The West Coast Main Line from London's Euston Station to Glasgow is one of the UK's most important railways lines. For many years known as the London, Midland and Scottish (or LMS) Railway, the line was built in an ad hoc and piecemeal fashion, just like many other railways being build in Britain in the 1830s and 1840s. This book is the sixth volume to cover the various constituent parts of what became the London, Midland and Scottish Railway, and later still the West Coast Main Line.
The Grand Junction Railway was conceived to fill what would otherwise have been a gap between the West Midlands and North West England, and cover the 78 miles from Birmingham to Warrington via Stafford and Crewe. It opened on 4 July 1837 with little fanfare during a period of mourning for King William IV. The North Union Railway was formed in 1834 by an Act of Parliament which authorised Britain's first-ever railway amalgamation (the first of very many). The two companies that merged were Wigan Branch Railway and the Preston and Wigan Railway. The North Union Railway was short-lived as an independent company. In 1846, it became part of the Grand Junction Railway. This book also looks at the Trent Valley Railway which opened in 1847 to give a more direct route from London to the North West of England, bypassing the existing route via Birmingham built by the London and Birmingham Railway in the 1830s.
This is, without doubt, a book by and for railway enthusiasts, and when viewed from that point of view it is extremely informative. It starts with a few pages of introduction, setting the lines in context. The bulk of the book comprises photographs - a mixture of period black and white and more recent colour - of trains and stations, plus the occasional excursion to cover a map and a couple of collections of the old-style railway tickets a decreasing number of us can actually remember using. They are divided into chapters looking at each of the lines in turn, and within a chapter tend to make a geographical progression along the line. Even to a non-expert like this reviewer, the photographs seem very well chosen to illustrate their subjects. Their value is greatly enhanced by the extensive and highly informative captions that accompany them. In any collection of photographs like this, there will be a few that really stand out. We were struck by the huge cloud of black smoke surrounding a diesel locomotive on page 44, before reading it was at the back of a train being pulled by a steam engine whose presence is lost in the smoke. And we wondered what the people whose house is shown on page 40 made of finding a derailed diesel locomotive apparently leading against their gable end.