THE LONDON & NORTH WESTERN RAILWAY
Until 1923, the London & North Western Railway was the largest
railway in Britain. It had been formed in 1846 by the merger of:
- The Grand Junction Railway , which ran from Earlestown to Birmingham, and which had already
merged with the Liverpool and Manchester.
- The London and Birmingham Railway .
- The Manchester and Birmingham , which in practice ran only from Manchester to Crewe,
with a branch to Macclesfield.
Within a few years of its formation the LNWR had built or taken over several other railways.
The main line - which we now know as the West Coast Main Line - ran from London Euston to
Carlisle where traffic was passed on to its Scottish partner, the Caledonian,for Glasgow,
Edinburgh and Aberdeen. Other main lines ran to Holyhead (by mail steamer to Kingstown
(Dun Laoghaire) or LNWR steamer to Dublin or Greenore), Liverpool, through Manchester to
Leeds, to Peterborough and to Merthyr and Swansea in South Wales. Alliances with other
companies took the LNWR's distinctive plum and spilt milk liveried carriages to cities such
as Bristol, Newcastle, Hull, Harwich and even Brighton, so that few areas would not have seen
the LNWR. The railway also handled the Irish Mail for the Government between Euston to
The LNWR was known as the 'Premier Line', disputed by many, but as the largest joint stock
company in the United Kingdom, collecting a greater revenue than any other company and having
the Liverpool & Manchester as one of its ancestors, it deserved the title.
The company built rolling stock and locomotives at three major centres:
- Crewe - the greatest locomotive works in Britain (and perhaps the World)
- Earlestown, the wagon works
- Wolverton, the carriage works
The coaches which the company built for Queen Victoria and her descendants are on display at
the National Railway Museum.
The company's locomotives painted 'blackberry black' and coaches in their 'purple lake' livery
gave it a distinctive appearance amongst the all red Midland Railway, and the green, chocolate
and cream of the Great Western. Unfortunately, few LNWR locomotives have been preserved, as
most were withdrawn when in the ownership of the LMS.
After the First World War the railways of Britain were worn out and beginning to suffer from
competition from road traffic. The government forced all companies to merge into four large
groups from January 1st 1923 - the LMS, LNER, GWR and the SR. The LNWR joined with the Midland,
Lancashire & Yorkshire, Caledonian, Glasgow South Western, Highland, North Stafford, Furness
and a few smaller railways to form the London Midland & Scottish Railway. So seventy five years
of tradition ended. Fortunately, thousands of photographs had been taken since the early days of
the LNWR. They remain mementoes of a great railway.