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Great Northern Railway (Great Britain)

The Great Northern Railway (GNR) was a British railway company incorporated in 1846 with the object of building a line from London to York. It quickly saw that seizing control of territory was key to development, and it acquired, or took leases of, many local railways, whether actually built or not. In doing so it overextended itself financially.

Great Northern Railway
4-2-2 GNR 1001.jpg
Great Northern Railway express locomotive
Dates of operation1850–1922
SuccessorLondon and North Eastern Railway
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
HeadquartersKing's Cross
The Bennerley Viaduct on the Awsworth Junction to Derby Branch in 2006
Great Northern Main Line
188 York (NER)
184 Naburn (NER)
181 Escrick (NER)
179 Riccall (NER)
175 Selby (NER)
170 Temple Hirst (NER)
168 Heck (NER)
166 Balne (NER)
163 Moss (NER)
160 Joan Croft Halt
158 Arksey
156 Doncaster
151 Rossington
148 Bawtry
146 Scrooby
144 Ranskill
142 Barnby Moor and Sutton
138 Retford
132 Tuxford North
131 Dukeries Junction
127 Crow Park
126 Carlton on Trent
120 Newark North Gate
116 Claypole
112 Hougham
110 Barkston
105 Grantham
102 Great Ponton
97 Corby Glen
93 Little Bytham
89 Essendine
85 Tallington
76 Peterborough North
See below for detail south of Peterborough.
59 Huntingdon
32 Hitchin
0 London King's Cross

Nevertheless it succeeded in reaching into the coalfields of Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Yorkshire, as well as establishing dominance in Lincolnshire and North London. Bringing coal south to London was dominant, but general agricultural business and short and long distance passenger traffic were important activities. Its fast passenger express trains captured the public imagination, and its Chief Mechanical Engineer Nigel Gresley became a celebrity.

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.

The main line railways of Great Britain were "grouped" following the Railways Act 1921 into one or other of four new larger concerns. The Great Northern Railway was a constituent of the London and North Eastern Railway, which took control at the beginning of 1923. Although many local lines have been closed, much of the network is active today.


Getting Parliamentary authorisationEdit

In 1836 a railway to be called the Great Northern Railway was proposed. It would run from Whitechapel in East London via Cambridge and Lincoln to York. However this was a stupendously ambitious project for such an early date, and Parliament turned it down.

By 1844 there was only one trunk railway from London to the North of England: the London and Birmingham Railway was in an uneasy alliance with the Grand Junction Railway, which in turn connected with the North Union Railway which connected to Preston and Fleetwood. Scottish travellers made use of a steamer service from Fleetwood to Ardrossan.

This was the period of the Railway Mania, when a myriad of schemes, not all of them realistic, were promoted, and anyone could get rich quickly if they were not caught with a failed scheme. At this time George Hudson, a railway financier, was exceptionally skilled in promoting railways and having them built, and most particularly of neutralising or destroying any opposition or competition to his lines. His methods were not always respectable.

Some promoters wanted to build a railway from London to York, and after much negotiation with promoters of other lines that might connect or compete, and a London and York Railway was submitted to the 1845 session of Parliament. There were 224 railway Bills in that session, and the Board of Trade was instructed to set up a committee to assess groups of prosed lines; the Committee became known as the Five Kings. When the London and York Railway scheme came before the Parliamentary committees, Hudson set up such a protracted series of objections that the project ran out of Parliamentary time in that session.

The London and York Railway scheme was submitted to the 1846 session of Parliament; some other schemes for railways to the north had by now fallen by the wayside, and their supporters joined the London and York project; reflecting that, the proposed company name was altered to the Great Northern Railway. George Hudson continued to use his dubious methods to frustrate the scheme, but on 26 June 1846 the Great Northern Railway Act was given the Royal Assent. Numerous branches earlier proposed had been deleted, but the main line was approved. Authorised capital was £5.6 million. The company had spent £590,355 on Parliamentary expenses.[1]

The authorised line was from London ("Pentonville") via Huntingdon, Peterborough, Grantham, Retford, Doncaster and Selby to a junction with the Great North of England Railway just south of York Station. Also included in the Act was a loop from Werrington Junction, north of Peterborough, via Spalding to Boston, Lincoln to Gainsborough and back on to the main line at Bawtry.[2]

Land acquisition proved to be difficult; in particular the King's Cross site was occupied by a smallpox hospital; the freeholder demanded an impossibly large price to vacate and the matter had to go to a jury; this, and the subsequent removal of the hospital to new premises, would incur a huge delay. The GNR Board decided to make a temporary London terminal at Maiden Lane.

The Company undertook some extraordinary commitments at this time; it arranged to purchase the Stamford and Spalding Railway; this would form a loop from north of Peterborough back on to the GNR Loop Line near Crowland; and leases at 6% of the Royston and Hitchin Railway, the East Lincolnshire Railway (Boston to Great Grimsby), (both authorised but not yet built) and the Boston, Stamford and Birmingham Railway (never built). It also took about a third of a million pounds worth of shares in the South Yorkshire Railway.[3]

Getting startedEdit

1846 was a peak year for railway scheme authorisations, fuelled by the feverish hunt for quick riches in railway shares. For a number of reasons, not all connected with railways, there was a massive slump in the following year, and investment money, especially for railway projects already authorised. became almost impossible to get.[4][5]

The Great Northern Railway directors had a dauntingly large railway network to build, and they had to prioritise the parts of their authorised network which they would start to construct. In the second half of 1847, the directors,

owing to the state of the Money Market... decided to abstain from letting the works from Doncaster to York. But at the end of July a further small contract was let to Messrs. Peto & Betts for the works from ... Doncaster, northwards to Askern, with the object of forming an "end-on" junction there with the branch of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Company, over which... the Great Northern had just obtained power to run its trains to Wakefield and to Methley on the way to Leeds.[note 1][6]

The directors decided to build the Loop Line first, as that was the easiest to complete in order to start earning income.


On 1 March 1848 the first portion of the Great Northern Railway was opened. It was actually on the leased East Lincolnshire Railway line, from Great Grimsby to Louth. Five trains ran each way every weekday, and on from Grimsby to New Holland on the River Humber, by alliance with the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway. This was followed by the opening from Louth to Firsby (then spelt Firstby) on 3 September 1848. On 2 October 1848 the line was open from Firsby to a temporary station at Boston.[7]

The GNR opened a section of its own line from Stockbridge[note 2] and Askern, and the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway opened from Knottingley. There was a formal opening on 5 June 1848 and a public opening two days later;[note 3] at that stage the L&YR operated the passenger trains. On 5 August 1848 the GNR section was extended south to a temporary Doncaster station, and a goods service was operated.[8]

Part of the Loop Line was soon ready, and 58 miles from Walton Junction (near Peterborough, on the newly opened Midland Railway) to Lincoln opened on 17 October 1848. The line was double except for a mile at Boston, which was made double track by a deviation on 11 May 1850.[9]

Captain Wynne viewed the line from Lincoln to Gainsborough on 29 March 1849, but refused permission to open until signals were provided at the swing bridge at Brayford Mere (Lincoln); the line opened on 9 April 1849 when they had been provided. The route made a junction with the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway at Gainsborough; GNR trains reversed at the junction and used the MS&LR station at Gainsborough. A junction was made with the MS&LR line at Durham Ox Junction, Lincoln, some time after 3 April 1848, and sanctioned by Parliament retrospectively. [10]

The direct line between Peterborough and Doncaster was known as the Towns Line. The first part of it was opened between the MS&LR station at Retford and Doncaster on 4 September 1849. A proper station at Doncaster was built and ready by the middle of 1851.[11]

By this means, the GNR was able to start a service between London and Leeds using running powers and agreements over other lines in a roundabout routing northward from Retford; George Hudson tried to repudiate his earlier undertaking to permit this, but at this time his disgraceful methods had come to light, and he had resigned from the Midland Railway and several other boards; the train service started on 1 October 1848.[12]

The York and North Midland Railway was urging the GNR to use the Y&NMR line from Knottingley to York, shortly to be opened, and to abandon the GNR's plans for its own line to York. After considerable deliberation, the GNR agreed to this on 6 June 1850.[13]

By arrangement with the MS&LR the GNR started running trains between Lincoln and Sheffield on 7 August 1850; the trains were routed over the MS&LR from Sykes Junction, a few miles north of Lincoln.

London opening at lastEdit

The London (Maiden Lane) to Peterborough was ready for a demonstration opening run on 5 August 1850, and it was opened to the public on 7 August 1850; eight passenger trains were run each way daily, with three on Sundays. On 8 August 1850 trains started running through from London to York. The Maiden Lane terminal was referred to by the company as "King’s Cross". A through train to Edinburgh was run from 2 September 1850; the train ran via Peterborough, Boston, Lincoln, Retford, Doncaster, Knottingley, Milford Junction and York, thence by the York, Newcastle and Berwick Railway (not yet open on a direct route).[14]

Goods traffic started on the main line from 12 December 1850, and the Hitchin to Royston line was opened on 21 October 1850; this was extended to Shepreth on 3 August 1851.[15] Captain Mark Huish had been appointed General Manager of the London and North Western Railway on its formation in 1846. Huish was a skilful railway diplomat, and while his methods were generally more proper than Hudson's, they were aggressive in finding means of disadvantaging competitors, such as the GNR.[15]

From the outset the Great Northern Railway had been anxious to acquire local railways or at least make arrangements with them, in order to expand the Company's territory. In 1852 the shareholders expressed their displeasure at the volume of financial commitments implied by these, but the Chairman Edmund Denison continued his policy, without showing his hand.[16]

Opening of the Towns LineEdit

The company had prioritised construction of the Loop Line via Lincoln at the expense of the so-called Towns Line, the direct line from Peterborough to Doncaster. When this work was pressed forward, a number of difficulties presented themselves, including failure of a contractor. However the line opened for goods traffic on 15 July 1852, and for passengers on 1 August 1851. The Towns Line ran from Werrington Junction north of Peterborough to Retford, where the MS&LR connected by a spur, known as the Lincoln Curve. There were flat crossings at Newark with the Midland Railway and at Retford with the MS&LR main line. A south to west curve was laid in at Retford, enabling a GNR service to Sheffield.[17]

Reaching NottinghamEdit

The Ambergate, Nottingham, Boston and Eastern Junction Railway had been formed to connect the manufacturing districts of Manchester with the port of Boston, and had opened in 1850 between Colwick Junction, near Nottingham, and a temporary station at Grantham. It now connected into the GNR at Grantham, opening the connection on 2 August 1852; it was worked by the GNR. The Ambergate company relied on running powers into the Midland Railway station at Nottingham, but there were considerable disputes about the matter for many years, and the GNR had difficulty in getting access.[18][19]

To resolve the situation the Ambergate company built its own line into a separate terminal at London Road, Nottingham. This opened on 3 October 1857. The GNR leased the Ambergate company from 1 August 1861.[20][19]

King's Cross stationEdit

On 14 October 1852 King's Cross station was at last brought into use, and the Maiden Lane temporary station was closed. King's Cross had two large sheds, familiar to the present day, but only two passenger platforms, the later platforms 1 and 8. The intervening space was occupied by carriage sidings.[21]

Completion of the first phaseEdit

At the end of 1852 it was considered that the Company had achieved its objectives as originally conceived, with the line opened from King's Cross over both the Towns Line and the Loop, into Yorkshire. Four passenger trains ran from Kings Cross to York, one of them first class only and one Parliamentary train.[note 4]

The Directors of the Company continued to seek to consolidate occupation of territory, without necessarily building new lines. The capitalisation of the Company was already considerable, and a further million of money was authorised by an Act of 1853. Another demand on financial resources was willingly undertaken: the installation of the electric telegraph, at first at the southern end of the system. It was soon used for signalling trains through the tunnel sections, and by 1856 it was used throughout as far north as Hitchin.[22]

The former GNR works at Boston, Lincolnshire

Reflecting the anticipated focus of operations, the GNR opened a new locomotive works at Doncaster in 1853, replacing earlier facilities at Boston.[23]

Into the West RidingEdit

On 1 August 1854, the Leeds, Bradford and Halifax Junction Railway opened between Leeds and Bowling Junction, close to Bradford. Using running powers over this line, the GNR obtained access to Bradford and Halifax.[24] In 1857, the West Yorkshire Railway opened their direct line from Wakefield to Leeds via Ardsley; the GNR had been granted running powers over this line and immediately began using it instead of the Midland line via Methley. Also in 1857, the previously mentioned LB&HJR opened a direct line from Ardsley to Laisterdyke, near Bradford. In 1851, by agreement with the MS&LR, the GNR began a London to Manchester via Retford service, and from 1859 GNR trans also ran to Huddersfield via Penistone.[25]

Thus by the end of the 1850s, the GNR had gained access to most of West Yorkshire, although without at this time owning any lines beyond Askern Junction, a few miles north of Doncaster.

In West Yorkshire, Thornton to Denholme opened on 1 January 1884 and on to Keighley on 1 November.


In 1852 the East Lincolnshire Line (lease from the East Lincolnshire Railway) was opened, as was the Great Northern Railway's own route from Peterborough (Werrington Junction) via Spalding and Boston to Lincoln. The GNR had decided not to build the authorised line from Lincoln to Bawtry as its intended Bawtry to Sheffield branch had been cut out of the authorising Act. The GNR extended to Gainsborough, but was unable for some years to get authorisation for a different approach to Doncaster from there to Rossington. In the meantime, the GNR used the MS&LR line from Gainsborough to Retford.

The Boston, Sleaford and Midland Counties Railway opened from near Grantham to Sleaford in June 1857, and on to Boston in April 1859. The GNR acquired that company in 1864, and that completed a through west to east route from Nottingham to Boston.[26]

For some years the GNR avoided building numerous branch lines within the territory it had secured in Lincolnshire, but a series of independent branches were built, and many of these turned to the GNR for financial help. Most notable among these were the seaside branches, of Skegness (opened in 1873), Mablethorpe (1877) and Sutton on Sea (1886). These resorts generated very considerable traffic, much of it day-trip traffic from the Midlands industrial towns.[27][28]

In later years the GNR itself built some branch lines. In many cases these were built through sparsely populated agricultural terrain, and little commercial development followed. The large Lincolnshire towns of Louth, Boston and Lincoln also failed to develop greatly.

The Lincolnshire lines in general declined steadily from the 1930s onwards, and the process culminated in a major closure programme in 1970, after which only the Nottingham - Grantham - Boston - Skegness line and the Great Northern and Great Eastern Joint Line between Spalding and Doncaster via Lincoln (together with the GNR Peterborough to Spalding line) remained open among the GNR routes.

Hertfordshire branchesEdit

The Hertford and Welwyn Junction Railway opened in 1858; it was operated jointly by the GNR and the Eastern Counties Railway. It gave access to the London docks over the Eastern Counties line. This developed into the formation of the Hertford, Luton and Dunstable Railway of 1860, which connected with the GNR at Hatfield, and the Company was acquired by the GNR in 1861.[29]

The London and North Western Railway opened a branch line from Watford to St Albans in 1858. Independent promoters supported by the GNR obtained powers to make a branch from Hatfield to the LNWR station; it opened in 1865, worked by the GNR, which absorbed the St Albans company in 1883.[30]

Midland Railway at HitchinEdit

George Hudson's Midland Railway was progressing south from its original base in Derby; for tactical reasons it proposed to reach London over the GNR from Hitchin, by building a line from Leicester via Bedford. This opened in 1857 and through passenger trains from the Midland Railway system to King's Cross started on 1 February 1858.[31][32]

The Midland Railway later built its own line from Leicester to St Pancras, opening in 1867 (goods) and 1868; from that time the line between Bedford and Hitchin became a branch line of the MR.[33][34][35]

Cheshire Lines CommitteeEdit

GNR agreements with the MS&LR also led to the GNR investing in lines between Manchester and Liverpool. The Midland also became involved, and an extensive joint line grew which became known as the Cheshire Lines Committee.[36]

The Cheshire Lines Committee (CLC) was formed in 1862 by the GNR and the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway. The Midland Railway became a partner in 1865. The system was the second largest joint system in the country, comprising 143 miles of route, running from Manchester and Stockport to Liverpool, Chester and Southport.

East Coast collaborationEdit

Great Northern Railway
Southern area as of 1921
to York
Peterborough North
Yaxley and Farcet
St. Mary's
Abbots Ripton
Offord and Buckden
St. Neots
Arlesey & Shefford Road
Ashwell and Morden
Three Counties
Dunstable Church Street
Letchworth Garden City
Luton Bute Street
Luton Hoo
St Albans
Hill End
Hertford Cowbridge
Nast Hyde Halt
Cole Green
Attimore Hall
Cuffley & Goff's Oak
Crews Hill
Gordon Hill
Potters Bar
Hadley Wood
Grange Park
New Barnet
Winchmore Hill
Oakleigh Park
Palmers Green
High Barnet
The Hale
Mill Hill
Woodside Park
Bowes Park
Finchley (Church End)
Alexandra Palace
East Finchley
Muswell Hill
Cranley Gardens
New Southgate
branch transferred
to Northern line
Wood Green
Crouch End
Stroud Green
Finsbury Park
Holloway and
Caledonian Road
King's Cross York Road
King's Cross
Mildmay Park
Dalston Junction
Broad Street
Snow Hill
to Chatham and Dover
Moorgate Street

The GNR's role in the establishment of an Anglo-Scottish East Coast route was confirmed by establishment of the East Coast Joint Stock in 1860, whereby a common pool of passenger vehicles was operated by the GNR, the North Eastern and the North British.[37] The main express trains were the 10am departures from King's Cross and Edinburgh, which began running in June 1862. By the 1870s they were known as the Flying Scotsman.

City Widened LinesEdit

On 1 October 1863, the GNR began a shuttle service from King's Cross to Farringdon Street via the city widened lines, but through suburban services did not use this line until 1 March 1868, and then were extended to Moorgate Street on 1 June 1869.

Midland and Great Northern Joint RailwayEdit

On 1 August 1866, the GNR made an agreement with the Midland to jointly work the Eastern & Midland Railway, comprising a line from Bourne to King's Lynn via Spalding. The GNR gave the Midland running powers from Stamford to Bourne via Essendine in return for the Midland dropping a proposed line from Saxby to Bourne.

The Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway comprised a main line ran from Peterborough to Great Yarmouth via South Lynn (with running powers to King's Lynn) and Melton Constable. Branches ran from Sutton Bridge to the Midland Railway near Little Bytham, from Melton Constable to Cromer, and from Melton Constable to Norwich.

In addition, the Norfolk and Suffolk Joint Railway was a joint line owned by the M&GNR and the Great Eastern Railway. This ran between Cromer and North Walsham and between Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft.

Lines in North LondonEdit

On 22 August 1867 the Edgware & Highgate Railway opened from Seven Sisters Road to Edgware, which had been acquired by the GNR in June 1866.

Seven Sisters Road station, a few miles north of King's Cross, had been opened on 1 July 1861. It was renamed Finsbury Park when a new public park of that name opened nearby in August 1868.

The increasing London suburban traffic caused problems in the King's Cross area, as there were only 2 tracks through the various tunnels, and also goods trains entering King's Cross goods yard had to cross the down line on the level. Pending doubling of the tunnels, a connection was made between Finsbury Park and the North London Railway at Canonbury, and some suburban traffic then ran into Broad Street. The Broad Street trains were operated by the NLR as the LNWR, part owners of Broad Street, blocked GNR attempts to gain access.

A number of branch lines were opened in the 1870s, including Bourne to Sleaford in 1870, Wood Green to Enfield in 1871, Finchley to High Barnet in 1872, Highgate to Alexandra Palace.

Proitability and investmentEdit

The GNR was most profitable in 1873, running a more intensive service of express trains than either the LNWR or the MR. Hauled by Patrick Stirling's single-driving-wheel locomotives, its trains were some of the fastest in the world.

However, in 1875, the increase in revenue was outpaced by investment, which included items such as block signalling systems and interlocking, and improvements to stations and goods sidings.

Derbyshire and StaffordshireEdit

Much more promising was the development of the Derbyshire and Staffordshire extension line, which promised good returns by tapping the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire coalfields. The Erewash valley line was in use for coal trains by 1875, and complete opening from Nottingham to Egginton Junction via Gedling, Daybrook and Derby Friargate came in April 1878. But in order to overcome local opposition, the GNR had had to agree to LNWR running powers from Burton-on-Trent, which somewhat diminished the value of the investment. The LNWR had even better access from December 1879 with the opening of the GN&LNWR joint line from Melton Mowbray to Market Harborough, the northern section having already opened on 30 June.

Strikes and lossesEdit

The early 1880s began badly for the GNR for a number of reasons: Coal strikes and poor harvests reduced income from goods traffic. Floods forced the complete closure of the Spalding to Bourne line from 9 October 1880 until 1 February 1881, this was a Midland & Eastern line worked by the GNR, and the GNR found themselves paying the lease on a line they could derive no revenue from; and worst of all, Sutton Bridge Docks opened on 14 May 1881, into which the GNR had invested £55,000, but within a few days the docks began to subside due to being built on unstable ground. The engineers could find no remedy and the investment was written off.

Great Northern and Great Eastern Joint RailwayEdit

Throughout the 1970s the Great Eastern Railway made attempts to get access to the coalfields of the East Midlands and Yorkshire. The Great Northern Railway consistently resisted this in Parliament, but finally decided that it was only a matter of time before the GER got what it wanted. The outcome was a joint Parliamentary Bill, which obtained the Royal Assent on 3 July 1879. Existing GNR lines from near Doncaster to Lincoln, and from Spalding to March would be transferred to Joint ownership, as would the GER lines from Huntingdon to St Ives, and from St Ives to March. A new line was to be built from Spalding to Lincoln, and a Joint Committee was to be established to manage the line; it was not to be a corporate entity.

The Spalding to Lincoln line opened in 1882. The GER got the coalfield access it wanted. The GNR had a line which in part relieved the main line, although the Spalding - March - Huntingdon section was hardly suitable for running mineral trains in any quantity. Lord Colville, chairman of the GNR, said that it was better to have half the receipts of a joint line than to have to compete with a new entirely foreign through line.[38]

GN and LNW Joint Line, and the Leicester branchEdit

After some false starts, the GNR and the London and North Western Railway were authorised in 1874 to build railways in Leicestershire. These became the GN and LNWR Joint Line from Bottesford (on the Grantham to Nottingham line), to Market Harborough. The Act also authorised two sections of GNR new line: from Newark to Bottesford (opened in 1878) and from Marefield (near the southern end of the Joint Line) to Leicester, (opened in 1882). The Joint Line itself opened in stages between 1879 and 1883.

The LNWR did well from the Joint Line, getting access to the Nottinghamshire coalfield formerly in the hands of teh GNR alone; and when the Derbyshire and Staffordshire Extension was ready, they got even better access. The advantage to the GNR was much less; the Joint Line was never busy, and passenger traffic at the GNR Leicester station was disappointing.[39]

Quadrupling in the southEdit

Widening of the London end of the main line was completed in the 1890s.

Enfield Railway and the Hertford LoopEdit

Work started in 1905 to extend the Enfield Branch Railway in order to relieve congestion on the East Coast Main Line. Cuffley was reached on 4 April 1910, but construction of two major viaducts and the 2,684 yards or 2,454 metres Ponsbourne Tunnel combined with wartime shortages of men and materials, delayed the opening of the route to Stevenage until 4 March 1918 for goods services. The line finally opened to passengers on 2 June 1924 as the Hertford Loop Line.[40]

First World WarEdit

GNR designed stock built under the LNER in 1924

During World War I, various economies were made beginning on 22 February 1915 with a general reduction of train services. Trains tended to become fewer, but longer. An agreement was also reached with the GCR and GER regarding the common use of wagons. Further economies were made in 1916 when the Nottingham to Daybrook and Peterborough to Leicester services were withdrawn, never to be reinstated.


Under the 1923 Grouping, the Great Northern became part of the London and North Eastern Railway.

Joint linesEdit

The Great Northern was involved in a number of joint railways.

Halifax and Ovenden Junction RailwayEdit

A 1913 Railway Clearing House Junction Diagram showing (lower left) the Halifax & Ovenden Joint Railway (blue & orange) and the Halifax High Level Railway (red). Some purely GNR lines are also shown (orange) on three of the four maps.
Happy as a Sand-Boy, summer specials poster to Skegness (1907)

GNR and LYR. Holmfield to Halifax. Acts 30 June 1864 (incorporation), 12 August 1867, 1 August 1870 (vesting in GNR and LYR).[41] Later administered by the Halifax and Ovenden Joint Committee, as which it was transferred to the British Transport Commission Under the British Transport Act of 1947.[42]

Halifax High Level RailwayEdit

GNR and LYR. Holmfield to St. Paul's (Halifax). Acts 7 August 1884 (incorporation), 25 September 1886 (GNR), 5 July 1887 (GNR), 26 July 1889 (GNR), 20 June 1892, 3 July 1894 (GNR – vesting in GNR and LYR).[43]

Methley JointEdit

GNR, LYR and NER. Lofthouse & Outwood to Castleford.

South Yorkshire Joint RailwayEdit

GNR, GCR, LYR, MR and NER. Doncaster through the Coalfields serving collieries in the area to Worksop

West Riding and Grimsby Joint RailwayEdit

This line was constructed from Wakefield to Doncaster and opened in 1866. It gave the Great Northern the opportunity to run services from King's Cross to Leeds wholly on their own lines. There was also a branch from Adwick (north of Doncaster) to Hatfield and Stainforth, thereby allowing the GNR to access the South Humberside area, hence the name.[44]

Train servicesEdit

The GNR operated services from London King's Cross to York together with many secondary lines and branches. The Great Northern was a partner (with the North Eastern Railway and the North British Railway) in the East Coast Joint Stock operation from 1860.


  • On 21 January 1876, an express passenger train ran into the rear of a freight train at Abbots Ripton, Huntingdonshire when signals became frozen in the "clear" position during a blizzard. Thirteen people were killed and 59 were injured.
  • On 14 April 1876, an express train ran into the rear of a mail train at Corby, Northamptonshire when signals froze in the "clear" position during a blizzard.[45]
  • On 23 December 1876, an express train overran signals and collided with a number of wagons at Arlesey Sidings, Bedfordshire. Six people were killed.[45]
  • On 7 March 1896, a passenger train derailed at Little Bytham, Lincolnshire, when a speed restriction was removed prematurely after track renewal. Two people were killed.[46]
  • On 19 September 1906, a sleeping car train derailed at Grantham, Lincolnshire when it passed signals at danger and ran through the station at excessive speed. Fourteen people were killed and seventeen were injured.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Askern is frequently referred to in source material. It is a small town about two miles north west of Shaftholme Junction, which is normally taken as the connecting point of the GNR, the York and Newcastle Railway (later the North Eastern Railway) and the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Knottingley line. It appears that "Askern" is used to refer to the intended junction, which was in a remote and as yet nameless location. See Wrottesley, volume 1, page 17, Grinling, page 66, Tomlinson, page 502, and Great Northern News (periodical of the Great Northern Railway Society), ISSN 2399-6625, March-April 2019, page 224.09
  2. ^ Stockbridge was about halfway between Doncaster and the later Shaftholme Junction; it was renamed Arksey station shortly afterwards.
  3. ^ The L&YR section opened fully on 6 June and the GNR section on 7 June.
  4. ^ By law, nearly all railway companies had to run at least one train a day calling at all stations, at a fare of one penny a mile. These were referred to as Parliamentary trains.


  1. ^ John Wrottesley, The Great Northern Railway, Volume 1: Origins and Development, B T Batsford Limited, London, 1979, ISBN 0 7134 1590 8, volume 1, pages 11 to 17
  2. ^ Donald J Grant, Directory of the Railway Companies of Great Britain, Matador Publishers, Kibworth Beauchamp, 2017, ISBN 978 1785893 537, page 236
  3. ^ Wrottesley, pages 18 to 32
  4. ^ Henry Grote Lewin, The Railway Mania and its Aftermath: 1845 - 1852, David & Charles, Newton Abbot, 1936 reprinted 1968, IBSN 0 7153, 4262 2, pages 282 and 283
  5. ^ Wrottesley, volume 1, page 28>
  6. ^ Charles H Grinling, The History of the Great Northern Railway, 1845-1895, Methuen & Co, London, 1898, OCLC 560899371, page 67
  7. ^ Wrottesley, volume 1 page 33.
  8. ^ Wrottesley, volume 1 page 36.
  9. ^ Wrottesley, volume 1 page 37.
  10. ^ Wrottesley, volume 1 pages 41 and 42
  11. ^ Wrottesley, volume 1 page 43
  12. ^ Wrottesley, volume 1 page 44
  13. ^ Wrottesley, volume 1, pages 48 and 49
  14. ^ Wrottesley, volume 1 pages 53 and 54
  15. ^ a b Wrottesley, volume 1 pages 54 and 55
  16. ^ Wrottesely, volume 1 page 66
  17. ^ Wrottesley, volume 1 pages 77 and 78
  18. ^ Wrottesley, page 78
  19. ^ a b H L Hopwood, The Nottingham and Grantham Railway, in the Railway Magazine, July 1922
  20. ^ Wrottesley, volume 1, pages 90 and 91
  21. ^ Wrottesley, page 78 and 79
  22. ^ Wrottesley, volume 1 pages 86 and 87
  23. ^ Wrottesley, volume 1, page 84
  24. ^ "Opening of the Leeds, Bradford & Halifax Junction Railway". Leeds Intelligencer. British Newspaper Archive. 5 August 1854. p. 8. Retrieved 19 January 2017.
  25. ^ Grinling 1898, p. 198.
  26. ^ Robin Leleux, A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain, volume 9: the East Midlands, David & Charles, Newton Abbot, 1976, ISBN 0 7153 7165 7, pages 123 to 127
  27. ^ Stephen Walker, Firsby to Wainfleet and Skegness, KMS Books, Boston, 1987, ISBN 0 948017 04 X, pages 7 and 8
  28. ^ Paul Anderson, Railways of Lincolnshire, Irwell Press, Oldham, 1992, ISBN 871 608 309, page 67
  29. ^ G and S Woodward, The Hatfield, Luton and Dunstable Railway, Oakwood Press, Trowbridge, 1971, ISBN 0 85361 218 8, pages 6 to 13
  30. ^ Roger D Taylor and Brian Anderson, The Hatfield and St Albans Branch of the Great Northern Railway, Oakwood Press, Tarrant Hinton, 1988, ISBN 0-85361-373-7
  31. ^ John Gough, The Midland Railway, A Chronology, published by John Gough, Leicester, 1986, ISBN 0 9511310 0 1, page 20
  32. ^ E G Barnes, The Rise of the Midland Railway, 1844 to 1874, George Allen and Unwin, 1966, page 144
  33. ^ Grinling, pages 180 and 181
  34. ^ Gough, page = 10
  35. ^ Barnes, page 181
  36. ^ The History of the Great Northern Railway. George Unwin. Chap 1–6
  37. ^ Grinling 1898, p. 193.
  38. ^ C T Goode, The Great Northern & Great Eastern Joint Railway, published by C T Goode, Anlaby, 1989, ISBN 978-1-870313-06-3
  39. ^ R T Munns, Bygone Days on a Leicestershire Joint Line, in the Railway Magazine, March 1954
  40. ^ D I Gordon, A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain (Vol. 5 The Eastern Counties), David & Charles Ltd 1977 ISBN 0-7153-4321-1, pages 123 and 124)
  41. ^ Joy, David (1984). A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain Volume VIII South and West Yorkshire. David St John Thomas. p. 258. ISBN 0-946537-11-9.
  42. ^ "Railway Companies Transferred to the British Transport Commission Under the British Transport Act of 1947". Retrieved 4 January 2009.
  43. ^ Joy, David (1984). A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain Volume VIII South and West Yorkshire. David St John Thomas. p. 260. ISBN 0-946537-11-9.
  44. ^ Bairstow, Martin (1999). Great Northern railway in the West Riding. [S.l.]: Bairstow. pp. 18–20. ISBN 1-871944-19-8.
  45. ^ a b Hall, Stanley (1990). The Railway Detectives. London: Ian Allan. p. 48. ISBN 0 7110 1929 0.
  46. ^ Trevena, Arthur (1981). Trains in Trouble: Vol. 2. Redruth: Atlantic Books. p. 8. ISBN 0-906899-03-6.

Further readingEdit

  • Rayner Thrower, W. (2000). The Great Northern Main Line. Oakwood Press. ISBN 0-85361-297-8.