Joseph Sandars was a successful corn merchant from Liverpool. Sandars was a Whig who was involved in most of the progressive causes at the time, including parliamentary reform and the campaign to end slavery. Sandars was also a strong critic of the local canal and river monopolies.
When William James began to plan the building of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway in 1821 he approached Sandars who agreed to back the project. With the support of James Cropper and other local Quakers, Sandars formed the Liverpool & Manchester Railway Company and commissioned James to survey the line.
When James was declared bankrupt and was imprisoned for debt in 1823 Sandars asked George Stephenson to produce a new survey to decide the best route between Liverpool and Manchester. After the House of Commons rejected Stephenson's proposed route, Sanders recruited a company run by George Rennie to carry out a new survey and were invited by the company to build it. However, they refused to work with George Stephenson, who they did not consider was a real engineer, and they lost the contract.
The Liverpool & Manchester Railway was a great success and in 1838 Joseph Sandars went into partnership with George Hudson and George Stephenson and together they opened coalmines, ironworks and limestone quarries in the Chesterfield area.
At Manchester the subject of the railway encourages all men's thoughts. The canal companies are alive to the danger. I am the object of their persecution and hate; they would immolate me if they could.
I think it right to inform you that the Committee have engaged your friend Mr. G. Stephenson. We expect him in a few days. The subscription list for £30,000 is filled. If you send me down your plans and estimates I will do everything for you I can.
The rage for railroads is so great that many will be laid in parts where they will not pay.
Mr. Sandars, a Liverpool merchant, was amongst the first to broach the subject. He had suffered in his business, in common with many others, from the insufficiency of the existing modes of communication. Having caused inquiry to be made as to the success which had attended the haulage of heavy coal-trains by locomotive power on the northern railways, he was led to the opinion that the same means might be equally efficient in conducting the increasing traffic in merchandise between Liverpool and Manchester.