the first of August, 1837, or the last day of the then Session of
Parliament, should Parliament be then sitting, whichever may last
This embargo on the commencement of the works was unfortunate,
as it prevented the junction at Rugby being opened so soon as otherwise
would have been the case, and it enabled a rival line to previously
open its junction with the London and Birmingham at Hampton.
Ultimately it was found that the route via Northampton would have
heavy gradients upon the Kibworth Bank, and also that it would be
of no use for traffic from Leicester to Birmingham and the west.
After all this delay the junction at Rugby as originally sanctioned
was made, and the Northampton scheme abandoned.
The formal opening of the first portion of this railway took place on
May 3oth, 1839, when the directors and about five hundred visitors
made the first trip over the direct line from Nottingham to Derby, a
distance of 15 J miles, and after waiting an hour the train returned and
made a second trip to Derby and back.
The object of starting the opening train from the Nottingham end
of the line was that the station was completed, and the absolute
property of the Midland Counties Company, whereas at Derby the
line terminated at Derby Junction with the "North Midland," and
at the time there was only a temporary wooden platform, the new
station being then under construction. The opening for public traffic
was on June 4th, 1839.
The three companies, the " North Midland," " Midland Counties,"
and " Birmingham and Derby Junction," all of which obtained Acts
in 1836, decided and agreed that one large passenger station should
be constructed at Derby for the joint use of the three companies.
This station was built by Mr. Jackson for the North Midland
Railway Company, the other two companies paying rent at the rate
TRENT TO LEICESTER OPENED 39
of six per cent, on the proportion of the cost of that portion which was
for their accommodation, and the Midland Counties Company paid
for running over the canal bridge north of Derby Station, by which
arrangement the cost of a second bridge was saved.
Locomotive sheds and shops were provided for the use of each of
the three companies upon the eastern side of the Derby passenger
station, while the Midland Counties carriage and wagon shops were
The engines used on this railway were the well-known four-wheeled
design of Messrs. Bury and Co., of Liverpool.
NOTTINGHAM STATION, 1839
(Midland Counties Railway).
The second portion of this railway, extending from Trent Junction
to Leicester, including two curves joining the Nottingham and Derby
section at Long Eaton and Sawley junctions, was opened on Monday,
May 4th, 1840.
The Leicester Chronicle of May Qth, 1840, describing the opening,
says: "About twelve o'clock on Monday last (May 4th) four first-class
and six second class carriages reached the station in Leicester from
Nottingham, preceded by the "Leopard" steam-engine. Several
directors residing at Derby and Nottingham and Messrs. Vignoles,
Woodhouse, and other principal engineers, surveyors, and contractors
of the railway came along with them. Great numbers of spectators
of all classes had assembled at the station and along the line to
40 THE HISTORY OF THE MIDLAND RAILWAY
witness their arrival. After waiting about an hour they resumed their
seats. Mr. W. E. Hutchinson, the Superintendent of the railway, and
Mr. J. F. Bell, the Company's Secretary, having also taken their seats,
and three guards, in new uniforms, also occupied theirs on the roofs
of the carriages, the signal for starting was given, and the train set
out in good style for Derby ; a beautiful banner and a number of flags
on each side of the carriages adding not a little to the interest of the
scene. The journey was one of inspection of the line previous to
the public opening, and, we understand, gave great satisfaction to the
directors. After dining together at the King's Head Inn, Derby, the
party set out on its return to Leicester, and reached the station soon
after nine o'clock."
The opening for public traffic took place on May 5th; but it was
not before May 2oth that six wagon-loads of Clay Cross coal were
conveyed to Leicester Station from Stephenson and Co.'s colliery.
This was the first consignment of Derbyshire coal by railway, and it
was sold at Loughborough at us. and at Leicester for 12.?. per ton.
Leaving Trent Junction for the south, the line passes over the River
Trent by a cast-iron bridge of three arches, each 100 feet span, the
iron work being made by the well-known Butterley Company, and
immediately enters the short Red Hill Tunnel.
At Leicester a handsome station was opened, which had the directors'
board room and the general offices upon the upper floor. There was
only one platform, which, by means of a platform loop-line and a
junction at either end and crossover roads in the centre, did duty
for both up and down passenger traffic, the two main lines being
thus left clear for through traffic. This original station, with enlarge-
ments, remained in use until the splendid new station was opened on
June 1 2th, 1892.
The third and last portion of the railway, extending from Leicester
to Rugby, was constructed by Mr.
Mclntosh, contractor, and on May i8th,
1840, when only one line of rails had
been completed, a special train, drawn
by the engine "Vivid," conveyed the
directors from Leicester to Rugby and
back, and the completed railway was
SECOND-CLASS CARRIAGE, 1844
. ., N formally opened on luesday. June loth,
(Midland Counties Railway). J f J J o
1840, by a special train containing the
directors, engineers, contractors, and visitors. For public traffic the
line was opened on July ist, 1840.
Leaving Leicester the line passes under the short Knighton Tunnel,
LEICESTER TO RUGBY 41
over the Knighton Viaduct, past Wigston and over the Crow Mills
Viaduct, thence to Gill's Corner Tunnel, near Ullesthorpe, and near
Rugby passes over the Avon Viaduct, which consists of eleven semi-
circular arches of brick, each having a span of 50 feet, the height of
the viaduct being 40 feet. At Rugby the Company provided one " bay
platform " for its trains in connection with the London and Birmingham
station, the goods lines being extended past the passenger station to
a second junction, which was formed at the 82^ mile post from Euston
The Company's main line, extending from the south of Rugby
Station to Derby Junction, was 49^ miles, the line from Trent Junction
LEICESTER STATION, 1840
(Midland Counties Railway).
to Nottingham 7^ miles, and the direct line from Long Eaton to
Sawley fully a mile. Therefore the total length of main line was
The railway was upon a gauge of 4 feet 8J inches, having both up
and down lines throughout, the ruling gradient being i in 330. The
rails were double-headed, five yards in length, and weighing 77 Ibs.
to the yard ; they were placed in chairs and secured by wooden keys,
the rail ends being held in a joint-chair.
On embankments the chairs were placed upon sleepers, and in
cuttings stone blocks were employed, and upon the Avon and
Knighton viaducts continuous longitudinal timbers and bridge rails
42 THE HISTORY OF THE MIDLAND RAILWAY
The whole of the arrangements in connection with the three openings
of this railway were carried out by Mr. William Evans Hutchinson,
a druggist, of 16, Gallowtree Gate, Leicester, who was appointed
Manager and Superintendent of the line, and so well did he perform
these duties that he was asked to become a director; and when in
July, 1840, he resigned his position as an official, he was presented
by the Company with ^500 in acknowledgment of his special services.
He afterwards also became a director of the Leicester and Swanning-
ton ; he was one of the original directors of the Midland, and finally
attained to the highest post of all the Chairmanship of the Midland
The opening of the Midland Counties Railway through to Rugby, on
July ist, 1840, was the signal for the commencement of war against
the Birmingham and Derby Junction Company in order to obtain the
traffic which this Company regarded as its own. However, to appreciate
the merits of the dispute, due regard must be had to all the circum-
stances attending not only the construction of the Birmingham and
Derby Junction Railway, but also to the war of rates which followed,
as dealt with in a later chapter.
Soon after the opening of the Midland Counties Railway some
remarkable excursion trains were run, which, in view of the subsequent
great development of that branch of railway working, are of great
importance. Four especially noteworthy excursions were run, two from
Nottingham to Leicester, the first on Monday, July 2oth, 1840, and
the second on Monday, August 24th of the same year ; and two from
Leicester to Nottingham, the first on Monday, July 27th, 1840, and
the second on Monday, August loth in the same year.
These excursion trains are of very great importance in railway
history for this reason, that they are the first trains of this character
ever run on English railways. A great deal of controversy has been
waged as to the origin of this class of traffic, due, no doubt, in a large
degree to the subsequent developments which have taken place in all
parts of the world. In order to establish the fundamental facts of the
case and to place the matter beyond all future cavil or question, it is
necessary to give the official announcements regarding these trains.
The first of these excursions was brought about by a very successful
industrial exhibition which was held at Leicester in 1840, which
attracted great attention, especially in the neighbouring town of
On Friday, July loth, 1840, an announcement appeared in the
Nottingham and Newark Mercury to this effect :
AN EARLY EXCURSION
"The Committee of the Nottingham Mechanics' Institution have
resolved to visit Leicester Exhibition, with their friends, on Monday
week, July 2oth. The names of persons wishing to be of the party will
be received at the Exchange Room, a special train having been arranged
by the directors to convey them."
It will be observed that in view of the " new experiment " the Com-
mittee took the preliminary precaution of securing the names of
passengers before they gave their guarantee to the Company. The
response having proved satisfactory, the arrangements were completed,
and the excursion was accordingly run on July 2oth, 1840.
THE AVON VIADUCT, NEAR RUGBY, 1840.
An exhibition of a similar character was held at Nottingham, and
accordingly the Leicester Mechanics' Institute for these organisations
were very distinctive educational and social factors in the great towns
of England at that period resolved on a return visit to Nottingham by
means of the new system of special trains which the Nottingham
Mechanics' Institute had the honour of inaugurating. This return
visit took place on Monday, July 2yth, 1840.
The success of this system of travelling " at half the usual charges "
and conveying large numbers of passengers having thus been demon-
strated as a new and very valuable source of income, led to its adoption
by the Midland Counties Railway Company on its own behalf. The
Company accordingly advertised the first train from Leicester to
Nottingham on August loth, 1840, and in view of the fact that this was
the first train of this character ever run by a railway company, the
44. THE HISTORY OF THE MIDLAND RAILWAY
formal announcement becomes of great historic value and interest.
It was as follows :
MIDLAND COUNTIES RAILWAY.
THE Public are respectfully informed that a SPECIAL TRAIN will leave
the Station at Leicester, on MONDAY MORNING NEXT, the loth
instant, at nine o'clock, for NOTTINGHAM, and return from the Notting-
ham Station at six o'clock, calling each way at Syston, Sileby, Barrow, and
Loughborough, for the conveyance of Persons visiting Nottingham.
Fares to Nottingham and back.
From Leicester. . 6s OD
Syston . . 58 OD
Sileby . . 43 6D
Barrow . . 43 OD
Loughborough 33 60
Persons wishing for Tickets must apply at the respective Stations on or
before Saturday evening, the 8th instant, and none can be issued after
thattime ' By order,
Leicester, August $th, 1840. J- R BELL > Secretary.
The fourth excursion was the most remarkable of all, the number of
passengers conveyed by it being far in excess of anything known at the
present time. The fact that over 2,000 passengers were conveyed in
the train excited the popular imagination at the time, and the details
are of the most interesting kind. The official announcement ran thus :
EXCURSION TO LEICESTER.
On MONDAY, August 24th, 1840.
The Inhabitants of Nottingham and surrounding Villages are respectfully
informed that an arrangement has been made with the Directors of the
Midland Counties Railway to send a SPECIAL TRAIN, capable of
accommodating Two Thousand Persons, to view the splendid alterations
which have recently been made in the Leicester Exhibition.
The Train will leave Nottingham at half-past Eight o'clock in the Morning
precisely, and Leicester at half-past Six in the Evening.
Tickets may be had at the Exchange ; Institution Rooms, St. James's
Street; the Booksellers; and of Mr. HENRY WILLIAM SHIPLEY,
Honorary Secretary, 2, Collin Street.
Nottingham, August 14, 1840.
The Leicester Chronicle, describing this excursion in its issue of
August 29th, says: "The roofs of the unfinished houses in the neigh-
bourhood were crowded, and every tree that grew about was destined
to support more limbs than its own. The gallery over the esplanade at
the station-house was crowded with elegantly dressed females, in front
A REMARKABLE TRAIN 45
of whom the band of the Duke of Rutland was stationed, and from
time to time enlivened the listeners with some of its best pieces. At
11.30 alarm was felt at the non-appearance of the train. An engine
with several of the railway labourers started off to meet it. Another
feverish half-hour crept on, when a second engine carrying a few of the
directors was despatched. At half-past twelve, however, a thin vapour,
a little smoke, then a huge undulating mass was discovered at the
extremity of the horizon and gave assurance that all was safe. In
a minute a long lingering, undulating mass of wood and iron slowly
emerged from the dark mass of vapour which partially accompanied it
like a body-guard, and rushing along the line with a noise resembling
the dashing of a thousand surges on a rocky shore. In an instant
the anxious passengers jumped on the esplanade where the Managing
Committee of the Exhibition attended to receive them." This paper
further says there were sixty-five coaches, i.e. eight firsts, forty-nine
seconds, and eight thirds, and more than 2,000 people.
The Leicester Journal of August 28th relates the facts as follows :
" The engines were overloaded, and the progress was slow. There
were about 2,400 persons. A special engine, with all proper means
and appliances in case of accident, was sent off to reconnoitre, but did
not return. At length, about 12.30, when the excitement had almost
worn itself out of long endurance, a white flag, the signal of security,
was seen from the station waving in the air. The enormous train
of nearly seventy carriages passed majestically in review before the
astonished spectators. It was indeed a wonderful scene. Grand !
magnificent ! sublime ! were the terms which gave vent to the feelings
as in countless succession the animated mass rushed into view. It was
in truth a moving city, with banners and music and accompaniments
and all the material of high excitement to enhance its efficacy."
This demonstration of the possibility of carrying large numbers of
people from one point to another at cheap fares was satisfactory in
every way, for whilst it was a great boon to the people it also proved
very remunerative to the Company, and the fame of this new move-
ment spread far and wide, and was introduced on the Sheffield and
Rotherham and North Midland systems on June ist, 1841.
But it was left to Mr. Thomas Cook to lay hold of this new system,
and to devote the whole of his life's energies to its promotion in
all parts of the world. He realised in a supreme degree the enormous
possibilities which could be opened up by the extension and general
introduction, on a settled and definite plan, of this great business of
cheap travel for the million.
Mr. Cook ran his first excursion from Leicester to Loughborough,
46 THE HISTORY OF THE MIDLAND RAILWAY
in connection with a temperance demonstration which was held in
Mr. Paget's park. The train was a "public excursion," and left
Leicester on the morning of July 5th, 1841. It was drawn by two of
Bury's four-wheeled engines, and consisted of fourteen open third-class
passenger carriages, and one first-class carriage at the rear, a seat upon
which was occupied by the guard; 570 passengers were conveyed by
this train at a shilling a head for the double journey. To Mr. Thomas
Cook belongs the honour of being the first person to hire a special
train at his own risk, sell railway tickets to the public, and personally
travel with the train to look after the comfort of his passengers. In
fact, he was first Excursion Agent, and so well did he perform the
duties that he was always afterwards in request when any "special
train " was required, and by continuing " the business of travel " built
up the great firm of Thomas Cook and Son, whose offices will be
found in every part of the world. A few years ago, when talking over
the events of July 5th, 1841, with the author, Mr. Cook remarked, "It
is a fact worthy of note that the fare of one shilling which I fixed for
the trip from Leicester to Loughborough and back " (twenty-five miles)
"is the excursion fare which the Midland Company charges for the
same journey to-day."
THE NORTH MIDLAND RAILWAY
DURING the time that Robert Stephenson was constructing the
Leicester and Swannington Railway and that George Stephenson
was sinking the pits at Snibston, near Coalville, many visitors of im-
portance were frequently to be seen at Alton Grange, Ashby-de la-Zouch.
Indeed, it is well known that George Stephenson's house was the birth-
place of many railways.
On one celebrated occasion, early in February, 1832, a number of
Stephenson's friends visited him to inspect the works and to discuss
projects for further railway enterprise of a very extensive and far-
reaching character. One of these enterprises was the construction
of the North Midland line. When it is mentioned that the visitors
included George Carr Glyn, banker, London, Charles Sturge, Birming-
ham, John and Joseph Ellis, both of Leicester, Edward Cropper,
Henry Booth, and Joseph Sandars, of Liverpool, Edward Pease, of
Darlington, Samuel Beale, Birmingham, William Vickers, of Sheffield,
Henry Houldsworth, and others, it is not difficult to see that although
the visit was simply a friendly one, the right men were present to lay
schemes and draw plans for future railways. Immediately afterwards
we find that " Old George " attended a meeting in London at the bank
of Mr. George Carr Glyn, when it was decided that he and his son
Robert should examine the routes for several lines.
In May, 1833, an Act was passed for the making of the London
and Birmingham Company's railway, and in view of this fact and that
the Midland Counties Company was about to make a connecting link
from Rugby to Derby, Mr. Stephenson formed the opinion that a
company should be incorporated to continue the chain of communica-
tion from Derby to Leeds, and that various other lines should be
made, extending from Normanton to York, Newcastle, Berwick, and
Edinburgh, in order that through trains could run from Edinburgh
to London, Euston. " Old George " explained his idea to his friends,
the " Liverpool party," who perfectly agreed with the through route
48 THE HISTORY OF THE MIDLAND RAILWAY
from London to Edinburgh, and that it would be better to proceed by
the construction of various links rather than form one vast company to
cover the whole distance from Derby to Edinburgh.
Mr. George Stephenson and his secretary, Mr. Binns, drove over
from Alton Grange to Derby, and then started to drive to Leeds in
order to find the best route for the North Midland Railway.
Mr. Stephenson held the opinion that important main lines should
not have gradients of more than 16 feet rise per mile, or i in 330.
The route he selected, and which is the present Derby and Leeds
line, left the Derby Station, passing over the canal bridge to Amber
Gate, Clay Cross, Chesterfield, Stavely, Eckington, Masborough,
Normanton, and to the passenger and goods station to be constructed
at Hunslet Lane, Leeds.
In order to obtain the very good gradients which he considered
of vital importance, Mr. Stephenson was obliged to avoid running
through Sheffield, Barnsley, and Wakefield, but he pointed out that
branches could easily be constructed from those towns to join the
main line. The inhabitants of Sheffield were in favour of the railway
running from Chesterfield, via Dronfield, to Sheffield and thence
forward to Masborough. The Sheffield route and the Stavely route
formed the subject of a bitter contest. Ultimately the people of
Sheffield had the Dronfield route again examined, and came to the
conclusion that the gradients would be too severe. They therefore
accepted the suggestion of Mr. Stephenson that they should themselves
promote a Sheffield, Masborough, and Rotherham Railway Company.
Mr. George Hudson, of York, also attended upon Stephenson and
pointed out the great importance of the North Midland going to
that city, and the inhabitants of Wakefield also strongly pressed their
claims upon him. However, "Old George" was not to be moved.
He was determined that "his line should not be more severe than
1 6 feet rise per mile," but he suggested that independent companies
should be formed to connect York with the North Midland at
Normanton, and also that a line should be made from Normanton,
through Wakefield, to Manchester. The York and North Midland
and the Manchester and Leeds Companies were the result of these
views. Some of the leading men in Bradford wished the railway to
run to their town, but they were informed that a line to Bradford must
form the subject of another undertaking.
The Act for the incorporation of the North Midland Railway Com-
pany, conferring powers to make the line as suggested by Mr. Stephenson
from Derby to Leeds, received the Royal Assent on July 4th, 1836, and
the works were commenced early in the following year.
(Engineer, North Midland Railway).
STEPHENSON AND CLAY CROSS COLLIERIES 51
Near Amber Gate (as it was written at that date) the River Amber,
running in a valley, and the Cromford Canal, constructed upon a high
embankment, had to be passed, the line going over the one by a bridge
and under the other by means of an aqueduct. This aqueduct con-
sisted of an iron trough, which was floated on the canal to the right
position and then sunk, and afterwards the opening for the railway
was cut through the canal embankment, thus avoiding any delay to the
At Amber Gate it was necessary to construct a tunnel of elliptical
shape in order to withstand the pressure due to the movement of the
hill. Then Stephenson's great genius was brought into play, and it
must be remembered that he had constantly to deal with great and
small engineering problems of a complex character, in regard to which
there was no previous experience either of his own or of others to
guide him. It is truly marvellous how Stephenson met and overcame
difficulties so varied in their nature, and although this was a small
one, it was none the less important, for there had been no tunnel
of this kind previously constructed. The tunnel intersected the foot
of a high hill on a slippery base of shale, so that as fast as the
excavation was made the lateral pressure of the hill would cause
a side slip, which would crush in the sides of any ordinary tunnel.
Stephenson met this by making the tunnel of an oval section, having
its least diameter in a vertical direction and its greatest resistance
at the sides. Thus the tunnel was able to resist the great pressure
of the hill by conveying it to the earth on the other side.