Clement Edwin Stretton.

The history of the Midland railway online

. (page 3 of 36)
Online LibraryClement Edwin StrettonThe history of the Midland railway → online text (page 3 of 36)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

" stop signal."

In August, 1832, when the second engine the "Phoenix" arrived,
it became necessary to avoid trains meeting upon the single line, and
they therefore followed each other about fifteen minutes apart, and to
avoid collision in the tunnel a fifteen-minute sand-glass was employed
at Glenfield Station and another at the tunnel house. When one train
entered the tunnel the glass was turned, and if a second arrived within
fifteen minutes it was stopped by means of a flag or by a candle placed
in the window of either the Glenfield Station or the tunnel house, and


the absence of the flag or candle was the signal to go into the tunnel.
At the tunnel house, it should be mentioned, the wife of a platelayer
attended to the sand-glass and lighted the candle.

Lord Stamford, in 1831, commenced a branch line over his own land
at his own expense to connect his granite quarries at Groby with the
Swannington Railway, and in the following year George Stephenson,
Joseph Sandars, and Joshua Walmesley constructed a line to their
Snibston No. 2 Colliery at Coalville, and in 1832 Sir George Beaumont
commenced the Coleorton Railway from the junction at Swannington

(Opened 1832).

to the ancient Ashby tramroad, thus placing the Leicester and Swan-
nington, Coleorton, and Ashby lines, also the Ashby Canal, in direct
communication. It is interesting to note that in each of these three
cases the work was well in hand before any application was made to
Parliament for Acts.

At a meeting held at the "Bell" on January i4th, 1833, shares
were issued from 1,640 to 1,800, but it was found that in five cases the
calls had not been paid up.

Mr. Roger Miles, the clerk to the Company, therefore the same day
wrote to the holders of the five shares, Nos. 1,692, 1,698, 1,699, I j7j


1,748, "I am therefore necessitated to inform you that unless the sum
of 2 is paid on or before the 22nd instant, your name will be furnished
to one of the principal and most pressing creditors of the Company."
As a fact there were no pressing creditors, but the letter had the desired
effect, and the money was paid with an explanation that the notice to
pay had been overlooked.

Another new engine, the "Samson," was placed on the line, and one
of the first events in its history was to bring about the introduction of
the first " steam trumpet."

On Saturday, May 4th, 1833, Driver Weatherburn reported to the
Engine Superintendent, Mr. Cabry, that "when driving the engine

THE "SAMSON," 1833.

'Samson' on the first train this morning, on approaching the level
crossing of the road from Bagworth to Thornton at a point close to
the Stag and Castle Inn, I observed a horse and cart approaching.
I blew the horn, lifted the * safety valves,' and opened the cylinder taps,
but failed to attract the attention of the man in charge of the covered
cart. The horse passed over the rails, but the left-hand buffer of the
engine caught the back corner of the cart. The horse was so injured
that it had to be killed, but the driver of the cart, although thrown
out, was not much hurt. The cart and contents were completely
smashed up."

Upon hearing the facts, Mr. Cabry asked, "Were the gates shut
across the road?" "Oh, no," replied the driver, "they were wide
open, and I saw nothing of the gatekeeper." The matter was at


once reported to the Manager, Mr. Ashlen Bagster, who informed
Mr. Roger Miles, the clerk to the Company, and Mr. John Ellis,
one of the directors. At their suggestion, by the next train on the
same day, Mr. Bagster went over to Alton Grange to report the circum-
stance to Mr. George Stephenson, who was the largest shareholder
in the line. After various ideas had been considered, Mr. Bagster
remarked, "Is it not possible to have a whistle fitted on the engine
which steam can blow?" to which
George Stephenson replied, "A
very good thought ; go and have
one made."

Mr. Bagster at once went to a
musical instrument maker in King
Street, Leicester, who constructed a
" steam trumpet," which was put on
in ten days, and tried at West Bridge
Station in the presence of the Board
of Directors.

Similar trumpets or whistles were
ordered for the other engines, and
one was also sent from Leicester
to the Liverpool and Manchester

The owner of the cart put in a claim against the Company for a new
horse and cart, and for fifty pounds of butter and eighty dozen eggs,
which he was conveying to Leicester market, and as the person who
should have closed the gates was clearly to blame and neglected
that duty, the Company's solicitors, Messrs. S. and R. Miles, advised
that the claim should be paid, and that course was adopted by the

These trumpets were the first instruments or appliances ever used
on locomotives in any part of the world to give notice by steam whistle
or sound of the approach of a train or engine. The trumpet had,
of course, a steam tap, and was, according to the official diagram
signed by the Company's Engine Superintendent, i foot 6 inches high
and 6 inches diameter at the top.

During the year 1833 the portion of the Leicester and Swannington
Railway which extends from the summit near Bagworth to the top
of the Swannington incline, known as the "Upper End," was opened
by the " Samson," and was driven upon this occasion by Robert
Stephenson. As the traffic was small, a composite carriage was ample
for the passenger traffic on this section of the line.



The Railway Company did not build stations at Ashby Road (now
Bardon Hill) nor at Long Lane (now Coalville), but in each case used
a room in the " Railway Hotels," where passengers obtained their
tickets and waited for their trains.

The Swannington incline, which commences at a distance of

(Used also as a Passenger Station, 1833 to July 3ist, 1849).

15 J miles from Leicester, was in 1833, and is to-day (1901), worked
by a stationary engine and rope.

By an Act of June loth, 1833, the Company obtained powers to
make the Soar Lane branch at Leicester and to raise ; 10,000 in shares
and ^15,000 on loan, so as to compete, if necessary, on advantageous
terms with a rival line which was then proposed from Pinxton to

This branch crosses the canal by a curious drawbridge, designed by
Mr. Robert Stephenson. It was built in 1833-4, and is still in use,


the movable part being raised and lowered by means of chains at the
four corners passing over pulleys and attached to counterweights.

The large increase in the coal traffic necessitated the use of more
powerful engines to convey the trains upon the rising gradients of
i in 251 and i in 190 between the top of the Swannington incline
and the top of the Bagworth incline. Mr. Stephenson decided to
construct a powerful engine, the "Atlas," having six coupled wheels,
and it was put to work in February, 1834. This was the sixth engine
sent to this line from the Newcastle works. However, in 1833 some

(Opened 1833, and still in use, 1901).

members of the "Liverpool party" pressed upon the directors that
the Lancashire firms of Bury and Co., Tayleur and Co., and the
Haigh Foundry Company should have orders, but Mr. Stephenson
being the largest shareholder, they appeared to have felt anxious to
know his opinion. It was therefore decided to write a private note
on the subject, to which George Stephenson wrote the well-known
reply, " Very well, I have no objection ; but put them to this fair test
hang one of Bury's engines on to one of mine, back to back, then let
them go at it, and whichever walks away with the other, that's the

The order was given to Mr. Bury in 1833, who personally assured
the directors that "whatever Stephenson's engine could do his could
do," and the engine named the " Liverpool " was placed upon the line


in July, 1834, when a series of practical trials was made with a train of
wagons in the presence of the directors. However, Mr. Bury was
ultimately obliged to admit that his engine, the " Liverpool," was not
equal to taking the train conveyed by Stephenson's "Atlas." Turning
to Mr. Bury, Mr. John Ellis remarked, "That being so, why didst
thou say that whatever Stephenson's engine could do thine own could
do ? " To this question no answer was made.

In June, 1837, this Company obtained power to raise a further sum

(Still at work).

of ^40,000 by the issue of new shares, in order to pay off all bonds
and securities which then existed for the sum of .35,000, the remaining
,5,000 being required for new engines and works.

On December 2yth, 1837, the capital was raised to 2,800 shares of
^o each, or ,140,000, and all loans and bonds paid off.

The cost of constructing the main line of railway was equal to
;7>97 P er m il e - The books show that for the three years ending
December, 1839, tne average profit was ^8,648, being equal to 6*17
per cent, on the capital. The maintenance of way, which was under-
taken by a contractor, was during that period equal to .130 14^. per
mile. The locomotive power and repairs of engines amounted to
,2,099 i$s. 2.d. per annum.


The wives of platelayers and others on this line were important
persons in several cases, living rent free in the Company's houses on
condition that they acted as gatekeepers, and Mrs. Argyle, the wife
of the platelayer at Merry Lees, was " stationmaster," booking-clerk,
porter, and she also worked the signals to stop the trains. She
assisted when wagons were shunted into the siding, and managed
the whole station from July iyth, 1832, to February 28th, 1871, when
it was closed. The author has repeatedly seen her go up the ladder
of the home-signal and light the lamps as well as any man.


It is worthy of note that the Loughborough Canal shares, upon which
^142 ijs. od. had been paid, were, previous to the opening of the
Swannington Railway, worth ^4,500 each, but to-day they can be
purchased for ^135. The Erewash Canal shares, upon which .100
were paid, sold for ,300, but can now be had for ^50 ; and the
Leicester Canal .140 shares are standing at ^60.

To stem, if possible, the tide of adversity and to compete on better
terms with the railway company, the Leicester Navigation Company in
1833 g a ve parliamentary notice to construct a railway system from
Loughborough to all the collieries in the Leicestershire district, but
these proposals were never carried into effect.



MR. WILLIAM JESSOP and Mr. James Oakes, who had been
deputed, as we have already seen, to attend the opening of the
Leicester and Swannington Railway on July iyth, 1832, immediately
after that event made a full report to the Derbyshire and Nottingham-
shire coal owners, and a month later, namely on August i6th, 1832,
a meeting was held at the Sun Inn, Eastwood. Mr. Jessop reported that
Leicestershire coal was being sent by train to Leicester in large quantities,
and was being sold at under los. per ton ; also that their own trade in
the Leicester district was completely ruined. He stated that to com-
pete with the Leicester and Swannington Railway the price of their
coal in Leicester must be reduced 3*. 6d. per ton. The coal owners
had met the canal companies and urged them to reduce their rates
35-. a ton, the price of the coal to be lowered is. per ton. On the other
hand, the canal companies would only agree to lose is. 6d., and con-
sidered that the coal owners should reduce their price 2s. per ton.
After two hours' consultation nothing further could be arranged, both
sides considering their offers as final, and neither would give way in the

When these facts were reported to the coal owners at the Sun Inn,
Eastwood, on August i6th, 1832, they not only resolved to reject the
offers of the canal companies, but also unanimously passed a resolution
that " There remains no other plan for our adoption than to attempt to
lay a railway from these collieries to the town of Leicester," and a com-
mittee of seven members was elected to carry the resolution into effect.
The Sun Inn at Eastwood is consequently the birthplace of the Midland
Counties Railway.

The original scheme was simply to make a line from the old Mans-
field and Pinxton Railway at Pinxton to Leicester, and the Derbyshire
and Nottinghamshire coal masters put down their names for a consider-
able part of the capital, but they were unable to raise the money
required. The Secretary, Mr. Fox Bell, therefore made a journey to




Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, Derby, and other towns and laid the
case before the rich men known as the " Liverpool party."

Some members of the "Liverpool party" then paid a visit to the
district, and decided that a local single-line railway was not in accord-
ance with their wishes. A line from Pinxton to Leicester they regarded
as too fragmentary and incomplete, as it did not form a link in the
great " chain " which they desired to establish between London and the
north. It must be remembered that in 1833 an Act was obtained to
make the London and Birmingham Railway, and the " Liverpool

(Birthplace of the Midland Counties Railway).

party" insisted that the proposed Pinxton and Leicester line must be
continued forward from Leicester to Rugby to form a junction with the
London and Birmingham Company's system ; also that it should extend
from near the river Trent to Derby to form a junction with the pro-
posed " North Midland line from Derby to Leeds, and that there must
be a branch from Trent to Nottingham."

The proposed railway would thus become a main line from Rugby to
Derby, having a branch to Nottingham, and another branch from near
Long Eaton passing Pye Bridge to Pinxton would form a junction with
the old Mansfield Outram plateway.


The " Liverpool party," who were providing the bulk of the capital,
felt that they were entitled to call the tune, and they determined that
they would only give their support to the scheme on the distinct con-
dition that their extended proposals were carried into effect, and that
the Pinxton and Leicester line should blossom into the Midland
Counties Railway.

A number of meetings were held in support of the project, when
Mr. Fox Bell pointed out that surveys had been made of the intended
lines between Derby and Leicester and Derby and Nottingham and
part of the line from Leicester to Rugby. The latter portion of the
survey was then being completed, and a very influential committee had
been formed in Leicester. The coal owners of Derbyshire and Notting-
hamshire had taken shares to the amount of ,50,000 in the original
project, which amount would now be thrown into the present under-
dertaking. Mr. Bell also read the draft of a prospectus, in which it
was estimated that a capital of ^'600,000 would be ample. The
receipts expected included :

Coaching, parcels, etc. . ... 77,870

Heavy goods, now sent by canal and road . . 8,288

Coal, minerals, timber, linen, grain, etc. . . 16,309

Deduct working expenses . . . 37,250

Leaving a net surplus of . ... 65,217

Add probable increase of coaching, etc. . . 40,620

., goods and coal . . 8,160

Total net profit . . . -;ii3 ? 997

The carriage of coal to Leicester, then $s. 2d. to 6s. per ton, would
be reduced to 2s. qd. or 3^., bringing the selling price down from
i2s. or 15-f. to from 8s. to us. per ton. A Nottingham committee
was also formed, comprising several county magistrates and other
influential men. The same month, November, 1833, it was stated
that Mr. Rennie, the engineer, had personally inspected the whole
of the intended line from Rugby to Leicester, Derby, and Nottingham,
with the branch to Pinxton, and thought very favourably of it.

In November, 1833, parliamentary notices were lodged for the line
from Pinxton, Derby, Nottingham, and Leicester to Rugby, and the
following abridged prospectus was afterwards issued :




The Right Honourable the Viscount Melbourne.
The Right Honourable the Earl of Denbigh.


Colonel Cheney, C.B.
Charles William Packe, Esq.
Matthew Babington, Esq.
Thomas Edward Dicey, Esq.
William Heyrick, Esq.
Richard Gough, Esq.
John Hill, Esq., M.D.

Joseph Noble, Esq., M.D.

John Bright, Esq.

James Brookes, Esq.

John Needham, Esq.

Mr. Toone.

Mr. Hackett.

Mr. C. B. Robinson.

Mr. Alfred Burgess.


Lancelot Rolleston, Esq.
John Musters. Esq.
John Wright, Esq.
John Coke, Esq.
Francis Wright, Esq.

William Trentham.
Thomas Barber, Esq.
Samuel Parsons, Esq.
Richard Renshaw, Esq.
H. B. Campbell, Esq.

William Wilson, Esq.


Edward Miller Mundy, Esq. Samuel Fox, Esq.

William Palmer Morewood, Esq. Henry Chapman, Esq.

William Leaper Newton, Esq. Mr. John Wright.

John Boden, Esq. Mr. John Sandars.

Edward Soresby Cox, Esq. Mr. William Baker.

James Oakes, Esq. Mr. Byng.

Douglas Fox, Esq. Mr. Tunnicliffe.


Leicester : Messrs. Mansfield and Babington.

Nottingham : Messrs. I. and I. Wright and Co.

Derby : Messrs Crompton, Newton, and Co.

Mansfield and Chesterfield : Messrs. Maltby and Robinson.

Rugby : Messrs. Butlin and Son.

London : Messrs Smith, Payne, and Smith.


Nottingham : Messrs Leeson and Cell.

Leicester : Messrs Berridge, Berridge, and Macaulay.

Derby : Messrs. Mousley and Barber.

George Rennie, Esq., and William Jessop, Esq.

Mr. John Fox Bell, Leicester.

Capital ^600,000.
In 6,000 shares of 100 each. Deposit 2 per share.


Application for shares to be made at the respective banks, or (if by letter
post-paid) to the Secretary.

This railway is intended to connect the towns of Leicester, Nottingham,
and Derby with each other and with London, a junction for this latter
object being designed with the London and Birmingham Railway near
Rugby. A branch will also extend to the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire
collieries, and to the termination of the Mansfield Railway at Pinxton.
From a very careful estimate of the sources and amount of income on
this railway, it appears that a clear annual return of 20 per cent, may
be expected from the capital invested in it.

A prospectus with Plan and Section of the Line has been published,
which, with Mr. Rennie's Report thereon, may be had on application to
the Bankers and Solicitors above named, or to the Secretary, if by letter,
post-paid. The requisite parliamentary notices have been given, and plan
and books of reference have been deposited with the Clerks of the Peace for
the respective counties agreeably to the standing orders of the two Houses
of Parliament.

It is expected the whole of the routes northward of Leicester may be
completed within two years after the Act is obtained, and the remaining
portion to Rugby by the time the London and Birmingham Railway is

Subscribers will not be called upon for more than 5 per cent, at one
Instalment, nor for Instalments at shorter intervals than three months.

November, 1833.

The Midland Counties Company also suggested, or (perhaps un-
fortunately for itself) let it be known that at some future time it
intended to extend this Pinxton branch from Pye Bridge junction
along the full length of the Erewash Valley, and join the " North
Midland " at Clay Cross or Chesterfield, thus threatening to take some
of the traffic which belonged to the North Midland route. This
caused the North Midland Company to oppose the bill, and the
powerful canal companies in the district also threw in their influence
against the scheme. The North Midland Company, in order to
defend itself, caused or suggested the formation of another railway
company, the " Birmingham and Derby," to form a junction with
the London and Birmingham Railway at Hampton, thus obtaining
for itself an independent route to London without having to rely
upon the Midland Counties.

So great was the opposition to the Midland Counties Bill when it
eventually came before Parliament in 1836 that it became evident that
it would be lost, and the "Liverpool party" therefore decided that the
Pinxton branch must be entirely dropped in order to save the measure.
This alteration proved successful, and the Act for making the Midland
Counties Railway from Rugby to Leicester, Derby, and Nottingham
received the Royal Assent on June 2ist, 1836.

The Midland Counties was one of the very first lines in the kingdom
which was constructed without the aid of George Stephenson, and the


absence of his master hand and mind was very conspicuous. The
engineers employed lacked Stephenson's resources and experience, and
they failed naturally to command the same degree of confidence or that
"inflow of capital" which were so essential to the rapid inauguration
and completion of the works. First designed in 1832 by Jessop, in
l8 33 George Rennie was called in to re-survey and confirm Jessop's
route; parliamentary notices were lodged the same year, but the
requisite financial support was not forthcoming to justify further pro-
cedure; the parliamentary notices were repeated in 1834; a re-survey
was advocated in 1835 ; Charles Vignoles, another engineer, was called
in and became engineer of the line in August, 1835 ; altered plans were
lodged in Parliament in November of the same year ; a new route to
Northampton was advocated in February, 1836; an Act was finally
obtained in June, 1836, but part of the scheme was kept in a state of
suspended animation by direction of Parliament till August ist, 1837.
That, with the advocacy of first one scheme and then another by various
parties, accounts for the very protracted delay from 1832 to 1837.

The Erewash Valley coal masters, by whom the scheme was first
suggested, found themselves "completely bested," as one of them
remarked the very Pinxton branch, which was to them the sole object
of the line, and for which they fought so hard, was lost. They held a
meeting, passed resolutions, and expressed their views in very strong
terms, but they could do nothing beyond close the meeting and retire
to an excellent dinner at the Sun Inn.

The three canal companies and the coal owners afterwards condoled
with each other, and heartily regretted that they did not come to terms
in 1832, and thus have avoided the introduction of the new railway.

The Midland Counties Railway Company held its first annual general
meeting at Loughborough,on June 3oth, 183 7, when Mr. Thomas Edward
Dicey, the Chairman, presided; and the Board of Directors at that time
consisted of no less than twenty -four members, namely Matthew
Babington, Charles William Packe, Joseph Frederick Ledsam, William
Wilberforce Pearson, Francis Wright, Joseph Smith, William Jessop,
Theodore Wool man Rathbone, Edward Cropper, Charles Stewart
Parker, Richard Cheslyn, Edward Miller Mundy, Lawrence Heyworth,
Edward Dawson, Thomas Edward Dicey, John Coke, John Horsfall,
James Oakes, Joseph Walker, George Barker, John Bright, Thomas
Toone, William Hackett, and Joseph Cripps.

The original route at first suggested by Mr. Jessop was not exactly
followed, and Mr. Vignoles, when appointed engineer, was instructed
to prepare the plans for Parliament as though no other engineer had
been over the ground.


After Mr. Vignoles had decided upon the route, and during the
time the Bill was before Parliament, the inhabitants of Northampton,
backed also by those of Market Harborough, made a vigorous attempt
to induce the Company to abandon the Leicester and Rugby part of
their scheme, and to make a line from Wigston to Market Harborough,
thence direct past Northampton to join the London and Birmingham
Railway at Roade. A clause was therefore placed in the Company's
Act of June 2ist, 1836, "That the said Company shall not use or
exercise any power, privilege, or authority, given by or contained in
this Act, with respect to the portion of their line lying between Rugby
and the point where the Midland Counties Railway passes from the
parish of Wigston Magna into the township of Knighton, until

Online LibraryClement Edwin StrettonThe history of the Midland railway → online text (page 3 of 36)