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Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway

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Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway
1920 map of the railway
Reporting markLY
LocaleLancashire and Yorkshire
Dates of operation9 July 1847–1 January 1922
PredecessorManchester and Leeds Railway
SuccessorLondon and North Western Railway
London, Midland and Scottish Railway
Track gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Electrification600 V DC third rail
3.5 kV DC overhead
1,200 V DC side contact third rail
Length601 miles 28 chains (967.8 km) (1919)[1]
Track length2,269 miles 36 chains (3,652.3 km) (1919)[1]

The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway (L&YR) was a major British railway company before the 1923 Grouping. It was incorporated in 1847 from an amalgamation of several existing railways. It was the third-largest railway system based in northern England (after the Midland and North Eastern Railways).[citation needed]

The intensity of its service was reflected in the 1,650 locomotives it owned – it was by far the most densely-trafficked system in the British Isles with more locomotives per mile than any other company[citation needed] – and that one third of its 738 signal boxes controlled junctions averaging one every 3+12 miles (6 km). No two adjacent stations were more than 5+12 miles (9 km) apart and its 1,904 passenger services occupied 57 pages in Bradshaw, a number exceeded only by the Great Western Railway, the London and North Western Railway, and the Midland Railway. It was the first mainline railway to introduce electrification of some of its lines, and it also ran steamboat services across the Irish Sea and North Sea, being a bigger shipowner than any other British railway company.[citation needed]

It amalgamated with the London and North Western Railway on 1 January 1922. One year later, the merged company became the largest constituent of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway.


The L&YR was incorporated in 1847, being an amalgamation of several important lines, the chief of which was the Manchester and Leeds Railway (itself having been incorporated in 1836).

Constituent companies[edit]

The following companies, in order, were amalgamated into the L&YR. The dates shown are, in most cases, the Acts of Parliament authorising the incorporation and amalgamation of each company. In a few instances the effective date is used.[2]

The system[edit]

The system consisted of many branches and alternative routes, so that it is not easy to determine the location of its main line. For working purposes the railway was split into three divisions:

Whereas there were various lines split between the Central and Western Divisions there was only one route connecting the Eastern and Central Divisions. This line cut through the Pennines between Lancashire and Yorkshire using a number of long tunnels, the longest of which was Summit Tunnel (2,885 yards (2,638 m) in length) near Rochdale. There were six other tunnels each more than 1,000 yards (900 m) long.

Manchester Victoria railway station[edit]

A map of the L&YR system forms part of the War Memorial at Manchester Victoria

Manchester Victoria railway station was one of the largest railway stations in the country at the time. It occupied 13+12 acres (55,000 m2) and had 17 platforms with a total length of 9,332 feet (2,844 m). After the grouping, a structural change led platform 11 to run through and join with platform 3 in the LNWR's adjacent Exchange station; at 2,238 feet (682 m) between ramps it became the longest railway platform in Britain.[4] Lately the station capacity has been reduced to two platforms for Metrolink trams, two bay platforms, and four through platforms under Manchester Arena, which now replaces a significant area once occupied by the station. The main façade and station building of the original Hunts Bank station still exist and are kept in relatively good condition.


Lancashire and
Yorkshire Railway
Lines to Aintree
Seaforth & Litherland
Liverpool Exchange

The L&YR was the first in the country to electrify a mainline route. In Liverpool, the fourth rail system pioneered by the tube railways in London was used at 600 V DC, although this was later converted to a third rail system. Suburban lines in the Liverpool area were electrified to reach a total of 37 miles (60 km).

In 1912 Dick, Kerr & Co.'s Preston factory was considering tendering for a Brazilian contract, and approached the L&YR to use the Bury to Holcombe Brook Line for test purposes at Dick, Kerr's expense. The line from Bury Bolton Street to Holcombe Brook was electrified with the overhead 3.5 kV DC system; rolling stock was also supplied at their cost. After prolonged trials the trains entered public use on 29 July 1913. The L&YR purchased the equipment and stock on the successful completion of the trials in 1916.

Body shell manufacture at the company's works at Horwich, 1915

In 1913 a decision was taken to electrify the Manchester to Bury route at 1.2 kV DC in an attempt to overcome competition from electric trams. Using the third rail system, trains powered by electric motor cars (or carriages) began running on 17 April 1916 but as Horwich was by then involved in war work, deliveries of the new electric stock were delayed and it was not until August 1916 that steam trains were withdrawn from the route. In 1920 the L&YR also considered electrifying the Manchester–Oldham–Shaw and Royton lines, but no work was carried out. During 1917 work began to convert the Bury to Holcombe Brook line to a third rail system, matching the Manchester to Bury system. Third-rail trains started to run on 29 March 1918.


L&YR 0-8-0 Tender Engine on a period post card
L&YR Aspinall 0-6-0 ST No. 752 at Rainhill in 1980 showing the LYR freight loco colours of black with red lining
L&YR Blackpool–Manchester Club saloon of 1912 in contemporary colours

Locomotives of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway were originally painted dark green with ornate brasswork and copper-capped chimneys. Lining was black and white. In 1876 the dark green was changed to a light green and goods engines were painted plain black. 1878 saw the goods locomotives also appearing in light green. This livery was discontinued from 1883 when all locomotives were painted black. Lining was red and white for passenger locomotives and, if present, red only for goods locomotives.

Passenger coaching stock was originally painted teak, changing in 1875 to an overall light brown. In 1879 a decision was made to use 'a little brighter shade'. Finally in June 1881 it was announced that the lower panels were to be painted 'lake colour'. Between 1896 and 1914 the upper panels became buff with the lower in purple-brown, ends were dark brown. Roofs were normally dark grey but some did appear in red oxide.

Wagons were unpainted until 1902 except for the ironwork which was black. After 1902 it was painted dark grey. The graphical symbol of an inverted solid triangle within a circle was replaced in 1902–03 with the letters LY. Brake vans were black and special traffic wagons were painted in various colours, such as red for gunpowder, white for fish, and pale blue for butter.

The football team of the L&YR Carriage and Wagon works at Newton Heath, Manchester, evolved into Manchester United F.C.

Post-grouping history[edit]

On 25 March 1921, the L&YR and LNWR agreed terms under which the two railways would amalgamate. Before this could occur, the Railways Act 1921 became law on 19 August 1921, under which the L&YR and LNWR would be forced to amalgamate on 1 January 1923 with each other and with other railways, such as the Midland Railway and the Caledonian Railway. The Act included provisions for two or more railways to amalgamate voluntarily before 1923; and the L&YR and LNWR took the opportunity to implement their March 1921 agreement, and on 1 January 1922 both railways were dissolved and a new company was formed, which was also named the London and North Western Railway; its board of twenty directors included six from the former L&YR.[5] The 1923 Grouping duly occurred one years later, which involved the expanded LNWR forming part of the new London Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS). The general manager, secretary and chief mechanical engineer positions of the expanded company were taken by L&YR employees. Ex-L&YR lines formed the core of the LMS's Central Division.

The LMS did little to develop the former L&YR routes, which in many places ran parallel to ex-LNWR or ex-Midland routes now forming part of the same network. Nationalisation followed in 1948 followed by a period of rationalisation and modernisation. The L&YR system has survived largely intact, although the following routes have been closed, many within the L&YR's old East Lancashire division:

The routes today[edit]

Most ex-L&YR routes are now operated by Northern. Manchester Victoria station has been rebuilt in a more modest form and retains the former terminal building. The Caldervale Line, as named by West Yorkshire Metro, is also operated by Northern and uses a large part of the former L&YR.

Accidents and incidents[edit]

  • The Helmshore rail accident on 4 September 1860 saw 11 people killed and 77 injured when the rear portion of a Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway passenger excursion train became detached and ran back down the line where it collided with an oncoming passenger excursion train.[10]
  • The Burscough Junction crash occurred on 15 January 1880 at the Burscough Junction station on the Liverpool to Preston line, resulting in nine fatalities.[11][12]
  • A passenger train ran into a goods train near Mosesgate on 27 October 1880. Several passengers were injured and about a dozen carriages and a number of wagons were damaged.[13]
  • An excursion train was in collision with a West Lancashire Railway passenger train at Preston Junction, Lancashire on 3 August 1896 due to the driver of the excursion train misreading signals. One person was killed and seven were injured.[14]
  • A passenger train was derailed on 15 July 1903 at Waterloo station, then in Lancashire (now Merseyside) caused by a broken spring and spring bridle on the locomotive, while negotiating a 23-chain-radius (460 m) curve at speed. Seven people were killed and 116 were injured.[15]
  • An express passenger train collided with a light engine at Sowerby Bridge, Yorkshire on 22 October 1903 due to a signalman's error. A third train collided with the wreckage at low speed. One person was killed.[16]
  • A collision between a London and North Western Railway (LNWR) empty stock train and a passenger train at Huddersfield, Yorkshire on 21 April 1905 killed two people. The driver of the LNWR train had overrun signals, but fatigue was a contributory factor.[17]
  • The Hall Road rail accident at Blundellsands in what is now Merseyside on 27 July 1905 saw 20 killed and 48 injured when two Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway electric passenger trains collided due to human error on the part of a signalman and a train driver.
  • Two locomotives were shunted into a siding at Hindley & Blackrod Junction, Lancashire on 22 January 1909, but one of them remained foul of the main line. A passenger train collided with it, killing one person and injuring 33.[17]
  • A passenger train was derailed on the Charlestown Curve when the track spread under it on 21 June 1912. Four people were killed and twelve were injured.[17]
  • A freight train became divided on 28 October 1913. The rear portion ran back and was derailed at Lockwood, Yorkshire.[18]
  • On 18 March 1915, an express passenger train overran signals and was in a rear-end collision with an empty stock train at Smithy Bridge, Lancashire. Four people were killed and 33 were injured.[19]
  • A viaduct at Penistone, Yorkshire collapsed on 2 February 1916 due to subsidence. A locomotive was on the bridge at the time, but its crew had time to escape before it fell.[20]
  • A freight train became divided at Pendlebury, Lancashire. The rear portion was too heavy for the banking locomotive to hold, and it was pushed back downhill and derailed by catch points, as were the wagons.[21]
  • The Lostock Junction train collision near Bolton on 17 July 1920 saw four fatalities and 148 injured as the result of a near head-on collision between two Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway passenger trains due to a signal having been passed at danger[22]


The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway locomotive works were originally at Miles Platting, Manchester. From 1889 they were at Horwich.

Surviving stock[edit]

Surviving coaching stock of L&YR origin go as far as 1878, with Directors Saloon No. 1 being privately preserved at the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway.[23] Multiple coaches are preserved by Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Trust,[24] at the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway, 6-wheel 5-comp third No. 1507,[25] Blackpool Club Car No. 47,[26] 6-wheel 4-comp First No. 279[27] and Brake third No. 1474.[28]

Many L&YR carriages, that were sold to the Barry Railway Company also survive, one being a birdcage brake from 1882.[29] A dynamometer car also survives at the Midland Rail Centre in Butterley.[30]

Mostly covered goods vans survive in the form of L&YR goods stock, some of these vans also passed into Cadbury ownership for use at Bournville. A brake van also survives at the Kent & East Sussex Railway and the body of a CCT van at the Cambrian Heritage Railways in Oswestry.


The L&YR had the largest ship fleet of all the pre-grouping railway companies. In 1902 the assets of the Drogheda Steam Packet Company were acquired for the sum of £80,000[31] (equivalent to £10,970,000 in 2023).[32] In 1905 they took over the Goole Steam Shipping Company.

By 1913 they owned 26 vessels, with another two under construction, plus a further five under joint ownership with the London and North Western Railway. The L&YR ran steamers between Liverpool and Drogheda, Hull and Zeebrugge, and between Goole and many continental ports including Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Hamburg, and Rotterdam. The jointly-owned vessels provided services between Fleetwood, Belfast and Derry.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b The Railway Year Book for 1920. London: The Railway Publishing Company Limited. 1920. p. 168.
  2. ^ Awdry 1990
  3. ^ Paget-Tomlinson 2006, pp. 148–149
  4. ^ Rennison 1996, p. 258
  5. ^ Reed 1996, p. 223.
  6. ^ Wells 1995, p. 114[full citation needed]
  7. ^ "Oldham – Rochdale Line". Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive. Archived from the original on 16 November 2008. Retrieved 10 September 2008.
  8. ^ "Oldham and Rochdale line – conversion work start date announced". Light Rail Transit Association. 24 September 2008. Archived from the original on 18 April 2012. Retrieved 27 October 2008.
  9. ^ Suggitt, Gordon (2003). Lost Railways of Lancashire. Newbury, Berkshire: Countryside Books. pp. 80–82. ISBN 978-1-85306-801-0. OCLC 52565677.
  10. ^ Yolland, Col. W. (3 October 1860). "Accident Returns: Extract for the Accident at Helmshore on 4th September 1860". Board of Trade. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
  11. ^ Rosbottom, Ernest (1987) Burscough – The Story of an Agricultural Village. pp.179, 182. Carnegie Press, Preston.
  12. ^ "Accident at Burscough Junction on 15th January 1880". The Railways Archive. Retrieved 24 January 2014.
  13. ^ "Railway Collision". The Cornishman. No. 120. 28 October 1880. p. 5.
  14. ^ Hoole, Ken (1982). Trains in Trouble: Vol. 3. Redruth: Atlantic Books. p. 9. ISBN 978-0-906899-05-2.
  15. ^ Major E Druitt, Report of inquiry into the causes of the accident which occurred on the 15th July to an express passenger train which was derailed at Waterloo on the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, Railway Department, Board of Trade, 10 August 1903
  16. ^ Hall, Stanley (1990). The Railway Detectives. London: Ian Allan. p. 65. ISBN 0-7110-1929-0.
  17. ^ a b c Earnshaw, Alan (1989). Trains in Trouble: Vol. 5. Penryn: Atlantic Books. pp. 6, 8, 13. ISBN 978-0-906899-35-9.
  18. ^ Earnshaw, Alan (1990). Trains in Trouble: Vol. 6. Penryn: Atlantic Books. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-906899-37-3.
  19. ^ Earnshaw, Alan (1991). Trains in Trouble: Vol. 7. Penryn: Atlantic Books. p. 17. ISBN 978-0-906899-50-2.
  20. ^ Trevena, Arthur (1980). Trains in Trouble. Vol. 1. Redruth: Atlantic Books. pp. 18, 29. ISBN 978-0-906899-01-4.
  21. ^ Earnshaw, Alan (1993). Trains in Trouble: Vol. 8. Penryn: Atlantic Books. p. 10. ISBN 978-0-906899-52-6.
  22. ^ Pringle, J.W. (12 August 1920). "Accident Returns: Extract for the Accident at Lostock Junction on 17th July 1920". Ministry of Transport. Retrieved 24 January 2014.
  23. ^ "LYR 1 Director's Saloon built 1878". www.cs.vintagecarriagestrust.org.
  24. ^ "lyrtrust.org.uk – Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Trust".
  25. ^ "LYR 1507 Six-wheel 5 compartment Third built 1882". www.cs.vintagecarriagestrust.org.
  26. ^ "LYR 47 Blackpool Club Car (body only) built 1912". www.cs.vintagecarriagestrust.org.
  27. ^ "LYR 279 Six-wheel 4 compartment First (body only) built 1894". www.cs.vintagecarriagestrust.org.
  28. ^ "LYR 1474 Hughes taper-end Brake Third built 1910". www.cs.vintagecarriagestrust.org.
  29. ^ "LYR 571 Birdcage 6 wheel Brake Third (body only) built 1882". www.cs.vintagecarriagestrust.org.
  30. ^ "LYR 293 50′ elliptical roof Dynamometer Car built 1912". www.cs.vintagecarriagestrust.org.
  31. ^ New Zealand Tablet, 9 January 1902.
  32. ^ UK Retail Price Index inflation figures are based on data from Clark, Gregory (2017). "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved 7 May 2024.


  • Awdry, C. (1990). Encyclopaedia of British Railway Companies. Wellingborough: Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN 978-1-85260-049-5.
  • Beaumont, Martin (2015). Sir John Hawkshaw 1811–1891. Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Society. ISBN 978-0-9559467-7-6.
  • Blakemore, Michael (1984) The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, Ian Allan, ISBN 0-7110-1401-9
  • Coates, Noel (1997) 150 Years of the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway, Hawkshill Publishing, ISBN 1-900349-11-6
  • Earnshaw, Alan (1992) The Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway: Then & Now, Ian Allan, ISBN 0-7110-2058-2
  • Haigh, A (1978) Railways in West Yorkshire, Dalesman Books, ISBN 0-85206-459-4
  • Haws, Duncan (1993). Merchant Fleets – Britain's Railway Steamers – Eastern & North Western + Zeeland and Stena. Hereford: TCL Publications. ISBN 978-0-946378-22-7.
  • Littleworth, Chris (2002). Signal Boxes on Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Lines - North-East Lancashire. Signalling Record Society. ISBN 978-1-873228-21-0.
  • Littleworth, Chris (2013). Signal Boxes on Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Lines - North and West of Manchester: Part One. Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Society. ISBN 978-0-9559467-5-2.
  • Littleworth, Chris (2014). Signal Boxes on Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Lines - North and West of Manchester: Part Two. Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Society. ISBN 978-0-9559467-6-9.
  • Marshall, John (1969). The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, Volume 1. Newton Abbot: David & Charles. ISBN 978-0-7153-4352-4.
  • Marshall, John (1970). The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, Volume 2. Newton Abbot: David & Charles. ISBN 978-0-7153-4906-9.
  • Marshall, John (1972). The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, Volume 3. Newton Abbot: David & Charles. ISBN 978-0-7153-5320-2.
  • Mason, Eric (1975) [1954]. The Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway in the Twentieth Century (2nd ed.). Shepperton: Ian Allan. ISBN 978-0-7110-0656-0.
  • Nock, O.S. (1969) The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway – A Concise History, Ian Allan, ISBN 0-7110-0130-8
  • Paget-Tomlinson, E.W. (2006). The Illustrated History of Canal & River Navigations. Ashbourne: Landmark. ISBN 978-1-84306-207-3. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  • Reed, M.C. (1996). The London & North Western Railway. Penryn: Atlantic Transport Publishers. ISBN 0-906899-66-4.
  • Rennison, Robert William (1996). Civil Engineering Heritage. Thomas Telford. ISBN 978-0-7277-2518-9.
  • Wells, Jeffrey (1995). An Illustrated Historical Survey of the Railways in and Around Bury. Challenger Publications. ISBN 1-899624-29-5.

Further reading[edit]

  • Normington, Thomas (1898). The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway — being a full account of the rise and progress of this railway, together with numerous interesting reminiscences and incidents on the line. Manchester: J. Heywood. OCLC 26345942. OL 10713324W.

External links[edit]