Commercial Break

We take a break from the story of Warrington’s railways to showcase some miscellaneous items of interest and to read about some railways not directly connected to Warrington on the network.

Who can remember these products? Click any image for a manual slideshow.

Great Western Railway (GWR) (1833)

The Great Western Railway (GWR) was a British railway company that linked London with the southwest and west of England, the West Midlands, and most of Wales. It was founded in 1833, received its enabling Act of Parliament on 31 August 1835 and ran its first trains in 1838.

It was engineered by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who chose a broad gauge of 7 ft (2,134 mm) – later slightly widened to 7ft 14 1/4 in (2.14 mm) – but, from 1854, a series of amalgamations saw it also operate 4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard-gauge trains; the last broad-gauge services were operated in 1892.

The GWR was the only company to keep its identity through the Railways Act 1921, which amalgamated it with the remaining independent railways within its territory, and it was finally merged at the end of 1947 when it was nationalised and became the Western Region of British Railways.

The GWR was called by some “God’s Wonderful Railway” and by others the “Great Way Round” but it was famed as the “Holiday Line”, taking many people to English and Bristol Channel resorts in the West Country as well as the far southwest of England such as Torquay in Devon, Minehead and Somerset, and Newquay and St. Ives in Cornwall. The company’s locomotives, many of which were built in the company’s workshops at Swindon, were painted a Brunswick green colour while, for most of its existence, it used a two-tone “chocolate and cream” livery for its passenger coaches. Goods wagons were painted red but this was later changed to mid-grey.

The GWR benches at Yatton station. Photo by mattbuck is used under Creative Commons licence.

Great Western trains included long-distance express services such as the Flying Dutchman, the Cornish Riviera Express and the Cheltenham Spa Express. It also operated many suburban and rural services, some operated by steam railmotors or autotrains. The company pioneered the use of larger, more economic goods wagons than were usual in Britain. It operated a network of road motor (bus) routes, was a part of the Railway Air Services, and owned ships, docks and hotels.

Broad Gauge

A broad-gauge railway is a railway with a track gauge broader than the 1.435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in) standard-gauge railways. Brunel favoured this gauge for the GWR. He designed it in 1838, with a gauge of 7 ft 14 in (2,140 mm), and retained this gauge until 1892. Some harbours also used railways of this gauge for construction and maintenance. These included Portland Harbour and Holyhead Breakwater, which used a locomotive for working sidings. As it was not connected to the national network, this broad-gauge operation continued until the locomotive wore out in 1913. The gauge initially proposed by Brunel was 7 ft (2,134 mm) exactly but this was soon increased by 14 in (6 mm) to 7 ft 14 in (2,140 mm) to accommodate clearance problems identified during early testing. George Stephenson was to add an extra half inch to his original 4 ft8 in (1.422 mm) gauge for the same reason.

But why did he adopt this gauge in the first place when most of the other companies used standard gauge?

Brunel, even at this early stage in the development of railways, was a visionary who foresaw high speeds and the transportation of large masses. In his own words to the Gauge Commissioners:

“Looking to the speeds which I contemplated would be adopted on railways and the masses to be moved it seemed to me that the whole machine was too small for the work to be done, and that it required that the parts should be on a scale more commensurate with the mass and the velocity to be obtained.”

One of his main aims was the reduction of the rolling resistance of carriage and wagon stock. The wider gauge would allow the wheel diameter to be increased, reducing the effect of friction and allowing reasonably wide carriages to be built with bodies mounted as low as possible, thus keeping air resistance to a minimum. In Brunel’s words:

“The resistance from friction is diminished as the proportion of the diameter of the wheel to that of the axle tree is increased.”

As stated earlier, other companies used standard gauge, which caused logistical problems for passengers who wished to travel from, for example, Birmingham to Bristol. The train could not travel beyond the standard gauge line so all passengers and luggage had to be transferred, thus extending the journey time. Eventually, broad gauge was dropped in favour of standard gauge, allowing through journeys, which today for that Birmingham to Bristol route takes around 90 minutes.

One last thing. Even though we have a standard width between the tracks, there is more than one type of track used today with different methods of fixing it in place. There is bullhead rail and flat head. See the Network Rail website for more.

A mixed gauge baulk road crossover at the Didcot Railway Centre, England. The formation includes a side step to bring the common rail (shared by a wheel on both the 7ft 0.25in and 4ft 8.5in gauges) from the right side of the track to the left. Image by Geof Sheppard is used under Creative Commons licence.

Bronze statue of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, by John Doubleday. It is situated in the main (side) entrance to Paddington Station in London.

Image above by DMS is used under Creative Commons licence.

Image above adapted from Oxyman original and used under Creative Commons licence.

mywarrington is not responsible for external websites.

And how about these old railway signs and notices?

East Coast Main Line (ECML) (1840s/1850s)

The East Coast Main Line is a 393-mile railway linking Edinburgh with London and was the route of the Flying Scotsman. The line was built during the 1840s by three railway companies, the North British Railway, the North Eastern Railway, and the Great Northern Railway.

North British Railway

The North British Railway was a British railway company, based in Edinburgh, Scotland. It was established in 1844, with the intention of linking with English railways at Berwick. The line opened in 1846, and from the outset the company followed a policy of expanding its geographical area, and competing with the Caledonian Railway in particular. Read more at the North British Railway Study Group website.

North Eastern Railway

This company was incorporated in 1854 by the combination of several existing railway companies. Although primarily a Northern English railway, the NER had a short length of line in Scotland, in Roxburghshire, with stations at Carham and Sprouston on the Tweedmouth-Kelso route (making it the only English railway with sole ownership of any line in Scotland), and was a joint owner of the Forth railway bridge and its approach lines. The NER was the only English railway to run trains regularly into Scotland, over the Berwick-Edinburgh main line as well as on the Tweedmouth-Kelso branch. Read more at the Co-Curate website.

LNER Class A4 4468 Mallard at the National Railway Museum in York. It still holds the record for the fastest steam train in the world, 126 mph (202.77 kph), set on 3 July 1938. Read more in Famous Locomotives.

The couple stood in front of it here in 2006 are my mum and dad, who have since passed away. My dad was denied a chance of being a train driver because he was colour blind – red and green were swapped in dad’s vision. You certainly don’t want that on the railways!

Great Northern Railway

The Great Northern Railway (GNR) was a British railway company incorporated in 1846 with the object of building a line from London to York. Anglo-Scottish travel on the East Coast Main Line became commercially important; the GNR controlled the line from London to Doncaster and allied itself with the North Eastern Railway and the North British Railway so as to offer seamless travel facilities. Read more in the Sodor-Fandom website.

The image opposite shows what Flying Scotsman would look like if she travelled over the motorway near Croft Interchange. Of course, those with local knowledge will be quick to point out that the only railway to cross the M6 motorway at Warrington is the Northern Trains/East Midlands Railways line that runs UNDERNEATH it near Birchwood. The line that does travel through Warrington’s boundary to cross over the top of a motorway is the original Liverpool and Manchester going over the M62 at Eccles. In fact, Flying Scotsman shown here is a photograph of my personal model of the great steam engine with the motorway merged into the background and some smoke added.

We will learn more about Flying Scotsman in Famous Locomotives later in the series.

The Later Years

In 1923, the Railway Act of 1921 led to their amalgamation to form the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) and the line became its primary route. The LNER competed with the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) for long-distance passenger traffic between London and Scotland. The LNER’s chief engineer Sir Nigel Gresley designed iconic Pacific steam locomotives, including the Flying Scotsman and Mallard which achieved a world record speed for a steam locomotive, 126 miles per hour (203 km/h) on the Grantham-to-Peterborough section.

Today the line has been electrified and the journey from Edinburgh to London can now be completed in four hours and 40 minutes on a Hitachi AT300 Class 801 Azuma EMU (Electric Multiple Unit) with a top speed of 125 mph (200kmh).

LNER Azuma 801220 is seen at London Kings Cross before working a service to Edinburgh. Image by SavageKieran and used under Creative Commons licence.

mywarrington is not responsible for external websites.

Items from the National Railway Museum Collection

View them as a manual slideshow by clicking on any image.

“Hey, what are you doing to that [Nestle’s] machine?”

“Fancied a bit of chocolate.”

“What’s the idea of kicking it? What do you think the slot’s for?”

“To blow down if the kick don’t work!” (Oh, Mr Porter! 1937)

Did you know, Will Hay, star of the film, was an astronomer? In June 1932 he joined the British Astronomical Association and in November of the same year he became a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. He is noted for having discovered a Great White Spot on the planet Saturn in 1933.

Oh, Mr Porter! was one of my four favourite films set on the railways. Will Hay plays the stationmaster of a run-down railway station in Ireland, where, among the comedy chaos, he manages to track down a group of gun runners.

The other three are:

The Titfield Thunderbolt (1952). This is an Ealing comedy starring Stanley Holloway about the rescue of a much-loved branch railway. I wonder if this is where Dr Beeching got his ideas from? The film featured a replica of LMR 57 Lion, now preserved at Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry.

The Great St Trinian’s Train Robbery (1966). The wild girls school discover a train has been robbed and the cash is stored in their school. Classic comedy starring Frankie Howerd and George Cole as Flash Harry.

The Railway Children (1971). A classic adaptation of E. Nesbitt’s novel, starring Jenny Agutter. A wealthy family move from the city to the country when the father is wrongly imprisoned. It has often been described as the best children’s novel of its time, spurning an ITV remake, again starring Jenny Agutter, but this time as the mother.