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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

Introduction and Background

The birth of railways in Warwickshire is very much aligned to the birth of railways across the country. After the Stockton to Darlington Railway, acknowledged as being the first modern railway in the world, and the Liverpool to Manchester Railway noted as being the first inter city railway, the next two significant railways were the Grand Junction Railway, which connected the Liverpool to Manchester Railway to Birmingham and the London to Birmingham Railway which connected both the North-West and the West Midlands to the capital.

Initially the formation of railways followed a traditional pattern. They normally addressed the needs of one or more communities that would benefit from an alternative to canal or turnpike transport over a given route. The transportation of goods was seen by the investors as being the prime generator of revenues although as railways grew it was rapidly recognised that passenger traffic was also an important driver of growth and prosperity. However this is not to say that all goods were considered acceptable. In the early years of the railway the Directors of the L&BR were very much against their railway carrying coal traffic. Finance was always an issue, not only in raising the capital estimated to complete the works but also to fund the almost inevitable shortfall where the initial estimate was found to be inadequate. Therefore the development of railways both within the county and the country was associated with companies operating one route.

Within the County of Warwickshire the first railways to be built were:

The Grand Junction Railway
The London & Birmingham Railway
The Birmingham & Derby Junction Railway
The Birmingham & Gloucester Railway

With the expansion and success of railways there was a trend for the railways to group together to form strategic alliances and to amalgamate. The above railways amalgamated to form two of the three main railways to operate within Warwickshire for the next 60 years, the GJR and the L&BR being part of the London & North Western Railway and B&DJR and B&GR being part of the Midland Railway. The third major railway in Warwickshire being the Great Western Railway. Over the next 80 plus years, these railways grew their influence by taking over other, smaller lines and by promoting and building other routes of their own. There were exceptions. the Harborne Railway, whilst worked by the L&NWR on a revenue sharing basis, remained independent until 1st January 1923 when it was merged to form part of the LMS. Another exception was the East & West Junction Railway (E&WJR) which in 1909 merged with other railway companies from outside of the county to form the Stratford Upon Avon & Midland Junction Railway (SMJR) and again with the other listed above on 1st January 1923 to form the LMS. On 1 July 1852, the line from Wolverhampton to Birmingham via Smethwick was opened by the Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Stour Valley Railway, which was later absorbed by the LNWR.

Whilst the town of Birmingham (it did not receive its City status until 1889) was the destination of a number of railway schemes other initiatives were more strategic such as the Trent Valley Railway which opened in 1847 to give a more direct route from London to the North West of England, bypassing the existing route via Birmingham built by the Grand Junction Railway and the London and Birmingham Railway a decade earlier. Initially, the Trent Valley Railway was owned by an independent company, which started building it in 1845. While the line was still being built, it was absorbed into the newly created L&NWR in August 1846, and became an important part of the network of routes now known as the West Coast Main Line. The line was opened officially on 30th November 1847.

Another strategic route through the county but avoiding Birmingham was the Midland Counties Railway (MCR) which was established in 1832 to connect Nottingham, Leicester and Derby with Rugby and thence, via the L&BR, to London. The MCRsystem connected with the North Midland Railway and the B&DJR in Derby, the three later becoming the foundation of the Midland Railway when they merged on 10th May 1844.

From the late 1840s to the 1890s the railway network in the county primarily increased in response to competition between the three main protagonists, the L&NWR, the MR and the GWR. Local businessmen were still instrumental in initiating schemes but whether they were successful or not often depended on their gaining the support of one of the big three. In many instances the new lines were not built as point-to-point routes but were built to join up existing routes to provide new lines. By the turn of the century the big three railway companies had matured and were now addressing the shortcomings of the early railways or indeed the problems of capacity created by their success. Therefore during the late part of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century a number of schemes were designed to increase productivity by building cut-offs, removing bottlenecks or by building lines to avoid junctions and stations which were stretched to capacity.

Examples of point-to-point routes include:

Coventry to Leamington (LNWR)
Rugby to Leamington (LNWR)
Coventry to Nuneaton (LNWR)
Barnt Green to Redditch (MR)
Nuneaton to Hinckley (LNWR)

Examples of lines built to create new through routes include:

Aston to Sutton Coldfield (LNWR)
Evesham & Redditch Railway (MR)
Castle Bromwich to Walsall (MR)
Birmingham & West Suburban Railway (MR)

Examples of cutoffs, bottlenecks or avoiding lines being removed or built include:

Lifford Curve (MR)
The Coventry Loop Line between (MR)

In parallel to the continued expansion and growth of the railways in the county there was the need to address the parts of the railway which had become no longer economic or able to fulfill their original purpose. The earliest example of a railway becoming no longer economically viable was the B&DJR's Hampton to Whitacre line which occurred less than twelve months after it first opened on 12th August 1839. This route was, very briefly, an important part of the Derby to London Route but the high costs imposed by the L&BR, together with other restrictions on forwarding B&DJR traffic, made this route vulnerable to third party competition. The opening on 1st July 1840 of the new and slightly more direct route to the capital from Derby to Rugby via Leicester by the Midland Counties Railway was to sound its death bell as a through main line and it was soon down graded to single line status with a limited passenger and goods service.

The closure of Curzon Street and Lawley Street passenger stations in Birmingham was a direct result of the L&NWR's and the MR's success in generating both goods and passenger traffic. The need to provide additional resources for both was addressed by the creation of a new passenger station, initially called Grand Central Station before the name New Street Station was adopted which is what we know it as today. Both Curzon Street and Lawley Street were converted to freight only traffic although Curzon Street did, for a number of years, provide some local and excursion passenger facilities. The continued operation of these passenger facilities at Curzon Street does demonstrate that the original portion of New Street station was already inadequate by the time it opened and it wasn't until 1885 when the station was substantially extended that this issue more fully addressed.

The London Midland Scottish Railway

The role of the London Midland Scottish Railway within the County of Warwickshire is not at all similar to the role played by the Great Western Railway. Whereas the GWR was an entity within the county from the outset, the LMS only came into being some eighty plus years after its lines were built in the county. The reason being was that the precursor railway companies that were to ultimately form the LMS were themselves amalgams of other smaller companies. The origin of the LMS therefore begins with the Grand Junction Railway, the London & Birmingham Railway, the Birmingham & Derby Junction Railway and the Birmingham & Gloucester Railway.

The LMS only came into existence on 1st January 1923 when the Railways Act 1921, also known as the Grouping Act, was enacted. The Act was instigated by the government led by (Sir) David Lloyd George (Liberal Party) and was intended to address the losses being made by many of the country's 123 railway companies. Much of the country's railway infrastructure and rolling stock had fallen into a poor state of repair because of the demands placed on them by the First World War. It was intended to move the railways away from competition between themselves, and to retain some of the benefits which the country had derived from a government-controlled railway during and after the Great War of 1914-1918. In many respects it was the precursor of nationalisation, a concept considered but rejected but which was to come into being twenty-five years later after another World War. The Railway Magazine in its issue of February 1923 dubbed the new companies as 'The Big Four of the New Railway Era'. These 'Big Four' were: the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMSR); the Great Western Railway (GWR); the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER); and the Southern Railway (SR).

The companies merged into the LMSR included the London and North Western Railway, the Midland Railway, several Scottish railway companies (including the Caledonian Railway), and numerous other, smaller ventures. The resulting company was an unwieldy construction, with numerous interests other than railway operations. Besides being the world's largest transport organisation, it was also the largest commercial undertaking in the British Empire and after the Post Office, the United Kingdom's second largest employer. The LMS also claimed to be the largest joint stock organisation in the world. In 1938, the LMS operated 6,870 miles of railway (excluding its lines in Northern Ireland), but its profitability was generally disappointing, with a rate of return of only 2.7%. Along with the other members of the 'Big Four' British railway companies (GWR, LNER and SR), the LMSR was nationalised on 1st January 1948, becoming part of the state-owned British Railways. The LMS was the largest of the Big Four railway companies and the only one to operate in all parts of the United Kingdom: England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

The four companies from Warwickshire which were in existence on 31st December 1922 and which merged with others to form the LMS were:

London and North Western Railway
Midland Railway
Stratford Midland Junction Railway
Harborne Railway

Because the London Midland Scottish Railway only came into being in January 1923, its role in the development of railways within Warwickshire was to be historically linked with the companies that merged to form the constituent companies of the LMSR. The Grand Junction Railway, the London & Birmingham Railway, the Birmingham & Derby Junction Railway and the Birmingham & Gloucester Railway were the forefathers of the LMS via their merger with the London & North Western Railway and the Midland Railway. The LMS' role within the county was therefore to be more associated with trying to maintain the railway's competitive edge wherever possible and to close stations and lines which were no longer viable.

The early history of the LMS was dominated by infighting between its two largest constituents and previously rivals, the Midland Railwayand the London & North Western Railway, each of which believed their company's way was the right, and the only, way of doing business. Generally, the Midland Railway prevailed, with the adoption of many Midland Railway practices such as the livery of Crimson Lake for passenger locomotives and rolling stock. Notable was the continuation of the Midland Railway's small-engine policy (see Locomotives of the Midland Railway). The LMS also implemented a novel management structure, breaking with British railway tradition, and mirroring contemporary US management practice, appointing a President and Vice-Presidents. On 4th January 1926 Josiah Stamp was appointed First President of the Executive, the equivalent of a Chief Executive in modern organisational structures. He added the role of Chairman of the Board of Directors to his portfolio in January 1927, succeeding Sir Guy Granet. The arrival of the new chief mechanical engineer, William Stanier (later Sir William Stanier), who was brought in from the Great Western Railway by Josiah Stamp in 1932, heralded a change. Stanier introduced new ideas rather than continuing the company's internal conflict. The war-damaged LMS was nationalised in 1948 by the Transport Act 1947, becoming part of British Railways. It formed the London Midland Region and part of the Scottish Region. British Railways transferred the lines in Northern Ireland to the Ulster Transport Authority in 1949. The London Midland & Scottish Railway Company continued to exist as a legal entity for nearly two years after Nationalisation, being formally wound up on 23rd December 1949. The lines in Great Britain were rationalised through closure in the 1950s to 1970s but the main routes have survived.