In this report the history of the ordinary gauge is given, with the origin of the standard of 4 feet 8½ inches; the questions of strength, stability, and capacity of cars, of the dimensions, proportions, and power of engines, the speed of trains, resistances to motion, weight and strength of rails, the cost of the roadway, and the removal of snow are carefully considered. The various claims of the advocates for a wider gauge are fairly and critically examined, and while the errors of his opponents are laid bare in the most unsparing manner, the whole is done in a spirit so entirely unprejudiced, and with so evident a desire for the simple truth, as to carry conviction to any fair minded person. The dry way, too, in which he suggests that conclusions based upon actual results from existing railways are of more value than deductions from supposed conditions upon imaginary roads, is exceedingly entertaining. The result was the adoption of the gauge recommended by him, namely, five feet.
Those who remember the "Battle of the Gauges," and who know how much expense and trouble the wide gauge has since caused, will appreciate the stand taken thus early by Major Whistler; and this was but one among many cases which might be mentioned to show how comprehensive and far-reaching was his mind.
The roadbed of the St. Petersburg and Moscow Railway was made 30 feet wide on top, for a double track of 5 foot gauge, with a gravel ballasting two feet deep. The bridges were of wood, of the Howe pattern, no spans being over 200 feet in length. The stations at each end, and the station and engine houses along the line, were on a plan uniform throughout, and of the most ample accommodation. Fuel and water stations were placed at suitable points, and engine houses were provided 50 miles apart, built of the most substantial masonry, circular in form, 180 feet in diameter, surmounted by a dome, and having stalls for 22 engines each. Repair shops were attached to every engine house, furnished with every tool or implement that the wants of the road could suggest.
The equipment of rolling stock and fixed machinery for the shops was furnished by the American firm of Winans, Harrison & Eastwick, who from previous acquaintance were known by Major Whistler to be skillful, energetic, and reliable. Much diplomacy was needed to procure the large money advances for this part of the work, the whole Winans contract amounting to nearly five millions of dollars; but the assurance of Major Whistler was a sufficient guarantee against disappointment or failure.
In 1843 the plans for the work were all complete, and in 1844 the various operations along the line were well under way, and proceeding according to the well arranged programme. In 1845 the work had progressed so far that the construction of the rolling stock was commenced. The locomotives were of two classes, freight and passenger. The engines of each class were made throughout from the same patterns, so that any part of one engine would fit the same position on any other. The passenger engines had two pairs of driving wheels, coupled, 6 feet in diameter, and a four wheeled truck similar to the modern American locomotive. The general dimensions were: Waist of boiler, 47 inches, 186 two inch tubes 10½ feet long; cylinders, 16 × 22 inches. The freight engines had the same capacity of boiler and the same number and length of tubes, three pairs of driving wheels, coupled, 4½ feet in diameter, a truck and cylinders 18 × 22 inches, and all uniform throughout in workmanship and finish. The passenger cars were 56 feet long and 9½ feet wide, the first class carrying 33 passengers, the second class 54, and the third class 80. They all had eight truck wheels under each, and elliptic steel springs.
The freight cars were all 30 feet long and 9½ feet wide, made in a uniform manner, with eight truck wheels under each. The imperial saloon carriages were 80 feet long and 9½ feet wide, having double trucks, or sixteen wheels under each. They were divided into five compartments and fitted with every convenience.
Early in 1847 the Emperor Nicholas visited the mechanical works at Alexandroffsky, where the rolling stock was being made by the Messrs. Winans, in the shops prepared by them and supplied by Russian labor. Everything here was on the grandest scale, and the work was conducted under the most perfect system. Upon this occasion the Emperor was so much gratified at what had already been accomplished that he conferred upon Major Whistler the decoration of the Order of St. Anne. He had previously been pressed to wear the Russian uniform, which he promptly declined to do; but there was no escape from the decoration without giving offense. He is said, however, to have generally contrived to hide it beneath his coat in such a manner that few ever saw it.
Technically, Major Whistler was consulting engineer, Colonel Melnikoff being constructing engineer for the northern half of the road, and Colonel Krofft for the southern half; but as a matter of fact, by far the larger part of planning the construction in detail of both railway and equipment fell upon Major Whistler. There was also a permanent commission having general charge of the construction of the road, of which the president was General Destrem, one of the four French engineers whom Napoleon, at the request of the Emperor Alexander, sent to Russia for the service of that country.
The year 1848 was a very trying one to Major Whistler. He had already on several occasions overtasked his strength, and had been obliged to rest. This year the Asiatic cholera made its appearance. He sent his family abroad, but remained himself alone in his house. He would on no account at this time leave his post, nor omit his periodical inspections along the line of the road, where the epidemic was raging. In November he had an attack of cholera, and while he recovered from it, he was left very weak. Still, he remained upon the work through the winter, though suffering much from a complication of diseases. As spring advanced he became much worse, and upon the 7th of April, 1849, he passed quietly away, the immediate cause of his death being a trouble with the heart.