Significant Events in the History of the Great Western Railway

1833 21 Jan First meeting of the Bristol committee that was to launch the Great Western Railway
7 Mar Isambard Kingdom Brunel appointed as resident engineer
30 July Bristol Committee's first public meeting
19 Aug The title of the 'Great Western Railway' adopted at a meeting of the London and Bristol Committees
1834 25 July First Great Western Railway Bill rejected by the House of Lords
1835 31 Aug Great Western Railway Act received by Royal Assent
29 Oct Broad Gauge adopted by GWR Board
1837 3 July Act passed for the use of Paddington as London terminus
18 Aug Daniel Gooch appointed Superintendent of Locomotive Engines
1838 15 Jan First steaming of North Star
4 June Great Western line opened between Paddington and Maidenhead
1839 April First section of electric telegraph opened as far as Hanwell
1 July Section of line from Maidenhead to Twyford opened
1840 30 Mar Section of line from Twyford to Reading opened
1 June Section of line from Reading to Steventon opened
20 July Section of line from Steventon to Faringdon Road opened
31 Aug Section of line from Bristol to Bath opened
6 Oct Decision made to build the Great Western Locomotive Works at Swindon
25 Oct GWR's first recorded accident , at Faringdon Road engine shed
17 Dec Section of line from Faringdon Road to Wootton Basset opened
The year was also noted for the building of the first Royal carriage and for the adoption of disc and crossbar signals
1841 31 May Section of line opened from Wootton Basset to Chippenham
30 June GWR line from London to Bristol open with the completion of the section from Chippenham to Bath
1842 13 June First railway journey by a British reigning monarch with Queen Victoria travelling from Slough to Paddington
29 Sept First excursion train from Bristol to London
1843 2 Jan Swindon Locomotive Works brought into regular use
1844 10 May Acquisition of the Cheltenham & Great Western Union Railway, the first acquisition by the company
12 June Branch line from Didcot Junction to Oxford opened
1845 16 Jan Agreement between the GWR and the LSWR over 'territory rights'
12 May Section from Kemble to Standish opened giving access to Gloucester via the B & G
16 Dec Locomotive trials between broad and narrow gauges begun
1846 February First Swindon produced locomotive appeared, Premier
18 Aug Gauge Regulation Act passed
The year was also noted for the introduction of cloakrooms and cardboard tickets.
1847 23 Oct New station at St. James Square, Cheltenham opened
21 Dec Section of line from Reading to Hungerford opened
1848 1 Nov Section of line from Southcote Junction to Basingstoke opened
18 Dec Section of line line from Newton Abbot to Torre opened
1849 8 Oct Branch line to Windsor opened
1850 2 Sept Section of line from Oxford (Millstream Junc) to Banbury opened
7 Oct Section of line from Westbury to Frome opened
The year was also noted with the introduction of an absolute block system through Box Tunnel.
1851 1 July GWR acquire the Kennet & Avon Canal
9 Sept Section of line from Westbury to Warminster opened
19 Sept The GWR lease the line from Grange Court to Gloucester from the G&DFR
1852 The year was noted for the completion of the mixed-gauge route to Birmingham and the final section of electric telegraph completed between London and Bristol.
1853 The year was noted for the commencement of passenger traffic on the Ludlow to Hereford section.
1854 16 Jan The departure side of the rebuilt Paddington station opened with the arrival side following on the 29 May
29 May Section of line from Gloucester to Standish opened to allow the Midland Railway access to Bristol
9 June The Grand Royal Hotel at Paddington opened
1855 1 June Section of line from Grange Court to Hereford opened and Charles Spagoletti appointed Telegraph Superintendent
1856 2 Feb First Great Western goods trains arrive at Birkenhead followed by the first passenger trains on 1 May
30 June Section of line from Warminster to Salisbury opened
1 Sept Section of line from Frome to Yeovil opened
1857 20 Jan Extension of line from Frome to Weymouth opened together with the introduction of a steamer service to the Channel Islands
2 Feb Section of line from Trowbridge to Bathampton opened
1 Sept Branch line from Henley - in - Arden opened
1858 4 Nov First slip coach introduced at Slough
1859 18 July Brentford branch opened to goods traffic
25 July Section of line from Henwick to Malvern Link opened
15 Sept Isambard Kingdom Brunel dies
The year was also noted for the establishment of the Reading Signal Works
1861 14 Aug First narrow gauge train pulls into Paddington
1862 A number of branch lines opened through the year including Severn Valley, Devizes and Kington
1863 10 Jan Metropolitan line opened and worked by the GWR
30 July Section of line from Tenby to Pembroke opened; extended to Pembroke Docks 8 August 1864
1 Aug Great Western, West Midland and South Wales Railways amalgamated
8 Sept Section of line opened from Bristol to New Passage opened
1866 4 Sept Section of line from Tenby to Whiland opened
Nov Section of broad gauge line from Truro to Penzance added followed by the first broad gauge through trains from Paddington to Penzance from 1 March 1867
1867 The Great Western begins building more of its own rolling stock at Worcester
1869 Conversion of broad gauge to narrow gauge begins between Grange Court and Hereford and the Oxford to Wolverhampton line converted to entirely narrow gauge
1871 A period of station rebuilding and the adding of extra lines
1872 1 Feb Great Western take over the steamer services from Milford Haven
11 May The last broad gauge train runs in South Wales
1874 March Work begins on the Severn Tunnel
17 Sept New link between Pontypool and Newport opened
The year also witnesses three bad accidents at West Drayton, Merthyr and Shipton, the conversion to narrow gauge lines south of Bristol and the start of line quadrupling between Paddington and Taplow.
1875 The vacuum brake employed on passenger rolling stock
1876 1 Jan The Great Western absorb the Bristol & Exeter Railway
1 Feb The Great Western absorb the South Devon, Cornwall and West Cornwall Railways
May Narrow gauge line added as far as Plymouth
1877 1 Jan New sidings at Acton linked to Acton Wells Junction
1 June Last broad gauge branch line opened, to St. Ives
The first sleeper saloon appears, a six-wheel, four-berth vehicle
1879 Broad gauge conversions extended from Weston-super-Mare and Yeovil. After three years of trials, a form of automatic vacuum brake comes into regular use
1880 Electric lighting installed at Paddington
1882 The first train toilets are brought into service and gas began to replace oil for carriage lighting. 3rd class accommodation on all but certain expresses
1884 1 Mar Weston-super-Mare loop opened
1886 9 Jan Trial coal train works through the Severn Tunnel with Bristol to Cardiff passenger services beginning 1 December
Oil boxes begin to replace grease boxes on carriages
1887 27 May Bodmin branch opens
1888 Nov First appearance of the Great Western Railway Magazine
1889 August The Great Western take over the working of the Channel Island steamers
1890 June Commencement of the 'Cornishman' train service from Paddington to Penzance
11 Nov Serious train accident at Norton Fitzwarren
1891 9 Mar A great blizzard affects all lines in the West of England
The year also saw the introduction of the electric train staff
1892 7 Mar The Paddington to Birkenhead service includes corridor trains with full lavatory facilities
20 May The last broad gauge leave Paddington and Penzance at 10.15 am with the conversion of the last remaining broad gauge line following on the 21 and 22 May
The first type of communication cord, fitted outside of the carriage, is introduced. The cord was transferred to the inside of the coach from 1900
1893 Steam heating of carriages was introduced and work started on the doubling of the section from Plymouth to Penwithers Junction
1894 Extending from Penwithers Junction, doubling of the section of line to Penzance began. This work was finally completed in 1930
1895 1 Oct First trains from Paddington to Penzance discontinue the refreshment stop at Swindon
1896 May Introduction of dining cars on the Paddington to Plymouth and Cardiff routes
1899 16 June Serious accident at Slough
The year also saw the introduction of non-stop services between Paddington to Exeter and Paddington to Birmingham
1900 1 Oct Section of line from Stert to Westbury opened to passenger traffic as part of the new line to the West of England
1902 George Jackson Churchward replaced William Dean as Locomotive Carriage and Wagon Superintendant
1903 10 Mar First non-stop run between Paddington and Plymouth via Bristol with the 130 ton Royal Special
17 Aug First Great Western motor bus service from Helston to The Lizard
12 Oct First railmotor service from Sonehouse to Chelford
The year was also noted for the introduction of Vacuum brakes on goods wagons and the popularity of dining facilities for 3rd class passengers
1904 9 May Record breaking Plymouth to Paddington run in 227 minutes shared by 3065 Duke of Connaught
1 July The world's longest non-stop run from Paddington to Plymouth named as the Cornish Riviera Express introduced
1 Aug The first section of line from Honeybourne to Cheltenham opened. This line was completed in August 1906
The year was also noted for the introduction of an experimental fast freight service from Acton to Bristol and for the Exminster water troughs brought into use
1906 1 Jan First use of Automatic Train Control on the Henley branch line
17 Mar Old Oak Common locomotive depot opened
2 July Opening of Curry Rivell to Cogload cut-off for passenger traffic, goods having used the cut-off since the 11 June
30 Aug A new link to Ireland created with the opening of Fishguard Harbour
1907 Aug The Great Western introduce semi-automatic signals linked with track circuits between Goring and Pangbourne
1908 1 July New Wolverhampton to Bristol route via Honeybourne opened
The year also saw the extension of ATC between Slough and Reading
1910 9 May Stoke Gifford to Avonmouth route opened
1 July Ashendon Junction to Anyho Junction route opens for passenger traffic (goods traffic used the line from 4 April)
1 Oct 2nd class abolished
1913 Work starts on extending Paddington station and the 'Safety First' movement begins
1914 5 Aug With the outbreak of World War One, the government take control of the railways
1919 1 Feb Introduction of the eight-day week
26 Sept National railway strike that lasts until the 5 Oct
1921 19 Aug Railways Act given Royal Assent, dividing the country's railways into four groups
Most rail services returned to their pre-war speeds and an Aberdeen to Penzance service was introduced
1922 1 Jan The first stage of grouping begins with the absorption of Barry, Cambrian, Cardiff, Rhymney, Taff Vale and Alexandra Docks & Railways into the Great Western
1923 1 Jan The second stage of grouping absorbs the Gwendraeth Valleys, South Wales Mineral, Welshpool & Llanfair and Liskeard & Looe Railways into the Great Western
1 Jan First use of electric motors operating points and signals, at Beaconsfield West
1 July Third and final stage of grouping brings the Midland & South Western Junction Railway under GWR control
1924 April Visit of King George V and Queen Mary at Swindon Works
The year also saw the first car-carrying trains use the Severn Tunnel
1926 3 May All railways affected by the General Strike that lasts until 14 May
1927 Aug 'King' class no. 6000 King George V visits the USA for the Baltimore & Ohio centenary
1929 6 July Sir Felix Pole resigns as General Manager
1930 Major extension of Automatic Train Control authorized from an existing 372 track miles to a total of 2,130 miles, together with the need to fit the equipment to 2,500 locomotives
1931 Cogload flyover brought into use together with the quadrupling of the Cogload to Taunton main line
1932 World start to stop speed record set by 'Castle' class number 5006 Tregenna Castle on the Cheltenham Flyer service. Quadrupling extended from Taunton to Norton Fitzwarren
1933 March The avoiding lines at Westbury and Frome open
April Great Western introduces an air service from Cardiff to Torbay and Plymouth using an Imperial Airways Westland Wessex
1934 The year bring the introduction of experimental AEC diesel railcar on the Paddington to Didcot service followed by an express railcar service from Birmingham to Cardiff
1935 The centenary of the Great Western sees celebrations in Bristol (31 August) and London (30 October). Meanwhile the 'Bristolian' service is introduced in September
1939 With the outbreak of another World War, the country's railways again return to government control
1940 June GWR ships assist in the evacuation of Dunkirk, with St. Helier making no fewer than seven round trips
4 Nov A serious rail crash at Norton Fitzwarren kills 27 and injures another 56. The locomotive involved, 'King' class number 6007 King William III, is scrapped
1942 Quadrupling continues with the Gloucester to Cheltenham line upgraded
1946 The year brings experiments into different fuels - the first oil-fired GWR locomotive appears, and trials begin on the use of gas-turbine propulsion
1947 The Transport Act is given Royal Assent for the nationalisation of Britain's railways. The year also brought a special demonstration of Great Western's ATC system
1948 1 Jan Enactment date for the Transport Act 1947
5 Mar Final Board meeting of the Great Western Railway Company


Great Western Locomotive Engineers
William Dean    George Churchward     Charles Collett     Frederick Hawksworth

The History of the Great Western Railway
Part One: 1835 to 1892     Part Two: 1892 to 1948

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