Great Western Railway

Great Western Railway

Overview
The Great Western Railway (GWR) was a British railway company
History of rail transport in Great Britain
The railway system of Great Britain, the principal territory of the United Kingdom, is the oldest in the world. The system was originally built as a patchwork of local rail links operated by small private railway companies. These isolated links developed during the railway boom of the 1840s into a...

 that linked London with the south-west and west of England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 and most of Wales
Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

. It was founded in 1833, received its enabling Act of Parliament
Act of Parliament
An Act of Parliament is a statute enacted as primary legislation by a national or sub-national parliament. In the Republic of Ireland the term Act of the Oireachtas is used, and in the United States the term Act of Congress is used.In Commonwealth countries, the term is used both in a narrow...

 in 1835 and ran its first trains in 1838. It was engineered by Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Isambard Kingdom Brunel, FRS , was a British civil engineer who built bridges and dockyards including the construction of the first major British railway, the Great Western Railway; a series of steamships, including the first propeller-driven transatlantic steamship; and numerous important bridges...

, who chose a broad gauge
Broad gauge
Broad-gauge railways use a track gauge greater than the standard gauge of .- List :For list see: List of broad gauges, by gauge and country- History :...

 of but, from 1854, a series of amalgamations
Consolidation (business)
Consolidation or amalgamation is the act of merging many things into one. In business, it often refers to the mergers and acquisitions of many smaller companies into much larger ones. In the context of financial accounting, consolidation refers to the aggregation of financial statements of a group...

 saw it also operate standard-gauge trains; the last broad-gauge services were operated in 1892. The GWR was the only company to keep its identity through the Railways Act 1921
Railways Act 1921
The Railways Act 1921, also known as the Grouping Act, was an enactment by the British government of David Lloyd George intended to stem the losses being made by many of the country's 120 railway companies, move the railways away from internal competition, and to retain some of the benefits which...

, which amalgamated it with the remaining independent railways within its territory, and it was finally wound up at the end of 1947 when it was nationalised
Nationalization
Nationalisation, also spelled nationalization, is the process of taking an industry or assets into government ownership by a national government or state. Nationalization usually refers to private assets, but may also mean assets owned by lower levels of government, such as municipalities, being...

 and became the Western Region of British Railways
Western Region of British Railways
The Western Region was a region of British Railways from 1948. The region ceased to be an operating unit in its own right in the 1980s and was wound up at the end of 1992...

.

The GWR was called by some "God's Wonderful Railway" and by others the "Great Way Round" but it was famed as the "Holiday Line", taking many people to resorts in South-West England.
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Encyclopedia
The Great Western Railway (GWR) was a British railway company
History of rail transport in Great Britain
The railway system of Great Britain, the principal territory of the United Kingdom, is the oldest in the world. The system was originally built as a patchwork of local rail links operated by small private railway companies. These isolated links developed during the railway boom of the 1840s into a...

 that linked London with the south-west and west of England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 and most of Wales
Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

. It was founded in 1833, received its enabling Act of Parliament
Act of Parliament
An Act of Parliament is a statute enacted as primary legislation by a national or sub-national parliament. In the Republic of Ireland the term Act of the Oireachtas is used, and in the United States the term Act of Congress is used.In Commonwealth countries, the term is used both in a narrow...

 in 1835 and ran its first trains in 1838. It was engineered by Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Isambard Kingdom Brunel, FRS , was a British civil engineer who built bridges and dockyards including the construction of the first major British railway, the Great Western Railway; a series of steamships, including the first propeller-driven transatlantic steamship; and numerous important bridges...

, who chose a broad gauge
Broad gauge
Broad-gauge railways use a track gauge greater than the standard gauge of .- List :For list see: List of broad gauges, by gauge and country- History :...

 of but, from 1854, a series of amalgamations
Consolidation (business)
Consolidation or amalgamation is the act of merging many things into one. In business, it often refers to the mergers and acquisitions of many smaller companies into much larger ones. In the context of financial accounting, consolidation refers to the aggregation of financial statements of a group...

 saw it also operate standard-gauge trains; the last broad-gauge services were operated in 1892. The GWR was the only company to keep its identity through the Railways Act 1921
Railways Act 1921
The Railways Act 1921, also known as the Grouping Act, was an enactment by the British government of David Lloyd George intended to stem the losses being made by many of the country's 120 railway companies, move the railways away from internal competition, and to retain some of the benefits which...

, which amalgamated it with the remaining independent railways within its territory, and it was finally wound up at the end of 1947 when it was nationalised
Nationalization
Nationalisation, also spelled nationalization, is the process of taking an industry or assets into government ownership by a national government or state. Nationalization usually refers to private assets, but may also mean assets owned by lower levels of government, such as municipalities, being...

 and became the Western Region of British Railways
Western Region of British Railways
The Western Region was a region of British Railways from 1948. The region ceased to be an operating unit in its own right in the 1980s and was wound up at the end of 1992...

.

The GWR was called by some "God's Wonderful Railway" and by others the "Great Way Round" but it was famed as the "Holiday Line", taking many people to resorts in South-West England. The company's locomotives, many of which were built in the company's workshops at Swindon
Swindon Works
Swindon railway works were built by the Great Western Railway in 1841 in Swindon in the English county of Wiltshire.-History:In 1835 Parliament approved the construction of a railway between London and Bristol. Its Chief Engineer was Isambard Kingdom Brunel.From 1836, Brunel had been buying...

, were painted a Middle Chrome green colour while, for most of its existence, it used a two-tone "chocolate and cream" livery for its passenger coaches. Goods wagons were painted red but this was later changed to mid-grey.

Great Western trains included long-distance express services such as the Flying Dutchman
Flying Dutchman (train)
The Flying Dutchman was a named passenger train service from London Paddington to Exeter. It ran from 1849 until 1892, originally over the Great Western Railway and then the Bristol and Exeter Railway. As the GWR expanded, the destination of the train changed to Plymouth and briefly to .-Early...

, the Cornish Riviera Express
Cornish Riviera Express
The Cornish Riviera Express is a British express passenger train that has run between London and Penzance in Cornwall since 1904. Introduced by the Great Western Railway, the name Cornish Riviera Express has been applied to the late morning express train from London Paddington station to Penzance...

and the Cheltenham Spa Express
Cheltenham Spa Express
The Cheltenham Spa Express is a British named passenger train service from Paddington station, in London, to Cheltenham Spa, in Gloucestershire, via Reading, Kemble, Stroud, Stonehouse and Gloucester...

.
It also operated many suburban and rural services, some operated by steam railmotors or autotrains. The company pioneered the use of larger, more economic goods wagons than were usual in Britain. It operated a network of road motor (bus) routes
GWR road motor services
The Great Western Railway road motor services operated from 1903 to 1933, both as a feeder to their train services, and as a cheaper alternative to building new railways in rural areas...

, was a part of the Railway Air Services
Railway Air Services
Railway Air Services was a British airline formed in March 1934 by four railway companies and Imperial Airways. The airline was a domestic airline operating routes within the United Kingdom linking up with Imperial's services....

, and owned ships, docks and hotels.

Early history



The Great Western Railway originated from the desire of Bristol
Bristol
Bristol is a city, unitary authority area and ceremonial county in South West England, with an estimated population of 433,100 for the unitary authority in 2009, and a surrounding Larger Urban Zone with an estimated 1,070,000 residents in 2007...

 merchants to maintain their city as the second port of the country and the chief one for American trade. The increase in the size of ships and the gradual silting of the River Avon
River Avon, Bristol
The River Avon is an English river in the south west of the country. To distinguish it from a number of other River Avons in Britain, this river is often also known as the Lower Avon or Bristol Avon...

 had made Liverpool
Liverpool
Liverpool is a city and metropolitan borough of Merseyside, England, along the eastern side of the Mersey Estuary. It was founded as a borough in 1207 and was granted city status in 1880...

 an increasingly attractive port and, with a rail connection to London under construction in the 1830s, it threatened Bristol's status. The answer for Bristol was, with the co-operation of London interests, to build a line of their own; a railway built to unprecedented standards of excellence to out-perform the lines being constructed to the north-west.

The company was founded at a public meeting in Bristol in 1833 and was incorporated by Act of Parliament in 1835. Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Isambard Kingdom Brunel, FRS , was a British civil engineer who built bridges and dockyards including the construction of the first major British railway, the Great Western Railway; a series of steamships, including the first propeller-driven transatlantic steamship; and numerous important bridges...

, then aged twenty-nine, was appointed engineer
Engineer
An engineer is a professional practitioner of engineering, concerned with applying scientific knowledge, mathematics and ingenuity to develop solutions for technical problems. Engineers design materials, structures, machines and systems while considering the limitations imposed by practicality,...

. This was by far his largest contract to date and he made two controversial decisions. Firstly, he chose to use a broad gauge of about 7 feet (2.13 m) to allow for the possibility of large wheels outside the bodies of the rolling stock which could give smoother running at high speeds; secondly he selected a route, north of the Marlborough Downs, which had no significant towns but which offered potential connections to Oxford
Oxford
The city of Oxford is the county town of Oxfordshire, England. The city, made prominent by its medieval university, has a population of just under 165,000, with 153,900 living within the district boundary. It lies about 50 miles north-west of London. The rivers Cherwell and Thames run through...

 and Gloucester
Gloucester
Gloucester is a city, district and county town of Gloucestershire in the South West region of England. Gloucester lies close to the Welsh border, and on the River Severn, approximately north-east of Bristol, and south-southwest of Birmingham....

. He surveyed the entire length of the route between London and Bristol himself.

George Thomas Clark
G. T. Clark
Colonel George Thomas Clark was a British engineer and antiquary, particularly associated with the management of the Dowlais Iron Company.-Early life:...

 played an important role as an engineer on the project, reputedly taking the management of two divisions of the route including bridges over the River Thames
River Thames
The River Thames flows through southern England. It is the longest river entirely in England and the second longest in the United Kingdom. While it is best known because its lower reaches flow through central London, the river flows alongside several other towns and cities, including Oxford,...

 at Upper Basildon
Gatehampton Railway Bridge
Gatehampton Railway Bridge is a railway bridge carrying the Great Western Main Line over the River Thames in Lower Basildon, Berkshire, England...

 and Moulsford
Moulsford Railway Bridge
Moulsford Railway Bridge, known locally as "Four Arches" bridge is actually a pair of parallel bridges located a little to the north of Moulsford and South Stoke in Oxfordshire, UK. It carries the Great Western Main Line from Paddington, London to Wales and the West across the River Thames...

 and of Paddington Station
Paddington station
Paddington railway station, also known as London Paddington, is a central London railway terminus and London Underground complex.The site is a historic one, having served as the London terminus of the Great Western Railway and its successors since 1838. Much of the current mainline station dates...

. Involvement in major earth-moving works seems to have fed Clark's interest in geology
Geology
Geology is the science comprising the study of solid Earth, the rocks of which it is composed, and the processes by which it evolves. Geology gives insight into the history of the Earth, as it provides the primary evidence for plate tectonics, the evolutionary history of life, and past climates...

 and archaeology
Archaeology
Archaeology, or archeology , is the study of human society, primarily through the recovery and analysis of the material culture and environmental data that they have left behind, which includes artifacts, architecture, biofacts and cultural landscapes...

 and he, anonymously, authored two guidebooks on the railway: one illustrated with lithographs by John Cooke Bourne
John Cooke Bourne
John Cooke Bourne was an artist and engraver. He is best known for his lithographs showing the construction of the London and Birmingham Railway and the Great Western Railway. Each set of prints was published as separate books, and became classic representations of the construction of the early...

; the other, a critique of Brunel's methods and the broad gauge.


The first 22.5 miles (36 km) of line, from Paddington station in London to Maidenhead Bridge station
Taplow railway station
Taplow railway station is a railway station in Taplow, Buckinghamshire, England. The station is served by local services operated by First Great Western from , miles to the east, to stations, using class 165, and class 166 DMU trains...

, opened on 4 June 1838. When Maidenhead Railway Bridge
Maidenhead Railway Bridge
Maidenhead Railway Bridge is a railway bridge carrying the main line of the Great Western Railway over the River Thames between Maidenhead, Berkshire and Taplow, Buckinghamshire, England...

 was ready the line was extended to on 1 July 1839 and then through the deep Sonning Cutting
Sonning Cutting
Sonning Cutting is on the original Great Western Railway built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. It is to the east of Reading station and to the west of Twyford station near the village of Sonning in Berkshire, England. It had been intended to route the railway around the north of Sonning Hill past the...

 to on 30 March 1840. The cutting was the scene of a railway disaster two years later when a goods train ran into a landslip; ten passengers who were travelling in open trucks were killed. This accident
Railway accident at Sonning Cutting
The Sonning Cutting railway accident occurred during the early hours of 24 December 1841 in the Sonning Cutting through Sonning Hill, near Reading, Berkshire. A Great Western Railway luggage train travelling from London Paddington to Bristol Temple Meads station entered Sonning Cutting...

 prompted Parliament
Parliament
A parliament is a legislature, especially in those countries whose system of government is based on the Westminster system modeled after that of the United Kingdom. The name is derived from the French , the action of parler : a parlement is a discussion. The term came to mean a meeting at which...

 to pass the 1844 Railway Regulation Act requiring railway companies to provide better carriages for passengers. The next section, from Reading to crossed the Thames twice and opened for traffic on 1 June 1840. A 7.25 miles (12 km) extension took the line to Faringdon Road
Challow railway station
Challow railway station is a former railway station south of the village of Stanford in the Vale on the A417 road between Wantage and Faringdon...

 on 20 July 1840. Meanwhile work had started at the Bristol end of the line, where the 11.5 miles (19 km) section to Bath
Bath Spa railway station
Bath Spa railway station is the principal railway station in the city of Bath, in South West England.-Architecture:Bath Spa station was built in 1840 for the Great Western Railway by Brunel and is a grade II* listed building...

 opened on 31 August 1840.

On 17 December 1840, the line from London reached a temporary terminus at west of Swindon and 80.25 miles (129 km) from Paddington. The section from Wootton Bassett Road to was opened on 31 May 1841, as was Swindon Junction station
Swindon railway station
Swindon railway station is in the town of Swindon, Wiltshire, England. The station entrance is on Station Road, to the south of the line.It is approximately from the central bus station and the town centre...

 where the Cheltenham and Great Western Union Railway
Cheltenham and Great Western Union Railway
The Cheltenham and Great Western Union Railway was a broad gauge railway that linked the Great Western Railway at Swindon, Wiltshire, with Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England...

 (C&GWUR) to Cirencester
Cirencester Town railway station
Cirencester Town railway station was one of three railway stations which formerly served the town of Cirencester, Gloucestershire, England; the others were and .-History:...

 connected. That was an independent line worked by the GWR, as was the Bristol and Exeter Railway
Bristol and Exeter Railway
The Bristol & Exeter Railway was a railway company formed to connect Bristol and Exeter.The company's head office was situated outside their Bristol station...

 (B&ER), the first section of which from Bristol to was opened on 14 June 1841. The GWR main line remained incomplete during the construction of the 1.83 miles (2.95 km) Box Tunnel
Box Tunnel
Box Tunnel is a railway tunnel in Western England, between Bath and Chippenham, dug through Box Hill, and is one of the most significant structures on the Great Western Main Line...

, which was ready for trains on 30 June 1841, after which trains ran the 152 miles (244.6 km) from Paddington through to Bridgwater. In 1851, the GWR purchased the Kennet and Avon Canal
Kennet and Avon Canal
The Kennet and Avon Canal is a waterway in southern England with an overall length of , made up of two lengths of navigable river linked by a canal. The name is commonly used to refer to the entire length of the navigation rather than solely to the central canal section...

, which was a competing carrier between London, Reading, Bath and Bristol.

The GWR was closely involved with the C&GWUR and the B&ER and with several other broad-gauge railways. The South Devon Railway
South Devon Railway Company
The South Devon Railway Company built and operated the railway from Exeter to Plymouth and Torquay in Devon, England. It was a broad gauge railway built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel-Chronology:* 1844 South Devon Railway Act passed by parliament...

 was completed in 1849, extending the broad gauge to Plymouth
Plymouth Millbay railway station
Plymouth Millbay railway station was the original railway terminus in Plymouth, Devon, England. It was used for passenger trains from 1849 to 1941.- History :...

, whence the Cornwall Railway
Cornwall Railway
The Cornwall Railway was a broad gauge railway from Plymouth in Devon to Falmouth in Cornwall, United Kingdom. The section from Plymouth to Truro opened in 1859, the extension to Falmouth in 1863...

 took it over the Royal Albert Bridge
Royal Albert Bridge
The Royal Albert Bridge is a railway bridge that spans the River Tamar in the United Kingdom between Plymouth, on the Devon bank, and Saltash on the Cornish bank. Its unique design consists of two lenticular iron trusses above the water, with conventional plate-girder approach spans. This gives...

 and into Cornwall
Cornwall
Cornwall is a unitary authority and ceremonial county of England, within the United Kingdom. It is bordered to the north and west by the Celtic Sea, to the south by the English Channel, and to the east by the county of Devon, over the River Tamar. Cornwall has a population of , and covers an area of...

 in 1859 and, in 1867, it reached over the West Cornwall Railway
West Cornwall Railway
The West Cornwall Railway was a railway company in Cornwall, England, United Kingdom, formed in 1846 to operate the existing Hayle Railway between Hayle and Redruth and extend the railway to Penzance and Truro....

 which originally had been laid with the standard gauge
Standard gauge
The standard gauge is a widely-used track gauge . Approximately 60% of the world's existing railway lines are built to this gauge...

 or "narrow gauge" as it was known at the time. The South Wales Railway
South Wales Railway
The South Wales Railway was a broad gauge railway that linked the Gloucester and Dean Forest Railway with Neyland in Wales.-History:The need for the railway was created by the need to ship coal from the South Wales Valleys to London, and secondly to complete Brunel's vision of linking London with...

 had opened between and in 1850 and became connected to the GWR by Brunel's Chepstow Bridge
Chepstow Bridge
Chepstow railway bridge was built to the instructions of Isambard Kingdom Brunel in 1852. The "Great Tubular Bridge" over the River Wye at Chepstow, which at that point forms the boundary between Wales and England, is considered one of Brunel's major achievements, despite its appearance...

 in 1852. It was completed to in 1856, where a transatlantic port was established.

There was initially no direct line from London to Wales as the tidal River Severn
River Severn
The River Severn is the longest river in Great Britain, at about , but the second longest on the British Isles, behind the River Shannon. It rises at an altitude of on Plynlimon, Ceredigion near Llanidloes, Powys, in the Cambrian Mountains of mid Wales...

 was too wide to cross. Trains instead had to follow a lengthy route via Gloucester, where the river was narrow enough to be crossed by a bridge. Work on the Severn Tunnel
Severn Tunnel
The Severn Tunnel is a railway tunnel in the United Kingdom, linking South Gloucestershire in the west of England to Monmouthshire in south Wales under the estuary of the River Severn....

 had begun in 1873, but unexpected underwater springs delayed the work and prevented its opening until 1886.

The "gauge war"


In 1844, the broad-gauge Bristol and Gloucester Railway
Bristol and Gloucester Railway
The Bristol and Gloucester Railway opened in 1844 between Bristol and Gloucester, meeting the Birmingham and Gloucester Railway. It is now part of the main line from the North-East of England through Derby and Birmingham to the South-West.-History:...

 had opened, but Gloucester was already served by the standard-gauge lines of the Birmingham and Gloucester Railway
Birmingham and Gloucester Railway
The Birmingham and Gloucester Railway is a railway route linking Birmingham to Gloucester in England.It is one of the world's oldest main line railways and includes the famous Lickey Incline, a dead-straight stretch of track running up the 1-in-37 gradient of the Lickey Ridge...

. This resulted in a break of gauge
Break-of-gauge
With railways, a break-of-gauge occurs where a line of one gauge meets a line of a different gauge. Trains and rolling stock cannot run through without some form of conversion between gauges, and freight and passengers must otherwise be transloaded...

 that forced all passengers and goods to change trains if travelling between the south-west and the North. This was the beginning of the "gauge war" and led to the appointment by Parliament
Parliament of the United Kingdom
The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the supreme legislative body in the United Kingdom, British Crown dependencies and British overseas territories, located in London...

 of a Gauge Commission, which reported in 1846 in favour of standard gauge. That same year the Bristol and Gloucester was bought by the Midland Railway
Midland Railway
The Midland Railway was a railway company in the United Kingdom from 1844 to 1922, when it became part of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway....

 and it was converted to standard gauge in 1854, which brought mixed-gauge track to Temple Meads station – this had three rails to allow trains to run on either broad or standard gauge.

The GWR extended into the West Midlands
West Midlands (region)
The West Midlands is an official region of England, covering the western half of the area traditionally known as the Midlands. It contains the second most populous British city, Birmingham, and the larger West Midlands conurbation, which includes the city of Wolverhampton and large towns of Dudley,...

 in competition with the Midland and the London and North Western Railway
London and North Western Railway
The London and North Western Railway was a British railway company between 1846 and 1922. It was created by the merger of three companies – the Grand Junction Railway, the London and Birmingham Railway and the Manchester and Birmingham Railway...

. Birmingham
Birmingham Snow Hill station
Birmingham Snow Hill is a railway station and tram stop in the centre of Birmingham, England, on the site of an earlier, much larger station built by the former Great Western Railway . It is the second most important railway station in the city, after Birmingham New Street station...

 was reached through in 1852 and Wolverhampton
Wolverhampton Low Level railway station
Wolverhampton Low Level was a railway station on Sun Street, in Springfield, Wolverhampton, England .It was built by the Great Western Railway, on their route from London to Birkenhead via Birmingham...

 in 1854. This was the furthest north that the broad gauge reached. In the same year the Shrewsbury and Birmingham Railway
Shrewsbury and Birmingham Railway
The Shrewsbury and Birmingham Railway opened on 12 November 1849. It merged with the Great Western Railway on 1 September 1854.The company formed originally as the Shrewsbury & Wolverhampton, Dudley & Birmingham Railway in 1844, it became Shrewsbury & Birmingham Railway in 1847.When the section...

 and the Shrewsbury and Chester Railway both amalgamated
Consolidation (business)
Consolidation or amalgamation is the act of merging many things into one. In business, it often refers to the mergers and acquisitions of many smaller companies into much larger ones. In the context of financial accounting, consolidation refers to the aggregation of financial statements of a group...

 with the GWR, but these lines were standard gauge, and the GWR's own line north of Oxford had been built with mixed gauge. This mixed gauge was extended southwards from Oxford to at the end of 1856 and so allowed through goods traffic from the north of England to the south coast (via the London and South Western Railway
London and South Western Railway
The London and South Western Railway was a railway company in England from 1838 to 1922. Its network extended from London to Plymouth via Salisbury and Exeter, with branches to Ilfracombe and Padstow and via Southampton to Bournemouth and Weymouth. It also had many routes connecting towns in...

 – LSWR) without transshipment
Transshipment
Transshipment or Transhipment is the shipment of goods or containers to an intermediate destination, and then from there to yet another destination....

.
The line to Basingstoke had originally been built by the Berks and Hants Railway as a broad-gauge route in an attempt to keep the standard gauge of the LSWR out of Great Western territory but, in 1857, the GWR and LSWR opened a shared line to on the south coast, the GWR route being via Chippenham and a route initially started by the Wilts, Somerset and Weymouth Railway
Wilts, Somerset and Weymouth Railway
The Wilts, Somerset and Weymouth Railway was a broad gauge railway that linked the Great Western Railway at Chippenham in 'Wilts' with Weymouth in Dorset, England. Branches ran to Devizes, Bradford-on-Avon and Salisbury in Wiltshire, and to Radstock in Somerset. The majority of the line survives...

. Further west, the LSWR took over the broad-gauge Exeter and Crediton Railway
Exeter and Crediton Railway
The Exeter and Crediton Railway was a broad gauge railway that linked Exeter and Crediton, Devon, England.Although built in 1847, it was not opened until 12 May 1851 due to disagreement about the gauge to be used...

 and North Devon Railway
North Devon Railway
The North Devon Railway was a British railway company which operated a line from Cowley Bridge Junction, near Exeter, to Bideford in Devon, later becoming part of the London and South Western Railway's system...

, also the standard-gauge Bodmin and Wadebridge Railway
Bodmin and Wadebridge Railway
The Bodmin and Wadebridge Railway was a railway line opened in 1834 in Cornwall, United Kingdom. It linked the important town of Bodmin with the harbour at Wadebridge and also quarries at places such as Wenford...

. It was several years before these remote lines were connected with the parent LSWR system and any through traffic to them was handled by the GWR and its associated companies.

By now the gauge war was lost and mixed gauge was brought to Paddington
Paddington station
Paddington railway station, also known as London Paddington, is a central London railway terminus and London Underground complex.The site is a historic one, having served as the London terminus of the Great Western Railway and its successors since 1838. Much of the current mainline station dates...

 in 1861, allowing through passenger trains from London to Chester. The broad-gauge South Wales Railway amalgamated with the GWR in 1862, as did the West Midland Railway, which brought with it the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway
Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway
The Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton railway was a company authorised on 4 August 1845 to construct a railway line from the Oxford and Rugby Railway at Wolvercot Junction to Worcester, Stourbridge, Dudley, and Wolverhampton, with a branch to the Grand Junction Railway at Bushbury...

, a line that had been conceived as another broad-gauge route to the Midlands but which had been built as standard gauge after several battles, both political and physical. On 1 April 1869, the broad gauge was taken out of use between Oxford and Wolverhampton and from Reading to Basingstoke. In August, the line from to was converted from broad to standard and the whole of the line from Swindon through Gloucester to South Wales was similarly treated in May 1872. In 1874, the mixed gauge was extended along the main line to Chippenham and the line from there to Weymouth was narrowed. The following year saw mixed gauge laid through the Box Tunnel, with the broad gauge now retained only for through services beyond Bristol and on a few branch lines.

The Bristol and Exeter Railway
Bristol and Exeter Railway
The Bristol & Exeter Railway was a railway company formed to connect Bristol and Exeter.The company's head office was situated outside their Bristol station...

 amalgamated with the GWR on 1 January 1876. It had already made a start on mixing the gauge on its line, a task completed through to Exeter
Exeter St Davids railway station
Exeter St Davids station is the most important of seven National Rail stations in the city of Exeter in southwest England. Today the station is owned by Network Rail and operated by First Great Western.-History:...

 on 1 March 1876 by the GWR. The station here had been shared with the LSWR since 1862. This rival company had continued to push westwards over its Exeter and Crediton line and arrived in Plymouth later in 1876, which spurred the South Devon Railway
South Devon Railway Company
The South Devon Railway Company built and operated the railway from Exeter to Plymouth and Torquay in Devon, England. It was a broad gauge railway built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel-Chronology:* 1844 South Devon Railway Act passed by parliament...

 to also amalgamate with the Great Western. The Cornwall Railway
Cornwall Railway
The Cornwall Railway was a broad gauge railway from Plymouth in Devon to Falmouth in Cornwall, United Kingdom. The section from Plymouth to Truro opened in 1859, the extension to Falmouth in 1863...

 remained a nominally independent line until 1889, although the GWR held a large number of shares in the company. One final new broad-gauge route was opened on 1 June 1877, the St Ives branch
St Ives Bay Line
The St Ives Bay Line is a railway line from to in Cornwall, United Kingdom. It was opened in 1877, the last new broad gauge passenger railway to be constructed in the country...

 in west Cornwall
Cornwall
Cornwall is a unitary authority and ceremonial county of England, within the United Kingdom. It is bordered to the north and west by the Celtic Sea, to the south by the English Channel, and to the east by the county of Devon, over the River Tamar. Cornwall has a population of , and covers an area of...

, although there was also a small extension at Sutton Harbour in Plymouth in 1879.

Once the GWR was in control of the whole line from London to Penzance, it set about converting the remaining broad-gauge tracks. The last broad-gauge service left Paddington station on Friday, 20 May 1892; the following Monday, trains from Penzance were operated by standard-gauge locomotives.

Into the twentieth century



After 1892, with the burden of operating trains on two gauges removed, the company turned its attention to constructing new lines and upgrading old ones to shorten the company's previously circuitous routes. The principal new lines opened were:
  • 1900: Stert and Westbury
    Stert and Westbury Railway
    The Stert and Westbury Railway was opened by the Great Western Railway Company in 1900 in Wiltshire, England. It shortened the distance between London Paddington station and , and since 1906 has also formed part of the Reading to Taunton line for a shorter journey from London to .-History:The Great...

     linking the Berks and Hants line with to create a shorter route to for the Channel Islands
    Channel Islands
    The Channel Islands are an archipelago of British Crown Dependencies in the English Channel, off the French coast of Normandy. They include two separate bailiwicks: the Bailiwick of Guernsey and the Bailiwick of Jersey...

     traffic.
  • 1903: the South Wales and Bristol Direct Railway
    South Wales Main Line
    The South Wales Main Line , originally known as the London, Bristol and South Wales Direct Railway or simply as the Bristol and South Wales Direct Railway, is a branch of the Great Western Main Line in Great Britain...

     from to link up with the Severn Tunnel.
  • 1904: a diversion of the Cornish Main Line
    Cornish Main Line
    The Cornish Main Line is a railway line in the United Kingdom, which forms the backbone for rail services in Cornwall, as well as providing a direct line to London.- History :...

     between and , eliminating the last wooden viaducts on the main line
    Cornwall Railway viaducts
    The large number of Cornwall Railway viaducts were necessitated by the topography of Cornwall, United Kingdom, where hills and areas of high ground are separated by deep river valleys that generally run north or south...

    .
  • 1906: the Langport and Castle Cary Railway to shorten the journey from London to between and .
  • 1909: the Birmingham and North Warwickshire which, combined with the Cheltenham and Honeybourne of 1906, offered a new route from Birmingham via to south Wales.
  • 1910: the Birmingham Direct Line built jointly with the Great Central Railway
    Great Central Railway
    The Great Central Railway was a railway company in England which came into being when the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway changed its name in 1897 in anticipation of the opening in 1899 of its London Extension . On 1 January 1923, it was grouped into the London and North Eastern...

     to give a shorter route from London to and the North.
  • 1913: the Swansea District Lines which allowed trains to to avoid . Fishguard had been opened in an attempt to attract transatlantic liner traffic and provided a better facility for the Anglo-Irish ferries than that at Neyland.


The generally conservative GWR made other improvements in the years before the World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 such as restaurant cars, better conditions for third class passengers, steam heating of trains, and faster express services. These were largely at the initiative of T. I. Allen, the Superintendent of the Line and one of a group of talented senior managers who led the railway into the Edwardian era: Viscount Emlyn (Earl Cawdor
Earl Cawdor
Earl Cawdor, of Castlemartin in the County of Pembroke, is a title in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. It was created in 1827 for John Campbell, 2nd Baron Cawdor...

, Chairman from 1895 to 1905); Sir Joseph Wilkinson (General Manager
General manager
General manager is a descriptive term for certain executives in a business operation. It is also a formal title held by some business executives, most commonly in the hospitality industry.-Generic usage:...

 from 1896 to 1903), his successor, the former chief engineer Sir James Inglis; and George Jackson Churchward
George Jackson Churchward
George Jackson Churchward CBE was Chief Mechanical Engineer of the Great Western Railway in the United Kingdom from 1902 to 1922.-Early career:...

 (the Chief Mechanical Engineer
Chief Mechanical Engineer
Chief Mechanical Engineer and Locomotive Superintendent are titles applied by British, Australian, and New Zealand railway companies to the person ultimately responsible to the board of the company for the building and maintaining of the locomotives and rolling stock...

). It was during this period that the GWR introduced road motor services
GWR road motor services
The Great Western Railway road motor services operated from 1903 to 1933, both as a feeder to their train services, and as a cheaper alternative to building new railways in rural areas...

 as an alternative to building new lines in rural areas, and started using steam rail motors
GWR steam rail motors
The steam rail motors were self-propelled carriages operated by the Great Western Railway in England and Wales from 1903 to 1935. They incorporated a steam locomotive within the body of the carriage.-History:...

 to bring cheaper operation to existing branch lines.

One of the "Big Four"




At the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the GWR was taken into government control, as were most major railways in Britain. Many of its staff joined the armed forces and it was more difficult to build and maintain equipment than in peacetime. After the war, the government considered permanent nationalisation but decided instead on a compulsory amalgamation
Consolidation (business)
Consolidation or amalgamation is the act of merging many things into one. In business, it often refers to the mergers and acquisitions of many smaller companies into much larger ones. In the context of financial accounting, consolidation refers to the aggregation of financial statements of a group...

 of the railways into four large groups. The GWR alone preserved its name through the "grouping
Railways Act 1921
The Railways Act 1921, also known as the Grouping Act, was an enactment by the British government of David Lloyd George intended to stem the losses being made by many of the country's 120 railway companies, move the railways away from internal competition, and to retain some of the benefits which...

", under which smaller companies were amalgamated into four main companies in 1922 and 1923.

The new Great Western Railway had more routes in Wales, including 295 miles (474.8 km) of former Cambrian Railways
Cambrian Railways
Cambrian Railways owned of track over a large area of mid-Wales. The system was an amalgamation of a number of railways that were incorporated in 1864, 1865 and 1904...

 lines and 124 miles (199.6 km) from the Taff Vale Railway
Taff Vale Railway
The Taff Vale Railway is a railway in Glamorgan, South Wales, and is one of the oldest in Wales. It operated as an independent company from 1836 until 1922, when it became a constituent company of the Great Western Railway...

. A few independent lines in its English area of operations were also added, notably the Midland and South Western Junction Railway
Midland and South Western Junction Railway
The Midland and South Western Junction Railway was, until the 1923 Grouping, an independent railway built to form a north-south link between the Midland and London and South Western Railways allowing the Midland and other companies' trains to reach the port of Southampton.-Formation:The M&SWJR...

, a line previously working closely with the Midland Railway
Midland Railway
The Midland Railway was a railway company in the United Kingdom from 1844 to 1922, when it became part of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway....

 but which now gave the GWR a second station at Swindon, along with a line that carried through-traffic from the North via Cheltenham
Cheltenham Spa railway station
Cheltenham Spa railway station is in Gloucestershire, England, on the Bristol-Birmingham main line. It is managed by First Great Western and is about one mile from the town centre.-History:...

 and to Southampton
Southampton Terminus railway station
Southampton Terminus railway station served the docks and city centre of Southampton, England. The station was first authorized on the 25 July 1834, it began as the terminus of the London and South Western Railway...

.

The 1930s brought hard times but the company remained in fair financial health despite the Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

. The Development (Loans, Guarantees and Grants) Act 1929 allowed the GWR to obtain money in return for stimulating employment and this was used to improve stations including London Paddington, and Cardiff General
Cardiff Central railway station
Cardiff Central railway station is a major railway station on the South Wales Main Line in Cardiff, Wales.It is the largest and busiest station in Wales and one of the major stations of the British rail network, the tenth busiest station in the United Kingdom outside of London , based on 2007/08...

; to improve facilities at depots
Motive power depot
Motive power depot, usually abbreviated to MPD, is a name given to places where locomotives are stored when not being used, and also repaired and maintained. They were originally known as "running sheds", "engine sheds", or, for short, just sheds. Facilities are provided for refuelling and...

 and to lay additional tracks to reduce congestion. The road motor services were transferred to local bus
Bus
A bus is a road vehicle designed to carry passengers. Buses can have a capacity as high as 300 passengers. The most common type of bus is the single-decker bus, with larger loads carried by double-decker buses and articulated buses, and smaller loads carried by midibuses and minibuses; coaches are...

 companies in which the GWR took a share but instead, it participated in air services
Railway Air Services
Railway Air Services was a British airline formed in March 1934 by four railway companies and Imperial Airways. The airline was a domestic airline operating routes within the United Kingdom linking up with Imperial's services....

.

A legacy of the broad gauge was that trains for some routes could be built slightly wider than was normal in Britain and these included the 1929-built "Super Saloons" used on the boat train
Boat train
A boat train is a passenger train which connects with a passenger ship, such as a ferry or ocean liner. Through ticketing is normally available. -Notable named boat trains:*The Flèche d'Or Paris Gare du Nord to Calais...

 services that conveyed transatlantic passengers to London in luxury. When the company celebrated its centenary during 1935, new "Centenary" carriages were built for the Cornish Riviera Express, which again made full use of the wider loading gauge
Loading gauge
A loading gauge defines the maximum height and width for railway vehicles and their loads to ensure safe passage through bridges, tunnels and other structures...

 on that route.

World War II and after


With the outbreak of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 in 1939, the GWR returned to direct government control, and by the end of the war a Labour government was in power and again planning to nationalise the railways. After a couple of years trying to recover from the ravages of war, the GWR became the Western Region
Western Region of British Railways
The Western Region was a region of British Railways from 1948. The region ceased to be an operating unit in its own right in the 1980s and was wound up at the end of 1992...

 of British Railways on 1 January 1948. The Great Western Railway Company continued to exist as a legal entity for nearly two more years, being formally wound up on 23 December 1949. GWR designs of locomotives and rolling stock continued to be built for a while and the region maintained its own distinctive character, even painting for a while its stations and express trains in a form of chocolate and cream.

About 40 years after nationalisation the British railways were privatisated
Privatization
Privatization is the incidence or process of transferring ownership of a business, enterprise, agency or public service from the public sector to the private sector or to private non-profit organizations...

 and the old name was revived by Great Western Trains
Great Western Trains
Great Western Trains was a UK train company created in the mid 1990s as part of the privatisation of British Rail. It was one of the first two passenger companies to be privatised, passing into private ownership along with South West Trains on 4 February 1996....

, the train operating company
Train operating company
The term train operating company is used in the United Kingdom to describe the various businesses operating passenger trains on the railway system of Great Britain under the collective National Rail brand...

 providing passenger services on the old GWR routes to South Wales and the South West, which has now become "First Great Western
First Great Western
First Great Western is the operating name of First Greater Western Ltd, a British train operating company owned by FirstGroup that serves Greater London, the South East, South West and West Midlands regions of England, and South Wales....

" as part of the First Group. The operating infrastructure, however, was transferred to Railtrack
Railtrack
Railtrack was a group of companies that owned the track, signalling, tunnels, bridges, level crossings and all but a handful of the stations of the British railway system from its formation in April 1994 until 2002...

 and has since passed to Network Rail
Network Rail
Network Rail is the government-created owner and operator of most of the rail infrastructure in Great Britain .; it is not responsible for railway infrastructure in Northern Ireland...

. These companies have continued to preserve appropriate parts of its stations and bridges so historic GWR structures can still be recognised around the network.

Geography



The original Great Western Main Line
Great Western Main Line
The Great Western Main Line is a main line railway in Great Britain that runs westwards from London Paddington station to the west of England and South Wales. The core Great Western Main Line runs from London Paddington to Temple Meads railway station in Bristol. A major branch of the Great...

 linked London Paddington station
Paddington station
Paddington railway station, also known as London Paddington, is a central London railway terminus and London Underground complex.The site is a historic one, having served as the London terminus of the Great Western Railway and its successors since 1838. Much of the current mainline station dates...

 with Temple Meads station in Bristol by way of , Didcot
Didcot Parkway railway station
Didcot Parkway is a railway station serving the town of Didcot in Oxfordshire in England. The station was opened as Didcot on 12 June 1844, and renamed Didcot Parkway on 29 July 1985 to reflect its role as a park and ride railhead....

, , and Bath
Bath Spa railway station
Bath Spa railway station is the principal railway station in the city of Bath, in South West England.-Architecture:Bath Spa station was built in 1840 for the Great Western Railway by Brunel and is a grade II* listed building...

. This line was extended westwards through Exeter
Exeter St Davids railway station
Exeter St Davids station is the most important of seven National Rail stations in the city of Exeter in southwest England. Today the station is owned by Network Rail and operated by First Great Western.-History:...

 and Plymouth
Plymouth Millbay railway station
Plymouth Millbay railway station was the original railway terminus in Plymouth, Devon, England. It was used for passenger trains from 1849 to 1941.- History :...

 to reach and , the most westerly railway station in England. Brunel and Gooch placed the GWR's main locomotive workshops close to the village of Swindon and the locomotives of many trains were changed here in the early years. Up to this point the route had climbed very gradually westwards from London, but from here it changed into one with steeper gradients which, with the primitive locomotives available to Brunel, was better operated by types with smaller wheels better able to climb the hills. These gradients faced both directions, first dropping down through to cross the River Avon
River Avon, Bristol
The River Avon is an English river in the south west of the country. To distinguish it from a number of other River Avons in Britain, this river is often also known as the Lower Avon or Bristol Avon...

, then climbing back up through Chippenham to the Box Tunnel before descending once more to regain the River Avon's valley which it followed to Bath and Bristol.

Swindon was also the junction for a line that ran north-westwards to then south-westwards on the far side of the River Severn
River Severn
The River Severn is the longest river in Great Britain, at about , but the second longest on the British Isles, behind the River Shannon. It rises at an altitude of on Plynlimon, Ceredigion near Llanidloes, Powys, in the Cambrian Mountains of mid Wales...

 to reach Cardiff
Cardiff Central railway station
Cardiff Central railway station is a major railway station on the South Wales Main Line in Cardiff, Wales.It is the largest and busiest station in Wales and one of the major stations of the British rail network, the tenth busiest station in the United Kingdom outside of London , based on 2007/08...

, and west Wales. This route was later shortened by the opening of a more direct east-west route through the Severn Tunnel. Another route ran northwards from Didcot to from where two different routes continued to Wolverhampton
Wolverhampton Low Level railway station
Wolverhampton Low Level was a railway station on Sun Street, in Springfield, Wolverhampton, England .It was built by the Great Western Railway, on their route from London to Birkenhead via Birmingham...

, one through Birmingham and the other through Worcester
Worcester Shrub Hill railway station
Worcester Shrub Hill railway station is one of two railway stations serving the city of Worcester in Worcestershire, England. It is managed by London Midland, and it is also served by First Great Western....

. Beyond Wolverhampton the line continued via to , and Birkenhead
Birkenhead Woodside railway station
Birkenhead Woodside was a railway station at Woodside, in Birkenhead, on the Wirral Peninsula, England.-Background:Birkenhead Woodside railway station was opened on 31 March 1878 to replace the increasingly inadequate passenger facilities provided at Birkenhead Monks Ferry station.It was built...

. Operating agreements with other companies also allowed GWR trains to run to Manchester. South of the London to Bristol main line were routes from Didcot to Southampton
Southampton Terminus railway station
Southampton Terminus railway station served the docks and city centre of Southampton, England. The station was first authorized on the 25 July 1834, it began as the terminus of the London and South Western Railway...

 via , and from Chippenham to via .

A network of cross-country routes linked these main lines, and there were also many and varied branch line
Branch line
A branch line is a secondary railway line which branches off a more important through route, usually a main line. A very short branch line may be called a spur line...

s. Some were short, such as the 3.5 miles (5.6 km) Clevedon branch line
Clevedon branch line
The Clevedon branch line was a branch railway line that ran from Yatton railway station on the Bristol to Taunton Line to Clevedon in North Somerset, England, with no intermediate stops....

; others were much longer such as the 23 miles (37 km) Minehead Branch
West Somerset Railway
The West Somerset Railway is a railway line that originally linked and in Somerset, England.It opened in 1862 and was extended from Watchet to by the Minehead Railway in 1874. Although just a single track, improvements were needed in the first half of the twentieth century to accommodate the...

. A few were promoted and built by the GWR to counter competition from other companies, such as the Reading to Basingstoke Line
Reading to Basingstoke Line
The Reading to Basingstoke Line is a short railway link between the South Western Main Line and the Great Western Main Line, constructed by the Great Western Railway between 1846 and 1848. The line is served by First Great Western local services between Reading and Basingstoke, which stop at the...

 to keep the London and South Western Railway
London and South Western Railway
The London and South Western Railway was a railway company in England from 1838 to 1922. Its network extended from London to Plymouth via Salisbury and Exeter, with branches to Ilfracombe and Padstow and via Southampton to Bournemouth and Weymouth. It also had many routes connecting towns in...

 away from . However, many were built by local companies that then sold their railway to their larger neighbour; examples include the Launceston
South Devon and Tavistock Railway
The South Devon and Tavistock Railway was a broad gauge railway linking Plymouth with Tavistock in Devon, England. It opened in 1859, was extended by the Launceston and South Devon Railway to Launceston, Cornwall, in 1865, and was closed in 1962....

 and branches. Further variety came from the traffic carried: holidaymakers (St Ives
St Ives Bay Line
The St Ives Bay Line is a railway line from to in Cornwall, United Kingdom. It was opened in 1877, the last new broad gauge passenger railway to be constructed in the country...

);. royalty (Windsor); or just goods traffic (Carbis Wharf).

Brunel envisaged the GWR continuing across the Atlantic Ocean and built the SS Great Western
SS Great Western
SS Great Western of 1838, was an oak-hulled paddle-wheel steamship; the first purpose-built for crossing the Atlantic and the initial unit of the Great Western Steamship Company. Designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Great Western proved satisfactory in service and was the model for all successful...

 to carry the railway's passengers from Bristol to New York. Most traffic for North America soon switched to the larger port of Liverpool
Liverpool
Liverpool is a city and metropolitan borough of Merseyside, England, along the eastern side of the Mersey Estuary. It was founded as a borough in 1207 and was granted city status in 1880...

 (in LNWR
London and North Western Railway
The London and North Western Railway was a British railway company between 1846 and 1922. It was created by the merger of three companies – the Grand Junction Railway, the London and Birmingham Railway and the Manchester and Birmingham Railway...

 territory) but some transatlantic passengers were landed at Plymouth
Plymouth Millbay railway station
Plymouth Millbay railway station was the original railway terminus in Plymouth, Devon, England. It was used for passenger trains from 1849 to 1941.- History :...

 and conveyed to London by special train. Great Western ships linked the United Kingdom with Ireland, the Channel Islands
Channel Islands
The Channel Islands are an archipelago of British Crown Dependencies in the English Channel, off the French coast of Normandy. They include two separate bailiwicks: the Bailiwick of Guernsey and the Bailiwick of Jersey...

 and France.

Key locations


The railway's headquarters were established at Paddington station. Its locomotives and rolling stock were built and maintained at Swindon Works
Swindon Works
Swindon railway works were built by the Great Western Railway in 1841 in Swindon in the English county of Wiltshire.-History:In 1835 Parliament approved the construction of a railway between London and Bristol. Its Chief Engineer was Isambard Kingdom Brunel.From 1836, Brunel had been buying...

 but other workshops were acquired as it amalgamated
Consolidation (business)
Consolidation or amalgamation is the act of merging many things into one. In business, it often refers to the mergers and acquisitions of many smaller companies into much larger ones. In the context of financial accounting, consolidation refers to the aggregation of financial statements of a group...

 with other railways, including the Shrewbury companies’ Stafford Road works
Wolverhampton railway works
Wolverhampton railway works was in the city of Wolverhampton in the county of Staffordshire, England. It was almost due north of the city centre, and is commemorated with a small display of level crossing gates and a plaque...

 at Wolverhampton, and the South Devon’s workshops at Newton Abbot. Workshops for signalling equipment were located adjacent to Reading railway station
Reading railway station
Reading railway station is a major rail transport hub in the English town of Reading. It is situated on the northern edge of the town centre, close to the main retail and commercial areas, and also the River Thames...

, and in later years a concrete
Concrete
Concrete is a composite construction material, composed of cement and other cementitious materials such as fly ash and slag cement, aggregate , water and chemical admixtures.The word concrete comes from the Latin word...

 manufacturing depot was established at where items ranging from track components to bridges were cast.

Engineering features



More than 150 years after its creation, the original main line has been described by an historian as one of the masterpieces of railway design. Working westwards from Paddington, the line crosses the valley of the River Brent
River Brent
The Brent is a river within Greater London which is a tributary of the River Thames. It is 17.9 miles long, running north-east to south-west, and it joins the Thames on the Tideway at Brentford, Hounslow.- Hydronymy and etymology :...

 on Wharncliffe Viaduct
Wharncliffe Viaduct
The Wharncliffe Viaduct is a brick-built viaduct that carries the Great Western Main Line railway across the Brent Valley, between Hanwell and Southall, Ealing, UK, at an elevation of . The viaduct, built in 1836-7, was constructed for the opening of the Great Western Railway...

 and the River Thames
River Thames
The River Thames flows through southern England. It is the longest river entirely in England and the second longest in the United Kingdom. While it is best known because its lower reaches flow through central London, the river flows alongside several other towns and cities, including Oxford,...

 on Maidenhead Railway Bridge
Maidenhead Railway Bridge
Maidenhead Railway Bridge is a railway bridge carrying the main line of the Great Western Railway over the River Thames between Maidenhead, Berkshire and Taplow, Buckinghamshire, England...

, which at the time of construction was the largest span achieved by a brick arch bridge. The line then continues through Sonning Cutting
Sonning Cutting
Sonning Cutting is on the original Great Western Railway built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. It is to the east of Reading station and to the west of Twyford station near the village of Sonning in Berkshire, England. It had been intended to route the railway around the north of Sonning Hill past the...

 before reaching Reading after which it crosses the Thames twice more, on Gatehampton
Gatehampton Railway Bridge
Gatehampton Railway Bridge is a railway bridge carrying the Great Western Main Line over the River Thames in Lower Basildon, Berkshire, England...

 and Moulsford
Moulsford Railway Bridge
Moulsford Railway Bridge, known locally as "Four Arches" bridge is actually a pair of parallel bridges located a little to the north of Moulsford and South Stoke in Oxfordshire, UK. It carries the Great Western Main Line from Paddington, London to Wales and the West across the River Thames...

 bridges. Between Chippenham and Bath is Box Tunnel
Box Tunnel
Box Tunnel is a railway tunnel in Western England, between Bath and Chippenham, dug through Box Hill, and is one of the most significant structures on the Great Western Main Line...

, the longest railway tunnel driven by that time. Several years later, the railway opened the even longer Severn Tunnel to carry a new line between England and Wales beneath the River Severn
River Severn
The River Severn is the longest river in Great Britain, at about , but the second longest on the British Isles, behind the River Shannon. It rises at an altitude of on Plynlimon, Ceredigion near Llanidloes, Powys, in the Cambrian Mountains of mid Wales...

.

Some other notable structures were added when smaller companies were amalgamated into the GWR. These include the South Devon Railway sea wall
South Devon Railway sea wall
The South Devon Railway sea wall is situated on the south coast of Devon in England. It is probably the most photographed section of railway in the United Kingdom as a footpath runs alongside the railway between Dawlish Warren and Dawlish, and another footpath forms a continuation to the sea front...

, the Cornwall Railway
Cornwall Railway
The Cornwall Railway was a broad gauge railway from Plymouth in Devon to Falmouth in Cornwall, United Kingdom. The section from Plymouth to Truro opened in 1859, the extension to Falmouth in 1863...

's Royal Albert Bridge
Royal Albert Bridge
The Royal Albert Bridge is a railway bridge that spans the River Tamar in the United Kingdom between Plymouth, on the Devon bank, and Saltash on the Cornish bank. Its unique design consists of two lenticular iron trusses above the water, with conventional plate-girder approach spans. This gives...

, and Barmouth Bridge
Barmouth Bridge
The Barmouth Bridge is a single-track largely wooden railway viaduct that crosses the estuary of the Afon Mawddach river on the coast of Cardigan Bay between Morfa Mawddach and Barmouth in Gwynedd, Wales...

 on the Cambrian Railways
Cambrian Railways
Cambrian Railways owned of track over a large area of mid-Wales. The system was an amalgamation of a number of railways that were incorporated in 1864, 1865 and 1904...

.

Operations


In the early years the GWR was managed by two committees, one in Bristol and one in London. They soon combined as a single Board of Directors
Board of directors
A board of directors is a body of elected or appointed members who jointly oversee the activities of a company or organization. Other names include board of governors, board of managers, board of regents, board of trustees, and board of visitors...

 which met in offices at Paddington.

The Board was led by a Chairman and supported by a Secretary
Company secretary
A company secretary is a senior position in a private company or public organisation, normally in the form of a managerial position or above. In the United States it is known as a corporate secretary....

 and other "officers". The first Locomotive Superintendent was Daniel Gooch
Daniel Gooch
Sir Daniel Gooch, 1st Baronet was an English railway and transatlantic cable engineer and Conservative politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1865 to 1885...

, although from 1915 the title was changed to Chief Mechanical Engineer. The first Goods Manager was appointed in 1850 and from 1857 this position was filled by James Grierson until 1863 when he became the first General Manager. In 1864 the post of Superintendent of the Line was created to oversee the running of the trains.

Passenger services

 Year  Passengers  Train mileage  Receipts 
1850  2,491,712  1,425,573  £630,515 (£ as of )
1875  36,024,592  9,435,876  £2,528,305 (£ as of )
1900  80,944,483  23,279,499  £5,207,513 (£ as of )
1924  140,241,113  37,997,377  £13,917,942 (£ as of )
1934   110,813,041   40,685,597   £10,569,140 (£ as of )
Passenger numbers exclude season ticket journeys.

Early trains offered passengers a choice of first-
First class travel
First class is the most luxurious class of accommodation on a train, passenger ship, airplane, or other conveyance. It is usually much more expensive than business class and economy class, and offers the best amenities.-Aviation:...

 or second-class carriages. In 1840 this choice was extended: passengers could be conveyed by the slow goods trains in what became third-class. The 1844 Railway Regulation Act made it a legal requirement that the GWR, along with all other British railways, had to serve each station with trains which included third-class accommodation at a fare
Fare
A fare is the fee paid by a passenger allowing him or her to make use of a public transport system: rail, bus, taxi, etc. In the case of air transport, the term airfare is often used.-Uses:...

 of not more than one penny
Penny (British pre-decimal coin)
The penny of the Kingdom of Great Britain and later of the United Kingdom, was in circulation from the early 18th century until February 1971, Decimal Day....

 per mile and a speed of at least 12 mph (5.4 m/s). By 1882, third-class carriages were attached to all trains except for the fastest expresses
Express train
Express trains are a form of rail service. Express trains make only a small number of stops, instead of stopping at every single station...

. Another parliamentary order meant that trains began to include smoking
Smoking
Smoking is a practice in which a substance, most commonly tobacco or cannabis, is burned and the smoke is tasted or inhaled. This is primarily practised as a route of administration for recreational drug use, as combustion releases the active substances in drugs such as nicotine and makes them...

 carriages from 1868.

Special "excursion
Excursion
An excursion is a trip by a group of people, usually made for leisure, education, or physical purposes. It is often an adjunct to a longer journey or visit to a place, sometimes for other purposes....

" cheap-day tickets
Train ticket
A train ticket is a ticket issued by a railway operator that enables the bearer to travel on the operator's network or a partner's network. Tickets can authorize the bearer to travel a set itinerary at a specific time , a set itinerary at any time , a set itinerary at multiple times, or an...

 were first issued in May 1849 and season ticket
Season ticket
A season ticket is a ticket that grants privileges over a defined period of time.-Sport:In sport, a season ticket grants the holder access to all regular-season home games for one season without additional charges. The ticket usually offers a discounted price over purchasing a ticket for each of...

s in 1851. Until 1869 most revenue came from second-class passengers but the volume of third-class passengers grew to the extent that second-class facilities were withdrawn in 1912. The Cheap Trains Act 1883
Cheap Trains Act 1883
The Cheap Trains Act 1883 marked the beginning of worker's train services. It removed the passenger duty on any train charging less than a penny a mile and obliged the railway companies to operate a larger number of cheap trains....

 resulted in the provision of workmen's trains at special low fares at certain times of the day.

The principal express services were often given nickname
Nickname
A nickname is "a usually familiar or humorous but sometimes pointed or cruel name given to a person or place, as a supposedly appropriate replacement for or addition to the proper name.", or a name similar in origin and pronunciation from the original name....

s by railwaymen but these names later appeared officially in timetables, on headboards carried on the locomotive, and on roofboards above the windows of the carriages. For instance, the late-morning Flying Dutchman
Flying Dutchman (train)
The Flying Dutchman was a named passenger train service from London Paddington to Exeter. It ran from 1849 until 1892, originally over the Great Western Railway and then the Bristol and Exeter Railway. As the GWR expanded, the destination of the train changed to Plymouth and briefly to .-Early...

express between London and Exeter was named after the winning horse of the Derby
Derby (horse race)
A derby is a type of horse race, named after the Derby Stakes, still run at Epsom Downs Racecourse in England. That was in turn named for Edward Smith-Stanley, 12th Earl of Derby, who inaugurated the race in 1780...

 and St Ledger
St. Leger Stakes
The St. Leger Stakes is a Group 1 flat horse race in Great Britain which is open to three-year-old thoroughbred colts and fillies. It is run at Doncaster over a distance of 1 mile, 6 furlongs and 132 yards , and it is scheduled to take place each year in September.Established in 1776, the St. Leger...

 races
Horse racing
Horse racing is an equestrian sport that has a long history. Archaeological records indicate that horse racing occurred in ancient Babylon, Syria, and Egypt. Both chariot and mounted horse racing were events in the ancient Greek Olympics by 648 BC...

 in 1849. Although withdrawn at the end of 1867, the name was revived in 1869 – following a request from the Bristol and Exeter Railway
Bristol and Exeter Railway
The Bristol & Exeter Railway was a railway company formed to connect Bristol and Exeter.The company's head office was situated outside their Bristol station...

 – and the train ran through to Plymouth. An afternoon express was instigated on the same route in June 1879 and became known as The Zulu. A third West Country express was introduced in 1890, running to and from Penzance as The Cornishman
Cornishman (GWR)
The Cornishman was a British express passenger train to Penzance in Cornwall. From its inception in the 19th century until before World War II it originated in London...

. A new service, the Cornish Riviera Express
Cornish Riviera Express
The Cornish Riviera Express is a British express passenger train that has run between London and Penzance in Cornwall since 1904. Introduced by the Great Western Railway, the name Cornish Riviera Express has been applied to the late morning express train from London Paddington station to Penzance...

ran between London and Penzance – non-stop to Plymouth – from 1 July 1904, although it ran only in the summer during 1904 and 1905 before becoming a permanent feature of the timetable in 1906.

The Cheltenham Spa Express
Cheltenham Spa Express
The Cheltenham Spa Express is a British named passenger train service from Paddington station, in London, to Cheltenham Spa, in Gloucestershire, via Reading, Kemble, Stroud, Stonehouse and Gloucester...

was the fastest train in the world when it was scheduled to cover the 77.25 miles (124.3 km) miles between and London at an average of 71.3 miles per hour (114.7 km/h). The train was nickname
Nickname
A nickname is "a usually familiar or humorous but sometimes pointed or cruel name given to a person or place, as a supposedly appropriate replacement for or addition to the proper name.", or a name similar in origin and pronunciation from the original name....

d the 'Cheltenham Flyer' and featured in one of the GWR's 'Books for boys of all ages'. Other named trains included The Bristolian, running between London and Bristol from 1935, and the Torbay Express
Torbay Express
The Torbay Express is a named passenger train operating in the United Kingdom.-Great Western Railway:Historically, the Torbay Express name was applied to services operated by the Great Western Railway from London Paddington to Torquay and Paignton....

, which ran between London and .

Many of these fast expresses included special coaches that could be detached as they passed through stations without stopping, a guard
Conductor (transportation)
A conductor is a member of a railway train's crew that is responsible for operational and safety duties that do not involve the actual operation of the train. The title of conductor is most associated with railway operations in North America, but the role of conductor is common to railways...

 riding in the coach to uncouple it from the main train and bring it to a stop at the correct position. The first such "slip coach
Slip coach
A slip coach or slip carriage is a British and Irish railway term for passenger rolling stock that is uncoupled from an express train while the train is in motion, then slowed by a guard in the coach using a hand brake, bringing it to a stop at the next station. The coach was thus said to be...

" was detached from the Flying Dutchman at in 1869. The company's first sleeping car
Sleeping car
The sleeping car or sleeper is a railway/railroad passenger car that can accommodate all its passengers in beds of one kind or another, primarily for the purpose of making nighttime travel more restful. The first such cars saw sporadic use on American railroads in the 1830s and could be configured...

s were operated between Paddington and Plymouth in 1877. Then on 1 October 1892 its first corridor train
Corridor (rail vehicle)
A corridor is a passageway in, and generally between, railway passenger vehicles.-Related terms:* Corridor coach - a coach with corridors between vehicles...

 ran from Paddington to Birkenhead, and the following year saw the first trains heated by steam that was passed through the train in a pipe from the locomotive. May 1896 saw the introduction of first-class restaurant cars and the service was extended to all classes in 1903. Sleeping cars for third-class passengers were available from 1928.

Self-propelled "steam railmotors" were first used on 12 October 1903 between and ; within five years 100 had been constructed. These trains had special retractable steps that could be used at stations with lower platforms than was usual in England. The railmotors proved so successful on many routes that they had to be supplemented by trailer cars with driving controls, the first of which entered service at the end of 1904. From the following year a number of small locomotives were fitted so that they could work with these trailers, the combined sets becoming known as "autotrains" and eventually replacing the steam rail motors. Diesel railcars
GWR railcars
In 1933, the Great Western Railway introduced the first of what was to become a very successful series of railcars, which survived in regular use into the 1960s, when they were replaced with the new British Rail "first generation" type diesel multiple units....

 were introduced in 1934. Some railcars were fully streamlined, some had buffet counters for long-distance services, and others were purely for parcels services.

Freight services

 Year  Tonnage  Train mileage  Receipts 
1850  350,000  330,817  £202,978 (£ as of )
1875  16,388,198  11,206,462  £3,140,093 (£ as of )
1900  37,500,510  23,135,685  £5,736,921 (£ as of )
1924  81,723,133  25,372,106  £17,571,537 (£ as of )
1934   64,619,892   22,707,235   £14,500,385 (£ as of )
Tonnage for 1850 is approximate.

Passenger traffic was the main source of revenue for the GWR when it first opened but goods were also carried in separate trains. It was not until the coal-mining and industrial districts of Wales and the Midlands were reached that goods traffic became significant; in 1856 the Ruabon
Ruabon
Ruabon is a village and community in the county borough of Wrexham in Wales.More than 80% of the population of 2,400 were born in Wales with 13.6% speaking Welsh....

 Coal Company signed an agreement with the GWR to transport coal to London at special rates which nonetheless was worth at least £40,000 each year to the railway. As locomotives increased in size so did the length of goods trains, from 40 to as many as 100 four-wheeled wagons, although the gradient of the line often limited this. While typical goods wagons could carry 8, 10 or (later) 12 tons, the load placed into a wagon could be as little as 1 ton. The many smaller consignments were sent to a local transhipment centre where they were re-sorted into larger loads for the main segment of their journey. There were more than 550 "station truck" workings running on timetabled goods trains carrying small consignments to and from specified stations, and 200 "pick up" trucks that collected small loads from groups of stations.

The GWR provided special wagons, handling equipment and storage facilities for its largest traffic flows. For example the coal mines in Wales sent much of their coal to the docks along the coast, many of which were owned and equipped by the railway, as were some in Cornwall that exported most of the china clay
Kaolinite
Kaolinite is a clay mineral, part of the group of industrial minerals, with the chemical composition Al2Si2O54. It is a layered silicate mineral, with one tetrahedral sheet linked through oxygen atoms to one octahedral sheet of alumina octahedra...

 production of that county. The wagons provided for both these traffic flows (both those owned by the GWR and the mining companies) were fitted with end doors that allowed their loads to be tipped straight into the ships' holds using wagon-tipping equipment on the dockside. Special wagons were produced for many other different commodities such as gunpowder
Gunpowder
Gunpowder, also known since in the late 19th century as black powder, was the first chemical explosive and the only one known until the mid 1800s. It is a mixture of sulfur, charcoal, and potassium nitrate - with the sulfur and charcoal acting as fuels, while the saltpeter works as an oxidizer...

, aeroplanes, milk, fruit and fish.

Heavy traffic was carried from the agricultural and fishing areas in the south west of England, often in fast "perishables" trains, for instance more than 3,500 cattle were sent from in the 12 months to June 1869, and in 1876 nearly than 17,000 tons
Long ton
Long ton is the name for the unit called the "ton" in the avoirdupois or Imperial system of measurements, as used in the United Kingdom and several other Commonwealth countries. It has been mostly replaced by the tonne, and in the United States by the short ton...

 of fish was carried from west Cornwall to London. The perishables trains running in the nineteenth century used wagons built to the same standards as passenger coaches, with vacuum brake
Vacuum brake
The vacuum brake is a braking system employed on trains and introduced in the mid-1860s. A variant, the automatic vacuum brake system, became almost universal in British train equipment and in those countries influenced by British practice. Vacuum brakes also enjoyed a brief period of adoption in...

s and large wheels to allow fast running. Ordinary goods trains on the GWR, as on all other British railways at the time, had wheels close together (around 9 feet (2.7 m) apart), smaller wheels and only hand brakes. In 1905 the GWR ran its first vacuum-braked general goods train between London and Bristol using newly built goods wagons with small wheels but vacuum brakes. This was followed by other services to create a network of fast trains between the major centres of production and population that were scheduled to run at speeds averaging 35 mph (15.6 m/s). Other railway companies also followed the GWR's lead by providing their own vacuum-braked (or "fitted") services.

Ancillary operations



A number of canals, such as the Kennet and Avon Canal
Kennet and Avon Canal
The Kennet and Avon Canal is a waterway in southern England with an overall length of , made up of two lengths of navigable river linked by a canal. The name is commonly used to refer to the entire length of the navigation rather than solely to the central canal section...

 and the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal
Stratford-upon-Avon Canal
The Stratford-upon-Avon Canal is a canal in the south Midlands of England.The canal, which was built between 1793 and 1816, runs for in total, and consists of two sections. The dividing line is at Kingswood Junction, which gives access to the Grand Union Canal...

, became the property of the railway when they were purchased to remove competition or objectors to proposed new lines. Most of these continued to be operated although they were only a small part of the railway company's business: in 1929 the canals took £16,278 of receipts while freight trains earned over £17 million. (£ and £ respectively as of ).

The Railways Act 1921
Railways Act 1921
The Railways Act 1921, also known as the Grouping Act, was an enactment by the British government of David Lloyd George intended to stem the losses being made by many of the country's 120 railway companies, move the railways away from internal competition, and to retain some of the benefits which...

 brought most of the large coal
Coal
Coal is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock usually occurring in rock strata in layers or veins called coal beds or coal seams. The harder forms, such as anthracite coal, can be regarded as metamorphic rock because of later exposure to elevated temperature and pressure...

-exporting docks in South Wales into the GWR's ownership, such as those at Cardiff
Cardiff
Cardiff is the capital, largest city and most populous county of Wales and the 10th largest city in the United Kingdom. The city is Wales' chief commercial centre, the base for most national cultural and sporting institutions, the Welsh national media, and the seat of the National Assembly for...

, Barry, and Swansea
Swansea
Swansea is a coastal city and county in Wales. Swansea is in the historic county boundaries of Glamorgan. Situated on the sandy South West Wales coast, the county area includes the Gower Peninsula and the Lliw uplands...

. They were added to a small number of docks along the south coast of England which the company already owned, to make it the largest docks operator in the world.

Powers were granted by Parliament for the GWR to operate ships
Great Western Railway ships
The Great Western Railway’s ships operated in connection with the company's trains to provide services to Ireland, the Channel Islands and France. Powers were granted by Act of Parliament for the Great Western Railway to operate ships in 1871. The following year the company took over the ships...

 in 1871. The following year the company took over the ships operated by Ford and Jackson on the route between Neyland
Neyland
Neyland is a town in Pembrokeshire, Wales, lying on the River Cleddau and the upstream end of the Milford Haven estuary. The nearby Cleddau Bridge crosses the river, linking Neyland to Pembroke Dock.-History:...

 in Wales and Waterford
Waterford
Waterford is a city in the South-East Region of Ireland. It is the oldest city in the country and fifth largest by population. Waterford City Council is the local government authority for the city and its immediate hinterland...

 in Ireland. The Welsh terminal was relocated to when the railway was opened to there in 1906. Services were also operated between and the Channel Islands
Channel Islands
The Channel Islands are an archipelago of British Crown Dependencies in the English Channel, off the French coast of Normandy. They include two separate bailiwicks: the Bailiwick of Guernsey and the Bailiwick of Jersey...

 from 1889 on the former Weymouth and Channel Islands Steam Packet Company routes. Smaller GWR vessels were also used as tenders
Ship's tender
A ship's tender, usually referred to as a tender, is a boat, or a larger ship used to service a ship, generally by transporting people and/or supplies to and from shore or another ship...

 at Plymouth Great Western Docks
Plymouth Millbay railway station
Plymouth Millbay railway station was the original railway terminus in Plymouth, Devon, England. It was used for passenger trains from 1849 to 1941.- History :...

 and, until the Severn Tunnel opened, on the River Severn
River Severn
The River Severn is the longest river in Great Britain, at about , but the second longest on the British Isles, behind the River Shannon. It rises at an altitude of on Plynlimon, Ceredigion near Llanidloes, Powys, in the Cambrian Mountains of mid Wales...

 crossing of the Bristol and South Wales Union Railway
Bristol and South Wales Union Railway
The Bristol and South Wales Union Railway was built to connect Bristol, England, with south Wales. The route involved a ferry crossing of the River Severn but was considerably shorter than the alternative route through Gloucester...

.

The first railway-operated bus
Bus
A bus is a road vehicle designed to carry passengers. Buses can have a capacity as high as 300 passengers. The most common type of bus is the single-decker bus, with larger loads carried by double-decker buses and articulated buses, and smaller loads carried by midibuses and minibuses; coaches are...

 services were started by the GWR between Helston railway station
Helston railway station
Helston railway station was the terminus of the Helston Railway in Cornwall, in England . It was later operated by the Great Western Railway but has since been closed....

 and The Lizard
The Lizard
The Lizard is a peninsula in south Cornwall, England, United Kingdom. The most southerly point of the British mainland is near Lizard Point at ....

 on 17 August 1903. Known by the company as "road motors
GWR road motor services
The Great Western Railway road motor services operated from 1903 to 1933, both as a feeder to their train services, and as a cheaper alternative to building new railways in rural areas...

", these chocolate-and-cream buses operated throughout the company's territory on railway feeder services and excursions until the 1930s when they were transferred to local bus companies (in most of which the GWR held a share
Share (finance)
A joint stock company divides its capital into units of equal denomination. Each unit is called a share. These units are offered for sale to raise capital. This is termed as issuing shares. A person who buys share/shares of the company is called a shareholder, and by acquiring share or shares in...

).

The GWR inaugurated the first railway air service between Cardiff
Cardiff
Cardiff is the capital, largest city and most populous county of Wales and the 10th largest city in the United Kingdom. The city is Wales' chief commercial centre, the base for most national cultural and sporting institutions, the Welsh national media, and the seat of the National Assembly for...

, Torquay
Torquay
Torquay is a town in the unitary authority area of Torbay and ceremonial county of Devon, England. It lies south of Exeter along the A380 on the north of Torbay, north-east of Plymouth and adjoins the neighbouring town of Paignton on the west of the bay. Torquay’s population of 63,998 during the...

 and Plymouth
Plymouth
Plymouth is a city and unitary authority area on the coast of Devon, England, about south-west of London. It is built between the mouths of the rivers Plym to the east and Tamar to the west, where they join Plymouth Sound...

 in association with Imperial Airways
Imperial Airways
Imperial Airways was the early British commercial long range air transport company, operating from 1924 to 1939 and serving parts of Europe but especially the Empire routes to South Africa, India and the Far East...

. This grew to become part of the Railway Air Services
Railway Air Services
Railway Air Services was a British airline formed in March 1934 by four railway companies and Imperial Airways. The airline was a domestic airline operating routes within the United Kingdom linking up with Imperial's services....

.

Locomotives


The GWR's first locomotives were specified by Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Isambard Kingdom Brunel, FRS , was a British civil engineer who built bridges and dockyards including the construction of the first major British railway, the Great Western Railway; a series of steamships, including the first propeller-driven transatlantic steamship; and numerous important bridges...

 but proved unsatisfactory. Daniel Gooch, who was just 20 years old, was soon appointed as the railway's Locomotive Superintendent and set about establishing a reliable fleet. He bought two locomotives
GWR Star Class
The Great Western Railway Star Class of 2-2-2 broad gauge steam locomotives were used for passenger train work. Designed by Robert Stephenson, the class was introduced into service between November 1838 and November 1841, and withdrawn between April 1864 and September 1871.A total of twelve Star...

 from Robert Stephenson and Company
Robert Stephenson and Company
Robert Stephenson and Company was a locomotive manufacturing company founded in 1823. It was the first company set up specifically to build railway engines.- Foundation and early success :...

 which proved more successful than Brunel's, and then designed a series of standardised locomotives. From 1846 these could be built at the company's newly established railway workshops at Swindon. He designed several different broad-gauge types for the growing railway, such as the Firefly
GWR Firefly Class
The Firefly was a class of broad gauge 2-2-2 steam locomotives used for passenger services on the Great Western Railway. The class was introduced into service between March 1840 and December 1842, and withdrawn between December 1863 and July 1879....

 2-2-2
2-2-2
Under the Whyte notation for the classification of steam locomotives, 2-2-2 represents the wheel arrangement of two leading wheels on one axle two powered driving wheels on one axle, and two trailing wheels on one axle. The wheel arrangement both provided more stability and enabled a larger firebox...

s and later Iron Duke Class
GWR Iron Duke Class
The Great Western Railway Iron Duke Class 4-2-2 was a class of broad gauge steam locomotives for express passenger train work.-History:The prototype locomotive, Great Western, was built as a 2-2-2 locomotive in April 1846, but was soon converted to a 4-2-2 arrangement...

 4-2-2
4-2-2
Under the Whyte notation for the classification of steam locomotives, 4-2-2 represents the wheel arrangement of four leading wheels on two axles, two powered driving wheels on one axle, and two trailing wheels on one axle....

s. In 1864 Gooch was succeeded by Joseph Armstrong
Joseph Armstrong (engineer)
Joseph Armstrong was a British locomotive engineer and the second locomotive superintendent of the Great Western Railway...

 who brought his standard-gauge experience to the railway. Some of Armstrong's designs were built as either broad or standard gauge just by fitting different wheels; those needing tenders were given old ones from withdrawn broad-gauge locomotives.

Joseph Armstrong's early death in 1877 meant that the next phase of motive power design was the responsibility of William Dean who developed express 4-4-0
4-4-0
Under the Whyte notation for the classification of steam locomotives, 4-4-0 represents the wheel arrangement of four leading wheels on two axles , four powered and coupled driving wheels on two axles, and no trailing wheels...

 types rather than the single-driver 2-2-2
2-2-2
Under the Whyte notation for the classification of steam locomotives, 2-2-2 represents the wheel arrangement of two leading wheels on one axle two powered driving wheels on one axle, and two trailing wheels on one axle. The wheel arrangement both provided more stability and enabled a larger firebox...

s and 4-2-2
4-2-2
Under the Whyte notation for the classification of steam locomotives, 4-2-2 represents the wheel arrangement of four leading wheels on two axles, two powered driving wheels on one axle, and two trailing wheels on one axle....

s that had hauled fast trains up to that time. Dean retired in 1902 to be replaced by George Jackson Churchward
George Jackson Churchward
George Jackson Churchward CBE was Chief Mechanical Engineer of the Great Western Railway in the United Kingdom from 1902 to 1922.-Early career:...

, who introduced the familiar 4-6-0
4-6-0
Under the Whyte notation for the classification of steam locomotives, 4-6-0 represents the wheel arrangement of four leading wheels on two axles in a leading truck, six powered and coupled driving wheels on three axles, and no trailing wheels. This wheel arrangement became the second-most popular...

 locomotives. It was during Churchward's tenure that the term "Locomotive Superintendent" was changed to "Chief Mechanical Engineer" (CME). Charles Collett
Charles Collett
Charles Benjamin Collett was chief mechanical engineer of the Great Western Railway from 1922 to 1941. He designed the GWR's 4-6-0 Castle and King Class express passenger locomotives.-Career:...

 succeeded Churchward in 1921. He was soon responsible for the much larger fleet that the GWR operated following the Railways Act 1921
Railways Act 1921
The Railways Act 1921, also known as the Grouping Act, was an enactment by the British government of David Lloyd George intended to stem the losses being made by many of the country's 120 railway companies, move the railways away from internal competition, and to retain some of the benefits which...

 mergers. He set about replacing the older and less numerous classes, and rebuilding the remainder using as many standardised GWR components as possible. He also produced many new designs using standard parts, such as the Castle
GWR 4073 Class
The GWR 4073 Class or Castle class locomotives are a group of 4-6-0 steam locomotives of the Great Western Railway. They were originally designed by the railway's Chief Mechanical Engineer, Charles Collett, for working the company's express passenger trains.-History:A development of the earlier...

 and King
GWR 6000 Class
The Great Western Railway 6000 Class or King is a class of 4-6-0 steam locomotive designed for express passenger work. With the exception of one Pacific , they were the largest locomotives the GWR built. They were named after kings of the United Kingdom and of England, beginning with the reigning...

 classes. The final CME was Frederick Hawksworth
Frederick Hawksworth
Frederick W. Hawksworth , was Chief Mechanical Engineer of the Great Western Railway ....

 who took control in 1941, seeing the railway through wartime shortages and producing GWR-design locomotives until after nationalisation.

Brunel and Gooch both gave their locomotives names in order to identify them, but the standard-gauge companies that became a part of the GWR used numbers. Until 1864 the GWR therefore had named broad-gauge locomotives and numbered standard-gauge ones. From the time of Armstrong's arrival all new locomotives – both broad and standard – were given numbers, including broad-gauge ones that had previously carried names when they were acquired from other railways. Dean introduced a policy in 1895 of giving passenger tender locomotives both numbers and names. Each batch was given names with a distinctive theme, for example kings for the 6000 class
GWR 6000 Class
The Great Western Railway 6000 Class or King is a class of 4-6-0 steam locomotive designed for express passenger work. With the exception of one Pacific , they were the largest locomotives the GWR built. They were named after kings of the United Kingdom and of England, beginning with the reigning...

 and castles for the 4073 class
GWR 4073 Class
The GWR 4073 Class or Castle class locomotives are a group of 4-6-0 steam locomotives of the Great Western Railway. They were originally designed by the railway's Chief Mechanical Engineer, Charles Collett, for working the company's express passenger trains.-History:A development of the earlier...

.

The GWR first painted its locomotives a dark holly
Holly
Ilex) is a genus of 400 to 600 species of flowering plants in the family Aquifoliaceae, and the only living genus in that family. The species are evergreen and deciduous trees, shrubs, and climbers from tropics to temperate zones world wide....

 green but this was changed to middle chrome or Brunswick green for most of its existence. They initially had chocolate brown or Indian red frames but this was changed in the twentieth century to black. Name and number plates were generally of polished brass with a black background, and chimneys often had copper rims or "caps".

Liveries through the years:

Carriages




GWR passenger coaches were many and varied, ranging from four- and six-wheeled vehicles on the original broad-gauge line of 1838, through to bogie
Bogie
A bogie is a wheeled wagon or trolley. In mechanics terms, a bogie is a chassis or framework carrying wheels, attached to a vehicle. It can be fixed in place, as on a cargo truck, mounted on a swivel, as on a railway carriage/car or locomotive, or sprung as in the suspension of a caterpillar...

 coaches up to 70 feet (21.3 m) long which were in service through to 1947 and beyond. Vacuum brakes, bogies and through-corridors
Corridor connection
A Corridor connection is a flexible connector fitted to the end of a railway coach to enable passage from one coach to another without falling out of the train.-Coaches:...

 all came into use during the nineteenth century, and in 1900 the first electrically-lit coaches were put into service. The 1920s saw some vehicles fitted with automatic couplings
Coupling (railway)
A coupling is a mechanism for connecting rolling stock in a train. The design of the coupler is standard, and is almost as important as the railway gauge, since flexibility and convenience are maximised if all rolling stock can be coupled together.The equipment that connects the couplings to the...

 and steel bodies.

Early vehicles were built by a number of independent companies, but in 1844 the railway started to build carriages at Swindon railway works, which eventually provided most of the railway’s rolling stock
Rolling stock
Rolling stock comprises all the vehicles that move on a railway. It usually includes both powered and unpowered vehicles, for example locomotives, railroad cars, coaches and wagons...

. Special vehicles included sleeping car
Sleeping car
The sleeping car or sleeper is a railway/railroad passenger car that can accommodate all its passengers in beds of one kind or another, primarily for the purpose of making nighttime travel more restful. The first such cars saw sporadic use on American railroads in the 1830s and could be configured...

s, restaurant cars and slip coach
Slip coach
A slip coach or slip carriage is a British and Irish railway term for passenger rolling stock that is uncoupled from an express train while the train is in motion, then slowed by a guard in the coach using a hand brake, bringing it to a stop at the next station. The coach was thus said to be...

es. Passengers were also carried in railmotors
GWR steam rail motors
The steam rail motors were self-propelled carriages operated by the Great Western Railway in England and Wales from 1903 to 1935. They incorporated a steam locomotive within the body of the carriage.-History:...

, autotrains, and diesel railcars
GWR railcars
In 1933, the Great Western Railway introduced the first of what was to become a very successful series of railcars, which survived in regular use into the 1960s, when they were replaced with the new British Rail "first generation" type diesel multiple units....

. Passenger-rated vans carried parcels, horses, and milk at express speeds.

Most coaches were generally painted in variations of a chocolate-brown and cream livery, however they were plain brown or red until 1864 and from 1908 to 1922. Parcels vans and similar vehicles were seldom painted in the two-colour livery, being plain brown or red instead, which caused them to be known as "brown vehicles".

Wagons



In the early years of the GWR its wagons were painted brown, but this changed to red before the end of the broad gauge
Broad gauge
Broad-gauge railways use a track gauge greater than the standard gauge of .- List :For list see: List of broad gauges, by gauge and country- History :...

. The familiar dark grey livery was introduced about 1904.

Most early wagons were four-wheeled open vehicles, although a few six-wheeled vehicles were provided for special loads. Covered vans followed, initially for carrying cattle but later for both general and vulnerable goods too. The first bogie
Bogie
A bogie is a wheeled wagon or trolley. In mechanics terms, a bogie is a chassis or framework carrying wheels, attached to a vehicle. It can be fixed in place, as on a cargo truck, mounted on a swivel, as on a railway carriage/car or locomotive, or sprung as in the suspension of a caterpillar...

 wagons appeared in 1873 for heavy loads, but bogie coal wagons were built in 1904 following on from the large four-wheel coal wagons that had first appeared in 1898. Rated at 20 tons
Long ton
Long ton is the name for the unit called the "ton" in the avoirdupois or Imperial system of measurements, as used in the United Kingdom and several other Commonwealth countries. It has been mostly replaced by the tonne, and in the United States by the short ton...

 (20.3 tonnes) these were twice the size of typical wagons of the period, but it was not until 1923 that the company invested heavily in coal wagons of this size and the infrastructure necessary for their unloading at their docks; these were known as "Felix Pole
Felix Pole
Sir Felix John Clewett Pole was a British railway manager and industrialist. He was general manager of the Great Western Railway , before becoming executive chairman of Associated Electrical Industries, a post he held until 1945.-References:...

" wagons after the GWR's General Manager who promoted their use. Container wagons appeared in 1931 and special vans for motor cars in 1933.

When the GWR was opened no trains in the United Kingdom were fitted with vacuum brake
Vacuum brake
The vacuum brake is a braking system employed on trains and introduced in the mid-1860s. A variant, the automatic vacuum brake system, became almost universal in British train equipment and in those countries influenced by British practice. Vacuum brakes also enjoyed a brief period of adoption in...

s, instead handbrakes were fitted to individual wagons and trains also conveyed brake van
Brake van
Brake van and guard's van are terms used mainly in the UK, Australia and India for a railway vehicle equipped with a hand brake which can be applied by the guard...

s where a guard had control of a screw-operated brake. The first goods wagons to be fitted with vacuum brakes were those that ran in passenger trains carrying perishable goods such as fish. Some ballast hoppers were given vacuum brakes in December 1903, and general goods wagons were constructed with them from 1904 onwards, although unfitted wagons (those without vacuum brakes) still formed the majority of the fleet in 1948 when the railway was nationalised to become a part of British Railways.

All wagons for public traffic had a code name
Great Western Railway telegraphic codes
Great Western Railway telegraphic codes were a commercial telegraph code used to shorten the telegraphic messages sent between the stations and offices of the railway....

 that was used in telegraphic messages. As this was usually painted onto the wagon it is common to see them referred to by these names, such as "Mink" (a van), "Mica" (refrigerated van), "Crocodile" (boiler truck), and "Toad" (brake van
Brake van
Brake van and guard's van are terms used mainly in the UK, Australia and India for a railway vehicle equipped with a hand brake which can be applied by the guard...

).

Track




For the permanent way Brunel decided to use a light bridge rail continuously supported on thick timber baulks, known as "baulk road
Baulk road
Baulk road is the name given to a type of railway track or 'rail road' that is formed using rails carried on continuous timber bearings, as opposed to the more familiar 'cross-sleeper' track that uses closely spaced sleepers or ties to give intermittent support to taller rails...

". Thinner timber transoms were used to keep the baulks the correct distance apart. This produced a smoother track and the whole assembly proved cheaper than using conventional sleepers for broad-gauge track, although this advantage was lost with standard- or mixed-gauge lines because of the higher ratio of timber to length of line. More conventional track forms were later used, although baulk road could still be seen in sidings in the first half of the twentieth century.

Signalling



Brunel developed a system of "disc and crossbar" signals
Railway signal
A signal is a mechanical or electrical device erected beside a railway line to pass information relating to the state of the line ahead to train/engine drivers. The driver interprets the signal's indication and acts accordingly...

 to control train movements, but the people operating them could only assume that each train reached the next signal without stopping unexpectedly. The world's first commercial telegraph
Electrical telegraph
An electrical telegraph is a telegraph that uses electrical signals, usually conveyed via telecommunication lines or radio. The electromagnetic telegraph is a device for human-to-human transmission of coded text messages....

 line was installed along the 13 miles (20.9 km) from Paddington to West Drayton
West Drayton railway station
West Drayton railway station is a railway station serving West Drayton, a western suburb of London, England. The station is served by local services operated by First Great Western from to stations.-History:...

 and came into operation on 9 April 1839. This later spread throughout the system and allowed stations to use telegraphic messages to tell the people operating the signals when each train arrived safely. A long list of code words
Great Western Railway telegraphic codes
Great Western Railway telegraphic codes were a commercial telegraph code used to shorten the telegraphic messages sent between the stations and offices of the railway....

 were developed to help make messages both quick to send and clear in meaning.

More conventional semaphore signals replaced the discs and crossbars over time. The GWR persisted with the lower quadrant form, where a "proceed" aspect is indicated by lowering the signal arm, despite other British railways changing to an upper quadrant form. Electric light signals of the "searchlight" pattern were later introduced at busy stations; these could show the same red/green or yellow/green aspects that semaphore signals showed at night. An "automatic train control" system was introduced from 1906 which was a safety system that applied a train's brakes if it passed a danger signal.

Cultural impact


The GWR is known admiringly to some as "God's Wonderful Railway", but jocularly to others as the "Great Way Round" as some of its earliest routes were not the most direct. The railway, however, promoted itself from 1908 as "The Holiday Line" as it carried huge numbers of people to resort
Resort
A resort is a place used for relaxation or recreation, attracting visitors for holidays or vacations. Resorts are places, towns or sometimes commercial establishment operated by a single company....

s in Wales and south-west England.

Tourism



Cheap tickets were offered and excursion trains operated to popular destinations and special events such as the 1851 Great Exhibition. Later, GWR road motors
GWR road motor services
The Great Western Railway road motor services operated from 1903 to 1933, both as a feeder to their train services, and as a cheaper alternative to building new railways in rural areas...

 operated tours to popular destinations not served directly by train, and its ships offered cruises from places such as Plymouth. Redundant carriages were converted to camp coaches and placed at country or seaside stations such as and and hired to holidaymakers who arrived by train.

The GWR had operated hotels at major stations and junctions since the early days, but in 1877 it opened its first "country house hotel", the Tregenna Castle
Tregenna Castle
Tregenna Castle, in St Ives, Cornwall, was built by John Stephens in the 18th century. The estate was sold in 1871 and became an hotel, a purpose for which it is still used today.The castle is a Grade II Listed building...

 in St Ives, Cornwall
St Ives, Cornwall
St Ives is a seaside town, civil parish and port in Cornwall, England, United Kingdom. The town lies north of Penzance and west of Camborne on the coast of the Celtic Sea. In former times it was commercially dependent on fishing. The decline in fishing, however, caused a shift in commercial...

. It later added the Fishguard Bay Hotel in Wales and the Manor House at Moretonhampstead
Moretonhampstead
Moretonhampstead lies on the edge of Dartmoor and is notable for having the longest one-word name of any place in England. The parish church is dedicated to St. Andrew. George Oliver and John Pike Jones , 1828, Exeter: E. Woolmer. Moretonhampstead is twinned with Betton in France.-History:The...

, Devon
Devon
Devon is a large county in southwestern England. The county is sometimes referred to as Devonshire, although the term is rarely used inside the county itself as the county has never been officially "shired", it often indicates a traditional or historical context.The county shares borders with...

, to which it added a golf course
Golf course
A golf course comprises a series of holes, each consisting of a teeing ground, fairway, rough and other hazards, and a green with a flagstick and cup, all designed for the game of golf. A standard round of golf consists of playing 18 holes, thus most golf courses have this number of holes...

 in 1930.

It promoted itself from 1908 as "The Holiday Line through a series of posters, postcard
Postcard
A postcard or post card is a rectangular piece of thick paper or thin cardboard intended for writing and mailing without an envelope....

s, jigsaw puzzle
Jigsaw puzzle
A jigsaw puzzle is a tiling puzzle that requires the assembly of numerous small, often oddly shaped, interlocking and tessellating pieces.Each piece usually has a small part of a picture on it; when complete, a jigsaw puzzle produces a complete picture...

s, and books. These included Holiday Haunts, describing the attraction of the different parts of the GWR system, and regional titles such as S.P.B. Mais's Cornish Riviera and A.M. Bradley's South Wales: The Country of Castles. Guidebooks described the scenery seen Through the Window of their trains. Other GWR books were designed to encourage an interest in the GWR itself. Published as "Books for Boys of All Ages", these included The 10:30 Limited and Loco's of the Royal Road.

Art and media



The GWR attracted the attention of the artists from an early date. John Cooke Bourne
John Cooke Bourne
John Cooke Bourne was an artist and engraver. He is best known for his lithographs showing the construction of the London and Birmingham Railway and the Great Western Railway. Each set of prints was published as separate books, and became classic representations of the construction of the early...

's History and Description of the Great Western Railway was published in 1846 and contained a series of detailed lithographs of the railway that give readers a glimpse of what the line looked like in the days before photography
Photography
Photography is the art, science and practice of creating durable images by recording light or other electromagnetic radiation, either electronically by means of an image sensor or chemically by means of a light-sensitive material such as photographic film...

. J. M. W. Turner
J. M. W. Turner
Joseph Mallord William Turner RA was an English Romantic landscape painter, watercolourist and printmaker. Turner was considered a controversial figure in his day, but is now regarded as the artist who elevated landscape painting to an eminence rivalling history painting...

 painted his Rain, Steam and Speed - The Great Western Railway
Rain, Steam and Speed - The Great Western Railway
Rain, Steam, and Speed – The Great Western Railway is an oil painting by the 19th century British painter J. M. W. Turner.This painting was first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1844, though it may have been painted earlier....

in 1844 after looking out of the window of his train on Maidenhead Railway Bridge
Maidenhead Railway Bridge
Maidenhead Railway Bridge is a railway bridge carrying the main line of the Great Western Railway over the River Thames between Maidenhead, Berkshire and Taplow, Buckinghamshire, England...

, and in 1862 William Powell Frith
William Powell Frith
William Powell Frith , was an English painter specialising in genre subjects and panoramic narrative works of life in the Victorian era. He was elected to the Royal Academy in 1852...

 painted The Railway Station, a large crowd scene on the platform
Railway platform
A railway platform is a section of pathway, alongside rail tracks at a train station, metro station or tram stop, at which passengers may board or alight from trains or trams. Almost all stations for rail transport have some form of platforms, with larger stations having multiple platforms...

 at Paddington. The station itself was initially painted for Powell by W Scott Morton, an architect
Architect
An architect is a person trained in the planning, design and oversight of the construction of buildings. To practice architecture means to offer or render services in connection with the design and construction of a building, or group of buildings and the space within the site surrounding the...

, and a train was specially provided by the GWR for the painting, in front of which a variety of travellers and railway staff form an animated focal point.

The GWR has featured in many television programmes, such as the BBC children's drama series God's Wonderful Railway
God's Wonderful Railway
God's Wonderful Railway was a children's drama TV series made by the BBC. There were eight 30-minute episodes, originally screened from 6 February 1980.-Plot:...

in 1980. It was also immortalised in Bob Godfrey
Bob Godfrey
Roland Frederick Godfrey is a British animator whose career spans more than fifty years. He is probably best known for the children's cartoon series Roobarb , Noah and Nelly in... SkylArk and Henry's Cat and for the Trio chocolate biscuit advertisements shown in the UK during the early 1980s...

's animated film Great
Great (film)
Great is a 25-minute animated film, telling a humorous version of the life of Isambard Kingdom Brunel. It was directed by Bob Godfrey, produced by Grantstern Films and distributed by British Lion. Great won the 1975 Academy Award for Animated Short Film....

, which won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film of 1975 which tells the story of Brunel's engineering accomplishments.

Heritage


The GWR's memory is kept alive by several museums such as STEAM – the museum of the GWR
Swindon Steam Railway Museum
STEAM – Museum of the Great Western Railway, also known as Swindon Steam Railway Museum, is located at the site of the old railway works in Swindon, England – Wiltshire's 'railway town'...

 (in the old Swindon railway works), and the Didcot Railway Centre
Didcot Railway Centre
Didcot Railway Centre, located in the town of Didcot in the English county of Oxfordshire, is based around the site of a comprehensive "engine shed" which became redundant after the nationalisation of the UK railways, due to the gradual changeover from steam to diesel motive power.-Description:The...

, where there is an operating broad-gauge train. Preserved GWR lines include those from Totnes to Buckfastleigh
South Devon Railway Trust
The South Devon Railway Trust is a charitable organisation that operates a heritage railway from Totnes to Buckfastleigh in Devon, alongside the River Dart...

, Paignton to Kingswear
Paignton and Dartmouth Steam Railway
The Paignton & Dartmouth Steam Railway is a heritage railway on the former Kingswear branch line between Paignton and Kingswear in Torbay, Devon, England....

, Bishops Lydeard to Minehead
West Somerset Railway
The West Somerset Railway is a railway line that originally linked and in Somerset, England.It opened in 1862 and was extended from Watchet to by the Minehead Railway in 1874. Although just a single track, improvements were needed in the first half of the twentieth century to accommodate the...

, and Kidderminster to Bridgnorth
Severn Valley Railway
The Severn Valley Railway is a heritage railway in Shropshire and Worcestershire, England. The line runs along the Severn Valley from Bridgnorth to Kidderminster, following the course of the River Severn for much of its route...

. Many other heritage railways and museums also have GWR locomotives or rolling stock in use or on display.

Numerous stations still operated by Network Rail
Network Rail
Network Rail is the government-created owner and operator of most of the rail infrastructure in Great Britain .; it is not responsible for railway infrastructure in Northern Ireland...

 also continue to display much of their GWR heritage. This is seen not only at the large stations such as Paddington (built 1851, extended 1915) and Temple Meads
Bristol Temple Meads railway station
Bristol Temple Meads railway station is the oldest and largest railway station in Bristol, England. It is an important transport hub for public transport in Bristol, with bus services to various parts of the city and surrounding districts, and a ferry service to the city centre in addition to the...

 (1840, 1875 & 1935) but other places such as Bath Spa
Bath Spa railway station
Bath Spa railway station is the principal railway station in the city of Bath, in South West England.-Architecture:Bath Spa station was built in 1840 for the Great Western Railway by Brunel and is a grade II* listed building...

 (1840), (1878), (1879), (1897), and (1927). Many small stations are little changed from when they were opened, as there has been no need to rebuild them to cope with heavier traffic; good examples can be found at (1841), (1850, Network Rail's last surviving Brunel-style train shed
Train shed
A train shed is an adjacent building to a railway station where the tracks and platforms are covered by a roof. It is also known as an overall roof...

), (1857), and (1859). Even where stations have been rebuilt, many fittings such as signs, manhole
Manhole
A manhole is an opening used to gain access to sewers or other underground structures, usually for maintenance.Manhole may also refer to:* Manhole , a metal band from Los Angeles* The Manhole, a computer game...

 covers and seats can still be found with "GWR" cast into them.

UNESCO
UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

 are considering a proposal to list the Great Western Main Line as a World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site
A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by the UNESCO as of special cultural or physical significance...

. The proposal, which is supported by English Heritage
English Heritage
English Heritage . is an executive non-departmental public body of the British Government sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport...

, comprises seven individual sites. These are Temple Meads
Bristol Temple Meads railway station
Bristol Temple Meads railway station is the oldest and largest railway station in Bristol, England. It is an important transport hub for public transport in Bristol, with bus services to various parts of the city and surrounding districts, and a ferry service to the city centre in addition to the...

 (including Brunel's GWR offices, boardroom, train shed, the B&ER
Bristol and Exeter Railway
The Bristol & Exeter Railway was a railway company formed to connect Bristol and Exeter.The company's head office was situated outside their Bristol station...

 offices, and the viaduct
Viaduct
A viaduct is a bridge composed of several small spans. The term viaduct is derived from the Latin via for road and ducere to lead something. However, the Ancient Romans did not use that term per se; it is a modern derivation from an analogy with aqueduct. Like the Roman aqueducts, many early...

 over the River Avon
River Avon, Bristol
The River Avon is an English river in the south west of the country. To distinguish it from a number of other River Avons in Britain, this river is often also known as the Lower Avon or Bristol Avon...

); Bath including the route from Twerton Tunnel to the Sydney Gardens; Middlehill and Box Tunnels; the Swindon area including Swindon railway works and village; Maidenhead Railway Bridge
Maidenhead Railway Bridge
Maidenhead Railway Bridge is a railway bridge carrying the main line of the Great Western Railway over the River Thames between Maidenhead, Berkshire and Taplow, Buckinghamshire, England...

; Wharncliffe Viaduct
Wharncliffe Viaduct
The Wharncliffe Viaduct is a brick-built viaduct that carries the Great Western Main Line railway across the Brent Valley, between Hanwell and Southall, Ealing, UK, at an elevation of . The viaduct, built in 1836-7, was constructed for the opening of the Great Western Railway...

; and Paddington station.

Locomotives named Great Western



Several locomotives have been given the name Great Western. The first was an Iron Duke class
GWR Iron Duke Class
The Great Western Railway Iron Duke Class 4-2-2 was a class of broad gauge steam locomotives for express passenger train work.-History:The prototype locomotive, Great Western, was built as a 2-2-2 locomotive in April 1846, but was soon converted to a 4-2-2 arrangement...

 broad-gauge locomotive built in 1846, the first locomotive entirely constructed at the company’s Swindon locomotive works. This was withdrawn in 1870, but in 1888 a newly-built locomotive in the same class was given the same name; this was withdrawn four years later when the broad gauge was taken out of use. A standard-gauge 3031 class
GWR 3031 Class
The Dean Single, 3031 Class, or Achilles Class was a type of steam locomotive built by the Great Western Railway between 1891 and 1899. They were designed by William Dean for passenger work...

 locomotive, number 3012, was then given the name. The last GWR locomotive to carry the name was Castle class
GWR 4073 Class
The GWR 4073 Class or Castle class locomotives are a group of 4-6-0 steam locomotives of the Great Western Railway. They were originally designed by the railway's Chief Mechanical Engineer, Charles Collett, for working the company's express passenger trains.-History:A development of the earlier...

 number 7007, which continued to carry it in British Railways days.

The name later reappeared on some BR
British Rail
British Railways , which from 1965 traded as British Rail, was the operator of most of the rail transport in Great Britain between 1948 and 1997. It was formed from the nationalisation of the "Big Four" British railway companies and lasted until the gradual privatisation of British Rail, in stages...

 diesels
Diesel locomotive
A diesel locomotive is a type of railroad locomotive in which the prime mover is a diesel engine, a reciprocating engine operating on the Diesel cycle as invented by Dr. Rudolf Diesel...

. The first was 47500 which carried the name from 1979 until 1991. Another Class 47
British Rail Class 47
The British Rail Class 47, is a class of British railway diesel-electric locomotive that was developed in the 1960s by Brush Traction. A total of 512 Class 47s were built at Crewe Works and Brush's Falcon Works, Loughborough between 1962 and 1968, which made them the most numerous class of British...

, this time 47815, had the name bestowed on it in 2005; it is currently (2009) in operation with Riviera Trains
Riviera Trains
Riviera Trains Limited is a railway spot-hire company, based at Crewe in Cheshire. It owns a large fleet of Class 47 locomotives, which have been hired to both passenger and charter train operators. One of their main customers was Arriva Trains Wales, which used locomotives to haul Manchester to...

. A High Speed Train power car
British Rail Class 43 (HST)
The British Rail Class 43 is the TOPS classification used for the InterCity 125 High Speed Train power cars, built by BREL from 1975 to 1982....

, number 43185, also carries the same name; it is currently, and appropriately, a part of the First Great Western
First Great Western
First Great Western is the operating name of First Greater Western Ltd, a British train operating company owned by FirstGroup that serves Greater London, the South East, South West and West Midlands regions of England, and South Wales....

 fleet.

Notable people


  • Joseph Armstrong
    Joseph Armstrong (engineer)
    Joseph Armstrong was a British locomotive engineer and the second locomotive superintendent of the Great Western Railway...

Locomotive Superintendent to the Shrewsbury and Chester Railway and the Shrewsbury and Birmingham Railway
Shrewsbury and Birmingham Railway
The Shrewsbury and Birmingham Railway opened on 12 November 1849. It merged with the Great Western Railway on 1 September 1854.The company formed originally as the Shrewsbury & Wolverhampton, Dudley & Birmingham Railway in 1844, it became Shrewsbury & Birmingham Railway in 1847.When the section...

s from 1853, he was responsible for the locomotive workshops at Wolverhampton. When they amalgamated with the GWR the following year he was given the title of Northern Division Locomotive Superintendent (1854–1864), he then moved to Swindon as the chief Locomotive Superintendent (1864–1877).
  • Isambard Kingdom Brunel
    Isambard Kingdom Brunel
    Isambard Kingdom Brunel, FRS , was a British civil engineer who built bridges and dockyards including the construction of the first major British railway, the Great Western Railway; a series of steamships, including the first propeller-driven transatlantic steamship; and numerous important bridges...

Chief Engineer to the GWR (1835–1859) and many of the broad-gauge lines with which it amalgamated, also the standard-gauge Taff Vale Railway
Taff Vale Railway
The Taff Vale Railway is a railway in Glamorgan, South Wales, and is one of the oldest in Wales. It operated as an independent company from 1836 until 1922, when it became a constituent company of the Great Western Railway...

. He was responsible for choosing the route of the railway and designing many of today's iconic structures including Box Tunnel, Maidenhead Railway Bridge
Maidenhead Railway Bridge
Maidenhead Railway Bridge is a railway bridge carrying the main line of the Great Western Railway over the River Thames between Maidenhead, Berkshire and Taplow, Buckinghamshire, England...

, Paddington and Temple Meads
Bristol Temple Meads railway station
Bristol Temple Meads railway station is the oldest and largest railway station in Bristol, England. It is an important transport hub for public transport in Bristol, with bus services to various parts of the city and surrounding districts, and a ferry service to the city centre in addition to the...

 stations.
  • George Jackson Churchward
    George Jackson Churchward
    George Jackson Churchward CBE was Chief Mechanical Engineer of the Great Western Railway in the United Kingdom from 1902 to 1922.-Early career:...

Locomotive Superintendent (1902–1915) and Chief Mechanical Engineer
Chief Mechanical Engineer
Chief Mechanical Engineer and Locomotive Superintendent are titles applied by British, Australian, and New Zealand railway companies to the person ultimately responsible to the board of the company for the building and maintaining of the locomotives and rolling stock...

 (1915–1921) who instigated much standardisation of locomotive components.
  • Charles Collett
    Charles Collett
    Charles Benjamin Collett was chief mechanical engineer of the Great Western Railway from 1922 to 1941. He designed the GWR's 4-6-0 Castle and King Class express passenger locomotives.-Career:...

Chief Mechanical Engineer (1922–1941).
  • William Dean
Locomotive Superintendent (1877–1902).

  • Daniel Gooch
    Daniel Gooch
    Sir Daniel Gooch, 1st Baronet was an English railway and transatlantic cable engineer and Conservative politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1865 to 1885...

The GWR's first Locomotive Superintendent (1837–1864) and its Chairman (1865–1889). He was responsible for the railway's early locomotive successes, such as the Iron Duke Class
GWR Iron Duke Class
The Great Western Railway Iron Duke Class 4-2-2 was a class of broad gauge steam locomotives for express passenger train work.-History:The prototype locomotive, Great Western, was built as a 2-2-2 locomotive in April 1846, but was soon converted to a 4-2-2 arrangement...

, and for establishing Swindon railway works.
  • James Grierson
Goods Manager (1857–1863), he then became the General Manager (1863–1887) from which position he saw the railway through a period of expansion and the early gauge conversions.
  • Frederick Hawksworth
    Frederick Hawksworth
    Frederick W. Hawksworth , was Chief Mechanical Engineer of the Great Western Railway ....

The last GWR Chief Mechanical Engineer (1941–1947).
  • Henry Lambert
The General Manager (1887–1896) responsible for managing the final gauge conversion in 1892.
  • James Milne
General Manager (1929–1947) who saw the GWR through World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

.
  • Sir Felix Pole
    Felix Pole
    Sir Felix John Clewett Pole was a British railway manager and industrialist. He was general manager of the Great Western Railway , before becoming executive chairman of Associated Electrical Industries, a post he held until 1945.-References:...

As General Manager (1921–1929) he oversaw the Grouping of the South Wales railways into the GWR following the Railways Act 1921
Railways Act 1921
The Railways Act 1921, also known as the Grouping Act, was an enactment by the British government of David Lloyd George intended to stem the losses being made by many of the country's 120 railway companies, move the railways away from internal competition, and to retain some of the benefits which...

, and promoted the use of 20 ton wagons to bring efficiencies to the railway's coal trade.
  • CE Spagnoletti
The GWR's Telegraph
Electrical telegraph
An electrical telegraph is a telegraph that uses electrical signals, usually conveyed via telecommunication lines or radio. The electromagnetic telegraph is a device for human-to-human transmission of coded text messages....

 Superintendent (1855–1892) patent
Patent
A patent is a form of intellectual property. It consists of a set of exclusive rights granted by a sovereign state to an inventor or their assignee for a limited period of time in exchange for the public disclosure of an invention....

ed the Disc Block Telegraph Instrument that was used to safely control the dispatch of trains. First used on the Metropolitan Railway
Metropolitan railway
Metropolitan Railway can refer to:* Metropolitan line, part of the London Underground* Metropolitan Railway, the first underground railway to be built in London...

 in 1863 and the Bristol and South Wales Union Railway
Bristol and South Wales Union Railway
The Bristol and South Wales Union Railway was built to connect Bristol, England, with south Wales. The route involved a ferry crossing of the River Severn but was considerably shorter than the alternative route through Gloucester...

 in 1864, it was later used on many other lines operated by the company.

See also

  • Great Western Railway accidents
    Great Western Railway accidents
    Great Western Railway accidents include several notable incidents that influenced rail safety in the United Kingdom.-Notable accidents:In common with other railway companies, the GWR experienced accidents throughout its history, one of the most serious being the Sonning Cutting accident in December...

  • Great Western Railway ships
    Great Western Railway ships
    The Great Western Railway’s ships operated in connection with the company's trains to provide services to Ireland, the Channel Islands and France. Powers were granted by Act of Parliament for the Great Western Railway to operate ships in 1871. The following year the company took over the ships...

  • Great Western Railway telegraphic codes
    Great Western Railway telegraphic codes
    Great Western Railway telegraphic codes were a commercial telegraph code used to shorten the telegraphic messages sent between the stations and offices of the railway....

  • GWR locomotive numbering and classification
    GWR locomotive numbering and classification
    The GWR was the longest-lived of the pre-nationalisation railway companies in Britain, surviving the 'Grouping' of the railways in 1923 almost unchanged. As a result, the history of its numbering and classification of locomotives is relatively complicated...

  • List of broad gauge (7 feet) railway locomotive names
  • List of Chief Mechanical Engineers of the Great Western Railway
  • List of constituents of the Great Western Railway
  • Llanelli railway strike
    Llanelli railway strike
    In August 1911, the railway strike in Llanelli was brutally suppressed by the police, and 2 men - John 'Jac' John and Leonard Worsell - were shot dead by troops of the Worcester Regiment...

    , 1911

External links