Mr. Denby to Mr. Bayard.
Peking, October 23, 1888. (Received December 8.)
Sir: The present month has witnessed a ceremony entirely novel in China and one full of interest for those concerned in the country’s material progress.
The railway at Tientsin, the inception, progress, and completion of which have been reported to you, step by step, by this legation, was on the 9th instant formally inspected by his excellency the Viceroy Li, under orders to report thereon to the Throne. This duty was performed with considerable ceremony, and seems to have been so auspiciously accomplished as to bode well for the future of the railway cause. The line was in excellent working order, and was traversed by the Viceroy and suite, unimpeded by any of those delays or accidents which, on such occasions, so easily occur, and which, if serious, might, in this instance, have exercised an unfavorable influence on railroad extension. To people ever ready, for their own ends, to see the “will of heaven” in others’ misfortunes, a railroad accident on this trip of inspection would have furnished a powerful weapon of opposition.
The Chinese Times of the 13th instant records the day’s proceedings in full. At 7.30 in the morning the Viceroy went from his residence to the railroad wharf, on the bank of the Peiho River. There he was met by several Chinese directors of the railroad and the foreign engineers. The party then proceeded to the railroad depot, a short distance away, where other Chinese dignitaries awaited them. No foreign officials were asked to participate, a circumstance explained by the character of the occasion. Troops, both foreign-drilled infantry and irregular cavalry, as well as a battery of artillery, were present at the station, the train moving out amid salutes from the latter.
The imperfect ballasting of the first few miles of the track, which were, in fact, the last to be built, necessitated, a low rate of speed, which was later, however, increased to 30, 40, 45, and even 50 miles per hour. Various stops at the towns along the route were made, at each of which troops were drawn up and the local civil and military officials presented themselves to pay their respects to the Viceroy. At Lutai, a city about halfway between Taku and Kaiping, the Viceroy attended a magnificent banquet provided by General Li, whose guest he was.[Page 80]
Amongst the troops present at this point the Times mentioned “a company of ‘Lutai tigers,’ men dressed in yellow cotton with black streaks. These men were armed with bows and arrows and each warrior bore a wicker shield on which were painted hideous faces of ogres, frightful enough to scare a regiment of Prince Bismarck’s typical Pomeranian grenadiers 5 an anachronism in military arms and uniforms emphasized with singular force by the occasion, and which can not long survive the presence of that great factor in progress whose introduction these soldiers were there to celebrate.
At Tong-Shan, near the end of the line, the party was received by Mr. Tong King Sing, chief director of the colliery, and said to have been the founder of the mines at this point, of the railroad itself, and of the China Merchants’ Navigation Company. The Viceroy inspected the mines, pumps, workshops, and other foreign machinery, while his son descended the shaft, which is about 600 feet deep.
The party remained here over night, and starting at 8 the next morning reached Tientsin at 11.30 without incident, thus completing in three and one-half hours a journey of 81 miles, a distance which under the most favorable circumstances would have required three days by any means of conveyance previously existing. This fact must have been sufficiently impressive to the Chinese officials, some of whom have made the same journey under other conditions.
The Chinese Times gives the distances of the route as follows: Tientsin to Tongku, a town opposite Taku, on the north side of the river, 27 miles; Tongku to Lutai, northwest of Taku, 25 miles, this piece of road being at right angles to the last; Lutai to Tong-Shan, 29 miles. Tong-Shan is not far from Kaiping, to which point the road will be extended. It is confidently stated, also, by parties in Tientsin that the opposition to the extension of the line towards Peking has been overcome and that stock is actually being issued for a line to be built to Tungchou, a city on the river Peiho to the east of Peking.
The time is even now hopefully looked forward to when an express train will make the journey from Tientsin to Tungchou in one and a half hours, a journey at present of from two to five days.
The road, as far as completed, was designed and constructed by Mr. C. W. Kinder, C. E., a gentleman who is said to have had large experience in England, the United States, and Russia. The management of the company has been in the hands of Mr. Ng Choy, a barrister of the English bar, who has shown much skill and patience in its organization.
The company possesses four powerful passenger locomotives, of 70 tons each, said to be a modification of British-built engines by the introduction of certain American features rendered available by local conditions. One of these engines is described by the Times as follows:
It was built by Dubs & Co., of Glasgow. The boiler is of steel; 17 by 24-inch cylinders; four 6-foot drivers; four 36-inch bogie wheels; iron pilot (or cow-catcher); American head-light; heating surface, 1,012 feet; 212 tubes; 18 feet grate area. The tender is on two bogies with 36-inch wheels, and carries 2,300 gallons of water and 2 tons of coal.
The performance of these engines, considering the unskilled labor necessarily employed in building the line and handling the train, must, as the Times justly remarks, be considered remarkably good.
In addition to the above there are seven double-ender tank engines and three smaller engines. Of these but one came from America, being from Grant & Co.[Page 81]
The equipment of the road as to cars, both passenger and freight, seems ample, comprising large numbers of coal, construction, and other cars.
Among the most noticeable adaptations of American improvements are the “bogie trucks” and the “Janney” couplers and buffers, together with a complete set of Westinghouse automatic brakes, presented by the patentees to the railroad company. The wheels and axles, which are being constructed at the company’s shops at Su ko-chwang, also came chiefly from America. The bridges along the line represent a variety of systems. Among them an American bridge, 120 feet span and costing 7,000 taels, is spoken of as a fine example Of bridge work.
The work of the road throughout is of the most excellent standard, carried out also with a view to economy. With stone ballast, steel rails of 45, 60, and 70 pounds, sleepers of hard Japanese wood or steel, and permanent work in iron, steel, and masonry, instead of wood, rendered necessary by the extremes of heat and cold, the road seems thoroughly equal to the traffic hereafter to be developed on it.
The annual floods along the route have been provided against by raising the road-bed and by the construction of numerous flood openings.
The cost of this line, so far, has been one and one-half million taels, an exceedingly small sum, should experience prove the work as well done as it is claimed to be.
Thus, in spite of years of opposition and after unsuccessful struggles on the part of syndicates of many nations, the railroad age, inaugurated by the Chinese themselves, begins in China. The viceroy, aided and encouraged in no small degree by many advanced and educated men of his own nation as well as by foreigners, has commenced a work destined to be of the greatest importance and benefit in the future of this Empire.
I have, etc.,