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The Railways of Scotland
Chapter I - Some fragments of ancient history


THE most obvious and important difference between the railways of Scotland and the railways of England, taking the two systems as a whole, is suggested by the first glance at the map of them as given in Bradshaw. Railways in England are many, in Scotland comparatively few. With three-fifths of the area of the larger country, Scotland has little more than one-fifth of the railway mileage, and even of this scant total of some 3000 miles, not much over one-third is double line, while in England the proportion is the other way. In fact, though the traffic carried over its railways and its total railway capital are almost three times as great, in mere length of miles Scotland is but little ahead of Ireland. A comparison, however, between Scottish and Irish railways would be evidently unprofitable. In one respect only can the latter claim pre-eminence; though they have only a third of the traffic, they employ four times as many boards of directors to look after it.

Another point may be noticed. Even round London itself the net-work of lines is scarcely closer woven than it is round Newcastle, or Leeds, or Manchester, and two or three more provincial towns. In Scotland, with the exception of three or four main routes, running, roughly speaking, north and south, and by no means as crowded as they are important, the whole traffic is concentrated in the belt which stretches across the centre of the country from sea to sea. Take out Ayrshire, Renfrew, Lanark, and Midlothian from the map of Scotland, and you withdraw half the population and three-quarters of the traffic. Prolong the belt north-eastwards through Stirling and Fife to Forfar and Aberdeenshire; and what remains of Scottish traffic—it consists for the most part of fish, flesh, and fowl (or at least grouse), for the good red herring mostly goes by sea—is hardly worth fighting for.

But Scotch railways deprived of the opportunity of fighting would scarcely know themselves again. We talk of fierce competition in England, and compared to the sluggish monopolies of France or Germany competition in England is doubtless keen enough, but even in Lancashire itself there is here and there such a thing as non-competitive traffic. In Scotland there is practically none. Probably the two most important places dependent entirely on a single company are Ayr and Oban, To Ayr the Caledonian already has running powers via Muirkirk, which it can exercise when it pleases, and it is an open secret that it means before long to apply for leave to construct an independent line along the coast from Glasgow; while it is equally certain that, if the North British has not a share in the Oban traffic before many years are out, it will at least not be for want of trying to get it.

It is then in universal and ubiquitous competition that the keynote to the Scottish railway system is, I think, to be found. And fierce as the battle is at this moment, it is likely to wax yet fiercer in the immediate future. The gap that has hitherto parted Linlithgow from Fife is now closed up; after seventy years of projects and projectors the Forth has at length been successfully bridged, and in the coming summer we shall doubtless see a determined effort made by the North British and its allies to dislodge the Caledonian Railway from the pre-eminence it has hitherto held both at Perth and Aberdeen. Nor is this all. The lust of battle, in the language of Horace, crescit indulgens sibi. Scotland, as has been said, is wide, and in most parts railways are few and far between. Last session Parliamentary sanction was given to a scheme, almost as ambitious as that of the Forth Bridge itself. A new West Highland line, guaranteed and worked by the North British, is to be constructed from the Clyde, near Helensburgh, northwards along Loch Lomond, across the desolate moor of Rannoch, to the banks of the Caledonian Canal. For the present its terminus is Fort William ; but it is impossible to think that its promoters will rest satisfied till they obtain extensions both to Inverness and the Ross-shire coast.

On the opposite side of the country the Great North of Scotland is pressing forward Bills for a new line from Elgin to Inverness, and also for a ferry service across the narrow entrance of the Inverness Firth and the Beauly Basin, so as to tap the traffic of Cromartie and Ross-shire, before ever it reaches Inverness at all. And much more important than either of these schemes is the agreement for amalgamation between the Glasgow and South Western and the North British. If the amalgamation be sanctioned by Parliament, we shall see ere long a fight such as this generation has not known. The united Company—operating, it is true, on exterior lines, but with the great forces of the Midland, the Great Northern, and the North-Eastern behind it—will advance simultaneously from the east and the west to do battle with the Caledonian, strong in its central position and its intimate alliance with the great North- Western interest, for the supremacy of Scotland. Nor is this the only amalgamation scheme that is on the tapis at present. For if with its right hand the Great North is making a fierce onslaught on the Highland, it is simultaneously holding out its left hand and inviting that company to a conference to discuss the possibility of uniting the two concerns. What it all means the future will show, but if it means peace and friendship between the' Highland and the Great North, then one will be inclined to think that there must have been more of the Kilkenny cats left than is commonly understood to have been the case.

But of all this more anon. Meanwhile we may notice that the Scotch railway system had already attained its majority before ever anything had been heard—not of competition only but actually of through traffic at all. The earliest Scotch lines, more than one of which is entitled to look down not merely upon the Liverpool and Manchester, but even upon the Stockton and Darlington itself as a mushroom upstart, were constructed simply for local traffic, mainly, of course, that in iron and coal. The nucleus of the Clydesdale Junction, an extension of the original Polloc and Govan Railway, now itself absorbed into the Caledonian, and forming the present access from London and the South to the Central Station in Glasgow, was a tramway, or "waggon-way," as it is called on the old maps, which, as early at least as 1778, ran from the collieries of Little Govan to the Clyde at Springfield, a point below the town where now the docks end, only to give place to the great shipbuilding yards, which skirt the downward course of the river for miles. The Kilmarnock and Troon line, the main road to-day between Ayr and the South, obtained its Act of Parliament in x8o8, and was opened for traffic in 1811. It is thus described in Aiton's Agricultural Report of Ayrshire for that year, which was evidently written when the line was on the eve of completion:

The distance from Troon Harbour to Kilmarnock is somewhat more than 10 miles, the total rise from Troon to Kilmarnock being 80 or 84 ft. which is 1 in 660. The iron rails are 3 ft. long, 4 inches broad in the flat part, about, 4 inches in the deepest part of the parapet, weighing each about 40 lbs.; they are 4 ft. apart, and there is nearly 4 ft between the two roads to allow the wagons to pass freely. The rails are fixed to square blocks of stone by nails driven into oaken pegs, 6 inches long and 1 1/4 inch in diameter, fixed into the blocks of stone. The railway crosses the Irvine by a bridge of 4 arches, one of them on dry land to make up the road, each of 40 feet span and rising 25 above the surface of the river. Raising, boring and carriage of the blocks will cost about 6d each, and upwards of 70,000 are to be used in the railway. The same number of rails of cast iron at 40 lbs. each will weigh 1250 tons, which, with the carriage from Glenbuck foundry, will at present prices cost, when laid down on the road, £20,000. It is said that a horse will draw upon the railway when finished from 10 to 12 tons towards Troon, and from 8 to 10 towards Kilmarnock. Each wagon when loaded weighs about 1 1/2 ton. A horse at this time, October 28, 1811 draws two wagons loaded, at the rate of 2 miles an hour."

The construction of the Troon and Kilmarnock line fired the inhabitants of Dumfries to demand a railway from Dumfries up Nithsdale, in order to bringdown coal from the Sanquhar collieries. It was proposed that it should be built so as to be used by trucks carrying 12 to 15 cwt. apiece, with bodies which could be taken off the wheels and slung, if necessary, on board canal boats. The Dumfries people got their line, but they had to wait thirty years for it, and when it came it was rather, to use the French phrase, as a route ucitionale than merely a chemin d'intéré't local. But in the interval not a few other local lines were projected and carried out; for one there was the Edinburgh and Dalkeith, which obtained in 1826 an Act authorizing the promoters "to make and erect so many self-moving, commonly called locomotive, engines as they may think proper," and requiring the owners of wagons using the line in all cases to put their names outside." Apparently, however, the company did not think proper to avail themselves of their right to erect self-moving engines, for down to as late as the year 1845, passengers on the Edinburgh and Dalkeith were drawn by horses to the foot of an incline, and then the carriages were attached to the ropes of a stationary. engine. Now-a-days passengers get to Dalkeith by a branch off the main Waverley line, and the old road, up which, with its gradient of 1 in 50, some seven or eight trucks are as much as an engine can take, is closed entirely as far as passengers are concerned. A somewhat similar thing has happened in the case of the Dundee and Newtyle, another line which is more than sixty years old. As originally built, it ran straight up the face of the hill out of Dundee. Locomotives being, however, less accommodating than stationary engines in the matter of gradients, the modern line winds round the side. But though the distance is doubled, probably the time occupied varies in an inverse ratio.

Much more important, however, than these latter lines were the railways in the immediate neighbourhood of Glasgow. It is difficult to realize that Glasgow, spite of its medieval archbishopric and medieval university, its associations with Queen Mary and the Covenanters, with Prince Charlie and Rob Roy, who to us are heroes of romance at least as much as historical characters, is an essentially modern town. If proof were needed of Glasgow's unimportance even so recently as a century back, it might perhaps be found in the fact that the main channel of the Forth and Clyde Canal, which, though begun in 1768, will only this year celebrate its centenary, avoided the town altogether; and in the further fact that the undertaking, which was estimated to cost no more than £150,000, in spite of its association with the great names of Brindley and Smeaton, dragged on year after year for lack of funds, and was only finally completed with the aid of a grant from the public purse.

The Forth and Clyde Canal has now passed into the possession of the Caledonian, so it would have in any case a natural claim to mention in an account of the Railways of Scotland. But it has a better title than this. It was in order to get coals down from the Monkland Coalfield to the Canal for shipment that the first public railway in Scotland, the Monkland and Kirkintilloch, was constructed. But before we come to this railway let us go back half a century and see what the Monkland Coalfield was. By doing so we shall be brought in contact with a name greater even than those of Brindley and Smeaton, the name of James Watt himself. In the year 1769 "the encreasing price and scarcity of coal" in Glasgow roused its citizens to consider whether a navigable canal could not be formed from the Monkland "Coalicrys to the city." Watt was called in to advise. He prepared a scheme for a canal 16 feet wide at the bottom, sloping to 23 feet width at the top, with a mean depth of 4 1/2 feet of water. The canal was to be 10 miles in length, and to descend from its starting-point "one mile above Cotes Bridge" (sic), where it would be 266 feet above' the level of the Clyde, through a series of twenty locks to the outskirts of Glasgow. But the cost of this scheme was estimated at £20,000, a charge which Watt himself felt to be prohibitory. Accordingly he submitted at the same time a second scheme. By stopping a mile short of Glasgow on the high ground to the north-east, he found it possible to dispense with the locks, and so, after allowing £i000 for Parliamentary expenses and contingencies, to bring down his revised estimate to £9653 los.

For the mile from the terminus of the canal into the city, the carriage of the coal was to be effected by a "wagon way" down a steep slope, and the calculations as to the use to bc made of this convenience are so curious as to be worth recording. It is estimated, says Watt, that the Glasgow consumption of coal amounts annually to 70,000 tons. Of this the Monkland district is said to be capable of supplying 20,000. Assuming the cost at the pit's mouth to be 10d. per cart of 7 cwt. —it gives one an idea of the state of the roads and the power of the Clydesdale horses of the time to read that the normal cart-load was 7 cwt.—the coal should be delivered to the consumer in Glasgow at 20d. per cart, or 5s. per ton. He added that, supposing the consumption to increase and the canal to become inadequate for its traffic, the right way to obtain relief would be to deepen it, and so permit the use of larger barges than the 30-inch draught vessels which he proposed to employ in the first instance. The advantage of fords for communication of lands will indeed be lost, but these can be supplied by bridges."

Two years after Watt's survey an Act was obtained "for making and maintaining a navigable cut or canal and wagon-way from the coalleries in the parishes of Old and New Monkland to the city of Glasgow." Watt was appointed to superintend the construction. His salary was £200 a year, and for this sum he had, with the assistance of a single clerk, to perform the various functions of surveyor, engineer, superintendent of works, and treasurer. According to a letter of his quoted by Mr. Smiles, he had 100 men employed under him who, as a result of twelve months' working, "made a confounded gash in a hill." The hill referred to is unquestionably Blackhill, some three miles out of Glasgow, where the gash may still be seen. For the scheme as actually carried out appears to have been of the nature of a compromise between Watt's two proposals, and at Blackhill the canal descends towards Glasgow down a steep slope through a series of four deep locks in close succession. But the activity, of Watt and his hundred men did not last long. A commercial panic in 1772 put a stop to the works, and Watt lost his place. Ten years later the bankrupt and unfinished concern was bought by the great' Glasgow firm of William Stirling & Sons, who not only completed the canal, but by a new undertaking, known as "the Cut of Junction," carried it on through the outskirts of Glasgow to Port Dundas, where it united with the Glasgow branch of the Forth and Clyde Canal. Thus in the year 1790 the Morikland Collieries first obtained their access to the sea.

Like the main undertaking, of which it forms a feeder, the Monkland Canal has long been the property of the Caledonian Railway. Though its traffic has now shrunk to but small dimensions, at one time it must have been very considerable. Not only was it found necessary to duplicate the series of locks at Blackhill, but also a supplementary route was provided in a most ingenious fashion for the return of the empty barges. On the face of the hill alongside the locks, a wide road has been constructed, sloping downwards at an angle of some 300 from the canal at the top to the canal below. On this road is laid a double line of broad- gauge rails. Two iron tanks or caissons, propped up at the lower end so as to keep the water within at a level, and large enough to contain a barge afloat, ran up and down these rails on ordinary railway trucks. A caisson coming up with an empty barge was balanced against a caisson going down filled only with water, the deficiency in lifting power being made good by the help of a stationary engine. Within the last two or three years, however not only has the use of this incline been abandoned, but one of the two series of locks has been closed, as it is found that a single set (with four lockmen where formally a dozen were employed) is sufficient to accommodate the rapidly diminishing traffic. It is often said that railway companies should not be permitted to own canals, and that, when they do possess them, they use their powers to suppress competition, so it may be added that, if any person or persons wish to obtain possession of the Monkland Canal in order to reduce the coal rates into Glasgow, there would probably be little reason to apprehend any factious opposition on the part of the Caledonian Company.

But we must get back from canals, which after all are but a very small item in the vast mass of miscellaneous property—docks, hotels, steamboats, and so forth—which has come into the possession of modern railway companies, and devote our attention to railways proper. As already mentioned, the first Scotch railway was the Monkland and Kirkintilloch. It obtained its Act of Parliament in 1824, and was opened for traffic in October 1826, one year later than the Stockton and Darlington. In one respect it is evident that its promoters had profited by Northumbrian experience. Readers of Mr. Smiles's 'Life of Stephcnson,'—and who has not read it ?—will remember that the original Stockton and Darlington Act of 1821 contained no power to use locomotives, or to carry passengers, and that these defects were only remedied by an Amending Act in 1823. The original Monkland and Kirkintilloch Act contained this clause: "And be it further enacted that it shall and may be lawful to and for the said Company of Proprietors, or any Person or Persons authorised or permitted by them, from and after the passing of this Act, to make and erect such and so many locomotive or moveable Engines as the said Company of Proprietors shall from Time to Time think proper and expedient, and to use and employ the same in and upon the said Railway, for the purpose of facilitating the Transport, Conveyanee, and Carriage of Goods, Merchandize, and other Articles and Things upon and along the same, and for the Conveyance of Passengers upon and along the same." This Act authorized the expenditure of £32,000; but in the preamble of an Amending Act passed nine years later it is stated that "the said Railway has been made and executed at an Expense considerably exceeding the Amount originally estimated for completing the same."

As opened for traffic in October 1826, the railroad was io miles in length. It was a single line, with passing-places at intervals. Within ten years, however, the growth of the traffic compelled the directors to double it throughout. There was a fall of 127 feet from the starting-point "on the March or Division between the Lands of Palace Craig and Cairnhill in the Parish of Old Monk- land "to the terminus at the Kirkintilloch basin on the Canal, or, in other words, a favourable gradient averaging about I in 400 throughout. At the outset the proprietors do not appear to have availed themselves of their privilege of using moveable engines, for we read that "one horse draws four wagons = 12 tons, and returns with the empty wagons, making three journeys in two days." The whole expense amounts to 1s. 2d. per ton, made up as follows: haulage, 5d.; railway dues, 7d.;—the statutory maximum under this head was is. 8d.—wagon hire, 2d. On one occasion it is reported that the horse "Dragon" drew 14 wagons 50 tons, from Gargill Colliery to Kirkintilloch, a distance of 6 3/4 miles, in 103 minutes. But even Dragons could not long contend against the fire-breathing monsters that were overrunning the country, and in 1832 it is chronicled that most of the work is already done by two locomotives. As an instance of the consequent reduction of rates of carriage, it is added that, during the construction of the line, 6s. iid. per ton was asked for the carriage of rails up from Kirkintilloch to Gargill; it can now be done for pd. A second result is given in these words:- The coal on one property previous to the commencement of the railway was offered at a rent of £30 a year and refused, and now the proprietor is obtaining £200 a year for it, and even this sum is expected soon to be doubled. The ironstone on another property was offered previous to the commencement of the railway for £100; it was afterwards sold for £500, and was thought a cheap bargain." One is glad to know that the railway company had some share in the prosperity which their enterprise had created. As early as 1828 they were getting 6 per cent, for their money, and their stock was at a premium of 50 per cent.

In May, 1826, a month or two before the Monkland and Kirkintilloch was opened for traffic, a new Act was obtained for the construction of a subsidiary railway, or, to speak more accurately, of a series of three branches, with a total length of miles, to act as feeders of the main line. This new undertaking was known as the Ballochney. The capital was fixed at the very precise figure of £18,491 19s., the exact amount of the engineers' estimate; and to the credit of the engineers be it that the line was opened for traffic with £200 of the capital unexpended. The Monkland and Kirkintilloch had traversed a tolerably level country; but the new road, which went up among the different collieries, passed through a more difficult district, so the tolls authorized were double those of the parent line, and amounted to 3d. per ton per mile for goods or minerals, with an additional 6d. per ton for each of the inclined planes over which they passed, and 4d. per mile for passengers. The method on which the line was worked is described in a contemporary account as borrowed from the Mawchunk Railway in America. A horse drew the loaded trucks along the level till they came to the top of the incline. Down the incline they would of course run by their own weight,, so the horse was taken round to the tail of the train, where he became a passenger in a low wagon specially constructed for his accommodation, and refreshed himself with hay and water till his services were again called into requisition at the bottom.

The Ballochney Railway before long was paying 20 per cent., so in 1835 the Company obtained powers not only to make a new branch, but also to contribute half the capital to a more ambitious undertaking known as the Slamannan Railway, with a capital of no less than £65,769, which was to continue the railway system north-eastwards from the termination of the Ballochney, through Slarnannan and Avonbridge to Causeway End, where it formed a connection with the Edinburgh and Glasgow Union Canal, and so gave a new and independent outlet to the Monklarid Coalfield. Whatever was the reason, perhaps because at the outset it was weighted with so enormous a capital expenditure, the Slarnannan was not like its predecessors a financial success. But 1835 is bringing us down to comparatively modern times, and this is not the place for a complete history of Scotch railways. So we must be content with just noting that in the year 1848 the three companies above named, the Monidand and Kirkintilloch, the Ballochney, and the Slamannan, amalgamated into one concern under the title of the Monkland Railways, that in 1865 the Monkland Railways were bought up by the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway, which latter in its turn was absorbed the same year into the North British. We may notice too that, though for a mile or so northwards from the world-famous ironworks of Gartsherrie the Caledonian through trains to the North run over it under Parliamentary powers, the greater part of the original Monkland and Kirldntilloch line has long been closed to passenger traffic. It may be added further that, an outlet to a canal having ceased to be of any practical value, the old railways have been continued onward, the Monkland and Kirkintilloch to the shores of Loch Lomond, and the Slamannan to the port of Bo'ness [i.e., Borrowstoneness] on the Firth of Forth.

The North British is, after all, but an intruder in this part of Scotland. Its proper territory lies rather on the East than on the West coast. The leading Glasgow railway is and has been from the first the Caledonian Company. And the line next in order of seniority to the Monkland and Kirkintilloch, the Garnkirk Railway, which obtained its Act in 1826, may fairly be looked upon as the nucleus of the Caledonian. Chronologically speaking, the gap between 1824 and 1826 is narrow enough, but the development of the railway idea in the interval is remarkable. The elder line was only intended to supplement water-carriage; the younger, which for practical purposes may be described as following throughout the course of the Monkland Canal, boldly challenged competition with it. And the challenge was not delivered without good reason. Glasgow had grown in the half-century since Watt's survey. The city gasworks alone were using, says a contemporary account, hard by 16,000 tons of coal per annum. Thirty thousand more were required by the chemical works at St. Rollox, then and now "perhaps the most extensive," as their chimney is probably among the highest, and certainly among the most odoriferous, "in the world." And the St. Rollox works adjoined the new Garnkirk terminus. Here the railway had a great advantage over the canal in its complete arrangements for rapid delivery. The trucks, we are told, ran in on a high level into the depot; the body was tipped up at one end with the aid of a dum-craft, and the coal fell through trap-doors in the iron floor into carts which were in waiting beneath. The railway was opened in 1831, when amidst a scene of great public rejoicing the first train was drawn along the line by the "George Stephenson" engine, whose driver was none other than George Stephenson himself. The cost of the carriage of coal from the Monkland field to Glasgow fell within a short period from 3s. 6d. to Is. 3d. per ton.

But great though the benefit might be which they had conferred on the citizens of Glasgow, the Garnkirk Company were not over prosperous themselves. On their 8+ miles of line they had expended the enormous sum, as it was then considered, of over £12,000 a mile. They found it necessary therefore to exert their utmost efforts to augment their receipts. In the report for 1835 the directors, or rather the committee, to call them by the name in use at the time, confess to a "material increase of expenditure" in the item of advertising and printing. The amount for the year was £57 6s. 11d. "The reason is," they say, "that perseverance in frequently advertising the passenger carriages by newspaper notices and otherwise is found to promote an increase of trade amply justifying the expense so incurred." Here is an extract from the diary of the late Mr. Walter Linn, one of the too many officials of the original railways who have dropped off within the last few years, showing what we may fairly take as a specimen of the great results of the Company's lavish expenditure.

"October 23rd, 1834..—General Fast Day in Glasgow. A great crowd of people about the depot all day; many passengers went up the railway.

Everything moved on with the greatest regularity; not the least delay, nor did any accident take place, and not so much as one wagon went off the rails. We had about 1250 passengers out, and the whole of that number returned. Collected £60 1s. 6d." "Collected" is evidently the right word to use, for it was only in March, 1837, so Mr. Linn records, that after a consultation with Mr. King, the secretary, he adopted the plan of supplying passengers with tickets before starting, and opened a booking-office for the purpose at St. Rollox.

In the same report the committee strikes out another idea. "It is intended," they say, "with the co-operation of the Monkland and Kirkintilloch and Ballochney Railway Companies, to add to the passenger trade the conveyance of goods and parcels between Glasgow and Airdrie. This branch of business may be ultimately let, perhaps, but in the first instance the Company will likely require to start it, or at least provide the necessary carriages and places for receiving and securing the goods. The shop in Glasford Street, occupied by the Company this season, was procured chiefly with a view to this trade; but the delay in proceeding with the requisite accommodation near Airdrie, for which this Company were dependent on another, has prevented it being yet applied to that purpose. Keeping open this shop in town has, however, been found of very considerable advantage to the passenger trade."

This proposal to let the conveyance of parcels and goods is worth notice as one instance of the fact—which cannot be too distinctly grasped by any one who wishes to understand not the ancient history of our railways merely, but also the bearings of the very modern question of railway rates—that the original conception of a railway company was not that of a carrier at all, but simply of a company owning a road and charging a certain toll for the use of it. To quote one instance among a thousand. In 1837, several years after haulage by horses had disappeared from the line, and when therefore it is evident that the carriage of passengers must have become a monopoly of the Company, who alone possessed locomotives, the committee enter their passenger receipts under two heads. £1543 15s. is credited under the head of tolls, while a further sum of £1017 5s. is set down as received for haulage. The committee, by the way, were evidently very particular in keeping their accounts. A brick shed had to be repaired, and of the cost, £6 14s. 51½ was allowed to be charged to capital, but the remaining 6s. was debited to the current year's revenue. Similarly some improvements in the Gartsherrie Inn were divided between two accounts, capital, £2 13s. revenue, £1 18s. 3d. On the whole, the Garnkirk proprietors had reasons to be satisfied with the result of their attention to the passenger traffic. In the five years after the opening of the line the tonnage of minerals carried had only risen from 114,000 to 140,000. In the same period a steady and continuous increase had raised the number of passengers from 62,000 to 145,000.

We have almost forgotten the fact now-a-days, but railways in their early days had to compete for passenger traffic with something besides stage coaches. "Railroads, except in very peculiar circumstances, are behind the age," says in 1831 the author of a pamphlet written to prove the absurdity of building one between Edinburgh and Glasgow. He adds that the future is on the side not of cumbrous locomotives with their long lumbering trains, but of steam road-carriages, "of which a great many are already required by coach proprietors, carriers of merchandize, and others for their use on the public roads." This gentleman may be hardly an impartial witness, but it is at least certain that Mr. Scott Russell—afterwards the builder of the Great Eastern—established in 1834 "a line of steam coaches between Glasgow and Paisley, as the regular mode of conveyance. These ran for many months with the greatest regularity and success, and the trip, a distance of 7 miles, was run in 45 minutes. An accident caused by the breaking of a wheel which happened to one of the carriages being unfortunately attended with fatal results, caused the Court of Session to interdict the whole set of carriages from running. [The accident alluded to was nothing less than the bursting of the steam-coach boiler. These steam-coaches escaped the payment of tolls, which were by Act of Parliament authorized to be levied upon all vehicles "drawn by one or more. horses, mules, &c." They were consequently the object of the fiercest hostility of the road trustees ; and when the accident took place, owing to a wheel breaking on a newly-metalled portion of the road, it was openly asserted that the metal had been laid down extra thick with the object of disabling the new-fangled coach. Indeed, a very strongly- worded letter from the clerk to the trust, which had appeared in the newspapers only a few days before, was believed to point to an intention on the part of the trustees to pursue some such policy.]

But steam road-carriages were not the only competitors. The track-boats on the canals must have been an almost equally speedy, and certainly a considerably safer mode of conveyance than the early railways. In a prospectus issued in 1836 for a much-planned but never-executed Garnkirk and Falkirk Junction Railway, it is stated that the passengers by canal between Falkirk and Glasgow amounted to 300,000 per annum, and though the distance cannot have been much under 30 miles, it is added that the journey was performed in 3 hours. Even the heavy barges with a load of 40 tons covered the 56 miles from end to end in 18 hours. On the Ardrossan Canal, says the same authority, one horse drew 60 passengers 8 miles, from Glasgow to Paisley in three-quarters of an hour, returning to Glasgow in the afternoon at the same pace. From Glasgow to Johnstone, 4 miles further, the time was an hour and half. From Liverpool to Sankey, on the road to Manchester—to quote a parallel English instance—the speed was 10 miles an hour. It is an interesting proof of the early adoption of the very low fares, which have long been one of the mosts creditable features of the traffic down the river from Glasgow, to learn that while the fares to Sankey were 3s. 6d. and 2s. 6d those to Johnstone only one mile less distance, were 1s. and 9d.

The mention of the Ardrossan Canal brings us naturally to the third and last of the great railways of Scotland, the Glasgow and South-Western, of which this undertaking may be considered to be in some sort the nucleus. Let it be said, to start with, that the title is a somewhat ridiculous misnomer, for the Canal never got within 20 miles of Ardrossan. The full style and title was "The Glasgow, Paisley, and Ardrossan Canal," and its inception dates from 1804, in which year the then Lord Eglinton formed a company, and obtained an Act for its construction, with the evident intention of making Ardrossan, a place with great natural advantages, the outport for the rapidly growing trade of Glasgow. But fast as the trade grew, the faster the energy of the citizens worked to improve the navigation of the Clyde; and the canal which commenced at "Tradestown, near Glasgow," now one of the busiest manufacturing quarters of the city, never got any further seawards than Johnstone. Here it stuck for over twenty years, till in 1837—the canal era having now given place to the railway age—its proprietors obtained leave to complete their route by the construction of a railway.

The waterway having begun to work downwards from the interior, it was only in the fitness of things that the railway should advance inwards from the sea-coast. And so it did; but it, too, stuck after it had got as far as Kilwinning, a distance of about 5 miles. It is true that the proprietors atoned for their failure to carry out their Act by the construction of two small colliery branches, for which they had no statutory powers whatever. The line was laid in the roughest and most haphazard fashion, but it served with considerable advantage, not only as a mineral line to Ardrossan Harbour, but also as a road for a one- horse omnibus, which ran backwards and forwards for the benefit of the population of Ardrossan and Kilwinning, as well as of the small towns of Stevenson and Saltcoats, which lie between them. In 1836 a company, which also deemed an Act of Parliament a superfluity, was projected with a capital of £5000 to "form an edge railway from the Dirrans branch of the Ardrossan and Johnstone railway to the town of Irvine, for the continued direct conveyance of Coals, Stones, Goods, Passengers, &c." Next year, the Glasgow, Paisley, Kilmarnock, and Ayr Railway, a company whose title is self-explanatory, obtained its Act; and in 1840 the 5 mile fragment of the Ardossan line took powers dissolving the Mezentian union with the moribund canal, and authorizing a junction with the new railway, in whose undertaking, now known as the Glasgow and South-Western, it has long ago been absorbed. It may here be appropriately added that the derelict canal was bought only a few years back by the South-Western Company, and filled up and converted into an alternative route to relieve the congestion on their main line into Glasgow.

It was stated at the beginning of this chapter that the earliest of the local trains preceded by fully twenty years the first of the through routes. But in tracing the history of a few of the more important of the former, we have now reached the point where the latter begins to appear upon the scene. The first proposal for a railway connecting England and Scotland was in the year 1832, for a line which has never been made from that day to this, and which—if railway prophecies were not proverbially even more fallacious than prophecies in general—one would be inclined to assert never would be. [The ink that wrote this statement last July was scarcely dry when news was published of the proposed amalgamation of the North British and the Glasgow and South Western. This is not the place to discuss that question, but it may be pointed out that its natural effect would be to bring the Caledonian and the North Eastern into closer sympathy, and possibly to promote the development of a route not very dissimilar from that proposed in 1832. The Caledonian is already at Peebles in the upper valley of the Tweed the North Eastern is at Kelso, some forty miles lower down on its course. The intervening stretch of railway is the property of the North British. If Parliament were to give running powers over it, either to the Caledonian, or to the North Eastern, or to both, a new direct route would be opened between Newcastle and Glasgow, free on the one hand from North British control through Edinburgh, and on the other avoiding the crowded traffic of the Newcastle and Carlisle road, the crush through Carlisle itself, and the formidable gradients of the Beattock "bank."] The proposed route was from Newcastle, by Otterbourne, Jedburgh, and Melrose. Thence to Edinburgh it followed the present Waverley route by Galashiels, while a branch diverged up the Tweed and reached Glasgow by way of Peebles, Biggar, and the Clyde Valley. This route had one great and conspicuous advantage, it afforded equal accommodation to both Edinburgh and Glasgow. The East Coast road by Berwick, if it had been adopted as the only line between England and Scotland, would have placed Glasgow at an immense disadvantage. The western route by Dumfries and Kilmarnock would have been equally unsatisfactory to Edinburgh. And, as Mr. Gladstone told the House of Commons last year, even as late as 1842 "it was firmly believed to be absolutely impossible, that there should ever be more than one railway into Scotland."

It is a commonplace of early English railway history to talk of the senseless opposition—where at least it was not a cloak for extortion—of the great landowners. Every one knows the story of the Duke of Cleveland's fox-covers which barred the progress of the Stockton and Darlington, and of the lords of Knowsley and Toxteth who turned aside the course of the Liverpool and Manchester. It was largely owing to the enlightened master of Althorp that Northampton was left for forty years stranded on one side of the great stream of traffic which swept through Blisworth. To the credit of the landlords of Scotland be it said, that the lairds of Dumfriesshire conceived and carried out the Caledonian Railway.

In 1836 the London and Birmingham, the Grand Junction, and the North Union were all fast approaching completion, and their united systems would convey passengers direct from London to Preston ; so Joseph Locke was called in to survey a continuation northwards into Scotland. As far as the Scotch border, he recommended what is practically the existing West Coast line. Beyond that point, so he states in his report, he naturally first turned his attention to the direct mail-coach road, "laid out, I believe, by the late Mr. Telford." Along that route up to Beattock Bridge, near Moffat, he found everything tolerably favourable. But in the ten miles from Beattock Bridge to Beattock Summit there would need to be a rise of "nearly 700 feet, which, supposing it to be uniform the whole way, would give an inclination of 1 in 75."

Ten miles of such a gradient the great engineer felt to be a hopeless impossibility. "Not wishing," he writes, "to recommend a line having such a plane as this, I was under the necessity of departing from the straight course." He turned aside reluctantly and advised a line up the gently sloping Nithsdale and over the Cumnock hills to Kilmarnock, and then on to Glasgow past Dairy and Beith and Paisley. The following year, as has been already mentioned, an Act was obtained for the construction of the portion of this route between Kilmarnock and Glasgow, and in the Mania year, 1846, leave was given to construct the remaining portion between Carlisle-or, more accurately, between Gretna, where it left the Caledonian—and Kilmarnock; but the promoters were no longer Joseph Locke's clients.

But let us return to his original report. This document was sent by Mr. Hope Johnstone, M.P., the largest proprietor in the Moffat district, to his agent, or factor, to use the Scotch expression, Mr. Charles Stewart. Mr. Stewart declined to abandon his hopes for an Annandale line. "As for paying," he writes, "I have no idea that it would do so immediately, but the country is now making such rapid strides in everything, that one would not despair of this, ultimately embracing, as it would do, a large share of the intercourse between England and Scotland." On the other hand he was entirely sure that "the passing of the railway up Annandale would be of incalculable importance to its prosperity . . . would perhaps double the value of its productions in no distant time and he accordingly determined that it was only after every effort is made that the idea should be abandoned." He pointed out that, according to Telford's survey, the summit was 100 feet lower than Mr. Locke had made it; argued that a tunnel such as Mr. Locke had himself proposed at Shap did not "seem altogether out of the question;" suggested the use of stationary engines anything rather than give up the line.

In the result a local committee was formed with Mr. Hope Johnstone at its head, subscriptions amounting to £150 were raised, and in the autumn Of 1837 Mr. Locke, having got the Grand Junction open and off his hands, came down a second time to Scotland and resurveyed the line. Here is the pith of his observations on the crucial point, "the plane of the Evan," as he calls the ten miles of line, now-a-days (largely in consequence of the wonderful performances of Mr. Drummond's superb "No. 123" in the "Race to Edinburgh") known to railway men all over the world as the "Beattock Bank." "The inclination," he writes, is similar to those on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, which are worked by assistant locomotive engines. Of the facilities of drawing up considerable weights at moderate speeds thcre is no doubt; in short the ascent involves nothing but more power and more time. In the descent, however, there is more danger, and this is a question of importance. Perfect machinery and perfect watchfulness on the part of the attendants leave no room for apprehension. A train of passengers on an inclined plane of 1 in 93 may be kept under perfect control by ordinary means. On the other hand a plane like this ought not to be adopted without sufficient reason.- You cannot expect it to be so economically worked, nor so certain in its operation as a line of equal length that is free from such a plane.'

Mr. Locke ended by giving the scheme a qualified approval, and suggested that, as the object was one of national importance, the Government should institute a thorough and minute inquiry into the competing proposals. This the Government did, and, as all the world knows, the commission reported in 1841 expressing "the preference they felt bound to give to the western route to Scotland by Lockerbie,. under the supposition that at present one line of railway, only can be formed from the South to Edinburgh and Glasgow." Then followed a weary struggle of four more years. The Clydesdale landowners, who were as much concerned as their ncighbours south of the watershed, were apathetic ; Glasgow, interested in its Ayrshire line, was largely hostile Edinburgh was desirous of an East Coast road all its own ; everybody was waiting in the hope of Government assistance. Worse than all, a heavy cloud of trade depression overhung the country. But through it all the Annandale Committee held on. In 1844, by which time not only had track much improved, but also some unknown genius had discovered a name suitable for the company which claimed to be the national line—the Caledonian Railway,—rnattcrs at length got to the point of issuing a prospectus. The capital asked for was £1,800,000. Next year, after a battle royal with the promoters of the Dumfries line, with eight counsel (among them Charles Austin) on the one side, and seven (among them Cockburn, Wrangham, and Hope Scott) on the other, the Caledonian Bill was passed through both houses and received the Royal assent on the last day of July. The Annandale gentry had got their line, and their leader, Hope Johnstone, deservedly became the first chairman of the company. In the crash which followed the wild speculation of r$46, not a few of them, however, had reason to wish that the Evan Water had really been the impassible barrier which Locke at first had fancied it.

The English railway system is the result of fully a generation's growth. But the Scotch system, in plan, if not always in actual execution, sprang full- grown from the brain of the projectors of '46. For this difference various reasons may be assigned. Scotland waited much longer before it began to construct through routes, and so had a long leeway to make up. Then again the physical geography of the country fixes the course of railways much more precisely than is the case in most parts of England. For a third reason, Scotland is not rich enough to indulge on any large scale in the luxury of parallel routes such as are found in England. Those who know the railway geography of Scotland to-day will appreciate from the perusal of the following list of Acts of Parliament passed in the Session 9 & 10 Victoria, for railways either origin- ally constructed or since acquired by the Caledonian, how little, as far as this one railway at least is concerned, the projectors of 1846 left over for their successors.

The Scottish Midland Junction Railway Branches Act, 1846.
The Arbroath and Forfar Railway Act, 1846.
The General Terminus and Glasgow Harbour Railway Act, 1846.
The Dundee and Arbroath Railway (Extension) Act, 1846.
An Act to enable the Glasgow, Paisley, and Greenock Railway Company to make a Branch Railway to the River and Firth of Clyde at or near Greenock, and a Pier or Wharf in connection therewith, 3rd July, 1846.
The Glasgow, Barrhead, and Neilston Direct Railways (Branches to Thornliebank and Househill) Act, 1846.
The Scottish Central Railway (Alloa Branch) Act, 1846.
The Scottish Central Railway (Denny Branch) Act, 1846.
An Act to enable the Glasgow, Paisley, and Greenock Railway Company to make a Branch Railway to the Polloc and Govan Railway, and to amend the Acts relating to the said Railway, 16th July, 1846.
The Scottish Central Railway (Perth Termini and Stations) Act, 1846.
The Scottish Central Railway (Cricif Branch) Act, 1846. The Wishaw and Coitness Railway (Cleland Extension) Act, 1846. -
The Glasgow Southern Terminal Railway Act, 1846. The Dundee and Perth Railway Amendment Act, 1846. The Caledonian Railway (Glasgow, Garnkirk, and Coat-
bridge Branch) Act, 1846.
The Caledonian Railway Carlisle Deviation Act, 1846. The Caledonian Railway Glasgow Termini and Branches Act, 1846.
The Caledonian Railway (Glasgow, Garnkirk, and Coat. bridge Railway Purchase) Act, 1864.
The Glasgow, Garnkirk, and Coatbridge Railway Extension Act, 1846.
The Caledonian, Polloc, and Govan and Clydesdale Junction Railways Amalgamation Act, 1846.
The Caledonian Railway (Clydesdale Junction Railway Deviations) Act, 1846.

At the first statutory meeting of the Caledonian, the chairman placed before the shareholders a summary of their position. They had got their Act for a line northwards from Carlisle, with branches to Edinburgh, to Glasgow, and to Castlecary for the North. Their access to Glasgow was already secured by agreement with the Garnkirk line. The Clydesdale Junction, which had been sanctioned that same session, would give them a connection to Paisley, to Greenock, and to Ayrshire. Northwards from Castlecary, the allied Scottish Central would carry them on to Perth, where the Scottish Midland, and then the Aberdeen Line would form the last links in the chain which stretched away to the metropolis of the North. "Companies with ample subscribed capitals and io per cent, deposited had been formed for extending the Caledonian system into every part of Scotland." Next year would see introduced bills for the following:

1. The The Caledonian Extension, from Lanark westward to Ayr, eastward to join the North-Eastern line at Kelso.
2. The Caledonian and Ayrshire Junction, to connect Kilmarnock with Railway No. i, and thereby form a through route from Kilmarnock to Carlisle.
3. The British and Irish Union from Dumfries to Portpatrick.
4. The Caledonian and Dumbarton Junction, joining the Glasgow and Garnkirk line to Dumbarton, with possibly a further extension to the West Highlands.
5. A line from Perth to Inverness.
6A. Branches of the Scottish Central to Alloa and Crieff.
6D. Private lines to Tillicoultry and Dumblane.

A glance at a railway map will show that almost every one of these lines has now been carried out. Their course, however, was not always so smooth as Mr. Hope Johnstone fancied it about to be. They have not all been executed in the Caledonian interest, nor has their result been to secure to that company the impregnable position which the sanguine spirits in 1845 imagined themselves on the eve of securing. But though the hopes of 1845 were doomed to disappointment, the Scottish people can at least claim that, as they had been among the first to appreciate the value of railways for local traffic, so now they were among the first, if not indeed actually the first, to draw out on a large scale and in bold outline, a comprehensive scheme of railways in their newer development as the grand highways of national and international communication. In subsequent chapters we shall see that the modern performances of the Scottish lines arc not all unworthy of their early promise.


 

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