||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (March 2010)|
|Dates of operation||1846–1922|
|Successor||London, Midland and Scottish Railway|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) (standard gauge)|
The MR had a large network of lines centred on the East Midlands, with its headquarters in Derby. Initially connecting Leeds with London (St Pancras) via the East Midlands by what is now the Midland Main Line, it went on to connect the East Midlands with Birmingham and Bristol, and with York and Manchester. It was the only pre-grouping railway to own or share lines in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, becoming the third-largest railway undertaking in the British Isles (after the Great Western and the London & North Western), the largest coal haulier, the largest British railway to have its headquarters outside London, and (after the Great Central railway moved its HQ to London in 1907) the only railway serving London not to have its headquarters there and the only Midlands-based railway directly serving Southern England and South Wales.
- 1 Origin
- 2 Consolidation
- 3 The South-West
- 4 Eastern competition
- 5 Hudson's defection
- 6 The Battle of Nottingham
- 7 The Euston Square Confederacy
- 8 To London
- 9 To Manchester
- 10 Competition for coal
- 11 To Scotland
- 12 Later history
- 13 Ships
- 14 Grouping
- 15 Innovation
- 16 See also
- 17 References
- 18 Sources
- 19 Further reading
- 20 External links
The Midland Railway Consolidation Act was passed in 1844 authorising the merger of the Midland Counties Railway, the North Midland Railway, and the Birmingham and Derby Junction Railway. These met at the Tri-Junct station at Derby, where the MR established its locomotive and later its carriage and wagon works.
Leading it were the dynamic but unscrupulous George Hudson from the North Midland, and John Ellis from the Midland Counties, a careful businessman of impeccable integrity. From the Birmingham line James Allport found a place elsewhere in Hudson's empire with the York, Newcastle and Berwick Railway, though he later returned.
The MR was in a commanding position having its Derby headquarters at the junctions of the two main routes from London to Scotland, by its connections to the London and Birmingham Railway in the south, and from York via the York and North Midland Railway in the north.
Almost immediately it took over the Sheffield and Rotherham Railway and the Erewash Valley Line in 1845, the latter giving access to the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire coalfields. It absorbed the Mansfield and Pinxton Railway in 1847, building the Erewash Valley Line from the latter between Chesterfield and Trent Junction at Long Eaton, completed to Chesterfield in 1862, giving access to the coalfields that became its major source of income. Passengers from Sheffield continued to use Rotherham Masborough until a direct route was completed in 1870.
After the merger, London trains were carried on the shorter Midland Counties route. The former Birmingham and Derby Junction Railway was left with the traffic to Birmingham and Bristol, an important seaport. The original 1839 line from Derby had run to Hampton-in-Arden: the Birmingham and Derby Junction Railway had built a terminus at Lawley Street in 1842, and in 1851 the MR started to run into Curzon Street.
The line south was the Birmingham and Bristol Railway, which reached Curzon Street via Camp Hill. These two lines had been formed by the merger of the standard gauge Birmingham and Gloucester Railway and the broad gauge Bristol and Gloucester Railway.
They met at Gloucester via a short loop of the Cheltenham and Great Western Union Railway. The change of gauge at Gloucester meant that everything had to be transferred between trains, creating chaos, and the C&GWU was owned by the Great Western Railway, which wished to extend its network by taking over the Bristol to Birmingham route. While the two parties were bickering over the price, the MR's John Ellis overheard two directors of the Birmingham and Bristol Railway on a London train discussing the business, and pledged that the MR would match anything the Great Western would offer.
Since it would have brought broad gauge into Curzon Street with the possibility of extending it to the Mersey, it was something that the other standard gauge lines wished to avoid, and they pledged to assist the MR with any losses it might incur. In the event all that was necessary was for the later LNWR to share Birmingham New Street with the Midland when it was opened in 1854, and Lawley Street became a goods depot.
The MR controlled all the traffic to the North East and Scotland from London. The LNWR was progressing slowly through the Lake District, and there was pressure for a direct line from London to York. Permission had been gained for the Northern and Eastern Railway to run through Peterborough and Lincoln but it had barely reached Cambridge.
Two obvious extensions of the Midland Counties line were from Nottingham to Lincoln and from Leicester to Peterborough. They had not been proceeded with, but Hudson saw that that they would make ideal "stoppers": if the cities concerned were provided with a rail service, it would make it more difficult to justify another line. They were approved while the bill for the direct line was still before Parliament, forming the present day Lincoln Branch and the Syston to Peterborough Line.
The Leeds and Bradford Railway had been approved in 1844. By 1850 it was losing money but a number of railways offered to buy it. Hudson made an offer more or less on his own account and the line gave the MR an exit to the north, which became the start of the Settle and Carlisle line, and it gave the MR a much more convenient station at Leeds Wellington.
In spite of the objections of Hudson, for the MR and others, the "London and York Railway" (later the Great Northern Railway) led by Edmund Denison persisted, and the bill passed through Parliament in 1846.
Hudson changed his allegiance and promoted a short line to connect his York and North Midland Railway to Knottingley, ostensibly as a quarry line, that would give the Great Northern an easy entry into York.
His defection incensed the MR's directors. Their rejection of him attracted the attention of others and questions began to be asked about other aspects of his financial affairs. Until the beginning of the century there had simply been no companies with the size and capitalisation of the railways. Company law was still in its infancy, something which many took advantage of. There is no doubt that Hudson had greatly encouraged railway development, but his financial practices had often been dubious. In the end he was discredited and retired to Paris in poverty.
After Hudson's departure, the MR was in financial difficulties. Opposition to the Great Northern bill had cost a fortune, a great deal of maintenance was overdue, and the Lincoln and Peterborough lines were still to be paid for. Added to this, the Great Northern was taking much of the traffic from the North East, particularly as the MR was dependent on the LNWR from Rugby into London.
Thanks to the control that had been exercised by Ellis, there was no impropriety in the company's accounts, and it was due to his business acumen that the MR survived and prospered.
Rather than compete for passengers he set out to concentrate on the coal trade, for in this he had an advantage over both the GNR and the M&SLR. While a number of lines had access to the Yorkshire fields and resisted encroachment by others, the MR had virtually sole access to the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire mines, which were 30 miles or more nearer London.
The Battle of Nottingham
In 1851 the Ambergate, Nottingham, Boston and Eastern Junction Railway completed its line from Grantham as far as Colwick, from where a branch led to the MR Nottingham station. The Great Northern Railway by then passed through Grantham and both railway companies paid court to the fledgling line. Meanwhile Nottingham had woken up to its branch line status and was keen to expand. The MR made a takeover offer only to discover that a shareholder of the GN had already gathered a quantity of Ambergate shares. An attempt to amalgamate the line with the GN was foiled by Ellis, who managed to obtain an Order in Chancery preventing the GN from running into Nottingham. However in 1851 it opened a new service to the north that included Nottingham.
In 1852 an ANB&EJR train arrived in Nottingham with a GN locomotive at its head. When it uncoupled and went to run round the train it found its way blocked by a MR engine, while another blocked its retreat. The engine was shepherded to a nearby shed and the tracks were lifted. This episode became known as the "Battle of Nottingham" and, with the action moved to the courtroom, it was seven months before the loco was released.
The Euston Square Confederacy
The London and Birmingham Railway and its successor the London and North Western Railway had been under pressure from two directions. Firstly the Great Western Railway had been foiled in its attempt to enter Birmingham by the Midland, but it still had designs on Manchester. At the same time the LNWR was under threat from the GN's attempts to enter Manchester by the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway.
The LNWR was led by the brilliant but totally unscrupulous Captain Mark Huish. At first, observing the poor state of the MR finances, he had proposed an amalgamation that Ellis opposed, seeking better terms. He then formed an alliance with the MS&LR and the MR against the GN, which became known as the Euston Square Confederacy.
An agreement was reached whereby passenger traffic was shared and the MR compensated for passengers taken by the GN. Another problem, which arose in 1851, coincided with the Great Exhibition. The GN had just opened and took most of the MR's traffic. The MR retaliated by cutting its fares, resulting in a price war in which journeys were virtually being given away. Gladstone, who was the minister responsible for railways, imposed a traffic sharing scheme between the two lines for journeys from Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. In time the MR grew stronger and, when relationships were soured between Huish and the MS&LR, the Confederacy was virtually at an end.
King's Cross 1857 – 1868
In 1850 the MR, though much more secure, was still a provincial line. Ellis realised that if it were to fend off its competitors it must expand outwards. The first step, in 1853, was to appoint James Allport as General Manager and the next was to shake off the dependence on the LNWR to London.
The bill was resubmitted in 1853 with the support of the people of Bedford, whose branch to the LNWR was slow and unreliable, and with the knowledge of the Northamptonshire iron deposits.
The Leicester and Hitchin Railway ran from Wigston to Market Harborough, through Desborough, Kettering, Wellingborough and Bedford, then on the Bedford to Hitchin Line, joining the GN at Hitchin for King's Cross.
While this took some of the pressure off the route through Rugby, the GN insisted that passengers for London alight at Hitchin, buying tickets in the short time available, to catch a GNR train to finish their journey. James Allport arranged a seven-year deal with the GN to run into King's Cross for a guaranteed £20,000 a year (£1,615,476 as of 2014),. Through services to London were introduced in February 1858.
St. Pancras 1868
By 1860 the MR was in a much better position and was able to approach new ventures aggressively. Its carriage of coal and iron – and beer from Burton-on-Trent – had increased by three times and passenger numbers were rising, as they were on the GN. Since GN trains took precedence on its own lines, MR passengers were becoming more and more delayed. Finally in 1862 the decision was taken for the MR to have its own terminus in the Capital, as befitted a national railway.
St Pancras, completed in 1868, has remained as a marvel of Gothic Revival architecture, in the form of the enormous Midland Grand Hotel by Gilbert Scott, which faces Euston Road, and the massive wrought-iron train shed designed by William Barlow. Its construction was not simple, since it had to approach through the ancient St Pancras Old Church graveyard. Below was the Fleet Sewer, while a branch from the main line was to run underground with a steep gradient beneath the station to join the Metropolitan Railway, which ran parallel to what is now Euston Road.
From the 1820s proposals for lines from London and the East Midlands had been proposed, and they had considered using the Cromford and High Peak Railway to reach Manchester (See Derby station). The ideas had never reached fruition since the practicality of using cable haulage for passenger trains was always in doubt.
Finally the MR joined with the Manchester and Birmingham Railway (M&BR), which was also looking for a route to London from Manchester, in a proposal for a line from Ambergate. The Manchester, Buxton, Matlock and Midlands Junction Railway, it received the Royal Assent in 1846, in spite of opposition from the Sheffield, Ashton-Under-Lyne and Manchester Railway. It was completed as far as Rowsley a few miles north of Matlock in 1849. However the M&BR had become part of the LNWR in 1846, thus instead of being a partner it had an interest in thwarting the Midland.
In 1863 the MR reached Buxton, just as the LNWR arrived from the other direction by the Stockport, Disley and Whaley Bridge Railway. In 1867 the MR began an alternative line through Wirksworth (now the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway), to avoid the problem of the Ambergate line. The section from Wirksworth to Rowsley, which would have involved some tricky engineering, was not completed because the MR gained control of the original line in 1871, but access to Manchester was still blocked at Buxton. At length an agreement was made with the MS&LR to share lines from a branch at Millers Dale and running almost alongside the LNWR, in what became known as the Sheffield and Midland Railway Companies' Committee.
Continuing friction with the LNWR caused the MR to join the MS&LR and the GN in the Cheshire Lines Committee, which also gave scope for wider expansion into Lancashire and Cheshire, and finally a new station at Manchester Central.
In the meantime Sheffield had at last gained a main-line station. Following representations by the council in 1867 the MR promised to build a through line within two years. To the MR's surprise, the Sheffield councillors then backed an improbable speculation called the Sheffield, Chesterfield, Bakewell, Ashbourne, Stafford and Uttoxeter Railway. This was unsurprisingly rejected by Parliament and the Midland built its "New Road" into a station at Pond Street. Loathed by all who used it, it was rebuilt in 1905 as the present Sheffield station.
Among the last of the major lines built by the MR was a connection between Sheffield and Manchester, by a branch at Dore to Chinley, opened in 1894 through the Totley and Cowburn Tunnels, now the Hope Valley Line.
Competition for coal
The Great Western Railway seemed oblivious to the massive expansion in coal and mineral production that was occurring in South Wales during the second half of the 19th century. The LNWR had already penetrated the area by taking over various small local lines. The MR followed suit and in 1867 took over the Swansea Vale Railway, followed by the Hereford, Hay and Brecon Railway in 1886. These acquisitions were also exploited in the form of a passenger service from Hereford to Swansea that, in conjunction with running powers over the Great Western between Worcester and Hereford, permitted through carriages from Birmingham to Swansea in competition with the Great Western. MR passenger and freight trains also ran on a branch of the Swansea Vale to Brynamman (East).
Meanwhile in the East Midlands, dominance along the Erewash Valley was being challenged by the GN and the Great Central. In 1878 the GN "Derbyshire Extension" through Derby Friargate opened. This cut directly through the coalfields north of the MR line along the Trent Valley, and in extending to Egginton gave access to Burton-on-Trent and its lucrative beer traffic.
Thus the MR retaliated with lines from Ambergate to Pye Bridge, Basford to Bennerley Junction, and Radford to Trowell. When mining became possible under the limestone to the east, more lines appeared around Mansfield
In the 1870s a dispute with the London and North Western Railway (LNWR) over access rights to the LNWR line to Scotland caused the MR to construct the Settle and Carlisle line, the highest main line in England, to secure access to Scotland.
The dispute with the LNWR was settled before the Settle and Carlisle was built, but Parliament refused to allow the MR to withdraw from the project. The MR was also under pressure from Scottish railway companies, which were eagerly awaiting the Midland traffic reaching Carlisle as it would allow them to challenge the Caledonian Railway's dominance on the West Coast traffic to Glasgow and Edinburgh. The Glasgow and South Western Railway had its own route from Carlisle to Glasgow via Dumfries and Kilmarnock, whilst the North British Railway had built the Waverley Line] through the Scottish Borders from Carlisle to Edinburgh. The MR was obliged to go ahead and the Settle to Carlisle opened in 1876.
By 1870 the MR straddled the country, lines from London and the South West meeting at Derby to travel to Scotland via the North West and the North East. There were now four tracks from London most of the way to Trent Junction. In 1879 these were complemented by the Melton Line via Corby, which continued to Nottingham through Old Dalby, providing Nottingham with an alternative route for London trains north of Kettering.
By the middle of the decade investment had been paid for; passenger travel was increasing, with new comfortable trains; and the mainstay of the line - goods, particularly minerals - was increasing dramatically.
Allport retired in 1880, to be succeeded by John Noble and then by George Turner. By the new century the quantity of goods, particularly coal, was clogging the network. The passenger service was acquiring a reputation for lateness. Lord Farrar reorganised the expresses, but by 1905 the whole system was so overloaded that no one was able to predict when many of the trains would reach their destinations. Crews were spending as much as a whole shift standing at a signal.
At this point Sir Guy Granet took over as General Manager. He introduced a centralised traffic control system, and the locomotive power classifications that became the model for those used by British Railways.
The MR acquired other lines, including the Belfast and Northern Counties Railway in 1903 and the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway in 1912. It had running rights on some lines, and it developed lines in partnership with other railways, being involved in more 'Joint' lines than any other. In partnership with the GN it owned the Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway to provide connections from the Midlands to East Anglia, the UK's biggest joint railway. The MR provided motive power for the Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway, and was a one-third partner in the Cheshire Lines Committee.
|Notes and references|
|SS Antrim||1904||2,100||Built by John Brown & Company at Clydebank, the first of a series of 4 similar ships.
She was the first vessel to use the new facilities at Heysham and made her maiden voyage in September 1904. She was the first cross-channel ship with wireless.
|SS City of Belfast||1893||1,055||Built by Laird Bros. of Birkenhead. Bought from Barrow Steam Navigation Co Ltd in 1907.
In war service named HMS City of Belfast. Transferred to LMS in 1923.
|SS Donegal||1904||1,997||A sister of Antrim built by Caird & Company of Greenock.
|PS Duchess of Buccleugh||1888||838||Built by Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company at Govan for the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway and named Rouen.
Sold to J. W. and R. P. Little for the Barrow S. N. Company and renamed Duchess of Buccleugh. Served the Barrow-Douglas route.
|SS Duchess of Devonshire||1897||1,265||Built by Naval & Armament Construction Co., at Barrow for James Little and the Barrow S. N. Company. Taken over by MR in 1907.
Requisitioned for war service and used as an armed boarding vessel. Suffered a boiler explosion in 1919 that killed three people.
|SS Londonderry||1904||2,086||Built by William Denny and Brothers of Dumbarton, the first ship with Lodge-Muirhead wireless telegraphy.
|SS Manxman||1904||2,174||Built by Vickers, Sons and Maxim Ltd of Barrow-in-Furness. Similar in design to the other 1904 built vessels but slightly longer and faster.
Requisitioned in 1914 for trooping and purchased in 1915 by the Admiralty as HMS Manxman and converted to an aircraft carrier.
|PS Manx Queen||1880||989||Built by J. & G. Thomson Ltd of Glasgow for the South Eastern Railway as the Duchess of Edinburgh.
On delivery she failed to perform at the contracted design speed and after a short time in service was returned to her builders. She re-entered service in May 1841 following a compromise agreement between the builder and owner but after only five days in service she broke a paddle wheel, resulting in the owners returning her again to her builders.
|SS Wyvern||1905||232||Built as a tug by Ferguson Bros. of Port Glasgow. Used for pleasure excursions from Heysham to Fleetwood until the Second World War. Transferred to London, Midland and Scottish Railway(LMS) in 1923 and British Transport Commission- London Midland Region in 1948.
Scrapped in June 1960.
The MR operated vessels for port maintenance:
|Notes and references|
|SS Laga||1901||562||Dredger built by J and K Smit of Kinderdijk for K.L.Kalis of Sliedrecht.
Purchased by MR in 1905, its first dredger. Transferred to London, Midland and Scottish Railway(LMS) in 1923 and was converted for use as a hopper barge in 1927.
|SS Hessam||1906||645||Dredger built by Wm. Simons and Co. of Renfrew with three Priestman grab cranes.
|SS Red Nab||1908||537||Hopper barge built by Wm Simons and Co. at Renfrew. Her engines had been constructed on a stand-by basis in 1907 and she was built in 1908 she had slightly smaller dimensions to give her more power.
Transferred to LMS and BTC in 1923 and 1948 respectively. Renamed Red Nab ll in 1960 releasing the name to a new build.
The MR owned several small passenger ferries formerly owned by the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway, with which it amalgamated in 1912, on the Gravesend-Tilbury Ferry. Vessels acquired were: Carlotta, Catherine (blt 1903), Edith (1911), Gertrude, Rose (1901) and Tilbury (1883).
In 1914 all the railways were taken under the control of the Railway Executive Committee and were paid an amount based on their receipts during 1913. All excursion traffic was cancelled. Passenger service and the steamers across the Irish Sea were limited in order to cater for munitions and troops trains, which at times overwhelmed the system. By the end of the war overcrowded trains were running at only half the prewar mileage. The overworked locomotives had not had the benefit of the prewar standard of maintenance, while many of the staff never returned from the battlefront.
The MR had not recovered from this when in 1921 the Government passed the Railways Act, by which it was compulsorily (and uncomfortably) merged with the LNWR, the Lancashire and Yorkshire, the Caledonian, the Glasgow and South Western Railway and minor lines such as the Furness and the North Staffordshire to form the London Midland and Scottish Railway on 1 January 1923.
The MR pioneered gas lighting on trains in Britain, put third-class carriages on all its trains in 1872, and abolished second class in 1875, giving third-class passengers the level of comfort formerly afforded to second-class passengers (elsewhere some third-class passengers travelled in open wagons). This was an entirely pragmatic move — second class seats was not well patronised — but controversial. The MR introduced the first British Pullman cars, and pioneered bogies on passenger carriages in the UK from 1874.
- Vaughan, A., (1997) Railwaymen, Politics and Money, London: John Murray
- Anderson, P.H., (1985 2nd ed) Forgotten Railways Vol 2: The East Midlands, Newton Abbot: David and Charles
- UK CPI inflation numbers based on data available from Gregory Clark (2013), "What Were the British Earnings and Prices Then? (New Series)" MeasuringWorth.
- Davies, R.; Grant, M.D. (1984). Forgotten Railways: Chilterns and Cotswolds. Newton Abbot, Devon: David St John Thomas. ISBN 0-946537-07-0, p. 110-111.
- "Midland Railway". Simplon Postcards. Retrieved 15 December 2009.
- "1116015". Miramar Ship Index. http://www.miramarshipindex.org.nz. Retrieved 15 December 2009. (subscription required)
- Haws, Duncan (1993). Merchant Fleets-Britain's Railway Steamers - Eastern & North Western Companies + Zeeland and Stena. Hereford: TCL Publications. p. 118. ISBN 0-946378-22-3.
- "1099938". Miramar Ship Index. http://www.miramarshipindex.org.nz. Retrieved 15 December 2009. (subscription required)
- Haws 1993, p. 121
- "1116018". Miramar Ship Index. http://www.miramarshipindex.org.nz. Retrieved 15 December 2009. (subscription required)
- "1099941". Miramar Ship Index. http://www.miramarshipindex.org.nz. Retrieved 15 December 2009. (subscription required)
- Haws 1993, p. 122
- "1116017". Miramar Ship Index. http://www.miramarshipindex.org.nz. Retrieved 15 December 2009. (subscription required)
- "1118603". Miramar Ship Index. http://www.miramarshipindex.org.nz. Retrieved 15 December 2009. (subscription required)
- Haws 1993, p. 119
- "1084974". Miramar Ship Index. http://www.miramarshipindex.org.nz. Retrieved 15 December 2009. (subscription required)
- Haws 1993, p. 120
- Haws 1993, p. 123
- Truman, P. and Hunt, D. (1989) Midland Railway Portrait, Sheffield : Platform 5, ISBN 0-906579-72-4
- Williams, Frederick Smeeton (1876) The Midland railway: its rise and progress, Strahan & Co.
- Official Guide to the Midland Railway. London: Cassell & Company. 1894.
- Stretton, Clement Edwin (1901) The History of the Midland Railway available from Microsoft Live Search Books. (It should be noted that Stretton is not considered a reliable source. See steamindex.com)
- Barnes, E. G. (1966), The rise of the Midland Railway, 1844–1874, London: George Allen and Unwin
- Barnes, E. G. (1969), The Midland main line, 1875–1922, London: George Allen and Unwin, ISBN 0-04-385049-9
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