List of early British railway companies

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The following list sets out to show all the railway companies set up by Acts of Parliament in the 19th century until the late 1850s. Most of them became constituent parts of the emerging main-line railway companies, often immediately after being built. Some continued as independent companies until the 1923 Grouping; a few retained that independence until 1947.[1] They have been listed under Scottish; and English and Welsh early railways;[2][3] and under the later main line company which absorbed them.

Each of the main line companies after the Grouping has an article listing all companies who became part of, and jointly part of, individual companies. Many of those had been in separate existence since being set up in the 19th century, and were only in 1923 losing that individuality.

The list is by no means complete: in 1846 alone there were 272 railways agreed by Act of Parliament, although not all of those were built, since it was the time of the Railway Mania. In addition lines might be extensions to existing ones, but floated as a separate company to separate the risk, and to ring-fence subscriptions, or promoted by a company which was mostly financed by an existing company. An example is the Dore and Chinley Railway which was floated as a company and then adopted and largely financed by the Midland.

Scottish early railways[edit]

Caledonian Railway (incorporated 1845)[edit]

Independent Lines operated by the Caledonian Railway

Glasgow and South Western Railway (title assumed 1850)[edit]

Great North of Scotland Railway (incorporated 1846)[edit]

Highland Railway (title assumed 1865)[edit]

North British Railway (incorporated 1844)[edit]

English and Welsh early railways[edit]

This list of lines in England and Wales is ordered roughly by region, with the exception of the GWR which was a very large company even pre-1900.


Great Western Railway[edit]


Later acquired:




  • Cambrian Railways incorporated between 1864 and 1904
    • Oswestry and Newtown Railway 30 miles: incorporated 6 June 1855; opened 1860-1
    • Llanidloes and Newtown Railway ​12 14 miles: 4 August 1853; 1859. Until 1861 this section of the line was completely isolated
    • Newtown and Machynlleth Railway 23 miles: 27 July 1857; 1863
    • Oswestry, Ellesmere and Whitchurch Railway 18 miles: 1 August 1861; 1863-4
    • Aberystwyth and Welsh Coast Railway 86 miles: 26 July 1861; 1863–69
    • Mid Wales Railway45 12 miles: 1 August 1859; 1 September 1864. This Railway maintained complete independence from the Cambrian until 1 January 1888, when the latter took over working the line; and on 1 July 1904 when the two Railways amalgamated.
    • and several railways opened in the 1860s
  • Festiniog Railway incorporated 23 May 1832 (1 ft 11 12 in (597 mm) gauge) ​13 12 miles opened 1836 to carry dressed slate from Blaenau Ffestiniog to Porthmadog for export by sea, carried passengers from 1865. Still independent and since 1954 a leading heritage railway.
  • Llanelly Railway and Dock Company incorporated 1828
  • Rhymney Railway incorporated 1854
  • Taff Vale Railway (TVR) incorporated 1836. Among the eight railways amalgamated with the TVR is one early railway:
    • Aberdare Railway opened 1846

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c d Casserley (1968)
  2. ^ Some of the information contained in this article is taken from The Railway Year Book, 1912, which set out the railways in that order. At the time the term Scotch was in use.
  3. ^ Butt; (1995)
  4. ^ The information on NER constituents is largely drawn from Appendix E (pp 778–9) of North Eastern Railway, Its Rise and Development; by W. W. Tomlinson (David & Charles 1967 reprint of 1914 original).original available here