In 1923, the Railway companies of the United Kingdom were merged into four large companies, often known as the "Big Four". Apart from
the duration of World War Two when the railways came under governmental control, these four companies ran the British railways until
the beginning of 1948, when all the railways were nationalised to form British Rail. This site is dedicated to one of those companies,
the London Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS).
The London Midland and Scottish Railway took over the operation of the midland and
west coast lines, and often shared territory with the Great Western and London and North Eastern railways. It also ran railways in
Northern Ireland. The principal companies that made up the LMS are listed below.
The story of the LMS seems to come in
four parts. There is the period from 1923 to 1932, when the merging of such bitter rivals as the Midland Railway and the London &
North Western Railway would be at its most visible in the Locomotive Department and would result in the stagnation of locomotive design
and production. The next part would be from 1932-1939, when William Stanier would end the locomotive stagnation and LMS lines would
see some groundbreaking designs of locomotive in use. Then comes World War II from 1939 to 1945, which put a hold on the advances
of the previous decade, and finally 1945-1947, the period before the railways were nationalised, become British Railways.
This is a
project that will take some time, but if I can have it ready by 2023 then I'll be happy (and it does strike me that this deadline
is not all that far off now). Please look around the site, email me with any comments you may have, and above all come back later
as my research progresses. I intend to write it with a view towards the non-railway visitor being able to understand this site so I
shall define railway terms where I think it might be necessary for the layman to understand.
[2014 saw this site finally
get its own domain name; until this point, it had either been listed under personal domain names, or under my Forest of Dean domain.
has seen some reformatting of the site, mainly to replace the buttons with drop-down menus.]
Why "The Grouping"
1914 and 1921, the railways of Britain had been "temporarily nationalised" in order to facilitate the war effort. It was felt that
the railways could not be allowed to return to the state they were in before World War I; the question was, what should be done. The
benefits of unified operation had been shown during the war, so should the railways be permanently nationalised?
It was decided
to implement a compromise. The railways would remain in private hands, but instead of the 120 or so companies that existed before
the war, only four would operate, with most of the existing railways merging into one of these four (some would be joint ventures,
a very few would remain independent). The 1921 Railways Act set out the way British railways would be run for 25 years and thus the
"Big Four" came into being, effective 1st January 1923. However, it is interesting to note that it could have been the "Big Six" as
the government briefly toyed with the idea of making Scottish Railways a fifth company and merging the Midland and Great Central railways
to form a sixth. This would have at least avoided the LMS being saddled with two bitter rivals (the Midland Railway and the London
and North Western Railway), but at the end of the day, it was felt that the Scottish railways would not make a profit by themselves,
and so six became four. The LMS mergers were somewhat against government policy on railway mergers at the time as
it was a case of several directly competing companies being merged (rather than non-competing companies, which were permitted under
legislation), thus creating a monopoly which the government at the time was against. This was perhaps a contributing factor
to the struggles of the company during its first years of existence.
The ultimate aim was to make the railways more efficient
and to provide a standard method of charging. It was expected that with intercompany rivalry reduced, surplus routes would be closed
down, but ultimately, no significant action was taken in the Grouping Era, and it was left to British Railways to do this. In general,
the railways did not fare very well under grouping. Social and economic changes meant that the railways were no longer as vital as
they had been in the previous century, and although the railways generally operated more efficiently, their financial performances
during grouping were never brilliant. In some respects, the Railways Act actually hampered the railways, especially with regards to
charging of freight services; the railways were often forced by law to carry goods that weren't profitable for them do so, something
that the road haulage industry didn't have to contend with. The question of the success of the "Big Four" is still strongly debated
today, especially since it seems that the current British railway situation has reverted to a similar situation to pre-Grouping (it
should be pointed out that the period of the "Big Four"'s existence saw a global financial downturn and a global war, neither of which
helped towards making this period of the railways a success).
The four railways were :
The Great Western Railway (GWR) -
The GWR was the only member of the "Big Four" that existed prior to The Grouping.
London Midland & Scottish Railway (LMS)
and North Eastern Railway (LNER)
Southern Railway (SR)
(abbreviations used throughout this site)
companies that formed the LMS in 1923 consisted principally of the :
Caledonian Railway (CR)
Furness Railway (FR)
South Western Railway (GSWR)
Highland Railway (HR)
Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway (LYR)
London & North Western Railway (LNWR)
North Staffordshire Railway (NSR)
Shropshire Union Railways & Canal Co. (SUR)
Stratford-Upon-Avon and Midland Junction
The abbrieviations in brackets are used throughout this site.