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London and North Western Railway

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Headquarters  Euston railway station
Founded  1846
London and North Western Railway wwwlnwrsorgukMapLNWRM1x2gif

Dates of operation  16 July 1846–31 December 1922
Track gauge  4 ft 8 ⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Length  2,667.5 miles (4,292.9 km) in 1923
Successor  London, Midland and Scottish Railway
Predecessors  Grand Junction Railway, London and Birmingham Railway, Manchester and Birmingham Railway

Lnwr day at wigan model engineering society london and north western railway society

The London and North Western Railway (LNWR, L&NWR) was a British railway company between 1846 and 1922. In the late 19th century the L&NWR was the largest joint stock company in the world.


In 1923 it became a constituent of the London, Midland and Scottish (LMS) railway, and, in 1948, the London Midland Region of British Railways: the LNWR is effectively an ancestor of today's West Coast Main Line.


The company was formed on 16 July 1846 by the amalgamation of the Grand Junction Railway, London and Birmingham Railway and the Manchester and Birmingham Railway. This move was prompted in part by the Great Western Railway's plans for a railway north from Oxford to Birmingham. The company initially had a network of approximately 350 miles (560 km), connecting London with Birmingham, Crewe, Chester, Liverpool and Manchester.

The headquarters were at Euston railway station. As traffic increased it was greatly expanded with the opening in 1849 of the Great Hall, designed by Philip Charles Hardwick in classical style. It was 126 ft (38 m) long, 61 ft (19 m) wide and 64 ft (20 m) high and cost £150,000 (equivalent to £14,030,000 in 2015). The station stood on Drummond Street. Further expansion resulted in two additional platforms in the 1870s, and four more in the 1890s, bringing the total to 15.

The LNWR described itself as the Premier Line. This was justified as it included the pioneering Liverpool & Manchester Railway of 1830, and the original LNWR main line linking London, Birmingham and Lancashire had been the first big railway in Britain, opened throughout in 1838. As the largest joint stock company in the United Kingdom, it collected a greater revenue than any other railway company of its era.

With the Grand Union Railway acquisition of the North Union Railway in 1846, the London and North Western Railway operated as far north as Preston. In 1859 the London and North Western Railway amalgamated with the Lancaster and Carlisle Railway

When the Lancaster and Preston Junction Railway, amalgamated with Lancaster and Carlisle Railway in 1859 and this combined enterprise was leased to the London and North Western Railway, the company now had a direct route from London to Carlisle.

In 1858 they merged with the Chester and Holyhead Railway and became responsible for the lucrative Irish Mail trains via the North Wales Main Line to Holyhead and handled the Irish Mail.

On 1 February 1859 the company launched the limited mail service, which was only allowed to take three passenger coaches, one each for Glasgow, Edinburgh and Perth. The Postmaster General was always willing to allow a fourth coach provided the increased weight did not cause time to be lost in running. The train was timed to leave Euston at 20.30 and operated until the GPO instituted its own post train, wholly of Post Office vehicles, in 1885. On 1 October 1873 the first sleeping carriage ran between Euston and Glasgow, attached to the limited mail. It ran three nights a week in each direction. On 1 February 1874 a second carriage was provided and the service ran every night.

In 1860 the company pioneered the use of the water trough designed by John Ramsbottom. It was introduced on a section of level track at Mochdre, between Llandudno Junction and Colwyn Bay.

The company inherited a number of manufacturing facilities from the companies with which it merged, but these were consolidated, and in 1862 locomotive construction and maintenance was done at the Crewe Locomotive Works, carriage building was done at Wolverton and wagon building was concentrated at Earlestown.

At the core of the LNWR system was the main line network connecting London Euston with the major cities of Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester, and (through co-operation with the Caledonian Railway) Edinburgh and Glasgow. This route is today known as the West Coast Main Line. A ferry service also linked Holyhead to Greenore in County Louth, where the LNWR owned the 26-mile Dundalk, Newry and Greenore Railway, which connected to other lines of the Irish mainline network at Dundalk and Newry.

The LNWR also had a main line connecting Liverpool and Manchester with Leeds, and secondary routes extending to Nottingham, Derby, Peterborough and South Wales.

At its peak just before World War I, it ran a route mileage of more than 1,500 miles, and employed 111,000 people. In 1913 the company achieved a total revenue of £17,219,060 (equivalent to £1,528,040,000 in 2015) with working expenses of £11,322,164 (equivalent to £1,004,740,000 in 2015).

On 1 January 1922, one year before it amalgamated with other railways to create the London, Midland and Scottish Railway, the LNWR amalgamated with the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway and at the same time absorbed the North London Railway, the Dearne Valley Railway and the Shropshire Union Railways and Canal Company. With this, the LNWR achieved a route mileage (including joint lines, and lines leased or worked) of 2,707.88 miles (4,357.91 km).


The LNWR became a constituent of the London, Midland and Scottish (LMS) railway when the railways of Great Britain were merged in the grouping of 1923. Ex-LNWR lines formed the core of the LMS's Western Division.

Nationalisation followed in 1948, with the English and Welsh lines of the LMS becoming the London Midland Region of British Railways. Some former LNWR routes were subsequently closed, notably the lines running East to West across the Midlands (e.g. Peterborough to Northampton and Cambridge to Oxford), but others were developed as part of the Inter City network, notably the main lines from London to Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Carlisle, collectively known in the modern era as the West Coast Main Line. These were electrified in the 1960s and 1970s, and further upgraded in the 1990s and 2000s, with trains now running at up to 125 mph. Other LNWR lines survive as part of commuter networks around major cities such as Birmingham and Manchester.


The LNWR's main engineering works were at Crewe (locomotives), Wolverton (carriages) and Earlestown (wagons). Locomotives were usually painted green at first, but in 1873 black was adopted as the standard livery. This finish has been described as "blackberry black".

Accidents and incidents

Major accidents on the LNWR include:-

  • On 26 March 1850, the boiler of a locomotive exploded at Wolverton, Buckinghamshire due to the tampering of the safety valves. One person was injured.
  • On 30 April 1851 a train returning from Chester Races broke down in Sutton tunnel, and the following train ran into it. Six passengers were killed.
  • On 6 September 1851 a train run for the Great Exhibition returning from Euston to Oxford derailed at Bicester and six passengers were killed.
  • On 6 March 1853, the boiler of a locomotive exploded at Longsight, Lancashire. Six people were killed and the engine shed was severely damaged.
  • On 27 August 1860 a passenger train collided with a goods train at Craven Arms and one passenger was killed.
  • On 16 November 1860 the Irish night mail ran into a cattle train at Atherstone. The fireman of the mail train, and nine drovers in the cattle train were killed.
  • On 11 June 1861, a cast-iron bridge collapsed under a freight train at Leek Wootton, Warwickshire. Both engine crew were killed.
  • On 2 September 1861 a ballast train came out of a siding onto the main line just past Kentish Town Junction without the signalman’s permission, and an excursion train from Kew ran past the signals and collided with it, resulting in the deaths of fourteen passengers and two employees.
  • On 29 June 1867, a passenger train ran into the rear of a coal train at Warrington, Cheshire due to a pointsman's error which was compounded by the lack of interlocking between points and signals. Eight people were killed and 33 were injured.
  • On 20 August 1868, a rake of wagons ran away from Llandulas, Denbighshire during shunting operations. The wagons sucsequently collided with the Irish Mail at Abergele, Denbighshire. Kerosene being carried in the wagons set the wreck on fire. Thirty-three people were killed in what was then the deadliest rail accident to have occurred in the United Kingdom.
  • On 14 September 1870, a mail train was diverted into a siding at Tamworth station, Staffordshire due to a signalman's error. The train crashes through the buffers and ends up in the River Anker, killing three people.
  • In 1870, a North Eastern Railway freight train overruns signals and is in collision with a passenger train at St. Nicholas Crossing, Carlisle, Cumberland. Five people are killed. The driver of the freight train was intoxicated.
  • On 26 November 1870, a mail train is in a rear-end collision with a freight train at Harrow, Middlesex. Eight people are killed.
  • On 2 August 1873, a passenger train derailed at Wigan, Lancashire due to excessive speed. Thirteen people were killed and 30 were injured.
  • On 22 December 1894, a wagon was derailed fouling the main line at Chelford, Cheshire. It was run into by an express passenger train, which was derailed. Fourteen people were killed and 48 were injured.
  • On 15 August 1895, an express passenger train was derailed at Preston, Lancashire due to excessive speed on a curve. One person was killed.
  • On 12 January 1899, An express freight train was derailed at Penmaenmawr, Caernarfonshire due to the trackbed being washed away by the sea during a storm. Both locomotive crew were killed.
  • On 15 August 1903, two passenger trains collided at Preston, Lancashire due to faulty points.
  • On 15 October 1907, a mail train was derailed at Shrewsbury, Shropshire due to excessive speed on a curve. Eighteen people were killed.
  • On 19 August 1909, a passenger train was derailed at Friezland, West Riding, Yorkshire. Two people were killed.
  • On 5 December 1910, a passenger train was in a rear-end collision at Willesden Junction, London. Three people were killed and more than 40 were injured.
  • On 17 September 1912, the driver of an express train misread signals at Ditton Junction, Cheshire. The train was derailed when it ran over points at an excessive speed. Fifteen people were killed.
  • On 14 August 1915, an express passenger train was derailed at Weedon, Northamptonshire due to a locomotive defect. Ten people were killed and 21 were injured.
  • On 11 November 1921, the boiler of a locomotive exploded at Buxton, Derbyshire. Two people were killed.
  • Minor incidents include:-

  • In 1900, wagons of a permanent way train carrying sleepers were set on fire by the heat of the sun at Earlestown, Lancashire, destroying a number of them.
  • Electrification

    From 1909 to 1922, the LNWR undertook a large-scale project to electrify the whole of its London inner-suburban network.


    The LNWR operated a number of ships on Irish Sea crossings between Holyhead and Dublin, Howth or Kingstown. The LNWR also operated a joint service with the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway from Fleetwood to Belfast and Derry.

    Chairmen of the Board of Directors

  • 1846–1852 — George Glyn, later 1st Baron Wolverton
  • 1852–1853 — Major-General George Anson
  • 1853–1861 — Marquess of Chandos, later 3rd Duke of Buckingham and Chandos
  • 1861 — Admiral Constantine Richard Moorsom
  • 1861–1891 — Richard Moon, Sir Richard Moon from 1887
  • 1891–1911 — The Lord Stalbridge
  • 1911–1921 — Gilbert Claughton, Sir Gilbert Claughton from 1912
  • 1921–1923 — Hon. Charles N. Lawrence, later Baron Lawrence of Kingsgate
  • General Managers

  • 1846–1858 — Captain Mark Huish
  • 1858–1874 — William Cawkwell
  • 1874–1893 — Sir George Findlay
  • 1893–1908 — Sir Frederick Harrison (knighted in 1902)
  • 1909–1914 — Frank Ree
  • 1914 — Robert Turnbull
  • 1914–1919 — Guy Calthrop
  • 1919–1920 — Isaac Thomas Williams
  • 1920–1923 — Arthur Watson
  • Locomotive Superintendents and Chief Mechanical Engineers

    Southern Division:

  • 1846–1847 — Edward Bury
  • 1847–1862 — James McConnell
  • North Eastern Division:

  • 1846–1857 — John Ramsbottom
  • NE Division became part of N Division in 1857.

    Northern Division:

  • 1846–1857 — Francis Trevithick
  • 1857–1862 — John Ramsbottom
  • Northern and Southern Divisions amalgamated from April 1862:

  • 1862–1871 — John Ramsbottom
  • 1871–1903 — Francis William Webb
  • 1903–1909 — George Whale
  • 1909–1920 — Charles Bowen Cooke
  • 1920–1921 — Hewitt Pearson Montague Beames
  • 1922 — George Hughes (ex-Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway)
  • Preservation

  • Sections of the former L&NWR are preserved as the Battlefield Line Railway, Nene Valley Railway and Northampton & Lamport Railway, the latter giving the name Premier Line to its quarterly journal.
  • A section of the former L&NWR line and station buildings are preserved at Quainton near Aylesbury. It is administered by the Buckinghamshire Railway preservation Society and houses some original L&NWR rolling stock in the former Oxford Rewley Road station. It regularly runs steam trains using various locomotives.
  • References

    London and North Western Railway Wikipedia