Tag Archives: locomotive

Roads, steam and the alleviation of poverty

I mentioned here Sir James Anderson‘s contract with the Irish Post Office for carrying the mails at 12 mph in steam-powered road-going coaches. I don’t know how that worked out [anyone who observed the coaches between Howth and Dublin is encouraged to leave a Comment below] but in 1841 Sir James was back with a new idea for the use of steam power on Irish roads.

He was joined this time by Jasper W Rogers CE. They produced a pamphlet outlining their idea: Jasper W Rogers Plan proposed by Sir James C Anderson Bart and Jasper W Rogers CE for establishing Steam Carriages for the conveyance of goods and passengers on the mail coach roads of Ireland; also a proposed system for repair of the roads by means of a Road Police, and for telegraphing [Nicholas Walsh, Dublin 1841], which pretty well says it all. The pamphlet is only fifteen pages, so it’s not much longer than its title, and [thanks to Messrs Google] you can read the whole thing here, free of charge.

Essentially, they thought railways would never pay, but that Locomotive Steam Carriages, capable of carrying twenty people, could be used on the roads. They also suggest the use of  “drags” (tractor units): as far as I can gather, they were to be an interim measure until the roads had reached the required standard. The roads would be divided in two: one section for steam and the other for “the general purposes of the country”.

At every mile, a “convenient lodge or cottage” would be built to house three “road police”, with a “chief officer” every ten miles. Their main function would be to repair the roads but they could keep order in their spare time. The cottages would be furnished with [non-electric] telegraphs, each using a “ten-sided hollow revolving figure”.

My favourite bit is this:

In order to give every facility for repair of roads, and at the same time to benefit the labouring population — particularly the aged, decrepid and young, who at all times find difficulty in obtaining occupation — we would recommend that the peasantry be invited to supply broken stone in accordance to sample; delivering same in any quantity not less than 1 cwt at any station on the line.

That could help to solve this problem.

Here is a longer piece about Anderson’s Steam Carriage and Waggon Company of Ireland.

Scottish canal developments

Application of locomotive steam power to the navigation of canals

On Monday and Tuesday the following novel experiment of locomotive steam-power was tried on the Forth and Clyde Canal. Mr John M’Neil, the civil engineer of the Clyde navigation, has had constructed on the banks of the canal a railway upon blocks, on which a locomotive engine has been put, which was used on the above named days instead of horses, to draw the canal passage-boats, and succeeded in taking them the whole distance of the line at the rate of eight miles an hour. The company having ascertained the full success of the experiment, will construct a tramway along the canal bank, and will be able to take their passage-boats in future at the rate of 18 miles an hour.

Bradford Observer quoting the Stirling Journal 5 September 1839


Dialogue between an unidentified member of the committee and Colonel John Fox Burgoyne at a hearing of the Select Committee appointed to inquire into the amount of advances made by the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland on 1 June 1835:

1899 Are you aware that locomotive engines have gone at a speed of from 15 to 20 miles an hour on common roads? — I think I have gone at one at the rate of 20 miles an hour myself on a common road.

1900 Suppose those carriages were used upon a curb-stone and granite road, and not subject to the interruption of carts and carriages, which occur upon common roads, what speed do you suppose they might fairly be worked at? — Very nearly the speed they go on rail-roads.

1901 If it could be proved that granite or curb-stone roads could be constructed at the rate of from £2000 to £3000 a mile, would you, in the present state of the country, recommend an expense of a sum of six and seven times that amount for a railway? — I do not imagine there would be that difference of expense; the levels would be the same, and the stone-work would be the same; the only difference would be the application or not of the iron railway bars.

Locomotives on common roads? It’ll never work.