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The Great Northern Railway





THE Great Northern is the first link in the East Coast route to Scotland; and, by means of its own lines, joint lines, running powers and agreements, its working area extends not only over the Border but westward to Liverpool and eastward to Cromer - a development not anticipated when it came into existence as a railroad from London to York.

The first railway to Yorkshire was projected by those great company promoters, the Rennies, in 1827. Two years before, they had proposed a line up the valley of the Lea to be continued on to Cambridge; their York line was merely the prolongation of this through Lincoln, and their scheme failed to please and came to nothing.

The real beginning was made in 1835, when Joseph Gibbs, better known perhaps in Brighton matters, apparently on his own account surveyed a route of what he called The Great Northern Railway, the Bill for which was thrown out by the Commons in the following year. Undismayed, Gibbs kept the project alive, and being a busy man he could afford to wait. Eight years went by of scheming and inquiring on the part of other projectors, and in April 1844 there came out the prospectus of another company, the Direct Northern, which was followed a month afterwards by that of the London & York.

Between these companies there were desperate contests, parliamentary, financial, and more or less disgraceful, but it seems a wearisome business to us now, and all that need be said is that after leading one another a terrible time they amalgamated. The London & York absorbed the Great Northern on the 17th of May 1844, and the Direct Northern on the 5th of May 1846, and Gibbs’s title, which had been dropped at the first amalgamation, was revived at the second, the united companies becoming the Great Northern Railway, which obtained its Act on the 26th of June 1846.

Not only did the company get its name from Gibbs, but it got its main road. He should have been the engineer, but apparently for Stock Exchange reasons - there was quite enough of Stock Exchange strategy about the Great Northern’s early manoeuvres - the appointment was given to Joseph Locke, who was called upon to decide between two routes, Gibbs’s “through the Towns”, and James Walker’s “through the Fens”, and his verdict was in favour of the former.

No. 1 Departure Platform at King’s Cross


ocke did little more. He only held office for a few months, his resignation being dated 17th of September 1844. He was then away in Paris on French railway business, and the letter did not arrive until three days afterwards; it was a severe blow for the young company, and required to be acted on instantly. Edmund Denison was quite equal to any such emergency. Very late that Friday night he drove over to William Cubitt’s house on Clapham Common. It was all in darkness, and Denison knocked for some time without arousing anybody. Then at a first-floor window appeared Cubitt, with a nightcap on, asking in an angry voice what all the noise was about. “Will you be the engineer of the London & York?” shouted Denison. “Eh, what?” said Cubitt. “What has happened to Locke?” “Resigned. Will you take his place?” “Yes,” said Cubitt; “I will come and see you in the morning.” And off went Denison from that midnight interview. Everything was arranged on the Saturday, and the morning newspapers of Monday, 23rd of September 1844, contained an advertisement announcing Locke’s resignation and Cubitt’s appointment.

The Act authorised the making of 327 miles of railway, of which 186 were to form the main line to York, and Cubitt, assisted by his son Joseph, soon became busy. In November 1846 Thomas Brassey was asked to contract for the section between London and Peterborough, while in January Morton Peto was given the contract from Peterborough to Gains-borough. Brassey had the more difficult job. For three miles he had to cross the fens near Whittlesea Mere, where there was “a quaking bog you could stand upon and shake an acre of it together”. Meeting Stephen Ballard by chance at Cambridge, he made him his agent for the works in the fen country, and by his ingenuity the line was laid across the treacherous ground. A hundred acres of faggot-wood were cut down, end to end the stakes were placed to form a platform upon which a layer of peat sods formed a foundation for another bed of stakes; and this was not done hurriedly but gradually, so that the water had time to run out. The effect was to displace the water and leave the solid parts behind; and in alternate layers the building went slowly on until a firm foundation was obtained.

The bridges also were made in a special way. “They were intended to be piled,” says Ballard. “ The peat was 22 ft deep, and I pointed out to the engineer the difficulty of sufficiently bracing the piles, their tops being only about 3 ft above the soft bog. The piling was given up, and we made rafts of timber on which brick walls were built. These gradually sank, care being taken to so dispose the weight as to keep the walls perpendicular, and finally the walls were tested with rails of a greater weight than that of any train that could pass over them. We did not load too quickly, but left it; we put a little load on, and left it; and then the water had a chance of escaping. only compressed the peat beneath the raft, without displacing it, for if we had once displaced it we must have gone down to the solid.”



Brassey was much hindered by the failure of the Great Northern people to make the agreed payments on account and he took the company’s bonds in lieu of cash, as also did Ballard, who was paid by a share of the profits. Ballard had to sell his bonds at a loss, but the company afterwards honourably made good all the loss he had sustained. Thus the building of the line went on, Brassey making no claim for the delays occasioned by these financial difficulties, - a very different state of affairs this to what usually happened in railway-making when delay was the contractor’s fault and not that of his employers.

On the 1st of March 1848 the first section of the Great Northern was opened for traffic. Of all places on the system it was the thirty miles between Louth and New Holland! And of this only fourteen miles belonged to the Great Northern, the rest being owned by the Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire. The next was the 4¼ miles from Doncaster to Askern, the next that from Louth to Peterborough. The section from Maiden Lane - the first London terminus - to Peterborough was opened in August 1850; that from Peterborough to Retford in July 1852; and on the 14th of October of that year King’s Cross was opened on the site of the old small-pox and fever hospital. King’s Cross was thought much of when it was built. It was then the largest station. We read that “it wore a magnificent appearance” and presented “a vista of extraordinary effect”. The effect on some of the shareholders was to make them protest against “the extravagance in erecting so splendid a station,” to which Denison replied, unanswerably as usual, “I am authorised to state that it is the cheapest building for what it contains and will contain that can be pointed out in London; I am told - I am not the architect and I do not estimate it - that it will not have cost more than £123,500. If that is the case, I have no difficulty at all in saying that it is a very cheap station. Bear in mind, however, that we paid by arbitration and award, I think, about £65,000 for the two old buildings that stood there, and then we had to excavate the ground before the station was erected; so that I do not pretend to say that the whole cost is only about £123,000.”

A powerful Tank-Engine used for Local Traffic


Anyhow, it was the cheapest of the existing London terminals; and for the 13 trains out of it a day, 3 fast and 10 slow, it was large enough. There were two long platforms, arrival and departure, and between them were 14 tracks. The two sheds were, and are, 800 ft long, 105 ft wide, and 71 ft high. The idea of the roof was borrowed by the architect, Sir William Cubitt’s nephew, Lewis Cubitt, from the riding-school then recently built for the Czar at Moscow, the ribs being bundles of planks -  the planks overlapping each other endways, forming a built-up bow kept stretched by the containing walls, which had to be of unusual strength to resist the thrust. Many people had their doubts about this roof, then the largest in the world, one of the doubters being Mr. Denison’s son, in after years Lord Grimthorpe, who, like his father, generally knew what he was about; and the doubters were right, for the wooden bows of the roof have been replaced by iron girders.

The line was thoroughly good, like all Sir William Cubitt’s lines, and, like all of them, it was laid out for fast running. Unlike the South Eastern, its capacities in that respect have been utilised to the full. It was built for speed and it has been used for speed; but it should be remembered that the Great Northern’s business really began north of Grantham where the M. S. & L. came in, and that it was best to get over the intervening distance as soon as possible. That stretch of 105 miles was practically a line of approach along which much was gained by saving time. Farther north up to Doncaster the trade thickened, and Doncaster is really the end of the main line. Peterborough did not become of importance until the company’s good habits had become second nature. It was the evident advantage of getting to work quickly that led the Great Northern to adopt speed as a policy from the very early days, and the reason still holds good. Speed may, or may not, pay everywhere, but it certainly has paid and does pay on the King’s Cross route.

The line has no gradients or curves of importance. It rises to Holloway at 1 in 110; then comes a gentle rise to Hornsey, followed by a long rise of 1 in 200 from Wood Green to Potter’s Bar. Then the profile goes down to Hatfield and up to Welwyn along the great Digswell viaduct of forty arches that carries the line 89 ft above the Mimram, then through the tunnel of the three trains and up and down to Stevenage; the descent to Arlesey follows, and on to Peterborough there is nothing to trouble about. Beyond Peterborough the line rises until at 1 in 178 it attains 347 ft at Stoke between Corby and Great Ponton, from which at 1 in 180 it descends to Grantham. Altogether there are twenty-five stretches of dead level, but only that at Holme is of any length. Between Grantham and Doncaster the line is of the same character, and there is no need to go into detail. The main line rises no higher than Stoke, but the summit level of the system is 877 ft on the Keighley branch.



“The Great Northern Railway,” said Edmund Denison, the famous chairman of the company, “ends in a ploughed field four miles north of Doncaster.” That ploughed field was, however, not at Shaftholme Junction, as generally reported. It was at Askern Junction, 4 miles 26 chains north of Doncaster, that is a dozen cricket pitches farther north than Shaftholme, and a little to the west of it, that the Great Northern joined end-on to the Lancashire & Yorkshire, and by way of Knottingley took its trains to York by running for 14 miles on that company’s metals, and 19 miles on those of the York & North Midland, which in 1854 amalgamated with other lines as the North Eastern. It was not until 1870 that the North Eastern opened its direct line to the south from York through Selby to join the Great Northern at Shaftholme and form the present route. By many people York is thought to be the northern end of the Great Northern, but its trains get there on 28 miles of the North Eastern, and its highest north is not at York, but at Ripon, 20 miles farther on, which it reaches by way of Harrogate, and enters on North Eastern metals.

From Peterborough goes off its joint line with the Midland which takes its trains to their farthest east at Lowestoft. At Werrington, just beyond Peterborough, begins the Lincolnshire loop which extends up to Grimsby, and takes in Skegness, Mablethorpe, and Lincoln. From Grantham goes its short road to Lincoln, whence it proceeds along its joint line with the Great Eastern which runs from Somersham to Black Carr; and also from Grantham goes off the western branch leading to Nottingham and Derby, and as far as Egginton Junction, whence the North Stafford takes on the Northern trains to the Northern outlier beyond Uttoxeter. From Retford, Sheffield and Manchester are reached by way of the Great Central; another route to Manchester being over the Cheshire Lines, which from both Manchester and Stockport lead on to Liverpool.

Arms of the Great Northern Railway

At Doncaster matters are more complicated. No less than six other companies run in, these being the Midland and North Eastern, which have their own booking-offices on the platform, the Great Eastern, the Great Central, the Lancashire & Yorkshire, and the London & North Western. When Doncaster station was opened on the 11th of August 1848, the trial trip being walked by a train drawn by horses from there to Askern Junction, no one imagined that such a state of affairs was due in the future.

Coming up from the south is the Great Northern main line. At Black Carr Junction there runs in from the east the Great Northern and Great Eastern Joint from Somersham. At the South Junction comes in from the west the Great Central from Swinton, to leave on the east at the North Junction, that is Marsh Gate, for Grimsby. Farther north the West Riding Joint crosses at a right angle from Adwick to join the Great Central where the North Eastern line comes in from Hull. Just beyond this is Shaftholme Junction, where the North Eastern comes in from York; and a little farther on, bearing off to the west from Shaftholme, is Askern Junction, where the Lancashire & Yorkshire joins. Just outside Doncaster station, at North Junction, there goes off to the left the West Riding Joint, owned by the Great Northern and the Great Central, which leads to the Great Northern island in the Wakefield district, from which its trains get as far as Keighley which they enter on Midland metals. In fact Doncaster and Peterborough are the chief Great Northern junctions, and in the early days fierce was the struggle as to which of them should be the site of the locomotive works.

Boston was used temporarily to commence with, but was too much out of the way, and the final decision was in favour of Doncaster, as being nearer the coal and iron districts, and nearer the centre of the system in the plans of development at headquarters which were not destined to be carried out. The buildings were begun in 1853, and the works completed in 1854, the locomotive works being then near the station, the wagon works being at Carr, two miles down the line. Nowadays the works cover about 80 acres, and are surrounded by over 60 miles of sidings; together with the station they occupy some 180 acres in a triangle by the banks of the Don.

For twenty-three years Doncaster was used for repairs only, all the engines being built by private firms. The locomotive department did not begin well. Benjamin Cubitt, from the South Eastern, was the first superintendent, but he died, before there was any track to run on, after ordering fifty of Sharp’s standard pattern 6-wheelers to open the line with. These Little Sharps, as they were called, were 2-2-2’s, with cylinders 15-in by 20-in, driving wheels 5 ft 6-in, leaders and trailers 3 ft 6-in, boiler 3 ft 6¾-in by 10 ft, and heating surface 748 sq ft. They weighed 18 tons 8½ cwt, and were afterwards fitted with equalising levers uniting the springs of the driving and leading wheels. Later on Mr. Sturrock converted some of them for Metropolitan work by lengthening the frames, adding a pair of trailing wheels and a tank and bunker.

The successor of Benjamin Cubitt was Edward Bury, the head of the engine-building firm at Liverpool, who at once ordered twenty engines from Hawthorns, and a dozen goods engines, six from his own firm and six from Fairbairns, these being coupled 4-wheelers, the first half-dozen having 5-ft wheels, the wheels of the others being an inch larger. The Hawthorns were 2-2-2’s, with cylinders 15-in by 21-in, driving wheels 6 ft, trailers and leaders 5 ft 6-in, heating surface 907 sq ft, and the weight was 27 tons 1 cwt.

He bought four 4-2-0’s that had been used by Peto in making the line, and he ordered a few more engines, including five saddle-tanks from his own firm; and in January 1850 he had about a hundred altogether working on 143 miles of the company’s line and on 50 miles of other lines under running powers. But some of the shareholders did not approve of his double character of buyer and seller, and as the position was not satisfactory, a way out of the difficulty was found by his resignation.

In April 1850 the company advertised for a new superintendent, and out of 31 applicants the choice fell on Archibald Sturrock, Daniel Gooch’s manager at Swindon, really the head of Swindon, for Gooch only put in an appearance there about once a month after it was in working order. Sturrock was born in 1816, and lived until he was well over ninety. During his apprenticeship at Stirling’s East Foundry at Dundee he helped to build the Trotter delivered to the Dundee & Newtyle in March 1834, one of the curious engines of the Earl of Airlie type, with a rear bogie and 11-in by 18-in cylinders working straight upwards, with a connecting rod from the cross-head coming down the outer side of each cylinder to a bell-crank from which another connecting rod worked the driving wheels. After a time he had found his way to Gooch’s engine-building enterprise that failed, or was about to fail, and when Gooch went to the Great Western he took Sturrock with him. Sturrock had luck, and he deserved it; it was his pride that he drove the first bolt for the first shed at Swindon and planned and built Doncaster. Another Great Western man went to the Great Northern at the same time; this was Seymour Clarke, the Great Western’s London traffic manager, who was the first Great Northern general manager.



With two such men, both young, the Great Northern was in fine form for its London opening. Sturrock had seen at Swindon that what the locomotive wanted was a bigger firebox and greater boiler pressure, and he began by designing engines in which instead of 80 lb he used 150 lb, but, acting on Brunei’s advice, he kept it quiet, so that nobody took alarm. Before these were on the rail he had much overhauling and rebuilding of the old stock to do, and several engines to receive that had been ordered before he took over. Among these were ten Cramptons built by Longridge which were practically the same as the Folkestone belonging to the South Eastern, having inside cylinders and a dummy crank axle with outside cranks coupled to the large driving wheels near the firebox. It was one of these engines which took the first train from King’s Cross at the opening of the London terminus in October 1852. Sturrock rebuilt the Bury and Fairbairn goods and added 3 ft trailing wheels, fitting a tank and bunker so as to do away with the tender; and he converted the Cramptons, which lasted for years afterwards with 15-in by 21-in cylinders, 6 ft 6-in driving wheels, and 3 ft 6-in leaders and trailers, a beating surface of 972 sq ft, and a weight of 28 tons 7 cwt.

Sturrock’s first engine of his own design was No. 71. There were twenty of this class, all built by Hawthorns. Their cylinders were 16-in by 22-in, they were 2-4-0’s with 3 ft 6-in leaders and 6 ft drivers, the boiler was 3 ft 9½-in by 10 ft, the grate area was 13·2 sq ft, the heating surface of the firebox was 102, the total heating surface being 1006, and the pressure was 150 lb. These engines weighed about 28 tons, and were in many ways a great advance on their predecessors.

One of them drew the first royal train on the Great Northern. The first time Queen Victoria went by the line to Scotland was on the 27th of August 1851, when she went from Maiden Lane, then the London terminus, to Doncaster, and stayed the night at the Angel, leaving there before nine in the morning for York, to proceed by the York, Newcastle, & Berwick to Edinburgh. Beyond Stonehaven there were then no railroads, and from that principal port of Kincardineshire she had to drive all the way to Balmoral. In 1854 the journey was again made on the Great Northern, as it was every year after that up to 1861. The Prince Consort died in the December of that year, and ever afterwards the Queen went by the West Coast route.

Mention must be made of another class of handsome engines, the Large Hawthorns. These were of the 2-2-2 type, with 6 ft 6-in drivers and 4 ft leaders and trailers, the cylinders were 16-in by 22-in, the boiler was 4 ft in diameter and of the usual 10 ft in length, the heating surface 972, and they weighed 27 tons 16 cwt. One of them, No. 210, Oliver Hindley was driving down Retford bank when he saw a train going east from Sheffield to Lincoln which would meet him on the level crossing. He could not stop, and, making up his mind on the instant, he put on full steam and sent the Scotsman safely through the goods train, scattering the trucks into splinters, and causing no more damage to his own than the dents and scars on 210 which she carried with pride for many a day afterwards.



Also built by the Hawthorns was Sturrock’s No. 215, an engine of the greatest importance, designed to run from King’s Cross to Edinburgh in eight hours. She was put on the rail in August 1853, and was at once noticed as having a Great Western look owing to the absence of a dome, the shape of the firebox, and the curving of her frames over the driving axle. She had a leading bogie, being a 4-2-2, with driving wheels 7 ft 6-in, bogie wheels 4 ft 3-in and 4 ft 3-in trailers, her cylinders were 17½-in by 24-in, her heating surface, enormous for her date, was 1718, of which the firebox accounted for 155, and in working order she weighed 37 tons 9½ cwt. Powerful and fast, doing 75 miles an hour on favourable stretches, nothing but praise was ever given to this engine, but she was the only one of the kind, and though apparently behaving well wherever she went, she was withdrawn to Doncaster and never got to Edinburgh, the proposal to run such a train being postponed until there was more demand for it or for some other reason at present unknown.

Let us take her for the moment as being notable for her driving wheels; the next engines we must mention were notable for their leading wheels. These were the fine, powerful class Nos. 229-240, which cost £35,000 for the dozen. They were 2-2-2’s, with 7 ft drivers and 4 ft 3-in leaders and trailers, their cylinders were 17-in by 22-in, the heating surface was 1060, and their weight was 34 tons 12 cwt. These engines had hoops on the crank jaws; and their leading wheels were the first that the Great Northern put immediately under the smokebox.

Crocodile Truck carrying a Stirling 8-footer fitted with a dome


This engine record must now be shunted for a short space to clear the track for Sturrock’s triumph. It had been arranged that the Great Northern should work their own underground traffic on the Metropolitan on and after the 1st of September 1863. That line had been opened in January of that year; it was laid with the mixed gauge in order that the Great Western trains might run through to Farringdon Street; and, as a matter of fact, all the trains were broad-gauge worked by Great Western engines designed for the purpose by Daniel Gooch, with tanks below the boiler barrel into which the exhaust steam went so as to keep the tunnels workable. They were suitable engines, 6-wheelers with coupled 6-ft wheels, and they were tastefully named the Wasp, the Bee, the Gnat, and other entomological things, the later ones being named after flowers - flowers and insects being so characteristic of the pre-electrical underground.

From the first the Great Western seemed to look upon the line as their own private property, whereas Mr. Myles Fenton, the Metropolitan general manager, thought otherwise, and the result was unpleasantness that culminated in a storm. The Great Western people, thinking they had him at their mercy, gave him summary notice that in ten days’ time, that is on the 9th of August 1863, they should withdraw their rolling stock and leave him without any engines or carriages to work his line with. They had mistaken their man; and they had not thought of Mr. Sturrock.

Fenton hurried off to King’s Cross and Euston and told the story, and the Northern and the North Western at once offered to help him so far as carriages went, but with regard to engines it was a different matter, for the Metropolitan’s Act forbade any being used on the line that did not consume their own smoke and condense their own steam. In preparation, however, for the 1st of September, Sturrock had ready a few he had specially built and he turned all Doncaster on to adapt others. “They shall be ready on the 9th,” he promised.

First-class Dining Car


By flexible pipes - which frequently burst - he led the exhaust steam from the engine into the tank of the tender, utilising old engines for the purpose that had not been in steam for years, and as soon as the broad-gauge trains had left the tunnels for the night the Northern engines were on the rails being experimented with for hours. But it was all kept as quiet as possible; on the 8th Paddington awaited in vain for the surrender that never came; and on the night of the 9th, as the last broad-gauge train left King’s Cross (Metropolitan) on its westward journey, there came down that tunnel on the north side train after train, Great Northern or North Western, all drawn by Sturrock’s engines, most of them by Sturrock’s adaptations, which managed to do the work until the Metropolitan’s own engines, built at top speed by Beyers, came to relieve them. It was “the man that came from Swindon” who turned the broad gauge out of London; though the Windsor to Paddington through service of only a few trains lasted for another five years.

It was Mr. Sturrock who endeavoured to make the tender something more than a dead weight by fitting it with an auxiliary engine. He coupled its wheels, put in a crank axle, and worked this by cylinders hung underneath the body which received their steam from the boiler. These “steam tenders” were used on the coal and goods trains for some time, and are reported to have been efficient but too costly in working and repair to be continued with. His last engines were Nos. 264-269; these were of the 2-4-0 type, with 7 ft drivers and 4 ft 3-in trailers, the cylinders were 17-in by 24-in, and the heating surface was 1028.

The next chief at Doncaster was Patrick Stirling, who was born at Kilmarnock in 1820. He began at Dundee, then he went to the Vulcan, then to Neilsons, then he was locomotive superintendent of that very little line the Bowling & Balloch, then he was at Hawthorns, and in 1853 he became locomotive superintendent of the Glasgow & South Western, spending thirteen years in his native place before he moved on to Doncaster, to remain there in command for twenty-nine years.

Dining Saloon of the East Coast Express


He had ideas of his own about railway engines, and he built the best looking that were ever put on the rail. That being a matter of taste, it cannot be disputed. There is no mistaking a Stirling engine. There is nothing clumsy about it. Graceful and powerful, and above all things workmanlike, with nothing spoiling the beauty of its lines, it is the very embodiment of speed. It is perfectly proportioned; nothing is unduly developed; there is no feature that is too large for its position. His engines came at that happy period when the power that was wanted was exactly such as could be provided by a machine in which no detail had to be unduly prominent, though even then there were things on the rail such as provoked old Beyer’s exclamation, “Ach, anything vill for a locomotive do!”

His first Great Northern engine was No. 280, one of a class of twenty whose numbers ended with 299. This was a 2-4-0, with 6 ft 7½-in drivers and 4 ft 1½-in leaders, the cylinders were 17-in by 24-in, the boiler - mark the increase - was 3 ft 10½-in by 17 ft 9-in, the heating surface was 1085, and the weight was 34 tons 9¾ cwt. The same year, 1867, he built the first engine at Doncaster; she had 5 ft 7-in wheels, and was a 0-4-2. Next year he began building his singles, 2-2-2; their driving wheels were 7 ft 1-in. Then he began to consider about No. 215, which stood among the doomed in Doncaster yard. It seemed to him such a pity to break up those magnificent wheels that he decided to use them, and, what was more, to design an engine that would show what they were capable of. Thus it came about that he built No. 92, an engine 23 ft 9½-in over buffers, with 17½-in by 24-in cylinders, and leaders and trailers of 4 ft 1-in. Tried in all ways, this engine did so well that he was led to think of bigger wheels, and thus evolved his first 8-footer.

The direct line from Doncaster to York through Shaftholme was about to be opened, and there was to be an acceleration of speed on the East Coast route. Some such engine was wanted; and it came out in 1870, the year of the opening. So successful was the new engine that so long as he remained at Doncaster, that is for the rest of his life, his 8-footers did the express work of the main line. They were the Great Northern engines, and the public knew no other although there were others, nearly a thousand of them, in twelve classes, ancient and modern, and these were only forty-five. They did not remain quite the same during the quarter of a century and more they needed no pilot, and Mr. Stirling would never allow two engines on any one train. There were, of course, changes in detail in strengthening parts, augmenting surfaces, and adding to grate area to give increase of power, but these were too slight for us to trouble about here.

A Double-berth Sleeper on the Far North Express


They had outside cylinders, and these were 18-in in diameter with a 28-in stroke, and the driving wheels were 8 ft in diameter, that is nominal, none being smaller, though some of the wheels, when new, measured 8 ft 1½-in. The tractive factor was thus 93, but so far as tractive effort is concerned it should be remembered that such wheels with such a length of stroke were equal to 7 ft 6-in wheels with a 26-in stroke, or 6 ft 10½-in wheels with a 24-in stroke. These huge wheels made 210 revolutions a minute, and the piston speed was 980 ft a minute, that is at 60 miles an hour.

The boiler was 4 ft 2-in, that is 4 ft in internal diameter, and it was 11 ft 6-in in length. Within it were 174 copper tubes of 1¾-in diameter, giving ample water space and a heating surface of 936 sq ft. The length of the casing was 6 ft 2-in. There was no dome, the steam being collected by a perforated pipe running along under the top of the boiler as in No. 215. The firebox had a heating surface of 109 sq ft, making 1045 altogether, and the grate area was 17¾ sq ft. The firebox crown was tied to the outer shell by screwed stays, and the end plates were fixed to the barrel by diagonal stays. The feed-water came from the tender through two injectors, entering the back-plate and led to the centre of the barrel by an internal pipe. The pressure was kept within 170 lb by Ramsbottom valves. The blast pipe was 4¾-in in diameter.

The trailing wheels were 4 ft 6-in, those of the bogie measured 3 ft 10-in, but these dimensions varied somewhat. The bogie pivot was placed behind the centre, there being no transverse movement. The engine measured 29½ ft over buffers, and had a wheel base of nearly 23 ft. In working order it weighed 45 tons 3 cwt. The tender had six wheels, and with its 15½ tons of water and 5 tons of coal weighed 40 tons 5¾ cwt, so that the weight of engine and tender combined was 85 tons 8¾ cwt.

It was during the race to Edinburgh in 1888 that those who had not travelled by the Great Northern learnt what these engines could do. On the 1st of November 1887 the East Coast partners had begun carrying third-class passengers by their 10 a.m. train from King’s Cross to Edinburgh, which did the distance in 9 hours, while the West Coast trains, which carried third-class, did it in 10 hours. The effect of the alteration was that the West Coast found their third-class bookings to Scotland seriously diminishing. As matters became worse the West Coast replied by reducing their time from 10 hours to 9 on the 1st of June 1888. Needless to say the East Coast people, who had been having an easy time of it, revised their timetable for the following month, and by knocking off a quarter of an hour between London and York, and another quarter from York northwards, ran to Edinburgh in 8½ hours.

The Tea Room at King’s Cross


This woke up the West Coast partners, who placarded Euston on the 27th of July with bold advertisement that on the 1st of August they would deliver their passengers in 8½ hours, and they did it. But the four days’ notice was fatal, and, the very afternoon the posters appeared, King’s Cross and York took counsel together, with the result that the day the West Coast reached Edinburgh in 8½ hours the East Coast was there in 8. Thereupon the West Coast arranged to be there in 8 hours, beginning on the 6th of August, and they got there eight minutes before time, but with four carriages only, while the East Coast were punctual with their ordinary load, which was much heavier, but not double as heavy, though their carriages were twice as many. This dead heat business was not good enough for the East Coast, and so on the 13th of August they reduced their time by a quarter of an hour, after due announcement, which gave the West Coast a chance to do their very best and get there in 7 hours 38 minutes. Next day the East Coast replied by keeping time at all their stopping stations, as if nothing out of the ordinary was on, and reaching Edinburgh in 7 hours 32 minutes. That settled the matter; there was no more racing after that; and the result of it all was that the East Coast instead of getting to Edinburgh in 9 hours went there in 7¾ hours, and the West Coast instead of taking 10 hours took 8 hours, for which every one going north was duly grateful.

The Great Northern engines took the trains to York, and the North Eastern engines continued the running to Edinburgh. All through the month the Scotsman stopped at Grantham for one 8-footer to relieve another. From King’s Cross to Grantham is 105 miles 26 chains, and the average of speed was 55·7 miles an hour. From Grantham to York the distance is 82 miles 55 chains, and the average speed was 55½ miles an hour. Thus the whole distance to York, 188 miles 1 chain, was traversed for 31 days at 556 miles an hour; and it was the right sort of average, the daily differences being only in the decimals. It was this unvarying excellence that distinguished the 8-footers; it did not seem to matter which of them was put on, they could always be trusted to do the work that was given them. And seven years afterwards in the race to Aberdeen they were called upon to do better than they had done in the race to Edinburgh.

In June 1895 the East Coast were taking their 8 p.m. train from King’s Cross to Aberdeen in 11 hours 35 minutes, when the West Coast announced that to make sure of a connection with the Great North they would quicken their 8 p.m. train so that it should reach Aberdeen in 11 hours 40 minutes, just five minutes behind the other.

The East Coast took this as a challenge, and replied by knocking off a quarter of an hour from the journey on and after the 1st of July. As Aberdeen was a Caledonian preserve which the North British only entered by running powers on the Caledonian from Kinnaber Junction, 38 miles 22 chains to the south, there was nothing surprising in the West Coast hastening to reply by arriving there on the 15th of July in 11 hours; but it was a foolish thing to do as the East Coast route was by 16 miles the shorter.

The Kitchen of a Restaurant Car


At the end of a week the East Coast altered its timetable and proposed to be there in 10¾ hours. Then quite a new policy was adopted by the West Coast. Bearing in mind what had happened in the race to Edinburgh, they ignored their timetables altogether and, treating the train as a private special, they concentrated their efforts on accomplishing the journey in a shorter time than their rivals, irrespective of their announcements, so that in the end their train booked to reach Aberdeen at 7 a.m. was actually there at 4.55. The East Coast were some weeks before they fully grasped what their opponents were doing; and it was not until the 19th of August that they really began to race in the longest railway race that ever took place in these islands.

It was on the 16th of August that the East Coast announced that on and after the following Monday their train would take 9 hours 40 minutes on its journey, this being 19 minutes better than the West Coast had done up to then. Great was the excitement that Monday night at both Euston and King’s Cross. The 8 p.m. North Western went off amid cheers to reach Aberdeen according to the time-table at 7 a.m., and according to intention to throw time to the winds and get there as soon as it could. At King’s Cross this was understood, but it was even then not understood at Edinburgh, and when the Great Northern train arrived there nine minutes before its time the North British stationmaster refused to allow it to leave the station until the very moment it had been booked to do so.

It had lost two minutes by checks at Hatfield, Welwyn, and York, and five minutes by a signalman’s error at Eryholme, and these it had made up; and when it reached Dundee it was again stopped for six minutes because it was before time. Thus it came about that the West Coast was first past Kinnaber. The North Eastern and the Great Northern forcibly protested against the treatment of the train at Waverley and Dundee, and with great difficulty managed to drive the idea into the head of the North British; and next night the train left Edinburgh as soon after its arrival as the passengers could be got in and the North British engine put on. The North Britishers did their duty well, and Dundee was as quick as Waverley, but, as the East Coaster passed Montrose, away in the west could be seen the steam of the rival which by less than a minute got the line clear at Kinnaber and led the way to Aberdeen.

This would never do for the Great Northern, and, with No. 668 in front, as on the Monday and Tuesday, the train out on the 21st of August meant real business. Peterborough, 76¼ miles, was passed in 72 minutes; Grantham, 105¼ miles, was reached in 101 minutes. Another 8-footer, No. 775 as before, came on, and York, 188 miles, was reached in 181 minutes, including the Grantham stop. There North Eastern engine No. 1621 took over for the run to Newcastle, there to be relieved by No. 1620, which went at an average of 66 miles an hour to arrive at Waverley, 124½ miles, on a record trip of 6 hours 19 minutes from London. The North British No. 293 replaced her for the stretch to Dundee, and thence the other North Britisher, No. 262, thoroughly awake this time, was on and away and, splendidly driven, swung into Aberdeen at 4.40, no less than 14½ minutes ahead of the West Coast, which had also done its fastest run. That 60 miles an hour from start to finish, with 3½ minutes to spare, was the end of the racing.

A Car Attendant, Great Northern Railway


The time that settled the matter was not, however, the shortest, for on the following night, that of the 22nd of August, the West Coast train, cut down to its lightest, made “an exhibition run” and accomplished the journey in 8 hours 32 minutes, being 8 minutes less. Throughout the contest the East Coast carried the heavier load; on the 19th this consisted of six large E.C.J.S. coaches and an 8-wheeled sleeper all the way, and on the 20th and 21st it was these 7 for 393 miles and one short for 130 miles. The West Coast load on all three days was six coaches for 450 miles and 4½ for 89 miles, while on the exhibition trip the load was only 68 tons, there being but three coaches. The East Coast engines were two Stirlings, two North Eastern 7-ft coupleds, and two North British 6 ft 6-in coupleds. On the West Coast the 7-ft compounds Coptic and Adriatic, between Euston and Crewe, and the Precedents Hardwicke and Queen between Crewe and Carlisle shared the duty between them; between Carlisle and Perth the Caledonian used No. 90, a 6 ft 6-in coupled, and between Perth and Aberdeen No. 17, a new 7-ft single.

As it was at Edinburgh and Aberdeen, so it had been at Manchester in 1857, when the rival trains used to race to London Road Junction and the first to get there had the right of way. In this case the Great Northern were the partners of the Manchester, Sheffield, & Lincolnshire, and the competition became so keen that the North Western actually took people into custody for coming by the Sheffield trains, until they arrested a lawyer who made them pay for their exuberance and put a stop to it.

According to Mr. Denison the M. S. & L. had painted up their names, and the North Western “being in possession, which is nine points of the law, swept them out with their brush. They kept a truck standing in front of the platform, and left timber trains in front of our express trains. They turned our clerks out of the booking office -  indeed they nailed up the part which the Sheffield Company had been accustomed to use - and when one of the clerks, acting under instructions, made his way in through the window, they ejected him by the same way, not I hope, wrote their solicitor, with unnecessary violence.”

The Main Line Arrival Platforms, King’s Cross


This was only one incident in a war of rates and sundries which ended in the partners running to and from London the best train known in England. By this train, faster than the Scotsman, the King’s Cross route to Manchester, 203 miles, was travelled in quicker time than the North Western’s 189 and the Midland’s 191¾, and this over the trying gradients from Grantham onwards. But from Grantham the work was that of the partner now known as the Great Central.

Another incident of which some mention should be made was the arrival of the first Great Northern engine at Nottingham on the 1st of August 1852. The Northern engine had brought in on the old Ambergate line a train of passengers from King’s Cross when the Midland resolved to seize it. Accordingly several Midland engines were manoeuvred about until they converged on it in front and rear, and though the driver did all he knew, the Great Northern engine was hauled and pushed, and finally pushed slowly and ignominiously into a disused shed, where the rails at the entrance being pulled up it remained a prisoner for seven months while the lawyers argued the matter out, to the inevitable result that as the engine had a right of entry it had a right of departure; and the Northern has gone to Nottingham ever since.

In the autumn of the race to Aberdeen Mr. Henry Alfred Ivatt, the locomotive superintendent of the Great Southern & Western (who had received his professional training on the London & North Western) was appointed chief at Doncaster. He took up his new duties in March 1896, and at the latter end of that year brought out his first engine, No. 400. This was the first 4-coupled bogie tender engine the line had seen, and had inside cylinders 17½-in by 26-in, driving wheels 6 ft 8-in, and a boiler 4 ft 5-in in diameter, with 1123 sq ft of heating surface, 17½ sq ft of grate area, and 170 lb working pressure; and it was fitted with a steam dome. This was another innovation so far as the line was concerned, and the superiority of the engines fitted with dome boilers soon became manifest, especially when some of the 8-ft Stirling engines were fitted with a dome and with boilers having larger fireboxes. The 400 class (many of which were subsequently built) were so successful that in 1898 Mr. Ivatt brought out some similar engines, fitting them with larger boilers of 4 ft 8-in diameter, having a heating surface of 1250 sq ft and 20 sq ft of grate area. The first of these engines was numbered 1321; and at the time of their introduction this class carried the biggest diameter of boiler running in England over 6 ft 8-in wheels.

Doncaster Works - the Machine Shop


The heavy corridor stock which was being introduced in the chief express trains frequently necessitated the use of two engines on a train, and to curtail this expensive method of haulage Mr. Ivatt brought out, in 1898, a type of express engine which had not been seen on British railways before. This engine (No. 990) runs on 10 wheels, and is of the well-known 4-4-2 or Atlantic type. The outside cylinders are 18¾-in by 24-in, the coupled wheels 6 ft 8-in in diameter, the bogie and trailing wheels being 3 ft 8-in in diameter. The boiler was considered very large at that time, being 4 ft 8-in in diameter, and having 1442 sq ft of heating surface, 26¾ sq ft of grate area, and 175 lb working pressure; and the engine weighed in working order 58 tons. Several of these engines were subsequently built at Doncaster and are doing very good work.

Owing to the ever increasing weight of the fast trains, and the demand for high speed for long distances without stopping, Mr. Ivatt designed and built at Doncaster in 1903 an engine of the same dimensions as 990 but fitted with a much larger boiler, the diameter of the barrel being 5 ft 6-in, with a heating surface of 2500 sq ft, whilst the grate area was 31 sq ft. The most remarkable feature of this boiler was that the firebox, instead of being long and narrow, fitting between the frames, as is the usual practice in this country, was shorter and wider, spreading over the frames. This type of firebox increases the evaporative efficiency of the boiler, and has proved itself thoroughly satisfactory in producing an economical and efficient locomotive. Owing to the large diameter of the boiler it is of necessity placed high up so as to clear the driving wheels, which has caused the use of a short chimney on account of the restrictions of the loading gauge, and imparted to the engine a massive, powerful appearance, compared with the more slender and graceful outline of its predecessors. The Atlantic type, of which many have since been built at Doncaster, are now the standard for the express work of the line, and when in working order weigh 68 tons, whilst the tender fully loaded with 3500 gallons of water and 6 tons of coal weighs 43 tons.

In 1905 the directors decided to ascertain whether any of the locomotive builders could supply an express engine suitable for the conditions on the Great Northern and capable of doing better work than those already on the line. The engine proposed by the Vulcan Foundry, Newton-le-Willows, was accepted, and No. 1300 was designed and built by that firm. This engine is a 4-cylinder balanced compound, and has outside high-pressure cylinders 14-in by 26-in and inside low-pressure cylinders 23-in by 26-in, coupled wheels 6 ft 8-in, heating surface 2514 sq ft, grate area 31 sq ft, and boiler pressure 200 lb per sq in, and it weighs 71 tons in working order. In 1906 some exhaustive trials were carried out between this engine, the Doncaster 4-cylinder compound No. 292, and one of the standard Atlantics, No. 294; and the result did not indicate that it would be to the company’s advantage to have engines of the 1300 type in preference to those already working their express trains.

The development that has taken place in locomotive building was clearly shown in the 1909 Exhibition at Shepherd’s Bush, where, side by side, stood Mr. Stirling’s first 8-footer No. 1, built in 1870, and Mr. Ivatt’s Atlantic No. 1442, built in 1908. The former engine had run 1,400,000 miles before being taken from the track for good; the latter had run 45,000 miles before coming to her temporary rest by the side of her predecessor; and each engine stood on a length of permanent way of the kind in use at the time she was built, thus illustrating the increased strength of rails, etc., to meet the increased weight. So bright were they that they acted like mirrors in which the reflections from everything around in the sunlight gave them the curious appearance recorded in the annexed photograph, of which the dome of 1442 is the most remarkable feature. “Well,” said one of the crowd, “they do know how to shine them up at Doncaster.”

Interior of Loversall Carr Signal Box, Great Northern Railway


Doncaster was an excellent place to be shown the sights at some years ago, and it is so still. It is not too large, and there was plenty of daylight in the shops. There was the massive lathe for turning the big driving wheels with its face-plates 8 ft 10-in in diameter, and as you looked at it you could not help thinking of the splendid subject for a picture, which nobody thought it worth while to paint, of the group of stalwart smiths, with their sledges going, knocking up the wrought-iron wheels the lathe was built to turn. There was the crank-shaft lathe with its fast and slow speed at each revolution, the slow while the metal was under the tool, the fast swinging it round to bring it under the tool again. There were buffers being made, a glowing sphere with a shank to it dropped shank downwards into a mould with the shank protruding through the hole, then the top of the mould put on, then the half-dozen blows under the hammer to flatten the red-hot ball into shape, then the cutting off of the fringe squeezed out, and then the welding on of more shank and the foot. And there was the building of the engine upside down, the frames being placed on the blocks with the underside uppermost, bolted in position, motion-plate, buffer beams all attached, horn-blocks put on, axle-boxes fitted and removed, and then the cranes that lifted it sideways and put it right side up. Engines there were, old and new, in all stages, in the shops and on the sidings, and not so much of a rotten row as usual. There is a reason for this, for every September there is such a clearance as is elsewhere unknown.

It is the St. Leger - pardon, the Sellinger - week, when the works are closed not so much to give the men a chance of going to the races, which many of them do not, but because every inch of siding is wanted for the excursion traffic. Those who would know what race traffic is like, and how to manage it, should go to Doncaster. They need not travel up to the moor unless they wish to, they can do as others have done during the interval between the arrivals and departures, look about and rest and refresh themselves with, among other things, a packet of butter-scotch bought at the shop where during the four days they say they sell 14 tons of it. Fourteen tons of butter-scotch! If, as we are taught, total abstainers are distinguished by their fondness for sweets, what a lot of teetotalers must go to the Sellinger!

To begin with, all the sidings are cleared and no goods train is allowed on them during the four days except for an hour or two in the dead of night. The block sections are divided into halves by temporary signal-boxes, and the tracks are all numbered so that any one may know them. Into the station go the ordinary trains, with their duplicates and reliefs and certain private specials; into the sidings go the excursions. In the locomotive sidings are the Lancashire & Yorkshire and Hull & Barnsley trains; the North Eastern and Midland share the down goods yard; the Great Central are in the St. James’s Bridge sidings; the Great Northern, North Western, and Great Eastern occupy the Shakspeare sidings.

A Signal Gantry—Red Bank, Great Northern Railway


As each train arrives to take up the exact position marked out for it, each of its passengers is given a printed notice telling him the number of the train, which is conspicuously placarded, the position of the train on the sidings, and the way to reach it, and also the time of its departure, which is kept to the minute. The place is like a vast showyard with its big numbers and notices and the handbills in the people’s hands. From north, south, east, and west the trains run in, and every engine stops at its mark, and then from its carriages pour its five hundred or more, perhaps its thousand, passengers to stream into the throng that is on the way to the moor.

The first departure is at a quarter to six, and long before then the early trains have begun to fill. Larger and larger grows the hurrying crowd that swarms all over the tracks, almost every man with his handbill in his hand. To the minute off goes the first train, and, at intervals so short that there is not a moment in which a train cannot be seen on the move, off go the others in succession, diverging in six different directions. In one week, we may as well be exact, there were 49 excursions on the Tuesday, 173 on the Wednesday, 47 on the Thursday, 69 on the Friday; and on each of the four days there were some 180 trains worked from the station. These 1065 trains in the four days move off like parts of one machine, there is no slowing or stopping at the points, once a train begins to move it goes on faster and faster until it is out of sight ; and they scatter to every point of the compass without a check. If you want to see what can be done by organisation taught by years of experience, go to Doncaster on the St. Leger Day.

Next to Doncaster the most important junction on the line is Peterborough, which is the real centre of the system. Every day there pass through that station over a thousand trains, passenger and goods, of which about three-fourths belong to the Great Northern. It is the great transhipment station of the company, just as Crewe is the transhipment station of the North Western.

Peterborough has 50,000 wagons on its books for merchandise, bricks, coals, iron, and cattle. For the cattle there are the docks by the side of the line that pass in and out some 65,000 head a year, and generally look as though used but once before they are whitewashed. South from it stretch the Fletton brickyards, where bricks are made by the million, every million weighing 2400 tons. Of coals there come to Peterborough 10,000,000 tons to be distributed. To marshal all these wagons there are the New England sidings, where there is standing room for 5000 of them at a time. There are sixty tracks side by side, and looking across them when they are busy is like looking over a vast lake of coal. Here and there you see some of the new 15-tonners and 20-tonners, excellent things when they are on the run, but difficult to get into many collieries, and impossible to get into most, owing to the screens and weighbridges being of the standard 10-ton size. The names on the wagons tell of coal-pits by the dozen and coal-merchants by the hundred, and as hardly anybody orders a train of coals you wonder how all those wagons are arranged in order for distribution. It is at New England that most of this work is done, and those who would know how trains are “marshalled” will find it described in detail in the sidings chapter of Everyday Life on the Railroad.

The Digswell Viaduct at Welwyn, Great Northern Railway


At Peterborough the Great Northern has its sheet stores. Here all the tarpaulins, wagon covers, dray covers, and ropes are made, 35,000 sheets being kept in stock and 300,000 yards of canvas used in a year. Hundreds of tons of boiled linseed oil are annually absorbed, and by no means so much by weight of vegetable black, which is one of the lightest things you can lift, but let us say a suitable measure of it. The sheets are laid out on the floor like well-made, stoutly sewn carpets, and the colour is laid on with brooms, not one coat but five, and when the surface is good enough to pass muster there are run across it the white-and-blue diagonals reminiscent of St. Andrew, for every railway has its distinguishing mark, and then come the initials and the number, for sheets are recorded at the Clearing House as carefully as wagons and, like them, are subject to demurrage.

The 50,000 wagons on the Peterborough books are largely in private ownership, the whole of the wagons and coaches belonging to the company numbering about 43,000, the engines, which travel about 23 million miles a year, being about 1300. These deal with some 5 million tons of miscellaneous merchandise and 16 million tons of coals and other minerals. The passengers are about 37 millions yearly, and the line is 850 miles long; but, as we have already shown, it is of much more importance than its mileage would indicate. In one respect the Great Northern differs from all our great railway companies. It has no steamboats; but it has docks at Boston, and leases the Nottingham Canal that was made in 1792 and the Grantham Canal that was made the year after, besides the Witham, and a half share in the Fossdyke which was made by the Romans and enlarged in the reign of Henry the First, and is the oldest canal in England.

Engine Repair Shop - Doncaster Works


When the line was opened it introduced the best third-class coaches that had been seen. They were equal, it was reported, to those of the second class on most other lines. In truth the Great Northern has always been well to the fore in its passenger accommodation. In November 1879 it put the first dining-car on the rails between London and Leeds, and since then it has kept abreast of the north-going companies in every increase in the length and weight of its coaches, and every advance in luxurious furnishing, including single and double sleeping cabins for the night journey to the north. On the other hand, to deal with the heavy suburban traffic and the growth in the length of the trains, it has adopted the economical Great Eastern policy of broadening the third class in order to seat six aside.

The ordinary express coaches are 64 ft long; those of the East Coast Joint Service are 65½ ft; and the King’s Saloon of the Royal Train is 67 ft. This is a complete little flat on wheels, designed so as to give a wonderful amount of accommodation. Carried on two 6-wheeled bogies, it is 12 ft 11-in from the rail level and 9 ft in width. The entrance doors are double, and the windows are of bevelled plate-glass balanced so that they can be easily adjusted to any required height. Entrance balcony, smoke-room, day-saloon, dining-room by day or bedroom at night, dressing-room, and attendant’s compartment, come in due order.



The body is of teak. The smoke-room, 10 ft long, is lined with oak inlaid with boxwood and dark pollard oak, the furniture being two arm-chairs and a settee upholstered in reindeer, the fittings being of oxidised silver. The day saloon, 17½ ft long, is lined with sycamore inlaid with trellis lines of pewter and light mahogany, the furniture being of light mahogany inlaid with pewter and box upholstered in silk brocade, and it consists of two arm-chairs, a settee, four smaller chairs, and a writing-table. Both smoke-room and day-saloon are lighted by rows of tubular electric lamps concealed behind the cornices on each side, giving a soft and restful illumination, increased when desired by the silk-shaded bracket lights in the corners. The bedroom, or dining-room, is 14 ft long, and the walls are panelled and enamelled white, the furniture being in mahogany inlaid with kingwood and covered with old rose-coloured silk damask with green silk embroidered cushions. When used for day journeys the bed is taken out and the compartment is converted into a dining-room, as shown in the illustration. The attendant’s room is fitted up with electrically heated kettles and so on, and the switchboard by which the lighting and heating of the carriage are controlled; for, in addition to the electric radiators, the saloon is heated by warm air delivered into the various compartments through ducts from electric blowers, ventilation being worked in the same way, the air being extracted by electric exhausters. The Great Northern and North Eastern never allow you to forget that they are partners. The King’s carriage was built at Doncaster; the Queen’s carriage, equally elaborate, was built at York.

Among the “wagons of all kinds not used for passengers” the longest would seem to be the so-called “crocodile” trolley on which Doncaster puts an engine and carries it about as if it were a toy. A motor-car looks bad enough on a dray, but then we are used to it, but an 8-footer on a truck must be left to speak by its portrait. This is, of course, only one of many special vehicles required in the varied work of our railways, of which even a list would fill a page or two. What with cattle and meat and milk, and rabbits and poultry, and pigeons for flying and quails for eating, and fish-trucks you take the body off and sling on to a horse-trolley for Billingsgate, and trucks for plate-glass and timber and guns, and the crowd of others including the two extremes, refrigerator vans for keeping things cool and banana vans for keeping things warm, to say nothing of the motor and horse vehicles, the wagon designer of to-day cannot complain of monotony.

The Dining-room of the King’s Car, Great Northern Railway


Railway companies do not make so much money as they did, nor are they likely to do so. Corridor cars, catering cars, and so on, are all desirable for non-stop runs, but they cannot be worked cheaply. Up to about 1890, when the coaches were 6-wheelers, the train weighed 120 tons; during the next ten years the coaches became 8-wheelers and the train increased in weight to 200 tons; now the coaches are 12-wheelers and the train weighs 300 tons or thereabouts. The new coaches are more comfortable, but they do not hold so many in proportion to their weight, and every increase of weight means fewer persons in each coach. The old 6-wheeler weighed 15 tons and held 50 people, that is 3·3 persons for each ton; the 8-wheeler weighs 24 tons and it holds 70 people, that is 2·9 passengers per ton; the 12-wheeler weighs 36 tons or more and holds 72 people, that is 2 passengers or less per ton. Adding their luggage, which is generally up to the limit that goes free, you will find that every passenger means double as much to haul as in the palmy days of railway dividends.

As with the passengers so with the goods. In the old days of leisurely delivery the orders were large in order that a stock might be kept by the dealers. Nowadays the railways have so improved their services that goods collected at night are delivered next morning with almost the certainty of letters. The result is that whereas the dealer used to order in tons he is now contented with hundredweights, and the packages that have to be handled and booked are twenty times as many. The men behind the scenes in railway work have to be more numerous every year; and the net profit suffers. It is the penalty of efficiency.

An East Coast “Flier", Great Northern Railway


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“The Great North Road of Steel”,

“The North Eastern Railway” and

“The Romance of the LNER”

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