Railway Performance Society Magazine - Milepost

Sheffield to Liverpool in 1830

The article describing a journey from Sheffield to Liverpool and back in 1830 is shown below:

Sheffield Independent - Saturday 2 October 1830
 [Extract from a Letter.] 

Having received an order to proceed on Monday morning, to Liverpool, with the least possible delay, I proposed to go along the railroad for the sake of despatch: but being advised to book myself through, I was silly enough to do so, and after waiting nearly two hours at Manchester, I mounted a pair-horse vehicle to prosecute the remainder of my journey. Considering that the rail road was now for the first time open to the public, our brandy-faced Jehu could boast of a tolerably fair load, two inside and five out; but he was far from being happy, and endeavoured to keep his spirits up by pouring spirits down. On my right sat an original from Dore, who was travelling in search of information and the picturesque. At my instigation he had also got booked by the common stage; for having done a silly thing myself, I had no objection to a silly companion. He had, however, found out his mistake when too late, being applied to in the street for his custom by a cad of the Railroad Company just before started. Shall we go down three hours, said I to Jehu. No! nor four, he replied with great deal of asperity. As quitted the town, we beheld with envious feelings, the railroad train shoot past us with a velocity nearly three times as rapid our own. The motion of the carriages was so equable, that it more resembled the frictionless flight of birds or balloons through the yielding air, than the rolling of heavy bodies over an horizontal plane of cast-iron. We proceeded on our road as fast as we could. I dare say it had been Macadamized; but what is Mac Adam, compared to Stephenson? No doubt the turnpike road had been properly lifted* but then, on the other hand, the railroad was well laid down. How disgusting appeared to me the cruel practice of flogging the lame coach-horses to make them at the extraordinary speed of seven miles an hour! and the pitiful spite of the coachman was vented upon their poor hides whenever the goading thought of being suddenly cashiered came across his muddled brain. We reached Liverpool at a quarter to five o'clock: the railroad train had arrived at two. Early the next morning, I took a walk along Upper Parliament-street, and discovered a door-plate bearing the unassuming inscription, G. Stephenson, Engineer. This gentleman, who resides in a handsome house near the railway-carriage station, had had the contrivance and execution of this most magnificent public work, and is becoming deservedly celebrated as a civil engineer. He is reputed to be hospitable and conversible; imparting to his guests his professional knowledge with the greatest freedom and urbanity. This readiness to communicate valuable information, is in my opinion a sure proof of genius. The man who knows nothing, has nothing to communicate; and if he has but a small share of prudence, will be silent in the hope that "a still tongue will make a wise head. The coolness with which Mr. S. displays in the midst of so many pressing and most important engagements is also said to be very remarkable, and may be looked upon as another proof of superior talent. Having despatched my business in Liverpool, I resolved upon shewing common sense, and secured a place at the railway office, in Dale-street. More than a hundred were already taken, and the book-keeper assured me the greater part were going on business. The fare is at present seven shillings inside. No outside places are yet provided. The hours of starting from both ends of the railroad, are at seven in the morning, at noon, and at four in the evening; and they are punctual to the stroke of the clock. The distance from the centre of the town to the carriage -station in Crown-street is about a mile, and I deemed it wise to be in time. I was one of the first who arrived; had my luggage put in one of the boots which are contrived under the seats, and took my place in the hindermost carriage with my face to the horses I should say to the Engine. This curious creature is named the Phoenix, and is indeed a rara avis. It may be as well to mention for the benefit of the fair sex, that some of the seats have cushions and some have not. Being myself fond of ease in travelling, I immediately noted this important distinction and took advantage of it. You can have no idea, unless you have already experienced it, how delightful it is to sit and observe the passengers arrive by ones, by twos, and by threes, their countenances lighted up with surprise and high-wrought expectation. I think we mustered nearly hundred and thirty strong, as the Major would say; though, by the by, some of them were of the weaker sex, that is weak in body, but without doubt possessing great strength of mind. On this occasion, at least, they shewed themselves superior to all fear as to their personal safety. Each passenger has a numbered ticket delivered to him when the place is paid for. The seats are also numbered, but you are not compelled to take the same number as is borne on your ticket. The old rule is observed, first come, first served, and he that comes last, has only "Hobsons choice. Now we begin to move the office-clock strikes the hour; the wheels drag heavily at first, and several men placed on each side assist them in their tardy revolutions. Engineers would call this overcoming the vis inertiae for there are certain ideas in all professions which cannot well be expressed without a latin phrase. Now we pass more rapidly through the short tunnel, lighted at the darkest part by lanthorns. You must understand, this short tunnel is not the long one, nor any part or parcel of it. The long tunnel reaches nearly to the water-side, and is intended solely for the passage of goods; but the ropes and fixed engines are not yet complete. The train soon acquires a velocity of from sixteen to twenty miles an hour. You see the tops of the deep cutting and the bridges or viaducts thronged with innumerable spectators, beholding this triumph of art in the rapid locomotion of inanimate materials; and expressing their satisfaction by loud and reiterated cheers. Many of the younger male travellers had the gallantry to kiss their hands to the girls we passed, and notwithstanding our great velocity, I observed they could very readily distinguish a pretty wench from an ordinary one. But great as the speed may seem, we (that is, eight us who sat facing each other) began to think the motion slow; especially after experiencing for a short time rate of nearly five-and-twenty miles an hour. We judge of everything by comparison, and soon accustom ourselves to new sensations whether pleasurable or painful. A velocity of a mile in a minute must be the height of felicity, but I think Mr. Dick is the only one who considers it practicable. Mr. Stephenson thinks five-and-thirty miles hour the maximum on the Liverpool and Manchester railway, but our engineer would not indulge us so far. We went very slowly up the inclined plane at Rainhill, and the utmost power of the engine appeared to exerted there. In fact, the gravity of the load becomes so great, that it requires more than double the quantity of power which is sufficient to propel the train along the horizontal parts. The weight of the load, with the carriages, engine, and tender, I estimated three-and twenty tons, and we ascended the plane at the rate of ten miles an hour; the power exerted by the engine would, therefore, on this part of the line, exceed that of fifteen horses. I found upon trial, that I could write in the carriage with a pencil sufficiently legible, but most so when going at the greatest speed; and the noise does not at all impede conversation. In tins respect, the railway carriage is far superior to a stage coach, in which you cannot make yourselves heard without a painful effort. Posts are placed at every quarter of mile, and at that which is inscribed L. 16, (about half way from the carriage station.) we met the Manchester train which, well as our own pulled up to water the horses - I mean the engines. They require no food but much fuel, and with them water is indispensable to keep the steam up. Most of the male passengers descended from their seats, not only for the purpose of stretching their legs and examining the engine in like manner as knowing coach-passengers will sometimes examine the horses, but also for the purpose for which Madame de Rambouillet order the postillion to pull up, when travelling with our modest countryman Sterne. I wish the Directors would order a number of convenient receptacles to be erected at this watering station. The signal is given to resume our seats, and away we go again as though all our cares are left behind us. I would have said something about the grand viaduct and the tremendously high embankment, but you have heard enough of that already. Suffice it to say, that the banks will look much better when they are grown over with grass, and the Sankey viaduct seems as firm as a rock though built upon piles. At some place, I forget where, we pulled up to allow a passenger to descend; but before the train was quite stopped, the man judging comparison with its previous velocity, supposed he might safely jump off the steps. He did so, and was nearly precipitated headforemost down the sloping bank. On the next occasion he will probably have more patience. The place was pointed out to me where poor Mr. Huskisson "met his death, as himself most properly expressed it. May this lamentable event be a warning to others to stand out of the way of locomotive engines! Stage-coaches may, as heretofore, faced with impunity grown people they merely run over little children. There are men placed at the distance of about two thirds of mile from each other, whose business it is to look out for danger and prevent accidents. They have a certain signal which denotes: "As well, and a small flag which they hoist when the engine arrives in sight, if it necessary for the train to stop. With these precautions it is next to impossible that any accident should happen. But who has not shuddered over the perusal of that appalling, yet concise paragraph which has lately gone the round of the newspapers, describing the dreadful overthrow of the Worcester Aurora, when nine persons were killed and wounded? And I may ask, who is there of the age of twenty-one and upwards, that has not been overturned or nearly overturned, when travelling by the Coach? For my part, I have been twice upset, and a thousand times in imminent danger of it; and will venture to assert on the strength of my own experience, that the degree of danger in travelling on a turnpike road by the mail, or a stage-coach, is ten times great as on the Manchester and Liverpool railway at the tail of a steam engine, and certainly not half so comfortable or entertaining. To return to my narrative, - we accomplished the whole distance of thirty miles, in two hours and ten minutes, and yet grumbled at the loss of time. We should have been satisfied if we had done it within the two hours, and I hope they will make this rule for the future. On our arrival at Manchester, we were beset by a number of persons sent by the different innkeepers, who, in the spirit of opposition to each other, had provided coaches to convey us and our luggage to their respective inns, gratis. But the worst managed part of the business the delivery of the luggage from the railway carriages. The boots as they are technically called, have two doors, one on each side; and while you are waiting to have one door opened, your luggage is clandestinely removed out of the opposite side by the wrong owner. There is certainly among such a crowd of passengers, porters, and spectators, considerable risk of robbery after darkness has commenced; and there ought to be three times the number of authorized persons to attend upon and regulate this department, besides partitions to divide each hoot into two parts. Nine of us arrived safe at the Bush Inn, Deansgate; but where the remainder of this numerous party travellers went, this deponent knoweth not. Now all I have got to say further is - when you next travel from Manchester to Liverpool, go by the railway; unless you wish to he thought a natural.

RPS Archives

The new RPS Archives Search Engine with greatly enhanced search features to facilitate easier usage from its own dedicated website is now online. This has replaced the old Database Search facility from the RPS Website and can be found here


Latest Posts

Visit Forum