Early Main Line Railways: papers from the International
Main Line Railways Conference; edited by Peter Cross-Rudkin. xii,308pp,
106 figures (including maps and portraits), 21 tables, hardback, Clare: Six
Martlets Publishing, 4 Market Hill. Reviewed by Kevin Jones.
J. Rly Canal Hist. Soc.,
2016, 38, 592
The Early Railways Conferences changed our perception of how the concept of the railway emerged from something of local significance into something greater; and the Liverpool & Manchester Railway has come to be accepted as the paradigm initial main line. Clearly it is much more difficult to establish a concluding point for this 'early', especially when considered on an international basis: 'early' in the Argentine was remarkably late.
Space limitations preclude a listing of all the authors, but the topics covered demonstrate the extent of coverage. Professor Casson examines railway promotion in Victorian Britain using a counterfactual approach: the discussion generated is surely a significant loss. Bailey's analysis of engineering development and Boyes' examination of progress towards common standards are pivotal papers. Similarly, the emergence of new professions and the adaption of existing ones to meet the new order; the development of drawing offices and steps towards electromagnetic traction all reflect a cultural shift. Contractors' lines also fit within this new techno-economic landscape.
Carr Glyn's approach to monopoly and competition; the construction of the Dublin-Galway main line; early main line railways in Egypt (a tainted gift); railway development in British India (two papers); the British railway monopoly in Colombia; the inter-colonial railway idea in British North Arnerica which led to the trans-continental ine, Herb MacDonald's final contribution to Canadian railway history before his death; the impact of main line railways on the iron and coking industries in northeast England; the Central Argentine Railway; the architecture associated with early British main lines and lengthmen's cottages on the Semmering Railway complete the contents.
Some of the contributions are so excellent that their authors should consider whether they might form the basis for articles in more widely circulated journals, such as BackTrack.
The Early Railways Conference proceedings brought railway history up to the standards set for academic studies for most disciplines. These include clearly observable objectives and identification of original sources: these are clearly maintained in this volume and indicate many possible future avenues for research.
Mark Casson. Railway promotion in Victorian Britain: engineering triumph
or waste of capital? 1-16
This study suggests that the failings of the Railway Mania were political and cultural rather than purely psychological. It was bad decision- making, rather than financial speculation, that was the most serious problem. The Railway Mania represents a turning point in the history of the UK railway system. It provided an opportunity for politicians to authorise the planning of a national railway system, and to harness private enterprise for its construction. But Parliament was too weak to reconcile conflicting local interests, and the opportunity was lost. MPs were simply not up to the job of choosing between alternative schemes, and in particular alternative routes between major towns. The collapse of the Railway Mania caused private misery for many private investors, and financial ruin for some, but the real tragedy lay in the events that led up to the collapse. The failure of Parliament to establish an integrated national system was the permanent and most serious aspect of the legacy. The counterfactual constructed in the study reveals the enormity of the social cost involved. The counterfactual maps are relevant for showing missing links in the existing network and for showing failuures in the Beeching approach and possibly in the development of HS2.
Michael R. Bailey. Technology on the move: engineering development
on early main line railways. 17-29
As civil engineers gained experience building railway routes, they were encouraged by proprietors of new rail projects to pursue more ambitious routes requiring excavation and deposit of increasing volumes of soil and rock. The relationship between locomotive design, train loads and ruling gradients for railway routes had implications for the cost of route construction. Engineers were required not just to build a railway for immediate needs, but to anticipate how locomotive improvements and increasing train loads would be affected by ruling gradients and horizontal curvature. This important topic is however a subject that has yet to be considered by historians, and there has been no discussion on the specification of ruling gradients and line curvature that determined route selection.
Land surveyors sought alignments for new railway routes through a wide variety of different terrain whilst meeting the engineers' specifications. Although surveying was an essential pre-requisite of railway building, only Biddle has considered this work for Britain's railways: he considered the surveying, managing, acquiring and disposing of railway property throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. However, many further opportunities remain for a greater understanding of developing surveying techniques, and the way in which the profession expanded. The growth in new rail routes, particularly in the 1840s, led to a huge increase in demand for surveyors' services, but from what backgrounds did the candidates come and how were they recruited and trained? How did they and the engineers gain sufficient knowledge of different rock and soil types to make judgements regarding alignments and gradients and consequential cost implications? Did the Ordnance Survey mapping of Great Britain assist with the early railway survey work? To what extent were engineers and their surveyors impeded in route selection by disapproving or opportunistic landowners?
Some of the earliest rail routes in Continental Europe were built by experienced British surveyors and engineers. But to what extent was there a dependence upon that expertise and how quickly were continental surveyors able to master the techniques of railway alignments? Did countries, such as France and the states of the German Empire, have maps comparable with the British Ordnance Survey available to them? If not, how much more difficult was their task to achieve optimum alignments? Did continental surveyors meet the same challenges from disapproving or opportunistic landowners as their British counterparts?
Whereas British civil engineers and surveyors undertook the building of many of the earliest rail routes in Canada, railway surveyors and engineers in the United States were usually from a military background? What were the reasons for this was it simply a lack of surveyors in civilian life, or was there state or national governmental encouragement to build railways as soon as possible to open up new routes for land development?
Grahame Boyes. Early progress towards common standards for Britain's railways. 30-47
David Hodgkins. George Carr Glyn, monopoly and competition. 48-61
Ronald Cox and Dermot O'Dwyer. Construction of the Dublin-Galway main line, 1845-1851. 62
Amr El Sayed Nasr El. Din El Sayed and David Gwyn. Early main line railways in Egypt: the tainted gift. 76-88.
Ian I . Kerr. The early main line railway as concept and period, and its utility for the history of railways in 19th century India. 89
Erica Mukherjee. Managing technology transfer: land acquisition for the East Indian Railway, 1850-1854 102
Stephen K Jones and Stuart Cole. Railways, the new professionals
and the 'sinews of war'. 115-29.
The effect of the railways upon existing professionals, such as the legal profession, and the emergence of new professional bodies, notably the Institutions of Civil (in 1818) and Mechanical Engineers (in 1847)
Peter Cross-Rudkin. Contractors' lines a system of tampering and jobbery? 130-47
Ivor Lewis. The development of the drawing dffice within UK main line
railway workshops. 148-63.
At Derby, in 1873 Samuel Johnson replaced Matthew Kirtley and introduced a new logical numbering system for drawings and works orders oeginning in 1874. At Crewe the early days of the works with Trevithick in control Ieft little information of how the office worked but in 1857 Ramsbottom replaced Trevithick to bring more discipline and order to Crewe works. Drawing office management would have been part of this but the author still needs to consider the extant Crewe and Derby registers and other main line companies to decipher any differences in practice. The era from 1860 to 1875 was one of formalising numbering, lot management, works orders and so forth as the railway stock building programs matured.
This study identified the need for further research in a number of areas and in particular:
A study tracing the development of machinery design documents and practices from millwrights (and earlier) to the era of this paper which should also consider variations across the various mechanical arts
A more systematic study for relevant additional material of papers pulished by the engineering institutions, the Newcomen Society and others.
A deeper study of the period between Boulton and Watt and the first railway drawing offices including the influence of the Lunar Society and other networks of engineers in the period.
A wider search for draughtsman's personal notebooks and communication in this early main line railway period and later including variations between each major drawing office.
Extending the period considered up to and through the 20th century and other industries. Railway works drawing offices continued to adapt to the changing railway environments through the late 19th and first half of the 20th centuries encompassing the changes at the 1922-24 grouping and the 1948 nationalisation. Computerisation changed it all significantly from the 1980s but this is a separate subject.
Elizabeth Cavicchi. Dream trains, electromagnetic possibilities and
trial runs: early explorations in electromagnetic traction by rail. 164-87
The Boston philosophical instrument-maker Thomas Hall made a historic addition to his 1851 catalogue: an electric toy train. A stationary battery applied a voltage across two metal tracks. By contacting the tracks, the car's metal wheels completed a circuit through electromagnetic coils that revolved between the poles of a permanent U magnet. The revolving electromagnet drove the train's wheels. Hall's train's mechanism was inspired by American and British electromagnetic innovators whose stories are developed here Davenport, Davidson, Farmer, Davis and Page. Yet in 1851 there was no full-sized electromagnetic train having all these features: electromagnetic drive, conducting tracks and stationary battery. This paper traces the circuitous path of innovations in electromagnetic science, design, and engineering that gave rise to the first often unsuccessful electric locomotives. Steam-powered locomotives arrived on the American scene just as the first investigations of electromagnets were underway. The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (the first US common carrier railroad, relied on horses to pull cargo until Peter Cooper completed his steam locomotive, Tom Thumb, for them. In a legendary race on 28 August 1830 between Tom Thumb and a horse-drawn car, the engine pulled ahead, then lost its steam due to belt failure; the horse won! Fortunes improved for steam; the next year B&O imported John Bull from the UK Stephenson company that made Rocket.
Andrew Primmer. The British railway monopoly in Colombia: capital
costs, financial performance and national political opposition. 188-203
These early railway networks enjoyed strong monopolies as a result of the general lack of alternative means of transportation. The strength of these monopolies generally made the railways operationally profitable, but this alone was not always sufficient to make railway companies self-sustainable. As a result, the involvement of government was often necessary. The political economy of Latin American governments was thus a defining aspect of the success of transportation development on the continent. In areas where political instability, fear of expropriation and economic nationalism were high, the scale of British investment was limited. British investment tended to gravitate to the least peripheral regions of the continent, where political stability and British influence was greatest. British financiers generally valued stability over potential profitability. Stability was thus often a more important factor in determining the availability of capital. Even though in Colombia British railways were very profitable, the hostile political environment and perception of risk limited the scale of investment and size of railway network developed.
Herb MacDonald and Robert Tennant. The inter-colonial railway idea in British North America: 1835-1867. 204-26
Win Stokes. The impact of early mainline railways on the iron and
coking industries in North East England. 227-45.
The growth of the coking industry in south Durham was a direct result of demand for malleable iron rails created by railway construction in the thirty or forty years following the granting of the contract for the rails for the Newcastle & Carlisle to manufacturers in South Wales. During that period both passenger and bulk goods transporting lines were expanding across the region increasing the availability of the necessary raw materials at the same time as creating a demand for rails and rolling stock. The opening up of the Cleveland ore field within railed access of sources of good coking coal moved the major centre of :on manufacture to Teesside. The 1860 map showing north eastern rolling raills and blast furnaces demonstrates both the speed at which the industry had developed since its beginnings in the 1840s and its changing loation. In the short term the rail networks enabled the furnaces at Tow Law and Witton Park to continue to produce iron rails by bringing the Cleveland ore northwards but the switch to more durable steel rails in the 1870s meant that by the end of that decade they had served their purpose. The great period of domestic railway construction was past its peak but the coal field that had been opened up to serve its intense short term demand continued to produce foundry coke and coal-based chemical products for the larger industrial omplexes of Teesside until the mineral resources ran out in the 1960s The development of the Cleveland field and the southward movement of the iron and steel industry rescued the fortunes of the Stockton & Darlington whose various subsidiary lines were consolidated into a much more coherent business enterprise by the amalgamations of 1858 followed five years later by the absorption of the main railway network into the North Eastern Railway Company, The collieries and cokeworks however remained in the hands of Pease & Partners until nationalised in 1947.
Robert F. Hartley. The architrecture of early
main lines in the British Isles (1825-1850): heritage under pressure.
Includes Ireland and Irish heritage organisation. Scotland has 4000 listed railway structures: England a mere 1000. Some very eminent architects worked on railway projects. George Stephenson employed Ignatious Bonomi to design the Skerne Bridge on the Stockton & Darlington Railway. John Foster designed the Moorish arch installed at Edge Hill on the Liverpool & Manchester Railway. Jesse Hartley, the engineer for Liverpool Docks was consulted for the major structures on the Liverpool & Manchester Railway, notably the Sankey Viauct. Francis Giles' viaducts on the Newcastle & Carlisle Railway invite comparison with the great aqurducts of the Roman Empire and that at the Geld Viaduct he erected a stone that would not have been out of place in the Roman world. MacNeill's Egyptian Arch bridge in Newry on the Dublin and Belfast Junction Railway completeed in 1851. MacNeill was also responsible for Carlow station which is illustrated. John and Benjamin Green used laminated timber arches on the Newcastle & North Shields Railway in 1839 (prior to the use of timber in viaducts by Brunel). J.S. Jee's (spelt Gee) involvement in the viaduct at Dinting Vale on the Sheffield, Ashton & Manchester Railway and J.W. Wild's hydraulic tower at Grimsby Docks disguised as a giant Italian campanile are noted and photographed. The Fairbairn tubular bridge across the Trent at Torksey is also illustrated, but the text was pessimistic, but remdial measures were taken and the bridge is now a part of the Sustrans network. Railway towns sometimes led to enhanced domestic architecture: modest houses at Derby are illustratedIn the 1960s and 1970s the main threat came from decline in railway use, now increasing use is leading to modernisation. Electrification is sometimes a threat especially to overbridges, but a photograph of Dutton Viaduct shows that the masts to carry the catenary can be accommodated without much visual loss. There is also a picture of a castle-like structure at Inchicore Worka, but this does not appear to be matched by Internet information. .
Sylvester Damus. The Central Argentine Railway
from inception to maturity. 264-76.
The section from the river port of Rosario to Cordoba, 247 miles, involved a delay of ten years before construction started and then took a further six years to complete. The main causes for delay were wars, both in South America and in the United States. The only bridges of significance were those across the rivers Carcarana and Segundo where the expertise of Edward Woods and Callcott Reilly were employed. On the construction side Brassey provided assistance.
Roland Tusch. Lengthmen's cottages along the Semmering Railway. 277-89.