List of early British railway companies

The following list sets out to show all the railway companies set up by Acts of Parliament in the 19th century until the late 1850s. Most of them became constituent parts of the emerging main-line railway companies, often immediately after being built. Some continued as independent companies until the 1923 Grouping; a few retained that independence until 1947.[1] They have been listed under Scottish; and English and Welsh early railways;[2][3] and under the later main line company which absorbed them.

Each of the main line companies after the Grouping has an article listing all companies who became part of, and jointly part of, individual companies. Many of those had been in separate existence since being set up in the 19th century, and were only in 1923 losing that individuality.

The list is by no means complete: in 1846 alone there were 272 railways agreed by Act of Parliament, although not all of those were built, since it was the time of the Railway Mania. In addition lines might be extensions to existing ones, but floated as a separate company to separate the risk, and to ring-fence subscriptions, or promoted by a company which was mostly financed by an existing company. An example is the Dore and Chinley Railway which was floated as a company and then adopted and largely financed by the Midland.

Scottish early railways

Caledonian Railway (incorporated 1845)

Independent Lines operated by the Caledonian Railway

Glasgow and South Western Railway (title assumed 1850)

Great North of Scotland Railway (incorporated 1846)

Highland Railway (title assumed 1865)

North British Railway (incorporated 1844)

English and Welsh early railways

This list of lines in England and Wales is ordered roughly by region, with the exception of the GWR which was a very large company even pre-1900.


Great Western Railway


Later acquired:




See also



  1. 1 2 3 4 Casserley (1968)
  2. Some of the information contained in this article is taken from The Railway Year Book, 1912, which set out the railways in that order. At the time the term Scotch was in use.
  3. Butt; (1995)
  4. The information on NER constituents is largely drawn from Appendix E (pp 778–9) of North Eastern Railway, Its Rise and Development; by W. W. Tomlinson (David & Charles 1967 reprint of 1914 original).original available here


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