London and North Eastern Railway
LNER Class A1 No. 2547 Doncaster with The Flying Scotsman train in 1928.
LocaleEngland; Scotland
Dates of operation1 January 1923–
31 December 1947
PredecessorGreat Eastern Railway
Great Central Railway
Great Northern Railway
Great North of Scotland Railway
Hull and Barnsley Railway
North British Railway
North Eastern Railway
and others
SuccessorBritish Rail:
Track gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Length6,590 miles (10,610 km)

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


Map of the LNER system

The company was the second largest created by the Railways Act 1921. The principal constituents of the LNER were:

The total route mileage was 6,590 miles (10,610 km). The North Eastern Railway had the largest route mileage of 1,757 miles (2,828 km), whilst the Hull and Barnsley Railway was 106.5 miles (171.4 km).

It covered the area north and east of London. It included the East Coast Main Line from London to Edinburgh via York and Newcastle upon Tyne and the routes from Edinburgh to Aberdeen and Inverness. It also included the Great Central Main Line, from London Marylebone to Sheffield. Most of the country east of the Pennines was within its purview, including East Anglia. The main workshops were in Doncaster, with others at Darlington, Inverurie and Stratford, London.[1][2]

The company also owned the most westerly track and stations in Great Britain, in the form of the West Highland Railway to Arisaig and Mallaig, previously owned by the North British Railway.

The LNER inherited four of London's termini: Fenchurch Street (ex-London and Blackwall Railway;[3] King's Cross (ex-Great Northern Railway); Liverpool Street (ex-Great Eastern Railway); and Marylebone (ex-Great Central Railway).[4] In addition, it ran suburban services to Broad Street (London, Midland and Scottish Railway) and Moorgate (Metropolitan Railway, later London Transport).[5]

The LNER owned:

In partnership with the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS), the LNER was co-owner of the Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway, the UK's biggest joint railway, much of which competed with the LNER's own lines. The M&GNJR was incorporated into the LNER in 1936. In 1933, on the formation of the London Passenger Transport Board, the LNER acquired the remaining operations of the Metropolitan Railway Company.

The LNER was the majority partner in the Cheshire Lines Committee and the Forth Bridge Railway Company.

It depended on freight from heavy industry in Yorkshire, the north east of England and Scotland, and its revenue was reduced by the economic depression for much of the early part of its existence. In a bid to improve financial efficiency, staffing levels reduced from 207,500 in 1924 to 175,800 in 1937.[6] For investment to retain freight traffic, new marshalling yards were built in Whitemoor in Cambridgeshire, and Hull in Yorkshire to attempt to retain freight traffic.

Sir Ralph Wedgwood introduced a Traffic Apprenticeship Scheme to attract graduates, train young managers and provide supervision by assistant general manager Robert Bell for career planning. The company adopted a regional managerial system, with general managers based in London, York and Edinburgh, and for a short time, Aberdeen.[6]

Timetable for Autumn 1926 detailing the resumption of services after the General Strike

For passenger services, Sir Nigel Gresley, the Chief Mechanical Engineer built new powerful locomotives and new coaches.[7] Later developments such as the streamlined Silver Jubilee train of 1935 were exploited by the LNER publicity department, and embedded the non-stop London to Edinburgh services such as the Flying Scotsman in the public imagination. The crowning glory of this time was the world record speed of 126 miles per hour (203 km/h) achieved on a test run by LNER Class A4 4468 Mallard.[8]

In 1929, the LNER chose the typeface Gill Sans as the standard typeface for the company. Soon it appeared on every facet of the company's identity, from metal locomotive nameplates and hand-painted station signage to printed restaurant car menus, timetables and advertising posters.[9][10][11] The LNER promoted their rebranding by offering Eric Gill a footplate ride on the Flying Scotsman express service; he also painted for it a signboard in the style of Gill Sans, which survives in the collection of the St Bride Library.[12][13][14] Gill Sans was retained by the Railway Executive in 1948, although modified for signage,[15] and Gill Sans was the official typeface until British Rail replaced it in the mid 1960s with Rail Alphabet for signs and Helvetica or Univers for printed matter.

Continental shipping services were provided from Harwich Parkeston Quay.[16]

The company took up the offer in 1933 of government loans at low interest rates and electrified the lines from Manchester to Sheffield and Wath yard, and also commuter lines in the London suburban area.[17]

Ancillary activities

The LNER inherited:

It took shares in a large number of bus companies, including for a time a majority stake in United Automobile Services Ltd. In Halifax and Sheffield, it participated in Joint Omnibus Committees with the LMS and the Corporation.[1]

In 1935, with the LMS, Wilson Line of Hull and others it formed the shipping company Associated Humber Lines Ltd.[1]

In 1938 it was reported that the LNER, with 800 mechanical horse tractors, was the world's largest owner of this vehicle type.[20]


The LNER operated a number of ships, including three rail ferries. In total, 6 turbine and 36 other steamers, and river boats and lake steamers were used by the company during its existence.


Detail of LNER teak panelled coaches, preserved on the Severn Valley Railway

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

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


The LNER covered quite an extensive area of Britain, from London through East Anglia, the East Midlands and Yorkshire to the north east of England and Scotland. The 1923 grouping meant that former rivals within the LNER had to work together. The task of creating an instantly recognisable public image went to William M. Teasdale, the first advertising manager. Teasdale was influenced by the philosophies and policies of Frank Pick, who controlled the style and content of the London Underground's widely acclaimed poster advertising. Teasdale did not confine his artists within strict guidelines but allowed them a free hand. William Barribal designed a series of bold Art Deco posters in the 1920s and 1930s.[21] When Teasdale was promoted to Assistant General Manager, this philosophy was carried on by Cecil Dandridge who succeeded him and was the Advertising Manager until nationalisation in 1948. Dandridge was largely responsible for the adoption of the Gill Sans typeface, later adopted by British Railways.

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

Chief office holders

Chairmen of the Board

Chief General Managers

Chief mechanical engineers

The most famous of the A1/A3 Class locomotives, A3 4472 Flying Scotsman
A4 Pacific Mallard, world speed record holder for steam traction


The company was nationalised in 1948 along with the rest of the railway companies of Great Britain to form British Railways. It continued to exist as a legal entity for nearly two more years, being formally wound up on 23 December 1949.[24]

On the privatisation of British Rail in 1996, the franchise to run long distance express trains on the East Coast Main Line was won by Sea Containers Ltd, who named the new operating company Great North Eastern Railway (GNER), a name and initials deliberately chosen to echo the LNER.

Following the collapse of Virgin Trains East Coast in May 2018, the newly-nationalised operator of the East Coast Main Line was named London North Eastern Railway to evoke the earlier company.[25]

Cultural activities

During the 1930s, the LNER Musical Society comprised a number of amateur male-voice choirs, based at Doncaster, Leicester, Huddersfield, Peterborough, Selby and elsewhere, which annually combined for a performance in London under their musical director Leslie Woodgate.[26]


See also



  1. ^ a b c d Bonavia 1980, p. [page needed]
  2. ^ Hughes 1987, p. 146.
  3. ^ Awdry 1990, p. 144.
  4. ^ Whitehouse & Thomas 1989, pp. 57, 59.
  5. ^ Hughes 1987, p. 50.
  6. ^ a b Simmons, Jack; Biddle, Gordon (1840). The Oxford Companion to British Railway History. Oxford University Press. pp. 283–284. ISBN 978-0198662389.
  7. ^ Hughes, Geoffrey (2001). Sir Nigel Gresley: The Engineer and his Family. The Oakwood Library of Railway History. Oakwood Press. ISBN 978-0853615798.
  8. ^ Hale, Don (2005). Mallard: How the 'Blue Streak' Broke the World Steam Speed Record. London: Aurum Press. ISBN 978-1854109392.
  9. ^ Robinson, Edwin (1939). "Preparing a railway timetable" (PDF). Monotype Recorder. 38 (1): 14–17, 24–26. Retrieved 16 September 2015.
  10. ^ Skelton, Stephen. "Gill Sans" (PDF). New Writing. University of East Anglia. Retrieved 3 May 2015.
  11. ^ Cole & Durack 1992, pp. 15–23.
  12. ^ Mosley, James (10 November 2015). Lecture on Gill's work (Speech). 'Me & Mr Gill' talk. Old Truman Brewery, London.
  13. ^ Robinson, Edwin (1939). "Preparing a Railway Timetable" (PDF). Monotype Recorder. 38 (1): 24. Retrieved 12 July 2015.
  14. ^ Hewitt, John (1995). "East Coast Joys: Tom Purvis and the LNER". Journal of Design History. 8 (4): 291–311. doi:10.1093/jdh/8.4.291. JSTOR 1316023.
  15. ^ Railway Executive (1948), Code of instructions for station name and direction signs (internal document)
  16. ^ Bonavia, Michael R. (1982). A History of the LNER. 1 The early Years, 1923-1933. Allen and Unwin. ISBN 978-0043850886.
  17. ^ Allen, Cecil J. (1966). The London & North Eastern Railway. Allen.
  18. ^ Railway Magazine September 1936 LNER hotels advert page iv
  19. ^ advert on Wednesday 21 May 1947 in Hull Daily Mail
  20. ^ Whitaker 1938[page needed]
  21. ^ Cole & Durack 1992, p. 128.
  22. ^ "New Chairman of L.N.E.R. Sir Ronald W. Matthews Appointed". Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer. England. 1 October 1938. Retrieved 18 August 2017 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  23. ^ "A Railway Hierarchy". Cambridge Daily News. England. 13 February 1939. Retrieved 22 November 2017 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  24. ^ The Railway Magazine (February 1950) "Main-Line Companies Dissolved", p. 73
  25. ^ East Coast train line to be put into public control BBC News 16 May 2018
  26. ^ Scowcroft, Philip. "Chorus Master and Composer: Leslie Woodgate". Retrieved 16 January 2015.
  27. ^ Esbester, Mike (9 January 2023). "'Never even blew me cap off!': Railway Grouping & accidents pt 1". Railway Work, Life & Death. Retrieved 7 May 2024.
  28. ^ Hall 1990, p. 83.
  29. ^ Hoole 1982, p. 25.
  30. ^ a b Hall 1990, p. 84.
  31. ^ Hoole 1982, p. 44.
  32. ^ Earnshaw 1990, p. 15.
  33. ^ Pringle, J W (27 June 1926). "London & North East Railways" (PDF). Retrieved 24 June 2016.
  34. ^ a b Hoole 1982, p. 26.
  35. ^ Trevena 1980, p. 35.
  36. ^ Trench, A C (20 October 1928). "Report on the Accident at Shepreth on 17th August 1928". Retrieved 1 February 2021.
  37. ^ Hoole 1982, p. 27.
  38. ^ Hoole 1982, p. 28.
  39. ^ Earnshaw 1990, p. 16.
  40. ^ Vaughan 1989, pp. 69–73.
  41. ^ Vaughan 1989, pp. 74–49.
  42. ^ Hoole 1983, p. 19.
  43. ^ Trevena 1980, pp. 36–37.
  44. ^ a b Earnshaw 1991, p. 26.
  45. ^ Earnshaw 1993, p. 18.
  46. ^ Earnshaw 1990, p. 20.
  47. ^ Trevena 1980, p. 41.
  48. ^ Earnshaw 1990, p. 21.
  49. ^ Earnshaw 1989, p. 28.
  50. ^ Earnshaw 1991, p. 28.
  51. ^ Earnshaw 1991, p. 32.
  52. ^ "Accident Report" (PDF). Ministry of War Transport. 26 June 1941. Retrieved 3 July 2014.
  53. ^ Grosbois, Thierry (2007). Pierlot, 1930–1950. Brussels: Racine. p. 16. ISBN 978-2873864859.
  54. ^ a b Hoole 1982, p. 35.
  55. ^ Earnshaw 1991, p. 29.
  56. ^ Hoole 1982, pp. 36–37.
  57. ^ Earnshaw 1991, p. 30.
  58. ^ Hoole 1982, p. 37.