FIRST DELIBERATIONS ON RAILROADS
WHEN the construction of that great work, the Liverpool and
Manchester Railroad, was commenced, and even after it had been
in progress for several years, its directors had not determined
the motive power to be employed upon it. Horse-power had the strongest
advocates. Another method, and one having a number of advocates,
was that of stationary engines to draw the trains along. By this
method the line of road over which the transport is conducted
is divided into a number of short sections, at the extremity of
each of which an engine is placed. The wagons or carriages, when
drawn by any one of these engines to its own station, are detached
and connected with the extremity of the chain worked by the next
stationary engine, and thus the journey is performed station to
station by separate engines. It was proposed to divide the Liverpool
and Manchester road into nineteen stations, or sections of about
a mile and a half each, with twenty-one engines fused at the different
points to work the chains forward. Not a single professional man
of any eminence could be found who preferred the locomotive over
the fixed-engine power as above, George Stephenson only excepted.
He stuck to the locomotive-power; and finally committees were
appointed at his suggestion to witness the performance of his
locomotives employed in hauling coal upon the Stockton and Darlington
Railroad. The report from the chairman of one of these committees
states that, "although it would be practicable to go at any
speed that the size of the wheel and the number of strokes in
the engine might allow, yet it would not be safe to go at a greater
rate than nine or ten miles an hour." This was considered
a very high rate of speed in those days. The completion of the
road was fast drawing nigh. The great tunnel at Liverpool was
finished; a firm road over Chat-Moss was completed; and yet the
directors had not settled in their minds what power was to be
used upon the road. Prejudice still existed against the use of
locomotives. The road had been constructed throughout its entire
length in a most substantial manner, and cost upward of £20,000
per mile, amounting to £820,000. The rails used were made
of forged iron, in lengths of fifteen feet each, and weighed 170
lbs. each. At the distance of every three feet the rail rests
on blocks of stone, set into the ground and containing about four
cubic feet each. Into each block, two holes, six inches deep and
one inch in diameters are drilled; into these are driven oak plugs,
and the cast iron chairs into which the rails are fitted are spiked
down to the plugs, forming a structure of great solidity, and
in every respect calculated for any power that might be determined
upon by the Board.
Finally, in the spring of 1829, the directors appointed Messrs.
Stephenson and Lock, and Messrs. Walker and Rastrick, experienced
engineers, to visit the different railways where practical information
respecting the comparative effects of stationary and locomotive
engines could be obtained; and from these gentlemen they received
reports on the relative merits of the two methods, according to
their judgment. The result of the comparison of the two systems
was, that the capital necessary to be advanced to establish a
line of stationary engines was considered greater than that which
was necessary to construct an equal power in locomotives; that
the annual expense for maintaining the stationary engines was
likewise greater than for the locomotives, and consequently the
expense of transportation by a stationary system was greater in
like proportion. The system of locomotive-power, therefore, was
entitled to the preference. Yet another consideration influenced
the directors in its favor, which was this: Should an accident
occur on any part of the railroad worked by stationary engines,
a suspension of work along the entire road would be involved in
the consequences; accidents arising from the fracture of any of
the chairs, or from any derangement in the working of any of the
fixed engines, would effectually stop the intercourse alone the
entire line; while in the use of locomotive-power an accident
could only affect the particular train of carriages drawn by the
engine to which the mishap might occur. "The one systems
says Mr. Walker, in his report, " is like a chain extending
from Liverpool to Manchester, the failure of a single link of
which would destroy the whole; while the other (the locomotive
system) is like a number of short and unconnected chains, the
destruction of any one of which does not interfere with the effect
of the others, and the loss of which may be supplied by others
with facility." However, to determine the matter, a prize
was offered by the directors of £500 for a locomotive which
should be produced by a certain day, and perform a certain duty,
1. The engine must effectually consume its own smoke.
2. The engine, if of six tons' weight, must be able to draw
after it, day by day, twenty tons' weight, including the tender
and water-tank, at ten miles an hour, with a pressure of steam
upon the boiler not exceeding fifty pounds to the square inch.
3. The boiler must have two safety-valves, neither of which
must be fastened down and one of them completely out of the control
of the engineer.
4. The engine and boiler must be supported upon springs and
rest on six wheels, the height of the whole not exceeding fifteen
feet to the top of the chimney.
5. The engine with water must not weigh more than six tons,
but an engine of less weight would be preferred, although drawing
a proportionally less load behind it; if of only four and one-half
tons, it might be put on four wheels.
6. A mercurial gauge must be affixed to the machine, showing
the steam-pressure about forty-five pounds to the square inch.
7. The engine must be delivered, complete and ready for trial,
at the Liverpool end of the railway, not later than October 1,
8. The price of the engine not to exceed £550.
The project and the conditions were thought to be preposterous.
An eminent gentleman of Liverpool, afterward inspector of steam-packets,
said that "only a parcel of charlatans would have issued
such a set of conditions;" that it had been "proved
to be impossible to make a locomotive-engine to go ten miles an
hour; but, if it was ever done, he would undertake to eat a stewed
engine-wheel for his breakfast!"
The Stephenson locomotive factory was still in operation at
Newcastle, but for a long time it did not pay expenses. Mr. Stephenson
now set about the construction of his far-famed engine the Rocket,
to contend for the prize just offered by the Liverpool and Manchester
railroad directors. As the name of Mr. Stephenson's Rocket is
familiar in the mind of every railroad engineer and machinist
of the present day, we will describe it, for the information of
all who feel interested in the subject: The boiler of this new
engine was cylindrical in form, with fat ends; it was six feet
in length and three feet in diameter, the upper half of the boiler
used as a reservoir for the steam, the lower half being filled
with water; through this lower part twenty-five copper tubes three
inches in diameter extended with both ends open, one presented
to the furnace or fire-box, and the other end opening into the
chimney. The fire-box, two feet wide and three feet high, attached
immediately behind the boiler, was also surrounded with water.
The cylinders, two in number, were placed on each side of the
boiler in an oblique position, the one end being nearly even with
the top of the boiler, and the other end pointing toward the center
of the foremost driving pair of wheels, with which the connection
was made from the piston-rod by a pin to the outside of the wheel.
The Rocket with its load of water weighed only four and one
quarter tons, and was supported upon four wheels (not coupled).
The tender was four-wheeled, and similar in shape to a wagon;
the foremost part contained the fuel, and the hinder part a water-cask.
The engine, when completed, was shipped to Liverpool and ready
for the trial, with the most sanguine expectations of Mr. Stephenson
of its success.
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