2nd September 2021 · The Great Central Railway – Rapid Travel in Luxury


Presenter: Ray Schofield

We were pleased to welcome Ray Schofield to our first meeting after the summer break, attended by an audience of 44 members and non-members over Zoom. Ray took us on an expansive tour of the history and lines of the Great Central Railway, a sprawling network that started as an east to west venture stretching from Liverpool and Manchester to Grimsby and Cleethorpes before it struck south to London.

Our journey started from London Marylebone, the terminus of the so-called “London Extension.” The sobriquet ‘Rapid Travel in Luxury’ was first used in 1903 and reflected the fast (for the time) services offered including the fastest journey to Stratford-Upon-Avon and other long distance non-stop running, such as to Sheffield. The first half took us on a comprehensive journey along the London Extension well illustrated with photographs showing the passing years of change and the typical traffic on the GCR. The judicious use of maps enhanced the understanding of the at times complex interaction of lines that formed the GCR or that it operated over.

The second half took us north from Nottingham, and to points across the Pennines to Manchester and Lincolnshire. This was the ‘original’ GCR, or Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire Railway as it was known before 1897. Again, maps helped untangle what was a dense network of lines and was well illustrated by many fine photographs from Ray’s own collection. One of the most striking of the evening was of Horn’s Bridge, Chesterfield, a site where railways crossed via means of bridges at three different levels, a situation that was unique in the UK.

The evening concluded with a handful of questions from an appreciative audience that came away with a comprehensive overview of the GCR, its history and operations.