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SEPTEMBER 15, 1830. 3

CHAPTER I.

THE DEATH OF MR. HUSKISSON.

WITH a true dramatic propriety, the ghastly record, which has since grown so long, began with the opening of the first rail road,—literally on the very morning which finally ushered the great system into existence as a successfully accomplished fact, the eventful 15th of September, 1830,—the day upon which the Manchester & Liverpool railroad was formally opened. That opening was a great affair. A brilliant party, consisting of the directors of the new enterprise and their invited guests, was to pass over the road from Liverpool to Manchester, dine at the latter place and return to Liverpool in the afternoon. Their number was large and they filled eight trains of carriages, drawn by as many locomotives. The Duke of Wellington, then prime minister, was the most prominent personage there, and he with his party occupied the state car, which was drawn by the

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locomotive Northumbrian, upon which George Stephenson himself that day officiated as engineer. The road was laid with double tracks, and the eight trains proceeded in two parallel columns, running side by side and then again passing or falling behind each other. The Duke's train gaily led the race, while in a car of one of the succeeding trains was Mr. William Huskisson, then a member of Parliament for Liverpool and eminent among the more prominent public men of the day as a financier and economist. He had been very active in promoting the construction of the Manchester & Liverpool road, and now that it was completed he had exerted himself greatly to make its opening a success worthy an enterprise the far-reaching consequences of which he was among the few to appreciate. All the trains had started promptly from Liverpool, and had proceeded through a continued ovation until at eleven o'clock they had reached Parkside, seventeen miles upon their journey, where it had been arranged that the locomotives were to replenish their supplies of water. As soon as the trains had stopped, disregarding every caution against their so doing, the excited and joyous passengers left their carriages and mingled together, eagerly congratulating one another upon the unalloyed success of the occasion. Mr. Huskisson, though in poor health and somewhat lame, was one of the most excited of the throng, and among the first to thus expose himself. Presently he caught the eye of the Duke of Wellington,

THE DUKE AND MR. HUSKISSON.

standing at the door of his carriage. Now it so happened that for some time previous a coolness had existed between the two public men, the Duke having as premier, with the military curtness for which he was famed, dismissed Mr. Huskisson from the cabinet of which he had been a member, without, as was generally considered, any sufficient cause, and in much the same way that he might have sent to the right-about some member of his staff whose performance of his duty was not satisfactory to him. There had in fact been a most noticeable absence of courtesy in that ministerial crisis. The two now met face to face for the first time since the breach between them had taken place, and the Duke's manner evinced a disposition to be conciliatory, which was by no means usual with that austere soldier. Mr. Huskisson at once responded to the overture, and, going up to the door of the state carriage, he and his former chief shook hands and then entered into conversation. As they were talking, the Duke seated in his car and Mr. Huskisson standing between the tracks, the Rocket locomotive-the same famous Rocket which a year previous had won the five hundred pounds prize, and by so doing established forever the feasibility of rapid steam locomotion came along upon the other track to take its place at the watering station. It came up slowly and so silently that its approach was hardly noticed; until, suddenly, an alarm was given, and, as every one immediately ran to resume his place, some commotion

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naturally ensued. In addition to being lame, Mr. Huskisson seemed also under these circumstances to be quite agitated, and, instead of quietly standing against the side of the carriage and allowing the Rocket to pass, he nervously tried to get around the open carriage door, which was swinging out across the space between the two tracks in such a way that the approaching locomotive struck it, flinging it back and at the same time throwing Mr. Huskisson down. He fell on his face in the open space between the tracks, but with his left leg over the inner of the two rails upon which the Rocket was moving, so that one of its wheels ran obliquely up the limb to the thigh, crushing it shockingly. As if to render the distressing circumstances of the catastrophe complete, it so happened that the unfortunate man had left his wife's side when he got out of his carriage, and now he had been flung down before her eyes as he sought to reenter it. He was immediately raised, but he knew that his hurt was mortal and his first exclamation was, "I have met my death!" He was at once placed on one of the state carriages, to which the Northumbrian locomotive was attached, and in twenty-five minutes was carried to Eccles, a distance of seventeen miles, where medical assistance was obtained. He was far beyond its reach, however, and upon the evening of the same day, before his companions of the morning had completed their journey, he was dead. Some time after this accident a great public

BROUGHAM AT LIVERPOOL. 7

dinner was given at Liverpool in honor of the new enterprise. Brougham was then at the height of an unbounded popularity and just taking the fatal step of his life, which led him out of the House of Commons to the wool-sack and the Lords. Among the excursionists of the opening day he had on the 16th, occasion to write a brief note to Macvey Napier, editor of the Edingburgh Review, in which he thus alluded to the fatal accident which had marred its pleasure:—"I have come to Liverpool only to see a tragedy. Poor Huskisson is dead, or must die before to-morrow. He has been killed by a steam carriage. The folly of seven hundred people going fifteen miles an hour, in six carriages, exceeds belief. But they have paid a dear price." He was one of the guests at the subsequent dinner, and made a speech in which there was one passage of such exquisite oratorical skill, that to read it is still a pleasure. In it he at once referred to the wonders of the system just inaugurated, and to the catastrophe which had saddened its opening observances. "When," he said, "I saw the difficulties of space, as it were, overcome; when I beheld a kind of miracle exhibited before my astonished eyes; when I saw the rocks excavated and the gigantic power of man penetrating through miles of the solid mass, and gaining a great, a lasting, an almost perennial conquest over the powers of nature by his skill and industry; when I contemplated all this, was it possible for me to avoid the reflections which crowded

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into my mind, not in praise of man's great success, not in admiration of the genius and perseverance he had displayed, or even of the courage he had shown in setting himself against the obstacles that matter afforded to his course-no! but the melancholy reflection, that these prodigious efforts of the human race, so fruitful of praise but so much more fruitful of lasting blessings to mankind, have forced a tear from my eye by that unhappy casualty which deprived me of a friend and you of a representative!"

Though wholly attributable to his own carelessness, the death of so prominent a character as Mr. Huskisson, on such an occasion, could not but make a deep impression on the public mind, The fact that the dying man was carried seventeen miles in twenty-five minutes in search of rest and medical aid, served rather to stimulate the vague apprehension which thereafter for a time associated itself with the new means of transportation, and converted it into a dangerous method of carriage which called for no inconsiderable display of nerve on the part of those using it. Indeed, as respects the safety of travel by rail there is an edifying similarity between the impressions which prevailed in England forty-five years ago and those which prevail in China now; for, when as recently as 1875 it was proposed to introduce railroads into the Celestial Empire, a vigorous native protest was fulminated against them, in which, among other things scarcely less astounding,

THE PERIOD OF IMMUNITY. 9

it was alleged that "in all countries where railroads exist they are considered a very dangerous mode of locomotion, and, beyond those who have very urgent business to transact, no one thinks of using them."

On this subject, however, of the dangers incident to journeys by rail, a writer of nearly half a century back, who has left us one of the earliest descriptions of the Manchester & Liverpool road, thus reassured the public of those days, with a fresh quaintness of style which lends a present value to his words: "The occurrence of accidents is not so frequent as might be imagined, as the great weight of the carriages" (they weighed about one-tenth part as much as those now in use in America) "prevents them from easily starting off the rails; and so great is the momentum acquired by these heavy loads moving with such rapidity, that they easily pass over considerable obstacles. Even in those melancholy accidents where loss of life has been sustained, the bodies of the unfortunate sufferers, though run over by the wheels, have caused little irregularity in the motion, and the passengers in the carriages have not been sensible that any impediment has been encountered on the road."

Indeed, from the time of Mr. Huskisson's death, during a period of over eleven years, railroads enjoyed a remarkable and most fortunate exemption from accidents. During all that time there did not occur a single disaster resulting in any considerable loss of life; an immunity which seems to have been

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due to a variety of causes. Those early roads were, in the first place, remarkably well and thoroughly built, and were very cautiously operated under a light volume of traffic. The precautions then taken and the appliances in use would, it is true, strike the modern railroad superintendent as both primitive and comical; for instance, they involved the running of independent pilot locomotives in advance of all night passenger trains. Through all the years between 1830 and 1841, nevertheless, not a single really serious railroad disaster had to be recorded. This happy exemption was, however, quite as much due to good fortune as to anything else, as was well illustrated in the first accident at all serious in its character, which occurred,—an accident in its every circumstance, except loss of life, almost an exact parallel to the famous Revere disaster which happened nearly forty years later in Massachusetts. It chanced on the Manchester & Liverpool Railway on December 23, 1832. The second-class morning train had stopped at the Rainhill station to take in passengers, when those upon it heard through the dense fog another train, which had left Manchester forty-five minutes later, coming towards them at a high rate of speed. When it first became visible it was but one hundred and fifty yards off, and a collision was inevitable. Those in charge of the stationary train, however, succeeded in getting it under a slight headway, and in so much diminished the shock of the collision; but, notwithstanding, the last five carriages were injured, the one at the end being totally

LUCK. 11

demolished. Though quite a number of the passengers were cut and bruised, and several were severely hurt, one only, strange to say, was killed.

Indeed, the luck—for it was nothing else—of those earlier times was truly amazing. Thus on this same Manchester & Liverpool road, as a first-class train on the morning of April 17, 1836, was moving at a speed of some thirty miles an hour, an axle broke under the first passenger coach, causing the whole train to leave the track and throwing it down the embankment, which at that point was twenty feet high. The cars were rolled over, and the passengers in them tumbled about topsy-turvey; nor, as they were securely locked in, could they even extricate themselves when at last the wreck of the train reached firm bearings. And yet no one was killed. Here the corporation was saved by one chance in a thousand, and its almost miraculous good fortune has since received numerous and terrible illustrations. Among these two are worthy of a more than passing mention. They happened one in America and one in England, though with some interval of time between them, and are curious as illustrating very forcibly the peculiar dangers to which those travelling by rail in the two countries are subjected under almost precisely similar circumstances. The American accident referred to was that popularly known on account of its exceptionally harrowing details as the "Angola horror," of December 18, 1867, while the English accident was that which occurred at Shipton-on-Cherwell on December 24, 1874.


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