The Edge of the Precipice
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The Edge of the Precipice book
The celebrated contest at Rainhill in October 1829 offered a prize of £500 for the best performance of steam locomotion on the new railway. The trials triumphantly vindicated Stephenson and provided the first incontrovertible evidence of the efficiency of locomotive power on rails. It was a remarkable exercise in public relations, dramatically revealing the strength of the challenge of the railways to the canals. As late as 1827 'the horse and the canal seemed safe enough.' 1 The events of late 1829 destroyed all remaining illusions of security for the canals. It seemed that they could either come to terms with the growing rival or passively accept a fate of inexorable decline. The ecstatic optimism of the railway promoters expanded into the public belief that railways must inevitably serve and unite the nation.