The L&YR – a brief history

The Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway was formed in 1847 from an amalgamation of the Manchester & Leeds Railway and a number of smaller companies. Amalgamation with the East Lancashire Railway followed in 1859. It survived and thrived as an independent company for 75 years and no other major line was so in tune with the community it served. The L&YR was a great railway and at its peak the statistics were impressive. The figures for 1920 were…

601 route miles of track of which 557 were double track or better. Total track mileage, including sidings, was 2,217. Only 24 miles were level track, whilst 134 were on gradients steeper than 1 in 100.

Along the route miles were 291 passenger stations and slightly more goods stations as well as several large marshalling yards. There were 91 tunnels and 2,478 bridges and viaducts. Train movements were controlled by 733 signal boxes and ground frames.

The 1,650 locomotives were split into 966 tender and 684 tank engines. 86% of the tender engines could be described as goods, 540 were 0-6-0 and 295 0-8-0 whilst only 60 could be claimed to be express passenger. 330 engines were the celebrated 2-4-2 radial tanks and 230 were Aspinall’s saddle tank rebuild of Barton Wright’s 0-6-0. These four basic classes accounted for 84% of the loco stock. Only 468 locomotives were classed as passenger. 1,334 engines had been built at Horwich since 1889 (81%) and were less than 30 years old. The fleet was the fifth greatest in size after the LNWR, GWR, MR and NER and probably the most highly standardised. There were 32 engine sheds.

There were 4,360 carriages, a further 584 items of non passenger carriage stock and almost 38,000 wagons. About 3,500 horse drawn vehicles, in two fleets, served the various stations and the road motor fleet was approaching 250 (95% less than five years old). Staff of all grades and types was about 37,000.

About 1200 booked goods trains ran each day (including coal and mineral trains) and around 2000 passenger trains of which a quarter were electric trains on two major lines. Traffic mileages run totalled 30.8 million. 9.5 million miles were steam passenger, 2 million electric passenger, 4.6 million goods, around 3 million on coal and mineral trains and 8.3 million was shunting!

First Class passenger journeys came to 2.8 million miles, Third Class was 57 million and Workmen’s Tickets came to 33.7 million. There were 73,000 season ticket holders of whom one fifth were First Class. 14.7 million tons of merchandise was carried along with 400,000 head of livestock. About 12 million tons of coal was moved.

The 28 company ships were in two fleets, Irish Sea and North Sea, which led to the L&Y having the record for the longest journey bookable using only one British railway. This was the 895 miles from Drogheda to Copenhagen; the actual railway part being only 112 miles.

The L&Y was probably the most intensively worked general carrier in the UK. It was capitalised at £72,231,930 at 1921 prices (£3.63bn in 2021). Modern advances included Train Control, Electrification, Power Signalling, Vacuum fitted goods stock, Staff Training & Development and Systematic Locomotive Testing. It delighted in terming itself ‘The Business Line’.

Notes & Further Reading

Many aspects of the history of the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway can be found in the following books:

The Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Volumes 1-3 by John Marshall
Published by David & Charles:
Vol 1 1969; Vol 2 1970; Vol 3 1972

The Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway – A Concise History by OS Nock
Published in 1969 by Ian Allan Ltd

The Aspinall Era by HAV Bulleid
Published in 1967 by Ian Allan

Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Miscellany (Photo album) by Noel Coates
Published in 1983 by OPC

The Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway in the Twentieth Century by Eric Mason
Published in 1954 by Ian Allan Ltd

Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Miscellany 2 (Photo album) by Noel Coates
Published in 2006 by Enanar Publications and The Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Society.

All the above are out of print but second hand copies can often be obtained from specialist book sellers

Go to the Books section of our online shop for details of our current titles.

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