The LMS Handbook: The London, Midland & Scottish Railway 1923-47

The LMS Handbook: The London, Midland & Scottish Railway 1923-47

by David Wragg


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The LMS Handbook: The London, Midland & Scottish Railway 1923-47 by David Wragg

The London Midland & Scottish Railway was the largest of the Big Four railway companies to emerge from the 1923 grouping. It was the only one to operate in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, as well as having two short stretches of line in the Irish Republic, and was also the world’s largest owner of railway hotels and railway shipping operator. Mainly a freight railway, it still boasted the best railway carriages, and the work of chief engineer Sir William Stanier influenced the first locomotive and carriage designs for the nationalized British Railways. Packed with facts and figures as well as historical narrative, this extensively illustrated book is a superb reference source that will be of interest to all railway enthusiasts.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780750967518
Publisher: The History Press
Publication date: 10/01/2016
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 6.60(w) x 9.50(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

David Wragg has written many books on railway, aviation, and defense subjects, including Wartime on the Railways, The Southern Railway Story, The LMS Story, The LNER Story, and The GWR Story for The History Press. He has also written on these subjects for the Sunday Telegraph, the Spectator, and the Scotsman. He lives near Edinburgh.

Read an Excerpt

The LMS Handbook

The London, Midland and Scottish Railway 1923-47

By David Wragg

The History Press

Copyright © 2016 David Wragg
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7509-6914-7


The Ancestors and the Neighbours

Many claim that the London Midland & Scottish Railway was the largest private enterprise concern in the entire British Empire. There are so many different means of assessing the size of a company, such as the number of employees, annual turnover, the value of the assets, or the stock market valuation, which on its formation was £400 million (roughly equivalent to £16 billion today) that this is difficult to judge. However, but one thing is clear, which is that the LMS was by far the largest of the four great railway companies established by the Railways Act 1921. It was also the only one to operate in all four parts of the United Kingdom, being the 'other' railway company in Wales and again in Scotland, and also inheriting the Northern Counties Committee, the former Belfast & Northern Counties Railway, from the Midland Railway.

In short, this railway extended from Thurso in the far north of Scotland to Bournemouth on the South Coast, running over S&D metals, and from Londonderry, and beyond into Donegal, to Southend and Shoeburyness in Essex.

Yet, all of this might not have happened, as the original proposals for grouping the railways envisaged seven companies rather than four, and a clue that the LMS might not have been a single railway lies in the fact that after nationalisation it was split into two British Railways' regions. The original Railways Bill envisaged Scotland having a separate railway company while the other six companies would cover England and Wales. It was only after strong objections from Scotland that a Scottish railway company would have to raise fares and goods charges more than Anglo-Scottish companies that the decision was taken to form what would eventually be the LMS and its East Coast counterpart, the London & North Eastern Railway.

This was not the only part of the legislation to attract comment, as many expected the Cambrian Railways to be included with what became the LMS rather than, as happened, the Great Western, because the Cambrian's route structure brought it closer to the old London & North Western Railway than to the GWR. The government's original plans would have seen a 'North-Western' company rather than a London, Midland and Scottish business. In many ways, the original plan for the railways was what was foisted on them on nationalisation when once again, a separate Scottish Region was introduced. The LMS extended into North Wales, and the original Bill, when first published, indicated that all of the railways in Wales would be passed to the Great Western.

Under Grouping, the plan was simply to create a 'North Western, Midland and West Scottish' railway company and it took all of 1922 for appointments and structures to be agreed, and even then, most passengers did not notice the change until 1927 as there was so much to be done. As with the other grouped companies, the companies absorbed were defined either as constituent companies, which meant that they had a director on the board of the new company, or as subsidiary companies.

The London Midland & Scottish Railway had as its constituent companies:

Caledonian Railway
Furness Railway
Glasgow & South Western Railway
Highland Railway
Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway (Which had already agreed to be purchased by the LNWR.)
London & North Western Railway
Midland Railway
North Staffordshire Railway

The subsidiaries included:

Arbroath & Forfar Railway
Brechin & Edzell District Railway
Callander & Oban Railway
Cathcart District Railway
Charnwood Forest Railway
Cleator & Workington Junction Railway
Cockermouth Keswick & Penrith Railway
Dearne Valley Railway
Dornoch Light Railway
Dundee & Newtyle Railway
Harborne Railway
Leek & Manifold Valley Light Railway (2ft 6in gauge)
Maryport & Carlisle Railway
Mold & Denbigh Junction Railway
North & South Western Junction Railway
North London Railway
Portpatrick & Wigtownshire Joint Committee
Shropshire Union Railways & Canal
Solway Junction Railway
Stratford upon Avon & Midland Junction Railway
Tottenham & Forest Gate Railway
Wick & Lynster Light Railway
Wirral Railway
Yorkshire Dales Railway

Some of the smaller lines were already leased to or worked by the larger companies. The Mersey Railway was taken over in 1938 to be absorbed into the LMS's Wirral Lines. The Irish companies were not mentioned in, or covered by, the legislation, which was confined to Great Britain.

Many of the companies absorbed by the LMS were already substantial ventures in themselves. No fewer than four of them had London termini, while the Great Western, by contrast, had just the one, at Paddington. The London & North Western had Euston, the Midland had St Pancras, the North London had Broad Street, and the London Tilbury & Southend had the smallest of all the London termini at Fenchurch Street. The first two of these railways were particularly substantial, and post-Grouping their managements were eager to come out on top, while the Lancashire & Yorkshire, despite merging with the LNWR on the eve of Grouping, also had its own ideas. North of the border, there was also rivalry between the Glasgow & South Western and the Caledonian.

If any believed that the legislation would impose some neat boundaries on the four great grouped companies, they were soon to be mistaken. Apart from the issues over Scotland and, to a lesser extent, Wales, and the LMS competing with the LNER between London and Southend, the LNER took over the Cheshire Lines Committee, of which it has often been said, ran more in Lancashire than in Cheshire, and the LMS was not without its lines further east. To be fair, the Cheshire Lines were a partnership, but the LNER provided the motive power, except for through trains by the LMS.

The Constituent Companies

Caledonian Railway

The largest Scottish company to be merged into the LMS, the Caledonian Railway, adopted the Royal Arms of Scotland as its crest and its locomotives were smartly presented in a blue livery. It was founded in 1845 to extend the West Coast main line from Carlisle to Glasgow and Edinburgh, dividing at Carstairs, and at the time it was expected to be the only Anglo-Scottish line. The engineer was Joseph Locke. Initially, grand termini were planned in both cities, as well as a cross-country line, but these plans were thwarted.

The company reached Glasgow over the metals of the Grankirk & Glasgow (later renamed the Glasgow & Coatbridge) and the Wishaw & Coltness railways to Buchanan Street station, whose wooden train sheds remained until after Grouping. Eventually, three Glasgow termini were used, including, from 1849, the South Side station accessed via the Clydesdale Junction and the Glasgow Barrhead & Neilston Direct, and also shared Bridge Street with the Glasgow & South Western. South Side was closed when Central and St Enoch were opened in the 1870s, but Bridge Street continued to be used until 1906, after Central had been extended, and eventually had 17 platforms on two levels.

The line was extended north to Aberdeen using the Scottish Central, Scottish Midland Junction and Aberdeen railways, and in 1856 the latter two merged to form the Scottish North Eastern Railway, before all three were absorbed by the Caledonian in 1865-66. From 1880, the Caledonian served the Western Highlands over the Callander & Oban Railway, which it effectively rescued and developed, and then up to 1900, built a network of lines along the Clyde to compete with the Glasgow & South Western and North British railways, giving the company a suburban and tourist network as well as serving steamer services, the growing shipyards, and the mines of Lanarkshire, for which many new lines and private sidings were built.

The Caledonian's main routes were the finest in Scotland. The company moved into steamer services, including tourist vessels on Loch Lomond, with the main steamer-railway terminus being at Wemyss Bay. The further expansion of the Glasgow suburban network was cut short by the appearance of horse and, later, electric trams, with the Paisley & District line completed, but never opened for passenger trains.

Meanwhile, in Edinburgh, the unsatisfactory Lothian Road station was replaced by Princes Street, which later had the Caledonian Hotel added providing an impressive frontage. A network of suburban services was also created in the Capital. Further north, the company built its own station at Stirling and took the lead in remodelling the joint stations at Perth and Aberdeen, and opened new tourist lines from Crieff to Lochearnhead, and from Connel to Ballachulish.

The company provided railway links for all of the docks within its wide operating area, as well as owning those at Grangemouth, which it acquired with the Forth & Clyde Canal in 1867.

Intense competition arose with the Glasgow & South Western and, especially after the opening of the East Coast main line, the North British, initially for traffic between Edinburgh and London, but after the Tay and Forth bridges were completed, this rivalry extended to Aberdeen. The hotel business extended from Glasgow and Edinburgh to include the famous hotel at Gleneagles. The company became famous for good design and high standards, with a strong awareness of the importance of public image. When merged into the London Midland & Scottish Railway in 1923, it contributed 1,057 route miles.

Furness Railway

The smallest of the constituent companies, it had its origins in an isolated line built in 1846 to move iron ore and slate from the Furness peninsula to the docks at Barrow-in-Furness. A series of take-overs and extensions resulted in a line from Carnforth to Whitehaven, opened in 1857, with branches into the Lake District and connecting steamer services on Lake Windermere and Coniston Water. In 1862, the FR acquired the Ulverston & Lancaster Railway. The company initially prospered with the steel and shipbuilding industry, but during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, its promotion of tourism brought it great benefits before it became part of the LMS.

Glasgow & South Western Railway

The G&SWR was formed in 1850 when the Glasgow Paisley Kilmarnock & Ayr Railway, authorised in 1837, acquired the Glasgow Dumfries & Carlisle Railway. The line to Ayr had been completed in 1840, and was followed in 1843 by a branch from Dalry to Kilmarnock, but this eventually became the main line to Carlisle via Dumfries. It had less severe gradients than the rival Caledonian line to Carlisle via Beattock, but was 18 miles longer. During the remainder of the 19th century, the company acquired other lines in its area, including Scotland's first railway, the Kilmarnock & Troon, dating from 1811. It built the first railway hotel for golfers at Turnberry in 1906. The main works were at Kilmarnock, completed in 1856, but a new workshop at Barassie, near Troon, was completed in 1901.

The main business of the railway was the movement of coal, and tourist and commuter traffic to the resorts on the Ayrshire coast, while it also handled a substantial volume of traffic to Ireland. It was forced to operate the 'Port Road', the lines from Dumfries to Portpatrick, and later Stranraer when that became the main Scottish port for Ireland, in partnership with the Caledonian, London & North Western and Midland railways. Financial and operational difficulties delayed completion of the Glasgow–Stranraer route until 1877 and it was not fully incorporated into the G&SWR until 1892. The problems were caused partly by competition for Irish traffic through ports in Ayrshire, and by the fact that at the time it was also possible to sail directly from Glasgow to Belfast and other Irish ports.

In Glasgow, through running to the North British became possible when the City Union Railway was completed in 1870, and through running to the Midland Railway's Settle and Carlisle line started once this route was completed. Parliament rejected plans for a merger with the Midland, but the two companies collaborated on express services from St Pancras to St Enoch, completed in 1876. Strong competition developed with the Caledonian in Ayrshire, and joint operation of a new direct Glasgow–Kilmarnock line was forced on the companies when it opened in 1873. A bid for the G&SWR by the CR was rejected by Parliament in 1890. Quadrupling of the 30 miles from Glasgow to Kilwinning was largely completed by the outbreak of the First World War.

Highland Railway

Formed in 1865 from the merger of the Aberdeen & Perth Junction Railway with the Inverness & Aberdeen Junction Railway, initially the HR had main lines to Keith, opened in 1858, and Dunkeld, opened in 1863. The latter was extended to Inverness and then further north, reaching Wick and Thurso in 1874, albeit taking an extremely circuitous route around the Beauly Firth via Dingwall, while another line went to Kyle of Lochalsh, reached in 1897. These lines included steep gradients of as much as 1 in 70, while there was a swing bridge over the Caledonian Canal at Clachnaharry, and a viaduct over the Kyle of Sutherland between Culrain and Invershin. The HR acquired the Duke of Sutherland's Railway in 1884. A plan for a direct Inverness–Glasgow line through the Great Glen, promoted in 1883, proved fruitless, but a direct line was opened to Aviemore in 1898.

The HR planned a number of branch lines, but by this time road transport was emerging as a serious competitor, especially in remote areas. Nevertheless, the North British-sponsored West Highland Railway (1894), and the Invergarry & Fort Augustus Railway (1903), threatened the HR's position.

Most of the network was single track, with passing loops and a double section between Clachnaharry and Clunes providing the total of 47 miles of double track, but efficiency improved when train staff and tablet instruments were introduced during the 1890s. The problems of heavy snowfall on isolated stretches of line led William Stroudley, the HR's first locomotive superintendent, to design a range of snow ploughs. His successor, David Jones, designed Britain's first 4-6-0 locomotive.

The HR did much for the fishing industry, especially with fast goods trains running from Buckie on the Moray coast to Liverpool and Manchester, and from Wick and Thurso to the south. There were also significant movements of beef cattle, and whisky distilleries were sited close to the railway. The company also attempted to boost tourism, even building a branch to the spa town of Strathpeffer in 1885, and building a hotel there in 1911. Nevertheless, given the low population, mixed trains were commonplace, and carriages could be behind loose-coupled goods wagons, but after a number of accidents, the Railway Regulation Act 1889 demanded continuous braking for passenger trains, although the HR was given an extended period until 1897 to adapt.

The system came under sustained heavy use during the First World War, with the famous 'Jellicoe Specials' carrying men and coal to Thurso for the fleet at Scapa Flow, while Invergordon was another major naval base along its route. Later in the war, Kyle of Lochalsh also became important, with mines for the Northern Barrage and also US naval personnel.

Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway

The Manchester-based Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway played a pivotal role in the British railway network, with its 600 route miles, which made it the eleventh largest amongst mainland railways. Belying its importance – far more impressive and reflective of its status – was the locomotive fleet, which made it the fourth largest, while its fleet of 30 ships was the largest of any pre-Grouping railway.

Much of its infrastructure was built by Sir John Hawkshaw, and the trans-Pennine routes featured steep gradients, tall viaducts and tunnels, while on the western side, much of the route mileage was relatively flat. The company emerged in 1847 on the renaming of the Manchester & Leeds Railway when it acquired the Wakefield Pontefract & Goole Railway, which opened the following year. Later, it joined the London & North Western in acquiring the North Union and Preston & Wyre, as well as the docks at Preston and Fleetwood, and also gained access to Blackpool and Lytham St Annes. Further lines were added to the system on both sides of the Pennines, before absorbing the East Lancashire Railway in 1859, with which it had had a difficult relationship earlier, and the West Lancashire, which had opened a line between Preston and Southport in 1882, followed in 1897. While these additions were important, the main LYR system was already complete by 1880.

Despite its strategic importance and the wealth of the major cities on its network, as well as the tourist and commuter potential of many destinations, the LYR was for many years notorious for trains that were dirty, slow and unpunctual. This began to change in 1883 when John Parsons replaced Thomas Barnes as chairman, and when he died in 1887, his work was continued by George Armytage, who remained in office for more than 30 years. A new locomotive works at Horwich, Manchester, replaced the two old and cramped sites at Miles Platting and Bury. A new locomotive superintendent took over in 1886, J.A.F. Aspinall, and he began a major programme of producing modern steam locomotives to replace the ageing fleet, with many elderly engines having been kept in service to meet rapidly growing traffic. The most significant of the new locomotives were 2-4-2 tank engines, which took over all passenger services other than the main line expresses, with 332 built between 1889 and 1911. Aspinall became general manager in 1899, with similar success in his new role.


Excerpted from The LMS Handbook by David Wragg. Copyright © 2016 David Wragg. Excerpted by permission of The History Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents


Introduction to the 2016 Edition: Britain's largest railway company,
Introduction: Britain's largest railway – reaching all four corners of the Kingdom,
Chapter 1 The Ancestors and the Neighbours,
Chapter 2 London Termini,
Chapter 3 Destinations,
Chapter 4 Creating a New Railway Company,
Chapter 5 The Managers,
Chapter 6 Steam Locomotives,
Chapter 7 Electrics, Diesels and 'Ro-Railers',
Chapter 8 Carrying the Goods,
Chapter 9 The Best Railway Carriages,
Chapter 10 The Named Expresses,
Chapter 11 Travel LMS – 'The Best Way',
Chapter 12 The Record Setters,
Chapter 13 The LMS in Ireland,
Chapter 14 Shipping and Ports,
Chapter 15 Road Transport,
Chapter 16 Air Services,
Chapter 17 Accidents,
Chapter 18 The Infrastructure,
Chapter 19 Railways at War,
Chapter 20 Under Attack,
Chapter 21 Peace and Nationalisation,
Chapter 22 What Might Have Been,
I Motive Power Depots,
II Locomotive Numbering,
III Locomotives as at 31 December 1947,
IV Named LMS Standard Locomotives,
V Locomotives absorbed at Grouping,

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