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Editorial to Part 22


PART 23 will open with the continuation of the chapter entitled “Over River and Lake”, which begins in this Part. Of all the aspects of railway work bridge-building is perhaps the most outstanding symbol of those things that the railway represents - permanence, safety, and precision. There can be nothing shoddy, nothing hurried nor slipshod in the building of a bridge that must eventually carry millions of passengers. Vision and imagination must be the guiding principles. A railway bridge is not built only for to-day. Although it is a permanent thing itself, allowance must be made for the fact that the types of locomotives that will use it are not permanent, and that it may have to carry heavier and faster trains. We saw in Part 14 of Railway Wonders of the World that, although the Forth Bridge was built in 1890, it has needed little alteration to make it capable of carrying the heavy modern trains.


The twenty-first part of Railway Wonders of the World was published last week, and I am receiving more suggestions than at any previous period since this work began. Many of the suggestions submitted are sent in by readers because they feel that so many interesting and important aspects of railway work have not yet been included. I have already touched on this point, but for those readers who did not see my previous remarks let me say that Railway Wonders of the World will, when completed, be a comprehensive and, I hope, standard work of reference. Readers may rest assured, therefore, that every aspect of railway work will be fully dealt with. As I have also pointed out before, it is my intention to see that every part of Railway Wonders of the World maintains the standard of its predecessors, that the last parts shall be as interesting and as important as the early. It would be impossible to do this if I had put all my most interesting and important features in the earlier parts.


ONE aspect of railway work, for example, which many readers have thought should have been included in these earlier parts is that of the Railway Clearing House. I agree that the work of this organization is of the utmost importance, but for the reasons previously explained I have held it back until next week - Part 23.


I find that many of my readers are not familiar with the duties of the Railway Clearing House, although it has been an integral part of the railways for nearly a hundred years. You can book a through ticket at Southampton on the Southern Railway to, say, Princes Street, Edinburgh, on the London Midland and Scottish Railway. But how is the money paid for the ticket apportioned to the companies? This is one of the problems with which the Railway Clearing House concerns itself. If a number of parcels are sent by post to a distant destination they are, of course, carried by the railway. They may be taken over two or three systems. This is another problem that must be handled by this organization. Thus the financial adjustment of through traffic in Great Britain and some Irish lines comes within their scope.


The Railway Clearing House, which has its offices la Seymour Street, London, was established in 1842. In 1845, 656 route miles of track came under its control. To-day it handles traffic receipts affecting a total length of 23,000 miles. This is a striking example of the progress made by the railway during the last fifty years. The Railway Clearing House is controlled by four members from the board of each of the main British companies, and one representative from the other companies concerned.


I AM receiving many appreciative letters about those chapters which have dealt with the railway and its history and development in Australia, Canada, and the Sudan. Next week’s part of Railway Wonders of the World will contain a complete chapter that deals with railways in Northern Africa. This chapter will include such places as Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco. These are romantic places - at least, in our imagination - and we do not always associate them with progress. Yet in Morocco, for example, out of a total mileage of 920 miles of track recently laid, 520 are electrified. That Morocco has such a fine railway system is largely due to the famous French soldier, Marshal Lyautey. And it is the French to-day who are contemplating still further development of the railway in North Africa. They are planning a great Trans-Saharan railway, which would connect the Mediterranean and Timbuctoo. If this line is completed it will be possible to go from London to Timbuctoo in four and a half days. Thus the immemorial joke of the music-hall comedian would no longer apply.


Apart from the lines of Morocco, Algeria possesses some 3,000 miles of track, and Tunisia 1,200 miles.


A chapter on the Irish railways will begin in Part 23, and will deal with the three principal railways, the Great Southern Railways, the Great Northern Railway, and the Northern Counties Committee (LMS).