There is not a railway in the kingdom, which, for anything approaching to the same distance, has an equal
population on its borders. Within three miles on either side of it there is a population of no less than a million. With Manchester and Leeds as its termini, it has Rochdale, Todmorden,
Hebden Bridge, Sowerby Bridge, Elland, Brighouse, Rastrick, Mirfield, Dewsbury, Ossett, Horbury, and Wakefield on its course; and it is situated near, and will ultimately have branches to the towns
of Oldham, Heywood, Halifax, and Huddersfield. It is also fully expected that there will be a railway branching off at Todmorden to Burnley. The cotton and woollen manufactures are
carried on prosperously through the entire district; this forms the line by which the manufactures of Yorkshire are sent to Liverpool for export, and by which the manufactures of Lancashire are sent
to Hull for export; and a large trade in corn exists on the Calder and the canals connected with it. Thus the Manchester and Leeds Railway will be a most important auxiliary to commerce and
manufactures, and will give the greatest facilities for travelling to an immense population.
The engineer by whom the line was planned, and under whose superintendence it has been executed, is the
celebrated George Stephenson, whose genius and unparalleled works we have so often had occasion to notice with high admiration. Under him Mr. Gooch, one of his pupils, has been employed as the
resident engineer, and has displayed abilities equal to the execution of the execution of the greatest undertakings. The Managing Director, who has given up his whole time to the superintendence of
the work, is Robt. Gill, Esq., to whose remarkable energy, zeal, and talent the Company are very greatly indebted for the completion of the work within so short a period.
Ground was first broken
on the 18th of August, 1837 ; the first portion, measuring thirteen miles, from Manchester to Littleborough, was opened on the 3d of July, 1839, and has been worked with great success; and the entire
line will be completed early in December of the present year, within about three years and a quarter from its commencement. The length of the railway from Manchester to its junction with the North
Midland at Normanton, is fifty miles; and as Normanton is ten miles from Leeds, the entire distance from Leeds to Manchester by railway is sixty miles. When the magnitude of the work is considered,
and the short time in which it has been executed, it must be admitted to be a very extraordinary achievement; and it has been effected, like so many other works of the same nature in this country,
with no aid from the Government, or any corporate body, but entirely by the spirit, sagacity, and capital of the trading community.
The opening of the portion of the line from Hebden Bridge to
Normanton, which took place on Monday, was not attended with any ceremonial. The directors came from Manchester to Hebden Bridge, went by railway to Leeds, and returned the same day, but
without any kind of display. But this did not prevent a very great concourse of spectators at every town, village, and hamlet on the line: at many of these places flags were flying; and the
inhabitants, old and young, and of both sexes, poured forth to witness, for the first time, the interesting sight of railway travelling through the valley of the Calder. Considerable danger
arose at some points from the eagerness of multitudes to travel by the carriages on the first day; and it is a happy circumstance that the day passed over without any accidents.
The first train
started from Leeds at seven minutes before eight o'clock in the morning, from the station in Hunslet Lane. It consisted of carriages and a locomotive engine belonging to the North Midland
Company, who will work the line at this end till the railway shall be completed. The ten miles to Normanton were travelled in twenty-four minutes (the first eight miles having been done in 16 1/2
minutes). At this place, a little to the north of the junction of the North Midland and the Manchester and Leeds lines, the foundations are laying for a station for the latter company. Here the
carriages brought down the valley of the Calder, and containing passengers for the south, or for Hull, York, Selby, &c. will be detached from the trains proceeding forward to Leeds: those for the
south will go by the North Midland trains, and those for York, Hull, or the north will go by the York and North Midland Railway, which branches off in a north-easterly direction two miles on this
side of the junction at Normanton. By an arrangement between the Manchester and Leeds Company and the North Midland Company, the former are to be allowed to travel one mile on the North Midland line
without paying toll: of course they pay toll for the remainder of the distance they may travel on the line.
At the point of junction, the Manchester and Leeds Railway takes a descending gradient,
and the North Midland an ascending gradient, and the difference in the level immediately becomes very apparent. The train went rather slowly over the new ground, as was prudent. Very soon we came in
view of Sir Edward Dodsworth's house, Newland Hall, situated in a beautiful part of the valley of the Calder. A diversion of the river has been made here, in order to avoid the necessity of
building two expensive bridges, and the Aire and Calder Company, according to its custom, threw so many difficulties in the way that this part of the line (the Kirkthorpe contract) has only been
completed at the twelfth hour. Here a cut belonging to that navigation joins the river. The railway runs on a considerable embankment through the valley, leaving the village and church of Kirkthorpe
on the left, whilst Stanley is seen in the distance on the right. Shortly we passed under the rich woods of Heath, and near the house of Geo. Smyth, Esq., which overlooks the valley. Then a deep
cutting, in which, as in most of the other cuttings, the coal strata with which the county abounds are very distinctly seen, brought us close to the town of Wakefield; and we drew up at the Wakefield
station, which is near the junction of Thornes Lane with the bottom of Kirkgate, at twenty-six minutes past eight o'clock. Here flags were flying, and a great concourse of spectators was
assembled, who received with cheers the first railway train that had ever entered the town of Wakefield. The station-house is a neat and commodious brick building. The distance from Leeds is twelve
and a half miles.
Mr. Stephenson, the engineer, and Mr. Gill, the managing director, here entered the carriages; Capt. Laws, the able and active manager of the railway, having come with the train
from Leeds. We resumed our progress at 34 minutes past 8, after a halt of eight minutes. The view of the town obtained from the railway is exceedingly good; and here the valley is highly beautiful.
Passing on the north side of the river Calder, the Railway comes to Thornes, with its pretty church, and passes within a very short distance from Thornes House, the mansion of Benjn. Gaskell, Esq. In
less than a mile further it passes through the park and in front of the house of Daniel Gaskell, Esq., Lupset Hall.