90 Years of railway history

May 1926

General Strike brings Britain’s railways to a standstill over a period of 9 days

October 1926

South-eastern main line is electrified


Nearly 300 route miles of Southern Railway is electrified

June 1935

The U.K.’s first streamlined train The Silver Jubilee makes a trial run from Kings Cross to Newcastle – travels at 100mph for over 40 miles

November 1936

Record run by LMS Pacific Princess Elizabeth from Euston to Glasgow; return journey was made at an average speed of 70 mph


The Euston to Glasgow streamlined train The Coronation Scot becomes operational

July 1938

The Mallard A4 pacific loco No. 4468 sets the world speed record for steam traction reaching 126mph between Grantham and Peterborough

1939 World War II

the railways play a heroic part in the war effort. The network suffers massive damage with stations and depots heavily bombed. Railway workers performed huge sacrifices and great acts of heroism


Railways vital to success of Dunkirk evacuation: 327 special trains move tens of thousands of soldiers from Channel ports


Railways crucial to success of Operation Overlord, the invasion of mainland Europe and its liberation from Nazi rule


The incoming Labour Government promises nationalisation of the railways


Royal Assent given to the Transport Act to nationalise the railways


Nationalisation comes into force and the railway split into London Midland, Eastern, Southern, Western, Eastern and Scottish regions


The first BR standard design Locomotive enters service. Britannia was the first of 999 steam locomotives built in 12 classes


Electrification of the Sheffield – Manchester via Woodhead Line


BR Modernisation Plan: £12,000,000 investment announced for electrification and the introduction of diesel locomotives to replace steam


Modernisation plan introduced with the introduction of the first diesel-electric locomotives


Class 9F freight locomotive Evening Star No. 92220 the last BR steam locomotive is built at Swindon Works


Dr Richard Beeching is made Chairman of British Transport Commission


Publication of ‘The Beeching report’ – The Re-shaping of British Railways – heralds widespread closures


British Railways becomes British Rail with new livery and logo


Completion of London (Euston) to Liverpool and Manchester Electrification

August 1968

End of steam traction on BR


Labour Transport Minister Barbara Castle introduces her Transport Bill which leads to formation of passenger transport executives

January 1969

The Waverley route between Edinburgh, Galashiels and Carlisle closes despite strenuous opposition


The high speed era arrives with trial of the APT (advanced passenger train) and Inter-city 125 begin


National Railway Museum opens in York


High speed Inter-city 125 enters service between Euston Bristol and South Wales


Inter-city 125s introduced on the East Coast Main Line


British Rail structure is split into various section including Inter City and Railfreight


Settle-Carlisle Line proposed for closure


The Fixed Link Treaty is signed between the English and French Governments paving the way for construction of the Channel Tunnel


Pacer and Sprinter diesel trains enter service


Government gives go-ahead for electrification of East Coast Main Line (Kings Cross – Edinburgh)

May 1989

Settle-Carlisle Line is reprieved from closure after huge campaign including over 20,000 signatures (including one dog). The end of the period of major rail closures


Electrification of the East Coast Main Line is complete: wires reach Edinburgh


Conservative government publishes its Railways Bill which forms basis of privatisation of the railways

May 1994

The Channel Tunnel opens

July 1994

First privatised train runs – on South West Trains

September 1995

Completion of electrification of routes from Leeds to Skipton, Bradford Forster Square and Ilkley. Passenger numbers rocket


Railtrack becomes a private firm and floats on the stock market with shares worth 360p


The Robin Hood Line from Nottingham to Worksop re-opens and is an immediate success, helping regenerate former mining communities

October  2001

The government pulls the plug on Railtrack, putting the company into the hands of administrators. Shares are suspended at 280p. Network Rail – a not-for-profit company – will take over from Railtrack

January 2002

The Strategic Rail Authority unveils its 10-year strategic plan for the railways, including a £4.5bn investment in new trains, improved station facilities, track repair and signalling work


Government publishes its Community Rail Development Strategy: offering strong support for community rail partnerships


The railway to Ebbw Vale, closed to passengers in 1962, re-opens. Immediate success


Borders Railway from Edinburgh to Galashiels and Tweedbank re-opens. Guest of honour is HM The Queen travelling on steam-hauled special train, greeted by thousands of spectators. Passenger numbers massively exceed expectations

90 Years of railway history