Great Central Railway
of Marylebone Station, London
The Great Central Railway (GCR) was a railway company in England which came into being when the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway changed its name in 1897 on the completion of its London Extension.
1897 On assuming its new title, the GCR main line ran from Manchester London Road Station via Penistone, Sheffield, Brigg and Grimsby to Cleethorpes. A second line left the line at Penistone and served Barnsley, Doncaster and Scunthorpe before rejoining the Grimsby line at Barnetby. Other lines linked Sheffield to Barnsley (via Chapeltown) and Doncaster (via Rotherham and also a line linking Lincoln and Wrawby Junction. Branch lines in north Lincolnshire ran to Barton-upon-Humber and New Holland and served ironstone quarries in the Scunthorpe area. In the Manchester area lines ran to Stalybridge and Glossop.
In the 1890s the M.S.& L.R. had constructed its "Derbyshire Lines", in effect the first part of its push southwards. Leaving its east-west main line at Beighton Junction, some 5.5 miles east of Sheffield, the line headed towards Nottingham, an opportunity to tap into the collieries in the north of county before reaching that city. A loop line was built to serve Chesterfield.
1898 On July 25th, the London Extension, some 92 miles in length, opened for coal traffic on 25 July.
The new line was built from Annesley in Nottinghamshire to join the existing Metropolitan Railway (MetR) Extension at Quainton Road, where the line became joint MetR/GCR owned - Metropolitan and Great Central Joint Railway - to return to GCR metals at Harrow for the final section to Marylebone.
1899 The line opened for passenger traffic on March 15th, and for goods traffic on 11 April 1899.
1906 2 April: An "alternative main line", running from Grendon Underwood Junction to Neasden was opened. Part of the line was jointly owned with the GWR - Great Western and Great Central Joint Railway - between Ashenden Junction and Northolt Junction.
1907 Acquired the Lancashire, Derbyshire and East Coast Railway
1908 The company's line in operation is 619 miles in length, besides which 223 miles are partly owned. 
1911 James Benjamin Ball appointed Engineer-in-Chief.
1923 On Grouping the GCR was incorporated in the London and North Eastern Railway
The GCR was the last complete mainline railway to be built in Britain until the Channel Tunnel Rail Link opened in 2003. It was also one of the shortest-lived intercity railway lines, being closed to passenger trains between Aylesbury and Rugby Central in 1966, leaving villages such as Woodford Halse without a railway. A Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) shuttle service ran between Rugby Central and Nottingham (Arkwright Street) until it was also withdrawn in 1969.
Other new lines
The Lancashire, Derbyshire and East Coast Railway (LD&ECR): This railway was first mooted in 1901, principally to link the coalfields with deepwater ports, and was intended to run from Boston in Lincolnshire with Warrington in Lancashire. In the event only the section between Pywipe Junction, near Lincoln and Chesterfield Market Place, with some branch lines, was ever built. It was purchased by the GCR on 1 January 1907, providing a better link between the London main line and the east coast.
- Wrexham, Mold and Connah's Quay Railway purchased 1 January 1905
- North Wales and Liverpool Railway: same date
- Wigan Junction Railway: 1 January 1906
- Liverpool, St Helens and South Lancashire Railway: same date
- North Lindsey Light Railway Scunthorpe to Whitton: opened throughout 1 December 1910; worked by GCR, carried passengers, although its main freight was ironstone
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 Southport. Other joint undertakings were (west to east):
- Manchester, South Junction and Altrincham Railway (GCR/LNWR)
- Oldham, Ashton-under-Lyne and Guide Bridge Junction Railway (GCR/LNWR)
- Macclesfield, Marple and Bollington Railway (GCR/NSR); including its Hayfield branch
- South Yorkshire Joint Railway (GCR, GNR, Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, MR and North Eastern Railway)
- Sheffield District Railway (GCR and MidR)
- West Riding and Grimsby Joint Railway (GCR/GNR) - giving access to Wakefield and thence to Leeds
Chief Mechanical Engineers
These were those taken over from the MS&LR, mainly those of -
- class F2, 2-4-2 tank locomotives
- classes D5/6 4-4-0 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
- Class :three locos used at Wath marshalling yard
Major Railway Stations
- Marylebone Railway Station
- Manchester London Road Railway Station
- Nottingham Victoria Railway Station
- Sheffield Victoria Railway Station
- Leicester Central Railway Station
- Rugby Central Railway Station
Wath Marshalling Yard
The new marshalling yard at Wath-upon-Dearne was opened in November 1907. It was designed to cope with coal trains, full and empty; it was worked with electro-pneumatic signalling.
Great Central Road, Loughborough, Leicestershire, LE11 1RW. For more details please see their website.
Sources of Information
- The Stock Exchange Year Book 1908