The Great Northern Railway Society

The Great Northern Railway

The first proposal for the Great Northern Railway was submitted in 1844, and despite concerted and relentless opposition the company received permission to start construction through an Act of Parliament in 1846.

The reason for creating the new line was to provide a speedier service to York, and from there via other companies to the north of England and Scotland. Throughout its life, the company was in fierce competition for traffic with other routes leading north from London, so ensuring it remained the premier route was vital. 

The competition eventually led to a number of events called “The Race to the North” between the East Coast Main Line and the West Coast Main Line. The races, officially denied, were the talk of the newspapers in the 1890s, and the rivalry continued between the LNER and LMS after grouping.

The need for speed led to iconic locomotives such as the Stirling Single and the Ivatt Atlantic, both of which have examples preserved in the national collection.

But the GNR wasn’t just about speed, as the company was involved in the provision of workmen’s trains that encouraged the movement of artisans and labourers out of London and into the Suburbs.

The Society

The GNR Society exists to preserve records and to research the GNR, its staff, its assets and its history. It has a thriving membership with debates via its own active forum, the Great Northern News and meetings. The summer sees the Society host a number of ‘Summer Days Out’, all of which are available to members. 

Becoming a member of the GNRS will give you access to the knowledge of our members – no query is too niche, and every enquiry drives further research and discussion.

GNR Society Benefits

Great Northern News

The GNR Society's magazine,
six times a year

Summer Days Out

Join us on trips to sites of GNR interest

Photo Collection

Access to the extensive GNR photo collection

Publications

The Society's in-house books - available online and at exhibitions

GNR Archive

An expanding list of documents available to members

Members' Forum

A members' only space - the place to exchange knowledge and ideas

GNRS Membership

Join us, or renew your GNRS membership online and gain instant access to all of the members' pages, your six issues of the Great Northern News, back issues, days out, and more.

Photo: Stirling Single Number 1