instructions to stake out the Hne without 
delay, and the directors have reasons to expect that the 
railway will be completed in about four years from the 
commencement of the work.' 

Havmg at length secm-ed the post, Eobert Stephenson 
quitted Newcastle and came to the scene of his next five 
years' labour. For a short time he resided in a furnished 
cottage in St. John's Wood; but as soon as it was fitted 

• The above resolution was, for at the time of his lamented death 

the purpose of this work, extracted was chairman of the Company, to 

from the Minutes of the London whicli at its first outset he acted as 

and Birmingham Ixailway, hy the secretary, 
late Admiral Moorsom, R.N., who 

1833.] STATE OF HEALTH. 187 

up and ready for his reception, lie moved into the house 
on Haverstock Hill, which continued to be his home as 
long as his wife lived. 

He had undertaken a stupendous task. Up to that 
time no railway of similar magnitude had been attempted. 
The hne from Liverpool to Manchester was by comparison 
a trifling work. Its length was httle more than a quarter 
of the length of the new road, and its most important 
works, including the Sankey viaduct (with nine arches 
each of fifty feet span thrown over the Sankey valley, and 
running seventy feet above the Sankey canal), its principal 
tunnel, 2,250 yards long, and its firm highway over the 
bogs of Parr Moss and Chat Moss, are in respect of mag- 
nitude not to be compared with the Kilsby tunnel, the 
Bhsworth cutting, and the Wolverton embankment and 

A man of iron nerve would have experienced some un- 
easiness at the commencement of such an undertakinor. 


But Eobert Stephenson, unlike his father, had throughout 
hfe to contend with a distrust of himself, which was 
partly due to innate modesty of disposition, and partly 
attributable to a dehcate nervous organisation. Though 
the chmate of South America had saved him fi:om pul- 
monary consumption, he had by no means acquired the 
soundness of constitution which young men ordinarily 
enjoy. He was never a really strong man; and the 
exertions of the four preceding years brought him to 
London in 1833 in a very unsatisfactory condition of 

Had cu'cumstances left him free to follow his owii incli- 
nations, Robert Stephenson, instead of taking a conspicuous 
position in London society, would have passed his whole 


life at Newcastle in comparative retirement. Naturally 
no man was more averse to the tm-moil of public life ; 
no man more prized the tranquilHty of home. He had 
also become intensely fond of the mechanical part of his 
profession. His labours in the Newcastle factory had been 
attended with so much genuine pleasure, that he did 
not without reluctance give them up for a more am- 
bitious career ; and in his later years he repeatedly de- 
clared to his intimate companions the regret he felt at not 
having remained at Newcastle as a builder of locomotives, 
thouQ-h he had risen to be the most successful civil en- 


gmeer of his time. 

The engineer wished to ascertain with accuracy the 
amount of the work before him. To effect this, before 
cutting a turf, he went over every inch of ground, and 
endeavoured to calculate the exact cost of every opera- 
tion necessary for the accomplishment of his task. Hither- 
to, in laying down railways, engineers had been accus- 
tomed to do their work piecemeal, makmg a commence- 
ment, working up to difficulties, and then seeing how those 
difficulties should be overcome. In lajdng down the Liver- 
pool and Manchester Eailway, George Stephenson had 
at the outset of the undertaking only a general notion of 
the labour before him. The details were not considered 
till their consideration could no longer be deferred. 
Eobert Stephenson saw that this plan of leaving each day 
to take care of its own evils was little calculated for 
so vast an undertaking as the London and Birmingham 
line. If the 112 miles of the proposed railway between 
Camden Town and Birmingham were to be completed 
within four or five years, the works must be advanced at 
various pomts simultaneously, and the engineer-in-chief 


must, at their commencement, have an accurate know- 
ledge of their minutest details. 

Eobert Stephenson also resolved on making plans of 
every part of the entire hne, with unprecedented minute- 
ness and completeness of detail. He not only had a full 
survey made, showing every natural feature of the route, 
but prepared complete drawings for every work that 
was to be executed, in all its details, accompanied witli 
fidl descriptions and specifications and accurate calcula- 
tions of all the labour and material it would require. As 
each portion of the line was thus mapped out it was let 
to a contractor, who engaged to complete the work for 
a certain sum, and at the same time specified the exact 
sum charged for each portion of the contract. In those 
days there were no gigantic contractors, a contract for 
£100,000 being regarded as very large. Men who in 
lie course of a few years made enormous fortunes were 
then modest speculators, and had not sufficient funds in 
hand to keep a regiment of ' navvies ' at work for more 
than a month. The first contractors on the London and 
Birmingham line were paid monthly, and in facilitating 
these monthly payments the accuracy of the contract plans 
was of the greatest service. As the end of each month 
came round, the assistant-engineer appointed over each 
division of the hne marked out the exact quantity of 
work each contractor had accomplished, and for that 
quantity payment was made. 

It is difficult to give the reader any adequate idea of 
the labour expended on these plans; for they had not 
only to be made with the greatest attention to accuracy, 
every separate calculation relating to them being three 
or four times verified, but when they were made they had 


to be multiplied. The original contract drawings, signed 
by tlie engineer-in-chief and the contractor, were pre- 
served as documents of legal testimony ; and of each of 
them three copies were made — one for the use of the 
committee, one for the engineer-in-chief, and one for the 
assistant-engineer superintending the district in which the 
work was situated. The entire hne, as far as contracts were 
concerned, was divided into thirty separate divisions, each 
requking distinct di^awings, estimates, and specifications. 
All these works, with two or three unimportant excep- 
tions, were let to various contractors between May 1834 
and October 1835. From these data it may be seen 
that the demands on Eobert Stephenson's drawing estab- 
lishment were very heavy. It was calculated that, for 
eighteen months, as many ' as thirty drawings per week, 
each requiring two days' work from one pair of hands, 
were turned out from the engineer-in- chief's office.' 

Eobert Stephenson was fortunate in having good subor- 
dinates. Eeserving a district, extending nine miles from 
Maiden Lane, Camden Town, for his own especial super- 
vision, he di\'ided the remaining 103 miles into four 
districts, each district having an assistant-engineer to 
superintend it, and each assistant-engineer being supported 
by a staff of three sub-assistants. For purposes of con- 
struction the hne was thus apportioned — 

District No. I. 

This district, reserved for the engineer-in-chief's especial 
personal supervision, extended from Camden Town for about 
nine miles, and on its completion comprised the Camden Town 
station, the Primrose Hill tunnel, the tunnel under Kensal 
Green, and the bridge over the Kiver Brent. The principal 
engineer of this district, under Mr. Stephenson, was John 


Birkinshaw, who was assisted by Mortimer Young, whose place 
was subsequently filled by Timothy Jenkins. 

District No. II. 
Assistant-engineer Gr. W. Buck ; sub-assistant engineers, Mr., 
now Sir J. Charles Fox, F. Young, and Capt. Cleather, E.S.C. 
This district, extending from Harrow to Tring (23 miles) con- 
cluded with the Watford tunnel. 

District No. III. 
Assistant-engineer, John Crossley; sub-assistant engineers, 
S. S. Bennett, E. Jackson, J. Gandell, and M. Farrell. This 
district, extending from Tring to Wolverton (22 miles), in- 
cluded the Tring cutting and the Wolverton viaduct. 

District No. IV. 
Assistant-engineer, Frank Forster, who (on his succeeding to 
the post of assistant-engineer of District No. V.) was succeeded by 
Gr. H. Phipps ; sub-assistant engineers, H. Lee, E. Dixon, C. 
Lean, and J. Brunton. This district, reaching over Wolverton 
and Kilsby (24 miles), included the Kilsby tunnel. 

District No. V. 
Assistant-engineer, Thomas Longridge Grooch, who (on his 
appointment to be the chief-engineer of the Manchester and 
Leeds Eailway) was succeeded by Frank Forster; sub-assistant 
engineers, John Eeid, B. L. Dickenson, M. Monteleagre, E. B. 
Dockray, and Lieut. P. Lecount, E.N. Extending from Kilsby 
to Birmingham : this district had for its principal works the 
Avon and Lawley Street viaducts. 

The foregoing table assigns more than tliree sub- 
assistant engineers to the three last districts. There were, 
hoAvever, only three sub-assistants acting on any one 
district at the same time. 

Eobert Stephenson's first drawing ojffice, whilst lie was 
preparing the contract plans, was a small cottage standing 
on land which the Company purchased, near the point 
where the raikoad passes imder the Edgeware Eoad. This 
modest tenement was soon found to be too small for the 



[Cn. X. 

engineer's purpose. Luckily the Eyre Arms Hotel, St. 
John's Wood, was just then vacant. The Company hired 
it for their engineer's use, and ' the great room,' familiar 
to many of the London public as a place of assemblage 
for lectures, soirees, and political business, was speedily 
furnished -with drawing- tables and peopled with between 
twenty and thiity draughtsmen. Amongst the gentlemen 
employed at the Eyre Arms was Mr. G. P. Bidder, who 
recently fiUed the office of President, of the Institution 
of Civil Engineers. 

Eventually the line was let out in the manner indicated 
by the following table : — 

Name of Contract 

Original Contractors 

Second Contractor 

Euston Extension 

Primrose Hill 



King's Lang-ley 



Tring . 

Leighton Buzzard . 

Stoke Hammond . 


Wolverton . 

Wolverton Viaduct 

Castlethorpe . 



StoweHill . 


Brock Hall . 
Long Biickby 
Kilsby . 
Rugby . 
Long Lawford 
Avon Viaduct 
Saltley . 
Rea Viaduct 

W. and L. Cubitt . 
Jackson and Sheddon 
Xowell and Sons 
Copeland and Harding 
W. and L. Cubitt . 
W. and L. Cubitt . 
W. and L. Cubitt . 
T. Townsend 
James Nowell . 
E. W. Non-is . 
John Bm-ge 
William Soars . 
James Nowell . 
William Soars . 
William Hughes 
John Chapman . 
John Chapman . 
Edward Boddington . 

J. and G. Thornton . 
J. and G. Thornton . 
Jos. Nowell and Sons 
Samuel Hemming 
W. and J. Simmons . 
Samuel Hemming 
Samuel Hemming 
Daniel I'ritchard 
Joseph Thornton 
James Digglo . 
James Nowell . 





















The Company, Nov. 1834 

The Company, Oct. 1837 

The Company, June 1837 

Craven & Sons, July 1835 
The Company, Dec. 183G 

W. and J. Simmons, May 

The Company, Feb. 1830 
The Company, Oct. 1837 

The Company, Jan. 1838 

The Company, May 1837 


In tliis table may be seen tlie fortune attending the 
engagements of several contractors. The chief contracts 
— those, namely, for the tunnel at Primrose Hill, the 
Kilsby tunnel, and the Blisworth cutting — returned to 
the hands of the Company unfinished, and were perfected 
by the Company without the intervention of contrac- 
tors : and in addition to these larger works, numerous 
smaller operations were beyond the powers of the com- 
mercial agents. It is not difficult to account for this 
collapse of contractors. Eailway enterprise was still only 
in its infancy, and, though allowance had been made in 
estimates and contractors' agreements for a large rise in 
the price of labour, iron, and other materials, that allow- 
ance fell far short of the enormous and rapid advances 
made in the value of those commodities. Again, railway 
work was new, and the engineers were scarcely more 
prepared than the contractors for some of the difficulties 
with which they had to contend. 

The Primrose HiU tunnel was one case of unexpected 
difficulty. The tunnel, passing under the high ridge 
between Hampstead and Primrose HiU, near Chalk Farm, 
is driven through a formation of blue clay, the extreme 
mobihty of which, on exposure to moisture, offisrs peculiar 
difficulties to engineers. Years before the construction of 
the London and Birmingham hue an attempt to drive a 
tunnel through this formation had terminated in failure, 
in consequence of the clay bearing down the brickwork. 
Warned by tliis case, Eobert Stephenson proceeded at 
Primrose Hill with the greatest caution. As soon as a 
length of about nine feet of the excavation was finished, 
that portion of the tunnel was supported Avith strong 
timbers, and carefidly hned with brickwork in mortar 

VOL. I. 


before any more earth was removed. Even tliis care, 
however, was insufficient. Tlie pressure of the clay first 
forced out the mortar from the joints, and then crushed 
the bricks of the arch. To meet tliis difficulty, Eobert 
Stephenson used only the liardest possible bricks, 
and laid them with Eoman cement instead of mortar. 
This cement dries and becomes hard much sooner than 
mortar. The consequence of this change of material was 
the construction of a lirm and durable hning of brick- 
work before the weight of the clay above was able to 
break in the walls of the passage. The experiment 
having proved successful, Eobert Stephenson made him- 
self doubly secm-e by making the brickwork much 
thicker than the estimates proposed it should be. In 
some portions of the Primrose Hill tunnel the thick- 
ness of the brickwork is only eighteen inches, but the 
larger portion is laid with a thickness of twenty-seven 
inches. And throughout the work costly Eoman cement 
is used. No reader of these particulars will be surprised 
to learn that the difference between the estimated cost 
and the eventual cost of the tunnel was £160,000. The 
Primrose Hill contract was let for £120,000 ; it was 
not accomphshed without an outlay of £280,000. No 
wonder, therefore, that the Company had to take back 
the work from the contractors unfinished. 

Again, the operations of the BHsworth cutting ex- 
ceeded the hmits of the estimates so far that there was 
no prospect of their completion until the Company 
parted with theh^ contractor. This excavation, which 
according to the estimate was to have contained 800,000 
cubic yards, was not finished tiU nearly 1,000,000 cubic 
yards of earth and rock liad been removed. At this 


point of line 700 or 800 men, under the immediate com- 
mand of the assistant-engineer, Mr. Piiipps, were for 
many months continually employed. For blasting the 
limestone, there was for some time a weekly consumption 
of 2,500 lbs. of gunpowder. 

The Wolverton embankment, another of the contracts 
which came back to the Company for completion, gave 
the engineer much anxiety. In an embankment a mile 
and a half long, exclusive of the Wolverton viaduct, 
some difficulty was anticipated ; but human foresight 
could not have provided for all the disasters attending 
its construction. The embankment on the north side 
of the viaduct gave comparatively little trouble. Com- 
posed of blue clay, lias, limestone, gravel, and sand, 
it stood well, except at one place where it shpped, not 
from its own weakness, but because the ground gave 
way beneath its enormous weight. On the south side 
of the viaduct, however, a grievous mishap occurred, 
in the form of ' a sHp,' that was not overcome for 
months. No sooner was the way seen how to fill up 
the slip, than Eobert Stephenson was informed that the 
troublesome embankment had caught fire. In its com- 
position was a portion of alum 'shale, containing sulphuret 
of iron. This material decomposing afibrded a striking 
instance of spontaneous combustion. Great was the con- 
sternation of the peasants at beholding a railway on fire. 
Eoguery was, they were convinced, at the bottom of the 

This same embankment was also the cause of difficulty 
and htigation, which must be detailed at some length. 

It would be a mistake to suppose that, with the pass- 
ing of their Act, there was an end of vexatious opposition 

o 2 


to tlie London and Birniingham Eailway Company. 
Beaten in Parliament, in a great measm^e throngh 
their bribery being exceeded by the bribery of their 
opponents, the persons interested in the Grand Junction 
Canal would not consent to relinquish the fight without 
another struggle. 

The 85th, 86th, and 87th sections of the Act had re- 
ference to the rights and privileges of the Grand Junction 
Canal, over which the London and Birmingham Company 
proposed to carry their railroad in the parish of Wol- 
verton. The 85th section provided that — 

Nothing in the Act contained should diminish, alter, prejudice, 
affect, or take away any of the rights, privileges, powers, or au- 
thorities, vested in the Company of proprietors of the Grand 
Junction Canal, or authorise or empower the plaintiffs to alter 
the line or level of the canal or towing-path thereto, or any part 
thereof, or to obstruct the navigation of the canal or towing- 
path thereto, or any part thereof, or to obstruct the navigation 
of the canal, or any part thereof, or to divert the waters therein, 
or which supply the canal, or to injure any of the works thereof, 
and that it should not be lawful for the plaintiffs to make any 
deviation from the course or direction of the railway, as deli- 
neated in the maps or plans.* 

With regard to the bridges which the Eaihvay Com- 
pany was empowered to make over the canal, the 86th 
section enacted that they should be — 

Grood and substantial bridges over the canal and the towing- 
path thereto, with proper approaches to each such bridge, and 
the soffit of each such bridge should be at least ten feet above 
the top-water level of the canal at the centre of the water-way, 
and no part of the arch over the towing-path should be less 
than eight feet above the top -water level of the canal, and each 
such bridf'e should be of such width and curve as should leave 

* Railway aud Canal Cases. NichoU, Ilare, and Carrow's Reports, 
vol. i. p. 224. 

1835.] LITIGATION. 197 

a clear, uniform, and uninterrupted opening of not less than 
twenty-two feet for the water-way, and eight feet for the towing- 
path under each bridge. 

The Eailway Company was also 

Required during the progress of constructing each such 
bridge over the canal, and of the necessary repairs or removal 
thereof, from time to time, and at all times, to leave an open 
and uninterrupted navigable water-way in the canal of not less 
than sixteen feet in width, during the time of constructing and 
putting in the foundation walls of the abutment of each of the 
bridges, and of the new towing-path along the same, up to one 
foot above the top-water level of the canal, and which time 
should not exceed fifteen days ; nor should less than twenty-two 
feet for the water-way, and eight feet for the towing-path, be 
left during the remainder of the period of constructing or re- 
pairing or removing each such bridge, and that the then present 
towing-path should remain undisturbed until the new towing- 
path wall should be erected, and the grounds made good and 
properly gravelled and open for the free passage of horses 
under each bridge. 

The 87th section fixed certam penalties to be paid by 
the Eailway Company, and specified the manner in which 
the Canal Company might recover such penalties, in case 
any of the provisions of sections 85 and 86 should be 
neglected. Such were the precautions taken by the 
Act to preserve uninjured the property of the Canal 

The country at Wolverton, tlirough which the London 
and Birmingham hne now runs, hes high upon the south 
bank. Southward of the canal the railway passes through 
extensive cuttings until it arrives within 150 yards of 
the water. At that point it enters upon an embank- 
ment which leads to the viaduct over the canal, and 
extends 2,450 yards beyond it upon the northern side. 
The entire embankment, comprising the small distance 


on the south side mid the hirge extent on the north, 
contams 927,000 cubic yards of earth. In order to con- 
struct the 2,450 yards of the northward embankment, 
Eobert Stephenson decided to convey 000,000 cubic 
yards of earth across the canal from the many deep 
cuttings in the southward country. To convey this enor- 
mous quantity of earth across the water, it was necessary 
to make a temporary passage of communication, the 
construction of which involved the necessity of sinking 
piles into the bed of the canal. In the December of 1834 
the embankment on the south bank had been carried 
within twenty yards of the water, and it was time to 
commence the embankment on the opposite side. 
Eobert, therefore, took his prehminary steps for construct- 
ing the temporary bridge. At this juncture the Canal 
Company intimated that the Act did not empower the 
railway engineer to interfere with the water way. 
Thinking the best way to avoid a dispute was by prompt 
action, to change the discussion on what he might do into 
a discussion on what he had done, Eobert Stephenson 
concentrated a strong body of engineers and navvies at 
Wolverton, and without* advertising his proceedings in the 
papers or sending a notice of them to the office of the 
Canal Company, proceeded to drive piles on the night of 
December 23. Eelays of men carried on the work 
without intermission by day-Hght and torch-hght. The 
piles were driven into the bed of the river ; other piles or 
supports were driven into the land on the north side, for 
the purpose of sustaining the bridge ; beams were laid 
from the piles in the water to those on the north shore ; 
and by noon on December 25 (the toil having been 
carried on through Christmas Eve into Christmas. Day) the 


temporary bridge was completed. The indignation of tlie 
Canal Company at such a desecration of Christmas Day 
may be imagmed. Forthwith the directors of the power- 
ful interest held counsel, and the result of their delibera- 
tions was that on December 30 Mr. Lake, their engineer, 
and a strong party of workmen, proceeded to the bridge 
(which had been carried over the canal in little more 
than a day and a half) and removed the piles which 
supported it. 

The next step was a petition on the part of the Eail- 
way Company to the Court of Chancery to restrain 
the Canal Company from interfering with the operations 
of the said Eailway Company, and particularly from 
' putting down, taldng up, or destroying all or any or 
either of the works to be made by the plaintiffs, their 
servants or workmen, for the iDur'pose of maJcing^ construct- 
ing^ or otherwise hindering or preventing or delaying the 
plaintiffs in making and constructing a passage of com- 
munication over and across the canal at Wolverton 
aforesaid, in order to construct and complete the before- 
mentioned embankment, and for transporting, by means 
of such communication, the earth and materials whereof 
the same embankment is to consist, over and across the 
canal,' the plaintiffs of course undertaldng to observe all 
the stipulations, conditions, and provisions, of the 85th 
and 86th sections of their Act, so as not to injure the 
property of the Canal Company. 

The case was argued, January 19, 1835, before the 
Master of the Eolls, Sir C. C. Pepys, Mr. Pemberton and 
IVIr. Bacon being in support of the motion, and Sir C. 
Wetherell and Mr. Turner appearing on the other side. 

For the Canal Company it was not contended that the 


piles and works of the temporary passage injured in any- 
way the bed of the canal, obstructed navigation, or im- 
peded the tow-paths. The defendants only maintained 
that the Act gave the Eailway Company no right to make 
such bridge, and therefore they would not let the founda- 
tions of such temporary bridge be put in the bed of their 
water-passage. It was true the 8th section of the Act 
authorised the Eailway Company to ' make or construct, 
upon, across, mider, or over the railway or other works, 
or any lands, streets, hills, valleys, roads, railroads, or 
tram-roads, rivers, canals^ brooks, streams, or other 
waters, such inchned planes, tunnels, embankments, aque- 
ducts, bridges, roads, ways, passages, conduits, drains, 
piers, arches, cuttings, and fences,' as they should think 
proper for the purpose of carrying out their undertaking. 
But it was maintained that the 85th and 86th sections 
restricted the privileges granted by the 8th clause. 

Of course the counsel in support of the prayer con- 
tended that, whereas the 8th clause authorised the plaintiffs 
to construct any temporary bridge necessary for making 
their line, the 85th and 86th clauses referred only to per- 
manent and not temporary bridges, and therefore could 
in no way be construed as qualifying the prior permission. 
Much to the dehght of Eobert Stephenson, who sate in 
court throughout the hearing of the cause, the Master of 
the Eolls in a lucid and admirable judgement granted the 

But the most obstinate and costly of all the contests 
involved in carrpng out the works came off at the Kilsby 
Tunnel, about six miles from the Eugby station. Eobert 
Stephenson's original plan was to lead his road from Bir- 
mingham to London by way of Northampton, but the inha- 

1835.] THE IvILSBY TUNNEL. 201 

bitants of Northampton raised so effectual an opposition to 
the scheme, that the engineer was necessitated to choose a 
route along which adverse influence was less powerful. 

The consequence of the opposition was hurtful ahke to 
the town and the Company. The inhabitants of the town, 
after repenting their folly, had to petition humbly for a 
branch hne, and the Company were driven to bore a way 
for their rails through the Kilsby ridge at the stupendous 
outlay of more than £320,000. The length of this costly 
passage, situated about six miles on the London side of 
the Eugby station, is just 2,400 yards. A few facts, 
briefly stated, will enable the reader to form some con- 
ception of the labour expended upon it. Thirty-six 
millions of bricks were used in its construction. The 
two shafts by which it is ventilated and supplied with 
light are sixty feet in diameter, and the deeper of 
them contains above a milHon of bricks. These two 
enormous shafts the walls of which are perpendicular, 
were built from the top downwards, small portions of the 
wall (from six to twelve feet long and ten feet deep) being- 
excavated at a time, and then bricked up with three feet 
depth of bricks, laid with Eoman cement. At one time 
1,250 labourers were employed in building the tunnel. 
To lodge and cater for this army of navvies, a town 
of petty dealers soon sprung up ; sheds of rude and 
unstable construction rose on the hill above the tunnel, 
and in them a navvy could obtain at a high rent 
the sixteenth part of a bed-room. Frequently one room 
containing four beds was occupied by eight day and eight 
night workmen, who slept two in a bed, and shifted 
their tenancies like the heroes of a well-known farce. 

The disasters of the Kilsby excavation were dimly 


foreseen and predicted by Dr. Arnold. On his first visit 
to Ptiigby after the Bill for the London and Birmingham 
Eailway had received the Eoyal assent, Eobert Stephenson 
called on the great schoolmaster to offer him his respects. 
The young man brought no letter of introduction, and 
either was, or imagined himself to be, received with cold- 
ness and hauteur. Dr. Arnold was certainly polite, but 
perhaps formal, his manners being of a school with 
which, at that period of his life, Eobert Stephenson was 
not famihar. Anyhow the interview left on the mind 
of the engineer an unpleasant impression, which was 
doubtless in some part due to Arnold's last Avords : ' Well, 
sir,' he said, pointing in the direction of the Kilsby ridge, 
' I understand you carry your hue through those hills. 
I . confess I shall be much surprised if they do not give 
you some trouble.' 

In due course the trouble came. Trial shafts sunk at 
various points ascertained that the line of the proposed 
tunnel ran for the most part through lias, shale, and beds 
of rock with sand. They proved also that in places there 
would be a considerable quantity of water. The difficulties 
apprehended were not trivial ; but Messrs. J. Nowell and 
Sons felt that they could cope with them at an outlay 
short of £99,000, and for that sum they undertook the 
work. It was not long before they had reason to repent 
the bargain. To afford exit for the soil removed, Eobert 
Stephenson ordered the sinking of eighteen working 
shafts. The second of these shafts came upon a bed of 
gravel and sand, containing a great deal of water, 
overlaid by forty feet of clay. Eepeated borings disco- 
vered this quicksand to be a basin, lying along one side 
of tlie hill, and extending 400 yards over the line of 


the tunnel. As the evil fortune of Messrs. Nowell and 
Sons and their employers would have it, this treacherous 
basin had been missed by the trial shafts only by a 
few feet. Euin stared the contractors in the face, and 
Mr. Nowell, whose health had for some time been decHn- 
ing, died shortly after the discovery of the quicksand, his 
death being doubtless accelerated by the fulfillment of Dr. 
Arnold's prediction. 

The calamity which had prostrated, if not killed, their 
principal contractor was not without its influence on the 
directors. Amongst them were those who seized it as an 
occasion for insinuating that their ' young engineer ' was 
at fault, and that, had he had more experience, the trial 
shafts would have discovered the dangerous spot. The 
consternation of both committees (the London committee 
and that which sate at Birmingham) was at its height when 
Captain Moorsom, in his ofiicial capacity of secretary and 
business adviser, was deputed to visit Kilsby, hold an in- 
terview with Eobert Stephenson, and urge upon him the 
propriety of calling in further engineering advice. Without 
delay Captain Moorsom acted upon liis instructions, and 
arriving at Kilsby, hastened to the ofiice, where he found 
Eobert Stephenson holding a consultation with Ms as- 
sistant and sub-assistant engineers. 

Wlien Captain Moorsom made his presence known, and 
stated Avith delicacy the airxiety of the directors, and 
the satisfaction they would feel in calhng in other 
engineering ad\dce, Eobert Stephenson answered cordially 
and Avithout irritation, ' No ; the time has not come for 
that yet. I have decided Avhat to do. I mean to pump 
the Avater all out, and then drive the tunnel under the 
dry sand. Tell the directors not to be frightened, and 


say that all I ask ls time and fair play. If I can't get 
rid of the water, I '11 then think about going to other 
engineers for help.' 

Captain Moorsom then knew but little of Eobert Ste- 
phenson. He had seen him occasionally in parliamentary 
committee-rooms, and had heard him spoken of by friends 
as a young man fortunate in the possession of extraordi- 
nary intellects — spoken of by enemies as a young man 
fortunate in the possession of an extraordinary father. 
From that time, however, Captain Moorsom became 
Eobert Stephenson's enthusiastic supporter ; and, returning 
to the directors, he told them to rest assured that their 
engineer deserved their entire confidence. 

With the aid of 13 steam-engines, 200 horses, and 
1,250 'navvies,' the engineer again set to work. A short 
distance from the line of the tunnel, shafts, cased with 
wooden tubbing, were forced through the sand, and 
from them headings were driven into the sand, through 
which the water flowed freely to the pumps. For nine 
months was the pumping continued, and for the principal 
part of that time each minute saw 1,800 gallons of water 
sucked from the basin. At length the difficulty was 
overcome. The tunnel was then shot under the sand, 
and the gentlemen who had anticipated the failure of 
their 'young engineer,' and who during the protracted 
trial had never ceased to worry him with impertinent 
criticisms, received a welcome and salutary lesson. 

In November 183G, anotlier trouble occurred in the 
irruption of an enormous body of water into a part of 
the tunnel where there were no pumps. The water rose 
rapidly, and (to save a portion of the tunnel) it was 
necessary forthwith to complete the lining of brickwork. 


To effect this workmen were floated up the tunnel on a 
large raft ; and, as fast as hands could move trowels 
and adjust bricks, the task was accomplished. Before 
it was completed, however, the water rose so high and 
with such increased rapidity, that the men on the raft 
were in danger of being jammed up against the roof of 
the tunnel. To save the party, Mr. Charles Lean, sub- 
assistant engineer, jumped into the water, and, swimming 
with a tow-hne between his teeth, tugged his men to the 
foot of the nearest working shaft, through which they were 
drawn from their perilous position ' to bank.' 

When the reader bears in mind that the last few pages 
relate only to three or four out of thirty or forty 
contracts, and also remembers that great exertions were 
made to carry out all the contracts simultaneously, he 
will not be surprised at learning that ' the navvies ' in 
Eobert Stephenson's army were numbered by thousands. 

The original Act for the London and Birmingham Eail- 
way empowered the Company to make a line 'com- 
mencmg on the west side of the high road leading from 
London to Hampstead, at or near to the first bridge 
westward of the lock on the Eegent's Canal at Camden 
Town, in the parish of St, Pancras, in the county of 
Middlesex, and terminating at or near to certain gardens, 
called Nova Scotia Gardens, in the parish of Aston juxta 
Birmingham and Saint Martin Birmingham, in the county 
of Warwick,' At the time of the parHamentary contests 
the projectors thought it would be more prudent not to 
alarm the pubhc mind with a proposal to carry their 
road nearer London, As it was, the timid were predict- 
ing all sorts of evil consequences from an iron-way, by 
wliich all the evil-doers of London could in a moment 


fly beyond tlie police. A consideration, however, that 
had yet more weight with tlie Company was Lord South- 
ampton's opposition to their midertaking. 

When their petition was rejected by the peers. Lord 
Southampton had been a principal cause of their defeat. 
His lordship owned much of the land between Camden 
Town and the streets of the capital, and it was under a 
strong conviction that his property would be prejudiced 
by the railway that he opposed the project. To conciliate 
this powerful enemy, the projectors determined to inter- 
fere as little as possible with his estate. Scarcely, how- 
ever, had the hne been begun, when Lord Southampton 
began to entertain different views with regard to railways. 
The success of George Stephenson's lines, the Stockton 
and Darhngton and the Liverpool and Manchester, was 
admitted to be beyond a doubt. The value of land ad- 
jacent to them had everywhere increased, in some places 
had increased enormously. London residents began to 
see that it would be to their interest to get the London 
and Birmingham terminus as near them as possible ; and 
Lord Southampton perceived that the extension of the 
line through his estate would greatly increase its value. 

Robert Stephenson was the first to detect the change 
in public feehng, and to suggest to the directors the 
advisability of getting another Act of Parhament, em- 
powering them to carry their hne to Lancaster Place, 
Strand, abutting on the Thames. Nervous and retiring, 
he could not get up courage to proffer this advice until 
he had talked the matter over many times with Mr. 
Charles Parker, the solicitor of the Company, and his 
own intimate and valued friend. Mr. Parker ralhed him 
for being ' afraid of the board,' and urged that it was his 


duty to tell the Company wliat lie honestly believed 
would promote their interests. In consequence of Mr. 
Parker's repeated exhortations Eobert Stephenson laid his 
views before the directory, and for so doing was re- 
warded with an emphatic and almost unanimous snubbing 
by the gentlemen assembled, who feared to take so bold 
a step. He was told that he was an engineer; and it 
would be more becoming in him, as an engineer, to 
confine his attention to the matters of his profession, 
and not to concern himself with the affairs of others. 
Indignant, and for the moment humihated, Eobert 
Stephenson hastened to Mr. Parker, and communicated 
the result of his Quixotic attempt to benefit the Company. 
Again his friend ralhed him, and, laughing at his mor- 
tification, told him that before the next meeting of the 
committee his suggestions would have favour with those 
same dii'cctors who had displayed such want of courtesy. 
The sohcitor was no bad judge of the question and the 
men. Before many weeks had passed Eobert Stephen- 
son's scheme was supported both by the London and the 
Birmingham committee, and more especially urged 
forward by ]\Ir. Wilson, the agent for Lord Southampton. 
In due com^se a new Act empowered the Company to 
extend their line, 'commencing in a field on the west 
side of the high-road leading from London to Hampstead, 
being the site of the depot or station intended to be 
made for the use of the said railway, in the parish 
of St. Pancras, in the county of Middlesex, and thence 
passing across the Eegent's Canal, between the first and 
second bridge westward of the lock at Camden Town, 
into and through the said parish of St. Pancras, and ter- 
minating in a vacant piece of ground in a place called 


Ens ton Square, on tlie nortli side of Drunimond Street, 
near Euston Square, in the same parish.' Thus part of 
the engineer's scheme was adopted. If the whole 
design had been approved, Eobert Stephenson would 
have had the further credit of originating the system 
Avhich has extended the lines across and through the 

Euston Square lies much lower than Camden Town ; 
and the portion of the railway that lies between those 
points was worked for some years by ropes and stationary 
engines, on account of the steepness of the inchne, and 
for no other reason. The trains from Euston Square were 
drawn up the inclme at the rate of twenty miles an hour 
by an apparatus consisting of 10,000 feet of rope (six 
inches in circumference) and two stationary engines. 
These engines and their ropes cost £25,000. The up- 
trains were disjoined from the locomotives at Camden 
To^vn, and Avere carried down the inchnation by gravity 
alone into the Euston station, and were prevented from 
attaining too great speed by the use of powerful brakes. 
The hue between Euston Square and Camden Town was 
thus worked till the July of 1844, in which month loco- 
motives were employed to draw the laden carriages up 
the inchne.* It may interest some readers to know that 

* The late Admiral Moorsom,R.N., ^It will be necessary to notify to 

amongst other papers supplied by the locomotive department at Cam- 

him for the biography of his friend, den the weight of the engines, thus — 
furnished the following extract from 'When likely to be IG carriages, 

the Minutes of the London and one signal about 8 minutes before 

Birmingham Line : — the time of departure. 

' If likely to be 21, one signal 8 or 

'Friday: July 12, 1844. ^q minutes, and a second 4 or 5 

' On and after Monday next the minutes before the time, 
use of the rope will be wholly dis- 
continued, and all the trains taken ' (Signed) II. P. Bruycres.' 
from Euston- by the locomotive en- 

1838.] LIEUT. LECOUNT, R.N. 


the stationary engines, discarded from Camden Town, are 
at the present time doing duty in a silver mme in 

Thus Eobert Stephenson and the army under his com- 
mand began and completed in less than four years and 
three months the first metropolitan railway that was 
worked by locomotives. The first sod was cut at Challv 
Farm on June 1, 1834, and the Hue was opened on Sep- 
tember 15, 1838. On an average 12,000 men were 
throughout that space of time employed upon the works, 
i.e. rather more than 107 men to each mile. Estimating 
the labour expended upon the vast operations of these 
12,000 men, Lieut. Lecount, E.N., one of the assistant 
engineers of the line, says — 

The great Pyramid of Egypt, that stupendous monument 
which seems likely to exist to the end of all time, will afford a 
comparison. After making the necessary allowances for the 
foundations, galleries, &c., and reducing the whole to one 
uniform denomination, it will be found that the labour ex- 
pended on the great pyramid was equivalent to lifting fifteen 
thousand seven hundred and sixty-three million cubic feet of 
. stone one foot high. This labour was performed, according to 
Diodorus Siculus, by three hundred thousand, and according to 
Herodotus, by one hundred thousand, men, and it required for its 
execution twenty years. If we reduce in the same manner the 
labour expended in constructing the London and Birmingham 
Railway to one common denomination, the result is twenty-five 
thousand million cubic feet of material (reduced to the same 
weight as that used in constructing the pyramid) lifted one foot 
high, or nine thousand two hundred and sixty-seven million 
cubic feet more than were lifted one foot high in the construction 
of the pyramid. Yet this immense undertaking has been per- 
formed by about twenty thousand men in less than five years. 

The reader Avill observe that Lieut. Lecount in makino- 
his calculation takes, not the average number of workmen 

VOL. I. P 


employed on tlie line, but the highest number acting 
together at a time of special exertion. 

It should be borne in mind that throu2^hout this 
period, although the majority of the Directors did him 
full justice for integrity and talent, yet Eobert Stephenson 
was harassed with the vexatious opposition of a section 
of those directors whom he was so zealously serving. It 
would do no good at this date to rake up the animosities 
of a generation fast disappearing from the world ; but it 
is right, for the consolation and encouragement of honest 
men suffering under similar persecution, to publish the 
fact that, in addition to the anxiety and toil imposed upon 
him by his responsible position, he had to endure un- 
generous treatment from his employers. 

At length, after innumerable delays and an enormous 
excess of expenditure beyond the estimates, the line was 
opened with suitable, but modest, ceremony. The Com- 
mittee of London Directors, accompanied by the principal 
officers of the hue and a few friends, made a trip in one 
train to Birmingham and dined with the Birmingham 
committee at Dee's Eoyal Hotel, Eobert Stephenson 
taking charge of the engine during the excursion. 

To him the day was far from being a day of pleasure. 
In bidding adieu to a work magnificently completed, 
which had taken up several of the best years of his life, 
he felt that sadness which Gibbon experienced whilst 
penning the last hues of his history. To this depression 
was added the irritation of an insidt offered to his fiither 
by one of his own principal enemies. That very morn- 
ing, before mounting the engine to drive to Birmingham, 
Eobert Stephenson had read in a newspaper an article 
full of base insinuations against, and reflections upon, his 


In the evening a party of about one hundred people 
assembled at Dee's Eoyal Hotel. The banquet passed off 
heavily, and on the foUomng moroing Eobert Stephenson 
met, after breakfast, the person who was supposed to be 
the author of the article which had caused him so much 
pain, and immediately asked him whether he had written 
it. The charge was admitted ; and Eobert Stephenson, 
having expressed in the strongest terms his opinion on the 
subject, left the room. The writer of the article, who was 
also a director of the Company, appealed for protection to 
Ml". Glynn, the chairman, wdio was not present at the scene. 
The latter replied briefly that if directors chose to attack 
the engineer of the Company or his father in the pubhc 
journals, they must do so in their private capacity and at 
their own risk. Some years afterwards the director met 
Eobert Stephenson on the station platform at Eugby, and, 
expressing his regret for the old quarrel, extended his 
hand to the engineer, who instantly accepted it, and the 
feud was forgotten. 

A more agreeable celebration of the successful conclu- 
sion of the London and Birminoham line was a dinner 


given to Eobert Stephenson towards the close of the pre- 
vious year (December 23, 1837), at Dunchurch in War- 
wickshire, when the acting and assistant engineers pre- 
sented the engineer-in-chief with a silver soup-tureen and 
stand, worth 130 guineas, as an expression of their affec- 
tionate admkation. Mr. Frank Forster was in the chair, 
and Lieut. Lecount, E.K, the historian of ' the works,' in 
the vice-chair. George Stephenson was present as a 
guest. The host of the ' Dun Cow,' Dunchurch, had 
never before entertained so distinguished a party. 

An anecdote connected with the ' Dun Cow ' dinner 



must not be omitted. The subscription for the soup- 
tureen and stand was confined to the engineering officers 
of the Company — a restriction which excluded several 
persons who were anxious to subscribe. Mr. Charles 
Capper, who, having merely supplied a quantity of ma- 
chinery to the line, could only be regarded as a sub- 
contractor, in vain endeavoured to force his contribution 
on the committee, who dechned to accept it because, if 
they set aside ' the hne ' agreed upon, they should not 
know where to draw anotlier. At the dinner, however, 
the enthusiastic sub-contractor was present in all his glory 
and admiration for Eobert Stephenson. 'Anyhow,' he 
exclaimed to some of the committee, as he entered the 
room, ' you will allow me to dine with Mr. Stephenson.' 
As the dinner was pubhc, there was of coiu-se no oppo- 
sition. In the dining-room the testimonial was placed on 
a buffet for inspection ; and as the guests assembled, they 
surrounded the soup-tureen and criticised it. At length 
the sub-contractor, with a glow of triumph in his face, 
exclaimed, 'It is a handsome tureen, but it wants a 
ladle.' And as the critic spoke, he supphed the deficiency 
by taking from his pocket a large and very handsome 
ladle, and putting it into the silver vessel.* The ladle 
formed part of the testimonial, and Eobert Stephenson in 
after hfe was very proud to tell his friends how he became 
possessed of his large soup-ladle. 

Thus was completed the construction of the London 

* Tlie following inscription was of the Engineering Department who 
put on the tureen : — were employed under him in the 

* To Robert Stephenson, Esquire, execution of that work. Pre- 
Engineer-in-Chief of the London and sen ted on the eve of their gradual 
Birmingham Railway, a tribute of separation.' 

respect and esteem from the members 


and Birmingliam Eailway, with which hne Eobert 
Stephenson maintained his connection up to the time of 
his death, acting as its consiiUing engineer with a salary 
of £100 per annum, and his expenses when called to 
attend on the line. It was the first of our great metro- 
pohtan railroads, and its works are memorable examples 
of engineering capacity. They became a guide to suc- 
ceeding engineers ; as also did the plans and drawings 
with which the details of the undertaking were ' plotted ' 
in the Eyre Arms Hotel. When Brunei entered upon 
the construction of the Great Western hne he borrowed 
Eobert Stephenson's plans, and used them as the best 
possible system of draughting. From that time they 
became recognised models for railway practice. To have 
originated such plans and forms, thereby settling an 
important division of engineering hterature, would have 
made a position for an ordinary man. In the list of 
Eobert Stephenson's achievements such a service appears 
so insignificant as scarcely to be worthy of note. 




(iETAT. 29-35.) 

Stanliope and Tyne Railway Company — Robert Steplienson ap- 
pointed theii" Engbieer — Opening of the Line and its rapidly in- 
creasing Embarrassments — Robert Stephenson visits Belginm vdth 
his Father — Offices in Diiie Street, and George Street, Westminster 
— The Session of 183G — Various proposed Lines between London 
and Biighton : Sir John Rennie's, Robert Stephenson's, Gibbs's, 
Cundy's — London and Blackwall Railway, and the Commercial Road 
Railway — Robert Stephenson strongly opposes the Use of Locomo- 
tives in Towns — Life at Haverstock Hill — Reading, Friends, Horses, 
Smiday Dinners — Newcastle Correspondence — Mrs. Stephenson's 
Accident to liaee-Cap — Professor T\Tieatstone's and Robert Stephen- 
son's Adoption of the Electric Telegi-aph — Robert Stephenson as- 
sumes Arms — That ' Silly Picture.' 

ALTHOUGH the terms of Eobert Stephenson's agree- 
ment with the directors of the London and Bir- 
mingham Eailway Company precluded him from 
imdertaking the personal superintendence of any other 
en2;ineerino; work during the construction of that line, he 
was at liberty to act as a consulting engineer in the civil 
department of his profession, to advise on questions of 
parhamentary tactics, to appear as a professional witness 
before committees, and to visit any part of tlie kingdom 
or continent, for brief periods — eitlier to superintend 
the interests of his private undertakings, or inspect the 


scene of new public works. Haverstock Hill was his 
home ; and the course of the London and Birmingham 
hne was the route on some part of which he might, on 
five days out of six, have been seen getting over rough 
ground on horseback — or walking from point to point, at 
such a pace that his companions, puffing at his heels, were 
frequently compelled to cry out for breathing time. But 
by careful distribution of his time he made leisure for 
many matters distinct from the first Metropohtan Eailway. 

His connection with the Stanhope and Tyne Eailway 
had already become to him a source of serious uneasiness. 
As it for years caused him grave anxiety, and at one time 
threatened to plunge him in pecuniary embarrassment, it 
is fit here to speak at some length of that signal instance 
of rash speculation and grave mismanagement of amateur 

As early as 1831, a scheme was concocted by certain 
speculators to work some hme-quarries near the town of 
Stanhope, in the county of Durham, and certain portions 
of the extensive coal field at Medomsley, in the same 
county, and to connect the two works by a railway. The 
chance that such a hne would answer was very slight ; for 
the fifteen miles of rugged country through which it ran 
by a succession of unusually steep inclines was sparsely 
populated, and (for Durham) poor in minerals. A 
company was nevertheless formed, and the iron road was 
laid down. A few months' trial was sufficient to prove 
what ought to have been foreseen, that such a hne could 
never pay. Two of the original projectors slipped out of 
the affair on profitable terms, leaving their companions to 
adopt a bold, and by no means unwise, suggestion, for 
making^ good their loss. The hne from Stanhope to 


Medomsley was a failure for obvious reasons ; but it was 
argued tliat if the way were carried on twenty-four miles 
further, to South Shields at the mouth of the Tync, it 
would pass through tlie heart of an extensive and 
productive coal field, and find abundance of business. 
This second scheme was just as sound as the original 
undertaking was bad ; and had it only been carried out 
with prudence, it would have been eminently successful. 

The new scheme immediately took, and the shares 
were subscribed for by people of credit, and in some 
cases of wealth, for the most part residing in London. 
The capital of the new Company was stated to be 
£150,000, consisting of 1,500 shares of £100 each. Of 
these shares, however, only 1,000 were ever paid upon, 
the remaining 500 being gratuitously allotted to the two 
projectors of the undertaking, who, in addition to this 
remuneration for their services, secured for themselves 
one half the profits of the line, after the proprietors 
had received 5 per cent, on their shares. Power was 
given to the directors to raise £50,000 more capital by 
the creation of new shares, and £150,000 on loan. 

In the North of England it has been an ancient custom 
for speculators to lay down colliery tramways, without 
going through the tedious and costly process of parhamen- 
tary incorporation. Eunning from coal fields to neigli- 
l)ouring ports, these lines are never very long. As a ge- 
neral rule they run through the lands of but few owners, 
the value of whose property they enhance. It is therefore 
usual for projectors of such tramways to make their 
own agreements with landowners, paying a certain 
annual rent for right of way, or way-leave as it is called, 
and taking sucli way-leave for ninety-nine years, with 


a reserved power to abandon on giving twelve months' 
notice. The Stanhope and Tyne hne was made on this 
plan ; but so badly were the negotiations with land- 
owners managed, that when the hne (in all thirty-five miles 
long) was completed it was burdened with a way-leave 
rental of more than £300 per mile. This was bad. But 
a far worse consequence of the arrangement was one 
inseparable from the system above described. Having no 
act of incorporation, an ordinary way-leave railway is a 
simple partnership affair, in which every shareholder is a 
partner. And that meant, in times prior to the Limited 
Liability Act, that every shareholder in an ordinary way- 
leave tram company was personally responsible for all the 
liabilities of the company. 

From first to last, method and business exactness were 
neglected in the affairs of the Stanhope and Tyne hne. 
The new Company's deed of settlement was not executed 
till February 1834, but the first way-leave agreements 
were entered into with landowners in April 1832 ; and as 
far as confused accounts can be trusted, it would appear 
that nearly the whole of the capital was paid up and 
expended, and heavy debts were incurred before the 
execution of the deed. One of the first acts of the Com- 
pany was to draw a bill of exchange ; and when the pro- 
prietors at length decided to dissolve the association, the 
bills in circulation for which the Company were respon- 
sible amounted to £176,000. 

In an evil hour for Eobert Stephenson the directors of 
the Stanhope and Tyne line agreed to consult him as an 
engineer. At first he was well pleased with the summons. 
The remuneration for the services required of him was to 
be £1,000 ; but he was persuaded to accept in payment 


of that sum ten shares in the Company's stock. At first, 
Eobert Stephenson liked liis £1,000 all the better for being 
in that form, since his own judgement, as well as the obser- 
vations of bystanders, assured him that the new railway 
must eventually answer. He did not calculate with a fore- 
knowledge that the undertaking would be mismanaged. 
And he was at the time ignorant of the difference be- 
tween the legal positions of a shareholder in an incorpo- 
rated railway, and of a shareholder in a hue without an 
act of incorporation. 

The ultimate fate of this ill-starred Company will not 
at present be set forth. It is, however, best to notice, at 
this point, the course of its affairs during the construction 
of the London and Birmingham Eailway. At great outlay 
the directors built staiths, and purchased freehold and 
leasehold houses, buildings, wharves, and quays at South 
Shields ; and in the March of 1835, on the projection of 
the Durham Junction Eailway, in which the proprietors 
of the Stanhope and Tyne deemed themselves deeply 
interested, the directors of the latter Company subscribed 
£40,000 out of £80,000 to be raised for the new hne. 
For the most part these purchases and new engagements 
were based on good considerations, and were such, that if 
the pecuniary obhgations consequent upon them had been 
originally made on a proper scale, and had then been met 
in a proper way, no objection could have been preferred 
against them. But not content with buying at exorbitant 
prices, the new Company started with the ruinous system of 
borrowing on bills, instead of raising from amongst them- 
selves, or by the creation of new shares, the sums necessary 
for hquidating debts. The fact was, the directory lay in the 
hands of persons whose circumstances precluded any other 


system of raising money. From first to last an important 
department of the business of the directors was to raise 
money on accommodation bills on terms averaging 11 per 
cent, per annum. In June 1834, following the February 
in which their deed of settlement was executed, the 
directors obtained on mortgage £60,000 from the Al- 
liance Assurance Company. The railway and colKeries 
commenced working in September 1834, and by the end 
of the year the entire expenditure of the Company 
amounted to £226,485 17^. Qd. ; of which amount 
£100,000 had been received from payments on the 1,000 
paid-up shares, £60,000 had come from the Alliance 
Assurance mortgage, and the remaining £66,455 17^. Od. 
had been raised on bills. Twenty-four thousand 
pounds were soon afterwards raised by debentures. 
Thus afiairs began, and thus they went on. Loan was 
raised on loan, bill accepted after bill. Every month 
affairs looked worse ; so that in 1838, when the London 
and Birmingham hue was opened, instead of finding 
himself the owner of £1,000 in a railway the shares 
of which were at a premium, Eobert Stephenson 
found himself with ten shares in an affair that was 
throughout the money-market a byword for failure — 
shares which he would gladly have been able to throw 
into the sea, since they rendered him personally liable for 
an enormous sum of money. Thus was Eobert Stephen- 
son paid for engineering services. He had done good 
work, and as a reward for the service he found insolvency 
staring him in the face. It was a salutary lesson to him. 
Ever afterwards he resolutely refused to take the shares 
of any company in payment for work done. He took, 
indeed, thirty shares in the London and Birmingham 


previous to the Act being obtained ; wlien the directors, 
linchng great difficulty in getting the proportion of sub- 
scriptions required by standing orders, called on all their 
principal officers to put down their names for shares. 
But that was a different affair ; and moreover, he had not 
then the experience of the four succeeding years to guide 
him. To speculation of all sorts he had a dislike amount- 
ing to repugnance. His investments gave modest divi- 
dends, but they were safe. He beUeved in tlie maxim 
that a high rate of interest is only another name for bad 
security. This distaste for pecuniary risk was seen in 
httle things as well as great — in his amusements as well 
as his commercial arrangements. He hked horse-races, 
and durmg the last years of his life always endeavoured 
to be at Epsom and at Ascot, but his most intimate 
friends never knew him to bet a shilling on any horse. 
In the same way, he enjoyed a rubber, but he never 
played for high stakes. 

Li the May of 1835, Eobert Stephenson accompanied 
his father to Brussels ; the elder and the younger 
engineer having been summoned by King Leopold to 
advise as to the construction of a complete system of 
railways for his kingdom. On that occasion,, when the 
father obtained the decoration of the Order of Leopold, 
the son was also admitted to familiar intercourse with 
tlie King. Two years afterwards, on the public opening 
of the railway between Brussels and Ghent, when George 
Stephenson was received by the Belgians with an 
enthusiasm of admiration, Robei^t Stephenson renewed 
his acquaintance with a country which enjoys distinction 
amongst continental nations for an early and cordial 
adoption of railroad locomotion, and was again hospit- 


ably entertained by tlie sovereign, who in 1841 conferred 
on him, as he had six years before conferred on George 
Stephenson, the decoration of the Order of Leopold. 

On his return from Belginm, Eobert Stephenson found 
himself overwhelmed with work. The scant leisure left 
him by the London and Birmingham hne was more than 
fully occupied -with examining projects for new lines 
which sprung up in every direction, and concerning 
which his advice was sought ahke by engineers and by 
the pubHc. For two years he managed to attend to this 
extra-official business at his office at Camden Town, on 
the London and Birmingham works. In 1836, however, 
finding he could no longer, either with comfort to himself 
or with the approval of the Company, receive his daily 
levy of projectors and engineers at Camden Town, he 
took an office in Duke Street, Westminster. In the fol- 
lowing year this office was rehnquished for one in Great 
George Street, Westminster, with which street the Ste- 
phensons and their profession are intimately associated in 
the pubhc mind. In that street Eobert Stephenson, with 
the principal members of his staff, had offices up to the 
time of liis death. On the doors of 24 Great George Street 
country sight-seers still read the name of the great construc- 
tor of railways and builder of bridges ; and in the adjoining 
mansion is estabhshed the Institution of Civil Engineers. 

The years 1836 and 1837 were remarkable for railway 
enterprise. In the thick of the parliamentary fight 
Eobert Stephenson appeared as professional witness, and 
more especially as the projector and engineer of a hne 
between London and Brighton, which unfortunately 
miscarried, but was not shelved until it had engrossed 
a large amount of attention and discus.sion. As early as 


1833, and indeed before that year, his attention was 
called to the subject of railway communication between 
the metropolis and the most fashionable watering-place of 
the country. In 1834 and in 1835, he was again con- 
sulted as to the lines projected between those points, and 
finding none of the proposed routes such as he could in 
all respects recommend he sketched out a line of his 
own. The consequence was that the session of 1836 saw 
four distinct appHcatious to Parhament for different lines 
between London and the Sussex cliffs. The rival pro- 
jects were Sir John Eennie's, or the direct hne ; Mr. 
Eobert Stephenson's line ; Mr. Joseph Gibbs's line ; and 
Mr. Cundy's line. Here was a noble fight for Westminster, 
spoil for la^vyers, agents, surveyors, and witnesses. Each 
of these proposed lines availed itself of a terminus akeady 
constructed, Stephenson's line taking the termmus of the 
London and Southampton Eailway at JSTine Elms, a little 
above Vauxliall, with a depot on the banks of the Thames, 
and branching from the hne at Wimbledon Common, five 
miles and a half from the terminus ; and the direct Hne 
and Gibbs's _ both adopting the Greenwich Eailway Ter- 
minus at London Bridge, and availing themselves of the 
railway, already sanctioned and under course of construc- 
tion, as far as Croydon. 

Mr. Cundy's projected hne was a freak of daring such 
as can only be found in times of unusual excitement. In 
these comparatively sober days it can scarcely be be- 
lieved that just five and twenty years ago a company 
should have contemplated the construction of an impor- 
tant line of railway, and, with full attention to all the 
costly forms of law, have applied to parhament for leave 
to construct their hne, without having made any survey 

1836.] CUNDY'S LINE. 223 

(ill the engineering sense of the word) of the country 
through which the hne was to pass, — having in fact 
trusted to the Ordnance map for knowledge of the 
natural features and levels of the ground. Mr. Walker, 
in his report on the project, drily remarked, ' The hne 
of country, with the levels, Mr. Gundy shows would be 
very desirable and easy, if they could he found ; but I 
have not succeeded in doing so, my levels being consider- 
ably different from Mr. Gundy 's.' To well-informed en- 
gineers the bare mention of ' Gundy's line ' was a signal 
for hearty laughter. As soon as Eobert Stephenson put 
forth liis plan, Gundy fired up with virtuous indignation, 
and was shocked at the immorality of the engineer of the 
London and Birmingham Railway, who had pirated* his 
plans. No better iUustration of the comic side of railway 
gambling a quarter of a century since could be made 
than a drama reproducing all the circumstances connected 
with ' Gundy's hne.' 

* ' If the Committee will permit of a mile distant from that on which 
me, I will just say one word with he himself relies. Mr. Cundy has 
respect to Mr. Gundy's line, which also made some very extravagant 
had escaped me. Now Mr. Gundy's use of his engineering powers, for he 
accusation against Mr. Stephenson has made the River 3Iole ten feet 
is, that he has pirated his line. If hiffher tha)i the stream which runs 
hehas, I do not know that it matters into it; and he has told you a 74- 
much, except with regard to Mr. gam ship may float upon tlie flood of 
Stephenson's character. If he had that river, that you may go down 
been a Red Rover amongst engineers, there some Saturday night, that you 
and had taken from another the fruit may sleep there on Sunday night, 
of his skill and labour, I do not and on the Monday morning you 
think the Committee woidd attach may see Mr. Stephenson, and his 
much importance to it, as against raiboad, and his embankment gone, 
the promoters of this Bill. But it washed away by the flood.' — Ste- 
is impossible that it can have been jjhenson^s London and Brujhton Rail- 
so; for when Mr. Cundy conies to loay. Sjieech of the Hon. J. C.Talbot, 
put in the Ordnance map, with his on summing up the Emjineerimj Evi- 
section of Mr. Stephenson's line denee given in siqyjort of Stephenson's 
marked upon it, it is found that he Zwe before the Committee of the 
actually lays down this line a quarter House of Commons. 


The contest, however, between Stephenson's hne and 
Eennie's and Gibbs's lines was honest, and involved many 
delicate points of consideration. It was, however, 
proved by the personal examination of the Committee, 
that the alleged survey for the latter of these lines was 
not much less incorrect than that of Cundy's hne. Unable 
to superintend tlie details of the survey himself, Eobert 
Stephenson committed them to the care of Mi\ Bidder, 
who, not without an appearance of justice, was regarded 
by the public as being really and truly the engineer of 
the hne. As its name implies, the chief object of Sir John 
Eennie's direct hne was the shortest possible passage be- 
tween the two termini, the natural obstacles of the coun- 
try being boldly met, instead of being adroitly avoided. 
Eobert Stephenson and Mr. Bidder, on the contrary, aimed ^ 
at a hne which, without being widely cii'cuitous, should 
at the expense of a few miles' extra distance save the ne- 
cessity of the cuttings and tunnels which a route through 
the chalk ridges, known as the North and South Downs, 
would involve. The most prominent point of distinction 
between Sir John Eennie's and Eobert Stephenson's plans 
may be seen in the one fact, that while the earthwork of 
the latter, estimated on slopes averaging at one and a 
half to one, was 6,000,000 cubic yards, the earthwork of 
the former, estimated on slopes of less than one to one, 
was 8,000,000 cubic yards. Thus, calculated with 
Eobert Stephenson's slopes, of one and a half to one. Sir 
John Eennie's earthwork would at the least have amounted 
to ten million cubic yards, or four millions of cubic yards 
more than Eobert Stephenson's.* 

* ' Now the most important part earthwork in these two several lines, 
of the comparison is the amount of Xow the amount of the earthwork 


In the following session of 1837, in accordance with a 
resolution of the House of Commons requesting the Crown 
' to refer to some military engineer the statements of 
engineering particulars furnished by several engineers in 
support of the several lines of Brighton Eailway now 
under the consideration of the House,' Captain Alderson, 
E.E., reported on the merits of the various proposed routes. 
In his report, dated June 27, 1837, the referee said — 

I have the honour to state, that I have carefully read the 
evidence given before the committee, as well as their report, 
and attentively compared the several plans and sections com- 
mitted to me ; that I have also taken a general survey of the 
sites of the different lines, examining more attentively those 
portions where important works are proposed, and have no 
hesitation in stating that the line proposed by Mr. Stephenson, 
considered in an engineering point of view, is preferable to 
either of the others. Availing himself of the valleys of the 
Elvers Mole and Adur, he avoids the heavy cuttings necessarily 
consequent on forcing a passage through the chalk ridges known 

upon Mr. Stephenson's line is know that I need repeat it by-and- 

6,000,000; his slopes averaging at bye. Even supposing Sir John 

one and a half to one. Sir John Rennie could do what he proposes 

Rennie's, with slopes averaging at to do, in the time and at the expense 

less than one to one, are 8,000,000 he proposes, I may admit my friend's 

of cubic yards. Now Mr. Stephenson case, and I say I can do the same, 

has formed an erroneous estimate of lustead of its costing me a million 

Sir John Rennie's earthwork, it ap- of money, it will cost me £700,000 : 

pears, because he assumed the same instead of taking me two-and-a- 

slopes as he himself took : and half to three years, it will be done 

taking those of Sir John Rennie's in eighteen months. T\Tiat you can 

at 8,000,000 cubic yards, to 6,000,000 do, I can do; and you derive no 

on Mr. Stephenson's line, would, if benefit from taking fallacious ac- 

Mr. Stephenson's slopes are adopted, coimts of earthwork and slopes that 

become 10,000,000. If Mr. Stephen- cannot stand ; because you must 

son adopted Sir John Rennie's slopes admit, that what you can do I can 

of course his earthwork would be do also.' — Hon. J. C. Talbot's Speech 

very much diminished. And here before Committee of House of Com- 

arises a remark which applies to the mans, May 17, 1836. 
whole of this case, and I do not 

VOL. I. Q 


as the North and South Downs ; and, with the exception of two 
short tunnels, one at Epsom and the other at Dorking, arrives 
at Brighton, via Shoreham, having only such ordinary difficulties 
to contend against as are necessarily consequent on under- 
takings of a similar nature and extent. 

Having borne this emphatic testimony to the engineering 
excellences of Robert Stephenson's line, Captain Aklerson 
entered on the examination of Gibbs's and Sir John 
Rennie's proposals, giving the latter the palm over both 
its rivals ; its superiority to Robert Stephenson's line 
being discerned in the greater advantages which, the 
Captain judged, it offered to the sea-ports on the South- 
Coast. 'I therefore,' concludes Captain Aldersou's report, 
' adhere to the opinion already given in favour of the 
Direct Line.' Robert Stephenson was greatly chagrined 
at this decision. As the Hne between Brighton and 
London was one to which the attention of London 
residents was especially directed, his defeat had all the 
additional mortification which a crowd of spectators 
imparts to the overthrow of a combatant. Moreover, he 
sincerely felt that the conclusion was not only erroneous, 
but that it was arrived at by a one-sided consideration of 
tlie very points which ought to have led to a judgement 
in his favour. As he had done years before in the case 
of Messrs. Walker's and Rastrick's reports against the 
locomotive, Robert Stephenson again defended himself 
with his pen, and in a short pamphlet* — Avhich is a 
model of criticism, in temper, conciseness, completeness 
and perspicuity — gave a chnching response to the fallacies 
of Captain Alderson's report. 

* London and Brighton Ilailway, Woale, Architectural Librar)^, 5 
Mr. Robert Stephenson's Ileply to High Holbom : 1837. 
Captain ^Udersoii. London : John 


Amongst the parliamentary contests of this period, 
in which a conspicuous part was assigned to Eobert 
Stephenson, that of the London and Blackwall hue, in 
1836, deserves notice, as the proceedings before commit- 
tees sitting upon that line exhibit both the elder and 
younger Stephenson as opponents of the locomotive system. 
Amongst the many railway projects of 1825, one much 
favoured by Sir Edward Banks and other capitahsts was 
a proposal for an iron flange railway (similar to those 
tramways which a citizen of the United States recently 
placed in some of our wider thoroughfares) which should 
be laid down upon the Commercial Eoad for the accele- 
ration of traffic to the West India Docks. As the rails 
were to be laid upon the public road, the employment 
of locomotives was of course no part of the project. The 
trustees of the Commercial Eoad hked the scheme, and 
with their approval a Bill for the construction of the tram 
was brought into Parhament in the session of 1827-28, 
but after two readings it miscarried through want of 
support. The defeat, however, did not deter the trustees 
of the road from doing something for public conve- 
nience. At their command Mr. James Walker in 1828 
began to lay down the stone tramway from Severn's sugar 
warehouse, 200 or 300 yards below Whitechapel Church, 
to the gate of the West India Docks, the granite blocks 
of which tram remain to this day.* The road was 

* Mr. James Walker, examined mucli work in drawing that ten tons, 

before the Committee of the House as if he had been drawing thirty 

of Commons, on the London and tons on a level. 

Blackwall Railways, April 14, 1836. ' Do you conceive that a horse's 

^Committee.'] All the way? — ^Yes, draught is equal to three hundred 
the Commercial Road rises towards and sixty poimds on a level tram- 
London : the horse was doing as road ? — The horse did the work I 



[Cn. XI. 

completed in 1829, and was in its day deemed a great 
success, although the rapid improvements made in the 
next few years in the construction of iron roads and steam 
carriages soon rendered it of comparatively small impor- 

In 1835, the Company whose Bill had been thrown out 
in 1827-28 renewed their exertions, and, having grown 
bolder by experience, resolved on applying to Parliament 
for leave to make a new road, to be worked by steam- 
power. The proposal was no longer for an kon-tramway 
on the Commercial Eoad. George Stephenson was the 
engineer of this Company (the London and Blackwall), 
and at the outset advised a route along the south of the 
Commercial Eoad. Subsequently taking a different view, 
he induced the Company to adopt a line on the north of 
that thoroughfare ; upon which a new Company, styling 

have stated. I was jvist going to 
add, ho was a very powerful liorse, 
and it was too much for him: it 
was a kind of trial of strength, and 
the horse did it. That is quite as 
much as two horses could have done. 
I will read the paragraph if you 
please. The fidl average work of a 
horse per day is one hundred and 
fifty pounds moved twenty miles 
over a pulley; that is, raised one 
hundred and fifty perpendicularly : 
the horse, therefore, was doing the 
work of two horses and a half. He 
appeared to go easily, but the exer- 
tion was too gi-eat to be continued 
for any considerable time, so as to 
form tlie basis of a calculation, but 
it was extraordinaiy work to draw 
on a turnpike road tliirty tons. Upon 
the whole, I think the conclusion is, 
that if the roads were level the work 
of a London draught horse on a 

tramway would be ten tons gross; 
but as the Commercial Road rises 
towards London, a deduction must 
be made from this for its gravity, 
the amount of which depends on 
the inclination of the road, and is 
common to all kinds of roads, of 
tramways, and railways ; and, there- 
fore, take all things into considera- 
tion, I am of opinion that six tons 
gross from the Docks to AVhitechapel, 
and a gi-eater weight from White- 
chapel to the Docks, may be con- 
sidered as the proper weight for one 
horse on a. tramway — six tons np, I 
think I may also say tweh'e tons 
down, on the tramway. 

' On what supposition ? with its 
present inclination ? — Yes. 

' You stated that this horse drew 
ten tons from the Docks to the end 
of the road ? — Yes.' 




itself the ' Commercial Eoacl Eaihyay Company,' with Sir 
Jolm Eeunie for engineer, started up, and, adopting the 
rehnquished southern route, entered into competition 
with the original' projectors. The Commercial Eoad 
Eailway would have started from Glass-House Yard, 
on the east of the ]\Iinories, and have passed on a viaduct 
supported by arches to its terminus near the Brunswick 
Wharf at Blackwall. This line Sir John Eennie proposed 
to work with locomotives. On the other hand, George 
Stephenson maintained that no hue passing through such 
dense and valuable property as that which lay on the 
banks of the river between London and Blackwall ought 
to use steam carriages, on account of the danger from 
sparks, which he apprehended might cause serious losses 
by fire. Eobert Stephenson* fully concmTed with his 

* House of Commons' Committee 
on the London and Blackwall Rail- 
ways, May 17, 1836. ]Ma-. Robert 
Stephenson examined by ]Mr. Alex- 

'I want to know wlietber you 
have directed your attention to their 
extension in towns ? — Yes ; the 
mode of having tunnels imder 

' Has your attention been directed 
to the best means of avoiding incon- 
venience to the property in the line 
of railway ? — Yes ; and in almost 
eveiy case, after the best considera- 
tion, we have adopted stationary 

' Committee.'] In a crowded metro- 
polis and a great town like this, you 
appear to think that the stationary 
engines are less objectionable than 
the locomotives ? — I think so, de- 

cidedly ; and that decision was not 
rashly come to.' 

' 3Ir. Alexander.'] Do you know 
of danger having arisen from loco- 
motive engines having set fire to 
property of any kind ? — Yes. 

' On what line ? — Why I have 
seen them set fire to the gorse on 
the Liverpool and Manchester line ; 
on the Leicester and Swanuington 
Railway, which had a farm-house 
biurned, the premises were consumed. 
I must mention there that the rail- 
way was exti'emely near. 

' Committee.] Was the engine the 
cause of the fire ? — The immediate 

'Had the Company to pay the 
damage ? — Y^'es, they had. 

' Do you think the proposed gauze 
that covered the fimnel would be a 
remedy against all danger of this 



[Cn. XI. 

father, and gave emphatic testimony as to the hazard 
of setting fire to towns by driving steam carriages through 

Thus far had tlie position of the locomotive changed 
in pubUc estimation. The Stephensons who, ten years 
before, led the scanty band of its supporters, could 
now venture to state boldly what they regarded as its 
serious disadvantages, and could find courage to check 
the anxiety of speculators to use it under all circum- 
stances. Doubtless there was real danger of fire from 
passing locomotives. A recent cause, by which a railway 
company was compelled to pay heavy damages for certain 
agricultural property ignited by sparks thrown from a 
steam-carriage, attests that the Stephensons had foundations 

kind ? — Not a remedy against aU 
danger, but it woiild materially miti- 
gate the danger. 

'You agi-ee witli Mr. Bidder in 
what lie stated with respect to the 
gauze, the making it of a sufficiently 
fine nature would reduce the power ? 
— The reduction of the power by 
the gauze has been carried to as 
great an extent as is desirable, or 
rather more so, because it has been 
taken to that point that if you go 
beyond it the effect of the engine is 

* Now, even with the gauze in 
that state, have you seen sparks of 
ignited coal carried through by the 
force of the draught, or blast? — Yes. 

' Woidd that be dangerous in such 
places as rope-walks, or timber- 
yards, or ship-yards, which are full 
of combustible materials ? — Yes ; it 
is in consequence of the property 
that I objected to the use of loco- 
motives under these circumstances. 

'The danger arising from loco- 
motives is one of the elements which 
led you to form your opinion as to 
the propriety of locomotives in tho 
neighbourhood of a town ? — Yes ; I 
consider it of the gi-eatest importance 
to bring the Blackwall Railway as 
near to the city of London as pos- 
sible ; and when I considered the im- 
mense value of the pi-operty mi every 
side, I came to the conclusion even- 
tually that, rather thmi have locomotive 
engines, I thom/ht the railway woidd 
have to be abando)ted. 

' Committee.] You think locomo- 
tive engines through that line of 
property, with such a trade as is 
carried on, are objectionable ? — 

' Because dangerous ? — Yes, that 
is the sole objection — in fact, a chief 
one ; and the other I referred to is 
the great space necessary for a depot, 
and the enonnous expenses which 
are requisite for its formation.' 


for tlieir fears. Not less certain is it that their fears were 
excessive. At the present date, when the ropes and 
stationary engines with which the Blackwall Hne was long 
worked have been for years discontinued, and when 
locomotives are shooting to and fro through every quarter 
of London at every variety of distance above the level of 
the streets, and passing through every description of 
property, a person of the humblest mtelligence would 
smile at an assurance that London ran any risk of being 
destroyed by sparks thrown out from the chimneys of 
locomotives. That the Stephensons so miscalculated on 
a point relating to the locomotive, is a matter worthy of 
reflection ; that their error was on the side of caution, is 
a fact that illustrates one of their principal charac- 
teristics, and points to the cause of a large part of their 

Notwithstanding the steady increase in the number of 
subjects demandmg his attention, Eobert Stephenson 
resolutely adhered to a rule which he had laid down on 
first setthng at Haverstock Hill, — a determination to 
read something every day. He was an early riser, and 
always managed to get two hours of study before break- 
fast. The time was short, but he used it to such good 
piurpose that, with the aid of scientific periodicals, he was 
always well up in the recent discoveries of science. 
Mathematics, chemistry, geology, and physiology, were 
his favomite departments of study. For light hterature, 
his active hfe left him scarcely any leisure ; but few^ 
weeks passed over in which he did not find an hour to 
devote to an Enghsh poet. For the political articles of 
newspapers he cared httle; so that, notwithstanding his 



[Cn. XI. 

strong political convictions,"* there were few men worse 
informed than he usually was on the contentions and 
party warfare of the Houses. 

In his domestic life Eobert Stephenson was, w^ith the 
exception of one circumstance, a happy man. He had 
not misjudged the character of the lady whom he mar- 
ried and took to his home in Newcastle, at a time when 
he had no prospect of speedy advancement to eminence 
and wealth. The young wife, who ' ruled her husband 
without ever seeming to rule him,' was much Hked by all 
Eobert Stephenson's friends, and contributed in no shght 
measure to secure his position amongst his professional 
brethren by the amiability and tact with which she pre- 

* From first to last, as boy and 
man, Robert Stephenson was a 
staunch, imswerviug, uncompromis- 
ing Tory — not a Conservative, but 
a Tory. As occasion will be taken 
to show in a futm-e chapter, he never 
allowed his opinions on public aftairs 
to interfere with his private friend. 
The conclusion of the following note 
to his friend Frank Forster will 
show how generous a politician he 
was: — 

* Engineering Department, 
'■ Camden Town : 
'Aug. 29, 1838. 
' Dear Forster, — At the meeting 
of om- ]3oard to-day, the importance 
of opening on the 17th of September 
was so strongly m-ged on the score 
of the immense expense and incon- 
venience of the coaching, that I felt 
bound to promise them that it should 
be practicable on that day. I must, 
therefore, lean upon you again, and 
I do so with confidence ; but if you 
should find it impossible to complete 

both lines, you had better at once 
consider the propriety of putting in 
some points and crossings, so that 
our line may be passable over that 
portion of the Hill Morton embank- 
ment (and through Kilsby) which 
may, perhaps, not be quite closed. 
The state of the permanent road is 
not of so much consequence as the 
existence of it throughout, so that 
the trains may be able to pass upon 
it at a very slow speed. I shall be 
coming down to Coventry on Satur- 
day night or Sunday morning. Could 
you drop me a line by return to say 
where I shall meet you ? WiU you 
go to Cracow to make a line from 
that place to Warsaw ? I have an 
application ; but I fear your Liberal 
principles will give rise to some ob- 
jection on the pai-t of the Autocrat 
of all the Russias. The line is 100 
miles in length. More of this when 
we meet: in the meantime try if 
you can't convert youi'self into a 

18.3G.] AT HOME. 233 

sided over a household where men of incongruous 
dispositions and rival interests frequently met. The cloud 
over the domestic hfe of Mrs. Stephenson and her hus- 
band was their want of children. Eobert Stephenson 
greatly desired to become a father, but his wish was not 
to be gratified. The -part assigned to him was to con- 
ceal his disappointment from his wife, and to find cheer- 
ful companions for her in that home which was never to 
be musical with the prattle of babes. To achieve this 
latter purpose he encouraged her to surround herself 
with the members of her own family. One of her rela- 
tions became the commercial manager of the Newcastle 
factory and Eobert Stephenson's confidential agent in all 
his North Country afiairs. Another, a young lady, was 
an almost constant visitor at Haverstock Hill. 

A week seldom passed in which Eobert Stephenson 
neglected to write to Newcastle ; and in his letters de- 
spatched to ' the works,' occasional ghmpses are caught 
of his private habits and amusements. Eelating for the 
most part to orders for new engines, the solvency of com- 
mercial houses,* and other ordinary topics of business 
interest, they occasionally contain scraps of information 
relative to Mrs. Stephenson's doings and wishes, all such 
passages being pervaded by a spmt of simple manly love, 
and standing out all the fresher and brighter for the 
prosaic communications in which they are bedded. In 
one letter Eobert Stephenson enquires anxiously about a 
'Smuggler' to be sent him from Newcastle, the said 
Smuggler being a painting which he wished to add to his 
collection of art treasures, already growing numerous. 
In another letter he is earnest about the quahties of a 
new horse. In those days he thought £60 a rather high 


price for a horse. A third long letter (dated Feb. 27, 1 837) 
concerning boilers and prices, Eobert Stephenson finished 
off with an additional word about the ' Smuggler,' and 
one curt line on his domestic affairs : ' We are all tolerably 
well at Hampstead ;' when the pen was snatched from his 
hand by the young lady before mentioned, and a post- 
script added — 

My Dear Uncle, — Cousin Fanny would have filled up this 
part, but she is in bed with a sick headache. Tell Mr. Hard- 
castle Mr. Gr. Stephenson's brother Eobert is dead, the new 
groom has been thrown from his horse, and both horse and man 
are at present perfectly useless. This is what Mr. Stephenson 
calls being tolerably well at Hampstead. 

About two months later another of those prettily or- 
namented business letters to ' Uncle Edward ' contained 
a sketch and three or four hues from Mrs. Stephenson's 
pencil. A few days before, Mrs. Stephenson had met 
with an unusual accident. She was driving from a fi^iend's 
door, where she had been making a call, when she stood 
up in her phaeton, and, looking backwards, waved and 
nodded another 'good-bye' to some acquaintances at the 
drawing-room window. Scarcely had she done this when 
she fell back on the seat of her carriage, frightened and 
faint, and saying she had broken her knee. On examina- 
tion it was found that the ligament uniting her right 
knee-cap to the muscles of the thigh had given way. 
During her tedious cure Mrs. Stephenson had to lie night 
and day on a double-incline bed, and in the rather 
awkward posture which that couch compels, she drew a 
humorous picture of herself. 

The men with whom Eobert Stephenson was most 
familiar at this period were his linn friends throughout 


life. Amongst them were Mr. Bidder, Mr. Thomas 
Longridge Gooch, Mi'. Biidden (who acted as his secre- 
tary), Mr. John Joseph Bramah, Mr. Frank Forster, Mi\ 
Bii-kinshaw, and Mr. Charles Parker. Eobert Stephenson 
was a man of few pleasures. Music he cultivated to a 
certain point to please his wife ; but at this period he 
rarely touched his flute. His profession was to him both 
business and pleasure. On Sundays, however, he relaxed. 
In the morning he usually went to church. In the after- 
noon he wrote letters and took a walk, and finished up 
the day with receiving a few professional friends at din- 
ner, immediately after which the cigar-box made its ap- 

Amongst Eobert Stephenson's more distinguished asso- 
ciates at this period was Professor Wlieatstone, the joint- 
inventor with Mr. Wilham Cooke of the electric tele- 
graph. Their memorable invention was patented in June 
1837, and before the autumn of that year was at an end, 
the correspondence necessary for business purposes be- 
tween the Euston Square and Camden Town stations was 
carried on by electricity. ' Eobert Stephenson's London 
and Binningham hue ' has the honour of being the scene 
of the first successftd working of electric telegraphy. 

In Dr. Andrew Wynter's ' Curiosities of Civilisation,' 
the following interesting passage occm^s in the article on 
the ' Electric Telegraph ' : — 

Following up his experiment, Professor "WTieatstone worked 
out the arrangements of his telegraph, and having associated him- 
self in 1837 with Mr. Cooke, who had previously devoted much 
time to the same subject, a patent was taken out in the June of 
that year in their joint names. Their telegraph had five wires 
and five needles ; the latter being worked on the face of a lozenge- 
shaped dial, inscribed with the letters of the alphabet, any one 


of which could be indicated by the converjjjence of the needles. 
This very ingenious instrument could be manipulated by any 
person who knew how to read, and did not labour under the dis- 
advantage of working by a code which required time to be un- 
derstood. Immediately upon the taking out of the patent, the 
directors of the North Western Kailway sanctioned the laying 
down of the wires between the Euston S<iuarc and Camden Town 
stations, and towards the end of July the telegraph was ready 
to work. 

Late in the evening of the 2oth of that month, in a dingy 
little room near the booking-office at Euston Square, by the 
light of a flaring dip-candle, which only illuminated the sur- 
rounding darkness, sat the inventor, with a beating pulse, and a 
heart full of hope. In an equally small room at the Camden 
Town station, where the wires terminated, sat Mr. Cooke, his 
co-patentee, and, amongst others, two witnesses well known to 

fame — Mr. Charles Fox and Mr. Stephenson Mr, 

Cooke in his turn touched the keys and returned the answer. 
' Never did I feel such a tumultuous sensation before,' said 
the Professor, ' as when all alone in the still room I heard the 
needles click ; and as I spelled the words, I felt all the magni- 
tude of the invention, now proved to be practical beyond 
cavil or dispute.' The telegraph thenceforward, as far as its 
mechanism was concerned, went on without a check, and the 
modifications of the instrument, which is still in use, have been 
made for the purpose of rendering it more economical in its 
construction and working, two wires at present being employed, 
and in some cases only one. 

Professor Wheatstone, wliilst making valuable com- 
munications for the purposes of this work, bore emphatic 
testimony to the zeal displayed by Eobert Stephenson 
from first to last — from 1837 up to the time of his death 
— to advance the science and protect the interests of 

* Those who are curious in the his- telegraphic inter-communication of 
tory of the telegraph will find a thought in the 'Scot's Magazine' 
distinct proposition for a system of (vol. xv, p. 73) of February 1753. 

1838.] 'THAT SILLY PICTURE.' 237 

Since lie fixed himself in town Eobert Stephenson had 
enjoyed a fine and rapidly increasing professional income 
— an income to be measured by thousands. He had, there- 
fore, begun to five with the luxury and some of the osten- 
tation, usual with persons of wealth. In compliance wdtli 
Mrs, Stephenson's wishes, but not without reluctance, he 
visited the Heralds' College, and informing the heralds that, 
according to a family tradition, he was descended from 
' the Stephensons of Mount Grenan in Scotland,' asked per- 
mission to use the arms of that house. In what estima- 
tion the officers of the college held ' the tradition ' it is 
needless to enquire. On the whole, they acted witJi 
discretion. Taking a middle course between their own 
interests and the rights of the Mount Grenan Stephensons, 
they took some of the fleur-de-lis and mullets from the 
shield of the Mount Grenan family, and, having dished 
them up with a crest and other garnishings, granted them 
as an heraldic bearing to Eobert Steplienson and his 
fatlier and their descendants. These arms Eobert Stephen- 
son took (November 21, 1838), and without hagghng paid 
the sum at which they were priced. Honestly bought, 
they were perhaps obtained not less honourably than 
many ancient devices tricked in the College archives. 
But Eobert Stephenson, truthful, honest, and simple, with 
a repugnance to flattery and a detestation of shams, never 
liked them. 

Not long before his deatli, his eye chancing to fall on 
an object ornamented with liis arms, he bluslied slightly, 
and said to an old friend by his side — ' Ah, I wish I 
had n't adopted that foolish coat of arms ! Considering 
what a little matter it is, you could scarcely believe how 
often I have been annoyed by " that silly picture.'''' 




(iETAT. 35-41.) 

Railways undertaken in various Directions — Bninel, Giles, Rraith- 
waite — Robert Stephenson's Trip to Italy — On his Retiu-n again 
immersed in Projects — The Contractors' Dinner at '■ The Albion ' — 
Letters to Newcastle — Cigars for the Continent — Stanhope and 
Tyne Crisis — Robert Stephenson threatened with Insolvency — Acts 
for the Pontop and South Shields and the Newcastle and Darlington 
Junction Railway's — Robert Stephenson appointed to execute the 
Newcastle and Darlington Lines — Robert Stephenson created a 
Knight of the Order of Leopold — Mrs. Stephenson's Death — 
Opening of Newcastle and iTarlington Line — Public Dinner and 
Speeches — Continental Engagements — Leaves Haverstock Hill and 
moves to Cambridge Square — Fire in Cambridge Square — George 
Hudson and Robert Stephenson — A Contrast. 

THE railway system was fixed. To disturb that system 
attempts were made by men of intellect and high 
character ; but those attempts were futile. The principal 
rules laid down by the Stephensons between 1820 and 
1838 are the rules of railway engineering at the present 
day. The example set by the great leaders was followed 
successfully in all directions. The younger Brunei, a man 
dear to all lovers of genius, was at work on the Great 
Western ; Mr. Francis Giles was laying down the line 
between London and Southampton ; Mr. John Braithwaite 
undertook tlie London and Colchester, bringing life and 


increased trade to the eastern comities. In the north, 
George Stephenson had nnder his supervision the Man- 
chester and Leeds, the North ]\iidland from Derby to 
Leeds, the York and North Midland from Normanton to 
York ; the Grand Junction Eailway projected by the 
father (but executed by Joseph Locke) having abeady 
united his magnificent Liverpool and Manchester hne 
with his son's road terminating in Euston Square. It 
Avould be beside the purpose of this work to enter into 
the details of each of these works, and of the other lines 
that followed them in quick succession — details for the 
most part closely resembling each other. It will be suffi- 
cient to select for description those roads alone on whicli 
Robert Stephenson's distinctive powers found most em- 
phatic expression. 

The engineer-in-chief's labour on the London and 
Birmingham Eailway was by no means at an end when 
the hne was opened. Works on it still remained to be 
completed, and improvements had to be made at various 
points before ' the chief ' (as up to the day of his death 
Eobert Stephenson's staff were wont to caU him) could dis- 
miss the hne from his thou2jhts. As soon as he was able 
to give his attention to the matter, the North Midland 
line from Derby to Leeds was on his hands. He was 
also needed on the continent. The grand cross Hues ft-om 
Ostend to Liege and from Antwerp to Mons were under 
construction and requmng his superintendence. Invita- 
tions also reached him to visit France, Switzerland, and 
Italy, to advise on hues contemplated in those countries. 
Entrusting the superintendence of his home lines to his 
father and the execution of them to his subordinates, and 
quitting Westminster when the business of the committee- 


rooms was daily becoming heavier, he left England for 
three months to answer in person these calls from foreign 
countries. At this period he became intimately ac- 
quainted with Mons. Pauhn Talabot, a civil engineer who 
for many years has held a leading position amongst the 
civil engineers and capitaHsts of the continent. At a 
subsequent period Eobert Stephenson, Signor Negretti, and 
M. Talabot surveyed the Isthmus of Suez, and ascer- 
tained that the levels of the Mediterranean Sea and the 
Eed Sea were identical. 

On his return he was soon busy again with the affairs 
of Enghsh railways. On July 1 he attended the meeting 
of the Council of the Eailway Society. The next day saw 
him giving evidence before the Select Committee of Eail- 
ways. On the 16th of the same mouth he was at Derby 
about the railway station of that town ; the next day at 
Clay Cross to look over his father's coal mines ; the next 
day at Sheffield and over the Sheffield and Botherham 
Works ; the next day at Tapton to negotiate the purchase 
of land for a railway station ; the next day at Birmingham 
to meet the Committee of the London and Birmingham 
line ; the next day in town for examination before parlia- 
mentary committees. 

In the autumn of this year, Eobert Stephenson received 
an expression of the high esteem in which he was held by 
an influential division of the business men engaged in the 
construction of the railways of the country. As the 
reader is by this time well aware, a large number of the 
contracts on the London and Birmingham line came back 
to the Comi)any uncompleted. Of course the contractors 
did not get quit of their engagements without much 
deUcate and painful negotiation with the directors. In 

1839.] THE TESTIMONLIL. 241 

Other cases where the contracts were fulfilled, the course of 
their performance was marked by misunderstandmgs and 
disputes between the Company and the master-employers. 
To arbitrate in such disputes, and to adjudicate in such 
difficulties, Eobert Stephenson was by temper, information, 
and reputation, pecuUarly fitted ; and it adds not a little 
to his fame that in nearly all the disagreements between 
directors and contractors he was appointed sole umpu^e. 

The course thus commenced on the London and Bir- 
mingham hue was continued on the North Midland, the 
Derby Junction Eailway, and the York and North Mid- 
land. Whenever a contractor on one of his lines was 
contendinc^ with directors about the terms of an ao;ree- 
ment, it was left with Eobert Stephenson to arrange the 

Such services merited signal reward ; and in 1839 a 
movement was set on foot to make an appropriate ac- 
knowledgement of them. A party of gentlemen, who 
were assembled (April 2, 1839) in Birmingham on a dif- 
ferent business, suggested the propriety of presenting the 
popular engineer with a testimonial. The proposition was 
so well received, that before the meeting separated the 
affair had been well started. A committee, with ]\ii\ 
J. D. Barry, of Manchester, for honorary secretary, had 
been appointed, with powers to ask for subscriptions — it 
being arranged that no contribution should exceed £5 and 
that no one should subscribe but 'gentlemen who had 
been engaged as contractors for the construction of rail- 
ways or for the supply of permanent materials. A sum of 
£200 was subscribed in the room, and by the folloAving 
November the committee held more than £1,250 for the 
accomphshment of their object. 

VOL. I. R 


Li tlie previous July a committee of taste had bceu 
appointed to decide ou tlie form of the testimoniaL lu 
tliis committee Sir John Guest, M.P., and Mr. Crawshay 
represented the iron trade, Mr. Bramah and Mr. Maudshiy 
the engine manufacturers, Mr. Freeman and Mr. Bazley 
White tlie stone and cement trades, Mr. Dowson and 
Mr. Holland the timber trade, ]\Ii\ David M'Intosh and 
Mr. Thomas Jackson the operative railway contractors. 
They selected a service of plate, of which the principal 
ornament was a candelabrum. 

This service was presented to Eobert Stephenson on 
Saturday, November 16, 1839, when he was entertained 
at a grand dinner in the Albion Hotel, Aldersgate Street. 
The banquet was attended by more than two hundred 
gentlemen, several of whom came from Lancashire. In 
the absence of Mr. Crawshay, who was to have taken the 
chair^ Mr. Wilham Eoutli (Mr. Crawshay 's partner) pre- 
sided, the vice-presidents being Messrs. Joseph Dowson, 
John Joseph Bramah, Thomas Grissell, and Thomas Jack- 
son. On the chairman's right sate Eobert Stephenson, 
the hero of the evening. On the left of the chairman 
was George Stephenson. At present, the father had 
received no similar acknowledgement of his services, as 
' the Author of the Eailway System.' Indeed, his achieve- 
ments had for the moment been echpsed by those of his 
son. The fine old man, whose kindest teacher had been 
adversity, was even yet not duly appreciated in the metro- 
pohs. His manners were rugged and far from prepossess- 
ing, and his personal connections were for the most part 
in his own ' old country.' For one inhabitant of London 
who visited the Liverpool and Manchester line, ninety and 
nine were famihar with the works on the London and 

1839.] THE TESTIMONIAL. 243 

Birmingham Eailway. Moreover, the father, with the 
appearance and reputation of having seen more years than 
he actually numbered, was in the decline of life, whilst 
the power and fortunes of the son were in the ascendant. 
It is therefore easy to account for the fact, that ' the 
Father of the Eailway System ' saw his son thus pubhcly 
honoured, whilst he himself had been comparatively un- 

George Stephenson had still to wait for his ' railway 
testimonial ; ' but not the less was he delighted with his 
son's triumph. Indeed, why should he grudge ' the lad ' 
the w^orld's homage ? To make him ' a great man ' had 
been his aim from the time when he wrote down the boy's 
name as ' engineer ' on the plans of the Stockton and 
Darhngton hue. 

In his hfe of turmoil and many cares Eobert Stephen- 
son had few opportunities for domestic repose. Whenever 
he could manage to do so, he spent Sunday at Haverstock 
Hill, often posting for hours in order that he might have 
a quiet day with Mrs. Stephenson. From 1838 to 1844 
the urgent caUs upon his time in different parts of the 
country made his presence in his OAvn house almost a 
surprise to its inmates ; but whenever he was there the 
home was the merrier. Amongst the thousands of letters 
perused for this memoh% the following was found tied up 
with epistles relating to improvements in the locomotive 
and the execution of orders at the Newcastle factory. 

Feb. 1840. 

Dear Edward, — I bought when last in Newcastle two plaids, 

which have been intensely admired, and this compels me to 

venture on troubling you to purchase two more of the same 

pattern. The ladies have determined upon sporting plaids of 

E 2 


this character in the precincts of the metropolis, and in a 
season or two they expect to be designated Scotch lassies. 
The above sketch is made with the view of guiding you in 
selecting the same pattern, by which you mil perceive that the 
ground is green with stripes of red and what I call black, but 
what I call the black stripes seems to partake of the qualities 
of the chameleon, for Fanny declares it to be lavender. Now I 
am obliged to confess total ignorance of this peculiar colour 
lavender ; suffice it to say I still consider it to ordinary eyes 
black. I would therefore advise you, if you meet with a colour 
between black and lavender, to consider that you have hit the 
mark. I purchased these said admired plaids at Robson and 
Henderson's, and they may perhaps recollect a strange out- 
landish-looking gent purchasing two plaids, and requesting 
them to be forwarded to the Queen's Head. I mention this 
as a sort of collateral aid to you in your commission, which I fear 
3^ou will consider a difficult one. The sketch shows the exact 
distances and the relative widths of the stripes, for it is made 
by laying the plaid upon the sheet of paper. 

Should you succeed, you will be good enough to send them by 
coach. I paid one sovereign each for mine, and they are of fine 
quality. This is essential, as they are infinitely warmer than 
coarse ones. 

Fanny, I think, is going on well, although she is still grazing 
on macaroni, and occasionally a little marine flesh, vulgarly 
called fish. She desires to be kindly remembered to all, and 
requests me to say all the are well. 

Yours sincerely, 

Rob. Stephenson. 
E. J. Cook, Esq., Newcastle-upon-Tyue. 

By this time the incumbrances of the Stanhope and 
Tyne Eailway had grown with fearful rapidity. In 1839 
the portion of line between Stanhope and Medomsley 
was declared to be so ruinous, that the directors deter- 
mined no longer to work it. The railway being thus 
disused, the lime quarries held on lease at a rent of 
£2,000 per annum could no longer be worked with 


even a semblance of profit, and were consequently per- 
mitted to lie idle. Thus nearly the whole of the 
original scheme was deserted as bad, when its desertion 
entailed on the speculation an annual payment of rent 
amounting to £2,300. By the end of the following year 
(1840) the debts of the Company were so great that 
creditors began to clamour. Bills for wliich the Com- 
pany was responsible were floating about in all directions, 
and the holders refused to renew them. 

Until the close of 1840, Robert Stephenson was in 
ignorance of the exact nature of his position. He knew 
that, as payment for professional services, he held shares in 
a hne that had turned out badly ; and somewhat vaguely 
he had for two years feared that the consequence of his 
holding £1,000 of stock would be that he would have to 
pay up some hundreds more to make an arrangement 
with the creditors of the association. In 1840, however, 
he learnt to his horror that, as a shareholder, he was 
personally responsible for the entire debts of the under- 
taking. It was also frankly intimated to him that, unless 
certain biUs were met on their falhug due, the holders 
would come upon him for the money. He could 
scarcely credit the announcement. Without his know- 
ledge insolvency had long been staring him in the face. 

Of aU the shareholders, he was perhaps the one from 
whom the creditors of the Company were most secure of 
payment. It was known that he had for years been 
earning a magnificent income, not one half of which he had 
expended on his pleasures or his estabhshment. It was 
known also that he dishked speculation, and invariably 
put his savings into investments that were secure, and 
could be easily reahsed. His professional position and 


l)iiblic reputation also would spur liira to a prompt liquid- 
ation of legal claims on his piu-se. To him, therefore, 
was brought the first bill which the directors could not 
meet. To Eobert Stephenson, who throughout life was 
strangely ignorant of the simplest rules of law, the apph- 
cation at first seemed little more than an awkward joke. 
He soon regarded the afliiir in a difierent hght; and 
coming in great agitation to his friend and sohcitor 
]\Ir. Parker, asked what ought to be done. Writing to 
Mr. Cook at Newcastle on December 2, 1840, when the 
blow was still neAv, Robert Stephenson said — 

I hope you will be able to make a dividend soon : I \nsh this 
for two reasons — firstly, because I want money, and secondly 
because I don't like your bankers.* If they are not speculating 
beyond what is prudent I am deceived. And in that opinion I 
am borne out by several chcumstances which have lately been 
brought before me in a way likely to affect myself very seriously. 
That prince of rogues has, I am sorry to say, involved all parties 
connected with the Stanhope and Tyne and almost all the banks 
of Newcastle and Sunderland. When I first became acquainted 
mth the awful responsibilities which the Stanhope and Tyne had 
incurred, and the utter inability of the concern to meet them, I 
was perfectly stunned, and your bank has lent them on bills 
£51,000, which are at this moment floating. Some become 
due next Saturday, on which day, I have no doubt, the Stanhope 
and Tyne Company must stop payment. This is exactly what 

I am most anxious to do, for to allow and to proceed 

further would be madness. I have got parties in London to 
write down to the bankers not to accept or renew any more 

bills. left town last night for the purpose of getting them 

to do so, but I expect I am in time to stop his reckless career. 

At Mr. Parker's advice, an extraordinary general 
meeting of the proprietors was summoned for December 

* This suspicion, as tlie business men of Nortliumbria can testify, was 
signally justified by subsequent occun'ences. 


29, 1840, which was adjourned to January 2 next 
folio Aving. At this adjourned meeting it was decided to 
dissolve the Company, and to form a new Company with 
a capital of £400,000, such new concern taking, at the 
same time, the property and the debts of the bankrupt 
association and applying to Parliament for incorporation. 
Tliis bold plan offered the shareholders the only chance 
of extrication from their embarrassments. The intention 
of the new projectors was to apply their subscribed capital 
to the immediate hquidation of their debts, and by 
stringent economy to endeavour to carry on the concern 
Avithout loss. If they should succeed, all would be well. 
But even if failure should be the fate of the new Company, 
acting under parhamentary sanction, individual share- 
holders would be defended from ruin. 

There was no room for loss of time. It was neces- 
saiy that the capital of the new association should be 
subscribed and paid up without delay, for creditors were 
importunate. On February 5 another meeting of share- 
holders was held, when the resolutions of January 2 were 
confirmed and the old Company was dissolved. At the 
time of the dissolution, there were forty-nine interests in 
the proprietary of the Stanhope and Tyne Company. Of 
these thirty-six absolutely consented to the dissolution ; of 
five other interests, wdiere the original holders were dead, 
four executors gave in their consent, the fifth executor 
being abroad and not opposing. Four other shareholders 
were bankrupt. 

Of course all the shareholders were invited and urgently 
pressed to subscribe to the new speculation. Equally a 
matter of course was it, that the smaller sliareholders 
were . disinchned to embark their hundreds on another 


venture between Stanliope and Tyne. They were only 
too glad to put their liabilities on shoulders stronger than 
their own. It remained for the greater men with greater 
interests at stake to advance their thousands on the effort 
of retrieval. The assets of the dissolved Company, at a 
hberal computation, did not exceed £307,383, whilst the 
liabilities of the affiiir were £440,852. To deal with this 
accumulation of debt, the monied men made great efforts 
to contribute effectually to the capital of the new under- 

On the committee of the new Company Eobert 
Stephenson's name was placed, and, regarduig the venture 
as the only possible means of escaping from his perilous 
position, he threw himself heartily into its interests. The 
line of action once decided on, his mind became easier ; 
and with the soothing assurance that the best measures 
had been adopted, he resolved to persevere in them and 
await their result with calmness. On the evening of the 
2 9 til he wrote to Newcastle. 

351 Great George Street, Westminster : Dec. 29, 1840. 

Dear Edwakd, — We have this day had a meeting of the 
Stanhope and Tyne Eailway, and I hope its result portends 
good, but it is still somewhat uncertain. The Company's affairs 
are awfully deranged, and the precise consequences no one can 
venture to predict. We may possibly struggle through, but this 

hope may prove fallacious I dare say I shall very 

shortly be at Newcastle, when I can explain more at length all 
the outs and ins in this affair, which are too painful and too 
lengthy for an epistle of an ordinar}'^ character. WTien I was 
last at 3^our canny town I intended to have gone into the 
matter with my friend Stanton, * but, as you saw, I was too 

* Mr. Philip Stanton — one of the many friends whom Rohert Stoplienson 
attached to liimself in early life, and kept close to his heart till deatli. 


much occupied and too anxious to sit down to talk over matters 
involving- such consequences. The history of the Stanhope and 
Tyne is most instructive, and one miss of this kind ought to 
be, as it shall be, a lesson deeply stamped. If the matter get 
through, I promise you I shall never be similarly placed again. 
Ordinary rascality bears no relation to that which has been 
brought into play in this affair. I conclude from what has 

transpired that all the will shortly be in the Grazette, and 

how many they may drag after them into the same position it 
is impossible to predict. 

On January 12, just ten days after tlie adjourned 
general meeting, £250,000 of the proposed capital of 
£400,000 were subscribed for the new association, 
the rest of the required sum being in due com-se found. 
Eobert Stephenson put his name down for £20,000 
and, like liis fellow-subscribers, promptly paid the amount 
of his subscription as the instalments agreed upon 
became due. To fulfill this engagement he had to raise 
money by all the means in his power, and to transfer one 
half of his share in the Newcastle factory to his father. 

Hampstead : Jan. 4, 1841. 
Dear Edward, — Your view as to my wishes respecting one 
half of my interest in the factory is exactly what I wish. The 
transaction is not intended to be otherwise than bond fide 
between my father and myself. The fact is, I owe him nearly 
.€4,000, and I have not now the means of payinghim as I expected 
I should have a month or two ago. All my available means must 
now be applied to the Stanhope and Tyne. On the 15th of this 
month I have £5,000 to pay into their coffers. The swamping 
of all my labours for years past does not now press heavily on 
my mind. It did so for a few days, but I feel now master of 
myself; and though I may become poor in purse, I shall still 
have a treasure of satisfaction amongst friends who have been 
friends in my prosperity. The worst feature in the case is the 
all-absorbing character of my attention to the rectification of 
its embarrassments, which if produced by legitimate misfortune 


Nvoiild have been tolerable, but when produced by ... . men 
who are indebted to me, they become doubly afflicting. I am 
not without hopes that before the 15th of this month we shall 
have succeeded in bringing the affairs into a tangible state, and 
about that date I hope to be in Newcastle. 

Yours sincerely, 

EoB. Stephenson. 

Anxious to get rid of a bad name as well as bad fortune, 
the new association petitioned Parliament for incorporation 
under the title of ' The Pontop and South Shields Eailway 
Company.' Their prayer was successful, but they did not 
gain the Eoyal assent without a struggle. The same evil 
influence which had brought the affairs of the Stanhope 
and Tyne into so disastrous a condition, opposed to the 
utmost the Pontop and South Shields line. Through 
that influence, a petition was concocted imploring 
Parliament that the Act desired by the new Company 
should not become law. Eeaders unacquainted with the 
daring of reckless and embarrassed speculators, and 
ignorant of the ease with which such persons can work 
on the passions of the ill-informed, will scarcely believe 
that a most vigorous opposition was maintained against 
so honest and necessary a project. The opponents of 
course represented that the 'Pontop and South Shields' 
scheme was simply a conspiracy on the part of tlie rich 
to oust the poor shareholders from an undertaking just 
as it was about to become profitable. Absurd as such a 
charge was, it gained so much credit that on the second 
reading before ' the Lords,' Lord Canterbury denounced 
the Bill as 'a measure of spoliation.' 

Amongst other plans for effecting their objects, the 
directors of the 'Pontop and South Sliiekls ' line entered 

1841.] GEORGE HUDSON. 251 

into a compact witli the projectors of the Newcastle and 
Darhngton Eailway, which hne had for some time been 
sketched out by those who were bent on iniiting the 
Tyne and the Thames by an kon road. The chief points 
of the contract can be stated in a few words. Five miles 
of the Stanhope and Tyne Hne formed a connecting link 
between the Durham Junction Eailway and the Brandhng 
Junction Railway, and were used for conveying passengers 
between the towns of Newcastle, Gateshead, South Shields, 
Sunderland, and other important places. It was proposed 
to make these five miles of railway a part of the Great 
North of England Eailway, which was to unite Newcastle 
with London and the southern and western parts of the 
country. Of course such a proposal took from Eobert 
Stephenson and his brother directors a hea\y weight of 
anxiety, opening up to them, as it did, a profitable market 
for a portion of their encumbered property, and ensuring 
them powerful cooperation in their approaching par- 
liamentary battle. The two Companies agreed to assist 
each other. 

This arrangement is worthy of notice ; for George 
Hudson was appointed chairman of the Newcastle and 
Darhngton Junction hne, and to watch the Bill through 
Parhament in the session 1841-42 he quitted York and 
came up to London, where he speedily became powerful 
in the railway world. One of the consequences of the 
arrangement between the two Companies was that Eobert 
Stephenson became the engineer of the line in which the 
Eailway King was interested. 

It was an anxious session for Eobert Stephenson, and 
he had reason to di^ead the advent of George Hudson 
upon the scene. Fortunately, however, the chairman of 


the Newcastle and Darlington Junction Line was the fit 
man for the occasion. Human nature round West- 
minster Abbey closely resembles human nature round 
York Iklinster ; and when Hudson entered the committee- 
rooms of the House of Commons, he found the weak, 
there as elsewhere, obedient to the stronger will. He 
found throngs of men, eager, grasping, shrewd, and un- 
scrupulous, but lacldng the nerve and definite purpose 
which are necessaiy for success in commercial gambhng; — 
he saw, in fact, an army without a commander, yet sorely 
w^anting one. Delicacy and fine tact would have stood in 
Hudson's way. The leading characteristics requisite for 
a chief over such men, battling and strugghng on a new 
field of enterprise without organisation, are imperious 
temper, shrewd selfishness, and fierce bull-dog resolution 
to overcome every antagonist. These quahties George 
Hudson possessed in an eminent degree, as well as a 
natural force of intellect beyond that of the inferior sort 
of ordinary men. 

The result of the session was fortunate ahke for Eobert 
Stephenson and George Hudson. The Pontop and South 
Shields and the Newcastle and Darhngton Junction Bills 
both passed; and Eobert Stephenson not only saw his 
way to the end of the Stanhope and Tyne difiiculty, but 
secured the direction of a work destined to afford him 
much stratification. To connect London and Newcastle 
by railway communication had long been a favourite 
object of Eobert Stephenson's ambition, and now he was 
called upon to construct the last link of the chain. Con- 
gratulations poured in upon him from all sides. ' Many 
thanks,' he wrote to one friend, ' on your kind con- 
gratulations on the Stanhope and Tyuc business ; for 


next (if not equal) to one's own pleasure in one's own 
success is that of knowing our friends participate in it.' 

Before tlie Stanhope and Tyne affair is dismissed from 
consideration, it may be well to state that the Pontop and 
South Shields line tiurned out a great success, and was, in 
the course of a few years, sold on good terms to the 
Newcastle and Darhngton Junction Eailway Company. 

The anxious and trying year of 1841 was marked 
to Eobert Stephenson by one pleasing event. In the 
August of that year the King of the Belgians created him 
a Knight of the Order of Leopold, the honoiu" being 
conferred as ' a testimony of his Maj esty's satisfaction 
with improvements made in locomotive engines, which 
improvements have turned to the advantage of Belgian 
ii-on roads.' 

The cloud of the Stanhope and Tyne trouble had, 
however, scarcely been dispelled, when a far darker cloud 
took its place, and Eobert Stephenson was called upon 
to endure the great sorrow of his life. Mrs. Stephenson 
had for two years suffered from mahgnant cancer, when 
she expired, without experiencing the weary duration of 
agony which that malady sometimes inflicts upon its 
victims. Tender and true to the last, she studied to 
hghten the blow which was soon to fall upon Eobert 
Stephenson, and which, as he long afterwards remarked 
to a fiiend, took away from him ' half his power of 
enjoying success.' Wlien he was created a Knight of the 
Order of Leopold she, already too sick to care for earthly 
honorurs, feigned the pleasure she would, a few years 
earher, have really felt at the distinction. Wlien the 
session of 1841-42 secured him from threatened insol- 
vency, and commissioned him to lead the Northern Eailway 


into liis 'dear old canny town,' no one exulted more at 
his triumph than the gentle woman who knew full well 
that, while the sods were being cut to make way for 
the new road, the tm^f would be raised for her own 

Even while such a calamity was impending, Eobert 
Stephenson could not defer the claims of business. His 
note-book and letters during the summer months of 1842 
show him passing from place to place along the route of 
the DarHngton and Newcastle road, posting from one 
midland town to another to be present at important nego- 
tiations, and, when he was in London, working more than 
twelve hours out of every twenty-four over calculations, 
plans, estimates, and the burdensome correspondence en- 
tailed upon him by his many engagements, from Wales to 
Hull, and from Northumberland to the South of Europe. 

On September 17 he returned to London from Cardiff, 
where he had been for two days examining the docks, 
and immediately on reaching Great George Street had a 
consultation about the Hull Docks. The 18th (Sunday) 
was spent alone with Fanny : but the next six days were 
devoted to business. These are the engagements and 
objects of attention jotted down in his note-book. 

I9th. — Hull Docks — Darlington and Stockton Bridge — 
French Eailway. 

20th. — French Eailway — Bute Docks — Darlington Bridge. 

2\st. — French Railway Eeport. 

22nd. — French Eailway Eeport — Hull Docks. 

23rd. — French Eailway Eeport — Hull Docks. 

24:th. — French Eailway Eeport — Hull Docks. 

Sunday (the 25th) Avas, hke the preceding day of rest, 
spent with Mrs. Steplienson ; but during the three sue- 

18i2.] NOTE-BOOK. 255 

ceecliiig days the French Eailway, the Stockton Bridge, 
and the Pontop and South Shields hne, occupied most of 
his time and energy. The spaces allotted in the diary to 
the next five days are filled up \vith 'At home — Fanny 
very ill.' And then at the date of October 4, standing 
out in afi^ectino' contrast to the brief memorials of 
enterprise and labour by which it is surrounded, is the 
following entry in Eobert Stephenson's hand : — 'My dear 
Fanny died this morning at five o'clock. God grant that 
I may close my life as she has done, in the true faith, and 
in charity with all men. Her last moments were perfect 
calmness.' On the following Tuesday (October 11) she 
w^as interred in Hampstead churchyard, where in after 
years her husband often came to stand alone and indulge 
in solemn meditation. She wished him to marry again, 
and on her death-bed iu"ged him to do so. It was the 
only w^ish of hers with which he did not comply. 

Another extract from the note-book will show how he 
was hterally dragged from his wife's grave to the turmoil 
and asritation of business. 


Oct. nth. — Funeral of my beloved wife. 

I2th. — Home — Stockton and Darlington Bridge. 

ISth. — Stockton Bridge, plans and specifications — West 
London, estimate and plans — French Eailway Eeport with 
Berkley — Maidstone Bridge. 

14^/i. — Maidstone Branch with Bidder — Norwich plans — 
Newcastle and Darlington plans — French Railway Eeport. 

1 5th. — Maidstone Branch with Bidder, and returned to 

Durmg the next two years he had perhaps more work 
on his hands than at any other time of his Ufe ; but of all 
his engagements — the continental lines, the docks, and 
his home railways — the task just then nearest to his heart 


Avas the construction of tlie Newcastle and Darling^ton 
Junction, tlie line which would unite the metropolis with 
his 'ain countree.' 

Two years saw the necessary Avorks for effecting the 
junction begun and ended, and on June 18, 1844, the line 
was opened with general rejoicing and a pubhc reception 
of the two Stephensons at Newcastle. The population on 
the banks of Tyne displayed great excitement. Bells 
were rung, cannon fired, and triumphal arches raised. 
Processions of workmen headed by bands of music, 
marched up and down the precipitous streets of the two 
boroughs, which throughout the tlay were crowded by 
the inhabitants of the surrounding coUiery villages. 
The London 'Morning Herald' came to Tyneside that 
day within eight hours after its pubhcation — a feat never 
before achieved. Antiquarians, wdio abound in Newcastle, 
feiTcted up old newspapers, letters, and account-books, 
throwing hght on the means of transit enjoyed by their 
ancestors. Copies of the following advertisement (inserted 
in the 'Newcastle Courant' in 1712) were, Avith many 
other interesting scraps, handed about, and in due course 
enhvened the columns of the local papers : — 

Edinbro', Berwick, Newcastle, Durham, and London stage- 
coach begins on Monday, October 13, 1712. All that desire 
to pass from Edinbro' to London, or any place on the road, let 
them repair to Mr. John Baillie's at the Coach and Horses at the 
Head of Canongate, Edinbro', every other Saturday, or to the Black 
Swan in Holborn every other Monday, at both of which places 
they may he received in the stage-coach, which performs the 
whole journey in thirteen days without any stoppages (if God 
permit), having eighty able horses to perform the whole journey, 
each passenger paying four pounds ten shillings, allowing each 
passenger 20 Ihs. of luggage ; all above, sixpence per lb. The 
coach sets off at six o'clock in the morning. 


The Darlington and Newcastle line is by no means 
devoid of engineering interest, for one of its principal 
works is the Victoria Bridge, which spans the river Wear 
and the rich valley watered by that important river. 
Built of stone, this beautiful bridge will probably exist a 
memorial of Eobert Stephenson's capacity, when his later 
viaducts of more stupendous dimensions, and carried 
through the air at far greater heights, shall, in conse- 
quence of their less durable material, hve only in history. 
A fairer monument no engineer could desire. Surrounded 
by scenery of uncommon loveliness, its bright arches 
thrown from ridge to ridge (one of them leaping at a 
bound the entire width of the navigable river, the others 
spanning the fat pastures and wooded ascents on either 
side of the valley), present a spectacle singularly expres- 
sive of the grace and power of genius. No excursionist 
to the North of England should fail to leave the train at 
Washington, and spend a few hours at the base of Pensher 
Hill, in the valley of the Wear. On the summit of the 
hill is the ill-designed monument to the memory of 
Lord Durham, whilst rising from the ground beneath 
are Eobert Stephenson's elegant curves of massive 

An important part of the celebration at Newcastle on 
June 18, 1844, was the dinner in the Town Hall, of which 
about 350 gentlemen partook. George Hudson was in 
the chair, Mr. Davies, the vice-chairman of the Company, 
officiating as vice-president, and Mr. John Bright, the 
present member for Birmingham, being one of many 
notable persons present. 

The speech of the day was made by George Stephenson. 
The Hon. H. T. Liddell, M.P., on proposing the health of 

VOL. I. s 


the father of ' tlic railway system ' gave utterance to the 
followinix erroneous statement. 

conferred so great an amount of practical benefit on society as 
his respected friend, and their admired guest, Mr. Stephenson, 
who, aided by strong natural talents, commencing from a work- 
ing engineer to a colliery in this neighbourhood, constructed the 
first locomotive that ever went by its own spontaneous movement 
along iron rails. (Applause.) 

To appreciate the full force of this blunder the reader 
must bear in mind that the Liddells reside in the imme- 
diate neighbourliood of Newcastle ; that Sir Thomas 
Liddell (afterwards Lord Eavensworth), as one of the 
' grand alhes,' was amongst George Stephenson's early 
employers ; and that it was on the property of the ' grand 
allies ' that the locomotive (to wdiicli the speaker referred) 
was used, after it had been built with Sir T. Liddell's 
money subsequent to the use of locomotives running with 
smooth wheels on smooth rails at Wylam. Wlien a man 
of high character and ability could be so misinformed not 
only as to the history of the locomotive, but as to facts 
that occurred almost within gunshot of his father's park, 
readers need not wonder at the prevalence of the po- 
pular error which attributes to George Stephenson the 
invention of the locomotive. 

Anxious that his fatlier should be the principal hero of 
the day, Eobert Stephenson, on his health being drimk 
with a tumult of applause, spoke no more than a few 
sentences, observing in the course of his brief I'cply that 
' It was only ten years since he left the North to execute 
the London and Birmingham Eailway, since which time 
he and his father liad had the honour of being more or 


less connected with every railway between Birmingham 
and Newcastle.' 

Wliilst the Newcastle and Darhngton Eailway was in 
course of execution Eobert Stephenson made two visits to 
the continent. Li 1843 he spent several days at Naples 
considering railway projects, and more especially protect- 
ing the interests of the Newcastle factory from the un- 
scrupulous competition of persons whom he had uniformly 
treated wdth hberality. On his retiu*n home he visited 
various parts of Germany, securing, as his letters to New- 
castle testify, new and powerful connections wherever he 

By this time he had given up his establishment on 
Haverstock Hill, and moved to Cambridge Square, Hyde 
Park. After Mrs. Stephenson's death he conceived a 
dishke for the home which he had inhabited for eight of 
the happiest years of his Ufe. It was too far from town, 
now that it was no longer presided over by a wife. A 
widower, like a bachelor, finds it best to dwell near the 
clubs, so that he can readily find society. Connected 
with Eobert Stephenson's residence in Cambridge Square 
was a trifling incident, which should be mentioned, as it 
serves to show how careless he was about arrangements 
that were not connected with his profession. 

Scarcely had his furniture been shifted from Haver- 
stock Hill to Cambridge Square when much of it was 
destroyed by a fire that broke out in the middle of the 
night. Eobert Stephenson, who had only slept once or 
twice before in his new residence, narrowly escaped with 
his life from the flames. Wliile the house was under- 
going restoration — a work that occupied nearly a twelve- 
month — he took up his quarters in furnished lodgings, 


and had almost reconciled himself to the destruction of 
his property by fire, when he was greatly surprised by a 
demand from his landlord for the rent of the dwelling 
which had for ten months been unfit for use. He was not 
aware that in case of fire the tenant, unless he be pro- 
tected by a special clause in his lease, or by the terms 
of a fire-insurance policy, endures the consequences of the 
casualty to the extent of paying rent for an unserviceable 

On the night of this fire George Stephenson was 
sleeping in his son's house. The first in the house to 
sniff the smell of fire, he lost no time in taking care of 
himself. Wlien Eobert Stephenson and his servants were 
in the act of flying from the burning house in their 
night-clothes, the prudent father made his appearance in 
the hall, dressed even to his white neckcloth, and with 
his carpet-bag packed and swinging in his hand. This 
anecdote is told by friends as a story highly characteristic 
of his presence of mind and readiness of action. 

The year 1844 is a conspicuous landmark in the 
career of Eobert Stephenson. For twenty years he had 
been at work without intermission, and as the result of 
his exertions he found himself, whilst he w^as still only 
forty years of age, in the first rank of his profession. 
Had he however died then, he would have left nothing to 
which history could point as the monument of original 
and distinctive genius. He had raised the locomotive by a 
series of beautiful improvements from the ill-proportioned 
and ineffective machine of 1828 almost to its present per- 
fection of mechanism. He had, in conjunction with his 
father, so fixed the English railway system in continental 
countries, tliat throughout Europe his name was identi- 


fied with the new means of locomotion. His engineering 
achievements were beyond all cavil works of great 
abihty — but not of distinctive genius. Hitherto he had, 
in the manner of a master, carried out the principles and 
developed the conceptions of previous teachers, of whom 
his father was the most important. The time, however, 
was now come for him to take a higher position and 
accomphgh works altogether without precedent. 

The next six years of Eobert Stephenson's hfe — years 
memorable in the annals of social folly, crime, and 
suffering — witnessed the exertions by wliich his influence 
and name "will reach future generations. They saw the 
atmospheric contest, the battle of the gauges, the con- 
struction of the tubular bridge, and the completion of the 
high level bridge. 

It is impossible to record the labours of the engineer 
during the interval between the opening of 1844 and 
the close of 1850 without contrastins^ them with the in- 
trigues of adventurers who regarded railway enterprise 
as gamesters regard a gambhng table. The triumph of 
these adventurers was brief. Just as the worker reached 
the fidhiess of his fame, the chief speculator dropped 
from his eminence, to be scouted by those who had 
fawned on him in prosperity, and to be despoiled by 
those whom he had benefited even more than by those 
whom he had wronged. 

The rest of this memoir will be devoted to a con- 
sideration of Eobert Stephenson's great pubhc parhamen- 
tary contests, in connection with the atmospheric system 
and the gauges; to a description of those remarkable 
achievements by which he will be known as the ' builder 
of iron bridges,' — and to a general view of his professional 


and personal history from the time of his entrance into 
the House of Commons as member for Whitby in 1847 
up to tlie time of his cleatli eleven years afterwards. 

But before this second portion of Eobert Stephenson's 
life is entered upon, in order that the reader may have a 
complete picture of the movement which he influenced, 
it will be necessary to glance at the history of railway 
enterprise and railway legislation. 

1844.] 203 



First Act of Parliament authorising the Construction of a Eailway — 
Railway Developement from the Year 1801 to 1846 inclusive — The 
Railway Mania of 1825-26— The Railway Mania of 1836-37 — 
The Railway Mania of 1845-46 — Diflerence between the Crises of 
1825-26 and 1836-37 and of 1845-46 .— Report from Committees, 
1837 — Bubble Compani es — Parliamentary Influence — Parliamentary 
Con'uption — Compensation; Stories of— The Parliamentary Com- 
mittee as a Tribimal — Robert Stephenson's Views on Parliamentary 
Legislation — Observations on his Project for a ' Preliminary Board 
of luquiiy ' — Causes of Parliamentary Inconsistency — Stories of 
the Parliamentary Bar — Professional Witnesses in the House of 
Commons : Robert Stephenson, Brunei, Locke, Lardner, Bidder — 
Great Britain compared with other Countries in respect of Railway 
Developement— Results — Proposal for Railway Farmers — Proposal 
for a Railway Bank. 

T) AIL WAY organisation, like most important com- 
JLt' mercial systems, was an affair of small commence- 
ment; and to fhis fact can be traced the principal defects 
and errors of railway legislation. The early tramways 
were private works, undertaken at the sole cost, and 
carried ont for the benefit of private traders who for 
generations bought ' way leave ' of landed proprietors, 
and occasionally made arrangements of cooperation wdth 
the oAvners of adjacent roads without seeking parlia- 
mentary sanction. It was not till the middle of the last 
century that the legislature was first solicited to au- 
thorise the construction of a railroad, and so received a 



[Cn. XIII. 

first instalment of that business wliicli, during tlie last 
forty years, has swelled to a prodigious bulk. A private 
act of the 31st Geo. II. (1758) has reference to the road 
used for coal carriage to Leeds, on which Blenkinsop's 
patent locomotives used to run, with toothed driving- 
wheels Avorking on a rack-rail. Clauses are also found 
in many of the early canal acts, empowering the 
proprietors of the canals to construct railways in con- 
nection with their water ways. The first year of the 
present centur}^ however, saw the railway instituted in 
this country as a means of public convenience. In 1801 
the Surrey Iron Eailway Company was incorporated, 
Avith power to construct an iron tramway for public use. 
A survey of the following table will show the course 
taken by railway enterprise, until it became one of the 
greatest and most complicated of existing commercial 

rests : — 


Acts pmpnwering 
the rc.nstructioii 
of New Lines 


Acts amending Provisions 
and eiilarginK Powers de- 
termined by previous Acts 























































1 18 





Acts empowering Acts amending Provisions 
the Construction and enlarging Powers de- 
of New Lines termined by previous Acts 


Brought forward 18 


































































































This table is a concise epitome of the history of railway 
enterprise during the forty years to which it refers. The 
first twenty-four years saw exactly the same number of 
acts passed. In 1825, however, a sudden start was made 
in consequence of the growing confidence in the Stockton 
and Darlington line. In the following year, when the 
success of that undertaking had been ascertained, the 
number of bills for new lines was ten. The commercial 
trouble of 1826 reduced the number of bills passed in 
the following session to one. In 1828, however, a fresh 
start was made, and steadily maintained till 1836, when 


the first great railway mania reached its lieight, and gave 
the pubhc in the course of the session no less than 
twenty-nine new bills. In 1837 the first great mania 
began to subside, just as the works of the London and 
Birmingham line (to which the mania was in a great 
measure due) were on the eve of completion, and the 
passion for railway speculation was for a time so much 
suppressed, that the years 1838 and 1839 saw only five 
bills for new lines passed, and the year 1840 did not see 
even one. The lull, however, was only the precursor 
of a storm, the fury and ruin of which made the madness 
and misery of the railway mania of 1836 sink into insig- 
nificance. Eobert Stephenson's London and Birmingham 
line had familiarised the London pubhc Avith railways, 
and its success was a constant witness in support of those 
ambitious speculators who are always eager in exhorting 
the industrious and thrifty to find for their savings a 
better investment than the public securities. In 1841 
an attempt was made to set the ball rolling once more, 
and a bill was granted for the construction of the Hertford 
and Ware branch ; but so httle was the country as yet 
in humour to renew the ruinous game of 1836, that even 
this little branch, five miles and three quarters in length, 
was not constructed. The session of 1842 saw the 
advent of George Hudson to London, and bills passed 
for the Newcastle and Darhngton line (about which 
it will be necessary to speak more fully hereafter) and 
a few branch lines. The depression still continued. The 
parhamentary year of 1843 saw little that was new in 
the way of railway projection. But in the next session 
the floodgates were opened, and the deluge commenced 
which in tlirec short years enriched rogues, beggared 


honest men, swept away the savings of sober industry, 
and reduced countless famihes to destitution. In 1844 
bills were granted for the construction of forty-eight 
new hues, extending over 700 miles, at an estimated 
expenditure of £14,793,994. The allowance for 1845 
was 120 new lines, measuring 2,883 miles, at a computed 
cost of £43,844,907. In the following year (1846) legis- 
lative liberality went so far as to authorise the expen- 
diture of £121,500,000, on two hundred and seventy-two 
new lines, covering four thousand seven hundred and 
niiiety miles. In all, the amount of the national wealth 
assigned in these three sessions of Parliament to railway 
enterprise was one hundred and eighty millions, one 
hundred and thirty-eight thousand, nine hundred and one 

So long as applications for new lines were few, a 
parhamentary committee was the best possible tribunal 
for deciding on the propriety of investing private in- 
dividuals with power to construct the required lines. 
From 1801 to 1824 inclusive. Parliament (as has been 
seen) granted only one bill per annum. Whilst the 
concession of one act a year for the construction of a 
small road for the convenience of local commerce was 
enough to satisfy the public demand for railways, there 
were no grounds for suspecting that assemblies, which 
had akeady considered the claims of canal-owners and 
projectors of public roads and bridges, would be found 
incompetent to decide with wisdom and equity on cases 
connected with the creation of public tramways. Now 
and then the projectors of an iron road between a nest 
of collieries and a neighbouring port might possibly be 
defeated in their application to Parhament, through the 


interest of local members, but sucli interference would 
not be likely to be either frequent or of permanent effect; 
and even in the very few cases where local interests 
might steadily and triumphantly combine against the 
pubhc good, the victims of such combination would be so 
few, and so exceptional, that the nation at large could not 
be expected to pay them much heed. 

It is no purpose of the present work to collect materials 
out of which the malignant might frame charges of cor- 
ruption against individuals ; but it is necessary to give a 
truthful picture of evils which arose only a few years 
since from ckcumstances pecuUarly unfavourable to 
disinterestedness and integrity. Until the public awoke 
to a full sense of the benefits of the railway system, they 
were slow to discern the injustice and evil consequences 
of allowing members of the legislature to sit in judgement 
on cases affecting their private fortunes. Indeed, far 
from dreading, they found pleasure in calculating, 
that the decisions of committees would be given in 
accordance with the selfish instincts of the individuals 
composing those committees. So universal amongst all 
classes of society was the antagonism to railways, from an 
apprehension that they were injurious to vested interests, 
that gentle and simple viewed with equal complacency 
the constitution of tribunals which necessarily sympathised 
in a very high degree with the prevailing prejudice. At 
first, therefore, as applications to Parliament for public 
railways increased in number, the public felt that the 
general interests of property were secured by the con- 
clusions of railway committees composed of the persons 
through whose estates the projectors wished to carry 
lines, When it was ascertained that the opposition of 

1836-44.] COMPENSATION. 269 

members was removed by pecuniary consideration, the 
moral sense of the country, far fi'om being shocked at the 
corruption, gave it their sanction. The enormous sums 
that railway companies had to pay in complying with the 
required forms of parUamentary application, and the yet 
more exorbitant sums that had to be expended in buying 
off (under title of ' compensation ') the opposition of in- 
fluential proprietors, appeared to the general public in 
the lio;ht of guarantees that old interests would meet with 
extreme consideration from the new innovators. The 
pubhcity with which demands and proposals and arrange- 
ments, having compensation for their object, were made 
to railway companies, by itself shows how these bargains 
were regarded by the community at large. An im- 
poverished nobleman, owning a house and park (of the 
value of £30,000) in a county through which one of the 
earliest railways was carried, for a small strip of his park, 
occupied by the railway, which ran quite beyond the 
sight-range of his windows, obtained no less a sum than 
£30,000 — or the entire value of the estate which the hne 
was supposed only to depreciate. A few years afterwards 
this same peer sold another corner of the same park for 
another line for a second £30,000, and when he had thus 
extracted from two Companies £60,000 as compensation 
for damage done to his estate, the original property was 
greatly augmented in value by the Imes which, it was 
represented, would inflict upon it serious injury. Of 
course it was well understood that two sums of £30,000 
did not represent the price of the laud, but the price of 
the peer's parhamentary interest. 

Similar cases were of constant occurrence ; and, far 
from rousing public indignation, tliey met with public 


approval. Any amount that could by any means be 
squeezed from the funds of a railway company under the 
name of compensation public opinion decided to be 
legally and honourably acquired. As compensation for 
'severance' — i.e. for the injury presumed to be done to 
an estate previously lying within a ring fence — a pro- 
prietor (after requiring that bridges should be built at so 
many points of the hne that ' the severance ' would prac- 
tically cease to exist) would demand two, three, or four 
thousand pounds, in addition to the extortionate price 
already paid for the land actually given up to the line. 
It was to no purpose that the agents of railway com- 
panies demonstrated that this ' severance ' was merely an 
imaginary grievance, and effected no real injury to the 
estate. Eefusing to see the question in this light, the 
owner remained steady to his demand, and gained his 
' severance ' compensation. Having thus sold a strip of 
land at four, five, or six times its value, and obtained 
heavy compensation for the purely imaginary grievance, 
the owner would then candidly avow that 'the sever- 
ance ' of his land caused him so little discomfort that he 
could do with only half or a quarter of the stipulated 
bridges, and that he would for a further sum free the 
company from the obhgation to build the unnecessary 
bridges. In the early days of pubHc railways, companies 
were powerless to resist such extortions. They had to 
buy in hard cash the goodwill of the community. 
Frequently the owner who drove the hard bargain was a 
peer, or a member of the House of Commons, and had 
interest enough at Westminster to effect a combination 
that would upset the bill for the proposed line before 
committee. In other cases he was allied by blood or 

1836-44.] COMPENSATION. 271 

friendship to county magnates who had such influence ; or 
even where he was only a wealthy yeoman farmer, he 
often had sufficient local power to rouse the opposition 
of surrounding owners, who felt they had a common 
interest to serve in plundering the new railway com- 

The result was that in too many cases a bill was 
obtained for a new line on grounds altogether distinct 
from its merits; and in an equal number of cases a 
line (like that of the London and Birmingham) based 
on the soundest commercial pohcy, and demanded by 
national interests, failed to win parhamentary sanction, 
because it disturbed the operations and broke into the 
property of a few private persons. In due course, 
however, a change was wrought in public opuiion. The 
utihty of railways, and the benefits conferred by them 
upon the entire community, having been demonstrated by 
experience, the impropriety was seen of permitting 
railway questions to be decided by persons who were 
immediately and personally interested in them. It was 
perceived that a needy member of Parliament, who had 
been offered £5,000 for a strip of land not worth £500 by 
the directors of a projected railway, was as httle Hkely 
to be solely guided to his decision by the actual merits 
of the proposed hue, as any impoverished member of the 
judicial bench would be hkely to hold his ermine spotless 
if a similar bribe were offered, under circumstances that 
secured him from exposure. A parliamentary resolution, 
therefore, excluded from the committee sitting on any 
proposed line all members who either lield land througli 
which the Hue was to run, or were otherwise commercially 
interested in the ejection or passing of the bill. This 


measure of reform did much to clieck the scandalous 
trafRc of parhamentary influence, which had been 
previously carried on, without even a pretence of conceal- 
ment or shame, by members of both houses of legislature. 
But it by no means put an end to all corrupt practices ; 
and indeed the principal evil at which it was directed had 
in a very great measure ceased to exist, and given place 
to another form of legislative abuse. 

That the reader may understand this, it is necessary 
that he should survey the course of railway enterprise 
from another point of view. 

The table and resume given at the commencement of 
this chapter show that between 1801 and 1846, inclusive, 
there were three separate periods when speculation in 
railways made a great start, — each start followed by a 
corresponding collapse. The first of these periods was in 
1825 and 1826 (in a great degree induced by the 
operations on the Stockton and Darlington line); the 
second was in 1836 and 1837 (when the first metropohtan 
locomotive railway was near completion) ; the third was 
in 1845 and 1846, when George Hudson, at the height 
of his success, had for more than three years been lead- 
ing the country to believe that ' management ' was the 
only thing required to make any line of railway answer. 
Business men who can recall from personal experience the 
events of these three crises sometimes designate them the 
three periods of railway mania. The first crisis, how- 
ever, w^as so shght as compared with the second, and the 
second was so slight as compared with the third, that 
some persons speak only of two important paroxysms of 
railway gambling, wliilst with a great majority of English- 
men the almost universal madness of 1845, and 1846 is 




the railway mania, and the only railway mania worthy of 

Between the crises of 1825 and 1836, and the mania 
of 1845, there was as wide a difference in character as in 
magnitude. At tlie two former periods the speculators 
were for the most part obscure adventurers : whilst, in the 
last outbreak, the gamblers comprised every rank of 
society, and embraced a greater proportion of the aristo- 
cratic and educated classes than of the lower. In 1825 
and 1836, railways were still regarded by nine-tenths of the 
inhabitants of Great Britain as inventions that could never 
benefit society. Landed proprietors, from the peer to the 
petty yeoman, and all their dependents, viewed them with 
either distrust or violent hostility. The great monetary 
chiefs of the kingdom also opposed them. In London, 
with the exception of a few such men as Mr. Eichardson 
and Mr. Glynn, there was scarcely a banker or eminent 
broker who did not rank railway speculation with the 
South Sea bubble. In Durham Mr. Pease, familiar from 
boyhood with the railroads of the northern coal-field, 
advocated the cause of iron roads ; but in Norfolk, where 
such roads were unknown, a wealthy banker was foremost 
amongst the opponents of railways.. In Liverpool the 
new road was appreciated ; but in the South, at aU the 
principal seats of learning and commerce, it was decried 
on every consideration of policy. A banker (whose name 
it would be unfair to mention in connection with this 
story), residing, in one of the Eastern Counties, even went 
so far as to make a will, leaving in the hands of trustees 
a considerable property to be expended on parliamentary 
opposition to railways. It should be added, that the 
worthy gentleman who made this preposterously absurd 

VOL. I. T 


(.]i^])osition of liis estate lived to see liis lolly, and devote 
his wealth to better purposes. 

In 1825 and 1S3G, the multitudes ready to embark in 
railway speculation comprised comparatively few monied 
persons. In the latter period, there was a crowd of pro- 
jects, and there was a mob of shareholders ; but in a great 
majority of cases, the schemes and the projectors wanted 
alike the countenance of tried engineers, and the support of 
solvent speculators. It was a time very different from the 
crisis ten years later. Applications Avere made to parlia- 
ment for new lines, of which the engineers were charlatans, 
incapable of taking the level of a grass-plot, the directors 
were unknown clerks, and the shareholders were little 
more than beggars. In some instances plans were sub- 
mitted to Parliament, the engineers and draughtsmen of 
which knew the country concerned in them only through 
ordnance maps. Mr. Cundy's London and Brighton line 
was one of several similar efforts. If they were not 
amply attested by evidence recorded in parliamentary 
blue-books, a reader of the present day could scarcely 
credit the stories to be told of the mushroom companies 
of 183G. An attorney without practice, a few bankrupt 
traders, and as many brokers expelled from the Stock- 
Exchange, would hatch a scheme for a new line. The 
attorney (invariably at the bottom of the mischief) under- 
took the legal business of the association ; another of the 
party, without any regard to his previous education, 
started as the engineer ; a third secured for himself the 
post of secretary ; whilst the rest of the conspirators con- 
sented to be nothing more than directors, with hand- 
some fees to be paid out of the first money acquired as 
' deposit ' on shares taken by their victims. A pro- 

1836.] BUBBLE COMP.V^'IES. 275 

spectus ^vas speedily concocted and a sham survey made. 
The principal business of the first few months was to find 
shareholders. To draw dupes it was necessary to have 
a show of business, and to display a handsome list of 
subscriptions. This the agents of the company effected 
by getting signatures from discharged bank-clerks, insol- 
vent schoolmasters, touters of the Stock-Exchange, assis- 
tants of sherifi's officers, hotel- waiters,* cab-drivers, keepers 
of houses of ill fame, and persons unable to keep a house 
of any kind whatever. Men whose names were entered 
on lists as shareholders to the amount of thousands, 
and who were represented as having paid ' deposit ' 
money to the amount of many hundreds of pounds, ac- 
knowledged on examination before parhamentary com- 
mittees, that at the dates of their respective signatures 
they had not a sixpence in the world, did not know 
where to look for a dinner — had not a vocation whereby 
they could earn an honest subsistence. The mode by 
which these indic^ent knaves were induced to si^n the 
subscription hsts was not less remarkable than their 
fraudulent impudence. A gentleman would meet them 
as they hung about the purHeus of Capel Court, waiting 
to run errands or discharge commissions for chance 
employers, and would inform them that there was a 
petition being signed in a certain house at a certain street, 
and that every signer of the petition would receive ten 

* Vide 'Reports from Committees, witli Minutes of Evidence and Ap- 
1837: First Report from SelectCom- pendix. Second Report, same [West- 
mittee to inquire into the Matters of minster Bridge, Deptford, and Green- 
several Petitions complaining of the wich], -^th Minutes of Evidence 
Names of certain needy and indi- and Appendix. Third Report, same 
gent Persons having been inserted [City, or Southwark Bridge and 
in the Subscription Lists of several Hammersmith], with Minutes atid 
Railwaj-s [Deptford and Dover], Appendix.' 
T 2 


shillings and sixpence — not for his signature, but for 
his trouble in going to the appointed house for the purpose 
of signing. Induced by sucli representations these fellows 
went to the office, Avrote their names down on the 
subscription lists, subscribing for shares as if they were 
millionaires. As they quitted the office they each 
received from an unkno^vn agent in a dark passage the 
price of their labour — that is to say, their trouble in coming. 
In examination before committees these men did their best 
to secure the ' agents ' from detection. The person who 
paid them was of course quite unknown to them ; and 
the passage in which they were paid was of course so dark 
that it was utterly impossible for them to distinguish the 
features of their benefactor, and, equally as a matter of 
course, they were under the impression that, in signing the 
subscription, they were acting usefully and honestly. Some- 
tmies these ten-and-sixpenny capitahsts were at a loss how 
to describe themselves, and forgot to put ' Gentleman ' or 
' Esquu^e ' after their names. The secretary, however, easily 
rectified that shght omission. On other occasions they 
exhibited hesitation or ingenuity in assigning to themselves 
reputable residences. One subscriber wrote himself down 
a resident of a well-known and respectable street, because 
he had formerly lodged in it ; and another capitalist 
described himself as a householder in a good square, 
because he often took a walk in the neighbourhood. Such 
men were good enough to serve the purpose of the un- 
scrupulous agents who paid for their services. The 
subscription lists were seen to be full of names : the 
numbers of shares subscribed for, and the amounts 
of money deposited, were quoted in the organs of railway 
intelligence. Shares mounted to a premium, and credu- 


lous dupes rapped at the doors of the bubble companies, 
anxious to become bona fide purchasers of stock. In the 
ensuing parHamentary session, the bills of these fictitious 
associations were thrown out on examination of their 
merits, or summarily dismissed for non-compliance with 
standing orders. But in the meantime the deposit money, 
and sums paid for shares transferred at premium, had 
passed from ' the sheep ' into the hands of their fleecers. 
In more than one case, a company, together with its office, 
directory, and agents, vanished before the commencement 
of the parliamentary session; and when its victims made 
anxious enqumes after their defrauders, they learnt that 
the directors were the scamps of city chques, and that 
'the office' was nothing more than a room linked by the 

Whilst railway projectors numbered such scoundrels 
amongst their ranks, and whilst such practices were of fre- 
quent occurrence in the transactions of the railway market, 
the public had some excuse for looking complacently on the 
selfish pohcy of members of Parhament. It was argued, 
not without reason, that the heavy exactions to which hondi 
fide railway companies had to submit before they could 
carry out their purposes, were at least some guarantee 
that their promoters were not mere penniless knaves bent 
on robbing the public. It would have been well, however, 
if parhamentary corruption had been confined to such 
extortion as was covered by the word ' compensation.' 
Unfortunately for the national character, there were 
members of the legislature who systematically sold their 
parhamentary interest for money considerations, in the 
manner of those representatives of the United States who 
are known to be accessible to 'lobby influence.' The 


time has not yet arrived when it would be right to speak 
fidly on this point. Possibly some future Pepys' diary 
will reveal to Englishmen of the twentieth or twenty-first 
century the names of those British senators of the past 
generation who gave their votes for gold, and will describe 
minutely the exact circumstances of particular compacts. 
For the present, it is enough to state the fact — whicli is 
too important, as an indication of social morality, to be 
altogether passed over without mention. Nor need any 
member of the existing legislature deem the honour of 
his order attacked by these remarks, for as far as the 
materials used for this work throw hght upon a dis- 
agreeable topic, it can be stated that without exception 
the men who profited by such shameless corruption have 
disappeared from public hfe. 

Before quitting this painful part of an important subject, 
it ought again to be impressed on the reader that railway 
companies were subjected to extortion alike by all ranks 
of society. When a railway passed through a provincial 
town, its directors found the demands of merchants and 
petty traders quite as exorbitant as those of the landed 
aristocracy. Mr. Bidder's experience as engineer of 
the Blackwall hne, under George Stephenson, gives 
emphatic support to this statement. The Blackwall line 
was the first railway to pass through a very popidous 
. suburb and a crowded quarter of the metropohs ; and 
in completing that important Avork the directors had 
daily to submit to demands for compensation, compared 
Avith which the exactions of county gentry were liberal 

By 1845, it was found that railways did not depreciate 
the property, lower the rents, scare the cattle, or poison 


the atmosphere of the districts they traversed. It was 
even seen that, morally and physically, the condition of 
the humble classes was improved by the means, Avith 
which railways presented them, of quitting over-crowded 
neighbourhoods, and seeldng employment where labour 
was in demand. Instead of dymg from frenzy, or catching 
disease from the waste steam of the locomotives, tlie hve 
stock of distant counties also derived benefit from the 
change. Fodder of superior quality and diminished price 
was conveyed to them by the goods-trains, and breeds 
were improved by the greater facihty with which 
agriculturists could procure stocks from remote counties ; 
and in addition to the benefits thus conferred on commerce 
and the working classes, the convenience of the new 
method of transit was highly appreciated by the wealthy. 
Gentlemen who, hke Mr. Assheton Smitli, wished to repre- 
sent their shires in the House of Commons, and at the 
same time hunt their fox-hounds two or three daj^s a week, 
soon learnt to approve a system which brought the best 
hunting countries within two or three hours' ride of the 

In 1845 the aim of the aristocracy, therefore, was to 
obtain the greatest possible number of iron-roads, and to 
have them running close to their front doors. There 
was no reason to fear that they would not pass good bills. 
The evil was that, in their anxiety for raih'oads, they passed 
bad ones also. Formerly railway projectors — by 'compen- 
sation,' and other forms of bribery — used to purchase 
the good-will of a party wdthin the legislature. In 
1845 corrupt action w^ent on, but in a different manner. 
Eail way projectors (the corrupting power) were no longer 
outside the walls of the Houses, but w^ithin them. Peers 


and members of tlie Lower House were avowedly engaged 
as traffickers in tlie railway market, their names being 
advertised in eveiy quarter as promoters or directors of 
lines. One consequence of this was the comparative 
impotency of the rule which forbade members to sit in 
committees on lines in whicli they were personally 
interested. Members attached to the 'railway interest ' 
voted for each otlier's projects. A sat in committee and 
voted for the line in which his friend B was personally 
interested; and B in like manner w\atched with paternal 
care over the parUamentary career of the line in 
which A was personally interested. The results of this 
system of amicable cooperation were (as has been already 
seen) a liundred and twenty new bills in 1845, and two 
huudi^ed and seventy-two in 1846. Lideed there was in 
tliose years scarcely a single person, in either the House of 
Lords or the House of Commons, who was not, personally 
or througli his connections, anxious that a bill should be 
obtained for some particular new line. 

In the crisis of 1836, and also in the crisis of 1845, the 
parliamentary committee was a tribunal ill-constituted to 
do justice between railway projectors and the pubhc; but 
it must be acknowledged that under the circumstances it 
would have been extremely chfficult, if not impossible, to 
devise a better court of enquiry. Eobert Stephenson was 
always a strong advocate for the creation of a railway 
board, composed of persons specially qualified by education 
to preside over railway legislation and administration. But 
it is open to something more than doubt whether any court 
that could liave been formed to carry out his views would 
in its practical working liave been more efficient, or pure, 
tlian the parliamentary system, with all its shortcomings. 


blunders, and inconsistencies. In an address delivered 
to the Civil Engineers, on taking possession of the 
Presidential chair at the Institution in 1856, Eobert 
Stephenson observed : 

Little more than a quarter of a century has elapsed since 
Parliament first began to legislate for railways. In that period 
a multitude of laws have been placed upon the statute-book 
which will certainly excite the wonder, if they fail to be the ad- 
miration of future generations. The London and North-Western 
Eailway alone is regulated, as is shown by a return of Mr. 
Hadfield's, by no less than 168 different Acts! Of these the 
greater part were passed in the present reign. 

But it is not so much the number of the statutes regarding 
railways that excites surprise. The extraordinary features of 
the parliamentary legislation and practice consists in the 
anomalies, incongruities, irreconcilabilities, and absurdities which 

pervade the entire mass of legislation Not 

only is the legislation irreconcilable, but throughout the 
quarter of a century during which attention has been given to 
this branch of legislation, the Acts of Parliament have been 
wholly at variance with its own principles. To illustrate this : 
several different select committees have, at various times, de- 
liberately reported against the possibility of maintaining competi- 
tions between railways, and to this principle Parliament has as 
often assented. Yet the practical operation of the laws which 
have received legislative sanction has been throughout, and at 
the same time, directly to negative this principle, by almost in- 
variably allowing competition to be obtained, wherever it had 
been sought. Parliament has therefore been adding to the 
capital of railway companies, whilst it has been sanctioning 
measures to subdivide the traffic. The dechne of dividends was 
an inevitable consequence. 

Again, in 1836, the House of Commons required its committee 
upon railway bills specially to report as to the probability of rail- 
ways paying. This principle has, however, been gradually de- 
parted from, until such enquiry is now considered and treated as 
imimportant. Legislative sanction having been given to a line, 
it might be supposed that Parliament would also grant adequate 


protection, exacting from the railway public facilities and advan- 
tages in return for the rights afforded to it. Whilst the legis- 
lature and the government have exacted facilities and advantages 
even beyond what they had a fair right to demand, so far from 
protecting the interests of those to whom they conceded the 
right, they have allowed — nay, they have encouraged — every 
description of competition. What has been the result ? Ag 
regards the completeness and perfectness of the line first made, 
obviously it must have been most injurious; as regards the in- 
terests of the shareholders, no doubt it has been, in many cases, 
most disastrous. But how does the case stand as regards the 
public ? Why, whatever may have been the effect for a time, 
the competition which Parliament has permitted has invariably 
been terminated by combination, so that the public have been 
left precisely where they were. 

But the incongruities are by no means the worst features of 
the parliamentary legislation now under consideration. Mr. 
Hadfi eld's return has been spoken of. That return — in itself 
exceedingly incomplete, and affording no information of any 
sort respecting forty-five railway companies, for which Acts have 
been obtained — shows that the amount expended by existing 
railway companies in obtaining the Acts of Parliament by which 
they are empowered has been no less, in parliamentary, legal, 
and engineering costs, than fourteen millions sterling. No 
sooner was that fact placed on record, than a universal outcry 
burst from the alarmists. ' See,' it was said, ' how shareholders 
have been plundered ; see how their money has been squandered ; 
look at this vast amount of waste, and consider how much better 
it would have been in your own pockets ! ' But in no one case 
did those who made these bitter comments attribute the 
monstrous result to the proper cause. Kailway directors and 
officials have been held responsible for what has been the fault, 
solely and exclusively, of Parliament itself. What interest can 
directors and officers have in group committees, wherein counsel 
must be fee'd for attendance during, perhaps, ten or twenty days 
when they are never heard nor wanted. What interest can 
directors or officers have in keeping crowds of witnesses in 
London, at great expense, awaiting the pleasure of a committee, 
which is engaged upon another measure, and which can rarely 
foresee or indicate when those witnesses will be required. The 


ingenuity of man could scarcely devise a system more easy than 
that of getting a railway bill through the legislature. But who 
devised that system?— Parliament itself. Who have begged, and 
prayed, and implored for alteration unavailingly ? — directors and 
officers of companies. An illustration may show more graphically 
how Parliament has entailed expense upon railway companies, 
by the system it has set up. Here is a striking one. The Trent 
Valley Eailway was, under other titles, originally proposed in the 
year 1836. It was, however, thrown out by the Standing Orders 
Committee, in consequence of a barn, of the value of about 1 0/., 
which was shown upon the general plan, not having been ex- 
hibited upon an enlarged sheet. In 1840 the line went again 
before Parliament. It was proposed by the Grand Junction 
Eailway Company (now part of the North- Western). No less 
than 450 allegations were made against it before the Standing 
Orders Committee. The sub-committee was engaged twenty- 
two days in considering those objections. They ultimately 
reported that four or five of the allegations were proved; but 
the Standing Orders Committee, nevertheless, allowed the bill 
to be proceeded with. Upon the second reading it was supported 
by Sir Eobert Peel, and had a large majority in its favour. It 
then went into committee. The committee took sixty-three days 
'to consider it, and ultimately Parliament was prorogued before 
the report could be read. Such were the delays and consequent 
expenses which the forms of the House occasioned in this case, 
that it may be doubted if the ultimate cost of constructing the 
whole line was very much more than the amount expended in 
obtaining permission from Parliament to make it. 

This example wi]l show the delays and difficulties with which 
Parliament surrounds railway legislation. Another instance will 
illustrate the tendency of its proceedings to encourage compe- 
tition. In 1845 a bill for a line now existing went before 
Parliament with no less than eighteen competitors, each party 
relying on the wisdom of Parliament to allow their bill at least 
to pass a second reading ! Judged by such a case, the polic}^ of 
Parliament would really seem to be to put the public to expense, 
and to make costs for law}^ers, and fees for officers. Is it possible 
to conceive anything more monstrous than to condemn nineteen 
different parties to one scene of contentious litigation ? Bear 
in mind that eveiy additional bill received by Parliament entailed 


additional expense, not only on the promoters of that one bill, 
but on all the other eighteen competitors. They each and all 
had to bear the costs, not of parliamentary proceedings upon 
one bill, but of the parliamentary proceedings on nineteen bills. 
They had to pay, not only the costs of promoting their own 
line, but also the costs of opposing eighteen other lines. And 
yet, conscious as Government must have been of this fact, 
Parliament deliberately abandoned the only step it ever took, 
on any occasion, of subjecting railway projects to investigation 
by a preliminary tribunal. 

After glancing at the facilities afforded by Parliament 
to landowners for demanding exorbitant compensation, so 
that ' of the £286,000,000 of railway capital expended, it is 
believed that nearly one-fourth has been paid solely for land 
and conveyancing,' Kobert Stephenson went on to suggest, 
as a remedy, ' a tribunal competent to judge and willing 
to devote its attention to railway subjects only.' 

' What we ask,' he said, * is knowledge. Give us, we say, a 
tribunal competent to form a sound opinion. Commit to that 
tribunal, with any restrictions you think necessary, the whole of 
the great questions appertaining to our system. Let it protect 
private interests apart from railways ; let it judge of the desira- 
bility of all initiatory measures, of all proposals for purchases, 
amalgamations, and other railway arrangements; delegate to it 
the power of enforcing such regulations and restrictions as 
may be thought needful to secure the rights of private persons, 
or of the public ; devolve on it the duty of consolidating, if 
possible, the railway laws, and of making such amendments 
therein as the public interests and the property now depending 
upon the system may require ; give it full delegatory authority 
over us in any way you please. All we ask is, that it shall be a 
tribunal that is impartial, and that is thoroughly informed ; 
and if impartiality and intelligence are secured, we do not 
fear the result.' 

It is here seen that the chief charges preferred against 
parliamentary legislation by Eobert Stephenson are those 


of inconsistency and inordinate cost. Without a doubt 
tlie accusations were fully sustained by facts ; but the 
faults complained of would unquestionably have disfigured 
the operations of any other system. 

The evils of parhamentary legislation were evils 
necessarily consequent on a free system of commercial 
enterprise and social developement. A paternal govern- 
ment might have mapped out the United Kingdom (as 
paternal governments did subsequently ! map out some of 
the continental countries), and have declared what towns 
and districts should enjoy railway communication — and 
under what conditions. Such legislative interference 
would imquestionably have given us railways at a very 
much lower cost ; and miUions of money would have re- 
mained undisturbed which under existing circumstances 
changed owners ; — but as certainly we should in the long 
run have been less liberally supphed with roads. 

Much of the exorbitant* expense of our railway contests 
must be set down to the fact that Parliament was suddenly 
inundated with railway business, to discharge which it 
Avas unprovided with fit machinery. Business which had 
previously been an occasional feature of parliamentary 
enquiry became the chief subject of attention throughout 
the session. The consequent confusion was not confined 
to Westminster. Throughout the country there was such 
a demand for surveyors and draughtsmen, that mere 
mechanics could earn incomes that seldom reward the 
ordinary members of the learned professions. The few 
barristers who had the confidence of the few parhamen- 
tary agents who managed the private business of the 
House of Commons leapt into the enjoyment of fees 
which, at this date, seem fabulous. Their work was 


comparatively simple, unci required only a slight know- 
ledge of law. At fii'st, they fought on tlie merits of lines. 
In the Liverpool and Manchester, the London and Bir- 
mingham, the Blackwall, the London and Brighton, and 
similar contests, counsel, under the guidance of engineers, 
worked up the estimates, mechanical difficulties, and 
scientific problems of the undertakings. But with the 
rapid increase of business they paid less attention to the 
merits of projects, and procured the triumph or ejection 
of bills by attention to ' the forms ' required by com- 

Pages could be filled with anecdotes of great fees paid 
to favoured advocates for very little work. In the full 
height of the mania, one of them was found inider the 
shady trees in St. James's Park, leisurely lounging about 
and feeding the water-fowl with crumbs of biscuits, before 
the afternoon had scarcely begun. ' Why ! ' cried the 
friend, 'how come you to be here at this time of day?' — 
' Oh, my dear fellow,' was the naive answer, ' I am 
engaged to appear before nine different committees at 
tliis very hour ; and as it is impossible for me to accom- 
plish that, I thought I would come out here, and enjoy 
myself. Each of my clients, when he finds I don't appear 
in his committee-room, will suppose I am talking away in 
anotlier. So it will be all ridit.' 


Not less overworked, though by no means so higlily 
paid, were the engineers employed to give evidence before 
committees. Of those who thus distinguished themselves, 
several have already gone to another world. Eobert 
Steplienson, Brunei, Locke, and Jacob Samuda are no 
more ; Mr. Bidder and Mr. Vignoles remain. At first, 
tlie evidence of the. engineer was alwaj^s given in 


strict good faith ; and such, to the kst, Avas the case with 
Eobert Stephenson and engineers of the same moral 
stamp. Other gentlemen, however, with more elastic 
consciences, regarded their position as identical with that 
of the advocate, and gave testimony on one side or the 
other, just as they were paid. The ordinary fee to a 
scientific witness before committee being ten guineas y^er 
diein (whilst waiting to give, as well as whilst giving his 
evidence), an engineer in great request as a parliamentary 
witness could frequently during session pick up 100 
guineas a-day in the various committee-rooms, 

Eobert Stephenson resolutely refused to give purely 
venal testimou}^, or as a witness to say one word which he 
did not conscientiously believe. At the opening of the 
session of 1845, when the last great mania was advan- 
cing to its most violent phrenzy, railway companies even 
went so far as to send to eminent engineers retaining fees 
for their services in committee-rooms. One morning 
Eobert Stephenson and Mr. Bidder received, through the 
post, cheques from various companies, amounting to more 
tlian £1,000. No previous overtures had been made by 
the directorates who forwarded these fees. Similar sums 
were sent round, in like manner, to other leading engineers. 
Both Eobert Stephenson and his friend lost no time in 
returning the cheques, with intimations that their evidence 
Avas not a poAver to be bought and sold. To the honour 
of their profession it may be stated that other engineers 
acted in the same way. 

Prominent amongst scientific witnesses during the 
memorable railway contests was Dr. Dionysius Lardner, 
Avho detected the importance of railway enterprise at 
its first outset, and zealously interested himself in its 


clevelopement. His first separate work on tlie subject was 
a collection of some ' simple rules,' by which parliamen- 
tary committees as well as capitalists might be guided in 
forming an estimate of a proposed road. Formed on the 
dawn of railway practice, the opinions of this brochure 
were unsound. The Doctor had himself the good sense to 
repudiate his raw theories. But unfortunately the 'litera 
scripta' of his foUacious rules outlived then- influence, 
and day after day was his luckless work quoted against 
him, to the infinite amusement of the parliamentary bar, 
and amidst the suppressed titters oi practical engineers who 
were only too well pleased to behold the discomfiture of 
the man of theory. Mr. Bidder was the mathematical 
witness usually opposed to the Doctor. As soon as 
the Doctor was called for examination, Mr. Bidder would 
rise, and present the counsel, whose duty it was to cross- 
examine the popular mathematician, with a handsomely 
bound copy of the ' rules.' Instantly a titter would rise 
amongst the habitues of the committee-rooms. Dr. Lardner 
would turn crimson with irritation, and strangers would 
be at a loss to surmise what was going on beneath the 
surface. In another minute a barrister, smihng ami- 
ably, would begin by asldng — ' I beheve, Dr. Lardner, 
you are the author of a little work containing a few "simple 
rules" on railways.^' 'Yes, sir; you know all about 
that, sir,' the Doctor would answer ; ' you asked me all 
about that ten times yesterday.' ' Ah, but, Dr. Lardner,' 
the tormentor would continue, ' that was not before this 
committee. Indeed, I must beg you to give me a little 
information about your " rules." ' 

In judging Parliament for its shortcomings and errors 
in respect of railways, sight must never be lost of the 


difficulties under which it acted. And before the censor 
condemns the system which gave us our iron roads, he 
would do well to reflect that there is no country which is 
so well supphed with the new means of locomotion — no 
country where iron roads are so plentiful, trains so 
numerous and rapid, and fares so low. The gravest fault 
committed by our system in its early career was extrava- 
gance, which reduced countless humble famihes to enrich 
a few great persons, or rear colossal fortunes for a few 
hundreds of attorneys and adventurers. In 1849 * the 
United States had, completed and in use, 6,565 miles of 
railway. Of this 2,842 miles (the expense of which is 
accurately known) cost £23,104,909, or about £8,129 per 
mile. It is assumed that the remaining 3,723 miles were 
made at the same rate of cost: the expense of 6,565 miles 
may be computed £53,386,885 ; whereas the 5,000 miles 
of railway in the United Kingdom cost £200,000,000. 
The difference of these two last sums is so vast that, after 
making every allowance for the cheapness of land in 
America, and the presence in the United States of 
numerous inducements to, as well as facilities for, the 
construction of railways, no impartial observer can be 
otherwise than struck with the scandalous prodigality of 
British expenditure. StiU it must be remembered that we 
were the pioneers in railway developement, being the first 
to test the merits of the system. Profiting by our 
experience, other countries avoided our mistakes. 

The American States have a greater length of railway 

* Railway Economy: a Treatise Social. By Dionysiiis Lardner, 
on the New Art of Transport, its D.C.L., &c. Taylor, Walton, and 
Management, Prospects, and Rela- Maberly. 
tions, Commercial, Financial, and 
VOL. I. U 


tlian ourselves, both actually and proportionately to their 
population. But from her extent of territory, America is 
of course by no means so well supphed with lines as 
Great Britain. And by every other mode of calculation 
— by proportion of length of railway to extent of territory, 
by proportion of railway capital to the population, or by 
proportion of railway capital to extent of territory — 
Great Britain is richer in railways than any nation of the 

It may not, however, be presumed that our railway 
system is incapable of improvement. An instructive 
writer (Mr. W. Bridges Adams) has recently exposed its 
mechanical defects. In respect of management it has also 
grave deficiencies; and it seems scarcely credible that the 
present generation wiU pass away without making some 
attempts for their amendment. The best authorities on 
'railway interests' (and the term includes the interests of 
the pubhc as well as of shareholders) are unanimous in 
avowing the inefficiency of railway management by 
directorates elected from the shareholders. Li the ruinous 
contests of rival lines, lowering their fares in the hope of 
reducing each other to bankruptcy, the incompetence of 
such controlhng boards has been signally and frequently 
displayed. The competition of two railways working 
through the same tracts of country has on many occasions 
given rise to internecine war between their directorates. 
Increasing in vehemence, the commercial strife has 
degenerated into personal quarrel, and directors have not 
hesitated to sacrifice their dividends and embarrass their 
resources for the mere pleasure of inflicting injury on 
their antagonists. Such battles, regarded from one point 
of view, are amusing : but the gloomy reflection they 


suggest to prudent observers is, that the money squan- 
dered by directors is taken from the pockets of share- 
holders, who regard with dismay the pohcy to which 
they are sacrificed. A renewal of these exhibitions of folly 
would be obviated if companies, instead of working their 
lines themselves, would let them to farmers, who, like 
the farmers of turnpike roads and bridges, should pay a 
certain fixed or variable rent to the shareholders, and 
retain the surplus receipts.* If such a plan were adopted, 
a new class of business men would speedily arise, who 
would see their advantage in providing in the best possible 
way for the public convenience, and would be chary of 
engaging in contests, the entire cost of which would fall 
on themselves. By such a system, shareholders would be 
secure of their dividends, and the public secure of good 
accommodation. The only individuals who would suffer 
by the reform are the gentlemen who at present play 
with money which is not their own. 

Besides this wise measure of amendment, a proposal 
for a railway bank, undertaking to discharge the functions 
of bank and also of clearing house to all the Eailway 
companies of the United Kingdom, has of late been a 
frequent subject of discussion with the most influential 
personages of the railway market. 

* This system has already been adopted witli advantage on some few 
lines in Switzerland. 





Remarkable Episode in the History of Railways — Con-ection of 
Nomenclature — Objects of this Chapter — General Modes of Loco- 
motion — Constant rivalry between Locomotive and Stationary Steam- 
power — Livei-pool and Manchester Railway — Walker and Rasti-ick's 
Report — Stephenson and Locke's Reply — Triumph of the Locomo- 
tive — Renewal of the Stationary Plan in the Atmospheric form — 
Early Inventors — Papin — Medhurst — Featm-es of his Schemes — 
Vallance — Pinkus — Clegg — Jacob and Joseph Samuda — Private 
Experiments — Trial of their Plan on the Thames Jimction Railway 
— Description of the Apparatus — Proposal to apply it in Ireland — 
Smith and Barlow's Report — Application on the Kingstown and 
Dalkey Line — Arg^iments in favour of the Plan — Robert Stephen- 
son's attention called to it in reference to the Chester and Holyhead 
Railway — His Report — Public Interest excited — Croydon Railway 
Parliamentary Committee — The Railway Mania — Appointment of 
a Committee of the House of Commons to enquire into the Merits of 
the Plan — Their Report in its favour — Culminating point of the 
History — Contests in Pai-liament — Application of the Atmospheric 
System in practice — Thames Jimction Line— Kingstown and Dalkey 
Line — Croydon Line — South Devon Line — Paris and St. Ger- 
main Line — Summary of Results — Mechanical Efficiency — ■ 
Economy — General Applicability to Railway Traffic — Reasons for 
its Abandonment — Conclusion. 

THE attempt that was made some years ago to intro- 
duce the atmospheric system of propulsion upon rail- 
ways, forms such a remarkable episode in their history, 
that it deserves a somewhat extended notice. 

The invention here referred to is often termed the 
' Atmospheric Railway,' but this is a misnomer. In the 


economy of railways, whether scientifically or practically 
considered, it is always desirable to distinguish between 
what relates to the road itself, and what has more espe- 
cially to do with the movement of the vehicles upon it. 
The design and construction of the road are matters 
quite distinct from the system of haulage used ; and the 
atmospheric plan, being simply a pecuhar mode of pro- 
ducing locomotion, forms no essential part of the railway 
properly so called. 

It is proposed to give hi this chapter a short historical 
and descriptive notice of the Atmospheric System of 
Eailway Propulsion, from its invention, through its season 
of popularity, to its ultimate abandonment ; and we shall 
dwell particularly on the part taken in its history by 
Robert Stephenson. He was from first to last its deter- 
mined and consistent opponent; at one time almost 
standing alone, in the face not only of the promising ap- 
pearance of the invention, but of the conscientious and 
powerful advocacy which it received from many of his 
most eminent brethren in the profession. 

There are three modes by which locomotion is usually 
effected upon railways; namely, by animal draught, by 
locomotive steam engines, and by stationary steam 

The first was given up at a very early period, as 
inadequate to the requirements of railway traffic, and 
is now only used in exceptional cases ; but between the 
second and third, i. e. the locomotive engine and the 
various modes of applying stationary steam power, to 
which latter class the atmospheric system belongs, there 
has been an almost constant rivalry. 


At the time when the Liverpool and Manchester 
Railway was formed, both systems had been tried. 
George Stephenson had introduced his locomotives on 
the Stockton and Darlington and other lines ; while the 
plan of drawing the carriages along by stationary 
engines and ropes had also been used extensively by 
him, and was at work in many parts of the country. 
When the railway approached completion in 1828, the 
directors, havmg determined that some more efficient 
power than horses must be used, consulted two eminent 
engineers, Mr. Walker and Mr. Rastrick, as to which 
apphcation of steam power, the locomotive or the 
stationary, would be preferable for the purposes of the 

These gentlemen, after studying the examples of the 
two systems then in existence, gave their opinion that, if 
it were resolved to make the railway complete at once, so 
as to accommodate the full traffic expected, the stationary 
system was best ; — but that if any cu-cumstances should 
induce the directors to proceed by degrees, and to pro- 
portion the power of conveyance to the demand, then 
locomotive engines would be preferable. In any case, 
however, they considered it necessary that stationary 
engines should be used on the two inclines at Eainhill and 
Sutton, with gradients of one in ninety-six, to which they 
considered the locomotive system inappHcable. 

In reviewing the detailed facts and reasonings given 
in the reports, it would appear that the principal, if 
not indeed the only ground for the preference of the 
stationary system was a saving of something over twenty 
per cent, in the cost of working, maintenance, and in- 
terest of capital, which the referees considered would 


accrue by its use. Other points of comparison are men- 
tioned, but no very decided opinion appears to be ex- 
pressed in favour of either plan, except for the reason 
above stated. 

The referees, therefore, evidently laid themselves open 
to attack on their main ground — namely, their estimates 
— from any one who had sufficient knowledge of the 
working of the two systems to detect any errors into 
which they might have fallen ; and the cudgels were 
soon taken up by George Stephenson in defence of the 
locomotive. He urged strongly its superiority, in nume- 
rous reports and at numerous meetings of the directors, 
until at length this body, influenced by his persistent 
earnestness and by the mideniable weight of his argu- 
ments, resolved to adopt it, and instituted a public com- 
petition to determine the best form of the machine, the 
result of wliich is well known. 

An excellent resume of the arguments used, on these 
occasions, by the great founder of the locomotive system 
is given in a tract published in 1830, under the joint 
authorship of ' Eobert Stephenson and Joseph Locke, 
civil engineers.' Eobert lent his father very active aid 
in this matter; and it is clear that he had, at this 
early stage of the controversy, thoroughly mastered the 
principles of the dispute, and acquired the strong con- 
victions m favour of locomotive power which he after- 
wards so unflinchingly adhered to. 

The joint essay attacks, with much force, the cor- 
rectness of the estimates of the referees, asserting that, 
instead of the stationary system being the cheaper in the 
working, there would be an economy in favour of the 
locomotive in the proportion of eight to five. It points 


out that the capabihties and advantages of the locomotive 
system had not been properly appreciated, and that some 
disadvantages of tlie rival plan had been overlooked; 
and it concludes with some able and far-sighted remarks 
on the two systems generally, which, as bearing strongly 
on the subsequent revival of the stationary plan in the 
atmospheric form, it may be useful to reproduce here. 

In drawing a comparison (say the authors) between locomotive 
and stationary engines, the relative expense is certainly of vast 
importance; but, though this is a primary object, that of de- 
spatch and public accommodation is of the utmost consequence, 
and may be said to rank higher in the scale of importance than 
expense, when the difference between the two systems in the 
latter item is not very great. When the traffic upon a railway 
is either small or variable, the locomotive engines are not only 
cheaper, but much more convenient, because the number of 
engines in operation at one time may be regulated as the trade 
fluctuates ; but when the stationary system is adopted, the whole 
of the machinery must be employed to convey the goods, however 
trifling. Where the trade is great and nearly uniform, as is the 
case between Liverpool and Manchester, the expense of the 
stationary system approximates probably more nearly to that of 
the locomotive than in any other locality in England. It is in 
this instance, therefore, that despatch and public accommodation 
claim particular attention. 

In this respect Mr. Walker is of opinion that either system is 
fully adequate ; but he does not appear to have duly considered 
the practical difficulties which are unavoidable where a chain of 
stationary engines is employed. Locomotive engines may be 
compared to horses, as far as convenience is concerned, with 
this advantage, that they are much more manageable, because 
each engine is an independent power ; but the case is vridely 
different in the other system, where the whole is dependent on 
each individual part, and also on a series of regulations liable 
to be deranged by the inattention of workmen. With the 
locomotive engines the carelessness of one person extends in 
most cases only to one train of carriages, whereas an accident 


produced by the same cause with stationary engines occasions a 
delay from one end of the road to the other, and the risk of 
accident is evidently proportionate to the length of the line of 
road. We may go so far as to conceive a line of railway with 
stationary engines so long that accidents would be almost per- 
petually occurring, which leads to the inference that the con- 
veyance of a large quantity of goods by such a series of engines 
and ropes would, in the end, become actually impracticable. 

From the local situation of the Liverpool and Manchester 
Railway, it is evident that in a very few years several branches 
from the various towns on each side will join the main line. 
Hence the traffic on the different parts of the line will annually 
undergo some modification. If, however, the stationary system 
were established in the outset, it would be necessary to construct 
the engines of sufficient power to meet any probable increase of 
the kind, and much difficulty would arise in adjusting the power 
of the engines requisite for the different parts of the line of 
road, excepting, indeed, they were all made very powerful to 
meet any future increase of trade. These and other difficulties, 
which are inseparable from the stationary system on a public 
line of road, where the trade must necessarily fluctuate, are 
easily and effectually obviated with locomotive engines; for 
should the trade in any part undergo a temporary increase, or 
decrease, the requisite power may be immediately applied, or 

Many other practical considerations might be adduced to 
exemplify the great superiority of the locomotive over the 
stationary system on a pubhc railway, but they are of a de- 
scription not easily understood or duly appreciated, except by 
those who have had experience and frequent opportunity of 
witnessing the daily operation of machinery on railways. Ob- 
stacles often arise from casualties, which by bare mention in 
this place would appear frivolous ; whereas to the practical man 
they are of importance, and tend to demonstrate that it is of 
great consequence to adopt a system, the efficient operation of 
which, as a whole, is not dependent on each individual part. 

The result of the locomotive competition on the 
Liverpool and Manchester Eailway gave such a strong 


confirmation to tlie decision of the directors, by exhibiting 
the great power of the locomotive, that it appears to have 
put the rival system out of sight for some years ; but the 
idea of stationary power was too plausible not to be 
revived. The broad fact was obvious enough, that to 
convey an engine and its boiler through the air, at a speed 
of twenty or thirty miles an hour, exposed to all 
weathers, and to all accidents of a precarious road, and 
consuming a large portion of its energy in moving its 
own weight along, was not the most advantageous way 
of applying steam-power. It was not wonderful, there- 
fore, that any plan should be received with favour, which 
ofiered an apparently feasible apphcation, to railway 
haulage, of the power of an engine, safely housed with 
its various appurtenances in a fixed building, where it 
could be worked in the most advantageous way. 

The invention of the atmospheric plan of propulsion 
offered this promise. It was assumed that the principal 
fault of the stationary system, as hitherto applied, lay in 
the rope^ as a means of transferring the power from the 
fixed engine to the moving train ; and undoubtedly, 
by its great friction and habihty to accident, the rope 
was a serious evil. The principle of the atmospheric 
invention consisted simply in substituting for the rope 
another means of transmitting the power, which was 
conceived to be much superior, and the introduction of 
which, it was thought, would entu^ely remove tlie objec- 
tions to the stationary system, and leave its admitted 
advantages available, without the drawbacks that had 
formerly interfered with its application. 

The first idea of transmitting power to a distance by 


means of pneumatic pressure appears to belong to the 
celebrated Denys Papin, who described, in 1688, an 
apparatus, in which a partial vacuum, produced in a 
long tube by air-pumps fixed at one end, caused the 
motion of pistons placed at the other end. Mr. Farey, a 
Avell-known mechanical authority, writing of this scheme 
of Papin's in 1827, says : ' It is rather surprising that 
so simple and advantageous a method of exerting power 
at a distance from the first mover, should have remained 
neglected and unnoticed so long as it has been.' 

But the more proximate inventor of the system of 
which we are now treating, was a London mechanical 
engineer named George Medhurst,* who, long before 
railways were thought of as a general means of convey- 
ance, proposed and described a plan of locomotion by 
atmospheric pressure, precisely similar in principle to that 
afterwards used. 

His first notions on the subject werepubhshed in 1810, 
Avhen he described his invention of ' New machinery for 
the rapid conveyance of letters, goods, and passengers by 
air.' He proposed to enclose letters and papers in a 
hght hollow vessel, so formed as to fill the area of a 
tube, and to move freely through it ; when, by forcing air 
into one end of the tube, he assumed that he would be 
able to drive the vessel through the tube at a great 
velocity.^ He further proposed to extend the prmciple 
by making the tube large enough for a four-wheeled 

* Medhm'st lias sometimes been t Exactly as has been lately pro- 

described as a Danish engineer ; but posed by the ' Pneumatic Convey- 
the only explanation to be given for ance Company.' 
this statement is that he lived in 
Denmark Street, Soho ! 


carriage to run inside it, on an iron road, carrying 
goods and passengers through the kind of tunnel so 

Li 1812 he again pubhshed a notice of his scheme, but 
adchng the important conception that, the necessity of 
putting the passengers and goods within the tube might 
•be avoided, by substituting a much smaller pipe, the 
piston of which should communicate ' by a particular 
contrivance through the side of the tube ' with the 
carriage outside, and so drag it along. The natiu-e of this 
' particular contrivance ' he did not, however, disclose 
till 1827, when, in a third pamphlet, he described various 
modes of effecting this object. The mode with which we 
have to do here, introduced, on the top of the tube, a kind 
of longitudinal flap, riveted along one side, but loose on 
the other. The piston, running within the tube, had a 
wheel in front, which, as it passed along, lifted up the 
flap, forming a sht sufficient to allow a bent rod to pass 
through from the piston on the inside to the carriage on 
the outside, so as to give motion to the latter as the 
former was propelled by the pressure of the air. When 
the piston had passed, the flap closed of itself, the loose 
edge falhng against a face of leather, or some other soft 
yielding substance, which made a joint sufficiently tight 
to prevent leakage under the small pressure the inventor 
proposed to employ. 

Another important step in Medliurst's scheme of 1827 
was that he proposed to work liis piston both ways — 
one way by forcing air into the tube behind the piston, 
or by what may be called the plenum impulse ; — the 
other way by exhausting the air before the piston, or by 
the vacuum impulse. Taking this latter modification, 


we have the perfect anticipation, as far as the idea is 
concerned, of the atmospheric system subsequently intro- 
duced upon railways. The merit of later inventions con- 
sisted in the perfection of the details of the apparatus, 
which Medliurst does not seem to have considered with 
much care. His invention was probably far too much in 
advance of the then notions of locomotion to meet with 
any encouragement for its actual trial. 

It is right to mention that the first publication of any 
proposal for locomotion by Papin's vacuum principle 
appears to have been by a Mr. John VaUance of Brighton, 
who, in 1824, re-proposed Medhurst's plan of a gigantic 
tube, substituting, however, the vacuum for the plenum 
mode of action. 

An agitation was got up at Brighton a year or two 
later for the trial of Vallance's pilan betAveen that town 
and London. A short trial-tube of the full size was con- 
structed and worked by way of experiment ; and it is 
well remembered how, for want of due precaution in 
checking the impetus of the carriage, the venturesome 
experimental passengers were occasionally blown out of 
the end of the pipe into a field beyond. But this at- 
tempt only had the residt of furnishing jokes for the 
pantomimes of the day, and of producing a rather acri- 
monious paper war between the supporters and the 
opponents of the scheme. Mr. Vallance does not seem 
to have known or thought of the much more feasible 
plan of smaller tubes. 

Li 1834 Mr. Henry Pmkus, an American engineer, 
proposed a modified contrivance for opening and closing 
a sht at the top of the tube, by means of a flexible 
valvular cord. This was patented in the same year, as 


also were other modifications for the same object in 
1835 ; but the proposition appears to have had no prac- 
tical result, and Medhurst's ideas remained in abeyance 
until a few years afterwards, when Mr, Samuel Clegg, an 
engineer well-known for the important part he took in 
the introduction of gas-Ughting, turned his attention to 
the subject. After studying it well, he adopted Med- 
hurst's general arrangement of a vacuum tube, with a 
longitudinal slit in its top, but he contrived a form of 
valve for closing the aperture much superior to any 
that had preceded it. Tliis was patented by ^Ir. Clegg, 
January 3, 1839, and a tract giving an account of the 
whole system of locomotion thus arranged, and calling 
attention to its advantages, was published in the same 

But Mr. Clegg did not work alone in the matter, for, 
before the date of his patent, he liad associated himself 
with an engineering firm — Messrs. Jacob and Joseph 
d'Aguilar Samuda, eminent manufacturing engineers of 
South wark — who, apparently impressed with the value 
of the invention, lent it powerftil aid, not only by their 
mechanical and engineering skill, but by the energy with 
which they advocated its advantages. Messrs. Samuda, 
in 1844, obtained a supplementary patent for improve- 
ments, and through all the experiments and discussions 
wliich took place on the subject they were the most active 
and prominent supporters of the plan. 

Soon after the date of the patent, Messrs. Clegg and 
Samuda laid down at their own premises and elsewhere 
small model tubes, which answered their expectations; 
but, not being satisfied with private experiments, they 
endeavoured to get the system tried actually upon a 


railway, and accordingly obtained permission to lay 
down, at their own expense, an experimental length 
upon a short line at Wormwood Scrubs, which had 
been made to connect the London and Birmingham 
and the Great Western Eailways with the Kensington 
Canal, and which, though only a mile or two in length, 
was dignified with the name of the 'Birmingham, 
Bristol, and Thames Junction Eailway.' A vacuum 
pipe, half a mile long and nine inches internal diameter, 
was laid down on the part of the line between the Great 
Western Eailway and the Uxbridge Eoad, where the 
gradient was about 1 in 115, and where therefore the 
efiiciency of the power in ascending incHnes was put to 
the test. 

This was set to work in June 1840 ; and as it was a 
complete exemphfication, on a real scale, of the proposed 
plan of atmospheric propulsion, it may be as well to 
insert in this place, once for all, the description of the ap- 
paratus as given by the inventors. 

The accompanying figures will serve to illustrate the 

Fig. 1 is a general side view of the front part of the 
train and the atmospheric tube, the latter being dehneated 
partly in longitudinal section to show the piston, and its 
attachment to the leading carriage. 

Fig. 2 is a transverse section of the same parts. 

Figs. 3, 4, and 5 are transverse sections of the tube 
only, enlarged to show the details more clearly, and to 
explain the action of the valve. 

In fig. 3 the valve is shown open, the piston passing 
through ; fig. 4 shows the method of closing the valve 




and sealing the composition ; and Fig. 5 represents the 
valve as finally left after the carriage has passed by. 

The same letters refer to the same parts in all the 

The moving power is communicated to the train by 
means of a continuous pipe or main a, laid between the 
rails, and divided by separating valves into suitable and 
convenient lengths for exhaustion. A partial vacuum is 

Fig. 3. 

formed in each length of pipe by steam engines and air 
pumps fixed at intervals along the road. The separating 
valves are opened by the train as it advances, without 
stoppage or reduction of speed. 

JC piston B, which is made to fit air-tight by a leather 

VOL. I. X 



[Cn. XIV. 

packing surrounded by tallow, is introduced into the 
main pipe, and connected Avith the leading carriage 

Fig. 4. 

of the train by an iron plate c, which travels through 
a longitudhial opening made along the top of the pipe 

Fig. 5. 

for its whole length. This opening is coviered by a 
valve G, extending also tlie whole length, formed of a 


strip of leather riveted between iron plates ; the top 
plates are wider than the groove, and serve to prevent 
the external air from forcing the leather into the pipe 
when the vacuum is formed; the lower plates fit the 
groove when the valve is shut, as shown in Figs. 4 and 
5, and, by making up the circle of the pipe, prevent the 
air passing the piston. One edge of this valve is securely 
held down by iron bars a a fastened by screw bolts ^ ^ to 
a longitudinal rib c, cast on the pipe on one side of the 
opening ; and the leather between the plates and the bar, 
being flexible, forms a hinge as in a common pump valve ; 
the other edge of the valve falls on the surface of the 
pipe on the opposite side of the opening, thus forming 
one side of a trough f, as shown in Figs. 4 and 5. 
This trough is filled with a composition of bees'-wax 
and tallow, which is sohd at ordinary temperatures, but 
softens when shghtly heated. The composition, when so 
heated and pressed down, adheres to the edge of the 
valve, which forms one side of the trough, and to that 
part of the pipe which forms the other, and so makes an 
air-tight junction between them. 

Supposing now the air to be exhausted from the part 
of the tube in front of the piston ; the atmosphere having 
free access to the part behind it, will press upon it with 
a force proportional to its area and the degree of ex- 
haustion ; and the efiect of this pressure will be to propel 
the piston along the tube, dragging with it the leading 
carriage to which it is attached, and the train coupled 

As the piston advances, the valve G must be raised 
to allow the connecting plate c to pass, and this is 
effected by four wheels h h h H, fixed to the piston rod 

X 2 


behind the piston : the aperture thus formed serves also 
for tlie free admission of air to press on the back of 
the piston. When the wheels have passed by, the valve 
falls again by its own weight. 

But by the operation of raising the valve out of the 
trough, the composition between it and the main pipe 
has been broken, and the air-tight contact must be 
reproduced. To effect this, another wheel K (Fig. 4) is 
attached to the carriage, which serves to ensure the 
perfect closing of the valve by running over the top 
plates immediately after the piston rod has passed ; and a 
copper tube or heater N, about five feet long, filled with 
burning charcoal, is also fixed to the under side of the 
carriage, and passes over the surface of the composition, 
softening it and pressing it down, so that when on 
coohng it becomes sohd, it seals the joint air-tight as 
before. Thus each train, in passing, leaves the pipe in 
a fit state to receive the next train. 

A protecting flap or cover i, formed of thin phites of 
iron about five feet long, hinged with leather, is made to 
He over the valve, to preserve it from snow or rain ; the 
end of each plate underlaps the next in the direction of 
the piston's motion, being lifted up by wheels D (Fig. 3), 
fixed under the advancing carriage, and allowed to close 
again as it retires. 

The parts above described constitute the essence of the 
plan. Much ingenuity and care were bestowed on the 
arrangement of other details, such as the entrance, exit, 
and separating valves, the mode of effecting junctions and 
crossings, the construction of the tube, the manner of con- 
necting together the pipes of which it was formed, the 


arrangement of the exJiaiisting pumps, &c. &c. But it is 
not necessary here to go into these particulars. 

The exhausting pumps on the experimental hne at 
Wormwood Scrubs were worked by a steam engine of 
fifteen horse-power, and produced hi one minute a 
vacuum in the pipe equal to about 18 or 20 inches of 
mercury ; and by maintaining this exhaustion, it was 
found that, even with the small pipe used, a load of 
13J tons could be propelled up the incline at a rate of 
20 miles an hour ; or with a vacuum of 23 J inches, a 
load of 5 tons would go 45 miles an hour. 

These trials were considered so successful, and seemed 
to promise so much for the new system of propulsion, 
that they naturally attracted the attention of persons in- 
terested in railways, and among these was Mr. James 
Pim, treasurer of the railway between Dubhn and Kings- 
town, who, after having carefully observed the experi- 
ments, became a most energetic advocate of the plan. It 
appears that the railway with which he was connected, had 
a short piece of line from Kingstown to Dalkey, which had 
been used for the transport of stone for the new works 
at Kingstown Harbour, and which, having steep gradients 
and sharp curves, offered what were then considered 
rather formidable difficulties to the working of the line. 

About May 1841, Mr. Pim wrote a letter to Lord 
Morpeth, asldng the permission of the Board of PubHc 
Works of Ireland (under whose care the Kingstown and 
Dalkey road was placed) for the parties interested in 
the experiment to lay doAvn an atmospheric apparatus 
along this line. 

It appears, however, that the sanction of the Board of 
Trade Avas needed to carry out this proposal, and Mr. 


rim, nothing daunted, wrote towards the end of the 
same year a letter to the Earl of Eipon, President of 
the Board, describing clearly the principle and mode of 
working of the atmospheric system, and giving a lucid 
and forcible statement of the arguments in its favour ; the 
object of the letter being to ask the Board to refer it to such 
persons as their Lordships might select, to enquire into 
the several statements made, and in their report to state 
particularly whether the invention was entitled to a 
further and more extended trial. 

The request was granted, and two scientific referees — 
Lieut. Col. Sir Frederic Smith, E.E., F.E.S., and Professor 
Barlow, F.E.S. — were accordingly appointed to investigate 
the merits of the plan. 

Their report was dated February 15, 1842. It ap- 
pears that they conducted experiments, in January, on 
the model hue at Wormwood Scrubs, which generally 
corroborated those of the projectors; and after making 
the necessary calculations and deductions, they reported 
that they considered the principle of atmospheric propul- 
sion to be established ; that its economy of working would 
increase with the scale on which it was applied ; and that 
it appeared well suited for such a line as that from 
Kingstown to Dalkey. On the points of first outlay, cost 
of working, safety, and convenience, as compared with 
the locomotive system, the referees did not venture 
any very decided opinion. 

The report was, however, sufficiently favourable to 
warrant the Government in sanctioning^ the trial of tlie 
principle on the Kingstown and Dalkey hne, and in grant- 
ing a loan of £25,000 to the Company for the purpose. 
This determination was due to tlie infkicncc of the late 


Sir Eobert Peel, then Fii'st Lord of the Treasury, who 
was on this occasion, as well as during its whole history, 
a strong supporter of the plan. 

With this encouragement, the railway was accordingly 
prepared, the tubes laid down, the engines erected, and 
the apparatus was set to work in August 1843. 

The hue was single, and about one mile and three- 
quarters in length. It had a short descent from Kingstown, 
after which it rose to Dalkey ^\ an average gradient of 
about 1 in 116 ; the steepest part, 1 in 57^. There was 
one considerable curve, of 518 feet radius ; a shorter one 
of 570 feet radius ; and a third, of 700 feet radius. The 
atmospheric tube was 15 inches internal diameter, placed 
in the middle of the road, between the two rails, and firmly 
attached to the cross transoms under the sleepers. It was 
in lengths of 9 feet each connected by socket jomts care- 
fully filled with cement. The width of the longitudinal 
valve opening was two and a half mches. The arrange- 
ments of the valve were made with all possible care, 
and with the benefit of all the experience gained by the 
previous experiment. 

The pipe did not extend the whole length of the road, 
but stopped short of the summit of the hill by 560 yards, 
the carriages rumiing up this distance by their momentum 

The steam engine was placed, for the sake of conve- 
nience, at about 500 yards from the upper end of the tube, 
being joined to it by a connecting pipe of equal diameter. 
The engine was of 100 horse-power, working an air 
pump of 67 inches diameter, with a stroke of 5 feet 
6 inches. 

Experiments made on the line, soon after the opening. 


gave good results as to the action of the apparatus. It 
was found that a rarefaction of 13 to 14 inches could be 
obtained in two minutes, and 22 inches in five minutes ; 
the pump making 22 strokes per minute. And in running 
trains up the inchne, it was observed that 30 tons could 
be drawn up at a speed of about 30 miles an hour, and 
70 tons at about 20 miles ; Avhich, considering the diffi- 
culties of the road, was certainly satisfactory. 

This confirmation of the results previously obtained 
on a smaller scale served to increase the popularity 
of the new invention, and to stimulate its promoters to 
urge its claims upon the railway world, with a view to 
securing its more extended adoption. 

It may be well here to give a summary of the chief 
arguments which, at various periods, were urged in favour 
of the atmospheric system, as compared with other modes 
of railway locomotion. 

The more cogent of these took the shape of objections 
to the locomotive engine. It was said — 

(1) In the first place, that to make a steam engine 
locomotive was eminently mifavourable for its economy 
of fuel ; that the quantity consumed was excessive, and 
the land expensive. 

(2) That this was also a veiy unf^ivourable condition 
for keeping the engine in repair, and that the necessity of 
having a large stock of engines constantly under exami- 
nation in ' hospital ' led to a very large extra outlay of 

(3) That the locomotive engine had to overcome the 
friction and other resistances due to itself, and to the tender 
carrying its sup})lies of fuel and water ; to Avliich had 


also to be added a resistance peculiar to this macliiiie, 
that of the back pressure on the pistons caused by the 

(4) That in addition to this loss, it had also, in ascend- 
ing gradients, to overcome the gravity of itself and its 

(5) That the use of the locomotive involved many other 
minor evils — such as the necessity for repairing shops and 
running sheds, distributed over the hue; the liability to 
shpping on the rails, to fire, to burstmg, to freezing of 
the pumps, and to many accidental causes of derange- 
ment and mischief which did not exist with stationary 

Such were the principal evils said to be inherent in the 
locomotive system. The only form of stationary power 
with which the atmospheric plan could be compared, was 
that of the rope, and to this it was objected — 

(6) That the friction of the rope was enormous, and 
that in ascending inclines the weight of the rope was also 
the source of much loss of power. 

The advantages pecuhar to the atmospheric system 
were stated to be : — "^v 

(7) That it got rid of all the disadvantages named in 
the first five heads, as inherent in the travelling form of 
the motive machine, and was free also from the objections 
to the use of a rope with stationary power, as the air 
in the tube did the duty of the rope without either 
weioiit or material friction. 


(8) That it presented much greater safety than the 
locomotive plan, for several reasons, — that it was quite 
impossible any two trains could come into coUision, 
cither by meeting or overtaking each other ; that the 


leading carriages could not get off the rails ; and that all 
the manifold elements of danger inherent in the loco- 
motive were avoided. 

(9) That any desired speed of travelhng might be 
obtained, by simply proportioning the engine, pmnps, and 
pipe accordingly, without corresponding disadvantage in 
the application of the power. And that, therefore, higher 
speeds might be attained on railways generally. 

(10) That as a consequence of the more favourable 
application of the power, and the less danger of getting 
off the hue, much steeper gradients and sharper curves 
might be used, than on lines prepared for locomotive 
liaulage ; and that consequently the cost of constructing 
railways might be very much lessened ; the economy being 
further enhanced by the reduced height of all tunnels 
and over-bridges, consequent on tlie absence of the 
locomotive chimney — and the less strength required for 
viaducts and under bridges, which would have less weight 
to carry. 

(11) That a further and still greater saving in first cost 
would result from the fact, that the principle of atmo- 
spheric propulsion, by ensuring regularity in the working 
of the trains, would admit of a single line being used, with 
safety, for an amount of traffic which on the locomotive 
system must imperatively demand a double line. 

(12) That by doing away with the heavy locomotive, 
much midit also be saved in the first cost and in the 


maintenance of the permanent way; as hghter rails might 
be used, and they woidd be much less liable to deteriora- 
tion and derangement. 

(13) It was furtlier contended that the atmospheric 
system offered much more convenience to the public, 


inasmuch as it would be the interest of the companies, 
under this system, to despatch hght trains very fre- 
quently ; whereas the use of locomotive power rendered 
it advantageous to reduce their number, and concentrate 
their weight, as much as possible. And it was also 
added that the atmospheric system was much more 
agreeable to the passengers, for several reasons, such as 
the entire absence of dust and sparks from the engine, 
less noise, more steady and comfortable motion, better 
condition of the road, &c. &c. 

(14) And finally, it was said that the atmospheric 
system would enable water power to be used, where it 
existed, instead of steam; and that, where a sufficient quan- 
tity and fall could be obtained to produce a vacuum, 
machinery might be dispensed with altogether. 

The popular and plausible nature of many of these 
arguments could not fail to attract the attention of the 
public ; particularly as the new plan proposed was no 
mere untried scheme ; for it was in actual practical ap- 
plication, worldng the traffic daily over a line which, for 
locomotives, at that time, had been admitted to be almost 

It was no wonder, then, that the atmospheric system, 
working on the Kingstown and Dalkey hue, at the 
end of the year 1843, should be carefully examined by 
raihvay engineers ; and among the first to give attention 
to it was Robert Stephenson. 

About this time an application was made to the 
Directors of the Chester and Holyhead Eailway, (who 
were then promoting their Bill in Parliament,) with a 
view to the application of the system on that line. The 


dii'ectors, feeling that an investigation ought to be made, 
commissioned Mr. Stephenson, their engineer, to examine 
the invention, and to report to them whether he could 
recommend its application to their railway. He undertook 
two series of careful investigations, and his report to the 
directors thereon was dated April 9, 1844, only a few 
mouths after the opening of the Dalkey line ; so that ]\Ii\ 
Stephenson appears to have been tlie first independent 
investigator of the system, in its appUcation on a practical 
scale. The results of this scrutiny are so important, when 
taken in connection with what afterwards occurred, tliat 
it is necessary to give them at some length. 

]\Ir. Stephenson commences his report by a passage 
which well illustrates the importance he attached to the 
investigation. He says to the Directors : — 

When I first visited Kingstown at your request, I made 
such experiments as appeared sufficient to enable me to form 
an accurate opinion on the application of this new motive 
power to public railways. On my return to England, how- 
ever, I found, by analysing the experiments, that many of the 
results were irreconcilable with each other, presenting anoma- 
lies in themselves, and suggesting further enquiry. 

It was then that I began to feel the onerous and difficult 
nature of the task I had undertaken. I was called upon, in 
short, to decide whether a singularly ingenious and highly me- 
ritorious invention was, or was not, to be applied to the 
Chester and Holvhead Eailway. I also felt strongly that 
whatever might be my opinion, whether favourable or un- 
favourable, the final destiny of the invention was not in my 
hands ; and that if it were really calculated to produce the 
remarkable results which had been stated, nothing could stop its 
universal application to railways. On the other hand I saw 
that, if the principles of the invention were not soundly based, 
I should be incurring a most serious responsibility in recom- 
mending its application to the Chester and Holyhead Railway, 
extending over a distance of eighty-five miles. 


Under this conviction, I arranged an entirely new and ex- 
tended series of experiments, with the view of fully and 
accurately testing every part of the invention, and thus putting 
myself in a position to give you an opinion upon which I could 
recommend you to act. 

Mr. Stephenson further paid a deserved compliment to 
the engineers who had introduced the system, by stating 
that ' the mechanical details of the apparatus employed 
at Kingstown had been brought to a remarkable degree 
of perfection.' 

In commencing his investigations JMr. Stephenson first 
took means to test the actual capabilities of the apparatus, 
irrespective of any hypothesis, by ascertaining the 
maximum velocity attainable with trains of various 
weights, noting also the corresponding pressures in the 
vacuum tube ; and an elaborate statement is given of 20 
experiments of trains actually conveyed up the inchne, 
gradually increasing in weight from 23|; to 642 tons. 
The general results may be thus stated. 

With the hghtest trains, of 23 to 25 tons, a velocity of 
30 to 35 miles an hour Avas attained, with a vacuum of 
13 to 17 inches of mercmy. 

With medium trains of 40 to 45 tons, a velocity of 
about 25 miles an horn- was arrived at, with 22 inches of 

With the heaviest trains of 60 to 65 tons, a speed of 
16 to 18 miles an hour was attained, with a vacuum of 
2^ to 241 inches. 

JMr. Stephenson proceeded to reason upon these actual 
facts exhibited. He showed that, supposing the apparatus 
to be in every respect perfect, the velocity of the piston 
in the tube, when uniform motion was attained, would be, 
to that of the air-pump piston, inversely as their areas ; 


but that, from various imperfections inherent in the 
system, this was not practically the case. 

The nature and influence of these imperfections there- 
fore formed the next subject of investigation, and the 
principal of these was the leakage of air in consequence 
of various defects in the jomts, but principally through 
the longitudinal valve at the top of the tube. He tried a 
series of experiments to determine this, and came to the 
conclusion that whatever might be the degree of rarefac- 
tion of the tube, nearly equal volumes of air, measured at 
atmospheric pressure, would leak into the tube in equal 
times; this curious result being apparently due to the 
fact that at high pressure (when greater quantities might 
have been expected to enter) the valve was forced 
closer, and the apertures of leakage were reduced in 
proportion. The average amount of leakage, measured 
at atmospheric pressure, he found to be 186 cubic feet 
per minute per mile of tube, or 252 feet for the whole 
length, to which had to be added 219 cubic feet per 
minute for the connecting pipe and air pump. 

But Mr. Stephenson went on to show that, although the 
atmospheric volume leaking in was pretty uniform at all 
pressures, the effect of this, as regarded the power required 
to remove it from the tube, was extremely variable under 
different degrees of rarefaction ; for since the entering air 
would become expanded according to the rarefaction, and 
since the air pump could only extract a fixed volume of 
the rarefied air at each stroke, the power and time required 
to overcome the effect of the leakage must increase very 
rapidly with tlie degree of exhaustion used. And hence, 
as the exhaustion advanced, the retarding influence of the 
leakage on the speed became more and more serious, and 


the maximum velocity attainable by tlie train proportion- 
ably lowered. 

Having determined the value and effect of the leakage, 
Mr. Stephenson calculated what velocity the Dalkey tube 
ought to give, at the assumed ordinary speed of the air 
pump — first, supposing the apparatus to be perfect, and 
secondly, allowing for the effect of the leakage ; the dif- 
ference between which was found, with a vacuum ot 
18 inches, to be 13 per cent, and with 24:^ inches to be 
30 per cent, this difference expressing the calculated loss 
due to the leakage. 

These calculations were then further tested by actual 
results of experiments with the trains, which showed that 
the real velocity attained fell still short of this latter result 
by quantities varying from 26 to 41 per cent, giving the 
total departure from the theoretical state of perfection 39 
to 71 per ceiQt. 

The causes of this latter or additional loss of effect Mr. 
Stephenson attributed partly to further imperfections in 
the air pump, when in motion, beyond those observable 
when at rest ; and partly to the leakage round the pro- 
peUing piston, which he considered was much augmented 
during its swift motion in the tube. 

Next followed a series of calculations on the power 
consumed in giving motion to the trains, under the 
various circumstances. These calculations were exceed- 
ingly elaborate, and, from the evident desire of Mr. 
Stephenson to present to his readers all the data which 
had led him to his conclusions, were made somewhat 
complicated and abstruse as well as lengthy. He had 
indicator diagrams taken from the air pump at various 
states of the rarefaction (which are published in full in 


the report), and by this means — taking, as before, the 
assumed speed of the air pump — he arrived at the power 
expended by the steam engines to produce the resuUs 
obtained, some idea of wliich may be formed from the 
following statement : — 

With a train of 2G^ tons, which attained a imiform 
velocity of 34-7 miles per hour, the total power expended 
was 322 horses. 

With 45-5 tons, attaining 25-2 miles an hour, the 
power was 427. horses. 

With 64-7 tons, at lG-7 miles an hour, it was 415 

These amounts, however, included the power expended 
to raise the vacuum, and to start the train, which was 
generally more than Avliat was necessary to keep it in 
uniform motion. Tlie value of the latter came out 
practically at a pretty nearly uniform value of about 170 
to 180 horses' power for all trains and speeds, and all 
degrees of exhaustion. 

It was next calculated what portion of this was 
actually apphed, through the tube piston, to the propul- 
sion of the trains, which was found to be : — 

For the 26^ ton train, 150 horse-power; for the 45 J 
ton train, 134 horse-power ; for the 64 ton tram, 96 
horse-power : the loss (due to leakage) increasing with 
the degree of exhaustion apphed. 

Finally he estimated the component parts of the re- 
sistance offered to the motion of the trains, and after 
making the proper allowance for gravity (1 in 115) and 
friction (10 lbs. per ton), a large surplus was found to be 
due to the resistance of the atmosphere. For example, 
witli the 26i ton train, moving at 34*7 miles an hour, 


this residual resistance was found to be 78 horse-power 
out of 150. With the 45J ton train, at 25 miles an 
hour, it was 44 out of 134. And with the 64 ton train, 
at 16 J miles, it was 11 horse-power out of 96. 

Mr. Stephenson considered this last result as of great 
importance, and havmg a bearing much wider than the 
case in question. He says : — 

In referring to the loss of power from the resistance of the 
atmosphere, it will be observed there is a very rapid reduction 
in the loss, as the speed is diminished, indicating most satis- 
factorily the excessive expenditure of power, and consequent 
augmentation of expense, in working at high velocities upon 
railways. This remark is of course equally applicable to all 
railways, whatever be the motive power employed, and it is 
here introduced only for the purpose of showing that the 
attainment of speed exceeding that which is now realised upon 
some of the existing lines of railway is a matter of extreme 
difficulty, and that the atmospheric system is not exempt from 
that wasteful application of power which high velocities in- 
evitably entail. For although the resistance of the atmosphere 
to railway trains has been established for a long time, the limit 
Avhich it is likely to put to every effort to obtain such velocities 
as have been generally believed to be within the reach of the 
atmospheric railway has not, I am sure, been sufficiently 
brought forward. 

Mr. Stephenson also pointed out, as a result of his 
experiments, the necessity of working with only a 
moderate degree of exhaustion ; as he was led to the 
conclusion that when the barometer rose to a certain 
height, the expansion of the air leaking into the apparatus 
must become fidly equal to the total capacity of the 
pump, and no advance of the tube piston could be effected ; 
tliis case occurred on the Kingstown and Dalkey Eailway, 
with a height of barometer of 25 J inches. ' This con- 
clusion,' adds Mr. Stephenson, ' which is unquestionably 

VOL. I. Y 


correct, points out tlie improvident expenditure of power 
wlien a high degree of rareftiction is required.' 

Having thus explained the object and result of the 
experiments instituted on the Kingstown and Dalkey 
Eailway, Isli. Stephenson proceeded to draw a comparison 
between the working of the atmospheric system and of 
other descriptions of motive power, with the view of 
showing their relative advantages and disadvantages. 

The first comparison was with the stationary engine 
and rope. Mr. Stephenson chose the incline on the 
North-Western Eailway, from Euston Square to Camden 
Town, nearly a mile long, and Avith an average gradient 
of 1 in 106, and which at that time was worked in this 
manner. He gave a table of experiments upon it, and 
showed, by an example serving for comparison in the two 
cases, that the waste of power on the Euston inclhie 
amounted to only 45 per cent, as against 74 per cent on 
the atmospheric plan. At the same time it w^as admitted 
that working a longer length of line would make the 
comparison more favourable to the latter plan. 

Next came the comparison with the locomotive 
engine. Mr. Stephenson took as an example the atmo- 
spheric train of 26J tons, moving at 34'7 miles per 
hour, at which rate he found the total loss of power 
by leakage, getting up the vacuum, and starting the 
train, equal to 53 per cent of the quantity developed 
by the engine. He then found that, when a locomotive 
drew a train of the same weight up the same gradient, 
its own gravity, friction, and atmospheric resistance, 
' together with a further resistance arising from the pres- 
sure of the atmosphere against the pistons, pecuhar to 
the working of a locomotive,' would consume to waste 


54 per cent of the total power developed. ' Therefore,' 
infers Mi\ Stephenson, ' the loss of power by the use of 
the locomotive engine under such circumstances appears 
somewhat to exceed that shown by the atmospheric 
system ; this is, however, a most disadvantageous com- 
parison for the locomotive engine, because the gradient 
far exceeds that upon which it can he worked econo- 

' Such a comparison,' he says in another place, * cannot be 
held as strictly correct, because the locomotive engine, as a 
motive power on steep gradients, is ivastefid, expensive, and 
uncertain ; therefore on a long series of bad gradients, extend- 
ing over several miles, where the kind of traffic is such that it 
is essential to avoid intermediate stoppages, the atmospheric 
system would be the most expedient. The lightest trains 
taken upon the Kingstown and Dalkey incline, at the velocities 
recorded, probably exceed the capabilities of locomotive engines, 
and so far prove that the atmospheric system is capable of 
being applied to somewhat steeper gradients, and that on such 
gradients a greater speed may be maintained than with locomo- 
tive engines.' 

As regarded Hues of more moderate steepness, he 
reduced the Dalkey performance to what it might be held 
equivalent to on a level, in order to show that such a 
performance was exceeded on many locomotive lines ; 
and he added the strong expression of his opinion 
that on Hues of railways where moderate gradients were 
attainable at a reasonable expense, the locomotive engine 
was decidedly superior, both as regarded power and speed, 
to any results developed or Hkely to be developed by the 
atmospheric system. 

Up to this point, the calculations and remarks in the 
Eeport had reference solely to the question of power, 

T 2 


entirely independent of the questions of expense or con- 
venience, which therefore Mr. Stephenson next proceeded 
to examine, beginning Avith the cost of construction. 

The advocates of the atmospheric system, knowing the 
great expense of the apparatus, had asserted it to be 
possible to work any reasonable amount of traffic with a 
single hne. This assertion Mr. Stephenson disputed, 
showing that on a long hne, if trains were despatched with 
sufficient frequency to carry the traffic both ways, the 
delay, by stoppages necessary for the trains to pass each 
other, would be so great as to defeat the object altogether. 
Hence he considered a double hne absolutely essential for 
any considerable length of railway; and he also con- 
cluded that each hne must be provided with its proper 
complement of engine-power. ' The intersections of the 
trains,' he says, 'cannot possibly be made to take place 
always at the same points, even on the supposition that 
each railway is worked independently of every other 
with which it may be in connection. When we intro- 
duce, in addition, the fact that several branch lines must 
necessarily flow into the main trunks ; that no hne can be 
worked independently ; that the arrival of trains is, and 
must always be, subject to much irregularity, sometimes 
arising from their local arrangements, sometimes from 
weather, and at others from contingencies inseparable 
from so complicated a machine as a railway ; it must be 
palpable that two independent series of stationary engines 
are as indispensable as two independent lines of vacuum 
tube, for tlie accomplishment of that certainty, regularity, 
and despatcli which already characterise ordinary railway 

Coming to figures, Mr. Samuda, on behalf of the 


atmospheric system, had estimated for a single hue of 
tube as follows : — 

Per Mile. 
Vacuum Tube, with all its appliances . . ^3,342 
Engines ....... 1,343 


Mr. Stephenson, considering a double line necessary, 
and that Mr. Samuda had not taken his engines powerful 
enough, altered this to — 

Per Mile. 

Vacuum Tubes £7,000 

Enffines 4,000 


He then apphed this, as an example, to the London and 
Birmingham Eailway, 111 miles long, which would 
make the cost of the atmospheric apparatus amount to 
£1,221,000, whereas the capital expended on locomotives 
and all their contingent outlay was only £321,000, making 
a difference of £900,000 against the atmospheric system. 

Mr. Stephenson admitted, that if that line had been 
originally laid out for the atmospheric plan, a saving of 
£900,000 might have been accomplished in the original 
design ; but he remarked that on other lines of railway 
where the gradients conformed more to the surface of the 
country, the excess of first outlay to adapt the atmo- 
spheric plan to them would be very heavy ; and he gave an 
example of a cheap railway for hght traffic in Norfolk, 
where the application of the atmospheric system would 
have involved a cost so great as to render it totally in- 

The next point considered was the cost of working, 
which, taking the London and Birmingham again as an 
example, Mr. Stephenson was of opinion would be greater 


by the atmospheric tlian the locomotive system in the pro- 
portion of £74,000 to £64,000 per annmii. 

Such were Mr. Steplienson's conclusions as to the capa- 
biUties of the atmospheric system as a motive power, and 
the cost of applying it. He finally devoted a short space 
to the consideration of some other questions, scarcely of 
less consequence when the apphcation of the system to 
daily practical purposes was discussed ; namely, the speed 
attainable, the safety, the certainty, and the liabihty to 
casualty or derangement. 

These were questions, he said, upon which widely 
different opinions might be entertained, but some of 
which could only be fairly appreciated by persons really 
conversant Avith the practical working of railway traffic. 

As to the speed, he considered he had already proved 
that, though increased velocity might be obtained, it could 
only be done with an inordinate expenditiu^e of power. 

On the safety of the atmospheric system there could, 
he said, be httle room for difference of opinion, as it 
might be stated to be nearly perfect ; but he thought that 
further experience would much diminish the risk with 
locomotive engines. 

But the question of certainty of action, Mr. Stephenson 
conceived, would be found to involve considerations 
mihtating most seriously against the plan, even though 
the first outlay and cost of working were in its favour. 

' Each train,' he says, ' in moving between London and 
Birmingham, would be passed, as it were, through thirty-eight 
distinct systems of mechanism, and it cannot be deemed un- 
reasonable to suppose that in such a vast series of machinery as 
would be required in this instance, casualties occasioning delay 
must not unfrequently occur. If the consequences were con- 
fined to one train, such casualties would be of small moment, 

1844-48.] THE ATMOSPHErJC SYSTEM. 327 

but the perfect operation of the whole is dependent on each 
individual part, and when the casualties extend themselves not 
only throughout the whole line of railway, but to every succeed- 
ing train which has to pass the locality of the mishap, until it 
is rectified, whether this occupies one hour or one week, the 
chances of irregularity must be admitted to be very great. 
The delay would apply to every train, whatever might be its 
destination, and to every railway in connection with that upon 
which the accident occurred. Such a dependency of one line 
of railway upon the perfectly uniform and efficient operation 
of a complicated series of machinery on every other with which 
it is connected, appears to me to present a most formidable 
difficulty to the application of the system to great public lines 
of railway ; so formidable, indeed, that I doubt much whether, 
if in every respect the system were superior to that of locomo- 
tive engines, it could be carried out upon such a chain of 
railways as exists between London and Liverpool, or London 
and York. 

'This difficulty, which is insurmountable and inherent in all 
systems involving the use of stationary engines, was fully con- 
sidered previous to the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester 
Eailway, when the application, to that line, of stationary engines 
and ropes was contemplated ; at that time the objection of the 
whole line being so dependent upon a part was maturely 
weighed, and decided to be most objectionable. In going 
through this investigation, I have again deliberated much on 
the feasibility of working such a system, but without any 
success in removing those obstacles which must interfere with 
the accomplishment of that certainty which has become indis- 
pensable in railway communication.' 

Mr. Stephenson also referred to other objections ; 
such as the chance of derangement of tlie tube by subsi- 
dence of the earthwork ; the comphcation of working the 
traffic at intermediate stations ; the difficulty of shunting, 
or of stopping the train on a sudden emergency, &c. &c. 
Of these, with many other objections of a minor cha- 
racter, he chose to take only a slight notice, as his 


wish was to call attention only to the main features of the 
invention, and to treat nothing as a difficulty Avhich was 
not obviously inherent or irremediable in the atmospheric 
system itself 

Finally, Mr. Stephenson summed up the conclusions to 
which his investigation had led him in the following 
terms ; — 

I. That the atmospheric system is not an economical mode of 
transmitting power, and inferior in this respect both to locomo- 
tive engines and stationary engines with ropes. 

II. That it is not calculated practically to acquire and main- 
tain ■ higher velocities than are comprised in the present 
working of locomotive engines. 

III. That it would not in the majority of instances produce 
economy in the original construction of railways, and in many 
would most materially augment their cost. 

IV. That on some short railways where the traffic is 
large, admitting of trains of moderate weight, but requiring 
high velocities and frequent departures, and where the face of 
the country is such as to preclude the use of gradients suitable 
for locomotive engines, the atmospheric system would prove 
the most eligible. 

V. That on short lines of railway, say four or five miles in 
length, in the vicinity of large towns, where frequent and rapid 
communication is required between the termini alone, the 
atmospheric system might be advantageously applied. 

VI. That on short lines, such as the Blackwall Eailway, 
where the traffic is chiefly derived from intermediate points, 
requiring frequent stoppages between the termini, the atmo- 
spheric system is inapplicable, being much inferior to the plan 
of disconnecting the carriages from a rope for the accommodation 
of the intermediate traffic. 

VII. That on long lines of railway the requisites of a large 
traffic cannot be attained by so inflexible a system as the 
atmospheric, in which the efficient operation of the whole 
depends so completely upon the perfect performance of each 
individual section of the machinery. 


Appended to Mr. Stephenson's Eeport was a statement by 
]\Ir. G. P. Bidder regarding tlie Blackwall Eailway. This 
hne was at that time worked by stationary engines and 
ropes, but the advocates of the atmospheric system had 
m^ged its adoption in preference. 

Mr. Bidder, after describing the peculiar circumstances 
of the traffic on the luie, showed satisfactorily that the atmo- 
spheric system could not be applied to it with advantage, 
cliiefly from the necessity for frequent stoppages at 
intermediate stations, which could not be effected, or at 
least, if effected, would entail such delays as would be 
extremely inconvenient to the public, and prejudicial to 
the interests of the line. 

Since 1849, the Blackwall Eailway, having been ex- 
tended and connected with other hnes, has been worked 
by locomotive power. 

Mr. Stephenson's Eeport was pubhshed and widely 
circulated ; but though it decided the Chester and Holy- 
head directors not to adopt the atmospheric system on 
their line, it does not seem to have checked its advance 
in public estimation ; for the features of the scheme 
were so attractive and popular as to secure for it the 
evident favour, not only of railway authorities and the 
public generally, but also of a number of professional 
engineers. To the latter class the subject naturally 
proved a very interesting one ; for at three several times, 
in the years 1844 and 1845, it was brought promi- 
nently forward and discussed at great length at meet- 
ings of the Institution of Civil Engineers, almost all the 
principal members of the profession taking part in 
the arguments either on one side or the other ; and at 


a later period, -svlien it was in action on the Croydon 
line, the same Institution promoted the appointment of 
a scientific committee to make experiments upon it — 
a design which, had it not been frustrated by the sudden 
and premature abandonment of the system on that line, 
would undoubtedly have been of the greatest interest and 
importance in a scientific point of view. 

Almost immediately after the date of Mr. Stephenson's 
Eeport, the subject was brought forward in Parliament, by 
a bill promoted by the Croydon Eailway Company for an 
extension of their Ime to Epsom, which it was proposed to 
work on the atmospheric plan. On the committal of this 
bill a long investigation into the merits of the system took 
place, extending from the 15th to the 21st of May, and 
embracing all that could be said for or against the plan. 
Mr. Cubitt, the engineer of the line, explained his reasons 
for adopting it, in which he was supported by Mr. Sa- 
muda, Mr. Gibbons of the Dalkey line, and Mr. I. K. Brunei. 
Mr. Stephenson gave evidence against it, stating and ex- 
plaining the arguments used in his report to the Chester 
and Holyhead Eailway. The Committee, however, appear 
to have been satisfied of the practicability of the plan, as 
they passed the bill ; and when it had gone through the 
other legal stages, steps were immediately taken to put the 
works into execution. 

Li the next year, 1845, the subject attracted still more 
prominently the public attention. This, it will be recol- 
lected, was about the time of the well-known railway 
mania, when speculation was excited to a degree unheard 
of before, and new lines were promoted in vast numbers 
from all corners of the empire. The atmospheric 
system, by promising to cheapen the construction of new 


lines, and to facilitate their formation, was too enticing to 
be overlooked ; and consequently, among the multitudes 
of new hues introduced into Parhament at the commence- 
ment of the session of 1845, were many in wliich this 
system of propulsion was proposed to be adopted, and 
some of which indeed, by their inappHcabihty to locomo- 
tive traction, depended for their very existence on the 
feasibihty of the plan. 

Independently of the Epsom hne, already sanctioned 
and in progress of construction, many others, of much public 
importance, were now proposed to be worked on this 
system — as, for example, one from Newcastle to Berwick ; 
continuations of the Epsom line directly to Portsmouth, 
of the Croydon line to Maidstone, Tunbridge, and Ash- 
ford, and of the Dalkey line to Bray, and a direct hne from 
London to Northampton. 

To have left the full discussion of the atmospheric 
principle to be undertaken in each separate case would, it 
was thought, lead to much difficulty and delay ; and 
therefore, on the motion of Lord Howick (afterwards Earl 
Grey), a Committee of the House of Commons was 
appointed to investigate, once for all, the merits of the 
plan, and to report to the House thereon. 

The Committee consisted of fifteen members, the Hon. 
Bingham Baring in the chair. They were appointed March 
14, 1845, examined witnesses from April 1 to April 11, 
and made their Eeport on April 22 ; an instance of 
very remarkable expedition, showing the iu"gency they 
attached to the subject. 

The first witness examined was ]\ir. Samuda, one of 
the patentees, who explained at great length the nature 
and advantages of the principle; stated what was being 


done to put it into operation on various lines; and 
answered objections that had been made against it. 

Mr. Barry Gibbons, the engineer, and Mr. Bergin, the 
manager, of the Kingstown and Dalkey Hne, explained the 
working of the system there, and testified to its success. 

Mr. Brunei supported the plan, and described the 
extensive use he was making of it on the South Devon 
line. Mr. (afterwards Sir) WilUam Cubitt followed on 
the same side, and described his application of the at- 
mospheric system to the Croydon and Epsom lines. The 
principle was also supported by Mr. Vignoles and Mr. 
Field, eminent civil and mechanical engineers, and by the 
Eev. Dr. Eobinson of Armagh. 

On the other hand, Mr. Eobert Stephenson, Mr. Bidder, 
Mr. Nicholson, and Mr. Locke testified against the system. 

The advantages of atmospheric propulsion, and the argu- 
ments in its favour, which have been already stated, were 
urged upon the Committee by the first set of witnesses, 
while the objections to it were principally those given in 
Mr. Stephenson's report, to which, however, a few minor 
ones were added — as the loss of power by the friction 
of the air in the tube ; the heating of the ak in the 
pump during compression; the impossibihty of making 
level crossings, or of having junctions with branch lines 
except at the principal stations; the great cost of 
running only few trains, as at night, and so on. 

The Committee, after due deliberation and discussion 
among themselves, adopted a Eeport which is of sufficient 
importance to warrant its insertion here. It runs as 
follows, omitting some passages of minor interest : 

The Select Committee appointed to inquire into the merits of 
the atmospheric system of railway have examined the matters 
to them referred, and have agreed to the following Eeport. 


Your Committee have given their best attention to this in- 
teresting subject. Adverting to the great number of Eailway 
Bills now in progress, they consider that one of the most practical 
results of this inquiry would be lost if their Eeport were delayed 
imtil after these bills had passed through Committee, and a 
decision had already been made on their comparative merits. 

Your Committee have endeavoured therefore to present to 
the House, with as little delay as is consistent with the due dis- 
charge of their duty, the evidence which they have taken, and 
the opinions to which they have come, and they trust that their 
labour may not prove altogether useless to the Committees that 
have to decide on the particular railway schemes now pending. 

The House are aware that a railway on the atmospheric 
principle is already in operation between Kingstown and Dalkey, 
in Ireland. 

The first object of your Committee was to make a full inquiry 
into the result of this experiment. From Mr. Gibbons, Mr. 
Bergin, and Mr. Vignoles, gentlemen officially connected with 
the Kingstown and Dublin, and Kingstown and Dalkey Eailways, 
they received the fullest and frankest evidence on all the 
points connected with their management. 

From this evidence, and from that of Mr. Samuda, it appears 
that the Dalkey line has been open for nineteen months, that 
it has worked Avith regularity and safety throughout all the 
vicissitudes of temperature, and that the few interruptions which 
have occurred have arisen rather from the inexperience of the 
attendants than from any material defect of the system. 

Your Committee find, moreover, that high velocities have 
been obtained with proportional loads on an incline averaging 
1 in 115, within a course in which the power is applied only 
during one mile and an eighth. 

These results have been displayed under circumstances which 
afford no fair criterion of what may be expected elsewhere ; for 
in addition to the curves on the line, which would have been 
considered objectionable if not impracticable for locomotive 
engines, there are alleged to exist defects in the machinery and 
apparatus, occasioned partly by the difficulties of the situation, 
partly by mistakes inseparable from a first attempt, which very 
seriously detract from the efficiency of the power employed, for 


the remedy of which provision has been made in the experiments 
now in progress. 

These are important facts. They establish the mechanical 
efficiency of the atmospheric power to convey with regularity, 
speed, and security, the traffic upon one section of pipe between 
two termini ; and your Committee have since been satisfied, by 
the evidence of Messrs. Brunei, Cubitt, and Vignoles, that there 
is no mechanical difficulty which will oppose the working of the 
same system upon a line of any length. They are further con- 
firmed in this opinion by the conduct of the Dalkey and Kings- 
town directors, who have at this moment before Parliament a 
proposition to extend their atmospheric line to Bray. 

In addition to the Avitnesses already mentioned, your Com- 
mittee have had the advantage of hearing the objections urged 
by Messrs. Nicholson, Stephenson, and Locke against the adop- 
tion of the atmospheric principle, and the gi-ounds of their 
preference for the locomotive now in use. 

Your Committee must refer the House to the valuable evi- 
dence given by these gentlemen. 

It will be seen that great difference of opinion exists between 
them and the other witnesses to whom your Committee have 
before referred, both in their estimation of what has already 
been effected, and in their calculations of future improvement. 
But without entering upon all the controverted points, your 
Committee have no hesitation in stating that a single atmospheric 
line is superior to a double locomotive line in both regularity 
and safety, inasmuch as it makes collisions impossible, except 
at crossing places, and excludes all the danger and irregularity 
arising from casualties to engines or their tenders. 

Your Committee desire also to bring to the attention of the 
House a peculiarity of the atmospheric system, which has been 
adduced by the objectors to prove how unsuited it must be 
profitably to carry on a small and irregular traffic ; namely, that 
the greatest proportion of the expenses of haulage on the at- 
mospheric principle are constant, and cannot be materially 
reduced, however small the amount of traffic may be. This is, 
no doubt, a serious objection to the economy of the atmospheric 
system imder the circumstances above alluded to. But on the 
other hand, as the expenses do not increase in proportion to the 
frequency of the trains, it is to the interest of companies 


adopting the atmospheric system to increase the amount of 
their traffic by running frequent light trains at low rates of fare, 
by which the convenience of the public must be greatly promoted. 

Upon an atmospheric railway the moving power is most 
economically applied by dividing the weight to be carried into 
a considerable number of light trains. By locomotive engines, 
on the contrary, the power is most conveniently applied by con- 
centrating the traffic in a smaller number of heavier trains. 
The rate of speed at which trains of moderate weight can be 
conveyed on an atmospheric line makes comparatively little 
difference in the cost of conveyance, while the cost of moving- 
trains by locomotive engines increases rapidly with the speed. 

Now when it is considered that we surrender to great mono- 
polies the regulation of all the arteries of communication 
throughout the kingdom, that it depends in a great measure 
upon their view of their interest when we shall travel, at what 
speed we shall travel, and what we shall pay, it becomes a ma- 
terial consideration, in balancing the advantages ensured to the 
public by rival systems, to estimate not so much what they 
respectively can do, but what, in the pursuit of their own emo- 
lument, they will do. 

The main objections of the opponents of the atmospheric sys- 
tem seem to rest— first, on the supposed increase of expense of the 
atmospheric apparatus over and above the saving made in the 
construction of the road ; secondly, on the inconvenience and 
irregularity attending upon a single line. With reference to 
the last point, your Committee felt it their duty to direct their 
first attention to the question of security, and they have 
already stated that there is more security in a single atmospheric 
line than a double locomotive. They may further observe that 
they find the majority of the engineers who have been examined 
are decidedly of opinion that any ordinary traffic might be carried 
on with regularity and convenience by a single atmospheric line. 

With respect to expense, and to some other contested points, 
your Committee do not feel themselves competent to report a 
decided opinion. It would scarcely be possible at the present 
time to institute a fair comparison of a system which has had 
fifteen years of growth and developement, with another which is 
as yet in its infancy. That comparison would, after all, be very 
uncertain ; it must depend much on details of which we are 


ignorant, much on scientific knowledge which we do not 
po.ssess. There are, however, questions of practical importance, 
having reference to the present state of the Kailway Bills before 
the House, to which your Committee consider themselves bound 
to advert. 

There is a doubt, raised in the Eeports of the Board of Trade, 
whether the atmospheric system has been sufficiently tested to 
justify the preference of a line which can only be worked on 
the atmospheric system, or which presents gradients less favour- 
able than a competing line for the use of the locomotive engine. 

If it were practicable to suspend all railway legislation until 
the result of the Devon and Cornwall, and of the Epsom and 
Croydon atmospheric lines were known, it would be perhaps 
the most cautious and prudent course to wait that result ; but 
such a course, independent of all considerations of expediency, 
is evidently impracticable. Your Committee venture therefore 
to express their opinion to the House, that in deciding between 
competing lines of railway, those which have been set out to 
suit the atmospheric principle ought not to be considered as 
open to valid objections merely on account of their having 
gradients too severe for the locomotive ; nor should they be 
tested, in comparison with other lines, solely by the degree of 
their suitableness to the use of the locomotive. 

No doubt, in matters like these, experience alone can decide 
the ultimate result ; but your Committee think that there is 
ample evidence which would justify the adoption of an atmo- 
spheric line at the present time. All the witnesses they have 
examined concur in its mechanical success. 

Mr. Bidder says: 'I consider the mechanical problem as 
solved, whether the atmospheric could be made an efficient 
tractive agent. There can be no question about that, and the 
apparatus worked, as far as I observed it, very well. The only 
question in my mind was as to the commercial application of 
it.' Mr. Stephenson admits that under certain circumstances of 
gradients (1,.315), and under certain circumstances of traffic, 
without reference to gradients (1,204), the atmospheric system 
would be preferable. 

While your Committee have thus expressed a strong opinion 
in favour of the general merits of the atmospheric principle, 
they feel that experience can alone determine under what cir- 


cumstances of traffic, or of country, the preference to either 
system should be given. 

This decision, so favourable to the atmospheric system, 
camiot be wondered at. The preponderance of evidence, 
even of engineers, was undoubtedly in its favour; and, 
however we may now be convinced of the validity of the 
objections urged against it, and of the superior judgement 
of the witnesses who opposed it, it was not to be expected 
that a Committee so composed should be in a position to 
attach such weight to these objections as to invalidate the 
concurrent and positive testimony adduced on the other 

Supported, therefore, by so powerful and pubhc a re- 
commendation, we should be prepared to expect that the 
atmospheric system would soon have been extensively 
introduced, at least on new lines — if, indeed, it did not 
supersede the estabhshed plans of locomotion on old ones ; 
for as has been akeady stated, the inducement to lay down 
new hnes with gradients and works adapted for the plan 
must have been very strong. 

But this official recognition of the merits of the system 
forms the culminating point of its history ; for, strange to 
say, from this event we have only to trace its continual 
decadence, and, within but a few years afterwards, to 
chronicle its abandonment altogether. 

The examination of the atmospheric bills in Parhament, 
m the follomng session of 1845, proceeded in due 
com-se ; but the labours of Lord Howick's Committee do 
not seem to have had the effect intended ; for the oppo- 
nents of the atmospheric system — who, though small in 
numbers, were very energetic and determined — did not 

VOL. I. z 


clioose to yield to tlieir decision, and the contest had to 
be renewed in every Committee on every bill. 

One of the most important of these contests was that 
for the line from Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Berwick, in 
wliich a single atmospheric line was opposed to the 
double locomotive railway projected by George Stephen- 
son and his son. The battle of these two rival lines was 
fought very obstinately and at great length before the 
Committee of the House of Commons ; and in July 1845 
they reported that, although they did not feel called upon 
to express an opinion on the relative merits of the atmo- 
spheric and the locomotive systems, or on their compara- 
tive apphcability to railways in general, still as the 
evidence negatived the sufficiency of a single line to con- 
vey the required traffic, they preferred the locomotive 
double line, which was eventually adopted. 

The Bill for the Epsom and Portsmouth Hue passed 
on the atmospheric principle, but was never carried into 
execution : all the other Bills were either lost or aban- 

It now only remains to mention the several cases where 
the atmospheric system has been appUed in actual prac- 
tice ; there are five in number. 

The first of them, the experimental half mile on the 
small railway at Wormwood Scrubs, may be dismissed 
very briefly. It was, as has been stated, set to work in 
June 1840. It was not intended for traffic, as the line 
was not commercially used at that time ; but it was worked 
experimentally. During the fii^st year trips were run re- 
gularly twice a week, to which the public were admitted 
free ; and subsequently experiments were made at various 


intervals during 1 J or 2 years more ; after which the 
apparatus was removed. 

Next in order comes the Kingstown and Dalkey hne, of 
which a description has already been given. It was first 
tried in August 1843, and commenced working regularly 
towards the end of September ; but in consequence of some 
legal difficulties it was not opened for public traffic till 
some months later. During the interval, however, it was 
at work, carrying passengers without charge; and any 
persons who had an introduction, or any special claim, 
were allowed to make experiments in any manner they 
desu-ed, without expense to them : the pubhc travelling at 
the same time for amusement in very large numbers. In 
March 1844, it began running for regular commercial 
traffic, and worked for several years, conveying great 
numbers of passengers to and fro, with perfect safety and 
considerable speed. On occasions of any peculiar attrac- 
tion, the double journey was performed every ten minutes, 
from 7 A.M. to 11 p.m. 

About 1855 the Dalkey, Dublin, and Kingstown property 
was leased to the Dubhn, Wicklow, and Wexford Eailway 
Company. The portion between Kingstown and Dalkey 
was mcluded, and was extended to Bray, where it joined 
the direct Dublin and Wicklow line ; and as it would 
have been obviously inconvenient to have an isolated 
portion, of one mile and a half in length, of atmospheric 
propulsion in the middle of a system worked by loco- 
motives, the tube was taken up, and the hne enlarged, 
and made a homogeneous part of the extended system. 

The third application of the atmospheric principle was 
upon the London and Croydon Eailway. Eeference has 
been made to the Act obtained in 1844 for an extension 

z 2 


of tliat line from Croytlon to Epsom, which the Company 
proposed to work on tlie atmospheric system. But as tlie 
hne from Croydon to London was becoming much occu- 
pied by the Brigliton and the South Eastern Companies, 
both of wliich ran over its whole length, it was considered 
expedient to lay down an additional or third line of rails 
alongside the other two, over this distance, so as to give 
an independent accommodation to the Croydon and Epsom 
traffic. This was considered a favourable portion on 
which to test the invention ; and as this hne could be 
sooner constructed than the new one beyond Croydon, 
great efforts were made to have the atmospheric ap- 
paratus at work upon it as early as possible : and it was 
opened for a distance of five miles, from Forest Hill to 
Croydon, in the latter part of 1845. From London to 
Forest Hill the atmospheric apparatus was not completed, 
the trains being worked by locomotives, and run into a 
siding for attachment to the piston carriage of the atmo- 
spheric tube. 

The tube, which was 15 inches internal diameter, was 
divided into two lengths — one of 3 miles from Forest Hill 
to Norwood, and the other of 2 miles from thence to 
Croydon — there being steam engines of 100 nominal 
horse-power, with air pumps, placed at each of the three 
stations. In one place the railway crossed over the 
Brighton main line by a viaduct, with gradients on each 
side of 1 in 50. 

For a short time after the apparatus was set to work 
it was employed in running empty trains at cei'tain in- 
tervals during the day, to give the pubUc an opportunity 
of seeing the new mode of conveyance. It is stated that 
trains of nineteen carriages were conveyed at 30 to 35 


miles an hour, or even at greater speed under favourable 
circumstances ; but the vacuum employed was high, being 
24 to 26 inches, and the power consumed in pumping 
was large.* With hghter trains velocities of 60 miles 
an hour were attained. 

On January 19, 1846, it commenced working for 
regular traffic ; but, though generally successful, frequent 
interruptions took place from various accidents ; prin- 
cipally through defects in the stationary engines, which 
appeared not to be well adapted to the purpose they had 
to serve. 

In May the number of trains was increased from thirty- 
two to thirty-nine per diem, and the regularity was 
generally improved, though some difficulty still occurred 
in getting over the steep incline. 

The summer discovered an unexpected weakness, for 
the June sun, giving a temperature of 131° over the pipe, 
acted so powerfully upon the waxy seahng composition 
of the valve, that it was difficult to keep it tight against 
the pressure of the atmosphere ; and on this, as on other 
occasions, the aid of the locomotive had to be called in. 
The valve itself was also defective, and a new one had to 
be inserted, as well as a new sealing material to be com- 
pounded, which proved successful, and was suitable to 
resist the effect of both heat and cold. The apparatus 
was set to work again in July, and a good regularity 
attained. A record of three trips on the 21st of that 
month f shows satisfactory resiQts. A train of 50 tons 

* These particulars were given to tion in the tunnels at Liverpool, 

the author by Mr. Edward Woods, which, however, he did not recom- 

who examined and reported on the mend, 

apparatus with a view to its adop- f Railway Chronicle, 1846, p. 719. 


attained a maximum speed of 30 miles an hour, and one 
of 22 tons, 64J miles, the vacuum in all cases being 
19 inches. 

In this year the amalgamation of the Croydon Railway 
with the London and Brighton hne took place. The 
directors of the former, in giving up their charge, August 
26th, remarked that, ' though the atmospheric system had 
not been free from those difficulties which usually attend 
the introduction of all new inventions, and though the 
working expenses had necessarily been very great, still 
it was progressing satisfactorily.' At the first meeting of 
the amalgamated companies on August 19, the directors 
also stated that ' the working progressed satisfactorily, 
and attained daily a greater degree of regularity, and 
that there was every reason they should have confidence 
in it.' Considering, however, the thing still as under 
experiment, they resolved, on the recommendation of 
Mr. Cubitt, their engineer, to open the Croydon and 
Epsom extension, in the first instance, as a locomotive 
line, until the merits or defects of the new system should 
liave been more thoroughly tried. 

In ISTovember the manager of the line was directed to 
make out a statement of the cost of working the system, 
which he did, much in its disfavour ; but his statement 
was called in question by Mr. Samuda, who con- 
tended that the facts did not Avarrant this disparaging 

During the winter the number of trains Avas thirty-six 
daily. In January 1847, a further portion of the at- 
mospheric tube was finished towards London, and on the 
14th of that month a trial trip was made, preparatory to 
the opening. From New Cross to Forest Hill the line 


ascended for nearly the whole distance an incline of 1 in 
100, and the train ran up this and on to Croydon in a 
satisfactory manner. 

In February some stoppages took place in consequence 
of snow and frost, and the locomotive had again to be 
resorted to; and at a meeting on the 19th of the same 
month, the second after the amalgamation, the directors 
reported that, with a view to determine the amount of 
expenditure, and at the same time to test practically the 
value of the system, they had entered into an arrange- 
ment with Mr. Samuda for working the atmospheric 
traction upon a contract for a fixed sum and during a 
certain period. Some of the shareholders at this meeting 
strongly advocated the abandonment of the plan ; to 
which it was answered that it had been proved both 
practicable and efficient, but that the directors would not 
consent to continue it longer than they thought right. 

From this time it seems to have worked well ; and a 
committee of scientific men was appointed by the Insti- 
tution of Civil Engineers to make experiments on it with 
a view to determine its powers ; when an event occurred 
which we may best describe by an extract from one of 
the railway journals of the period, dated May 8, 1847. 

Engineering London was suddenly thrown into unusual ex- 
citement on Tuesday last by the announcement that the Croydon 
Atmospheric Pipes were pulled up and the plan abandoned. 

On making inquiry we found that it had been decided to 
abandon the system, that the atmospheric was not in operation, 
that locomotives were doing the work, and that the atmospheric 
was doomed. 

We confess our surprise at this sudden resolve. The same 
resolve might have been taken any time these twelve months 
with more show of reason than appears now on the face of the 
question. Never before was the atmospheric doing so well. 


going so regularly, working so economically. The directors 
have for a couple of months been working a contract with Mr. 
Samuda, which contract gives them atmospheric power at less 
cost than the locomotive ; and Mr. Samuda is said to have been 
well pleased with his contract and the public service well per- 

We are the more sorry for this resolution, because, although 
we have from the beginning been regarded by the advocates of 
the atmospheric system as its inveterate enemies, we have really 
opposed only what appeared to us the errors of the system ; and 
while opposing its erroneous application, we have earnestly 
supported its having a fair trial. That trial we thought it 
would have had on the Croydon, and we are disappointed at this 
sudden resolution of the Board, which will, we think, give the 
advocates of the sj'stem something to complain of, and deprive 
all parties of the advantage of an unbiassed decision. 

The explanation given by the directors is in their 
report of August 10, where they say : ' From the insuffi- 
ciency of power by atmospheric traction to work the 
Epsom in addition to the Croydon traffic, your directors, 
by the advice of their consulting engineer, have sub- 
stituted locomotive power.' This 'insufficiency' arose 
from the vacuum tube being too small. The temptation 
to save as much as possible in the first cost of the 
apparatus, of which the tube formed such a large item, led 
to its being fixed at dimensions which, though probably 
large enough for the traffic existing at the time it was 
designed, did not allow for much increase. Hence, when 
larger loads had to be conveyed, it became necessary 
to work the vacuum higher, which, as had long before 
been predicted by 'Mr. Stephenson, brought the elements 
of leakage and friction into most disadvantageous opera- 
tion. Mr. Samuda himself always stated the most eligible 
vacuum to be 15 or 16 inches, but with the size of tube 


on the Croydon line this vacuum had to be much ex- 
ceeded when the loads became heavy. 

It is possible that this difficulty might have been over- 
come by dividing the loads, and running trains at more 
frequent intervals : but there was another motive which 
probably acted more strongly with the directors than the 
' insufficiency of power.' When the atmospheric system 
was originally adopted by the Croydon Company, their 
new or third Hue was to be an isolated one, doing the 
Croydon traffic only; but the case was materially altered 
when this became a trunk line for the Epsom traffic, and 
for probable future extensions. 

Moreover, there had arisen a new management, who 
had not taken any part in the anterior proceedings. The 
Croydon Company had sold themselves and their under- 
taking to a more powerful body, owning a large and 
important group of hues all worked by locomotive power, 
under one management and with one stock, except this 
small piece of atmospheric line, which was so isolated as 
to be obliged to be connected with locomotive lines at 
each end. 

No doubt, therefore, the Brighton directors were only 
too glad of any reasonable excuse that might offer for 
throwing the thing overboard altogether. This excuse 
came in tlie sudden pressure of the Epsom race week ; 
and in spite of the improved behaviour of the apparatus, 
in spite of the beneficial contract with Mr. Samuda, and 
in spite of the absurdity of incurring all the cost of the 
experiment without gaining any intelligible result there- 
from, the atmospheric system was forthwith suddenly con- 
demned ; the pipes were taken up and sold for old iron ; 
the engine houses were pulled down and carted away as 


old bricks ; and thus ended the trial of the atmospheric 
system on the Croydon Eailway. 

The next application to be recorded was on the South 
Devon Eailway, a Hne running between Exeter and 
Plymouth. The Act incorporating the Company was 
passed in July 1844 ; and immediately afterwards a pro- 
posal was made by the promoters of the atmospheric 
system to apply it on that railway. The question was 
referred to Mr. Brunei, the engineer, who fi'om his ex- 
amination of its working on the Wormwood Scrubs and 
the Kingstown lines, came to such a favourable judgment 
upon it as induced him to recommend it for the line in 
question, which, having in some parts very difficult gra- 
dients and curves, offered a good opportunity for the 
display of its advantages. His view was confirmed by a 
committee of the directors, who had been deputed also to 
examine the working of the system ; and it was accord- 
ingly resolved to apply it upon the whole hne. The 
railway was laid out expressly for the system, having a 
single line only, with rails weighing 50 lbs. to the yard, 
and with bridges and viaducts lighter than those on a 
locomotive line, and otherwise different in construc- 

It was decided to commence the working on the portion 
of the Hne between Exeter and Newton — twenty miles 
with easy gradients. The pipe over this part was 15 
inches diameter, and was in six divisions, with a pumping 
engine at each station. On the steeper and more difficult 
parts of the line, between Newton and Plymouth, having 
gradients of 1 in 50 and 1 in 42, it was proposed to have 
larger pipes, with an expanding piston. The tubes on 
this line were placed below the level of the rails, to facili- 


tate the formation of level crossings ; and the piston was 
made to Hft up when required. 

From the desire to profit as much as possible by the ex- 
perience acquired on the Croydon Eailway, and from other 
causes, the manufacture of the atmospheric apparatus 
progressed very slowly ; and in the beginning of 1846, a 
portion of the hue being otherwise ready, the engineer 
decided not to delay the opening any longer, but to 
commence the passenger traffic with locomotives, which 
was done from Exeter to Teignmouth on May 30, 

In the beginning of 1847 the stationary engines were 
erected, but it was April before any length of the atmo- 
spheric system was completed, the first trip being satisfac- 
torily made from Exeter to Dawhsh, 12^ miles, on the 
24th of that month. 

In August 1847 it was ready as far as Teignmouth, 
15|; miles, and experimental trips were run over it 
with considerable speed, ease, and precision. With a 
30 ton train a speed of 67 miles an hour was obtained; 
with 50 tons, 60 miles ; with 100 tons, 37 miles. In 
September the general traffic was worked by it over this 
distance with apparent satisfaction to the pubhc. Towards 
the end of the year it was finished to Newton, and after 
several successful experimental trials it was publicly 
opened January 10, dispensing with the locomotives, and 
running with speed and regularity. 

The apparatus, however, appeared hable to some sources 
of trouble, for at the general meeting in February 1848 
Mr. Brunei reported that, notwithstanding numerous diffi- 
culties, he thought he was in a fair way of shortly over- 
coming; the mechanical defects, and of brinoino- the whole 


into regular and efficient practical working, so as to be 
enabled to test its economy, which its incomplete state 
had not till then allowed him to do. At this same meeting 
also, the directors announced that, although the atmo- 
spheric works were in progress from Newton to Totness, 
a distance of nine miles, comprising difficult ground and 
steep inclines, they had decided to delay extending the 
system beyond the latter place (excepting only for assistant 
power on certain inclines) imtil experience should have 
afforded unquestionable data upon which to estimate its 
advantages, and should have confirmed the favourable 
opinion which the directors continued to entertain of its 
practical efficiency. In the mterim it became necessary 
to strengthen tlie works, so as to fit them for locomotive 
traffic ; and this being done, the line was gradually finished 
from ISTewton towards Plymouth, and was opened, with 
locomotive power, to the immediate vicinity of the latter 
place in May 1848. 

By this time it was found that the cost of working the 
atmospheric system had been much greater than the 
directors had reason to anticipate, and, moreover, that 
serious defects were beginning to manifest themselves in 
the mechanism of the longitudinal valve, the leather of 
which was undergoing an unexpected and rapid destruc- 
tion. These serious considerations led the Board, in July, 
to refer the investigation of the whole subject to the 
special consideration of a committee, who for many weeks 
devoted their attention to it, in constant communication 
with the engineer. The result of their labours caused the 
directors, at a general Board meeting held August 28, 
1848, to pass the following resolution : — 


That the very heavy expenses incurred in working on the 
atmospheric principle between Exeter and Newton, arising in 
part from the imperfect state and rapid decay of the longitudinal 
valve, and in part from other causes affecting the system, 
render it necessary to suspend the employment of it, at the 
charge of the Company, until the patentees and JNIr. Samuda 
shall have adopted some means, to the satisfaction of the directors, 
for relieving the Company from the loss consequent upon work- 
ing under such disadvantages. 

It was shown, however, by a document subsequently 
circulated by the Board, that the defect of the longitu- 
dinal valve was not the only difficulty of importance to be 
overcome. Many others were experienced which weighed 
greatly on the question of continuing the system : — 

1. The necessity for dividing tlie passenger trams, and 
reducinfT the weio-ht of the floods trains, to avoid the 
cliance of all unusually heavy loads. 

2. The loss of engme power throughout the hne, 
whenever delays arose in the arrival of the trains ; it 
being necessary, in the absence of any telegraphic com- 
munication, to keep up the vacuum, at enormous cost, 
until it was required to be used. 

3. The other difficulties of working in immediate 
connection with a main Hne of near 200 miles, worked 
upon another system. 

4. The probability, if not (under the circumstances of 
the Company) tlie certainty, that the atmosplieric system 
could not be adopted on the whole hne to Plymouth. 

These difficidties, added to the cost of working, and the 
defective state of the valve, were found so formidable, 
that the continuance of the atmospheric mode of propul- 
sion, upon an isolated length of twenty miles, connected 


at each end with hnes worked on a different system, be- 
came all but impracticable. 

In accordance with their resolution, the directors stated, 
in their report to the general meeting on August 29, that 
* Without pronouncing any judgement as to the ultimate 
success of the atmospheric system, and whilst they are 
prepared to afford to the patentees and other parties 
interested in it the use of their machinery for continuing 
their own experiments, they have agreed with Mr. Brunei 
that it is expedient for them to suspend the use of the 
atmospheric system until the same shall be made efficient 
at the expense of the patentees.' 

The operation of the system was accordingly brought 
to a close on September 9, 1848, and the hne thence- 
forward was worked throughout by locomotives only. 

But by far the most complete trial of the atmospheric 
system has been made in France; and as it does not 
appear that any account of this experiment has been 
pubhshed, the circumstances may be stated in some 

It appears that the system had at an early period 
excited some interest in that country, and a French 
improvement, of much ingenuity, was proposed in its 
machinery. This was the invention of M. Hallette, a 
manufactm-mg engineer of Arras. It was a new kind of 
longitudinal valve for the vacuum main, consisting of two 
small mfiated elastic tubes, fixed in grooves on each side 
of the longitudinal opening on the top of the pipe, and 
between which the rod attached to the piston should 

* For the infoiination contained obligations to M. Eugene Flachat, 
in this notice we have to express our the engineer of the line. 


slide, the tubes closing again behind it by their own 
elasticity as it passed along. M. Hallette laid down, at 
his own expense, an experimental tube, which exhibited 
his invention in action, and which is said to have worked 
well; but the ingenious inventor died in 1846, and his 
project never proceeded farther. 

When the Kingstown and Dalkey line was first set to 
work, the French Government sent M. Mallet, one of 
the divisional inspectors of the Fonts et Chaussees, to 
examine its working. His report, which has been trans- 
lated and pubhshed in England, is dated January 10, 
1844 : his favourable account of the system appears to 
have determined the Government to try it in France, and 
a sum of 1,800,000 francs was accordingly voted for the 
cost of the necessary apparatus. 

The railway on which it was decided to make the trial 
was that from Paris to St. Germain. This hue is al- 
together about 12^ miles long. At the forest of Vesinet, 
about 11 miles from Paris, it crosses the Seine, and from 
thence ascends by a rapid acchvity nearly 170 feet to the 
plateau on which the town of St. Germain stands. It 
was on this last 1^ mile that the atmospheric system was 
apphed. The length over which the tube extended was 
2,230 metres. For the first 390 metres the fine was 
nearly level; the following 840 metres consisted of a 
series of inclines, beginning with 1 in 200, and gradually 
increasing to 1 in 30 ; and the last 1,000 metres was 
uniformly 1 in 28|;. On this steep part there was also 
a curve of 397 metres radius and 400 metres long; 
two curves on the lower portions were 1,000 metres 

The line was double, but the tube was only placed on 


the ascending line, the trains running clown the other line 
by their own gravity. 

The tube was 63 centimetres (about 24^ inches) 
internal diameter, calculated for a maximum load of 
70 tons. It was of cast iron 2 centimetres tliick, 
strengthened by ribs, and having large feet cast on the 
lower part to fasten it down. The rails were fixed on 
longitudinal sleepers, and the tube rested upon the cross 
transoms which retained the longitudinal timbers in gauge. 
The longitudinal valve and the other parts of the appa- 
ratus were similar to those used in England. 

There were two high pressure exhausting engines of 
228 horse-power each, which were calculated to cause the 
ascent of the trains in five or six minutes. 

The Company at first proposed to get the apparatus 
made in France, but were obliged ultimately to have the 
pipes cast in England. They were put in hand in the 
beginning of 1846, and the works of the line were ready 
in the autumn of that year ; but by delays in the manu- 
facture of the propelling apparatus the line was not 
opened for traffic tiU 1847. 

The money voted by government paid for the tube and 
the engines; the remainder of the outlay, amounting to 
about 3,200,000 francs, was borne by the Eailway Com- 

The traffic consisted of passenger trains every hour of 
the day, for sixteen hours, giving sixteen trains per diem 
in each direction. 

For about six years the average weight of the trains 
was about 35 tons, and the service was performed with 
great regularity ; but after that time the traffic began to 
increase, the weight of the trains gradually augmenting to 


50 or 60 tons, the consequence of which was the hitro- 
duction of irregularities in the working. The causes of 
these irregularities were weU investigated. The principal 
one was not chargeable to the system, and might easily 
have been remedied — namely, the inadequacy of boiler 
power in the stationary engines ; but the loads soon began 
to approximate closely to the maximum limit of power of 
the apparatus, and as it was not always practicable to 
determine beforehand the exact weight of the train, it 
frequently happened that trains were sent up, on Sundays 
and fete days, of a weight touching closely upon this 
hmit — even although, on arrivmg at the foot of the steep 
inchue, the high vacuum of 70 to 72 centimetres (28 
inches) was obtained in the tube. The natural result of 
this close working was, that if, as occasionally happened, 
the train was a Httle hea\'ier than was calculated, or if 
any accidental increase to the resistance arose, the power 
proved msufhcient for the traction, and the train came to 
a stand, or at least did not approach the terminus with 
the velocity necessary to shoot it up to the platform after 
the pressure had ceased to operate on the piston. The 
exhaustion varied usually from 40 centimetres (15 J inches) 
to 72 centimetres, according to the weight of the train; 
and a singidar coincidence was remarked on this Ime — 
that the number of centimetres of exhaustion accmrately 
denoted the number of tons weight which that degree 
of exhaustion would convey. The speed was slow upon 
the steep inchne, but the trip was performed regularly in 
five or six minutes, as intended. Frost and snow were 
found to have a prejuchcial effect on the valve : the 
leather hardened, ice or snow insinuated itself into the 

VOL. I. A A 


interstices, and the result was increased leakage and 
extra trouble to keep the machine in efficient action. 

After all, however, so long as the haulage power was not 
overborne by the weight of the trains, the traffic went on 
pretty well, and the system continued in tolerably suc- 
cessful use for nearly fourteen years — namely, till 1860 
— during the whole of which time there had never been a 
single accident or suspension of the service. 

At this time it was found that serious repairs were 
required to the permanent way, the timber sleepers being 
decayed. The question then arose whether it might not 
be preferable to do away with the atmospheric system 
and to work the incline with locomotives Hke the rest of 
the hue ; and the following reasons seem to have been 
considered of sufficient weight to wajTant this determina- 
tion being adopted : — 

First, the tractive power was obviously becoming more 
and more insufficient to work the constantly increasing 
traffic. Attempts had been made to increase the number 
of trains to three per hour during the heaviest pressure ; 
but this led to difficulties at the stations, and it had 
become necessary on special days to get help from loco- 
motive engines constructed for the purpose. Moreover, in 
the last year of working, a new element had been 
introduced, tending still farther to limit the useful power 
of the apparatus. The carriages had at first been very 
hght, made especially for the purpose ; but it was found 
desirable to assimilate them to the other stock, and so to 
make them heavier, which of course, under the limit of 
weight, diminished the accommodation afforded for pas- 
sengers by each train. And with this insufficient power, 
particularly considered in reference to a still farther pro- 


spective increase of traffic, there was no chance of any 
available remedy, if the plan was to be retained. The 
exliaustion had been carried to its utmost possible ex- 
tent, and no alternative remained but to lay down a new 
tube of larger size and engines of larger power, which 
was clearly out of the question, fi^om its enormous ex- 
pense and the dead loss of all the expenditure previously 

In the second place, the working expenses had been 
found very heavy; and although an accm-ate comparison 
could not then be made, it was believed that the inchne 
could be worked by locomotives for less expense. The 
forcing up of the exhaustion, necessary to do the increased 
work, had augmented disproportionately the consumption 
of fuel ; and as coals had latterly been very dear, the cost 
of working had showed to great disadvantage. 

Then, thirdly, the improvements made in locomotives in 
late years had removed all doubt as to the practicability 
of applying them effectively on the steep inchne, which 
could not have been attempted, with much chance of 
success, when the line was originally laid down. 

These arguments appear to have had sufficient weight 
to lead the directors to abandon the atmospheric 
system of traction. The tube was accordingly taken 
up ; and the incline is now worked with powerful loco- 
motives constructed expressly for the pm^pose, and which 
are said to be able to draw trains of 120 or 130 tons up 
the inchne at less cost than on the former plan. 

Such is the history of this remarkable scheme, which, 
as regards the magnitude of its pretensions, and the interest 
it excited, has no parallel in railway history. It is scarcely 


likel}^ to be revived, and tlierefore it would be useless now 
to reopen a discussion upon it. But it may not be out of 
place, to add a few remarks on the results of the trials 

We should naturally look to these ti'ials for evidence on 
three main points — namely, first, the mechanical effi- 
ciency of the system as a propelling power ; secondly, its 
economy ; and thirdly, its general appHcability to railway 

With regard to the first head, we can scarcely avoid 
the conclusion that the trials were, at least, sufficient to 
estabhsh it as an efficient means of propulsion, considered 
in a mechanical point of view. 

Mr. Stephenson, who was no mean judge in such 
matters, always testified, with the candour and liberahty 
that distinguished his character, to its mechanical success, 
and indeed never called its efficiency in question ; and Mr. 
Bidder declared he considered the mechanical problem as 
solved beyond doubt. 

On the Dalkey hue, the system worked the traffic regu- 
larly for eleven years. The Croydon experiment was 
attended with many vicissitudes, and formed in fact the 
principal school for the testing and improvement of the 
machinery on a large scale; but at the time the system 
Avas abandoned the mechanical defects had been in a 
great measure overcome, and it was working more satis- 
factorily than it had ever done before ; and it is evident 
that the causes for its discontinuance, on this line, arose 
more from general policy than from mechanical con- 

The atmospheric system on the French line worked, 
wliile moderately loaded, with great certainty; it Avas 


only when it began to be taxed too near the maximum 
Kmit of its capabihty that iiTegularities occmTed; but as, 
even under all circumstances, it worked for sixteen years 
without a single accident or suspension of the service, it is 
clear that no serious objection on mechanical grounds can 
have appeared.* 

On the South Devon line the regularity, speed, and 
safety were unquestioned. Great prominence was, indeed, 
given to the defective state of the longitudinal valve, as a 
reason for its discontinuance ; but had this been the only 
reason, it is difficult to conceive that, under the skill of such 
an engineer as Mr. Brunei, the same perseverance that had 
overcome the difficulty on the Dalkey and French lines 
would not have succeeded on this hue also. We have 
seen, however, that other reasons obtained for the 
abandonment of the atmospheric system, and there is 
little doubt that these had more weight in the decision 
than any mechanical inefficiency. 

Great credit is due to the inventors and original en- 
gmeering promoters of the scheme for the perfection to 
which it was brought. The original perception of the 
practicability and advantages of a plan, which, to most 
minds, would have seemed only a wild vision, was in 
itself no common merit : and considerino- the entire 

* See Perdounet, Cliemins de titre I'atteutiou la plus serieuse des 

Fer, vol. ii. chap. xi. page 348, 2nd ingenieurs.' This was iu 1860, after 

edit, where M. Flachat recommends foiu-teen years' trial, 
the use of the atmospheric pressure Some English engineers also still 

for inclined planes. He says: 'Le retain the opinion that the atmo- 

chemin de fer atmospherique de St. spheric system might be advanta- 

Germain n'a jamais failli ; jamais mi geously applied in the present day, in 

accident ne s'est produit ; la st5curit^ peculiar cases which offer difficulties 

du service y est absolue, sa f<5licite est to the use of the locomotive, 
telle qu'il me semble m^riter a ce 


novelty of tlie wliolc system and the absence of anything 
like precedent, the mechanical ingenuity and practical 
skill exhibited in designing and carrying out the details, 
was such as to place the contrivers in the highest rank 
of mechanical engineers, and to elicit the warmest com- 
mendation from even the opponents of the plan. 

On the question of the economy of the system, tlie 
evidence is less satisfactory. In almost every instance the 
working expenses were complained of as very high ; and 
although the circumstances were in no case such as to 
render the result absolutely conclusive, we may at any 
rate consider the question of economy as standing where 
the arguments of Mr. Stephenson left it ; if not indeed 
that his opinions were rather confirmed than disproved. 

Then, thirdly, as to the general ajyj^licahiliti/ of the 
system to railway traffic — it would seem that the fact 
of the entile abandonment of the system in every case is, 
to a certain extent, an argument pointing to a negative 
conclusion. If the invention had reaUy promised to be 
beneficial, it is difficult to beUeve that it would not have 
been more fully persevered in ; and we can only conceive 
its abandonment to have been dictated by a strong 
practical feehug that, even though further perseverance 
mi gilt establish its mechanical and economical success, it 
would still be found, on other grounds, an inehgible 
means of locomotion. 

It will be seen tliat Mr. Stephenson's principal ob- 
jections to the system (apart from the cost) referred to its 
apphcation to long hues. He urged that for any con- 
siderable length of railway, a double fine with a 
complete double apparatus was absolutely essential ; and 
tliat even with tliis, and tliough tlie economy were in 


its favour, yet on railways of large extent, there must 
exist conditions which would mihtate against its certainty 
of action, and which must disqualify it for being an ap- 
propriate means of railway traffic. Now it is quite clear 
that none of the trials actually made were of a nature to 
touch these objections. The longest hne tried — the 
South Devon — had none of the characteristics of traffic 
on large trunk lines to wliich Mr. Stephenson's reason- 
ings apphed, and therefore we must consider that his 
arguments on this head remain in full force, notwith- 
standing anything that has been done. 

The immediate cause of the abandonment of the 
system, sooner or later, in every case where it has been 
tried, appears to have lain in its inflexibihty — its want 
of elasticity — in its incapabihty of adapting itself to the 
changeable requirements and circumstances of a variable 
traffic — in its very pecuhar nature, so uncongenial to 
the estabhshed habits of railwaj^ people — and m the great 
difficulty of bringing it to work conveniently and har- 
moniously in conjunction with other systems of railway 
traction. If we could conceive a line of railway isolated 
from all others, and where the traffic should be perfectly 
uniform in amount and regular in time, possibly, as 
Mr. Stephenson admitted, the atmospheric system might 
be there apphcable with advantage; but such a line 
would be an exceptional one ; and certainly none of the 
railways on which it has been tried have approximated 
to these conditions. 

An examination will show that, in every case, the 
most urgent reasons for the abandonment of the plan 
lay, either in the increase of traffic beyond what the 
tube could work, or in its isolated condition between 


locomotive lines at each end, which rendered the break 
of the system of haulage peculiarly disadvantageous, and 
fraught with such inconveniences as the proprietors would 
not submit to. On the French hne the former of these 
objections prevailed; on the Dalkey and South Devon 
the latter ; on the Croydon hne both combined. • 

The inllexible and unaccommodating nature of the 
system was often and strongly insisted upon by Mr. 
Stephenson as a most powerful objection to it, applying 
indeed to every system of haulage by stationary power. 
It had been prominent in the original discussions on 
this subject in 1830, and it was obvious tliat tlie atmo- 
spheric system was only a renewal of the old proposition 
in a new form. 

The system aimed at too great a change. It was not a 
mere improvement in things already existing — it was an 
entire revolution ; a total subversion of the established 
mode of conducting the traffic, and a substitution of an 
entirely new plan : we cannot therefore wonder that 
it met with great opposition ; nor could it be expected 
that anything short of the most complete and trium- 
phant superiority could estabhsh it. Eailway people 
had become attached to the locomotive from its extreme 
convenience ; and the change to a more rigid and limited 
plan was certainly not likely to find favour. Tliere may 
be something in the national Enghsh independence of 
character which led I'ailway ofiicials to prefer a system 
that they could manage and vary with full liberty, to 
one in whicli they would all become, as it were, mere 
parts of one huge machine. 

For railways, generally, the locomotive appears now 
too well estal)Iislied to be hable to fiirtlicr o])position 


from any modification of stationary power. It is true that 
it is, and must ever be, subject to many disadvantages in- 
herent in the travelling form of the machine ; but, con- 
sidering the great improvements Avhich have been made in 
it of late years, and its modern success in cases where its 
apphcation was long considered impossible — and taking 
into account its versatile adaptabihty to variations of 
traffic ; its admirable suitability to sudden emergency ; 
and its wonderful convenience of management and con- 
trol — we think there can now be little dissent from the 
opinion so resolutely maintained by Mr. Stephenson, that 
the system of traction which rendered his father's name 
famous is the only one well fitted for general use upon 

W. P. 

It may be useful to put on record tlie following list of 
jniblished authorities made use of in this chapter: — 

Acta Eruditoruni. Leipsic 1688. 

A New Method of conveying Letters and Goods with great Certainty and 
IJapidity by Air. By G. Medliurst, Inventor, Patentee, and Proprietor, 
I Denmark Street, Soho. London 1810. 

Calculations and Remarks tending to prove tlio Practicability, Effects, 
and Advantages of a Plan for the rapid Conveyance of Goods and Passengers 
upon an Iron Road, through a Tube of Thirty Feet in Area, by the Power 
and Velocity of Air. By G. Medhurst, Inventor and Patentee, Denmark 
Street, Soho. London 1812. 

On Facility of Intercourse. By John Yallance of Brighton. London 

A New System of Inland Conveyance for Goods and Passengers, capable 
of being applied and extended throughout the Country, and of Conveying 
all kinds of Goods, Cattle, and Passengers, with the Velocity of Sixty Miles 
in an Hour, at an Expense that will not exceed tlio One-foui"th Part of the 
Present Mode of Travelling, without the .\id of Horses or any Animal 
Power. By George Medhm-st, Civil Engineer, Denmark Street, Soho. 
London 1827. 


A Treatise on the Steam Engine, Historical, Practical, and Descriptive. 
By John Farey, Engineer. London 1827. 

Report to the Directors of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway on the 
Comparative Merits of Locomotive and Fixed Engines as a Moving Power. 
By James Walker and J. U. liastrick, Esq., Civil Engineers. Livei-pool 

Observations on the Comparative Merits of Locomotive and Fixed En- 
gines, as applied to Railwaj-s : being a Reply to the Report of Mr. James 
Walker to the Directors of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, com- 
piled from the Reports of Mr. George Stephenson. With an Account of the 
Competition of Locomotive Engines at Itainhill in October 1829, and of the 
subsequent Experiments. By Robert Stephenson and Joseph Locke, Civil 
Engineers. Liver]^)ool 18.30. 

Cleggs Patent Atmospheric Railway. London 1839. 

Clegg and Samuda's Atmospheric Railway. London 1840. 

Irish Railways. The Atmospheric Railway. A Letter to the Rt. Hon. 
Lord Viscount Moi-peth. By James Pim, jun., Treasm-er of the Dublin and 
KingstovMi Railway Company. London 1841. 

The Atmospheric Railway. A Letter to the Rt. Hon. the Earl of Ripon, 
President of the Board of Trade, &c. &c. By James Pim, M.R.I. A. 
Treasurer of the Dublin and Kingstown Railway Company. With Plates. 
London 1841. 

A Treatise on the Adaptation of Atmospheric Pressure to the Purposes 
of Locomotion on Railways. With Two Plates. By J. D'A. Samuda, 
London. (The date on the title-page is 1844, but the real date of the pam- 
phlet is 1841.) 

Report of Lieut.-Colonel Sir Frederic Smith, R.E., and Professor Barlow 
to the Rt. Hon. the Earl of Ripon, President of the Board of Trade, on the 
Atmospheric Railway. Presented to both Houses of Parliament by com- 
mand of Her Majesty. London 1842. 

Report on the Railway constructed from Kingstown to Dalkey in Ire- 
land, upon the Atmospheric System, and upon the Application of this 
System to Railroads in general. By C. Mallet. Dated I'aris, January 10, 

Report on the Atmospheric Railway System. By Robei-t Stephenson, 
Esq. London 1844. 

Croydon and Epsom Railway, &c. &c. Minutes of the Evidence of the 
Engineers examined before the Committee on the Croydon and Epsom 
and South Western and Epsom RaihVay Bills, with reference to the W'ork- 
ing of Railways upon the Atmospheric Principle. Ordered by the House of 
Commons to be printed June 10, 1844. 

Report from the Select Committee on Atmospheric Railways ; together 
with the Minutes of Evidence. Ordered by the House of Commons to be 
printed April 24, 1845. 

Minutes of Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers. London 
1844 and 1845. 

Railways : their Rise, Progress, and Construction^ &c. By Robert 
Ritchie. London 1840. 


Tube Propulseur, Hallette, &c. &c. Paris. 
The Piailway Clironicle. London 1846 to 1848. 
Reports of the South Devon Railway. 

Traite Elementaire des Chemins de Fer. Par Au^. Perdonnet. Paris