Great Central Railway
The Great Central Railway in England came into being when the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway changed its name in 1897, anticipating the opening in 1899 of its London Extension. On 1 January 1923, the company was grouped into the London and North Eastern Railway.
The GCR network in 1903, showing the 'London Extension' and the proposed 'Alternative Main Line'. The red lines show GCR lines and lines owned/operated jointly by the GCR and other companies. The thin black lines are other companies' lines.
Marylebone station. The London terminus of the Great Central Railway.
|Dates of operation||1897–1922|
|Predecessor||Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway|
|Successor||London and North Eastern Railway|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge|
On assuming its new title, the Great Central Railway had a main line from Manchester London Road Station via Penistone, Sheffield Victoria, Brigg and Grimsby to Cleethorpes. A second line left the line at Penistone and served Barnsley, Doncaster and Scunthorpe, before rejoining the Grimsby line at Barnetby. Other lines linked Sheffield to Barnsley (via Chapeltown) and Doncaster (via Rotherham) and also Lincoln and Wrawby Junction. Branch lines in north Lincolnshire ran to Barton-upon-Humber and New Holland and served ironstone quarries in the Scunthorpe area. In the Manchester area, lines ran to Stalybridge and Glossop.
In the 1890s the MS&LR began constructing its Derbyshire lines,:128 the first part of its push southwards. Leaving its east-west main line at Woodhouse Junction, some 5½ miles south-east of Sheffield, the line headed towards Nottingham, a golden opportunity to tap into colliery traffic in the north of the county before reaching the city. A loop line was built to serve its station in Chesterfield.:152
Coat of arms
Argent on a cross gules voided of the field between two wings in chief sable and as many daggers erect, in base of the second, in the fesse point a morion winged of the third, on a chief also of the second a pale of the first thereon eight arrows saltirewise banded also of the third, between on the dexter side three bendlets enhanced and on the sinister a fleur de lis or. And for the Crest on a Wreath of the Colours A representation of the front of a locomotive engine between two wings Or as the same are in the margin hereof more plainly depicted to be borne and used for ever hereafter by the said Corporation of the Great Central Railway Company on seals, shields, banners or otherwise according to the Laws of Arms.
The design included elements representing Manchester (gules ... three bendlets enhanced ... or); Sheffield (eight arrows saltirewise banded); Lincoln (gules ... a fleur de lis or); Leicester (two wings); and London (Argent ... a cross gules ... daggers erect). Also represented was Mercury (a morion winged [sable]). It was used on locomotives and coaches.
The Great Central Railway (1976) Company Limited applied to the College of Arms as the successors to British Transport Commission (Loughborough to Birstall Light Railway) for permission to utilise the Coat of Arms of the GCR. A new design incorporating the same armorial components, updated in the modern style was proposed, but was rejected in favour of the original.
The "London extension"
The MS&LR obtained Parliamentary approval in 1893 for its extension to London.:32 On 1 August 1897, the railway's name was changed to Great Central Railway. Building work started in 1895: the new line, 92 miles (147 km) in length, opened for coal traffic on 25 July 1898, for passenger traffic on 15 March 1899,:132 and for goods traffic on 11 April 1899. It was designed for high-speed running throughout.
It is a commonly held myth that the nomenclature for the direction of travel on the new line was the opposite of standard UK railway practice, and that trains travelling to London were referred to as "down" trains, and those travelling away from the capital as "up" trains. It is supposed that this was a result of the GCR’s headquarters at the time being in Manchester.
However official documents dated 21 July 1898, detailing the method of working of mineral trains on the London Extension (used to help consolidate the new earthworks before passenger traffic began in March 1899) clearly show that the direction of travel on the new line was conventional - up to London, down to Annesley. Furthermore, contemporary descriptions in newspapers of the trains running on the new line are explicit that up trains ran to London and down trains away from it.
The new line was built from Annesley in Nottinghamshire to join the Metropolitan Railway (MetR) extension to Quainton Road, where the line became joint MetR/GCR owned (after 1903), and returned to GCR tracks at Canfield Place, near Finchley Road for the final section to Marylebone. In 1903, new rails were laid parallel to the Metropolitan Railway from Harrow to the junction north of Finchley Road, enabling more traffic to use Marylebone.
In 1902 the company introduced an express service from Bournemouth and Southampton to York and Newcastle-on-Tyne. A year later it began a through running express from Dover and Folkestone to Leicester, Nottingham, Sheffield, Leeds, Huddersfield, Halifax, Bradford and Manchester, avoiding London and opening up the South Coast to the Midlands and the North. The route from Banbury to Reading was over Great Western track and from there it traversed South Eastern Railway track via Aldershot and Guildford to Redhill and on to Folkestone and Dover.
At the same time the Great Central was gaining a reputation for fast services to and from London. In May 1903 the company promoted its services as Rapid Travel in Luxury, and Sheffield without a stop, adopted on 1 July 1903, became a trademark for the company, with 163.75 miles (263.53 km) run in three hours, an average of nearly 55 miles per hour (89 km/h). Slip coaches were provided for passengers for Leicester and Nottingham.
On 2 April 1906, an "alternative main line" route from Grendon Underwood Junction near Aylesbury to Neasden in north-west London opened.:33 The line was joint GCR/GWR between Ashendon Junction and Northolt Junction. It was built to increase traffic on the GCR by overcoming capacity constraints on the Metropolitan extension and as a result of disagreements between the MetR and GCR after the resignation of Sir Edward Watkin due to poor health. By the time the line was built, the companies had settled their differences.
The GCR line was the last complete mainline railway to be built in Britain until section one of High Speed 1 opened in 2003 and was also one of the shortest-lived intercity railway lines. Yet in its early years its steam-hauled Sheffield expresses were the fastest in the country.
The express services from London to destinations beyond Nottingham were withdrawn in 1960.:34 The line was closed to passenger trains between Aylesbury and Rugby on 3 September 1966.:34 A diesel multiple-unit service ran between Rugby Central and Nottingham (Arkwright Street) until withdrawal on 3 May 1969.
Since 1996 Chiltern Railways has used the Great Central lines south of Aylesbury for local services into London, including the alternative route south of Haddenham and widened lines south of Neasden for its intercity main line from Birmingham to London. In 2008, in a scheme partly funded by the Department for Transport, about three miles of line north of Aylesbury as far as Aylesbury Vale Parkway railway station was brought back into passenger use. None of these lines are electrified.
Work has already started (2019) on developing East West Rail, which will extend passenger services north of Aylesbury Vale Parkway through Quainton to meet a renewed Bicester to Bletchley section of the old 'Varsity Line' just beyond the site of the former Great Central station at Calvert. Services are expected to start in the mid 2020s.
- The Lancashire, Derbyshire and East Coast Railway (LD&ECR) opened in 1897, to link the coalfields with deep-water ports, and was intended to run from Sutton-on-Sea in Lincolnshire to Warrington in Lancashire. In the event only the section between Pyewipe Junction, near Lincoln and Chesterfield Market Place station and some branch lines were built. It was purchased by the GCR on 1 January 1907, to provide a better link between the London main line and the east coast.
- Wrexham, Mold and Connah's Quay Railway was purchased 1 January 1905.
- North Wales and Liverpool Railway was acquired at the same time.
- Wigan Junction Railway was bought on 1 January 1906, as was the Liverpool, St Helens and South Lancashire Railway
- North Lindsey Light Railway Scunthorpe to Whitton opened throughout on 1 December 1910 and was worked by the GCR. It carried passengers, although its main freight was ironstone.
Apart from the three branches in the Liverpool area, the GCR lines in the north of England were all east of Manchester but GCR trains could run from coast to coast by means of joint working with other railways. The largest of those utilized in this way were those under the Cheshire Lines Committee: the other participants were the Midland Railway and the Great Northern Railway, taking in both Liverpool and Southport. Other joint undertakings were (west to east):
- Manchester, South Junction and Altrincham Railway (GCR/LNWR)
- Oldham, Ashton and Guide Bridge Railway (GCR/LNWR)
- Macclesfield, Bollington and Marple Railway (GCR/NSR); including its Hayfield branch
- South Yorkshire Joint Railway (GCR, GNR, Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, MR and North Eastern Railway)
- Sheffield District Railway(GCR and MidR)
- West Riding and Grimsby Joint Railway (GCR/GNR) - giving access to Wakefield and thence to Leeds
- Hull and Barnsley and Great Central Joint Railway - opened 1916 for freight traffic only.
There were also joint lines in the south:
For those in position before 1899, dates are as served for the MS&LR.
Chief Mechanical Engineer
- 1902–1922 John George Robinson, for whom the post was created
- Classes B1-B9: 4-6-0 tender locomotives
- Classes C4/5: 4-4-2 tender locomotives
- Classes D9-11: 4-4-0 tender locomotives
- Class J13: 0-6-0T
- Classes L1/L3: 2-6-4T
- Classes O4/5: 2-8-0, heavy freight locos, including ROD engines
- GCR Class 8A (LNER Class Q4) 0-8-0 heavy freight locomotive
- GCR Class 8H (LNER Class S1) 0-8-4T used at Wath marshalling yard
Wath marshalling yard
The marshalling yard at Wath-upon-Dearne opened in November 1907. It was designed to cope with coal trains, full and empty; it was worked with electro-pneumatic signalling.
Accidents and incidents
- On 30 March 1889, an excursion train was derailed at Penistone, Yorkshire due to a failure of an axle on the locomotive hauling it. A mail train ran into the wreckage at low speed. One person was killed and 61 were injured.
- On 23 December 1904, an express passenger train was derailed at Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire due to excessive speed on a curve. Another express passenger train ran into the wreckage at low speed. Four people were killed.
- On 2 February 1908, the driver of a freight train sneezed, his head collided with that of his fireman, knocking both of them out. Due to excessive speed, a van in the train derailed approaching Notton and Royston station, Yorkshire and the train overran signals there. It derailed completely at Ryhill.
- On 13 December 1911, a freight train ran away and was derailed at Wombwell Central station, Yorkshire. Both locomotive crew were killed.
- About 1913, a coal train was derailed at Torside, Derbyshire. The crew of the locomotive may have been overcome by fumes in the Woodhead Tunnel.
Grimsby, dubbed the "largest fishing port in the world" in the early 20th century, owed its prosperity to the ownership by the GCR and its forebear, the MS&LR. Coal and timber were among its biggest cargoes. The port had two main docks: the Alexandra Dock (named for Queen Alexandra) and the Royal Dock which was completed in 1852, linked by the Union Dock. The total area of docks was 104.25 acres (42 ha).
Completed in 1912, this dock covered 71 acres (29 ha) and was mainly concerned with the movement of coal. And on 22 July 2012 the docks held an open day to celebrate 100 years of the port.
The Great Central Railway operated a number of ships.
|Notes and references|
|SS Accrington||1910||1,629||Built in 1910 by Earle's Shipbuilding in Hull. Sold to Clayton and Davie Limited.|
|SS Ashton||1884||1,007||Built in 1884 by E. Withy and Company, Hartlepool for the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway. Sold to Cadeby Steam Ship Company in 1916.|
|SS Barton||1891||123||A tug built in 1891 by Hepple and Company for the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway. Based at Grimsby Docks. Scrapped in 1936.|
|SS Blackburn||1910||1,634||Built in 1910 by Earle's Shipbuilding in Hull. Sank in a collision with Rook off the Norfolk coast in December 1910.|
|PS Brocklesby||1912||508||Built by Earle's Shipbuilding in Hull for the New Holland to Hull ferry service. Sold in 1935 to the Redcliffe Shipping Company and renamed Highland Queen. Scrapped in 1936.|
|SS Bury||1911||1,634||Built in 1910 by Earle's Shipbuilding in Hull. Scrapped in 1958.|
|SS Chester||1884||1,010||Built in 1884 by E. Withy and Company, Hartlepool for the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway. Sunk in the River Elbe in September 1910.|
|SS Chesterfield||1913||1,013||Built in 1913 by Swan Hunter. Lost in 1918.|
|PS Cleethorpes||1903||302||Built by Gourlay Brothers of Dundee for the New Holland to Hull ferry service. Sold around 1934 to the Redcliffe Shipping Company and renamed Cruising Queen. Scrapped shortly afterwards.|
|SS City of Bradford||1903||1,341||With City of Leeds, these were the first new ships ordered by the Great Central Railway. Built by Earle's Shipbuilding in Hull. Passed to the LNER in 1923 and Associated Humber Lines in 1935. but found to be surplus to requirements. Sold in 1936 to the Near East Shipping Co, London and renamed Hanne. The vessel was bombed and sunk off Malta in February 1942.|
|SS City of Leeds||1903||1,341||With City of Bradford, these were the first new ships ordered by the Great Central Railway. Built by Earle's Shipbuilding in Hull. Passed to the LNER in 1923 and Associated Humber Lines in 1935. Scrapped in 1937|
|SS Dewsbury||1910||1,631||Built in 1910 by Earle's Shipbuilding in Hull. Scrapped in 1959.|
|PS Grimsby||1888||351||Built in 1888 by Earle's Shipbuilding in Hull for the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway. Commissioned for the New Holland to Hull ferry service. Scrapped in 1923.|
|SS Huddersfield||1872||221||Built in 1872 by J Elder of Fairfield. Wrecked in 1903.|
|SS Immingham||1906||2,009||Built in 1906 by Swan Hunter in Newcastle. Sunk on war service in 1916.|
|PS Killingholme||1912||508||Built by Earle's Shipbuilding in Hull for the New Holland to Hull ferry service. Withdrawn in 1934.|
|SS Leicester||1891||1,002||Built by Earle's Shipbuilding in Hull. A war loss in 1916.|
|SS Lincoln||1883||1,075||Built in 1883 by Earle's Shipbuilding in Hull for the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway. Sold in 1914 to Greek owners and renamed Elikon. Sunk on 2 February 1917.|
|SS Lutterworth||1891||1,002||Built by Earle's Shipbuilding of Hull for the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway. Entered service from Grimsby to Hamburg. Acquired by LNER in 1923. Served until 1932 when she sold to British and Irish Steam Packet Company and was scrapped the following year.|
|SS Macclesfield||1914||1,018||Built in 1914 by Swan Hunter. Transferred into Associated Humber Lines. Scrapped in 1958.|
|PS Manchester||1876||221||Built in 1876 by the Goole Engineering and Shipbuilding Company for the Humber Ferry Service. Scrapped in 1914.|
|SS Marple||1888||104||Built in 1888 by Earle's Shipbuilding in Hull for the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway. Used as a tug and tender in Grimsby and Immingham. Transferred to the LNER in 1923. Sold to the Tees Towing Company in 1947.|
|SS Marylebone||1906||2,074||Built in 1906 by Cammell Laird, Birkenhead. Sold in 1932 to the Tramp Shipping Development Company. Renamed Velos, Arafat, and Velos. Scrapped in Italy in 1938.|
|SS Northenden||1886||843||Built in 1886 by Swan Hunter in Newcastle for the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway. Sold to Progress Company of West Hartlepool in 1909.|
|SS Nottingham||1891||1,033||Built by Swan Hunter for the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway. Entered service when delivered with her sisters Lutterworth and Staveley on the Grimsby - Hamburg route, but transferred to Grimsby - Rotterdam in 1897. The vessel served as a naval supply vessel between 1915 and 1918 and changed her name to HMS Notts. Following refurbishment in 1919 she re-entered commercial service returning to her original name of Nottingham. Acquired by LNER in 1923 and served until scrapped in 1935.|
|SS Oldham||1888||846||Launched in 1888 and delivered in 1889 by Earle's Shipbuilding of Hull for the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway. Used for the Grimsby to Esbjerg service. Sold to Greek owners in 1913 and renamed Eleftheria.|
|SS Retford||1883||951||Built in 1883 by Earle's Shipbuilding in Hull for the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway. Sold in 1910.|
|SS Sheffield||1877||644||Built in 1877 by J. Elder for the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway. Sold in 1910 to Turkish owners and renamed Seyyar.|
|SS Staveley||1891||1,034||Built by Swan Hunter at Newcastle upon Tyne for the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway. Entered service with her sisters Nottingham and Lutterworth on the Grimsby - Hamburg route. Acquired by LNER in 1923 and continued in service until sold to the British and Irish Steam Packet Company in 1932. She was scrapped a year later by Thos.W.Ward at Preston.|
|SS Stockport||1911||1,637||Built in 1910 by Earle's Shipbuilding in Hull. Sunk in February 1943.|
|SS Warrington||1886||840||Built in 1886 by Swan Hunter in Newcastle for the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway. Ran aground on South Hasborough Sands in December 1903 and lost.|
|SS Wrexham||1902||1,414||Built in 1902 as Nord II, she was acquired by the Great Central Railway in 1905. Sunk on war service in 1919.|
Immingham museum, which portrays the role of the Great Central Railway in the building of the docks and construction of the local rail network is home to the Great Central Railway Society archive. The museum is located in the Civic Centre, Pelham Road, Immingham and is open from 1pm to 4pm, Wednesday to Saturday from March through to November.
- Simpson, Bill (2007). The Great Central Railway: London Extension Between Marylebone and Rugby. Lamplight Publications. ISBN 9781899246175.
- Leleux, Robin (1976). A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain. Volume 9 The East Midlands. David & Charles. Newton Abbot. ISBN 0715371657.
- Dow, George (1962). Great Central, Volume Two: Dominion of Watkin, 1864–1899. Shepperton: Ian Allan. pp. 297–8, frontispiece. ISBN 0-7110-1469-8.
- "Railway Enterprise. Important move by the Great Central Railway". Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald. British Newspaper Archive. 7 November 1903. Retrieved 23 July 2016 – via British Newspaper Archive.
- "Great Central Railway Rapid Travel in Luxury". Surrey Mirror. British Newspaper Archive. 22 May 1903. Retrieved 23 July 2016 – via British Newspaper Archive.
- "Great Central Railway Summer Express Train Service. Vestibuled Breakfast Car Train Sheffield to London without a Stop. Commencing 1 July 1903". Sheffield Daily Telegraph. British Newspaper Archive. 25 June 1903. Retrieved 23 July 2016 – via British Newspaper Archive.
- Railways Act 1921, HMSO, 19 August 1921
- Ellis, Cuthbert Hamilton (1947). The Trains We Loved. Allen.
- Kingscott, Geoffrey (2007). Lost Railways of Derbyshire. Newbury: Countryside Books. p. 132. ISBN 978-1-84674-042-8.
- Sweeney, Dennis J (2014). The St. Helens and Wigan Junction Railway. Leigh: Triangle Publishing. ISBN 0-85361-292-7.
- Dow, George (1965). Great Central. Vol III: Fay Sets the Pace, 1900–1922. London: Ian Allan. ISBN 0-7110-0263-0.
- Reed, Albin J. (1997). The Met & GC Line An Observer's Notes, 1948–1968. Avon Books.
- "No. 28632". The London Gazette. 2 August 1912. p. 5722.
- Marshall, John (1978). A Biographical Dictionary of Railway Engineers. Newton Abbot: David & Charles. ISBN 0-7153-7489-3.
- "The directors of the Great Central Railway have decided to combine the offices of locomotive and carriage and waggon superintendent, and have, from the 1st inst., placed both departments under the control of Mr. John G. Robinson, who has hitherto held the position of locomotive engineer to the company". Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser. British Newspaper Archive. 5 May 1902. Retrieved 23 July 2016 – via British Newspaper Archive.
- Baxter, Bertram (1988). Baxter, David (ed.). British Locomotive Catalogue 1825–1923, volume 5B: Great Northern Railway and Great Central Railway. Ashbourne, Derbyshire: Moorland Publishing. ISBN 0-903485-86-9.
- "Wath concentration yard & the "Wath Daisies"". GCR Rolling Stock Trust. Archived from the original on 25 October 2007. Retrieved 21 March 2008.
- Earnshaw, Alan (1991). Trains in Trouble: Vol. 7. Penryn: Atlantic Books. p. 7. ISBN 0-906899-50-8.
- Trevena, Arthur (1981). Trains in Trouble: Vol. 2. Redruth: Atlantic Books. p. 22. ISBN 0-906899-03-6.
- Earnshaw, Alan (1993). Trains in Trouble: Vol. 8. Penryn: Atlantic Books. pp. 5–6. ISBN 0-906899-52-4.
- Trevena, Arthur (1980). Trains in Trouble. Vol. 1. Redruth: Atlantic Books. p. 25. ISBN 0-906899-01-X.
- Duckworth, Christian Leslie Dyce; Langmuir, Graham Easton (1968). Railway and other Steamers. Prescot, Lancashire: T. Stephenson and Sons.
- Haws, Duncan (1993). Merchant Fleets - Britain's Railway Steamers - Eastern & North Western Companies + Zeeland and Stena. Hereford: TCL Publications. ISBN 0-946378-22-3.
- Haws, Duncan (1993). Britain's Railway Steamers – Eastern and North Western Companies + Zeeland and Stena. Merchant Fleets. 25. Hereford: TCL Publications. ISBN 0-946378-22-3.
- "Immingham Museum". www.vintagecoach.com. Retrieved 8 February 2019.
- "Immingham Museum". www.gcrsociety.co.uk. Retrieved 8 February 2019.
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