by David A. Pearson JP MA (York) FRSA FCIB MCMI MInstD.
If it’s built by Johnson, Kirtley and Co., we sit up. Just the waft of a Compound and it’s seventh heaven for some. Yet what lay behind these magnificent machines, their operations and the routes? Competitive Advantage and Money, that’s what, yet we hardly give the commercial side of the railways in general or the Midland in particular a second thought. Conceived by and built to assist the coal-owners of the midlands, the Midland was never anything in reality other than a more or less constantly growing and in its middle and old age a huge, commercial operation. This was not created to entertain us with its magical machinery, but rather to make its owners money.
Always lurking at the back of my mind, with a promise that one day my MA in Railway History at York would be followed up by a Doctorate in how the Midland was managed, the matter was brought home recently to me when dealing with an enquiry about Northern Counties Committee locomotives. Fascinating as it was to draw links between them and their owners, usually ignored by most is the fact that although, for example, the NCC looked like a mini-Midland it was not for engineering but commercial reasons that this was so. It was because it both made the Midland money in itself and put it in a better situation to make more money from its existing assets.
I have often pondered this sort of thing. There must, for example, be more than meets the eye over the MR take-over with the GWR of the Severn & Wye Railway; who really did pay for the Severn Bridge? I have a sneaky feeling that with a little primary research, we might find out that the Derby Treasury had rather more to do with it than we realise. And is it so with much else that we take for granted? Looking back over more than a century and a half, particularly after much of the story now seems to be closed. For example, surely you might ask, the County Donegal is ancient history? Not so in fact, it was active commercially and legally until 1981 and not because it ran buses, because by then these were long gone. Read on, gentle reader.
We perhaps are in danger of seeing packaged history, the same or similar stories simply repeated time and again. Worse, we are in danger of not seeing the growth of the company’s assets in terms of their dynamic influence upon each other as the system and company grew. Nor do we see the commercial influence of other businesses on the business of the Company, what they enabled it to do, why and the consequent competitive position of the MR. The circumstances for example of one existing route when another opened could dramatically change things for the worse or better. For example, the knock on effect on Irish matters of the opening of the Settle & Carlisle was massive, yet this is far from obvious but integral to the story. Because such matters had a profound effect on the company as a business, they would be bound to influence its operation and thus its mechanical activities, yet we usually start at the latter in terms of study and the former if we are lucky, whereas they were all driven by jut one thing; competitive advantage and money.
So although we know in great detail what was there and how it was used, how much do we know about why it was there? I suspect very little indeed. The purpose of this article is to consider one well known aspect of the Midland; its Irish activities. I hope that through it, I can show the intricate commercial web that was there in just this one aspect, let alone the many such stories that need to be researched and told over just this one British railway. What then must still rest, quiet, unseen and waiting to be roused from its slumbers in the archives, if we can glean all this from already published sources? What light can be thrown on so much of the operations and mechanics of railways if only we could find out the commercial imperatives that drove them? Vast amounts of a new sort of railway history, I suspect.
In writing this article, I freely acknowledge my debt to the authors, whose work I have drawn upon heavily for the factual information in this offering. Living in the north and finding primary research at the National Archives more or less impossible to fit in with running a business and writing this sort of material, I have had to rely on their secondary sources to a great extent. I have though been selective and sought to use only those who are generally accepted to be wholly sound in their primary research. In particular, I must acknowledge the work of Peter E. Baughan and his magisterial work, ‘North of Leeds’. I know that he and the other authors whom I have chosen to use, have undertaken impeccable primary research for which we all ought to thank them.
The Midland first gained links with Ireland, a little like Sir John Seeley once observed about the acquisition of the British Empire, in a ‘fit of absent mindedness1’. What he meant by this was that the Empire was acquired for a variety of reasons that did not add up to a coherent whole. He also had in mind the fact that new colonies were being added in order to defend existing colonies and borders. For example, once Britain controlled and profited from India, it had to retain it, so it needed the Cape to protect the sea route and after the opening of the Suez canal, it needed Egypt and Malta to do the same for that. To protect Egypt it needed the Sudan and to protect that it gradually found itself with a string of otherwise questionable lands such as Uganda and Kenya as buffer zones to protect the Nile2; otherwise the French would get them, which would threaten everything.
It was the same with the Midland and its territorial expansion. Sometimes it was by a quite deliberate policy, what we would call a ‘Strategy’ delivered through a ‘Business Plan’ (the Midland Counties Railway, then the London, Manchester and Settle & Carlisle extensions) although none of the Victorian plutocrats involved would either recognise such terms, what they meant or the processes involved. On other occasions the links happened because a chance arose and the Midland grabbed it (the Birmingham and Bristol and later the Somerset and Dorset take over and as a result of these, it very very nearly got the Bristol and Exeter, can you imagine that and the consequences for ‘Glorious Devon’?); sometimes it was more or less quite by accident that the MR found itself well placed to take advantage over a competitor (it was in Gloucestershire already and the Severn & Wye with its coal traffic, only just over the river Severn, made it worth a punt, almost literally).
Occasionally, following the doctrine of unintended consequences3 the MR grabbed a chance and found itself with a consequential unexpected benefit. The ultimate purchase of the Belfast and Northern Counties and the Donegal systems perhaps are such, yet one doubts that the Midland’s successor British Railways (London Midland Region) shared the view that they were a benefit.
The Midland’s first and virtually accidental involvement with Ireland resulted from its Scotch traffic aspirations and a strategic wish to keep the Great Northern out of its territory. The MR leased the ‘little’ North Western Railway (NWR) in 1852 which ran from the Midland’s own system at Skipton to Lancaster where Scotch traffic was handed to the London & North Western (LNWR). The NWR / MR Scotch traffic was handed over after 1861 at Ingleton on the branch from Clapham, but that is of no consequence to our story at this stage. The MR took over the NWR for the Scotch traffic and to keep out the GNR, which was hovering at Leeds and soon to be at Bradford, all of 30 and 20 miles respectively from Skipton. All that changed in 1861 was where it was handed over, from Lancaster to Ingleton.
Simple, “job done” as they say. But as it happened, the North Western ran beyond Lancaster to Poulton, later known as Morecambe, where the NWR had a pier (the so called ‘Stone Jetty’) with powers to operate a shipping service to Barrow4. As a result, the Midland had taken over the steamers at Morecambe in 1853 and worked a service to Belfast; it was an obvious thing to do and seems just to have ‘happened’, given the chance. I was an obvious thing to do. Railway provided services (but not always in the legal sense owned) remained there, also operating to Douglas (Isle of Man) and Londonderry until the move to Barrow on 31st August 1867, of which, more later (passenger trains ran onto the Jetty from 1852 to 1857, after which time they stopped at the passenger station, but rails remained on the Jetty for goods trains until 1933)5. The first service, before the NWR was leased by the MR, from Morecambe was a joint one by the Whitehaven Steamship Company, the Furness Railway and the Midland to Piel Island at Barrow. The Irish trade to Belfast was initially provided for by the Belfast Steam Packet company. Baughan6 records that there was some sort of crisis with the privately operated Irish shipping services in January 1853, but does not know what other than it concerned the recent discussions with the Londonderry & Sligo Steam Packet company, which, whatever the problem had convinced the MR and its by then landlord the NWR that they needed to have their own service to and from Ireland.
The railway companies had power to operate the Piel service, but not to Ireland. The two companies therefore put up the money, 50% each, to buy a suitable vessel in January 1853 although at the time, the MR, which was still very friendly with the LNWR for other non-related reasons, feared that the facilities at Morecambe might enable the NWR to operate on its own account a service to New York which would upset its powerful friends at Euston. Here was the real first commercial decision of and for the MR to become associated with Ireland in a big way. The NWR decided that “the directors in conjunction with the Midland Board would continue to use every legal means for securing to Morecambe a fair proportion of such large traffic to and from the north of Ireland”7. Neither company actually had powers to run such a service though and the vessels although paid for by them, were registered in the private names of directors of the companies and operated by a new company which was legally an independent concern, although funded by and providing any profits to the NWR and MR in equal shares.
Services were provided as noted above to Belfast, Londonderry and Douglas, in addition to the local service to Piel for Barrow.
On October 1st, 1861 the Midland made the first of several agreements with the Furness Railway (FR). The FR was a hugely successful local railway that served Barrow and the Haematite mines in the area, reaching as far north, somewhat reluctantly initially, as Whitehaven. At this time, it was paying up to a 6% dividend, which put it more or less on a par with the best paying railways in the land which included the Midland. Small it may have been in size but commercially it had terrific clout. In addition to the railway, the FR also financed most of Barrow, the shipyards, steelworks and the docks; it had financial interests in the mines whose ore it took to the docks and the steelworks which it owned. It was rather like a small North Eastern Railway in terms of its stranglehold on the local economy, most of which it had created. Its owners were in the main the Dukes of Buccluech and Devonshire and their families, whilst it was operated more or less as the private fiefdom of James (later Sir James) Ramsden as General Manager. At that time, it was a commercial power that could and did hit way above its weight, not unlike the United Kingdom in relation to the rest of the World. It was to be respected rather than challenged; hence I suspect the Midland’s cautious approach over the Irish trade. It did not want to offend or get hurt.
In 1862, the Midland’s directors visited Barrow (note that they visited the FR) to follow up an initial approach made by them in 1861. Their proposals for a connecting link between the two systems were made8 at this time. This was to be the Furness and Midland Joint Railway, running between Wennington on the NWR Skipton to Morecambe & Lancaster line and Carnforth at the southern end of the FR. It changed everything for the MR and Ireland.
I have long pondered this matter. Why, when the Midland, since 1859 with a 999 year lease of the NWR that put it in total control of the route (the NWR was actually purchased by the MR in 1871), did it only two years later start its dalliance with the FR when it was already at Morecambe with a harbour for Ireland? I do not think that it can primarily have been the prospect of the docks at Barrow for the Irish traffic, although this is bound to have weighed heavily with the MR Board. Morecambe had limited harbour facilities, accessed over an inconvenient and unavoidable level crossing. The site could not realistically be expanded much if at all, so the use of the FR’s spare dock capacity with room for expansion must have been tempting; in particular, the prospective facilities for cattle traffic seem to have been almost infinitely superior at Barrow than Morecambe. The LNWR (see below) controlled the northern and southern outlets from the Furness (or fairly plainly were set to do so eventually) so the MR may have seen on the horizon a route, the prospect of which would give it not only traffic to and from the FR but also put it into the same sort of relationship with the wealthy FR as the LNWR, with access to the almost untold wealth of the FR’s ironstone trade, a position that any company would envy, especially when Sheffield was a major customer for this trade and the MR had a direct route there, much simpler than the LNWR’s.
The FR had a huge mineral traffic which had to leave either by sea from Barrow, or via the LNWR which had the FR as it was once put “between it like a pair of nutcrackers”, owning as it did the then only two possible outlets both north and south of the FR. The Midland, I am sure, was looking in the main for the mineral traffic to Sheffield for the steel works and as ever coal, in this case towards the FR for its steelworks and the then very underdeveloped tourist traffic to the Lake District. Twenty years later, a strike in the Yorkshire and Lancashire coalfields in the 1880’s put 44 out of 75 Furness blast furnaces out of action, so huge was the traffic in coal and of course the MR served the Yorkshire pits9.
The FR also started to build the Lakeside branch to Windermere in 1866 for the West Yorkshire to the Lake District tourist traffic on the back of the MR agreement10 and as a direct result of it, which suggests that this tourist traffic was anticipated as being potentially substantial. Although the Stone Jetty at Morecambe seems to have been wholly adequate for the present, as ever, the MR was probably looking to the future to improve its services. So as a part of a package deal, killing several birds with one stone, the prospect of moving the railway owned shipping traffic to Piel Island at Barrow was a supporting reason for the Agreement, especially as the sea routes were all shorter as a consequence.
On the other hand, other than as a southern outlet that freed it from the LNWR, the FR had no use for the Furness & Midland as such; although it obtained running powers to Leeds and Bradford its lack of use of these (as opposed to purpose) is demonstrated by its total lack of interest in using them. Yet the agreement ensured that the MR was physically kept out of the Lake District, all its traffic to and from now passing via the FR, for which this would be a considerable coup. Without the agreement, such traffic could have passed via Ingleton, Low Gill and the LNWR to Windermere, or the MR could have built its own, several times advocated, Kendal branch.
The prospect of the change of MR dock facilities to Barrow resulted in the FR promoting a Barrow Harbour Bill in 1862, which ultimately resulted in the creation of the Ramsden Dock. Lurking at the back of all this perhaps was the thought of an MR take over of the FR. If the MR did consider an FR take-over in the 1860’s, it would have been very expensive for it but with the prospect of returns that far exceed the glittering prize that was the ultimate outcome of all these manoeuvrings, the take over of the Belfast and Northern Counties some forty years later. In itself, this was profitable enough.
It was probably the likely cost of an FR takeover that put off even the acquisitive Midland at this time, especially since it was already experiencing shareholder disquiet which in a few years was to turn into open revolt over the creation of new capital for its significant expansion programme11. In 1867, after charging everything possible to revenue12 (this would mean that it had spent everything that it possibly could, before paying a dividend in cash from what remained) the Furness was able to pay the astonishing dividend of 10%. It would have cost the Midland a fortune to buy it in cash or, had the MR’s usual method of acquisition been used (i.e to replace shares of the company being taken over with MR shares or stock to give a similar return and value to shareholders) this would massively have diluted its own capital and shareholders’ returns. A take over in the 1860’s was probably a financial non-starter.
All the Midland’s Irish traffic moved to Barrow from September 2nd 186713 and a fleet of ships was purchased jointly between the MR, the FR and James Little and Co. which was owned by a company jointly owned, known as the ‘Barrow Steam Navigation Company’, often referred to as simply ‘the firm’. In 1881, the five steamers of the firm and the connecting train services moved to the new purpose built Ramsden Dock station at Barrow. Private sailings continued though to Ireland and sometimes other destinations from Morecambe until the opening of Heysham Harbour in 1904 when they transferred there. Consequently, the MR now had the opportunity to serve two ports on either side of Morecambe Bay, each offering Irish and Manx services, the more northerly of which it provided itself via the route of the FR, the more southerly of which was on its own property but which services were provided by independent shipping firms.
Things though did not stay so rosy for the FR. Developments in the making of steel meant that lower grade ore from the midlands (or worse, later, Abroad) could be used much more cheaply than Furness haematite in the steel making process. In the late 1860’s the FR dividend had reached 10% and at one point, its offspring, the Barrow Haematite Steel Company had paid 30% on a capital of £1,000,000. Yet huge capital expenditure on docks (Gladstone had once said that “One day, Barrow will be another Liverpool”; he was wrong) in a sort of euphoric anticipation of traffic that never came and much other questionable capital expenditure by Ramsden, combined with falling traffic that resulted in the dividend by 1889 being 6.5% and by 1886 it was down to 2%14. The national slump of the mid-1870’s resulted in a huge drop in the price of iron ore. At this time, in 1875, the MR and FR did seriously consider amalgamating. It is hard to see how the FR could have done anything other than benefit by this, but the MR would by now have less to gain.
The FR was a railway that had millions tied up in ventures which looked good in prospect but had in fact ended up with first class assets that were under-used and thus did not provide the hoped for return. By now, given the significant financial changes to the FR, one has difficulties in seeing why other than securing its Irish routes the MR ought to have been interested. The MR had the traffic already via the F & M Joint; the additional capital to take over the FR would have diluted the value of MR shares whilst bringing the two companies together would probably not have resulted in the large economies of scale that would be required to increase the dividends beyond those enjoyed by each company separately. This was in the main down to the huge capital assets of the FR, chiefly Barrow Docks, which could hardly be closed down by the MR as could for example the FR’s locomotive works with its activities being transferred to Derby to save money. The FR was to show that it had considerable tourist potential in the 20th Century but much of what it was actually built to do had expired by 1880. It seems though that its General Manager the aging Sir James Ramsden, did not see this and carried on much as before with a doomed ambition to make Barrow a port of world status which increasingly was becoming a hopeless task.
In 1886 at the FR Annual Meeting, the Chairman admitted under shareholder pressure that again, secret talks had taken place with the MR with a view to a take over. This time the initiative came not as with the 1862 F & M Agreement from the Midland, but from the FR board. The MR refused to guarantee more than a 5% dividend to the FR which seems generous in the circumstances although the FR’s own dividend did reach that level by 188915. By this time of course, the MR had an additional Irish outlet via the Portpatrick and Wigtownshire Joint lines, which although not ideal, had considerable advantages for the MR that now no-longer depended upon the large FR docks at Barrow for its Irish links. We need to recall these dates when, in the future, we read of the MR’s stupendous plans of its own to create a world class port that did not quite work out as planned.
The MR seems though long to have had its eyes on the FR, possibly since the 1861 agreement. With the FR failing financially and refusing what at the time they were made were perfectly reasonable offers given its long term impaired performance, did the MR reassess its involvement with the FR and Barrow in general? The MR refusing to increase its 1880’s offer is easier to understand than the refusal of it by the FR, as by now, the MR had a potential alternative to Barrow available.
By the 1880’s the Settle & Carlisle had opened. More by good luck than management, the Midland had found that this gave it, more or less on its new doorstep at Carlisle, a new route to Ulster. It was just waiting to be picked up and this fitted perfectly with its other development plans. That prize was the Portpatrick and Wigtownshire Joint Railway with its shipping links to Larne and Belfast.
At this stage, I think it is important to try to reflect upon the corporate psyche of the MR throughout its life. It was born out of a need of Leicester coal owners to break free of canal monopoly and then in the Midland Counties, the Derby & Birmingham Junction and North Midland railways, it expanded to control the flow of traffic to and from its home area. This done, it constantly expanded to capture not only traffic flows, but to defend its territory against other railway companies and to try to reach the source of the traffic that fed its core. Thus, ultimately it reached Bournemouth, Southend, Tilbury, Bristol, Swansea, and the far south west of Scotland; it secured much Scotch traffic and friends by being a major sponsor of the Forth Bridge; wider still yet wider, Manchester, Chester, Liverpool, London, its docks and the far reaches of Ulster al came within its imperium.
Other than London, none of these extremities were in themselves an El Dorado for traffic (although some came very close to it) but they all were as far as the MR could physically go to tap traffic that ultimately came to its core in the midlands. I have heard it said that it sniffed around the Bristol and Exeter and that the GWR take over of that was in direct response to the MR’s joint acquisition of the Somerset & Dorset, which demonstrated just how expansionist, how Imperial, was its outlook. The one thing that it lacked though was that which would give it real command of its traffic, a major port of its own. Was this a driving force of its expansion? In the end, Tilbury gave it the connections for the UK to Australia, South Africa and India traffic, but there was no west coast port (indeed no port of any size anywhere) of its own, or under its control in the latter half of the 19th century. Was this then the driving force? A west coast port would give it access not only to Ireland, but possibly the USA, Canada and the West Indies. With this thought in mind and the MR’s constant growth and development a fact, we now need to look at the Scottish influence on the MR and Ireland.
In 1879, Sir Matthew William Thompson of Guiseley, (near Leeds and Bradford) became Chairman of the Midland Railway. From 1883 he was also Chairman of the Glasgow and South Western Railway. In 1884 Ernest Paget became his deputy, to take over the job in 1891 on Thompson’s resignation. The Settle and Carlisle had been opened in May 187616. Another, almost separate at this stage, Midland jigsaw of expansion starts to appear. It would soon link with the Barrow/Morecambe/Heysham situation in 1903, when the MR took over the BNCR.
The Midland was already very closely associated with the GSWR, which provided a route to Glasgow for its trains, parrying the West Coast alliance of the LNWR and CR. Anyone could see that an obvious next step to put the MR wholly in charge of its traffic to its source, as seems to have been its general policy (see above) was a legal take over, rather than a working agreement with, the GSWR. If this happened, then the MR would have an obvious interest in the traffic to and from Glasgow and the port at Portpatrick, which would in effect be the main route from Scotland to Ireland. With the MR more or less engaged to the GSWR it thus suddenly found itself intimately interested in stopping the Portpatrick railways falling into the control of the LNWR (also of course at Carlisle), the CR or a combination of both.
The Caledonian operated what was to become the Portpatrick and Wigtownshire Railway, from Dumfries to Portpatrick, via Stranraer. On October 12th 1876 the newly formed MR and Glasgow and South Western Joint Committee discussed the working of the Girvan and Portpatrick Railway17, which gave a more or less direct route from Glasgow, via the GSWR to Portpatrick. Here there were limited dock facilities and shipping services to Ulster. To cut a very complex and long story short, by 1883, there was a Portpatrick Joint Committee of the LNWR, CR, GSWR and MR. Steamer routes existed from Portpatrick to both Donaghadee in County Down and Belfast, Donegal Quay, where there were physical links to the Belfast and Northern Counties Railway which ran across Ulster to Londonderry and served everwhere in between.
There were other advantages of nurturing this link to the MR beyond the likelihood of it taking over the Glasgow-Ireland route in the near future. One was that its trains were in any case now running to Carlisle. It had to run separate services to Barrow for the Irish trade and it had had its recent attempt to take over the FR rebuffed, so there was no immediate prospect of controlling Barrow docks itself; a significant joint ownership or interest in the Portpatrick route could put it in a commanding position in relation to any other partners. If it bought a quarter-share now with the GSWR, it would own half were the merger of it and the GSWR to go through, which looked almost certain in the late 1870’s. With the LNWR and CR the only other likely partners, this would make it the major and therefore the controlling power.
Further, unlike Barrow which needed trains to serve it separate from the main line service, MR main line trains could be divided at Carlisle and serve both Glasgow and Ireland, killing two birds with one stone. Consequently, it was not only the GSWR Glasgow-South West link in prospect that would make the Portpatrick line an attractive buy or buy into; its use had the potential to save on operating costs, albeit at the marketing disadvantage of a much longer route than its competitors. But another thing in its favour is that the actual sea route was and remains by far the shortest from Great Britain to Ireland, at about 40 miles. This was a huge attraction to many passengers who found the crossing distressing. The MR, so long as it could afford to thus had little choice other than to join in now with whatever was developing in the south west of Scotland, or possibly be the long term looser.
The MR and GSWR agreed in October 1876 that the latter would seek to work the Girvan & Portpatrick line, it did and it opened in 1877. This meant that the GSWR (and therefore to an extent, the MR) was in control of the line from Glasgow to Portpatrick and Stranraer. Two years later, the MR announced that it intended to seek via the Railway Commissioners, through booking facilities via the Portpatrick line to and from Ireland. Also in 1879, the Girvan & Portpatrick, worked by the GSWR, received powers to buy a half share from the Portpatrick Railway in its line from their junction to Stranraer. Quite where the G & P got the funds from for this, as it was perpetually hard up is perhaps not too hard to guess as this now meant effectively that the GSWR/MR alliance had a freehold foothold on the essentially strategic part of the route to both Stranraer and Portpatrick. The MR & GSWR did try to take over the G & PR completely, but were, astonishingly, declined, as it had got other ideas in mind, if only it could break free of them both. It failed in this though and was, eventually, taken over by the GSWR.
Probably seeing that they could not keep out the MR from the deal, the CR & LNWR agreed with the GSWR and MR that the Portpatrick railway should be taken over by a joint committee of them all in equal shares at the end of the CR’s working agreement for the Portpatrick in 1885. On February 15th 1884, the MR held a special meeting over the Bill to enable this, Thompson, now Chairman also of the GSWR, presiding. He told his shareholders that the MR had been asked by northern Irish interests to provide a service from there to London using these lines and that this was a logical outcome to the S & C opening18. The shareholders agreed (I wonder if the meeting had been called given the trouble that MR had had in the past about excessive capital expenditure and/or capital dilution over the S & C and concurrent expansion, seeking to head off any such opposition, as it were?) and the Bill was passed. The Midland took a 25% share in the railway across Galloway and Portpatrick Harbour.
It now had three places where its services met ships for Ireland.
As part of the deal, the MR received running powers from Carlisle to Gretna Junction, where it joined the GSWR over which it already had powers for its trains to Stranraer and Portpatrick. I have not been able to find any evidence of a Midland train ever having used these powers. It seems that its coaches were always hauled either as a separate train, but more usually, as through coaches in a GSWR train by the GSWR which worked what was now known as the Portpatrick and Wigtownshire Joint Railway. A little like the Highland main line services north of Perth, these through trains often had coaches of all four owning companies in their completment.
This route was obviously seen as a major part of the MR’s services. Pullmans were provided giving a through service from St. Pancras that connected at Trent with a service from Bristol and the west of England. But then things went wrong; the Grand Strategic Plan failed.
The original GSWR/MR amalgamation proposal was in the 1860’s before the S & C was built; it failed mainly due to the MR shareholders not liking an expansion of its capital account and Scottish opposition to the GSWR becoming in effect an English operation. A further attempt, just pre S & C (presumably in anticipation of) in the early 1870’s also failed. These failures were largely on the grounds of principle, not the actual amalgamation of the companies, meant that the MR had to get a firm working agreement with the GSWR part of which can be seen in the close working of both over the Galloway lines. The agreement then meant that there was less of a need for an amalgamation, but the MR had been given a warning of the massive opposition that the new company (it was to be called the ‘Midland Railway’) if it did come about, would create in Scotland. The GSWR did not match the MR in wealth and there does not seem to have been an opportune time financially, let alone politically, for the amalgamation to come forward again in the short term. Having got this agreement, the MR seems to have shifted its thoughts back to the Furness as a take over prospect (see below for the as yet unconsidered 1885/6 efforts which again failed), taking its eye off the GSWR, or realising that it did not really need both. By the time the FR discussion had again failed the GSWR was not doing too well and another amalgamation for it was in prospect that if it went ahead, had the potential to provide a colossal partner for the MR in Scotland which it undoubtedly craved.
The, in 1889 the MR Board give its approval for the GSWR which was in financial trouble, to amalgamate with its other Scottish friend, the NBR. Not of course that this was technically needed, but it helped to have its bedfellow on side. The new company, to be known as the NBR and would continue as before to take MR traffic to and from Glasgow, Edinburgh and the north. If an MR amalgamation with this potential colossus of Scottish railways was to go ahead, then perhaps this would make the whole an even Greater Midland? It had huge sums invested in the Forth Bridge and it may have been that it saw the NBR/GSWR simply as a precursor to a much larger amalgamation of the new company (to be called the NBR) with the MR in due course.
The amalgamation though was opposed within the GSWR by shareholders and by the CR which saw it as very injurious to its interests in South West Scotland. Worse, this then prompted a wish by some shareholders to suggest that the whole thing was a Midland inspired wheeze and that the GSWR ought to be rid of the MR connection altogether19. This threw up the distinct possibility, which became a Bill, for a CR/GSWR amalgamation as an alternative. This would have been ruinous to the MR’s Scotch traffic; given the CR’s alliance with the LNWR. It would have put the MR more or less back where it was before the opening of the S & C, having to hand over its traffic for Scotland at Carlisle to the West Coast companies and as regards Ireland, worse, as its services via Portpatrick would be entirely in the hands of its rivals it being a mere 25% owner of the Galloway lines, with the West Coast having 75%, as opposed to the 50% that the MR saw falling to its lot, had it managed to amalgamate with the GSWR.
Sir Matthew was still the chairman of both GSWR and MR. It was at this time that he saw his dreams of the MR having as much if not more track in Scotland than England start to fall apart. The MR was suggested by a leading GSWR shareholder at the time as being behind the NBR/GSWR amalgamation and its failure, with the awful unintended prospect of the GSWR falling to the West Coast, seems to have finished off poor Sir Matthew. He resigned the Chair of the MR in January 1891 due to ill health, having left the same post on the GSWR the previous September. He died in 1892 and apart from one yet again abortive attempt, the idea of a Greater Midland died with him. I feel sure that the NBR/GSWR link up was his project and that it was but a preliminary to a much larger amalgamation proposal of all three. It also goes a long way to suggest and explain of the otherwise rather mysterious yet colossal MR investment in the Forth Bridge.
The last effort to amalgamate the GSWR and MR took place in 1892. The MR offered a guaranteed 4% to GSWR shareholders by its usual method of replacing the amalgamated company’s shares and stocks with similar ones of its own. On 12th October the GSWR wrote to the MR to say that the offer was insufficient and that it felt that negotiations should cease; it did not ask for another offer. Perhaps it too saw that the real motivation, their common chairman, had gone and that the huge swell of Scottish opinion was against an English amalgamation; never did an English company come so close to owning Scottish tracks, yet it was not to happen. The MR took a pragmatic position, considered the position and took the same view. The matter seems never to have been raised again. Perhaps not quite so remarkably, the MR’s first bill to build a railway to Heysham and build a harbour there was also obtained in 1892, the year that this potential super company fell apart.
There are plenty of signs that Sir James Ramsden was rather intractable with the Furness, which he seems to have regarded as his Railway. He was the Managing Director of the FR from 1866 to 1895 (and before that its General Manager), dying in 1896. Is it I wonder any co-incidence that after the 1885/6 efforts between the MR/FR for an amalgamation, it was only a few years later that the MR made its last effort to amalgamate with the GSWR and that, having failed with both, then obtained its initial act (1892) for the harbour at Heysham, whence after the huge revision of the project in 1896, the whole of the MR’s Irish fleet moved in 1904 from Barrow?
Sir James retired from the FR job, but not the board in 1895 and in 1896 the MR announced that the Heysham scheme (q.v.) was to be revised and made much larger than originally intended in 1892, which seems at that stage to have been a simple replacement for the Stone Jetty at Morecambe. By 1896 the plans had been revised to accommodate the private Irish sailings and goods traffic. At last, the MR was to be its own master in terms of a west coast port.
Once again, in 1897 immediately after the MR obtained its second Heysham Act, for the much expanded project in 1896, it made a further bid for the FR specifically for the port facilities at Barrow20. This time the approach came from the MR. Was the 1896 Heysham Act intended initially as a threat against the Furness, to show that the MR would move if it refused yet another amalgamation attempt? The date may be coincidence or perhaps it was difficult relations with Sir James, coming as it did a year after his death that gave a final spur to yet another attempt?
Conversely, perhaps he had been friendly and his departure worried the MR now that the FR had found its-self a young, entrepreneurial General Manager in Alfred Aslett from the Cambrian. Perhaps the MR had had enough of Sir James which, combined with the frustrated effort to join with the GSWR in 1892 resulted in the Act of that year for the first Heysham project. It certainly seems strange that Heysham emerges first after what both parties agreed was the final GSWR amalgamation attempt and the departure from the scene of Sir Matthew William Thompson which thus wrote out any real hope of the MR becoming the dominant or even a major partner in the Portpatrick lines. It seems even stranger that the Heysham scheme then suddenly expanded to a full size international port enterprise immediately after the FR rebuffed a similar amalgamation offer from the MR. All the circumstantial evidence points to the MR seeking, by amalgamation, a major west coat port and slowly being forced, if it really wanted to achieve such, into building one of its own through the refusal of its neighbours, for whatever their reasons, to amalgamate with it, bringing their docks as part of the deal.
The estimated cost of the Heysham project after the 1896 proposals was the colossal sum of £796,619. One is bound to wonder if the MR baulked at this and still saw the FR as an easy alternative, especially as it came with a considerable ready made traffic in addition to the docks, with much yet to be exploited tourist potential. We shall probably never know, as such things are rarely recorded, but it would be wonderful if we could find out. Certainly the loss of the GSWR amalgamation seems to have turned the MR’s eyes back to the FR, the dates fit like a row of dominoes all falling down one after the other. The final one seems to have been the departure of Ramsden and the appointment of a new go-ahead General Manager by the FR which suggests that something big nearly happened with the FR and the MR in at this time. Perhaps Ramsden hung on knowing what might happen as friendly gesture, or perhaps he was impossible to deal with and Heysham is the MR breaking free of the FR docks in final corporate frustration. I doubt we shall ever know, but it would certainly repay much more research.
The MR’s experience of working with both the GSWR and the FR as friendly powers against the LNWR and CR almost backfired upon it; the loss of the GSWR to the West Coast would have completely negated all the commercial good that the massive Settle & Carlisle expenditure had brought; in effect, the MR would have been robbed of its much sought for independence of action over its own Scotch traffic. All this nearly came about as a wholly unintended consequence of the MR’s extended flirtation with its intended bride the GSWR. The FR, which it had kept chatting up, or being chatted up by it, was now proving a less than willing bedfellow given its new management so, in the same entrepreneurial spirit that it built the S & C to give it freedom of action with the Scotch traffic, the MR decided to go ahead with the fantastic expense of building Heysham docks on a lavish international scale as its answer to the more than uncertain misalliances with the other two companies. With the GSWR and FR unreliable (The LNWR as well as the MR had been approached by the FR for a possible take over in both 1875 and 1882, so it was by no means certain that the MR/FR entente would remain now that the FR’s finances were fractured) Heysham was a safe, albeit expensive option entirely under its own control. The LNWR still harboured ambitions towards the FR if only to thwart the MR. The MR would not want its shipping traffic controlled to its destination by the LNWR which would be almost as bad as the control of the Scotch traffic passing to the West Coast again, if the GSWR fell to the CR.
Also, we should not forget that the West Riding Lines were set in motion by a first Act in 1898, just after the last effort to buy the FR. They would not only have given the MR a very competitive route to Scotland, but also as credible and nearly as fast a route to Ireland from London as the LNWR via Holyhead/Greenore, particularly in the case of traffic for Ulster, where it would have been quicker. It could be that the decision that tipped the MR’s scales in favour of the West Riding Lines was not only the underlying one of a faster Scottish route, but a secondary one once the decision to build Heysham in style was taken, which was about the Irish and Manx traffic too.
There was a lot more to come at Heysham, which might even have been a transatlantic port. Certainly coal drops were intended to take export coal from north Lancashire via a new line from Wigan21; quite why and who would have used it is another matter. This proposal was in conjunction with the Great Central (take a look at map and see how its Wigan branch points to the north-west) with a branch to Blackpool and triangular junctions to the MR at Lancaster which would have taken MR trains to the Fylde and the Blackpool El Dorado. Partly a Watkin scheme to get the GC to Blackpool, it had its genesis in the GNR’s proposal for a Cullingworth – Preston- Blackpool line the last part of which was to be joint with the GC. When this failed the GC brought the MR on board so the former could get to Blackpool and hand much coal traffic to the MR at Wigan.
The Midland had Big Plans for Heysham, just as the FR had forty years before for Barrow. It was perhaps a shame that both failed and that the MR did not learn from the FR that a north-west port of that size simply would not attract enough traffic from the south to make it viable.
As part of these big plans, the MR looked beyond the sea.
The Portpatrick line was, by 1896, loosing money. Its real potential rested with the MR as the majority owner having taken over the GSWR, once this purpose was frustrated, it could never be more than a holding operation for the MR. A shareholder complained about the need to wait at Carlisle from 9 p.m. to 3.3.0 a.m. if travelling to Belfast via Stranraer or Larne. The Chairman openly said that to avoid this would need the operation of more trains and that the existing service did not pay. Given that the MR was involved not only with this service, but also its own self-competing services via Barrow and it was feeding private services that in turn competed with these two internally competitive ones, apart from all the other railways’ Irish services, this is hardly surprising!
The Heysham line, the MR’s Final Solution to its long running problems over controlling its own seaborne traffic to the west was being used by contractor’s trains by 1898 and opened in 1904. For some reason that I have not been able to discover, the MR had yet another look at the FR with a view to take over in 190123. Its conclusion was that it was a poor prospect. The implication by then was that a take-over would be for its own sake, rather than any control of the docks as the purpose per se. The FR’s capital account was overdrawn by £152,000 and the track needed renewal to take modern heavy trains. It still paid a dividend, but it was dropping with an all time low being reached in 1913 at 1%. It simply no longer did what it was built to do, yet it still had all the huge sums of capital raised in the mid 19th century to service. It was in many ways in a financial position very similar to that of the grouped companies in the 1930’s or the Great Central, before the grouping, grossly overloaded with capital and assets that could not be sold.
The Portpatrick service by the turn of the century was down to through coaches twice a day, with two other through coaches that ran to Stranraer town and Portpatrick, but which could not by any stretch of the imagination be considered reasonable connections. There was a fifth service on Saturday night with a sleeper. All had connections in the Midlands from the west-country. There were two sailings a day from Stranraer and one on Sundays. It was marketed very much as an ‘also ran’ to the alternative via Barrow, which received much more prominence in the timetables.
There was one sailing a day on this route, but much more attractively timed and faster in terms of links with the rest of the northern and southern UK. There were through coaches from St. Pancras to Barrow with through West Country coaches. In addition, there were through coaches from the North Eastern system via Leeds. You left St. Pancras at 1.30 p.m. and were in Belfast at 5.30 the next morning. On the Stranraer route, the same journey took anything between 12 and 13.5 hours, plus a much longer rail route. Neither though were as attractive as the LNWR via Holyhead and Dublin/Greenore, although the poor Belfast & Londonderry services via that route probably made the MR the more attractive to the traveller to Ulster.
In addition of course, we should not forget the sailings from Morecambe, provided by the Glasgow, Londonderry and Belfast Steam Packet Company Limited to Dublin and Londonderry. Probably the MR tolerated this third service as it gave links to two places otherwise not served directly by its own shipping. Interestingly, nowhere in the ‘Ireland’ section of the MR timetable was the Portpatrick route shown; it simply appeared as part of the ordinary train service section that happened to include a sea voyage to Larne.
The Midland planned lavish services from Heysham that began on 1st September 1904 on the same date, it sought to pull out of Barrow. The FR kicked up considerably at this and eventually, the MR agreed to leave the Belfast services running for a further three years and the Manx ones for two. In the event, the Irish services carried on for three days a week until the First World War, but the Manx services ended as agreed. In addition, the MR had to buy out the FR and James Little and Company from their joint steamship interests, for the huge sum of £45,000. The purpose of Heysham was to an extent already damaged by part of the agreement involving the guarantee of routing certain minimum seagoing traffic via Barrow. The MR’s loss of interest in Barrow is reflected by the withdrawal of the through St. Pancras service in 1911
The MR provided three of its own ships for the Belfast (via Larne) service from Heysham whilst the private Londonderry services transferred from Morecambe at the same time. A through train from St. Pancras at 5 p.m. connected with the Larne steamer which left at 11 p.m. using a cross platform interchange at Heysham, no sleeper, no long connection and not too long a train journey compared with Stranraer and its sleepers or the longer Barrow rail route. Douglas services started on 1st June 1905 with a St. Pancras departure at 8.30 a.m. and a Douglas arrival at 5.15 p.m.24. In addition, there were substantial facilities for cattle traffic from Ireland to the UK, something that the other routes lacked. The MR now with its own port at last, seemed ready for more of the same by expanding its own dominions to
The Midland had long known the Belfast and Northern Counties Railway. Serving as it did more or less everywhere of any consequence in the north of what became Ulster, it had the docks of Belfast and Larne as major sources of traffic. Because of this, it was a one fifth owner of the Larne Stranraer steamers (the Larne & Stranraer Steamboat Company) along with the four companies that owned the Portpatrick Joint lines which of course included the Midland.
The MR, in a time of cheap money, was still set to build upon what it seemed to view at the time as the limitless potential of Heysham; at last it had the international port that it always had craved so why not make a bid for the Belfast & Northern Counties?
So it did. It might not have opened to Heysham until 1st September 1904, but in doing so it had spent over £3m in new capital. It had to ensure that it had a guaranteed market when it services arrived at last, exclusively provided by itself, at Donegal Quay in Belfast. Ever ready the Midland had started to prepare before the new service opened. The best means of controlling such traffic was to buy an Irish railway, it would control its own traffic then. Such an idea was not new. The LNWR had bough the Dundalk Newry & Greenore forty years before, but it was a financial disaster. The GWR had huge investments in the railway albeit operated by the GSWR, from Rosslare to Waterford and on towards Cork. The LNWR had flirted with the Midland Great Western, the third largest of the Irish railways. It also had a huge investment by way of a loan in the Dublin & South Eastern, which took its influence to Waterford from Dublin.
The Midland to a degree was already at Londonderry (via the companies who provided the services from its docks) and Belfast with its shipping services. Indeed, the amalgamation act25 contains a large range of protection clauses for the Port of Londonderry so that the new owner of the BNCR does not use the railway to the detriment of the port.
For the Midland then, the Belfast and Northern Counties was ideal. It served Donegal Quay, it connected the two largest cities in the north, it was a very efficient and profitable railway in its own right and although it did not own them, it had direct links with Donegal and north west Ireland. It made an approach and as usual with take overs, offered to replace the local shares and stocks with its own, so it in effect bought the line for no cash outlay.
By way of reflection on how highly it valued the BNCR, here are the details26:
For each £100 BNCR 4% debenture, £160 Midland 2.5% debenture (total of £36,000 increase in value) For each £100 BNCR 3% preference shares, £120 Midland 2.5% debenture (total of £3,000 increase in value) For £100 of BNCR 4% preference shares £160 Midland 2.5% preference shares (£34,000 increase in value) For £100 of BNCR ordinaries, £220 Midland 2.5% preference shares (increase of £150,000 in value)
But for a company paying 5.5% one ought to expect a decent premium.
The actual take over happened on 1st July 1903 and resulted in a most peculiar management structure. The capital of the BNCR was abolished and replaced by MR stocks and shares. As such, the MR owned the railway as much as it owned the Bristol main line or the Oxenhope branch. However, to assuage Irish sensibilities and to some extent to assist in the local management, the Midland was obliged by law to establish a body called the ‘Northern Counties Committee’. This had a statutory existence as a body corporate, whose sole purpose was to manage the former BNCR. In effect, it replaced the board of the BNCR, but the NCC was in no way a Midland subsidiary; it was simply a means of managing the railway and its assets. It was composed of three former BNCR directors, with three MR nominated ones.
The relationship was a little like the later devolved government to Northern Ireland by the UK government. It simply handed over the net takings to the Derby Treasury once revenue expenditure had been met, the first charge on this being the payment of interest on the new stock that the MR had issued to acquire the BNCR. Any capital spending had to be authorised and provided for by the Midland Board at Derby, just as was the case with the rest of the system.
The Midland immediately tidied up some of the lines that the BNCR had leased or operated, but the shares that the BNCR had held in the Ballycastle, the Carrickfergus Harbour Junction Railway and of course, the Larne & Stranraer Joint Committee was now in the name of the Midland. This now meant that the Midland had a two fifths share in the Stranraer & Line Joint Committee which had been its intention had it taken over the GSWR. The strategy had though of course not worked but now it was the majority owner (the others were the Caledonian, LNWR and GSWR) but from the ‘other end’ as it were.
And there the matter, any reasonable person might think, would rest. But the Midland’s exchequer was far from exhausted and its net would be spread, wider still yet wider…
The Midland though was plainly not spent up, nor was it exhausted. Its actions now had what was most probably the most unlikely of outcomes and unintended of happenings of any railway amalgamations in these islands ever.
The Donegal Railway was a financially impoverished but large narrow gauge network, serving, hardly surprisingly, County Donegal. The Donegal had struggled for years. Orginally a broad guage line from Strabane to Stranolar, it had been extended as a series of separate companies to try to help raise the cash and spread the risk, eventually reaching Donegal Town, after a long spell when its terminus was in effect no-where, at a village in the middle of nothing called Druminin. The extension though was by means of the West Donegal Railway, a separate company on the 3’ gauge. The Strabane to Stranolar section (known as the Finn Valley Railway), broad gauge linked up with the Irish North Western setion of the Great Northern Railway of Ireland which worked the Finn Valley, whilst the Finn Valley worked the narrow gauge West Donegal, simple, see?27
So impoverished were this collection of remote companies that they could not afford to build a station at Donegal, a separate company being formed to finance this which was then rented to the West Donegal to accommodate the Finn Valley trains.
There was often Government money sometimes fro straight grants, sometimes to underwrite interest on capital and sometimes to build direct, railways in remote parts of Ireland. This is a complex story in its own right and need not concern us too much here. Suffice it to note that the combined Finn Valley and West Donegal companies managed to persuade the government to provide grants and guarantees of almost £150,000 to permit the extension of the railways to Glenties from Stranolar and to Killybegs from Donegal. These were to be narrow guage and that convinced the Finn Valley to reduce its gauge accordingly. The GNRI was not too pleased at this, as it meant that its trains would no longer work from Strabane to Stranolar nor could it look forward to the income from their operation.
The inevitable happened and the Donegal railways amalgamated as the Donegal Railway on 27th June 1892, whilst the Midland was (just) still entertaining an increasingly forlorn hope of taking over the GSWR and had not even thought of Heysham.
Meanwhile the Donegal decided to create its own station at Strabane rather than dual gauge the GNRI one and build a short link to connect. Again, this pushed a wedge into relations with the GNRI and the new narrow gauge concern.
The Killybegs and Glenties branches had raised a need for new stock, which was paid for as were the routes, from the government grants and guarantees. In 1896, the government passed the Railways (Ireland) Act which allowed even more financial support to be given to raiwalys in so called ‘congested districts’, the reference referring to high population levels. In fact they were anything but congested in English terms, but simply could not support even the very low populations that were there as it was. The money to help railways was intended to develop their economies. The Donegal toyed a lot with such possible developments, but in the end, the Londonderry & Lough Swilly was the beneficiary in county Donegal with the scarcely credible Burtonport extension and another equally hopeless to Carndonagh.
Deprived of free extensions, the Donegal looked elsewhere. It was having to hand over traffic at Strabane to the GNRI. This traffic was part of a natural flow to and from Londonderry, where the GNRI terminated. On the other side of the river there, the Wateside terminus of the BNCR was almost directly opposite the GNRI establishment. Both offered trains to Belfast, but by totally different routes. A large part of the Donegal’s traffic came from or via Londonderry, in particular domestic and locomotive coal.
As can be imagined, there was huge opposition from the GNRI but on 7th August 1896, the Country Donegal Railway Act was passed which gave permission to raise £100,000 in ordinary shares, £40,000 in 4% preference shares and £70,000 in 4% debentures. This was an incredible venture. The Donegal had flirted with financial ruin since its inception, het here it was about to spend a huge sum, which virtually doubled their capital on a risky competitive line.
But consider this. Although entirely speculation, by 1896, the Midland had decided to commit to Heysham and all that that meant in terms of the Irish traffic.. Where did the Donegal’s money com from for the Londonderry extension? Was it actually provided by the Midland as an investment? The Midland was far from averse to investing in other potentially useful railways and had done so for a long while, if it looked as it they would bear fruit in the long run, in the meantime if the investment paid a decent return and used otherwise idle funds, why not? For example, for years its annual Report and Accounts show a £75,000 investment in the South Devon Railway and later the Great Western, paying propositions that dated back to its dreams of taking over or at least using the Bristol & Exeter for its own purposes. I remain personally of the view that it is connected to this investment that the West Cornwall Railway in effect a subsidiary of the GWR and South Devon was never dissolved due to the debenture arrangements; remarkably, it survived until nationalisation in 1948 and had special arrangements made to absorb it into British Railways, entirely separate from the Great Western which merely leased it, all the way from Truro to Penzance.
Perhaps significantly although two extensions were promoted by the Donegal at the same time, the Londonderry line and a branch from Donegal to Ballyshannon, the act specifically required that separate accounts be kept for both lines. Why should this be, unless the sources of the capital wanted them kept separate for reasons for prudence and safety? Did the Midland actually finance the Londonderry line? It would make a lot of sense. It certainly had what we would call a strategic perspective. With the BNCR in its sights, as it must have been once committed to Heysham, why not look further? When the Donegal fell out with the GNRI, here was a heaven sent opportunity to control the traffic to the far north west of Ireland. If it did not take over the BNCR in the fullness of time, what matter? Its investment like so many others would be likely to pay a decent return; it must have looked worth a punt, if you will pardon the pun.
All of this is conjecture, but where else did the money come fro so quickly for the Donegal’s Londonderry line? The Donegal in all its incarnations had always struggled to raise funds, yet suddenly, here it was, confidently promoting a competitive route against one of the richest companies in Ireland. How on earth could a company like the Donegal even consider such a risk against the resources of the GNRI, without the knowledge that a rick friend was in the wings guiding its every move?
More to the point, the Ballyshannon branch was built much later, only opening in 1905 thus not being a draw on the capital raised for the Londonderry branch; someone, somewhere wanted that line built first. To boost the theory more, the Donegal had small weak locomotives and not enough. Then, suddenly, in 1902 despite capital being slow to come in for the Ballyshannon extension, another act was passed permitting more capital to be issued which plainly paid for two splendid 4-4-4 tanks to haul fast trains on the Londonderry line in competition with the GNRI, four utterly magnificent 4-6-4 tanks and a series of excellent lavatory composite coaches plus some corridor vehicles all for the Londonderry branch.
If not the Midland, then someone was pumping money into the Donegal Railway and keeping a very close eye on its development. From impoverished also ran it turned itself into a well run well capitalised main line in the space of a few years. Money like that does not grow on trees, particularly in rural Ireland. With the completion of the Ballyshannon branch, which was not essential but provided the last part of a network, its fortunes had been transformed from an impoverished set of branch lines into a network of well built system that funnelled traffic to a north facing terminus across the road in Londonderry from the BNCR south facing one, whose tracks were linked across that road to enable transhipment to take place simply and cheaply via the dual gauge lines of the harbour commissioners. As if to confirm that some organisation with considerable financial resources was working behind the scenes with the Donegal is the Ardara branch scheme. Promoted as an extension of the Glenties branch, Ardara is a small town of about the same size. The scheme, just like the Londonderry and Ballyshannon branches received much local support it proved quite impossible to raise the funds even formally to promote the branch. The by then CDJC General Manager, Henry Livesey wrote to the GNRI that he would be prepared to work it if one, other or both owning companies were to fund it, or even the Government. None would. Yet the money appeared to flow in effortlessly for the Londonderry line, which was plainly much more beneficial to the Midland as a strategic link, albeit it rankled with the GNRI and the Donegal could, at that time, certainly not look to the latter for funding. So who else could there have been other than the Midland to Fund the Londonderry branch?
Knowing the Midland, it was time to put one’s tin hat on for the last of its Irish take overs.
If I am correct, then what came next came as no surprise at all. It was quite possibly part of a planned strategy developed over a decade. It might have been chance, but the more one looks at the financials the less credible a part chance seems to have had in it. Unless someone else was pumping money into the Donegal for unknown reasons, which seems to be a bit of along shot, the Midland now sought to stand in their shoes. It made a bid for the Donegal Railway.
Understandably, the GNRI hit the roof. It raised objections on every possible count. Whilst it may have had objections to the creation of the Donegal Railway and its extension into Londonderry, the prospect of its arch rival for Londonderry to Belfast trade taking over one of its main sources was beyond the pale.
The Midland, happy to have control at half the price and to placate its rival for the Londonderry to Belfast traffic, accommodated the GNRI’s objections by quickly agreeing to a joint take over the Donegal Railway. Or almost.
The Midland itself issued its own stock to replace the share and loan capital of the Donegal Railway. In return for handing over a total of £640,695 in capital made up of £303,408 in various classes of shares, the balance (over 50% of the capital, which shows how hard up the DR had been for capital that it had to borrow most of it) the Midland gave the Donegal proprietors £491,090.12s.0d of 2.5% debentures, the coupon on which was met equally by the Midland and GNRI.
The 1916 Donegal accounts clearly state that the capital is contributed equally by the Midland and GNRI and the latter certainly paid the Midland direct for its share of the annual interest due on the debentures which the Midland issued to buy the Donegal Railway.
I have been much helped with this work in general by Andrew Surrey, who has searched the Midland’s accounting records for me to try to find the full story behind all of this, but to no avail. He does though point out that the Midland was very adept at hiding monetary investments and keeping them out of the accounts as separate items. For example, we have yet to find the investment in the Forth Railway Bridge even though it was 40% owned by the Midland, similarly, the £200,000 loan to the MSWJR only appeared 10 years after it was made!
With this in mind and whilst I certainly cannot offer any proof, I am personally sure that the Midland funded the Londonderry branch of the Donegal Railway and that at the take over, it simply either wrote off the loans that it had made and an appropriate amount of Donegal shares or stock was transferred to it before the equal deal with the GNRI was made. Although the reason for the Londonderry line passing to the Midland is always given as Parliament insisting upon competition with the GNRI who owned the line down the other side of the river from Strabane to Londonderry, it could be that as the Midland in effect owned it already, it was in effect a done deal.
So at vesting in 1906, the Donegal Railway was equally transferred to a new body corporate which had no share capital but was financially supported by Midland loan stock, paid for equally by the Midland and GNRI. This did not apply to the Londonderry branch, which was wholly owned by the Midland. Note, in no way did it involve the Northern Counties Committee, it was directly owned by the Midland which, as a matter of convenience used NCC staff to man the stations and repair the track. The trains though were provided under contract to the Midland by the Joint Committee.
This had the strange outcome that it remained steam worked until its closure in 1954 whereas much of the remainder of the Donegal system was worked by railcards. This was because the CDJC was happy to charge the Midland, LMS and BR for the trains which brought all the Donegal’s coal into the system via Londonderry docks and/or the NCC. Thus, it got one of its owners to pay for the carriage of its own coal for the joint benefit of both of them!
It gets more complex still.
Letterkenny was the only place in County Donegal of any size not served by the CDJC. The GNRI had always eyed the town as a prize, as access to it would open up all of the traffic from the north west to it, rather than its competitor the BNCR/NCC which could gain equal access to the traffic via the Londonderry and Lough Swilly Railway at Londonderry. Several attempts had been made to promote lines to Letterkenny but other than the LLSR line, all had failed. Although small by UK standards, the towns likely to be served were large whilst Letterkenny itself was a comparative metropolis and centre for the whole of the area.
An independent effort had been made to promote a Strabane & Letterkenny Railway in the early part of the 20th Century as a branch to the Donegal Railway. In 1903, the GNRI offered £72,00028, the entire cost. Things dragged on and with the 1906 joint take over of the Donegal, the GNRI and Midland promoted a bill (in 1905, not 1906, so it is obvious that things were stirring with the take over rather earlier than it actually happened) in effect to make the S & LR jointly owned by them both. Again, the capital required was £221,500 more than the Londonderry line and it was raised without effort. Later this sum appears in the accounts of the CDRJC as a ‘subscription to other companies’ so in effect, the S & LR was part of the Donegal, but not quite. It retained its separate legal identity; even some of the Donegal’s locomotives and rolling stock technically belonged to the S & LR, although they never showed such ownership other than in the accounts.
By the end of the First World War, the Midland had an Irish Empire, clearly acquired by a focussed and highly directed series of commercial thrusts which extended from Ballyshannon, about 20 miles north of Sligo, to Belfast via Londonderry and most places of consequence in between. It was considerably larger than many pother complete railway systems. The Donegal system was 124.5 miles long, the NCC 265 miles which encompassed a complete broad gauge railway and a self contained but wholly owned second narrow gauge network in the so called Ballymena lines. By 1925, with the addition of the Ballycastle Railway, this grew to its maximum of 282 miles. Ownership though was directly by the Midland for the Londonderry to Strabane line, joint with the GNRI for the remainder of the Donegal and Strabane & Letterkenny, via the strange statutory managing corporate the NCC for the former BNCR (and the Ballycastle when that was taken over) and jointly with the LNWR, the Caledonian and the GSWR in relation to the Larne to Stranraer shipping. The Barrow and Heysham Shipping was owned by the Midland, but private ships served Heysham also. Overall it was a very complex arrangement that was entirely a child of historical circumstance and corporate convenience.
But by then things had started to change. In 1921 Ireland was partitioned and the troubles began. They continued for a couple of years as the Irish Civil War, but rather longer in Donegal, the last noted disruptive event being as late as 192529.
The government was split between the new Northern Irish Government in Belfast which was within the United Kingdom and the Irish Free State, a Dominion within the British Empire and ultimately subject to the British Crown. This latter strange relationship remained until the declaration of an Irish Republic in 1949, although there had been a President of Ireland since 1936, who was not the Head of State but replaced the King’s Governor. This political mess was reflected in what was to come with the NCC and the Donegal railways.
Although the Free State remained in the Empire, indeed at was technically a Dominion, as still are Canada, New Zealand and Australia and as then was also South Africa, its outlook was very different. It saw itself as a separate country and to prove that it imposed customs duties on trade with the United Kingdom, even being so silly as to declare what it called a ‘trade war’. In reality, there were charades merely to give demonstration that most of Ireland was free of direct Westminster rule. But they caused endless problems and cost people money. So much so that they disrupted trade routes and made people look elsewhere than their traditional centres. Thus, Londonderry was not necessarily the focus for Donegal any more, people looked to Dublin south rather than Belfast simply because it was cheaper to trade in that direction. With that as the centre of government for many of the places served by the Midland’s Donegal empire, the business melted away, leaving in many cases, purely local rather than the highly lucrative through traffic. Letterkenny, Stranolar, Donegal and Ballyshannon all gave excellent examples of these changed or much reduced business.
The NCC itself remained untouched by the political division of Ireland, although it was more than touched by the Troubles, once these were over, it worked as before. Indeed, as the former BNCR senior officials retired and equipment bought by the BNCR reached the end of its accounting life, the network, even the narrow gauge Ballymena lines took on the atmosphere and feel of the LMS and this continued until 1949 as equipment became more and more standardised.
Besides these political problems, there were the usual forces of competition not from the GNRI, but from road transport as was happening after the flood of cheap vehicles and trained drivers, all over the UK post First World War. The LMS and GNRI each responded well to this, as did the CDRJC as would be expected given its owners. They all had their own fleets of buses and lorries, carefully coordinated with the rail services, in fact the area served by the three organisations could be said to be the only serious example of an ‘integrated transport system’ anywhere in the British Isles.
The Northern Irish Government though appears to have been fundamentally opposed from day one to the railways and in 1935, which took over all the road services of the Railways. As usual, because the Donegal crossed the border and was jointly owned, it was exempt from this, but the GNRI as a sole owner of its services had its buses taken from it by the Board and later by the CIE when that was formed in the south.
The more questionable parts of the empire in a financial sense and geographic sense started to crumble away. The last huzzah as it were, was the very reluctant take over of the Ballycastle Railway by the NCC. This had closed on 24th March 1924 but was bought and re-opened by it on 9th August 1924, but only under government pressure. It plainly lost money and could survive by itself30. This now represented the climax in terms of coverage of the Midland’s Irish Empire. Interestingly, the British Empire continued to expand in terms of size, until Sarawak was incorporated in 1946. The following year contraction began with the independence of India and Pakistan.
Like the British Empire, but twenty five years earlier, the Midland empire started to contract a year after it reached its greatest extent. In 1926 the system began to contract. The first part to go was the tiny Portstewart steam tramway. It lost money, was one of the last such operating in the UK and required considerable capital expenditure to make it fit for purpose. It was much cheaper to replace it with a ‘bus service, which happened on 31st January 1926. In 1929 the Parkmore to Retreat narrow gauge passenger services went, closely followed in 1930 by those on the rest of the Cushendall branch of the Ballymena narrow gauge lines of the NCC along with the Ballyclare to Doagh portion of the Doagh branch. On the same date, 1st October, the first of the broad gauge lines went; that to Draperstown.
In 1933, there was a railway strike from the end of January to 10th April31 which finished off all services on the Ballymena to Larne narrow gauge line, after which, little by little, both the broad and narrow gauge systems started to contract on a steady basis as the remoter parts of the empire were whittled away.
Because the County Donegal Railways crossed the border, they were not included in the ‘Irish Grouping’ which created the Great Southern Railways, nor were they nationalised into CIE in 1949. The Midland then the LMS members of the Donegal Joint Committee for convenience were drawn from the members of the NCC. Then in 194832 the UK government nationalised the LMS and it became the London Midland Region of British Railways, which in turn was a part of the British Transport Commission which delegated management of the Donegal to the LMR.
In the north, in 1948 the government had approached the BTC to see if it would sell the NCC to it, intending that it would become part of the soon to be formed, Ulster Transport Authority. Up until this transfer, the NCC remained part of the London Midland Region of British Railways. Because the NCC had never been involved in the Londonderry line of the Donegal nor had it any legal involvement with the CDRJC, then the latter remained jointly owned by the LMR and GNRI. Agreement was reached to sell the NCC and it was transferred for the sum of £2,668,000 on 1st April 1949. As there were no shareholders, this sum was used towards the liquidation of the Midland stock which had been issued to compensate the BNCR shareholders in 1903. The Stranraer steamers had already gone on nationalisation to the Scottish Region, whilst the Heysham ones remained with the LMR. The last meeting of the NCC took place on 1st June 1949 simply to tidy up the few outstanding matters, after which it ceased to exist. Yet like the British Empire after the independence of India, its main purpose, the remaining colonies of the former Midland’s Empire had a long while yet to live.
Any doubt about BR’s involvement in the NCC is dispelled with the startling history that it actually continued to supply Derby built locomotives to the NCC via Heysham until 1949. Several WT class tanks were on order at nationalisation, four in the process of being built (50-53) which were delivered to what had just ceased to be the NCC part of the LMR in 1949. Others (54-57) were on order at nationalisation. BR was expressly prohibited from building for any other organisation under the 1947 Transport Act, so it was decided to take the reasonable view, particularly as materials had been delivered that BR would compelte the order, but then make no more. Thus the last WTs were delivered by BR to the UTA in July & August 1950, but carrying the UTA roundel rather than the NCC which was last seen on their immediate predecessors33
The UTA did not like railways and as part of the deal for buying the NCC, BTC wisely insisted that it also bought the CDRJC Londonderry branch, of which it thus became the sole owner on the same date as it took over the NCC. This then closed, as the UTA wished would do all its railways, in this case on 31st December 1954.
But the GNRI in the meantime had simply run out of cash and had been taken over itself by a joint board, the Great Northern Railway Board. This was made up of equal numbers from the Irish Republic and the Northern Ireland Government, three of each. This thus meant now that the CDRJC which was still operating trains and buses, was now owned by the British Transport Commission (50%) which delegated day to day management of its interests to the LMR of British Railways and the GNRIB (50%), the latter in effect, 25% from Northern Ireland and 25% from the republic.
In 1958 this changed again. The Northern Irish Government fell out with the idea of the GNRIB and the GNRI railways were handed over to the CIE for lines south of the border and UTA for those north of the border. For the GNRI, this resulted in one of its most important routes, that from the Dublin – Belfast main line at Dundalk to Londonderry, via Enniskillen and Omagh (the Irish North Western) being owned in odd bits by the two organisations as it crossed and re-crossed the rivers that formed the border. For the CDRJC though, it meant that the ownership was now 50% BTC, 25% CIE and 25% UTA.
In 1962 the BTC was abolished was abolished and the British Railways Board took over its responsibilities, inheriting the BTC’s share of the County Donegal, which has incidentally ceased to operate trains in 1960. The act which abolished the BTC did not place any requirement on the new BRB to pay interest on Transport Stock, which fell direct onto the UK government as part of the national debt. Included in this, somewhere, were the debentures issued by the Midland in 1906 to take over the Donegal, half the interest on which was now being paid by the British Government (for a non-existent railway mostly in Southern Ireland, which only operated road services and made a huge loss!), the remaining half being split between the two Irish Governments via the GNRIB which remained in existence, solely to manage the few remaining affairs of the County Donegal in conjunction with the LMR on behalf of the BTC.
Meanwhile, the UTA went on a closure spree. The Londonderry branch was the first part of the Donegal to close in 1954. The rump of the narrow gauge lines had gone in 1950 with the closure of the Ballycastle and the remains of the Ballymena lines, whilst the remainder of the broad gauge NCC routes went with alarming rapidity. By 1960, all that was left of the once 407 miles of the Midland’s Irish empire (which incidentally made up just about a quarter of the whole Midland Railway system)34 was the BNCR lines from Belfast to Larne and Londonderry with the branch from Colerain to Portrush and the Belfast Harbour lines; even the latter went a few years later.
But the Donegal lived on.
The GNRIB was abolished as we have seen in 1958 but still, by 1965 no agreemenet could be reached on how to bring to a closure the affairs of the still just twitching County Donegal and its friend, the Strabane and Letterkenny which was still legally, just as alive as the CDRJC.
In 1966 BR’s lawyers reached an agreement with the General Manager of CIE. The CIE would get the Irish Government to repeal the 1906 Act which permitted the joint take over of the Donegal Railway by the MR & GNRI. Pending this, the BRB would automatically appoint to the CDRJC not its own representatives, but members nominated to it by CIE. In return, the CIE would promise never to call on the BRB to make good any deficits arising from the CDRJC nor would the latter seek to take its share in the unlikely event of a profit being made. CIE would pay the BRB £57, 742 in cash to bring this agreement about. I have not been able to discover what this sum represented, but suspect that it was the BRB’s remaining share of the debentures, adjusted for some reason or another, of the Midland debentures issued in 1906 to buy the Donegal Railway. Thus 60 years after Midland’s aspirations to extend its empire to the far west of Ireland, its successor was relieved of the considerable liability into which this had become.
The CIE now controlled its 25% of the Donegal via its holding in the GNRIB, and the 50% that had in effect been bought from the BRB. The remaining 25% share, which was held by the UTA via its half ownership of the otherwise entirely defunct GNRIB was bought by CIE for a payment to the UTA of £3,449 on 1969. The CIE now owned all the CDRJC (note that the committee remained in existence as a statutory body) and therefore through it, the Strabane & Letterkenny.
The Donegal’s buses and road lorries continued to operate both rail replacement and connecting services until 1971 when they were subsumed into the CIE road fleet. In that year, CIE promoted Irish legislation which vested the assets of the Donegal and S & LR into CIE and gave power to dissolve the committee to the Irish Minister of Transport. The BRB, which although it no longer had any financial interest, still notionally appointed half the Committee but always appointed CIE nominees (see above) agreed to this and the act was passed.
This all came into effect on 12th July 1971. On that date the S & LR ceased to exist. It was still not simple though. The whole of the loan capital by way of debentures was owned by the CDRJC and 87% of the shares. The remainder were privately owned with a face value of £17,510. These had been guaranteed a dividend of 4% on issue, by the Donegal County Council and the Letterkenny Town council, who probably had much to regret in their actions.
Once the rail service ended, they simply refused to pay this 4%, claiming that this was entirely right given that the railway was not keeping its side of the contract to provide rail services. The railway company thought that they should continue to pay but, in reality, since the 1960 rail closure the holders had received nothing and the loss of the guaranteed income had of course wiped out the market value of the shares, which before this provided a risk free return. To bring this nonsense to an end in 1971, the Irish government via CIE, paid the S & LR private shareholders £14,500 to go away, which they did, handing over the share to CIE at the same time.
But it was not finished yet. The CDRJC was to remain in existence, entirely owned and populated with CIE people, because there were former employees of the Committee who were members of the British Railway Clearing System Superannuation Fund, where it represented their interests. The GNRIB also remained in existence for the same reason. The CIE’s ownership of the CDRJC came as a result of its half, then complete, ownership of the GNRIB and it was easier to leave the latter in legal existence, the intention being that they would both be dissolved at an appropriate time in the future. Of course, the GNRIB did nothing at all with only a paper existence, but the CDRJC did remain alive representing the pension interests of its ex employees. Finally a way through was identified and the rights of the employees who survived were transferred to the CIE funding system on 13th January 1981 when the Irish transport Minister’s pleasure was to dissolve the Committee under the 1971 Act. Three days later, the same fate befell the successor of the Midland’s imperial adversary, the GNRIB, which was dissolved by publication of notices in the official gazettes in both Belfast and Dublin.
The British Empire remains the largest overseas empire in the world, a fact that not a lot of people are aware. London rules not only the UK, but a total of fourteen separate countries remain governed directly by London, via the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Not only that the Commonwealth itself includes one in five of all the people of the globe, a figure comparable with the Empire in 1919, which is generally agreed as being its high-point. The Queen is Head of State of not only the UK and the fourteen Overseas Territories (of which she is Queen as monarch of the UK, not of them as independent countries, which they are not; they are all ruled from London) but also Head of the Commonwealth which comprises of 54 nations across all six inhabited continents with a population of 2.1 billion people, a third of the world’s population, across 21% of the worlds surface area. The Queen of the United Kingdom is Queen of 15 of these independent countries, whislt the other 39 have their own constitutional arrangements. All this is a remarkable legacy of empire, particularly when it is considered that former non-imperial countries have joined the Commonwealth in the last few years.
There are a remarkable range of methods of governing all these disparate places and some of them firm time to time petition London to be taken over again as Overseas Territories; wisely, these petitions have been resisted, although the fact that the links are still very alive was demonstrate by The Falklands War and very recently by the British intervention in Sierra Leon which was the latest country to ask for re-incorporation into the once time world dominant empire (Malta was the one before that).
The Midland’s empire does not survive so well, but it is still there. The lines in Scotland are all gone, apart from the rump in Stranraer, from where the descendents of the Midland’s navy still sail to Larne. Of the approaches to the empire, the S & C is as busy as ever and entirely revived, the far end of the Little North Western is gone beyond Wennington, but the Furness and Midland survives. Through trains are no longer possible, as the direct lines at Carnforth to the Furness are long gone. Whilst it is along time since Barrow or Morecambe saw a passenger ship, which is what the Midland planned, and equally as planned, the Heysham to Belfast and Douglas services remain, although they have had their ups and downs. The Harbour station is once again open and provides links with these revived albeit no longer railway owned services.
In Ireland, all the narrow gauge lines so carefully built up and welded into a system comparable to any of the continental networks have gone, as has the NCC, other than the utter core; all the hotels, all the land, the great station at York Road Belfast by Lanyon, the docks, the buses, virtually everything. It is sad but perhaps inevitable outcome of the work of so many people to extend the imperium of the Midland so far from those coal mines around Leicester, so very long ago. It was written by Kipling in 1897, the year of Queen VIctioria’s Diamond Jubliee and traditionally, the date on which the balance is generally accepted to have shifted from British Imperial aspiration, to toleration of the Empire which led to the majority view after the second world war that it was of little if any value and time for it to go in a world, like that which the Midland’s empire passed into, where such an institution is simply almost beyond comprehension as to size, purpose and function.
The words “Lest We Forget” form the refrain of “Recessional” by Rudyard Kipling. The phrase offers a warning about the perils of hubris and the inevitable decline of imperial power; for a man who two years later was to write a follow up called ‘The White Man’s Burden’, it shows astonishing prescience of the coming end of all empires, political and commercial. There is not one in the history of the world that has survived. The phrase later passed into common usage after Word War 1 across the British Commonwealth especially, becoming linked with Remembrance Day observations; it came to be a plea not to forget past sacrifices, and was often found as the only wording on war memorials, or used as an epitaph. Perhaps in a rather less dramatic sense, we can apply it to the dreams of Sir Matthew William Thomson and his successors on the Midland Railway who meant so well, then gained but later lost so much?
God of our fathers, known of old-- Lord of our far-flung battle line Beneath whose awful hand we hold Dominion over palm and pine-- Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet, Lest we forget - lest we forget! The tumult and the shouting dies; The captains and the kings depart: Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice, An humble and a contrite heart. Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet, Lest we forget - lest we forget! Far-called, our navies melt away; On dune and headland sinks the fire: Lo, all our pomp of yesterday Is one with Nineveh and Tyre! Judge of the Nations, spare us yet, Lest we forget - lest we forget! If, drunk with sight of power, we loose Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe-- Such boasting as the Gentiles use Or lesser breeds without the law-- Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet, Lest we forget - lest we forget! For heathen heart that puts her trust In reeking tube and iron shard-- All valiant dust that builds on dust, And guarding, calls not Thee to guard-- For frantic boast and foolish word, Thy mercy on Thy people, Lord!
1 Sir John Seeley ‘The Expansion of England’ London 1883
2 An admittedly simplistic example, but useful for illustrative purposes. For more detail on such themes of British Imperial expansion for purposes of protection, mainly of Indian interests, but in turn to protect those lands that protected the routes to India, see:
3 Merton, Robert K.. “ The Unanticipated Consequences of Purposive Social Action”. American Sociological Review 1 (6): 895. & http://www.compilerpress.atfreeweb.com/Anno%20Merton%20Unintended.htm. Retrieved 29th February 2010-
4 Baughan Peter E. ‘North of Leeds’ Roundhouse Books Hatch End 1966 p102 & 106
5 Holt Geoffrey ‘A Regional History of the Railways of great Britain Vol. 10, The North West’, David & Charles, Newton Abbot, 1978. pp234-235
6 Baughan p294
7 Baughan p295
8 Rush R. W. ‘The Furness Railway’ Oakwood Press, Lingfield, 1973 pp26 & 27
9 Rush p43
10 Baughan p166
11 Baughan p139 et al
12 Rush p29
13 Baughan p297
14 Rush p41
15 Joy David ‘A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britian Vol. 14 The Lake Counties’ David & Charles, Newton Abbot 1983 p116
16 Baughan p214 & 254..
17 Baughan p256
18 Baughan p258
19 Baughan p267-271
20 Haws D Merchant Fleets no.25; Britain’s Railway Steamers Eastern and North Western Companies + Zealand and Stena TCL Publications, Hereford 1993 p117
21 Baughan pp305-307
22 With apologies to Jan (formerly James) Morris ‘The Pax Britannica Triology’ (see above)
23 Joy p117
24 Joy p236-7
25 Edward VII chapter cxxvii 1903
26 Currie J. R. L. The Northern Counties Railway Vol 1. David & Charles Newton Abbot 1973 p268
27 Patterson E.M. The County Donegal Railways David & Charles, Newton Abbot 2nd edition 1969 p37 et al
28 Patterson p61
29 Patterson E.M. The Londonderry & Lough Swilly Railway, David & Charles, Newton Abbot, 1964 p89
30 Patterson E.M. The Ballycastle Railway, David & Charles, Dawlish, 1965 pp63-71
31 Patterson E.M. The Balymena Lines, David & Charles, Newton Abbot, 1968 p122
32 From hereon, although the content has been confirmed by reference to the preceding works (some of which differ in detail) the story is based upon the essay in the Irish Railway Record Society’s ;’Journal’ number 169 by Reg. Davies whose detailed work I here freely acknowledge and seems to be the most comprehensive analysis of the situation.
33 Scott W. Locomotives of the NCC and its Predecessors, Colourpoint Books, Newtownards, 2008, p 131
34 Figures taken from The Midland Railway by Hamilton Ellis, Ian Allan, London, Fourth Edition 1961, Appendix A. Mileage of MR is given as 2170 which includes its share of joint and Irish lines. From this had been taken the complete Irish system (124 of the Donegal, 265 of the BNCR and 18 of the Ballycastle, to give 407, divided by 2170 – 407 which as a percentage is 23.09%)