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Great Central Railway


Records of the Great Central Railway: Eastern District records concerning canals 1921-1927, Western District records concerning canals c1897-1928.



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These records are immediately available for research

Administrative /‚Äč Biographical history

The Great Central Railway Company (GCR) was first formed as the Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire Railway Company (MSLR), which was itself the product of previous railway amalgamations. After the passing of the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire (Extension to London etc) Act 1893, which authorised the Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire Railway Company to construct a main line from its railways in Kirkby-in-Ashfield (Nottinghamshire) to London, the Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire Railway Company felt its name no longer reflected its sphere of influence. Therefore, the Great Central Railway Act, 1897 was promoted which (amongst other items) changed its name to the Great Central Railway Company. The Great Central Railway Company became famous for the construction of the last mainline in Britain, the 'London Extension' line (conceived by Sir Edward Watkin as part of a route linking Manchester with Paris via a channel tunnel). At the time of the name change, the Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire Railway Company owned 353.5 miles of railway (with another 207 miles in joint ownership with other railway companies) and 111.5 miles of canal. The Great Central Railway Company went on to obtain further acts and open other lines and by the end of 1922, it owned 628 miles of railway with a further 209 miles jointly owned with other railway companies and 200 miles leased or worked. The Great Central Railway terminus in London, Marylebone, was the last of the mainline terminals to be built there, opening in 1899. The extension to London proved costly for the Great Central Railway; On paper the Great Central Railway should have been a profitable company, but the costs of construction of this branch, as well as other schemes, meant that their shareholders went without dividends. Its system was based on Manchester reaching Wigan and St Helens to the north west, Barnsley to the north, Grimsby to the north east, Lincoln to the east and London to the south, serving large cities and towns such as Sheffield, Chesterfield, Nottingham, Leicester and Rugby. With the Midland Railway Company and the Great Northern Railway Company, the Great Central Railway Company had interests in the Cheshire Lines Committee, which gave the Great Central Railway access to North Wales and Liverpool. The Great Central Railway operated ships from Grimsby to ports in Northern Europe, and also operated trains from Grimsby to Manchester and on to Liverpool, one of the main ports from which ships sailed to North America. As operators of both ships and trains, the company offered combined tickets, enabling people to buy one ticket for travel from mainland Europe to Liverpool and thus encourage emigration to North America. On 1 January 1923, the Great Central Railway became part of the London and North Eastern Railway Company (LNER) under the North Eastern, Eastern and East Scottish Group Amalgamation Scheme of 1922. The London and North Eastern Railway became part of the nationalised British Railways (BR) in 1948. Closure of several important sections took place in the 1960s and the 1980s, but sections have been preserved. For further information on the Great Central Railway, see Edward Paget-Tomlinson's 'The Illustrated History of Canals & River Navigations' and The Great Central Railway Society at http://www.thewoodheadsite.org.uk/gcrs/

System of arrangement

Evidence within the records held suggests that the railway company divided the canals for which they were responsible into two districts: Eastern and Western, and kept the records for each separate according to these divisions. This fonds has therefore been arranged into two subfonds, one for each division. Within each subfonds the records are divided into separate series for each canal. The Western District also has a series for general administrative records held by the District.

Associated material

[See also: RAIL 226 for records of the Great Central Railway Company (available from http://www.catalogue.nationalarchives.gov.uk/default.asp) and BW101 for records of the London and North Eastern Railway Company]

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