Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

Registered UK Charity (No. 115342)

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 163,160 pages of information and 245,627 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Great Western Railway

From Graces Guide
1838. Engine with domed firebox.
Early passenger carriage.
1854. North end of Wolverhampton Station.
1863. GW Tank condensing locomotive.
1882. Broad Gauge (7-Feet).
1887. Railway coach No. 820. Exhibit at the Shildon Locomotion Museum.
Praed Street, Paddington.
1882. Broad gauge locomotive; Great Britain.
1885. Exhibit at the Didcot Railway Centre.
1891. Snowed up engine.
1892. Corridor train.
Broad gauge express engine. Picture published in 1894.
Latest type of engine. Picture published in 1894.
The last broad gauge train. Picture published in 1894.
1894. The Rodger Ballasting Train, distributing plough.
1895. William Dean.
1897. The Royal Train.
1901. Four coupled express engine by W. Dean.
1902. Roath Docks Bridge by James Charles Inglis.
1902. The First G.W.R. 4-6-0 Locomotive.
1903. La France.
1903. No. 1 built at Swindon Works.
1903. Steam Motor Coach.
1904. Motor-train.
1904. Interior of Motor train.
1904. Road metal siding.
1905. Engine-unit of No. 15.
1905. No. 15.


Improvements at Bristol. 1907.
1907. Inside of warehouse at Cannon's Marsh.
1907. Cannon's Marsh.






1908. The Great Bear.
1909. Yarnton Signal Box.
1909. 36 ton Breakdown Crane for the GWR 1909
August 1911.
September 1913. Swindon Goods Yard.
May 1917.
January 1918.
1922. Single Driver No. 215, 1853.
January 1923.
January 1923.
July 1923.
August 1923. Cornish Riviera.
January 1924.
January 1924.
July 1924. Felix J. C. Poole.
July 1924. Glorious Devon.
December 1924. Cornish Riviera.
December 1924.
1926. Passenger Engine "Saint Martin".
1927. Locomotive for the Great Western Railway.
1927. Four cylinder express locomotive.
1929. Passenger coach for the Cornish Riviera Express.
May 1931.
1932. Green Arrow.
June 1932.
1932. G.W.R. Wolverhampton Locomotive Works.
1933. Steamer St.David.
April 1933.
May 1935. GWR, LNER, LMS & SR.
May 1935. Cornwall.
May 1935.
May 1935.
1935. King Henry VII.


Aug 1935. GWR Centenary.


Aug 1935. GWR Centenary.
Aug 1935. GWR Centenary.


Aug 1935. GWR Centenary.Pangbourne Station 1846


Aug 1935. GWR Centenary. The First GWR Motorbus 1903


Aug 1935. GWR Centenary.
Aug 1935. GWR Centenary.1834 Prospectus
Aug 1935. GWR Centenary.
Aug 1935. GWR Centenary.


Aug 1935. GWR Centenary.
Aug 1935. GWR Centenary.
Aug 1935. GWR Centenary.
Aug 1935. GWR Centenary.Grange Court 1872
Aug 1935. GWR Centenary.
Aug 1935. GWR Centenary.
Aug 1935. GWR Centenary.The Down Cornishman 1892
Aug 1935. GWR Centenary.The New Cornish Riviera Train - King Henry VII
Aug 1935. GWR Centenary. Chairmen from 1835-1935
Aug 1935. GWR Centenary. Chairmen from 1835-1935
Aug 1935. GWR Centenary. Coach built in 1879
Aug 1935. GWR Centenary.
Aug 1935. GWR Centenary.
Aug 1935. GWR Centenary.


Aug 1935. GWR Centenary.
1945. 4-6-0 Locomotive.
1945. Castle Locomotive Drawing.
1945. Locomotive converted for oil-burning.
1953. King Henry V.


March 1957 Shipton on Stour Station.


December 1957.
1957. "Evening Star."
123266, a GWR carriage.
GWR clock. Exhibit at the Ceredigion Museum‎.
Bridge MLN 29205 1/4, Near St. Stephens Coombe.
January 1944.
February 1944.
March 1944.
April 1944.
May 1944.
June 1944.

The Great Western Railway (GWR) is a British railway company linking South West England, the West Country and South Wales with London.

A series of articles about The Great Western Railway entitled One Hundred Years of British Railways appeared in 'The Engineer' in 1924:

See also -

The Great Western Railway was built as Bristol wanted to maintain the position as the second port in the country and the main one for American trade. The increase in the size of ships and the gradual silting of the River Avon had made Liverpool an increasingly attractive port, and with its developing rail connections with London it threatened Bristol's status.

The proposal was to build a railway line of unprecedented standards of excellence to outperform the other lines being constructed to the north-west.

1833 The Company was founded at a public meeting in Bristol.

1835 It was incorporated by Act of Parliament

1835 October 28th. General meeting chaired by Benjamin Shaw. Gives a list of the Directors.[1]

Isambard Kingdom Brunel was appointed as engineer at the age of 27, and made two controversial decisions: to use a broad gauge of seven feet (actually 7 ft 0.25 in or 2140 mm) for the track, to allow large wheels, providing smoother running at high speeds; and to take a route which passed north of the Marlborough Downs, an area with no significant towns, though it did offer potential connections to Oxford and Gloucester and then to follow the Thames Valley into London. He surveyed the entire length of the route between London and Bristol himself.

1835 Brunel appointed engineers G. E. Frere, George Thomas Clark and T. E. Marsh for the western half of the line, and Robert Pearson Brereton, J. Hammond, and T. H. Bertram for the eastern part with William Glennie to handle the Box Tunnel[2]

The initial group of locomotives ordered by Brunel to his own specifications proved unsatisfactory, apart from the North Star. The 20-year-old Daniel Gooch was appointed as Superintendent of Locomotives.

Brunel and Gooch chose to locate their locomotive works at the village of Swindon, at the point where the gradual ascent from London turned into the steeper descent to the Avon valley at Bath.

1838 Opened the first stretch of line, from London Paddington to Taplow, near Maidenhead.

1839 The GWR commissioned the world's first commercial telegraph line. This ran for 13 miles from Paddington Railway Station to West Drayton and came into operation on 9 April 1839.

1840 The main line ran from Paddington to Farringdon Road with stops at Ealing, Hanwell, Southall, West Drayton, Slough, Maidenhead, Twyford, Reading, Pangbourne, Goring, Moulsford, Steventon. Fares ranged from 14s to 6s for a one-way journey. The trains left regularly with times published from their starting point but Bradshaw's shows no arrival times at the stations.[3]

1841 The full line to Bristol Temple Meads opened on completion of the Box Tunnel.

1841 December 24th. Accident near Reading at the Sonning Hill cutting. Eight deaths.[4]

1844 The Bristol and Exeter Railway reached Exeter and the Bristol and Gloucester Railway brought the broad gauge to Gloucester in the same year. Gloucester was already served by the standard-gauge Birmingham and Gloucester Railway resulting in a break of gauge, and the need for all passengers and goods travelling through Gloucester to change trains.

1846 The Great Western Railway took over the running of the Kennet and Avon Canal.

1849 The South Devon Railway (which for a time experimented with the Atmospheric Railway system of propulsion) was opened, extending the broad gauge to Plymouth, and the Cornwall Railway took it over the Royal Albert Bridge and into Cornwall

1850 The South Wales Railway, terminating at Neyland, opened and was connected to the GWR via Brunel's ungainly Wye bridge in 1852.

1851 Award at the 1851 Great Exhibition. See details at 1851 Great Exhibition: Reports of the Juries: Class V.

1852 GWR pressed ahead into the West Midlands, in hard-fought competition with the London and North Western Railway. Birmingham was reached in 1852, at Snow Hill (although the GWR had initially considered building to Rugby instead of Birmingham), Wolverhampton Low Level (the furthest-north broad-gauge station) and Birkenhead (on standard-gauge track) in 1854.

1854 The Bristol and Gloucester Railway had been bought by the Midland Railway in 1846 and converted to standard gauge in 1854, bringing mixed gauge track (with three rails, so that both broad and standard gauge trains could run on it to Bristol.

By the 1860s the gauge war was lost. With the merger of the standard-gauge West Midlands Railway into the GWR in 1863, mixed gauge came to Paddington, and by 1869 there was no broad-gauge track north of Oxford.

1867 The GWR reached Penzance

1868 Engineers are Michael Lane, W. G. Owen, A. Mackintosh. [5]

1873 The route from Wales to London via Gloucester was a roundabout one, so work on the Severn Tunnel began, but unexpected underwater springs slowed the work down and prevented its opening until 1886.

1876 Details of an express passenger engine (2-2-2) designed by Joseph Armstrong [6]

1888 See Locomotive Stock June 1888 where they are listed third with 1,600 locomotives

1889 Loco Supt is William Dean; Constructing Engineer is Lancaster Owen; Divisional Engineers are J. W. Armstrong (Hereford), T. Hammett (Taunton), E. H. Lloyd (Neath), P. J. Margary (Plymouth), L. Owen (Paddington), T. D. Roberts (Newport), W. D. Rowbotham (Wolverhampton), H. Voss (Reading).[7]

Through this period the conversion to standard gauge continued, with mixed-gauge track reaching Exeter in 1876. By this time most conversions were bypassing mixed gauge and going directly from broad to standard.

1892 The final stretch of broad gauge was converted to standard in a single weekend in May.

The 1890s also saw improvements in service of the generally conservative GWR - restaurant cars, much improved conditions for third class passengers, and steam heating of trains. The company also built new track to shorten its previously circuitous routes.

After 1902 G. J. Churchward developed nine standard locomotive types, with flat-topped Belpaire fireboxes, tapered boilers, long smokeboxes, boiler top feeds, long lap, long travel valve gear and many standard parts between locomotive types. Most of these were developed from five experimental locomotives, No's 40, 97, 98, 99 and 115. From these were developed the famous Star class locomotives, the Saint class locomotives and the 2800 class locomotives. Such was the success of these locomotives that they influenced locomotive design in the United Kingdom until the demise of steam traction. Two notable locomotives were 111 The Great Bear, the first 4-6-2 locomotive in the United Kingdom, and 3440 City of Truro, the first locomotive to be recorded at a speed of 100 mph in 1904 (although this speed has never been formally confirmed).

1908 The company owns 2,492.5 miles of road, and partly owns 136.75 miles more. [8]

Churchward remodelled the Swindon Works, building the one-and-a-half-acre boiler-erecting shops and the first static locomotive-testing plant.

1910 A comprehensive report on the GWR published at The Engineer 1910/12/16 Supplement.

WWI At the outbreak of war the GWR, along with the other major railways, was taken into government control.

1923 After the war the government considered permanent nationalisation, but preferred a compulsory amalgamation of the railways under the Railways Act 1921 into four large groups. The GWR alone preserved its identity through the grouping, which took effect on 1 January 1923. See the Great Western Railway: 1923 Constituent Companies:

1923 On the retirement of Mr Roger Thomas Smith, the electrical department was merged into the mechanical engineering department, marking the end of prospects for traction electrification in the company.

The 1920s saw the introduction of the GWR's most famous locomotives - the Castle and King classes developed by Churchward's successor, C. B. Collett.

1929 With the passing of the Railway Companies Road Transport Acts, it became clear that the bus companies could face stiff competition so the management of the National Omnibus and Transport Co led the way in negotiating with the main railway companies, forming 3 joint companies, firstly the Western National Omnibus Co with the Great Western Railway[9] [10].

The 1930s brought hard times, and the records set by the Castles and Kings were surpassed by other companies, but the company remained in relatively good financial health despite the Depression.

WWII brought a further period of direct government control, and by its end a Labour government was in power and planning to nationalise the railways. The war damaged GWR became part of British Railways on January 1, 1948.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Bristol Mirror - Saturday 07 November 1835
  2. Brunel by Steven Brindle. Published 2005.
  3. Bradshaw’s Railway Companion 1840
  4. Globe - Saturday 25 December 1841
  5. 1868 Bradshaw's Railway Manual
  6. The Engineer 1876/08/15 p186, P202, p208, p224, p226, p432, p438
  7. 1889 Bradshaw's Railway Manual
  8. The Stock Exchange Year Book 1908
  9. The Times, Feb 23, 1929
  10. The Times, Apr 16, 1930