William Huskisson

The British MP William Huskisson died as a result of a fatal accident on the opening day of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway.

The Liverpool and Manchester Railway was created in order to link Manchester, a major industrial city in the north west of England, with the nearby port of Liverpool. Intended to lower the cost of transporting imported cotton to the Manchester textile mills, the 35-mile railway was an incredibly expensive project as it was the first railway to use locomotives to haul goods and passengers.

William Huskisson was the MP for Liverpool, and fought hard to secure parliamentary representation for the new industrial towns. As former President of the Board of Trade he also had an acute awareness of the likely positive effects of the creation of the railway.

The Liverpool and Manchester railway used four equally spaced rails along the length of the route. George Stephenson, the designer and builder intended that under normal circumstances this would allow two-way traffic using a pair of rails in each direction, but also meant that the centre two rails could be used in case of a wide load or a problem with one of the outer rails.

The railway was opened on 15 September 1830 with great fanfare. Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, the Prime Minister, was riding in a special carriage when his train stopped to take on water. Having invited Huskisson over, the passengers noticed the prototype engine Rocket approaching on the adjacent track. Huskisson attempted to climb into Wellington’s carriage, but the door swung open and the approaching locomotive crashed into it. Huskisson fell on to the track and Rocket ran over his right leg and thigh. He died of his injuries later that evening.

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