When the works reached Clay Cross the construction of a tunnel
there led to a very important discovery of coal beds, which Stephenson
at once turned to advantage. Realising the vast value and utility
of opening up these coalfields, he communicated with his friends,
the " Liverpool party," who, acting on his advice, joined him in a
lease of land at Clay Cross, and Stephenson opened up the now
famous Clay Cross Collieries. Here he also constructed coke works,
and at Amber Gate he made limekilns, with the result that in a very
short time after the lines were opened he became by far the largest
trader with the Company. The limekilns were at Amber Gate, but
the limestone was brought from Crich by means of a branch line
three miles in length. Stephenson's interests at this period were so
much bound up with this district that in order to look after these
works he removed his residence to Tapton House, Chesterfield.
One morning in- 1839, when Stephenson was engaged in the con-
struction of the tunnel at Clay Cross, the electric telegraph block
system of signalling was first introduced to his notice, the electric
52 THE HISTORY OF THE MIDLAND RAILWAY
telegraph having just come into use. Stephenson, who had been
making an inspection of the works in the Clay Cross Tunnel, was met
by Mr. William Fothergill Cooke and Mr. Wheatstone, who had come
to explain to him the importance of the electric telegraph as a means
of regulating and controlling the working of trains.
They stated that their system was being tried upon the Great
Western Railway, and that in their opinion " the candle placed in
the window at Glenfield Tunnel was not sufficient protection for trains
in a double-line tunnel such as Clay Cross," and Stephenson agreed
with them on that point, and at once perceived the great value and
utility of the invention. It was arranged that the telegraph should
be fitted up through this tunnel and the arrival and departure of
each train reported ; and further that if a second train should arrive
at either end before the previous one was telegraphed as "Arrived,"
it should be stopped by signals and detained until such message was
received. This was to all intents and purposes the object and spirit
of what is now known as the " Block System."
During the next two years this invention underwent a great improve-
ment and development, and in 1841 Cooke and Wheatstone at Clay
Cross Tunnel introduced electric instruments or dials for controlling
the trains, perfectly independent of the "speaking instruments" and
to show at a glance if the line was "clear" or "blocked." On the
left-hand top corner of these instruments they printed the word " Stop,"
and on the right-hand " Go on " ; there was also a brass pin to hold
over the handle, and consequently the needle, to either side of the
dial; they further added an electric bell to call the attention of the
man in the signal-box, who was then called a " policeman," a title
which has since given place to the more appropriate one of "signalman."
Outside the tunnel a semaphore signal, with an arm painted red,
was fixed in order to indicate to the drivers of trains when to run
into the tunnel or to stop. These particulars are of interest, proving
as they do that as long ago as 1841 the absolute block system of
maintaining a clear section of line between each train was strictly
carried out at Clay Cross.
The North Midland Railway was opened in two sections, the first,
extending from Masborough to Derby, on Monday, May i ith, 1840, and
the remainder, from Leeds to Masborough, on Tuesday, June 3oth, of the
same year. The portion from Masborough to Derby had been specially
expedited in order to form a junction with the already existing Sheffield
and Rotherham Company's system, and thus by using that line from
Masborough to Sheffield gave the latter town and district a through
communication with Derby and the south. Up to this time the large
THROUGH TRAFFIC FROM SHEFFIELD 53
town of Sheffield had been isolated and cut off from railway com-
munication with the south.
On May i ith, 1840, the Sheffield and Rotherham Company's ordinary
train, leaving the "Wicker" passenger station at 5.30 a.m., had through
carriages attached for Derby, and on arrival at Masborough these were
added to the North Midland Company's first up train, which opened
the new line from Masborough to Derby. The traffic was heavier than
expected, and in consequence of the slippery condition of the rails,
time was lost to such an extent that the train was sixty-five minutes late
on reaching Chesterfield. George Stephenson and Mr. Hudson, who
had been Stephenson's guest at Tapton House, joined the train at this
point. To assist the heavy train a pilot engine was attached to the
rear and it ran as far as the north end of Clay Cross Tunnel, when
it was detached. The result was that when the train was three-quarters
of the way through the tunnel the engine stopped for want of steam.
A man was sent back to fetch the "pilot," and people at the rear
of the train, fearing a collision, got out of the carriages. At this stage
Stephenson's Northumbrian accent was heard above the din (for he
could not be seen) complaining of the mismanagement in sending
away the extra engine when it was most wanted. Owing to these
delays the train, which was due at 7.45 a.m , did not reach Derby
till 9.30. The first up journey, it will thus be seen, was not very
54 THE HISTORY OF THE MIDLAND RAILWAY
satisfactory, but the first down train, leaving Derby at 9.15 a.m., which
had Robert Stephenson on the engine, performed the journey in the
It is stated by the chroniclers of the time that "the railway station at
Derby is a wonderfully extensive place, which astonishes every person
arriving there for the first time. So stupendous and magnificent does
everything appear that imagination almost leads passengers to suppose
they are arrived at a market-place for steam engines."
The completion of the North Midland Railway from Hunslet Lane
passenger station, Leeds, through to Derby, rid Masborough, was
hailed with great public rejoicings. On the occasion of the opening
(June 3oth, 1840) a train, drawn by two engines and consisting of
34 vehicles, containing about 500 persons, ran from Hunslet Lane
passenger station to Derby a distance of 72 miles 64 chains. At
Normanton carriages arrived from the York and North Midland line
containing George Hudson and the directors and officials of the York
line. At the same station a carriage containing the directors of the
Manchester and Leeds Company was also attached; and at Masborough
the Sheffield contingent so swelled the number of vehicles that the
total reached 62 coaches. It thus became necessary to work the train
in two portions, each drawn by two engines and assisted by a pilot
in the rear.
At Derby there was "a stand-up lunch" served on the platform.
There was "the band of music" and the cheering usual on such
occasions, after which the train returned to Leeds, the time taken in
each direction being about five hours.
The event is described at length in the local press at the time. The
Sheffield Mercury, in its issue of July 4th, 1840, says: "This line was
formally opened throughout from Derby to Leeds on Tuesday, June 3oth
[opened from Masborough to Derby, May nth]. The train, consisting
of two engines with their tenders and 34 first and second-class
carriages, left the Leeds Station at 8.3 a.m. At the Normanton Station
it was joined by a number of carriages from the 'York and North
Midland ' Company, filled by a highly respectable party of ladies and
gentlemen. At Barnsley, at Chesterfield, and at Belper bands of
music were in attendance to add to the interest and pleasure of the
scene. Not the slightest accident of any kind occurred, and at one
o'clock the immense line of carriages was hailed at the Derby Station
by the welcoming cheers of the assembled multitude, the band playing
appropriate airs. Here a cold collation with wine was provided free
of charge by the Company to those who had tickets. Two immense
lines of tables stretched along the stone platforms, but sitting was out
LEEDS TO DERBY 55
of the question. The side of the station, as well as the tables, was
decorated with evergreens. The return train, with a party from Derby,
left at 2.30 and reached Leeds at 6.55, about 500 persons going by it.
In the evening the directors entertained their friends at a dinner at the
Music Hall in Albion Street, which was tastefully fitted up for the
occasion, and graced by the presence of several hundred ladies.
Mr. George Carr Glyn, Chairman of the Company, presided, and
amongst others were present the Rev. Dr. Hook, Mr. Wm. Beckett,
the Mayor of Leeds, the late Lord Mayor of York (Mr. Hudson),
Mr. E. Baines, Mr. Holdforth, Mr. Newton, Mr. Holdsworth, Mr.
Pickersgill, Mr. Goodman, etc., etc. Trains for York and Sheffield left
at 10.30 p.m. to take guests home. Public traffic began next day,
Wednesday, July ist."
The Sheffield and Rotherhatn Independent of July 4th, which has a
much fuller account of the above opening, says : " A short train left
Sheffield for Masboro' at 9.30 a.m., but not many went by it. The
train from Leeds did not reach Masboro' till 10.30, drawn by two
engines and pushed by a third. It appeared to be of interminable
length. Several of the stations, like Masboro', had small engines to
pump water for the locomotives and also boilers for heating it. The
North Midland Railway Company built and managed Derby Station,
the other lines paying them 6 per cent, on the cost for the privilege
of using it. It was erected by Mr. Thos. Jackson, builder, of Pimlico,
who also built Hunslet Lane Terminus Considerable excitement was
caused on the return journey by finding four horses on a high embank-
ment between Barnsley and Wakefield. Speed was slackened, and they
got safely out of the way where the bank ceased."
Derby Station at this period thus became a very important railway
centre, not only as the point of junction between the three companies
the North Midland, the Midland Counties, and the Birmingham and
Derby but as the connecting link of traffic to and from the north.
To facilitate the exchange of traffic the three companies very wisely
determined to construct one station for the joint use of all three. The
North Midland Company being the largest and most important, and
having its head offices at Derby, undertook the work and the manage-
ment of the station, but the other two companies, although they did
not find any of the capital, agreed to pay 6 per cent interest on the
proportion of the cost of that part of the structure which was for their
The station under these circumstances was a very large and com-
modious one, certainly one of the largest in existence at that period.
Twenty-six acres were inclosed, and nine lines of rails were included
56 THE HISTORY OF THE MIDLAND RAILWAY
under the roof, the entire width of which was 140 feet, in three spans or
bays one 56 feet and two 42 feet each an arrangement which
exists in an extended form to the present day. The roof was 38 feet
high, with a total length of 450 feet, but one of the three covering
spans was extended to a total length of 1,050 feet. The usual station
offices and buildings for each company were on a corresponding scale.
The North Midland in addition had its board room and chief offices of
a handsome character.
Although the passenger stations were united, each company had for
its other traffic independent goods sheds, and there were also three
independent locomotive sheds and works adjoining each other on the
eastern side of the passenger station. The engine sheds, or " houses,"
as they were then called, of the North Midland differed from those of
the other companies, which were of the ordinary straight or rectangular
shape. That of the North Midland was of a unique character; it was
polygonal in shape 16 sides with 16 sets of rails, all converging on one
turntable in the centre, the diameter of the structure being 190 feet;
and the lighting was from a dome roof 50 feet high. This building is
still in use. The " carriage houses " and workshops formed wings from
the polygon, and were 180 and 160 feet in length. Mr. Jackson was
the contractor for the whole of these buildings.
At that time (1840) it was seen that a large hotel was necessary for
the accommodation of travellers, Derby being a very convenient centre.
But although the project was thus early initiated, it was not carried
out until many years afterwards, when the present handsome and
commodious structure adjoining the station buildings was erected by
the Midland Company.
On Wednesday, July 22nd, 1840, the Queen Dowager travelled from
Nottingham to Leeds, on her way to Harewood House and Bolton
Abbey. The special train consisted of three royal carriages, the
property of the London and Birmingham Railway Company, " fitted
up in a most superb style, the linings and trimmings being of white
figured satin, with white sarsenet blinds, the exterior superbly gilt and
ornamented, the springs being the same as those used by the Company
for their mail carriages. There were also four trucks, for the convey-
ance of the private carriages and luggage van of Her Majesty and
suite. At Derby a North Midland carriage, elegantly fitted up, was
substituted for the one in which the Queen Dowager had come from
Nottingham. Several North Midland directors went on with the train.
Engine No. 10 was attached at Derby, and was attended by another in
case of accident. It proceeded at a rapid rate, and was not expected
to stop for 40 miles, till it wanted water. At Clay Cross, however,
A SHEFFIELD EXCURSION 57
the Queen Dowager requested that the train might go at a slower
pace, and the royal party consequently did not reach Leeds in much
less than the usual time."
The Sheffield and Rotherham and North Midland Companies ran an
early excursion train, which takes rank amongst the very first, and was
announced as follows :
NORTH MIDLAND RAILWAY.
EXCURSION TO AND FROM SHEFFIELD AND DERBY,
ON WHIT-TUESDAY, IST JUNE, 1841.
THE PUBLIC are respectfully informed that arrangements are made for
offering them an opportunity of visiting DERBY and the ARBORETUM
or PUBLIC GARDENS, to which they will be allowed FREE ADMIS-
The Train, consisting of First, Second, and Third Class Carriages, will
depart from Sheffield at Nine o'clock in the Morning, returning from Derby
at a Quarter-past Six o'clock in the Evening.
First Class . ?s. | Second Class . 55. j Third Class . . 43.
From Sheffield to Derby and Back.
Tickets will be on Sale (from Saturday, the 22nd, to Whit-Monday only)
at the SHEFFIELD and ROTHERHAM STATION, Independent and
Mercury offices, and at Mr. WILEY'S, Haymarket. As the Train must
depart precisely at the time stated, none will be issued after Monday, 3ist
Sheffield Station, I5th May, 1841.
The Sheffield Mercury, June 5th, describing this trip, says: "On
Tuesday the inhabitants of this town were generally on the qui vive to
witness the departure of the special train on the North Midland Rail-
way from here to Derby. There were forty-seven North Midland and
Sheffield and Rotherham carriages and five engines, containing about
2,000 persons, and about 100 were left behind, they not having applied
for tickets in time. There could not have been less than 20,000
spectators. The train started about half-past nine, and arrived at
Derby at a quarter -past twelve. It returned at 6.30, and reached
Sheffield at 8.50 without any accident occurring, save a few hats
being blown off and an individual falling out of a carriage when it
arrived at Sheffield from getting up before it had stopped."
Although the North Midland carried a large traffic, the dividend
did not satisfy the shareholders, and a committee was appointed to
reduce working expenses. This committee reported in favour of
great reductions. Directors' fees, it considered, should be cut down
58 THE HISTORY OF THE MIDLAND RAILWAY
50 per cent, the officers' salaries to be reduced 10 per cent., and
5 per cent, to be taken off the wages of those receiving less than
110 a year; but it suggested that stationmasters should not be
reduced, as several of the best men had given the committee clearly
to understand "that sooner than stand reductions they would go to
other lines." Expenses were reduced in every department, and a
number of servants were discharged, including the men who worked
the block system at Clay Cross Tunnel, that system being considered
Mr. Robert Stephenson, who had a salary of ^"1,000 a year as
Engineer-in-Chief, at his own request had the amount reduced to ,400.
However, in spite of all these savings, it was found that the dividend
to December, 1841, was only 3 per cent. With the view of increasing
the traffic, Mr. Robert Stephenson suggested, and Mr. Swanwick, the
resident engineer, surveyed, proposed branches extending from the
North Midland near Wath to the centre of the South Yorkshire colliery
districts. Stephenson's idea was that the best way to improve the
dividends was to increase the traffic and extend the Company's system
into new districts and other coalfields ; but the directors and several
large shareholders were of the contrary opinion, and they thought that
with falling dividends they ought not to lay out capital on new works.
Events proved that Stephenson was right, but for a time the views of
the directors prevailed a decision which was most unfortunate, as it
subsequently led to a large portion of the South Yorkshire coal traffic
falling into the hands of the Great Northern Company.
The question of the maintenance of the permanent way had for
some considerable time engaged the attention of directors and engineers
of railway companies generally as to the most advantageous of two
systems, namely, maintenance by the Company's own officials or the
employment of an independent contractor. It was determined by the
North Midland, in order to thoroughly test the matter, to try the latter
system; and on May lyth, 1841, an advertisement was issued from the
Engineer's office of the North Midland Railway at Chesterfield,
stating that tenders for the maintenance of the way and works
between Derby and Masborough may be sent to H. Patteson, Esq.,
the Company's Secretary, at Derby, by ten o'clock on June 5th. The
distance would be divided into five or more separate lengths, for each
of which parties might tender. Drafts of contracts and specifications
would be ready at the Engineer's office by May 27th, where parties
could obtain orders allowing them to walk along and inspect the line.
This contract was continued for a number of years, and from a report
of a Committee of Investigation in 1849 it mav De nere stated that
ROBERT STEPHENSON'S EXPERIMENTS
the change from light to heavy rails saved 7| per cent, on the contract
price. With light rails and stone blocks six men were required, and
with heavy rails and cross wooden sleepers only two and a half men
per mile were required for the maintenance of the line. This system
of contracting for permanent way repairs and maintenance was con-
tinued for many years after the Midland was formed, and we believe
it was actually in operation till 1873, when the last of the contractors
Early in the year 1842 the locomotive officials at Derby directed
the attention of Mr. Robert Stephenson to the important fact that
the chimneys and smoke-boxes of the locomotive engines were being
LONG BOILER ENGINE
(North Midland Railway).
very quickly destroyed, and he therefore made some experiments
with the North Midland Company's engines at Derby to ascertain the
degree of heat which was escaping. First he placed tin in small iron
conical cups and suspended them in the smoke-box, and it was
found to disappear quickly ; next lead was tried in the same manner,
and was found to melt nearly as easily; and lastly, zinc was tried,
which was soon driven off in vapour, clearly indicating a temperature
of 773 degrees in the chimney, and showing that a great waste of heat
and fuel was taking place. To overcome this evil Mr. Stephenson
decided to lengthen the boiler tubes of locomotives from 9 feet to
13 or 14 feet. He also adopted the name "long boiler," and placed
all the axles under the barrel or circular part of the boiler.
In the first of these "long boiler" engines the driving wheels were
60 THE HISTORY OF THE MIDLAND RAILWAY
placed between the leading and trailing carrying wheels, the cylinders
being kept forward under the smoke-box.
Further experiments at Derby in 1843 proved that the "long
boiler" was successful in reducing the heat in the chimney to very
little over 442 degrees, as upon placing tin in the smoke-box it was
found just to melt at the corners; and early in the year 1844 Mr.
Robert Stephenson decided to place the four carrying wheels in front
of the engine, and the driving wheels close in front of the fire-box.
These improvements were regarded as of great value and importance
at the time, and they greatly reduced the consumption of coal by
At this period the management of the Company was controlled
partly in London and partly in Leeds and Derby, which proved a
very inconvenient arrangement ; and at the first meeting of the
shareholders in the year 1842 Mr. George Carr Glyn resigned the
post of Chairman in order that Mr. William L. Newton, of Derby,
could occupy the position and enable the whole of the general
management to be concentrated at Derby, where it has remained
The shareholders at the same meeting, notwithstanding the great
depression in trade, expressed their surprise that in view of the
"reductions" in expenses the dividend was only 2 per cent., and
a very important speech was made by Mr. George Hudson, an
energetic and well-to-do linen-draper of York, who was also Chairman
of the York and North Midland Railway. Mainly in consequence
of this speech a Shareholders' Committee of seven members, with
Mr. Hudson as its Chairman, was appointed to consider the position
and future management of the Company.
The Shareholders' Committee made a report to a meeting of share-
holders in November, 1842, upon the necessity for further reductions,
but Mr. Newton, the Chairman of the Company, expressed the opinion
of the directors that the suggestions of the Committee "could not
be carried out with safety to the public." This caused an uproar,
during which Mr. Newton left the chair, and the meeting terminated.
Six of the directors shortly afterwards felt that it was not a very
pleasant position to hold office under the circumstances, and they
resigned, Mr. Hudson and five members of the Shareholders' Com-
mittee being elected to take their places.
The anxiety of the directors to carry out the policy of reduction
in every possible direction actually led them to adopt the extraordinary
course of announcing by advertisement their desire to sell sixty new
'carriages, consisting of thirty first-class and thirty second-class. The
AMALGAMATION A NECESSITY
advertisement, which appeared on March nth, 1843, gave as the reason
of the sale that the Company had too many coaches for the require-
ments of their traffic.
The difficulties of the Company became very great, the directors
and the shareholders were divided in their counsels, and the time
was at hand for a great development and an extended combination.
GOODS ENGINE, NORTH MIDLAND RAILWAY, 1840.
THE BIRMINGHAM AND DERBY JUNCTION RAILWAY
IT has already been explained in a previous chapter that the
Midland Counties Railway, by means of its Trent and Pinxton
branch, appeared to threaten the interests of the North Midland ;
and in order to checkmate this movement the latter company came
to the conclusion that it must find an independent junction with the
London and Birmingham Railway for through traffic. George Stephen-
son was consequently instructed to survey a line from Derby, passing
through Burton, Tamworth, and Whitacre, to connect with the London
and Birmingham Company's system at Stechford, near Birmingham,
so as to join a line which was proposed to run to Gloucester and
the West of England. There was also to be a ''Stonebridge branch"
to extend from Whitacre Junction to Hampton Junction, which would
give a connection with the direct line to London, and thus make
them entirely independent of the Midland Counties line.
Although these were the true objects of the line, namely to give