North Eastern Railway (United Kingdom)

North Eastern Railway

A map of the North Eastern Railway ca. 1900 displayed at York railway station
Reporting mark NE
Locale North East England, Yorkshire
Dates of operation 185431 December 1922
Predecessor York, Newcastle and Berwick Railway
York and North Midland Railway
Leeds Northern Railway
Malton and Driffield Railway
Successor London and North Eastern Railway
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Length 1,757 miles (2,828 km) in 1922
Headquarters York

The North Eastern Railway (NER) was an English railway company. It was incorporated in 1854, when four existing companies were combined, and amalgamated with other railways to form the London and North Eastern Railway at the Grouping in 1923. Its main line survives to the present day as part of the East Coast Main Line between London and Edinburgh.


Unlike many other pre-Grouping companies the NER had a relatively compact territory, in which it had a near monopoly. That district extended through Yorkshire, County Durham and Northumberland, with outposts in Westmorland and Cumberland. The only company penetrating its territory was the Hull & Barnsley, which it absorbed shortly before the main grouping. The NER's main line formed the middle link on the Anglo-Scottish "East Coast Main Line" between London and Edinburgh, joining the Great Northern Railway near Doncaster and the North British Railway at Berwick-upon-Tweed.

Although primarily a Northern English railway, the NER had a short length of line in Scotland, in Roxburghshire, with stations at Carham and Sprouston on the Tweedmouth-Kelso route (making it the only English railway with sole ownership of any line in Scotland), and was a joint owner of the Forth railway bridge and its approach lines. The NER was the only English railway to run trains regularly into Scotland, over the Berwick-Edinburgh main line as well as on the Tweedmouth-Kelso branch.

The North Eastern Railway headquarters in York built by Horace Field in 1906. Now a hotel

The total length of line owned was 4,990 miles (8,030 km) and the company's share capital was £82 million. The headquarters were at York and the works at Darlington, Gateshead, York and elsewhere.[1]

Befitting the successor to the Stockton & Darlington Railway, the NER had a reputation for innovation. It was a pioneer in architectural and design matters and in electrification. In its final days it also began the collection that became the Railway Museum at York, now the National Railway Museum.

In 1913 the company achieved a total revenue of £11,315,130 (equivalent to £1,004,120,000 in 2015)[2] with working expenses of £7,220,784[3] (equivalent to £640,780,000 in 2015).[2]

Constituent parts of the NER

Brompton station on the Leeds Northern line in 1961

Constituent companies of the NER are listed in chronological order under the year of amalgamation.

Their constituent companies are indented under the parent company with the year of amalgamation in parenthesis.

If a company changed its name (usually after amalgamation or extension), the earlier names and dates are listed after the later name.

The information for this section is largely drawn from Appendix E (pp 778–779) in Tomlinson.[4]












Beal Station in 1965










Dock Companies




Principal stations

Darlington Bank Top Station, opened in 1887

Having inherited the country's first ever great barrel-vault roofed station, Newcastle Central, from its constituent the York Newcastle & Berwick railway, the NER during the next half century built a finer set of grand principal stations than any other British railway company, with examples at Alnwick, North Shields, Gateshead East, Sunderland, Stockton, Middlesbrough, Darlington Bank Top, York and Hull Paragon; the rebuilding and enlargement of the last-named resulting in the last of the type in the country. The four largest, at Newcastle, Darlington, York and Hull survive in transport use. Alnwick is still extant but in non-transport use since 1991 as a second hand book warehouse,[5] the others having been demolished during the 1950s/60s state-owned railway era, two (Sunderland and Middlesbrough) following Second World War blitz damage.

Other principal stations were located at Sunderland, Darlington and Hull. The station at Leeds was a joint undertaking with the London and North Western Railway.


The NER was the first railway company in the world to appoint a full-time salaried architect to work with its chief engineer in constructing railway facilities. Some of the men appointed were based in, or active in, Darlington.

Professional design was carried through to small fixtures and fittings, such as platform seating, for which the NER adopted distinctive 'coiled snake' bench-ends. Cast-iron footbridges were also produced to a distinctive design. The NER's legacy continued to influence the systematic approach to design adopted by the grouped LNER.

Senior staff



A director of the NER from 1864, and deputy chairman from 1895 until his death in 1904, was ironmaster and industrial chemist Sir Lowthian Bell.[8] His son Sir Hugh Bell was also a director; he had a private platform on the line between Middlesbrough and Redcar at the bottom of the garden of his house Red Barns. Gertrude Bell's biographer, Georgina Howell, recounts a story about the Bells and the NER:[9]

As the heirs of the director of the North Eastern Railway, the Hugh Bells were transport royalty. At Middlesbrough the stationmaster doffed his hat to them and ushered them onto the train at Redcar. Many years later, Florence's daughter Lady Richmond was to remember an occasion when she was seeing her father off from King's Cross, and he had remained on the platform so that they could talk until the train left. The packed train failed to leave on time. Remarking on its lateness, they continued to talk until they were approached by a guard. 'If you would like to finish your conversation, Sir Hugh', he suggested, doffing his hat, 'we will then be ready to depart'.
Georgina Howell[10]

Among the other famous directors of the NER were George Leeman (director 1854-82, Chairman 1874-80); Henry Pease (director 1861-1881); Sir Joseph Whitwell Pease, Bart. (director 1863-1902, Chairman 1895-1902); John Dent Dent (director 1879-94, Chairman 1880-94); Matthew White Ridley, 1st Viscount Ridley (director 1881-1904, Chairman 1902-04); Sir Edward Grey, Bart (director 1885-1911, Chairman 1904-05); George Gibb (solicitor 1882-1891, general manager 1891-1906, director 1906-1910); and Henry Tennant (director 1891-1910).[11]

Electrified lines

NER No.1, an electric shunting locomotive introduced to the Quayside electrification, now at Locomotion museum, Shildon

The NER was one of the first main line rail companies in Britain to adopt electric traction, the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway having opened its first electrified line between Liverpool and Southport one week earlier.


The Tyneside scheme commenced public operation on 29 March 1904. The scheme was known as Tyneside Electrics and totalled about 30 miles:[1]

The latter was electrically operated from June 1905 and was a 3/4 mile freight-only line from Trafalgar Yard, Manors to Newcastle Quayside Yard.

Further extensions taking the electrification to South Shields were carried out in March 1938 by the London and North Eastern Railway

The lines were originally electrified at 600V DC using the 3rd rail system, although after 1934 the operating voltage was raised to 630V DC. On the Newcastle Quayside Branch overhead line of tramway type was used for upper and lower yards with 3rd rail in the interconnecting tunnels between the yards.


The Newport-Shildon line was electrified on the 1,500 volt dc overhead system between 1914 and 1916 and the locomotives which later became British Rail Class EF1 were used on this section.[12]


The NER carried a larger tonnage of mineral and coal traffic than any other principal railway.

The NER was a partner (with the North British and the Great Northern Railway) in the East Coast Joint Stock operation from 1860.

Accidents and incidents

Felling, 1907.


The company owned the following docks:

The NER also owned coal-shipping staithes at Blyth and Dunston-on-Tyne. Its steamboats ran between Hull and Antwerp and other places on the Continent.[1]


A comprehensive list of NER locomotives: Locomotives of the North Eastern Railway.

Coaching stock

The NER originally operated with short four and six wheeled coaches with a fixed wheelbase. From these were developed the standard 32-foot (9.8 m) six-wheeled, low elliptical roofed coaches which were built in their thousands around the 1880s. One variety alone, the diagram 15, five compartment, full 3rd class, numbered around a thousand. The NER started building bogie stock for general service use in 1894, 52-foot (16 m) clerestories for general use with a 45-foot (14 m) variation built for use on the tightly curved line from Malton to Whitby. There were also a series of 49-foot (15 m) low ark roofed bogie coaches (with birdcage brakes) for use on the coast line north of Scarborough. Coach manufacture moved to high arched roof vehicles but with substantially the same body design in the early 1900s.

The NER had limited need for vestibuled coaches but from 1900 built a series of vestibuled, corridor coaches with British Standard gangways, for their longer distance services. The company introduced clerestory corridor dining trains on services between London and Edinburgh. The initial trial was run between York and Newcastle in 1 hour 30 minutes on 30 July 1900.[19] The new train consisted of eight coaches and was 499.5 feet (152.2 m) long (excluding the engine), and had seating for 50 first-class and 211 third-class passengers. At the same time they built (in conjunction with their partners) similar coaches for the East Coast Joint Stock (GNR/NER/NBR) and the Great Northern and North Eastern Joint Stock.

All NER coach building was concentrated at their York Carriage Works, which went on to be the main LNER carriage works after grouping.

With the introduction of the standard 32-foot (9.8 m) 6-wheeled coaches NER carriage livery was standardised as 'deep crimson' (a deeper colour with more blue in it than that used by the Midland Railway), lined with cream edged on both sides with a thin vermillion line. For a time the cream was replaced with gold leaf. Lettering ('N.E.R.' or when there was sufficient space 'North Eastern Railway' in full, together with 'First', 'Third' and 'Luggage Compt.' on the appropriate door) and numbering; was in strongly serifed characters, blocked and shaded to give a 3D effect.

The NER's bogie coach building program was such that, almost unique amongst pre-grouping railways, they had sufficient bogie coaches to cover normal service trains; six wheel coaches were reserved for strengthening and excursion trains.

See also


  1. 1 2 3 Harmsworth (1921)
  2. 1 2 UK CPI inflation numbers based on data available from Gregory Clark (2016), "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)" MeasuringWorth.
  3. "North-Eastern Railway.". Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer. British Newspaper Archive. 21 February 1914. Retrieved 1 August 2016 via British Newspaper Archive. (subscription required (help)).
  4. Tomlinson, W.W. (1967) [1914]. North Eastern Railway, Its Rise and Development. Newton Abbot: David and Charles.
  5. "Barter Books Shop History". Bartr Books - About us. Barter Books. Retrieved 6 November 2015.
  6. Tomlinson 1915, p. 771
  7. Allen 1974, p. 229
  8. NEIMME: Sir Isaac Lowthian Bell, Bart. Retrieved 28 November 2012.
  9. Howell 2008, pp. 7, 13
  10. Howell 2008, pp. 13
  11. Tomlinson 1915, pp. 768–770
  12. "The NER Electric Bo-Bo Class EF1 & EB1 Locomotives". Retrieved 7 September 2013.
  13. 1 2 Hall, Stanley (1990). The Railway Detectives. London: Ian Allan. p. 40. ISBN 0 7110 1929 0.
  14. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Hoole, Ken (1983). Trains in Trouble: Vol. 4. Truro: Atlantic Books. pp. 8, 15–16, 20, 24, 27, 31–32, 45. ISBN 0-906899-07-9.
  15. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Hoole, Ken (1982). Trains in Trouble: Vol. 3. Redruth: Atlantic Books. pp. 8, 12–17, 22, 24. ISBN 0-906899-05-2.
  16. 1 2 Earnshaw, Alan (1989). Trains in Trouble: Vol. 5. Penryn: Atlantic Books. pp. 5, 10–11. ISBN 0-906899-35-4.
  17. Trevena, Arthur (1981). Trains in Trouble: Vol. 2. Redruth: Atlantic Books. p. 25. ISBN 0-906899-03-6.
  18. Earnshaw, Alan (1993). Trains in Trouble: Vol. 8. Penryn: Atlantic Books. p. 7. ISBN 0-906899-52-4.
  19. "New Corridor Train". Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette. British Newspaper Archive. 31 July 1900. Retrieved 20 August 2016 via British Newspaper Archive. (subscription required (help)).


Further reading

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