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The Railways of Scotland
Chapter V - Minor but meritorious features


THE Prince of Wales every spring sends his hunters from Sandringham to Windsor for change of air; but in England, as a rule, less aristocratic animals have to do without an annual outing as best they may. Not so, however, in Scotland. In the fall of the year tens of thousands of the small Highland sheep from Skye and Stornoway are landed at Strome Ferry, and carried by the Highland Railway to the warm belt of rich country lying along the shores of the Moray Frith. There, to the great contentment of the Moray and Nairnshire farmer, they cat his turnips and manure his fields till spring comes round again, and they can return once more to their mountain pastures. The railway rate is sixpence per double mile for a truck-load of, say, fifty sheep; or, roughly, half a farthing per head. The Caledonian has a somewhat similar traffic, though on a smaller scale, from the Perthshire hills, and also viaA Oban from Argyll and the Western Islands to the low ground of Forfar and Kincardinc, and even as far south as the Lothians.

But by no means all the Highland sheep provide themselves with return tickets. In or about the month of October each year there is an enormous exodus southwards. Dalwhinnie alone sometimes sends away 20,000 sheep within a few weeks, a large proportion of them going to the Carlisle market. Talking of markets, the July wool market at Inverness is of a somewhat remarkable character. Not a pound of wool is shown, for the best of reasons, namely, that it is still growing on the backs of the sheep perhaps a hundred miles away; but at this market the bulk of the Highland clip for the year is sold. Moreover, in many instances, the sheep themselves as well as their fleeces are sold in their absence, the price in either case being settled simply by the reputation of the flocks of the different breeders. To the lay mind it seems not a little strange that, if home-grown wool can be dealt with in this summary fashion, in the case of colonial wool for the London sales, it is found necessary, in order to permit of sampling every individual bale, to cart or lighter it all up from the docks to the neighbourhood of the sale-room in the heart of the City, and then cart it away again to the railway station on its road to the West Riding or the Stroud manufacturer.

This spring the sheep and cattle traffic from the 'West Highlands was largely swollen by exceptional circumstances. The grass on the East Coast farms grew so luxuriantly that the farmers were at a loss what to do with it, and bought great numbers of Highland cattle to eat it down. One great market for these latter is at the Muir of Ord, a point a few miles south of Dingwall, where the Skye line [The Skye line is the usual name for the branch which runs across Ross-shire from Dingwall to Strome Ferry. It is of course named—on the same principle which induced the sanguine promoters of the railway from Aberystwith to Pencader to christen their road the "Manchester and Milford "—because it is the natural route to the Island of Skye. But the first time I heard it, having no opportunity of seeing the spelling, I thought it was a mere nick-name, analogous to the Michigan "Air" line, or the "Nickel Plate" Railway.] diverges from the main road to the north. I was there one day last June, and was watching a mob of them being coaxed and driven into the railway trucks. All of a sudden up drove two long, low, narrow, covered carts, and from out of the carefully padded interior there stepped two yearling bulls of the black polled-Angus breed. They were beautiful little creatures, well worthy to take a prize at the Windsor Agricultural Show to which they were bound, and when their clothing was removed—for they were as tenderly cared for as any racehorse—their coats shone like satin; but by the side of those noble savages, the Highland cattle, with their straight sharp horns and their bright eyes gleaming through the shaggy masses of red hair, they looked about as much out of place as a couple of palefaces in evening dress would have looked in the midst of a party of Indian braves.

To make up for the unusually large cattle traffic there was a considerable falling off in the West Highland herring fishery. In 1888 the weight of fish caught was over 7000 tons ; last spring the amount was but little over 4000. In 1888 steam carriers, which took the fish as far south as Fleetwood, entered for the first time into competition with Strome Ferry and Oban, and as there was plenty of fish for all three routes, they did well enough; but last spring their owners were probably forced to the reluctant conclusion that, taking the rough with the smooth, railway rates may not be so much too high after all. To add to the Fleetwood association's disappointment, after their boats had been taken off, the fish that according to all precedent ought to have come to be caught in May and June, did come later on in September and October; and the fish trucks, that in the earlier months were standing idle by hundreds at Strome Ferry, then had a busy enough time of it.

Fish and cattle traffic not only comes in rushes and by fits and starts, but also, needless to say, must be worked, when it does come, with the utmost promptitude. The endeavour to do so over long stretches of single line without delaying the rest of the traffic has given rise to one or two interesting developments of what is probably the most perfect method of single-line working, that which is known as Tyer's Electric Tablet System. Elsewhere  I have described that system fully, and pointed out its superiority over the ordinary method of staff and ticket. Suffice it here to say that the line is divided into sections ; that to every section there is assigned a set of metal tablets with the name of the section engraved upon them; and that no train is permitted to pass over any section unless one of the corresponding tablets is in the driver's possession. When the section is unoccupied, the whole of the tablets, and when a train is in it, all except the one in the driver's possession, arc kept in boxes at either end, which are securely locked by an electric current. Now the Callander and Oban line mounts a steep incline for the first two miles after leaving Oban, and then runs down an equally abrupt incline on the further side, to Connal Ferry station, four miles away, where the tablet is exchanged for one bearing the name of the succeeding, Connal Ferry to Taynuilt, section. Up the incline the trains often need the assistance of a "bank" engine, which is detached at the top, and returns by itself—or to use the technical phrase, 'light "—to Oban. There would, therefore, be a possibility that a down train, starting from Connal Ferry as soon as the up train had passed, might catch this engine up and run into it before it got back home. To obviate this risk, there has been introduced, in addition to the tablet, which is carried in the ordinary way by the train engine, a staff not unlike a small policeman's truncheon, which is given to the driver of the "bank" engine. This staff forms a part of the electric lock which closes the tablet-boxes, and the result is therefore that, till the "bank" engine has got back to Oban, and returned its staff to the box at that end, it is impossible for the signalman at Connal Ferry to get a tablet out of his box, so as to send forward a down train which may be waiting there. Another and more amusing, except perhaps for the station-masters, if less ingenious, modification is this. A fish or cattle boat may arrive at Oban after the line is closed for the night, and it may be desirable to send f6rward its cargo immediately. Arrangements have therefore been made by which the act of closing and locking the door of the booking office at intermediate stations diverts an electric circuit through a bell placed in the station-master's bedroom, a current can therefore at any moment be sent along the line, which will ring the bells and warn the station-masters to get up and make the necessary arrangements for working the coming train.

One of the chief disadvantages of the tablet system is found in the fact that it is necessary to stop or at least to slacken speed at the various stations to exchange tablets. It is true that on some lines, in order that they may be exchanged the more speedily, the tablets are hung on wire rings of perhaps a foot in diameter, through which driver and signalman respectively thrust their arms as the train runs by. But this plan is certainly not free from risk. I have never heard of any accident actually happening, but it is at least conceivable that a man might be knocked down insensible by a disc of metal a couple of pounds in weight striking him on the head, that his arm might almost be pulled out of the socket, or even that he might be dragged under the wheels of the train. On the Great North of Scotland, where the tablet system is in use on the newly opened Buckie Extension, the locomotive superintendent has accordingly devoted much time and thought to the construction of an apparatus which should exchange tablets automatically, much in the same fashion as the travelling post-office apparatus exchanges mailbags. I had the opportunity of seeing the new invention at work on the second day of its performance in public some time last May, and being on the engine could watch its action closely. Everything worked without a hitch, even the driver expressed his approval—and it is no small triumph to win the approval of an engine-driver to new-fangled innovations—and I have since heard that six months' experience has only confirmed the first impressions.

Briefly, the apparatus consists of an iron post some five feet in height, standing at one end of the platform, just far enough back from the rails to clear in safety the engine and carriages of a passing train. From the side of the engine, a little above the foot-plate, a corresponding arm, which can be drawn back, and even altogether removed when not in use, projects level with the top of the platform post. Both post and arm have sticking out on either side of them what looks something like a pair of exaggerated tuning-forks, and the two pairs of course correspond with one another except that their action is reversed. For the pair fixed on the post has strong jaws facing the approaching train to receive and grasp firmly the tablet which it brings, while the jaws on the other side are much more lightly constructed, and hold but loosely the tablet which the train will have to pick up. The arm on the engine, on the other hand, has for the same reason the jaws in front strong, while those behind are weak. Imagine then a train approaching the station. A tablet, enclosed in a square envelope of stout india-rubber, is placed both by engine-driver and signalman in the weak, that is the delivery, fork. The engine reaches the post, its projecting arm sweeps over the top, a sharp click is heard, the delivery forks are empty while the two receiving forks have each safely caught their tablet, which a moment later is extracted from their tightly clenched jaws by the help of a strong brass disgorger. As I saw the apparatus at work, when everything was new and the operators unfamiliar with their duties, the speed of the train was reduced on each occasion to some 15 to 20 miles an hour. But now that further experience has been gained, the exchange is daily made at what is practically full speed. One point more must just be added. Mr. Manson has refused to patent his invention, and it may be adopted freely by any company that wishes to do so. No pecuniary interests of his own, so he quietly replied when I asked the reason, should delay for one hour the introduction of an apparatus which he hoped would tend to protect railway servants from risk of injury in the discharge of their duties.

The question of single-line working naturally recalls us to the Ayrshire and Wigtownshire, with its thirty miles of line all single, of which mention was made in the first chapter. This plucky little company, which may be taken as the single exception proving the rule that in Scotland the small undertakings have all been amalgamated into fair-sized systems, has a curious history. Its raison d'étre was the construction of a line from Girvan in South Ayrshire, the terminus of the Glasgow and South Western, to Chafloch, where a junction was made with the Portpatrick and Wigtownshire, so affording direct access from Glasgow to Stranraer and Portpatrick. The line was duly made, but at the cost of £600,000, a sum ridiculously disproportionate not only to the necessary expense of construction but also to the possible returns of the traffic. For though the country at either end is fertile enough, the Ayrshire and Wigtownshire itself runs through a desert. Mile after mile there is scarcely a sign of life, unless it be the wooden labels hung at intervals along the telegraph wires to give notice to the grouse not to fly too high. If the line was to live at all, it would have to exist not by local but by through traffic. And that was hardly to be obtained at prices which would more than pay for working expenses over so heavy a road.

From the very first the line was in difficulties. It was worked by the Glasgow and South Western, and the South Western gave it a service which in its proprietors' opinion only starved the line, but which the South Western in their turn declared could not be given by them except at a loss. More than once the line was closed altogether. Finally the Court of Session ordered it to be sold out and out for what it would fetch. The only railway in the neighbourhood, except the South Western itself, is the Wigtownshire and Portpatrick, which is the joint property of the South Western, the Midland, the Caledonian, and the North Western. The joint board agreed not to bid, and then it was supposed that the South Western would be able to buy the line almost at its own price. How much exactly it offered, I cannot say. I was told £150,000 on authority which I should have supposed conclusive, had I not been assured by another gentleman who ought to have been equally well informed that the bid was only £100,000. Be that as it may, to everybody's surprise, a private syndicate of London capitalists bid £155,000, got the line at the price, and what is more, determined to work it themselves. From the energy with which they have undertaken their task, it is even possible that, with so small a capital, they may be able to work it at a fair profit. In that case, the South Western, which sooner or later is almost certain to have to buy the line, will need to offer a considerable advance on £150,000.

Meanwhile the task is unquestionably an uphill one. It is true that Portpatrick is a harbpur with a history, as it was in former times the route by which the mails were sent to Ireland ; and hereafter perhaps, if, after finishing the Channel Tunnel and his improved Eiffel Tower, Sir Edward Watkin has time to turn his attention to the subject, it may rise to fame as the starting-point of the new Irish Tunnel to Donaghadee; but at the present moment it is little better than a fishing village. In fact the whole place struck me, when I saw it, as very much like a large-scale model. There was a toy harbour with a toy breakwater in front, with the stump of a toy lighthouse upon it. Close beside, the walls of a deserted cottage might have been made by a very slight stretch of imagination to do duty for the ruins of a miniature castle while, to complete the illusion, the postman, who came to the station to fetch Her Majesty's mails, was a small boy who wheeled away one tiny mail-bag on a child's go-cart.

Stranraer of course is on a different scale from this, and is a place with a considerable Irish trade; At the present moment a new steamer for the cross-channel service to Lame is being built by Denny of Dumbarton, which is to be not unlike the fine new Ostend boats, and is to maintain a speed of eighteen knots an hour. But the traffic of the Stranraer route is to the East of Scotland and to England, in fact to anywhere rather than to Glasgow. From Glasgow to Belfast the goods traffic naturally goes by sea throughout, and for the portion which does come to Stranraer both the Glasgow and South Western and the Caledonian have roads of their own, though longer, round by Dumfries; while passengers prefer to join the boats which sail from Ardrossan or Greenock, rather than take a long 4nd tedious railway journey, followed by a sea passage and then a second change into a train. Moreover, the boats leave Stranraer early in the morning to suit the arrival of the London night-mails, so that Glasgow passengers would need to reach Stranraer over-night, for an attempt that has more than once been made to start an express about 6 A.M. from Glasgow has had to be abandoned for lack of support. Last summer Messrs. Burns, the steamship owners who have monopolized the Glasgow Belfast route for more than half a century, put on a splendid new steamer of 4000 horse-power specially for passenger traffic, by which it was possible, leaving Glasgow at 8 in the morning, to be in Belfast by 1.45 P.M., and on the return journey, leaving Belfast at 3 P.M., to reach Glasgow at 9.40. So the natural result is that, for all its energy, the little Ayrshire and Wigtownshire cannot do much with the through Irish traffic.

This would be bad enough, but worse remains behind. There is a considerable amount of agricultural produce, cheese more especially, sent from the neighbourhood of Stranraer to the Glasgow market. Of this, if it were a case of railway competition only, the Ayrshire and Wigtownshire ought to get a fair share. But here the coasting steamers step in and carry off the traffic by offering prices which a railway, and especially one working over heavy gradients, cannot afford to take. Considering all these disadvantages the energy and enterprise which the little line displays is worthy of high commendation. It has recently bought some excellent new carriages, and its best train runs from Dunragit to Girvan, with four intermediate stops and a long "set-back" into Girvan station, 32 miles in the level hour. Travelling by this train the other day, I had a good opportunity of seeing how hard a commercial undertaking will work for a dividend. A farmer was very anxious to send a horse by it to a station at which the train was not booked to stop. It was pointed out to him that to take the horse-box would delay the train at least five minutes, as the engine would have to draw it away on to the other line, and then come back and couple up to the carriages. But the man persisted in urging his request. So finally the horse-box was attached at the tail of the train, a second brake-van being placed behind it for safety's sake, and the one horse and the two vehicles were hauled off to New Luce and there detached. The farmer was satisfied, and the Ayrshire and the Wigtownshire was richer by perhaps five shillings. If every crown is as hardly earned, there should not be many people to grudge the new proprietors their modest i- per cent, of dividend. Let those who look forward to a millennium of State-owned railways—a body which seems to be increasing in numbers in Great Britain at present, though curiously enough in Germany, after a decade's experience of State-ownership, the trend of public opinion in all the other way—say whether Government officials would be likely to give their subjects equal facilities.

In the first of the magazine articles upon which this book is based it was stated that "in universal and ubiquitous competition is to be found the keynote of the Scotch railway system." This statement has since been taken by one of the Scotch chairmen as the text of his discourse at the half- yearly meeting of his shareholders, so perhaps it may now be considered as having received an official imprimatur. From that competition there flow naturally two results. On the one hand the companies are driven to do their utmost to economize in working their traffic. The average proportion of the gross earnings absorbed in working expenses is only about 47 per cent, in Scotland as against something like 52 per cent. in England. One instance in which economy has been effected that must be patent to every traveller in Scotland, is to be found in the abolition of second-class. Second-class carriages still run all over the Highland line, and on the East Coast and West Coast through trains to and from England. But elsewhere they have practically ceased to exist. A year or two back they disappeared from the Edinburgh and Glasgow expresses; last summer they were given up on the "coast" trains from Glasgow. The Great North has, it is true, not abandoned second-class, but that is for the best possible reason—it never had any. We have lately been told on good authority that Sir James Allport, though he only succeeded in abolishing second-class on the Midland in 1875, urged upon the Sheffield board the propriety of adopting such a policy as far back as 1850. Whether it was from Sir James that the Great North learnt wisdom, probably no one now alive can say, but the fact is certain that the line has never possessed any second-class carriages.

Whether, however, their former habit of charging what practically were second-class fares for ordinary third-class accommodation was an improvement on the usual practice is a different question. From a "Bradshaw" only ten years old one can see that from Aberdeen to Banff, 65 miles, the first-class fare was los., third-class 7s. 2d., "government" 4s. 9½d.; to Boat of Garten, 101 miles, the charges were 17s. 6d., 12s. 6d., and 8s. 5d. respectively. In those days there was only one "government" train each way in the 24 hours, and as it took 7 hours and 20 minutes over its 100 miles, it did not much exceed its parliamentary minimum of 12 miles an hour. Needless to say, nowadays, almost all over the kingdom—the most conspicuous and least justifiable exception with which I am acquainted is to be found on the Wye Valley section of the Great Western system - "parliamentary" and "third-class" are convertible terms, and any passenger who knows the distance he is going to travel knows, not always the minimum, but certainly the maximum number of pence he will have to pay.

But to come back to the abolition of second- class, for my own part I can scarcely doubt that the Scotch companies have done wisely. No doubt they have sacrificed a portion of the fares of the passengers who formerly went second and now travel third, but in return they have done a good deal to simplify and to lighten their trains. And this is a very serious matter. The question is often discussed as though it were merely one of dividing a train into two or three subdivisions. In fact a main line train is as a rule composed of portions for, say, four different places, and on each portion the company is expected to provide accommodation for ordinary passengers, for smokers, and latterly also for ladies, of all three classes. Thirty- six subdivisions in all, or a good long train, even if one compartment apiece was all that was required. Strike out second-class, and you reduce your possible subdivision at one blow from thirty- six to twenty-four.

It may be said: Why not then abolish first-class also, for it pays, if Mr. Findlay's figures may be relied on, even worse than second? The answer is here, not that it is theoretically wrong, but that it is practically impossible. It would be not a reform but a revolution, and no company dare lead the way. The great iron-masters, or coal-owners, or manufacturers, who found themselves suddenly compelled to travel third-class, would avenge themselves for the discomfort by sending tens of thousands of pounds' worth of traffic by the rival line. Besides, as long as society in Great Britain is organized as it is, it must be admitted that most people would find it incongruous, if Lord Salisbury for instance had to travel between King's Cross and Hatfield in a third-class compartment. With second-class passengers there are no such difficulties. They are neither distinguished nor influential, and as long as compartments—third as well as first—are reserved for ladies travelling alone, the only class likely to be in any way inconvenienced by the change is amply protected.

The other result of competition may be said to be the concession of advantages and facilities even beyond those to which we are accustomed on the most liberal lines in England. For instance, to meet the steamboat competition, passengers are carried every Tuesday and Friday—not in summer only, but all the year round—from Edinburgh to Aberdeen, 16o miles, for 7s. 6d. Over a large part of the country return tickets are issued every Saturday at very little more than single fares for the double journey. The minimum time for which an ordinary return ticket is available is one month, very frequently six months are allowed. From Glasgow to the north the ordinary return fare is only a single fare and a quarter. Then for the southern part of the country, where return fares are calculated on the basis of a fare and a half, there is the peculiarly Scotch institution of "Guest tickets." Holders of season-tickets, say between Glasgow and Largs or Moffat, can obtain batches of return tickets for the use of their families or friends coming to stay with them at a single fare and a quarter.

Here are some samples of liberal treatment within my own personal knowledge. A gentleman the other day took a monthly season-ticket from Glasgow to the sea-side. Two days after the ticket was issued he was taken ill, and it was over three weeks before he was able to return to business. He stated the fact to the company, which at once consented to cancel the ticket, and hand him back the money less the ordinary return fare for the two days on which it had actually been used. Some years since, coming down from England by the night-mail, a party of three, of whom I was one, missed the connection from Kilmarnock to Ayr, owing to the unpunctuality not of the Scotch but of the English company; and consequently we reached our destination about two hours late. More out of curiosity to see what he would say than for any other reason, I wrote to the general manager of the Glasgow and South Western, at that time an entire stranger to me, and laid my grievance before him. Next day a reply was despatched, expressing regret that the station-master at Kilmarnock had not sent us forward "special" at once, and stating that orders had been given that this course should always be adopted in future. It ought to be added that in this instance (as also in the two following) the traffic is entirely non-competitive.

As for children, the liberality with which they are treated is almost ridiculous. I remember a gentleman going with his wife, two nurses, and six children, ranging in age from twelve down to three, to spend the day at a place twenty miles away With the full approval of the responsible officials, though the company had a right to charge for seven, he took four tickets for the entire party. Again, a boy of fourteen at school in Edinburgh came down to stop from Saturday to Monday with his people at their house in the country, some sixty miles away. He tendered half a guest-ticket to the collector, but it was promptly returned, with the remark that his father was a season-ticket holder and that was quite sufficient. School children indeed make use of the railway in Scotland to a much larger extent than is the case in England. It is impossible not to notice the numbers of them who come into the country towns every morning and go back again to their homes in the afternoon. No doubt, however, this is due to the Scotch preference of a day-school over a boarding-school education, quite as much as to the liberality of the railway companies.

In one respect Scotland is distinctly in advance of England. Two of the leading companies have begun to experiment in heating their carriages by methods less primitive than the universal English hot-water tin. On the Glasgow and South Western the waste heat from the roof-lamps of the carriages is the agent employed. Above the flame of the lamp is fixed a miniature wrought-iron boiler, connected by two small pipes with a reservoir placed below the seat. The hot water from the boiler is forced down into the reservoir, whence it drives out the cooler water before it, and sends it up to the roof to supply its place. In fact, with the exception that in this instance the kitchen fire is placed, after the fashion now usually adopted in the most luxurious ménages, on the top floor, the system is merely that which is adopted for the supply of hot water in every modern house. The system in use on the Caledonian makes use on the other hand of the waste steam of the engine —or rather of so much of it as escapes from the cylinder of the Westinghouse brake-pump. Iron pipes, connected between the coaches by pieces of old worn-out india-rubber brake-hose, run from end to end of the train. In each compartment there is, under the seat and connected with the train pipe, a pipe four inches in diameter which serves as a radiator. To allow the water, as it condenses, to escape, a tiny hole is made in the bottom of the bend of each of the india-rubber connections. This system has now been in use for some time on several of the Glasgow suburban trains, and the only objection I have heard made to it is, that passengers ought to have the power of shutting off the steam when they please, as the carriage often gets unpleasantly hot.
The Caledonian locomotive and carriage works at St. Rollox are, however, busied with matters much more serious than carriage heating. Merely as engineering shopsthey are well worth a visit. They are not perhaps quite the finest belonging to any railway company in Great Britain—that proud position probably belongs to the still newer shops of the Lancashire and Yorkshire at Horwich —and of course they are by no means the largest; but compared to places such as Crewe or Doncaster, which consist of the gradual accretions of well-nigh half a century, their spaciousness and general convenience is instantly visible. Strangely enough, the most famous Caledonian engine-.-some people might say the most famous engine at present running in Great Britain—the wonderful No. 123, which, week in, week out, for nearly two years, has taken the Carlisle-Edinburgh express up the Beattock "bank," with its gradient of i in 75 or 80 for io miles, at a speed which most lines would term express along a dead level—was not built at St. Rollox at all, but by the well-known private firm of Neilson, though of course to the designs of the Caledonian locomotive superintendent. Hitherto, moreover, the type has not been repeated, and No. 123, with her 7-foot single drivers, remains so far alone in her class. Mr. Drummond's new engines are all "4-coupled;" but if he expects them to surpass the performance of their predecessor, he must be an unusually sanguine man.

I was behind her the first time that the West Coast went from London to Edinburgh in 8 hours. She was booked to cover the 100 miles from Carlisle in 112 minutes, and the railway servants themselves declared that the, thing was impossible. But she did it in 104, and went up the 10 miles from Beattock Station to Beattock Summit in 14 minutes, spite of a check at the signal half-way up which brought our speed down to some 15 miles an hour. Three days later, according to some most careful observations which have been furnished to me by a gentleman who went down for the purpose of recording the speed, the run was made from start to finish in 102 minutes 33 seconds. At the top of the incline, after 6 miles of I in 75, the train was still going at the rate of 37 miles an hour. On both days the load was the same, between 75 and 8o tons. Another day, long after the excitement of the great "Race" was over, and when the Edinburgh and Glasgow carriages were worked once more on the same train, I was on the footplate, when she took a train of ten coaches for several miles on end at an average speed of 65 miles an hour, not down hill but along the level. On this occasion we stopped at the foot of the incline for a "pilot," and including this stop, the 10 miles took 15 minutes. Now that the respective possibilities of West Coast and East Coast routes are being somewhat keenly canvassed, it is perhaps worth while to point out that the disadvantage to the West Coast caused by the existence of this climb of 1000 feet, as compared with a similar distance over perfectly level line, cannot at the outside be estimated at more than 5 minutes. A disadvantage it is, and must remain unquestionably, but not a disadvantage. so overpowering that it cannot be abundantly compensated elsewhere in the course of a run of 400 or 500 miles. [Sir John Fowler's extraordinary appeal to the Board of Trade, to order the West Coast to throw up the sponge and surrender at discretion to their Forth Bridge rivals, makes it only fair to add that even on the East Coast it is not all plain sailing. The speed over the Tay Bridge is limited at present to 25 miles an hour. If this precaution is thought right now, will it become unnecessary next summer? Again, will trains run over the Forth Bridge at full speed from the first? If not, here we have the Beattock bank fully compensated for already. If they do, does Sir John Fowler think that it will be the duty of the West Coast officials to invoke the aid of the Board of Trade to protect East Coast passengers from the terrible risk that they will be unwittingly incurring?]

There are already a good many of the new type of express engine, with 4-coupled 6 feet 6 inches driving-wheels and a 4-wheeled bogie in front, at work on the line, and they are constantly put to most severe tests; for no line, take it for all in all, hauls as heavy trains over as bad a road at higher speed than does the Caledonian. Not only their power but their endurance is constantly tested, for it has latterly become an everyday thing for the same engine to run right through, for the whole 240 miles, between Aberdeen and Carlisle. So much so indeed, that recently this was done even in the case of the Queen's special. When I was last at St. Rollox, some six months back, a batch of six of these engines, with 18-inch cylinders and 26-inch stroke, was under construction. They were alike in every particular except this, that two were to work at a boiler pressure of 150 lbs., two at 175 lbs., and two at 200 lbs.—this last a pressure that has never hitherto, as far as I am aware, been adopted for locomotives. For Mr. Drummond, who is no believer in "compounds," shares with Mr. Johnson of the Midland the opinion, that the unquestioned economy of fuel shown by engines of this type is due not to the principle of compounding, but to the higher steam-pressure at which they are usually worked. Another novel feature which they possess is a sanding apparatus, worked not by steam, which is said to be liable to condense and so clog the pipes, but by a jet of compressed air from the Westinghouse pump. These engines have also exceptionally large steam- ports, that so the back-pressure of the escaping steam, which at extreme speeds mounts up very rapidly till it finally absorbs almost the whole power of the engine, may be reduced to a minimum. They have just left the shops within the last month or two, and those who are interested in locomotive progress will watch their future performances with interest. If there are not abundant opportunities of doing so in the course of the coming summer, at least the Scotch public will be much disappointed of their present expectations.

Compressed air is turned to another use at St. Rollox, namely, to help the men in the foundry to make the moulds for their castings. By the force of compressed air the two sides of a casting- box are brought together in a fraction of the time that was needed under the old hand system ; while the turning of a tap on a flexible pipe from the air reservoir sends all the particles of loose sand away in an instant and spares the moulder much unnecessary puffing and blowing.

Adjoining the locomotive shops there is an establishment which, though its like must exist on every railway, has not hitherto, as far as I am aware, won for itself a place in railway literature, and that is the grease factory. The importance of this establishment is perhaps hardly what it was a few years back, for on passenger carriages grease is rapidly being superseded by oil; for goods and mineral trucks, however, it is still indispensable. The reason for the difference depends on the difference of the work required. Oil is a more perfect lubricant than grease, and therefore renders the friction less when the train is actually running. On the other hand, it is much thinner and less viscous, so that, when the wheel is at rest, it is squeezed out and allows the axle-box to come down hard upon the axle, while grease would have left a film between. In other words, with grease the friction at the first start is much less. Now goods trucks start and stop much oftener than passenger carriages; they stand still for a much longer time ; and what is still more important, a goods engine is habitually loaded to its full power, and therefore has as much as it can do to set its train in motion, Consequently for goods trucks grease still holds the field, and for the use of its 45,000 goods trucks the Caledonian railway manufactures some 600 or 700 tons of grease per annum.

The ingredients consist of palm-oil, soap, soda, tallow, and a small quantity of an extremely fluid white oil which looks not unlike the finest castor- oil. They are turned in by barrow-loads at a time into a huge boiler. This boiler is jacketed with steam, and the inner lining is perforated, so that jets of live steam can be admitted all round. More water is added to bring the mixture to the proper consistency—thicker or thinner according to the weather and the time of year—and then the whole is made to boil freely, after which it is drawn off into shallow vats and left for a day or two, to cool and harden. Finally it is dug out, placed in casks, and sent away down the line to the different goods and mineral depots.

It was mentioned above that the Caledonian is the owner of 45,000 trucks. Perhaps it would not be wrong to imagine that its shareholders have no reason to rejoice in the fact. Theoretically there can be no question that the railway companies ought to own the trucks which work over their line. The system of private ownership of railway waggons, says the great American authority, Professor Hadley, 'gives to English freight trains a disreputable appearance which contrasts almost ludicrously with the solid excellence of the line and buildings. An uninstructed observer might readily suppose that the companies had spent all their money on the permanent way, and having nothing left for equipment, were tottering on the verge of hopeless bankruptcy." Mr. Hadley further declares, and it would be difficult to contradict him, that the system "is inconvenient to both railroads and shippers. The shippers complain of damage and detention of cars; the railways complain of waste of space and power; and both parties have good ground for their complaints." He might have added that it is highly dangerous to the public safety. Spite of inspection and repairs as frequent and as thorough as railway companies, with competitors on either side hungering for their traffic, dare to enforce, one or two private traders will always persist in sending over the railway waggons, which, if they had been the property of the railway company, would have found their way to the scrap-heap years before. Ninety-nine times when these waggons break down no harm is done, except that the line is blocked and the traffic disorganized, but the hundredth time the break-down comes when a passenger train is passing on the opposite line, and a terrible disaster is the natural result.

Professor Hadley ascribes the long continuance of this indefensible system to "English conservatism," and "the inertia of English business habits." This perhaps is scarcely an adequate explanation. The evil—and it must be remembered that, in the case of a large and prosperous coal or iron company working its trucks over the line of a small, poverty-stricken railway company, it is not an evil at all—can only be stopped by general and compulsory legislation. No single railway dare promote a Bill to banish private waggons off its line altogether. The thing must be done universally or not at all. It is not enough merely to offer to buy up the traders' waggons. This the Midland set to work to do some ten years back and allocated a million pounds of capital to the operation. But the result has not been over- encouraging. They have bought a great many, and, if they were not to offend their customers, they had sometimes not to be too critical about the prices. Then they had to spend almost as much as would have built new waggons in putting the old ones into thorough repair. The Caledonian, which followed in the Midland footsteps, has had a yet more disappointing experience. The traders, having disposed of their old waggons at a very satisfactory price, forthwith proceeded to spend the money in the purchase of new ones; so that the day when the company will own and be responsible for all the stock which runs on its line seems to he just as far off as ever.

There is another charge, which is yet more frequently brought by American writers against our railway management in this country, and that is the size of our goods waggons. If they held 30 tons as in America, instead of 5 or 10 as is the custom here (so we have been constantly assured of late in railway newspapers by a gentleman who appears to hold a brief for the American system), we should be able to work our traffic for many millions less per annum than is spent at present. It may be so, but, before the change is made, it might be well that we should be informed how it is proposed to manipulate a truck 36 feet long built with steel tubular framing—some people have been rude enough to describe it as gas-piping-when it comes to hoisting it on board a vessel, as is the custom in Glasgow, in order to tip its contents straight into the hold. At St. Rollox, at least, the feat is believed to be impossible. Not that they are by any means wedded to the old idea of a four-wheeled truck. On the contrary they have built a considerable number of trucks of a much larger size. These run on six wheels, two of which are fixed to the frame in the middle, while the remaining pairs are on bogies at either end. The weight is something under io tons, the capacity about 15 tons, and the length 26 feet; Beyond this size, say the Caledonian authorities, it is not profitable to go under our insular conditions:

But we have dwelt perhaps too much on Caledonian specialities. Let it, however, be said in excuse, that a writer can only describe what he has the opportunity of describing; and, be the fault whose it may, I have seen more which merits description on the Caledonian system than on that of its great rival. Still, before this sketch is brought to a close, we must note one most interesting point on the North British railway, an extremely ingenious method of electric lighting. As already mentioned, that company has a line, known as the City and District, running underground across the heart of Glasgow. Some of the trains on it start from Edinburgh and work right through as far as Helensburgh. For ten minutes they are in darkness, for the rest of the three hours in the open day. The carriages cannot be left unlighted for the ten minutes ; on the other hand, it seems a gratuitous waste to keep lamps burning all the time. Here is the system which has been devised in order to comply economically with these conditions.

Through each of the three Glasgow tunnels there is laid a centre rail, raised up 4½ inches above the ordinary metals and insulated from contact with the ground. This rail is kept charged with electricity, generated by the dynamos used for the lighting of the Queen Street station, which stands over the top of the underground railway. Underneath each carriage is an iron pulley with a spring to keep it in contact with the rail. Originally wire brushes were used instead of pulleys, but the points of the wires were fused so rapidly that this had to be abandoned. The current is led from the pulley through incandescent roof-lamps, then passes down the wheels, and so returns along the ordinary rails. There are two lamps in each compartment; in the first-class compartments both are lit, in the third they are so arranged that, though only one is lighted, if the one is broken or removed —and two or three are stolen every week—the other is automatically thrown into circuit. It should be added that the centre rail slopes up at either end very gradually from the ground to its full height, to avoid a sudden jerk to an advancing train, and that the cost, allowing for interest, depreciation, &c., works out to about one penny per hour for each lamp actually burning. In practice, they are found to burn on an average about one hour per diem. The advantages of the system are obvious. Each carriage is independent. Electrically lighted and oil-lighted carriages can be mixed up together in the same train. The electric lamps can at any moment be taken out and ordinary lamps substituted. And last, but by no means least, neither guard nor driver—both of whom have usually quite enough to do as it is— need to pay the smallest attention to the matter.

Here these notes end. Having sketched what seems of most general interest on the Scotch Railways as they are to-day, it only remains for the writer to add that, to judge by present indications, if a new edition should be called for twelve months hence, it is highly probable that, to meet the altered circumstances, a large portion of the book will have to be re-written.


 

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