Past and Present: Birth of British Railways

This month Ian Lamb remembers the early days of Nationalisation.

At the cessation of the Second World War, theoretically the Big Four – LMS, LNER, GWR and Southern – were still the providers of the principal railway services in Britain. Also at that time, with people being able to move freely throughout the land, once more it was possible to visit friends and relatives.

Nevertheless, I couldn’t understand why our family had to go from Edinburgh to London King’s Cross; over to Marylebone and up to Rugby (GC), before transferring to Rugby (Midland) for the short distance to Coventry where our relatives lived.

Bachmann modelled Fairburn 2-6-4 tank engines recall my regular visits to see them at Edinburgh’s Princes Street Station.

It seemed more obvious to me to go direct from Edinburgh Princes Street to Birmingham New Street and on to Coventry. My father explained that such a detour was necessary because, being an employee of the LNER at the time, his free pass was valid only for that company. British Railways 70 years ago from January 1948 changed all that with Nationalisation, and my logical assumption of direct west-coast travel became a reality.

Two major memory recollections of that first Coventry visit still remain with me; the devastation of a city that had been completely flattened by bomb damage, and being frightened out of my skin when a tank engine at the station platform ‘blew off’.

That latter experience had such a profound effect that I always kept well clear of a steam engine, compared with diesel locomotives; indeed, I had been fortunate to have had a couple of cab rides in my favour locally in Edinburgh, and from Aberdeen to Glasgow. While there may be no life in the cab of a ‘dead’ steam loco that is usually how I still prefer to board them!

In those days Coventry station only had two through platforms with four parallel running lines compared with its four platforms of today that were constructed later. With my godmother residing in Keresley on the outskirts of the city, I got to know Coventry and Warwickshire extremely well as four weeks of my annual school summer holiday was often taken there. My LNER grandfather was not happy with the amalgamation and told me that LMS meant “Let me sleep”. I’ve no idea what LMS supporters thought LNER meant.

For the full article, see the April edition of Modelling – available now!

For a complete list of stockists and how to get your copy, visit:

Enjoy more of The Railway Magazine Guide to Modelling every month. Click here to subscribe.