MAGNITUDE OF RAILWAY SPECULATIONS.
ON a moderate estimate, the railways already in existence and
to be executed may be taken to cost £150,000,000 The gross profit on that capital, at S per cent, would be 12,000,000 From which a deduction of 35 per cent for expenses (the lowest expenditure of any large company) would amount to 4,200,000 Leaving the net profit of £7,800,000,—or not quite 51 per cent upon the capital. In other words, to afford the shareholders in all our completed and projected railways a return of rather less than 5i per cent upon their outlay, the public must annually expend 12,000,0004 in railway travelling alone. The word " million " comes glibly from the tongue, but con- veys no tangible image to the mind. An effort is required to realize to the imagination the magnitude of the sum which must be annually spent on railway travelling to yield our speculators a moderate profit on their capital. Let any one attempt distinctly and articulately to count aloud froth one to a million: he will fincl it hard work to enunciate on the average one thousand numbers in the hour, and would consequently require a hundred days for ten hours a day to count the million. The mechanical opera- tion of telling over a million of sovereigns piece by piece would occupy a full month, at the rate of 3,600 an hour for ten hours a day. The joint earnings of 1,830 agricultural la- bourers with their 7s. a week for thirty years each, not a work- ing-day left out, would be less than a million of pounds sterling.. The joint earnings of 640 mechanics at 20s. a week, toiling eadr as unintermittingly during the same period, would not amount to a million of pounds sterling. The pay of 90 British general officers at il. a day, would not in thirty years amount to a mil- lion of pounds sterling. So much of toil, and danger, and expo- sure to the elements—so much of patient, persevering, and more or less skilful industry—so much of valour, and accomplish- ment, and high spirit, as represented by money—may be bought for a million of pounds sterling. And our railway-projectors and speculators calculate upon drawing twelve of these millions annually from the pockets of the public. In other words, they expect that twelve millions of peo- ple—half the population of the Three Kingdoms, men, women, and children—(at 1 le/. per mile) will each travel 160 miles by railway every year, and pay them 20s. a head. Or they expect that one million people will travel 1,920 miles each in the course of the year, and pay them 12/. a head. Or they expect that one hundred and twenty thousand people will each travel 16,000 miles by railway every year, and pay them 1001. per head. Be it remembered, too, that railway-travelling constitutes but a fraction of the whole annual travelling of the nation. Our railways, ex- istent and in projection, embrace not one-half of the surface and population of Great Britain ; and even in the railway districts there is active competition from steam-boats, omnibuses, cabs, vans, spring-carts, &c. &c. The steam-boats of the Thames and the Clyde carry more passengers than the Greenwich, Blackwell, and Glasgow and Greenock Railways. In the great towns, not only the wealthier classes as a badge of station and for amenity, but tradesmen for professional purposes, keep vehicles, which when travelling on business or for pleasure they from sheer economy generally employ in preference to other modes of conveyance. In the rural districts, landowners and farmers do the same. Again, the price of a railway-ticket is only part of the outlay of the railway-traveller on conveyances. In most cases it implies the additional expense of short-stage, cab, or 'bus, to convey him to and from the railway, or from one railway to another.
Our sanguine projectors and speculators pay little heed to these considerations ; though the brokers who are agents in the trans- fer of shares often ask each other in wonderment, where all the travellers are to come from. Put the question to any dabbler in railway stock, and he replies with an "Oh, with the increase of locomotive facilities travelling will increase indefinitely." It may be so : hitherto the theory has held good : yet there must be some natural limit to the activity of the principle. Men do not travel for travelling's sake, but on business or for pleasure—to earn money, or to spend it ; and what possible facility will set men in motion where these motives are wanting t The enormous amount of money invested in railways would seem to imply that some classes of Englishmen are expected to live on railways, as sonic classes of Chinese live on their canals. To render these undertakings remunerative, a numerous portion of society would
need, like the fabled birds of paradise, to keep always on the wing—to spend their lives darting from town to town with the velocity of swallows in a summer-evening. The boldness and ex- tent of these aggregate undertakings conveys a magnificent idea of the resources and enterprise of Britain ; but their very mag- nitude lies like a load on the imagination, while the incessant restlessness and swift movements they presuppose in such a nu- merous class of the community make the head giddy only to think of.