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Railroad tracks


In 1817 Edward Pease, an ingenious Quaker, projected the Stockton & Darlington Railroad in England. It was intended for the economical freighting of coal from the Durham collieries, and was completed at a cost of a hundred and twenty thousand pounds sterling. Attention is directed to this enterprise as the origin of a vast stride in human development. Here, for the first time in history, a locomotive engine successfully ran at high speed!

In the beginning of the enterprise, its originators had no conception of all that was before them. They resolved merely to run a tramway for coal, and were disposed to experiment with the new fangled machine; so George Stephenson was employed to build a locomotive.

Stephenson's machine was the result of the study and experience of years. In it were incorporated the appearance and many of the features of the uncouth road engines; but it was a supreme invention - if I may use the term - in that it obtained propulsion at a fair speed from smooth drivers upon a smooth faced rail. Up to this time, nearly all engineers had declared this an impossibility. Trevithick, to be sure, had tried it, but failed. The real cause of his failure was the fact that his boiler could not generate sufficient steam; but lie ascribed it to his wheels and rails, and made his later experiments along other lines. His fellow inventors followed him, seeking propulsion by means of some form of ponderous gearing - cogged wheels that engaged with a toothed rail, or with metal pegs fixed to the side of the rail.

Stephenson, at one stroke, did away with this fallacy. Moreover, he had perceived in other engines their lack of boiler strength; so he enlarged his boiler, developed Trevithick's idea of the steam blast, and, with this forced draft, produced a machine that worked.

Furthermoore, by adding to its weight, Stephenson demonstrated that adhesion is proportionate to the weight upon the wheel base, a simple fact that no one else seemed to have perceived.

At the opening of the Stockton & Darlington road, in September 1825, Stephenson drove and fired his own locomotive. Hanging to its tail was a coal car provided with seats for a few of the company's officials. As a suitable measure of precaution, a man on horseback rode ahead to warn pedestrians out of the way of the direful machine following at such reckless speed.