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To such men the difficulties attendant upon the construction of a railway were trifling as compared with those against which all their lives they had been contending.
For instance, he who along dark, intricate, subterranean passages, or “ heavings,” as they are termed, often only three feet and a half high, and occasionally only two feet high, creeping and crawling through foul air, could with great speed, not only with unerring certainty find his way, but in such a secluded study could plan a variety of new cuttings, each forming part und parcel of a reticulated system of excavation which an unpractised mind would find it utterly impossible to comprehend, would, it may easily be conceived, experience but little difficulty, when walking erect in sunshine and in balmy air, to carry in his mind from, say Harrow to Watford, Watford to Tring, Tring to Wolverton, and Wolverton to Birmingham, those great leading features of the surrounding country which would enable him to exercise for the laying out of a railway the judgment and decision required.
Again, what, it may justly be asked, are embankments, deep cuttings, and occasionally here and there a straight tunnel thirty feet broad, twenty-seven feet high, usually forming by drainage its own adit, in comparison with the overwhelming and intricate difficulties attendant upon
1st. The excavation of coal from strata of various characters, at various depths, each passage or “air-heaving" requiring
” perhaps a different system of support.
2nd. Encountering at various depths quicksands.
3rd. The great as well as minute arrangements necessary for wheeling carriages and raising the coals.
4th. The organization and management of a subterranean army of men and horses.
5th, and lastly. Lifting by steam-power from various depths, by night and by day, streams, floods, and occasionally almost rivers of water ?
It has been beneath the surface of our country that these and many other difficulties of vast magnitude--unknown to and unthought of by the multitude-have for many generations been
successfully encountered by science, capital, and by almost superhuman physical exertion ; and it was accordingly, as we have stated, from beneath the surface of Great Britain that an organised corps of civil engineers, who, like those we have named, had regularly served as apprentices, arose, in the emergency of a moment, to assist their eminent brother engineers above ground, in constructing for the country the innumerable railways so suddenly required.
ON THE MAINTENANCE OF THE PERMANENT WAY.
As soon as an infant railway can run alone—we mean as soon as its works are all constructed, its permanent way finished, its buildings executed, its locomotive engines as well as its carriages constructed, and its whole establishment of officers and men appointed and organised—the chief engineer, like a month-nurse, usually departs to new troubles, leaving the maintenance of the way to those of his assistants whom he considers, and who in the opinion of the Directors of the Company are deemed, the most competent to execute its various details.
The manner in which this important duty is performed on the London and North-Western Railway is very briefly as follows:
The line is, according to the nature of its works, divided into distances of from 17 to 30 miles, to each of which there is appointed an overlooker,” whose district is subdivided into
lengths of one or two miles, to each of which is appointed a foreman," with his gang of two or three men.
Every morning before the first train passes, the foreman is required to walk over his length, not only generally to inspect it, but especially to ascertain that each of the wooden keys which secure the rails are firmly fixed ; and in case of any deficiency, his first operation is to put up, 800 yards above the point, a signal flag, which flies until the necessary repair is executed.
The ambition of the superintendent of the division is, however, to execute all necessary repairs not only with the utmost promptitude and despatch, but, if possible, without impeding the passage of the public; and considering the number of up and down passenger, goods, and coal trains (vide · Bradshaw's List') that
( are continually passing along the line, the success with which this object can, in railway management, be practically attained is worthy of explanation. For instance-
1. In February, 1848, three miles of single rails were relaid by the Company's engineer in Kilsby Tunnel ; 125 men and one ballast-engine being employed in this work for four weeks, without stopping the public.
2. The Beech Wood Tunnel (situated about five miles north of Coventry, and about 300 yards in length) was entirely relined with bricks. Two hundred workmen were employed in this troublesome operation for about six weeks without a single accident, and without stopping the public, who, indeed, probably, during the whole period of the repair, passed through without being even aware of the execution of the job.
3. Between June, 1845, and October, 1848, the Company's engineer of the Southern District relaid 57 miles of single line of railway without stopping a train and without accident.
At the Agricultural Meeting at Northampton in July, 1847, upwards of 11,000 persons were sent to Northampton, and 13,000 retựrned in the evening, the carriages they occupied forming one mass as far as the eye could reach. From the Company's returns it appears that, of the above number, not a single person received any injury; and although, from some unaccount. able reason, a good many of thein on their return walked, it is whispered, zigzaggedly, only two out of the whole number were despatched to wrong destinations.
As the above facts require no comment, it is merely necessary to explain by what description of arrangements the works of a great railway can be repaired and renewed without stopping the public
The two following specimens of the directions issued on such occasions by the Company's superintendent will best give the information required :LONDON AND North-WESTERN RAILWAY.
Superintendent's Office, Euston Station,
22nd January, 1848. RELAYING THE RAILS IN THE Kursby TUNNEL. The Engineer Department have given notice that the workmen are ready to commence removing the stone blocks and relaying the rails in the Kilsby Tunnel.
The Electric Telegraph having been laid through the Tunnel, the
work is to commence on the night of Wednesday the 2nd of February, and during its continuance the traffic is to be conveyed over one Line from the passing of the Up Lancashire Express Train (say 9 p.m.) until 8 o'clock the following morning, when the Up Line is to be clear for the passage of the 7 A.m. Train from Birmingham.
The passage of the Trains ugh the Tunnel during the night is be under the following regulations :
The Red Signal is to be kept on at each entrance to the Tunnel during the hours the traffic has to pass over the same Line; and every Train, whether Up or Down, is to stop short of the Cross Road laid down at the Tunnel month.
As a guide to the Drivers where to stop, a Post has been erected, upon which a Red Light will be shown, and beyond which the Engine is not to advance.
As a further precaution during the hours of relaying, the Green Signal is to be shown at Crick, and by the Policeman stationed at Hillmorton Ballast Pit, as notice to the Drivers in either direction to shut off the steam.
On the approach of a Train to either entrance, the Policeman on duty is to sound the Telegraph Bell, whereupon the Policeman at the other end will respond by sounding his Bell; and immediately after telegraph “ Line clear,” or “ Line blocked,” as the case may be.
If the answer be “ Line clear,” the Train is to be allowed to enter the Tunnel, the Policeman at the entrance telegraphing back to the other end“ Train in,” whereupon he will not again telegraph, or allow any Engine to enter the Tunnel, until he receives Telegraph Notice from the other end “ Train out."
The same process and precaution is to be observed with every Train that may arrive, and no Signal is to be considered received and understood until responded to.
Whichever end first rings the bell to announce the approach of a Train, that Train is to have tha precedence, and a Train arriving at the other end is to be kept clear of the Crossing Points until the first announced Train has passed, when, after telegraphing “ Train out,” and getting the response from the other end, the Policeman at that end will ring his bell as notice that he has a Train waiting to enter, which is to be allowed to proceed after passing the Signals as before described.
Three Policemen are also to be stationed in the Tunnel with Fog Signals and Hand Lamps, to signal the Trains as they pass through; and one auditional at each entrance, to assist in the Signals and crossing the Trains.