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stage-coaches which had plied between the two towns, all but one went off the road very soon after the opening, and their 500 passengers multiplied at once into 1600. In December commenced the transport of goods and merchandise, and afforded further cause of astonishment; for a loaded train, weighing eighty tons, was drawn by the Planet engine at from twelve to sixteen miles an hour. In February 1831, the Samson accomplished a greater feat, having conveyed 164} tons from Liverpool to Manchester in two hours and a half
, including stoppages-as much work as could have been performed by seventy horses.
There are many who will remember the wonder and excitement created by these results in all parts of the kingdom. The facts could not be disputed. Neither the laws of nature nor science could be brought to accord with the views of those who saw in the new agencies the elements of downfall and decay. Even the Company had gone surprisingly astray in their calculations. Believing that the greater part of their business and of their revenue would be derived from the transport of heavy goods, they had set down £20,000 a year only as the estimated return from passenger traffic; and scarcely a week had passed before they became aware of the fact, as agreeable as it was unexpected, that passengers brought the greatest return. The whole number conveyed from the time of opening to the end of the year-three months and a half—was more than 71,000. This line, as is well known, now forms part of that vast system, the London and North-western Railway.
These successes placed George Stephenson in an eminent position in the engineering world. He was sought after for various undertakings; the business with which he was connected at Newcastle increased; and, in short, he was, as far as worldly consideration and circumstances are concerned, a ‘made man. His steadiness, perseverance, and skill had been acknowledged and rewarded. He and his son further perfected the locomotive, which he lived to see running at upwards of forty miles an hour. In 1837, he removed to Tapton Hall, a residence near Chesterfield, and in 1840, he intimated his design of retiring from his more active professional pursuits. He, however, did not subside into idleness or indifference; but gave time to various railway matters, and took pleasure in attending public meetings of mechanics' institutes. It was a great day for him the 18th of June 1844, when the first train came without break from London to Newcastle in the space of nine hours. At the festival on that day at Newcastle to signalise the event, all eyes were turned on old George Stephenson, when in reply to a complimentary speech of Mr Liddell
, M.P., he gave the following brief but interesting account of his career.
As the honourable member has referred to the engineering efforts of my early days, it may not be amiss if I say a few words to you on that subject, more especially for the encouragement of my
younger friends. Mr Liddell has told you that in my early days I worked at an engine on a coal-pit. I had then to work early and late, and my employment was a most laborious one. For about twenty years, I had often to rise to my labour at one and two o'clock in the morning, and worked until late at night. Time rolled on, and I had the happiness to make some improvements in enginework. The company will be gratified when I tell them that the first locomotive that I made was at Killingworth Colliery. The owners were pleased with what I had done in the collieries; and I then proposed to make an engine to work upon the smooth rails. It was with Lord Ravensworth's money that my first locomotive was built. Yes, Lord Ravensworth and his partners were the first gentlemen to intrust me with money to make a locomotive. That was more than thirty years ago ; and we first called it “My Lord.” I then stated to some of my friends, now living, that those high velocities with which we are now so familiar would, sooner or later, be attained, and that there was no limit to the speed of such an engine, provided the works could be made to stand ; but nobody would believe me at that time. The engines could not perform the high velocities now reached, when they were first invented; but, by their superior construction, an immense speed is now capable of being obtained. In what has been done under my management, the merit is only in part my own. Throughout, I have been most ably seconded and assisted by my son. In the early period of my career, and when he was a little boy, I felt how deficient I was in education, and made up my mind that I would put him to a good school. I determined that he should have as liberal a training as I could afford to give him. I was, however, a poor man; and how do you think I managed ? I betook myself to mending my neighbours' clocks and watches at night, after my daily labour was done. By this means I saved money, which I put by; and, in course of time, I was thus enabled to give my son a good education. While quite a boy, he assisted me, and became a companion to me. He got an appointment as under-viewer at Killingworth; and at nights, when we came home, we worked together at our engineering. I got leave from my employers to go from Killingworth to lay down a railway at Hetton, and next to Darlington for a like purpose; and I finished both railways. After that, I went to Liverpool to plan a line to Manchester. The directors of that undertaking thought ten miles an hour would be a maximum speed for the locomotive engine; and I pledged myself to attain that speed. I said I had no doubt the locomotive might be made to go much faster, but we had better be moderate at the beginning. The directors said I was quite right; for if, when they went to parliament, I talked of going at a greater rate than ten miles an hour, I should put a cross on the concern! It was not an easy task for me to keep the engine down to ten miles an hour ; but it must be done, and I did my best. I had to place
myself in the most unpleasant of all positions—the witness-box of a parliamentary committee. I was not long in it, I assure you, besore I began to wish for a hole to creep out at. I could not find words to satisfy either the committee or myself, or even to make them. understand my meaning. Some said : “He's a foreigner.” “No," others replied ; “he's mad.” But I put up with every rebuff, and went on with my plans, determined not to be put down. Assistance gradually increased ; great improvements were made in the locomotive ; until to-day, a train which started from London in the morning, has brought me in the afternoon to my native soil, and enabled me to meet again many faces with which I am familiar, and which I am exceedingly pleased to see once more.'
Besides planning several railways after this period, and giving evidence respecting projects of this kind before parliamentary committees, Stephenson several times visited the continent to be consulted respecting lines of railway ; on one of which occasions he had an interview, along with his friend Mr Sopwith, with the king of the Belgians. He likewise continued to be a prominent man at public demonstrations connected with the opening of railways; one of the latest of these festivities being at the opening of the Trent Valley line in June 1847, when he was complimented by Sir Robert Peel, and compared by him to Julius Agricola, the maker of Roman roads in Britain. George was now accustomed to the language of compliment from classes of men who formerly treated his theories with derision. In replying to Sir R. Peel's flattering remarks, he could not refrain from noticing this change of sentiment. When,' he said, 'I look back to the time when I first projected a locomotive railway in this neighbourhood, I cannot but feel astonished at the opinions which then prevailed. We were told, even by celebrated engineers, that it would be impossible ever to establish railways. Judge, then, how proud must now be the feelings of one who, foreseeing the results of railways, has risen from the lower ranks on their success! I may venture to make a reference to what the Right Honourable Baronet said relative to Julius Agricola and a direct line. If Julius Agricola laid down the most direct lines, it must be recollected that he had no heavy goods-trains to provide for, and gradients were of no consequence. The line that general took was probably very good for his troops, where the hills would serve to establish his watches ; but such lines would be in no way applicable at the present day, where the road is covered with long goods-trains propelled by the locomotive. What we require now is, a road with such gradients that locomotives shall be able to carry the heaviest loads at the least expense. The Right Honourable Baronet will excuse me if I say, that to have a line that is direct is not the main thing Had he studied the laws of practical mechanics as I have done, he would doubtless have regarded good gradients as one of the most important considerations in a railway.' This last remark has
been amply verified. Railways are now made with gradients which would not formerly have been attempted; but the heavy expense incurred on account of fuel and tear and wear of machinery to overcome the ascents, forms a serious deduction from revenue.
At home, in the close of his days, George Stephenson occupied himself with his birds and other animals, for which he had a great fondness; nor did he take less pleasure in his garden and the rearing of flowers and vegetables. Occasionally, he visited the scenes of his youth among the collieries about Newcastle, at all times taking an interest in the welfare of the workmen, and never feeling ashamed of recognising old acquaintances. Though often invited to the houses of persons of distinction, he acknowledged he had no wish to figure in what he called fine company. It is said that he was beset by projectors of all kinds for the sake of his advice ; and that the young likewise besought his counsel as to their proposed professional career, which he gave always cheerfully, except when these youthful aspirants were affectedly dressed, and put on airs contrary to George's notions of propriety. To a young applicant of this stamp, his candour was probably not very agreeable, but may have been salutary. "I hope you will excuse me; I am a plain-spoken person, and I am sorry to see a nice-looking, and rather clever young man like you disfigured with that fine-patterned waistcoat, and all these chains and fang-dangs. If I, sir, had bothered my head with such things when at your age, I should not have been where I am now.'
With this love of simplicity, and universally respected, George Stephenson closed his useful career. He died 12th August 1848, aged 67. In the preceding sketch, we have touched merely on the chief incidents in his Biography, which we commend for perusal in either of the admirable works composed by Mr Smiles.* The mantle of George Stephenson fell on his son, Robert; and how he added lustre to the family name is well known. Besides several great railway undertakings, of which he was engineer, he designed the High Level Bridge across the Tyne at Newcastle, the Conway and Britannia Tubular Bridges in North Wales, and that still more magnificent work of art, the Tubular Bridge, nearly two miles in length, across the St Lawrence at Montreal-in all which works, however, he was ably assisted by subordinates ; nor should it be omitted that to William Fairbairn of Manchester is generally imputed the invention of the tubular system of bridge-building. In 1844, he entered parliament as member for Whitby. This distinguished son survived his father only eleven years. He died in 1859, aged 56, and was honoured with a public funeral and interment in Westminster Abbey. If the traveller by railway wishes to see a lasting monument to George and Robert Stephenson, he has only to look around!
* Life of George Stephenson, by Samuel Smiles, 2 vol. 8vo.' Story of George Stephenson, a lesser work for popular use.
7s the traveller from Paris pursues his way southwards
through the central part of France towards Orleans and the beauteous river Loire, he has occasion to pass across the great plain of Beauce. This is a wide tract of
country, very level in surface, and being generally fertile, it is entirely under culture, and is plenteously dotted over with villages, in which reside the farmers and others who are engaged in rural occupations. In France there are few farmhouses standing by themselves surrounded by fields, as in England. Those who cultivate the soil reside, for the greater part, in dwellings clustered together in villages, where an agreeable society is formed among the general inhabitants.
The villages in the plain of Beauce are of this kind. Each is a little community of an industrious body of agriculturists, and the tradesmen required to supply their various wants. Every village has a church, an old gray edifice, whose turret may be seen for a great distance on the plain ; and a number of these church towers, from being so conspicuous, form stations for telegraphs. The traveller, therefore, as he passes along, may occasionally observe the arms of a telegraph busily at work on a steeple, and in that way helping to convey intelligence across the country between Paris on the one hand, and Marseilles, on the borders of the Mediterranean, on the other.
Each church in this, as well as in other parts of France, is provided with a curé. These curés are a humble and diligent class of clergymen, labouring in their sacred vocation for a very small salary; and from their kindliness of manner, as well as their serviceableness in giving advice, in cases of emergency, to the members of their flocks, they are very generally beloved in their respective neighbourhoods.
In Artenay, one of these peaceful and industrious villages, not many years ago, there lived a humble artisan, Jules Asselin. Jules was a journeyman wheelwright by profession; he made wheels for the cars which were employed by the farmers in carrying their produce to market in Orleans. These carriages would be thought