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The Great Central Railway (GCR) was a railway company in Englandmarker which came into being when the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway changed its name in 1897 in anticipation of the opening in 1899 of its London Extension (see Great Central Main Line). On 1 January 1923, it was grouped into the London and North Eastern Railway. Today, small sections of the main line in Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire are preserved; see Great Central Railway . Several other sections of GCR lines are still in public operation.


The new GCR

Upon assuming its new title, the GCR main line ran from Manchester London Road Stationmarker via , Sheffieldmarker, and Grimsbymarker to . A second line left the aforementioned line at Penistone and served , and Scunthorpemarker before rejoining the Grimsby line at . Other lines linked Sheffield to Barnsley (via ) and Doncaster (via Rotherhammarker) and also a line linking and Wrawby Junction. Branch lines in north Lincolnshire ran to Barton-upon-Humbermarker and New Hollandmarker and served ironstone quarries in the Scunthorpe area. In the Manchester area, lines ran to Stalybridgemarker and Glossopmarker.

In the 1890s the MS&LR began construction of its "Derbyshire Lines", in effect the first part of its push southwards. Leaving its east - west main line at Woodhouse Junction, some 5½ miles southeast of Sheffield, the line headed towards Nottingham, a golden opportunity to tap into the collieries in the north of the county before reaching that city. A loop line was built to serve its new Central stationmarker in Chesterfieldmarker.

The "London Extension"

The MS&LR had obtained Parliamentary approval in 1893 for its Extension to London.On 1 August 1897, the original name of the railway was changed to become the Great Central Railway. Building work started in 1895: the new line, some 92 miles (147 km) in length, opened for coal traffic on 25 July 1898; for passenger traffic on 15 March 1899, and for goods traffic on 11 April 1899.

Marylebone station frontage
The new line was built from Annesleymarker in Nottinghamshiremarker to join the existing Metropolitan Railway (MetR) Extension at Quainton Roadmarker, where the line became joint MetR/GCR owned (after 1903), to return to GCR metals at near Finchley Roadmarker for the final section to . In 1903, the new rails were laid down parallel to the Metropolitan Railway from Harrow to the junction north of Finchley Road, enabling more traffic entering/leaving Marylebone. On 2 April 1906, an "Alternative Route" or "alternative main line", running from Grendon Underwoodmarker Junction to Neasden was opened. The line was joint GCR/GWR between Ashenden Junctionmarker and Northolt Junctionmarker. The line was built to increase traffic on the GCR due to capacity constraints on the Metropolitan Extension. It was also built due to various disagreements between the MetR and GCR after the resignation of Sir Edward Watkin from both companies. He resigned due to poor health. Ironically, by the time the new line was built, the two companies had sorted out their differences.

The GCR network in 1903, showing the 'London Extension' and the proposed 'Alternative Main Line'.
The red lines show GCR lines and lines owned/operated jointly by the GCR and other companies.
The thin black lines are other companies' lines.

It was the last complete mainline railway to be built in Britain until section one of High Speed 1 opened in 2003. It was also one of the shortest-lived intercity railway lines, Expresses from London to destinations beyond Nottingham were withdrawn in 1960, and the line was completely closed to passenger trains between Aylesbury and Rugby Central in September 1966, leaving villages such as Woodford Halsemarker without a railway. A diesel multiple unit service ran between Rugby Central and Nottingham (Arkwright Street) until it was also withdrawn in 1969.

Currently Chiltern Railways uses the lines south of Aylesbury for local services into London, and uses the Alternative Route south of Haddenham and the widened lines south of Neasden as the southern part of its intercity main line from Birmingham to London.

Other new lines

Joint working

Apart from the three branches in the Liverpool area noted above, the GCR lines proper in the north of England were all east of Manchester. Nevertheless, GCR trains could run from coast to coast by means of joint working with other railways. The largest of those utilized in this way were those under the Cheshire Lines Committee: the other participants were the Midland Railway and the Great Northern Railway, taking in both Liverpool and Southportmarker. Other joint undertakings were (west to east):

Key Officers

For those in position prior to 1899, dates are as served for the MS&LR.

General Managers

Locomotive Engineer

Chief Mechanical Engineer

GCR locomotives

These could generally be divided into those intended for passenger work, especially those used on the London Extension and those for the heavy freight work.

Pollitt's locomotives

Taken over from the MS&LR, mainly of class F2, 2-4-2 tank locomotives, and also classes D5 and D6 4-4-0 locomotives.

Robinson locomotives

During Robinson's regime, many of the larger express passenger engines came into being:
  • Classes B1-B9: 4-6-0 tender locomotives
  • Classes C4/5: 4-4-2 tender locomotives
  • Classes D9-11: 4-4-0 tender locomotives
  • Class J13: 0-6-0T
  • Classes L1/L3: 2-6-2T
  • Classes O4/5: 2-8-0, heavy freight locos, including ROD engines
  • Class Q4: 0-8-0 heavy shunting locomotive
  • GCR Class S1 0-8-4T used at Wath marshalling yardmarker

Major stations

Wath marshalling yard

The new marshalling yard at Wath-upon-Dearnemarker was opened in November 1907. It was designed to cope with coal trains, full and empty; it was worked with electro-pneumatic signalling.


Grimsby docks

Grimsbymarker was dubbed the "largest fishing port in the world" in the early 20th century; it owed its prosperity to the ownership by the GCR and its forebear, the MS&LR. Coal and timber were also among its biggest cargoes. There were two main docks: the Alexandra Dock (named for Queen Alexandra) and the Royal Dock, the latter completed in 1852. The total area of docks was 104.25 acres (42 ha). These docks were linked by the Union Dock.

Immingham Dock

This dock—completed in 1912—covered and was mainly concerned with the movement of coal.

External links

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