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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.
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 £1,093,640,000 in 2018) with working expenses of £7,220,784 (equivalent to £697,910,000 in 2018).
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.
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, Tynemouth, 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, the others having been demolished during the 1950s/60s state-owned railway era, two (Sunderland and Middlesbrough) following Second World War blitz damage.
York station (York) was the hub of the system, and the headquarters of the line was located here. The basis for the present station was opened on 25 June 1877. Until the advent of modern signalling, the 295-lever box was the largest manually worked signal box in Britain.
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.
George Townsend Andrews was the first architect associated with the North Eastern Railway. He designed the first permanent station at York, along with others on the NER route. He also designed the Assembly Rooms in York.
Thomas Prosser held the position from 1854 to 1874. He worked in Newcastle.
William Bell worked for the NER for 50 years; he was chief architect for 37 years, between 1877 and 1914. His major contributions were as NER architect. Bank Top (1884-87) is one of the best examples of his station designs, for which he developed a standard system of roof building. He added various elements to the North Road Engineering works between 1884 and 1910. With Horace Field, he designed the splendid Headquarters Offices in York in 1904. He also designed the offices of the Mechanical Engineer's Department in Brinkburn Road in 1912, showing that he could adapt his style to the new influences of the Queen Anne revival.
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.
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. 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:
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'.
The lines were originally electrified at 600 V DC using the 3rd rail system, although after 1934 the operating voltage was raised to 630 V 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 V DC overhead system between 1914 and 1916 and the locomotives which later became British Rail Class EF1 were used on this section.
The NER carried a larger tonnage of mineral and coal traffic than any other principal railway.
On 25 October 1887, a freight train overran signals at Chevington, Northumberland and was in a head-on collision with a locomotive that was shunting. That locomotive and its wagons were pushed into a stationary passenger train.
On 2 November 1892, an express passenger train was in a rear-end collision with a freight train at Thirsk, Yorkshire due to errors by the guard of the freight train and a signalman. Ten people were killed and 43 were injured.
On 4 November 1894, a sleeping car train overran signals and collided with a freight train that was being shunted at Castle Hills, Yorkshire. One person was killed.
On 5 November 1900, a freight train ran away and was derailed by trap points at Lingdale Junction, Yorkshire.
On 4 July 1901, a freight train was unable to stop and ran off the end of a siding at Harperley, County Durham.
On 24 November 1906, a passenger train overran signals and ran into the rear of a freight train at Ulleskelf, Yorkshire.
On 26 March 1907, a passenger train was derailed by heat buckled track at Felling, County Durham (now Tyne and Wear). Two people were killed and six were seriously injured. The accident could have been prevented as the signalman had been warned of the buckle by a member of the public but refused to heed the warning.
On 28 August 1907, a freight train overran signals and was derailed at Goswick, Northumberland. Two people were killed and one was seriously injured.
On 8 October 1908, an overloaded freight train ran away and crashed into goods wagons at Masham, Yorkshire.
On 8 August 1909, a freight train was derailed at Hartley, Cumberland due to the track buckling in the heat of the sun.
On 15 November 1910, an express freight train overran signals and was in a rear-end collision with a freight train at Darlington, County Durham.
On 13 December 1911, a freight train ran away between Rockingham South Signal Box and Wombwell station, Yorkshire, It passed several signals at danger before colliding with wagons being shunted at Darfield Main Signal Box. Both crew of the locomotive were killed.
On 15 December 1911, a freight train was derailed at Lartington, Yorkshire due to the driver braking too sharply. During recovery operations, a rail-mounted crane overturned.
On 31 March 1920, a passenger train was derailed at York station.
On 22 October 1921, Petrol Inspection Saloon No. 3768 was destroyed by fire at York station.
The company owned the following docks:
The Hull Docks Company (Queens dock, Humber Dock, Railway Dock, Victoria dock, Albert dock, William Wright Dock, St Andrews dock): acquired 1893. Dealt with a large variety of cargoes, including grain, seed, wood and fruit
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. 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.
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 programme 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.