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Canadian Rail 356 1981

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Canadian Rail 356 1981

Canadian Rail ~

Published monthly by the Canadian
Railroad Historical Association
P.O. Box 148
St. Constant, Que. Canada JOL lXO
EDITOR: Fred F. Angus
CO-EDITOR: M. Peter Murphy
Germani uk
LAYOUT: Michel Paulet
ROCKET as it appeared at the
Rainhill trials in October 1829. This
painting was used on the
cover of the souvenir booklet at
the time of the Rocket 150
celebrations in 1980.
A medal struck in white metal in
1830 to commemorate the opening
of the Liverpool and Manchester
One side depicts the
Sankey Viaduct, while the other
shows the ~Ioorish Arch at
Edgehill near Liverpool. Interes­
tingly the medal contains three
errors (Sankey Viaduct is shown
with Gothic arches, the trains are
shown running on the right, and
the railway is shown as railroad).
These medals were sold to
interested persons at the opening
ISSN 0008· 4875
60-6100 4th Ave. NE
Calgary, Al berta T2A SZ8
P.O. Box 141, Station A Ottawa, Ontario
K1N 8Vl
P.O. Box 1162
Saint John,
New Brunswi ck E 2L 4G7
P.O. Box 400
Cranbrook, British Columbia
V1C 4H9
P.O. Box 1006, Station A, Vancouver
British Columbia V6C 2Pl
P.O. Box 6102, Station C, Edmonton
Alberta TSB 2NO
300 Cabana Road East, Windsor
Ontario N9G lA2
P.O. Box S849, Terminal A, Toronto
Ontario MSW lP3
P.O. Box S93
St.Catharines, Ontario
L2R 6W8
P.O. Box 99
Ste. Doroth~e, Quebec H7X 2T4
Charles Dickens­
of railways
CHARLES DICKENS (1812 -1870) as he appeared in the 1860s in the
latter part of his career.
Without any doubt, Charles Dickens was the chronicler par
excellence of England and the life of the English people during
the middle years of the nineteenth century. He fathered the white
Christmas and raised to the level of immortality the English
.tagecoach. His Christmas at Dingley Dell, with the huge cod­
fish and half a dozen barrels of oysters being stowed in the coach
boot, hot brandy and water ~r all, Sam Weller jumping up behind,
the Pickwickians pulling their greatcoats around their legs and
their shawls around their noses, ond away they go, permanently
delineated this form of travel to all eternity.
MR. BOB SAIlYER ATOP THE COACII while ~Ir. Pickwick looks up from the
inside of the coach. An illustration from the first edition of The
Pickwick Papers, written by Dickens and printed in 1837.
This was in 1836, and Charles Dickens was barely twenty
four years old. Stage-coaches and coaching inns had been the
hallmarks of the late Georgian world in which he had been brought
up. This was the England of Cobbett, not yet stifled, smothered
and suffocated in what Edmund Wilson has called the industrial­
commercial civilization which is our today.
The Old England which Dickens knew and loved was devotedly
described in Pickwick Papers (1836), Oliver Twist (1838),
Nicholas Nickleby (1839), The Old Curiosity Shop (1841).
However, in Martin Chuzzlewit (1844), the first overtone of
change was perceptable when Mrs. Gamp inveighs against steam
engines as liable to interfere with her profession by potentiat­
ing premature childbirths.
inside. A coach drawn by four horses en route to Cambridge in the 1820s.
Notwithstanding this brief reference, David Copperfield
(1850) records events in an unquestionably stagecoach era, and
there is only one reference to the coming of the railway in
Bleak House (1853), and none at all in Great Expectations (1861).
But by now there should have been. Even as early as 1837 it might
have appeared strange that Mr. Pickwicks visit to Bath could over­
look a young man called Isambard Kingdom BruneI who had already
planned a railway from Bristol to London. But we must not forget
that the action of the story is set in the year 1827 when railways
were just beginning and stagecoaches were all-supreme. By the time
Pickwick was published in 1836 -37 however, the situation had
changed and the handwriting was on the stable wall. Perhaps Dickens
had that in mind when he described so vividly the graveyard of
old outdated mail coaches slowly decaying, and whose only remaining
activity was making ghostly runs by night carrying dead letters
of course. By the 1840 s the sight of scrap yards full of old
stagecoaches must have been as common as those of steam locomotives
more than a century later. The old system had been superceded by
a n~w technol?gy, and Mr. Weller. senior could have contemplated
resting from h1s labours and hang1ng up his whip for good and all
when, in 1841, the last mail coach ran on the Bath road.
~ How a man may iourney
from any notable [Ow nein Encrland
to the Cine of London. t> •
The way from Douer to
lfrolli !Doozr fo ~snto;bcr!? tCj;mfie
jfrom li!:iito~ b,ur!? to~ittillg~d~ne rlfitt.
j)=rlini ~(tttngbo!nc to !tocbd!ei tittj:mtlc
Jrtom ttoc9F!1rr to cDniueCcnbc . b.nitle
Jtroni (i!)raueCchOe to l!>l fo~oe tll.mlle
jfrom,IDatfoJOe to Jl.onOol1 rlJ.mlle
Tile way from Briflowe to
tt0t11 ~~Iaolu to $arficl!l ~.mfie
ftroll1 $6rficlO to Cbipnl1m r,n:lle
frrorn II b/pna III to sjparle!JoJ9ugb Jb.milt
jfro ~arlcbo,:cugb to l(3ungerfo.IO bitj.mii.e
jf.rom If)ungrrro~o to JIlrwuur!? btj,mllz
j1rom j)elubur!.to lteaolng rb.mlle
jfrom l(sOing ~o q3Jlocnbcao r:.mfle
;f,rom ~tlrtlrnbrl!O to 1I!0lb~olle bll.mlle
;;firom ~olb!ollc to llonbon ,tb.mlll
-JThc way from B;uwike to Yorke, and
(0 to London.
ltom l!5arwllle to l!8cifo~be rl;.nltlc , j)rom
lI5tlfo;tiC to .antlllle ):t/.mlle
jTrol1l~l1tut[m,lo ewOiplt rtJ.mtfe
f;lum-tpo~~lt to),ewcalretl ~J.mtle
;J1romJ,lewcaf1ell Co Wurbaht JiJ .mtle
trom EDurbartt to llDarlngtol1 ~O. nitre
ftram Parillgroll to j)}oJt~arcrto ~iiiJ.Ulile
ft~omjflo~t!1i1(ertoll to :lIoplifc lIti.mtl~
jF~omZoplife to ~o.llle rbJ.mile
Sire, !fl0~lIero:1[aO(alfrr bltj.mtle
jirollr ;1[eOcaOer (Ii, m.antb;fOge rtj.mtle.
jfroll1 OO£litbJiOge~()IDallcaltei llitj.mllc.
jf rom wartca!1a to m::lItfd~lJt tlliV.m(!c.
Jrom rruofollieta foetuarlli r.mfle.
f;rnm f;1eloarllc to f,rom jfrolll ~tanro,llleto ~t!!tolf rlf.mlle
jrrom s>Wtonto ~unttngtol1 Ir.l1!1e
j~rom ~ullting to Uo([ton rll.mlle
f,rom itoif1on, to mare rtj.mile
jfrom ;lltare to 4rmaltpsm bl~ .ntil~
jfro, maltpam to lLol1oon ~V.mi(e
a great part in railway history, but this is how they appeared in 1577
in a road guide printed that year in the reign of the first Elizabeth.
The impact of the railway revolution is well shown by the similarity
of travel in Dickens youth to that of the time of Shakespeare! In the
sixteenth century public transport was provided by passenger-carrying
freight wagons, soon to be supplimented by the first stage coaches.
The wagons could cover about two stages per day. so this is one of the
earliest timetables. The miles given are the old English miles of about
6600 feet, so the distances in modern miles are greater than shown.
to York (200 miles) took 6l days; not much faster than walking,
certainly slower than riding horseback. Service was speeded up
considerably in the next 250 years, especially after mail coaches
appeared in 1784. Nevertheless the traveller of 1820 would have felt
morel closely akin to his ancestor of 1577 than to his decendant of 1860.
In 1842 Charles Dickens travelled to North America, and his
American Notes contain numerous reference to rail travel in the
U.S. and even one in Canada, since by this time the railway was
replacing stagecoach and canal traffic in America as well as England.
Near the end of his trip, on May 30 1842, Dickens en route from
Montreal to New York, rode from Laprairie to St. Johns on the
Champlain and St. Lawrence Rail Road which hod then been open less
than six years. It is entirely possible that the motive power that
day may have been Conadas pioneer locomotive Dorchester.
The great Railway Mania in Britain in 1845 -46 and George
Hudsons spectacular failure had impressed themselves on Dickens
consciousness. Full recognition of the railway can be found in
Dombey dnd Son (1848), which date is significant in the light of
the events just mentioned. Of course, this harbinger of a new age
had been anticipated in Turners painting of 1844, Rain, Steam and
Speed, in which the hare, the historic natural symbol of speed,
vainly tried to outdistance the racing train.
RAIN STEMI ANU :;Pttu. This famous painting done by Turner in 1844
shows a Great Western train in a rainstorm. This is one of the first
of the impressionalistic paintings that were to become so much the
style by the turn of the century.
Indeed, Dombey and Son not only marked the emergence of
a new epoch, but also the development of the writer as an artist,
rather than as an entertainer. Hitherto a novelist in the romantic
tradition, Dickens now became increasingly concerned with the social
maladies of the new industrial-commercial society in which he, of
necessity, was forced to participate. As an artist rather than an
entertainer, his many talents now became focussed more and more
sharply, and greater singleness of mind a concentration of purpose
resulted in an enhancement of his artistic vision. The great Georgian
days, when Pickwick and his friends bowled along macadamized roads
in coach and four (or possibly six) retreated farther and farther
into the past, and Gradgrind, Bounderby, Veneering and Podsnap –
personages sometimes unworthy of the dignifying Mr. had usurped
Wellers erstwhile place and the iron horse was snorting and fuming
its way along a road -not a macadam, but of irori -the burgeoning
highway of a frenzied age -with your hammering and roaring and
hissing and lamp-iling, you brute~ -as Mrs. Gamp expostulated,
shaking her umbrella.
It is worthy of note, at this point, that the novelist had
begun to use poetic symbols to express the characterizing theme of
his genius, as related to the boundaries of the art-form of the
A STEPHENSON PASSENGER LOCm10TIVE or: 1831 this was typical of the
earliest successful iron horses that were soon to replace the
real horses for inter-city travel.
s:- _ … …!~ I? /i
..~. ..# ……….. , …. .,._~~,.,~ -~)4 .~_~~ t~_,
,>; –~__~~»f.~.,:.,.~
TilE FIRST RAILWAY 1:-1 LONDON was tilc Lonclon ancl Grcenwich which was
built for much of its length on brick arches. The coach passing
unclerneath will soon be replaced by the steam locomotive passing
overhead. This view was macle in 1836, the year the railway openecl.
novel. Specific among these symbols was the railway, a symbol of
the power, the inflexibility and the ruthlessness of the new and
largely unanticipated era.
Dickens Recherche du Temps Perdu is faithfully recorded:
I left Dullborough (says the Uncommercial Traveller) in
the days when there were no railroads in the land, I left
it in a stagecoach …• I was cavalierly shunted back into
Dullborough the ot~er day by train •••. and the first discovery
I made was that the Station had sw~llowed up the playing field.
It was gone. The two beautiful hawthorn-trees, the hedges,
the turf, and all those buttercups and daisies had given
place to the stoniest of jolting roads; while beyond the
station, an ugly dark monster of a tunnel kept its jaws open,
as if it had swallowed them and were ravenous for more
Dullborough was Rochester, and, lest we should think for a moment
that this cri du coeur is exaggerated, we need only remember
the not wholly dissimilar descriptions of ravage and disorder asso­
ciated with our latter-days super-highways:
0110 OF TilE 110ST FA.~OUS VIEWS BY J. C. BOURNE shows the excavation of
Tring cutting just north of London in 1837 during the building of the
London and Birmingham Railway. The entire cutting was dug by hand,
the earth being hauled out by means of wheelbarrows.
Elsewhere, Dickens describes the actual coming of the railway;
in Lincolnshire (Bleak House, ch. 55) preparations are afoot,
measurements are made, ground is staked out … fragments of embank­
ments are thrown up, and left as precipices with torrents of rusty
carts and barrows tumbling over them; tripods of tall poles appear
on hill-tops where there are rumors of tunnels; everything looks
chaotic -no truer description of railway workings, as drawn by the
contemporary artist J.e. Bourne; indeed, the description is apt for
areas in our own cities where expressways gouge and chop.
HOUSES IIERE KNOCKED DOWN. streets broken through and stopped •…..
buildings that were undermined and shaking propped by great beams of
wood. Such was Dickens description of the London and Birmingham
cutting through Camden Town. and here we see it vividly depicted in
this 1837 view by J.C. Bourne. One can well imagine Bob Cratchits
house being demolished. as well as the complete obliteration of
Staggs Gardens.
TIVO VIEWS AT EUSTON STATION, the terminus of the London and Birmingham
when it opened in 1838. In one view we see a second-class coach and a
train of third-class (with a single first-class at the extreme left).
The other view shows the huge arch built at the entrance to the station,
sort of a monument to the new era. Sadly, the arch was demolished in
1962, but the station, completely rebuilt, is now one of the most
modern on
the British Rail system.
The entry of the London and Birmingham Railway into London in
1837 -38 was reflected in Dombey and Son, and was portrayed in
Bournes drawings. Little Paul Dombey was wet-nursed by the wife of
Toodle, a railway fireman who lived in a ramshackled house in a rickety
row of houses in Staggs Gardens, Camden Town, recently disorganized
by the first shock of a great earthquake •••• with carcasses of
ragged tenements, and fragments of unfinished walls and orches, and
piles of scaffolding, and wildernesses of bricks and giant forms of
cranes, and tripods straddled above nothing. Such is the descrip­
tion of the heroic work, conceived and executed by Robert Stephenson
the son of the builder of the first practical railway locomotive,
which led the new railway through a great cutting from Camden Town
to its magnificent terminus in London, Euston Station.
Several yeors later, a servant is sent to find the old nurse,
as Paul Dombey lies dying. There was no such place as Staggs
Gardens. It had vanished from the earth. Staggs Gardens had
been irrevokably replaced by palaces~ and tiers of warehouses, and
streets swarming with passengers and vehicles of every kind.
There were railway hotels, coffee-houses, lodging-houses,
boarding-houses; railway plans, maps, views, wrappers,
bottles, sandwich-boxes, and time-tables; railway hackney­
coach and cab stands; railway omnibuses, railway streets
and buildings ••• There was even railway time observed in
clocks as if the sun itself had given in ••. Night and day
TilE LOCO~IOTIVE DEPOT AT CfI.IOEN TOWN in 1838 was a busy place as the
engines were prepared to take the trains on the run north to
Birmingham. Today, high speed trains, departing hourly, make the
run in 100 minutes, but the speeds of 1838 must have seemed almost
miraculous to those used to stage coaches.
270 R A I L
the conquering engines rumbled at their distant work, or
advancing smoothly to their journeys end, and gliding like
tame dragons into the alloted corners grooved out to the
inch for their reception, stood bubbling and trembling there,
making the walls quake, as if they were dilating with the
scret knowledge of great powers yet unsuspected in them,
and strong purposes not yet achieved.
These were prophetic words, indeed.
Here emerges Toodle, one of the New Men. A fireman, dressed
in a canvas suit smelling of coal smoke and oil and smeared with
coal-dust and cinders, is really not a bad fellow, certainly warm­
hearted deliberately contrasted with the inhumanity of Dombey, who
evaluates him as a presumptuous raker among coals and ashes merely
because he wore a piece of crepe in morning for little Paul. Toddle
in defence of his position, touches his chest and replies The ashes
sometimes gets in here and makes a man speak gruff, as at the present
time. But it is ashes, sir, not crustiness.
Till. STOKER SHOVELS COAL while the engine driver has his hand on the
regulator, in this night time scene on the footplate of a locomotive
in the Victorian era. Enclosed cabs were unheard of in Britain in
those days.
271 R A I L
Toodle, the fireman, fires the train on which Dombey and Major
Bagstock travel down to Leamington. The description of this journey
is a singular piece of virtuoso writing, attaining in words the same
kaleidoscopic effect of speed that Turner had achieved in paint.
Thomas De Quincy had been able to describe much the same sort of
thing in his account of speeding down with the mail coach carrying
the news of victory in the French wars (The English Mail Coach),
but the ambling speed of 8 or 9 miles per hour could not in any
sense be compared to the 1848 speed of the Great Western Railways
Flying Dutchman, to Didcot at 57 miles per hour average. The result­
ing almost delerious prose of Dickens description is not altogether
3urprising. The author was quite rightly excited Iw the sensation of
this new phenomenon of high-speed travel.
Always the master of the detail, the author compounded and
accumulated it to produce the effect, nay,the sensation of speed.
The train rushes and rocks across the landscape, through the chalk,
through the mould, through the clay, through the rock. Charging
along with a shriek and a roar and a rattle, the description con­
tinues for two pages and more, concentrating sometimes on the pound­
ing rhythm of the wheels in a paragraphed prose-poem. Obviously,
this concentration can and has been criticised (Humphrey House) as
ostentatious and overdone, but to those who are familiar with the
basic theme of the melody, there are subtle variations, fuges and
counterpoint rhythms, reflecting the changes in the lengths of the
rail and the rubatos produced by switches and crossings:
Through the hollow, on the height, by the heath, by
the orchard, by the park, by the garden, over the canal,
across the river, where the sheep are feeding, where the
mill is going, where the barge is floating, where the dead
are lying, where the factory is smoking, where the stream
is running, where the village clusters, where the great
cathedral rises, where the bleak moor lies, and the wild
breeze smooths or ruffles it at its inconstant will; away
with a shriek, and a roar, and a rattle, and no trace to
leave behind but dust and vapour; like as in the track of
the remorseless monster, Death~
Thus is the railway woven into the novel Dombey and Son as
a symbol of the power and ruthlessness of this new form of travel.
Thus is described the impact of the railway upon the Victorian Era.
By 1854, (Hard Times), it had become one with the landscape and
the social scene. Nevertheless, and although it played a less par­
ticular and spectacular part, it was still there, -shadowy, but
in the background.
A town of machinery and tall chimneys .••• and vast piles
of building full of windows, where there was a rattling and
a trembling all day long, and where the piston of the steam
engine worked monotonously up and down, like the head of an
elephant in a state of melancholy madness.
So he described Coketown. The simile of the melancholy mad
elephant seems to be another recurrent symbol of the power and inhuman­
ity of the industrial age. The travellers on the express trains of
the age said that the illuminated buildings looked like fairy palaces.
They were hardly heard over the rumble and rattle of the machinery
in the factories. There were many other journeys by these expresses.
Mr. Bounderbys country house, fifteen miles from Cokestown, could
be reached by o. railway striding on many arches over wild country,
undermined by deserted coal-shafts, and spotted at night by fires
A ~IODERN LOCOMOTIVE OF THE ERA when Dickens was wri ting his
earliest works, this 2-2-2 passenger engine was built by
Stephensons in the later 1830s. This draldng was published
in 1838 and shows a considerable amount of detail.

~ .


1C:=;!E:JIe–=JII· . I
D D 0
~ ….. ~

= r
.= ,
still showing the influence of the older
stagecoach design, although three bodies
are now mounted on one four-wheel frame.
This is the kind of carriage that was re­
placing the stagecoach only one year
after Pickwick first appeared in book
Unfortunately no original railway
carriages of this design have survived.
and black shapes of stationary engines at pits mouths. Bitzer
arrived by train, shrieking and rattling over the long line of
arches, with the intelligence of Mrs. Gradgrinds illness, and
Louisa trundled back to Coketown, to be engulfed in its smoky jaws.
Mrs. Sparsit caught the train, at the crisis of Louisas tradgedy,
and was carried away into the country in an evil attempt to com­
promise Louisa and her supposed lover. As daylight failed, the
tempest broke and Louisa, unrecognized by Mrs. Sparsit, sat with her
in the station waiting room, listening to the thunderstorm and watch­
ing the lightening and its reflections quivering and scintillating
on the shining rails.
INSIDE A THIRD-CLASS CARRIAGE, a good cross section of travellers
is depicted in this painting done in the early days of railroads.
The seizure of the station with a fit of trembling, gradually
deepening to a complaint of the heart, announced the train.
Fire and steam and smoke and a red light; a hiss, a crash,
a bell, and a shriek; Louisa put into one carriage,
Mrs. Sparsit into another; the little station a desert speck
in the thunderstorm~
Such descriptions are a triumph of the impressionist tech­
nique. The whole scene is described with a minimum of words and a maximum
of effect. Short edgy phrases are reminiscent of Hard Times,
which itself is a truly poetic piece of writing, having a close-knit
framework of interwoven plots, a taut style and recurring images.
The railway is one of the most effective.Dickens used this means to
intensify the excitment of the novel, with its accompanying charac­
teristics of speed, remorselessness, swiftness and all of the other
attributes of this form of travel.
The reader cannot fail to be impressed by the novelists
remarkable ability to observe accurately. He was, at one in the
same time, a reporter and a novelist. His writing is truly effective
because he takes the trouble to describe things accurately, and
thereby minimizes the disturbance to the reader which might otherwise
be caused by inaccurate recording. When he wanted to know what driv­
ing an engine was like, he requested an engine pass from the Secretary
of the South Eastern Railway for his young contributor, John Hollings~
In Household Words (1850-59) and All the Year Round (1859-70)
Dickens edited articles about railways, ranging from serious contri­
butions to description~ of journeys, stories and humerous poems. The
railway restaurant, a fair target for humour and satire in our own
time, was a favourite subject for derision:
I cannot dine on stale sponge-cakes that turn to sand
in my mouth. I cannot dine on shining brown patties,
composed of unknown animals within, and offering to my
view the device of an indigestible star-fish in leaden
pie-crust without. I cannot dine on a sandwich that has
long been pining under an exhausted receiver. I cannot
dine on barley-sugar. I cannot dine on toffee.
The aforementioned, in 1860, was a precis of the station
restaurant at Mugby Junction, which was really Rugby, one of the
principle towns on the main railway from London northwards. The place
was minutely and memorably described in The Lazy Tour of Two Idle
Apprentices, Household Words, 3 October, 1857. The railway lines
crossing and recrossing like a congress of iron vipers; sidings and
cattle cars full of frightened, bellowing animals, warehouses where
merchandise seemed to have taken the veil (of the consistency of
tarpaulin) and to have retired from the world without any hope of
getting back to it. An elevated signal box where the signalman
was constantly going through the motions of drawing immense quantities
of beer at a public-house bar, as he raised and lowered the signals,
or moved the switches.
On the stations walls, stark in the chalk-white gas light,
blatant advertisements for tonics, beers, condiments, sauces, bed­
steads, patent safes, umbrellas and seaside resorts importuned the
observer. The activity in the station itself fluctuates between total
unconsciousness or utter imbecility, depending on the single awk-
ward shave of the air by a wooden razor, as Dickens describes the
Simmering, whistling, trembling, rumbling thundering.
Trains on the whole confusion of intersecting rails, cross-
ing one another, bumping one another, hissing one another,
backing to go forward, tearing into distance to come close.
People frantic. Exiles seeking restoration of their native
carriages, and banished to remoter climes ••. Then, in a minute,
the station relapsed into a stupor, as the stoker of the
Cattle Train, the last to depart, went gliding out of it, wip­
ing the long nose of his oil-can with a dirty pocket-hankerchief.
While the railway purist would rebel at many of the descrip­
tions in this particular paragraph, some liberty may be permitted
the novelist and the perhaps accidental transcription of some of the
events can be justified by the success achieved in producing the
desired effect in the reader.
TilE ENTRANCE OF THE BOX TUNNEL on the Great I~cstcrn soon after its
opening in 1841. A signalmans duty at such locations was often
lonely and could be hazardous, especially in bad weather.
Like the refrains in the minor key in the opera overture,
portending disaster and death, so the story of the lonely signalman,
printed in All the Year Round (1866) could be designated as pre­
monitory for the novelist himself. The surroundings for this macabre
masterpiece were a tunnel at a remote place and the signal tower in
the deep cutting leading to it. A red light gleams balefully from
the tunnel, like a malevolent eye, through the drifting steam and
smoke from the passing trains. Twice has the signalman been aroused
by the ringing of his warning telegraph bell, apparently inaudible
to any ears but his own. Twice has a spectral figure appeared at the
tunnel mouth, simultaneously with the imaginary ringing bell. Each
appearance of the spectre precedes a disaster on the railway. The
third visitation of the ghostly figure gives warning of another
disaster, but where? And what is the na~e of the danger? There is
danger impending, some dreadful calamity will happen, but the terrified
signalman cannot determine its location or its nature. In apprehen­
sion, he goes out on his routine task of extinguishing the red tunnel
light just as dawn breaks, and is himself cut down by an engine and
killed at the mouth of the forbidding tunnel.
A year previous, Dickens was travelling on the Folkestone Boat
Express of the South Eastern Railway. Near Staplehurst, this railway
was carried over the little river Beult on a series of cast iron
trough girders resting on brick piers, about 10 feet above the stream.
Work was in process for the replacement of some rails on the bridge
and, to protect the workers and warn the trains, the foreman had been
issued with explosive track torpedos, which were placed on the rails
at some distance from the bridge so that trains could be stopped before
the bridge if this necessity arose. John Benge, the foreman, intended
to complete the changing of the rails between 2.51 and 4.15 p.m., when
no trains were scheduled to pass. Although the warning tarpedos were
available, the foreman and his crew were certain of their ability to
perform the work in the time allowed and therefore did not place these
warning divices on the track when a rail was removed. On the last
afternoon of the three in which the work was to be done, the fatal
oversight took place. There was one train on the timetable which did
not always run to a fixed schedule. This was the Folkestane Boat
Express, which was known by all railway workers as a tidal train,
since its schedule was dependent on the arrival of the Folkestone
packets, which were themselves dependent on the tides for docking.
The train was due at the Staplehurst Bridge at 3.15, and the foreman
planned on its passing at not before 5.20. Disaster in these circum­
stances was inevitable.
The train, composed of a luggage van and six coaches, approached
the bridge at about fifty miles per hour, which was not considered
fast for those days. At that moment, there were still two 21 foot
rails to be replace on the bridge. The watchman, Wilde, waved his red
flat violently and the engineer responded by applying the brakes and
blowing the wistle. But insufficient advance warning had been given
and although the train slowed perceptibly, it was relentlessly carried
to the fatal spot. Charles Dickens was a passenger in the first coach.
Before the frightened gaze of the workers, a scene of awful disaster
Remarkable to relate, the locomotive, its tender and the
baggage cor of the 13-car train succeeded in crossing the rail-less
part of the bridge. However, the following passenger vehicles were
not so fortunate. The strain on the cast-iron beams supporting the
roils was too great and they broke. This precipitated five of the
first six passenger cars with a crash ten feet down off the parapet,
where they lay in a moss of splintered wreckage, one standing on its
end, another lying on its roof. The first passenger carriage
remained half on and half off the bridge, hanging at a perilous angle
and upheld by the coupling of the baggage cor, while the reer cars
stopped in time and stayed on the roils. Ten passengers in the wrecked
coaches were killed, and forty-nine were injured.
In a postscript, added to Our Mutual Friend, the manuscript
of which the author was reading when the tragic occident occured, we
read: On Friday, the ninth of June in the present year,
Mr. and Mrs. Boffin (in their manuscript dress of
receiving Mr. and Mrs. Lammle at breakfast) were on
the South Eastern Railway with me, in a terribly
destructive accident ••• When I hod done what I could
to help others, I climbed back into my carriage _
nearly turned over a viaduct and caught aslant upon
the turn to extricate the worthy couple. They were much
soiled, but otherwise unhurt •• I remember with devout
thank fullness that I can never be much nearer porting
company with my readers forever, than I was then, until
there shall be written against my life the two words
with which I have this day closed this book -The End.
While Dickens sustained no physical injury in the accident,
his terrible experience had a profound psychological effect on his
tender and vulnerable spirit. Shortly thereafter, he wrote:
I am curiously weak, weak as if I were recovering
from a long illness. I begin to feel it more in my
head. I sleep well and eat well; but I write half a
dozen words and turn faint and sick~
TIlE TRAGIC WRECK AT STAPLEHURST on June 9 1865 shown here as the
repair crews were well at work removing tile debris. The car in which
Dickens had been
riding (probably the third from the left) had already
been re-railed, but several totaly destroyed cars still lie in the
river bed. It is said that Dickens never fully recovered from his
experience in this wreck, and he died exactly five years to the day
after it.
Further travel, by railway at least, was for the time being practi­
cally impossible.
A perfect conviction against the senses, that the
carriage is down on one side (and generally that is
the left, and NOT the side on which the carriage in
the accident really went over) comes upon me with
anything like speed, and is inexpressibly distressing.
Even in this overwhelming delusion, the author continued to use his
remarkable analytical powers, the descriptions not being marred by
any hallucination.
On Tuesday, June 13, 1865, he wrote to his friend Mitton:
I dont want to be examined at the inquest and I dont
want to write about it. I could do no good either way,
and I could only seem to speak about myself, which, of
course, I would rather not do. I am keeping very quiet
here. I have a – I dont know what to call it –
constitutional (I suppose) presence of mind and was
not in the least fluttered at the time. I instantly
remembered that I had the manuscript of a number with
me and clambered back into the carriage for it. But
in writing these scanty words of recollection I feel
the shake and am obliged to stop.
Despite the lingering effects of this tragic experience,
Charles Dickens undertook a second trip to America late in 1867.
More than a quarter-century had passed since the visit in 1842, and
this time most of the travel was by rail. However the long journeys
and one-night stands took their toll and on his return to England in
the spring of 1868 Dickens was virtually worn out. In late 1869 he
began work on his final book The Mystery of Edwin Drood which was
still unfinished at his death. It is true to say that Charles Dickens
never recovered completely from the effects of the Staplehurst wreck,
and on June 9 1870, the fifth anniversary of the accident, this
foremost novelist died in his fifty-eighth year. The loss to the
literary world which was sustained thereby cannot be measured. The
personal loss to the individual reader of this great Victorian writer
can only be measured in the sense of regret which is felt when we
accept the fact that there will never be a truly satisfying solution
to the The Mystery of Edwin Drood.
By Fred Angus
In 1980 the l50th anniversary of the opening of the Liv­
erpool and Manchester railway occurred, and appropriate cele­
brations were held in England to mark the occasion. These events,
called ROCKET 150, also commemorated the Rainhill Trials of
1829 which had proved the superiority of steam locomotion, and
which were
won by Stephensons famous locomotive Rocket.
Almost every rail enthusiast has no doubt heard of the
Rocket and of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway. No doubt many
also know that the Rocket, or what remains of it, is carefully pre­
served at the Science Museum at South Kensington in London, but
little is said of the railway itself. ~~at was it like, and does
of it still exist after a century and a half? The answer is
that the L. & ~I., a great feat of engineering for its time, is still
alive and well, and in regular service. This includes most .of the
major structures which date back to the 1820s.
The story of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway has been
told countless times, but the following is a brief summary: A pro­
ject to build a railway to connect the manufacturing city of Man­
chester with the seaport of Liverpool, a distance of just over 30
miles, had started in the early 1820s. This was before the opening
of the Stockton and Darlington Railway in the North of England, and
was in an era when railway technology was in a very early state.
The promotors of the L. & ~I. submitted a bill to Parliament in 1825
but after much debate it was defeated, due mainly to the opposition
of canal proprietors and land owners in the area. However in 1826
another bill was submitted involving a route which bypassed the
lands of the strongest opponants of the railway, and this time the
bill passed. Ironically, the revised route was two miles shorter
than the original one, being almost a straight line, but it did
involve more difficulties in construction such as the crossing of
Chat Moss and the Sankey Valley. Work began in 1826 and was comp­
leted. in 1830, the opening ceremony being on September 15 of that
year. Unfortunately, the festivities were spoiled by the tragic
death of William Huskisson, one of the guests of honour, who was
over by none other engine than the Rocket itself: However, the
railway age had truly begun, and regular passenger service began on
September 17. From then on Liverpudlians and Mancunians could
travel to each others city in two hours instead of almost all day
the old way, and in the years ahead the new means of transportation
spread around the world.
As work on the railway project was nearing completion, in
early 1829, the question arose of what motive power to use. After
considering such means as winches, and even horses, the directors
decided to try the relatively new method of steam locomotives. A
contest was held in October 1829 to determine the best locomotive
design; this was held at Rainhill on the already-completed part
of the railway, and became famous as the Rainhill Trials. The win-
is the famous Skew bridge at Rainhill station. In the old view we
see a train pulled by the 1830 loco;ootive Planet ~hi1e ill the
photo of 1980 can be seen a sign proclaiming this as the site
of the Rainhill Trials of 1829.
photo by Robert V.V. Nicholls.
Liverpool and ~Dnchester line, and it looks almost the same as
it did when built in 1828. The canal is now abandoned, but the
railway still carries much traffic, although the trains look
much different from those of 1830.
New photo by Fred Angus.
ning engine was the Rocket, built by George and Robert Stephenson
at Newcastle, and the eventual outcome was the spread of loco­
motive technology to all places where railways would be built.
Another almost immediate legacy of the L. & M. was the use
of the Stephenson gauge of 4 8}. The L. & M. directors had first
planned on using 5 6 between the rails, but at the urging of
George Stephenson, adopted 4 8} the same as the Stockton and
Darlington. Perhaps a wider gauge would have been better, certainly
I. K. BruneI thought so when he used 7 feet on the Great Western, but
in any case 4 8ftook hold and is the standard in the majority of
countries. Fortunately, the other standard, 4 4 between double­
track lines, was soon widened. This proved to be far too narrow, as
was soon shown by the circumstances of lIuskisson s death.
The career of the Liverpool and Manchester as an independant
company was short, for in 1845 it became amalgamated with the Grand
Junction railway under the name of the latter. This, in 1846, became
part of the London & North Western Railway, and this in turn joined
the London Midland and. Scottish (L.M.S.) in 1923. Finally, in 1948,
the entire system was nationalized as British Railways. Over the
years the former L. & M. has been modernized and improved, but much
of the original still exists •.
Contrary to popular belief, the Liverpool and Manchester was
definitely not a small lightly built primitive railway soon to be
replaced by more modern construction. It was in fact built to the
highest standards using massive structures in great contrast to the
diminutive (by todays standards) rolling stock. This shown by the
total cost of 820,000 pounds sterling (then about $4,000,000) a
sum for a 30-mile railway in 1830. The reason for this is sim­
ple. Since locomotives in those days were not very powerful, they
were not expected to be able to pull trains up steep grades, or
around sharp curves. lIence the track of early railways had to be as
straight and level as possible. This usually meant making cuttings,
embankments, viaducts, and tunnels which were unnecessary in later
years when more efficient locomotives permitted steeper grades to
be built. In fact the 1% grades on the Sutton and Whiston inclined
planes near Rainhill were feared to be beyond the capacity of loco­
motives. Stationary engines were planned to haul trains up these
inclines, but were soon found to be unnecessary as the locomotives
climbed the grades with relative case. The mere fact that the line
is so straight and level makes for efficient operation, and it is
understandable how it has survived when many newer railways have
been abandoned. .
many trains run daily on this right-of-way where
the Rocket once ran. One can still ride across Chat ~Ioss where
Stephenson buil t his floating mattress to cross the swa­
mpy ground. Although since built up by ballast, the roadbed is
still the original, and one can still feel the bounce as a
train goes by. Further west are the great viaducts at Newton and
Sankey. The Sankey
viaduct with its nine huge arches of SO-foot
each, is the most impressive structure on the line, and
dwarfs even the modern diesel trains that cross it. It is diff­
icult to believe that it was built in l828! RainhHl station is
still there and sports a sign showing that this was the site of
the Rainhill Trials. It is here that the Rocket ISO celebrat­
ions were held in 1980. Trains still go up and down the Sutton
appeared in 1830 and in 1978. The area is still desolate although
much of the land has been reclaimed.
which has
been abandoned,
have changed
and a
by Fred Angus.
and Illiiston inclined planes, although now they hardly slow down as
the diesel engines make short work of the 1% grade. The Broad
Green embankment,
in places 45 feet above the surrounding ground,
was built of rock taken from the Olive Mount cutting. It is
almost two miles long, and just as high as in 1830 but does not
look as prominentJas the surrounding area has been greatly built
up in recent years. Close to Liverpool, the Olive ~fount cutting,
70 feet deep and more than a mile long, still slices through
solid rock, but is now much wider than its original 20 feet.
Entrance to Liverpool harbour was originally through a a mile­
long tunnel, worked by stationary engines, and opened in 1829.
The tunnel is still intact but disused since 1965. trains now
enter Lime Street station through a newer cut and tunnel built
originally in 1836. There was also a shorter passenger tunnel to
the first passenger terminal on Crown Street. This was abandoned
in 1836 but is still in good condition, and still has the date
1829 in raised letters in the stonework at its entrance.
The Liverpool and t·lanchester is usually considered to be
the first true railway, in the modern sense, in the world. Its
opening in 1830 is considered the start of the railway era. Today
it is still a main-line link in a vast railway system. and with
further modernization, including possible electrification, it is
very likely to survive to celebrate its bicentennial with, hope­
fully, many of the features of 1830 still in service as George
Stephenson planned them.
GOING UP THE SUTTON INCLI~ED PLANE the train is about to pass under
the New Street bridge, one~f the original L. & M. bridges built in
1829. This is one of the 1% grades which it was feared could not be
by locomotives, until the Rocket proved this fear to be
groundless. The bridge is still in usc, but as it is only 26 feet
wide it has had a rather ugly modern sidewalk attached to one side.
Photo by Fred Angus.
TIlE ACTUAL SITE OF TIlE. 1LJ!I1I1lLL TRIALS. this section of tflU:.k east
of Rainhill station was photographed from the cab of a speedini
diesel rail car in September 1978.
Photo by fred Angus.
BAClt Covmt
OSE Of TilE EARLIEST RAILWAY TIHETAIlLES, this schedule of the
iverpool and Manchester Railway was issued on June I 1832, less
than two years after tho line opened.

By the Liverpool and Manchester Railway.
Jl!NE 1, 1S32.
Fr()m Lit:tlrpool. Prom ,lflJlchutn-.
Sfvtn oClock .•. _.. . ••• I~t Clau Train.
QniHl(fJI~U 7 oCloek •.. 24 C!:au T~iu.
T~n uClodl …•…….•… ht Clas. Train.
Hotlf-pasl Ten oClock …. 2d Cl~u 1/1110.
TIIehe oClock ..•.. , .•.. 2d i:)OIU rrai n.
Two oClock …….•….. J~t (,;lau Train.
Three (ICluck ..•… , .•… 2d CI:t51 Train.
Feur o(loek .. _ •……•… ld Clan Tnill.
Fi~f oClvck …………•• 1st cb.u Traio.
Half_put five (IClock …. ld Clan Traill.
Sccn oClock …•…..•.. ht Clan Tllio.
Quarter·rout Stcn oClock, 2d Clau T/1Ii1l.
F.1,ht oCluck ,_ .••..•••.. 2d Clan Traitl.
Teu oClotk …•. , .•…••• Id Clau
TlIehc oCIrn::t ……. ld CI;,n Tnlo.
Olle oC!ocl;; . ……….. 2d Clan Train.
Two oClnck …•• , , .•….. hi Clan Train.
Throe oClock •. , •.••….. 2d Cln.& Tnio.
FiieuCloclo; ……•…•… hi CI:l~A Tnin.
H.I(·I>ll~1 tiVt oclock ••• 20.1 Clau
lI:. H. This 1I..~t T~itintn Ih~ M311chr!tcr Markel Days, (TlIc$day. and Satllrd~}I.) .. ill
I~ve MallCht~ler al Six ,lnlltall or balf-I.a!t Five.
.seven oclock
Eight oclock
2110 cla.I Train. I Five uc1ock
hI clau Tr-olin. Si.~ oclock
lsi c.lus Tnhl .
2d r.lan Train.
By HI Clau Train, Cn:Jcbes, rour Inside 65. Od.
DillO, Dino, Six In~irle ~.. 011 .
.. 2d Clas~ Train, GIIlB foacl,/!…… ~.. Od.
.. Oil>, 01(11 Ca.niares …. 35. 6d.
Charge for the «IlIvtyanct of Fllllt.ll·htl)ecl rarrlage~. 2(ls. f.acb.
.. Dillo T·o·,heeled ditto Us…
Pcr~ons aud Parcels JHa~ Ioe 1.>()()J,.t:d by lIny oflbe above Trains (or
FARES, rrom Uy(rpool ur h.nfh(~lcr, Fin! claH, 4! j ~ccond cla!5, 35.
TIMES OF DEPARTURE. Ih~rlli~t Snen ocloc~ and ElcH:n odoe!. in Ibt Mro.
H31r,,a~t Two ,,clock lud II Q SUIIJa) thert isollc D~llarlure ollly, lIamrl).t 11:..lf·past ill·t ,,dock ill tilt: AfLanoou.
FARES_lusidt,.55; Ollt~ide,:J5Gd.
ht ! 20.1
rRO!l1 I.J·F:RPOOL. Cl.~5 Cla~5.
$. d. J. d.
W~Ierlrec Ll0e ………. I 6 I 0
Grftn ………… 1 G I 0
Hotly Gltr .•. …….. I 6 I (I
1111)100 Glte…… I () I 0
tlldri(k~ CroSi Galt …. 2 0 I 6
To., or sunOl) Inclint …. i fI 2 0
B1Ill01l1 of DiUo • _ …… 2 G 2 0
Colliln Grten 2 G 2 (I
i~rluct ……………. 3 0 2 G
eolon Bridle ………. 3 D 2 (j
Park Sidt …….. l 0 2 6
K{nyon Junrtion …..•.. a G 2 6
Jlury Lalit &. Rerds Fann 0 2 ()
Patiicrott ……………. 6 3 (I
[ccles……. … !i 0 3 (;
Cross.lallt Bride ……… 6 0 3 (;
l1tOM .:>lANtJl£ST:E;R. (Ius.
$. d.
Cto~~ Lalle ..••…..••.•. I r.
Ettlts ..••………•…. 1 G
Palriuort &. Reed5 Fann .. I 6
Jlnr) V~nt ………….. 2 (I
)CIY<>U .tunclin .••••••• :1 6
In!.. ~ilit ………. 3 0
1I ,iaducl ••…•..•…•• ,. 3 6
Collin~ Greco …..•…. 3 e
Bottom f SUUCOll ludille. 3 6
Top (If Ditto………. …. (I
Ken!lrickA Cros~ Gate….. 0
Hn,lon Woe Gale •. , ….. 6
Rolly LMe Cite……… 6
nroad G rtto……. . .. •. S (I
W,lI·tllrtt l..ant ••….•• ~ 0
s. d.
I 0
, 0
, .
, 0
, ,
, .
, .
, .
, .
, 0
, 0
3 •
3 ,
3 •

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