London and North Eastern Railway

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File:LNER railway timetable North Eastern area for Autumn 1926.jpg
LNER timetable for Autumn 1926 detailing the resumption of services after the General Strike.

The London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) was the second-largest of the "Big Four" railway companies created by the Railways Act 1921 in Britain. It existed from 1 January 1923 until nationalisation on 1 January 1948, when it was divided into the new British Railways' Eastern Region, North Eastern Region and partially the Scottish Region.

Sir Ralph Wedgwood was the Chief Officer of the LNER for its first 16 years.


The LNER was formed out of a number of constituent railway companies, the principal of which were:

The total route mileage was 6590 miles (10,605 km). The North Eastern Railway owned the largest mileage, 1757 route miles (2828 km), as compared with the North British Railway (1378 miles or 2218 km) and the Hull and Barnsley Railway, at 106.5 miles (171 km).

The LNER also owned:

  • 7700 locomotives, 20,000 coaching vehicles, 29,700 freight vehicles, 140 items of electric rolling stock, 6 electric locomotives and 10 rail motor cars
  • 6 turbine and 36 other steamers, and a number of river boats and lake steamers, etc
  • docks and harbours in 20 locations, including the North East coast ports, some eastern Scottish ports, Harwich and London
  • other wharves, staithes, piers
  • 23 hotels

In partnership with the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS), the LNER was co-owner of the Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway, the UK's biggest joint railway system, much of which competed with the LNER's own lines. The M&GNJR was wholly incorporated into the LNER system in 1936.

Geographic area

The LNER, as its name suggests, covered the arc of the country between north and east of London. It included the East Coast Main Line from London to Edinburgh via York and Newcastle upon Tyne and the routes from Edinburgh to Aberdeen and Inverness. Most of the country east of the Pennines was the LNER's purview, including the large, flat expanse of East Anglia. The LNER's main workshops were in Doncaster.


The LNER used a number of liveries on its trains. Most common were lined apple green on its passenger locomotives (much lighter and brighter than the green used by the Great Western Railway) and unlined black on freight locomotives, both with gold lettering. Passenger carriages were generally varnished teak (wood) finish; the few metal-panelled coaches were painted to represent teak.

Some special trains and A4 Pacific locomotives were painted differently, including silver and garter blue.


The LNER covered quite an extensive area of Britain, running trains from London to the north east of England and Scotland. The enforced re-grouping of the railway companies in 1923 meant that former rivals within the LNER, spread across England and Scotland, had to work together. The task of creating an instantly recognisable public image for the LNER went to William M. Teasdale, their first advertising manager. Teasdale was influenced by the philosophies and policies of Frank Pick, who controlled the style and content of the London Underground's widely-acclaimed poster advertising. Teasdale did not confine his artists within strict guidelines but allowed them a free hand. When Teasdale was promoted to Assistant General Manager of the LNER, this philosophy was carried on by Cecil Dandridge who succeeded him and was the LNER's Advertising Manager until nationalisation in 1948. Dandridge was largely resonsible for the adoption of the Gill Sans typeface; it was later adopted by British Railways.

The LNER was a very industrial company: hauling more than one-third of Britain's coal, it derived two thirds of its income from freight. Despite this, the main image that the LNER presented of itself was one of glamour, of fast trains and sophisticated destinations. The LNER's advertising campaign was highly sophisticated and advanced compared to those of its rivals. Teasdale and Dandridge commissioned top graphic designers and poster artists such as Tom Purvis to promote its services and encourage the public to visit the holiday destinations of the east coast during the summer.

Chief mechanical engineers

The public face of a railway system is in large part the locomotives and rolling stock in service upon it, and therefore the personalities of the Chief Mechanical Engineers of the LNER impressed their distinctive visions upon the railway. There were three CMEs of the LNER.

Sir Nigel Gresley

Sir Nigel Gresley was the first CME and held the post for most of the LNER's existence, and thus he had the greatest effect on the company. He came to the LNER via the Great Northern Railway, where he was CME. He was noted for his "Big Engine" policy, and is best remembered for his large express passenger locomotives, many times the holder of the world speed record for steam locomotives. LNER Class A4 4-6-2 Pacific locomotive Mallard holds the record to this day. Gresley died in office in 1941.

Edward Thompson

Edward Thompson's short reign (1941-1946) was a controversial one. A noted detractor of Gresley even before his elevation to the post of CME, there are those who interpret many of his actions as being motivated by dislike of his predecessor. Against this it must be said that Gresley's designs had their flaws as well as their brilliance. His record is best served by his solid and dependable freight and mixed-traffic locomotives built under and for wartime conditions. He retired in 1946.

Arthur H. Peppercorn

Peppercorn's career was cut short by nationalisation and was CME for only 18 months. In this short period and in an atmosphere of reconstruction rather than great new endeavors, his only notable designs were his A1 and A2 Pacific express passenger locomotives, most of which were completed after nationalisation. Peppercorn was a student and admirer of Gresley and his locomotives combined the classic lines of Gresley's with the reliability and solidity Gresley's locomotives never quite achieved.

After the Second world war

The company was nationalised in part so that the severe war damage in the big inner-city stations could be repaired more swiftly. On the privatisation of BR in 1996 the franchise to run long distance express trains on the East Coast Main Line was initially won by Sea Containers Ltd, who named the new company Great North Eastern Railway (GNER). The name and initials of the company were deliberately chosen to echo LNER.


See also

External links

The "Big Four" pre-nationalisation British railway companies
v  d  e

Great Western London Midland & Scottish London & North Eastern Southern

GWR constituents: Great Western RailwayCambrian RailwaysTaff Vale Railway
Barry RailwayRhymney Railway(Full list)
LNER constituents: Great CentralGreat EasternGreat NorthernGreat North of Scotland
Hull & BarnsleyNorth BritishNorth Eastern(Full list)
LMS constituents: CaledonianFurnessGlasgow & South WesternHighland
Lancashire & YorkshireLondon and North WesternMidlandNorth Staffordshire(Full list)
SR constituents: London and South Western RailwayLondon, Brighton and South Coast Railway
South Eastern RailwayLondon, Chatham and Dover Railway(Full list)

See also: History of rail transport in Great Britain 1923 - 1947List of companies involved in the grouping

Locomotives of the London and North Eastern Railway
Pre-grouping railway designs
Great Central Railway: A5 - B18 - D11 - J11 - O4
Great Eastern Railway: J65 - J16 - J17 - Y5 - J17 - N7 - ?? - J69 - B12 - J66 - D13 - E4 - J15 - J70
Great North of Scotland Railway: D40
Great Northern Railway: C1 - C2 - J6 - J52 - K3 - N2
North British Railway: D34 - J36 - Y9
North Eastern Railway: B16 - E5 - D17 - J21 - J27 - J72 - Q6 - Q7 - X1 - Y7
LNER designs
Gresley: A1 - A3 - A4 - A8 - B17 -D49 - J38 - J39 - J50 - K4 - P1 - P2 - U1 - V1 - V2 - V3 - V4 - W1 Thompson: A2 - B1 - B2 - K1 - K5 - L1 - O1 - Q1 Peppercorn: A1 - A2 - A6- A7 A9 - K1 - Raven: A2 - H1