Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

world, and which is in truth simply a modern, as it is also a most uncalled for, barbarism. No iron helped to produce the heavy sound of solid horn which Virgil ascribes to the fiery steed of Pollux. Of late years we have heard much of the unjustifiable waste of time spent on classical literature which has no practical bearing on the interests of modern life. It is unfortunate that Xenophon's treatise on the management of horses has not formed one of the subjects for the upper forms of our public schools; and it would be well if they were made to read with care a book written by one who wrote unfettered by the restraints of any traditional system, and who successfully brought the cavalry as well as the infantry of the Cyreian army of Greeks from the plains of Babylon to the shores of the Euxine. There they would see how thoroughly the rules laid down by the leader of the Ten Thousand for the selection and the management of horses are in accordance with the highest scientific knowledge of the present day, and how happy an ignorance he displays of the long and dismal catalogue of diseases and miseries which a wrongheaded and ridiculous system has called into existence. No horses could be subjected to a more severe strain in every limb of their body than were those which Xenophon led from Cunaxa over the Armenian highlands to the walls of Trebizond; yet we hear nothing of any special difficulties arising from diseases of the foot or leg. It may probably be said with truth that the strain endured by those horses could be borne only by unshod animals. Paul Louis Courier, the French translator of Xenophon's treatise, was so struck by the apparent soundness of his method, that he put it to the test by riding unshod horses in the Calabrian campaign of 1807, and he did so with complete success. But that which with him was a voluntary experiment has been for others an involuntary necessity. This was the case with many of our cavalry horses during the Indian Mutiny, and their riders have declared that they were never better mounted in their lives. In the retreat of the French from Moscow the horses, 'Free Lance' remarks, lost all their shoes before they reached the Vistula; yet they found their way to France over hard, rough, and frozen ground. In his invasion of America, Cortes could not carry about with him the anvils, forges, and iron needed for shoeing even the small number of horses which he had with him. But these horses did their work and survived it, and from them comes the fierce mustang of Mexico, which still goes unshod. There is great force in the remark of Free Lance' that horses are not indigenous to America, this being their first introduction, and that climate and locality, therefore, have not that influence over the hoof which they are commonly supposed to have. The small horses of the irregular cavalry at the Cape, which took part in the battle of Ulundi, had no shoes on their hind feet, and few were shod even in front, but they held out longer and went miles farther than the shod animals; and no complaints were made of any of them falling lame, although, as "Free Lance' adds, sheets of wet slippery rock and rolling stones in river beds would be calculated to try the hoofs to the utmost.'

[ocr errors]

But it is scarcely necessary to cite more instances of the rast benefits which those who have had the courage to leave the feet of their horses as nature made them have received under the most varied conditions of work, of soil, and of climate. Humanity and self-interest here point in the same direction, and only folly of the most perverse kind will have the hardihood to fight for the maintenance of the existing system. The cruelties practised (whether unwittingly or wantonly) on the horse's foot have been extended over a series of generations, but the only penalty which remains to be paid for the ill-doing of years is the surrender of a few days or a few weeks of the labour of the animal which has been thus misused. On the other side, there is a certainty that we shall be entering on a course which will triple the length of time over which the efficiency of the horse will be extended, and which therefore will, within twenty years, have saved the nation a hundred and thirty-five millions sterling. It will further ensure the immediate saving of all the money now spent on farriery, and this saving, which must be at the least forty shillings a year on every horse, will amount to two millions and a quarter; and there will be the further saving in straw as well as on medicines, nostrums, and remedies no longer needed for animals rescued from a system which was a fruitful source of discomfort, disease, and death. The angry controversies which the subject is now constantly calling forth and exasperating will at the same time disappear. There will no longer be an outcry for uniformity in the system of paving towns, for horses will go as well on one kind of pavement as on another. There will no longer be querulous demands on inventors for the devising of a perfect shoe, because it will be clearly seen that this perfect shoe has been furnished already by nature, and that it is only human ignorance and conceit which has marred the work of God. We may now look back with some feeling of envious regret on the wiser, because more natural, methods of the ancient world; and future generations will look back with feelings of simple wonderment at the infatuation which could submit without a struggle to a system which doomed the horse to unnecessary disease and agony and to a premature death, while it deprived his owner of wealth often sorely needed for bis own welfare and that of all depending on him. Of the ultimate issue there can be no doubt; but it is still the duty of Free Lance,' as of all whose eyes are opened to the mischiefs of the existing system, to fight the battle to the end.

GEORGE W. Cox.

THIE PROBLEM OF RAILWAY SAFETY.

IT

T is now rather more than five years since public attention was

invited, in the pages of this Magazine, to the frequent losses of life, and cases of personal injury, occurring in the conduct of our railway traffic. And it was pointed out that, as far as inference was attainable from the published accounts, the increase of death rate was attributable to the identical cause that was at the same time producing a steady decrease in the net earning power of lines that conveyed certain descriptions of traffic.

Since the date of the articles in question the process of the improvement of one class of railway property and the deterioration of the other class indicated, has steadily continued. Since 1874, the net earnings of the five principal passenger lines have advanced from the rate of 3:41 to that of 3.97 per cent. on the aggregate capital ; while those of the four chief mineral carrying lines have decreased from an average of 5'34 to one of 4:82 per cent., calculated in the same manner. With regard to safety, not only had the proportion of the number of deaths to the passengers carried been reduced by one-half, but the actual number of accidents had decreased by onethird ; while the number of train miles annually run had increased by 11 per cent., from 1874 to 1879. To the extension of the system of interlocking points and signals, from 44 to 71 per cent. of the total mileage, and to that of the block system, from 42 to 63 per cent., this increase of safety may beyond question be mainly attributed. There occurred, in the period cited, the trifling increase in gross receipts per mile of from 3,4591. to 3,4881. per annum. But already in the present year the rapidly succeeding occurrence of seven railway catastrophes, each of the first magnitude as regards mechanical gravity, although several were happily unattended by the loss of human life, has shown how far we are from having attained anything like security for travellers.

In the meantime the managers of our railways have steadfastly adhered to that which, if their policy be really indefensible, is the better part of valour. They have spent 107,000,000l. in adding 1,200 miles of railway to the 16,500 which were open in 1875, and in increasing the capital cost of each mile of line open from 37,000! to 40,500l. The accompanying diminution of net earning power, according to the Board of Trade returns, is from 4:37 to 4'15 per cent. The chairmen of the half-yearly meetings have so far altered their language as to admit that the mineral traffic, which in 1875

6

they called the backbone of dividend, is on the contrary a poor paying' traffic. No official attempt, however, has been made to show that this trade is in any way remunerative. The admission made by the Board of Trade that the present returns are wholly inadequate to throw light on the real problem of railway working has been unattended by any results.

In the meantime separate and distinct echoes to our note of alarm have been returned from very different centres of intelligence —from Dublin, from Sydney, from Paris, and from Brussels. In Dublin, Mr. William Fleming, in four successive numbers of “The Index to our Railway System,' has given an exhaustive analysis of the returns and accounts of the companies, so far as their form allowed. He has pointed out the absence of proper information ; and he has drawn gloomy prognostics for the future, such as afford at least ample grounds for the demand for a proper reckoning. Mr. Rae, and his successor Mr. Goodchap, Commissioners of the Railways of New South Wales, have adopted our suggestions as to giving official details of the cost of working the different kinds of traffic; and have shown that out of every 1,000l, received for coal freight, at the price of one penny per ton per mile, the total net profit earned (without reference to interest on capital) is 261. on the Southern and Western Railway. The French Government have proposed and carried votes for the expenditure of a sum of 40,000,000l. sterling on the completion of the inland navigation of France, on the express ground that coal cannot be transported by railway, even for long distances, at a less cost than from 0.54d. to 0:62d. per ton per mile, while it can be transported by canal at 0.22d. per ton per mile. And the Belgian Minister of Public Works has brought before the Chambers a detailed report, pointing out that the carriage on the Belgian lines of traffic at inadequate prices, and the steady augmentation of the capital and debt of the railways, were tending to impose a crushing weight on the productive industry of Belgium.

Thus during the past five years the march of information and of argument has been decided, in the direction we ventured to anticipate. The advance of a portion of the English railway companies has been in the opposite direction. A recurrence of those casualties which, in the present state of affairs, must occur when a mixed traffic attains certain proportions, has afresh directed public attention to the subject. And the Queen herself has expressed the anxiety with which she has witnessed the recurrence of the old form of disaster, at the same time with the repeated occurrence of disasters of a new type, arising directly from one of the expedients adopted in order to facilitate the working of a mixed traffic.

Under these circumstances it may be expected that Fraser's Magazine' should afford some review of the main elements of the great problems of railway safety and of railway prosperity, especially calling attention to those facts which have been brought within the

grasp

of the statist since the publication of our papers on the subject in 1877 and 1878.

If a series of unattached bodies are compelled to travel in the same path, collisions between them can only be avoided when they move in the same direction, and at the same speed. This simple dynamical law underlies the whole working of the railway system.

Railway trains may be made to travel over the same track in opposite directions alternately. They can only do so in perfect safety by one arrangement,—that of the staff, or permit, which ensures that only one engine shall be on the same section of a line at a given

a time. But the amount of work that can be done on this system is small. For the

passage of trains over the same line, in the same direction, at different speeds, no absolute rule of safety exists, although the efficient working of the block system produces an approach to safety. In this case the work done, as well as the danger incurred, mainly depends on the ratio between the different speeds. Thus the London and North-Western Railway run passenger trains timed at 40 miles per hour, and mineral trains timed at 15 miles per hour. For one of the latter to get out of the way of one of the former, starting 15 minutes later, there must be a siding every 7 miles. In point of fact, between Camden Town and Hillingdon, a distance of 75 miles, there are 10 waggon sidings. But the risk incurred by the entrance into and exit from these sidings is considerable, and the speed and number of the passenger trains must be proportionately limited, when only two lines of way are provided. Four lines, in consequence, have now been laid for 80 miles on this railway.

In all cases of doubling the lines of way, opportunities of collision will arise at stations, unless the goods and the passenger lines are so distinct as to prevent the slow and the fast traffic from ever passing over the same points. Great relief to the traffic may be obtained by doubling the way; but this source of danger can never be entirely obviated so long as the stations are common to the two descriptions of trade.

At the opening of the London and Birmingham Railway in the year 1840, 28 daily trains in each direction were all that were required

The average gross load of each journey was 40 tons for a passenger train, and 98.67 tons for a merchandise train. The average speed of the former was 25 miles per hour, that of the latter 20 miles per hour. Thus there was an interval of 51 minutes between the departure of any two successive trains, taking an average through the twenty-four hours. And by a moderate extension of this mean interval between the starting of a goods and of a following passenger train, the latter would be prevented from catching the former before arriving at the terminus.

With a double road, carrying this small amount of traffic, it seemed to be at the same time safe and desirable to attract as much trade as possible to the line. And any traffic that would pay a small

or run.

« AnteriorContinuar »