Smiles, Samuel (Introduction by Eric de Mare)
- The Lives of George and Robert Stephenson - Folio Society edition
The Folio Society, London, 1975.
First printing. Octavo; hardcover, full cloth, with gilt spine titles and rules, an upper board decoration, and illustrated endpapers; 305pp., with a colour frontispiece, 7 plates likewise, and many monochrome woodcut illustrations. Very minor wear. Slipcase lightly rubbed. Near fine. 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, 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. George Stephenson began life in 1781 in the worst and poorest of all circumstances, he did not learn to read until he was twenty years old, but he, together with his son Robert, became the foremost engineers in the railway world. If, in the middle years of the Nineteenth Century you wanted to build a railway, then, if you wanted it big bold and imaginative, you might go to Mr. Brunel; if you wanted it to pay, however, you would go to the Stephensons.
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