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Duffy, Charles Gavan, Sir, 1816-1903 / Threats Of Coercion (November 29, 1845)




The commission appointed last session to receive evidence on the relative merits of the broad and narrow gauges has sat several times. At the sitting of the commission on Wednesday last, Sir Willoughby Gordon, Quarter-master General of her Majesty’s Forces, was examined relative to the facilities afforded by railways for the transport of troops. The following is a condensed report of the general’s evidence:—

For the last three years and half, ending the 30th of June, there were conveyed by railway 212,000 persons, of whom 9,600 were women and 11,000 children, without a single accident being reported—a security previously unknown by any other mode of conveyance of troops.

By the Chairman—In the case of war, could the railways be made available for the defence of his country ?

Witness—Certainly. The effect of the rapidity of the railways was such that they could do as much with a small army as could have formerly been done with a large one; the break of a gauge would diminish these advantages; the practical inconvenience would be similar to that of a ferry; great inconvenience would result from want of cover ; I know the stations at Paddington and at Slough, and am enabled to speak of them; the break of a gauge at Slough would cause great inconvenience from the delay that it would occasion; it would be very inconvenient to unpack the baggage and ammunition after they had been once stowed away; the effect to cavalry would be the same; it has been suggested that in case of an insurrection there would be a danger that the railways might be broken up; I do not think that could be easily done; if such a thing was expected patrols might be easily stationed on the line; the military would take care to provide against anything of that kind.

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