LNWR Society Portfolio No. 8 - The Holyhead Steamers of the LNWR
The LNWR occupied a leading position amongst the pre-grouping railway companies in
the extent and quality of its shipping interests, as it did in many other matters.
From the outset, the LNWR had aimed to provide the best route from London to the
main cities of its area, and in most cases, it occupied the best geographical
route. A necessary consequence was an interest in important shipping routes, for
these cities included Dublin, the capital of Ireland with close governmental, social
and personal links with London, and Belfast, the fast-growing industrial centre of
the north, while traffic to and from Ireland in general formed an important and
increasing element throughout the company’s existence.
The Company’s marine interests came to be based on Holyhead, where an extensive establishment was built up. In addition, however, also based there, was the fleet of the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company, managed quite separately, which for most of the existence of the Company, ran the Irish Mail service. Elsewhere the North Western had, at its Garston Docks, a number of dredgers and tugs, and it had for a time an interest in some Mersey ferries. Its joint interests extended further. for it eventually had a one-third interest in the service from Fleetwood to Belfast with the L&Y, and a 20% interest in the Stranraer—Larne service, together with the MR, CR, G&SWR and B&NCR. In both cases, however, the LNWR’s superior marine resources often resulted in it providing advice and design facilities. Indeed, the L&NW Board usually included one or more eminent shipowners.
Although the Company at the time of its formation in 1846 already possessed the interest in the Preston & Wyre Railway which was to bring it into the Fleetwood service, that route was then operated by the North Lancashire Steam Navigation Co. and its own shipping began through the Chester & Holyhead Railway.