North Union Railway

North Union Railway
Locale Lancashire
Dates of operation 1838 (1838)1846 (1846)
Predecessor Wigan Branch Railway and Preston and Wigan Railway
Successor London and North Western Railway
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge

The North Union Railway was an early British railway company, operating in Lancashire and formed in 1834 by an Act of Parliament which authorised its founding as the first-ever railway amalgamation. The two companies were the Wigan Branch Railway and the Preston and Wigan Railway. The North Union was short-lived as an independent company. In 1846, it was leased jointly by the Grand Junction Railway and the Manchester and Leeds Railway.


Even before completion of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway (L&MR), an Act of Parliament in May 1830 granted the Wigan Branch Railway Company the right to develop a seven-mile branch line from the L&MR at Parkside Junction, near Newton-le-Willows, serving local coal mines (particularly by a branch to New Springs) and the town of Wigan.[1] A single line was opened on 3 September 1832.[1] In what was a unique arrangement at the time, the Wigan Branch Company declined to hire its own staff or provide motive power and rolling stock. Instead, they decided to have the line worked by the L&MR.[1] By 1838, the branch line had been doubled to facilitate a planned onward extension from Wigan to Preston.[1]

The Wigan and Preston Junction Railway was incorporated on 22 April 1831 but made slow progress in achieving its aim of connecting Wigan with Preston, now the county town of Lancashire.[1] In August 1833, before work on the Wigan–Preston line had begun, it was agreed to amalgamate the two companies with the title of The North Union Railway.[1] The merged company was formed on 22 May 1834.[2] Ratified by Act of Parliament, it was the first-ever amalgamation of railway companies.[1]

The major engineering work on the extended line was the construction of the Ribble Bridge near Preston. The foundation stone was laid on 1 September 1835 and the line took another three years to complete.[1] A trial run was held on 22 October 1838 with a train running from Wigan to Preston, and the line opened to the public nine days later.[1]

Changes of ownership

Preston and Manchester were connected via Parkside Junction. In addition, travellers could go from Bolton to Preston via a circuitous route following the Bolton and Leigh Railway to Kenyon Junction on the L&MR and then via Parkside and Wigan along the North Union.[1]

The North Union opposed the proposed Bolton and Preston Railway, whose line was projected to join the North Union at Euxton, north of Chorley. The Bolton & Preston Act was passed on 15 July 1837 with the proviso that the line north of Chorley should be delayed for three years so that a compromise could be reached between the two companies about running trains into Preston. The North Union decided to accept tolls from its rival for running trains along its Euxton to Preston stretch.[1] On 22 June 1843, the Bolton & Preston was opened through from Bolton to Euxton and thence along the North Union to Preston.[3] There was immediate competition between the two companies for the Manchester to Preston traffic and they tried to undercut each other's fares. The rivalry was short-lived as they were soon driven to amalgamate, the Bolton & Preston becoming part of the North Union on 10 May 1844.[3]

From 1 January 1846, the North Union was leased jointly by the Grand Junction Railway and the Manchester and Leeds Railway pending legislation passed 27 July 1846 which vested control of the North Union in the two lessors. Before then, the Grand Junction had become part of the London and North Western Railway (LNWR). A year later, the Manchester & Leeds changed its title to the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway (L&Y).[3] At first, the North Union was owned 60/94 LNWR and 34/94 L&Y. On 26 July 1889, Parkside to Euxton became all LNWR and Bolton to Euxton all L&Y.[3] To cope with ever-increasing traffic, the line was quadrupled between 1889 and 1891.[4]

The stretch between Euxton Junction and Preston, which included the major part of Preston station, remained in joint ownership up to the 1923 Grouping. In 1921, the LYR was absorbed by the LNWR so from that date the North Union Railway had only one owner. This section of the West Coast Main Line between London Euston and Carlisle had been the only part not wholly owned by the LNWR.


(Butt, 1995; Dewick, 2002; Wignall, 1983)

Accidents and incidents


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Bairstow, p.3.
  2. Awdry, 1990, p.97.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Bairstow, p.4.
  4. Biddle, 1989.
  5. Hewison (1983) p.30


External links

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