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 In the spirit of laissez-faire that characterised the Victorian economy, Parliament was reluctant to intervene with the railways. However, fares and rates was one area which it did not prefer to ignore. When this article appeared in February 1844,passenger receipts far outstripped revenue from the conveyance of goods; not until 1852 did the income from freight charges exceed passenger revenue. Nonetheless the competition between railways, which Parliament encouraged by sanctioning rival schemes and rarely granting amalgamations, led to the need for a central body to administer the proportions of charges for goods traffic passing over more than one company's tracks. Accordingly the Railway Clearing House was set up in 1842 with a staff of six; it eventually had 2,500 clerks. By 1875 112 general Acts had been passed concerning the control and regulation of railways, but the determination to preserve a competitive spirit was not the only contribution Parliament made to, mitigating the complaints of the writer. Later in the year the Railway Regulation Act of 1844 was passed, stating that if at any time after 21years the dividend of any railway should exceed 10 per cent, the Treasury might revise the rates to ensure that not more than 10 per cent should be earned. The 1873 Regulation of Railways Act created the Railway and Canal Commission which, amongst other duties, was to hear and determine questions of through rates. An important extension of the Acts powers was authorised in 1888 when companies were ordered to, prepare a revised schedule of Maximum Rates for submission to, theBoard of Trade which was to hear objections against them. It was some years before the new rates were ratified and one consequence of them was to reduce the flexibility that had previous1y been the case; rates were seldom reduced because of the difficulty of increasing them again. So the Act was not an unmitigated blessing for the consumer and complaints about the level of rates seem to be an endemic aspect of pre-grouping history. It must be said that it is surprising for the writer to be complainingthat shareholders were benefitting at the public's expense; in the early 1840s trade was depressed and dividends so low that few companies were paying dividends of morethan 4 per cent. 

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RAILWAY MONOPOLY 

MATERIAL as is the Railway System, generally to the interests of the community, it has of late acquired a peculiar interest, in consequence of the appointment of a Select Committee of the House of Commons to inquire into the mode in which Railways are managed. The present is, therefore, a fit oppor-tunity for returning to the subject, to which we lately directed the attention of our readers. 
        When the various leading Railway Companies were first formed, the public hailed their formation, because they were led to believe, that the principal object which their originators had in view, was the accommodation and benefit of the community. The proprietors disclaimed all intention of seeking to obtain anything more than the ordinary rate of interest for the capital invested in these undertakings. And they assured the public, times without number, that they would, by a reduction of fares, give them the benefit of whatever success should attend their enterprise. 
        In this, the public have been grossly deceived. The Railway Proprietors, instead of reducing their fares, have kept them up at the rates which had been fixed on, before it could be ascertained what would be the result of the new experi-ment. The leading lines have proved more successful than the most sanguine had ventured to anticipate. But the benefit is exclusively enjoyed by the shareholders. The public have derived no advantage from the success of these undertakings. Instead of lowering the fares, as the country had been led to expect, the Railway Directors have proposed dividing the unexpectedly large revenue derived from their respective line among the shareholders. 
        Hence instead of the fares being reduced, as they might have been, and ought to have been, to the extent of from one-third to one-half, they have thought proper to keep up the fares at the rate originally fixed, when all was uncertainty as to the success or otherwise of the new experiment, and to divide the profits among themselves. The Railway shareholders are consequently, on the leading lines, dividing among themselves from six to ten per cent on the price of the original shares. And hence the fact that the original £100 shares are, in some instances, at from £130 to £140 premium; while other shares on which £50 only have been paid, are at present at a premium of from £78 to £80. 
        These are stubborn facts; they are facts that speak for themselves. They disclose a state of matters constituting a monopoly of the very worst kind. The Directors of the leading Railway Companies having secured a monopoly of conveyance, act towards the public as they think proper. They make their own terms because they know the public have no remedy. They know that the public, having no other means of conveyance between the places through which their lines pass (the coaches being knocked off the road), are completely at their mercy. And hence, the exorbitance of their charges - charges so exorbitant as to prove that their own pecuniary advantage, and not the accommodation of the public, has been the leading object the shareholders have had in view in the formation of the various railroads which now intersect all parts of the kingdom. 
        The public are grossly and grievously wronged in this matter. And they have a right to look to the Legislature for redress. The Railway Companies having broken faith with the public, it is the duty of Parliament to interfère, and see that the public be righted. Passengers ought to be travelling in the leading lines at from 50 to 75 per cent cheaper than they are at present. Extravagant prices, as the result of monopolies in corn, and in all other commodities, are now everywhere denounced; and why not the exorbitant prices consequent on the monopoly in the conveyance from one part of the country to another, which is enjoyed by most of the railroad companies? The country has a right to raise its voice against the deception which is thus being practised upon it. And as Parliament has the power to apply the remedy, as it is within its province to redress the wrong, we trust the country will not raise its voice in vain. The committee lately appointed to in-quire into the state of matters connected with Railway Companies have had large powers conferred upon them by Parliament. The monopolist-character and exorbitant charges, of several of these companies are clearly legitimate subjects of inquiry for this committee. The public look to the gentlemen composing that committee to do their duty in the matter. We trust the country will not be disappointed, but that one of the results of the appointment of the committee will be the extinction of railway monopolies, by fixing a moderate scale of charges. 

[ILN FEB 24 1844] 

Although railway company dividends were low in the early 1840s, they were not as poor a return as some government stocks, and with the rise in railway share prices after 1841 and a growth in traffic and dividends, railways became relatively attractive to investors. A major cause of what became known as the railway mania was the small amount of money needed to, purchase the title to a security; consequently scrip and even letters of allotment quickly changed hands, thereby increasing prices. This mania to get rich quick with railway stocks reached its height in 1844-5, with 1845 seeing the highestprices and 1846 the largest number of miles authorised. The highest call on capital was in 1847; inflation has rendered absolute figures meaningless, but the figure for that year accounted for 8-10 per cent of national income and the entire nation's capital investment. Many of the schemes authorised never came to fruition; some were ploys to thwart the plans of competitors while others were ill-conceived lines for which the capital was never subscribed. It was not uncommon for prospectuses to list a provisional committee of distinguished names without even consulting the gentlemen concerned. 

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 RAILWAY MANIA 
WRITTEN AND ILLUSTRATED 
 BY ALFRED CROWQUILL 

GI V E him plenty of  Line and he is sure to  hook himself effectually," says Izaak  Walton, when speaking of catching a  Jack. Alas for poor  John Bull, this  system has proved  upon him most effectual indeed, when just as he was swallowing the delightful bait in the shape of unlimited scrip, and going on, to allappearance, most swimmingly, a suddenand an unexpected stop is put to his meanderings, and he finds a most tremendous hook in his gills. Now comes on, asLong Tom Coffin has it, "his flurry," all wild, terrified, dashing, and foam.Beware of his struggles, for in his alarm.he tries to bolt with a quantity of Line,but it is no go! 
He is fast! He must come to the surface and yield his fat. It is a terrible thing to be hooked in any sense ofthe word, but to be hooked by remorseless scrip is the worst of all. A sudden fright has fallen on the Market, for everybody, panic-struck, is rushing to sell, andthe Market becomes glutted. The enthusiasm cools down, and eyes become disenchanted, and the imaginary lump of gold turn into their real shapes, of worse than waste paper. The intoxication is over, and now ensues the delirium tremens. TheStag draws in his horns, for holding is no part of his business. The small speculator trembles with despair in the possession of a hundred shares, upon the obtaining ofwhich he has so much congratulated himself. The aforesaid shares, at £25 each, amounting to more than he ever even hoped to possess; he only intended toturn a pound or two. They now hang likea loadstone round his neck, and must eventually sink him, by slow and torturing degrees, in the shape of frequent calls; for those who can pay must. A most beggarly account will it be when the muster takes place, for the deserters will leave the troops of the Line in a pitiable condition. The awful traffic by Railway Committee men and others will soon be most frightfülly apparent. Disappointed men have whispered a few of the "secrets of the prison house," and shown the world that it has been but a melee of  interested men toclutch as much gold as possible, and "the devil take the Wind-most." This has been a very simple process; for the fairy-like tales spread abroad to catch the ear of the unwary, of men going to bed worth nothing but a letter of allotment, and getting up in the morning possessing thousands, by the magic of Railway speculations were sure baits. Directors have advertised a number of shares at £2 or £2 10s. per share first instalment, then alloted only a certain number to the public, that a price might be made, which, of course, was done to a certainty, during the height of the fever; directly the sound of prernium. reached their ears, they thrust the whole quantity into the Market, which bore a very large proportion to the allotted one, and thus sold and divided the profit equally amongst their right honourable Board, careless to whom they sold, as the instantly realising was the only object. 
        Who bought them? Why, men who were of equally honourable dealings - who never intended to hold, but who sold at a profit, and so on to the end. The present holders - who never intended to be so -are not worth a dump - not one in a thousand; nor could they face another instalment or call. Then where is the capital to come from? since the partners or shareholders are men without means, and merely unlucky devils who have, at an unfortunate moment, popped their necks into a hank, from which they have not the power to extricate themselves. 
        The neglect of all business has been unprecedented; for many months no tradesman has been found at his counter, or merchant at his office, east, west, north and south. If you called upon business, you were sure to be answered with "Gone to the City;" and the straightforward, honourable, and particular man of business, who formerly asked for your accourit, now troubles you to ask him for it many times before you get it, or pleads, as an excuse, the scarcity of money, and his heavy Railway calls. This is done now by most reputable houses, without a blush, as everybody is in the same boat, and it is looked upon more leniently than it otherwise would be. All rule and order are upset by the general epidemic, as in the Plague of London, where all ties of blood, honour, or friendship, were cast away; and man grew callous to the suffering of his fellow man, and only looked to his own welfare and safety in the calamity, and as to how fat he could best secure himself from the general ruin. 
        The fallacy of the Railways only provisionally registered became the object of immense competition, and men paying to each other large sums upon imaginary security, must be apparent to all men of business; and so it has been, but the desire of gain has become so strong, that a Railway to the Moon would have found speculators, if part of the Line could have been surveyed, with the strong recom-mendation of some Railway King or other potential person: to such an extent had this gullibility gone, that people who had written soft letters to Boards of Directors for a few shares, begin to turn their minds to having Railways of their own; many cases of which have been successful. Chairmen and Directors were very easily procured; but, in case of any hurry as to the sending the prospectus to the printers before the afore-said gentlemen could be consulted as to their willingness to join the design of the line, a refèrence to any prospectuses lying now upon every man's desk would furnish a respectable Board, taking them at random. This is a known fact. Many respectable and influential men have read their names printed as Provisional Committee-men without the slightest knowledge of the Railway or the parties connected with it. Very often, from this helter-skelter way of doing business, the same name would be found upon two opposition lines; but it did not matter -nobody cared; the involuntary Director found a sop was preparing for hira to stifle his growl, so he let the swindle go on. Engineers have been placed in the same predicament, and have feathered their nests most delightfully, for the demand has increased the price tremendously of the articles, and their minutes have become guineas, and their patronage to surveyors, &c., immense. The surveyors have been paid in the same ratio, and many a young man with a swallowing of surveying has left a good permanent situation under the temptation of four or five guineas a day, which must soon slip between his fingers, and he becomes nothing, as the present slight vibration of the panic, for it is hardly as yet a shock, has electrified the most 
heedless, and shown them that the storm is not so far off as has been supposed by sanguine speculators. 
        Deposits paid to provisional registered railways, which failing passing through the house, return almost pitiful dividends to the holders of promissory share letters, the money being swallowed up by the whole tribe of Directors, Chairmen, Surveyors, Engineers, and other locusts given life to by this mania. Bankers begin to screw up their money tight, as it is called amidst money dealers, refusing even to look at shares as deposits or security. Yet, according to the Railway advertisements, wherein their names figure to a great extent, and the immense amount supposed to be deposited by the Railway Companies, they ought to be as free as a spendthriffls. But, is the money there? Go and inquire, you fond holders of scrip; you are partners, and have an undoubted right to know the amount placed in their hands to the credit of your Company; this, legally done, they have no power to refuse, and they will inform you "that the enormous amount is only in the prospectus," and that you are bound to pay for the future proceedings of the aforesaid Line to the full amount of your liabilities or shares. Thus many a speculator, who has been doing pretty well heretofore, will find in such events that the other leaf of his gambling or account book has to be put in black to mourn for the loss he has made. 
        Shrewd men with money have most ingeniously put other men's fingers in the fire, keeping themselves out of harm's way, by thrusting some needy man before them, for whorn they find the necessary capital and give a handsome commission. Want of money and the belief of ultimate success, with a very faint knowledge of their liabilities, and the example of high and low around them, have led many men of apparently respectable condition to become cover as it were to the head gambler, who rejoices securely in the profit, and, in case of failure, leaves the poor and tempted victim to shut up his shop - bolt - or go over the Bridge if he pleases. Such cases are not imaginary -they are facts! 
        Noble Lords, who are certainly liable for their right honourable gambling ribs, will find their names no protection from the forthcoming storm; their own personal peril is no trifle, since we see names of great odour in the polite City of Westminster crowded together as dividers of the Railway sops. Provisional Committees must now provide for the crash, and Directors direct their attention to their accounts, and see how their daily increasing expenses are to be met, and that they don't get hung up in their own Lines. 
        The constant succession of Railways proposed and carried, would, it was supposed, keep up the ball for a year or two more - the public, therefore, have neglected due precaution in speculation. 
        All Companies have shared in the great folly! - Railway Mania! - seized apparently at the same moment all over the world, upon great capitalists and speculators. The sudden cloud that has overspread them has been startling and unexpected, therefore unprovided for; and victims stand aghast at their perilous situation. The magnitude of the error will meet its equal magnitude of punishment: and many families will have to mourn the year Forty-five as they have before mourned over the fatal speculations of the years '25 and '35, when Mines and Bonds worked almost the same ruin, and caused the same delirium. It seems that every tenth year brings its bubble; upon looking back this will be found to be the case. 
        They have planned and drawn a Grand Terminus for all Railways - to be placed somewhere near Charterhouse Square. We should advise them not to lay out their money in this grand and picturesque idea, for we plainly perceive one already formed in St. George's Fields, which to a certainty will be the Grand Terminus - it is now called the Queen's Bench. 

[ILN Nov 18 1845] 

This article, full of interesting facts and comparisons, provides an interesting contrast to, the editorial on the railway mania. It serves to, remind that the press was just as, if not more, purposefully critical than today. The writer seems able to assume that the reader will be aware of the 'cases of gross, and even corrupt, mismanagement. General accusations of poor management may be made today but they are rarely accompanied by much evidence or any of the invective used in Victorian times. It is interesting that the railway system had not even reached the size of todays network, notwithstanding the depradations of Beeching (1855, 7,157 route miles; 1979, 11,,020 miles). The statistics on traffic receipts also indicate the growing import-ance of goods traffic relative to passenger receipts. The accident figures were remarkably low: only nine deaths in accidents caused by circumstances beyond the victims control was very commendable for a railway system that had only the most rudimentary signalling and safety systems in comparison even with those of 1900. The statistic for 1854 of 104m passengers journeys on a network of 7,157 miles compares interestingly with 736m journeys in 1979 on a network of 11,020 miles. It is surprising to note that in 1854 the railways employed only 11.59 individuals per mile against 16.51 per mile in 1979, although clearly the much higher traffic reflects dramatie improvements in productivity and efficiency. 

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RAILWAY STATISTICS 

SOME years have elapsed since men of sagacity and foresight predicted the speedy advent of a railway heptarchy, and it is now proposed to arnalgamate all the lines under a single directory. Rival companies, each desirous of monopoly, have so stimulated competition that, in spite of an annually-growing traffic, dividends have fallen to an unrenumer-ating scale, while, to execute extension lines, a pernicious system of prefèrence shares has been generally introduced. Cases of gross, and even corrupt, mismanagement have been proved; and, in some instances, truth has been concealed from shareholders by the payment of profits out of capital. When it is considered that the total amount of money authorised to be raised by railway companies, by shares and on loan, to the end of the year 1854, amounted to £368,106,336, of which £286,068,794 had been raised, and that the balance of £82,037,542 is nearly all absorbed at the present date, except where new projects have been abandoned, the gigantic magnitude of these undertakings must forcibly strike the most cursory observer. At the end of 1854 the total length of lines authorised by Parliament amounted to 13,983 miles; but of this 1177 miles were abandoned by subsequent Acts, or by warrant under the authority of the Commissioners of Railways, and, con-sequently, there remain 12,806 miles for which the Parliamentary powers which were obtained have not been repealed. Of these, 8054 miles were open at the end of 1854; and 4752, which have received the authority of Parliament, remained to be opened since that date. These figures exhibit the actual dimensions of this comparatively modern system of transit and locomotion. 
The benefits arising to the whole com-munity from the substitution of iron for earth roads are too palpable to require comment, for you may now travel for less per mile in a first-class carriage than you paid a postboy in the times that are past, and fly over forty miles where you crawled over eight. It might have been presumed that an enlightened Government would never have *thrown any impediment in the way of such truly national undertakings, or permitted the projectors to be mulcted in enormous sums of money before they placed a brick or dug a turf; yet it appears from the Return to the Order of the House of Commons, moved for by Mr. Hadfield (Paper 460), and printed 6th August, 1855, that the preliminary expenses paid by 160 companies amounted to £14,086,110 l4s. 51/2d.; while 45 companies have not given in any return. 
        The details of railway statistics are very curious and interesting, and as the following figures are taken from the Parliamentary Report every dependence may be placed on their fidelity. Of the 8054 miles open for traffic at the close of last year, there were in England 6114 miles; in Scotland, 1043; in Ireland, 897. In England 5261 miles were constructed on the principle of the narrow gauge, 647 on that of the broad gauge, and 206 on the mixed; in Scotland the narrow gauge alone exists; in Ireland, with the exception of eight miles, the Irish gauge is used. 

In the three kingdoms there are 114 companies having single lines, extending over 1962 miles, but several of these may be expected to become double in due season. 
In 1854 on the lines opened for traffic, 90,409 persons were employed, being an average of 11. 59 individuals per mile; and there were 2410 persons. [sic]. 
The total number of passengers conveyed on railways, in 1854, amounted to 111,206,707, and the total receipts from all sources of traffic amounted to £20,215,724. The number of passengers conveyed per mile, was 14,160. This refers to the three kingdoms. 
The passenger traffic on the English lines alone is put down at 92,346,149, or at the rate of 15,487 persons per mile; and receipts from them yielded £7,896,402, or £1324 per mile. The proportion of each class is thus distinguished: - first, 13.3 percent; second, 36 per cent; third, 50.7 per cent. 
In Scotland the passengers numbered in 1854, 11,949,388, or 11,725 persons per mile, and the receipts were £742 per mile. In Scotland, first class, 11.3 per cent; second, 15.9; third, 72.8; a very different scale of proportion from that which obtains in England. 
In Ireland the number of passengers amounted to 6,911,170, the ratio per mile being 7983 individuals. Of these 13.3 per cent were first class; 39.8 per cent, second; and 46.8, third: a small number wee not apportioned. 
"As regard the returns of Great Britain and Ireland, of the 111,206,707 conveyed, it appears that 14,517,461 were first-class passengers, 37,930,655, second-class, and 58,732,048 third-class, there being 26,543 not apportioned into classes; and of the £9,174,945 received from passengers £2,738,458 was derived from first-class passengers, £3,264,545 from second-class, and £2,999,466 from third-class passengers; a sum of£172,478 not being apportioned into classes. Although the relative proportions of each class of traffic has not varied much, yet a slight increase may be observed in the proportionate receipts for third-class traffic, and a slight decrease in the proportionate receipts for second-class traffic." 

        The Goods traffic is an important item in railway receipts, not only as a source of income to the several companies, but as indicating, in this channel of transit, the progress or decline of internal trade. The whole amount received through this department in 1854 was £11,040,779. Comparing the years 1853 and 1854, the increase of the latter over the former was 16 per cent; the sarne results appear in Scotland, while the increase has been 20 percent. In 1849 the revenue from the goods traffic was only £5,528,606; and it is gratifying to remark that while railway lines have increased in length since that date 40.6 per cent, the goods traffic has increased 99.67 per cent - the receipts per mile having been £2115 in 1849, and £2576 in 1854. Another point is worthy of note. In 1849 the passenger traffic yielded 53.17, and the goods traffic 46.83, in each £100 received, but these relative proportions were reversed in the year 1854, for the receipts from passengers declined to 45.34 per cent, while those from goods rose 54.66 per cent. 
        The working expenses on railways average 45 per cent on the gross receipts, the proportion being in England 45 per cent, 43 per cent in Scotland, and 46 per cent in Ireland. This expenditure is subdivided under the following heads: 

Maintenance of Way in 
 England and Ireland ... ... ...14.5% 
 Scotland ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 15.9% 
 Ireland ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...14.6% 

Cost of Locomotive Power including expense of rolling stock in 
 England and Wales ... ... ... .39.7% 
 Scotland ... ... ... ... ... ... ... .42.9% 
 Ireland ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 44.3% 

Traffic charges in 
 England and Wales ... .... ... 26.1% 
 Scotland ... ... ... .... .... .... ..20.5% 
 Ireland ... ... ... ... .... .... .... .23.4% 

Miscellaneous expenses, police, watchmen, &c. in 
 England... ... ... ... .... .... .... .11.6% 
 Scotland ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ..16.0% 
 Ireland ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... .14.6% 

The rates and Government duty in 
 England ... ... ... ... ... 8.1% 
 Scotland ... ... ... ... ...4.7% 
 Ireland ... ... ... ... ... ..2.6% 
 (There is no passenger traffic in Ireland) 

Expenditure per mile by trains run in 
 England ... ... ...31.28d. 
 Scotland ... ... ..28.42d. 
 Ireland ... ... ... .29.18d. 

Receipts per mile in 
 England ... ... 68.82d. 
 Scotland ... ...59.33d 
 Ireland ... ... ..61.19d. 

One of the most important points in these statistics in the rate of profit which results from railway enterprise as a whole; and here must be distinguished the dividends on the whole of the ordinary share capital from those on prefèrence shares and loans. The former stand thus in the subjoined years: 

1849 ... ... 1.88 
1850 ... ... 1.83 
1851 ... ... 2.44 
1852 ... ... 2.40 
1853 ... ... 3.05 
1854 ... ... 3.39 

The prefèrence shares yield an average dividend of five per cent. The money loaned has produced 4.27 per cent. 
[ILN 1856] 

It would have been surprising if a nation that viewed the economic principles of Adam Smith as almost sacrosanct had entrusted the creation of the railway system to the government. The idea was certainly discussed, for the dis of the laissez-faire approach were as evident as its benefits, and governments on the Continent were assuming greater responsibility for the development of their systems: competition was not held to be the key to the welfare of the traveller, and very different methods were used to safeguard the public interest. In France, for example, the government looked for a partnership with the railway companies, with the right of the government to plan the network and to impose whatever conditions regarding rates, safety and representation on boards it though fit. In 1844 a Select Committee was set up under Gladstone, then president of the Board of Trade, to review the development of the railway system. Gladstones proposal to increase the governments voice in planning procedures was rejected but he did succeed in creating an option for the government to purchase any railway after 20 years. Gladstone's committee heard evidence that advocated nationalisation of the entire railway system, but it would have been too radical a departure for most parliamentarians. Gladstones purchase clauses were reconsidered by the 1866-7 Royal Commission with the results seen in the ILN article for 18 May 1867. It is worth noting that in due course the government was to give assistance to certain lines in Scotland as well as Ireland; for example the Treasury contributed over a third of the subscribed capital for the Wick & Lybster Light Railway. 
 
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THE ROYAL COMMISSION ON RAILWAYS 
 
THE Royal Commissioners on Railways have at length made their report. The document sums up in great detail the results arrived at from the mass of evidence introduced before the Commission, and gives judgment against the proposition that the railway system should be taken under the control of the State. The general conclusion of the Commissioners is, in short, that no comprehensive plan shall be undertaken, and that the dealing with the railway system shall be confined to modification in private bill legislation, and in the management by the companies. The reports says:- We are of opinion that it is inexpedient at present to subvert the policy which has hitherto been adopted of leaving the construction and management of railways to the free enterprise of the people, under such conditions as Parliament may think fit to impose for the general welfare of thepublic. We consider that there is not sufficient reason for excepting Ireland from this general conclusion; but, as it has been the established policy to assist railways and other public works in Ireland, we recommend that, when Parliament thinks fit to make advances to Irish railway companies, the money should be lent for a fixed period of considerable length, so as to enable the company to develop its resources before it is called on for repayment. We are, however, of opinion that advances should not be made to the Irish railway companies as a condition of reducing their rates and fares; but that, as the railway companies have the best opportunities of judging whether rates can be reduced so as to be recuperative within a reasonable time, they should be left to carry out such experiments at theirown risk. 
        We recommend that Parliament should relieve itself from all interfèrence with the incorporation and the financial affairs of railway companies, leaving such matters to be dealt with under the Joint-Stock Companies'Act, and should limit its own action to regulating the construction of the line, and the relations between the public and joint-stock companies so incorporated, requiring such guarantees as may be necessary for the purpose of securing the due performance of the condition upon the faith of which the Parliamentary powers of the company have been granted. 
        We do not consider that it would be expedient, even if it were practicable, to adopt any legislation which would abolish the freedom railway companies enjoy of charging what sum they deem expedient within their maximum rates, when properly defined, limited as that freedom is by the conditions of the Traffic Act; but we are of opinion that railway companies should be required to give a reasonable notice of their intention to raise their rates of charge. 
        We are unable to see any method of ensuring punctuality in passenger trains by means of legislative enactments, except that proposed by the Committee of the House of Commons in 1858 - viz., that punctuality should be guaranteed, and that passengers injured by delay should be enabled to recover summarily a fixed sum; but we have already referred to the objections to this proposal. 
        We are of opinion the railway companies should be bound, under adequate penalties, to give at least a week's notice of any alterations of time of their regular passenger trains. 
        We do not consider that any direct legislative enactments would cause greater economy in the working of railways; but we are of opinion that, with the object of affording a more accurate view of the operations of the railway companies and of making any undue extravagance apparent, and thus stimu-lating economy, it is desirable that the several railway companies should render their accounts to the Board of Trade, showing receipts from traffic and the detailed cost of working the line, upon a uniform plan; and that, after consultation with the railway companies, the Board of Trade should not only prescribe the form of such returns and accounts, but lay jown the basis on which they are to be computed. 
        Parliament has relied for the safe working of railways upon the efficiency of the common law and of Lord Campbell's Act, which give persons injured and near relatives of persons killed a right to compensation. We consider that this course has been more conducive to the protection of the public than if the Board of Trade had been empowered to interfère in the detailed arrangements for working the traffic. 

[ILN MAY 18 1867] 

This editorial is a good example of some ILN journalism at that time - low on analysis, high on rhetoric. For example, the reader is not given a single reason why the railway mania came to a fairly abrupt end with the repeal of the Corn Laws and the Irish potato famine. These twoeventscaused a sharp rise in imported food, a reduction of the Bank of Englands reserves and fears that further advances might be refused. The article implies that sanity returned in the wake of the mania, resulting in amalgamations becoming the order of the day. This overlooks the fact that one of the most important railways of the pre-grouping era, the Midland, was created in 1844 at the beginning of the mania. It is also, easy to forget the positive results of investment on an almost unprecedented scale; in 1847 1/4m men were employed on construction which represented about 4 per cent of the working male population. George Hudson, known as the 'Railway King' and the epitome of aggressive railway management and manipulation, must have flinched at the refèrence to high dividends being paid out of capital; his nemesis hadyet to come. Six months after this editorial, he was undone at a meeting of the Eastern Counties Railway from which it became evident that high dividends had been paid partly out of capital to keep the prices of shares in his empire artificially high. It was the end of his career. 

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THE RAILWAY QUESTION 

The spectacle offered by Great Britain in the memorable year 1845 was by no means creditable to our character as a nation. The speculation of the period passed the limits of folly and bordered upon those of crime. Under the influence of cupidity, men who perfectly well knew that the Railways then projected could not be constructed, and that even if they could be constructed, they could not remunerate the bona fide shareholders, rushed into the market for premiums, and fostered the frenzy which they did not share. As in the Mississippi madness which afflicted the French, and the South Sea delusion which made lunatics of the English, at the commencement of the eighteenth century, wise and foolish, great and little, rich and poor, were smitten with the lust of gain; all ranks and classes of men scrambled for wealth, not caring who was ruined if they could gain a portion of the spoil - not condescending even to look at remote but inevitable consequences, if, in the meantime, they could clutch premiums; and, in many instances, loading with abuse the few sage and cool-headed men who in that time of frenzy were courageous enough to tell the truth. The madness was so contagious, that not only that simple and credulous portion of the speculators who in good faith considered Railway stock as the most stable and the most profitable of all forms of investment; but the wiser minority, who were perfectly aware that "it was not and could not come to good," yielded to the irresistible attraction of the new and fierce excitement of the time. 
        Though in earlier periods of our com-mercial history we had been guilty of astounding folly, all previous follies were cast into the shade by the superior magnificence of this. Too serious to be laughed at, too violent to be arrested, too obstinate to be reasoned down, too attractive to be despised, too natural to be wondered at - all that sensible men could do was to watch the course of the mania, and predict a day of reckoning and a return to reason. As they predicted, the day of the reaction arrived. The rush out of railway speculation was as violent and unreasonable as the rush in. The madness of cupidity was succeeded by the madness of fear, and dupers and duped floundered together into one large quagmire of perplexity, alarm, and bankruptcy. So true is that error invariably carries its own punishment along with it; and that the rule of right is never violated with inpunity, either by small offenders or by great ones, by individuals or by nations. 
        But the great panic blew over, the first unreasonable terror and distrust subsided, and men looked somewhat more dispassionately upon the true state of the undertakings to which they were pledged. Attempts were made by those whose sole business was Railway management, and who were interested professionally, either as engineers or law agents, in the stability and prosperity of these undertakings, to put the best face upon the matter, and to depict the various projects in the most flattering light. These attempts were far from unsuccess-ful, and something like confidence in the great lines of Railway succeeded the panic of 1846. Amalgamations and extensions became the order of the day. Competing companies were bought up, branch lines were undertaken, and previously estab-lished short lines were drawn into the "system" of the great ones. 
        The cost at which all these operations was effected was startling. Six, and eight, and even ten per cent was continually guaranteed to the shareholders of such lines as were necessary for the extension of the great leviathans; but though people wondered, they did not distrust. Shares continued at a premium; tempting dividends were declared, and the Railway world continued to wag almost as merrily as before. This comfortable state of things did not, however, last long. It was found that, although dividends of eight and ten per cent were declared, the calls were far more onerous than the dividends were remunerative; and that the man who received a dividend of ten pounds on a share, had not unfrequently to pay twenty or thirty as a call, to carry on the work either of construction or of amalga-mation. Railway affairs underwent another change in popular estimation. A new form of mistrust arose - a mistrust that these glittering and too beautiful dividends were declared out of capital, not out of revenue; and that the expenses of Railway management were too enormous to allow even moderate dividends, with-out a total change of system. We are in the midst of this new perplexity at the present moment; and the stock of the Great London and North-Western line -the triton among the minnows of railways - which, in the palmy days of confidence, was considered cheap at 250, is down at par, or a shade under, with a tendency to a still further depreciation. 
        Other lines, both great and small, are in a similar predicament; and thousands and tens of thousands of persons, who have invested their savings in these great national and pre-eminently useful under-takings, see their property gradually melting before their eyes, without power to aven the ruin, or even to stop it at the point to which it has arrived. They would, in many instances, be content to surrender their shares, to be secured from further liability. But, even upon these terms, they cannot free themselves. Calls continue to be made, and must be met -not under the simple penalty of loss of interest in the concern - but under the aggravated penalty of the liability of the whole fortune of shareholders, if the demand be disregarded. Thirty-one millions of pounds sterling were called up last year; nearly twenty-six millions have been called up this year; and the Directors of the various Companies are empowered by their acts of Parliament to make further calls for the completion of their lines. 

[ILN OCT 28 1848]


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This page was created by Julia Lee '99. It is maintained by Professor Robert Schwartz of the History Department, 
Mount Holyoke College.