Great Eastern Railway
|Dates of operation||1862–1922|
The Great Eastern Railway (GER) was a
Formed in 1862 after the amalgamation of the Eastern Counties Railway and several other smaller railway companies the GER served
The majority of the Great Eastern's
Between 1851 and 1854 the
Waddington departed under a cloud in 1856 and was replaced by Horatio Love. By 1860 many shareholders were unhappy listing several grievances they saw as getting in the way of their dividend payments. These included continual conflict over working of other lines, suspicion and distrust of the joint committee, inadequate services to and from London, on-going litigation and law costs and a lack of progress on amalgamation.
By February 1862 the bill had its second reading and was then followed by a lengthy committee process where various parties petitioned against the bill. On 7 August 1862 the bill passed and the Great Eastern Railway was formed by the amalgamation of the
Unsurprisingly the first GER board had a strong Eastern Counties flavour with Horatio Love in the chair and James Goodson the deputy chair. The board consisted of six former ECR directors with two
Operational costs were high on the new railway and new sources of revenue needed quickly. Work at improving suburban services was put in hand and trains from London to Norwich speeded up to give businessmen and merchants more time to conduct their business. A new suburban line to Enfield Town via Seven Sisters was proposed as well as a new London terminus to replace an inadequate Bishopsgate. By August 1863 receipts were increasing and many of the pre-amalgamation disputes were being settled.
The GER and
A change of leadership also occurred with Horatio Love being replaced by James Goodson as Chairman with Captain
Following an accident at North Wootton in early August 1863, where the deaths of five passengers was partially attributed to the poor state of the rolling stock, a large rolling stock order was placed.
By December 1863 the financial picture was looking better and in early 1864 the GER started looking a new railway to move coal from South Yorkshire to London via Spalding and the GN link from Spalding to March. The Great Eastern was clearly in an expansionist phase with further locomotives (forming the basis of standardisation over its disparate inherited fleet), carriages and wagons under construction. More ships were being ordered for Antwerp and Rotterdam traffic and proposals for 28 miles of new metropolitan lines and a new city terminus.
In March 1864, a joint committee of the
The board meeting of February 1865 saw passenger receipts outstripping goods receipts. Fish traffic from Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth was growing and money was being spent on stations, replacing wooden bridges and upgrading the track. However, a number of shareholders voiced concern. The following month the House of Commons rejected the joint GER/L&YR bill forcing the GER to re-start negotiations with the Great Northern Railway. The chairman of the parliamentary committee suggested to the board that the next bill should include a direct Spalding to Lincoln link.
Board unity was about to be shattered when a short paragraph in The Times reported serious differences of opinions existed between the directors. In August 1865 deputy chairman Jervis-White-Jervis issued an appeal raising concerns about the management of the railway. This prompted an internal investigation and in a board meeting at the end of the month, an absent Jervis-White-Jervis was replaced by William Shaw as deputy chairman. The internal investigation concluded that many of Jervis-White-Jervis's concerns were relevant including borrowing more money than authorised and the poor deal the GER got on leasing the London and Blackwell Railway. In a meeting in January the following year many of the directors were duly replaced (by members of the investigating committee) and at the following board meeting in February, Charles Turner was elected as the new chairman.
The new board, facing a financial crisis, had identified a number of issues including the provision of a new terminus station at Liverpool Street, Bishopsgate (the existing terminus) was to be converted to a goods terminal and a new coal depot to be built in Whitechapel. The financial environment was still proving difficult with losses on the London and Blackwell line and a cattle plague seriously affecting that traffic. By March the board was meeting most days in an effort to keep the railway running.
The crisis continued into 1867 and by March it was apparent that the preference share payments due in April could not be paid. The board also received a letter from the drivers seeking improved working conditions. Additionally
May saw the company trying to raise further funds via a parliamentary bill. However, by June 25th House of Lords had rejected the bill and the board took steps to protect the company’s property from its creditors. Matters were hardly helped when deputy chairman
Regrouping after this, the board pursued Edwin Watkin, an MP with many other railway interests, as chairman. He did advise that the board that it needed to reconstitute itself in order to rebuild confidence in order to acquire new capital. Some existing members of the board were not pleased with this and it was not until 3 January 1868 that a reduced board of eleven members met with six new members including Watkin and Viscount Cranbourne MP who was elected as the new chairman.
The new directors were all allocated specific roles and a number of changes were made to reduce costs and improve profitability. Cranbourne also approached the London & North Western Railway to report on the state of the permanent way and rolling stock. By August 1868 the tide was turning with increased receipts and some debts being paid off. The GER had done a deal with the Midland Railway to route their coal traffic via their lines and a new coal depot at Whitechapel opened in December further improving profitability.
By August 1869 the financial position had improved enough to restore a divided and this was whilst the Walthamstow line (now the
The original London terminus was opened at
The Great Eastern attempted to obtain a
A new London terminus at
In 1902 the
Despite several half-hearted attempts by the GER during the latter part of the nineteenth century, it was the Midland Railway (MR) that finally bought the
In 1914 The GER became the first UK railway company to employ an overseas General Manager called
Had there been an invasion then the railways had evacuation plans for the civilian populations. The GER did require some upgrading to deal with the increased levels of traffic – lines were doubled, additional passing loops provided, platforms extended and watering facilities improved (for both the iron and more conventional horses). A number of link lines were provided including the link between the Tottenham and Hampstead at Gospel Oak to the Midland Railway and between the T&H and Great Northern Railway at Crouch Hill, Both links remain part of the national network in 2013.
When the war started several jobs fell to the railway – reserve troops and naval personnel had to be returned to their units and this saw an upsurge in usage of normal services. Various units were moved to the coast for defensive purposes and at the same time the government had started buying horses throughout the area leading to additional trains. There were also then the units that were being moved to the front line. The
In August 1914 the Germans disguised a passenger steamer (the
The GER employed significant numbers of women during this period as many men had joined the army.
By 1916 unnecessary travel was being discouraged to conserve coal supplies.
The company set up a section dedicated to the movement of military traffic and between 1914 and 1918 nearly 10.5 million men were moved on GER services as well as significant numbers of horses and supplies. Specific military traffic was generated at Brimsdown, Ponders End and Stowmarket. Because of attacks on east coast shipping traffic moved by sea was also carried on the GER (and more specifically the Great Eastern and Great Northern Joint Railway).
In 1922, a large marble memorial was installed at Liverpool Street station commemorating GER staff who had answered the call of duty to fight but died in action in the First World War. The memorial was unveiled by
The Great Eastern name has survived, being used both for the