The Railways

Sixty years ago! The population of these islands was then some twenty-five millions; it amounts now to upwards of thirty-eight millions. The Liverpool and Manchester Railway, about thirty miles long, had been open for eight years, causing far-sighted folk to predict an important change in the mode of travelling. The Liverpool and Birmingham Railway was opened in the year of the Queen's accession. In 1838 the line between London and Birmingham was finished, and trains were timed to do the distance — 121- miles — at the average speed of twenty miles an hour. The London and Croydon Railway began running in 1839, and in 1840 there were 838 miles of railway open in the United Kingdom. At the present time there are 20,000 miles open, owned by companies which in 1894 had an authorised capital of £1,099,013,785, earning a gross revenue of £84,310,831, and a net profit of £37,102,518.

In order to convey the impressions of an educated traveller by the new mode of transit, the temptation to quote once more from the lively Greville is irresistible. In July 1837 he became tired of hearing nothing in London except about the Queen and the coming elections, so he resolved to see the new Birmingham and Liverpool Railway. Reaching Birmingham in 121 hours by coach, he " got upon the railroad at half-past seven in the morning. Nothing can be more comfortable than the vehicle in which I was put, a sort of chariot with two places, and there is nothing disagreeable about it but the occasional whiffs of stinking air which it is impossible to exclude altogether. The first sensation is a slight degree of nervousness and a feeling of being run away with, but a sense of security soon supervenes, and the velocity is delightful."

The " velocity " referred to was regulated to an average of about twenty miles an hour ; but the diarist makes mention of a foolhardy driver who ventured to run forty miles an hour, and was promptly dismissed by the directors.

The application of another of the forces of Nature to the service of human intercourse has brought about a change in political, military, social, and commercial relations even more complete than that wrought by steam. The invention of the electric telegraph coincided very nearly with the beginning of Queen Victoria's reign. In 1835 Mr. Morse, an American citizen, produced a working model of an instrument designed to communicate alphabetical symbols by the interruption of the electric current, but he failed to persuade Congress to furnish him with the funds necessary to the practical application of his discovery. Next year he tried to take out a patent for it in this country ; but, meanwhile, Cooke and Wheatstone had anticipated him with one instrument, and the brothers Highton with another, both of which were soon in use on railways. The growth of this means of communication may be seen in the " Post Office Annual," which shows that in the year 1895-96 about seventy-nine million telegrams were delivered through the Post Office, besides those dealt with by certain public companies.


This engine was constructed by Messrs. Stephenson & Co. in 1829, to compete in the trial of locomotive engines held at Rainhill, on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in October of that year, where it gained the prize of £500. The " Rocket" worked on the Liverpool and Manchester line till 1837, when it was removed to the Midgeholm Railway, near Carlisle. It ceased running in 1843-4, and was presented to the South Kensington Museum in 1862.


This engine, No. 1870 of the North Eastern Railway, was built in 1896 by the Gateshead works. It is a "non-compound" engine, with the largest coupled driving wheels hitherto known, viz., 7 ft. 7 in. The diameter of the cylinders inside is 20 in. A sister engine (No. 1869) was constructed at the same time, and the weight of each of them with tender fully loaded is over 90 tons.


This engine was designed by Sir Daniel Gooch in 1836 and built by Robert Stephenson & Co. in 1837. It was one of the first engines belonging to the .Great Western Railway Company, raid continued at work until 1870, running a total distance of 429,000 miles.

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