Tuesday, 4 August 2020

Before the Big 4 (1) : North Staffordshire Railway

We begin our series exploring some of the railway companies which flourished before the 1923 grouping into the "Big 4", see the introduction for a brief history of why the grouping took place.

The North Staffordshire Railway was formed in 1845 and operated a number of lines in the Potteries and North Staffordshire based around Stoke-on-Trent. The railways were fast growing in Staffordshire (as in most places) in the 1840s though no lines existed in the Potteries. The North Staffordshire Railway was formed from two smaller projects to build railways in the area. Acts of Parliament were granted and money raised, work to build the railways began in 1846.

Freight and passenger services began in 1848 with the first train running from a temporary station in Stoke to Norton Bridge where the railway was connected to the much larger London North Western Railway. The NSR opened it's permanent station at Stoke-on-Trent later that year, it was to become the railway's headquarters. All of the lines specified in the Acts of Parliament were open by 1852.

The NSR grew it's network with a total route mileage of 221, making it one of the top twenty railway companies by route mileage - just! The NSR served towns such as Crewe, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Congleton, Tutbury, Keele and Kidsgrove.

Unlike other railway companies the size of the NSR it never amalgamated with larger players (until 1923). The LNWR tried a few times though approaches were resisted. The NSR was eventually absorbed into the LMS along with the LNWR, Midland Railway and a number of other companies.

Two NSR locomotives have been preserved, a battery electric shunter and a New L Class steam locomotive - one of the last locomotives built for the company, indeed it did not enter service until after the NSR had ceased to exist.
Battery electric shunter at the National Railway Museum

NSR No. 2 at the Foxfield Railway

Stoke-on-Trent railway station

Sunday, 2 August 2020

Happy in Hereford

Yesterday I went to Hereford, somewhere I have been before but I always wonder why I do not go more regularly as it is a very fine city, with very rich ecclesiastical architectural treasures. I managed to hunt down no fewer than four parish churches, plus the lovely cathedral of course. I was also able to update my images of the railway station. You can see my photos here.





Friday, 31 July 2020

Churches (70) : St Mary, Aylesbury

The parish church of St Mary in Aylesbury dates from around the start of the 13th century though there is evidence of an earlier church of Saxon origin on the site. Like many churches it has been substantially changed over the following centuries. A lady chapel was added in the 14th century, a clerestory in the 15th. The church was also extended at this time. The tower was topped with a spire in the 17th century.

By the 19th century the church was in a poor state and in need of renovation, it was even feared it was near collapse. Restoration under the guidance of Sir George Gilbert Scott took place in the mid-19th century and the church was given a distinctive Victorian feel.




Thursday, 30 July 2020

Model Week : Weathering

I've begun to look into weathering some of the rolling stock. This is something i have attempted before, with varying degrees of awfulness, so i have decided to start on some of the lesser used wagons to practice and learn techniques before i move onto the locomotives (if ever!) This wagon had also had some weight added to it, hopefully this will reduce the wobble when it moves on the layout!

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Before the Big 4

The "Big 4" railway companies were the iconic Great Western Railway (GWR) [1], London Midland Scottish (LMS), London North Eastern Railway (LNER) and Southern Railway (SR). To many people they still evoke the classic age of steam. However the era of the Big 4 railway companies was a brief one, just twenty four years. Their formation was part of a trend for consolidation in the British railway industry, a consolidation that eventually doomed them away.

In the earliest days of the railways (as we known them now) in the early nineteenth century, railway companies were pretty small. Usually a route between two main destinations was built by a company and operated by them. Examples included the Liverpool & Manchester Railway which ran the first scheduled passenger trains powered by steam in 1930 [2] between Liverpool and Manchester.

As the railway network expanded in the mid-19th century dozens, soon hundreds of companies were formed. There were over a thousand separate railway companies in total [3]. These companies began to amalgamate to save costs and due to ambition. By the late 19th century some of these amalgamated companies such as the London North Western Railway (LNWR) and North Eastern Railway (NER) had become huge companies, the LNWR was the largest joint stock company in Britain by the end of the century. But even with amalgamation there were still around 120 railway companies by the advent of the First World War, many making considerable losses.

The companies fell under state control during the war, afterwards the government decided to remodel the industry to stem losses and remove the duplication of routes and services that had arisen during the break neck race to built lines in the 19th century. The government, after some debate, published the 1921 Railways Act which would create four regionally based groupings of railway companies [4][5], this became the Big 4. In 1923 names like the LNWR, Midland Railway and South Eastern Railway ceased to exist as they were merged into one of the four new larger companies. A new golden age of railways began?

Well not really. Railway finances were still troublesome, the LNER suffered from this more than the other companies. By the end of 1930s the LNER was a financial basket case, the LMS and GWR not that far behind. Following another period of state control in the Second World War the Big 4 were abolished at the end of 1947 and the railways were nationalised as British Railways.

Over the next few weeks we will look at some of these railway companies that existed before the Big 4. We will look how they formed, often from smaller scale amalgamations themselves and what legacy they may have left.
No. 66 of the North Eastern Railway

No. 245 of the London South Western Railway

[1] The Great Western Railway existed before 1923 (it was one of the earliest railway companies founded in 1833), although it was also amalgamated with other companies it was able to retain it's name and identity
[2] Anthony Dawson, "The First Train on the Liverpool & Manchester Railway", Back Track (Vol. 34 No. 7, July 2020). p. 380
[3] W.E. Simnett, Railway Amalgamation in Great Britain (Railway Gazette, 1923) p. 2
[4] Ibid. p. 35
[5] Not all railway companies were amalgamated, a small number survived independent. The London local railway companies were amalgamated themselves into what became London Transport at a later date.

Saturday, 25 July 2020

Wandering in Winsford

After a number of shorter rail adventures in recent weeks, i ventured a little further today. Up to the town of Winsford in Cheshire. A nice little town too, though i got a little lost so failed to find the parish church. I did walk along the river Weaver though, and also walk up some steep hills! You can see my photos here.





Friday, 24 July 2020

Churches (69) : St Matthias, Malvern Link

The church of St Matthias in Malvern Link, Worcestershire was formed in 1844 for worshippers to save them a three mile walk to the parish church in Leigh. The church was opened and consecreted in 1846. The church was expanded a number of times over the following decades. It was extended to the South in 1858 and a tower built in 1862. The church was extended again to the East in 1880 with the church being largely rebuilt, the current tower was built in 1898.

The church was built in a 14th century style from Malvern stone with an ashlar dressing.




Wednesday, 22 July 2020

Model Week : Enamel or acrylic?

The latest kit project, #089, is another Jet Provost. It is helping us evaluate the use of acrylic paint as the kit came with it's own paint. Up until now we have always use enamel paint but it is good to see, now and then, if there is a better way of doing things. So far the paint seems to work pretty well. Whether we will switch over full time to using acrylic paint or not is another question though, as we have dozens of tins of enamel already. Maybe a transition period is required...

Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Warwickshire Places (10) : Tanworth-in-Arden

The village of Tanworth-in-Arden is in the West of the county near to Danzey Green. As the name denotes the village lay in the forest of Arden. Tanworth was part of the manor of Brailes at the time of the Domesday Book. By the early 13th century it was a manor in it's own right held by the Earl of Warwick. Tanworth was a poor parish, being mostly woodland until fairly recently.

The village church is dedicated to St Mary Magdalene and dates from the early 14th century. The pub, the Bell Inn, had as it's licensee for a long time, champion boxer Jack Hood.

The village sits between Danzey and Earlswood railway stations, the former was for a time known as Danzey for Tanworth.





Monday, 20 July 2020

Saturday, 18 July 2020

Happy in Hartlebury

It was good to return to Worcestershire today and go to one of the few stations from the county i have yet to visit, Hartlebury. Getting there meant a connection at Droitwich Spa so it was good to update my photos there too - i must return one day soon. Hartlebury is a nice village with a good church. The village was also the site of a former quarry so had plenty of steep hills to negotiate! You can see my photos here.





Friday, 17 July 2020

Churches (68) : St Michael, Claverdon

The parish church of St Michael in the Warwickshire village of Warwickshire dates from the 14th century, though a church has been on the site since about 1150CE. A window on the West wall dates from the 14th century though the window was reset from an earlier wall, as were a number of other windows. The West tower was built in the 15th century and is made from ashlar masonary. Much of the rest of the church is more recent with rebuilding in 1830 and the aisles added in the 1870s, the tower was restored in 1930.

The church has a nave with North and South aisles. The chancel has a North organ chamber and a South chapel.




Thursday, 16 July 2020

Model Week : Heron completed

Project #088, a de Havilland Heron, has been completed. As i feared though there was a decal mishap at the last and the plane has ended up being a bit disappointing. Still onwards and upwards, the planes are made for the enjoyment of making something not for show, which is just as well! The next project will be a Jet Provost and will involve an experiment with acrylic instead of enamel paint, which is what i have always used up until now.


Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Warwickshire Places (9) : Budbrooke

Budbrooke is a small village and parish near to Warwick. Budebroc was mentioned in the Domesday Book, and the parish church of St Michael has a Norman origin, dating from the 12th century. The village was hit hard by the Black Death with most of the villagers dying, even the church was left to fall into ruin.

The centre of the parish moved to Grove Park, home of the Dormer family. The nearby village of Hampton-on-the Hill became the main settlement in the parish. St Michael's church was restored after the establishment of Budbrooke barracks and became the batallion church of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment.

The barracks closed in 1960 with the modern housing estate of Hampton Magna built on the site. This modern village is now the largest settlement in the parish. Budbrooke is served by Warwick Parkway railway station, the Grand Union Canal also passes through the parish.





Monday, 13 July 2020

Sunday, 12 July 2020

Berkswell this time

A couple of weeks ago i went to Berkswell railway station, however the station is actually in Balsall Common. Berkswell the village is actually quite some way away. I did consider walking it in the past but instead went by car yesterday. I drove through Balsall Common on the way back, i'm glad i didn't decide to walk it one time! Berkswell is a pretty village and has a wonderful church. You can see my photos here.