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Lives of the Engineers

Samuel Smiles

Book Overview: 

George Stephenson did not invent the steam engine, that was due to Newcomen and later to James Watt. He did not invent the steam locomotive, that was due to a number of people including Cugnot, Trevithick and others. He did not invent the Railway. Railways or tramways had been in use for two hundred years before Stephenson.

The reason why Stephenson was known as ‘The father of the steam locomotive’ was that he took a primitive, unreliable and wholly uneconomic device and turning it into an efficient machine not very different to those which ran until fifty or so years ago, married it with the iron rail and alone, and against considerable opposition,began, via the Stockton and Darlington Railway, the Liverpool and Manchester Railway and then the London and Birmingham Railway, the development of steam railways in England and the world.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .n you came with your father’s bait, for you were always a sad hempy?”

The author had the pleasure, in the year 1854, of accompanying Robert Stephenson on a visit to his old home and haunts at Killingworth.  He had so often travelled the road upon his donkey to and from school, that every foot of it was familiar to him; and each turn in it served to recall to mind some incident of his boyish days.  His eyes glistened when he came in sight of Killingworth pit-head.  Pointing to a humble red-tiled house by the road-side at Benton, he said, “You see that house—that was Rutter’s, where I learnt my A B C, and made a beginning of my school learning.  And there,” pointing to a colliery chimney on the left, “there is Long Benton, where my father put up his first pumping-engine; and a great success it was.  And this humble clay-floored cottage you see here, is where my grandfather lived till the close of hi. . . Read More