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CHAMBERS' EDINBURGH JOURNAL

CONDUCTED BY WILLIAM AND ROBERT CHAMBERS, EDITORS OF 'CHAMBERS'S
INFORMATION FOR THE PEOPLE,' 'CHAMBERS'S EDUCATIONAL COURSE,' &c.


No. 455. NEW SERIES. SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 1852. PRICE 1-1/2_d._




A GLANCE AT CONTINENTAL RAILWAYS.


When lately making a pretty extensive continental excursion, we were
in no small degree gratified with the progress made in the
construction and operation of railways. These railways, from all that
could be seen, were doing much to improve the countries traversed, and
extend a knowledge of English comforts; for it must always be borne in
mind that the railway system, with its locomotives, carriages,
waiting-rooms, commodious and cheap transit, and other matters, is
essentially English. Hence, wherever one sees a railway in full
operation, he may be said to see a bit of England. And is not this
something to be proud of? The railway being your true civiliser,
England may be said to have sent out a missionary of improvement, whom
nothing can withstand. The continent, with all its stupid despotisms,
must improve, and become enlightened in spite of itself.

The newspapers lately described the opening of the line of railway
from Paris to Strasbourg. Those who know what travelling in France was
a few years ago, cannot wonder that Louis Napoleon should have made
this the occasion of a popular demonstration. The opening of this line
of railway is an important European event; certainly it is a great
thing for both France and Germany. English travellers may also think
much of it. A tourist can now journey from London to Paris - Paris to
the upper part of the Rhine at Strasbourg, going through a most
interesting country by the way - then go down the Rhine to Cologne by
steamer; next, on by railway to Ostend; cross by steamer to Dover;
and, finally, reach London - thus doing in a few days, and all by force
of steam, what a short time ago must have been done imperfectly, and
with great toil and expense. Still more to ease the journey, a branch
railway from the Strasbourg line is about being opened from near Metz,
by Saarbrück, to Manheim; by which means the Rhine will be reached by
a shorter cut, and be considerably more accessible. In a month or two,
it will be possible to travel from Paris to Frankfort in twenty-five
hours. All that is wanted to complete the Strasbourg line, is to
strike off a branch from Metz to Luxembourg and Treves; for by
reaching this last-mentioned city - a curious, ancient place, which we
had the pleasure of visiting - the traveller is on the Moselle at the
spot where it becomes navigable, and he descends with ease by steamer
to Coblenz. And so the Rhine would be reached from Paris at three
important points.

Paris, as a centre, is pushing out other lines, with intermediate
branches. Marseille, Bordeaux, Nantes, Rouen, Dieppe, Boulogne,
Calais, and Lille, are the outposts of this series of radiation. The
latest move is a line from Caen to Cherbourg; it will start from the
Paris and Rouen Railway at Rosny, 40 miles from Paris, and proceed
through Caen to the great naval station at Cherbourg - a distance of
191 miles from Rosny. By the time the great lines in France are
finished - probably 3500 miles in the whole - it is expected that the
total expenditure will amount, in round numbers, to a hundred millions
sterling.

It is gratifying to know, that the small German powers which border on
France have been most active in providing themselves with railways;
not only for their own accommodation, but to join the lines of other
countries; so as to make great trunk-thoroughfares through their
dominions. There seems to be a cordiality in making these junctions,
for general accommodation, that cannot but deserve praise. The truth,
however, is, that all these petty states are glad to get hold of means
for bringing travellers - that is, money-spenders - to their cities and
watering-places, and for developing their long-hidden resources. For
example, in the district lying between Saarbrück and Manheim, there
exist vast beds of coal, and powerful brine-springs; but hitherto, in
consequence of being out of the way of traffic, and there being only
wretched cars drawn by cows, as the means of locomotion, this great
mineral wealth has been locked up, and next thing to useless. What an
outlet will the Strasbourg and Manheim Railway furnish! Paris may be
as well and as cheaply supplied with coal as London.

Belgium - a kind of little England - has for a number of years been well
provided with railways; and you may go by locomotion towards its
frontiers in all directions, except one - namely, that of Holland. This
odd exception, of course, arose from the ill-will that has subsisted
for a number of years between the Belgians and Dutch; the latter being
not at all pleased with the violent disjunction of the Netherlands.
However, that coolness is now passing off. The two neighbours begin to
find that ill-nature does not pay, and, like sensible people, are
negotiating for a physical union by rail, seeing that a political one
is out of the question. In short, a railway is proposed to be laid
down in an easterly direction from the Antwerp branch, towards the
border of Holland; and by means of steam-boat ferries across the Maas
and other mouths of the Rhine, the junction will be effected with the
Rotterdam and Amsterdam series of railways. The north of Holland is
yet a stranger to railways, nor are the towns of such importance as to
lead us to expect any great doings there. But the north German
region - from the frontiers of Holland to those of Russia and Poland, a
distance of something like 1000 miles - is rapidly filling up the
chasms in its railway net-work. Emden and Osnaburg and Gottingen in
the west, Danzig and Königsberg and Memel in the east, are yet
unprovided; but almost all the other towns of any note in Prussia and
North Germany are now linked together, and most or all of the above
six will be so in a few years.

The Scandinavian countries are more interesting in respect to our
present subject, on account of _their_ railway enterprises being
wholly written in the future tense. Denmark has so little continuous
land, Sweden has so many lakes, and Norway so many mountains, that,
irrespective of other circumstances, railways have not yet reached
those countries. They are about to do so, however. Hitherto, Denmark
has received almost the whole of its foreign commodities _viâ_ the two
Hanse towns - Hamburg and Bremen; and has exported its cattle and
transmitted its mails by the same routes. The Schleswig-Holstein war
has strengthened a wish long felt in Denmark to shake off this
dependence; but good railways and good steam-ship ports will be
necessary for this purpose. When, in April 1851, a steamer crossed
rapidly from Lowestoft to Hjerting, and brought back a cargo of
cattle, the Danes felt suddenly independent of the Hamburghers; but
the route from Hjerting to Copenhagen is so bad and tiresome, that
much must yet be done before a commercial transit can really be
established. There was at that time only an open basket-wagon on the
route; there has since been established a diligence; but a railway
will be the only effective means of transit. Here we must correct a
mistake in the last paper: Denmark is not quite without railway
accommodation; there is about 15 miles of railway from Copenhagen to
Roeskilde, and this is to be continued across the island of Zealand to
Korsör. The Lowestoft project has led to important plans; for a
railway has been marked out from Hamburg, through the entire length of
Holstein and Schleswig to the north of Jütland, where five hours'
steaming will give access to the Swedish coast; while an east and west
line from Hjerting to Copenhagen, with two breaks at the Little Belt
and the Great Belt, are also planned. If Denmark can by degrees raise
the requisite capital, both of these trunk-lines will probably be
constructed.

Norway has just commenced its railway enterprises. It seems strange to
find the familiar names of Stephenson and Bidder, Peto and Brassey,
connected with first-stone layings, and health-drinkings, &c., in
remote Norway; but this is one among many proofs of the ubiquity of
English capital and enterprise. The government of Norway has conceded
the line to an English company, by whom it will be finished in 1854.
The railway will be 50 miles in length; it will extend from
Christiania to Lake Miösen, and will connect the capital with an
extensive chain of internal navigation. The whole risk seems to have
been undertaken by the English company; but the benefits will be
mutual for both companies - direct steam-communication from Christiania
to some English port being one feature in the comprehensive scheme.

In Russia, the enterprises are so autocratic, and ordinary joint-stock
operations are so rare, that our Stock Exchange people know very
little about them. The great lines of railway in Russia, either being
constructed or definitely planned, are from Warsaw to Cracow (about
170 miles); Warsaw to St Petersburg (680 miles); Moscow to St
Petersburg (400 miles); from a point on the Volga to another point on
the Don (105 miles); and from Kief to Odessa, in Southern Russia. The
great tie which will bind Russia to the rest of Europe, will be the
Warsaw and St Petersburg Railway - a vast work, which nothing but
imperial means will accomplish. Whether all these lines will be opened
by 1862, it is impossible to predict; Russia has to feel its way
towards civilisation. During the progress of the Moscow and St
Petersburg Railway, a curious enterprise was determined on. According
to the _New York Tribune_, Major Whistler, who had the charge of the
construction of the railway, proposed to the emperor that the
rolling-stock should be made in Russia, instead of imported, Messrs
Harrison, Winans, and Eastwick, engineers of the United States,
accepted a contract to effect this. They were to have the use of some
machine-works at Alexandroffsky; the labour of 500 serfs belonging to
those works at low wages; and the privilege of importing coal, iron,
steel, and other necessary articles, duty free. In this way a large
supply of locomotives and carriages was manufactured, to the
satisfaction of the emperor, and the profit of the contractors. The
managers and foremen were all English or American; but the workmen and
labourers, from 2000 to 3000 in number, were nearly all serfs, who
_bought their time_ from their masters for an agreed period, being
induced by the wages offered for their services: they were found to be
excellent imitative workmen, perfectly docile and obedient.

Our attention now turns south-westward: we cross Poland and Germany,
and come to the Alps. To traverse this mountain barrier will be among
the great works of the future, so far as the iron pathway is
concerned. In the early part of 1851, the Administration of Public
Works in Switzerland drew up a sketch of a complete system of railways
for that country. The system includes a line to connect Bâle with the
Rhenish railways; another to traverse the Valley of the Aar, so as to
connect Lakes Zurich, Constance, and Geneva; a junction of this
last-named line with Lucerne, in order to connect it with the Pass of
St Gothard; a line from Lake Constance to the Grisons; a branch
connecting Berne with the Aar-Valley line; and some small isolated
lines in the principal trading valleys. The whole net-work of these
railways is about 570 English miles; and the cost estimated at about
L.4,000,000 sterling. It scarcely needs remark, that in such a
peculiar country as Switzerland, many years must elapse before even an
approach to such a railway net-work can be made.

To drive a railway across the Alps themselves will probably be first
effected by the Austrians. The railway through the Austrian dominions
to the Adriatic at Trieste, although nearly complete, is cut in two by
a formidable elevation at the point where the line crosses the eastern
spur of the great Alpine system. At present, travellers have to post
the distance of seventy miles from Laybach to Trieste, until the
engineers have surmounted the barrier which lies in their way. The
trial of locomotives at Sömmering, noticed in the newspapers a few
months ago, related to the necessity of having powerful engines to
carry the trains up the inclines of this line. Further west, the
Alpine projects are hidden in the future. The Bavarian Railway, at
present ending at Munich, is intended to be carried southward,
traversing the Tyrol, through the Brenner Pass, to Innsprück and
Bautzen, following the ordinary route to Trieste, and finally uniting
at Verona with the Italian railways. This has not yet been commenced.
Westward, again, there is the Würtemberg Railway, which ends at
Friedrichshafen on Lake Constance. It is proposed to continue this
line from the southern shore of the lake, across the Alps by the Pass
of the Splügen, and so join the Italian railways at Como. This, too,
is _in nubibus_; the German States and Piedmont are favourable to it;
but the engineering difficulties and the expense will be enormous.
Other Piedmontese projects have been talked about, for crossing the
Alps at different points, and some one among them will probably be
realised in the course of years. Meanwhile, Piedmont has a heavy task
on hand in constructing the railway from Genoa to Turin, which is
being superintended by Mr Stephenson; the Apennines are being crossed
by a succession of tunnels, embankments, and viaducts, as stupendous
as anything yet executed in Europe.

In Central Italy, a railway convention has been signed, which, if
carried out, would be important for that country. It was agreed to in
1851 by the Papal, Austrian, Tuscan, Parmese, and Modenese
governments. The object is to construct a net-work of railways, each
state executing and paying for its own. Austria is to do the work as
far as Piacenza and Mantua; Tuscany is to finish its lines from
Pistoja to Florence and Lucca; the Papal government is to connect
Bologna with both the former; and the small states are to carry out
their respective portions. The great difficulty will be, to cut
through the Apennines, which at present sever Tuscany from the other
states; but a greater still will be the moral one, arising from the
disordered state of Italy. Rome has conceded to an Anglo-French
company the construction of a railway from the capital to Ancona; but
that, like all other commercial enterprises in the Papal dominions, is
lagging sadly.

Crossing the Pyrenees to view the works in the Peninsula, which
_Bradshaw_ may possibly have to register in 1862, we find that, amid
the financial difficulties of Spain, three lines of railway have been
marked out - from Madrid to Irun; from Aranjuez to Almansa; and from
Alar to Santander. The first would be a great line to the vicinity of
the French frontier, to cost 600 millions of reals; the second would
be part of an intended route from Aranjuez, near Madrid, to the
Mediterranean; the length to Almansa, involving an outlay of 220
millions. The third line, from Santander to Alar del Rey, on the
Biscayan seaboard of Spain, is intended to facilitate approach from
the interior to the rising port of Santander; the outlay is put down
at 120 millions. It is difficult to translate these high-sounding sums
into English equivalents, for there are three kinds of reals in Spain,
varying from 2-5/8d. to 5-1/4d. English; but taking even the lowest
equivalent, the sum-total amounts to a capital which Spain will have
some difficulty in raising. The Santander line, however, has attracted
English capital and engineering towards it; the first sod was turned
by the king-consort in May 1852, and the works are now in progress.
There is also an important line from Madrid to the Portuguese frontier
near Badajoz, marked out on paper; but the fruition of this as well as
other schemes will mainly depend on the readiness with which English
capital can be obtained. Unfortunately, 'Spanish bonds' are not in the
best favour in England.

Portugal is a _terra incognita_ to railways. It is on the extremest
verge of Europe towards the Atlantic; and European civilisation finds
entrance there with remarkable slowness. In 1845, the government tried
to invite offers from capitalists to construct railways; in 1849, the
invitations were renewed; but the moneyed men were coy, and would not
be wooed. In 1851, the government appointed a commission to
investigate the whole subject. The commission consisted of five
persons; and their Report, dated October 20, 1851, contains a large
mass of valuable information. It appeared in an English translation in
some of the London journals towards the close of the year. The
commissioners take for granted that Spain will construct railways from
Madrid to the Portuguese frontier at Badajoz on the one side, and to
the French frontier, near Bayonne, on the other; and they then inquire
how best to reach Badajoz from Lisbon. Three routes present
themselves - one to Santarem, and across the Tagus to Badajoz; another
to Santarem and Coimbra, and so on into Spain by way of Almeida; and a
third to Oporto, and thence by Bragança into Spain. The first of
these, being more directly in the route to Madrid, is preferred by the
commissioners, who estimate the outlay at a million and a quarter
sterling. They discuss the terms on which capitalists might possibly
be induced to come to their aid; and they indulge in a hope that, ten
years hence, Lisbon may be united to Central Europe by a railway, of
which 260 kilomètres will cross Portugal to Badajoz, 370 from Badajoz
to Madrid, and about 400 from Madrid to the French frontier, where the
Paris and Bayonne Railway will continue the route. (Five kilomètres
are equal to rather more than three English miles.) The Continental
_Bradshaw_ will, we apprehend, have to wait long before these
peninsular trunk-lines find a place in its pages.

Leaving altogether the countries of Europe, and crossing the
Mediterranean, we find that even Africa is becoming a member of the
great railway system. After a world of trouble, financial and
diplomatic, the present ruler of Egypt has succeeded in giving reality
to a scheme for a railway from Alexandria to the Nile. A glance at a
map of Egypt will shew us that a canal extends from Alexandria to the
Nile, to escape the sanded-up mouths of that famous river. It is
mainly to expedite the overland route, so far as concerns the transit
along this canal, that the railway now in process of construction has
been planned; anything beyond this, it will be for future ages to
develop. The subject of the Isthmus of Suez and its transit has been
frequently treated in this _Journal_, and we will therefore say
nothing more here, than that our friend _Bradshaw_ will, in all
probability, have something to tell us concerning the land of Egypt
before any long time has elapsed.

Asia will have a spider-line of railway by and by, when the slow-coach
proceedings of the East India Company have given something like form
to the Bombay and Bengal projects; but at present the progress is
miserably slow; and _Bradshaw_ need not lay aside a page for the rich
Orient for many years to come.

There are a few general considerations respecting the present aspect
of the railway system, interesting not only in themselves, but as
giving a foretaste of what is to come. In the autumn of last year, a
careful statistician calculated that the railways of Europe and
America, as then in operation, extended in the aggregate to 25,350
miles, the total cost of which was four hundred and fifty millions of
pounds. Of this, the United Kingdom had 7000 miles, costing
L.250,000,000. According to the view here given, the 7000 miles of our
own railways have been constructed at an expense prodigiously greater
than the remaining 18,350 miles in other parts of the world. It needs
no figures to prove that this is the fact. Many of the continental and
American railways are single lines, and so far they have been got up
at a comparatively small cost. But the substantial difference of
expense lies in our plan of leaving railway undertakings to private
parties - rival speculators and jobbers, whose aim has too frequently
been plunder. And how enormous has been that plunder let enriched
engineers and lawyers - let impoverished victims - declare. Shame on the
British legislature, to have tolerated and legalised the railway
villainies of the last ten years; in comparison with which the
enforcements of continental despotisms are angelic innocence!

Besides being got up in a simple and satisfactory manner, under
government decrees and state responsibility, the continental railways
are evidently more under control than those of the United Kingdom. The
speed of trains is regulated to a moderate and safe degree; on all
hands there seems to be a superior class of officials in charge; and
as the lines have been made at a small cost, the fares paid by
travellers are for the most part very much lower than in this country.
Government interference abroad is, therefore, not altogether a wrong.
Annoying as it may sometimes be, and bad as it avowedly is in
principle, there is in it the spirit of protection against private
oppression. And perhaps the English may by and by discover that
jobbing-companies, with stupendous capital and a monopoly of
conveyance, are capable of doing as tyrannical things as any
continental autocrat!

If a section of the English public stands disgraced in the eyes of
Europe by its vicious speculation - properly speaking, gambling - in
railway finance, our country is in some degree redeemed from obloquy
by the grandeur of a social melioration which jobbing has not been
able to obstruct. The wide spread of railways over the continent, we
have said, is working a perceptible change in almost all those
arrangements which bear on the daily comforts of life. No engine of a
merely physical kind has ever wrought so powerfully to secure lasting
international peace as the steam-engine. The locomotive is every hour
breaking down barriers of separation between races of men. And as wars
in future could be conducted only by cutting short the journeys by
railway, arresting trains, and ruining great commercial undertakings,
we may expect that nations will pause before rushing into them.
Already, the French railways, which push across the frontier into the
German countries, are visibly relaxing the custom-house and passport
systems. Stopping a whole train at an imaginary boundary to examine
fifteen hundred passports, is beyond even the French capacity for
official minutiæ. A hurried glance, or no glance at all - a sham
inspection at the best - is all that the gentlemen with moustaches and
cocked-hats can manage. The very attempt to look at bushels of
passports is becoming an absurdity. And what has to be done in the
twinkling of an eye, will, we have no doubt, soon not be done at all.
Thanks to railways for this vast privilege of free locomotion!




A NEW PRINCIPLE IN NATURE.


It is pretty well known that researches by Matteucci, Du Bois-Reymond,
and others, have made us acquainted with the influence of electricity
and galvanism on the muscular system of animals, and that important
physiological effects have been attributed to this influence, more
than perhaps we are warranted in assuming in the present state of our
knowledge. That an influence is exerted in some way, is clear from the
difference in our feelings in dry and wet weather: it has been
supposed, however, that the effects on the nervous system are not
produced by an accumulation of positive or of negative electricity,
but by the combination of the two producing dynamic electricity. While
these points are undergoing discussion, we have an opportunity of
bringing before our readers the results of investigations bearing on
the general question.

Most persons are aware of the fact, that a peculiar taste follows the
application of two different metals to the tongue in a popular
galvanic experiment. This taste is caused by the azotic acid formed
from the oxygen and azote of the atmosphere. An electric discharge,
too, is accompanied by a smell, which smell is due to the presence of
what is called ozone; and not long ago M. Schoenbein, of Basel, the
inventor of guncotton, discovered ozone as a principle in the oxygen
of the atmosphere; and it is considered to be the _active_ principle


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