100 Years Ago

Take a look back at the railway scene 100 years ago.

A Snapshot

The railway scene a century ago was like today, booming and a myriad of companies competing with each other for business and advertising headlines. Unlike today, railway safety was nowhere near as good as today though.

Curiously, the first mobile phone on a train was brought into service and there was a strike plus a Coronation for the railways to deal with. The railway companies competed with each other to show their allegiance to The Throne by lavishly decorating their engines!

This is a snapshot of the UK railway in 1911 and to cover it in depth, would take a sizeable book!

LNWR Inspection Train

Carlisle was a 13 ton locomotive built in 1851 by George England & Co at their Works on The Old Kent Road in South East London. The engine was never booked as LNWR capital stock but allocated to the engineers department at Ordsall Lane. The photograph was taken at Longsight in Manchester and the engine used within the northern division. The only LNWR addition was the cab offering some protection for the driver and fireman.

Carlisle had just been scrapped at the start of 1911 after being placed in store for a few years at Crewe after being replaced by rebuilt Trevithick singles. It was scrapped when they ran out of storage room.

This picture is more than about the engine though, the driver on the footplate is James Thompson whose railway career started on September 15 1830, the day the Liverpool & Manchester Railway opened. The picture is undated but may date from the 1860s. (If anyone can date the picture, please let Phil Marsh know!)

North Eastern Railway Mineral Tank Locomotive

Twenty of these powerful three cylinder 4-6-2T engines were being built at Darlington Works and 6 were in service at the start of 1911. They were used to pull 1000 ton coal trains at 20mph on level track and had a specially designed short wheelbase allowing them to work on colliery tracks which were notorious for their curves and condition.

They carried 2300 gallons of water, 5 tons of coal and weighed 87 tons in working order. The grate was 23 square feet and the working pressure was 180psi. The engines were allocated numbers between 1113 and 1195.

Great Western Railway Mineral Tank Locomotive

The GWR opted for a two cylinder, 2-8-0 wheel arrangement for their ‘4200 class’ heavy mineral tank engines which were built at Swindon and designed for the coal traffic in South Wales.

They carried 1800 gallons of water, 3 tons of coal and weighed 82 tons in working order. The grate was 20.5 square feet and the working pressure was 200psi and the engines were allocated numbers from 4200 onwards with over 100 built. Despite being eight-coupled, they could still negotiate curves as the trailing axleboxes were of the sliding variety allowing side-play.

First Aid Kits

Burroughs, Welcome & Co. produced a portable first aid kit they called ‘The Tabloid Brand First Aid’. It was in a black enamelled metal box measuring 7.5 by 4.5 by 2 inches and contained bandages and dressings in ‘compounded form!’ Smelling salts, boric acid ointment, plaster, scissors pins and eight tubes of Tabloid and Soloid products were also included.

These were designed for what was called ‘trivial accidents’ around the railway and cost 10/6 (52p).

The Mawddwy Railway

The Mawddy Railway had finally closed by the start of 1911 and ran from Cemmes Road station located just east of Machynlleth on the Cambrian main line. It had opened in 1868 and never attracted a lot of traffic except in the summer. Passenger trains (four a day) ceased in 1900 when the Board of Trade intervened and said the condition of the wooden bridges was causing concern.

The line was single and without signals and freight carried on until April 1908 and by 1911, the line was being reclaimed by nature. The booking office at Cemmes Road was being used by the local coal merchant 100 years ago. The main station was at Dinas Mawddwy where the offices and engine shed was located. The shed housed the two locomotives they owned, built by Manning Wardle in the 1860s, the 0-6-0T engines named Mawddy and Disreali.

Eastleigh Works First Passenger Tender Locomotive

The LSWR had opened Eastleigh Works in 1909 and by 1911 had moved into full production constructing its first passenger tender engine, a 4-6-0 four cylinder designed by Drummond. These were numbered from 448 to 452 and were mainly used between Salisbury and Exeter. Eastleigh replaced Nine Elms as a Locomotive Works and the main building was 883 feet long and 407 feet wide. The very first engine was a small 0-4-0T used for shunting.

Inventor Dies

Mr A Richardson died in 191 and had designed and built steam road locomotives at Patricroft near Manchester. He was born in Norfolk, Virginia in America but moved to London to further his career and joined Crossley Brothers Ltd. When the 1896 Road Steam Parliamentary Act became law, he had prepared for production of his road engines and brought them to the market without delay.

Glasgow & South Western Railway New Locomotive

A new class of Kilmarnock built 4-6-0 locomotive was put into service weighing 117 tons by the Glasgow & South Western Railway.

Great Eastern Railway Uses Oil to Illuminate a Station

A new oil driven generator was installed by the Great Eastern Railway’s new station at Squirrel’s Heath and Gidea Park. It was built by Reavell & Co. of Ipswich and the cranks of the machine revolved into an oil bath making the lubrication pretty much maintenance free.

5000th Engine Built at Crewe Destined for Royal Train Service

Engine Number 1800 became the 5000th locomotive to be turned out from Crewe on May 15 1911. It was an upgraded ‘George V’ class, numbered 5000 and called a ‘Coronation’ class and named Coronation. This was because it was reserved for Royal Train duty and fitted with various ornamental fittings such as a Crown.

On-Train Mobile Phone Trials

The first phone call was made from a train 100 years ago in May 1911. The system was invented by Hans Von Kramer and called a railophone. It was installed on the Stratford on Avon & Midland Junction Railway at Stratford on Avon station. The system was opened by novelist Miss Marie Corelli who called from the local call office to the Mayor who was on the train.

It was a wireless based system trialled the year before between Horley and Three Bridges on the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway. Two frames of insulated wires were attached to the carriage frame and the phone put in a ‘sound proofed box’. The system was operated by electric impulses induced in stationary wires laid alongside the track and connected to signalboxes and stations linked to the phone system.

London, Tilbury & Southend Coronation Locomotive

Thundersley, a 4-4-2T was lavishly decorated for the Coronation of King George V and painted green with gold lining and blue corners. Various fittings were nickel plated and the metal bands holding in the boiler lagging were made of brass and polished steel.

The frames were painted crimson lake and a coat of arms painted on the cylinders with a bust of the King and Queen on the front of the engine.

Rhyl Miniature Railway Gets New Engine

Bassett-Lowke, the well-known miniature locomotive builders delivered a new 4-4-2 15 inch gauge locomotive to Marine Park based one mile long Rhyl Miniature Railway. It had a working pressure of 150psi and weighed 1.5 tons and was similar to the engines built for the Blackpool Miniature Railway a few years earlier. The railway carried over 3000 passengers on June 5 1911 on 99 trains.

Derby Works Turns Out New Suburban Stock

The Midland Railway’s Derby Works turned out a new seven coach suburban train with the carriages 50 feet long and running on two four wheeled steel framed bogie trucks with the wheels 35 feet apart. The coaches were nine feet wide and had mahogany panelling with oak frames.

The total length was 372 feet long and empty, weighed 166 tons and could accommodate 136 first class passengers and 360 in third class. The trains would run between Moorgate/St. Pancras and Luton/Bedford.

The Railway Strike

There was a general railway strike called in mid August, but only the Great Central Railway was brought to a standstill. Disruption was brought to the railways, more in the north than the south. Important railway locations had an army guard posted to make sure strikers did not interfere with operations.

Observation Car Introduced by LNWR

The scenic Llandudno Junction to Blaenau Ffestiniog line was run by the L&NWR and they introduced an Observation Car for the summer of 1911. This was one of the first to be used in the UK at this time although their use abroad and in America was widespread.

Carriage Destination Indicators

The Great Central Railway was the newest main line operation at this time being just over 10 years old. They carried much inter-regional traffic and introduced carriage indicator boards on the side of their carriages that worked on these through services.


Have your say...

Please note: you have to be logged into the site before you can leave a comment

Liverpool street station in the UK at rush hour

Help and advice with train travel in the UK

Train travel in the UK should be a pleasure, not a headache. So if you’re taking a train on the UK railway, start your journey here. We’ve lots of hints, tips and advice to help you find your way around, travel smoothly and arrive in style by train.

Read more

eurostars passing at 375mph from the drivers seat in france


Welcome to our #railchat page. Our #railchat discussions take place over on Twitter, with our resident expert Phil Marsh. If you would like to get involved, please do join us, and use the dedicated hashtag #railchat. See our previous discussions below:

Read more

Old steam train in Shanty Town Museum

Locomotives & Engines

Our rail network would be nothing without them. From Stephenson's Rocket to British Rail Class 92 and beyond, explore the facts, information and anecdotes behind the steam, diesel and electric locomotives that built the age of the train.

Read more


Latest Tweets


Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh to London Kings Cross by Train

Book in advance with redspottedhanky.com and save 85% advanced bookings.

From £21.00

Buy now

Millenium Dome, London

Birmingham New Street to London Euston by Train

Book in advance with redspottedhanky.com and save 92% on advance bookings.

From £6

Buy now

You may also like...



Follow us on Twitter and become part of our rail community!



redspottedhanky.com is the easy way to buy cheap train tickets online.



Control your business fuel costs with a supermarket fuel card – free to apply, no ongoing account charges and no monthly minimum spend.