It is not enough that a country may possess, in the fertility of its soil, or the richness of its mines, the materials for the creation of industrial wealth, but also there must be the means of bringing these resources into play by land and water communication. By their aid the different substances necessary to manufacture are brought to the localities where the processes
p.329to which they are to be subjected can be carried on to the most advantage, and the produce conveyed to the situations where its sale may be effected with most profit to the owners. Direct and safe modes of communication are, therefore, indispensable to the development of industrial pursuits, as well for the procuring access to raw materials, as to secure markets for the manufactured goods. It is, however, not wonderful that, industry having received so little extension until a few years back, the means of communication should still remain in Ireland comparatively undeveloped.
The internal communications of a country demand attention, however, on grounds of far higher order than their merely facilitating mercantile transactions; they are connected with the highest moral aims of the legislator, by their influence on the habits and the conduct of the people. The isolation in which man is condemned to live, in a district destitute of roads, or where transport is difficult and expensive, is fatal to his progress in civilization and humanity. He grows up in ignorance of his fellow-men; his mind, limited to the circle of a few ideas elsewhere obsolete, looks upon all deviation from them as fraught with injury and ruin. The results of new methods in the management of land or labour, which within a few miles are actually producing the greatest benefits, remain utterly unknown to him. The stimulus of contact with persons above him, and yet not too far removed from his own sphere to prevent the ambition arising within him of exerting himself to rise to the comfort and consideration which they enjoy, does not present itself to his mind. His isolation and his ignorance remove him equally from the instructor, and the instructor from him, and he resists with violence, by which, in the absence of reasoning, he can alone show his will, the intrusion of all novelties calculated to break through the miserable monotony in which his forefathers and himself have vegetated. An enlightened French minister, in speaking of the cost of the manufacture of iron in France, as affecting railroads, said: The question of the price of iron,it is the question of roads, the question of communications, of intercourse between man and man, of the obliteration
p.330of prejudices, of the production of mutual amity, of morality, and civilization.
These considerations are borne out in a very remarkable manner by the results of the construction of roads in certain parts of Ireland, that had been previously destitute of the means of transport. The consequence of not having roads is illustrated by the evidence of Mr. Fetherstone, who, describing some of his important bog improvements to a Committee of the House of Commons, says: The oats these lands grow is so very fine, and of such a rich gold colour, that if we can possibly get it down to the lowlands, we sell it freely for seed oats, but the roads being so bad, we put it to the purpose of illicit distillation. It is a great deal cheaper to distil it than to bring it to market, for we could only bring a sack at a time, and we distil it on the spot at once, and on that account very little of it finds its way to the market. . . . There are no roads at all. I was obliged to take my carts to pieces and carry them on horses' backs, and then I made the roads through my part of the mountain. The mountain is alluvial land, and produces anything. The oats are beautiful, and an enormous crop; but what is the good of it? you cannot send it to market. There are no gentlemen residing in that mountain country, and the people are in a lawless state. The combination of facts is here important. A fertile soil, its produce available only by outraging the laws, demoralizing the people, and rendering them fit for the perpetration of those insane outrages, which we too often have to record. For this the remedy is not Draconic legislation, but making roads; not blindly punishing the people for being savage, but opening to them the means of civilization and honest industry.
When this is done, it is remarkable how instantly the very poorest of the people hasten to avail themselves of its benefits. When Mr. Nimmo was engaged in the construction of the Connamara roads, his workmen were actually inconvenienced by the country cars conveying produce and objects of traffic, even up to the spot which the engineers were at the moment commencing to render passable. Similar instances occurred elsewhere. In the district called Pobble O'Keefe's country, on the
p.331limits of the counties of Cork, Limerick and Kerry, which had been a place of refuge for malefactors and desperadoes of all kinds, and had remained totally uncultivated, a set of roads were made under the direction of Mr. Griffith. As the roads advanced, cottages and farm houses sprang into existence along their sides; cultivation extended itself from their edges into the waste. The bad characters that had inhabited it disappeared, and a single policeman has marched a prisoner through the entire district, without any other than the most friendly greetings along his way. The whole organization of the locality has been changed, and at the same time with a pecuniary benefit to the public funds, which I shall hereafter notice.
The effects of opening out with roads some very desolate parts of Clare, are thus described by a gentleman of intelligence and station, in a communication to the Board of Works, the accuracy of which the Commissioners guarantee.
Communications have been effected between large towns through mountain districts, whereby the distance will be in each case shortened, and in which districts, previous to the construction of these roads, no wheel carriages of any kind could be used.
The immediate effect has been to excite the minds of the people to the pursuits of honest industry; they can now bring lime into the mountains, and they can carry produce out of them.
Illicit distillation has been checked, first by a market being opened for the sale of grain, and secondly, by the facilities afforded to the revenue officers in their search after private stills: the consequent benefit in a moral point of view is immense.
The soil of the mountain districts having been hitherto unworked, has been found, by burning and liming, to produce potatoes in such abundance, and of such excellent quality, that very large quantities have been taken from the neighbourhood of Lough Grana (the parts most known to the writer) to the county Limerick, the excellence of the roads making the transport easy; thus the deficiency of food in some parts of the
p.332country has been made good by the superabundant crops in these mountains.
Gentlemen who before could never reach their properties in these districts, are now led to visit and reside on them, and form plans for their improvement.
In the execution of these roads the resources of the country have been developed; quarries of stone fit for building, of slate, and of limestone have been discovered, which will be of incalculable advantage in the improvement of the country, and in thus stimulating the industry of the inhabitants.
In a few years the lands will contribute to the county rates, and thus repay fully the sums assessed for their formation, while the Government will be amply indemnified by the improved habits of the people, and the growing consumption of exciseable articles.
Such being the results of the opening out of communications through the country, it may well be supposed that it should form one of the dearest objects of a Government anxious for the improvement of the people, and that the sums necessary for such purposes should be most heartily afforded. It is to be regretted that such is not found always to be the case. The benefits derivable are often so remote, and are spread over so great a space of country and of time, that they do not present, to ordinary statesmen, a sufficiently definite aspect to justify the actual advance of sterling money; it may, therefore, be not without interest to point out that such advance is really an investment of capital on the part of the Government, and one generally yielding profits of a high, even usurious return.
The town of Clifden in Connamara, and the surrounding country, were, in 1815, in such a state of seclusion that it contributed no revenue whatsoever to the State, and up to 1822, its agriculture was so imperfect that scarcely a stone of oats could be got. In 1836, Clifden had become an export town, having sent out 800 tons of oats, and it produced to the revenue annually £7,000. From the expenditure in Connaught in eleven years of £160,000 in public works, the increase of annual revenue derivable from the province has become equal to the entire amount.
In Cork, where Mr. Griffith expended £60,000 in seven
p.333years, there is an annual increase of customs and excise of £50,000 immediately derivable from the territories benefited by those works.
Those should not be called grants of money, but investments of capital, with realization of enormous profit. An individual would most happily advance the money if he were allowed to appropriate a fourth of the returns. Such sums, therefore, when advanced by the State, should not be looked upon as boons or favours, as they too frequently are, but as a part of the ordinary duties of a Government.
Three quarters of a century ago, when Scotland, poor, barbarous, and ignorant, lay at the feet of England, withering under the results of two unsuccessful rebellions, the central Government saw the necessity of creating at once such a system of internal communications, as whilst it enabled the instruments of Government to penetrate to every portion of the country, should also place at the disposition of the inhabitants the means of pacific intercourse and trade. Hence between canals and roads a million and a half of money was given to Scotland. of this there was to be no repayment. Other large sums, as a quarter of a million to Leith Harbour, were lent at very moderate interest, and an arrangement was made, that for all roads required in Scotland, the State pays one-half of the expense, and the locality is burthened only with the other moiety. It is not with any idea of objecting to those grants that I here mention them. On the contrary, they were perfectly proper, and the Government did its duty to Scotland nobly, although some of the plans, such as the Caledonian canal, were failures as to the particular result: but what has been the consequence to Scotland? How much of the intelligence and business habits, the general morality, and amenability to law, by which the people of that country are distinguished, is due to the abundant means of intercourse with each other, and with their richer and more cultivated neighbours? Certainly a great deal. Scotland furnishes to the State more revenue in proportion to her population than Ireland does, but she certainly does not return a larger proportion of profit on the sums which the State has expended in the sound improvement of her people.
A great deal has been latterly done towards improving the
p.334roads of the more remote districts, as also in erecting fishery piers and forming harbours, as shall be hereafter noticed, by the Board of Works, who were enabled to grant loans of small sums of money, for such objects, on other sums being contributed by individuals. Although the restrictions placed upon the Board by its constitution limited its powers very much, forcing it to require a high rate of interest and an unusual amount of security, yet these loans were in many cases of exceeding use. The grant from the Board of Works formed a nucleus, round which the subscriptions of the local gentry generally accumulated, so that objects for which otherwise no means could be obtained were thus carried rapidly into effect. Such local works were also of the peculiar use that they could be carried on in general at times when other employment was slack, and they required principally the rough labour furnished by the inhabitants of the district. Thus, not long ago, a part of Kerry, near Kenmare river, was suffering under the miseries of almost famine. By the aid of the Board of Works the construction of some roads was started, and the population was set to work. Being paid their weekly wages, they were enabled to purchase abundant food. Their cottages have ceased to be the abode of disease and misery. A way being opened for the produce of their fields, their agriculture has become more active. A school has been erected on the road side, and industry and education having been now introduced among that so lately wretched people, there is every hope of a steady progress in social comfort.
The funds by which the Board of Works has been able to effect so much good, are of two kinds, one a loan fund, constantly circulating at a high interest, and on which the Government realizes considerable profit. The other is a real grant fund, which, in the twelve years since the Board was established, amounted to £104,000. The latter either has been or is immediately to be discontinued.
The expense of land carriage is so considerable, even on the best roads, as to present material obstacles to the extension of commercial intercourse. It may be estimated for general goods throughout the country at 6d. per ton, per mile, and even under the conditions of steady traffic with returns, as in
p.335the case of the carriage of coals from the colliery districts, I have been obliged to estimate its minimum amount at 3d. per ton per mile. The cost of manufactured goods as well a produce is thus heightened considerably by the cost of carriage; their use is limited to a smaller circle of the people, and therefore, every means that can be devised for lowering the cost of transport should be energetically made available.
The most important reduction in the cost of transport is made by the substitution of water for land carriage. For this Ireland is peculiarly fitted, the extent of her principal rivers, and the number and magnitude of her lakes presenting natural means of communication, such as are seldom equalled, and the structure of the central country affording facilities for the construction of canals not easily surpassed. In fact Ireland is a country peculiarly fitted for inland navigation and for traffic, there being no point on the surface of the island more than 25 miles distant from the sea, or from a navigable lake or river. Without entering into lengthened detail I shall proceed to notice each of the principal lines of navigation.
In every point of view, the Shannon, which has already obtained so much of our notice in relation to the coal fields and iron mines, the agricultural districts, the slate quarries and sulphur ores upon its banks, deserves to rank as the main channel of water communication throughout Ireland. Its navigable length is divided into several portions, on which the vessels differ in build and magnitude according to the circumstances of the river. Below Limerick the estuary is navigated by steamers of considerable size, which ply daily to Kilrush and Tarbert. From Limerick to Killaloe the navigation, partly canal and partly in the narrow portion of the river, is effected by passage boats drawn by horses. The expanse of Lough Derg and the river to Athlone admits again of steamers; some of considerable size which ply upon the lake, others smaller for the river channel. Beyond Athlone regular steam traffic has not yet penetrated, but Lough Roe, Loughs Bodarig and Boffin, and Lough Allen, will admit of being navigated by vessels of the first class, and after a little time the river channel will be throughout so much improved as to allow of
p.336the large steamers passing from Killaloe to its most northern termination, and thus dispense altogether with the use of smaller vessels in the narrow waters, and the cost and trouble of trans-shipment.
It is singularly illustrative of how little reflection was devoted to Irish subjectsof how slightly the true and only means of consolidating a people by giving them common habits of industry, of sociality, of traffic, was thought about in relation to this country, that the Shannon was for so many generations looked upon as an useful barrier and defence against the uncivilized tribes, who dwelt beyond its boundary. The cost of maintaining in good repair, the various fortifications at what were called the passes of the Shannon, was defrayed with pleasure, but the idea of rendering fortifications useless, of erecting the bulwarks of the State in the hearts of the inhabitants by fostering their industry, by encouraging their commerce and agriculture, and promoting their education, did not occur to the statesmen of that epoch. Let us hope that a better era has arrived.
It is not within my object to enter into any account of the successive steps taken towards the improvement of the Shannon. Large sums have been expended on it, and these form very frequently a subject of public complaint, from those who either do not or will not understand the vast results to Ireland, which must flow from the completion of the navigation. A few miles of a canal in Canada, has cost more than treble the entire money laid out upon the Shannon, with this difference, that every improvement of the latter river leads to an increase of revenue which repays the money expended, whilst in the case of the Canadian canal, the money was an absolute and final grant. The alterations now being carried on under the care of the Board of Commissioners, are defrayed partly by public funds and partly by a rate levied on the counties along the river. This principle is very equitable, and there is no doubt but that the final result will be so advantageous to those districts as fully to atone for the necessity of advancing money, which certainly is inconsistent with the usual financial habits of the western province.
Works such as those in process of execution on that river, are, in fact, lessons in industry to the population of the neighbourhood. The people are not only employed so as to earn a subsistence, but, being brought into contact with workmen of a higher class, and of steadier habits, they become themselves gradually improved in character. Such public works, in the words of Mr. Spring Rice (Lord Monteagle), produce, as their ordinary effects, extended cultivation, improved habits of industry, a better administration of justice, the re-establishment of peace and tranquillity in the disturbed districts, a domestic colonization of a population in excess in certain districts, a diminution of illicit distillation, and a very considerable increase of revenue.
The total sum expended by the Commissioners for the improvement of the Shannon, up to the 4th March, 1844, is £316,346 11s. 3d. The amount of employment given in the construction of locks, &c, along its course, may be judged from the following return of the average number of persons employed daily:
This number of hands is, however, not constantly at work, and I have, therefore, calculated the total number of men whose occupation throughout the entire year is represented by the preceding totals. They are in
It is now time to close this notice by recording the actual amount of traffic, according to the latest returns that have been published.
The actual length of navigation on the lower Shannon, from Limerick to Kilrush, is 44 miles. The number of passengers by steamers in 1836 was 23,851. The quantity of goods carried at the same time is not given in the returns to the Railway Commissioners.
The navigation by track-boat between Limerick and Killaloe, which is partly river and partly canal, extends for fourteen miles, in a circuitous course. In 1836 there were taken by packet boats 14,600 passengers, and the traffic was:
In 1831, 28,212 tons, paying £1092 14s. 0d. tolls.
In 1836, 36,018 tons, paying £1514 2s. 0d. tolls.
On the Middle Shannon the navigation is lake, river, and partly canal. There are on it five steamers of a total tonnage of 710 tons. One of 100 horse power: the others of from 20 to 30. In 1836 the number of passengers was 4083. The quantity of traffic at two distant periods is shewn by the following numbers. The smallness of the tolls is owing to the relations of the Companies of Inland Navigation, and of the Grand Canal.
|Years||No. of boats||Tonnage||Amount of tolls|
|1829||430||10771||£279 18 2|
The Upper Shannon, consisting of a series of lakes, connected by the river and a canal with six locks, extends from Athlone to Lough Allen. The boats upon it are of from 30 to 50 tons. The freight is usually one penny per ton per mile, including tolls. The traffic was in
1834, 8,672 tons producing £93 9s. 8d. tolls.
1835, 9,770 tons producing £100 2s. 9d.
There are no passenger boats, nor as yet steamers.
From the Fifth Report of the Shannon Commissioners, it appears that the traffic on the river, under their control, that is above Limerick, was:
|Years||Tonnage landed||Tonnage loaded||Total|
The number of passengers conveyed on that part of the river by the City of Dublin Steam Company's boats, was, in the year 1843, 15,583 persons.
Of the other rivers which penetrate to such considerable distances into the interior of the country, there are few available for navigation beyond the points where the estuaries terminate. The Blackwater, which, at least to Fermoy, a distance of thirty-five miles, might be so easily adapted to navigation, is at yet available only to Cappoquin. On the Suir, the trade boats ascend to Clonmel, on the Nore to Innistiogue. The Barrow, however, affords an example of our river navigation fully developed, as by means of it, and of a branch of the Grand Canal, a water communication is established between Dublin and New Ross. The total length of the navigation opened out from Dublin to the sea below Waterford, is upwards of 120 miles. The boats are from 30 to 50 tons. The traffic was in
1800, 19,828 tons producing £1,405 tolls.
1820, 41,262 tons producing £3,827 tolls.
1835, 66,084 tons producing £4,966 tolls.
Some other rivers, as the Foyle, the Slaney, are navigated to a certain distance with the assistance of the tide, but they are not at all navigable in the proper sense, as applied to their ordinary river channels.
The natural difficulties which rivers often present to navigation, as well as their not being found in the precise localities where other conditions render means of communication important, render it often more economical to create a perfectly new route by a canal, than to alter or improve the circumstances of a river.
The canals of Ireland are referrible to two systems; one
p.340destined to connect the Shannon with the Irish Sea at Dublin, the other to connect the great inland sea, Lough Neagh, with the British Channel at Newry and Belfast.
The Royal Canal from Dublin to the River Camlin, by which it enters the Shannon, at Tarmonbarry, has a total length of ninety-two miles. Its summit level is at Mullingar, where, at fifty-three miles from Dublin, it is 322 feet above the level of the sea. Its supply of water is derived from Lough Owel.
The income from goods and passengers, and expenditure, were, in the
|Years||Passenger receipts||Total receipts||Total expenditure|
|1834||£6,299 11 10||£24,000 0 11||£11,376 10 0|
|1836||7,468 8 3½||25,148 19 7||11,912 2 10|
|1843||8,259 4 5||24,122 10 0||11,389 9 9|
The average toll levied upon this canal, appears to be from 1d. to 1½d. per ton, per mile. The total number of passengers who travelled by this canal, in the year 1837, was 46,450.
The Grand Canal, leaving Dublin by the southern extremity, passes nearly parallel, and at a very few miles distance, from the Royal Canal, for a certain portion of its length. It joins the Shannon at Shannon Harbour, and, on the other side of the river, is continued to Ballinasloe. Its total direct length is ninety-nine miles. Its branches are numerous; to Kilbeggan, and to Edenderry; to Athy, where it communicates with the River Barrow, to Portarlington, to Mountmellick, and to Naas. In addition, there are two branches into the great boggy district of the central counties, the drainage of which partly supplies the canal with water. These branches serve also as reservoirs, there not being any natural lakes along this line. The total length of these extensions of this navigation, is sixty-five miles, making, in all, 164 miles of canal. The summit level is about Robertstown, at a distance of twenty-six miles from Dublin, and 279 feet above the level of the sea.
The number of passengers travelling by the packet boats on the Grand Canal, was, in 1833, 54,812; in 1835, it rose to
p.34172,748, and, in 1837, was 100,695. Since which time the number has increased but little.
The total amount of tonnage carried, and the tolls levied, together with the nett income from passage boats were, in the
|1827||179,173||£33,587 4 9½|
|1832||216,418||£34,552 16 6|
|1837||215,910||£37,557 7 1|
|1842||191,958||£35,774 18 5|
Of the canals in connexion with Lough Neagh, the Lagan navigation is the most important. It commences at Belfast, its entire length from which is twenty-eight and a-half miles. Its course is partly tidal, partly river, and partly canal. The usual tonnage of the boats is fifty tons. In 1836, there passed 894 boats, carrying 44,700 tons of goods, and paying £2,060 10s. 8d. tolls. The toll is 9½d. per ton, for the entire length, and the freight, from 5s. to 6s.
The Newry Canal, communicating with the sea, about two miles below the town, passes northwards, for sixteen and a-half miles (Irish), to Whitecoat, where it joins the Bann, and by it passes into Lough Neagh. There are no passenger boats on this canal. In 1837, the traffic was, 102,332 tons, producing, in tolls, the sum of £3,505 11s. 5d.
The Coal Field of Tyrone, so fully described in the first chapter, had been originally supposed to be of much greater extent than subsequent examination has proved, and a canal was constructed, at the public expense, for conveying its produce to a distance. This canal, of about eleven miles, extends from Coal Island to the River Blackwater, a short distance from its confluence with Lough Neagh. The mining operations of that district being now so limited, the trade on this canal is proportionally small. In 1836, its total traffic was 7,291 tons of coals.
Within the last few years, an important line of canal communication has been opened, the Ulster Canal, which, commencing from the River Blackwater at Charlemont, near its junction will) Lough Neagh. passes to the south-west, by Monaghan
p.342and Clones , and joins, after a course of forty-eight miles, the Upper Lough Erne. The eastern and western seas are thus nearly connected, by a line of water communication, which only requires some improvements at Enniskillen, and in the lower lake, to be perfectly continuous from Ballyshannon to Belfast, a distance of about 150 miles. This line has been in operation too short a time, to test its efficiency by the amount of traffic already called into play, yet it is gratifying to observe, that, already, the facilities of transport have produced a considerable increase of industrial activity along its course. Thus, in the years ending April 1st, the traffic was
The increase being, one-third of tonnage, and one-half of tolls, showing the increase of traffic in the more valuable commodities.
From Drogheda to Navan, a distance of nineteen miles, and below Drogheda, for twelve and a-half miles, a navigation, partly canal, and partly river, exists, known as the Lower Boyne. There are no passage boats. In 1836, the total traffic was 10,194 tons, producing about £640 in tolls.
Such being the circumstances of the canal and river navigations, it remains to notice the numerous lakes available for the purposes of communication. Some of these have been already mentioned, as, in fact, expansions of the Shannon, and need no farther reference.
In many places, lines of canals have been proposed, and some surveys executed, which, however, have not led to further results. A very useful project of this kind, was the improvement of the navigation of the Nore, above Innistiogue. Perhaps, however, the most important line of inland navigation proposed, in addition to those already existing in Ireland, is that for which surveys were executed by Mr. Mulvany, and which would connect the Ulster Canal and Lough Erne with the Shannon, at Leitrim. The length of canal on this line would be twenty-eight and a-half miles, and twenty-one miles of steam navigation on Lough Oughter, to Killeshandra. The estimated total cost was £170,000. The importance of this connexion maybe estimated by a glance at a map, when it will be seen, that the network
p.343of inland navigation of the north-east of Ireland, is separated from the water communications of the south and centre, by the tract which this canal would intersect, and that, consequently, the two systems of traffic, now isolated, would by it be placed in connexion. Limerick would thus come into direct communication with Enniskillen and Ballyshannon, on the western, and with Belfast, on the eastern, coast of Ulster, and a total line of 716 miles of inland navigation, be opened out. The want of water carriage, in that part of the country, is shewn by the fact, that the heaviest articles of traffic, even timber, are brought from Newry, to within a few miles of the Shannon, on to Ballinasloe, by land, at an expense of 6d. per ton per mile, whilst water carriage, including all expenses of freight, tolls, &c., never exceeds 2d.
Ireland possesses not only the largest river in the British Islands, but also the largest inland sea, Lough Neagh, the coasts of which are formed by the counties of Derry, Antrim, Tyrone, Armagh, and Down. Its area is estimated at about 100,000 acres. Its height above the sea, is forty-six feet. It drains a considerable extent of the east of Ulster, the rivers Blackwater, Upper Bann, and Ballindery flowing into it, and its superfluous water being removed by the Lower Bann. The shores possessing but little elevation, it is destitute of the picturesque character which heightens the interest of so many of our lakes, but as it presents above 100 miles of coast in a country swarming with an intelligent and industrious population, and by the Coal Island, Newry, Ulster, and Lagan Canals, it is placed in communication with a large extent of the north of Ireland, it promises to be the future centre of extensive internal traffic. Already a commencement has been made.
Steam vessels have been placed upon the lake, which collecting at various ports on the northern and western shores, the goods and passengers, convey them to the south and east. Portadown, which unites the advantages of being placed on the Bann near the junction of the Newry Canal, and of being the present terminus of the Ulster Railway, is the principal emporium of the traffic on Lough Neagh. This precise amount of the steam traffic, I am not able to state in exact numbers, though it is certainly considerable.
The upper and lower Lough Erne, extending altogether a distance of about thirty miles, has been rendered in great part available for internal communication to Enniskillen, by the completion of the Ulster Canal. In fact, the multiplicity of islands in the upper lake renders its navigation similar to that of a canal. The lower lake, however, presents an important field for the introduction of steam traffic upon its ample surface. Its area is 27,645 acres. It is situated in average 150 feet above the level of the sea, and the channel contracting above Belleek to the river form, its waters are precipitated over a ledge of rocks, forming a magnificent cascade. Again at Ballyshannon a similar cataract occurs, by which the waters of this great basin are finally passed into the sea. The power of these falls of water has not been accurately calculated. It is certainly equivalent to many thousand horse in constant operation, and, if utilized with the facilities which those lakes and the canal would give for distribution of produce, the result should be most beneficial to the population of the surrounding districts. After the Shannon at Killaloe and Doonas, there is nothing in Ireland comparable as a source of mechanical power to the Erne at Belleek and Ballyshannon.
The picturesque solitudes of Lough Gill have been invaded by the power of steam for communicating between Sligo and Dromohan. When the Shannon improvements are completed, the steamers on Lough Allen will be separated from those of Sligo by a few miles of hilly country, presenting no insuperable obstacle to intercourse.
The province of Connaught is, however, that which deserves most attentive notice in relation to its navigable lakes. Its soil is not inferior to that of the rest of Ireland; some of the sweetest pastures, and most productive lands are found within its limits. Its coasts abound with fish; its mountains are rich in ores; its people are willing to work, and travel hundreds of miles seeking for work, even at a rate which only allows them to sustain existence. Yet that province is the reproach of Ireland and the by-word of Great Britain. Its population is relieved by charitable subscription from recurrent famines. Little more than one-half of its area has been made available for cultivation, and it is but a few years since its interior
p.345was first rendered accessible to industry by the formation of proper roads. There exist in Connaught, independent of the Shannon Lough which forms its boundary, two groups of lakes, peculiarly fitted for navigation. The most important of these, consisting of Loughs Mask, and Carra, communicate with the sea at Galway by a river about three miles long, with a fall of fourteen feet, of which the water power is described in page 78. The area of Lough Corrib is 50,700 statute acres. Its length from Galway to Maam by Cong is about twenty-five miles, its breadth very variable, at greatest about fourteen miles. Its depth of water is fully sufficient for navigation. Its islands contain more than 1000 acres of fertile land. The waters of Lough Mask are poured into Corrib, but by subterraeous channels, the lakes being separated by a ridge of land of three miles broad. The area of Lough Mask and of Carra, which is an offset from it, is 26,265 acres. Its height eighty feet above the sea level.
To bring these three lakes into navigable communication with each other and with the sea, there would only be required about three miles of canal. The direct length of navigation opened would be about forty miles, and a coast of nearly 200 miles would have a cheap and ready outlet for its agricultural produce.
The second group of lakes in Connaught stands in connexion with that fine river, the Moy, which draining 1033 square miles of country, falls into the sea at Ballina. These are Loughs Conn and Cullin. Their area is about 14,000 acres. They present a direct navigation of eleven miles and fifty-three miles of coast. The height and power of the fall from these lakes is given in page 78.
Surveys of this district, with a view of opening this extensive lake navigation to the coast, and thus enabling the inhabitants to send out for export the produce of their fields at a low cost, were made by Mr. Bald. He shewed that the carriage by water would be in those localities not more than one-sixth that by land. That by an arrangement of canals, including but seventeen locks, a navigation of fifty-three miles direct could be secured, available to a district containing 800,000 inhabitants, who now possess none but the rudest and most expensive means of intercourse.
It is to be hoped that such criminal neglect as has hitherto impeded the progress of all such plans for ameliorating the condition of the people, may not continue. When a famine occurs in Connaught, money is raised in London to buy them bread as charity. It is much fitter that suitable means should be adopted for enabling the people to earn it by honest labour.
When the navigation of the Connaught lakes is proceeded with, it will become an important problem to determine on the mode of communication with the Shannon. For this, various plans have been proposed, but it would be premature for me to enter upon the discussion of any of them.
A mode of transport which at the present day occupies public attention much more than the common roads, or water-ways which I have so far noticed, is the railway. Though totally modern, not yet a generation old, this new agent in intercourse has assumed an importance, which entitles it to be considered as a power in promoting the development, not merely of industry, but of civilization. I shall of course not enter into any general description of the theoretical circumstances of railways or of steam power as used upon them, but having first noticed the condition of the existing and proposed railroads in Ireland, I shall apply myself to the brief discussion of two questions which I consider important to this country, that is, in whose hands the general control of railways should be placed, and by what kind of power motion should be produced upon them.
We possess in actual operation but three railways in Ireland. The Kingstown Railway extending from Dublin to the pier at Kingstown Harbour, six miles, lies along the southern shore of the bay, and may be considered as altogether a passenger line for that extensive suburban villa district. In the years ending March,
|1842||1,632,083||£40,208 2 4|
|1843||1,758,878||£42,401 3 1|
|1844||1,962,051||£45,255 8 2|
The financial and mechanical conditions of the line are illustrated by the following numbers:
For the year ending 27th March, 1844.
The Ulster Railway, which is completed, and has been for some time in actual work from Belfast, passing by Lisburn, Moira, and Lurgan, to Portadown, twenty-five miles. The traffic upon it appears steadily increasing.
For the years ending 1st March, there were,
|1842-3||425,864||£21,148 15 10|
|1843-4||436,317||£25,145 2 1|
There is some traffic in goods on this line, and it appears to increase more rapidly than the passenger traffic; thus the receipts for carriage of goods, included in the above, was in 1842-3. £5123 10s. 9d., and in 1843-4 it became £8269 6s. 11d. The reports of the company do not state the weight of merchandize carried.
The Dublin and Drogheda Railway, of which the opening for public traffic has not yet occurred, is, however, in such a state of completion, that frequent experimental trips have been
p.348made upon nearly its entire length, little more than the termini remaining unfinished. Its length is thirty-one miles and a half; its course being circuitously along the coast, by Malahide and Balbriggan.
None of the lines here mentioned require any special notice as to the nature of the ground passed over, and details as to their cost and financial condition would be out of place.
The importance of railways as a means of developing the industrial resources of a country, especially in the absence of those other aids, by which, in many countries, their necessity is rendered less urgent, had long been felt by all seriously interested in the prosperity of Ireland, and led to the formation of the Railway Commission in 1838, which, under the principal guidance of the late Mr. Drummond and Sir J. Burgoyne, published a Report, which, although some details of its propositions may be combated or deviated from, remains a masterpiece of physical and statistical investigation, and will connect the names of its eminent authors permanently with the records of Irish progress. The strictness of official caution led to an estimate of the final return of profit, probably less than the circumstances justified, certainly much less than projectors were disposed to promise in the share market, and hence the effect of the Report was to damp the enthusiasm of railway speculations.
The principle of governmental control which was strongly advocated in the Report, and to which I shall by-and-by return, was also adverse to the feelings of those disposed to invest money in such undertakings, and was opposed to the existing English practice. Owing to these and other still more unreasonable influences, the provisions of the Report have not been in any one instance carried into effect, and the improvement of the condition of the people, which its authors had so fondly anticipated, remains as distant as six years ago when the Report was written.
The Commissioners proposed the formation of two great lines of railway, one to the south-west, and the other to the north-west, from Dublin, starting from Barrackbridge: the south-western line was to have passed by Palmerstown and Lucan to Sallins, Rathangan, Monasterevan, Portarlington,
p.349and Maryborough. Near the latter, at the summit of the limestone country, between the valleys of the Nore and Barrow, it was proposed to form a branch to Kilkenny by Abbeyleix and Ballyraggat.
The distance between Dublin and the commencement of this branch is 52½ miles, and thence to Kilkenny is 26½ miles, making a total length, from Dublin to Kilkenny, of 79 miles.
From the Maryborough summit, the line has been continued through the limestone country to the road from Borris-in-Ossory to Rathdowney, which it crosses at the distance of 66 miles from Dublin, and three miles from Borris-in-Ossory on the Limerick road; and this point, which will serve as a station for passengers and merchandize from the towns of Roscrea, Borris-in-Ossory, Castletown, Mountrath, and the districts surrounding them, must eventually become a point of very general resort.
From the road to Borris-in-Ossory the line pursues its south-western direction, passing near to the towns of Rathdowney, Templemore, and Thurles, to Holycross, in the county of Tipperary, where it is proposed that the line to Limerick should diverge.
This line has been laid out with great care, skirting as close as levels would permit to the south-eastern base of the range of the Keeper Mountains, and thence, without encountering any difficulty, proceeding in a direct line to the city of Limerick.
The distance by the proposed line of railway between Dublin and Holycross is 89 3/4 miles, and between Holycross and Limerick 35 3/4 miles, making a total distance between Dublin and Limerick of 125½ miles. This distance is only six miles longer than the direct post-road between those points, a circumstance we deem very satisfactory, when it is considered that the proposed railway communication between Limerick and Dublin will be effected by a divergence from the Cork line of only 35 3/4 miles in length.
From Holycross the main Cork line proceeds in a southern direction to Cashel, and thence to Marhill, near New Inn, in the county of Tipperary, at which point it is intended that
p.350the line to Clonmel and Waterford should commence; but, to complete a direct railway communication between Limerick and Waterford, it is also proposed that this branch-line should be continiued in a western direction, from Marhill towards Limerick, and, crossing the River Suir at Golden, join the line from Holycross to Limerick at Donaghill.
The distance from Marhill, by Golden, to Donaghill, is 13 miles; and by adopting this arrangement there will be a saving of distance between Limerick and Waterford of 14½ miles; without it, all the traffic from Limerick to Waterford must necessarily pass from Donaghill, round by Holycross, to Marhill, in order to reach the commencement of the Waterford line.
Continuing in a southern direction from Marhill, the Cork line follows the valley of the River Suir to Cahir, situated at the eastern extremity of the Galtees Mountains, at which point, owing to the physical structure of the country, it has been necessary to adopt a south-western course, passing through the narrow valley interposed between the Galtees and Kilworth Mountains, whence it continues by Michelstown to Kildorrery, and thence to the town of Mallow, situated on the River Blackwater.
From Mallow the main line takes a direct southern course to Cork, and necessarily crosses a ridge of slate country, which intervenes between the limestone valleys of the River Blackwater, at Mallow, and the River Lee, on which Cork is situated.
Here experience fully confirms the remarkable circumstance to which allusion has been made, in treating of the geology of the country, that throughout the whole of the lines which have been described, no engineering difficulties worthy of notice occur, as long as we continued in the limestone country; but the moment we attempt to cross the slate district, situated between Cork and Mallow, we encounter an elevation of 222 feet in 7 miles 3 furlongs, which must be overcome by adopting steeper gradients than those required for any other part of the lines we have described, and which never leave the great limestone district of the interior of the country.
Owing to this favourable nature of the ground, we have not found it necessary to cross any of those high table-lands, which can only be traversed by tunnelling; but by allowing the lines to undulate to a certain degree with the surface of the country, according to the revised system of gradients, all deep cuttings have been avoided. Hence, the several railways which we recommend for the south of Ireland can be formed at the comparatively moderate expense stated in the estimate contained in Mr. Vignoles' Report.
For the northern line it was proposed to form a trunk to Navan, and from thence two main branches, one west to Enniskillen, and one to north to Armagh, which communicating with the Ulster Railway would thus reach Belfast. The surveys for this line were executed by Mr. Macneill. The Report proceeds:
By reference to the map it will be seen that the first 28 miles, namely, from Dublin to Navan, are common to both the Armagh and Enniskillen lines; at Navan they diverge, that to Belfast taking a north course, passing near to Carrickmacross, and through Castleblaney to Armagh; the distance between Navan and Armagh being 57½ miles, and the total distance from Dublin to Armagh 85½ miles.
Between Dublin and Navan, where the line crosses the limestone country, the gradients are better, and the average cost per mile will be £4,200 less than where it passes through the slate country already described, which extends nearly for the whole distance from Navan to Armagh.
The north-west or Enniskillen line, on diverging from the Armagh line at Navan, has been laid out in the valley of the River Blackwater, passing through Kells and Virginia. As far as Kells the country is unusually favourable, but between that point and Cavan, and from thence to Newtown-Butler, in the county of Fermanagh, the cost of forming will be considerable, owing to the hilly character of the slate district. Beyond Newtown-Butler the line passes through the flat country skirting the north-eastern margin of Upper Lough Erne. In such a locality the gradients, as might be expected, are excellent, and the cost is proportionally reduced.
The town of Enniskillen, situated on Upper and Lower Lough Erne, may be considered as a central station towards which both passengers and commercial traffic may be expected to converge for a considerable circuit, including the important towns of Londonderry, Letterkenny, Strabane, Omagh, Donegal, Ballyshannon, and Sligo, and hence, for the present, it is considered to be the most suitable point for the termination of the north-western railway.
In forming a comparison of the advantage which the lines to the north and north-west of Ireland, recommended by us, possess over the others to which we have alluded, the only one which traverses the interior of the country, to which we think necessary to refer, namely, that from Dublin to Armagh, passing through Ardee and Castleblaney, already mentioned.
For general purposes this line would not be favourable to the views adopted by us; it is not sufficiently near the coast to be used for connecting the important commercial towns of Newry and Dundalk with Dublin; and, on the other hand, it does not strike far enough into the interior to render any portion of it suitable for a main line to the north-west.
In an engineering point of view it is likewise inferior, inasmuch as it is proposed to cross the River Boyne, by an embankment about 460 yards in length, the greater portion of which, as shown by the section, would exceed 100 feet in height; while the line which we propose crosses the river above Navan, by an embankment of 260 yards in length, and at an average height of but 33 feet; and likewise between Castleblaney and Armagh the line is not so advantageous either in length or gradients as that laid out under our direction.
In respect to the coast line, which has been surveyed from Drogheda by Dundalk to Newry, we have to observe, that it may be considered altogether in the light of a speculation which has no reference to the internal commercial traffic of the country, but as one which will afford a desirable facility for passenger intercourse between the important commercial towns which it is intended to connect.
Such were the propositions of the Railway Commissioners in 1838. There have been various lines proposed by private companies, of which the following are the most important.
A line to Kilkenny, which leaving Dublin at Kilmainham, passed parallel to the line adopted by the Commissioners, but at a higher level, and crossed the Grand Canal at Sallins: it then passed across the Curragh of Kildare to Athy, and followed the left bank of the Barrow by Carlow to Leighlin Bridge, from whence, along the foot of the Colliery Hills, it passed to Kilkenny. This line, considered solely as regarding Kilkenny, was perfect, but it was not adapted for such continuations and branches as could render it a part of a general southern system.
A railway from Limerick to Waterford was one of the first proposed in Ireland, and surveys were executed by Nimmo, whose favourable opinion of the locality has been confirmed by all succeeding engineers. Regarding it the Report says:
By reference to our passenger and traffic Maps it will be seen, that between Limerick and Clonmel the present intercourse is comparatively trifling; but the known resources of the country are so considerable, that rational expectations might be entertained of a favourable result from a railway which would open a direct communication from the counties of Clare, Kerry, Limerick, and Tipperary, to the markets of Bristol, the south of England generally, and to London.
Still we cannot admit that, if abandoned to its own local resources, this railway would yield profits sufficient to remunerate a company for its construction. But blended, as we propose that it should be, with the general lines of intercommunication between Dublin, Cork, Limerick, and Waterford, we conceive that the expense of the connecting branch, thirteen miles in length, between Donaghill and Marhill, already alluded to, will be considered as a minor consideration when compared with the advantage which the country must derive from the completion of a direct railway communication between Limerick and Waterford.
Since the date of the Railway Commissioners' Report, the formation of a trunk line communicating with the south and
p.354west of Ireland by branches has been proposed in various forms. There is at present suggested a line to Cashel, with a branch to Carlow. This route, differing but little from that recommended by the Commissioners, passes by Kildare, Monastereven, Maryborough, and Borris-in-Ossory. From Maryborough the Carlow branch turns by Athy. The country, through which the line is proposed to pass, is highly favourable. The line is thrown into direct connexion with the intervening towns, and thus, perhaps, the facilities of traffic augmented. From Cashel, which is but a slight change from Holycross, which the Commissioners recommended as the centre of radiation for the south, it is proposed ultimately to extend lines to Cork, Limerick, and Waterford.
Diverging from the southern line some miles from Dublin, a line has been proposed to Mullingar and the western counties. No definite plan, however, has been made public.
To connect Dublin with Belfast, a line is now proposed in continuation of the Drogheda line to Portadown, where it will communicate with the Ulster Railway. The distance of this junction line will be fifty-six miles; with the exception of the vicinity of Newry the route does not present any important difficulties, and Professor Macneill's estimate for its construction is £12,000 per mile. The general direction is the same as the coach road. From Drogheda there is also contemplated a railway to Navan and Kells, a distance of twenty-three miles; this line, being principally in the valley of the Boyne, along the junction of the limestone and slate districts, is peculiarly favourable, and is estimated to be completed for £10,000 per mile. By an extension of this branch a communication may be formed with the Shannon by Longford, which would give the north of Connaught a very direct means of access to the eastern coast for the exportation of agricultural produce.
The Ulster Railway Company are about extending their line by Armagh to Monaghan, and thus opening out the central counties to Belfast. The line to be pursued beyond that point is not determined on.
In all of the lines of railway so far noticed, whether in actual
p.355work or only proposed, the source of power in use or contemplated is the ordinary locomotive engine. There has, however, been recently brought into play a means of locomotion on railways which bids fair to replace, at least in many localities, that hitherto in use; it is by atmospheric propulsion, of which, in fact, this country has become the most remarkable example, by the specimen of it which is in action for a mile and three-quarters from Kingstown to the village of Dalkey.
On an ordinary line of railway, as, for example, the Kingstown line, the weight of the train and engine is usually about forty-five tons, of which the engine weighs fifteen tons, and the carriages and passengers about thirty. It hence follows that of the total power required to move the train, one-third is actually absorbed in the motion of the engine without any return. The cost of fuel necessary to produce steam is thus half as much again as should suffice if there were only the useful load to move, and the importance of this difference will be at once felt, on considering that the cost of power is by far the largest item in the expense of working a railway, and in the cost of power the fuel is again the predominant item. Thus, in the years ending respectively March 6th and 27th, 1844, the expenses on the existing railways were:
|Cost of power||£3729 12 8||£8128 18 8|
|Of which the cost of coke was||£1850 9 10||£2264 17 11|
|Cost of maintenance of way||£1048 10 7||£2253 11 8|
|Total gross expenditure||£14539 0 0||£20599 12 6|
The annual cost of the fuel expended in giving motion to the engines, without reference to the carriages, goods, or passengers, and on which no profit accrues, is, consequently, on the Ulster line, about £600, and on the Kingstown line, about £750 per annum, besides a proportion of the general expenses which cannot be well separated.
The great massiveness and weight of the locomotive engine
p.356render necessary also a degree of strength in the rails, bridges, and embankments of the line, which otherwise might well be dispensed with. Thus we may consider a passenger carriage to weigh, as is usual, three tons, and to contain twenty-eight passengers, which, at fourteen to a ton, gives two tons, making the whole weight five tons, or we may allow it to be even six tons, which, if the carriage be provided with but four wheels, gives a pressure upon each wheel of a ton and a half. The construction of all the bearing parts of the railway must be in accordance with this amount of pressure. If, however, the locomotive engine be taken into account, its weight being considered, as is usual, as fifteen tons, and that it be supported on six wheels, the pressure on each wheel is two tons and a half, and the strength of every portion of the line must be augmented beyond what would suffice for the paying part of the train, in the proportion of 5 to 3. Now to make the railway stronger, in the ratio of 5 to 3, involves far more than an increased expense in the proportion of 5 to 3, and it may be safely asserted that so far as all the parts which are common to all systems of locomotion on railways are concerned, the existence of the locomotive engine considerably increases the necessary expense of construction.
On the principle of atmospheric propulsion, which is now in action upon the short railway from Kingstown to Dalkey, the power is applied at a fixed point to work an air pump, by which the air is continually removed from an iron pipe, which is laid down along the centre of the line. The carriages are connected with this pipe by a piston, upon which, when the internal air is exhausted, the external air presses, and as it is found practicable, on the line of a mile and three-quarters to obtain a vacuum of twenty-four inches in the barometer, there is generated an effective pressure of twelve pounds per square inch of piston area, or for the pipe of fifteen inches diameter a force 2129lb. The valve mechanism which regulates the passage of the air, and opens and closes the apertures in the tube as the train passes, is found in practice to be so far perfect as to leave, after all leakage, a force equivalent to that of the most powerful locomotive engines, generated in the most economical
p.357manner, and possessing in its application peculiar advantages for railway intercourse.
In the cost of power it has been shewn, that one of the largest items is the cost of coke. On the Ulster Railway, the coke cost 34s. per ton, until they began to manufacture for themselves, and even then it cost 26s. The Dublin and Kingstown Company pay for coke at the Gas Works 23s. 4d. per ton. Now in the locomotive boiler the coke does not evaporate more than eight times its weight of water: but if the fuel be burned under a fixed engine, and that in place of coke, coal be used, which can be had for 12s. per ton, the ton will evaporate, with Cornish boilers, at least twelve tons of water, and the steam power, to produce which should cost £1000 for coke, in a locomotive engine, may be generated with the fixed engine for £333 worth of coal. Not merely may coke be burned to work the air pump of an atmospheric line, but in localities where coal might be expensive, turf may be used, and thus the system becomes at once applicable to the centre and west of Ireland, where gas coke should be unattainable except at a great expense. The advantages of fixed power do not even stop here. The power need not be that of steam. At every change of level along a line of railway in this country, water power may be made available, and in such case the economy in substituting it for the most expensive form of steam power may be estimated from what has been so fully discussed in the third chapter.
A further important economy in the principle of fixed power communicated by the flexible medium of the atmosphere, is that its effect does not alter with the inclination of the road. On an incline the locomotive engine has to draw up itself as well as the train. Let us suppose an incline where the total drag on the engine is doubled; now unless the velocity of the transport is sacrificed, or an additional engine employed as help, the size of the train must be reduced, and this reduction must be made altogether at the expense of the paying part of the train, so that finally at certain inclines the engine could only draw itself up, and be incapable of bringing any load. It is this peculiarity of the locomotive engine that has hitherto
p.358rendered it the object of engineers to avoid inclines, and to retain the lines as nearly horizontal as possible, even at a vast sacrifice of cost in the construction. If, however, the power be fixed at a distance, and be brought into action on the train by the flexible medium of the atmosphere, the mechanical force will always move a proportional amount of carriages or goods, while the heavy locomotive being absent, all tend to remunerate the line for the loss of transport. Hence, inclines are available on the atmospheric plan, which would be absolutely impracticable on a line worked by locomotives, and by this, as well as the other considerations previously noticed, the general engineering conditions of the railway become exceedingly simplified.
The more intimate connexion with the line by the pipe and piston, which gives the locomotive train a steadiness, and enables it to traverse curves too sharp for the safe passage of an ordinary train, is another advantage: besides that the absence of the locomotive, from which, in most cases of accidents, the injury is sustained, presents an additional source of safety.
The only source of expenditure on an atmospheric line, which does not exist to at least as great an extent on the locomotive line, is that of the iron exhaustion pipe. This is, however, a trifling item compared with the sources of economy I have described, and hence I do not hesitate to conclude, that in regard to facility of execution, of economy in working and construction, and in safety and rapidity of transit, the principle of fixed power working by atmospheric pressure deserves the most attentive consideration on the part of those engaged in railway enterprizes, especially in this country, where the substitution of cheap coal, or turf, or still cheaper water power, for expensive coke, may, in many districts, make the difference between a profitable line, or a losing speculation.
Such being the general conditions of the application of atmospheric power to locomotion, it remains to notice the general construction of the trial line now in ojieration between Kingstown and Dalkey. It is erected on a line of tramway formerly used for conveying stone to Kingstown Harbour.
p.359The total length is a mile and three-quarters. Its average inclination is 1 in 115, but in some parts it is 1 in in 57: a slope on which a locomotive engine could move little besides itself. It presents several curves sharper than any constructed on ordinary lines of railway, one of less than an eighth of a mile radius, so that on this short line there are actually so many obstacles, that its success may be considered as decisive, so far as the application of the power is concerned. The engine at Dalkey is of 100 horse power: this is, for ulterior objects, much greater than that required. The usual average velocity of the trains ascending the line is thirty miles, but a velocity of sixty miles per hour is easily attainable. The trains descend the line from Dalkey by the force of gravity. They occupy usually about three minutes and a half in the ascent, and about four minutes in the descent of the mile and three-quarters. The pipe used on this line is fifteen inches diameter. It is in ten feet lengths, which weigh each twelve cwt. There should be, therefore, per mile 528 lengths, weighing 317 tons, and the iron in the screws and valves might amount to about sixteen tons, making a total of 333 tons of iron per mile of single way, which is the only point in which this mode is more expensive than the ordinary railway.
This plan of construction is likely to be tried under more favourable circumstances, for the complete development of its powers, on a line which is now proposed to be constructed along the northern bank of the Grand Canal, from Portobello to Sallins, about twenty statute miles. From that point suitable extensions to the south and west will naturally follow.
The influence of the railway system on the industrial and social circumstances of the country, is so great, as to demand, upon the part of the Government, the most careful supervision. This has not been as yet accorded to it. When railways were first proposed, their results were not foreseen, nor their vast power understood, even by their advocates, still less by the Government, and hence, being looked upon as individual speculations, into which every capitalist should be at liberty to enter, when and where he liked, and to realize as much profit as he could, there was only required a parliamentary procedure,
p.360similar to that necessary for obtaining permission to open a new line or branch of common road. The railway, when once opened, took possession necessarily of the entire intercourse between its terminations. It instantly abolished the usual and previous modes of travelling, and this once effected, all fear of competition was removed, and the cost of transport was rendered such as the managers thought would be most remunerative. The velocities were also kept far below what the system is capable of producing, for the expense increases very rapidly with the velocity, and hence to obtain the greatest amount of profit the speed must be kept low.
When a proposition for a new railway is brought before Parliament, it is inevitably opposed, either by those who, desirous of forming a line in a different direction, advance their claims to a monopoly of their own; or by such as having property along the line, are desirous of obtaining the greatest possible amount of compensation, and seek to enhance their importance by strong representations of the injury they sustain. By such opposition the expense of obtaining the necessary bill is enormously increased; landed proprietors of influence in either house, through whose localities the line may pass, require to be conciliated; the energies of the law agents and others employed for the adverse parties, are exerted to the uttermost, as no matter how the railway eventuates, whether the proprietors ever realize a fraction on their investment, or the public derive any increase of means of intercourse, the law and engineering expenses must be paid, no matter how enormous they may have become. Those expenses have actually amounted in many cases to £2000 per mile on the entire line, and in average are not less than £1000 per mile, wherever there is opposition, no matter whether well founded or not. All this must ultimately be defrayed by the public. The companies regard it of course only as a part of their investment, on which profit is to be made equally with that for the construction of the railway, or for the expenses of the power. These preliminary operations furnish, however, a rich harvest to solicitors and engineers, and hence have arisen throughout England a vast number of railway enterprizes, which, undertaken without
p.361suitable investigation as to their final results, have brought ruin upon those persons who were induced to embark their property in them. There are altogether in operation in the British Islands 1732 miles of railway. of these 1014 miles pay an interest of £6 6s. 7d. per £100 on their capital, which amounts to £4 19s. 4d. per cent. on their market price. There are 571 miles of railway on which the return in no case exceeds £4 per cent. on the paid up capital: in a few it amounts to £2 10s., and in some but to 10s. per £100. The remaining 147 miles consist of branch lines, subordinate to the first class, and producing about from 3½ to 4 per cent. It is thus evident that nearly one-third of the entire extent of railway in England has been an absolutely unfortunate speculation, and yet on these bad lines a total capital of £18,500,000 has been expended, the present value of which is now not more than £13,000,000.
On the other hand the companies which are in possession of the great lines of intercourse realize enormous profits. The London and Birmingham having cost £5,923,000, pay £11 2s. per cent. The Liverpool and Manchester, and Grand Junction having cost respectively £1,515,000 and £2,319,000, pay each £10 per cent., the maximum allowed by law. The lines of intercourse being thus absolutely private speculation, one set of capitalists are ruined, another set are enriched, but the public, so vitally interested in the main question of facility of intercourse, is left totally out of consideration.
With those examples of profit on one side and of loss upon another, it is easily understood that no difficulty would be found in obtaining capitalists ready to construct those leading lines which are certain of being the great means of intercourse with the capital of the country. But capitalists will not be forthcoming to extend those lines into the variety of districts where the means of intercourse are most required; where the railroad would be a source of social stimulus towards improvement, and by connecting together the most remote parts of the island, and the extremes of our civilization, diffuse the activity of industry and good example over all its parts. That would not pay. The great trunks near Dublin will certainly pay; and hence the capitalists will obligingly take possession of
p.362them. And similarly, if all the provisions which come up for the supply of Dublin, were conducted to the same market, and that the power was given to an individual to levy what toll he liked before the inhabitants could get any food, there is no doubt but that we would find capitalists ready to build the market. Such a case is just the parallel to the main trunk railways.
Let us conceive this country destitute of roads, and that an individual undertook to make a road, on condition that no person should be allowed to travel or hold communication with his neighbour except by his road; that no person should, when on the road, travel at a greater or less speed than the owner of the road approved of; that no person should travel at any other hours than those which the owner ordered; and that the owner should have the power of charging any sum he chose for the use of his road; and finally, that this power should be eternal; that no matter what advances the district made in industry, intelligence, activity, it should still remain bound to the conditions of this road proprietor. Would not this be an intolerable grievance? And yet every item in that catalogue is realized in the actual circumstances under which railways are placed. For the idea of competing lines, which shall keep the existing companies on their good behaviour, is perfectly chimerical; the practical fact being, that the railway, once formed, is a monopoly of the strictest kind.
Similar considerations have presented themselves to almost every person who has had occasion to study the general relations of railways. The following passage from the concluding section of the Irish Commissioners' Report, is illustrative of the general argument, and valuable in addition, as shewing the deliberate opinion of some of the most eminent men by whom questions of the kind have been considered.
It is a favourite opinion with many that all undertakings of this description are best left to the free and unfettered exercise of private enterprise, and that the less the State interferes, either in prescribing their execution, or controlling their subsequent operation and management, the better.
We are fully sensible of the great advantages to be obtained by allowing full scope to the vigour, energy, and intelligence
p.363of individuals associated for such important purposes; and that it would be equally inconsistent with the interests and with the rights of society were such exertions crippled or restrained by unnecessary or impolitic regulations. But we apprehend that the essential difference between railways and any other description of public works has been overlooked, and that power and privileges have been conceded to private companies, which should be exercised only under the direct authority of the State, or under regulations enforced by effective superintendence and control.
So great are the powers, so vast the capabilities of a railroad, that it must, wherever established, at once supersede the common road; and not only will all the public conveyances now in use disappear, but even the means of posting will, in all probability, rapidly decline, and eventually, perhaps, cease to be found along its line. These effects may be expected as the necessary consequences of opening a railway. Its superiority is too manifest and decided to admit of rivalry; it possesses almost unlimited means of accommodation; no amount of traffic exists on any road, or is likely to exist, which a single railway is not capable of conveying; no concourse of passengers which it cannot promptly dispose of; the velocity of the locomotive, when impelled even at a very considerable reduction of its full power, surpasses the greatest speed which the best appointed coach on the best made road can maintain: in short, where the capabilities of the system are brought fully into operation, they present such an accumulation of advantages, as to render it an instrument of unequalled power in advancing the prosperity of a country.
It therefore deeply concerns the public, whose welfare is inseparably connected with all that tends to improve the internal resources, or to maintain the commercial and manufacturing superiority of these countries, that such works should be promoted; and consequently, every encouragement, consistent with the regard due to other interests, should be given to capitalists who may be willing to undertake them. Their propositions should be submitted to a competent and duly constituted
p.364tribunal; and if approved, should be adopted and stamped as national enterprises. As such they should be protected from all unnecessary expensefrom extravagant demands for compensationfrom vexatious opposition, and from the ruinous competition of other companies. To that extent they have a strong claim on the protection of the State.
But, on the other hand, the public interest would require that they should be bound by such conditions, and held subject to such well-considered regulations and effective control, as shall secure to the country at large the full benefit and accommodation of this admirable system.
The practice hitherto followed in England has been almost the very reverse of that which we here recommend. No preliminary steps are taken on behalf of the public, to ascertain whether the proposed railroad be well adapted to its specific object, or calculated to form a part of a more general system. The best and the worst devised schemes are entertained alike, being equally exposed to opposition, and left equally unprotected against the difficulties which interested parties may raise up against them. Nay, a railway bill may be passed, or it may be rejected; but the fate of the project merely proves the number and influence of its respective supporters or opponents. Its failure or success is no test whatever of its merits, as a measure of general utility; for that consideration forms a very small part of the inquiry before Parliament.
It appears from all these considerations that the great channels of public intercourse should not be rendered private property; that, in the language of an enlightened Belgian minister, to whose reports on other subjects I shall have occasion elsewhere to refer: the object desired in the construction of a railway should be not the gain of an individual, but the extension of the traffic and communications of the country to the utmost limits of the public capability, at the lowest rate of charge, at which the original outlay can be reimbursed. . . . The project undertaken by Government is an establishment which should neither be a burthen nor a source of revenue, and requiring merely that it should cover its own expenses,
p.365consisting of the charge of maintenance and repairs, with a further sum for the interest and gradual redemption of the invested capital. The systems upon which the railways of England and of Belgium have been constructed are thus completely opposite, and the way in which each works is such as might have been expected from this opposition of principles. As the able author of the pamphlet entitled Railway Reform says: The object of the one is to tax the public the maximum of the most profitable rate, that of the other the minimum of the most economical expenditure; the one to produce the greatest profit to private individuals, and the other to confer the greatest benefit on the whole community. What are the relative charges by each? On one of our railways, from London to Birmingham for instance, the distance is 112 miles, and the fare by the mail is £1 12s. 6 d. For the same distance in Belgium, in a similar class carriage, the fare would be fourteen francs, or just one-third of what it is in England.
I have endeavoured thus to explain the reasons which have induced me to conclude, that it is at the present time a vital question with this country, on what plan the organization of a net-work of railways should be constructed. I have left out of question the argument which has often been advanced with much force, that private companies proceed to the execution of such works with a carelessness of expenditure which could be avoided if the entire were under strict central superintendence. It is true that many lines of railway in England have cost sums so enormous, as to manifest the most wasteful extravagance, or the most discreditable carelessness, but I consider that a great part of this high expenditure arose from the ignorance and timidity of engineers, who, the system being in its infancy, considered themselves limited to a horizontality of line, which enormously increased the outlay. The future lines, whether private or governmental, will be much more economically executed than such undertakings have hitherto been. This, however, does not alter the general conclusion that the great highways of the country should belong to the country, and that the means of intercourse of the population should be under the regulation of the State.
It is of course not within my duties nor my powers to propose such measures as would give the public a proper control over the times, charges, and velocities of the means of intercourse. Such plans have been brought forward, and by those whose knowledge and position rendered them peculiarly competent to the task. Thus let capitalists make the railway, but let their investment be not a speculation but a stock, on which they should get a secure but limited interest, and at 4½ per cent. abundance of capital could be obtained: let the districts within a certain distance of the line secure that interest: if the railway realize a higher interest, let the difference go to alleviate the other burthens on the land of the vicinity. Now it must be recollected that no prudent capitalists will make a railway for themselves, unless with a moral certainty of its paying more than 4½ per cent., so that the difference of result is, that should the line be made by the capitalists for the country, if it paid 6 per cent., the country would have 1½ profit to apply to other local objects, and could control velocities, arrange hours, and reduce fares as they thought fit, whilst if the capitalist make the railway on his own account, he pockets the entire 6 per cent. of profit, and the public has no control, but must submit to any regulations he likes to make.
The landed proprietors in many of our counties were, however, terribly frightened at the idea of the localities being made liable for the interest, and the most exaggerated statements were circulated as to the amount for which the districts would thus be responsible. I believe that if the subject was generally understood, this alarm, which was so fatal to the important principle of keeping in their own hands the control of their own highways, would be dissipated. The probable liabilities have been in fact accurately calculated, and are as follows:
If we suppose, as was at one time contemplated, three trunk lines issuing from Dublin, and passing northwards to Armagh, westwards to Mullingar, and southwards to Cashel, their cost, according to the highest estimate which had been made, should be
p.367To Cashel, 100 miles . . . £1,300,000
It may appear that I have unnecessarily dwelt on these topics, now that the question appears definitely settled, and that not merely in England, where the system was already in operation, but also in this country, where the field being practically new, a different mode might have been tried, the property, control, and construction of railways are to be left to private capitalists. I am satisfied, however, that the defects of the existing system are so rapidly augmenting in importance and notoriety, that before long, the question must be discussed anew, and as it is important that sound ideas should be placed before the public for consideration, prior to the period of actual judgment, I have so far entered upon their discussion.
From the geological and topographical details regarding the surface of the country, which have occupied so much of the preceding chapters, it will be easily understood, that Ireland
p.368is most favourably circumstanced for the construction of railways. The great limestone plain, which occupies an area in the interior of the country of not less than 10,000 square miles presents facilities for railway engineering scarcely to be equalled. In the north and south the mountain ranges afford some obstacles, which, however, are not beyond the usual run of engineering difficulties, that are every day overcome in such undertakings, and there is hence no physical reason why this country should not rapidly acquire an efficient system of railway intercourse. In nothing is the difference between Ireland and England more marked than in the extent of navigable rivers, of canals, and railroads possessed by the two countries. Independent of common roads, of which I do not know any estimate, there are in
|Canals (statute miles)||2478||362|
What renders this contrast the more remarkable is that the great majority of these facilities of internal intercourse are spread over a surface not greater than that of Ireland. In fact, the inhabitants of almost every district of the sister kingdom have placed at their very doors the means of the most perfect access to markets for their produce and the materials of their manufactures. They are thus enabled to prosecute their various departments of industry under the most economical conditions. Time is money: labour is money: the canal, the river, or the railroad, which places its facilities at the disposal of the manufacturer or farmer in England, is an increase of money price for what he brings to market, which enables him to undersell and ruin the Irish artizan, whose country is left in a condition of comparative barbarism, and the energy which might clear out the course of rivers, might cut canals, and construct railroads, is spent in fighting about theories which few of either party are in a condition to understand.
It only remains for the present subject, to notice the circumstances
p.369of Ireland as to her capabilities and position for foreign trade. In this respect there is no country in the world her superior. She is placed, as it were, by nature, the key of the two hemispheres, the point by which America first communicates with Europe, and the last on which the traveller to the west can pause. Her westerly situation enables vessels from her ports to escape the perils of channel navigation, and at once to obtain an offing, which enables them to bear out for any port of either continent. The evidence collected by parliamentary inquiries as to the advantages of harbours on the western coast is quite decisive. The voyage from America to the west of Ireland and back again, could frequently be made in the time that vessels take in clearing the channel from Liverpool, from London, or from Glasgow.
Lord Sheffield, whose acute judgment will be admitted, and who certainly was not biased by Irish prejudices, notices this position in a passage which is amusingly candid. He says, when speaking of the impolicy of repealing the navigation laws between England and Ireland, which was then clamorously demanded by this country: Her object is to become the mart of Europe for the trade of America, for which she is so well suited, by her western situation immediately open to the ocean, and accessible almost with every wind; her vessels often crossing the Atlantic in a shorter time than the shipping of London require to clear the channel. In addition, her ships can be victualled infinitely cheaper, and every necessary of life being low, as well as public taxes, the general charge of conducting trade will be proportionately less. Now this object, which Lord Sheffield so much feared, is precisely what should be the ambition of this country. Her position fits her for it, and it is only by the absence of the general means of improvement in industrial pursuits, that its success has been so long prevented.
It is sometimes supposed that the introduction of steam upon the Atlantic has neutralized the westerly position of this country, and removed the disadvantages of the channel navigation. This is not the case. The freight of goods in steam-vessels on long voyages, is far too high to allow of their being
p.370generally used. Passengers and letters are conveyed by them, but now, as formerly, the merchandize is sent by sailing vessels. Hence for goods, the relative positions of the harbours of this country and of the sister kingdom, remain as when Lord Sheffield wrote. But were the access to the western coast as direct and easy as it might and should be made, the passengers also would naturally prefer to start from the extremest point of land. Railroads from Dublin to Valentia or Berehaven, or to Tarbert on the Shannon, would render Ireland the leading highway between the hemispheres.
It is not my province to enter into a guide book description of the individual harbours which are found along our coast. The evidence of nautical men of the soundest judgment has characterized them as being competent to any, even the most extensive commercial or other wants, and I shall, therefore, conclude this chapter by noticing what appears to me a feature in our industrial circumstances, which deserves consideration.
At present, whatever industrial activity exists in Ireland is distributed along the eastern coast, and is, in fact, sustained by the exportation of raw agricultural produce, which is paid for by the importation of manufactures from the more developed industry and higher civilization of the sister kingdom. Any trade or manufacture which we find in the western districts, is there in spite of their situation, and not as a consequence of it. If, however, with the growth of education, of steady habits, and of business tastes, our domestic industry should, as I fondly trust it may, revive, our farmers would meet a safer and a better market for their produce, amongst their neighbours, and consume the cloth, the linen, cotton, and other products manufactured within our own bounds. In such case the differences which are now so marked between the north and south, the east and west of Ireland, would disappear, and each locality would manifest a power of industry, commensurate with its natural structure, and the energy and intelligence of its people. In such case there is no doubt, but that the greatest development of activity and wealth should be towards the west, and especially along the districts of the
p.371Shannon. Let us conceive that river, forming at its source, 250 miles from the sea, an extensive lake, surrounded with coal and turf, and the richest ironstone, then cutting through a district containing some of the most fertile land in Ireland, capable of producing the largest returns of flax, of corn, and cattle; presenting an alternation of lake and river, fitted for steam navigation from end to end, and in one locality, within the distance of four miles, affording water power for mechanical manufactures on the greatest scale. In the hills, a few miles only from this seat of mechanical power, are mines of lead, of copper, and of sulphur, of slate, and marbles. Again, this great line of navigation is placed in immediate access to the eastern coast by two canals, and may be brought into contact with the north by a canal to Loughs Erne and Neagh. Finally, it possesses a capacious port, an estuary superior to that of the Thames, and roadsteads capable of giving certain accommodation to the most extensive navy.
Those natural facilities, of which no such combination exists in any other part of the country, promise to render, at some future time, the Shannon the line of industrial activity in Ireland. Of that line, Limerick, if not dethroned by some more active competitor, may be the key. It is a future upon which every Irishman must look with deepfelt interest, and with the hope that the people may, by morality, by steadiness, and intelligence, show themselves worthy of the benefits that have been placed thus within their grasp, and may be found competent to apply them in the proper manner.