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British Railway Company Flags

Last modified: 2021-05-29 by rob raeside
Keywords: railway |
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Glasgow & South Western Railway

[Glasgow & South Western Railway flag] image by Ivan Sache, 3 May 2021

The Glasgow & South Western Railway had its terminus at Glasgow St. Enoch and ran expresses to Carlisle, where it worked in connection with the Midland Railway to London St. Pancras, in competition with the West Coast Main Line. It also served towns like Paisley, Ayr, Kilmarnock, and Dumfries, with its headquarters and locomotive works in Kilmarnock. The locomotive works, however, closed after the First World War. The G&SWR achieved surprisingly high speeds on its passenger expresses, and was remarkably innovative in its locomotive design.
The 1923 Grouping was a horrendous blow to the G&SWR, who found themselves in a subsidiary role to their arch-rival the Caledonian Railway. This was especially a blow because the MR and the G&SWR had wanted to merge in the nineteenth century and had been told by the Government that this would be too much of a monopoly.

John Speller's Web Pages
Ivan Sache, 3 May 2021

Great Western Railway

[Great Western Railway flag] image by Ivan Sache, 3 May 2021

In the 1930s the flag was white with a red border top and bottom and part of the arms of the GWR in the centre; the shield and crest of the cities of Bristol and London within a garter bearing the name of the company.
David Prothero, 14 March 2008

The Great Western Railway (GWR) was created by an Act of Parliament on the 31st August 1835 to provide a double tracked line from Bristol to London, however work had started in 1832 to secure finance for the line, research possible routes and design stations, bridges and all other buildings required. The next major priority was to appoint an engineer to oversee this construction. In 1833 this all important position went to the twenty-seven year old Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
The first section of twenty-four miles from Paddington to Maidenhead was completed in May 1838, but it was not until June 1841 that the line from Bristol to London, soon nicknamed as 'Brunel's billiard table' was completed at a total cost of Ł6,500,000.
Prior to this time, in 1837, the Great Western also launched their first ship, appropriately named 'Great Western', as Bristol had direct access to the Atlantic and America. A few years later they produced the first completely iron steamship 'Great Britain' and her troublesome sister 'Great Eastern', all designed by Brunel.
The death of Brunel in 1859 shocked the Great Western severely. His creative genius saw most of his work completely fulfilled except for the problems with the ship 'Great Eastern' and the Clifton Suspension bridge which would be finished in 1864 after 30 years construction. It was on the 'Great Eastern' that Brunel suffered a heart attack and died on the 15th of September.
The Great Western Archive

Known as "God's Wonderful Railway", the "Great Way Round", or, simply, the "Holiday Line", the GWR was the only company to keep its identity in the 1923 amalgamation. Nationalized in 1947, the GWR became the Western Region of British Railways.

The described house flag of the company already appeared (#1626, p. 114) in Lloyd's Book of House Flags and Funnels (1912).

The company's badge, shown in the middle of the flag, was also used on coach side. (Photo).
Ivan Sache, 3 May 2021

Great Central Railway

The Great Central Railway had its beginnings in a much smaller railway, the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire, which was incorporated in 1846 from three yet smaller companies. The MS&LR would have remained a modest east-west provincial line had it not been for Edward Watkin, who became its General Manager in 1854 and Chairman in 1864. Watkin was a man of great foresight, whose ambition was to link by rail the industrial centres of Manchester and Sheffield with the expanding markets of Continental Europe. This was not as impossible as it sounds, as he proposed to build a Channel Tunnel, and became not only Chairman of the South Eastern Railway connecting London with Dover, but also the Metropolitan Railway, then extending its suburban line north-westwards from London through Rickmansworth.
Watkin worked for years trying to achieve his dream, haggling with other companies to provide the links between the MS&L lines and London. But as the working arrangements were always to his advantage, the other companies would have none of it, and Watkin was driven to constructing his own line southward from Sheffield to link up with the Metropolitan. The "London Extension", as it was known, branched out from the already established MS&L system. It was not opened until 1899, well after most other lines were built; two years earlier, the directors changed the company name to Great Central Railway, to befit its new trunk line status. However, Watkin retired through ill health before the rest of his ambition could be fulfilled.
The cost of construction was high - Ł11.5 million as opposed to a estimated Ł6 million - and the company never paid a normal dividend afterwards, but it certainly lived up to its slogan "Rapid Travel in Luxury". It became noted for its handsome locomotives and trains, and its provision of cross-country through trains in conjunction with other railways. In the company grouping of 1923 it became part of the London & North Eastern Railway, and on nationalisation in 1948 part of British Railways (Eastern Region).
Private motor competition began to have a serious effect on the railways in the 1950s and in a climate of reduction of services, the "London Extension" was a natural target as it cut across new administrative boundaries, and all its major centres were served by other lines. The run-down began in 1960, following transfer to the Midland region, with the withdrawal of the daytime Manchester-London expresses. Long stretches were closed altogether in 1966, and the remaining Nottingham-Rugby section in 1969.
Many railway enthusiasts lamented this closure, the reasons for which were far from universally accepted. However it did provide an opportunity for a major new step in railway preservation. Today's Great Central Railway represents a wider spectrum, in terms of preservation, than the original Great Central, but many reminders of the old company are to be found along the line, and in the small exhibits museum at Loughborough.

Corporate website
Ivan Sache, 4 May 2021

See also:

Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway

[Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway flag] image by António Martins-Tuválkin, 18 February 2007

Post card collection shows a blue and red quartered flag with a large white Maltese cross over all and white serif capital letters "L" on the hoist side blue area and "Y" on the fly side blue area.
António Martins-Tuválkin, 18 February 2007

Lancashire and Yorkshire & North Eastern Railways / Hull & Zeebrugge Service

[Lancashire and Yorkshire & North Eastern Railways flag] image by António Martins-Tuválkin, 4 July 2007

Post card collection shows “LYR/NER Joint Service, Hull”. A variant of the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway flag, we see the same blue and red quartered flag without the central emblem, however, and bearing white initials LY (upper quarters) and NE (lower quarters).

See also the on-line 1912 Lloyds Flags & Funnels:, no. 1520 bearing the LYNE initials (‘Lancashire and Yorkshire & North Eastern Railways / Hull & Zeebrugge Service') and no. 1521 bearing the cross and the LY initials ('Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway / Goole and Continental Service').

The NER mentioned above was the North Eastern Railway absorbed by the London & North Western Railway (1923) which had acquired Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway the year before. All this and much more on this Ships List page, first of a set of four:

L&YR enthusiasts site:

Simplon PC pages which will come in handy:
Jan Mertens, 20 February 2007

[variant flag] image by Klaus-Michael Schneider, 14 May 2012

The variant flag is quarterly divided into blue (upper hoist/lower fly) and red (lower hoist/upper fly). In the quarters are white initials “L” (upper hoist), “y” (upper fly, lower case(!!)), “N” (lower hoist) and “E” (lower fly). Source: Lloyds F&F 1912; p.109, image 1520
Klaus-Michael Schneider, 14 May 2012

Lancashire and Yorkshire & London and North Western Railways

[Lancashire and Yorkshire & London and Northwestern Railways flag] image by António Martins-Tuválkin, 1 August 2007

Post card collection shows a red flag with a white cross throughout charged with a green shamrock on its center and with white lettering in all four red quarters (clockwise from the top hoist): "L&Y", "L&NW", "RLY" and "COYS"
António Martins-Tuválkin, 21 February 2007

The shamrock seems to refer to an Irish connection. This company did run services from London to Holyhead, part of the main route by train and sea to Dublin, and carried Irish mail on this route, but I wouldn't have expected this to be emphasised in the flag. The Lancashre and Yorkshire entered into a working relationship with the London & North Western Railway in 1922, but they then grouped into the London, Midland and Scottish Railway in 1923.
Jonathan Dixon, 21 February 2007