Grand Junction Railway 1833 to 1846
The Grand Junction Railway Company was established in the second half of 1832 by the consolidation of two rival companies: the Birmingham and Liverpool Railway Company and the Liverpool and Birmingham Railway Company. Authorised by Parliament on 6 May 1833 and designed by George Stephenson and Joseph Locke, the Grand Junction Railway opened for business on 4 July 1837, running for 82 miles (132 km) from Birmingham through Wolverhampton (via Perry Barr and Bescot), Stafford, Crewe, and Warrington, then via the existing Warrington & Newton Railway to join the Liverpool & Manchester Railway at a triangular junction at Newton Junction. The GJR established its chief engineering works at Crewe, relocating there from Edge Hill, in Liverpool.
It began operation with a temporary Birmingham terminus at Vauxhall. The travelling post office where mail was sorted on a moving train was instituted on the Grand Junction Railway in January 1838. Using a converted horse-box, it was carried out at the suggestion of Frederick Karstadt, a General Post Office surveyor. Karstadt’s son was one of two mail clerks who did the sorting.
When the London & Birmingham opened on 17 September 1838, services were routed to and from Curzon Street station which it shared with the Grand Junction Railway, the platforms of which were adjacent, providing a link between Liverpool, Manchester and London. The route between Curzon Street railway station and Vauxhall primarily consisted of the Birmingham Viaduct. It consisted of 28 arches, each 31 feet (9.4 m) wide and 28 feet (8.5 m) tall and crossed the River Rea. In October 1838, the Liverpool Mercury reported that
“It is confidently expected, that after the ensuing winter is over, and the embankments on the London and Birmingham Line are well settled down, first class trains between Liverpool and Manchester and London will not occupy more than nine hours in the journey. This being accomplished, what further improvement could be desired between London and Lancashire?”
In 1840, the GJR absorbed the Chester & Crewe Railway soon before it began operation. Considering itself as part of a grand railway network, the company encouraged the development of the North Union Railway which extended the tracks onward to Preston, and it also invested in the Lancaster & Carlisle Railway and the Caledonian Railway. In 1845, the GJR merged with the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, and consolidated its position by buying the North Union Railway in association with the Manchester & Leeds Railway.
In 1841, the company appointed Captain Mark Huish as the secretary of the railway. Huish was ruthless in the development of the business and contributed significantly to the company’s success.