Accounts of Stephenson’s great invention crept into print, and people began to have faith in the locomotive. In 1822, a company began to build a line of railway between two towns named Stockton and Darlington. Stephenson was employed to construct the road-bed and build the engines. It was completed three years later, and was the subject of great popular curiosity.
Great crowds came to see the line opened. Stephenson himself drove the first engine. The train consisted of thirty-four cars. The signal was given and the train started. Great was the sensation as it moved off, and still greater was the admiration of the people at Stockton when the train arrived there after a safe journey. Thus, in 1825, was opened the first railway ever made for public use.
Stephenson was soon engaged in constructing a railway between Manchester and Liverpool. But now a storm of opposition broke out. Pamphlets and newspaper articles were written, making fun of Stephenson, and declaring that the new railroad would be a failure. It was claimed that the engine would certainly set fire to the surrounding country, that it would explode and kill the passengers, and that it would run over the people before they could get out of its way.
A committee was appointed by the English Parliament to look into the matter. They sneered at Stephenson as a lunatic, when he assured them that he could run his engine at twelve miles an hour. One of these wise men said to him: “Suppose a cow were to get in the way of an engine running at that rate of speed, wouldn’t that be a very awkward circumstance?” “Yes,” answered Stephenson, “very awkward for the cow.”
But the consent of Parliament was at last obtained, and the line was completed in 1830, after many great obstacles had been overcome. It was shown that a train could be run at thirty miles an hour with safety, and thus the enemies of Stephenson were silenced.
Stephenson superintended the building of many other lines of railroad, and lived to see his best hopes realized. He became quite wealthy, and many honors were bestowed upon him. Nevertheless he remained always a simple, kindly man, even in his years of prosperity.
When England had experienced such success with railways, it was not long before America began building railroads on a large scale.
More than three hundred thousand miles of railroads are now in operation in the United States, and many more miles are added each year. The great systems of railways, with their modern improvements for fast travel, are a triumph of skill, energy and enterprise.
The boundary war between France and the British possessions in America had been the cause of the war from 1753 to 1759 in which Washington and thousands of his countrymen did gallant services. It ended with the surrender of Quebec, by which France lost her foothold in the Ohio valley and all the territory east of the Mississippi.