in turn fixed to the sleepers by two iron spikes, half-round wooden cross sleepers being employed on embankments and stone blocks 20 in. square by 10 in. deep in cuttings. The fish bellied rails, however, were found to break near the chairs, and from 1834 they began to be replaced with parallel rails weighing 50 ℔ to the yard.
The next important development in rail design originated in America, which, for the few lines that had been laid up to 1830, remained content with wooden bars faced with iron. In that year Robert Livingston Stevens (1787–1856), devised for the Camden & Amboy railway a rail similar as to its top to those in use in England, but having a flat base or foot by which it was secured to the sleepers by hook-headed spikes, without chairs (fig. 3); he had to get the first lot of these rails, which were 15 ft. long and weighed 36 ℔ to the yard, manufactured in England, since there were then no mills in America able to roll them. This type, which is often known as the Vignoles rail, after Charles Blacker Vignoles (1793–1875), who re-invented it in England in 1836, is in general use in America and on the continent of Europe. The bridge-rail (fig. 4)–so called because it was first laid on bridges—was supported on continuous longitudinal sleepers and held down by bolts passing through the flanges, and was employed by I. K. Brunel on the Great Western railway, where, however, it was abandoned after the line was converted from broad to standard gauge in 1892. In the double-headed rail (fig. 5), originated by Joseph Locke in 1837, and first laid on the Grand Junction railway, the two tables were equal. This rail was more easily rolled than others, and, being reversible, was in fact two rails in one. But as it was laid in cast-iron chairs the lower table was exposed to damage under the hammering of the traffic, and thus was liable to be rendered useless as a running surface. In consequence the bull-headed rail (fig. 6) was evolved, in which the lower table was made of smaller size and was intended merely as a support, not as a surface to be used by the wheels. There was a waste of metal in these early rails owing to the excessive thickness of the vertical web, and subsequent improvements have consisted in adjusting the dimensions so as to combine strength with economy of metal, as well as in the substitution of steel for wrought iron (after the introduction of the Bessemer process) and in minute attention to the composition of the steel employed.
It was found, naturally, that the rails would not rest in their chairs at the joints, but were loosened and bruised at the ends by the blows of the traffic. The fish-joint was therefore devised in 1847 by W. Bridges Adams, the intention being by “fishing” the joints to convert the rails into continuous beams. In the original design two chairs were placed, one under each rail, a few inches apart, as in fig. 7. The joint was thus suspended between the two chairs, and two keys of iron, called “fishes,” fitting the side channels of the rails, were driven in on each side between the chairs and the rails. In subsequent modifications the fishes were, as they continue to be, bolted to and through the rails, the sleepers being placed rather further apart and the joint being generally suspended between them.
The iron tramway or railway had been known for half a century and had come into considerable use in connexion with collieries and quarries before it was realized that for the carriage of general merchandise it might prove a serious competitor to the canals, of which a large mileage had been constructed in Great Britain during that period. In the article on “Railways” in the Supplement to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, published in 1824, it is said: “It will appear that this species of inland carriage [railways] is principally applicable where trade is considerable and the length of conveyance short; and is chiefly useful, therefore, in transporting the mineral produce of the kingdom from the mines to the nearest land or water communication, whether sea, river or canal. Attempts have been made to bring it into more general use, but without success; and it is only in particular circumstances that navigation, with the aid either of locks or inclined planes to surmount the elevations, will not present a more convenient medium for an extended trade.” It must be remembered, however, that at this time the railways were nearly all worked by horse-traction, and that the use of steam had made but little progress. Richard Trevithick, indeed, had in 1804 tried a high-pressure steam locomotive, with smooth wheels, on a plate-way near Merthyr Tydvil, but it was found more expensive than horses; John Blenkinsop in 1811 patented an engine with cogged wheel and rack-rail which was used, with commercial success, to convey coal from his Middleton Colliery to Leeds; William Hedley in 1813 built two locomotives—Puffing Billy and Wylam Dilly—for hauling coal from Wylam Colliery, near Newcastle; and in the following year George Stephenson’s first engine, the Blucher, drew a train of eight loaded wagons, weighing 30 tons, at a speed of 4 m. an hour up a gradient of 1 in 450. But, in the words of the same article, “This application of steam has not yet arrived at such perfection as to have brought it into general use.”
The steam locomotive, however, and with it the railways, soon began to make rapid progress. On the Stockton & Darlington railway, which was authorized by parliament in 1821, animal power was at first proposed, but on the advice of Stephenson, its engineer, steam-engines were adopted. This line, with three branches, was over 38 m. in length, and was in the first instance laid with a single track, passing-places being provided at intervals of a quarter of a mile. At its opening, on the 27th of September 1825, a train of thirty four vehicles, making a gross load of about 90 tons, was drawn by one engine driven by Stephenson, with a signalman on horseback in advance. The train moved off at the rate of from 10 to 12 m. an hour, and attained a speed of 15 m. an hour on favourable parts of the line. A train weighing 92 tons could be drawn by one engine at the rate of 5 m. an hour. The principal business of the new railway was the conveyance of minerals and goods, but from the first passengers insisted upon being carried, and on the 10th of October 1825 the company began to run a daily coach, called the “Experiment,” to carry six inside, and from fifteen to twenty outside, making the journey from Darlington to Stockton and back in two hours. The fare was 1s., and each passenger was allowed to take baggage not exceeding 14 ℔ weight. The rate for carriage of merchandise was reduced from 5d. to one-fifth of a penny per ton per mile, and that of minerals from 7d. to 1½d. per ton per mile. The price of coals at Darlington fell from 18s. to 8s. 6d. a ton.
The example of the Stockton & Darlington line was followed by the Monklands railway in Scotland, opened in 1826, and several other small lines—including the Canterbury &