Journal of the Railway & Canal Historical Society 2018
Volume 39 Part 4
No 231 March 2018
Christopher Lewis and Terence Baddeley. Josiah Clowes, 1735-1794, 'a celebrated engineer'. 202-8.
Tony Sheward. The financial performance of the Big Four. Part 1: the
overall picture, 1923-1928. 209-22.
Part 2 of this article will provide a more detailed view of the financial performance of the Big Four in the years 1933-38. Thus, the comments in this section only give part of the picture. The two sections after the Introduction give the backdrop against which the financial performance of the Big Four should be measured. Although the start date for the Big Four's existence was over four years after the end of World War I, the companies were by no means restored to their condition before the War. The government compensation for wartime neglect of repairs and maintenance was only agreed in 1921 and regarded by the railway companies as niggardly. The post-war economic boom and slump had also adversely affected the financial situation of the pre-vesting companies. The Big Four, therefore had much to do to stabilise the situation as well as deal with the problems of amalgamation. Despite the best efforts of Lloyd George's coalition government to improve upon the Victorian legislation on railway rates and charges, the system established under the 1921 Act left the Big Four with considerable difficulties in competing effectively with other forms of transport. Of most significance was the link with standard net revenue in 1913 and the inflexibility of the system for changing rates. As with all UK companies, the Big Four had to operate within the parameters of the UK economy. In general terms the economy showed an improving trend up to 1929, but it needs to be emphasised what a shock the six-month miners' strike and related ten-day general strike caused to the railway industry. The Big Four were hit both as bulk carriers of coal and large users of coal, not to mention the impact of the strikes on their other customers, and of course the ten-day general strike seriously disrupted their business across the board. The Great Depression years 1929-32 saw falling demand on a world-wide basis. The Big Four were particularly affected because the old staple industries of the Victorian period, which were major customers, suffered disproportionately and were slow to recover, if at all. The years of economic recovery 1933-37 provided opportunities for the Big Four to grow, but the downturn and the threat of war in 1938 presented new problems.
The scale of the competition from road transport both in private and public transport over the years 1923-38 is indicated in the analysis by Stone and Rowe. Whilst this was undoubtedly a serious problem for the Big Four in particular sectors, such as door-to-door transport of non-bulky goods over relatively short distances, the Big Four still in 1938 retained a competitive advantage in several sectors. As the trunk road network was of relatively poor quality, railways were a preferred option for both passengers and freight for journeys over about 100 miles. For heavy and bulky goods, road transport often lacked the equipment to cope. Although the quality of private cars had improved markedly since 1923, there were still limitations, such as the need to decoke the engine of most cars after 1,000 or so miles.
The figures for gross receipts, net revenue and dividends show that for the most part, despite the shock in 1926, the Big Four had maintained their financial performance in the period to 1929. It also needs to be borne in mind that this was the period during which they had made good wartime depredation and reorganised themselves following the amalgamation. The Great Depression years were undoubtedly difficult for the Big Four, but they remained profitable at the net revenue level, although the LMSR and the LNER had to cease payment of dividends for a few years. By 1937 there had been a reasonable recovery, although not to the level of 1929.
In 1938 the Big Four were still well-regarded members of the London Stock Exchange. The LMSR was in fact one of the giants of the Exchange on a par with the majors in other sectors, such as lCI. They were still organisations generating large amounts of cash and had regularly paid their debenture holders, even if their shareholders had fared less well.
Pat Jones. The cast iron girder bridge carrying the Great North Road over Milby Cut, Boroughbridge, Yorkshire. 223-31.
Michael Quick. Frederick Manning: a notorious Great Western criminal.
Great Western Railway guard at Taunton . Born on 20 March 1820 and trained at Taunton as a coach painter. During his period as a guard he was twice in trouble: on 10 September 1847 he left a horse behind at Bristol which should have gone to London and a couple of months later for allowing a passenger to travel in a second-class carriage with a third-class ticket. Manning was dismissed in 1848 for not apprehending robbers when thefts had taken place on trains on which he was in charge. On leaving the railway he became proprietor of the White Hart Hotel in Taunton with his wife Maria de Roux/Raux.
R.F. Hartley. S.W.A.
Newton and the building of the Great Central Railway. 235-47.
Born in Leicester in 1875; died in Beverley in 1960. Photographer and son of Alfred Newton who owned a photographic business. Photographed work on the construction of the London Extension of the Great Central Railway and he estimated that he had taken 3000 photographs of it. About 2250 of his photographs are housed in the Leicestershire Record Office. Includes a portrait of Sydney Newton
The Great Central in the 1930s. 248
Reg Harman. Railway war service badges of World War 1. 249
Correspondence . 250
George Carr Glyn: railway man and banker. David Hodgkins.
xii, 486pp, 60 illustrations on 32 plates, 7 maps, softback, Wolffe Press
Reviewed by Kevin Jones. 253
Glyn, as ennobled as Lord Wolverton, received a fulsome obituary from an unexpected source, namely Edward Watkin. The following brief extract comes from near the end of this lengthy tome: 'When the history ofrailways comes to be written the name of Lord Wolverton will stand out as conspicuously on the page as, or more so, than that of Stephenson or any of the other pioneers of our noble industry. Lord Wolverton brought to bear upon its initiation and progress that which Stephenson never could have accomplished. '
Glyn was a private banker throughout his life and, like most such individuals, was the product of a banking family whose roots were in the Welsh aristocracy, but by George Carr's time were mainly in London. For a time he took an interest in London docks, notably in St Katharine's, then in the London & Birmingham Railway which of course was a huge undertaking. This interest dominated his thinking and led him to adopt a monopolist policy: intriguingly Cassen's work on counterfactual railways is cited in defence of the subject's attitudes, most notably to establish a link with Peterborough. The 'battles' with other companies, especially the Great Western, and the significance of rapid access to Dublin are recorded at length. GIyn's also financed other railways, many of which, but not all became part of the LNWR.
This is a book of very considerable scholarship, manifested in the extensive bibliography and in the multitude of footnote references, but its structure makes assimilation difficult. Thus most of the bank's overseas activities, notably those in Canada, are treated together towards the end of the book, but they had emerged far earlier, indeed prior to the L&BR. Thus there is some repetition and the prime subject's basic humanity fails to materialise. Understandably abbreviations are sometimes used, but TVR for the Trent Valley Railway causes one to pause and think Taff Vale. Chapter sub-headings would have greatly eased the reader's task. It lacks the clarity ofthe late Peter Braine's The Railway Moon which received a very warm welcome in this journal from Terry Gourvish. In fact Braine states very clearly that Glyn 'had early appreciated the importance of railways and took the lead in backing railway development'. The financing of the London & Birmingham Railway by a private bank must have been awesome: perhaps we should envisage the Branson or O'Leary HS2 to get some feel of the scale and risk. It is also strange that Glyn's had not ventured into financing canals but only London docks, although the risk was offset to a great extent by the infusion of Liverpool capital where railways were truly born. It should also be noted that Glyn established the style of management, especially during his period as Chairman of the London &-Birmingham, which led to the formation of the LNWR. Another notable innovation was the creation of the Railway Clearing House. An Appendix records Glyn 's liabilities and assets. There is an extensive bibliography plus footnote references on most pages and a better than average index.
The early railways of Manchester. Anthony
Dawson. 96pp, 58 photographs (40 colour), 20 illustrations and maps,
paperback, Stroud :Amberley Publishing, Reviewed by Gerald Leach. 253-4
The opening chapter describes how in the late eighteenth century the growth and expansion of the local cotton industry led Manchester to develop and become a large industrial town. It already had the advantage of a transport infrastructure that contained a network of short and long distance canals and following the opening of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway in September 1830 industrial growth accelerated, which eventually resulted in Manchester becoming Britain's first industrial city. The immediate success of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway acted as a catalyst for investors and businessmen to promote other railways that would Iink Manchester with Leeds, Birmingham, Sheffield and eventually London. Subsequent chapters provide a history of three other early railways that were centred on Manchester, namely the Manchester, Bolton & Bury in 1838, the Manchester & Leeds in 1840 and the Manchester & Birmingham in 1842. A line map for each is included. The narrative history of each company records the building and opening of their lines, descriptions of terminal stations, early locomotives and passenger rolling stock. The final chapter summarizes how Manchester's early raiIways quickly amalgamated with their local competitors, eventually leading to major consolidations when they were subsumed within the Lancashire &Yorkshire Railway in 1847 or the London & North Western Railway in 1846. The history has been well researched mainly from archive material lodged in Manchester's Museum of Science and Technology and extracts taken from contemporary newspapers of the time. The generous selection of illustrations and old postcards are from the author's collection and together with the photographs, mainly taken by the author, all combine to provide a good pictorial content which is unique, interesting and informative. A bibliography is included. There is no index and no I ists of source references, except for those referring to the newspaper extracts contained within the text. This compact book provides an interesting and easy read and is useful for the railway historian in providing some new information relating to Manchester's early railways.