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LMS Routes

The London Midland Scottish Railway in Warwickshire

Introduction and Background to the LMS The London & North Western Railway
The Midland Railway The Stratford & Midland Junction Railway

The Midland Railway

The Midland Railway (MR) operated from 1844 to 1922, when it became part of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway. The Midland Railway had a large network of lines centred on the East Midlands, with its headquarters based in Derby. Initially connecting Leeds with London (St Pancras) via the East Midlands by what is now the Midland Main Line, it went on to connect the East Midlands with Birmingham and Bristol, and with York and Manchester. It was the only pre-grouping railway to own or share lines in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, becoming the third largest railway undertaking in the British Isles (after the Great Western Railway and the London & North Western Railway). Its other notable features were that it was the largest coal haulier, the largest British railway to have its headquarters outside London, and (after the Great Central Railway moved its HQ to London in 1907) the only railway serving London not to have its headquarters there and the only Midlands-based railway directly serving Southern England and South Wales.

The Midland Railway was formed by the coming together of competing railway companies, competition which was causing each of them to be severely financially damaged. The Midland Railway Consolidation Act was passed in 1844 authorising the merger of the Midland Counties Railway, the North Midland Railway, and the Birmingham and Derby Junction Railway. The three railways shared the tri-junction station at Derby, where the railway also established its locomotive and later its carriage and wagon works. Leading it were the dynamic but unscrupulous George Hudson from the North Midland Railway, and John Ellis from the Midland Counties Railway, a careful businessman of impeccable integrity. From the Birmingham line James Allport found a place elsewhere in Hudson's empire with the York, Newcastle and Berwick Railway, though he later returned. The line was in a commanding position having its Derby headquarters at the junctions of the two main routes from London to Scotland. This by virtue of its connections to the London and Birmingham Railway in the south, and, in the north, the lines from York, via the York and North Midland Railway.

After the merger, London trains were carried on the shorter Midland Counties route. The former Birmingham and Derby Junction Railway was left with the traffic to Birmingham and Bristol, at that time still an important seaport. The original 1839 line from Derby had run to Hampton-in-Arden railway station, but the Birmingham and Derby Junction Railway had built a terminus at Lawley Street in 1842, then in 1851 the Midland Railway Railwaystarted to run into Curzon Street. The line south from Birmingham was the Birmingham and Bristol Railway, which reached Curzon Street via Camp Hill. These two lines had been formed by the merger of the standard gauge Birmingham and Gloucester Railway and the broad gauge Bristol and Gloucester Railway. The two companies met at Gloucester via a short loop owned by the Cheltenham and Great Western Union Railway (C&GWUR). The change of gauge at Gloucester meant that everything had to be transferred between trains, creating chaos. Moreover, the C&GWUR was owned by the Great Western Railway, which wished to extend its network by taking over the Bristol to Birmingham route.

Parliament had established a commission to examine the problem and there was a consensus that the track should be unified throughout the line. The GWR made an offer to the Birmingham and Bristol Railway'sdirectors. The latter's shareholders held out for more, and the GWR deferred its decision for three days. Legend has it that whilst the Board of the GWR bickered over the price the MR's John Ellis overheard two directors of the Birmingham and Bristol Railway on a London train discussing the business, and took it on himself to pledge that the Midland Railway Railwaywould match anything the GWR would offer. Since it would have brought broad gauge into Curzon Street, with the possibility of extending it to the Mersey, it was something that the other standard gauge lines wished to avoid, and consequently the LNWR pledged to assist the MR with any losses it might incur. In the event all that was necessary was for the LNWR to share its Birmingham New Street station with the MR when it was opened in 1854. At this time the MR's Lawley Street station became a goods depot.

After Hudson's departure, the MR was in financial difficulties. Opposition to the Great Northern Railway bill had cost the company a small fortune; a great deal of maintenance was overdue; and the Lincoln and Peterborough lines had still to be paid for. Added to this, the Great Northern Railway was taking much of the traffic from the North-East, particularly as the MR was dependent on the LNWR from Rugby into London. Thanks to the control that had been exercised by John Ellis, there was no impropriety in the company's accounts, and it was due to his business acumen that the Midland Railway survived and then prospered.

Birmingham and Derby Junction Railway

Origins

Although Birmingham was served by an extensive canal network, indeed, it is suggested they were a significant factor in its growth as an engineering centre, there were problems associated with Birmingham being on rising ground. As early as 1824, Birmingham businessmen had been looking at the possibilities of the railway. The London and Birmingham Railway and the Grand Junction Railway had obtained their Acts of Parliament in 1833 and a scheme for a line to Gloucester and Bristol was also being muted. The formation of the North Midland Railwayhad been floated in 1833 and a proposal was made to connect to its terminus at Derby with George Stephenson being commissioned in 1835 to survey the route. The bill originally envisaged the line running from Derby through Whitacre and on to meet the L&BR at a junction at Stechford and then to travel on to the L&BR's terminus at Curzon Street. It was also envisaged that a line would be constructed to run from Whitacre to Hampton-in-Arden, where it would join the L&BR for connections to London.

The company's promoters came into conflict with those of the Midland Counties Railway (MCR)even before the bills were presented to Parliament since the lines would compete with each other. In the end, the Birmingham & Derby Junction Railway (B&DJR)line agreed to withdraw their branch to Hampton if it the MCRwithdrew their line along the Erewash valley. With the active support of the Prime Minister Robert Peel, the member for Tamworth, the B&DJR Bill passed through Parliament on 19th May 1836. The Hampton branch had been removed, but when the MCR presented their bill, it still contained the Erewash line (although it was later dropped on the insistence of the North Midland Railway). The B&DJR therefore presented a fresh bill in 1840 for the branch as a separate line which later became known as the Stonebridge Railway.

Construction

George's son Robert Stephenson took on the post of engineer, with an assistant, John Birkinshaw. Some forty two miles long, it would need seventy eight bridges and two viaducts, with a cutting at the approach to Derby, consideration being given to the danger of flooding by the River Trent, and ensuring there was no gradient steeper than 1 in 339. The rails were single parallel form, 56 lb per yard, set in chairs upon cross sleepers. Although the 'Standard' gauge was used, in order to match other railways, the rails were actually set at 4 ft 9 in apart to allow extra play on bends.

Birmingham and Derby Junction Railway Locomotives

The Birmingham and Derby Junction Railway (B&DJR) ordered twelve 2-2-2 passenger locomotives in 1838 and two four-coupled goods in 1841 from various makers:

2-2-2 Passenger Locomotives

Manufacturer Number Locomotives
Mather, Dixon and Company of Liverpool 3 'Barton', 'Tamworth' and 'Hampton'
Charles Tayleur and Company, The Vulcan Foundry of Newton-le-Willows 3 'Derby', 'Burton', 'Birmingham'
R and W Hawthorn Ltd of Newcastle-upon-Tyne 3 'Anker', 'Tame', Blythe'
Sharp, Roberts and Company of Manchester 3 'Derwent, 'Trent', 'Dove'
All had 12 inch by 18 inch cylinders and 5 foot 6 inch drivers. First to be delivered in 1839 were those from Mather Dixon, with 'Tamworth' being used for the inaugural run.


0-4-2 Goods Locomotives

Manufacturer Number Locomotives
Thompson & Cole, Little Bolton 2 'Kingsbury', 'Willington'
The two locomotives had 5 foot driving wheels.

The B&DJR opened on 12th August 1839 with the line running into Hampton, where the trains would reverse for Birmingham. There were six stations in addition to Hampton and Derby. These were: Coleshill (later renamed Maxstoke); Kingsbury; Tamworth; Walton; Burton; and Willington. From the start, the joint use with the L&BR of the Curzon Street terminus gave problems. In 1842 a new line from Whitacre was opened together with a new terminus at Lawley Street. This line proceeded to Derby via Castle Bromwich, Water Orton and Forge Mills (later renamed Coleshill) before joining the original route at Whitacre. The line from Whitacre to Stechford which had not been built, was abandoned, and the line to Hampton was reduced to single track. Strong competition between the line and the Midland Counties Railway (MCR)for transport, particularly of coal, to London, almost drove both of them out of business. The B&DJR offered a time from Derby to London of around seven hours, but when the MCR began operating it was able to reduce the journey to an hour less via its line to Rugby. The B&DJR lowered its fares but this simply resulted in a price war. In a war of 'dirty tricks', the MCR made an agreement with the North Midland Railway (NMR)for exclusive access to its passengers. In retaliation the B&DJR board opposed a bill that the MCR had submitted to Parliament. Both lines were in dire straits and paying minuscule dividends. The NMR was also suffering severe financial problems arising from the original cost of the line and its buildings. At length George Hudson took control of the NMR and adopted Robert Stephenson's suggestion that the best outcome would be for the three lines to merge. Hudson foresaw that the directors of the MCR world resist the idea and made a secret agreement with the B&DJR for the NMR to take it over. This would of course take away the MCR's customers from Derby and the North and, when news leaked out, shares in the B&DJR rose dramatically. Hudson was able to give the MCR directors an ultimatum, and persuaded the line's shareholders to override their board and the stage was set for amalgamation.

Birmingham and Gloucester Railway

Origins

The idea for a line had been mooted during the construction of the Stockton and Darlington Railway. There was already a horse-drawn coal railway between Bristol and Gloucestershire, however a line running the whole distance to Birmingham was suggested. At that time, the canal journey from Birmingham to Bristol took almost a week, and the road journey, which due to expense and road quality was only really suitable for passengers, took the best part of four days. Several surveys were completed in the ten years after 1824. Brunel in 1832 surveyed a line well to the east of its present track, but due to lack of finance the scheme was suspended and he withdrew. The line, as it is now, was surveyed by Captain WS Moorsom. All observers recognised the challenge that the Lickey Ridge posed to the construction of the railway.

Other lines, such as the C&HPR had previously been built up steeper inclines, worked by stationary steam engines or by gravity, however the Birmingham and Gloucester Railwaywas a mechanised commercial railway, and was intended to be worked by steam locomotives. Both Stephenson and Brunel said that a general purpose steam locomotive could not work such a gradient. Due to the Lickey problem, many investors remained sceptical and withheld funds; certain landowners asked excessive prices for land needed to construct the railway. In addition, the people of Bromsgrove protested about the proximity of the 'iron beast' to the town. Eventually it was decided that the incline could be worked by a system of ' banking engines'. Deals were struck with recalcitrant landlords and Bromsgrove station was built almost two miles outside the town, in Aston Fields. The line was authorised by Act of Parliament in 1836, just eleven years after the opening of the Stockton and Darlington Railway.

Construction

The line was completed between Cheltenham and Bromsgrove on 24th June 1840. In 1841 it had reached as far as Camp Hill where it joined the London and Birmingham Railway using the latter's Curzon Street terminus. Intermediate stations were built at Cheltenham, Ashchurch, Spetchley, Droitwich and Bromsgrove, with halts at Bredon, Eckington, and Defford. At its southern end, it joined the Cheltenham and Great Western Union Railway at Cheltenham to run on mixed gauge tracks into Gloucester, the first ever 'joint line' in the country. The line was essentially straight along its length, the average curve being 80 chains radius. The ground was mainly marl and clay. Apart from the Lickey Incline, the maximum gradients were 1 in 300. Regarding the Lickey Incline, Whishaw wrote in 1840: 'If this is satisfactorily effected, it will throw a new and useful light on the laying out of railways, and will save a vast original outlay in future works. We have long considered that the present system of making the 16 feet gradient the minimum, is far from desirable.' There was only one tunnel, that at Gravelly Hill, which was a quarter mile in length, lined in brick with no invert. The largest bridge was over the Avon at Eckington, Worcestershire with three cast-iron segmental arches supported on two lines of iron columns.

The rails were very similar to today's flat-bottomed stock, which has become known as Vignoles rail, and weighed 56 lb per yard. The line was unusual for the day in not using any stone blocks, on part of the line longitudinal sleepers were used whilst on another part, cross sleepers were used. The Act of Parliament gave the Birmingham and Gloucester Railwaythe right to use any future London and Birmingham Railway terminus in Birmingham, which meant that the later Midland Railway which had absorbed the company had the right to share New Street Station when it was built by the LNWR. This prompted the MR to buy the Birmingham West Suburban Railway, which had a junction with the Birmingham and Gloucester Railwayat Kings Norton from 1876. Notwithstanding the Bromsgrove people's reservations, the railway's maintenance shops were built there around 1841 providing a welcome change of employment for the town's nail makers. The original Birmingham and Gloucester Railwaycompany merged with the Bristol and Gloucester Railway in 1845 to form the short-lived Birmingham and Bristol Railway, which in turn became a part of the Midland Railway in 1846.

The Midland Railway later became part of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway in the rationalisation of 1923. The LMS, along with the rest of the UK's mainline railways, became part of British Railways when it was nationalised in 1948.