THE speaker at Warrington Literature and Philosophical Society’s latest meeting was Geoff Scargill talking about ‘The Last Laugh of the Railway King’.

Edward Watkin was born in Salford. As a 10-year-old boy he was taken on September 15, 1830 to see the first timetabled train from Liverpool to Manchester, which started a lifelong love of railways.

By 1881 he was a director of nine railway companies.

A major triumph of his career was his help in getting the Canadian Pacific Railway built.

The longest railway in the world at 2,400 miles was created and Canada became an independent country.

His success in Canada gave him the confidence to start to build a tunnel under the Channel.

Digging was started in 1880 and carried on for three years. The killer blow that eventually stopped it was concerns that the French would use the tunnel to invade England. The Government ordered him to stop and in 1884 it was boarded up.

In 1889 he met Gustav Eiffel and following this designed a 1,200ft tower to sit in a pleasure garden in Wembley.

The tower was never built and became known as Watkin’s Folly.

The station is still important today and the site of the tower is now the location of the new Wembley Stadium.

He is unjustly remembered now as a failure, but many of the railways in Britain and Canada were built as a result of his work.

Although Parliament stopped his building of the Channel Tunnel, it has now been built.

He also had a last laugh in relation to The Icebergs painting by the American Frederic Church, which hung in his house for many years. Church was little known initially, but when he became famous no-one could locate his picture.

It had hung for many years in Rose Hill, which by then was a Manchester City Council remand home. It was eventually sold for a good price and is in a gallery in Dallas.

The vote of thanks was given by Gordon Spiller.