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THE RAILWAY WONDERS OF
LAST YEAR.

THE unblushing individual who inflated the
first bubble prospectus in the early days of
Railway scheming must regard, if he be still
in existence (and we have good reason to
believe that he lives, a prosperous gentleman),
with superlative amazement the last Report of
Her Majesty's Railway Commissioners.

When in his dazzling document the
preposterous "promoter" certified the
forthcoming goods transit at six times the amount
his most sanguine "traffic-taker" could
conscientiously compute; when he quadrupled
the boldest calculations of the expected number
of passengerswhen, in short, he projected
his prognostics beyond the widest bounds of
probability, and then added a few cyphers at
the end of each sum, to make "round
numbers"—he was not so mad as to believe
that he lied in the least like truth. Mad as
he was not, he never could have supposed
that an after-time would come when his lying
prospectus would be pronounced as far short
of, as his mendacious imagination endeavoured
to make it exceed, the Truth. But that time
has arrived.

Let us suppose a friend of his, a far-seeing
prophet, reading a proof of the pet prospectus
by the aid of magnifying glasses; let us figure
the statistical foreteller of future events
assuring its author that, twenty years thence,
his immeasurable exaggerations would be out-
exaggerated by what should actually come to
pass; that his brazen bait to catch share-
jobbers would shrinkwhen placed beside
the Railway records of eighteen-hundred-and-
forty-nineinto a puny, minimised, under-
statement. How he would have laughed!
How immediately his mind would have
reverted from the sanguine seer to the terminus
of flighty intellects known as Bedlam. With
what remarkable unction he would have
said, "Phoo! Phoo! My good fellow, you
must be lapsing into lunacy. What! Do you
mean to say I have not laid it on thick
enough? Why, look here!" and he turns to
the latest of the Stamp Office stage-coach
returns: " Do you mean to tell menow that
coach travelling has arrived at perfection, and
that the wonderful average of coach
passengers is six millions a yearthat, instead
of quadrupling the number of travellers who
are likely to use my line, I ought to multiply
them by a hundred? Why, you may as well
try to persuade me that I ought to promise
for our locomotives twenty, instead of fifteen,
miles an hour; whichHeaven forgive me
I have had the courage to set down. Stuff!
If I were to romance at that rate, we should
not sell a share."

And our would-be Major Longbow would
have had reason for the faith that was in him.
In his highest flights he dared not exceed too
violently the statistics of G. R. Porter, or have
added too high a premium on the expectations
of George Stephenson. The former calculated
that up to the end of 1834, when not a
hundred miles of Railway were open, the annual
average of persons who travelled by coach
was about two millions, each going over one
hundred and eighty miles of ground in the
year.*  Supposing each individual performed
that distance in three journeys, the whole
number of persons must have multiplied
themselves into six millions of passengers. As to
speed, Mr. George Stephenson said at a dinner-
party given to him at Newcastle in 1844,
that when he planned the Liverpool and
Manchester line, the directors entreated him,
when they went to Parliament, not to talk of
going at a faster rate than ten miles an hour,
or he "would put a cross upon the concern."
Mr. George Stephenson did talk of fifteen
miles an hour, and some of the Committee
asked if he were not mad! Mr. Nicholas Wood
delivered himself in a pamphlet as follows:—
"It is far from my wish to promulgate to
the world that the ridiculous expectations, or
rather professions, of the enthusiastic speculatist
will be realised, and that we shall see engines
travelling at the rate of twelve, sixteen,
eighteen, twenty miles an hour. Nothing
could do more harm towards their general
adoption and improvement than the promul-
gation of such NONSENSE!"

It would seem, then, that the Longbow of the
aboriginal prospectuses was actually modest in
his estimate as to passengers and speed. But
only a few years must have made him utterly
ashamed of his moderation and modesty. How
disgusted he must have felt with his timid
prolusions, even when 1843 arrived. For that
year revealed travellers' tales that exceeded

* 'Porter's Progress of the Nation," vol. ii. p. 22.

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