London and North Western Railway

London and North Western Railway

LNWR crest
Dates of operation 16 July 184631 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
Length 2,667.5 miles (4,292.9 km) in 1923
Headquarters Euston railway station

The London and North Western Railway (LNWR, L&NWR) was a British railway company between 1846 and 1922. 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.


LNWR office on The Quay, Waterford, Ireland, 1910
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.[1] The company initially had a network of approximately 350 miles (560 km),[1] 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[2] (equivalent to £14,030,000 in 2015).[3] The station stood on Drummond Street.[4] Further expansion resulted in two additional platforms in the 1870s, and four more in the 1890s, bringing the total to 15.[5]

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]

With the Grand Union Railway acquisition of the North Union Railway in 1846, the London and North Western Railway operated as far north as Preston.[6] In 1859 the London and North Western Railway amalgamated with the Lancaster and Carlisle Railway

When the Lancaster and Preston Junction Railway, amalgamated with Lancaster and Carlisle Railway in 1859 and this combined enterprise was leased to the London and North Western Railway, the company now had a direct route from London to Carlisle.[7]

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 and handled the Irish Mail.[8]

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 GPO instituted its own post train, wholly of Post Office vehicles, in 1885.[9] 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.[9]

In 1860 the company pioneered the use of the water trough designed by John Ramsbottom.[10][11] It was introduced on a section of level track at Mochdre, between Llandudno Junction and Colwyn Bay.[9]

The erecting shop at the Crewe Locomotive Works ca. 1890

The company inherited a number of 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 Dundalk, Newry and Greenore Railway, which connected to other lines of the Irish mainline network at Dundalk and Newry.[12]

The LNWR also had a main line connecting Liverpool and Manchester with Leeds, and secondary routes extending to Nottingham, Derby, Peterborough and South Wales.[13]

At its peak just before World War I, it ran a route mileage of more than 1,500 miles, and employed 111,000 people. In 1913 the company achieved a total revenue of £17,219,060 (equivalent to £1,528,040,000 in 2015)[3] with working expenses of £11,322,164[14] (equivalent to £1,004,740,000 in 2015).[3]

On 1 January 1922, one year before it amalgamated with other railways to create the London, Midland and Scottish Railway, the LNWR amalgamated with the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway and at the same time absorbed the North London Railway, the Dearne Valley Railway and the Shropshire Union Railways and Canal Company. 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).[15][16]


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.


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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

Major accidents on the LNWR include:-

Minor incidents include:-


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

Chairmen of the Board of Directors

Members of the Board of Directors

General Managers

Locomotive Superintendents and Chief Mechanical Engineers

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:


See also


  1. 1 2 3 Ferneyhough, Frank (1975). The history of railways in Britain. Reading: Osprey. p. 111. ISBN 978-0-85045-060-6.
  2. "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. (subscription required (help)).
  3. 1 2 3 UK CPI inflation numbers based on data available from Gregory Clark (2016), "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)" MeasuringWorth.
  4. – 1862 map, showing position of 1849 station.
  5. "Euston Station, London". Network Rail. Retrieved 22 February 2013.
  6. "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.
  7. "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.
  8. "The Importance of Passenger Traffic". London and North Western Railway Society. Retrieved 24 February 2013.
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 "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.
  10. Robbins, Michael (1967). Points and Signals. London: George Allen & Unwin.
  11. Acworth, J. M. (1889). The Railways of England. London: John Murray.
  12. Barrie, D. S. M. (1957). The Dundalk, Newry & Greenore Railway and the Holyhead - Greenore Steamship Service. Usk, UK: The Oakwood Press.
  13. "Map of LNWR". London and North Western Railway Society. Retrieved 24 February 2013.
  14. "London and North-Western Railway.". Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer. British Newspaper Archive. 21 February 1914. Retrieved 1 August 2016 via British Newspaper Archive. (subscription required (help)).
  15. Reed, M.C. (1996). The London & North Western Railway. Penryn: Atlantic Transport Publishers. pp. 223–4. ISBN 0-906899-66-4.
  16. Marshall, John (1970). The Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway, volume 2. Newton Abbot: David & Charles. p. 256. ISBN 0-7153-4906-6.
  17. Book 0323: The Aylesbury Railway. Hertfordshire Genealogy. Retrieved 29 December 2010.
  18. Banbury To Verney Junction (Lnwr). Retrieved 29 December 2010.
  19. 1 2 Hewison, Christian H. (1983). Locomotive Boiler Explosions. Newton Abbot: David & Charles. pp. 32, 36–37. ISBN 0 7153 8305 1.
  20. 1 2 3 Hall, Stanley (1990). The Railway Detectives. London: Ian Allan. pp. 38–40. ISBN 0 7110 1929 0.
  21. Trevena, Arthur (1981). Trains in Trouble: Vol. 2. Redruth: Atlantic Books. p. 7. ISBN 0-906899-03-6.
  22. Trevena, Arthur (1981). Trains in Trouble: Vol. 2. Redruth: Atlantic Books. pp. 15–16. ISBN 0-906899-03-6.
  23. Earnshaw, Alan (1990). Trains in Trouble: Vol. 6. Penryn: Atlantic Books. p. 8. ISBN 0-906899-37-0.
  24. 1 2 Trevena, Arthur (1980). Trains in Trouble. Vol. 1. Redruth: Atlantic Books. pp. 16, 24. ISBN 0-906899-01-X.
  25. Hoole, Ken (1982). Trains in Trouble: Vol. 3. Redruth: Atlantic Books. p. 15. ISBN 0-906899-05-2.
  26. Earnshaw, Alan (1991). Trains in Trouble: Vol. 7. Penryn: Atlantic Books. p. 13. ISBN 0-906899-50-8.
  27. Earnshaw, Alan (1993). Trains in Trouble: Vol. 8. Penryn: Atlantic Books. p. 11. ISBN 0-906899-52-4.
  28. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 Bradshaw's Railway Manual, Shareholders' Guide and Official Directory for 1905. London: Henry Blacklock & Co. Ltd. pp. 201–202.
  29. Railway Reminiscences by George P. Neele Late Superintendent of the Line of the London and North Western Railway, Morquorquodale & Co., London 1904, Chapter VII
  30. Debretts House of Commons and the Judicial Bench 1870
  31. Unknown (1894). "Obituary, John Hick, 1815-1894". Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers. 117: 379–380. ISSN 1753-7843. Retrieved 13 November 2015.
  32. Premier Line. Northampton and Lamport Railway (26 January 2008). Retrieved 29 December 2010.

Further reading

External links

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