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The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway (L&YR) was a major British railway company before the 1923 Grouping. It was incorporated in 1847 from an amalgamation of several existing railways.

The intensity of its service was reflected in the 1,650 locomotives it owned, and that one third of its 738 signal boxes controlled junctions averaging one every . No two stations were more than apart and its 1,904 passenger services occupied 57 pages in Bradshaw, a number exceeded only by the Great Western Railway, the London and North Western Railway, and the Midland Railway. It was the first railway to introduce Electrification of some of its lines, and it also ran Steamboat services across the Irish Seamarker and English Channelmarker.

It amalgamated with the London and North Western Railway on 1 January 1922. The company was later a constituent of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway.

Pre-grouping history

The L&YR was incorporated in 1847, being an amalgamation of several important lines, the chief of which was the Manchester and Leeds Railway (itself having been incorporated in 1836).

Constituent companies

The following companies, in order, were amalgamated into the L&YR. The dates shown are, in most cases, the Acts of Parliament authorising the incorporation and amalgamation of each company. In a few instances the effective date is used.

The system

The system consisted of many branches and alternative routes, so that it is not easy to determine the location of its main line. For working purposes the railway was split into three divisions: Whereas there were various lines between the Central and Western Divisions there was only one route between the Eastern and Central Divisions. This line cut through the Pennines between Lancashire and Yorkshire using a number of long tunnels, the longest of which was Summit Tunnelmarker ( in length) near Rochdale. There were six other tunnels each more than long.

Manchester Victoria railway station

Victoria railway stationmarker was one of the largest railway stations in the country. It occupied and had 17 platforms with a total length of . After the grouping, a structural change led No. 11 platform to run through and join with No. 3 platform in the adjacent Manchester Exchange railway stationmarker, at between ramps becoming the longest railway platform in Britain. Lately the station capacity has been reduced to two platforms for Metrolink trams, two bay platforms, and four through platforms under the Manchester Evening News Arenamarker, which now replaces a significant area once occupied by the station. The main facade and station building of the original Hunts Bank station still exist and are kept in relatively good condition.


The L&Y was the first in the country to electrify a mainline route. In Liverpool, the Fourth Rail system was used at 600 V DC, although this was later converted to a Third rail system. Suburban lines in the Liverpool area were electrified to reach a total of 37 route miles.

In 1912 Dick, Kerr & Co.'s Prestonmarker factory was considering tendering for a Brazilian contract, and approached the L&YR to use the Bury to Holcombe Brook Line for test purposes at Dick, Kerr’s expense. The line from Bury Bolton Street Stationmarker to Holcombe Brookmarker was electrified with the overhead 3.5 kV DC system, rolling stock was also supplied at their cost. After prolonged trials the trains entered public use on 29 July 1913. The L&YR purchased the equipment and stock on the successful completion of the trials in 1916.

In 1913 a decision was taken to electrify the Manchester to Bury route at 1.2 kV DC in an attempt to overcome competition from trams. Using the Third Rail system, trains powered by electric motor cars (or carriages) began running on 17 April 1916 but as Horwich was by then involved in war work, deliveries of the new electric stock were delayed and it was not until August 1916 that steam trains were withdrawn from the route. In 1920 the L&YR also considered electrifying the Manchester–Oldham–Shaw and Royton lines, but no work was carried out. During 1917 work began to convert the Bury to Holcombe Brook line to a Third Rail system, matching the Manchester to Bury system. Third Rail trains started to run on 29 March 1918.


LYR 0-8-0 Tender Engine on a period post card
LYR Aspinall 0-6-0ST No.
752 at Rainhill in 1980 showing the LYR freight loco colours of black with red lining
LYR Class 5 Aspinall 2-4-2T No.
1008 at the National Railway Museum

L&YR locomotives originally were painted dark green with ornate brass work and copper capped chimneys. Lining was black and white. In 1876 the dark green was changed to a light green and goods engines were painted plain black. 1878 saw the goods locomotives also appearing in light green. This livery was discontinued from 1883 when all locomotives were painted black. Lining was red and white for passenger locomotives and, if present, red only for goods locomotives.

Coaching stock was originally painted teak, changing in 1875 to an overall light brown. In 1879 a decision was made to use ‘a little brighter shade’. Finally in June 1881 it was announced that the lower panels were to be painted ‘lake colour’. Between 1896 and 1914 the upper panels became buff with the lower in purple-brown, ends were dark brown. Roofs were normally dark grey but some did appear in red oxide.

Wagons were unpainted until 1902 except for the ironwork which was black. After 1902 it was painted dark grey. The illiterate symbol of an inverted solid triangle within a circle was replaced from 1902–3 with the letters LY. Break/brake vans were black and special traffic wagons were painted in various colours e.g. Gunpowder- red, Fish – white, Butter – pale blue etc.

The football team of the L&YR Carriage and Wagon works at Newton Heathmarker, Manchester, evolved into Manchester United F.C..


The L&YR had the largest fleet of all the pre-grouping railway companies. In 1913 they owned twenty six vessels, with another two under construction, plus a further five under joint ownership with the London and North Western Railway. The L&YR ran steamers between Liverpool and Droghedamarker, Hullmarker and Zeebruggemarker, and between Goolemarker and many continental ports including Amsterdammarker, Copenhagenmarker, Hamburgmarker, and Rotterdammarker. The jointly-owned vessels provided services between Fleetwood, Belfastmarker and Londonderrymarker.

Post-grouping history

The L&YR amalgamated with the London and North Western Railway on 1 January 1922, prior to the 1923 Grouping, which involved the expanded LNWR forming part of the new London Midland and Scottish Railway. The general manager, secretary and chief mechanical engineer positions of the expanded company were taken by L&YR employees. ex-L&YR lines formed the core of the LMS's Central Division. The LMS did little to develop the former L&YR routes. Nationalisation followed in 1948 followed by a period of rationalisation and modernisation. The L&YR system has survived largely intact, although the following routes have been closed:

  • Manchester to Bury (converted to Manchester Metrolink operation).
  • Preston to Southport
  • Bury to Accrington and Bacup
  • North Lancs Loop – Blackburn to Burnley via Great Harwood and Padiham

Most ex-L&YR routes are now operated by Northern Rail. Manchester Victoriamarker station has been rebuilt in a more modest form and retains the former terminal building.

See also

Caldervale Line: a service operated by Metro , which uses a large part of the former L&YR.


  1. Awdry (1990)
  2. Paget-Tomlinson (2006), p. 148–149


  • Awdry, C. (1990) Encyclopaedia of British Railway Companies, Patrick Stephens Ltd, Wellingborough, ISBN 1-85260-049-7
  • Blakemore, Michael (1984) The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, Ian Allan, ISBN 0-7110-1401-9
  • Coates, Noel (1997) 150 Years of the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway, Hawkshill Publishing, ISBN 1-900349-11-6
  • Earnshaw, Alan (1992) The Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway: Then & Now, Ian Allan, ISBN 0-7110-2058-2
  • Haigh, A (1978) Railways in West Yorkshire, Dalesman Books, ISBN 0-85206-459-4
  • Marshall, John (1969) The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, Volume 1, David & Charles, ISBN 0-7153-4352-1
  • Marshall, John (1970) The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, Volume 2, David & Charles, ISBN 0-7153-4906-6
  • Marshall, John (1972) The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, Volume 3, David & Charles, ISBN 0-7153-5320-9
  • Mason, Eric (1975) The Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway in the Twentieth Century, 2nd Ed., Ian Allan, ISBN 0-7110-0656-3
  • Nock, O.S. (1969) The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway - A Concise History, Ian Allan, ISBN 0-7110-0130-8
  • Paget-Tomlinson, E.W. (2006) The Illustrated History of Canal & River Navigations, Landmark countryside collection, Ashbourne : Landmark, ISBN 1-84306-207-0

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