London and North Eastern Railway
I-196ff81068096eff26ceb71c143dfe87-Mallard locomotive

Dates of operation



Great Eastern Railway
Great Central Railway
Great Northern Railway
Great North of Scotland Railway
Hull and Barnsley Railway
North British Railway
North Eastern Railway
and others


Eastern Region
North Eastern Region
Scottish Region

Track gauge

4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)


6,590 miles (10,610 km

The London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) was the second-largest of the "Big Four" railway companies created by the Railways Act of 1921 in Britain. It existed from 1 January 1923 until nationalisation on 1 January 1948, when it was divided into the new British Railways' Eastern Region, Northeastern Region and partially the Scottish Region

Sir Ralph Wedgwood was the Chief Officer of the LNER for its first 16 years.


The LNER was formed out of a number of constituent railway companies, the principal of which were:

The total route mileage was 6,590 miles (10,610 km). The North Eastern Railway owned the largest route mileage, 1,757 miles (2,828 km) as compared with the Hull and Barnsley Railway, at just 106.5 miles (171.4 km).

The LNER also owned:

  • 7,700 locomotives, 20,000 coaching vehicles, 29,700 freight vehicles, 140 items of electric rolling stock, 6 electric locomotives and 10 rail motor cars
  • 6 turbine and 36 other steamers, and a number of river boats and lake steamers, etc.

In partnership with the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS), the LNER was co-owner of the Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway, the UK's biggest joint railway system, much of which competed with the LNER's own lines. The M&GNJR was wholly incorporated into the LNER system in 1936. In 1933, on the formation of the London Passenger Transport Board, the LNER acquired the remaining operations of the Metropolitan Railway Company.

The LNER was the majority partner in the Cheshire Lines Committee and the Forth Bridge Railway Company.

Geographic area

The LNER, as its name suggests, covered the arc of the country between north and east of London. It included the East Coast Main Line from London to Edinburgh via York andNewcastle upon Tyne and the routes from Edinburgh to Aberdeen and Inverness. Most of the country east of the Pennines was the LNER's purview, including the large expanse ofEast Anglia. The LNER's main workshops were in Doncaster, with others at DarlingtonInverurie and Stratford, London.

The LNER inherited four of London's terminal stations: Fenchurch Street (ex-London and Blackwall Railway; King's Cross (ex-Great Northern Railway); Liverpool Street (ex-Great Eastern Railway); and Marylebone (ex-Great Central Railway). In addition, it ran London suburban services to Broad Street (London, Midland and Scottish Railway) and Moorgate(Metropolitan Railway, later London Transport).

Ancillary activities

The LNER inherited:

  • 8 canals, including the Ashton; Chesterfield; Macclesfield; Nottingham & Grantham; Peak Forest
  • Docks and harbours in 20 locations, including the North East coast ports (GrimsbyHartlepoolHullImminghamMiddlesbrough), some eastern Scottish ports, Harwich, Lowestoft and London
  • Other wharves, staithes, piers
  • 2 electric tramways
  • 23 hotels
  • A 49% stake in the haulage firm Mutter, Howey & Co. Ltd.

It took shares in a large number of local bus companies, including for a time a majority stake in United Automobile Services Ltd. In Halifax and Sheffield, it participated in Joint Omnibus Committees with the LMS and the Corporation.

In 1935, with the LMS, Wilson Line of Hull and others it formed the shipping company Associated Humber Lines Ltd.

In 1938 it was reported that the LNER, with 800 mechanical horse tractors, was the world's largest owner of this vehicle type.


The LNER operated a number of ships.

Ship Launched Tonnage (GRT) Notes and references
SS Accrington 1910 1,629 Built in 1910 for the Great Central Railway and served on the GrimsbyHamburgGermany route. Acquired by LNER in 1923 and passed to Associated Humber Lines in 1934. From July 1942 used as a convoy rescue ship during the Second World War and completed 40 escort voyages. Returned to LNER post-war and in 1946 with her sister "Dewsbury" was transferred to Harwich to replace war losses. Passed to British Railways in 1948. Served until scrapped in 1951 mainly on the Harwich - Antwerp route.
Amsterdam 1894 1,745 Built in 1894 for the Great Eastern Railway. Served on the HarwichHook of HollandNetherlands route until 1910 when she transferred to Harwich - Antwerp service. Acquired by LNER in 1923 and served until scrapped in 1928.
Amsterdam 1930 4,220 Built in 1930 by John Brown and Company of Clydebank for use on the Harwich – Hook of Holland service. A sister of "Vienna" and "Prague". Sold in 1941 to the Ministry of War Transport and converted to a troopship. In 1944, she struck a mine and sank offNormandyFrance.
Antwerp 1920 2,957 Built in 1920 for the Great Eastern Railway. Acquired by LNER in 1923 and operated on the Harwich - Antwerp service. The vessel was returned to the LNER in 1945 and fitted out as a troopship. Passed to British Railways in 1948 and served until scrapped in 1951 carrying troops between Harwich and Hook of Holland.
Archangel 1910 2,570 Built in 1910 as St. Petersburg for the Great Eastern Railway. Renamed Archangel in 1916 and acquired by LNER in 1923. Bombed and sunk in 1941 off the east coast of Scotland.
Arnhem 1947 4,891 Built in 1947 by John Brown and Company at Clydebank for use on the Harwich – Hook of Holland route. She was the company's first oil burner. Passed to British Railways in 1948 and served on the Hook of Holland route with her near sister "Amsterdam" of 1950 until withdrawn in April 1968. Attempts to sell the vessel failed and she was scrapped in 1969.
Bruges 1920 2,949 Built in 1920 for the Great Eastern Railway for service on the Harwich – Antwerp route.

A sister of "Antwerp" and "Malines". Acquired by LNER in 1923. Whilst operating as a cross channel troopship based in Southampton, she was bombed and sunk in 1940 off Le Havre, Seine Maritime, France.

City of Bradford 1903 1,340 Built in 1903 by Earle's Shipbuilding for the Great Central Railway. Made her maiden voyage to Rotterdam before transferring to Scandinavian routes, eventually taking up service on the Grimsby – Hamburg route for which she was designed. In 1914 on passage to Hamburg and being unaware of the outbreak of war, she was intercepted off Heligoland and taken as a prize. Renamed "Donau" she was recovered by British forces in January 1919 and returned to Grimsby. Acquired by LNER in 1923 she was transferred to Associated Humber Lines in 1935 but found to be surplus to requirements. Sold in 1936 to the Near East Shipping Co, London and renamed Hanne. The vessel was bombed and sunk off Malta in February 1942.
City of Leeds 1903 1,341 Built in 1903 by Earle's Shipbuilding for the Great Central Railway. A sister of "City of Bradford", for service on the Grimsby –Hamburg route. Was in Hamburg when war broke out in 1914 and was taken as a 'seized prize'. She was recovered in early 1919 and towed to Grimsby, where she was refurbished entering service to Rotterdam pending resumption of the Hamburg service. Acquired by LNER in 1923, and with her sister was transferred to Associated Humber Lines in 1935 but was also found to be surplus to requirements. The vessel was sold and scrapped in 1936 at Blyth, Northumberland.
Dewsbury 1910 1,631 Built in 1910 for the Great Central Railway for service on the Grimsby–Hamburg route. The first vessel in a series of five sister ships which were all built by Earle's Shipbuilding at Hull. Acquired by LNER in 1923. Passed to Associated Humber Lines in 1934 and was converted to a Convoy Escort Vessel during the war. She returned to service post-war in late 1945 on the Harwich - Antwerp route with sister vessel "Accrington" replacing tonnage lost during the hostilities by the Harwich fleet. Passed to British Railways in 1948 she was finally withdrawn from service in January 1959 and was scrapped in May of that year.[7][17]
SS Lutterworth 1891 1,002 Built in 1891 by Earle's Shipbuilding of Hull, a sister of the "Nottingham","Staveley" and "Leicester", for the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway, who later became the Great Central Railway in 1897. Entered service from Grimsby to Hamburg. Acquired by LNER in 1923. Served until 1932 when she sold to British and Irish Steam Packet Company and was scrapped the following year.
Macclesfield 1914 1,018 Built in 1914 by Swan Hunter at Newcastle upon Tyne for the Great Central Railway. Remained in commercial service during the hostilities mainly serving the Netherlands. Resumed Grimsby - Antwerp service in 1919 and acquired by LNER in 1923. Transferred toAssociated Humber Lines in 1935. Resumed service in 1945 between Goole or Hull to Antwerp or Rotterdam. Passed to British Railways in 1948 and served until scrapped in 1958.
Malines 1921 2,969 Built in 1921 for the Great Eastern Railway by Armstrong Whitworth at Newcastle, for service on the Harwich – Antwerp route. Acquired by LNER in 1923 but was torpedoed and sunk off Port Said in 1942. Having been raised and towed back in 1945 to her builders, the level of engine damage led to her being laid up and she was eventually scrapped in 1948.
Nottingham 1891 1,033 Built in 1891 by Swan Hunter for the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway who later became the Great Central Railway in 1897. Entered service when delivered with her sisters "Lutterworth" and "Staveley" on the Grimsby - Hamburg route, but transferred toGrimsby - Rotterdam in 1897. The vessel served as a naval supply vessel between 1915 and 1918 and changed her name to H.M.S. Notts. Following refurbishment in 1919 she re-entered service commercial service returning to her original name of "Nottingham". Acquired by LNER in 1923 and served until scrapped in 1935.
Prague 1930 4,220 Built in 1930 by John Brown and Company at Clydebank, a sister of "Vienna" and "Amsterdam", for use on the Harwich–Hook of Holland route. Sold in 1941 to the Ministry of War Transport and converted to a troopship. Returned to LNER in 1945 and re-opened the Hook of Holland service,but in a spartan condition and without her running mates, the "Amsterdam" was a war loss and the "Vienna" retained as a troopship by the Ministry of War Transport. Upon arrival of the newbuilding "Arnhem" in 1947, she was sent for an overdue refurbishment but was gutted by fire and sank whilst at the shipyard. She was raised and towed to Barrow in September 1947 where she was broken up.
Roulers 1894 1,753 Built in 1894 by Earle's Shipbuilding in Hull as Vienna for the Great Eastern Railway, and entered service with her sisters "Amsterdam" and "Berlin" on the Harwich - Hook of Holland route. Renamed Roulers in 1920. Acquired by LNER in 1923 and served on the Harwich–Zeebrugge route until withdrawn and scrapped in 1930.
Staveley 1891 1,034 Built in 1891 by Swan Hunter at Newcastle upon Tyne for the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway which became theGreat Central Railway in 1897. Entered service with her sisters "Nottingham" and "Lutterworth" on the Grimsby - Hamburg route. Acquired by LNER in 1923 and continued in service until sold to the British and Irish Steam Packet Company in 1932. She was scrapped a year later by Thos.W.Ward at Preston.
St Denis 1908 2,570 Built in 1908 by John Brown and Company at Clydebank as Munich for the Great Eastern Railway for service on the Harwich – Hook of Holland route. Requisitioned during the First World War for use as a hospital ship and renamed St Denis. Acquired by LNER in 1923 and continued to serve the Hook of Holland route until 1932 when she was relegated to summer secondary services by newbuildings on the Hook route. Was employed in evacuation duties at Amsterdam in 1940 when she became trapped and was scuttled. Salvaged by the Germans and served until scrapped in 1950, having been renamed twice as "Skorpion" and "Barbara" in the interim.
Train Ferry No.1 1917 2,683 Built in 1917 by Armstrong Whitworth in Newcastle upon Tyne for use between RichboroughKent and Dunkirk, France. Laid up post-war. Acquired by LNER in 1923 and in April 1924 opened the HarwichZeebruggeBelgium train ferry route with her sister vessels. Requisitioned in 1940 by the Royal Navy and renamed HMS Princess Iris and converted in 1941 to a Landing Craft carrier. Returned to LNER in 1946 and renamed Essex Ferry. Following refurbishment at John Brown and Company at Clydebank, she re-opened theHarwich - Zeebrugge service. Passed to British Railways in 1948 she was renamed Essex Ferry II in 1957, when they took delivery of a new train ferry of the same name. She was withdrawn from service and scrapped at GraysEssex in that year.
Train Ferry No.2 1917 2,678 Built in 1917 by Armstrong Whitworth at Newcastle upon Tyne for use between Richborough, and Dunquerque. Laid up post-war. Acquired by LNER in 1923 and in 1924 opened the Harwich –Zeebrugge train ferry service with her two sisters. Requisitioned in 1940 by the Royal Navy she was lost on 13 June 1940 off Saint-Valery-en-CauxSeine Maritime, France.
Train Ferry No.3 1917 2,672 Built in 1917 by Fairfields of Glasgow for use between Richborough, and Dunquerque. Laid up post-war. Acquired by LNER in 1923 and opened the Harwich – Zeebrugge train ferry route in 1924. Requisitioned in 1940 by the Royal Navy. Renamed HMS Daffodil and converted in 1941 to a Landing Craft carrier. Lost off Dieppe, Seine-Maritime, on 18 March 1945.
Vienna 1929 4,227 Built by John Brown and Company at Clydebank for the Harwich – Hook of Holland route, the first of three sister vessels. In 1932 she had modifications carried out including an extension to her promenade deck and inaugurated a programme of short summer cruises to the near continent which were to become very successful and which continued until 1939. During this pre-war period she was considered "the pride of the Harwich fleet". Sold in 1941 to the Ministry of War Transport and converted to a troopship. Post-war the vessel operated under LNER/BR management as a leave ship for the British Army of the Rhine with services from Harwich - Hook of Holland and Tilbury - Ostend. She was based at Harwich during that period where she suffered an engine room explosion in February 1952 which killed two crewmembers. She was withdrawn from service in June 1960 and scrapped later that year in Belgium.


Some special trains and A4 Pacific locomotives were painted differently, including silver-grey and garter blue.The LNER used a number of liveries on its trains. Most common were lined apple green on its passenger locomotives (much lighter and brighter than the green used by the Great Western Railway) and unlined black on freight locomotives, both with gold lettering. Passenger carriages were generally varnished teak (wood) finish; the few metal-panelled coaches were painted to represent teak.


The LNER covered quite an extensive area of Britain, running trains from London to the north east of England and Scotland. The enforced re-grouping of the railway companies in 1923 meant that former rivals within the LNER, spread across England and Scotland, had to work together. The task of creating an instantly recognisable public image for the LNER went to William M. Teasdale, their first advertising manager. Teasdale was influenced by the philosophies and policies of Frank Pick, who controlled the style and content of the London Underground's widely-acclaimed poster advertising. Teasdale did not confine his artists within strict guidelines but allowed them a free hand. The artist William Barribal designed a series of bold Art Deco posters for the LNER in the 1920s and 1930s. When Teasdale was promoted to Assistant General Manager of the LNER, this philosophy was carried on by Cecil Dandridge who succeeded him and was the LNER's Advertising Manager until nationalisation in 1948. Dandridge was largely responsible for the adoption of the Gill Sans typeface; it was later adopted by British Railways.

The LNER was a very industrial company: hauling more than one-third of Britain's coal, it derived two thirds of its income from freight. Despite this, the main image that the LNER presented of itself was one of glamour, of fast trains and sophisticated destinations. The LNER's advertising campaign was highly sophisticated and advanced compared to those of its rivals. Teasdale and Dandridge commissioned top graphic designers and poster artists such as Tom Purvis to promote its services and encourage the public to visit the holiday destinations of the east coast during the summer.

Chief mechanical engineers

The public face of a railway system is in large part the locomotives and rolling stock in service upon it, and therefore the personalities of the Chief Mechanical Engineers of the LNER impressed their distinctive visions upon the railway. There were three CMEs of the LNER.

Sir Nigel Gresley

Sir Nigel Gresley was the first CME and held the post for most of the LNER's existence, and thus he had the greatest effect on the company. He came to the LNER via the Great Northern Railway, where he was CME. He was noted for his "Big Engine" policy, and is best remembered for his large express passenger locomotives, many times the holder of the world speed record for steam locomotives. LNER Class A4 4-6-2 Pacific locomotive Mallard holds the record to this day. Gresley died in office in 1941.

Edward Thompson

Edward Thompson's short reign (1941–1946) was a controversial one. A noted detractor of Gresley even before his elevation to the post of CME, there are those who interpret many of his actions as being motivated by dislike of his predecessor. Against this it must be said that Gresley's designs had their flaws as well as their brilliance. His record is best served by his solid and dependable freight and mixed-traffic locomotives built under and for wartime conditions. He retired in 1946.

Arthur H. Peppercorn

Peppercorn's career was cut short by nationalisation and was CME for only 18 months. In this short period and in an atmosphere of reconstruction rather than great new endeavours, his only notable designs were his A1 and A2 Pacific express passenger locomotives, most of which were completed after nationalisation. Peppercorn was a student and admirer of Gresley and his locomotives combined the classic lines of Gresley's with the reliability and solidity Gresley's locomotives never quite achieved.

After the Second world war

The company was nationalised in 1948 along with the rest of the railway companies of Great Britain. The London & North Eastern Railway Company continued to exist as a legal entity for nearly two more years, being formally wound up on 23 December 1949.

On the privatisation of BR in 1996, the franchise to run long distance express trains on the East Coast Main Line was initially won by Sea Containers Ltd, who named the new operating company Great North Eastern Railway (GNER), a name and initials deliberately chosen to echo the former LNER.