Rain, Steam, but, not so much speed.
Feared that it would blight crops, asphyxiate passengers with its overwhelming 12 mph speed, distribute the poor, and ruin the morals of Eton boys, the railway’s detractors counted just about everyone.
The first line was even named for one of its oponents. Proposals for the Stockton and Darlington rail line were defeated by 13 votes after parliament’s 1819 session because the route crossed the Earl of Darlington’s fox covers. Stakeholders returned to Westminster the next year but the bill was overlooked because of the death of George III. Finally in 1821, a re-routed railway was approved. Anyone could use it, that is, if it happened to be in working order.
Beset with early technical problems, the first steam engines did not operate without the help of horses. When the line opened in 1825, the first trip was not a success. It took two hours to make the trip from Busselton to Darlington during which a wheel was lost and the locomotive broke. They hadn’t anticipated that trains with a weight limit of 300 people carrying 425 enthusiastic riders would gain so much speed on the downhill parts of the journey. Horses were lost and riders overthrown.
As the steam engine took over, the initial rulebooks stated that steam operated trains had right of way over horse drawn trains, but often horse drawn trains refused to give way so the trains would be slowed to a clip clop pace for miles.
While towns like Northampton and Windsor lobbied to keep the railway out at any price, money was raised for the Birmingham and London line at a whopping £320 an acre. One landowner lucked out with the £100,000 sale of his estate. The railway companies remained undaunted, cutting its track into our history, inch by expensive inch.
Speaking of expensive progress, there is no more heated dispute about allocating local land to transport than what hovers along London’s western front.
The expansion of Heathrow has done nothing but make tempers soar and protesters beat the pavement.
Yesterday environmentalists from the group “Plane Stupid” blocked a traffic tunnel at Heathrow demanding the government scrap plans to build a third runway. Air traffic was disrupted.
Reports released from opposite sides of the debate offer conflicting outcomes for the project. Boris Johnson’s 30 page report says it will take loads of money, 10 years to build, ruin homes, make the area way too noisy and it will only improve air traffic by two to three flights a day.
If it is expected that to make room for the extra runway, part of the M25 would have to be submerged into a tunnel.
Boris’s plans for an island airport built in the middle of the Thames Estuary never took off and Gatwick continues to wage its rival campaign for its own runway, called ‘Gatwick: Obviously’.
What is obvious is this debate is set for the long haul. Will the talk remain all steam for as long as it took them to build the railroads?