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Railway, Railways
(Part 2)


Stockton and Darlington Railway. Earliest Lines.

The benefits derived from the use of the tramway or railway for the transport of coal suggested to reflective persons the employment of it for the conveyance of general merchandise and of passengers. For the conveyance of heavy merchandise inland the canals little more than sixty years ago furnished the principal means. Through there were three such water-routes between Liverpool and Manchester, they were sometimes so crowded that cotton took a month to pass from the seaport to the manufacturing towns in the interior; yet the whole of the merchandise passing between Liverpool and Manchester did not average more than 1200 tons a day. The average rate of carriage was 18s. per ton, and the average time of transit on the 50 miles of canal was thirty-six hours. The conveyance of passengers by the improved coach-roads was comparatively rapid, but it was very costly. The first great movement to mend this state of brings was the passing of the Act in 1821 for the construction of the Stockton and Darlington Railway. Colliery railways were in evidence to prove the benefits of railway communication by steam-power. The Hetton Railway, for instance, in the neighborhood of Newcastle, from the colliery to the river Wear, was 7 miles long, and trains of 60 tons net weight were taken over the line at a speed of 4 1/2 miles per hour. On the Killingworth Railway an engine and tender weighing 10 tons drew a load of 40 tons at a speed of 6 miles per hour, consuming 50 lb. of coal per mile run. Whilst animal-power only was at first relied on for working the Stockton and Darlington Railway, the Act provided for working with men and horses or "otherwise." By another Act applied for at the request of George Stephenson, who became engineer to the line, the company was empowered to work the railway with locomotive engines. The line, with three branches, was over 38 miles in length, and was at first laid as a single line, with passing places at intervals of a quarter of a mile, the way being constructed with wrought-iron fish-belly rails, weighing 28 lb. per yard. It was opened in September 1825 by a train of thirty-four vehicles, making a gross load of about 90 tons, drawn by one engine driven by Stephenson, with a signalman on horseback in advance. The train moved off at the rate of from 10 to 12 miles an hour, and attained a speed of 15 miles per hour on favourable parts of the line. A train weighing 92 tons could be drawn by one engine at the rate of 5 miles per hour. The principal business of the new railway was the conveyance of minerals and goods, but from the first passengers insisted upon being carried, and in October 1825 the company began to run a daily coach, called the "Experiments," to carry six inside, and from fifteen to twenty outside, making the journey from Darlington to Stockton and back in two hours. The fare was 1s., and each passenger was allowed to take baggage not exceeding 14 lb. weight. The rate for carriage of merchandise was reduced from 5d. to one-fifth of a penny per ton per mile, and that of minerals from 7d. to 1 1/2d. per ton per mile. The price of coals at Darlington fell from 18s. to 8 s. 6d. per ton.

The Monklands Railway in Scotland, opened in 1826, was the first to follow the example of the Stockton and Darlington line, and several other small lines—including the Century and Whistable, worked partly by fixed engines and partly by locomotive—quickly adopted steam-traction. But the inauguration of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, opened in 1830, made the first great impression on the national mind that a revolution in the modes of travelling had really taken place. In 1838 a line was opened between London and Birmingham, and the first train accomplished the whole distance—112 1/4 miles—at an average of over 20 miles per hour. The London and Greenwich, the London and Southampton, the Great Western, Birmingham and Derby, Bristol and Exeter, Eastern Counties, Manchester and Leeds, Grand Junction, Midland Counties, North Midland, South-Eastern, London and Brighton, Manchester and Birmingham, and Edinburgh and Glasgow, together with many small Bills, were all passed within four years form the time of the passing of the London and Birmingham Bill. Thus in the course of four or five years the foundations were laid of most of the existing trunk lines of railway in Great Britain. The original Liverpool and Manchester line, 30 1/2 miles in length, now forms part of a network of lines, the property of one company, nearly 1800 miles in extent, representing a capital invested in railway works and plant of £100,000,000.

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