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CHAPTER IX

FIRST TRAINS

 

In 1819 the Patton Colliery, in Durham, was altered into a locomotive railroad, and Mr. Stephenson appointed its chief engineer. He soon began his labors, and on the 18th of November, 1822, the road was opened for the first time for locomotives. Crowds came from all directions to witness the experiment. Five of Mr. Stephenson's engines were upon the road that day, each engine drawing after it seventeen wagons loaded, averaging sixty-four tons, at the rate of four miles an hour.

Mr. Stephenson next became chief engineer of the Stockton and Burlington Railway, another coal-road about being constructed. On account of the nature of the ground over which this road would pass, and the limited means put into Mr. Stephenson's hands for its construction, he was compelled to adopt the incline plane system in those places where too much labor and money would be required. Other parts of the road were made for horse or steam power, which of the two had not as yet been determined upon. The success of Mr. Stephenson's locomotives had been tried and proved practical, although as yet not a saving in the expense of transportation. But Mr. Stephenson's views prevailed, and when the road was finished, on the 27th of September, 1820, he had three engines ready for its use, They were built at his works, the first ever established for locomotive manufacture. The Active, No. 1, was the first built at this establishment. A great deal of excitement and speculation arose throughout the country when the trial-day approached. The road was ready, as we have stated. Great crowds were assembled from every direction to witness the trial; some, more sanguine, came to witness its success, but far the greater portion came to see the bubble burst. The proceedings began at Brusselton incline, where the stationary engine drew a train up the incline on one side and lowered it down on the other. These wagons were loaded.

At the foot of this plane a locomotive, driven by Mr. Stephenson himself, was attached to the train. It consisted of six wagons loaded with coal and flour, next a passenger-coach (the first ever run upon a railroad) filled with the directors and their friends, then twenty-one wagons fitted up with temporary seats for passengers, and lastly came six wagons loaded with coal, making in all twenty-eight vehicles. The word being given that all was ready, the engine began to move, gradually at first, but afterwards in parts-of the road, attained a speed of twelve miles an hour. At that time the number of passengers amounted to 450, which would, with the remainder of the load, amount to upward of ninety tons. The train arrived at Darlington, eight and three-quarter miles, in sixty-five minutes. Here it was stopped, and a fresh supply of water was obtained, and the six coal-cars for Darlington detached, and the word given to go ahead. The engine started, and arrived at Stockton, twelve miles, in three hours seven minutes, including stoppages.

By the time the train reached Stockton, the number of passengers amounted to over 600.

We will here mention that, when this road was first contemplated, its projectors did not estimate the amount of coal that would be transported over it above 10,000 tons per annum; but before a very few years had elapsed, from the facilities offered by the railroad system, with locomotives instead of horse-power, the amount of coal transported annually amounted to 500,000 tons, and has since exceeded that amount. At this trial experiment, September 27,1825, the first passenger-car, or wagon as it was called at that day, was put upon the road. It had been ordered and made at Mr. Stephenson's works, and had only arrived the day before the trial. It was the vehicle in which the directors and their friends rode upon the occasion. Although built by Mr. Stephenson, it was a very modest and uncouth-looking affair, made more for strength than for beauty. A row of seats ran along each side of the interior, and a long table was fixed in the center, the access being by a doorway behind, like an omnibus of the present day. This vehicle was named the Experiment, and was the only carriage for passengers upon the road for some time. It was, however, the forerunner of a mighty traffic, and soon after new and more improved passenger-carriages were introduced upon the road, all at first drawn by horses.

The Experiment was first regularly put upon the road for passenger use on the 10th of October, 1825. It was drawn by one horse, and performed a journey each day daily between the two towns, twelve miles, in two hours. This novel way of traveling soon became popular among the people, and eventually proved so lucrative and extensive, that the carriage could not contain the number of applicants for a ride. Inside and outside it was crowded, and every available spot was occupied. The Experiment, however, was not worked by the railroad company as passenger-cars are now, but was let to other parties, they paying a certain toll for the use of the road. It soon became a lucrative business, and hotel-keepers and others embarked in the enterprise, and a strong opposition was raised up between the rival owners or companies. The old carriage, the Experiment, was found too heavy for one horse; a new one was placed in its stead, and the old pioneer was afterward used as a railroad cabin near Shildon. To the driver of the old Experiment the first introduction of lights being used in passenger-cars, for the comfort of passengers, is due. This honest and considerate driver, whose name was Dixon, nightly purchased a penny candle, and when he was belated and it became dark in the carriage, he would light his candle and stick it upon the table running along the center of the carriage, between the two rows of seats, which added much to the comfort of his patrons.

At that time the transportation of freight, like that of passengers, was not confined to the company alone. According to their charters, railroads were public highways. Any individual or company had the right of using the road with their own private wagons on paying a certain stipulated toll affixed by law. Like the passenger-carriages, private individuals owned freight wagons for the transportation of produce or their own manufactures to market, and used the road for the purpose. This traffic, like the passenger transportation, soon led to confusion and delays. Being a single-trackroad, with only occasional sidings or turnouts here and there upon its route, the carriages often met upon the way, going in opposite directions. Then would begin a violent contest between the rival drivers, not only in words, but sometimes resulting in blows, to determine who should back to the siding and turn off to allow the other to pass. In these contests not unfrequently the passengers would take sides with their respective drivers, and scenes of riot and pugilistic displays were often the result of these contests, until one party or the other would be compelled to succumb. After a while this difficulty was somewhat diminished by the position parties coming to a kind of understanding that, in meeting upon the track, the carriage containing the lightest load should back off to the nearest siding; and finally it became a fixed rule that, whichever carriage arrived last at the halfway post, planted between the two sidings, should back off to allow the other to pass. This plan, though it tended in a great measure to render less frequent these difficulties and contests, subjected the working of the road to much trouble and delay, so that these private enterprises were superseded by the company commencing the regular passenger transportation system, which by that time became a source of much importance in the traffic upon the road, and must be considered as the first introduction of this source of profit upon all railroads of our time, exceeding, in many cases, the income from the freight department.


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