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should be 4 feet 84 inches in Great Britain, and 5 feet 3 inches gauge in Ireland.
In 1867 there were 1,456 miles of broad gauge, and at 26 points the two gauges met, and a transfer of traffic took place at an immense cost. The next year the first conversion took place, and, to quote Acworth :
Accordingly, bit by bit, first in the Midlands and to the north, next in the west and in Wales, then in Dorset, Wilts, and Somerset, the broad gauge has been abandoned. To-day, out of nearly 2,000 miles of line (owned by the Great Western Railway), only 426 is broad gauge at all, and of this all but 163 is suitable for narrow gauge traffic as well. Out of over 100 trains that leave Paddington or its adjacent goods-yard every day, only ten-seven passenger and three goods-run on broad gauge metals.
The following table gives the section and date of conversion to the narrow gauge : Date. Section.
Miles. 1868 Princes-Risborough to Aylesbury . . . . . . . 7. 1869 Grange Court (Gloucester) to Hereford .
· 22 Oxford to Wolverhampton, with Stratford and Great Bridge branches Reading to Basingstoke. .
. . . . . . 10 1870 Maidenhead to Oxford . . . . . . . . . 37 1871 West Drayton to Uxbridge . . . . . . . . 25
Whitland to Carmarthen 1872 Swindon to Milford, with all branches . .
· · · 239) Vale of Neath, Merthyr Tydvil branch, and Grange Cou
Cheltenham . .
Didcot to Oxford . .
. . . . 12 1874 Thingley Junction to Dorchester, Westbury to Salisbury, Barthamp
ton to Bradford Junction, North Somerset Junction (Bristol) to
Frome, Reading to Holt, with Marlborough and other branches . 197% Dorchester to Weymouth . .
. 69 Southcote Junction to Reading 1875 Southall to Brentford . .
. . . . . . . 4 1876 Twyford to Henley-on-Thames 1878 Uffington to Farringdon 1880 Yatton to Clevedon . . .
Durston to Penn Mill (Yeovil) . 1881 Norton Fitzwarren to Barnstaple. 1882
to Minehead . 1884 Tiverton Junc ion to Tiverton . 1891 Creech Junction to Chard . . 1892 Penzance to Truro (mixed gauge line) . . . . . . 277 Truro to Exeter, . . .
. . 106 St. Erth to St. Ives, Truro to Falmouth, Burngallow to Drinnick Mill,
Plymouth to Tavistock (mixed gauge), Tavistock to Launceston,
The final conversion has now been made. It took two days and three nights to carry out, and required all the permanent way men of the Great Western Railway that could be spared from the various districts, while the Midland and London and North-Western generously offered to lend men, if required ; in all, nearly 4,000 were engaged on the work, which had been got as far advanced as possible before the actual date of conversion. In fact, the preparations had been going on for some months before ; large gangs of extra plate-layers having been engaged in getting the narrow gauge points and crossings ready to be connected at the various stations and sidings. This rapidity compares very favourably with the conversion of the Hereford and Gloucester section in 1869, the 22} miles of which took 450 men five days to accomplish, at the time thought most marvellously quick.
To show the minuteness of the special arrangements that were made to carry out this last conversion (226} miles in all), the general manager issued a book of 56 pages, giving detailed instructions as to how the 2,940 extra permanent way men, from the various divisions of the line, were to be conveyed in seven special trains to the several mile posts where they were to be set down to commence operations ; also instructions for the return of the empty stock, the number and description of the narrow gauge coaches to be sent to the various branches, some on "crocodile” trucks before conversion, others by London and South-Western Railway to Plymouth, to wait there till the line into Cornwall was narrowed. To those who take an interest in the details of railway management, this pamphlet is most instructive.
Twenty miles of sidings have been laid to accommodate the broad gauge rolling stock, which consists of 192 locomotives, 552 carriages, and 3,269 trucks, much of which has been specially built so as to be easily converted to narrow gauge, principally at Swindon, but at Lostwithiel, Newton Abbot, and Bridgewater, a limited number will be converted. On Thursday night, May 19, the sidings at Swindon must have been pretty full, as a special of twenty-eight broad gauge trucks and two engines, which left London át 9.20, were sent to Didcot instead of Swindon, as previously arranged.
As long ago as 1870 some engines were built capable of conversion, but these have reached their long home---the scrap heapbefore the time for conversion arrived. Out of the broad gauge stock mentioned above, 67 engines, 120 carriages, and 2,500 waggons will not run again. The last broad gauge train to the far west, from London, was the “Cornishman” (10.15 A.M. ex. Paddington), on Friday, May 20; it stopped at several additional stations, and
arrived at Penzance at 8.20 P.m. instead of 6.57 P.M. It returned at 9.10 P.M. empty with two engines and picked up all broad gauge coaches which for any reason had previously been left behind, for Swindon, and the work of conversion was immediately proceeded with. This empty train, which was the very last broad gauge train to run, we can in fancy liken to the few remaining men of a defeated army leaving the territory in sorrow, upon a capitulation being arranged after a long and dogged resistance. The other broad gauge trains ran as usual as far as Plymouth up to 5 P.M., but the 9 P.M. mail was narrow gauge, as arrangements had been made with the London and South-Western for the Great Western up and down mail trains to run over the former from Exeter to Plymouth on the nights of May 20 and 21 down, and 22nd and 23rd up. A special steamer carried the mails from Plymouth to Falmouth, calling at Fowey, leaving Plymouth at 5.50 A.M. on 21st and 22nd, and returning at 3.30 P.M. the same afternoons. The sea journey occupied about four hours. The mails were distributed by road to the various places in West Cornwall from Falmouth.
No general goods trains, were run west of Exeter between May 17 and 24. All the other stations between Exeter and Penzance were cut off from the rest of the country during the time of the conversion, and Cornwall was at the mercy of any foreign foe that cared to take advantage of its isolation from the rest of the kingdom. Happily none did so. Even the anarchists did not try the experiment of an ideal state in the Royal Duchy.
On the night of Thursday, May 19, the writer was one of a small crowd of some seventy broad gauge enthusiasts who gathered on the Paddington departure platform to see the last broad gauge mail start. The train consisted of (in the following order) parcels van, two Post Office sorting vans, “sleeper" break van, third class, first and second composite, and two break vans-nine in all, all convertible, save one break van and the two passenger coaches. The famous “ Dragon” drew the train away, amidst the silence of the crowd, who afterwards expressed regret to each other that the end of the broad gauge had come.
The old Great Western servants, when the narrow gauge was first introduced on their system, spoke of the intruder with contempt, as the following verse shows :
When narrow with broad first began to entwine,
The Great Western main line consists of the following, formerly independent railways : London and Bristol, Bristol and Exeter, South Devon (Exeter to Plymouth) and Cornwali (Plymouth to Penzance), the latter has only recently been secured by the Great Western, although for several years previously they have leased it from the Cornwall Railway Company.
And so ends the Broad Gauge. Hereafter many wonderful legends will be told of its might, while future students of railways will turn from the monotony of the standard gauge to read with pleasure the “Battle of the Gauges.” In October 1891 the last “first and second only” train on the Great Western Railway was abolished, and the “Flying Dutchman’ carried third-class passengers for the first time ; the “Dutchman’’ is the direct successor of the original Exeter express, which was the first train that ever ran at modern express speed, and for many years it was the fastest train in the world.
In closing, we venture to introduce a few remarks from the “Funeral Sermon” (as he called it) of the Broad Gauge, made at the last general meeting of the company, on February 11, 1892. The chairman said—
With regard to the gauge he need not tell them a long story. It was unfortunately left to the Board of 1892 to carry out the abolition of the broad gauge on their system. It was a matter of regret that the time had nearly arrived when that should be done ; but they had for many years past made preparations for that which they knew was imminent. The alteration at Exeter from the broad to the narrow gauge was a very large and serious operation, and involved a great deal of preparation. . . . More than three-fourths of their passenger stock was already constructed, so as to be ready to be convertible from the broad to the narrow gauge. He was of opinion that the broad gauge would have been more suited to the comfort of the travelling public, who now required dining and sleeping saloons and other luxuries such as could be obtained at West End clubs.
The following is an extract from an article in the Railway Herald by a London and South-Western Railway official. His opinion is worth considering, seeing that that line is in competition with the Great Western, and he would have opportunities of comparing the two systems, while natural esprit de corps would not allow him to unduly depreciate his own line:
I consider myself that the broad gauge is capable of great things, and I am only sorry to think that in the interest of railway passengers it has not become universal in preference to the narrow gauge. At the present time, when traffic is so greatly on the increase, and the demand for improved carriages is heard on every side, the extra width of the broad gauge coaches would have been found of great advantage, and I think the carrying capacity of railway rolling stock might be better increased by having more room in the width rather than length of the coaches. I maintain, therefore, that a broader gauge would prove more economical in the long run as it is certainly much more comfortable; and it offers facilities under an enterprising management for the construction of cars of the American principle which the narrow gauge cannot approach. I quite think that if a more go-a-head company had had the management of the broad gauge track, they would not now be on the point of abolishing it altogether. I have met with and spoken to a great many travellers in my time, and I have invariably heard from them that the broad gauge is far and away the most comfortable carriage to ride in, and I am sure numbers regret its abolition. The Midland is, I think, the company that would have given the broad gauge a trial, but any of the Northern lines would have done it more justice than that sleepy giant, the Great Western Railway.
Now the broad gauge is abolished the Great Western will be under the disadvantage of meeting the London and South-Western Railway on an equal footing, as in Devonshire and westward there still lingers a suspicion that the narrow gauge is not safe, and now, having only the narrow gauge, travellers will naturally patronise the quicker and nearer route, and the London and South-Western is both to many important places. Therefore, if the Great Western wishes still to lead in the West, since it cannot shorten the distance, the speed must be increased, so as to be level with its rival in the time taken between competitive points.
G. A. SEKON.