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London and North Western Railway

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London and North Western Railway
1920 map of the railway
HeadquartersEuston railway station
Dates of operation16 July 1846;
177 years ago
– 31 December 1922;
101 years ago
PredecessorGrand Junction Railway
London and Birmingham Railway
Manchester and Birmingham Railway
SuccessorLondon, Midland and Scottish Railway
Track gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm)
Length2,066 miles 6 chains (3,325.0 km) (1919)[1]
Track length5,818 miles 59 chains (9,364.4 km) (1919)[1]

The London and North Western Railway (LNWR, L&NWR) was a British railway company between 1846 and 1922. In the late 19th century, the LNWR was the largest joint stock company in the world.[2][3][4][5]

Dubbed the "Premier Line", the LNWR's main line connected four of the largest cities in England; London, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool, and, through cooperation with their Scottish partners, the Caledonian Railway also connected Scotland's largest cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh. Today this route is known as the West Coast Main Line. The LNWR's network also extended into Wales and Yorkshire.

In 1923, it became a constituent of the London, Midland and Scottish (LMS) railway, and, in 1948, the London Midland Region of British Railways.


London and North Western Railway Act 1846
Act of Parliament
Citation9 & 10 Vict. c. cciv
Early 1900s map of the LNWR system and that of their Scottish partners, the Caledonian Railway (north of Carlisle) The thick black lines denote the lines of the two companies
LNWR's initials carved in Portland Stone on one of Euston Station's entrance lodges

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.[6] The company initially had a network of approximately 350 miles (560 km),[6] connecting London with Birmingham, Crewe, Chester, Liverpool and Manchester.

The headquarters were at Euston railway station. As traffic increased, it was greatly expanded with the opening in 1849 of the Great Hall, designed by Philip Charles Hardwick in classical style. It was 126 ft (38 m) long, 61 ft (19 m) wide and 64 ft (20 m) high and cost £150,000[7] (equivalent to £19,650,000 in 2023).[8] The station stood on Drummond Street.[9] Further expansion resulted in two additional platforms in the 1870s with four more in the 1890s, bringing the total to 15.[10]

The LNWR described itself as the Premier Line. This was justified, as it included the pioneering Liverpool and 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.[6]

With the Grand Junction Railway acquisition of the North Union Railway in 1846, the London and North Western Railway operated as far north as Preston.[11] In 1859, the Lancaster and Preston Junction Railway amalgamated with the Lancaster and Carlisle Railway and this combined enterprise was leased to the London and North Western Railway, giving it a direct route from London to Carlisle.[12]

In 1858, they merged with the Chester and Holyhead Railway and became responsible for the lucrative Irish Mail trains via the North Wales Main Line to Holyhead.[13]

On 1 February 1859, the company launched the limited mail service, which was only allowed to take three passenger coaches, one each for Glasgow, Edinburgh and Perth. The Postmaster General was always willing to allow a fourth coach, provided the increased weight did not cause time to be lost in running. The train was timed to leave Euston at 20.30 and operated until the institution of a dedicated post train, wholly of Post Office vehicles, in 1885.[14] On 1 October 1873 the first sleeping carriage ran between Euston and Glasgow, attached to the limited mail. It ran three nights a week in each direction. On 1 February 1874 a second carriage was provided and the service ran every night.[14]

In 1860, the company pioneered the use of the water trough designed by John Ramsbottom.[15][16] It was introduced on a section of level track at Mochdre, between Llandudno Junction and Colwyn Bay.[14]

The erecting shop at the Crewe Locomotive Works c. 1890

The company inherited several manufacturing facilities from the companies with which it merged, but these were consolidated and in 1862, locomotive construction and maintenance was done at the Crewe Locomotive Works, carriage building was done at Wolverton and wagon building was concentrated at Earlestown.

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. A ferry service also linked Holyhead to Greenore in County Louth, where the LNWR owned the 26-mile (42 km) Dundalk, Newry and Greenore Railway, which connected to other lines of the Irish mainline network at Dundalk and Newry.[17]

The LNWR also had the Huddersfield Line connecting Liverpool and Manchester with Leeds, and secondary routes extending to Nottingham, Derby, Peterborough and South Wales.[18]

At its peak just before World War I, it ran a route mileage of more than 1,500 miles (2,400 km), and employed 111,000 people. In 1913, the company achieved a total revenue of £17,219,060 (equivalent to £2,140,160,000 in 2023)[8] with working expenses of £11,322,164[19] (equivalent to £1,407,230,000 in 2023).[8]

On 1 January 1922, one year before it amalgamated with other railways to create the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS), the LNWR amalgamated with the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway (including its subsidiary the Dearne Valley Railway) and at the same time absorbed the North London Railway and the Shropshire Union Railways and Canal Company, both of which were previously controlled by the LNWR. With this, the LNWR achieved a route mileage (including joint lines, and lines leased or worked) of 2,707.88 miles (4,357.91 km).[20][21]

The company built a war memorial in the form of an obelisk outside Euston station to commemorate the 3,719 of its employees who died in the First World War. After the Second World War, the names of the LMS's casualties were added to the LNWR's memorial.[22]

The LNWR were also involved in the mass manufacture of replacement legs in the mid 19th century and the early 20th century. This is due-to the routine demand for prostheses for disabled staff. Serious injuries that resulted in the loss of limbs were common at this time with over 4,963 casualties in the year of 1910 on the LNWR alone, and over 25,000 injuries across the whole industry, manufacturing prostheses resulted in self-sufficiency for the company.[23][24][25][26]


From 1909 to 1922, the LNWR undertook a large-scale project to electrify the whole of its London inner-suburban network. The London and North Western Railway London inner-suburban network, encompassed the lines from London Broad Street to Richmond, London Euston to Watford, with branch lines such as Watford to Croxley Green. There were also links to the District Railway at Earl's Court and over the route to Richmond. With the Bakerloo Tube Line being extended over the Watford DC lines, the railway was electrified at 630 V DC fourth rail.[clarification needed] The electricity was generated at the LNWR's power station in Stonebridge Park and a depot built at Croxley Green.


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, including 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, such as 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. In 2017 it was announced that the new franchisee for the West Midlands and semi-fast West Coast services between London and North West England would utilise the brand London Northwestern Railway as an homage to the LNWR.



Illustration of a LNWR passenger locomotive, c. 1852

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 tampering of the safety valves. One person was injured.[29]
  • On 30 April 1851 a train returning from Chester Races broke down in Sutton tunnel, and the following train ran into it. Six passengers were killed.[14]
  • On 6 September 1851 a train run for the Great Exhibition returning from Euston to Oxford derailed at Bicester and six passengers were killed.[14]
  • On 6 March 1853, the boiler of a locomotive exploded at Longsight, Lancashire. Six people were killed and the engine shed was severely damaged.[29]
  • On 27 August 1860 a passenger train collided with a goods train at Craven Arms and one passenger was killed.[14]
  • On 16 November 1860 the Irish night mail ran into a cattle train at Atherstone. The fireman of the mail train, and nine drovers in the cattle train were killed.[14]
  • On 11 June 1861, a cast-iron bridge collapsed under a freight train at Leek Wootton, Warwickshire. Both engine crew were killed.
  • On 2 September 1861 a ballast train came out of a siding onto the main line just past Kentish Town Junction without the signalman's permission, and an excursion train from Kew ran past the signals and collided with it, resulting in the deaths of fourteen passengers and two employees.[14]
  • 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 subsequently 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 crashed through the buffers and ended up in the River Anker, killing three people.[30]
  • In 1870, a North Eastern Railway freight train overran signals and collided with a passenger train at St. Nicholas Crossing, Carlisle, Cumberland. Five people were killed. The driver of the freight train was intoxicated.[30]
  • On 26 November 1870, a mail train was in a rear-end collision with a freight train at Harrow, Middlesex. Eight people were killed.[30]
  • 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.[31]
  • 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.[32]
  • On 15 August 1903, two passenger trains collided at Preston, Lancashire due to faulty points.[33]
  • On 15 October 1907, a mail train was derailed at Shrewsbury, Shropshire due to excessive speed on a curve. Eighteen people were killed.[34]
  • On 19 August 1909, a passenger train was derailed at Friezland, West Yorkshire. Two people were killed.[35]
  • 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.[36]
  • 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.[37]

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 some of them.[34]


The LNWR operated ships on Irish Sea crossings between Holyhead and Dublin, Howth, Kingstown or Greenore. At Greenore, the LNWR built and operated the Dundalk, Newry and Greenore Railway to link the port with the Belfast–Dublin line operated by the Great Northern Railway.

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]

Chief Civil Engineers[edit]

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.[48]
  • 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 The Railway Year Book for 1920. London: The Railway Publishing Company Limited. 1920. p. 176.
  2. ^ Reed, Michael. "Moon, Sir Richard, first baronet (1814–1899)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/45712. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. ^ Bradley, Simon (2016). The Railways: Nation, network & people (Paperback ed.). London: Profile Books. p. 426. ISBN 9781846682131. "The LNWR was the largest joint-stock company of its time, with a capitalisation of over £29 million in 1851".
  4. ^ Sheppard, Richard; Roberts, David. "Basil Oliver Moon BA". Magdalen College, Oxford. The Slow Dusk. Retrieved 19 May 2023.
  5. ^ "London and North Western Railway Company". Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Retrieved 18 May 2023.
  6. ^ a b c Ferneyhough, Frank (1975). The history of railways in Britain. Reading: Osprey. p. 111. ISBN 978-0-85045-060-6.
  7. ^ "Opening of the new Grand Station and Vestibule of the London and North-Western Railway". Chelmsford Chronicle. British Newspaper Archive. 25 May 1849. Retrieved 1 August 2016 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  8. ^ a b c 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.
  9. ^ www.motco.com Archived 18 January 2016 at the Wayback Machine – 1862 map, showing position of 1849 station.
  10. ^ "Euston Station, London". Network Rail. Archived from the original on 18 February 2013. Retrieved 22 February 2013.
  11. ^ "One Hundred Years of British Railways. No. XI. Part II – The first half century. The London and North Western Railway". The Engineer: 288–290. 12 September 1924.
  12. ^ "One Hundred Years of British Railways. No. XII. Part II – The first half century. The London and North Western Railway". The Engineer: 319–321. 19 September 1924.
  13. ^ "The Importance of Passenger Traffic". London and North Western Railway Society. Retrieved 24 February 2013.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h "One Hundred Years of British Railways. No. XIII. Part II – The first half century. The London and North Western Railway". The Engineer: 354–356. 26 September 1924.
  15. ^ Robbins, Michael (1967). Points and Signals. London: George Allen & Unwin.[page needed]
  16. ^ Acworth, J. M. (1889). The Railways of England. London: John Murray.[page needed]
  17. ^ Barrie, D. S. M. (1957). The Dundalk, Newry & Greenore Railway and the Holyhead – Greenore Steamship Service. Usk, UK: The Oakwood Press.
  18. ^ "Map of LNWR". London and North Western Railway Society. Retrieved 24 February 2013.
  19. ^ "London and North-Western Railway". Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer. British Newspaper Archive. 21 February 1914. Retrieved 1 August 2016 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  20. ^ Reed, M. C. (1996). The London & North Western Railway. Penryn: Atlantic Transport Publishers. pp. 223–4. ISBN 0-906899-66-4.
  21. ^ Marshall, John (1970). The Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway. Vol. 2. Newton Abbot: David & Charles. p. 256. ISBN 0-7153-4906-6.
  22. ^ Historic England. "War Memorial (1342044)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 9 February 2016.
  23. ^ Esbester, Mike (15 December 2017). "Disability History Month – rehabilitating injured workers? The case of the one-legged engine driver". Railway Work, Life & Death. Retrieved 1 May 2024.
  24. ^ "Drawing of an artificial leg from Crewe". National Railway Museum blog. 24 July 2012. Retrieved 1 May 2024.
  25. ^ "Disability History Month: Of accidents and prosthetics". National Railway Museum blog. 21 December 2017. Retrieved 1 May 2024.
  26. ^ Esbester, Mike (10 December 2018). "Working after the accident". Railway Work, Life & Death. Retrieved 1 May 2024.
  27. ^ Simpson, Bill (1989). The Aylesbury Railway: The First Branch Line, Cheddington-Aylesbury, Opened 1839. Oxford: Oxford Publishing Company. ISBN 9780860934387.
  28. ^ Banbury To Verney Junction (Lnwr)[permanent dead link]. Disused-rlys.fotopic.net. Retrieved 29 December 2010.
  29. ^ a b Hewison, Christian H. (1983). Locomotive Boiler Explosions. Newton Abbot: David & Charles. pp. 32, 36–37. ISBN 0-7153-8305-1.
  30. ^ a b c Hall, Stanley (1990). The Railway Detectives. London: Ian Allan. pp. 38–40. ISBN 0-7110-1929-0.
  31. ^ Trevena, Arthur (1981). Trains in Trouble: Vol. 2. Redruth: Atlantic Books. p. 7. ISBN 0-906899-03-6.
  32. ^ Trevena, Arthur (1981). Trains in Trouble: Vol. 2. Redruth: Atlantic Books. pp. 15–16. ISBN 0-906899-03-6.
  33. ^ Earnshaw, Alan (1990). Trains in Trouble: Vol. 6. Penryn: Atlantic Books. p. 8. ISBN 0-906899-37-0.
  34. ^ a b Trevena, Arthur (1980). Trains in Trouble. Vol. 1. Redruth: Atlantic Books. pp. 16, 24. ISBN 0-906899-01-X.
  35. ^ Hoole, Ken (1982). Trains in Trouble: Vol. 3. Redruth: Atlantic Books. p. 15. ISBN 0-906899-05-2.
  36. ^ Earnshaw, Alan (1991). Trains in Trouble: Vol. 7. Penryn: Atlantic Books. p. 13. ISBN 0-906899-50-8.
  37. ^ Earnshaw, Alan (1993). Trains in Trouble: Vol. 8. Penryn: Atlantic Books. p. 11. ISBN 0-906899-52-4.
  38. ^ 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.
  39. ^ Railway Reminiscences by George P. Neele Late Superintendent of the Line of the London and North Western Railway, Morquorquodale & Co., London 1904, Chapter VII
  40. ^ Debretts House of Commons and the Judicial Bench 1870
  41. ^ Unknown (1894). "Obituary, John Hick, 1815-1894". Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers. 117 (1894): 379–380. doi:10.1680/imotp.1894.19959. ISSN 1753-7843.
  42. ^ "Death of Mr. William Baker". Morning Post. England. 21 December 1878. Retrieved 20 February 2022 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  43. ^ "Death of a Railway Engineer". Nuneaton Observer. England. 14 February 1902. Retrieved 20 February 2022 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  44. ^ "New Engineer to the London and North-Western Railway". Belfast News-Letter. Northern Ireland. 8 March 1902. Retrieved 20 February 2022 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  45. ^ "London and North-Western Railway Staff Changes". Railway News. England. 9 October 1909. Retrieved 20 February 2022 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  46. ^ a b c Marshall, John (1978). A Biographical Dictionary of Railway Engineers. David & Charles. p. 175. ISBN 978-0-7153-7489-4.
  47. ^ "Samuel Carter". Dictionary of Unitarian and Universalist Biography. Retrieved 20 March 2018.
  48. ^ Premier Line Archived 13 September 2006 at the Wayback Machine. Northampton and Lamport Railway (26 January 2008). Retrieved 29 December 2010.
  • Reed, M. C. (1996). The London & North Western Railway. Penryn: Atlantic Transport. ISBN 978-0-906899-66-3

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]