19th August 1921. Railway Groupings.
The largest company which emerged from the 1921 Railway Act amalgamations was the London Midland and Scottish Railway Company (LMS) with a staff of 233,000.
The Great Western was the only one to keep its name and management structure along with its 3,000 miles of track and 1100 stations. In 1923 it began the construction of the famous Castle Class locomotives.
The other two railways created under the Act were the Southern, the first to electrify, and The London and North Eastern (LNER).
It was Today in 1921 that The Railway Act received The Royal Assent and in January 1923 four Groupings replaced 180 companies. As the Act said: ‘With a view to the reorganisation and more efficient and economical working of the Railway System of Great Britain’.(1)
The new Groups was a move preferred to Nationalisation, which saw the demise, among others, of The Great Northern (GN), London and North West (LNWR) and the Great Eastern (GE).
The driving force behind change was Prime Minister, David Lloyd George with an attempt to stem the losses of the numerous companies, move away from internal competition and reminiscent of government control in the recent war.
It was on 9th March 1920 that a Cabinet Paper, ‘Future Transport Policy’ was presented by former executive of The North Eastern Railway now Minister of Transport, Eric Geddes who originally proposed five English Groupings.(2)
British railway companies had long been hamstrung in facing growing road competition, particularly freight, by legislation designed to prevent exploitation of their 19th century transport monopoly.
So railways were still compelled by law, to publish fixed tariffs and until 1957, as a ‘common carrier’, was required to transport anything anywhere in the country.
Road hauliers could undercut their charges for profitable traffic and leave the rest for the railways to lose money on; a complacent management did little to help.
The great age for the 1923 Groupings was the 1930.s when under commercial pressure, publicity departments fought hard with eye-catching posters and with a new breed of streamlined, powerful locomotives constantly breaking speed records.
Then war; more government control and afterwards The Big-Four were in another parlous state and were Nationalised in 1948 as British Railways.
(1) Coming into effect on 1.1.1923.
(2) Reduced to four to include Scotland.
Lines outside the Act were Joint Lines and the London Suburban and Underground and Metropolitan Railway. These were to integrated by the 1933 Passenger Transport Act which also included buses and trams under The London Passenger Transport Board.
Also exempt were the Light Railways under the 1896 Act, though some agreed to join the 1923 Grouping whilst others under the influence of Col. Stephens remained separate.
See my Post on Light Railways.
wikipedia.org/railway_act_1921/Pic of Monogram.
wikipedia.org/london_midland_scottish/Pics of Crest and Route.
wikipedia.org/southern_railway/Pic of Southern Railway.
wikipedia.org/sites for LNER and GW/Pics.