Northern and Eastern Railway
|Locale||North East London and Hertfordshire UK|
|Dates of operation||1840–1902|
|Successor||Great Eastern Railway|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)|
|Previous gauge||5 ft (1,524 mm)|
The Northern & Eastern Railway (N&ER) was the British railway company that built what is now the West Anglia Main Line, one of the two main lines of the Great Eastern Railway, the other being the Liverpool Street-to-Norwich line built by the Eastern Counties and Eastern Union Railways. The N&ER and Eastern Counties Railway merged in 1844.
The N&ER was part of an 1833 scheme for a railway from Islington to York via Cambridge, Peterborough and Lincoln. The original "Grand Northern Railway" project, proposed by Nicholas Wilcox Cundy, floundered until adopted by the Lincolnshire landowner Henry Handley. He formed the N&ER and, in 1835, had the route re-surveyed by engineer James Walker.
Difficulty in raising capital during the economic depression saw the decision in 1837 to scale back the initial section of the railway, to run between the Kingsland Turnpike (now Kingsland Road) near London and Broxbourne in Hertfordshire. Late in that year the contract for construction was awarded to David Macintosh.
In March 1838 construction began, with Michael Borthwick as resident engineer. Although it was still hoped to build the railway as far as Islington, the directors approached the Commercial Railway (later the London and Blackwall Railway) with the intention of running through to London Fenchurch Street station. These negotiations failed, but in August agreement was reached with the Eastern Counties Railway (ECR) to use its new Shoreditch terminus. The ECR needed the additional income to finance its main line to Colchester.
The ECR was 1,524 mm (5 ft) gauge so the N&ER used that gauge rather than the emerging standard gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in). In early 1837 the N&ER abandoned plans for northward extension to Bishop's Stortford, and later in the year the Islington extension was formally abandoned by Act of Parliament. By May the contractor was in difficulties, and Robert Stephenson was appointed as Engineer in Chief, with Borthwick continuing as resident engineer. George Parker Bidder was appointed as the new contractor.
Engineering contractors Grissell and Peto were approached late in 1837 about building the line as far as Bishop's Stortford. In March 1840 they started work between Stratford and Tottenham, and finally took over the work between Tottenham and Broxbourne from David McIntosh.
The first section opens
On 15 September 1840 the line between Stratford and Broxbourne opened to passengers as a single line, doubled in 1841. Trains ran through to Shoreditch although there was a disagreement between the ECR and N&ER over stopping at Stratford, with the former wanting a monopoly on Stratford-to-Shoreditch tickets.
In October 1840 work started on the northern extension to Burnt Mill station by contractor Thorntons, followed in January 1841 by the award of a contract to build the railway from Burnt Mill to Bishops Stortford to Earl and Pearce.
In June 1841 parliamentary assent was given for a branch from Broxbourne to Hertford (the Hertford East Branch Line); around this time Grissell and Peto took over construction of the Broxbourne to Harlow section and started working on the section to Spelbroke (between Harlow and Bishops Stortford). In August the ECR began to construct the N&ER terminus at Shoreditch, but by 1842 this had been abandoned, partly owing to legal difficulties.
- Lea Bridge
- Edmonton (later Angel Road)
- Ponder's End
- Bishops Stortford
The line to Bishops Stortford opens
On 16 May 1842 the line to Bishops Stortford opened  and N&ER trains were allowed to call at Stratford. The following year the two companies came to agreement over goods traffic and in July the ECR made an offer to lease the N&ER, which was rejected as N&ER shareholders felt they could get a better deal.
Work on the Hertford branch line began early in 1843 and opened as a single track on 31 October, doubled in October 1846. 1843 also saw the operation of goods trains between Bishops Stortford and Shoreditch. Some (if not all) of these trains were worked by locomotives and rolling stock belonging to a contractor. They included third-class carriages for butchers and graziers travelling to Smithfield Market. In September in conjunction with the Norfolk Railway surveying work began to extend from Bishops Stortford through Cambridge to Brandon in Norfolk as a main line from London to Norwich.
Merger with the Eastern Counties Railway
On 25 October 1843 an agreement facilitated by Bidder  was reached by the ECR and N&ER, and from 1 January 1844 the N&ER was leased to the ECR for 999 years, being formerly ratified by parliament in May. Two directors from the N&ER were appointed to the ECR board, which arrangement continued to 1862 when the ECR became part of the Great Eastern Railway (GER). The N&ER survived as a private company until merged into the GER in 1902.
The company purchased 14 2-2-2 locomotives from four builders:
- Robert Stephenson and Company
- Bury, Curtis, and Kennedy
- R. B. Longridge and Company (of Bedlington, Northumberland)
- Charles Tayleur and Co (later Vulcan Foundry)
The locomotives were re-gauged to standard gauge in September and October 1844.
Carriages were 20 feet long and 7 feet wide. They had six wheels and were first, second or third class with capacity for 24, 32 and 60-70 passengers respectively. They had footboards to allow passengers to board at locations with no or low platforms. The third class carriages were open to the elements.
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- William Templeton - The Locomotive Engine Popularly Explained - Page 96
- Bradley, Richard (July 2013). "The railway at Harlow and in the Stort Valley:an exploration of its earliest years Part 2". Great Eastern Railway Society Journal. 155: 4.
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- Bradley, Richard (July 2013). "The railway at Harlow and in the Stort Valley:an exploration of its earliest years". Great Eastern Railway Society Journal. 155: 5.
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- Bradley, Richard (July 2013). "The railway at Harlow and in the Stort Valley:an exploration of its earliest years Part 2". Great Eastern Railway Society Journal. 155: 5.
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- Whishaw, Francis (1842). The Railways of Great Britain and Ireland Practically Described and Illustrated (2nd ed.). London: John Weale. pp. 360–367. OCLC 833076248.