Sir Edward Watkin
Photographed from an original engraving, this is Sir Edward William Watkin, the Victorian railway magnate whose ambition led to the construction of the London Extension. Born in 1819 to a cotton merchant in Manchester, his drive and vision made him one of the most memorable men of his era. In 1845 he became Secretary to the Trent Valley Railway, and in 1853 he began his long relationship with the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Railway (later Great Central Railway) when he was appointed as General Manager. From 1864, he was the company's Chairman of Directors, a tenancy that lasted until 1894. During this time, Watkin was also the Chairman of the South Eastern Railway (1866-94) and the Metropolitan Railway (1872-94). These positions fostered his ambitious plan to build a mainline service to London from the M.S. & L.R. in the north, a route that could then pass through the capital via the Metropolitan and down towards Dover by way of the South Eastern. The bravest part of this idea, perhaps even its most prophetic, was the construction of a channel tunnel that would link the rail networks of Britain with their counterparts in mainland Europe. Alas, even if the building of the Last Main Line was a remarkable achievement, Watkin's grand plan never came to fruition. Indeed, the London Extension proper had been closed for twenty five years before that dream became a reality. In recognition of his service, Edward Watkin was Knighted in 1868 and created a Baronet in 1880. He died in 1901.