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Opening to Grouping - 1899 to 1923

The Great Central Railway's London Extension officially opened for traffic on 9th March 1899, although the first public trains did not begin to operate until the 15th. The first train carried only four people, while the second only managed to fill fourteen seats. Quite simply, the new railway was a latecomer, and the Company would have to work hard to win traffic from its rivals. To do this, the GCR needed the motive power and rolling stock to make their railway attractive and, in 1901, the Company appointed John G. Robinson as its Chief Engineer - charging him with the task of producing a fleet of fast and powerful locomotives.

Fast trains were not enough and, in 1902, Samuel Fay joined the fold as railway's General Manager. It was Fay's unenviable task to turn the Company's perilous finances around and make the GCR a force to be reckoned with. It worked! Fay's policy of heavy marketing and promotion proved to be effective, and while never a threat to its rivals' existence, the London Extension managed to hold its own against its competitors. Fay then turned his attention to the train services operated by the Company, and by the start of the First World War, these services had been noticeably accelerated in both timing and efficiency.

Life slowed down on the railway during the Great War as much of the workforce was conscripted to the armed forces. To aid matters, women were employed to fill many of the gaps, but changes to routine were inevitable. However, by 1922, even bigger changes were afoot for the GCR as the post-war Government had elected to group the Nation's 123 independent railway systems into four 'super' railway companies. The 'Big Four' were born at the start of 1923, and the Great Central Railway was absorbed into the new London & North Eastern Railway.

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This is page 1 of A Brief History of the London Extension.
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John G. Robinson's first design for the Great Central Railway was his 9J, 0-6-0 goods engine, which first appeared in 1901. In service, the 9J's quickly earned the nickname 'Pom-Poms' because the bark of their exhaust resembled the sound made by a quick-firing gun of that name. A number of this successful class were built by Beyer Peacock & Co. of Manchester, and this image is the official Beyer Peacock works photograph of Class 9J, No. 228 - the locomotive being painted in grey for the purpose of photography.

John G. Robinson's first design for the Great Central Railway was his 9J, 0-6-0 goods engine, which first appeared in 1901. In service, the 9J's quickly earned the nickname 'Pom-Poms' because the bark of their exhaust resembled the sound made by a quick-firing gun of that name. A number of this successful class were built by Beyer Peacock & Co. of Manchester, and this image is the official Beyer Peacock works photograph of Class 9J, No. 228 - the locomotive being painted in grey for the purpose of photography.
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An example of Sam Fay's marketing was the running of special excursion trains, organised by Dean & Dawson - the company's official travel agent. This hand bill was produced to promote its half-day excursion tickets to Chesterfield - the occasion being Leicester Fosse (now Leicester City) playing in a 'Grand Football Match' on Saturday February 15th 1902. For two shillings and nine pence, fans wishing to go and see the game could catch one of two special services that left Leicester Central that afternoon.

An example of Sam Fay's marketing was the running of special excursion trains, organised by Dean & Dawson - the company's official travel agent. This hand bill was produced to promote its half-day excursion tickets to Chesterfield - the occasion being Leicester Fosse (now Leicester City) playing in a 'Grand Football Match' on Saturday February 15th 1902. For two shillings and nine pence, fans wishing to go and see the game could catch one of two special services that left Leicester Central that afternoon.
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This fine illustration comes from the front cover of a Great Central Railway timetable booklet produced for October 1912. Notice that almost half of the page is devoted to promoting the company's continental service. Travelling from Grimsby, a port on the eastern edge of the Great Central rail network, passengers could board 'new, fast, and powerful steamers' to Hamburg, Rotterdam and Antwerp. During and after the First World War, the design of these timetable booklets became a lot simpler, and far less emphasis was placed on their artistic decoration.

This fine illustration comes from the front cover of a Great Central Railway timetable booklet produced for October 1912. Notice that almost half of the page is devoted to promoting the company's continental service. Travelling from Grimsby, a port on the eastern edge of the Great Central rail network, passengers could board 'new, fast, and powerful steamers' to Hamburg, Rotterdam and Antwerp. During and after the First World War, the design of these timetable booklets became a lot simpler, and far less emphasis was placed on their artistic decoration.
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