Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

meeting-something about steam. All the while Mr. Watt kept looking at the fire, and laid down the cistern at the foot of his chair. At last he looked at me, and said briskly : “ You need not fash yourself any more about that, man; I have now made an engine that shall not waste a particle of steam. It shall all be boiling bot: ay, and hot water injected, if you please." So saying, Mr. Wait looked with complacency at the littie ining at liis levi, aud, seeing that I ubserved bim, he shoved it away under a table with his foot. I put a question about the nature of his contrivance. He apswered me rather drvly. I did not press him to a further explanation. I found Mr. Alexander Brown, u very intimate acquaintance of Mr. Watts, and he immediately accosted me with: “ Well, have you seen Jamie Wall?" Yes." "He'll be in high spirits now with his engine, isu't lic?” “ Yes," said I, “ very fine spirits.” “Ay," says Mr. Browli," the condenser's the thing; keep it but cold enough, anıl you may have a perfect Vicuum, winever be the heat of the cylinder. The instant he suid this, the whole flashed on my mind at once.'

The first experiment was made with a common anatomist's great injection syringe for a cylinder, but the cu.. rivance was perfect in hatt's mind, and fitted the engine at once for the greatest and most powerful, or for the most trifling task. Dr. Rubison says he is satisfied that when lie lett town a formight before the interview above quoted, Watt had not thought of the method of kerping the cylinder Lot, and that when he renurnal, he had completed it, and confirmed it by experiment. Sir Walter Scott, according w Lockhart, never considered any amount of literary listincion as entitled to be spoken of in the same breath with mastery in the higher departments of praciical liti-; anıl it cver a discovery in science was entitled to this exalted position, it was surely that made by James Wait-an invention wbich is cstimated to have added to the available labour of Great Britain alone a power equivalent to that of four hundred millions of men, or more than double the number of males supposed to inbabit the globe.

To reap the benefits of his discovery was now the great object to wbich Watt directed himself; but it was eight or nine years before it turned to the advantage of the public or to the benefit of the inventor. For a time he was associated with an ingenious but unsuccessful man, Dr. Roebuck, and neither profited much by the connection. The invention was, however, pitented in January 1769, and Watt continued to experiment upon and w perfect the mechanism of bis 'fire-engine.' He had married a cousin of his own, Miss Miller, in July 1753, and had now tlırce children ; 'but unhappily,' says Mr. Muirhead, without receiving that triple proportion of corn which, among the Romans, the jus trium liberorum brought with it. Those lit:le voices, “ whose crying was al cry for gold,” were not to be stilled by the baser metal of a badly cust Carron cyliuder, or the “block-tin

[ocr errors]

and hammered lead" of a Glasgow condenser.' We find Wait writing thus: 'I am resolved, unless those things I have brought to some perfection reward me for the time and money I have lost in them, if I can resist it, to invent no more. lud ell, I am not near so capable as I once was. I tind that I am not the same person I was four years ago, when I invented the tire-engine, and foresaw, i ven before I made a model, almost every circunstance that has since occurred.'

To carry on the affairs of his househull, Wait undertook many occasional commissions. Ile projicieli canal for carrying couls to Giasgow, and received £200 a year for superintending iis construction. His mind having been turned w canals, he struck out ibe ide a of the screw-propeller, or spiral var,' as lie called it. He made surveys for various cava's in Scotland, anal among others, by appointment of the Court of Pulice of Glasgow, the Caledonian Canal, which was alterwards constructed brilleen Duiverness and FortWilliam. Mr. Telford, wv whom this great work was principally intrusted, throughout his lengthened labours in connection withii, has borne testimony to the particular correctness and value of Wati's survey. The inventive genius of the man was never sill: clocks, micrometers, dividing screws, surveying qnadrants, and a hundred other inventions flowed from him with the case that a litterateur daslies off an article for a magazine. You might live,' said his friend Dr. Small, ‘by inventing only an liour in a week for matbematical instrument-makers.'

In 1775, Mr. Watt and Dr. Roebuck dissolved their connection; and then began the partnership with Mr. Boulion of the Solio Works, in Birmingham, which laid the foundation of Watt's future prosperity. Mr. Boulton was possessed of ample means to do justice to the magnitude of Watt's inventions; and the result was, that both realised an ample fortune, and the Solo Works of Birmingham were among the greatest establishments of that city. Watt's inventions continued to enrich the world almost until his cleath, at the patriarchal age of eighty-three. Among the most important of these, not mentioned above, were the rotative motion and parallel motion, the throttlevalve, the steam-gauge, the indicator, the governor, &c., in connection with the steam-engine; the copying-press, the steam tilt-hammer, a smoke-consumer, the discovery of the composition of water, &c. These are among the works which we uwe to the great inventor and perfecter of the steam-engine. Lord Brougham's beautiful epitapb on Watt, in Westminster Abbey, should never be omitted from any notice of his life and character:

Not to perprtunte a name,
Which must endure, while the peaceful arts flourish,

But to shew
That Mankind huve learned to honour those
Who best deserve their gratitude,

The King,
Hs Ministers, and many of the Nobles

And Commons of the Realm,
Raised this Monument to

JAMES WATT,
Who, directing the force of an original gening,
Early exercised in philosophic researeh,

To the improvement of

The Steam-engine,
Enlarged the Resources of his Country,

Increased the Power of Man,

And rose to an eminent place
Among the most Illustrious Followers of Science
And the real Benefactors of the World.

Born at Greenock. MDCCXXXVI. ;

Died at Heathfield, in Staffordshire, MDCCCXIX. The 'Life of George Stephenson,' by SAMUEL SMiles, 1857, is in. teresting on account of the history it gives of the application of locomotives to railway travelling; and it is invaluable as affording the example of a great principle triumphing over popular prejudice, ignorance, and the strenuous opposition of vested interests. The railway engineer rose from very small beginnings. He was the son of a labourer in Northumberland, fireman at the pumping.engine of the colliery at Wylam, near Newcastle. George was born in 1781. While a child he ran errands, herdeil cows, and performed fieldlabour unti), in his fourteenth year, he was promoted to be assistant to his father at the rate of one sbilling a day. He could not read, but lie imitated everything. He mended checks and watches, made shoes, and otherwise displayed such ingenuity, that he was appointed engine-wright at Killing worth Colliery at a salary of £100 a year. Here he inspired such confidence in his sagacity and skill, that, on application, be at once obtained permission from Lord Ravensworth, the proprietor, to incur the oulay for constructing what be called a • travelling engine' for the tram-roads between the colliery and the shipping-port nine miles off. With the imperfect tools and unskilled workmen at Killing worth, Stephenson constructed his first locomolive. He called it. My Lord;' and at its first trial, on an ascending gradient of 1 in 450, the engine drew eig!ıt loaded carriages, of about thirty tons' weight, at the rate of fisur miles an hour. This was on the 25th of July, 1814. It was not until 1830 that the public fully recognised the practicability of driving locomotives on smooth rails; and it was then recogniseul, because the fact could no longer be denied. Stephenson conviced himself of the two great principlesthat friction is a constant quantity at all velocities, and that iron is capable of adhesion upon iron without roughness of surface. He therefore discarded cog-wheels on rails and the idea of running locomotives on common roads, and laboured to adapt the locomotive and the rails to the wants of each other, so that, as he said himself, they might be like man and wife.' His success led to his appointment as engineer of the Stockton and Darlington Railway, a line projected in order to find an outlet and new markets for the Bishop

Auckland coals. Here he succeeded in establishing the first railway over which passengers and goods were carried by a locomotive. The opening trial took place 27ih September, 1827, and a local chronicler thus records the event :

Starting the First Railway Locomotive. The signal being given, the engine started off with this immense train of carriages; and such was its velocity, tbut in some parts the speed was freqnently twelve miles an hour; and at that time the number of passengers was counted to be 450, wbich, together with the coal, merchandise, aud carriages, would amount to near ninety tons The engine with its load arrived at Darl.ngton, a distance of 8% miles, in sixty-five minutes. The six wagons, loaded with coal intended for Darlington, were then left behind; gud obtaining a fresh supply of water, and arranging the procession to accommodate a band of music and numerous passengers from Darlington. the engine set off again, and arrived at Stockton in three hours and seven mintes, including stoppages, the distance being nearly twelve miles. By the time the train reached Stockton ihre were abont 600 persr ns in the traiu or hanging on to the wagons which must have gone at a safe and steady pace of from four to six miles o hour froin Darlington. The arrival at Stockion,' it is added, .excited a deep interest and adiniratiou.'

A more important field wils, however, necessary, in order to attract public atiention, and to list the inherent soundness of the principle propounded by Siephenson. This was found in Liverpool and Manchester. The means of transporting goods between these great cities haul not kept pace with the development of the traffic. Cotton, as Mr. Huskisson observed in the House of Commons, was detained a fortnight at Liverpool, while the Manchester manufacturers were obliged in suspend their labours; and goods manufactured at Manchester for foreign markets could not be transmitted in time, in consequence of the tardy conveyance. In nine years, the qnantity of raw cotion alone sent from the one town to the other had increase i by fifty million pounds' weight.

A public meeiing was held at Liverpool, and it was resolved 10 construct a tram-road, an idea which, under George Stephenson, was ultimately extended to a railway suitable for either fixed or locomo. tive engines. At this time the Bridgewater Canal was yielding a return of the whole original investment about once in two years. The opposition of the proprietors was therefore natural enough, but the scheme was opposed on all sides. In making the survey, Stephenson was refused access to the ground at one point, turned off by the gamekeepers at another, and on one occasion, when a clergyman was violently hostile, he had to slip in and make his survey while divine service was going on. The survey was made, however, in spite of all opposition. The next difficulty was to get leave to make the line. A shower of pamphlets warned the public against the locomotive: it would keep cows from grazing. and hens from laying; the air would be poisoned, and birds fall dead as it passed; the preservation of pheasants and foxes would be impossible; householders would be ruined, horses become extinct, and oats unsaleable; country inns would be ruined ; travelling rendered dangerous, for boilers

would burst, and passengers be blown to atcms. But there was always this consolation 10 wind up with the weight of the locomotive would prevent its moving, and railways could never be worked by steam-power. The bill for the Liverpool and Manchester Railway at length came before a committee of the House of Commons. Privately, Mr. Stephenson talkeıl of driving twenty miles an hour; but the council warned him of such folly, and in evidence le restricted him. self to ten miles an hour. • But assuming this speed,' said a member of the committee, “suppose that a cow were to stray upon the line and get in the way of the engine; would not that, think you, be a very awkward circumstance? Yes,' replied the witness, with his strong Northumberland burr, and a merry twinkle in his eyeyes, verry awkward indeed for the coo!!

Mr. Stephenson—that unprofessional person,' as one of the engineers of the day called him—failed to convince the committee, and ihe bill was lost.We must persevere, sir,' was his invariable reply, when friends hinted that he might be wrong; and a second bill was brought in, wlich, as the new line carefully avoided the lands of a few short-sighted opponents, passed the House of Commons by 88 to 41, and the House of Lords with the opposition of oniy Lord Derby and Lord Wilton. The railway was commenced; and though told by the first engineers of the day that no man in his senses would attempt to carry it through Chat Moss, Mr. Stephenson did so, at a cost not of £270,000, but of only £28,000, and he completed the iine in a substantial and business-like manner. But the adoption of the locomotive was still an open question, and he stood alone among the engineers of the day. The most advanced professional men concurred in recommending fixed engines. “We must persevere, sir,' was still George's motto. He persuaded the directors to give the locomotive a trial, and he made an engine for the purpose. The trial came on, 6th October 1829. The engine started on its journey, dragging after it about thirteen tons' weight in wagons, and made the first ten trips backwards and forwards along the two miles of road, running the thirty-five miles, including stoppages, in an hour and forty-eight minutes. The second ten trips were in like manner performed in two hours and three minutes. The maximum velocity attained by the ‘Rocket' during the trial-irip wis twenty-nine miles an hour, or about three times the speed that one of the judges of the competition bad declared to be the limit of possibility. Now,' cried one of the directors, lifting up his hands- now is George Stephenson at last delivered.' This decided the question ; locomotives were immediately constructed and put upon the line; and the public opening of the work took place on the 15th September 1830.

Opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railray. The completion of the work was justiy regarded as a great national event, and was celebrated accordingly. The Duke of Wellington, then Robert Peel, secretary of state, Mr. Huskisson, one of the members minister, s:

for Liverpoo. E.L.V.844

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »