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Railroads England - Some Great Roads

( Originally Published 1927 )



THE history of railroads in England is indissolubly linked with the names of George Stephenson and his son Robert. What the father originated the son carried on; from the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway they worked together on many great engineering enterprises and in the improvement of locomotives. Robert Stephenson showed the admirable use he had made of his father's training when he built the celebrated tubular bridge over the Menai Straits and the even more important High Level Bridge at New-castle, one of the most picturesque and striking triumphs of railroad engineering.

Newcastle, near the east coast of England, was on the direct route from London to Edinburgh, and it was early proposed to build a railroad through the northeastern section of the country that would parallel in a general way the Great North Road of stage-coach days. Various companies were organized, of which two presently dominated the situation. George Hudson, known as the Railway King, constructed one route from Euston Station in London to York over the Midland Railway and from York joined several disconnected lines together to carry his trains north to the Tyne. The sponsors of the rival company located their London terminal at King's Cross, which later became the metropolitan station for all those lines that were amalgamated into the London and North Eastern Railway.

While the financiers and the business heads of competing companies wrangled the engineers went ahead building the Great North Road of railway tracks. The bridge built by Robert Stephenson across the Tyne was opened in 1850 and in the same year was completed the Royal Border Bridge over the Tweed at Berwick, also constructed by Robert Stephenson. The next link in the East Coast route to the north was over the rails of the North British Railway, which stretched from the north bank of the Tweed to Edinburgh. On this North British di-vision are two remarkable feats of engineering. The Forth Bridge, crossing the Firth of Forth, is one and one-half miles long, and until the building of the Quebec Bridge over the St. Lawrence River had the largest cantilever spans in the world. The Tay Bridge, that extends across the Firth of Tay into Dundee, is more than two miles in length and is carried on eighty-five spans. The capital of Scotland once reached, rivalry sprang up between the roads from London over the East and West Coast routes.

The East Coast route, called the Great Northern, had the advantage in directness, the distance from King's Cross to Edinburgh was 395 miles, while it was 400 miles from Euston to Edinburgh. Running time was clipped first by the London and North Western on the West Coast route, then by the Great Northern on the East Coast. Competition waxed hot until the eastern line made a record run, reaching Edinburgh from London in 379 minutes and Aberdeen—distant 523 1/2 miles from King's Cross—in 518 minutes, an average of more than a mile a minute over the 523 1/2 miles. That record established, the East Coast line was content to rest on its laurels.

To avoid the costs of competition the companies that took part in building various sections of the Great North Road were consolidated, and under this system the Great Eastern, the Great Northern, the North Eastern, the North British, and the Great Central have been joined to form the London and North Eastern Railway.

There is a remarkable potency in picturesque names. A train that is simply designated by a number is an ordinary affair, but call that train the "Flying Scotsman" or the "Flying Dutchman" and immediately it takes on a new fascination. The "Flying Scotsman" of the London and North Eastern Railway—the most famous of English express trains —made its bow to the public on August 8, 1850. It ran from the station of York Road in London until the terminus at King's Cross was opened in 1852. By that time the bridges across the Tyne at Newcastle and the Tweed at the Border were completed and the "Flying Scotsman" carried passengers who paid first-class fare from the capital of England to the capital of Scotland in an hour less time than any competing line.

Service on this express train was constantly improved, third-class passenger coaches were added, and then first-and third-class dining-cars. Ever since the through road was opened the "Flying Scotsman" has made its run; from London and from Edinburgh the train leaves daily at the same hour and completes the journey of 395 miles in both directions in the same time, 81/4 hours.

The "Flying Dutchman" of the Great Western Railway was inaugurated in March, 1862, to run from Paddington in London to Exeter. The train proved so popular that the company lengthened its run to Plymouth and Falmouth, and afterwards to Penzance. The route and schedule of the "Dutchman" have experienced more alterations than those of the "Scotsman," but the "Flying Dutchman" is still the crack express from the metropolis to the West of England.

Pullman coaches, first introduced into England on the Midland Railway in 1872, were adopted by the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway for its "Pullman Limited Express" in 1888. This was the first entire Pullman train in England. At first it ran only on Sundays and carried only first-class passengers; to supply the demand third-class Pullman coaches were included in the vestibuled train, and this express, rechristened the "Southern Belle," now runs twice daily in both directions and makes the trip between London and Brighton, a distance of 50.75 miles, in exactly one hour.

The popularity of the "Southern Belle" led to the installation of other Pullman expresses from Lon-don to seaside resorts; the "Thanet" of the South Eastern (now the Southern Railway) from London to Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate on the Isle of Thanet; the "Clacton" of the Great Eastern (now the London and North Eastern Railway) from Lon-don to Clacton on the East Coast. Of the same luxurious type is the "Harrogate Pullman Limited" on the London and North Eastern Railway, which connects London, Leeds, Harrogate, and Newcastle at an average running speed over the 279.6 miles of 48.6 miles an hour. Important points along the coast are also linked up by other Pullman expresses.

There is a cross-country train that runs from Penzance at the tip of Cornwall to Aberdeen in Scotland. The Great Western carries it by Plymouth to Ban-bury, the Great Central division of the London and North Eastern from Banbury by Rugby, Leicester, Nottingham, and Sheffield to Knottingley, the North Eastern division of the same railway to Berwick-on-Tweed. There the North British division picks it up for the section through Edinburgh to Dundee ; to Aberdeen it is relayed by the Caledonian division of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway. This train covers the 785 miles in 20 hours, 40 minutes.

So has the railroad in less than a century woven its web across Britain and justified George Stephenson's dreams.



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