Great Central Railway
|This article does not cite any references or sources. (January 2007)|
- For the related main line see Great Central Main Line; for the heritage railway see Great Central Railway (preserved); for other uses see Great Central (disambiguation)
|Predecessor(s)||Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway|
|Successor(s)||London and North Eastern Railway|
|Key people||Sir William Pollitt
The Great Central Railway (GCR) was a railway company in England which came into being when the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway changed its name in 1897 in anticipation of the opening in 1899 of its London Extension (see Great Central Main Line). On 1 January 1923, it was grouped into the London and North Eastern Railway. Today, small sections of the main line in Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire are preserved; see Great Central Railway (preserved). Several other sections of GCR lines are still in public operation.
The new GCR 
Upon assuming its new title, the GCR main line ran from Manchester London Road Station via Penistone, Sheffield Victoria, Brigg and Grimsby to Cleethorpes. A second line left the aforementioned 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 construction of its "Derbyshire Lines", in effect the first part of its push southwards. Leaving its east-west main line at Woodhouse Junction, some 5½ miles southeast of Sheffield, the line headed towards Nottingham, a golden opportunity to tap into the collieries in the north of the county before reaching that city. A loop line was built to serve its new station in Chesterfield.
The "London Extension" 
The MS&LR had obtained Parliamentary approval in 1893 for its extension to London. On 1 August 1897, the original name of the railway was changed to Great Central Railway. Building work started in 1895: the new line, some 92 miles (147 km) in length, opened for coal traffic on 25 July 1898; for passenger traffic on 15 March 1899, and for goods traffic on 11 April 1899. It was designed for high-speed running throughout. As a Sheffield company, it retained its nomenclature when the London extension opened. Trains to London were still "Down" trains, the opposite of standard practice on every other main line to the capital.
The new line had been built from Annesley in Nottinghamshire to join the existing Metropolitan Railway (MetR) Extension at Quainton Road, where the line became joint MetR/GCR owned (after 1903), to return to GCR tracks at near Finchley Road for the final section to Marylebone. In 1903, the new rails were laid down parallel to the Metropolitan Railway from Harrow to the junction north of Finchley Road, enabling more traffic to use Marylebone. On 2 April 1906, an "Alternative Route" or "alternative main line", running from Grendon Underwood Junction to Neasden was opened. The line was joint GCR/GWR between Ashendon Junction and Northolt Junction. The line was built to increase traffic on the GCR by overcoming capacity constraints on the Metropolitan Extension. It was also built due to various disagreements between the MetR and GCR after the resignation of Sir Edward Watkin from both companies. He resigned due to poor health. Ironically, by the time the new line was built, the two companies had settled their differences.
It was the last complete mainline railway to be built in Britain until section one of High Speed 1 opened in 2003. It was also one of the shortest-lived intercity railway lines. Expresses from London to destinations beyond Nottingham were withdrawn in 1960, and the line was completely closed to passenger trains between Aylesbury and Rugby on 3 September 1966, leaving locations such as Brackley and Woodford Halse without a railway service. A diesel multiple unit service ran between Rugby Central and Nottingham (Arkwright Street) until it was also withdrawn on 5 May 1969.
Since 1996 Chiltern Railways has used the lines south of Aylesbury for local services into London, and has used the Alternative Route south of Haddenham and the widened lines south of Neasden as the southern part of its intercity main line from Birmingham to London. In 2008, as part of a scheme partly funded by the Department for Transport, about three miles of the line north of Aylesbury as far as the new Aylesbury Vale Parkway station were brought back into passenger use.
Other new lines 
- The Lancashire, Derbyshire and East Coast Railway (LD&ECR): This railway was opened in 1897, principally to link the coalfields with deepwater 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, with some branch lines, was ever built. It was purchased by the GCR on 1 January 1907, providing a better link between the London main line and the east coast.
- Wrexham, Mold and Connah's Quay Railway purchased 1 January 1905
- North Wales and Liverpool Railway: same date
- Wigan Junction Railway: 1 January 1906
- Liverpool, St Helens and South Lancashire Railway: same date
- North Lindsey Light Railway Scunthorpe to Whitton: opened throughout 1 December 1910; worked by GCR, carried passengers, although its main freight was ironstone
Joint working 
Apart from the three branches in the Liverpool area noted above, the GCR lines proper in the north of England were all east of Manchester. Nevertheless, 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.
Key officers 
For those in position prior to 1899, dates are as served for the MS&LR.
General Managers 
- 1886-1902 Sir William Pollitt (knighted 1899, later Lord Stuart of Wortley)
- 1902-1922 Sir Samuel Fay (knighted 1912)
Locomotive Engineer 
- 1894-1900 Harry Pollitt
Chief Mechanical Engineer 
- 1900-1922 John George Robinson, for whom the post was created
GCR locomotives 
These could generally be divided into those intended for passenger work, especially those used on the London Extension and those for the heavy freight work.
Pollitt's locomotives 
Taken over from the MS&LR, mainly of class F2, 2-4-2 tank locomotives, and also classes D5 and D6 4-4-0 locomotives.
Robinson locomotives 
During Robinson's regime, many of the larger express passenger engines came into being:
- 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
- Class Q4: 0-8-0 heavy freight locomotive
- GCR Class 8H (LNER Class S1) 0-8-4T used at Wath marshalling yard
Major stations 
- Manchester London Road
- Nottingham Victoria
- Sheffield Victoria
- Leicester Central
- Rugby Central
Wath marshalling yard 
The new marshalling yard at Wath-upon-Dearne was opened in November 1907. It was designed to cope with coal trains, full and empty; it was worked with electro-pneumatic signalling.
Grimsby docks 
Grimsby was dubbed the "largest fishing port in the world" in the early 20th century; it owed its prosperity to the ownership by the GCR and its forebear, the MS&LR. Coal and timber were also among its biggest cargoes. There were two main docks: the Alexandra Dock (named for Queen Alexandra) and the Royal Dock, the latter completed in 1852. The total area of docks was 104.25 acres (42 ha). These docks were linked by the Union Dock.
Immingham Dock 
This dock—completed in 1912—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 100years of the port.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Great Central Railway|
- Lists of LNER locomotives, including those of the GCR taken over at grouping
- Homepage of Central Railway (proposal (2003) to reinstate the line primarily for freight)[dead link]
- Homepage of the Great Central Railway Society
- Homepage of the Great Central Railway (Leicestershire)
- Homepage of the Great Central Railway (Nottingham)