Sunday, January 23, 2011

Opening of the London and Birmingham Railway

Another article from The Times. This report comes from the edition of September 18th, 1838.
Yesterday was the first day that the complete line of railroad from the London to the Birmingham terminus was opened. The portion of the road which was traversed for the first time on this occasion was that which extends between the old station at Denbigh hall and the station at Rugby. The station at the former place now no longer exists; but there are on this extent of 35 miles stations at Wolverton, Roade, Blisworth, Weedon, and Crick. The first train started from the Euston square station at 7 o'clock, having in the carriages the proprietors of the undertaking and their friends. It was said in Birmingham that they accomplished the whole journey in four hours and a half. The next train, which was open to the public, left Euston square station at 10 minutes after 8 o'clock, but did not get fairly under weigh with the steam engine until 25 minutes past 8. The train reached Birmingham by the Birmingham clocks at the terminus at two minutes to 2. Watford was reached in 33 minutes from the Euston station. The train halted there three minutes. Tring was reached in 73 minutes, and the train halted four minutes and a half. Wolverton, the first new station, was reached by 28 minutes past 10, the the train halted 25 minutes. At this place a great crowd of persons were assembled, and preparations were made for a rural feast and celebration of the opening of the line. Roade was reached at 17 minutes past 11, the train stopped 10 minutes at this station, which is 60 miles from London. Weedon, which is nine miles further, was reached at 7 minutes to 12 o'clock, and Rugby, which is 83 miles miles from London, at half pat 12. The train stopped here 8 minutes. Coventry was reached at six minutes part 1 o'clock, and here the train remained for 15 minutes. The next place was Birmingham. The portion of the line just opened, from Denbigh hall to Rugby, appears to be equally good with any other part of the road. It is this division of the road, shortly before entering Rugby station, that the trains pass through Kilsby tunnel. It has been asserted that this tunnel fell in during the boring of it, but it is not the case. It is one of the most extraordinary pieces of road in the whole line. The length of this tunnel is 2,400 yards in length, and does great credit to the skill of Mr. Foster, the engineer by whom it has been completed. The train which left Birmingham for London at half past 12 was delayed, by some means or other, on the road for nearly two hours, in consequence of which, the train next in succession, which left Birmingham at half past 2, was delayed almost two hours when almost close to Euston station; this last train arrived in London about 20 minutes to 10, instead of a quarter past 8, the hour stated for arriving in public announcements. It does not appear that any accident whatever occurred on the road; indeed so excellent were the arrangements, that the possibility of accident was provided for in every way that could be imagined

There is a lot of detail about time in this report and a journey of four and a half hours was a long one. But a journey of this length, which would hitherto have taken 10 hours by the fastest stagecoach was an amazing phenomenon to those early Victorians. The journey from Euston to Wolverton took three hours and the passengers would have needed the 25 minutes to relieve themselves at the new station. Obviously someone had taken the trouble to organize a "rural feast". The moment signalled a great change for Wolverton.  Another account of this event can be found here.

No comments: