Harper's New Monthly Magazine,  10 (1885), 375–89.

English and American Railways




Relevant illustrations:

eng. [13]


Railways, Nationalism, Engineering, Machinery, Engineers, Aesthetics, Anthropology, Class

    Imagines what would be the first impressions of a 'practical American engineer' upon seeing an English train, suggesting that an 'English locomotive compares' with the 'imposing splendour' of its American counterpart 'much as a lawn-mower does with a New York fire-engine. It is a humble, awkward green or monochromatic machine. It has neither polish nor decoration about it' (377) Many of the differences between locomotives in the two countries, however, are only in 'appearances', and a 'practical man finds a wonderful strength and economy in the build of this unbeautiful English engine' with 'not a bit of waste material about it' (377–78). An English engine, moreover, 'attains a rate of speed in the first hundred yards that shows its traction to be extraordinary, and it makes steam readily and easily' (378). Concedes that 'in these days of scientific railroading ' the large bell found on American locomotives 'partakes of the nature of a survival—an instance in which utility has faded into mere ceremonial' (379). Asserts that in England a 'railway carriage is a modification of the private carriage, the post-chaise, the stage-coach, and the carrier's wagon. Those vehicles have been merely adapted to steam traction and railway schedules, and the conventions which characterized their use before Stephenson's time remain unchanged in their new condition' (383). Notes that a 'frequent subject of discussion is the speed of English trains as compared with that of American trains', and especially 'well-known expresses' like '"The Wild Irishman" and "The Flying Scotchman"', but insists that the principal 'reason is found in the difference of tracks and operating conditions' (387).

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