London and North Western Railway

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London and North Western Railway
Coat of arms of the London & North Western Railway.jpg
LNWR crest
Dates of operation 16 July 1846–31 December 1922
Predecessor Grand Junction Railway
London and Birmingham Railway
Manchester and Birmingham Railway
Successor London, Midland and Scottish Railway
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge

The London and North Western Railway (LNWR, L&NWR) was a British railway company between 1846 and 1922. It was created by the merger of three companies – the Grand Junction Railway, the London and Birmingham Railway and the Manchester and Birmingham Railway. In the late 19th century the L&NWR was the largest joint stock company in the world.

In 1923 it became a constituent of the London, Midland and Scottish (LMS) railway, and, in 1948, the London Midland Region of British Railways: the LNWR is effectively an ancestor of today's West Coast Main Line.


Illustration of a LNWR passenger locomotive, c. 1852
LNWR office on The Quay, Waterford, Ireland, 1910

The LNWR described itself as the Premier Line. This was justified as it included the pioneering Liverpool & Manchester Railway of 1830, and the original LNWR main line linking London, Birmingham and Lancashire had been the first big railway in Britain, opened throughout in 1838. As the largest joint stock company in the United Kingdom, it collected a greater revenue than any other railway company of its era.[1]

At its peak just before World War I, it ran a route mileage of more than 1,500 miles, and employed 111,000 people. At the core of the LNWR system was the main line network connecting London Euston with the major cities of Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester, and (through co-operation with the Caledonian Railway) Edinburgh and Glasgow. This route is today known as the West Coast Main Line. The LNWR also ran the main connection between Britain and Ireland via the North Wales Main Line to Holyhead and handled the Irish Mail.[2] A ferry service also linked Holyhead to Greenore in County Louth, where the LNWR owned the 26-mile Dundalk, Newry and Greenore Railway, which connected to other lines of the Irish mainline network at Dundalk and Newry.[3]

The LNWR also had a main line connecting Liverpool and Manchester with Leeds, and secondary routes extending to Nottingham, Derby, Peterborough and South Wales.[4]


The company was formed on 16 July 1846 by the amalgamation of the Grand Junction Railway, London and Birmingham Railway and the Manchester and Birmingham Railway. This move was prompted in part by the Great Western Railway's plans for a railway north from Oxford to Birmingham.[1] The company initially had a network of approximately 350 miles (560 km),[1] connecting London with Birmingham, Crewe, Chester, Liverpool and Manchester.


The LNWR became a constituent of the London, Midland and Scottish (LMS) railway when the railways of Great Britain were merged in the grouping of 1923. Ex-LNWR lines formed the core of the LMS's Western Division.

Nationalisation followed in 1948, with the English and Welsh lines of the LMS becoming the London Midland Region of British Railways. Some former LNWR routes were subsequently closed, notably the lines running East to West across the Midlands (e.g. Peterborough to Northampton and Cambridge to Oxford), but others were developed as part of the Inter City network, notably the main lines from London to Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Carlisle, collectively known in the modern era as the West Coast Main Line. These were electrified in the 1960s and 1970s, and further upgraded in the 1990s and 2000s, with trains now running at up to 125 mph. Other LNWR lines survive as part of commuter networks around major cities such as Birmingham and Manchester.


LNWR's initials carved in Portland Stone on one of Euston Station's entrance lodges


The LNWR's main engineering works were at Crewe (locomotives), Wolverton (carriages) and Earlestown (wagons). Locomotives were usually painted green at first, but in 1873 black was adopted as the standard livery. This finish has been described as "blackberry black".

Accidents and incidents[edit]

Major accidents on the LNWR include:-

  • On 26 March 1850, the boiler of a locomotive exploded at Wolverton, Buckinghamshire due to the tampering of the safety valves. One person was injured.[7]
  • On 6 March 1853, the boiler of a locomotive exploded at Longsight, Lancashire. Six people were killed and the engine shed was severely damaged.[7]
  • On 11 June 1861, a cast-iron bridge collapsed under a freight train at Leek Wootton, Warwickshire. Both engine crew were killed.
  • On 29 June 1867, a passenger train ran into the rear of a coal train at Warrington, Cheshire due to a pointsman's error which was compounded by the lack of interlocking between points and signals. Eight people were killed and 33 were injured.
  • On 20 August 1868, a rake of wagons ran away from Llandulas, Denbighshire during shunting operations. The wagons sucsequently collided with the Irish Mail at Abergele, Denbighshire. Kerosene being carried in the wagons set the wreck on fire. Thirty-three people were killed in what was then the deadliest rail accident to have occurred in the United Kingdom.
  • On 14 September 1870, a mail train was diverted into a siding at Tamworth station, Staffordshire due to a signalman's error. The train crashes through the buffers and ends up in the River Anker, killing three people.[8]
  • In 1870, a North Eastern Railway freight train overruns signals and is in collision with a passenger train at St. Nicholas Crossing, Carlisle, Cumberland. Five people are killed. The driver of the freight train was intoxicated.[8]
  • In 1870, a mail train is in a rear-end collision with a freight train at Harrow, Middlesex. Eight people are killed.[8]
  • On 2 August 1873, a passenger train derailed at Wigan, Lancashire due to excessive speed. Thirteen people were killed and 30 were injured.
  • On 22 December 1894, a wagon was derailed fouling the main line at Chelford, Cheshire. It was run into by an express passenger train, which was derailed. Fourteen people were killed and 48 were injured.
  • On 15 August 1895, an express passenger train was derailed at Preston, Lancashire due to excessive speed on a curve. One person was killed.[9]
  • On 12 January 1899, An express freight train was derailed at Penmaenmawr, Caernarfonshire due to the trackbed being washed away by the sea during a storm. Both locomotive crew were killed.[10]
  • On 15 August 1903, two passenger trains collided at Preston, Lancashire due to faulty points.[11]
  • On 15 October 1907, a mail train was derailed at Shrewsbury, Shropshire due to excessive speed on a curve. Eighteen people were killed.[12]
  • On 19 August 1909, a passenger train was derailed at Friezland, West Riding, Yorkshire. Two people were killed.[13]
  • On 5 December 1910, a passenger train was in a rear-end collision at Willesden Junction, London. Three people were killed and more than 40 were injured.[14]
  • On 17 September 1912, the driver of an express train misread signals at Ditton Junction, Cheshire. The train was derailed when it ran over points at an excessive speed. Fifteen people were killed.
  • On 14 August 1915, an express passenger train was derailed at Weedon, Northamptonshire due to a locomotive defect. Ten people were killed and 21 were injured.
  • On 11 November 1921, the boiler of a locomotive exploded at Buxton, Derbyshire. Two people were killed.[15]

Minor incidents include:-

  • In 1900, wagons of a permanent way train carrying sleepers were set on fire by the heat of the sun at Earlestown, Lancashire, destroying a number of them.[12]


Main article: LNWR electric units

From 1909 to 1922, the LNWR undertook a large-scale project to electrify the whole of its London inner-suburban network.


The company also operated steamers on Windermere

The LNWR operated a number of ships on Irish Sea crossings between Holyhead and Dublin, Howth or Kingstown. The LNWR also operated a joint service with the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway from Fleetwood to Belfast and Derry.

Notable people[edit]

Chairmen of the Board of Directors[edit]

Members of the Board of Directors[edit]

General Managers[edit]

  • 1846–1858 — Captain Mark Huish
  • 1858–1874 — William Cawkwell
  • 1874–1893 — Sir George Findlay
  • 1893–1908 — Sir Frederick Harrison (knighted in 1902)
  • 1909–1914 — Frank Ree
  • 1914 — Robert Turnbull
  • 1914–1919 — Guy Calthrop
  • 1919–1920 — Isaac Thomas Williams
  • 1920–1923 — Arthur Watson

Locomotive Superintendents and Chief Mechanical Engineers[edit]

Southern Division:

North Eastern Division:

NE Division became part of N Division in 1857.

Northern Division:

LNWR No. 1881, a Webb 0-8-0 four cylinder compound – frontispiece from The Railway Magazine June 1903

Northern and Southern Divisions amalgamated from April 1862:


  • Sections of the former L&NWR are preserved as the Battlefield Line Railway, Nene Valley Railway and Northampton & Lamport Railway, the latter giving the name Premier Line to its quarterly journal.[20]
  • A section of the former L&NWR line and station buildings are preserved at Quainton near Aylesbury. It is administered by the Buckinghamshire Railway preservation Society and houses some original L&NWR rolling stock in the former Oxford Rewley Road station. It regularly runs steam trains using various locomotives.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Ferneyhough, Frank (1975). The history of railways in Britain. Reading: Osprey. p. 111. ISBN 978-0-85045-060-6. 
  2. ^ "The Importance of Passenger Traffic". London and North Western Railway Society. Retrieved 24 February 2013. 
  3. ^ Barrie, D. S. M. (1957). The Dundalk, Newry & Greenore Railway and the Holyhead - Greenore Steamship Service. Usk, UK: The Oakwood Press. 
  4. ^ "Map of LNWR". London and North Western Railway Society. Retrieved 24 February 2013. 
  5. ^ Book 0323: The Aylesbury Railway. Hertfordshire Genealogy. Retrieved 29 December 2010.
  6. ^ Banbury To Verney Junction (Lnwr). Retrieved 29 December 2010.
  7. ^ a b Hewison, Christian H. (1983). Locomotive Boiler Explosions. Newton Abbot: David & Charles. pp. 32, 36–37. ISBN 0 7153 8305 1. 
  8. ^ a b c Hall, Stanley (1990). The Railway Detectives. London: Ian Allan. pp. 38–40. ISBN 0 7110 1929 0. 
  9. ^ Trevena, Arthur (1981). Trains in Trouble: Vol. 2. Redruth: Atlantic Books. p. 7. ISBN 0-906899-03-6. 
  10. ^ Trevena, Arthur (1981). Trains in Trouble: Vol. 2. Redruth: Atlantic Books. pp. 15–16. ISBN 0-906899-03-6. 
  11. ^ Earnshaw, Alan (1990). Trains in Trouble: Vol. 6. Penryn: Atlantic Books. p. 8. ISBN 0-906899-37-0. 
  12. ^ a b Trevena, Arthur (1980). Trains in Trouble. Vol. 1. Redruth: Atlantic Books. pp. 16, 24. ISBN 0-906899-01-X. 
  13. ^ Hoole, Ken (1982). Trains in Trouble: Vol. 3. Redruth: Atlantic Books. p. 15. ISBN 0-906899-05-2. 
  14. ^ Earnshaw, Alan (1991). Trains in Trouble: Vol. 7. Penryn: Atlantic Books. p. 13. ISBN 0-906899-50-8. 
  15. ^ Earnshaw, Alan (1993). Trains in Trouble: Vol. 8. Penryn: Atlantic Books. p. 11. ISBN 0-906899-52-4. 
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Bradshaw's Railway Manual, Shareholders' Guide and Official Directory for 1905. London: Henry Blacklock & Co. Ltd. pp. 201–202. 
  17. ^ Railway Reminiscences by George P. Neele Late Superintendent of the Line of the London and North Western Railway, Morquorquodale & Co., London 1904, Chapter VII
  18. ^ Debretts House of Commons and the Judicial Bench 1870
  19. ^ Unknown (1894). "Obituary, John Hick, 1815-1894". Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers 117: 379–380. ISSN 1753-7843. Retrieved 13 November 2015. 
  20. ^ Premier Line. Northampton and Lamport Railway (26 January 2008). Retrieved 29 December 2010.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]