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A History of the Nineteenth Century, Year by Year

The engine with her six hundred passengers and load


[Illustration: SOLFERINO Painted by E. Meissonier From Carbon Print by Braun, Clement & Co., N.Y.]

[Sidenote: The first railway]

At home in England it was a period of unprecedented scientific and industrial development. Following Faraday's recent conversion of the electric current into mechanical motion, Sturgeon invented the prototype of the electro-magnet. The first public railway for steam locomotives was opened between Stockton and Darlington by Edward Peese and George Stephenson--an innovation which caused great excitement throughout England. On the opening day, September 27, an immense concourse of people assembled along the line to see the train go by. Nearly every one prophesied that the "iron horse" would be a failure. The train weighed about ninety English tons, and consisted of six wagons loaded with coal and flour, then a covered coach containing directors and proprietors, with twenty-one coal wagons fitted up for invited passengers, nearly 600 in number. Stephenson's engine, named the "Locomotion," had a ten-foot boiler and weighed not quite 1,500 pounds. As six miles an hour was supposed to be the limit of speed, it was arranged that a man on horseback should ride on the track ahead of the engine carrying a flag. The train was started without difficulty amid cheers. Many tried to keep up with it by running, and some gentlemen on horseback galloped across the fields to accompany the

train. After a few minutes, Stephenson shouted to the horseman with the flag to get out of the way, for he was going to "let her go." Ordering the fireman to "keep her hot, lad," he opened wide the throttle-valve and the speed was quickly raised to twelve miles an hour and then to fifteen.

[Sidenote: Stephenson's practical demonstration]

The runners on foot, the gentlemen on horseback and the horseman with the flag were left far behind. So, with the cross-beams and side-rods trembling from the violent motion, the red-hot chimney ejecting clouds of black smoke, amid the cheers of the delighted spectators and to the astonishment of the passengers--the immortal George Stephenson brought his train safely into Darlington.

As the "Newcastle Courant" (October 1, 1825) put it, "certainly the performance excited the astonishment of all present, and exceeded the most sanguine expectations of every one conversant with the subject. The engine arrived at Stockton in three hours and seven minutes after leaving Darlington, including stops, the distance being nearly twelve miles, which is at the rate of four miles an hour; and upon the level part of the railway, the number of passengers was counted about four hundred and fifty, and several more clung to the carriages on each side. At one time the passengers by the engine had the pleasure of accompanying and cheering their brother passengers by the stage coach, which passed alongside, and of observing the striking contrast exhibited by the power of the engine and of horses; the engine with her six hundred passengers and load, and the coach with four horses and only sixteen passengers."


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