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independence. Numerous conferences were held between the parties,
but common action failing, the Midland took an independent course
and raised their rates from May ist, 1871.

But although the war of rates had practically ceased, the conflict was
only transferred, for almost immediately many schemes were launched
for the construction of new lines, involving a very large expenditure of

It is necessary to explain that the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincoln-
shire (now Great Central) and Great Northern Companies had entered
into a fifty years' agreement, but a little green-eyed jealousy was intro-
duced between these parties by the Sheffield Company having en-
couraged the Midland by allowing them access to Manchester over
their rails. The Sheffield Company had also long cherished a desire
for a route to London independently of its Great Northern partner.
This led to a proposal and an "acceptance," in 1873, f r tne construc-
tion of a joint Midland and Sheffield line direct from Askern Junction,
north of Doncaster, to Rushton, near Kettering, on the Midland main
line, a distance of about 115 miles, and involving an expenditure of
2,700,000. Under this scheme the Sheffield Company was to have
running powers over the Midland from Rushton to London, and thus
the Sheffield line would have been completely independent of the
Great Northern. A struggle lasting for forty days in the Commons
Committee ensued, and the joint Bill emerged in a mutilated form,
which mutilation was continued by the House of Lords, with the
result that but a few miles of the scheme were left, and this was ulti-
mately abandoned by both companies. And thus a death-blow was
given to a project which, had it been carried through, the new Great
Central extension to London would never have been constructed.



line which George Stephenson declined to construct in 1835
X from Chesterfield to Sheffield on account of its severe gradients
and the limited power of the locomotives of that period, was subse-
quently carried out, and direct communication was established between
Sheffield and the south on February ist, 1870. Leaving the old main
line at Tapton, north of Chesterfield, the new route diverges to the
west and encounters very severe rising gradients. After running over
Unstone Viaduct and passing Dronfield, the summit-level is reached
within the Bradway Tunnel, i mile 264 yards long, and from thence
the falling gradients are equally steep, practically all the way to Sheffield,
where a new station was constructed. The new line proceeds via Atter-
cliffe to its junction with the old Sheffield and Rotherham Railway, thus
furnishing an alternative route between Chesterfield and Masborough.
Thus the town of Sheffield was put on the direct line, to the great
advantage of the trade of the town and the districts through which the
line traverses. There was no formal ceremony at the opening, but at
Dronfield there were great rejoicings and the day was observed as
a public holiday.

The Midland, with a view to extending its communication from
Wichnor, on its Birmingham and Derby line, to Walsall and Wolver-
hampton, subscribed ,72,000 to two independent companies one
known as the Trent Valley, Midlands, and Grand Junction, the other
the South Staffordshire Junction Railway which received their Acts
and became amalgamated in 1846 under the name of the South
Staffordshire Railway Company. This amalgamated Company con-
structed the lines which extend from Wichnor to Walsall and Dudley,
forming a junction with the Oxford, Worcester, and Wolverhampton
line. The Midland obtained running powers over the whole of the
South Staffordshire Railway, and this continued until 1867, when the
London and North Western obtained by purchase the South Stafford-
shire undertaking. Then it was that the Midland deemed it wise to

o 193


obtain an independent line of its own, and the London and North
Western, by an Act of 1876, sold the piece of line from Walsall Junc-
tion to Wolverhampton, and the Midland ceased to exercise running
powers over the South Staffordshire Railway.

By the Act of August 6th, 1872, the Wolverhampton, Walsall, and
Midland Junction Company was incorporated to make lines from
Walsall, on the Wolverhampton and Walsall Railway, to join the
Midland at Water Orton, but by an Act of 1874 this new undertaking
was vested in the Midland. The Wolverhampton and Walsall Com-
pany was incorporated in 1865 to construct a line from Wolverhamp-
ton to Walsall. This was afterwards vested in the London and North
Western, but by an Act of 1876 it was sold by the London and North
Western to the Midland. At midnight on July 3151, 1876, there was
a transformation scene on this line, when the whole of the London and
North Western engines, vehicles, and staff withdrew, and the Midland
staff took command and commenced to work all the passenger and
goods trains over it on the following morning, August ist, 1876.

The Water Orton and Walsall line was opened for goods traffic on
Monday, May iQth, 1879, and for passengers on July ist, 1879, when
the Midland trains ceased to run from Wichnor Junction.

The advantage obtained was that Wolverhampton and Walsall were
put into direct communication with London via the Midland system.

As it may seem an extraordinary circumstance that one railway
company should sell a piece of line to a rival, some explanation is
desirable, but it is nevertheless extremely difficult to give in an
intelligible form, as it was the outcome of long negotiations over a
great many most intricate questions of railway policy and construction.
In fact, the whole subject forms a problem in railway negotiations
affecting a large number of districts, which, opening about 1865, after
lasting many years, resulted thus :

(a) The London and North Western took over the South Leicester-
shire (private Company) line, Nuneaton to Wigston, and ran thence
over the Midland line to Leicester, where the Midland gave them the
use of their passenger station and built a goods station for their goods

(b) The Midland got running powers over the South Leicestershire
line from Wigston to Nuneaton and made a line from Nuneaton to join
its own system at Whitacre.

(c} The London and North Western bought the South Staffordshire


(d] The Midland to give up running over the South Staffordshire
from Wichnor to Walsall. The Midland to make the Water Orton and
Walsall line, and buy from the London and North Western the Walsall
line to Wolverhampton ; and the Midland to use the London and North
Western station at Wolverhampton. The Midland to run to Dudley
from Walsall for goods traffic, and the Midland also to run from
Nuneaton to Coventry for goods traffic.

(e) The Midland made a curve south of Tamworth (three-quarters of
a mile) to enable the London and North Western to run from Nuneaton
to Burton; but this was never opened, as the Midland and London and
North Western further agreed to construct the Ashby and Nuneaton
Railway jointly, and the London and North Western got power to run
to all collieries on the Leicester and Burton line for mineral traffic.

(/) The London and North Western obtained running powers from
Wichnor to Derby.

(g) The Midland obtained running powers from Wellingborough to

(h] The Midland obtained powers to run through New Street Station,
Birmingham, and the London and North Western agreed to widen the

(i) The Midland and London and North Western made a joint
station at Market Harborough, with separate lines for each company,
and the Enderby branch near Leicester was constructed jointly.

The sum total, in effect, is that the Midland got its traffic to Wolver-
hampton and a route from London and Leicester to Birmingham,
Cannock Chase, and the Black Country, a route through New Street
Station at Birmingham, and also access to Northampton.

The London and North Western, on the other hand, got into Derby
and Leicester and into the Leicestershire coalfields.

The following curves, although constructed, were rendered unneces-
sary and have not been opened for traffic : Midland curve at Tamworth,
three-quarters of a mile; London and North Western curve, on the
Nuneaton to Leicester line to the Coventry line, three-quarters of a
mile ; joint curve, Stoke Golding to Hinckley, 3^ miles.

Complex as these arrangements were, they saved the expenditure of
a large amount of capital by both companies and the making of many
duplicate lines.

It will be remembered that as early as the year 1846 the Midland
Company obtained powers to construct a line from near Ashby-de-
la-Zouch, passing through Market Bos worth and forming a junction


with the Trent Valley Railway Company's line at Nuneaton. This
proposed branch was of a protective character, but having attained
its object the Act was allowed to lapse and the railway was not
constructed. A so-called independent railway company, in 1866, was
promoted under the high-sounding title of "The London and North
Western and Midland Counties Coalfields Railway," the real object
of which was to give the London and North Western access to the
Leicestershire collieries, the route selected by the promoters being
almost exactly that decided upon by the Midland Company in 1846,
and the latter Company therefore introduced a Bill in 1866 to enable
it to carry out the original scheme.

Here, then, were two rival lines, the Midland and the Coalfields,
which latter was, however, simply a nom-de-plume for the London
and North Western, each trying to run a railway over the very same

The outcome of these two rival schemes was that the London and
North Western met the Midland Company, the "Coalfields" title was
abandoned, and the line, 29 miles in length, was constructed jointly
and subsequently opened, and is still worked as a joint undertaking.

During the sessions of 1859 and 1860 a nominally independent
railway company, known as the "South Leicestershire," obtained powers
to construct a line from the Trent Valley at Nuneaton to Hinckley and
Wigston, with running powers thence over the Midland Railway to
Leicester, the object of the line being to give the London and North
Western Company communication with Leicester, and in 1867 the
"South Leicestershire" became the absolute property of that Company.

However, by the Act of June i4th, 1860, the Midland Company
secured running powers between Wigston, Nuneaton, and Coventry, and
by means of an Act passed in 1861 the Midland obtained powers
to make a line from Nuneaton to Whitacre upon its Derby and
Birmingham section, thus obtaining a direct communication between
London, Leicester, and Wigston, and Nuneaton, Whitacre, Birming-
ham, and all parts of the west of England. This communication was
further improved in December, 1872, when a new curve was opened
at Wigston enabling passengers to travel from the south and Wigston
Station direct to Hinckley and Birmingham without having to be
conveyed to Leicester.

The Birmingham West Suburban Railway Company was originally
incorporated on July 3oth, 1871, to make a local line from Albion
Wharf, Birmingham, to King's Norton a distance of 6f miles. By
an Act of July, 1873, diversions were made, and by additional powers
obtained in 1875 tne undertaking was vested in the Midland, the


original shareholders getting 5 per cent, in perpetuity. It was opened
as a local line on April 3rd, 1876, from Granville Street Station, and
formed a junction with the Midland main line at King's Norton, the
Midland providing the rolling stock. Afterwards it was connected
with the western end of New Street Station, and thus formed a link
so that the Midland could pass from Derby or Leicester via Saltley
and New Street Station to Bristol, the object being to place New
Street, Birmingham, on the through line instead of being a terminus
so far as Midland traffic was concerned. To meet this traffic the
London and North Western Company, by arrangement with the
Midland, has doubled the width of its Birmingham Station and
provided perfectly independent lines for the use of the Midland trains
between the Grand Junction and the New Street Junction. The
Midland express trains ran via New Street on October ist, 1885.

The relationship of the Midland with the Severn and Wye line in
the Forest of Dean colliery district recalls the fact that a very ancient
Outram-line was formed between Lydney and Lydbrook in 1809 and
opened in 1813, which connected the Forest of Dean with the River
Severn. That undertaking was enlarged, and became known as the
Severn and Wye. The next step was the building of a great structure
across the Severn by the Severn Bridge Company, which was opened
on October i7th, 1879, and which gave communication with the English
side of the Severn. The Midland then constructed a branch to meet
it from Berkeley Junction, on their Gloucester to Bristol line, to
Sharpness. The Midland had running powers over the Severn Bridge.
The whole of the section from Berkeley Junction to Lydbrook and
the branches, including the bridge, were transferred to the joint owner-
ship of the Midland and Great Western by the Act of 1894.

The line is 8f miles long, and its value is mainly on account of
its mineral and goods traffic.


The next field for Midland enterprise was the invasion of Wales.
But this proved rather a complicated and protracted campaign. There
were, it is true, rails all the way, but the great difficulty was to get over
the legal and parliamentary obstacles as well as the jealousies of rival
companies. It has been already pointed out that the Midland had
running powers from Stoke Works, near Bromsgrove, to Worcester
over the Great Western system, and after this, by way of a concession
for non-opposition to a Great Western amalgamation with the Oxford,
Worcester, and Wolverhampton Company, the Midland obtained


running powers which enabled them to use the Great Western route
to Hereford. The Hereford, Hay, and Brecon Railway had been
constructed as an independent line, but, as usual, the line was
comparatively useless and the Company powerless without through
traffic. The Hereford Company, however, had running powers over
the Mid-Wales and Brecon and Merthyr Companies' systems, and
the Mid-Wales Company for a time worked the Hereford, Hay, and
Brecon line; but when this arrangement was nearing its completion
application was made to the Midland to work the line.

At a Midland meeting held at Derby on May i8th, 1869, it was ex-
plained that the clauses contained in certain Bills promoted by other
companies, under which the Midland sought to obtain permissive
powers for using the Barton Station at Hereford and to participate
in the management of the Hereford, Hay, and Brecon Railway, had
been dropped.

The report of the Hereford, Hay, and Brecon Company for the
half-year ending December 3ist, 1869, says a temporary agreement for
working the line by the Mid- Wales Company terminated on September
3oth, 1869, since which date the Midland had worked it.

Thus the Midland secured a through communication as far as Brecon.
As early as the year 1850 there was a line formed known as the Swansea
Valley Railway, which had been extended from Swansea to Ynis-y-
Geinon, and the name changed to the Swansea Vale Railway.

This line was leased by the Midland Company on July ist, 1874. All
that was required now was the connecting link between Brecon and
Ynis-y-Geinon Junction. This had already been supplied by a section
of the Neath and Brecon system, and all that was necessary was power
to run over it, which power was duly obtained, thereby completing by
ownership and running powers direct communication from Swansea to
the whole of the Midland system. But such an invasion of Welsh
territory was not viewed with equanimity by the Great Western
Railway, and, doubtless with the view of safeguarding what it con-
sidered its own interests, the Great Western Company raised a very
nice point of law by challenging the right of the Midland Company to
run through trains on to the Hereford, Hay, and Brecon line over the
Great Western Company's connecting curve at Hereford. Although
this connecting link was of very short extent, it formed the key to
the whole situation, for without its use through traffic, either goods or
passenger, was impossible, as the Midland could only obtain access to
the line which it had leased by passenger vehicles and by carting through
Hereford. After a great deal of legal fencing and failing to come
to an amicable arrangement, the Midland Company, being convinced


that it had the necessary powers, notified the Great Western Company
that a train would be sent to run to Brecon over the curve in question.
This was met by the Great Western Company by a distinct refusal, and
not only were the signals placed at " danger," but the line was actually
blocked by an engine and some wagons. The driver of the Midland
engine, who had an unusually powerful locomotive under steam, was
particularly anxious to push the obstruction out of the way, but this
plan was naturally not adopted. To further make it impossible for
the Midland train to proceed the rails were pulled up, thus effectively
stopping communication. The dispute was, as a matter of course,
carried into the law courts.

In October, 1869, a station was about to be erected at Moorfields,
Hereford, as a terminus for the Hereford, Hay, and Brecon Company.
They had formerly had a terminus near the same spot.

In the session of 1870 the Hereford, Hay, and Brecon Company had
a Bill for making a line from Moorfields Station to the Great Western
Railway and to enable the Midland Railway to take over the Hereford
Company and use the junction. At any rate, they advertised their
intention to introduce such a Bill.

The parliamentary history of the connection at Hereford appears
to be (i) that by 22 and 23 Viet. cap. 84 a line was to be made
from Brecon through Hay to the Shrewsbury and Hereford Railway
at Hereford ; (2) a deviation was authorised by 23 and 24 Viet,
cap. 127 enabling the Hereford, Hay, and Brecon Company to
relinquish this junction and in substitution to form a junction with
the Newport, Abergavenny, and Hereford Company. This became
West Midland, and the West Midland became Great Western Railway
property. Thus the arrangements became very involved and com-

On January 2oth, 2ist, 22nd, and February nth, 1873, a suit was
heard in the Rolls Court before Lord Romilly the Midland Railway
v. Great Western Railway in which the plaintiffs, the Midland
Railway Company, sought to have it declared that by virtue
of an agreement dated September i4th, 1869, they were entitled
to use and run trains over a certain junction at Hereford, and
to restrain the Great Western Railway from obstructing plaintiffs
from using that junction. It appeared that the Hereford, Hay, and
Brecon Company had, by a decree of the Court of Chancery, been
declared to be entitled to use it, and that by the agreement of
September i4th, 1869, they made over their line to the Midland
Railway. The latter claimed to use the junction under this agree-
ment. Lord Romilly dismissed the case with costs, considering that


one railway company could not delegate all its powers to another
without the consent of Parliament.

The Midland Railway appealed from this decision, and on April 25th,
26th, and 28th, 1873, the case came on in the Court of Appeal before
the Lords Justices. The agreement of September i4th, 1869, it now
appears, was for two and a half years from that time, i.e. till March i4th,
1872. Their lordships were of opinion that there was nothing in the
agreement illegal or contrary to public policy, and that the plaintiff
company were entitled to the injunction prayed for to restrain the
defendants from obstructing the junction, with costs up to the
hearing. In these suits Messrs. Beale, Marigold, and Beale were
solicitors for the Midland Railway, Messrs. Young, Maples, and Co.
for the Great Western Railway, Messrs. Tilleard, Godden, and Holme
for the Hereford, Hay, and Brecon Company.

On July 3oth, 1874, an Act was passed, "The Midland Railway
(Hereford, Hay, and Brecon Railway Lease) Act, 1874," under which
the line is leased in perpetuity to the Midland Railway, who paid a
yearly sum as rent, rising from ^"14,511 ijs. in 1875 to, and remain-
ing at from 1882, ^20,354 Ss. per annum, payable on January ist and
July ist in each year, the Midland to have full powers of booking all
kinds of traffic to and from London and North Western and Great
Western Railways and the Hereford, Hay, and Brecon line via

Thus, after three years' litigation, with verdicts first on one side
and then on the other, this great dispute was finally decided in
favour of the Midland, and thereby was sanctioned and established
through communication between Swansea and the Midland system.
By this means also a number of semi-independent lines, which were
by themselves of comparatively little value, were, by being made links
in a system of through communication, greatly enhanced in im-
portance and became invaluable feeders to the Midland system. The
Hereford, Hay, and Brecon line was vested in the Midland in 1886;
the Swansea Vale in 1876. On the Mid- Wales and the Brecon and
Merthyr the Midland have running powers; and the Midland work
over the Neath and Brecon to its own Swansea Vale line.



THE years from 1872 to 1875 w ^ l n g be memorable for the
great struggles which occurred and for the inauguration of a
series of reforms, the like of which had never been previously heard
of in the railway world. The Midland were pioneers in this great
work of reform, and by its spirited and far-seeing policy laid the
foundations of a magnificent prosperity by looking to the interests
and requirements of the great mass of the people. First of all, on
March iQth, 1872, the Midland suddenly announced that on April ist
next third-class passengers would be carried by all Midland trains,
and the intimation was at once hailed as a master-stroke of policy.
Previously to this third-class trains were slow, with poor accommoda-
tion, and an almost total want of comfort. They had to shunt at any
and every junction to allow the faster trains to pass, and the result
was that the third-class passenger had to do a heavy and almost
continuous " penance " during the whole of the period he or she
was travelling; and the time occupied on long journeys was altogether
such as severely to try the best of strength and tempers. It was
estimated that the change would result in a saving, and it was found
that by the abolition of "third-class trains" the mileage run was
reduced by no less than 500,000 miles per annum, while the saving
under this head amounted to .37,000 a year. Thus there was no
sacrifice of revenue, for the Midland carried far more passengers than
previously. This was followed on October 7th, 1874, by another surprise,
when the Midland boldly announced that on and after January ist, 1875,
second-class would be abolished. The whole railway world was excited,
and the rivals of the Midland were in arms against what was regarded
as a daring innovation.

In the money article of The Times there appeared the following
paragraph :

"It is stated that the railways most directly affected by the policy
of the Midland in abolishing second-class carriages have decided



to adopt a retaliatory policy. They do not intend to abolish any one
of the three classes, but to lower second-class fares below Midland
first, and to run special first-class trains to all competing points against
the Midland. Whatever its financial soundness and we should
question it very gravely an attempt to coerce the Midland after
this fashion is, to say the least, somewhat petty, and cannot be
regarded as a specimen of sagacious administration."

Whatever its reception at the time, there can be no doubt that it
was a great reform conceived in no selfish spirit, but on the broad
lines of true policy and human progress. It was a bold movement,
and upon its success or failure depended the reputation of those
primarily responsible for so great a change a change which, small
as it may now like most other changes and reforms in the world-

Online LibraryClement Edwin StrettonThe history of the Midland railway → online text (page 17 of 36)