Railways and the transformation of the Scottish economy
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This thesis is primarily concerned with assessing, by the use of quantitative method and economic analysis, the role that the indigenous railways played, as consumers of industrial products and as suppliers of transport, in the rise of the Scottish heavy industries during the nineteenth century. Secondary themes include the source and productivity of railway capital; the railways as employers; the influence they had on Scottish agriculture; and their effect on other forms of transport. An examination of the backward linkages between the Scottish railways and the native engineering, iron and steel, and coal industries suggests that railway demand had little immediate impact upon these industries. In the third quarter of the century, however, a locomotive building industry was established on the basis of Scottish railway demand; direct demand for coal was never important but, when indirect demand via the iron and steel industries is taken into account, the significance of coal consumption attributable to the railways increases, especially around 1870; railway demand for Scottish iron and steel increased in importance with the coming of the steel age but still remained of minor significance, though the construction of the Forth Bridge in the last two decades of the century may have had important qualitative influences on both the steel and engineering industries. More immediate was the influence of the railways as transportation agencies, partly in reducing the amount of relatively expensive road transport required for most journeys, but also, and perhaps initially more important, in forcing existing forms of transport to charge much nearer to marginal costs than they had previously done. It can also be suggested that foreign aid in the form of men, money and materials was essential to the creation of the Scottish railway system, at least prior to 1850, if not even later. Domestic capital was relatively scarce because of competing demands during the long expansionary wave throughout the economy, following the application of the hot blast to the iron industry. The ensuing desire to attract external capital was one reason for the employment of well-known English civil engineers. Another was their previous experience; a factor that also partially explains the purchase of rolling stock, especially locomotives, and rails from south of the border. Technical problems too played a part in determining the utilisation of non-Scottish rails and, for a while, coal. Finally, Irish navvies and English craftsmen were active in constructing Scottish lines though the operating staff tended to be more locally recruited.