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solved the difficulty. The chief object of the railway engineer was to reduce his roads as nearly as possible to a level. The Romans, formerly the great roadmakers of the world, disregarded levels; in undulating countries their highways stretched from hill-top to hill-top, and on these hills their watch-towers were placed. Their principal object was necessarily to keep to a straight line, for they do not seem to have discovered the moveable joint by which the two first wheels of a four-wheeled vehicle are enabled to turn a corner. When Telford and Macadam took up the work, they cut down the roads and metalled them; and they had almost reached perfection, when they were superseded by the new invention of the iron highway. In the construction of canals, where a continuous level could not be secured, the lock was adopted, and thus a series of levels, with sudden drops, was obtained. In a railway no such contrivance was applicable. High grounds had to be cut down and embankments formed across the lower lands. When a ridge of country intervened, in which an open cutting throughout was impracticable, the expedient of a tunnel was adopted. When a deep valley lay in the way, and an earth embankment was found not to be feasible, then a viaduct was adopted, and even where an arm of the sea, such as the Menai Strait, had to be overleaped, the work was accomplished by means of iron tubes suspended in mid-air. Of the 8635 miles of railway now constructed in Britain, about 70 miles pass through tunnels, and more than 50 miles over viaducts; whilst of railway bridges there have been built some 30,000, or far more than all the bridges previously existing in England.

It is difficult to form an adequate idea of the immense quantity of earth, rock, and clay, that has been picked, blasted, shovelled, and wheeled into embankments by English navvies during the last thirty years. On the South-Western Railway alone the earth removed amounted to sixteen millions of cubic yards-a mass of material sufficient to form a pyramid a thousand feet high with a base of one hundred and fifty thousand square yards. Mr. Robert Stephenson has estimated the total amount on all the railways of England as at least five hundred and fifty millions of cubic yards! And what does this represent? We are accustomed,' he says, “to regard St. Paul's as a test for height and space; but by the side of the pyramid of earth these works would rear, St. Paul's would be but as a pigmy to a giant. Imagine a mountain half a mile in diameter at its base, and soaring into the clouds one mile and a half in height, that would be the size of the mountain of earth which these earthworks would



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form ; while St. James' Park, from the Horse Guards to Buckingham Palace, would scarcely afford space for its base.'

All this vast mass has been removed by English navviesperhaps the hardest workers in the world. any of the best men originally came from Lincolnshire, where they had been accustomed to the cutting of drains and the construction of embankments for the recovery of overflowed land, as well as in the excavation of canals for the purposes of inland navigation: hence the name of “Lincolnshire Bobs' and · Navigators,' by which they were first known. Mr. Robert Stephenson supposes the original navvies to have been the descendants of Dutch labourers, numbers of whom were employed by Dutch · Adventurers' in embanking lands from the sea, and afterwards settled in the country. The remarkable • Dutch build' of many of the labouring people in some parts of Lincolnshire and Cambridge -especially between the South Holland drain of the one county and the great Vermuyden drain of the other-certainly tends to confirm the supposition. These old practitioners formed the nucleus of a skilled manipulation and aptitude, which rendered them of indispensable utility in the immense undertakings of the period. Their expertness in all sorts of earthwork, in embanking, boring, and well-sinking--their practical knowledge of the nature of soils and rocks, the tenacity of clays, the porosity of certain stratifications—was very great; and rough-looking as they were, many of them were as important in their own department as the contractor or the engineer.

During the railway-making period the navvy wandered about from one public work to another, apparently belonging to no country and having no home. He usually wore a white felt-hat, the brim turned up all round—a head-dress since become fashionablema velveteen or jean squaretailed coat, a scarlet plush waistcoat with little black spots, and a brightcoloured handkerchief round his Herculean neck, when, as generally happened, it was not left entirely bare. His corduroy breeches were retained in position by a leather strap round the waist, and tied and buttoned at the knee, displaying beneath a solid calf and a foot firmly encased in strong high-laced boots. Joining together in a butty gang,' some ten or twelve of them would take a contract to cut out and remove so much dirt'-so they denominated earthcutting-fixing their price according to the character of the 'stuff,' and the distance to which it had to be wheeled and tipped. The contract taken, every man put himself to bis mettle. If any one was found skulking, or not exerting his full-working power, he was ejected from the gang.



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In times of emergency they would work for twelve and even sixteen hours, with only short intervals for meals. The quantity of flesh-meat which they consumed was something enormous: it was to their bones and muscles what coke is to the locomotive -the means of keeping up the steam. Contractors were well aware of this fact. A shrewd Yorkshireman, when work became slack and a portion of his labourers had to be 'sacked,' went round amongst the men whilst at their dinners, and observed what was on their platters. The men of small appetites were discharged.

Navvies in ordinary times, with an average good contract, could earn as much as eight shillings a-day. The butty' men had modes of saving labour, which, however, often involved them in great peril, and led to frequent fatal accidents ; but they recoiled from no difficulty, and were ready to undertake the most dangerous tasks without hesitation. In excavating a deep cutting, they would work it as much as possible in lifts' or • benches,' by wbich the ground was so undermined at the bottom as to produce a large fall of earth. The last operation was called “knocking the legs from under it;' and if the earth did not readily fall, sharpened iron piles and bars were driven in from above to force down the ground. From ten to fifty tons would thus be brought away at a time; but not unfrequently with one or more men buried under the mass. The English navvy would continuously run out a barrow containing from three to four hundredweight of stuff, whereas a French labourer was content with half the load. When an English contractor undertook the works of the Paris and Rouen Railway, he sent over the requisite plant, amongst which were a quantity of the usual English navvy wheelbarrows. The French labourers tried them, and struck work. The result was a dangerous émeute, which rendered it necessary to call in the aid of the military; and eventually the only workmen who used the big barrows were the English navvies. The consequence was, that the English labourer received five francs a-day, while the wages of the ordinary French labourer was only about two francs and a half; and even then the English workman was considered the cheapest of the two.

Such was the valuable class of labourers who constructed the great works of the English Railway Era, The contractorsmany of them sprung from the navvy ranks, and passing through the stages of under-ganger and ganger to that of contractor-were the men who employed, organized, and directed them. In the great engineering works of former days, the functions of engineer and contractor were usually united, and the engineer, as we have stated, was called an • Adventurer.' Now the functions are



distinct, and the contractor alone undertakes the risk of the adventure.' He binds himself to do certain works at a certain price, upon a specification carefully prepared by the engineer. He brings together the plant—the horses, waggons, and steamengines—and arranges the labour. Like the engineer he must be prepared for all manner of difficulties—for irruptions of water in tunnels, for surface floodings, for slips of treacherous soil, for advances of wages and strikes of workmen; and not unfrequently he is broken up' by one or other of these contingencies; but never till he has ventured his last penny in the struggle to maintain his character. When the Barentin Viaduct fell, on the Rouen and Havre line, and it was doubtful whether the law would compel the contractor to rebuild it, he stoutly declared, ‘he had undertaken to make and maintain the road, and no law should prevent Thomas Brassey from being as good as his word.' The sum required for the purpose was 30,0001., and Thomas Brassey paid it. The railway engineer, it is needless to say, must be no ordinary

First of all, he must act as a surveyor in laying out a practicable road, exercising his judgment as a geologist in determining the lie of the strata and the materials to be penetrated, testing them by careful borings with a view to the preliminary estimates, and the letting of the works. After standing the test of the parliamentary crucible, and satisfying Committees in the face of cross-questionings by learned counsel, he must then enter upon the most anxious part of his labours—the actual construction of the railway.

The first, and, even to this day, one of the most remarkable works was the making the road over Chat Moss—an enterprise which the engineers of the old school treated with derision and declared to be impossible. George Stephenson himself published no account of the manner in which he executed this or any other of his celebrated works; but we are enabled, with the aid of Mr. John Dixon, Civil Engineer, who superintended the formation of that part of the Liverpool and Manchester line which crossed Chat Moss, to furnish a more complete history of this remarkable achievement than has yet been published.

Chat Moss is an immense peat bog of about twelve square miles in extent. In most places it is so soft that it is incapable of supporting a man or a horse, and if an iron rod be placed perpendicularly on its surface, it sinks by its own weight to a depth

* The only remarks which he published on the subject of the works on Chat Moss appeared in The Companion to the Almanac for 1829-30.'



of some thirty feet. Unlike the swamps of Cambridge and Lincolnshire, which consist principally of soft mud or silt, Chat Moss is a mass of spongy vegetable pulp, the growth and decay of ages. The Sphagni, or bog-mosses, cover the entire area, One year's growth rises over another,--the older growths not entirely decaying, but remaining partially preserved by the antiseptic properties peculiar to peat. Hence the remarkable fact that, although a semifluid mass, the surface of Chat Moss rises above the level of the surrounding country. Like a turtle's back, it declines from the summit in every direction, having from thirty to forty feet gradual slope to the solid land around. From the remains of trees, chiefly alder and birch, which have been dug out, and which must have previously flourished upon the soil below, it is probable that the sand and clay base on which the bog rests, is saucer-shaped, and by this means retains the entire mass in its position. In rainy weather it sensibly swells with the water, and rises in those parts where the moss is the deepest,—the capillary attraction of the fibres of the submerged mass, which is from twenty to thirty feet in depth, causing the retention of the moisture, whilst the growing plants effectually check evaporation from the surface. This peculiar character of the moss has presented an insuperable difficulty to any system of wholesale drainage—such as by sinking shafts in its substance, and pumping up the water by steam-power. A shast of thirty feet deep, Mr. Dixon has calculated, would only be effectual for draining a circle of one hundred yards—the water running down an incline of about five to one. It was found that a ditch three feet in depth only served to drain five yards on either side, and two ditches of this depth, ten feet apart, lest a portion of the moss between them scarcely affected by the outlet.

It was doubtless a bold thing for George Stephenson to entertain the idea of carrying a railway over such a dismal swamp. One experienced civil engineer declared before the Parliamentary Committee, that no road could possibly be formed across the moss on which a carriage could stand short of the bottom,' except by taking out all the soft stuff and filling in the cavity with solid soil; and a Manchester builder, who was examined, could not imagine the feat possible, unless by arching over the moss in the manner of a viaduct from one side to the other. It was the old story of nothing like leather. When the survey of the line

.' was made, only the edges of the moss could be entered upon, and that with difficulty. One gentleman, of considerable weight and rotundity, when endeavouring to obtain a stand for his theodolite, found himself suddenly sinking. He immediately threw himself


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