Talk:History of rail transport in Great Britain

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Former good article nominee History of rail transport in Great Britain was a Engineering and technology good articles nominee, but did not meet the good article criteria at the time. There are suggestions below for improving the article. Once these issues have been addressed, the article can be renominated. Editors may also seek a reassessment of the decision if they believe there was a mistake.
Article milestones
Date Process Result
September 24, 2007 Good article nominee Not listed
July 19, 2008 Good article nominee Not listed
Current status: Former good article nominee
WikiProject Trains / in UK / in Scotland / By country series (Rated B-class, High-importance)
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British Railways was divided up into four administrative regions, which exactly mirrored the regions covered by the former "big four" companies. Erm, what about the Scottish Region, then? Arwel 21:42, 3 Oct 2003 (UTC)

Er good point G-Man 22:18, 3 Oct 2003 (UTC)

Requirements for profitability[edit]

No large railway can operate at a profit unless more than half its traffic is freight, and the freight was being siphoned off by the road companies.

With the development of technology, I would assume the constraints on train operators are not the same as they were in the 19th and 20th centuries. In particular, does this still apply? Anyone know why? Mr. Jones 14:37, 18 Jan 2004 (UTC)

There is certainly a view that Passenger transportation was never profitable for most railway companies, the profits being earned almost entirely from freight. Difficult to prove since it was not always easy to separate the costs involved in infrastructure maintenance between passenger and freight traffic, and even some of the operating costs could be shared (eg same locomotives used for both types of traffic).

Today, it is difficult to identify any national passenger network that makes a commercial return without some sort of subsidy. Whether in that case passenger rail services justify their existence or not is as much a political as an economic question.

Exile 11:12, 24 Jan 2005 (UTC)

GWR, LMS and LNER were freight dependant (for revenue and thus survival) but Southern was never so freight dependant (ie most of its income came from passengers). Now why did the Southern passenger operation make money, etc is the next question and a variety of answer such as location, population and extent of electrification can be used to answer it. Pickle 16:41, 3 February 2006 (UTC)

Retain title as "~ Great Britain"[edit]

This should remain at History of rail transport in Great Britain - Ireland is a seperate rail system - different history. Even the gauge is different. Don't forget Ireland was all one administration when rail in the island began. Zoney 16:31, 17 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Curses! Foiled again. I'd have got away with it if it hadn't been for those pesky little facts. On balance I agree fairly completely. --Tagishsimon
On a related note, do take a look at the newly created History of rail transport in Ireland
Zoney 09:36, 18 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Wapping Tunnel[edit]

I beleive the Wapping Tunnel was open when the railway opened does that not mean the reminus was not Crown street but Wapping?--Jirate 21:29, 2004 Oct 26 (UTC)

so what about the South?[edit]

Reading through your piece I am immediately struck by the fact that, apart from almost throw-away lines mentioning the LSWR, the Midland; GNR, the southern and eastern parts of Great Britain are ignored. Considering that the oldest passenger-carrying railway (the Canterbury & Whitstable) opened four months before the Liverpool & Manchester that is a bit surprising!

I should have liked to have seen mention of the SE&CR; the LBSCR; the GER; the Cambrian Railways; and the L&YR - even if they weren't quite so successful as the article shows (and I suppose history too!) the GWR to have been. The fact of commercial backbiting played against many of the others, and the GWR lost out when it took to the broad-gauge. All played their part in The History of rail transport in Great Britain. And to mention them will draw readers to their own histories, if nothing else.

Peter Shearan

Article not biased enough toward the south east of england for you?--Jirate 14:51, 2004 Nov 19 (UTC)
Sorry don't follow your argument: why should there be a BIAS at all??? The article IS headed "... in Great Britain", (which does, geographically speaking, exclude Northern Ireland of course!!!), so should be inclusive. That was all I was trying to point out Peter Shearan 13:39, 21 Nov 2004 (UTC)
Yeah and the BBC has Britain in it, but it's still southern biased.--Jirate 20:31, 2004 Dec 12 (UTC)
Maybe simply nobody expert enough about those areas has yet contributed, Peter: please feel free to jump in! —Morven 23:32, Nov 19, 2004 (UTC)
Thanks for the suggestion - when I have an hour or two I might just do that - and yet even by adding the titles will, as I suggested, draw attention to relevant articles. So - I'll do that Peter Shearan 13:39, 21 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Category:Timeline of rail transport[edit]

A timeline of rail transport series of documents has been created, currently with little content. Please help out (not least since all but 3 "events" are US based). You know the drill: births & deaths, dates of key bits of infrastructure & acts / openings / amalgamations / closures / accidents &c. --Tagishsimon (talk)

The root category is now Template:Cl:Rail transport timelines. Slambo (Speak) 18:39, 5 December 2006 (UTC)


I notice what I perceive to be a combination of inconsistency and omission: the London and North Western Railway article describes the LNWR's formation in 1846, but makes no mention of its subsequent expansion, for example by leasing the Lancaster and Carlisle Railway in 1859 and taking it over in 1879.

The History of rail transport in Great Britain article implies that LNWR served Scotland from 1846 through "an amalgamation of companies working from Euston to Scotland". The LNW Railway Society website, however, talks about serving Scotland through cooperation with the Calledonian Railway.

I am no expert, and don't currently have time to research this, but it would appear that at least one, and possibly both, of the LNWR and History of rail transport in Great Britain articles may be misleading. StephenDawson 16:34, 10 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Rewrite of opening paragraphs[edit]

I felt that the opening paragraphs glossed over far too much of the early days of rail transport. There was nothing said about the tramways which set the whole thing in motion; none of the early pioneers are mentioned (even though most of them have articles in Wikipedia); and methods of traction were absent. There were one or two errors - the S&DR was incorporated to carry passengers for example - and some quite sweeping statements which don't really count as fact. The two tramways mentioned (the Stratford and the Cromford) were not among the pioneers - but the Surrey was, and not included.

I shall be looking at the following few sections with a view to rewrite in due course. They too are replete with some fairly sweeping statements, I feel Peter Shearan 07:29, 15 May 2005 (UTC)

One example of what I see as sweeping statement is the paragraph discussing the proliferation of separate railways. It said:
Worse, most lines were considered as isolated schemes with little thought for linking them up with other railways to facilitate through running across the country. The terminal stations were therefore often in sites ill-suited for extension or for continuation onto other lines. The problems arising from such lack of foresight soon became apparent as the network and amount of traffic expanded rapidly, and cities such as Manchester and London continue to suffer the lack of through lines in all directions.
In very many cases all those separate openings were backed by the major railways, who quite often took over the running of the lines once they had been built. I agree that there was no overall plan by the government, and I can see that the "big boys" (like all commercial operators) wanted to get the best places to serve: the ports, the collieries, the big towns and cities. On the other hand, there were hundreds of examples of what were known as "running powers" over rivals' lines (the L&NWR was running over 18 other companies' lines) - so the sentence saying that "terminal stations" and their ill-suitedness "for continuation on to other lines" is incorrect.
In addition, it is only in very recent times that railways run through many capital cities - several continental capitals have had to spend million on connecting perepheral terminals. Would a government have been happy to carve through the centre of London in the 1850s? ANSWER:In fact plans were laid by both the GNR and the GWR for cross-London routes, which fell through.
And all that ignores the fact of the many "joint railways" which came into being to facilitate through running

Peter Shearan 14:42, 15 May 2005 (UTC)

As I work through the article I feel I should comment on what I have done with it, so that I can hopefully answer criticisms before they arise. I have already commented above on the fact that the GWR seems to be set aside from all the other major railways - and I hope to be able to complete similar sections on each of the others, as was suggested above - but I have deleted the following sentence for the reason given:
And despite their separate origins, the different railways, with one notable exception, were able to run their trucks and coaches on each other's lines when they did join up.
I cannot see why the GWR was any different from other major railways. It had running powers over eleven English and seven Welsh railways so that it could reach, inter alia, Leicester, Manchester, and Ifracombe. And "trucks and coaches"? No locomotives? Surely "trains" is surely easier to say? (I know - nitpicking!) Peter Shearan 15:21, 15 May 2005 (UTC)
I have taken the plunge with the notes on the principal railways. Each should, in my opinion contain a short resume of how each came into being and give some idea of each railway's territory. They should not be a mini-article, since the main article on each railway has all (we hope!) the details. The notes should cover the life of the railways - ie end at 1923, not 1914, which was not a cut-off point. I shall be working through each one over the next few days, and should be grateful if readers wait until I reach the North British Railway!!!
I am sure that the remainder of the article will need some adjustments in due course

Peter Shearan 10:55, 16 May 2005 (UTC)

Continuation of rewrite[edit]

I started on a paragraph entitled "Following the Grouping ..." and have included that already. I admit to jumping the gun a bit, since I wrote the para in isolation from the following one - "The Grouping Period" - which at the moment repeats some of what I have said. On the other hand much of it should be put before talking about the end result, which I shall now do with the first paragraph. (We have to work chronologically in an history article, after all)

I now see that the article is considered as being too long (<32kilobytes). It may be that, by bringing in all the other railways, I am the guilty party! I am now sitting back and considering options:

  • should we hive off some sections to new articles? I have in mind the longish piece about the results/effects of the 1921 grouping - there is an article which could take that, and the comments are perhaps somewhat contentious (eg the railways did carry out quite a bit of rebuilding before WWII)
  • certainly a great deal of the later paras are somewhat POV and put the rail v road argument in a somewhat black-and-white picture - in particular the para "Railways in the post-war world". This isn't history so much as media speak!!

I shall return! Peter Shearan 10:55, 17 May 2005 (UTC)

Don't be too concerned by the size of the article - the technical limit only affects some now-obsolete versions of browsers, few of which are still in use. Excellent rewrite, by the way! -- Arwel 12:36, 17 May 2005 (UTC)

Re the length of the article. There is already a "List of British Railway Companies". Do we need the section "Major railway companies in Great Britain" If so might it not be better abbreviated as far as possible but, especially, be in chronological rather than alphabetical order, since this is a history. Chevin 14:18, 9 January 2006 (UTC)


I have added some references to this, It would be nice if more could be added. Especially for the earlier history. G-Man * 23:16, 19 January 2006 (UTC)


How you want to incorporate this info is up to you in the bigger scheme of the rewrite / expansion of each section. I've been looking into electrification [1] at 1500v DC in East Anglia / Essex which all over wikipedia article seam to have missed out.

Obviously this article need to cover the other systems in GB such as; Southern Electrics, LBSCR overhead, Tyneside electrics, Mersyside electrics, the Liverpool OHR, and the various schemes around Manchester (including the woodhead tunnel). Then detailing the adoption of 25Kv AC for the WCML, Glasgow suburban and the East Anglian suburban routes under the 1954 modernisation plan.Pickle 16:50, 3 February 2006 (UTC)


Without wishing to revive the lack of southern GB info debate, there is a lack of mention of the work by Network South East in the 1980s. They introduced new stock (Networkers) and did lots of work (eg Thameslink), revival of the Chiltern railways area, etc. Pickle 16:53, 3 February 2006 (UTC)

You're welcome to add it if you like. G-Man * 23:07, 3 February 2006 (UTC)
Ok I've had a stab at it, and updated the the WCML upgrade section aswell Pickle 20:54, 4 February 2006 (UTC)

Article split[edit]

I prospose that this article be split up. It is 47kB in size, and likely to grow. (The sections on the big four, the 1970s and post-privitisation all need some expansion). I suggest four main articles:

Alternatively, the article names could be

Either way, the content could be the same. The earliest article woudl be substantionally bigger than the other three, but I don't think it will expand as much as the others. That said, the pre-1923 material could be across two articles, to give five in total:

alternative names:

Any thoughts/comments/suggestions/approvals/disapovals? Tompw 14:03, 18 November 2006 (UTC)

I suspect that the titles with dates would better meet the approval of the more strict Wikipedians, but the 'named' titles are far more obvious to those interested in railways. Having re-examined the article, the main headings are clear because they include both. So, how about the following? They are a little longer than might be hoped, but are clear and unambiguous.
Is there a length limit for article titles? -- EdJogg 20:09, 19 November 2006 (UTC)
The ideas of "EdJogg" seam to address the issues raised. IIRC there used to be a file size limit because older browser couldn't handle supper long pages (especially those with HTML tables in), i did read a note somewhere that this restriction had ended as these older browser are now deemed to be obsolete and not around any more. However it would be good practise, and would enable people to expand the recent era (ie post WW2) which is a little lacking, sort the NPOV with post privatisation, etc, etc (even get the good steam stuff ones of those awards) Pickle 20:24, 19 November 2006 (UTC)
Good points.... quoting Wikipedia:Naming conventions: "Generally, article naming should give priority to what the majority of English speakers would most easily recognize, with a reasonable minimum of ambiguity, while at the same time making linking to those articles easy and second nature."
Firstly, the History of cricket series of articles (for example) use the date only (eg History of cricket 1697 - 1725). Yes, you do have to look at the articles to find out the signifcance of these dates, but they make for easy linking. Plus, the main History of rail transport in Great Britain article should remain, and can explain the significnace of these dates.
Secondly, use of punctuation is frowned upon (my mistake). Using punctuation marks causes the URL to appear strange.
Even though the "named" titles are more descriptive, they are not unique. Instead of "History of rail transport in Great Britain: nationalisation", one could equally have "...: British Rail" or "... : BR" or "... : state ownership". Further, I think a casual reader would just go for "History of rail transport in Great Britain", rather than trying to guess the sub-titles. Also, once they've seen the seperate articles, I think it more likely that they would remember dates rather than names. So, I'm inclined to the dates only. Tompw 22:59, 19 November 2006 (UTC)
OK, in the abscence of further comments, I'm going ahead with:
Tompw 22:55, 22 November 2006 (UTC)
Done. I've done a breif history on this article... it may be worth getting rid of all togther. Tompw 23:47, 22 November 2006 (UTC)
The Overview mostly reads OK, at least up until Nationalisation. After that I would suggest that there is a little too much detail (the previous four paragraphs cover in excess of 120 years' evolution!) - for example, the background to Beeching could be cut ( :o) ).
Might also benefit from the appropriate 'year' headings being restored, rather than just having the one heading 'Overview', which looks a little lonely and out-of-place. (PS - like the Info Box)
EdJogg 00:04, 23 November 2006 (UTC)
Good plan... what I put there was rather hastily cut-down version from Rail transport in Great Britain. I wanted something other than left over links and images. Tompw 01:19, 23 November 2006 (UTC)
Thanks for you comments on the nav-box :-) Tompw 01:24, 23 November 2006 (UTC)

A year later, I thought I'd look at how much the new articles have expanded:

Total: 7,000 to 14,000

Intersg to see which bits have grown the most... clearly people are nostalhic about BR. Tompw (talk) (review) 20:40, 13 March 2008 (UTC)

GA nomination on Hold[edit]

I have decided to put the nomination on hold. The reasons are:

  • As franchisees (most notably GNER) have over-bid to renew their franchises, it is believed that some will have wiped out their profitability in the light of rising subsidy repayments back to the Exchequer. If the franchise holders withdraw, responsibility for operating trains will go back to the Department of Transport, further fuelling calls for a full-scale re-nationalisation. However the recently terminated Connex South Eastern franchise, while "nationalised" as South Eastern Trains until the end of the franchise period, the service was subsequently re-franchised as Southeastern. is not sourced. If it could be that'll surely be great.
  • The public image of rail travel was severely damaged following the series of significant accidents. This caught my eye. I understand it must have damamge, but is this citable?

These are relatively minor problems, so I think it could be brought up to GA when they are fixed. --Hirohisat Kiwi 04:50, 14 September 2007 (UTC)

OK valid points.
the first bit needs updating post Sea Containers bankruptcy / chapter 11 (owners of GNER), as it was that coupled with the large bid they made that caused the government to step in, but instead of making a temporary franchise (al la South Eastern Trains) they kept GNER on (till this November). The re nationalisation is POV, but was regularly called up in the media so vital to this historical account (it is real point of conjecture how privatised is the UK rail industry).
The whole train crash / rail safety saga, ranging from Hatfield, potters bar, Ladbrooke grove, etc (where the rail industry was a fault) is defiantly key. IIRC post privatisation passenger number wen t up like 20% but the cataclysmic events of Hatfield, which caused the downfall of railtrack, saw these numbers fall right back, and have since only recently really recovered.
i'll try and work on it. Pickle 05:27, 14 September 2007 (UTC)

I'm going to fail this since it didn't meet the 7 day dead line. --Hirohisat Kiwi 06:24, 24 September 2007 (UTC)

Potential nationalisation[edit]

"As early as 1844 a bill had been put before Parliament suggesting the state purchase of the railways; this was not adopted. It did, however, lead to the introduction of minimum standards for the construction of carriages[7] and the compulsory provision of 3rd class accommodation for passengers - so-called "Parliamentary trains"."

This isn't quite correct. The 1844 Act permitted the government to buy up the railways at a fair price; Gladstone considering doing it during Palmerston's government. Mackensen (talk) 01:33, 16 November 2007 (UTC)

Trams & light rail[edit]

While not wishing to cloud the general focus of this article, there have been a significant number of local tram lines, which can be comfortably described as "rail transport in Great Britain", but never belonged to the heavy duty "railway network". While there are articles on local efforts (such as Trams in London or other items in Category:Tram transport in the United Kingdom ), there is no overall piece for light rail in the UK. Any ideas as to how best to link in a reference to this? Ephebi (talk) 19:38, 28 April 2008 (UTC)

Be Bold!! Olana North (talk) 07:27, 29 April 2008 (UTC)

GA Review[edit]

This review is transcluded from Talk:History of rail transport in Great Britain/GA1. The edit link for this section can be used to add comments to the review.

Initial review.

I will do a full review in time, but to start with I have some significant concerns. However, they can be easily rectified, so I will place the article on hold, and hope they can be quickly addressed.

  • Lead. The lead is far too short per WP:LEAD and does not contain any appropriate information. It needs to sum up the entire article.
  • References. There are a lot of general references at the bottom of the article, but few inline ones. Many of those general references don't appear to be actually cited in the inline section.
  • Length. Over time, this article could easily become a featured article of great importance. But for such a significant and wide-ranging topic, I think the article is very short.

Let me know what you think, and I'll come back to help out with a fuller review. Peanut4 (talk) 12:41, 19 July 2008 (UTC)

Time line of geographical development?[edit]

Apart from the passenger numbers graph, would some kind of timeline be useful in this article? Also there is no External Links section? Some readers might find this site useful as it shows the chronological development of stations and thus main routes. Thanks. Martinevans123 (talk) 18:58, 2 December 2011 (UTC)

I am suspicious of that web page. The first thing that leaps out at me is that the station names match Wikipedia article titles, such as the varied use of "railway station", "tube station" and plain "station" (see Wikipedia:Naming conventions (UK stations)) even down to the inconsistency in disambiguation techniques (compare Appledore (Kent) railway station/Appledore (North Devon) railway station with Belmont railway station (Harrow)/Belmont railway station (Sutton)) and the use of peculiar names (e.g. Guildford (Surrey) railway station (how many other Guildfords are there in the UK?), Cumnock (second) railway station, Alexandra Palace railway station (Muswell Hill branch)), so it suggests that data has been obtained from Wikipedia. This is a straight failure of WP:ELNO no. 12.
The data so obtained has not been kept up to date: it lists Bathgate (New) railway station and Drumgelloch (New) railway station, which were moved from those article names to their present names in October and December 2010 respectively.
Then there is the question of accuracy. The first station listed is Teynham railway station, allegedly opened in 1786. Now Butt (p.228) says 25 January 1858 - and looking through the article history I find this unsourced edit from an anon with a history of vandalism, which together with the abovementioned move of Bathgate, pin the data gathering to September or October 2010.
So, all in all, I'm sorry, but I don't think that this site should be permitted as an external link. --Redrose64 (talk) 23:15, 2 December 2011 (UTC)
Fair enough. I'm sure that your suspicions are perfectly well founded. But I think it's a very good example of how information in Wikipedia can be made to look more interesting and accessible. Is that a bad thing? It's a shame it could not have been made to appear here first? It's shame we live in a world of "Wiki-versus-the-Vandals"? Martinevans123 (talk) 23:21, 2 December 2011 (UTC)
I don't see WP sourcing of some data within a site that aggregates multiple sources to be a problem, per ELNO
However I did check for accuracy on a couple of stations. It claims Severn Tunnel Junction opened in 1850 (WP claims much the same - one of the through lines was built, but no station) when it ought to be 1886. Chepstow, with a very complicated set of stations moving from side to side of the river as the bridge was built, it just omits altogether.
Overall it's a cute idea, but I think it needs to be better before we should encourage linking to it. There's no citation of data sources, there's almost nothing to link the three screen areas and the list with the map. Andy Dingley (talk) 23:45, 2 December 2011 (UTC)

Additions of content about Southern's troubles[edit]

IkbenFrank has added content to this article, Impact of the privatisation of British Rail and Privatisation of British Rail about the troubles that Southern has been having with reliability, industrial disputes and share prices. While this certainly seems notable enough for the Southern article, I really do not see how the content is notable enough for articles about the wider railway network, which do not refer to any other train operators in such a way. While I do always try and assume good faith, the section header that IkbenFrank added to Impact of the privatisation of British Rail: "Rewarding failure" does not seem to fit this. I have removed the content from this article and will remove it from the other articles tomorrow unless there is a consensus otherwise. Absolutelypuremilk (talk) 22:39, 22 July 2016 (UTC)