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preserve the trees, and they also had an injunction restraining them
from destroying the trees or making an open cutting.

They consequently decided to make a deviation line to dispense
with a tunnel and to avoid the plantation entirely, but this laudable
intention was only the signal for further warfare. So far from the
deviation putting an end to the difficulties, Lord Harborough
obstructed the surveyors for the plans for the deviation quite as
strongly as he had done the surveyors for the original line. Another
fracas occurred on the 24th and a second on November 28th, 1845.
This led to a trial in July, 1846, when the Company indicted Lord
Harborough and twelve other persons at Nottingham for conspiring to
prevent Charles Liddell and others from taking surveys and making
plans and sections which had to be laid before Parliament on Novem-
ber 3oth, and further, for assaulting the said Charles Liddell and others.
A deviation from the Act obtained in 1845 for the construction of the
Syston and Peterborough Railway was found necessary. It was alleged
that his lordship ordered the surveyors off his land and engaged people
to obstruct them. He himself drove a gig up and down the high road
whilst the surveyors were engaged with the theodolite, and persons who


were in his employ carried sheets of calico, ran against the railway men
who were about 150 in number and caused a general uproar. Lord
Harborough also drove a brake against the surveyors' chaise, but there
was no direct evidence of any further assault upon the persons of the
surveyors or their assistants. After a trial of upwards of five hours'
duration the jury returned a verdict of "Not guilty" on July 24th, 1846.

These disputes with Lord Harborough caused great delay, and neces-
sitated another Act of Parliament being passed on June i8th, 1846,
authorising a deviation from the original plans. Terms were arranged
with Lord Harborough which ultimately got rid of all the difficulties.
The portion of line from Syston to Melton was completed and opened
on September ist, 1846, and the Stamford and Peterborough section was
ready, but the Midland Company had no means of getting to it, and
could not convey either engines or carriages to this bit of line. It was
therefore decided that the Eastern Counties Company's trains should
open and work the Peterborough and Stamford line from October 2nd,
1846, until such time as the intermediate Melton and Stamford division
should be completed.

Finally, the Syston and Peterborough branch, which added 48 J miles
to the Company's system, was opened from Syston to Melton Mowbray
on September ist, 1846; and at the other end of the line the portion
from Stamford to Peterborough and the junction with the Eastern
Counties Railway was opened on October 2nd, 1846. But the inter-
vening section of the line between Melton and Stamford, in con-
sequence of the dispute with Lord Harborough, was not ready till
March 2oth, 1848, when it was opened for through coal traffic, and on
May ist of the same year for passengers. But although the line was
thus finally completed and opened, it was not so satisfactory as that
according to the original plan, for it necessitated what is known as
"Lord Harborough's curve" at Saxby, which was too sharp for fast
running, and had many years after to be modified.



HAVING traced the history of the formation and the consolida-
tion of the three parent lines and their unification in the
existing Midland Railway Company, we now come to consider the
policy of expansion which followed. First of all came the making
of its two primary extensions to Lincoln and to Peterborough, which
was succeeded by the introduction of another policy of vast and
far-reaching importance, namely, the enlargement of the system, not
only by making new lines to districts not touched or only very partially
served by railway communication, but by purchasing, leasing, or other-
wise acquiring the properties of other independent railway companies
with the view of building up a more extensive and important railway
system. The object of this was, of course, to secure traffic as well as
greatly to facilitate through traffic alike to the benefit of traders,
passengers, and the Company. The result of this policy was again
to confirm what had been demonstrated by the original consolidation
of the parent lines, namely, that a large company could deal more
advantageously with traffic than could numerous small ones.

The first of the companies so acquired was the Sheffield and
Rotherham, which had been constructed some years previously.

At the suggestion of Mr. George Stephenson, the inhabitants of
Sheffield took in hand the formation of a local railway company, and
by virtue of an Act passed on July 4th, 1836, constructed the line from
the Wicker Station, Sheffield, past Brightside and Holmes to Rother-
ham, a distance of 5 J miles, also a short connecting line known as the
Greasborough branch, extending from Holmes to join the North
Midland Railway at Masborough Station.

The Sheffield and Rotherham line was formally opened on Wednes-
day, October 3151, 1838. On the arrival of the first train from Sheffield
a breakfast took place at the Court House at Rotherham soon after
1 1 a.m. Earl Fitzwilliam and several members of his family travelled
by this train. The Earl was more than half an hour late in reaching



the Sheffield Station, so that it was 10.40 instead of 10.10 when the
first train left Sheffield. The Chairman, Mr. Wm. Vickers, the
directors, their guests, and proprietors holding the largest number of
shares went by it. It was to return at n with the Rotherham pro-
prietors and the public, admitted by gratuitous tickets. Several journeys
to and fro were to be made, each train being computed to carry 300
persons. The carriages, " of which those called first-class were
exceedingly beautiful and well fitted up," were manufactured by Messrs.
Richard Melling and Co., of Green Hayes, near Manchester. Several
" of what are termed second-class carriages " had been procured from
Bolton for the occasion. Along the entire line " parties were stationed
for the purpose of preventing accidents, by keeping spectators off the
railway." Only three engines were in use at that time, all by
Stephenson and Co.

Mr. Wm. Vickers, the Chairman of the Directors, presided at the
breakfast, at which George Stephenson was present. The latter,
returning thanks for the toast of his health, said he never was an
advocate for unfavourable gradients ; he wanted low levels. Sur-
rounded as the town of Sheffield was by hills, it was impossible to
get out of it except by going to Rotherham. He defied them to do it.
If Mr. Leather came to cut through those hills it would never do ;
he would be disappointed. He had great pleasure in seeing the works
so well executed by a pupil of his.

Sir Gregory Lewin, standing counsel to the Sheffield and Rotherham
Railway Company, wondered if Mr. Stephenson would say the same
in private. He thought he would say that mountains never stood in
the way of an Englishman. He then proposed the health of Robert
Stephenson, who was not present. George Stephenson, replying, said
he had had to sit up night after night to earn 35. to send him to school,
and thought there was never a father who had more pleasure in a son
than he had in his.

It will be observed that George Stephenson defended his dictum
regarding gradients and his policy of constructing the North Midland
line via Staveley instead of over the hills from Chesterfield to Sheffield.
It is all very well to say that mountains never stand in the way of
Englishmen; but time and experience have more than justified the
position taken up by Stephenson, for although the line which was
originally pressed upon him from Chesterfield to Sheffield has actually
been constructed in spite of the severity of the gradients and the
heavy tunnelling required, still these add immensely to the cost of
working as well as reducing the speed of ascending trains. The
soundness of Stephenson's opinion, from an engineering point of view,


is proved by the fact that at the present day one of the Midland
modern engines is capable of taking a heavy train from Chesterfield
to Masborough via Stephenson's Staveley line, whilst it requires two
engines to take the same train over the more difficult gradients on the
Chesterfield and Sheffield direct route. Thus it is that, notwithstanding
the great importance of Sheffield and its traffic, some of the Midland
expresses at the present time travel over Stephenson's Staveley route.

At the public opening of the line next day (November ist, 1838)
about 1,000 ordinary passengers travelled over the line. One of the
trains, namely, that leaving Sheffield at 4 p.m., was drawn by the
engine "Victory," with George Stephenson on the footplate, and it
accomplished a remarkably good run. This train covered the distance
in nine minutes forty-five seconds, and Stephenson expressed the
opinion that it could easily be done in seven or eight minutes when
the embankments had consolidated.

The Company at once gave a very good train service, and its
time-table was the most simple possible, namely :

" From Sheffield Every hour from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
From Rotherham Every hour from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m."

As this line was the only route which the Midland Company could
use for its Sheffield traffic, it became evident at the time of the railway
mania that it must not by any chance be allowed to fall into other
hands. It was therefore decided that it should be vested in the
Midland, that Company to issue Sheffield and Rotherham Preferential
Stock, paying 6 per cent, in perpetuity on the share capital of
,150,000, which stock continued until its conversion under the Act
of 1897.

The Act for vesting the line in the Midland was passed on July 2ist,
1845, at which date the small Company ceased to exist, and its nine
directors went out of office. Their names should therefore be here
recorded, namely, Chairman William Vickers, Deputy- Chairman
G. W. Chambers, Messrs. B. Vickers, W. Jackson, J. Wilkinson,
J. Spencer, W. Bradley, A. McTurk, and G. Knowles, all being well-
known local business men.

By the Act of Parliament the holders of the Sheffield and Rother-
ham Preference Stock enjoyed the privilege of having their dividends
paid by the Midland Company " before and in preference to any
dividends in respect of any other shares or stock whatsoever."

On acquiring the line the first step that the Midland took was
to construct a short curve extending from the Wicker Station at
Sheffield to Bridge Houses Junction, thus giving a connection with


the Sheffield, Ashton-under-Lyne and Manchester Company's system
at Sheffield. By this means the Midland secured a second means of
forwarding traffic from its system to Manchester, the only other route
formerly available being to hand over the traffic to the Manchester
and Leeds Company at Normanton.

No sooner was the Midland Company formed in 1844 and the rival
interests of the early companies removed, than our old friends, Messrs.
Oakes, Jessop, and the Nottinghamshire coal owners, naturally came to
the front once more with their scheme for a " Pinxton branch," which,
it will be remembered, had to be left out of the original Midland
Counties Bill. This time, however, they decided to form an in-
dependent Erewash Valley Railway Company of their own, and to
make a line from Pinxton, joining the Midland at Trent and Long
Eaton junctions. The Midland Board came to the conclusion that
the Erewash Valley was much too rich a district to be under the control
of any other company, more especially as by the construction of an
extension from Clay Cross Junction to Pye Bridge Junction a direct
main route could be made from Clay Cross to Trent, which would
reduce the distance from the north to Leicester, Rugby, and London,
thus relieving the line via Amber Gate and Derby of much of its
heavy traffic. During the time that the Bill for the construction of
this line of about twelve miles was before Parliament negotiations were
opened between the two companies, which resulted in the Midland
agreeing on February i4th, 1845, to take over the Erewash Valley
Company and to guarantee a dividend of 6 per cent, upon its capital of
,145,000; and the Act for the formation of the line and confirming
the agreement between the parties received the Royal Assent on
August 4th, 1845. The line was constructed, and opened for public
traffic on September 6th, 1847, and on that day trains ran from Codnor
Park to Long Eaton Junction, giving communication with Nottingham
and Leicester.

In making this line it crossed on the level the Derby and Notting-
ham section near Long Eaton. This was known as " Platt's crossing,"
and proved a very unsatisfactory arrangement, which some years later
had to be altered by the formation of two new curves at Trent, which
rendered the crossing unnecessary. This new arrangement came into
operation on May ist, 1862.



DURING the height of the great railway mania in 1846 the
Midland Company was fiercely assailed by rival schemes in
every direction, and the very existence of the Midland was threatened.
It was impossible to stand still and allow these great schemes to
compass the ruin of Midland traffic, and consequently a very far-
reaching policy was adopted in order to protect the interests of the
shareholders. The policy adopted was essentially a fighting one,
namely, by invading or threatening to invade other districts by making
competing lines of their own or by purchasing others. In those cases
where their rivals proposed to buy up small lines in the Midland
district the Midland Company determined to itself purchase these

These great proposals involved an expenditure of something like
;i i, 000,000; but the course pursued proved to be of the soundest
character, and it established the Midland Company in a position of
independence of all rivals.

These enormous proposals were embodied in no less than twenty-
six parliamentary Bills, the whole of which came before a meeting of
the shareholders at Derby on May 2nd, 1846. This proved by far the
most eventful Midland meeting ever held. Mr. George Hudson, M.P.,
presided, and as the sums involved were exceptionally large, and the
bills related to great extensions over a large part of England, it is
necessary to set out the schemes in detail and to give the "Railway
King's " own explanation of the Midland policy.

The projects included the following :

1. A deviation of the Syston and Peterborough branch at Saxby, to
overcome the objections of Lord Harborough, at a cost of ,85,000.

2. The " vesting " of the Leicester and Swannington Railway in the
Midland, and taking over its capital of i 40,000 at 8 per cent.



3. To extend the Leicester and Swannington to the Midland system
at Burton and Leicester at a cost of ,461,000.

4. To purchase the Ashby Canal and tramroads at a cost of
,110,000, and to make a railway by the side of the canal from
Ashby to Nuneaton at a cost of "656,000.

5. To purchase the Oakham Canal at a cost of "26,000, in order
to overcome the objections of Lord Harborough, in addition to the
deviation (Scheme No. i).

6. To construct a railway from Pye Bridge to the Midland system at
Clay Cross, to be known as the Erewash Valley Extension, at a cost
f ,230,000.

7. To make a new line from Nottingham to Mansfield at an outlay
of .275,000.

8. The construction of a branch from Chesterfield to Newark at
a cost of 550,000.

9. To construct a branch line from Swinton to Doncaster at a cost
of "140,000.

10. To construct a branch from Darfield to Elswicker, costing

n. To construct a curve, connecting the Company's line at Saltley
with the London and North Western Railway at Curzon Street,
Birmingham, at a cost of 80,000.

12. To construct a line from King's Norton to Halesowen at a cost
of 150,000.

13. To construct a branch from Ashchurch to Great Malvern at
a cost of "180,000.

14. To construct a Midland narrow-gauge line from Gloucester to
Standish Junction, near Stonehouse, and to enable the Company
to complete the narrow gauge through to Bristol, at a cost of

15. To construct a branch from Mangotsfield to Bath at a cost of

1 6. To consolidate the Bristol and Gloucester and the Birmingham
and Gloucester companies with the Midland on the payment of 6 per
cent, per annum on their capital of 1,799,902 155-.

17. To vest 600,000 in the South Midland Railway Company in
their line from Wigston to Hitchin.

1 8. To vest "285,000 in the Manchester, Buxton, Matlock, and
Midlands Junction Railway.

19. To construct a branch from Hampton to Ashchurch.

20. To construct a branch from Hampton to Banbury.

21. To construct a branch from Worcester to Alcester. The schemes


No. 19, 20, and 21 were in conjunction with the London and Birming-
ham Company, the Midland capital being 600,000.

22. To subscribe ,120,000 to a line from Wolverhampton and
Dudley to Wichnor Forge.

23. To construct branches in the Erewash Valley at a cost of

24. To construct a line from Swinton to Lincoln at a cost of

25. To construct a line from Newark to Gainsborough at a cost
of 250,000.

26. To construct a line from Southampton to Swindon at a cost
of "400,000.

In explaining these complicated projects and the general policy
which they involved, and commending their adoption by the share-
holders, Mr. Hudson, the Chairman of the Company, had practically the
unanimous support of the great bulk of the proprietors, although in this,
as in almost all similar circumstances, there were those who protested
against "any increase of liabilities." He informed the meeting that
proxies had been received for "4,500,000, and that with the support
of those present they had votes representing 5,000,000 or "6,000,000
out of "7,000,000 of stock. Whilst the directors felt gratified by
the confidence reposed in the Board, they recognised the very heavy
responsibility involved. The course which they would recommend
would be that which appeared to be consistent with a sound view
of each case, and although it might be wise to reconsider their position
with regard to some of these proposed undertakings, it would be
unwise to abandon any undertaking which was useful or which would
tend to the security of their property. He admitted that some of
the new projects might not be paying lines if they stood by themselves,
but as parts of a great system they would be remunerative ; and
on the other hand, if they belonged to a hostile company, they would
be a source of injury to the Midland. He recommended the con-
struction of those lines because he believed they would pay them,
though they would not pay an independent company. They had
never projected a line which they did not believe would be remunera-
tive to the shareholders. The directors called upon the shareholders
to repose confidence in them, adding that he did not think that
anything had occurred which need alarm a constituted company.
Circumstances might occur which would render it expedient to
abandon part of those schemes ; still, he would recommend the
shareholders to confide in the discretion of the Board, who had a
large interest in the Company. They did not wish to act upon


the feelings induced by a panic, but upon calm judgment ; and it
would certainly be unwise to forsake really good undertakings because
of temporary alarm. They did not pledge themselves to carry the
whole of the Bills, but called upon the meeting to give its vote in their
favour, leaving it to the discretion of the Board whether they abandoned
any; or, if they continued them, to obtain as long a time as possible
for their execution and for taking possession of the land. He was
quite satisfied that those undertakings must progress.

In going through the whole of the Bills the Chairman further pointed
out that the purchase of the Ashby Canal and the construction of
a line was a measure of a protective character. Parliament viewed
with some jealousy the purchase of canals by railway companies, but
this was one of those Bills which they must leave to the discretion
of the Board. The purchase of the Oakham Canal, they hoped,
would obviate Lord Harborough's objections to the carrying out
of the Syston and Peterborough as originally sanctioned. If Parlia-
ment authorised them to shut up the canal, there would be the land
and several extensive corn warehouses at Oakham to dispose of.

The branch from Pye Bridge to Clay Cross, known as the Erewash
Valley Extension, gave a short and direct route north and south
between Trent and Clay Cross and avoided the detour via Derby.
It also provided better means for dealing with the mineral traffic
in the district, as well as also opening up new coalfields to the

The Bill with regard to the Nottingham and Mansfield line, he
explained, would shorten the distance between those two towns and
to the north of England. "Other parties" were competing for a
similar line, and the Midland desired to negotiate a satisfactory

With regard to the Bill for a branch from Chesterfield to Newark,
connecting the first -named place with Boston, there had been an
opposing line, which was thrown out the previous year upon its merits,
and this session upon the standing orders, so that the Midland Com-
pany had the Bill in their own hands. He thought it important that
they should have that district of the country, as tending to bring
down upon their line the whole trade of Lincolnshire and enabling
them to compete successfully with the London and York. It was not
a very cheap line, the expense being ^550,000 ; but it was expected
to prove remunerative, and, besides, was absolutely necessary for their
protection. It had been very much supported locally, and was one
of the first lines they would have executed.

Dealing with the great sets of schemes having reference to the


extension of the Midland system to the west of England, the
Chairman explained the importance of the Bills which consolidated
the Bristol and Gloucester and the Birmingham and Gloucester
Companies' railways with the Midland system. He further pointed
out that the new line from Gloucester to Standish Junction, Stone-
house, and the laying of the mixed gauge by the addition of a third
rail from Standish to Bristol, with the construction of a new line on
the narrow gauge from Mangotsfield to Bath, would give the Midland
through communication from the north to both Bristol and Bath
without change of carriage. The King's Norton to Halesowen
branch arose out of their having leased the Birmingham and
Gloucester line, and the construction of the branch from Ashchurch
to Great Malvern arose from the same cause and was devised as a
feeder to the line.

With regard to the Midland subscription to the South Midland
Company, he pointed out that the Midland had invested ^600,000 in
that undertaking.

He believed the line from Wigston to Hitchin ought to be con-
structed, and that it would be advantageous for them to possess an
interest in it because it would give them a communication with that
district, and also with London. It would be of great advantage
to them to have two means of carrying their traffic. The line was
one which the Company would at some future time have had to
execute had it not been locally taken up. He thought they ought
not to abandon it, but to continue their subscription to the undertaking.

Proceeding to deal with the Bill for making the Manchester, Buxton,
Matlock, and Midlands Junction Railway, he explained that the Midland
had ^270,000 in that undertaking. This new Company's line would
give them, besides a communication with Matlock and Buxton, another
route to Manchester, over which they would possess a certain control.
There would likewise be a large traffic upon it, which would add to the
receipts of the present line. There were some difficulties in the way
of its construction, but he had learned that they would be overcome
at a great deal less cost than had been expected. The Midland
Company might easily dispose of their interest afterwards, if they did
not think proper to retain it. The Manchester and Birmingham

Online LibraryClement Edwin StrettonThe history of the Midland railway → online text (page 8 of 36)