Thomas Gray (1788–1848)
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Thomas Gray spent most of his adult life promoting the idea of a passenger railway system for the UK and Europe. He wrote "Observations on a General Iron Railway" which was first published in 1820, followed by further, and expanded, editions up to 1825. Copies of the book are in the British Library and many more in UK and US libraries in differing editions. There is at least one US library that still (2005) offered it on loan to the general public.
It is very likely, as indicated by the sequence of events after his first edition, that Gray's first published proposals directly and significantly influenced the writings and actions of William James and the Stephensons, among many others, when they began to design and build the earliest passenger railway system in Britain. Much as today, commercial interests over-rode "the good of the community", that underpinned Gray's advocacy of a General (National) Passenger Railway, to be funded jointly by Government and Capital(ists).
Thomas Gray, to this day, has been given little credit for the enormous contribution made by his work to the initiation and growth of passenger railway systems, throughout the world.
The Belgians, second only to Britain in terms of their industrial expansion in the 19th century, saw the sense of Gray's proposals and built an integrated transport system from scratch on the basis of his publication. They, at least, recognised his contribution, eventually, naming the Rue Gray in Brussels after him. It passes under a railway bridge.
This information has been collated and verified from primary sources by K L Newman B.A.(Hons) during her research for this forgotten hero's biography which is due to be published in 2011. Much of the initial research took place in the Exeter, Devon and Leeds, Yorkshire, UK Archives. For copyright and commercial reasons, full references will not be cited here until after publication.
- Observations on a General Iron Railway, 5th ed. (London, 1825).
- "Land Steam-Conveyance. OBSERVATIONS ON A GENERAL IRON-RAIL WAY;" originally published in Mechanic's Mag. No. 7, Oct. 11, 1823, and reprinted on pp. 142-5 of The European magazine, and London review, Volume 86, by Philological Society (Great Britain) (London 1824).
- "Not Quite a Man for a Straight-Jacket", in Vol. XVI (July 28) of Dicken's All THE YEAR ROUND., pp. 62-5, (London 1866).