Front Cover
 Front Matter
 Title Page
 Table of Contents
 Chapter I: The wagon, the coach,...
 Chapter II: Childhood and...
 Chapter III: The colliery...
 Chapter IV: The killingworth...
 Chapter V: George Stephenson's...
 Chapter VI: The rival safety-l...
 Chapter VII: The first public...
 Chapter VIII: The railway...
 Chapter IX: The victory of the...
 Chapter X: The triumph of...
 Back Cover

Group Title: George Stephenson : the locomotive and the railway
Title: George Stephenson
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00053303/00001
 Material Information
Title: George Stephenson the locomotive and the railway
Physical Description: 128 p., 1 leaf of plates : ill., port. ; 16 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Layson, J. F ( John F )
Robertson, George ( Printer )
Tyne Publishing Company ( Publisher )
John Menzies and Company (Edinburgh, Scotland) ( Printer )
Porteous Brothers ( Printer )
James Campbell & Son ( Printer )
Publisher: Tyne Publishing Company
Place of Publication: London ;
Manufacturer: J. Menzies & Co. ; Porteous Brothers ; George Robertson ; James Campbell & Son
Publication Date: [1881?]
Subject: Railroad engineers -- Biography -- Juvenile literature -- Great Britain   ( lcsh )
Biographies -- 1881   ( rbgenr )
Prize books (Provenance) -- 1881   ( rbprov )
Bldn -- 1881
Genre: Biographies   ( rbgenr )
Prize books (Provenance)   ( rbprov )
individual biography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage: England -- London
England -- Newcastle upon Tyne
Scotland -- Edinburgh
Scotland -- Glasgow
Australia -- Melbourne
Canada -- Toronto
Statement of Responsibility: by John F. Layson.
General Note: Imprint date from dedication, p. 3.
General Note: Frontispiece printed in sepia.
Funding: Preservation and Access for American and British Children's Literature, 1870-1889 (NEH PA-50860-00).
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00053303
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: Baldwin Library of Historical Children's Literature in the Department of Special Collections and Area Studies, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved, Board of Trustees of the University of Florida.
Resource Identifier: aleph - 002232823
notis - ALH3220
oclc - 15053548
lccn - 85664665

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Cover 1
        Cover 2
    Front Matter
        Page i
    Title Page
        Page ii
        Page iii
        Page iv
        Page 5
        Page 6
    Table of Contents
        Page 7
        Page 8
    Chapter I: The wagon, the coach, and the railway
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
    Chapter II: Childhood and youth
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
    Chapter III: The colliery engineman
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
    Chapter IV: The killingworth engine-wright
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
        Page 53
    Chapter V: George Stephenson's first locomotive
        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 56
        Page 57
        Page 58
        Page 59
        Page 60
        Page 61
        Page 62
    Chapter VI: The rival safety-lamps
        Page 63
        Page 64
        Page 65
        Page 66
        Page 67
        Page 68
        Page 69
        Page 70
        Page 71
        Page 72
        Page 73
        Page 74
        Page 75
        Page 76
    Chapter VII: The first public railway
        Page 77
        Page 78
        Page 79
        Page 80
        Page 81
        Page 82
        Page 83
        Page 84
        Page 85
        Page 86
        Page 87
        Page 88
        Page 89
        Page 90
        Page 91
        Page 92
        Page 93
        Page 94
    Chapter VIII: The railway engineer
        Page 95
        Page 96
        Page 97
        Page 98
        Page 99
        Page 100
        Page 101
        Page 102
        Page 103
        Page 104
        Page 105
        Page 106
        Page 107
    Chapter IX: The victory of the "rocket"
        Page 108
        Page 109
        Page 110
        Page 111
        Page 112
        Page 113
        Page 114
        Page 115
        Page 116
        Page 117
        Page 118
        Page 119
        Page 120
    Chapter X: The triumph of the railway
        Page 121
        Page 122
        Page 123
        Page 124
        Page 125
        Page 126
        Page 127
        Page 128
    Back Cover
        Cover 1
        Cover 2
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REAT events and illustrious names have crowded
"hurriedly within the historical confines of the nine-
teenth century. The truism suggests the possibility
that in a concourse of famous men the most distinguished may
be hidden or disregarded through the prominence given to
the later arrivals upon the scene. In these pressing times,
therefore, such an event as the birth of the Railway System,
and such a name as GEORGE STEPHENSON'S may be lost sight
of in the crush of other remarkable circumstances, and the
presence of eminent after-comers within the select arena of
triumphant effort.
Art and Science, Research and Literature, Invention and
Commerce, Exploration and Adventure, have combined to
render the record of the achievements of the past eighty years
frequently brilliant and invariably interesting. Nor is the story
of the invention and improvement of machinery, subsequent
to the year 18oo, the least attractive to the general reader, or of
questionable importance to society. Mechanical Engineering,
while it does not owe its origin to the period in question, has
undoubtedly been nurtured and trained within that time; and
although as a science it may now be said to have attained to
robust age and stature, the epoch of its tutelage may not be more


worthily commemorated than by honouring the Centenary of
the first great Railway Engineer.
Of the various mechanical contrivances now in use, none have
created a more thorough revolution in the condition and habits
of civilized nations than the Locomotive. The offspring of
the genius of Trevithick, but soon abandoned by its erratic
parent, the nursling was adopted by William Hedley of Wylam,
who taught it to progress without extraneous help. George
Stephenson, having seen and liked the ungainly foundling, took
it to his home and heart, cared for it, fostered and improved it,
and then endeavoured to send it out into the world to make its
own way. But strangers for a time would have none of the
Killingworth engine-wright's protegd. Its appearance and be-
haviour were not prepossessing. However, the foster-father
of the Locomotive, to use his own words, would not be put
down;" and the thousands of miles of railroad in constant use
in all parts of the globe testify alike to the correctness of
Stephenson's judgment and the unbending energy of his dis-
position and character.
In the following sketch no attempt has been made either
to enhance the value of his labours by ignoring the meritorious
claims of his contemporaries, or to give in detail a life of "one
of England's greatest working men," such as has been already
written by the talented author of Industrial Biografhy, to whom
all who take an interest in Mechanical Engineering and its
early followers must always owe a debt of gratitude. To place
a narrative of Stephenson's true connection with the Locomo-
tive and the Railway, along with the leading facts in his event-
ful career, in the hands of many who may have neither the time
nor opportunity for the perusal of a larger work on the subject,
is the aim of this Centenary-Memorial.


Primitive Travelling State-Carriages-The Stage-Coach-Colliery
Waggon-Ways and Tram-Roads Early Railways -Trevithick's
Locomotive Blenkinsop's Improvements Adverse Popular
Opinion - 9

Birthplace -of George Stephenson and the Modern Locomotive-The
Fireman and his Family-The Young Cowherd-Black Callerton-
Another Step Upwards-The Will and the Way to Learn 22

Getting on in the World-The Earnest Scholar-Courtship and Cob-
bling-Pluck versus Science-Willington Quay-The Wedding
Party-Inventing and Clock Cleaning-A Friendly Turn-Birth of
Robert Stephenson -- 36

Killingworth-Bereavement-A Tramp Northward-Ready Ingenuity
-Filial Duty-A Clouded Outlook--" Drowned Out"-George
Achieves a Victory-The Colliery Engine-Wright-Industry
Rewarded -. 47


The Colliery Engineer-George makes Improvements-Self-Education
and Self-Sacrifice-Father and Son-William Hedley and the
Wylam Locomotives-The Killingworth Locomotive-More Im-
provements -. i54

The Miner's Enemy-The Colliery on Fire-The "Geordy" Lamp-Sir
Humphrey Davy's Invention-Rivalry-There's a Great Deal in a
Name-Lord Brougham's Opinion-A Recent Testimony for the
"Original Geordy" -. 63

George Improves the Locomotive and the Rail-Popular Apathy-
The Hetton Railway-Projection of the First Public Railroad-
Stephenson Appointed Engineer-R. Stephenson & Co.-Opening
of the Stockton and Darlington Line 77

Robert Stephenson's Education-Railway Engineering under Difficul-
ties-George Stephenson before the Parliamentary Committee
Popular Fallacies-The First Liverpool and Manchester Railway
Bill Defeated-Clouds and Sunshine 95

The Liverpool and Manchester Railway- Chat Moss-" Only have
Patience"-" The Battle of the Locomotive"-A Prize Offered-
The Rainhill Competition-Timothy Hackworth's "Sanspareil"
--The Victory of the Rocket"-South Kensington-The Tables
Turned .- 108

A Prophecy-Opening of the Second Public Railroad-Death of
Huskisson-The Triumph of the Railway System-Stephenson's
Success-" Honesty the Best Policy"-Tapton Hall-Ruling Pas-
sions-The Secret of a Great Man's Power 121



SWO hundred and forty years ago a visit was paid to
a French madhouse by an English nobleman, the
Marquis of Worcester. As he passed through the
wards containing the cages wherein the most unfortunate of
their species were confined, like so many wild animals, the
attendant who accompanied him described the various hal-
lucinations peculiar to the inmates of that abode of the
hopeless. As they approached one of the caged cells, the
steps of the visitor were suddenly arrested by a pitiful cry
and the terrible appearance of a man whose cadaverous and
care-worn countenance peered through the massive bars
which his thin, bloodless hands tremulously clutched. The
ashy lips, from which the cry had proceeded, again parted,
and a voice, hoarse and husky, but fierce in its earnestness,
exclaimed, "I am not a madman. I am the discoverer of a
power of incalculable moment to mankind."
"What has this man discovered 1" inquired the Marquis.
"A mere trifle," the deeper answered derisively; "but he


wrote a book about it, nevertheless. Why, you would never
guess what,the discovery was-to use the steam of boiling
water for the navigation of ships, the driving of carriages, and
a host of other miracles equally incapable of performance."
Such was the fate of him who, in all probability, first
projected the idea of steam locomotion-Solomon de Caus, a
native of Normandy-and such the reception which was
given to a discovery calculated to confer stupendous benefits,
not only upon France, but the world. The age was not,
however, propitious to scientific or mechanical research.
Supineness in the Court, and superstition in the Church,
together with the antagonism of officials towards anything
which took the shape of innovation, conspired to hold back
from society for a time the advantages which have since
attended the construction of the steam engine.
Confident in the soundness of his conclusions, poor Solo-
mon de Caus had laid a description of his plans before the
King of France; but the mind of the monarch was not fitted
to deal with such complicated details as were therein pre-
sented, and the readiest way to dispose of the matter was to
treat the Norman genius and his discovery with contempt!
The influence of a prince of the Church was next solicited
to favour the designs of the obscure student of Nature and
her forces; but, exasperated by repeated and urgent appeals,
the Cardinal consigned his importunate suppliant to the con-
fines of a madhouse, and Solomon de Caus and his prema-
ture project were lost to his country and mankind. A similar
reward might also have been meted to the foster-father of
the locomotive and the railway, had the innate determina-
tion and energy of George Stephenson been less dogged and
less dauntless than the event proved these to be.
Material improvements in the ordinary conditions of life


are but seldom to be attributed to accidental circumstances.
Mighty and beneficial changes in the surroundings of human
existence have resulted from individual effort, and the
patient, persistent pursuit of progress and proficiency. And
yet, in spite of the truism, men are generally averse to
encounter minor evils, even when major advantages are
anticipated to follow a contemplated alteration in the estab-
lished customs, methods, and manners of a people. The
means which are still adopted for travelling purposes by
different nations afford ample illustration of man's natural
repugnance to that which promises to interfere with settled
usage. Individuals had to do battle for the institution of
the stage coach in the seventeenth century, as well as for
the formation of public railways, and the adoption of the
locomotive, in the nineteenth. Happily the champions of
progress in both instances were successful.
Till towards the close of the sixteenth century English
modes of transit were of a very primitive character. King
Alfred's State-carriage has been described as bearing a
striking resemblance to a farmer's waggon. No doubt our
modern ideas of kingly dignity would receive a palpable
shock were a successor of that good monarch to be found
travelling now in a similar vehicle, and in the act of goading a
team of oxen by the aid of a long stick barbed with iron, as
depicted by the pencil of the artist and the pen of the his-
torian. However, we have no reason to think that Alfred
appeared to his dutiful subjects as otherwise than dignified
and happy, when thus seen riding in his uncouth and
rumbling equipage.
In course of time, what had been the exclusive property
of the highest personage in the State, came to be offered for
hire to all who could pay for the luxury, or were too timid


to mount a horse; until, in the reign of Elizabeth, the
waggon, as a royal equipage, was supplanted by the coach,
which had been imported by the Queen from Holland. To
ensure as much safety as might reasonably be expected from
the deplorable condition of the roads, a coachman of
experience was also engaged in that country. This Dutch
progenitor of the British race of Jehu, and his joint importa-
tion, formed important additions to the regal consequence
and grandeur of the virgin Queen. The State-carriage in
which Her present Majesty occasionally proceeds to the
opening of Parliament was constructed for the use of George
III. upon his accession to the throne, and is a slightly
modernised copy of that in which Elizabeth made journeys to
various parts of her kingdom, to the consternation of horses
and the bewilderment of their riders.
Stage-coaches for the conveyance of those who desired to
travel expeditiously were not established in this country until
the year 1657, although private carriages had been in use for
sixty years previous to the introduction of coaches designed
for public hire; and, for a considerable time after the latter
had become a necessity to their patrons, the old lumbering
waggon, with its six horses, and usual pace of three miles an
hour, continued to hold a high place in the estimation of
the English traveller. One reason for this was to be found
in the very imperfect condition of the roads. Tedious as
the rate of progression may have been, travelling by the
antiquated means of a stage-waggon in those days was more
suited to the neglected highways and the tastes of the
people, than by the lighter, and consequently less safe, rival
which was struggling slowly into public favour. Some idea
of the distaste with which the stage-coach was at first re-
garded may be conceived from the suggestion of a writer who


published a pamphlet in the year 1673. He says: "The mul-
titude of stage-coaches and caravans travelling on the roads
might all, or most of them, be suppressed, especially those
within forty, fifty, or sixty miles of London." Feeling that
his covert advice was not likely to be adopted, however, the
author slightly moderates his tone, and gravely proposes
that the number of stage-coaches should not exceed the pro-
portion of one vehicle to each county town; that the coaches
should individually make one double-journey weekly, return-
ing with the same horses with which they set out; and that
the rate of travelling should be limited to thirty miles daily
in summer, and twenty-five in winter. The arguments
adduced in favour of this series of propositions are not more
ludicrous than some of the objections which were raised
against the railway proposals of George Stephenson, in the
year 1825 Three reasons are given in support of the asser-
tion that stage-coaches were most mischievous institutions.
In the first place, they tended to destroy the breed of good
horses, and conduced to careless horsemanship; secondly,
they hindered the training and employment of watermen,
from which class the country largely derived its supply of
seamen; and thirdly, they exerted a prejudicial influence
upon the Imperial revenue. It is pleasing to note that the
much-maligned medium of transit survived not only this
attack, but others also of a similar character.
Early in the reign of William III. the stage-coach had
arrived at a period in its history when its promoters might
treat with comparative contempt the railingsof its opponents.
The opinion of a traveller, given in the year 1691, may be
adduced in illustration:-" Here one may be transported,
without over-violent motion, and sheltered from the influence
of the air, to the most noted places in England, with so


much speed, that some of these coaches will reach abovefifty
miles on a summer day / That little improvement had been
effected in the rate of progression during the succeeding
seventy-five years, we learn from the experience of John
Scott, afterwards Lord Eldon, who in the year 1766 tra-
velled from Newcastle-upon-Tyne to London in a 'Fly;'
so designated on account of its speed. He who became a
famous Lord Chancellor spent nearly four days on the road.
The same distance may now be covered in six or seven hours
by rail! Some old advertisements relating to coach journeys
have been preserved; the following offers an illustration of
the tediousness of a trip in 1742. i It is taken from Walker's
Birmingham Newspaper, of the 12th April in that year, and
the public announcement is made that "the Lichfield and
Birmingham Stage Coach set out this morning (Monday)
from the Rose Inn, at Holborn Bridge, London, and
will be at the house of Mr. Francis Cox, the Angel and
Hen and Chickens, in the high town of Birmingham, on
Wednesday next, to dinner, and goes the same afternoon to
Lichfield; and returns to Birmingham on Thursday morn-
ing, to breakfast, and gets to London on Saturday night;
and so will continue every week regularly." A journey
from London to Birmingham, which then occupied nearly
three days, may now be accomplished in three hours /
In the old coaching days considerable interest was attached
to the journey of a few hundred miles. The merits, or
demerits, of rival conveyances had sometimes to be studied,
and preference given to the coach that was supposed to have
the smaller number of accidents recorded to its disparage-
ment. The intending traveller had usually to adjust his
earthly affairs before starting; besides making his will, if
that necessary qualification to a peaceful departure from


this world had not previously been attained. A painful
leave-taking had not only to pass between him and his
nearest and dearest ones, but a number of his acquaintances
and neighbours had also to be visited and hugged, and not
unfrequently public prayer offered for his safe return. If
the traveller was in comfortable circumstances, he advertised
for a companion or two to share his difficulties or dangers,
and the extortionate demands of post-boys and innkeepers,
besides the heavy hire-charges of a chaise. The character
and position of those who offered themselves as travelling
companions had to be scrutinised and determined; while the
journeys so undertaken frequently began with misgivings
and fears, and were brought suddenly to an issue with the
fractured skulls and dislocated limbs of the travellers. But
a happier era dawned when the practical application and
common-sense of Telford and Macadam improved the roads,
and so gave encouragement to men of capital and enterprise
to construct light and commodious coaches, and to improve
the breed of horses, until at length the English mail coach
became famous throughout the world.
Like the stage-coach of the past, the railway of the
present is of English origin and growth. 'It began its
career in a very humble manner. Before anything akin to
systematic attention had been paid to the roads of the
country, or Highway Boards had been devised to that end,
pack-horses were used for the conveyance of merchandise,
especially when the ground to be traversed was of an undu-
lating nature, and the distance not too great. As the popula-
tion and its requirements increased, canals were formed to
further the interests of trade, and connect the larger centres
of industry and wealth. But while these once popular
channels of transit may be said to have owed their existence


to the general commercial exigencies of the nation, the birth
and development of the railway is primarily to be attributed
to the need of our coalowners for greater facility in the
carriage of the produce of their mines to the riverside
wharf. Before the advent of the infant railway, coal was
transported from the colliery to the shipping staith in the
most primitive fashion; horses, ponies, asses, and mules
being utilised for the purpose, and the burdens being carried
in sacks or panniers, which were slung across the backs of
the animals. Those who have been familiar during their
lives with the heavily laden coal-train, consisting of twenty
or thirty waggons drawn by a powerful locomotive, cannot
adequately realise the difficulties in transit which preceded
the laying down of the first line of rails.
The first colliery waggon-ways consisted of rude planks
of wood, which were placed upon the tracks in order that
the waggons might travel with less resistance than upon the
uneven ground. The next step in advance was the addition
of wooden rails with a raised rim to keep the waggons on
the track. Further improvements were effected by placing
thin plates of iron upon the wooden rails, and making
flanged wheels for the waggons; the latter rendering the
raised rim or flange upon the rails unnecessary. In course
of time, the idea was naturally suggested that rails wholly
made of cast-iron possessed advantages over those of a com-
posite character. Cast-iron rails, in turn, gave way before
the superiority of malleable iron; and to-day steel rails are
required to resist the great strain of the immense traffic
which passes over certain portions of the principal lines of
the country. At the beginning of the present century, Mr.
Benjamin Outram introduced "props" of stone for support-
ing the joints and ends of rails; and his plan was generally


followed in the construction of new colliery "plate-ways."
The roads thus formed were known as Outram roads;" or
for brevity, "tram roads." These were the immediate pre-
decessors of public railways; the stone "prop" being super-
seded by the wooden sleeper."
Horses were generally used in the haulage of waggons
upon the early "plate-ways;" but from time to time other
descriptions of propelling power were proposed, tested, and
found to be mainly impracticable or totally useless. Various
engineers had endeavoured to carry to a successful issue
James Watt's design of a locomotive for common roads.
Much time, ingenuity, and money were expended over
those sanguine but futile attempts to construct a reliable
"travelling engine;" numerous experiments were made;
many patents were granted. Repeated failures, however,
caused the idea of a steam carriage, available for the com-
mon highway, to be abandoned by engineers and capitalists
as utterly hopeless. Baffled in their endeavours in one
direction, engineers turned their attention towards another,
and, happily, with greater encouragement and better promise
of ultimate success. Trevithick, a native of Cornwall,
appears to have been thefirst to demonstrate the practicability
of a union between the locomotive and the railway. Unfor-
tunately for himself, he did not possess the natural qualities
necessary to bring the idea he had conceived to perfection.
He was erratic and restless, and lacked the spirit of patient,
persevering industry invariably to be found in a successful
inventor. It is not surprising, therefore, to find the in-
genious originator of the railway locomotive soon taking up
other projects, and leaving other men to bring into practical
use that which was calculated to enrich his position in life
"and immortalise his name. In the year 1804, Trevithick


constructed a "travelling engine," which was placed on the
colliery railway at Merthyr Tydvil, in South Wales. After
undergoing repeated experiments and alterations, it was
found to be defective in principle, and was in consequence
abandoned. An insurmountable difficulty appeared to stand
in the way of steam locomotion being applied to the railway.
Mechanical engineering being yet in its infancy, it was
erroneously supposed that the wheels of a locomotive would
turn round without biting the rails; or, in other words,
that its adhesive power would be insufficient to ensure the
propulsion of the machine and its load along the line.
Stephenson subsequently proved the fallacy of the fear; but
the difficulty, though imaginary, proved a source of much
trouble to the early mechanical engineers.
The first locomotive used regularly on a private railway
was constructed from the design of Mr. John Blenkinsop,
who, in the year 1811, took out a patent for a racked rail,
into which the toothed wheel of his locomotive worked
when travelling. This engine differed from Trevithick's
in having two cylinders-an improvement devised by Mr.
Matthew Murray, a mechanical engineer of considerable
ability-and, on the 12th August 1812, it began to run
on the line which had been laid down between the Middle-
ton Collieries and Leeds; a distance of three-and-a-half miles.
About a year afterwards, one of Blenkinsop's locomotives
was brought to Coxlodge Colliery, in the neighbourhood of
Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and its inauguration there is thus
chronicled in the Local Records of John Sykes, under date
2d September 1813 :-" An ingenious and highly interesting
experiment was performed, in the presence of a vast con-
course of spectators, on the railway leading from the
collieries of Kenton and Coxlodge, near Newcastle, by the


application of a steam engine, constructed by Messrs
Fenton, Murray, and Wood, of Leeds, under the direction
of Mr. John Blenkinsop, the patentee, for the purpose of
drawing the coal waggons. About one o'clock the new
invention was set going, having attached to it sixteen
chaldron waggons loaded with coals, each waggon, with its
contents, weighing four tons or thereabouts; making alto-
gether an aggregate weight little short of seventy tons.
Upon a perfectly level road, the machine so charged, it was
computed, would travel at the rate of three-and-a-half
miles per hour; but in the present instance its speed was
short of that, owing, no doubt, to some partial ascents in
the railway. Under all the circumstances, it was very
highly approved of, and its complete success anticipated."
The toothed'rail and its companion-wheel, which were the
leading novelties in Blenkinsop's locomotive, never attained
such a measure of success as the chronicler prognosticated
or the inventor desired. The engine-gear frequently got
out of order, and the rail-teeth were rendered defective,
through breakage, or the presence of stones upon the line.
The partial success of the machine, however, stimhulated
other engineers in their endeavours to effect further improve-
ments; and, while the history of those efforts undoubtedly
furnishes a formidable catalogue of failure, misfortune, and
disaster, many germs of excellence were discovered through
the thought and labour of several earnest plodders in the
field of mechanical experiment and research, which only
required the fostering care of a master-genius to fertilise,
by removing what was worthless, and preserving all that
was advantageous and sound.
From what has been stated regarding the advent of the
locomotive, it may readily be conceived that the popular


verdict was decidedly adverse to its prolonged existence.
It was associated in the public mind with all that was
dubious and diabolic, with everything dirty and dangerous.
It was clumsy and forbidding in appearance, and, by the
steam being allowed to escape at high-pressure, it screamed
in a manner the most repulsive and horrible. It impreg-
nated the surrounding atmosphere with sulphurous fumes,
and blighted the neighboring fields with red-hot cinders.
It alarmed men and frightened horses with its ear-piercing
noises and unwieldy gait. It belched, and hauled, and
strained, and jolted, at the rate of two-and-a-half miles per
hour. True, it sometimes succeeded in dragging a ponderous
weight, but a team of horses had frequently to attend its
movements, in anticipation of a break-down, and in order
to draw it ingloriously home.. Such was the nature of the
infant locomotive; and it is not to be wondered at that the
unfortunate people who lived near its daily track never
heard its distant snorting without regretting that the mon-
ster had not been strangled in its birth, or that they
dreaded its approach as the bearer of ruin to their property,
and possible destruction to themselves. Accidents from the
explosion of locomotive boilers, now of rare occurrence,
were then comparatively frequent, when we take into
account the small number of such engines that were con-
structed previous to the era of public railways. The follow-
ing is extracted from Sykes' Local Records, under date 31st
July 1815, and shows that considerable reason existed for
popular prejudice against the extended use of the "travel-
ling engine:"-" A shocking accident happened at New-
bottle Colliery, owing to the boiler of the locomotive engine
bursting, from being too strongly charged. It was the first
trial of the machine, which was intended to draw twenty


waggons, and a number of persons had assembled around it
to witness its setting off The brakesman was dashed to
pieces, and another man cut in two, by the fragments of the
boiler, and a little boy thrown to a great distance and killed.
About fifty others (of whom some died) were most severely
scalded and wounded." This and similar disasters tended
for a time to shake the faith of even practical men in the
ultimate success of the locomotive; while capitalists, who
frequently furnished the means for carrying on abortive
experiments, stood aghast at the outlay they had repeatedly
staked, on the barest chance of receiving any adequate
"While we may lament the fact that men have thought
and worked, ruined their constitutions through excessive
application, beggared their families by the total expenditure
of their capital, and finally died neglected and unknown, in
prosecuting a scheme of universal rather than of selfish
interest, we cannot but admire the qualities of energy and
determination that reaped for their possessor the harvest for
which others had also laboured and toiled. While many of
finer temperament and more refined exterior retired from
the contest disheartened or beaten, George Stephenson
struggled bravely on. He had been trained in a rough
school, and had become hardened against the enervating
influence of difficulties, and was naturally indifferent to the
threatening of defeat. Possibly he could not lay claim to
such genius as was fitted to conceive the grand idea of a
locomotive. His bitterest opponent could not but allow
that he possessed the shrewdness and ability to discern and
develop its capabilities, and the indomitable energy neces-
sary to turn these to practical account. How he effected
this momentous result is told in the following pages.



HUNDRED years ago a Northumberland village
received a mark of distinction that might well have
been coveted by the proudest city in the kingdom.
To the small and otherwise uninteresting village of Wylam,
on the north bank of the Tyne, belongs the honour of being
the birthplace of him who became the first railway engineer,
and famous as the foster-father of the locomotive. In the
humble home of a colliery fireman, George Stephenson was
born on the 9th day of June 1781. The surroundings of his
childhood were not calculated to form a favourable starting-
point from which to attain distinction in the race of life.
Distant about eight miles from Newcastle, the locality of
his birth exhibited the usual indications of a neighbourhood
whose inhabitants were engaged in the working of iron and
the winning of coal. George Stephenson's earliest infancy
was associated with cinder-banks, coal-heaps, and blast
His paternal grandfather having hailed from beyond the


Tweed, George may have inherited from his Scottish lineage
some portion at least of that plodding earnestness and
untiring application that were such prominent traits in his
disposition, and which gave such a well-defined individuality
to his character. His father-old Bob, as he was usually
called by his friends and neighbours-had previously lived
with his newly-married wife at the neighboring village of
Walbottle. Mrs. Stephenson, whose maiden name was
Mabel Carr, was the daughter of a dyer at Ovingham,
another Tyneside village; and, while the good woman proved
a faithful wife to her husband, and a careful mother to her
family of six children, we are warranted in concluding that
to her decidedly nervous temperament and somewhat weak
constitution, were added a considerable amount of mental
energy and will-power, which intellectual characteristics
doubtlessly descended to her son George, who was her second
child. Robert Stephenson and his wife Mabel were worthy
representatives of the class to which they belonged, and in
all their changes and struggles they appear to have borne a
reputation for carefulness, industry, and honesty-all the
more honourable to the frugal pair when we reflect upon
the straitened circumstances of their early married life, and
the moral destitution which at that period so largely pre-
vailed in the mining population of England.
During their residence at Wylam, Robert Stephenson and
his family occupied a single room on the ground floor of a
house, which still stands, beside what was formerly the
bridle post-road between Hexham and the Northern metro-
polis. The weekly earnings of the bread-winner only
amounted to twelve shillings, consequently the poor fireman
and his better-half were frequently put to considerable
straits while endeavouring honestly to procure the necea-


series of life. Education for their children was wholly out
of the question. Their small income did not allow an indul-
gence in luxuries, and the advantages of school attendance
were not then so fully apparent to the working classes as
these are now, even to the inhabitants of colliery villages.
Thus it happened that Robert and his anxious, thoughtful
helpmeet were compelled to concentrate their attention
upon absolute and present requirements, and leave such
matters as the mental training and future wellbeing of
their children to take care of themselves.
George Stephenson's father was naturally of a kind,
attractive disposition, a circumstance which not only exerted
a powerful influence upon the son's bearing and conduct
through life, but brought within its sway, also, the neglected
children of the village, to whom "awd Bob" was an
authority on -all matters pertaining to their daily play, as
well as the chosen referee in their occasional disputes.
Besides possessing many amiable qualities, Robert was a
story-teller of no mean order, and this of itself was sufficient
to draw numerous audiences around the furnace of the old
pumping-engine, for the purpose of hearing the genial fire-
man detail the adventures of Robinson Crusoe, recite the
hairbreadth escape of one of the characters in the Arabian
Nights, or dilate upon the prowess of some border hero,
immortalised in one of the ballads of Northumbria. These
deliveries were given with suitable action and expression on
the part of the adult, and received with much interest and
favour by the childish auditory. Not unfrequently did it
happen that the narrator's stock of romances became
exhausted. In such emergencies he never hesitated to draw
upon his own imagination for incidents which were likely to
please the little folks. Like many of his class, Bob had a


great partiality for birds and animals. He took a peculiar
pleasure in watching the growth of nestlings until they were
nearly able to fly, when he would secure one of the finer
birds and bear it triumphantly away. In these bird-nesting
excursions he was sometimes accompanied by one of his
olive branches; and his son George, when he had attained
distinction as a railway engineer, remembered the thrilling
sensations he experienced when first held in his father's
arms for the purpose of seeing a nest of young songsters,
while the parent birds were searching for food. ,
When George had been advanced from babyhood by the
advent of one and then another little stranger into the
family circle, he had to take his duly apportioned share of
duty and responsibility, which consisted in running on
errands, taking his father's dinner to the furnace-house, and
keeping children younger than himself from getting in the
way of the coal waggons, as these were drawn by horses along
the old wooden tram-road immediately in front of the family
domicile. Thus passed the first eight years of George Stephen-
son's life, without the boy having learned the alphabet of
his mother-tongue, and having received no other mental
training than such as might be imparted through the
medium of his father's fireside tales, the observation of the
habits of his father's tame robins, or by watching the move-
ments of the wheezy old pumping-engine at the colliery,
and the jolting of the chaldron waggons on the old railway.
The coal becoming exhausted at Wylam Colliery, Robert
and his family removed to Dewley Burn, where he obtained
employment as a fireman. Though still but a child, George
was now expected to do something towards his own liveli-
hood, and a post was soon found for him as a cow-herd on
the farm of a widow, named Grace Ainslie, at Dewley.


George's mistress had the privilege of grazing her cows
along the sides of the waggon-way, and it was young
Stephenson's care to prevent the animals from coming in
contact with the waggons, and from trespassing upon neigh-
bouring and forbidden pasturage. The boy received two-
pence a day for his services; and as he was continually in
the open fields, his employment may be considered as having
been more recreative than laborious. With many spare
hours on his hands, he now revelled in healthy out-door
amusements; and, while not forgetting his father's favourite
pastime of bird-nesting, and following the same whenever
opportunity offered, he now gave evidence of that latent
mechanical genius which was destined to achieve fame for
himself, and to confer incalculable benefits upon future
Along with a young companion, named Thirlwall, George
devoted much boyish ingenuity in constructing models of
water-mills, which he put to practical test in the small
streams which abounded in the marshy neighbourhood of
Mrs. Ainslie's farm, and in erecting miniature pumping-
engines and winding-machines. The materials for these
mechanical efforts on the part of the young engineers were
always at hand in the clay-soil of the locality, and the reeds
which grew near Dewley Burn. But a start having been
made in wage-earning by George, he never allowed mere
recreation to hinder his chance of advancement. To get on
in the world was, even at that early age, the desire of the
lad; consequently we find him soon starting to hoe turnips,
and doing other work about the farm, for which he received
the daily remuneration of fourpence. Agricultural labours,
however, were uncongenial if not distasteful to him. His
greatest ambition was to be employed at the colliery, near


the old pumping-engine, and in view of the winding
apparatus, with its alternately ascending and descending
corves. The wish was soon gratified, as he joined his elder
brother as a picker;" the duties consisting in separating
the coal, when it was brought to bank, from stones and
other refuse materials. His weekly wages now amounted
to three shillings, and a further step in promotion was
gained by his being set to drive the gin-horse; a position
that carried with it an increase of twopence per day, and
which we also find him filling at Black Callerton Colliery
shortly afterwards. This pit was distant from Dewley
Burn about two miles, across fields, and George was obliged
to start from his father's cottage early in the morning, in
order to get to work betimes, and to walk home in the
evening when his labours were finished, under all the dis-
advantages of a rough and sometimes almost impassable
road. But he was now a strong, growing lad; and as he
trudged along, with bare feet and legs, he was more con-
cerned about the movements of any thrush or blackbird he
might see on his way than the inconvenience of pledgingg"
through the pools, or treading the quagmires that lay in his
track. There was not a nest in the hedge-rows between
Dewley and Black Callerton into which he had not peeped.
The single apartment which served all the purposes of bed-
room, kitchen, and parlour to the family, was also made
into an aviary, through the bird-nesting proclivities of
George and his father; blackbirds being especially the
favourites of the boy. Unconfined by cages, the feathered
youngsters were soon taught to feed from the hand, and fly
about the cottage; not confining their flights to the interior.
One blackbird, in particular, became so tame, and was so
attached to the home where it had been reared, that for


some years it never failed to return after having spent the
pairing-season in the woods with a mate. After flying in,
out, and about the doors during the day, it usually took up
a roosting attitude near the sleeping forms of its human
friends at night. Besides indulging his great liking for
birds, George prided himself on the possession and superiority
of his stock of tame rabbits, kept in a house of which he had
himself been the architect and builder.
He had from his early childhood acquired an absorbing
interest in colliery engines and all their belongings. When
but a very small urchin, nothing gave him greater pleasure
than to watch the motion of the pumping machine at
Wylam, as it wheezed, and creaked, and moaned; while he
listened to the plunge of the pump far down into the bowels
of the earth with feelings of wonder and curiosity.
Throughout his boyhood he considered the position of an
engineman to be the end and aim to which his whole
energies should be devoted; and when, about the age of
fourteen, he was taken on as assistant fireman to his father
at Dewley, he gave expression to his unbounded delight, as
he was now, he thought, on the high road to the attainment
of his ambition. There was only one circumstance, at this
period of his life, which caused him to feel at times other-
wise than happy, and which served to curb the natural
buoyancy of his disposition. It was feared that his age and
stature would be barriers in the way of his retaining the
situation to which he had been appointed. To prevent such
a contingency, the young fireman had recourse to strategy;
and whenever the owner of the colliery was on a round of
inspection in the neighbourhood of the engine, George
invariably kept out of sight, in order that his extreme youth
might not le discovered by his employer. By this means


he was enabled to retain his position, with its emolument
of six shillings a week, until time had given him so much
experience in the work that his boyish appearance was not
likely to militate against the gratification of his wish to
succeed in the world.
Hard necessity again compelled Robert Stephenson and
his family to remove their quarters. The working of the
Dewley Burn Pit having ceased through the failure of the
coal supply, they removed to Jolly's Close, near to the
village of Newburn. The two eldest sons were now both
employed as assistant firemen, while the younger ones
worked as "wheelers" or "pickers," and the two girls
assisted their mother in the duties of the household.
Although the father and his four sons were all earning
money, we find the family still occupying a single room, the
capacity of which, available for the ordinary purposes of
living, was much circumscribed by the space occupied by
the three low-poled bedsteads upon which the various
members of the family slept. To the uninitiated in the
usages of colliery life, these domestic arrangements may
appear singular, if not positively indecent. But the
Stephensons simply followed a practice which was then too
common among their class, and which has, even now, not
been completely abolished by improved cottage accommoda-
tion in our colliery villages. Besides, the customary day
and night "shifts" frequently allow some member of a
colliery workman's family to be at work while others of the
same household are asleep; and thus are mitigated some of
the inconveniences of over-crowding. When George had
attained his sixteenth year, he was engaged as a fireman on
his own account, at the Mid Mill Pit, also in the neighbour-
hood of Newburn, but without any increase in his weekly


earnings of six shillings. Still, this was a step in a for-
ward direction, and he felt pleasure in the consciousness of
increased responsibility.
Although not of a robust constitution, out-door employ-
ment and healthy exercise had rendered young Stephenson
stjng and wiry. He entered into athletic competitions
with a will, and his companions had to acknowledge his
superiority in many feats of strength and dexterity; such
as lifting heavy weights from the ground, or throwing the
hammer. He was sober, steady, and industrious to a
degree, and so far above many of the young men with
whom he associated; but his total want of education kept
him down to their level in other respects, and he might
have ended his days as a very respectable colliery workman
and nothing more, but for his determination to better his
condition by application and perseverance in the course he
had marked out for himself.* He was conscious of his
deficiency, arising from the lack of tuition, and he resolved
to curtail his enjoyments and learn to read. He also
purposed to make himself acquainted with the colliery
engine in all its gearing, so that he might be able to fill the
post of engineman, towards which he ardently aspired, to
his own credit and the advantage of those who in the future
might employ him. This latter resolve he proceeded to
carry out at once, while he kept on the outlook for an
opportunity to learn the rudiments of his mother tongue.
All his information regarding passing events had hitherto
been derived from the reading of others, and he longed to
be able to be independent in this respect, and to gather
knowledge for himself.
When George went to work at the Mid Mill Pit, he
formed a friendship which gave an impetus to his opening


career as a colliery workman. William Coe, a fireman like
himself, soon attracted Stephenson's notice by exhibiting
qualities of mind and disposition that were much in har-
mony with his own; and for the space of two years the
youths worked at the same engine fire, united by the ties of
a strong attachment to each other. At the end of that
time, the pit at Mid Mill being closed, the two friends wdre
sent to Throckley Bridge, where they worked a pumping-
engine for some months. Here George received an advance
in wages, which rendered him, to use his own words, "a
made-man for life." The first receipt of twelve shillings, as
a week's pay, was an event of no little importance to him ;
and he gleefully announced the circumstance to his fellow-
workmen who surrounded the foreman's office upon that, to
him, memorable Saturday evening. While he was em-
ployed at this colliery he still continued to reside with his
parents at Jolly's Close, but the Duke of Northumberland's
enterprise having proved a failure, another pit was sunk
in the interests of his Grace, on land which lay half-a-mile
to the west of Newburn Church, and between the waggon-
way at Wylam and the Tyne. Robert Stephenson was
engaged as fireman for the pumping-engine which had been
erected by the Duke's engineer, Robert Hawthorn, at the
new colliery; and the old man had the satisfaction of find-
ing that his son George, though little more than seventeen
years old, had been appointed engineman, or "plugman,"
under the chief engineer. The title of "plugman" is
derived from the engineman's duty to see that the tube of
the pump is kept sufficiently plugged when the water at the
bottom of the shaft is at a low level, so as to ensure com-
plete suction, by preventing any exposure of the suction-
holes to the atmosphere. The son now held a position


superior to that of his father; but his success neither
inflated him with pride nor caused him to rest satisfied
with what he had already acquired. His good fortune, and
the reward which had attended his earnest endeavour to
discharge his duty as a workman in a conscientious and
efficient manner, but served as powerful stimulants to
increased exertion and higher attainments.
The engine now became to him as a pet and plaything.
It absorbed his undivided attention by day, and occupied a
foremost place in his thoughts as he lay awake at night.
He never tired of watching it in motion, nor inspected with-
out admiration its various parts when at rest. That he
might better study its construction, and know the purposes
of its parts, he took the machine to pieces and examined
the fittings separately. George Stephenson's engine at the
"Water Row Pit was always, while under his care, a model
for cleanliness and efficiency; the engineer of the colliery
being but seldom required to remedy defects. So thoroughly
did the young engineman endeavour to master the difficul-
ties which necessarily at first presented themselves to one
ignorant of the simplest rules in natural or mechanical
science, that in a very short time he had gained such a
practical knowledge of the machine as enabled him to give
advice and render assistance to men of more advanced years
and longer experience in the work, but whose powers of
observation and industry were inferior and less decisive than
his own. Of such things as treatises on the steam engine
he had sometimes heard; but had a book on the subject
which occupied so much of his consideration been placed in
his hands, he would have been unable to read the shortest
word it contained. He had occasionally picked up stray
bits of information from the reading of a friend beside the


engine fire; but these in general had more reference to the
devastating victories of Napoleon the First than to the
bloodless triumphs of Boulton or Watt.
Finding himself, in consequence of his inability to read,
at a dead-lock in his pursuit of knowledge, George deter-
mined upon attending a night-school. He was now eighteen
years of age; scarcely a man, yet doing the work and earn-
ing the wages of one. Old and tall as he was, he hesitated
not to confess his ignorance, and become as a child in the
hands of a preceptor. He had considered the matter in its
various aspects, and had concluded that the end he desired
was worth all the cost and all the trouble-that the tedious
hours to be spent at school and in study at home would fit
him to work for better wages, besides enabling him to
quench his thirst for information at the fountain-head. For
a considerable time his evenings, when not at work, had
been occupied in modelling in clay. Sometimes his models
were of engines which he had seen; at other times he
endeavoured to reproduce, by means of the plastic material,
the various parts of engines which had been described to
him. In this recreation he had taken considerable delight,
since, when a little boy, he had constructed the miniature
pumping-machines in the streamlets near Dewley Burn.
Now he must, as a rule, give up this source of gratification
and enjoyment, go through the drudgery of learning his
letters and the multiplication table, and master the initiatory
difficulties of pot-hooks and cyphering.
Three nights every week were devoted by George to
school attendance, and the remainder of his spare time to
study at home. Robert Cowens, a teacher in somewhat
poor circumstances at Walbottle, was his first instructor;
and, although neither the matter nor the manner of the


lessons would be tolerated in the days of School Boards and
taxation for educational purposes, it must be admitted
that the homely bearing of the schoolmaster gave confidence
to his pupils, and encouraged them in their monotonous
studies. Stephenson's fellow-scholars were for the most
part young miners, and the sons of labouring men in the
neighbourhood, who desired to retrieve some of the oppor-
tunities for learning which had been lost to them in their
earlier years, either through the poverty or indifference of
their parents or their own neglect. Being eager for know-
ledge, and most diligent as a scholar, George learnt to read
in a comparatively short time; and when he had attained
the age of nineteen, his progress in the art of writing
enabled him to trace slowly the letters of his own name--a
feat in his career under poor Robert Cowens of which he
was not a little proud. But he grudged the time expended
in walking to and from Walbottle; and in the winter of
1799 he was enabled to prosecute his education under
more favourable circumstances as to the locality of his
school, and considerably better auspices as regarded the
qualifications of his teacher. His second schoolmaster was
a Scotchman, named Andrew Robertson, who, at the close
of the last century, opened a night-school at Newburn, and
only a short distance from his home at Jolly's Close.
George's kindly nature at first revolted against the thought
of being separated in his lessons from him who had first
directed his steps in the path of knowledge. Still, the con-
sideration that the Newburn mentor had a good reputation
as an arithmetician, and the thought that under the new
master he was likely to attain to a higher standard of pro-
ficiency, reconciled him to a change which was fraught with
many and important advantages.


Andrew Robertson took a great interest in the advance-
ment of his pupil, as well on account of the indomitable
industry which the young engineman displayed in his studies,
as for the reason that George soon gave evidence of con-
siderable aptitude for the practice of arithmetic, a science in
which the Scotch dominie himself delighted and excelled.
Improving every moment of his spare time, George stood by
the engine fire and worked out the sums which had been set
for him by his master, to whom the well-used slate, upon
which the problems and their solutions appeared, was taken
each evening, and other work put down for the following
day. Endued with a willing mind and untiring zeal, George
now made rapid progress, and soon left behind others who
had started with him from the same point in the race for
knowledge. Nor is the fact of his marked success as a
scholar to be wondered at, when we consider the thorough-
ness of his disposition or the force of his character. He
could never leave any task unfinished, or rest satisfied with
a partial success. To accomplish all that he knew would
benefit himself in the attainment, formed an object to which
he directed all the energy of his ardent and unconquerable
nature. In seeking to raise himself in the social scale he
conferred inestimable favours upon humanity.



SEORGE now felt that he was getting on in the
"world; but that thcre was another rung on the
ladder of proficiency which he must reach, he had
fully and wisely determined. Friendship came to his aid
and furthered his design to learn the act of brakeing an
engine. The duties of a colliery brakesman are of a mono-
tonous but important nature; those men being invariably
selected for the post who have earned for themselves a
reputation for punctuality, carefulness, and sobriety during
their probationary training as firemen. Being one of the
higher kinds of colliery labour, it is comparatively well-paid;
therefore George had a double motive in seeking to acquire
the practice necessary to fit him for taking the position.
The envy of other workmen, it is true, conspired for a time
to thwart him in his efforts after his own improvement in
this particular; but he was able to overcome overt acts of
opposition, and to prove his fitness for the work, through the
kindness of his friend, William Coe, who had been appointed


brakesman of a small winding-machine which had lately
been erected for drawing the coal to bank at the Water
Row Pit.
William occasionally allowed George to work the brake,
and gave him the instruction necessary to qualify him to
fill a situation similar to his own. Some of the workmen,
however, having objected to this proceeding, and one having
even stopped the working of the colliery on this account, the
young brakesman, whose friendship for Stephenson had
prompted the kindly action, took the earliest opportunity of
justifying his own conduct in the view of his superiors. A
banksman named Locke would appear to have taken a
leading part in opposing William Coe, and in seeking to
prevent him from initiating his friend into the secrets of his
daily work. Coe resolutely resolved upon bringing the
dispute to an issue, however, by calling upon George to take
his place at the apparatus, just as the manager, Mr. Nixon,
was one day approaching the brake-house. Locke, thus
challenged, ceased working, and sat down, with the result
that for the time the operations of the colliery ceased. Mr.
Nixon having demanded an explanation of the untoward
proceeding, was informed by the arbitrary banksman that
Stephenson was incompetent to do the work of a brakesman,
and falsely added that George was much too clumsy in
his movements ever to learn. The manager, shrewdly
detecting the jealousy that had prompted the objection,
ordered the work to proceed, without calling in question
either the wisdom of William Coe in seeking to do a good
turn to his friend, or the aptitude of George Stephenson for
acquiring an art which was one of the stepping-stones to his
career of distinguished usefulness and honour.
The friendship which had been thus tested continued to


exist between Coe and Stephenson even after their different
fortunes had separated their paths in life; and for at least
three years after the incident at the Water Row Colliery the
intercourse of the two "marrows" was of the most intimate
and cordial nature. After working together in the neigh-
bourhood of Newburn for about three years, they removed
to Black Callerton, where George so gained the confidence
of his new employers as to be appointed brakesman at the
Dolly Pit. He was now only twenty years old, and the
promotion he had attained is the best evidence of his good
qualities and character in early manhood.
He still continued an earnest student, and had become an
eager searcher after information, especially such as referred
to the construction or application of steam engines. His
teacher, Andrew Robertson, respected him for his sterling
moral qualities, and felt proud of the advancement in learn-
ing which George had made under his care; and the poor
dominie, finding his night-school likely to be deprived of its
most promising scholar, and a general falling-off in the num-
ber of his pupils, also removed to Black Callerton Colliery,
where he had the satisfaction of ministering further to the
educational necessities of one for whom he had conceived
an affection almost akin to that of a father.
"Up to this period George had always managed to devote
some portion of his time to caring for the wants of his
feathered friends. He had inherited his father's love for
birds and animals; and, like his father, he could command
the presence of a number of robins that flew about him at
the engine fire, attracted by the bread-crumbs which he
daily saved expressly for them. He had found, too, a faith-
ful dumb companion in a dog, whose sagacity was of a high
order, and frequently turned to account in bringing his


master's dinner. When so engaged, the animal heeded not
the snarling of any curs he might meet upon the road, and
but rarely was called to defend the possession of the tin can
which contained his master's meal. When the pugnacious-
ness of a canine passer-by was not to be avoided, however,
lie could give a good account of himself, and the intruder
invariably found that he had the worst of it when it came
to a matter of determined hostility. Upon the occasion of
one of these encounters, George's messenger was only able
to retain the keeping of the tin can: the dinner had been
spilt; but the master readily overlooked the loss of a meal,
and felt rather proud of the prowess of his dog when he was
made aware of the circumstances. But the brakesman's
affections were now to be devoted to a worthier object, and
his solicitude directed into another channel.
Early marriages formed then, as now, the rule rather than
the exception, among the hardy population of Northumbrian
colliery villages; and George sought to give practical effect
in his nuptials to the custom. He took up his residence in
the household of a small farmer at Black Callerton, whose
servant soon found favour in the sight of the young, active,
and prepossessing lodger, if she had not effected that
result previously to her lover being admitted to her daily
society at her master's fireside. Fanny Henderson's
personal attractions were enough of themselves to draw
attention, and to kindle the tender passion in any young
man of twenty and her station in life; and when we are
informed that to her striking comeliness of form and feature
were added the sweetest of tempers, a modest demeanour,
kind disposition, and considerable good sense, we cannot
wonder that the inherent shrewdness of George Stephenson
had discovered in the "farmer's lass" qualities that were


congenial to his nature, and a heart that was likely to beat
in sympathy with his own.
The carefulness and forethought which guided his actions
throughout his career were apparent during the period of
his courtship. At a time when young men are generally
influenced more by impulse than by reason, George takes
thought for the comfort of his future wife and the furnish-
ing of their home in a respectable fashion. His wages now
averaged nineteen shillings weekly, but he would add to his
income by devoting his spare hours to remunerative labour,
and so save money for the comfortable replenishment of a
cottage ere he would take the girl he so truly loved to the
altar. Besides, his duties as a brakesman allowed him a
considerable amount of time, which he might turn to his
own account without. interfering with the services demanded
by his situation, and these odd times he would utilise rather
than pass in listless inaction. He had learned to mend the
miner's shoes; he would now try his hand at shoemaking, as
well as continue to do the work of a cobbler. The first guinea
saved by him from his earnings in this way was a source of
great pleasure to him, as well as a stimulus to continue in
his course of self-denial and industry. The story has been
told how upon a certain occasion he soled the shoes of his
sweetheart, and was so elated at the thought of what a
capital job he had made of them, that he carried the proofs
of his ability as a cobbler, during a Sunday afternoon, after
the manner of a lover of the olden time, who was only too
happy if fortune threw in his way the glove or handkerchief
of his mistress, to keep as a guerdon of his affection and
The attachment which had been formed between him and
the amiable Fanny Henderson no doubt acted as a safe-


guard to George against the temptations incident to his
station as a colliery workman, and assisted in strengthening
his resolution to pursue an honourable and steady course in
life. He has been described by his most intimate friend
and daily associate at this period as being "a standing
example of manly character." At the usual fortnightly
saturnalia on pay-day, while his fellow-workmen were, for
the most part, drinking at the village inn or engaged in the
brutalizing sport of dog-fighting or cock-fighting, George was
in the habit of taking his engine to pieces, examining and
cleaning the separate parts, and putting all together again,
ready for the work of another fortnight, after its pains-
taking attendant had received further insight into its
mechanism and usefulness.
Some of the young and sport-loving miners might consider
the habits of the steady-going brakesman as being too strait-
laced and singular to their taste, and as an evidence of a
cowardly and narrow disposition; but George could give
what appeared to the average minds of those who were of
such an opinion, if occasion required, indubitable proof of
the bravery and manliness of his character. A pitman,
named Nelson, at Black Callerton, was the terror of the
respectable and peace-loving portion of the community. He
had earned for himself some notoriety as a pugilist, and to
quarrel with him was tantamount to giving him a challenge
to fight. George, in the course of his work as a brakesman,
having to draw the miners out of the pit at the close of each
working shift," gave some offence to Nelson by the manner
of his brakeing the machine one day, while the pugnacious
bully was ascending the shaft. With a volley of oaths, as
he left the cage at the top, Nelson greeted Stephenson, and
made some coarse allusions to what he considered his


clumsiness. Defending himself from the charge, George
appealed to the other workmen to decide whether it was
well-founded or otherwise; but his angry opponent would
not have the matter decided by an appeal to any such form
of arbitration, and threatened to assault the brakesman.
George defied him, and the matter was settled for the time-
being by the giving of a challenge by the miner, which was
immediately accepted, and a day fixed for the fight. As the
news of the projected battle spread through the village,
much excitement prevailed. In regard to the ultimate
result, there was but one opinion-George would be killed.
Although popular sympathy was in his favour, no one could
believe that the untrained and studious brakesman was a
match for the man who had defeated so many in hard-fought
encounters. But the event falsified the general anticipation
and fears, and taught the roisterer a salutary lesson.
Nelson gave up working in order to keep himself strong and
able to demolish his antagonist. Stephenson, however, went
about his daily employment as if nothing unusual was to
occur; and, when the appointed evening arrived, he went
into the Dolly Pit Field to meet his exultant enemy with all
the coolness of a professional pugilist. Stripping off his
upper garments, he took up his position for the first round;
and, as much by the force of his determination as by the
strength of his muscles and the celerity of his movements,
severely punished his adversary. The young and inex-
perienced combatant was soon declared victorious, to the
pleasure and satisfaction of the majority of the onlookers.
This was his first and last pugilistic battle.
While engaged at Black Callerton he first essayed to be
an inventor by turning his attention to what he considered
would be an improvement in engine-brakeing. The idea


which he sought to embody in a practical form was that of a
machine which would be self-reversing in its action; but his
models, upon which he had spent some time and patience,
were eventually discarded as useless, and he reverted in his
spare hours to reading and writing, so that he might become
more proficient in these arts. The application which he had
devoted to his abortive conception was not, however, wholly
devoid of benefit to himself, for the mental training which
accompanied the concentration of his thoughts upon the
object to be attained contributed to fit him for grappling
with more important problems, in the solution of which he
was successful. When he had been nearly two years at
Black Callerton, the offer was made to him to take charge of
the Ballast Hill engine at Willington Quay; a post which
carried with it an increased income, and enabled him to
become a householder on his own account..
The Ballast Hill at Willington received its name from
the material of which it was formed. Before the days of
iron-built steam colliers, the craft engaged in carrying coal
from the Tyne to London and other ports made their runs
to the coaly river in ballast, after discharging their cargoes.
Upon arriving at Willington, from which place large quanti-
ties of the Northumberland coal was then shipped, the
ballast was taken from the vessels and emptied upon a piece
of vacant ground in the vicinity of the Quay. In course of
time a huge mound of sand and rubbish was formed,
requiring engine-power to raise to the summit the waggons
laden with the ballast from the ships. At the foot of this
"hill" stood the fixed engine of which Stephenson was
appointed the brakesman. By industry and thrift he had
saved, what was, to a young man of his calling, a consider-
able sum of money ; and Fanny Henderson agreed to become


his wife whenever their future home was ready for her
The ground upon which George's cottage at Willington
stood now forms the site of the imposing Stephenson
Memorial Schools; and to a humble but withal smartly-
furnished room in the upper portion of the two-storied
building the newly-wedded pair proceeded, after the mar-
riage ceremony in Newburn Church and a visit had been
paid to the infirm father of the bridegroom at Jolly's Close.
George and Fanny were married on the 28th day of Novem-
ber 1802; and their mode of conveyance from the parental
roof-tree to the bridal home was one commonly adopted on
such occasions before the construction of public railways.
A neighboring farmer provided two horses, with saddles
and pillions-one animal for the joint accommodation of
George and his bride, the other for that of the groomsman
and bridesmaid. Thus, for a distance of about fifteen
miles, the wedding party travelled, until the cottage at
Willington was reached, and the happy couple and their
two friends began the work of house-warming.
Comfortably settled with his young wife in his new
sphere, George applied himself with unabated energy to
self-improvement. He was satisfied that, to ascend still
higher upon the social ladder, he must by patient application
qualify himself to hold the more exalted position to which
he ardently aspired. He resolved to be something more
than a manual worker. By carefully husbanding his spare
hours he had succeeded, so far, in educating and raising him-
self to a point considerably above what he could have hoped
for as an illiterate youth of eighteen. He must strive after
greater attainments, and deserve further success. That
he might understand the laws which ruled the movements of


his engine he diligently studied the principles of mechanics;
while he ever and anon tested, by the aid of models
fashioned by his own hands, the soundness of the theories
about which he had been reading. He delighted to take
up uncommon speculations, in order that he might sift some
grains of truth, at least, from their bulk of chaff Having
been informed that several mechanists had tried to put into
practical shape the principle of perpetual motion, and had
failed in their attempts, George set to work and constructed
the model of a machine, the driving-wheel of which was to
rotate by the action of quicksilver. The inventor certainly
gave self-action to his model, but the "motion" not being
"perpetual," he wisely gave up the idea for more profitable
Ever fond of studying the larger machinery, with its cog-
wheels and cranks, his attention was arrested by a household
incident to a more delicate form of mechanism than had
hitherto occupied his thoughts or ingenuity. While he was
at work one day the chimney of his room took fire, with the
result that the apartment became filled with soot and steam,
and soaked with the water which had been used by kind
but unskilful neighbours in extinguishing the flames.
Among the mishaps which followed the disaster was to be
reckoned the spoiling of a favourite clock, through the action
of the steam and soot upon its wheels. George was speedily
employed upon his much-prized timepiece; and his maiden
attempt at clock-cleaning proved so successful as to qualify
him, by popular consent, to fill the position of clock-doctor
par excellence of the locality.
During his stay at Willington Quay he made the ac-
quaintance of one who also became distinguished as a
mechanical engineer. William Fairbairn, afterwards Presi-


dent of the British Association, was then working at Percy
Main Colliery as an apprentice-engineman. The intercourse
of the two workmen ripened into a most close and intimate
friendship, and many years after, when each had earned for
himself an honoured name and high position, did they
remember the pleasant evenings which they had spent
in each other's society at Willington. Fairbairn frequently
visited at the cottage of his friend, and has spoken of the
comfort and tidiness which prevailed therein, under the
superintending care of the young housewife, as well as of the
industry and heartiness of her husband. Upon many occa-
sions, in order to allow Stephenson to add a little to his
income, William took charge of the engine at the Ballast Hill,
while the brakesman was assisting in clearing a ship of its
ballast at the Quay. George also, at this period, filled up a
portion of his bye-hours in last-making, cobbling, and shoe-
.making labours. At home or abroad he was never idle.
On the 16th day of October 1803, Mrs. Stephenson gave
birth to a son, whose name in after years was scarcely less
eminent than that of his father. Robert Stephenson, called
after his grandfather, brought increased happiness to his
parents, and his birth cemented the ties of affection
which bound them to each other. As a child, Robert was
his father's pride and solace; as a youth, his companion and
fellow-student; as a man, his adviser and friend. The
power of paternal love and the worth of filial reverence and
duty were amply illustrated in the joint-career of the famous
father and son.



EORGE STEPHENSON tended the engine at the
"Willington Ballast Hill for about two years and a
half, when he left to fill a similar situation at West
Moor Colliery, Killingworth, about six miles to the north
of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. It was not without some reluc-
tance that he consented to take this step, for he had been
able to add to his pay while at Willington Quay by working
at ballast-heaving, as we have seen. However, the con-
sideration that he would again be engaged about a coal
mine, in labour to which he had been trained in his youth,
as well as the thought that he might still employ his spare
time in his new neighbourhood to pecuniary advantage,
caused him to decide upon making the change. Accordingly
he removed to West Moor early in the year 1805, and
entered upon his duties as a colliery brakesman.
Twelve months had scarcely been passed by the devoted
couple in their new sphere when death severed their
marriage-tie, and brought to the husband the greatest sorrow


of his life. The loving wife and gentle mother was suddenly
taken from her partner's society and the prattle of her little
son, after giving birth to a daughter. The baby lived but a
few months, and George felt as if the light of his hearth and
home was thus extinguished for ever. But his was not a
disposition to be entirely crushed by bereavement. He had
loved his spouse with all the ardour of his earnest, manly
nature; and, when the poignancy of his grief had been a
little dulled by time and duty, the affection which he had
lavished upon poor Fanny Henderson, as a maiden and as a
wife, was transferred to her surviving child.
Ere the bitterness of his loss had been assuaged, George
was asked to take charge of the engine of a spinning mill,
near Montrose, in the north-east of Scotland. Thinking
that the change might be useful in giving him an insight
into the working of machinery with which he was not yet
familiar, as well as being otherwise beneficial by removing
him for a time from the scene of his sorrow, he accepted
the offer of the gentlemen who were interested in his ap-
pointment. After making arrangements for the care and
welfare of little Robert, who was to be left at Killingworth,
he started out on foot for Montrose, a distance exceeding
two hundred miles. During his stay in Scotland he gave
some evidence of his ready ingenuity in grappling with
practical difficulties. The pumps for supplying water to
the works becoming clogged, from the sandy nature of the
ground, the engineman adopted an expedient which entirely
remedied the evil; while the result showed that he had
taken a correct estimate of the connection between a certain
cause and its effect in the problem of natural science which
he had essayed to solve. By causing the lower end of the
pump to work inside a wooden box, twelve feet high, into


which the water flowed from the upper portion of the well,
the fluid could be drawn free from sand, and the difficulty
was thus overcome.
After a year's sojourn at Montrose, George returned to
Killingworth, travelling a-foot as on the occasion of his
going northwards. Upon reaching West Moor he found
that his parents had been reduced to great poverty and
distress, through an accident that had befallen his father
while making some repairs on an engine. The face of the
old man had been severely scorched and his eyesight hope-
lessly destroyed. His other sons were almost as poor as
himself, and consequently little able to mitigate his afflic-
tion. George had, however, saved twenty-eight pounds
during his absence, and with a portion of this sum he paid
his father's debts and removed his parents from Jolly's
Close to his own neighbourhood, where he cared for them in
their declining years.
About the year 1808, his prospects became involved in
considerable doubt and uncertainty. His own bereave-
ment and his father's misfortune had rendered him distrust-
ful of the future; while the social state of England, thrown
off its balance by the immediate consequences of a costly
war, and exhibiting tokens of restless insecurity, gave but
little encouragement to a workman of his genius and in-
dustry to settle in the land of his birth. The compulsory
drafting of men into the navy or the militia irritated the
industrious classes and unsettled trade. With many of
his order, Stephenson looked with a longing eye towards
America, as furnishing greater scope and security to the
intelligent workman and his savings. But to an untoward
circumstance at this time England owes the advantage of
retaining the services of one of her distinguished sons until


a return to the undisturbed prosecution of peaceful pursuits
gave an impetus to enterprise, and allowed the merits of the
great railway engineer to be recognized and appreciated in
his own country.
He had been reinstated as brakesman at Killingworth
only a short time when the chances of the ballot demanded
that he must serve his country as a militiaman. Fate was
inexorable; he must either enter the ranks or regain his
freedom by purchasing the services of a substitute. He
adopted the latter alternative. Thus was he, at a stroke,
deprived of all that remained to him of his hard-won
earnings, besides being compelled to borrow six pounds to
make up the required smart-money. George felt this blow
acutely, but the duties of his avocation, and the scientific
studies that usually formed his recreation, kept him from
brooding over his loss, and he earnestly set to work to
retrieve his position, as well as effect economical improve-
ments in that department of the colliery with which he was
more immediately concerned. The habit which he had
acquired at an earlier period, of taking his engine to pieces
on Saturday, he still followed with advantage to himself
and his employers. The practical knowledge thus gained,
while immediately useful in fitting him to remedy trivial
defects, gave him courage to attempt important alterations
which paved the way for greater successes and weightier
The sinking of the Killingworth High Pit having been
commenced in the year 1810, a Newcomen engine was erected
for pumping water out of the shaft. This machine proving a
failure, the advice and assistance of engine-wrights in the
Slocality, as well as of some from a distance, were sought to
render it effective in performing the required service. George


had studiously watched its erection, and hesitated not to
express his opinion that the engine would prove defective
in its action; but the brakesman's views on the subject met
with very scant attention from those who heard him; and
the sinking operations made but little progress on account
of the water accumulating faster than it could be removed
by pumping. The workmen engaged in deepening the shaft
were being continually "drowned out." So confident was
George in his opinion of the cause of the defect, and his
Power to remove it, that he said to one of the sinkers, who
had asked one day what he thought of the engine :-" I could
alter her, man, and make her draw. In a week's time I could
send you to the bottom." This having been reported to the
viewer of the colliery, Mr. Ralph Dodds, George was
speedily allowed to try his hand at that which baffled the skill
of so many of much greater experience than himself. Mr.
Dodds promised that he would "make a man" of Stephen-
son, if successful; so that the poor brakesman had now an
incentive for exertion as well in the prospect thus held out
as a reward of his energy, as in the desire to prove that all
the self-denying industry of his early manhood had not been
expended in vain.
A considerable amount of jealousy was shown by the
regular engine-wrights when they discovered that the work
of altering their engine had been placed in Stephenson's
hands, and they did not scruple to exhibit the rancorous
feelings which another's interference in their own province
had evoked. But having stipulated for his personal choice
of the men who were to assist him, he cared little for
any ebullition of spiteful ill-will or rivalry, and threw all his
energies into the perfect accomplishment of his self-imposed
task. He caused the engine to be taken to pieces, and not


only devised alterations in the construction, by which its
better efficiency was secured, but also effected improvements
in the boiler, which enabled the latter to be worked at a
pressure double to that which its builders had intended
should be the limit. The work of re-fitting and erecting the
engine and boiler was completed in three days; and,
although it was done in a rough and, what would be con-
sidered now-a-days, an unfinished manner, showed clearly
that the new engine-doctor had been guided by right
principles of mechanical science, both in the conception and
execution of the operations.
A crowd had assembled round the engine when the hour
had arrived for testing the efficacy of Stephenson's first
practical essay in mechanical engineering. Some had been
led thither by mere curiosity; others had gone expecting to
triumph over the discomfiture of the precocious brakesman.
The officials of the colliery, who had a personal interest in
the success of the alterations, scarcely dared to hope that
George would prove victorious. Newcomen, the engineer
from whose plans the engine had been constructed, as well as
Smeaton, who had made and erected it, had declared against
the utility of the projected modifications. The engine, upon
being set off, confirmed the majority of those who stood
near in their opinion that Stephenson was a mere upstart
and charlatan who had taken upon himself to meddle in a
matter about which he knew absolutely nothing. As the
unwieldy machine threatened by its erratic movements to
bring down the engine-house, Mr. Dodds declared that it
was really in a worse condition than before; but in an hour
or two, when it had got into working trim, and the lessen-
ing of the water in the shaft had shown that it was now
doing good service, even those who had come to sneer at the


hardihood of attempting what appeared impossible, could
not but admit that the alterations had proved successful in
the extreme. Mr. Dodds was delighted at the result; and
not only offered immediate tokens of his appreciation of the
skill and ingenuity of his engineman, in a present of ten
pounds, and advancement to the charge of the engine at the
High Pit, but he also gave to Stephenson very encouraging
promises of future advantage.
The success thus achieved proved the turning point in his
career. The advice of the Killingworth engine-doctor was
sought far and near regarding wheezy, worn-out machines
and their renovation, until he came to be regarded some-
what in the light of a successful practitioner. It is true
that the regular faculty of engine-curers looked upon him
as a quack, who was not entitled to formal recognition at
their hands; still, his invariable skilfulness increased his
reputation and added to the number of his "patients."
Nor were his services confined to the patching up of the
infirm. His favourable opinion of any new pumping ap-
paratus was an assurance of its utility and value.
In the year 1812 he was appointed engine-wright of the
Killingworth Pits. His predecessor having then been killed
by an accident, Mr. Dodds recommended him to the notice
of the owners, who leased several collieries, and who were
popularly known as the Grand Allies. The recommendation
being accompanied by a flattering account of his remarkable
ingenuity and industry, effect was given to the representa-
tions of the head viewer, and George entered upon his greater
responsibilities at a salary of two pounds a week. The
confidence thus reposed by his superiors caused him to
relinquish any desire for seeking his prosperity in a foreign



E entered upon his new duties as colliery engine-
wright with a firm resolve to adhere to that course
of sobriety and conscientious painstaking which had
marked his service in the lower grades through which he
had passed as a workman. He also determined to effect
such improvements in the machinery as were calculated to
make the most of his steam power, and thereby reduce the
working expenditure. That his efforts were appreciated is
seen in the fact that, soon after his advancement to the
post of engine-wright at Killingworth, he was still further
promoted by being appointed sole engineer to the various
collieries leased by the Grand Allies. These included, in
Northumberland, the pits at Long Benton and Killingworth,
and in Durham, those at Mount Moor, Darwent Moor, and
South Moor, Under his supervision the most extensive
system of engine-planes then known to be in use in coal
mining was successfully carried out: the coal being conveyed
by sloping planes from a distance of about two miles under-


ground, and the furthermost engine being fifteen hundred
yards from the shaft. The smoke from the boilers of the
engines used in working this underground traffic was
brought the latter distance by means of flues. It has also
been said that he was the first to introduce tram-roads in the
conveyance of coal from distant parts of the workings to the
main roads in the Killingworth Pit, with small trams on
which the corves or baskets containing the coal were placed.
These light carriages could be conveniently pushed along
the rails by boys, and the ponies and sledges previously used
for that purpose were dispensed with, at a considerable saving
to the owners.
Allowing no opportunity for his own improvement to
pass unheeded, he increased his capability for overcoming
difficulties, and strengthened his self-reliance. His thirst
for knowledge still continued insatiable. Although his pro-
gress as a scholar under Andrew Robertson had been
altogether satisfactory so far as it went, George resolved to
prosecute his personal education still further. This he was
enabled to effect through his own industry and the friendly
help of a neighboring farmer's son. John Wigham lived
at Benton Glebe Farm, of which his father was the occupier.
The cottage of the Wigham family being but a short distance
from West Moor, Stephenson frequently took his slate to
John, as he had done formerly to the Newburn schoolmaster,
to have his sums checked or set down for working out in
the engine-house. When the slate was not at hand, and a
problem in arithmetic mentally arose before him, a piece of
chalk and the side of a coal waggon answered well his pur-
pose. The engine-wright was seldom at a loss for an
expedient; while his persistency in learning, and his careful
study of all the details of the question which he had for the


moment in hand, met with an adequate reward in the
enhanced proficiency of the eager student. His friend
was useful to him in various other respects. John was
not only a good arithmetician and penman, but an acute
thinker, and could reason with perspicuity on matters per-
taining to natural philosophy. The contact with such a
mind proved of infinite value to George in his after-career;
and when he had attained the pinnacle of his fame as a
railway engineer, he was not too proud to acknowledge with
gratitude his indebtedness to the friendship and instruction
of the Benton farmer's son.
Before he became acquainted with John Wigham, George
had sometimes amused himself at his leisure moments by
drawing plans of engines and tram-roads, but these were
naturally of a rough and sketchy character. He now gave
considerable attention to that important branch of an engi-
neer's requirements. Wigham was a very fair draughtsman;
but in learning to draw plans and sections under his eye,
George proved himself such an apt pupil that he soon
excelled his teacher in the art. When he had attained his
thirtieth year we find him just as eager for knowledge as
when, at the age of eighteen, he sat beside Robin Cowens and
learnt the alphabet.
So great was his industry, that in spite of the claims of
his daily duties, and the time he devoted to self-improve-
ment, he continued his old occupation of shoemaking and
mending; while he had added to this the cleaning of
watches and clocks, the making of shoe-lasts for the shoe-
makers of the district, and the cutting out of pitmen's
clothes, preparatory to the work of sewing the same by their
wives. Geordy Steevie's cut" in pit suits prevailed in the
neighbourhood of Killingworth long after the ingenious


"cutter had quitted this mortal scene. By these pursuits
in after hours he earned sufficient money to keep his aged
parents in comfort, at a period, too, when the cost of living
was exceedingly high.
But George had another incentive for adding by extra
labours to the income he derived as the colliery engine-
wright. His son Robert was now growing a fine and
intelligent lad, and having proved in his own case, by pain-
ful experience, the depressing influence of the want of
education upon a poor man's prospects in life, he earnestly
determined that no self-sacrifice would be too great, could
he but effect thereby the intellectual elevation of his boy.
Robert had been sent to a school at Long Benton, where he
was grounded in the rudiments of education; but the father
knew, by having personally superintended the lad's studies
at home, that the tuition imparted by the country school-
master was of the most meagre description, and he resolved
that Robert should receive all the benefits derivable from
the instruction of one of the best masters in Newcastle-upon-
Tyne. At a meeting held in celebration of the opening of
the Newcastle and Darlington Railway, on the 18th of June
1844, George Stephenson alluded to this period of his life,
and his self-denying efforts for his son's welfare, in the
following words:-" When Robert was a little boy I saw
how deficient I was in education, and I made up my mind
that he should not labour under the same defect, but that I
would put him to a good school and give him a liberal train-
ing. I was, however, a poor man; and how do you think I
managed I I betook myself to mending my neighbours'
clocks and watches at nights, after my daily labour was done,
and thus I procured the means of educating my son." The
paternal solicitude and forethought thus manifested were


conspicuously rewarded in the brilliant career of Robert
Stephenson, who, when a boy, rode daily upon a donkey
from Killingworth to Newcastle, where he attended Dr.
Bruce's school in Percy Street during the day; returning in
the same manner in the evening to his father, who watched,
as the weeks and months flew past, with glowing pride the
boy's progress in learning, as well as other proofs which his
son gave of increasing intellectual strength and power of
The interior of Stephenson's cottage at Killingworth
resembled more the shop of a dealer in curiosities than the
home of a superior colliery workman. The walls were
covered with models of self-acting planes, engines, and
machines of various kinds, from those of the most useful
and practical character to some that could only be con-
sidered as utopian and valueless. The latter were all that
resulted from his fruitless attempts to solve the problem of
perpetual motion; the former he still hoped to utilise as
opportunities arose for their being embodied in future
improvements. Thus surrounded, with his son by his side
learning the tasks for the following day, and a favourite
blackbird looking inquisitively upon the scene, George con-
tinued to mend and clean, and cobble, and study after his
regular labours were over. In this way did he serve an
apprenticeship which fitted him to become a mechanical
engineer of eminence and fame.
Seventy years ago, the revival of the idea of applying
steam locomotion to the conveyance of coal over the tram-
roads of the country arrested the attention of all who were
pecuniarily interested in a successful solution of the question
At the beginning of the century Trevithick had constructed
a high-pressure locomotive, which was considerably superior


to all its predecessors; and although that engine had been
abandoned on account of its defects, still enough had been
accomplished by its clever but erratic inventor to pave the
way for others who might have the desire and energy
sufficient to bring into practical shape the crude ideas of
the impatient Cornishman. Mr. William Hedley, at Wylam
Colliery, where George Stephenson's early years were spent,
was the first to put Trevithick's plan for a locomotive
engine to a thorough test, and to prove the fallacy of such a
machine requiring "friction-wheels" to further its adhesion
to the rails; which notion Trevithick acted upon in common
with his contemporaries. But this was accomplished by the
Tyneside inventor only after attempts and failures suffi-
cient to have deterred one less sanguine than himself as to
the utility of steam locomotion being ultimately established.
In October 1804, John Whinfield, of Pipewellgate, Gates-
head, constructed for the colliery a locomotive, from plans
furnished by Trevithick. That machine never left Whin-
field's foundry, as it was considered too light for the work it
would be required to do; and it was not until Blenkinsop had
introduced the racked rail in 1811, fhat Mr. Blackett the
owner permitted a renewed attempt to introduce the locomo-
tive upon the Wylam waggon-way. The second engine proved
likewise a failure; for after it had been removed from Gates-
head, when finished by Thomas Waters of that town, and
tried at Wylam, it went in pieces, to the danger and alarm
of the bystanders. Still desirous of succeeding, the enter-
prising coalowner allowed a locomotive to be made by his
own engine-wright, Jonathan Foster, and such workmen as
were available, under the superintendence of the viewer of
the colliery, William Hedley. This engine was more suc-
cessful than its predecessors, but it was too heavy for the


tram-road, and it was continually getting out of repair, so
that horses had usually to follow it in anticipation of its
breaking down. In spite of the comparative failure of the
third locomotive, Mr. Blackett was so satisfied that Hedlev
was on the brink of success in his experiments that he ordered
a fourth engine to be constructed, and it was completed at his
own engine-shop at Wylam, and placed upon the waggcn-
way, where it did good service for many years. After a
career of usefulness, during which it was visited and
scrutinised by the greatest mechanical engineers of the age,
"William Hedley's locomotive was sent to South Kensington,
where it is exhibited in the Museum as the patriarch of the
great Puffing-Billy family.
Soon after his appointment as engine-wright, the attention
of George Stephenson was directed to the more efficient and
economical transport of coal from the collieries to the shipping
staiths. Having made various minor improvements in his
machinery, he also succeeded in reducing the working expenses
at one of the Killingworth pits by utilising the surplus power
of an underground pumping-engine in drawing the coal to
bank. But the laden waggons had thence to be hauled by
horses for a distance of six or seven miles, and the price of
corn being at that time exceedingly high, the expenditure
entailed in the transit was proportionably burdensome. To
remedy this state of matters George devoted his energies, and
the first practical result of his efforts to obtain a less costly
motive power on the tram-road was the application of the
principle of the Inclined Plane wherever that was practicable.
By thus altering certain portions of the waggon-way no doubt
some saving was secured; but the slight pecuniary advan-
tage thereby effected only served to whet his desire after a
more tangible attainment in the direction of economy.


At various times George visited Wylam for the purpose
of inquiring as to the locomotive experiments there carried
on, and the prospects of success that might be entertained
by his friend Jonathan Foster. When the engines were
placed upon the tram-road, and while at work, he inspected
them minutely: noting their excellencies and defects, and
determining the points in their gearing that admitted of im-
provement. He also examined the Blenkinsop engine on
the day of its being started at Coxlodge; and expressed an
opinion adverse to its utility, which was shortly afterwards
verified by the explosion of the boiler. The partial success
attained by Hedley at Wylam, however, caused Stephenson
to apply himself with ardour to the subject of locomotive
improvement; and he speedily brought the matter under
the notice of the Killingworth owners. From the improve-
ments in the fixed-engines which he had already been able
to effect, a favourable impression regarding their engineer's
ability had been formed by Lord Ravensworth and the
other lessees; and his lordship, after hearing a statement
from Stephenson as to the likelihood of the proposed
"travelling engine proving a saving, authorised him to pro-
ceed with its construction without delay. Thus empowered,
George commenced his task; and, working with such tools
and assistance as he could command, the first Killingworth
locomotive was completed in about ten months, and placed
upon the waggon-way.
Stephenson's first locomotive was popularly known as
"Blutcher;" and although it was exceedingly uncouth and
cumbrous in appearance, as well as unsteady in its action,
was a decided advancement upon anything of the kind
which had previously been luilt. Being without springs, it
jolted and jerked along in a fashion that was not calculated


to give the beholder at first a favourable impression regard-
ing its powers. The steam, after passing through the
cylinders, escaped with a horrible noise, which caused the
colliery-owners to be threatened with law proceedings for
the terror produced by the awful machine upon cattle and
horses. Besides, the economical side of the question had to
be studied, and this gave only a slight advantage to the
engine when compared with the horse-power which it was
intended to supplant. For a time, therefore, it almost
seemed as if the fate of the locomotive hung in the
balance; for the interest in its success was not confined
to Killingworth, and a widespread feeling of repugnance
to the innovation had been generated in various parts of
the country. But Stephenson was equal to the emergency.
He so altered the engine that the noise created by the
emission of its steam was considerably lessened; while the
means which he adopted to that end increased the combustion
in the furnace, and more than doubled the effective power
of the machine. The adoption by the ingenious constructor
of the Killingworth locomotive of what is known as the
steam-blast in all probability saved his engine from condign
destruction, and furthered the extension of locomotive haul-
age generally, not only upon private coal-carrying lines, buL
eventually to the public railways of the kingdom.



OLLIERY explosions, the harbingers of destruction
to mining property, and bereavement to mining
households, were familiar to the owners and workers
at Killingworth. Shortly after Stephenson's removal to
West Moor an explosion of fire-damp occasioned the loss
of ten lives, while he was engaged in his duties as brakes-
man at the top of the shaft; and the calamity produced in
him a painful impression, which was revived in the year
1809, when a similar catastrophe at the same pit deprived
twelve persons of their existence. Other disasters of a like
nature had also occurred at neighboring collieries, and
with even more fatal results; which circumstances exerted
a powerful influence over the sympathetic nature of George,
and impelled him to strive earnestly to discover a remedy
for an evil which rendered the lives of the pitmen the price
that was but too frequently paid for the acquisition of coal.
It was not, however, until his advancement to the post of
engine-wright that he was able to give practical effect to the
generous resolution which he had formed.


Having personally to superintend the hauling of the coal
over planes underground, he was often brought in contact
with fire-damp. Various methods had been adopted for
neutralising the foul air, caused by the frequent presence of
carburetted hydrogen in certain parts of the Killingworth
mine. Some of the more dangerous galleries had been built
up, in order to shut off the deadly gas from the other work-
ings. Still, the sudden escape of a "blower" might occur
at any moment, even in what were considered the safest
places, and the flames of the lamps or candles being then
unguarded, the miners were continually exposed to the
chance of mutilation or a terrible death. It was to lessen
this danger to miners, and reduce the mortality among them
from this cause, that Stephenson set about the invention of
a lamp that would at once give sufficient light to the men
while at work and prevent the inflammable gas from ignit-
ing at the flame. Mr. Samuel Smiles, in his most inter-
esting Lives of the Engineers, gives an anecdote which was
related to him by an old Killingworth miner, and it is
characteristic of the indomitable courage of the inventor of
the "Geordy Safety Lamp." Mr. Smiles says:-" One
day, in 1814, a workman hurried into Stephenson's cottage
with the startling information that the deepest main of the
colliery was on fire! He immediately hastened to the pit-
head, about a hundred yards off, whither the women and
children of the colliery were running, with wildness and
terror depicted in every face. In a commanding voice
Stephenson ordered the engineman to lower him down the
shaft in the corve. There was peril, it might be death,
before him, but he would go. He was soon at the bottom,
and in the midst of the men, who were paralysed by the
danger which threatened the lives of all in the pit. Leap-


Wi6?iou Cover. WIf^oer


ing from the oorve on its touching the ground, he called out,
' Are there six men among you who have courage to follow
mel If so, come, and we will put the fire. out!' The
Killingworth pitmen had the most perfect confidence in
their engine-wright, and they readily volunteered to follow
him. Silence succeeded the frantic tumult of the previous
minute, and the men set to work with a will In every
mine, bricks; mortar, and tools enough are at hand, and by
Stephenson's direction the materials were forthwith carried
to the required spot, where, in a very short time, a wall
was raised at the entrance to the main; he himself taking
the most active part in the work. The-atmospheric air was
by this means excluded, the fire was extinguished, the people
were saved from death, and the mine was preserved."
SFor some time previous to this incident the miners had
found occasion to expostulate with Stephenson about what
they considered to be his foolhardy experiments with the
fire-damp. It was afterwards not an unusual thing for
the men to discover him in the act of holding a light
dangerously near to a fissure in the coal from which gas
was escaping. As he was but a rude sort of chemist, he
did not scruple to use the natural laboratory which was at
hand, nor to conduct his experiments in a very unscientific
fashion. His patient application to the subject, however,
led him to the conclusion that by constructing a lamp with
a'chimney, through which a current of burnt air would be
continually ascending from the flame, the inflammable gas
would be prevented from igniting at the lamp, and the
colliers might then pursue their labour, even in the most
dangerous parts, without fear of accident. Having satisfied
himself about the theory of his safety-lamp-although strictly
his theory was an incorrect one-he straightway sought


his friend, Mr. Nicholas Wood, the viewer of the colliery,
to whom he gave a description of the invention, which he
desired to see practically tested without delay. Mr. Wood
executed drawings according to the inventor's explanation;
and, armed with these, George made his way to Newcastle,
where he ordered a lamp to be made by a tinsmith after the
detailed design, and with a glass chimney which was to be
furnished by a local glass firm. On the 21st of October
1815, the first Geordy lamp was tested in a part of the
Killingworth mine that was highly explosive.
Accompanied by Nicholas Wood and John Moodie-the
latter a man of great experience in coal-mining and know-
ledge of fire-damp-George descended the shaft with his
lamp, and proceeded to one of the galleries into which the
gas was coming with a hissing noise, from a fissure in the
roof. In order to make the test as searching as possible, a
deal partition was erected for the purpose of intercepting
and collecting the gas, and rendering it more liable to
ignition. That Wood and Moodie considered the danger
was great to which George exposed himself in venturing
into such a neighbourhood with an untried lamp, was shown
by both retiring to a place of safety while the inventor tried
the efficacy of his apparatus alone. Confident in its power
to protect the property of his employers as well as the lives
of his friends and himself, he boldly advanced within the
dangerous precincts, and held his lighted lamp within a few
inches of the fissure, and in the full current of the inflam-
mable gas. The flame was extinguished by the deadly
"blower," but without exploding the foul air which sur-
rounded the lamp. Stephenson, although neither a phil-
osopher nor a chemist, had gained a scientific victory.
Repeated experiments by the inventor, and those who


attended him, demonstrated the security of the flame under
the most unfavourable circumstances; but further improve-
ment in the construction of the lamp being desirable in
order to increase its illuminating power, George, with his
usual energy, applied himself to the full accomplishment of
his purpose. `
In all his researches into the qualities and effects of fire-
damp, he had been unassisted by reference to the opinions
of others on the subject. It should also be borne in mind
that at the time he was prosecuting these investigations, the
claims of the locomotive, then upon its trial, absorbed much
of the attention and leisure at his disposal, after fulfilling
his duties at the various collieries of which he was the
engineer. The success of his invention so far had not been
due either to the scientific accuracy of the theory upon
which it had been planned, or the experiments of others in
the same direction. The end in view, namely the produc-
tion of a safe light-giving agent in the dark recesses of a
collier's daily workshop, had been practically attained by the
untiring industry and courage of the inventor. In seeking
to improve his lamp, Stephenson's self-reliance had to be
again called mainly into requisition, although the confidence
of his friend, Nicholas Wood, had now been secured, and
that gentleman rendered what assistance he could in the
further experiments that were made.
When giving his evidence before the Committee on
Mining Accidents, in the year 1835, George Stephenson
thus referred to the tests which he instituted in order to
perfect the efficiency of his lamp. He said:-" I made
several experiments as to the velocity required in tubes of
different diameters, to prevent explosion from fire-damp.
We made the mixtures in all proportions of light ear-


buretted hydrogen with atmospheric air in the receiver, and
we found by the experiments that when a current of the
most explosive mixture that we could make was forced up
a tube four-tenths of an inch in diameter, the necessary
current was nine inches in a second to prevent its coming
down that tube. These experiments were repeated several
times. We had two or three 'blows up' in making the
experiments, by the flame getting down into the receiver,
though we had a piece of very fine wire-gauze put at the
bottom of the pipe, between the receiver and the pipe
through which we were forcing the current. In one of
these experiments I was watching the flame in the tube, my
son was taking the vibrations of the pendulum of the clock,
and Mr. Wood was attending to give me the column of
water as I called for it, to keep the current up to a certain
point. As I saw the flame descending in the tube I called
for more water, and Wood unfortunately turned the cock
the wrong way; the current ceased, the flame went down
the tube, and all our implements were blown to pieces,
which at the time we were not very able to replace." It
was after repeated tests had been conducted, under simi-
larly discouraging circumstances, that the "Geordy" lamp
attained its great efficiency, and the high estimation in
which it has been held by those for whose personal safety
it was devised by the Killingworth engineer.
While the humble overseer of colliery machinery was
thus endeavouring to improve his invention, one of the
greatest philosophers of the age was employing his vast
knowledge, experience, and resources in designing a similar
contrivance. At the invitation of an influential committee
which had been formed for the purpose of devising the best
means of preventing fire-damp explosions, Sir Humphrey


Davy had determined to solve the problem if possible, and
in connection with his investigations, the distinguished
chemist visited some of the Tyneside collieries on the 24th
of August 1815. Of that visit and its purport Stephenson
had no information at the time; and it was not until the
9th of November following that Sir Humphrey Davy read
his dissertation, "On the Fire-Damp of Coal Mines, and on
Methods of Lighting the Mine so as to Prevent its Explo-
sion," before the Royal Society of London. In the course
of his experiments Davy had made the important discovery
that fire-damp explosion could not pass through tubes of a
certain diameter, and on that theory he invented his lamp
and described it to the members of the Royal Society. But
George Stephenson had proved by a practical test in one of
the most dangerous galleries of the Killingworth pit, and at
the hazard of his life, the same scientific fact, although in
his experiment he had endeavoured to find the source of
safety from explosion in another cause. Thus the two
inventors were distinct but similar, and it was only when
the question of priority was raised that we find any attempt
to detract from the merits of either.
The first Geordy lamp was proved as to its safety, as
we have seen, on the 21st of October 1815. Fourteen days
after-on the 4th of November-Stephenson's second lamp
was similarly tested, and found to be not only as safe as the
first, but also of greater illuminating power. On the 9th of
November the first "Davy" lamp was shown in London.
In point of priority, therefore, history must give the place
of honour to the Geordy," and acquit its ingenious con-
triver from any charge of attempting to appropriate to
jiimself a merit to which he was not honestly entitled;
especially when we are assured that neither on the 20th of


November, when Stephenson went to order his third lamp
from a Newcastle plumber, nor ten days afterwards, when
the new lamp was experimented with in the pit at Killing-
worth, had either the inventor or his friend Mr. Wood
heard of the "Davy" lamp, or of the experiments which
had led to its construction.
Having been urged to bring his invention under the
notice of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Newcastle-
upon-Tyne, Stephenson consented, but with considerable
reluctance, and upon the understanding that Nicholas Wood
was to act in the capacity of spokesman upon the occasion.
Upwards of eighty gentlemen having met on the 5th of
December 1815, for the purpose of seeing the lamp and
hearing it described, Mr. Wood proceeded to carry out the
duty he had undertaken. He had not, however, a sufficient
knowledge of the apparatus to enable him to answer correctly
some of the questions that were put by members of the
Society; and consequently George was compelled to throw
off his natural diffidence and reserve, and take the matter of
expounding the principle and construction of his lamp into
his own hands. Having concluded his description, even to
minute details, he then endeavoured to give ocular demon-
stration of the success which he had achieved, by various
and repeated experiments with carburetted hydrogen gas,
which had been collected into bladders in the mine for that
purpose. His broad Northumbrian dialect, his earnestness
and confidence in his invention, as well as the unassuming
manner of his address, arrested attention and made a favour-
able impression upon his auditory; while the practical
proofs which he gave of the safety of his invention created
an animated interest among many of the gentlemen who
witnessed the experiments.


The rival safety-lamps thus having been placed before the
public, considerable controversy arose as to their respective
merits; while some of the gentlemen who had seen the
" Geordy" exhibited before the Newcastle Society declared
the "Davy," upon its first appearance in the North, to be
the same as Stephenson's. Sir Humphrey's friends, with
more zeal than discretion, sneered at the mean condition of
the Killingworth engineer, and derided his lack of chemical
knowledge and consequent ability to devise such an important
invention. Experience has proved, however, that much
needless anger and vituperation were imported into the dis-
cussion. After the lapse of sixty-five years, we find both
lamps doing effective service in lessening the danger of
explosion to the miner, and both also bearing out the
opinion of disinterested critics regarding them, given when
the controversy was at its height.
In the year 1816 steps were taken to raise a subscrip-
tion for the purpose of presenting a suitable testimonial to
the inventor of the safety-lamp. Finding that Stephenson's
claim to priority in the invention was likely to be ignored,
and his labours unrewarded, his friends determined upon
making an effort to secure for him that consideration to
which he was entitled. It is pleasing to note that through-
out the further proceedings no attempt was made, either by
George or those who acted on his behalf, to detract from the
honour which was due to Sir Humphrey as an inventor of a
safety-lamp. All that was asked for, in Stephenson's
interests, was the admission that his invention had been
produced before Davy's, and that the two designs should be
judged relatively by results. After a number of meetings,
and much discussion on the subject, the sum of two thousand
pounds was presented to Sir Humphrey Davy as the inventor,


while a purse of one hundred guineas was voted to George
Stephenson for what he had accomplished towards the same
end. The result was satisfactory neither to the Killing-
worth engineer nor to those who had espoused his cause;
so, to put the matter fairly before the public, Stephenson
was advised to publish a statement in which his claims
should be justified by the forceful logic of facts.
"With the assistance of his son, George prepared a written
summary of the work in connection with his invention.
That paper was the first he had been called upon to indite
with a view to publication. As might be expected, the
author approached his task with much misgiving; and it
was only finished after several evenings had been occupied
in the composition. Having been completed, corrected
again and again, and copied by Robert in his best hand, the
carefully-prepared document was submitted to Mr. Brandling
of Gosforth, the gentleman who had suggested the desira-
bility of its publication, who revised it so as to make it more
presentable in type; and it appeared shortly afterwards
in the local newspapers. The publication of Stephenson's
narrative, backed as it was by the earnest advocacy of many
friends who were satisfied that he had established the
validity of his claim, had the effect of arousing public
sympathy in his favour, and resulted in the subscription of
one thousand pounds as a reward "for the valuable service
he had thug rendered to mankind." At a public dinner in
the Newcastle Assembly Rooms, George was presented with
a silver tankard and the balance of the handsome sum which
had been collected. The following inscription was engraved
upon the tankard:-" This piece of plate, purchased with a
part of the sum of 1000, a subscription raised for the re-
muneration of Mr. George Stephenson for having discovered


the fact that inflamed fire-damp will not pass through tubes
and apertures of small dimensions, and having been the first
to apply that principle in the construction of a safety-lamp
calculated for the preservation of human life in situations
formerly of the greatest danger, was presented to him at a
general meeting of the subscribers, Charles John Brandling,
Esq., in the chair, 12th January 1818."
Although justice had been thus tardily extended to the
Killingworth inventor, it remained for time, and the test of
a prolonged use of the Geordy" lamp, to establish for it a
superiority greater by far than anything involved in the
mere fact of its priority of production. Nor in expressing
an opinion favourable to Stephenson rather than to Sir
Humphrey, when the merits of their respective inventions
come to be weighed in regard to the maximum of safety
afforded by each, must we be considered as seeking to under-
value Davy's invention in order thereby to place an
additional laurel in Stephenson's wreath. The circum-
stance under which the great philosopher undertook his task,
and the generous relinquishment of any pecuniary interest
in it after it had been completed, redound to the honour
of his memory. He had been invited, by those who had
great interests at stake in mining operations, to devise a
safeguard against the destruction of property as well as the
sacrifice of life; and his invention, as a saviour of capital,
had a monetary value as well as a life-saving excellence.
But, for the sake of humanity, he repudiated for himself all
personal advantage, and thereby enhanced, if that were
possible, the worth of his invention.
Lord Brougham, in his Lives of Philosophers, thus alludes
to the safety-lamp which had been given to the country by
his friend Sir Humphrey Davy:-


The dreadful ravages made on human life by fire-damp explosions-
that is, the burning of hydrogen gas in mines-had often attracted the
notice of both the mine-owner and the philanthropist. Various inven-
tions had been fallen upon to give light in those recesses of the earth,
with so low a degree of heat as should be insufficient to explode the
gas. One of them was a series of flints playing by machinery against
each other, so as to give a dim light; but this had very little success:
it was clumsy, and it was not effectual so as to cause its use by miners.
The ventilation of the galleries by furnaces, and even by air-pumps,
was chiefly relied on as a preventive; but the gas would still collect
in spite of all preventive, and the destruction of a hundred or more
lives was not an unusual calamity. Davy, about the year 1815, turned
his attention to the subject, and after fully ascertaining that carburetted
hydrogen is the cause of the fire-damp, and finding in what propor-
tions it must be mixed with air in order to explode (between six and
fourteen times its bulk), he was surprised to observe, in the course of
his experiments made for the purpose of ascertaining how the inflam-
mation takes place, that the flames will not pass through tubes of a
certain length or smallness of bore. He then found that if the length
be diminished, and the bore also reduced, the flames will not pass; and
he further found that by multiplying the number of the tubes, their
length may safely be diminished to hardly anything, provided their
bore be proportionably lessened. Hence it appeared that gauze of
wire, whose meshes was only one-twenty-second of an inch diameter,
stopped the flame and prevented the explosion. The candle or lamp
being wrapped in such gauze, and all access to the external air prevented
except through the meshes, it is found that the lamp may be safely in-
troduced into a gallery filled with fire-damp; a feeble blue flame will
take place inside the gauze, but no explosion, even if the wire be
heated nearly red. The theory is, but it seems very questionable, that
the conducting power of the wire carrying off the heat prevents a
sufficient quantity reaching the explosive compound. Subsequent
inquiries seem to prove that although in a still atmosphere of explosive
gas the lamp is a perfect protection, yet it does not prevent a current of
gas from penetrating to the flame and exploding. It is attempted to
guard against this by interposing a tin shield or screen; but a current
very often in mining operations arises before any notice can be given.
Had Davy's life and health been prolonged, he might have further im-


proved his invention so as to meet this objection.. He certainly never
was fully convinced of its force, as I know from having discussed the
subject with him ; and no doubt the testimony of so great an engineer
as the late Mr. Buddle, given before a Parliamentary Committee to
whom the examination of this important subject was referred, deserves
great attention. He positively affirmed that 'having seen 1000, and
sometimes 1500 safety-lamps in daily use, and in all possible varieties
of explosive mixtures, he had never known one solitary instance of an
explosion.' As for the lamentable accidents which continue to happen,
we can scarcely doubt that they originate in the dreadful carelessness
of their own and of other men's lives, which seems to be engendered in
those who are habitually exposed to great danger. That they them-
selves are the first to suffer for it, can only suppress the outward
expression of the feelings which recklessness like this is fitted to

When the heat of discussion had subsided, and experience
enabled practical men to judge of the two inventions with-
out undue prejudice in favour of either, the Geordy"
lamp was found to be superior to the "Davy," in that it
afforded greater security to the miner while at work in
highly explosive situations. The correctness of that opinion
has frequently been demonstrated; as it is found that
whenever the inflammability of the atmosphere in galleries
is so intense as to render red-hot the wire-gauze of Sir
Humphrey's lamp, the flame of a "Geordy" is at once
extinguished-a fact that renders the latter peculiarly
adapted for use in deep workings and other dangerous
Before leaving the subject of the rival safety-lamps, it may
interest some readers to learn that now-in the year of the
Stephenson centenary-the great value and excellence of
the Killingworth engineer's invention have received further
confirmation, after various experiments. Mr. Robert Reed,
viewer of Felling Colliery, near Newcastle, and of long


practical experience in mining, has for some time given his
attention to the question of the safest and most efficient
lighting of the mine under his charge: one, it may be noted,
which upon at least two occasions prior to the invention of
a safety-lamp gave deadly evidence of its explosive nature.
In the year 1812, from an explosion of fire-damp in the pit,
ninety men and boys were either burnt to death or suffo-
cated; while in the following year twenty-two persons lost
their lives from a similar cause With such a record of
disaster in the history of his mine, Mr. Reed was desirous
of having the safest illuminating agent possible in his
workings; and many investigations and various trials have
proved beyond a doubt the decided superiority of George
Stephenson's safety-lamp, not only over its old rival the
" Davy," but also more modern contrivances. Orders have
therefore been lately given for the manufacture of safety-
lamps for Felling Colliery after the pattern of the "Original



ATISFIED with the alterations which he had effected
in his first travelling engine, but anxious to place the
question of the utility of steam locomotion in the
transport of coal beyond the region of uncertainty, Stephen-
son engaged in further inquiry and trials. To the prosecu-
tion of these he devoted much patient thought and
unflagging industry. He was sensibly aware that his
engine had many defects; not the least of which was its
somewhat complicated gearing. Directing his efforts, there-
fore, to the construction of another which should possess in
its form and cost the desiderata of simplicity and economy,
he so far succeeded as to be able to take out a patent, in
February 1815, for a locomotive which combined these
essentials in a remarkable degree. It contained the germ of
much that has been subsequently produced, and may be
considered as the type upon which has been moulded the
locomotive of the present day.
But Stephenson did not confine his attention alone to the


improvement of the motive-power which he desired to see
adopted. In his experiments he had arrived at the settled
conviction that a superior form of travelling engine
demanded a better road upon which to run than any that
had been hitherto laid down. In the laying of rails little
care had been taken to remove inequalities in the roadway.
The levelling had been very imperfect at the outset, and the
lack of systematic repairs allowed the rails to become so
depressed at intervals as to cause not only great loss of
power in the engine, but considerable detriment also to the
machinery, through the continued jolting which it sustained
in the course of the journeys. To alter this state of matters
he applied himself with energy, and the result of his thought
and labour appeared in an improved rail and chair for the
road, and in malleable iron wheels and a steam substitute
for springs in the locomotive. These various improvements
were specified in a patent granted in September 1816,
jointly to William Losh, ironfounder, of the Walker Iron
Works, Newcastle, and George Stephenson-Mr. Losh fur-
nishing the capital.
With an improved locomotive and railway, Stephenson
was now enabled to conduct the coal traffic from his colliery
with increased regularity, while the advantage of greater
economy in working was found to be on the side of the
engine when compared with the horse-haulage. He had
therefore arrived at a point in his labours from which he
might prosecute further researches into the region of possi-
bility without being harassed as formerly with the thought
that his efforts were unproductive of practical benefit to his
employers. In October 1818, with Mr. Nicholas Wood, he
instituted experiments with a dynamometer, constructed by
himself, for the purpose of determining with accuracy the


resistance offered to carriages while travelling on the rail-
way. These observations were the first of their kind, and
confirmed the deductions of Vince and others as to the
theory that friction is a constant quantity at all velocities-
a theory that was then scouted by many engineers. Thus
was he being gradually trained and fitted for the great work
that lay before him as the pioneer of the railway system.
Five years had elapsed from the completion of the first
Killingworth locomotive before any attempt was made to
extend the principle to the working of the coal traffic in
other places. Stephenson himself had great confidence in
his hypothesis that the union of the travelling engine and
the railway was destined to effect stupendous results; but
his locomotives continued to do their accustomed work with-
out exciting more than a passing interest in casual observers
of their immense power and ungainly appearance. 'The
general public took no interest in an uninviting subject such
as the conveyance of coal, and if other coalowners did really
from time to time scrutinize the improved motive-power on
the Killingworth Railway, they took care to keep the result
of their inspection to themselves. So disheartened did
George become at length with the apathy of his countrymen
regarding the subject which mainly engrossed his thoughts,
that he once more reverted to his old idea of crossing the
Atlantic and pushing his fortune under less depressing and
discouraging conditions.
In the year 1819, Stephenson begah to reap the first-
fruits of his patience, energy, and toil. His locomotives
having effected a decrease in the cost as well as an increase
in the speed of the traffic over the Killingworth line, an
important Durham Company decided upon altering their
waggon-way so as to allow the adoption of locomotive power


in the transit of coal from Hetton Pit to the River Wear at
Sunderland. Stephenson was asked to devise and superin-
tend the alterations, and the manner in which he brought
these to a successful termination, as well as the careful
economy which guided him in his work, showed that while
he was competent to deal with engineering questions in a
firm and accurate manner, he was too wise to risk the pros-
perity of the undertaking in order that he might achieve a
showy but questionable result. The length of the Hetton
line was about eight miles, crossing in its course the hill
called Warden Law. In forming it, Stephenson endea-
voured as much as possible to adapt the working of the
railway to the natural condition of the ground over which
it passed. Consequently, he utilised five of the heavy
gradients as self-acting inclines, and the remaining two
were worked by fixed engines. Other portions of the line
being suitable for locomotive power, travelling engines
conveyed the waggons to and from each incline. On the
18th November 1822 the new Hetton Railway was opened
for traffic; five locomotives constructed under Stephenson's
direction being upon the line under the charge of his brother
Robert. With a train of seventeen waggons, weighing
about sixty-four tons, each engine travelled at a speed of
about four miles an hour. A large number of spectators
assembled to witness the inauguration of George's first im-
portant work in railway engineering, the complete success
of which gratified the proprietors of the line, and gave
increased confidence to the engineer to engage in a larger
and more important undertaking.
Edward Pease, the projector of the first public railway,
had many difficulties to surmount ere the formation of the
Stockton and Darlington Railway Company became an


accomplished fact. Although the scheme was one of public
utility rather than of private advantage, those who were
most likely to be benefited by its completion either with-
held support or offered opposition. Among the inhabitants
of South Durham generally the proposed line was declared
to be a preposterous idea, which, if carried out, could only
end in disaster to its unfortunate shareholders. But Mr.
Pease held firmly to his purpose, and by the aid of relatives
and personal friends the required capital was subscribed.
It is said that the shares allotted in the town of Stockton
did not amount to twenty.
In the year 1818, the first application was made to Parlia-
ment for an Act authorising the construction of the
contemplated line, but the Bill was successfully opposed by
the Duke of Cleveland. Another survey having been made
by which the fox-covers of his Grace were not invaded, the
promoters were more fortunate in their second application
for Parliamentary powers, and the first Stockton and Dar-
lington Railway Act received the Royal Assent on the 19th
April 1821. By the Act, authority was given "for making
and maintaining a railway or tramroad from the river Tees,
at Stockton, to Witton Park Colliery, with several branches
therefrom, all in the county of Durham ;" but no power had
been asked for working the proposed railway by locomotives,
and it was not until the year 1823 that the omission was
rectified by a clause in a supplementary Act passed on the
23rd of May. In that second statute, the company was
empowered to "make, erect, and set-up one permanent or
fixed steam-engine, or other proper machine, in such con-
venient situation as might be selected; also to use
locomotives or movable engines for the purpose of facili-
tating the transport, conveyance, and carriage of goods,


merchandise, and other articles and things, upon and along
the same roads, and for the conveyance of passengers upon
and along the same roads." The use of locomotives on the
first public railway was urgently recommended by the
engineer, George Stephenson, and the necessary power to
employ such haulage was obtained on his advice.
The construction of the Hetton Railway, there can be
little doubt, was the means of bringing the capabilities of
the engineer before the Darlington projector in a prominent
manner. The first interview between Edward Pease and
George Stephenson took place ten days after the passing of
the Stockton and Darlington Act of 1821, and was referred
to by Mr. Nicholas Wood, who was also present upon the
occasion, in an address given by him many years after. Mr.
Wood said:-" The fact is, we rode on horseback from
Killingworth to Newcastle, a distance of five miles, travelled
from thence by coach, thirty-two miles, to Stockton, then
walked along the proposed line of railway, twelve miles,
from Stockton to Darlington. We had then the interview
with Mr. Pease, by appointment, and afterwards walked
eighteen long miles to Durham, within three miles of which
I broke down . but was obliged to proceed, the beds
being all engaged at the 'Travellers' Rest.' This interview
with Mr. Pease, which was on the 19th of April 1821, had
the effect of Stephenson being ultimately appointed engineer
to the Stockton and Darlington Railway."
At various times prior to 1818, ineffectual attempts had
been made to develop the mineral resources of South
Durham by means of a canal; and in that year the scheme
was revived, in opposition to the railway project of Edward
Pease. On economical grounds the railway was found to
offer greater advantages, and that gentleman therefore gave


all the weight of his great influence and advocacy in favour
of the iron and against the water highway. The latter pro-
posal being abandoned by its supporters, Mr. Pease and his
friends were left to carry out the construction of the rail-
way, while their opponents looked on their efforts with
chilling apathy or heated disapproval
The first survey of the projected line was conducted by
Mr. George Overton, an engineer and contractor of South
Wales, who felt considerably irritated at the rejection of the
Bill of 1818, and at the fact of his recommendations having
been set aside by Mr. Pease and the committee appointed to
carry the scheme to completion. But the projectors fore-
saw the difficulties and expense that would be encountered
if they persisted in prosecuting a route which brought them
into antagonism with such a powerful landowner as the
Duke of Cleveland, and they wisely determined to have a
second survey taken with a deviation from the line of the
first, which they considered was calculated to allay the
irascibility of the noble fox-preserver. Mr. Overton accor-
dinglymade another survey, and by dint of most strenuous
exertions, for the purpose of enlisting the support of mem-
bers of Parliament and removing the objections of peers of
the realm in regard to the project, the second Bill was
carried, as we have stated, and the committee proceeded
to the practical portion of their labours.
Immediately after the visit to Mr. Pease of Stephenson
and his friend Nicholas Wood, the directors of the railway
took into consideration the appointment of an engineer for
the line. Satisfied of the sterling character of the north-
country candidate for the appointment, the directors em-
powered Edward Pease to write to George asking him for
information as to his terms for re-surveying the route as


laid out by George Overton, with a view to ascertaining
whether the construction of such a line would be practicable;
and, generally, to determine the possibility of effecting
greater economy and utility in the construction and working
of the railway than would be attained by a strict adherence
to Overton's survey. The letter written to Stephenson by
Mr. Pease was a model communication, exhibiting careful
forethought and business capacity in the writer, and a true
estimate of the capability and trustiness of him to whom it
was addressed. The reply of the engineer was as follows:-
Sin,-After carefully examining your favour, I find it impossible to
form an accurate idea of what such a survey would cost, as not only
the old line must be gone over, but all the other deviating parts, which
will be equal to a double survey, and, indeed, it must be done in a very
different manner from your former one, so as to enable me to make a
correct measurement of all the cuts and batteries on the whole line. It
would, I think, occupy me at least five weeks. My charge shall include
all necessary assistance for the accomplishment of the survey, estimates
of the expense of cuts and batteries on the different projected lines,
together with all remarks, reports, &c., of the same. Also the com-
parative cost of malleable iron and cast iron rails, winning and preparing
the blocks of stone, and all materials wanted to complete the line. I
could not do this for less than 6140, allowing me to be moderately paid.
I assure you, in completing the undertaking, I will act with that
economy which would influence me if the whole of this work was my

Arrangements having been concluded, Stephenson began
his survey in the autumn of 1821, and the work was com-
pleted with so much satisfaction and credit to the directors
and himself, that he was appointed engineer to the com-
pany, at a salary of 660 per annum, inclusive of the cost


of assistance and personal expenses. In the labour of
laying out the railway he was aided by his son Robert, and
a young man named John Dixon who eventually attained
the position of consulting engineer to the directors. As
chairman of the company, Mr. Thomas Meynell of Yarm
laid the first rail, and the ceremony was made the occasion
of public rejoicing. This preliminary observance took place
on the 23rd May 1822, in the vicinity of St. John's Well,
The formation of the line having been fairly started,
Stephenson next proceeded, but with cautious circumspec-
tion, to advocate the use of locomotives where practicable;
one portion of the railway going over a hilly tract of
country which involved the construction of a heavy incline,
for the working of which travelling engines would have
been unsuitable. In making his first estimate he refrained
from setting down any sum for locomotive charges, seeing
that up to that time the directors had contemplated the
employment of horse-power only for the more even parts of
the road. He now began to see, however, that the adoption
of locomotive haulage depended upon his being able to
satisfy the directors that such a motive power was not only
more economical, but at the same time that it would con-
duce to greater regularity in the working of the line. For
the purpose of having the question decided, Stephenson
waited upon Mr. Edward Pease, whom he invited to
Killingworth, in order that the locomotives might be there
seen at work, and that Mr. Pease might inform himself as
to the cost of such haulage from the colliery accounts.
Benjamin Thompson, of Eighton Banks, having procured a
patent for a fixed engine, and urged its employment on the
Stockton and Darlington line, Mr. Pease was naturally


uncertain as to which description of engine should be
secured. However, having great confidence in the value
of his own engineer's opinion, and for the purpose of testing
the powers of the Killingworth engines, he agreed to visit
the Northumberland Colliery before definitely advising his
brother directors in the matter.
On the day of his arrival at Killingworth, Mr. Pease found
that George was engaged in one of his acts of duty down
the pit, but being called therefrom, the engineer was quickly
employed in giving his visitor a practical illustration of the
wonderful capabilities of the locomotive. Thenceforward
the railway projector associated the question of the perfect
success of his scheme with the union of the travelling engine
and the rail. The result of the visit to Killingworth led
the directors to decide that locomotives should be employed
on the Stockton and Darlington Railway.
The upright character of George Stephenson was exhi-
bited when the question arose as to the kind of rails which
should be laid upon the road. As already stated, he was
interested jointly with Mr. Losh, of Walker, in a rail which
had been patented; and its adoption would have conferred
upon himself considerable pecuniary benefit. He preferred,
however, to act conscientiously in the matter, and when
asked for his opinion, strongly advised the use of malleable
rails in preference to cast-iron ones, in the manufacture and
sale of which he had a personal interest. The directors
gave orders for the laying of the former, as an experiment,
only on a portion of the line.
Before the projection of the Stockton and Darlington
Railway, considerable difficulty had been experienced in the
building of locomotives, on account of the want of skilled
mechanics for the work. The whole of Stephenson's engines


for the Killingworth and Hetton lines had been made by
colliery operatives, and it was felt that before much improve-
ment could be effected in the form or action of the loco-
motive, workmen would be required who were specially
qualified for such labour by having undergone a training in
engine-fitting. Throughout his experiments in connection
with the construction and alteration of his engines, George
had been harassed, and his efforts had been retarded, by
reason of the men who were employed to assist him being
frequently unable to carry out his instructions; and for the
purpose of remedying this hindrance, as well as engaging in
a profitable speculation, he determined to commence busi-
ness as a manufacturer of locomotives. He had intact the
amount of his testimonial for the invention of a safety-
lamp; and with that sum, and 1000 put into the concern
by Edward Pease and his cousin Thomas Richardson-the
latter a gentleman whose influence had been of great value
in projecting the Stockton and Darlington Railway-the
well-known engine works in Forth Street, Newcastle,
were founded, under the firm of Robert Stephenson &
On the 16th September 1824, the first order for loco-
motives was given to the new firm by the directors of the
line; and in obedience to that order, two engines were built
at a charge of 500 each. The first to be employed on a
public railway was named "Locomotion," and it headed the
inaugural procession on the opening day. After serving
well its generation, it now stands upon a pedestal at the
Darlington Station, in North Road, where it was placed in
June 1857. Besides furnishing locomotives for the line,
R. Stephenson & Co. erected at the Brusselton hill-top
two thirty horse-power stationary engines, with combined


axle, for drawing trains up the incline. Two engines of
similar construction, but of half that nominal power, were
erected at Etherley hill-top also by the same firm. The
cost of these four engines was .5465, 10s.; the size of the
working cylinders being thirty inches for the two at
Brusselton, and those at Etherley having cylinders of
twenty-two inches.
"The conveyance of passengers," Mr. Wood remarks,
"did not form a part of the original intentions of the pro-
moters. The conveyance of coals at the cheapest possible
rate was the desideratum, and the principle which Stephen-
son was instructed to proceed upon. High rate of speed
was no element for the consideration of either directors or
engineers. Heavy loads, conveyed at moderate rates of
speed, were alone considered. Hence the locomotive engines
to be used on the Stockton and Darlington Railway were
constructed to travel from four to six miles an hour, with
the heaviest load which the power of the boiler in raising
steam enabled them to accomplish; and hence also we find,
on Messrs. Walker and Rastrick's visit in 1829, .
they place the performance of the engines at 47j tons of
goods, 231 tons weight of carriages, the engine and the
tender weighing 15 tons-making altogether a gross weight
of 86j tons, moved at five miles an hour." The purpose of
the promoters was to encourage the use of the railroad,
on certain conditions, by the owners of waggons anc coaches
plying between the terminal towns. In 1833 the company
became the sole carriers of goods and passengers.
The main line being completed, the directors made
arrangements for the opening thereof for traffic. In an-
nouncing the preliminary ceremony, the following handbill
was issued:-


oierebq v bivie gtottce
THAT the FORMAL OPENING of their RAILWAY will take
place on the 27th instant, as announced in the public Papers.-The
Proprietors will assemble at the Permanent Steam-Engine, situated
below BRUSSELTON TOWER,* about nine miles west of DARLINGTON,
at eight o'clock, and, after examining their extensive inclined Planes
there, will start from the Foot of the BRUSSELTON descending Plane, at
nine o'clock, in the following Order:-
2. The ENGINE'S TENDER, with Water and Coals.
3. Six WAGGONS, laden with Coals, Merchandise, &c.
4. The COMMITTEE, and other PROPRIETORS, in the COACH belong-
ing to the COMPANY.
5. Six WAGGONS, with Seats reserved for STRANGERS.
6. FOURTEEN WAGGONS, for the Conveyance of Workmen and others.
sir The WHOLE of the above to proceed to STOCKTON.
7. Six WAGGONS, laden with Coals, to leave the Procession at the
8. Six WAGGONS, drawn by Horses, for Workmen and others.
9. Ditto. Ditto.
10. Ditto. Ditto.
11. Ditto. Ditto;
The COMPANY'S WORKMEN to leave the Procession at DARLINOTON, and DINE
at that Place at ONE o'clock; excepting those to whom Tickets are specially
given for YARM, and for whom Conveyances will be provided, on their arrival at
TICKETS will be given to the Workmen who are to dine at DARLINGTON,
specifying the Houses of Entertainment.
The PROPRIETORS, and such of the NOBILITY and GENTRY as may honour
them with their company, will DINE precisely at THREE o'clock, at the TOwN
HALI, STOCKTON.-Such of the party as may incline to return to DARLINGTON
that Evening, will find Conveyances in waiting for their Accommodation, to
start from the COMPANY'S WHARF there precisely at SEVEN o'clock.
The COMPANY take this Opportunity of enjoining on all their WORKPEOPLE
that attention to Sobriety and Decorum, which they have hitherto had the
Pleasure of observing.
The COMMITTEE give this PUBLIC NOTICE, that all Persons who shall ride
upon, or by the sides of, the RAILWAY, on Horseback, will incur the Penalties
imposed by the Acts of Parliament passed relative to this RAILWAY.
RAILWAY OFFICE, Sept. 19th, 1825.
Any Individuals desirous of seeing the Train of Waggons descending the
inclined Plane from ETHERLEY, and in Progress to BRUSSELTON, may have an
Opportunity of so doing, by being on the RAILWAY at ST HELEN'S AUCKLAND
not later than Half-past Seven o'clock.


The opening of the first public railway was effected with
every expression of satisfaction and rejoicing on the part of
the promoters and the public in general. The prophets of
evil regarding it were obliged to conceal disappointment at
the success of the scheme, and wait for other opportunities
of exhibiting their rancorous feelings. On the 27th of
September, 1825, the committee met, in terms of the
programme, at the bottom of Brusselton incline, after
inspecting the Etherley fixed engine. The train, loaded
with coals and goods, was then drawn up the eastern ridge,
a distance of one thousand nine hundred and sixty yards, by
the Brusselton engine, in seven and a half minutes; when it
was lowered on the incline at the east side of the hill, a
further distance of eight hundred and eighty yards, in five
minutes. At the foot of the plane, "Locomotion" stood
ready to be attached to the carriages, amid the wonderment,
fear, and admiration of the assembled spectators. As well
to give effect to the procession as for the purpose of guarding
against accident, men were employed to ride in front of the
engine and herald its approach, by the exercise of their voices
and the waving of flags.
The first public railway train consisted of thirty-eight
carriages, and its engine was driven by George Stephenson,
who was both the designer and builder. It had been
intended to limit the number of passengers to three hundred,
but the great pressure of the crowd upset the arrangements
in that particular, and by the time the train reached Stockton,
not less than six hundred persons occupied seats or hung on
the vehicles in one position or another. The distance of
twelve miles, with the various stoppages upon the road, was
accomplished in three hours and seven minutes. All along
the route sightseers were crowded on every bit of vantage


ground, and when the procession neared Stockton it was
followed by a large number of persons on foot, in vehicles,
and on horseback. It has been said that the passengers
by the engine had the pleasure of observing the difference
between the engine, with her six hundred passengers and
load (of eighty tons), and the coach, with four horses and
only sixteen passengers." At the close of the day the good
performance of Locomotion formed the subject of general
conversation as well as after-dinner speeches.
The Stockton and Darlington Railway having been con-
structed for the purpose of developing the coal trade of
South Durham, and bringing the supply from the pits of the
district into the export market, it was satisfactory to the
directors that one of the first contracts made by them for
the transport of coal along the line was that for the carriage
of one hundred thousand tons annually for five years by one
London firm alone. That traffic of itself insured to the
shareholders a dividend of four per cent. on the cost of
construction, while another immediate effect of the opening
of the railway was the reduction of the former price of coal
to the extent of one-third in favour of the general public of
the neighbourhood.
In the month of October, 1825, the first railway passenger
coach commenced running; horse-power being employed,
and the directors advancing the sum of 25 to one Thomas
Close, upon his giving security for the purchase of a horse
and harness for the purpose. The directors do not appear
to have attached much importance at first to the passenger
traffic as a source of revenue; and this branch of convey-
ance drifted into the hands of private proprietors, who
worked it on terms of lease. The first coach was built at
Newcastle, by Stephenson, after his own design, and at the


cost of the company. It resembled a showman's caravan,
and it formed part of the procession at the opening of the
line. The seats were placed along the sides of the interior,
and a deal table stood in the centre of the vehicle, which
had been named "Experiment" by its designer. It was
the only passenger carriage of the company in the year
1825. In Longstaff's History of Darlington, the sensations
attendant upon an early railway journey between Stockton
and Darlington are thus described:-" The coach had no
springs of any kind, and yet the motion was fully as easy
as in any coach on the road. A very slight jolt is felt,
accompanied with a click or rattle, every time the wheels
pass over the joints of the several rails, and also at the
breaks which occur at the different passing places, and then,
if anything, feels harsher than in a coach. At any bends
of the road, or other places where the view is obstructed,
the coachman blows a horn to give warning of his approach
to any waggons or vehicles that may be coming or going on
the way. Some parts of the way were laid with rails of
cast-iron, joined at every four feet, and in coming upon
these the jerks and jolts were more frequent, more audible,
and more sensible, resembling exactly the clinking of
a mill hopper."
The first lessee for the conveyance of passengers was a
Darlington contractor, named Pickersgill, and the success
of his venture soon led others to apply to the directors for
"running powers," until, in the years 1831-32, we find
seven different coaches, belonging to various proprietors,
performing journeys at stated times, regulated by special
orders from the directors. The subjoined handbill, one of
the earliest relating to railway passenger traffic, is now
of historical interest:-



Which commenced Travelling on MONDAY, the 10th of OoTOBER 1825,
will continue to run from Darlington to Stockton, and from Stockton to
Darlington, every Day [Sundays excepted], setting off from the DEPOT
at each place at the times specified as under, (v.):-

From Stockton at half-past 7 in the Morning, and will reach Darlington
about half-past 9 ; the Coach will set off from the latter place on its
return at 3 in the Afternoon, and reach Stockton about 5.

From Stockton at 3 in the Afternoon, and will reach Darlington
about 5.
On the following Days, viz.:-
From Darlington at half-past 7 in the Morning, and will reach Stockton
about half-past 9 ; the Coach will set off from the latter place on its
return at 3 in the Afternoon, and reach Darlington about 5.

From Darlington at 1 in the Afternoon, and will reach Stockton
about 3.
Passengers to pay Is. each, and will be allowed a Package of not
exceeding 14 lb., all above that weight to pay at the rate of 2d. per
Stone extra. Carriage of small Parcels 3d. each. The Company will
not be accountable for Parcels of above 5 Value, unless paid for as such.
Mr. RICHARD PICKERSOILL at his Office in Commercial Street,
Darlington; and Mr. TULLY at Stockton, will for the present receive
any Parcels and Book Passengers.


The slow rate of speed of the early railway trains enabled
persons whose greed was stronger than their morality some-
times to indulge in cheap if not costless rides. This was
accomplished by jumping on the waggons when in motion,
and leaping off the same before one or another of the
stations had been reached. So frequent did these fraudulent
acts become that notice was given, by placards posted along
the line, that lawful penalties would be stringently enforced
against offenders. It was surmised, possibly without any
substantial foundation for the thought, that the engine-
drivers of the coal and goods trains profited by a practice
that was prejudical to the interests of the various coach
proprietors, whose number had increased to seven in the
year 1832. Each proprietor paid the duty then demanded
by the State for the carriage of passengers, besides being
required to have the ordinary license as a hackney coach-
man. A single horse was attached to each coach; the fares
being respectively one penny for an outside passenger, and
threehalfpence for an inside, per mile. These private
owners conducted the passenger traffic until the year 1833,
when the company bought up the rolling stock from the
various parties, and thenceforward had the conveyance of
travellers in its own hands. It is a fact worthy of notice
that passengers were regularly carried by these coaches over
a total length of 300,000 miles, and without injury to life or
limb, during the seven years immediately following the
opening of the first public railway.



EFORE his appointment as engineer to the Stockton
and Darlington Railway, and while so engaged at
the Killingworth and other collieries, Stephenson
watched over the education of his son with the most anxious
care. After attending Mr. Bruce's school in Newcastle for
about four years, during which period he gave promise of
his future distinction in the larger arena of life, Robert left
his schoolmaster in order to be apprenticed to Mr. Wood,
and thus learn the duties of a viewer. He was so employed
for nearly three years, and became acquainted with the various
departments of colliery work. The knowledge gained in this
way was afterwards of great service to his father, as well as
of advantage to himself; and during this time the daily inter-
course between father and son, while it served to quicken the
perceptive powers of the young man, also enabled the parent
to obtain information on many points connected with the
physical and other sciences of which he had previously
known but little. The subject of the locomotive and its


possible future engrossed, in their usual evening discussions,
much of their attention and study. It is not surprising,
therefore, that Robert Stephenson became, if possible, even
more enthusiastic than his father regarding the prospects of
the locomotive and the rail.
Believing that a thorough training in technical science
was necessary to an engineer's success in the higher branches
of his profession, Stephenson determined to take his son
from the duties of an under-viewer, which he then fulfilled,
and send him to the University of Edinburgh. This was
done in October 1822, while the Stockton and Darlington
line was in course of progress. After a stay of six months
in the Scottish metropolis, Robert returned to Killingworth
with a prize for mathematics, which he had gained by his
industry and ability. While serving his apprenticeship, he
had various opportunities of witnessing improvements in
colliery waggon-ways, as these were being carried out under
the direction of his father upon one or another of the
coal-lines of Northumberland or Durham, as well as
during the reconstruction of the Hetton Railway, and the
making of others. It was not, however, until the surveying
of the Stockton and Darlington line that the "slight, spare,
bronzed boy" was called upon to take any active part in
the formation of a railway.
About the year 1821, the rapid expansion of the trade of
South Lancashire caused the creation of further facilities in
the transit of merchandise to be seriously entertained by
commercial men. The cotton mills and their produce had
of late increased so much that the ordinary channels of
conveyance, the waggon and the canal, were found to be
inadequate for meeting the demands made upon them.
Greater speed in the delivery of goods was desired, and the

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