Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway

Midland and Great Northern
Joint Railway
TypeRegional rail
LocaleEast of England
Track length180 miles (290 km)
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)

The Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway (M&GNJR) was a railway network in England, in the area connecting southern Lincolnshire and north Norfolk. It developed from several local independent concerns and was incorporated in 1893. It was jointly owned by the Midland Railway and the Great Northern Railway, and those companies had long sponsored and operated the predecessor companies.

The area directly served was agricultural and sparsely populated, but seaside holidays had developed and the M&GNJR ran many long distance express trains to and from the territory of the parent companies, as well as summer local trains for holidaymakers. It had the longest mileage of any joint railway in the United Kingdom.[1][page needed]

After 1945 the profitability of the network declined steeply, worsened by the seasonality of the business. It was duplicated by other lines and the decision was taken to close it. Most of the network closed in 1959, although some limited sections continued in use. Only a short section near Sheringham is in commercial use today, but the North Norfolk Railway is active as a heritage line.[2][page needed][3][page needed][4][page needed]

First railways

The area eventually served by the Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway, taken as south Lincolnshire and north Norfolk, was late to be supplied with railway connections. The Great Northern Railway, running north through Huntingdon, Peterborough and on to Grantham, so forming the western edge of the area, was not authorised until 1846 and not opened until 1848 between Peterborough and Lincoln. The Eastern Counties Railway, authorised in 1836, aspired to reach Norwich and Yarmouth, but ran out of money and stopped short.

In frustration local people obtained Parliamentary authority for the Yarmouth and Norwich Railway in 1842. Running via Reedham it opened to the public on 1 May 1844. In 1845 the Railway Mania was under way, and a myriad of railway schemes was put before Parliament. Many of these foundered there, or were authorised but failed to generate investors' commitment.

By 1850 the Eastern Counties Railway had recovered from its financial difficulties of 1836 and had connected practically every town of importance in East Anglia into its system. For some years the Eastern Counties Railway had successfully resisted the promotion of independent railways in its area but this could not continue indefinitely, and some local lines began to obtain authorisation.

The East Anglian Railways company was an amalgamation of three earlier companies, the Lynn and Dereham Railway, the Lynn and Ely Railway and the Ely and Huntingdon Railway. The company became bankrupt early in 1851 and the Great Northern Railway, operating the East Coast Main Line at Peterborough, leased the line. Using running powers between its line at Peterborough and March over the Eastern Counties Railway, it intended to connect to Lynn via the Wisbech line of the East Anglian Railway. However the powers acquired from Parliament did not include a short section between the two companies' stations at Wisbech, and the scheme foundered. The GNR sold the line on to the Eastern Counties Railway in 1852.[4][page needed][5][page needed][6][page needed]

The financial performance of the Eastern Counties Railway declined over the years and in 1862 it was absorbed into the new Great Eastern Railway Company.

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