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Railroads England - Opening Of The Liverpool And Manchester Railway

( Originally Published 1927 )



With the successful performance of the "Rocket" work on the road between Liverpool and Manchester was pushed forward with fresh vigor and enthusiasm. As Stephenson had promised, a single line was completed by the first of January, 1830, and the "Rocket," pulling a coach full of directors, engineers and friends, journeyed over the entire length of Chat Moss and also over the greater portion of the road between the two cities. At each trial of the locomotive's powers it did better, and on an exhibition trip in June, 1830 the "Rocket" drew a train of two carriages with about forty persons and seven loaded wagons from Liverpool to Manchester in two hours and one minute and made the return journey in an hour and a half.

The public opening of the railway took place on September 15, 1830. George and Robert Stephenson had built eight locomotives for the road's service. To keep the line clear, especially in Liverpool, numbers of soldiers and constables were employed. The completion of this great work, which had attracted the attention of all England, was regarded as an event of national importance, and there were present the Duke of Wellington, who was Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel, a secretary of state; Mr. Huskisson, a member of the House of Commons from Liverpool, and many other distinguished guests. The "Northumbrian" engine, driven by George Stephenson, led the procession, followed by the "Phoenix," driven by Robert Stephenson, the "North Star," driven by Robert Stephenson, senior (brother of George), and five other locomotives. About six hundred passengers rode in the trains drawn by the eight engines. Thousands of spectators cheered as the trains moved at a rate of twenty-four miles an hour through the ravine of Olive Mount, upon the Sutton incline, over the Sankey viaduct.

At Parkside, seventeen miles out from Liverpool, the engines stopped to take in water. The "Northumbrian," with the carriage containing the Duke of Wellington, drew up on one line so that the other trains might pass in review on the other line before the Prime Minister and his party. Mr. Huskisson alighted and stepped on to the opposite track, along which the "Rocket" was coming up at considerable speed. The Duke of Wellington held out his hand to greet Mr. Huskisson and the latter turned to grasp it. There were shouts : "Get in, get in!" Mr. Huskisson, much confused, tried to get round the open door of the carriage, which projected over the opposite rail, but was struck by the "Rocket," and his leg, doubled across the rail, was crushed. He was carried to a house, where he died from the injuries.

This accident cast a gloom over the proceedings and the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel wished the procession to return immediately to Liverpool. When it was pointed out to them, how-ever, that a great many spectators were waiting to see the trains arrive at Manchester and that if they did not complete the journey the railway would be jeopardized they consented to continue on the agreement that there should be no public festivities.

The journey was therefore accomplished, and the Liverpool and Manchester Railway was acclaimed a complete success. It commenced regular service as a carrier of passengers and merchandise, with great profit to its owners. In one respect, however, the estimates of the directors were proved incorrect; they had based their calculations almost altogether on the traffic in such articles as coal, cotton and timber, relying little upon passengers, whereas what actually happened was that the receipts from the conveyance of passengers far exceeded those from the conveyance of merchandise, and the latter for some time continued to be a subordinate part of the railway's business. Soon after the line was opened the trains were carrying an average of about 1200 passengers a day, and in the first eighteen months of its use some 700,000 persons were conveyed over the road without an accident. The journey from Liverpool to Manchester had taken four hours by coach, by the railway train it was usually made in an hour and a half.

The speed that was sometimes attained, twenty-five miles an hour, was considered amazing, yet passengers found the ride as smooth as over the best turnpikes of Mr. Macadam. Two Edinburgh engineers, reporting on the road, declared that even when travelling at the highest speed they "could observe the passengers, among whom were a good many la-dies, talking to gentlemen with the utmost sang froid."

The opening of the railway had many beneficial results. There was a large reduction in the price of coal and in the cost of carrying general merchandise. Liverpool men could travel to Manchester in the morning, do a day's business there, and return home the same evening. Also—and this refuted the arguments of those who had opposed the railroad—the land adjoining the line immediately rose in value, and instead of people being frightened away by the noise, fire and smoke of the engines they were eager to build in the adjoining territory, and even the waste stretches of Chat Moss, that had been barren and un-productive, were improved and cultivated and made into flourishing farms.

THE inauguration of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1830 marked the be-ginning of a new era in the history of transportation. Many inventors contributed to this accomplishment, but the palm of glory belongs to George Stephenson, who had shown himself pre-eminent both as an engineer in constructing railroad lines and as a builder of efficient locomotives. He had won out over all opposition and had realized his cherished dream of seeing the day when railways should "become the Great Highway for the king and all his subjects.''

The legislators of England were at the time devoting their attention to the improvement of the turn-pike roads, for which they were voting large sums of money to Mr. Macadam for his new process, and were not much interested in the novel method of transportation by railway. It fell upon private individuals therefore to construct new lines and the building of these roads was undertaken by joint-stock associations of proprietors, employing their own money, as had been the case with the Stockton and Darlington, and Liverpool and Manchester Companies.

While Stephenson was constructing the latter railway he sent some of his assistants to build a short line, about six miles in length, between Canterbury and Whitstable. This road was opened for traffic in 1830, and was worked partly by fixed engines and partly by locomotives. The most important railways, however, built after the inauguration of the Liver-pool and Manchester road were in connection with it and were located mainly in Lancashire. There was a branch from Bolton to Leigh, and another from Leigh to Kenyon; lines to Wigan on the north and to Runcorn Gap and Warrington on the south. Other projected roads were a cross-country railway from Manchester to Leeds, which would traverse the populous manufacturing districts of East Lancashire and West Yorkshire and connect the chief towns of those large northern counties with each other, a line from Manchester to Birmingham, which was called the Grand Junction Railway, and a road from Birmingham to London. Of most of these new lines George Stephenson was appointed engineer, and on them he worked, frequently in association with his son Robert.

These railways met with much opposition from landowners and farmers, who objected to having "fire horses" run through their quiet fields to the detriment of their cattle and to the spoliation of the beauty of country homes. The railway from London to Birmingham, as it was originally planned, was to have had its London terminus at Maiden Lane, King's Cross, to pass through Cashiobury and Grove Parks, the country seats of Lord Essex and Lord Clarendon, and along the Hemel Hempstead and Little Goddesden valleys in Hertfordshire. This route excited great opposition from Lady Bridge-water and her trustees, Lord Essex and Sir Astley Cooper, as well as from the Grand Junction Canal Company, and through their influence the landowners of Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire were organized against the railway. Moreover the road, as planned, would pass close to the town of Northampton, and the citizens rose in protest. So much antagonism was caused that the engineers altered their route, changed the London terminus to a large piece of open land adjoining the Regent's Canal, deflected the line from the parks of Lord Essex and Lord Clarendon, and avoided the Hemel Hempstead and Goddesden valleys although this put them to the inconvenience and extra expense of building a tunnel a mile in length at Watford. To satisfy the people of Northampton the road was also altered there by the construction of the Kilsby Tunnel, a costly feat of engineering. This tunnel was built under almost in-superable difficulties by Robert Stephenson, and the railway of one hundred and twelve miles was opened for traffic in 1838.

As people gradually became accustomed to seeing the railways at work and appreciated their advantages in simplifying commerce and travel they gave over their opposition and even advocated them. Thus not many years after the construction of the Kilsby Tunnel, which was built in order to avoid the neighborhood of Northampton, the citizens of that town clamored for a railway and would not be content until a special branch line was laid for their convenience. Still, however, country gentlemen opposed them. Mr. Berkeley, a Member of Parliament for Cheltenham, declared in a public speech : "Nothing is more distasteful to me than to hear the echo of our hills reverberating with the noise of hissing railroad engines running through the heart of our hunting country, and destroying that noble sport to which I have been accustomed from my childhood." Another gentleman, Colonel Sibthorpe, announced that he "would rather meet a highwayman, or see a burglar on his premises, than an engineer ; he should be much more safe, and of the two classes he thought the former more respectable!"

This point of view was that of the old entrenched aristocrat, who has almost always been in opposition to new ideas. Against it may be placed the view of a more enlightened type of man : said the famous Dr. Arnold, Headmaster of Rugby, as he watched a rail-way train steam across the field: "I rejoice to see it, and think that feudality is gone forever. It is so great a blessing to think that any one evil is really extinct."

The opening of the lines between London, Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester soon showed the fallacy of most of the arguments used against the railway. The owners of the canals were surprised to find that in spite of the immense business done by the railways their own traffic and receipts continued to increase most satisfactorily. Cattle-owners found the price of horse-flesh rising to their advantage, and the number of coaches running to and from the new railway-stations gave employment to more horses than under the stagecoach system. Instead of injuring the business of London, as some had predicted, the railways greatly improved it ; thousands who had never been able to visit the metropolis came there by train, fresh meat and vegetables were sup-plied from the country, and these, as well as coal and other important commodities, cost less to the populace.

In the country districts the farmers were able to buy their coal, lime, and manure for less than they had before and found the markets for their produce much more accessible. Their cattle were not frightened by the engines nor were their buildings burned by flying sparks. Landlords discovered that they could obtain higher rents for property near a rail-way and petitioned the companies to build new sidings and stations. It was considered an advantage to be able to advertise real estate offered for sale as being "near a railway station."

As to the matter of travel, passengers found that they could save time and money by riding by train rather than by stagecoach. The railway carriages were very much more comfortable than the stage-coaches. They were also safer; in the first eight years of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway no fewer than five million passengers were carried with only two casualties, and during that same period there were an immensely larger number of stagecoach casualties. The railways were democratic, and there-fore many of the aristocrats preferred to travel in their private coach or family chariot rather than in a train with shopkeepers and farmers. Yet when they did try the railway they found it so much more comfortable and convenient than their own carriages that they gradually adopted it. In 1842 Queen Victoria began to make use of the railway on her trips from London to Windsor and the opposition of the nobility to this democratic mode of travel perforce ceased.



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