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The London & South Western page 2

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The most noteworthy of the links towards it was the Salisbury & Yeovil, which when the first sod was cut in April 1856 had a bank balance of 4, 2s. 4d. With many a struggle, frequently with no idea where the next 500 was coming from, it paid for the work of almost all kinds with shares at a greater and greater discount, until the cost, half a million, was somehow met; and then it was opened, worked by the South Western for half its gross receipts. When the Yeovil & Exeter was opened this 50 per cent, became 42½ for twenty-one years, plus a quarter of the traffic receipts to the South Western stations, an onerous undertaking resulting in the line being worked at such a loss to the South Western, and such a profit to the Salisbury & Yeovil, that in 1878 the South Western bought the property. And the price was 260 for each 100, so that its shareholders, whose early prospects were so gloomy, secured 13 per cent, in the few cases in which they had bought at par, and higher rates in proportion to the lower prices at which the shares had been distributed to them.

The South Western owes a good deal to "running powers." It crosses the Great Western at Exeter on nearly a mile and a half of the competing line. It gets into Plymouth on over two and a half miles of the Great Western, into Weymouth on nearly seven miles of the Great Western, into Reading on nearly seven miles of the South Eastern & Chatham, and into Portsmouth, by the direct route, on nearly four miles of the Brighton (from Havant to Port Creek). These are all triumphs of its diplomacy, but perhaps the smartest thing it did was the purchase of the line to Midhurst, by which it stopped the advance of the Brighton to Southampton.

Southampton, the pleasantest of our larger ports, is the real heart of the South Western and the main cause of its prosperity, for it means goods, and no railway company can thrive without goods. When the London & Southampton was launched the dock scheme was undertaken by another company, who began by building what is known as the Outer Dock. Before that dock was opened the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, and the Peninsular & Oriental, had begun business, and made Southampton their headquarters, and in 1847 steamers from Bremen, owned in New York, began to call in, these being the predecessors of the North German Lloyd, a company formed at Bremen in 1856, which has all along made Southampton its English port of call. In 1845 the South Western Steam Navigation Company purchased the Channel Island boats, which had up to then been running from Weymouth, and transferred them to Southampton, adding a service to Havre. In 1862 the South Western took over this company, thereby increasing its interest in the docks, and the successors of these old paddle boats continue both services and are among the best that cross the Channel. It was the trade with the Channel Islands, still worked from the Outer Dock, that led to the subsequent developments, though the business done in the carriage of passengers and merchandise brought by the ocean-going steamers became increasingly important.

For instance, in 1853 there started the Union Steam Collier Company, with a view to supplying coal to the vessels frequenting the port; but during the Crimean War the P. & O. fleet were taken up as transports, and the Union boats were put on to trade with the Levant in their place until they were in turn secured for transport purposes. When the war was over employment had to be found for these boats, which, as the Union Steamship Company, endeavoured to open a trade with South America, and in 1857 left the South American trade for the South African, owing to the company obtaining the mail contract to the Cape. The same year the Bremen steamers having found it pay them to call at Southampton, the opposition line from Hamburg, the Hamburg-American, followed their example, greatly to the advantage of the dock company, whose only difficulty was how to find capital for improving the accommodation. In 1875, as nothing was done, the P. & O. left for the Thames, causing a drop of 50,000 in the port's tonnage, which a sudden spurt of trade more than made good in the next year's return. Prosperity continuing, and matters going on in the old way, negotiations were begun in 1883 for the town authorities to take over the docks and make the inevitable enlargement; and as these failed the dock people applied to the railway company for help.

The man was ready for the hour. In 1885 Sir Charles Scotter, then Goods Manager of the Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire, had been appointed General Manager of The London & South Western. He had begun his career with the M. S. & L. at Hull, and he had risen to have the management of Grimsby; and no man in the country knew more about docks, and what could be done with them when they were owned by a railway company. Little wonder, then, that in 1886 the South Western subscribed a quarter of a million to the dock company's capital account for the extensions to be put in hand, and that six years afterwards the railway company should become the sole owners of the property with a view to the greater developments that are still going on.

Southampton is fortunate in its position in the middle of the south coast, under eighty miles from the capital, and about half as much again from the Welsh coalfield and the manufacturing towns of the Midlands. Across the mouth of the estuary lies the Isle of Wight, acting as a huge breakwater, favouring it, like a few other places in the world, with a double tide. As the tide runs up Channel it sends off a branch at the Needles into the Solent, and proceeding along the south of the island it sends another branch into Spithead about a couple of hours later; the main tide, in fact, which reaches Southampton Water from the east before the one from the west has had time to get out. Thus there are four tides a day, and as there is water enough for all ships at all times, and the anchorage is excellent and well sheltered, the port requires not basins but graving-docks, and quays and jetties along its river fronts.

The business largely lies along the outer wall, and the quayage is great, the docks being traversed by over thirty miles of railway; and the outfit of steam, hydraulic, and electric appliances for hauling and lifting is unusually large, for three-fourths of the light imports are sent to London, being perishable articles calling for instant despatch. The heavier goods are more widely distributed, and for those that have to stay for a while there are huge warehouses, bonded and free, for all kinds of merchandise, and grain stores with elevators and travellers that deal with 200 tons an hour.

The oldest trade of the port is that in wine, and the amount is now enormous; the newest trade is that in chilled provisions, and the cold storage accommodation of 2,000,000 cubic feet is the largest in the country. This cold storage business is a most interesting feature, for the meat is not loaded into covered wagons, but direct into road vans with their shafts taken off, and their wheels lashed to iron rails on double carriage trucks. A train of these carts, each taking thirty-four quarters of beef, is loaded alongside the stores and run straight up to Nine Elms where the horses are awaiting them, and the load, after being handled only once, is delivered at Smithfield within four hours of leaving the cold room at Southampton.

What with the many liners now using the port, and the troopers and smaller fry, there is always plenty of shipping about, and many steamers mean much coal; and Southampton handles coal in a way of its own. The only storage is in lighters, so that it is ready to be towed to the ships as soon as ordered. Along the river fronts of the coal barge docks runs a narrow jetty, where the cranes lift the coal out of the colliers a couple of tons at a time and swing it across into the lighters waiting on the other side in such numbers that 14,000 tons of coal may be afloat at once, there being lighterage capacity for no less than 20,000.

Another of the Southampton sights is the Prince of Wales graving-dock, 750 ft. long and 112 ft. wide, a vast cavity in which the men, apparently dwarfed to half their size, work in- the dry owing to the constructor having thoughtfully made it turtle-backed, so as to drain the water off at the sides instead of in the middle. Big as it is it can be filled in an hour and a half and emptied in two hours and a half by means of centrifugal pumps a yard in diameter. Farther on is the Trafalgar graving-dock, which is larger, it being 875 ft. in length; and each of its gates weighs 250 tons! And even this is to be enlarged. In short, the dock business is being worked for all it is worth, and it will not be the fault of the South Western if its growth is in any way checked.

The Midhurst branch goes off at Petersfield on the Portsmouth Direct, which has an interesting history. It was made by Brassey for an independent company, a line of heavy gradients with its summit at Haslemere, 460 ft. above the Waterloo level, to join up with the South Western at Godalming and with the Brighton at Havant, and was ready for opening in January 1858, but the owners had made no preparations for working it, and had provided no rolling stock, hoping that one of these companies would take it over. The Brighton people would not undertake the task, as it was a competing route to Portsmouth, to which they had been running for eleven years; and the South Western declined, as it would interfere with their agreement with the Brighton. Then the owners obtained parliamentary sanction for a junction with the South Eastern at Shalford, hoping that that company would come to the rescue, but received the same reply, that prior arrangements with the Brighton precluded any such working of an opposition line. One way out of the difficulty seemed to be to continue the Portsmouth Direct to Portsmouth, which led to the proposal of another Portsmouth terminus at Landport. This did not suit either the Brighton or the South Western, and at last the South Western were persuaded to take a perpetual lease of the line at a rental of 18,000 a year and risk a war.

The Brighton at once accepted the challenge. It was on the 1st of January 1859 that the first South Western train attempted to run on to the Brighton metals at Havant. It was to reach there at 10 a.m., but expecting trouble it came at 7 a.m., a train specially manned with 100 platelayers under the command of the secretary of the company, who on his arrival found the rails taken up at the junction and an engine with its wheels chained and padlocked down to the rails at the crossing. A fight began between the rival roughs; the Brighton men were driven back and held at bay, while the South Westerners made good the track, filed through the chains, moved the Brighton engine off and brought their own train on to the metals. But while they were busy in front their opponents were as busy behind, and when the South Westerners advanced they found that rails had been removed farther on, so that progress was impossible. And so the Waterloo men returned to fight the battle with legal weapons that proved so efficient that on the 24th of the month they triumphantly rode into Portsmouth on the metals of the discomfited Brightonians, who forthwith began a war of rates and fares which did nothing beyond causing them a loss of 80,000.

One of the best moves made by the South Western was the leasing of the Somerset & Dorset in conjunction with the Midland. By this Bournemouth obtained the direct route to the north, by which it has profited so much, and the joint companies not only obtained access through Glastonbury to Wells, Burnham, and Bridgwater, but a short communication between each other's territory. The Somerset & Dorset affords a remarkable instance of development since it ceased to be local and became linked up into a main road. The broad-gauge Somerset Central, from Highbridge on the Bristol & Exeter to Glastonbury, obtained its Act in 1852; four years afterwards the narrow-gauge Dorset Central was incorporated to run fromWimborne to Blandford, obtaining powers in 1857 to continue northwestwards, and, crossing the Salisbury & Yeovil at Temple-combe, meet an extension of the Somerset Central through West Pennard and Pylle. The companies then amalgamated, and, as the Somerset & Dorset, built a branch from Evercreech to the Midland at Bath, which was opened in 1874; and next year the Midland and the South Western jointly took over the system on a 999 years' lease and made it narrow-gauge throughout. From the first the traffic began to improve, and now the line, which is one of the few on which the whole of the trade is dealt with by rolling stock of its own, requires about ninety engines to work it. In 1865 the South Western took over a group of broad-gauge lines giving access to Barnstaple. These originated in the Taw Vale Railway, which after a troubled infancy was built by Brassey during the three years from 1851 as the North Devon Railway and Dock Company. It ran from Crediton to Umberleigh. Brassey leased this line, opened in 1854, as he also did the extension to Bideford from Framlingham Pill, opened in 1855; but in 1863 the South Western secured the North Devon on a lease for a thousand years, and two years after absorbed both it and its extension.

The most difficult working on the Southwestern is that on the Ilfracombe branch, which was made by an independent company after many adventures. It cost only 130,000, and has more heavy gradients and difficult curves than any other stretch of fifteen miles. It begins with a rise, and falls a little only to rise again, and ends in a two-mile downgrade of 1 in 36 that lands the passenger on a hill 100 ft. above the sea. The Great Western Company run on it by arrangement from the junction at Barnstaple, and their trains have to go even more slowly from Morthoe to Ilfracombe than on the harbour branch of the Weymouth & Portland, which is generally reputed to be the slowest bit of work in Britain. Another laborious journey is that round Dartmoor, where greater heights are reached, the summit level of the system, 950 ft., being on that fine section between Okehampton and Tavistock, just after passing over the Meldon viaduct before reaching Bridestowe. This is on the way to the South Western's other dockyard; for it serves two, Devonport and Portsmouth, just as it serves the two great military camps, Aldershot and Salisbury Plain, and the two ranges, Bisley and Okehampton.

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