Great Central Railway

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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)
Great Central Railway
Industry Railway
Fate Merged
Predecessor Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway
Successor London and North Eastern Railway
Founded 1897
Defunct 1922
Headquarters Manchester, England
Key people
Sir William Pollitt
General manager
Products Rail transport

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, including the southern end of the line from Marylebone Station in London into the Chiltern region.

The main line route south of Nottinghamshire was closed down on the recommendation of Richard Beeching in the 1960s. In the 21st century there are a growing number of voices (notably the Economic Research Council) calling for restoration and electrification of the GCR route to modern standards.[citation needed] It would then create a cost-efficient and geographically advantageous dedicated high-speed passenger railway between London and the major northern cities of Sheffield, Manchester and Leeds - in preference to the HS2 greenfield project.[1]

History[edit]

The new GCR[edit]

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"[edit]

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.

Marylebone station frontage

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.

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.

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. Yet in its early years its steam-hauled Sheffield expresses were the fastest trains in the country.[2]

Despite that, its express services 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 important places such as Brackley and Woodford Halse without a railway service of any kind. 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[edit]

Joint working[edit]

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):

There were also joint lines in the south:

Key officers[edit]

For those in position prior to 1899, dates are as served for the MS&LR.

General Managers[edit]

Locomotive Engineer[edit]

Chief Mechanical Engineer[edit]

GCR locomotives[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

Wath marshalling yard[edit]

Main article: 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.

Accidents and incidents[edit]

  • 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.[3]
  • 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.[4]
  • 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.[5]
  • On 13 December 1911, a freight train ran away and was derailed at Wombwell Central station, Yorkshire. Both locomotive crew were killed.[5]
  • Circa 1913, a coal train was derailed at Torside, Derbyshire. The crew of the locomotive may have been overcome by fumes in the Woodhead Tunnel.[6]

Docks[edit]

Grimsby docks[edit]

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[edit]

Main article: 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 100 years of the port.

Ships[edit]

The Great Central Railway operated a number of ships.

Ship Launched Tonnage
(GRT)
Notes and references
SS Accrington 1910 1,629 Built in 1910 by Earle's Shipbuilding in Hull. Sold to Clayton and Davie Limited.[7]
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.[7]
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.[7]
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.[7]
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.[7]
SS Bury 1911 1,634 Built in 1910 by Earle's Shipbuilding in Hull. Scrapped in 1958.[7]
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.[7]
SS Chesterfield 1913 1,013 Built in 1913 by Swan Hunter. Lost in 1918.[7]
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.[7]
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.[7] 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.[8]
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[7]
SS Dewsbury 1910 1,631 Built in 1910 by Earle's Shipbuilding in Hull. Scrapped in 1959.[7]
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.[7]
SS Huddersfield 1872 221 Built in 1872 by J Elder of Fairfield. Wrecked in 1903.[7]
SS Immingham 1906 2,009 Built in 1906 by Swan Hunter in Newcastle. Sunk on war service in 1916.[7]
PS Killingholme 1912 508 Built by Earle's Shipbuilding in Hull for the New Holland to Hull ferry service. Withdrawn in 1934.[7]
SS Leicester 1891 1,002 Built by Earle's Shipbuilding in Hull. A war loss in 1916.[7]
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.[7] 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.[9]
SS Macclesfield 1914 1,018 Built in 1914 by Swan Hunter. Transferred into Associated Humber Lines. Scrapped in 1958.[7]
PS Manchester 1876 221 Built in 1876 by the Goole Engineering and Shipbuilding Company for the Humber Ferry Service. Scrapped in 1914.[7]
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.[7]
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. [7]
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.[7]
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.[9]
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.[7]
SS Retford 1883 951 Built in 1883 by Earle's Shipbuilding in Hull for the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway. Sold in 1910.[7]
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.[7]
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.[9]
SS Stockport 1911 1,637 Built in 1910 by Earle's Shipbuilding in Hull. Sunk in February 1943.[7]
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.[7]
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.[7]

Coat of arms[edit]

The GCR Coat of Arms borne by the preserved Class 11F locomotive no. 506 Butler–Henderson

The Great Central Railway was the first railway to be officially granted a coat of arms. This was granted on 25 February 1898 by the Garter, Clarenceux and Norroy Kings of Arms as:

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 both locomotives and coaches.[10]

The London and North Eastern Railway and the British Transport Commission, the legal successors of the GCR, were each granted Arms of their own; both of these incorporated the GCR motto Forward.[10]

The Great Central Railway (1976) Company Limited was able to apply 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.[citation needed]

References[edit]

  1. ^ the ERC's quarterly journal B&O on the subject, published in Summer 2014.[full citation needed]
  2. ^ The Trains We Loved by C Hamilton Ellis[full citation needed]
  3. ^ Earnshaw, Alan (1991). Trains in Trouble: Vol. 7. Penryn: Atlantic Books. p. 7. ISBN 0-906899-50-8. 
  4. ^ Trevena, Arthur (1981). Trains in Trouble: Vol. 2. Redruth: Atlantic Books. p. 22. ISBN 0-906899-03-6. 
  5. ^ a b Earnshaw, Alan (1993). Trains in Trouble: Vol. 8. Penryn: Atlantic Books. pp. 5–6. ISBN 0-906899-52-4. 
  6. ^ Trevena, Arthur (1980). Trains in Trouble. Vol. 1. Redruth: Atlantic Books. p. 25. ISBN 0-906899-01-X. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac Duckworth, Christian Leslie Dyce; Langmuir, Graham Easton (1968). Railway and other Steamers. Prescot, Lancashire: T. Stephenson and Sons. 
  8. ^ Haws, Duncan (1993). Merchant Fleets - Britain's Railway Steamers - Eastern & North Western Companies + Zeeland and Stena. Hereford: TCL Publications. ISBN 0-946378-22-3. 
  9. ^ a b c 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. 
  10. ^ a b Dow, George (1962). Great Central, Volume Two: Dominion of Watkin, 1864-1899. Shepperton: Ian Allan. pp. 297–8, frontispiece. ISBN 0-7110-1469-8. 

External links[edit]