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The history of the Midland railway online

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must not stand in the way of its own through communication with


Manchester, and in 1861 the Chairman, Deputy-Chairman, and General
Manager drove over the route from Buxton.

On the way, by accident, they met officials of the Manchester,
Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Railway, and it was arranged that the
Midland Company should make an extension from near Buxton to
New Mills, and thence use the Sheffield Company's line to the
London Road Station, Manchester. The Bill promoted in Parliament
by the Midland in 1862 to carry out the above arrangement brought
forth the strong opposition of the North Western and Great Northern

Finding, however, that the Bill would probably pass, the North
Western Company offered the use of their Buxton and Stockport
route, but as the gradients were so extremely severe as to render
it useless as a main line, the Midland would not accept such an
offer, and the Act for making the line to New Mills and with running
powers to Manchester received the Royal Assent in June, 1862.

But the construction of this connecting link from Buxton to New
Mills in the wildest portion of the Peak district proved a very tedious
and trying engineering work, which was beset with difficulties of
exceptional magnitude. The gradients throughout were of the severest
character, i in 90 being the rule. At the summit of the Peak Forest
Bank, Dove Hole's Tunnel, 2,987 yards in length, had to be con-
structed, and in piercing the mountain natural difficulties were
encountered of no ordinary character. Whilst surveying the line
it was found that a large brook disappeared in what was known as
the Swallow Hole a large natural fissure. This was only one of many
similar fissures and caverns, some of which were of great depth. An
exploration of one of these led to the discovery that a vast volume of
water was flowing.

This demonstrated that the conditions under which the tunnel could
be constructed were practically unknown, and contractors therefore
naturally declined to undertake the work except on very unusual terms.
In the end the Company was practically compelled to construct the
tunnel itself, Mr. James Campbell being appointed resident engineer
under Mr. Barlow, the Company's engineer. It appeared to the
engineers that the first and most essential thing to be done was to
effectively divert this underground brook, which was done by cutting
a channel two miles long, at the end of which was another great
natural fissure into which the water was turned. From this fissure,
near the Peak Forest Station, there is another underground outlet
down the Great Rocks Dale, and this has been the course of the
brook ever since. Great quantities of water had further to be specially


dealt with in the boring of the tunnel, but these difficulties were
ultimately overcome most successfully after three years' continuous
operations, and the work, when completed, proved to be of the most
substantial character. At the northern end of the tunnel, a deep
cutting through beds of shale, a slip occurred, bringing down a large
mass of debris, which filled up the cutting and buried fourteen wagons.
To prevent any recurrence it was decided to extend the tunnel through
this difficult part of the strata by solid masonry.

The line was completed, and opened for goods traffic in 1866, but
in the autumn of that year, after a period of exceptionally heavy
rainfall all over the country, there were signs of an extensive land
movement at Bugsworth Viaduct, a solid structure of masonry of five
arches, the whole having a curve towards the hillside. The great
saturation of the shale beds had caused them to slip on some harder


rocks underneath, and it was observed that the whole hillside was
moving, and that the curved viaduct had been forced by the immense
moving mass into a straight line. Traffic was at once suspended, and
the responsible engineers anxiously waited for the completion of this
great earth movement. At length no less than sixteen acres of land
slid bodily down the slope, carrying with it the whole of the substantial
viaduct. Tunnels were formed by the engineers to divert the water
underground, and four hundred men were engaged day and night for
a period of ten weeks constructing a new viaduct of timber to replace
the one which had been swept out of the course of the line. This
work having been successfully carried out, the Midland route to
Manchester was at length opened for passenger traffic in February,

For passengers the Midland Company used the London Road
Station at Manchester, but for their extensive goods traffic they
purchased Ancoats Hall and grounds, upon which they constructed



an extensive goods station and sidings for mineral traffic, the whole
covering an area of over seventy acres. In order to gain access to
the site a junction was formed with the Sheffield Company's system
at Ashburys.

On October ist, 1867, the Duffield and Wirksworth branch was
opened. It was intended to form an important part of an alternative
route between Derby and Rowsley, in case the property of the Matlock
Company by any means should become an obstruction to the Midland
communication with its own railway at Rowsley, and the line, therefore,
may be regarded as one for the protection of important interests.


However, at the termination of the joint lease in 1871, the Midland
Company, in accordance with previous arrangements confirmed by Act
of Parliament on June 26th, 1870, obtained sole possession of the
Matlock Company from July ist, 1871. The conditions were mainly
that the shareholders got 5 per cent, in perpetuity.

Thus the Midland then got absolute ownership of the Ambergate
and Rowsley Railway and the Cromford Canal, and the Wirksworth
and Rowsley extension was rendered unnecessary.

The London and North Western Company and the Lancashire and
Yorkshire Company practically held the monopoly of the very extensive
and valuable traffic, both goods and passenger, to and from Liverpool,


and naturally the Midland, the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire
and Great Northern Companies were exceedingly desirous of obtaining
access to this great seaport. Careful consideration showed that the
construction of three new lines to Liverpool was out of the question,
and it was therefore decided to form a joint committee of the three
companies under the title of the Cheshire Lines. A number of small
separate undertakings already existed in the districts to be traversed,
and on July 5th, 1865, action was initiated by which ultimately, on
August i5th, 1867, the three companies obtained an Act acquiring
all these subsidiary lines, which are amalgamated in an independent
committee, and also powers for constructing all the necessary links
for giving through access to Liverpool. There are no personal share-
holders, the capital being furnished pro rata by each of the three
companies whose delegates form the committee three from each line.
The total length of these lines thus acquired was fifty-one miles, and
the companies thus embodied in the triple control are as follows :


Stockport to Woodley . . . 2.\

Stockport to Altrincham . . . 9

Altrincham to Northwich . . . I2|

Northwich to Helsby, with branches . . 22

Garston to Liverpool (Brunswick Station) . . 4

Total . . .51

Subsequently the Cheshire Lines Committee constructed lines and
works which give a total length of 123^ miles and furnish direct com-
munication from Liverpool Central to Manchester Central, Altrincham
to Chester, Glazebrook to Stockport, continuing to Godley, where it
terminates by a junction with the Great Central Company's system.

By means of the Liverpool north extension and the Southport and
Cheshire Lines extension the Midland is enabled to send its carriages
through to Lord Street Station, Southport.

The Midland Company forms its connection with the Cheshire Lines
at Bradbury Junction, near Stockport.

The carriages used on the Cheshire Lines are provided by the Joint
Committee; the engine power, however, by arrangement, is supplied
by the Great Central Company, but the Midland Company works its
own engines and trains through to Manchester and Liverpool.

As previously mentioned, the Midland main line passenger traffic
was in February, 1867, conveyed to the London Road Station, Man-
chester, but on Monday, August 2nd, 1880, the Midland changed its
quarters to the Cheshire Lines new "Central" Station, which it reaches
via Stockport and the Manchester South District Railway. Quite



recently (March i5th, 1899) the Great Northern Company began also
to run its own trains into the Central Station at Manchester.

A new railway is now under construction by the Midland Company
from its own line at New Mills to Heaton Mersey, and its Man-
chester South District Railway, which will greatly improve the Midland
approach to Manchester Central, as it will avoid the express trains
having to run via Marple, as at present.




10 m 40 50 60 70 80 30 10 20 30




A LTHOUGH in possession of running powers to London, the
l\ development of the Midland system and its growing traffic
speedily demonstrated that something of a more permanent and satis-
factory character, with greater control in the hands of the Midland,
must, in the supreme interests of the Company and the districts which
it served, be secured.

" Running powers," although very much in evidence and very
extensively used, are nevertheless more or less illusory. These run-
ning powers are generally given by one company to prevent another
company laying a competing line, and they grant the concession
because they are practically compelled to do so; but the company
granting the favour are still left in a position to cause delays and
inconvenience at every turn, and to trifle with the company exercising
the privilege to an almost unlimited extent. In fact, running powers
may in brief be said to confer the minimum of accommodation with
the maximum of inconvenience; and when the company working
under them can stand such a condition of affairs no longer, they have
to fall back upon the only alternative of constructing a line for

Such in brief was the experience of working Midland traffic to
London via Hitchin.

Soon after the Midland commenced to run its own passenger trains
over the Great Northern system from Hitchin to London (1858) it
became apparent that history would repeat itself, and that which had
happened on the London and North Western route to Euston via
Rugby would be repeated on the route to King's Cross via Hitchin.

The traffic had been gradually increasing to such an extent that the
lines south of Hitchin were unable to carry it efficiently.

The Great Northern Company, as owners, naturally gave their own
trains the preference, and consequently Midland traffic had to take
second place, with all the consequences of very irritating delays,



brought about by Midland expresses having to follow immediately
after Great Northern slow stopping trains.

So serious did this become that the already great difficulties were
vastly intensified by the enormous strain upon the railway companies
owing to the exceptional traffic brought about by the Great Exhibition
of 1862. In this year no fewer than 3,400 Midland trains 1,000
passenger and 2,400 goods were delayed on the Great Northern

This circumstance alone was enough to demonstrate to the Midland
Company the absolute necessity for an independent route to London.
But more serious troubles were yet in store for them. From 1858
to 1862 the Midland had enjoyed the use, under agreement, of Great
Northern sidings at King's Cross, although they were actively providing
sidings of their own to meet the requirements of their increasing traffic.
The Great Northern, too, were likewise under pressure and suffered
from inadequate siding accommodation for their Exhibition trains,
and so they determined to "evict" the Midland from the sidings on
June 3oth, 1862, a process which was carried out in a summary fashion,
thereby for a time completely dislocating the Midland traffic. This
was the last straw, and the great chief, Mr. James Allport, and the
Midland Board determined, in the interests of the shareholders, to put
an end to what had become an utterly intolerable position.

An independent main line, commencing at Bedford and proceeding
via Luton, St. Albans, and Hendon to a new terminus at St. Pancras,
was surveyed, and a Bill authorising its construction at once prepared.
This Bill raised some opposition, but the Midland established such
an overpowering case that on June 22nd, 1863, parliamentary sanction
was given to construct the necessary fifty miles of line to give an
independent access to London. The capital raised for this purpose
was ;i, 750,000 in shares and .583,330 on loan. Commencing at
the northern end of Bedford Station, the engineering difficulties were
not of an exceptional character. The Ouse is crossed by a girder
bridge, Ampthill is tunnelled, and the summit level is reached near
to Leagrave, and a slight decline brings the railway to Luton. The
line to St. Albans is an easy gradient at a high elevation, and passing
through Elstree Tunnel, 1,060 yards, Hendon is soon reached; but
the engineering difficulties on entering the London district were very
serious and involved an enormous outlay of capital.

By a very wise and far-seeing policy, the Midland Company decided
that as the London traffic was certain to grow by leaps and bounds,
the time must soon come when two sets of rails would not be able
to carry the passenger and mineral traffic ; they must purchase land


sufficiently wide for the laying down at a future date of four sets
of rails complete. Not only was this done, but the whole of the
over-bridges from Bedford to London were constructed for four lines,
while from the Welsh Harp Junction to St. Pancras goods station the
four lines were laid down at once. At Belsize Tunnel, however, there
was a curious device designed to carry four sets of rails in the space
necessary for two, and at the same time avoid the necessity of having
junctions at either end of the tunnel. This was accomplished in this
way the four sets of lines were laid down within a few inches of
each other and intersected each other through the tunnel. This tunnel
is i mile 62 yards in length, and is about 120 feet below the surface.
This system remained in use until February 3rd, 1884, when the second
Belsize Tunnel, which the increasing traffic and the difficulties and com-
plications in working the old one had rendered absolutely necessary,
was formally opened.

On entering the London district at Hendon, the difficulties of the
distribution of traffic begin to manifest themselves. Practically up
to this point the trains from the north arrive with heavy loads of
passengers and merchandise meat, fish, vegetables, milk, timber,
coal, and general goods and all of these have to be assorted and
distributed according to their destination in London ; and in the
case of through traffic to foreign parts for their transhipment to other
companies and steamships. In addition to all these, there is all the
return flow of traffic in the opposite direction and from all parts of
the world to be provided for as regards its collection for distribution at
other centres on the Midland system.

Following up the main line to its great London terminus, we pass
the junction station at Kentish Town, which supplies communication
between the Midland, the London, Tilbury, and Southend, the Great
Eastern, the London, Chatham, and Dover, the Metropolitan, and other
railway systems.

But the difficulties of selecting and determining on the best available
site for the vast assemblage of lines and buildings necessary for the
great London terminus were very considerable. As previously pointed
out, the Midland Company had its own goods station at St. Pancras,
communicating with the Great Northern system. This was very much
overcrowded with the rapidly growing goods traffic. Its situation was
unsuited to the addition of a vast passenger traffic, and an entirely new
site therefore became imperatively necessary. At this period an estate
adjoining the Euston Road came upon the market, which, if acquired,
would give an equally good position for traffic as that possessed by the
Great Northern and the London and North Western railways. The


directors, after being fully satisfied as to the advantages of this site,
immediately secured it on very favourable terms, and there the present
magnificent pile of buildings known as St. Pancras Station now stand.
To reach this site by good gradients it was necessary to cross the
Regent's Canal, which barred the approach on the level and necessitated
one of two things. If the lines went under the canal the station
buildings and the rail level at St. Pancras would have been buried
underground; while if the lines went over the canal the station
evel must be raised from 12 to 17 feet above the street level of Euston
Road. The Regent's Canal was only 45 chains north of the terminus,
and practically determined the level of the station. It was at once
decided that the high level be adopted, as it carried with it many
compensating advantages. The high level practically gave the whole
of the ground-floor area for disposal, and although the original design
was to fill this up with the material excavated from the St. Pancras
branch, further considerations demonstrated the enormous value of
this ground space for warehouse accommodation in the Metropolis.
The site was bounded on the east by the old St. Pancras Road, on
the south by Euston Road, and on the west by Brewer Street, and
hence with direct access to these streets it was decided that this lower
or ground floor should be devoted in its entirety to warehouse purposes.
The enormous traffic in beer between Burton-on-Trent and London
over the Midland system demanded large cellars for storing and dis-
tribution ; and here was offered every facility for dealing with it in
the best manner possible, as regards temperature, situation, and prac-
tically unlimited accommodation. Another great factor was, of course,
that by making such ample provision for the beer trade of Burton-
on-Trent, traffic of this and a similar character could not fail to be
attracted to the Midland system and prove a very valuable source
of revenue to the Company and a great convenience to the brewers
and their customers in London and the district.

The beer traffic also had a determining influence in the final
character of the ground floor. Brick piers and arches, which appeared
in the early designs, would have occupied far too much space, and
so they gave way to iron columns and girders, and upon these the
main floors of St. Pancras passenger station rest. It having been
determined that the ground floor should be vast brewery stores, the
engineer of the Midland determined that everything should be ex-
pressly designed and constructed for that purpose; hence, as he
afterwards stated, a beer barrel became the unit of measure upon
which all the arrangements of this floor were based.

This decision led to a reconsideration of the question of the



roofing of the station, and demonstrated the great value, if it could be
accomplished at a reasonable outlay, of making the roof of one vast
arch. It had been pointed out by Mr. Allport, the General Manager,
to the directors that railway stations were frequently designed with
either intermediate columns or brick walls, varying in the number
of spans from one to six, and that in the course of a few years it
often happened that such stations had to be remodelled. Platforms
were required where lines were laid, and rails where there were
platforms, and then came the difficulty how to accomplish the change
desired and demanded by the traffic without entirely reconstructing the
station. It was consequently impressed upon the mind of Mr. W. H.
Barlow, the Engineer, the extreme desirability of having the station as
free as possible from columns or brick walls, and so Mr. Barlow faced
the problem and tried to construct the roof in one span. This also
involved another engineering point, namely, that as the platforms and
rails were to be movable in case of necessity, it followed that the
strength of the flooring must be uniform throughout, so as to be able
to carry any weight which the traffic might require.

The question of roofing the cellars of such uniform strength proved
the crux of the whole question. In the early suggested designs evolved
by the engineer it became obvious that if intermediate columns were
employed to support the outside roofing of the station proper, these
must be carried down through the station floor and through the beer
cellars to a solid foundation. These intermediate pillars, upon which
were to rest the spans of the several bays into which it was proposed to
construct the roof, would consequently have been over sixty feet in
length and of much larger diameter than the other columns under the
station, which other columns would only have to carry the weight of the
station floor and none of the weight of the roof. This would have
necessitated the employment of different patterns in the girders, cross-
girders, and in the plating of the lower floor, besides interfering with
the economical distribution of the space on the ground floor. More-
over, these columns must have carried large areas of roofing in addition
to the weight of the flooring, involving a greatly increased weight on
the foundations, which must have been enlarged accordingly. Further
than that, there was the additional difficulty, which had to be carefully
weighed, that some of these pillars must have rested on the tunnel of
the Midland Company's branch railway, which extends from near
Camden Road to the junction at King's Cross with the Metropolitan
underground system. This tunnel passes diagonally underneath St.
Pancras Station, from the north-west corner to the south-east corner,
so that here the engineer had to deal with a foundation already under-


mined by a railway over which he had to construct vast sets of rails in
the beer stores on the ground level, an enormous railway terminus at
a high level over it, and enveloping and inclosing the whole with a vast
roof of enormous weight.

The consideration of all these complex questions and problems led
to the conception in the mind of the engineer that by far the best
course to pursue would be to construct one great span of 240 feet
wide, with a height at the highest point of 100 feet above the rails, the
whole length of the roof being 690 feet. The estimated addition to
the cost of principals of 240 feet span as compared with principals of
two spans of 120 feet each and their columns was about ^"6,000. But
notwithstanding this, the importance attached by the directors and the
General Manager to obtaining perfect freedom in the use of the whole
area of the station for traffic purposes, unembarrassed by columns or
other impediments, was such that instructions were given for an arched
roof of one clear span.

The question which the engineer had to determine was, what depth
and form of rib, and what additional material would be employed to
make an arch sufficient to retain its form under all conditions of stress
arising from its own weight, from snow, and from heavy gales of wind.
The results at which Mr. Barlow arrived on the subject, partly by
calculation and partly by experiment, were :

1. That the depth of the rib must be sufficient to contain all the
lines of pressure generated by the dead load, by snow, and by the
pressure of the wind.

2. That the sectional area of the metal should be sufficient to sustain
the whole stress without producing a strain on the iron exceeding
3^ tons per square inch.

3. That the arch should be rivetted together with proper joint-plates
throughout, so as to give it the advantages of complete continuity.

The floor girders across formed a ready-made tie sufficient for an
arched roof over the station in one span, all that was to be required to

Online LibraryClement Edwin StrettonThe history of the Midland railway → online text (page 15 of 36)