A History of Britain’s Railways

British Railways

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British Railways

Following the Second World War the four main railway companies in Britain were merged to form British Railways. It was later marketed as British Rail.

British Railways no longer operates the trains in Britain. This task is now divided between a number of concerns (the train operating companies or TOCs). The track is owned by Railtrack. Please see the clickable map for the train operating companies.

The British Railways Board still exists and is now responsible for the British Transport Police, holding of records and disposing of non-operational railway land.

Act To be entered
Created 1848
Privatised 1997



This nationalised industry was created in 1948 and privatised in the early 1990s (Act of Parliament in 1993 and divested of Railway operations by November 1997).

Description of route 


British Railways consisted of all the railways in Britain. This included many railway-operated ferry routes, hotels and other businesses which railway companies had operated until 1948. The company owned all the track and operated all the trains.

Four large companies operated in Britain at the time of the Nationalisation. Here I give a table of these companies and some of the smaller companies which constituted them before 1923. (This list is not complete and only indicates some of the larger mileage companies).

Pre 1948 companies Pre 1923 companies
London and North Eastern Railway North British Railway 
Great North of Scotland Railway
North Eastern Railway
Great Northern Railway
Great Central Railway
Great Eastern Railway
London, Midland and Scottish Railway Caledonian Railway 
Glagow and South Western Railway 
Highland Railway
London and North Western Railway
Midland Railway
Great Western Railway Great Western Railway
Southern Railway London and South Western Railway
London, Brighton and South Coast Railway
South Eastern Railway

Train Operating Companies

GNER ScotRail Clickable map of Britain

Page created on 19/03/1998
Page last edited on: 07/08/2011
Contact: Ewan Crawford