« AnteriorContinuar »
Edifices unnecessarily dangerous.
dangerous leaps, and bold swimmers miscalculate the strength they require to reach the shore. People will try wings and balloons, and experiment upon their own safety as in corpore vili. To give advice against personal imprudences of this kind, is the province of the ethical philosopher or the religious teacher. The object of the present paper is to indicate causes of destruction, which being caused by large operations, are removable by improvement in the methods of conducting them, and consequently by legislation, - which, though it cannot often save people from themselves, may protect them from calamities occasioned by the selfishness of their fellow men. Nor is it assumed, that even from this arena hazards can be excluded; it will be sufficient if causes of superfluous and gratuitous risk be seriously reduced. There will be danger and violent death in the world, as long as there is heroic enterprise and a high sense of duty conducting to self-sacrifice. Not only the sailor and the soldier, but the chemist, the geologist, the physician seeking the means of combating with disease, the clergyman communicating the consolations of religion to the dying, even the patient scholar at his sleepless desk, — all incur and court the risk of personal injury and abbreviated life. Some of the humbler occupations most advantageous to mankind are notoriously attended with danger - as that of the miner, the mariner, the fisher, even the bricklayer and house-painter; but the risk which must be incurred is often small in comparison with that which is unnecessary and useless. No one speaks of closing the navigation of the Thames because the sailor's is a dangerous calling; yet it has been questioned whether, in order to drive a profitable passage trade, at a penny a head, a speculator should be allowed to boil a high-pressure engine which may blow fifty or sixty people to atoms. We must have coal mines, but is it necessary that for a few additional shillings of profit the butty shall risk a dozen or two of lives? So we shall have railway travelling as abundant and effective as ever, even after it is ruled that the lives of fifteen hundred people are not to be risked to save the expense of keeping a guard at a tunnel's mouth. · The sources of calamity which arise from men, who having a charge over the safety of others, culpably neglect their duty, may be divided into three principal classes - structure of edifices, public and private; locomotion; and gregarious employment. The third we shall find to be mixed up with the other two; as, for instance, in railway service, in manufactories, and in mines. Already some notice has been taken of dangerously defective public structures; more may be afterwards supplied, and perhaps it would be trespassing on the department of the architect to go farther into the technicalities of structure and attempt to indicate the necessary protective arrangements. The danger, which in this department it has ever been considered the most essential to guard against, is fire. It is on the whole, however, with all its appalling attendants, generally little destructive of life in comparison with its devastation of property. In the great Hamburgh fire of 1842, which destroyed sixty-one streets, and rendered 20,000 people houseless, the casualties to life were only 39. In the Registrar-general's returns, the deaths from conflagration are not distinguished from others caused by burning, which are all classed under chemical injuries. In the two years 1838 and 1839, there were collectively in the metropolis 2600 deaths attributed to violence, and of these 414 were by fire - 136 males and 278 females — the preponderance of the latter evidently indicating ordinary household operations as the chief cause. In the manufacturing towns of Birmingham, Manchester, Salford, Liverpool, and West Derby, collectively, out of 693 violent deaths in 1839, 170 were from burning — here 99 were males and 71 females. The erection of party walls through the roof is supposed now to secure the metropolis from sweeping conflagrations like those which laid waste Hamburgh and have occasionally desolated the American cities. Among the last, its abundant supply of water must now make an exception of New York. On the other hand, it may be questioned, if our provincial wood and brick-built towns are safe from such a calamity. Nor is the state of warfare with this great enemy in which London is kept the continued trepidation, the preparations for flight, the necessity of a constantly embodied force, — indicative of that high progress in civilisation which should appear in the prevention of causes of calamity rather than in its encounter and conquest. We must look forward to structural discoveries achieving the higher triumphs; and perhaps the Crystal Palace, among its other services, may, especially by its iron work, lead to the source of discoveries in this direction. Though many of the accidental deaths of London are caused by vehicles, and some by disturbances, undoubtedly we may attribute the greater portion to structural causes. But whatever be the causes, it is interesting to reinark that in this great centre of energy and motion of apparent confusion and carelessness — life does not run more risks, indeed a trifle less, than its average risk all over England. According to the Registrar-general's Report for 1848, the numbers of violent deaths in the metropolis were in the years from 1840 to 1847 inclusive as follows, - in 1840, 1279; in 1841, 1174; in 1842,
109 1253; in 1843, 1142; in 1844, 1301; in 1845, 1329; in 1846, 1651; and in 1847, 1578.
We shall have to say something more concerning structural canses when we come to consider the casualties incident to particular employments; in the mean time it appears to be in the department of travelling and conveyance from place to place that existing defects are productive of the most alarming evils, and that the demand for improvement is most urgent.
The babits of the old world mariner, trained in sailing vessels, are not well adapted to the modern system of steam navigation. He has been early imbued with the feeling that his career is to be one of inevitable perils, and that happiness is to be sought, not in efforts to obviate them, but in the enjoyment of the present and the dissipation of reflection. His notions of danger are associated with phenomena so far beyond the reach of human power, that he becomes a fatalist, waiting his time, and scorning precautions which appear but despicable when measured with the great perils of the deep. Hence a sailor seldom knows how to swim; it is a paltry accomplishment, never likely to serve any better purpose than the prolongation of his agony. He has no great respect even for boats as a means of escape; and to offer him a mackintosh safety buoy would only be to encounter his unutterable ridicule. Experience has too sadly shown, that our coasting travellers in those machine-driven vessels, where the powers both of action and destruction are so delicately obedient to human management, are not safe in the hands of these fatalists. It is not long since the public were astounded at learning that the master and mate of a steamer, in apparent ignorance that animal life requires to be fed with fresh air, battened down their passengers air-tight into the hold like dry goods, and kiiled seventy-five of them. When the master of the Orion Tas brought to trial, and punished for the carelessness with which he ran his vessel on a well-known rock in good daylight, the incident - not of the wreck, but of the punishment, — was
startling to the class to which the master belonged, as the impeachment of Strafford to Charles the First's courtiers. They looked upon it, we believe, as gross injustice,-punishing a man like a felon, and merely for his bad luck! Let us hope that the Mercantile Marine Act of last session will do something to relieve the public of its danger from seamen of this class.
As the power for mischief in a railway is still greater than in a steam ship, while there is a more specific command over the elements of power, a sense of higher responsibility ought to be entertained, and additional securities provided. In some measure this has been the case. We have no doubt of the truth of the assertion often made, that, allowing for the extent travelled, there is a smaller per-centage of casualties on railways than in coaches. It is difficult to get any figures to bear on this question ; but we see in one of the Registrar-general's returns that in 1841 the number of deaths caused by waggons, &c. (the &c. meaning, we presume, other vehicles) was 978. On our vast railway lines, whose trains accomplish between sixty and seventy millions of individual journies, the numbers slain, including passengers, railway servants, and the public at large, were in the same year, 1841, 270; in 1847, 211; in 1848, 240; in 1849, 202; and in 1850, 216. Remembering how completely the system is under the command of science and conduct, we hope to see the day when, even with a vastly increased traffic, such a mortality will be looked on as a tradition of railway travelling in its early barbarous state. It used to be thought that a certain class of railway accidents were as inevitable as earthquakes. A belief is now entertained among scientific men, and it is, as we shall presently see, strongly supported by the Reports of the official inspectors, that no accident occurs of which it may not be said, that proper precautions involving, probably, a considerable outlay – would have prevented it. On the larger and bolder operations the Railway Commissioners say in their Report for 1848, · All who have had occasion to consider the state of our knowledge with respect to the strength of materials are aware, that a multitude of experiments, and the investigations of scientific men, have established - the laws on which the relation between the several dimensions of beams of different materials, their stiffness, and their ultimate
strength depends, when exposed to an action not differing in can important degree from a steady load. The experiments * necessary for the investigation of this subject were within the • means of the individuals who had leisure and inclination to
make them; and before our present knowledge was attained, (numerous structures, which have existed through long periods, * afforded a variety of examples for the guidance of engineers. · The failure also of works exposed to the action of weights at rest, or moving with comparatively small velocities, was gradual, and not likely to endanger the lives of individuals without some warning of their insecurity. But the last few years have rendered necessary the construction of a number of • bridges, intended for the use of heavy trains passing at great
speeds, in designing which the known laws relating to the 6 strength of materials are most probably inapplicable; while * the experiments requisite to ascertain those which may be 1851.
applicable are beyond the means of individuals to make, and the highest degree of science will probably be required in combining the results of any experiments bearing on the subject. Neither can the solution of the question be left to time, or to the experience which might be obtained of a . number of sudden and frightful accidents; the knowledge is "required at once, for the guidance of engineers who may have
to design or improve such works, of which a great number are likely to be constructed within a short period.'
But it has not been in general from the bold and original experiments of celebrated engineers that the public have suffered. Men so high in their profession feel the responsibility of power, and the risk to which professional character may be exposed by mischievous blunders. It is in the subordinate and simple operations left to ignorant and irresponsible people unwatched and unknown, that danger lurks. A welding has been carelessly finished. A bar or a girder has an internal crack, caused perhaps by sudden expansion or contraction in its manufacture. Through such latent causes, in the midst of a general feeling of security, the infinitesimal overstrain severs the parts, and a crash follows, (as lately in Gracechurch Street, of which all the realm hears with commiserating horror. Among the other sources of danger believed to be inscrutable, it used to be stated in scientific evidence, that such internal defects in the materials used in connexion with railways were not discoverable. The public were disabused of this notion when they found that every piece of iron to be subjected to a possible strain in the construction of the Crystal Palace, was to be tested by the hydraulic press.
Three formidable accidents reported by the Commissioners of 1850, were caused by fractures where the metal was found porous and crystalline. The history of the girder of a bridge near Gainsborough, which snapped and tilted an engine-waggon into the road beneath, is instructive. Captain Wynne, the inspector, said, After examining the bridge, I thought it desirable to
inquire into the history of the girder, from its casting to its leaving the foundry; I therefore requested the attendance of Mr. Farmer, at whose foundry it was cast. He informed me that he kept an ironmonger's shop; that he was unacquainted *with a founder's business, and that he entrusted all to his fore
man, who had worked formerly in some large foundry. I * therefore sent for the foreman, and he informed me that he had
been employed in the Phoenix Works at Sheffield ; that the 'castings there were confined to machinery, and that he never * had been engaged in a casting of the same magnitude as the