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1923 nationalisation

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Eyersey468

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One of the proposals in the early 1920s was to nationalise the railways. Of course this didn't happen then and we had the big 4 instead. What does everyone think would have happened had the railways been nationalised in 1923 instead of 1948? Would the cuts of the 1950s and 60s happened earlier?
 
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hexagon789

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One of the proposals in the early 1920s was to nationalise the railways. Of course this didn't happen then and we had the big 4 instead. What does everyone think would have happened had the railways been nationalised in 1923 instead of 1948? Would the cuts of the 1950s and 60s happened earlier?
I suspect some would, certainly you'd expect if not pre-war then very soon after many duplicated lines, certain secondary through routes and less used rural branches to go.

It may have been a more gradual and more piecemeal process, rather than a tranche of heavy cuts concentrated into a relatively short period as with the "Beeching" cuts.
 

tbwbear

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An excellent question, but one that is very difficult to answer.

You can look to other countries (certainly Germany) where nationalisation happened for clues, certainly there could have been a lot more cost saving and standardisation earlier. Reduction of some duplicate lines can probably be assumed.

You can also look at the other great non-commercial domestic organisations of the 1920s and 1930s like the BBC and LTPB to conclude that good leadership would have been vital - which of the Big 4 leaders would have made the best BR1923 leader for example ? (How about Herbert Walker - with the third rail reaching Glasgow by 1939?)

There is nothing to suggest that BR1923 wouldn’t have been just as profitable as the Big 4 and BR1948 were until the 1950s.

Yet it is likely that BR1923 would still have faced much the same commercial pressures that BR1948 came up against in the mid 1950s.

I would say that BR1923 would possibly have been more resilient than BR1948, and there would have been fewer closures - possibly at a slower rate - as suggested above by hexagon789 - but it is difficult one to prove.
 
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ChiefPlanner

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The formation of London Transport in 1933 saw a very quick cull of services north of Aylesbury and the removal of the (hopeless) Brill branch. Not part of their core operation obviously.

The GWR once they had taken over the Welsh independants did some quick economies in the Valleys , eliminating some of the duplication of the Barry / Rhymney etc - but on their own they had a branch line committee fairly early on which amended a few operations (Malmesbury) , but their heart was not really into it , and WW2 made most lines much busier at the company's costs and there was a slow increase in the 1950's and onwards.

The LNER / LMS situation in the Scottish lowlands was much more complicated with a dense network , and one understands the LMS were not particularly impressed pre WW2 with north of Inverness.....
 

Dr Hoo

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I think that a lot of it depends on whether it was 'just the railways' or a full, multi-modal 'British Transport Commission'. (Yes, I know that the Big Four and some of their predecessors had bus and road transport interests anyway.)

A genuine attempt to 'integrate' transport would probably have led to bus replacement of minor lines as the technology in terms of vehicle size, pneumatic tyres, road surfacing, etc. developed.

A single national entity would have seen far less value in 'penetrating lines' and competition, with a lot of passenger rationalisation in areas like Lancashire and Yorkshire, and the Central Belt of Scotland as Chief Planner has noted above. A lot of the apparently duplicated lines in industrial areas often had 'unique' colliery access of course so freight might have taken longer to rationalise.

It has often struck me as significant that the very first passenger closure under the 1948 BTC was of a link to the Great Central London Extension. Some nationalisers could evidently hardly wait to get started!

Given the speed with which many electric tramways, often with some relatively modern vehicles and route extensions were trashed in favour of motor buses in the 1930s there is little evidence that environmental credentials or the possibility of subsidy would have cut much ice in the depths of the Depression.
 

edwin_m

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You can look to other countries (certainly Germany) where nationalisation happened for clues, certainly there could have been a lot more cost saving and standardisation earlier. Reduction of some duplicate lines can probably be assumed.
The difference being that most other countries had much greater State involvement in the planning of the network even when nominally privately operated, so there was much less duplication in the first place. So I don't think much can be read into comparisons of closures in nationalised European railways with those in the UK.
 

AngusH

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One possibility that occurs to me is that there probably would have been an earlier
equivalent of the BR Standard steam locomotives, developed and used across the network.

Also if both east and west coast routes to Scotland were run by the same company would there have been the pressure to have record breaking speeds and competition as actually happened?
So maybe no Mallard speed record, although I'd hope the A4 might have been built anyway.

Unless of course it ended up with national prestige, trying to beat other countries.

If there was extra government money a wide electrification scheme might well have created jobs in the 1930s. Which would give us a 1500V DC system I guess?
 

ChiefPlanner

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The difference being that most other countries had much greater State involvement in the planning of the network even when nominally privately operated, so there was much less duplication in the first place. So I don't think much can be read into comparisons of closures in nationalised European railways with those in the UK.

Not sure - as in France there was a massacre of "lines of local interest" in the 1930's - many of them metre gauge , which should probably not have been built in the first case , traversing empty territory admittedly in a time of poor road connectivity which was remedied in the post WW1 era by the internal combustion competition. Germany - not enough knowledge about the rail systems. (but the country had to cope with massive economic issues and hyper inflation etc)

Britain certainly did some economic pump priming with Keynsian work creation schemes - think of the 4 tracking towards Shenfield on the LNER and station remodelling and rebuilding (resignalling even) on the GWR at key locations such as Cardiff and Bristol - and apart from some diesel railcar schemes here and there , and new electric stock on Merseyside , - the branch and secondary lines were left to plug on with minimal investment. LMS local services being notorious for poor services and cleaning etc / standards.
 

Bevan Price

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Closure of basket case lines would have continued steadily (as in fact happened under the Big 4 during the 1930s). Indeed some services were suspended / withdrawn during WW1, when the railways were effectively under government control.

A big unknown is whether or not the Baldwin or Chamberlain Tory governments of the 1930s would have tried to de-privatise a nationalised railway system? (If they could have found a buyer..)
 

AngusH

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A big unknown is whether or not the Baldwin or Chamberlain Tory governments of the 1930s would have tried to de-privatise a nationalised railway system? (If they could have found a buyer..)

I think probably not. With Baldwin, his 1924 government wasn't particularly free market one, for example they created the Central Electricity Board (Predecessor of the CEGB, National Grid, etc) and also pushed early parts of the welfare state (mainly pensions)

The Chamberlain government of 1937 passed the the Coal act of 1938, which created a national "Coal Commission" essentially nationalising unworked coal deposits.

The 1937 government was also of course a "National government" of multiple parties, which I think, also makes it less likely.

Could railways have been considered different from coal and electricity, absolutely they could.

But my belief is that they would have been reluctant to change things just on principle of private ownership.
If the hypothetical BR(1923) had run into major losses or bad service maybe.

edit: links!
 

tbwbear

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The difference being that most other countries had much greater State involvement in the planning of the network even when nominally privately operated, so there was much less duplication in the first place. So I don't think much can be read into comparisons of closures in nationalised European railways with those in the UK.

Possibly. Although there was certainly some standardisation in Germany in the 20s and 30s that could also have benefited BR(1923).

Although it is true that the question probably does depend on the BTC issue: would it have been just the railways or all transport - mentioned by Dr Hoo above.

It is almost an impossible dream, but it would be nice to think that a national version of the LTPB 1933 (which was itself supported by the Conservatives) coordinating road and rail, could have given Britain a world-beating coordinated public transport system in the 1930s in the same way as Frank Pick and his team actually delivered for London.
 

A0wen

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It is almost an impossible dream, but it would be nice to think that a national version of the LTPB 1933 (which was itself supported by the Conservatives) coordinating road and rail, could have given Britain a world-beating coordinated public transport system in the 1930s in the same way as Frank Pick and his team actually delivered for London.

Hindsight's a wonderful thing - but I think the formation of the LTPB in some respects was a complete disaster - the most notable one being the size of the area it was given.

It stretched *far* outside the London of the 1930s and even the London of today - it was given a radius of 30 miles from Central London which meant places like Buntingford, Tring and Crawley were in its scope and other, even legacy, operators were quite limited in what they could do along that boundary. It saddled the Home Counties with a high cost bus operation which by the late 60s was unprofitable and unviable which then became the NBC's problem throughout the 1970s.

Had it been given a much reduced boundary - say, 15 miles, or roughly the outline of the M25 today, then I might be tempted to agree about its benefits - but not in the form it gained in 1931. To put it in context, if WMPTE had been given a similar area on formation its reach would have extended to places like Ashby de la Zouch, Southam, Bidford on Avon, Stafford and Worcester.

One possibility that occurs to me is that there probably would have been an earlier
equivalent of the BR Standard steam locomotives, developed and used across the network.

Also if both east and west coast routes to Scotland were run by the same company would there have been the pressure to have record breaking speeds and competition as actually happened?
So maybe no Mallard speed record, although I'd hope the A4 might have been built anyway.

Unless of course it ended up with national prestige, trying to beat other countries.

If there was extra government money a wide electrification scheme might well have created jobs in the 1930s. Which would give us a 1500V DC system I guess?

I think you have a point - but it would have depended on who was recruited into which roles. Don't forget the NER and then LNER were looking in the 1930s at a fairly extensive electrification programme, Woodhead was started by the LNER, they put proposals forward for the GN suburban as far as Hitchin (IIRC proposing 1500v DC for outer suburban and 750v DC for inner) and Gresley was very keen on electrification.

But BR under different leadership dropped that entirely and the ECML wasn't then electrified until the 1980s, some 3 decades later.

WW2 definitely played a part in slowing these things down, but I'd contend BR was far too timid post war and that was down to it's (largely ex LMS) leadership. The LMS were, of course, pushing for diesel over electric for long distances and relatively low powered diesel at that - the LMS twins were only 1600hp and even in steam days the Midland had tended towards the use of smaller, less powerful locos.

So whilst standardisation would doubtless have arrived much sooner, the question of electrification is less clear in my view.
 
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LNW-GW Joint

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The bigger pre-grouping railway companies were transport, industry and property conglomerates with a huge reach into different sectors of the economy.
They were diversified into shipping and ports, and things like hotels and tourism, which would not be seen as suitable for nationalisation.
The UK economy post WW1 was struggling, and the government had more than enough on its plate with social and employment issues.
I don't think the railways would have got the necessary attention under a 1920s nationalised setup - it was well into the 50s before they got to grips with BTC/BR.
The railways were also notionally "profitable" and could be left to the market to fund and re-equip after WW1, which happened to a degree.
The rationalisation into the Big 4 was probably the best thing to do at the time.

It's certainly true that countries like Germany and Italy developed a centralised railway to good effect during this period.
Italy in particular made huge investments in their rail network (direttissima etc). Nationalisation in France and Spain followed just before WW2.
Switzerland and Austria made big strides with electrification, based on power from abundant hydro sources, and lacking coal/oil resources.
But you only have to look at the history of DR and FS to see that they had their own problems with the way their railways had developed from private/regional origins.
DR was originally set up as a limited company under state ownership, much like DB today.

As today, I'd say the railway issues in the UK in the 20s were more about network integration (interoperability, ticketing, standards etc), and about competing with emerging transport modes (road, air), than about ownership.
 

ainsworth74

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Don't forget the NER and then LNER were looking in the 1930s at a fairly extensive electrification programme, Woodhead was started by the LNER, they put proposals forward for the GN suburban as far as Hitchin (IIRC proposing 1500v DC for outer suburban and 750v DC for inner) and Gresley was very keen on electrification.

I always think that the NER end up being a bit of a forgotten relative when it comes to electrification! They had the Tyneside programme which installed 3rd rail at 600v DC in 1904 linking Newcastle Central to Gosforth, Monkseaton, Tynemouth and Wallsend in a loop (basically paralleling the modern Tyne and Wear Metro service) as well as another loop closer to the Tyne through Walker (the line south of the Tyne out to South Shields was electrified by the LNER in the late 1930s). Then there was the system linking a marshalling yard at Shildon with another, Erimus yard, near Middlesbrough (roughly where Tees Yard is today I believe) to supply coal and iron ore to the steel industry of Middlesbrough which was electrified between 1915 and 1916 at 1,500v DC this time using overhead line equipment (the route used is now mostly abandoned as it cut cross country from around Newton Aycliffe over the ECML to join the still existent Stillington branch, followed that for a short while before diverging off again on now disused track until it re-joined at what is now Bowesfield junction and on through Thornaby to the yard).

Plus by the 1920s the NER had plans to electrify York to Newcastle (including a link out to Erimus yard) with their initial plan being to electrify most of the route using third rail (allegedly at 1,500v DC!!) and confining OHLE to yards or stations. Though it seems that later they dropped the third rail and focussed entirely on OHLE instead. Sadly they seem to have been killed off by the economic downturn as they were postponed by the NER and then not taken forward by the LNER. Ever since I came across the scheme for the first time it's become one of my favourite railway "what ifs". What if York to Newcastle had been electrified at 1,500v DC by the late 1920s? What does that change for later history?

So I wonder what a 1923 BR would have made of such plans? As suggested above a lot probably depends on who is actually appointed to what positions within the company. Plus how much, if any, government funding is available (as presumably the economic conditions would still have been ropey!).
 

Eyersey468

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Thank you for the responses so far. I wonder if BR 1923 would have been profitable into the 1950s or whether it would have started to lose money before then.
 

Bevan Price

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So I wonder what a 1923 BR would have made of such plans? As suggested above a lot probably depends on who is actually appointed to what positions within the company. Plus how much, if any, government funding is available (as presumably the economic conditions would still have been ropey!).
Yes - a lot would have depended on which "group" dominated the management positions - Derby, Doncaster or Swindon, for example ? And which of the chief mechanical engineers got the "top job" would have defined motive power policy for years.

I omit Crewe from the list, because the actual LMSR was very much dominated by Derby in its early years, and likewise LNER opted for Doncaster rather than Darlington or Stratford; if Vincent Raven (NER) had got the top CME job on LNER, ECML electrification might have started in the 1930s.
 

Irascible

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I did always wonder how the MR managed to take over the LNWR, more or less, given how huge the Premier line was. If you're going straight into full nationalisation they'd have to fight off the GWR too, and they were also a pretty forward looking - as well as large - entity at the time ( and as actual nationalisation showed, fiercely independent ).

I wonder if we might have seen something not a million miles from what we have now to start with, central planning but more independent operators for a while ( there was a central organisation of sorts already, in the guise of the RCH - did not seem the most innovative... ) Attempting to integrate all the pre-grouping companies into one monolith all at once sounds a bit chaotic.

Slimming down the network & modernising it gradually over decades would probably mean we would still have more of it - no need to assault an antiquainted network with a chainsaw. On the other hand we'd probably have had decades of legendary ministry vs union battles too...
 

ChiefPlanner

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Thank you for the responses so far. I wonder if BR 1923 would have been profitable into the 1950s or whether it would have started to lose money before then.

Unlikely as WW1 resulted generally in severe inflation (notable in wages due to an overheated war economy due to war effort supplies and labour shortages) , the arrival of the 8 hour day , short term effects of the Spanish Flu , coal industry disruption , the General Strike of 1926 , the economic crash of 1929 and severe economic recession making 1931 the worse year of the decade. Grim.

Meanwhile , there was a very short post war boom - but the ongoing structural changes , not least in motor transport would have gone ahead anyway. As early as 1921 , there was conjecture that the railways had enjoyed their best years.

A corporate national structure might have therefore been forced to cut costs drastically and quicker. Maybe.
 

ac6000cw

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I always think that the NER end up being a bit of a forgotten relative when it comes to electrification! They had the Tyneside programme which installed 3rd rail at 600v DC in 1904 linking Newcastle Central to Gosforth, Monkseaton, Tynemouth and Wallsend in a loop (basically paralleling the modern Tyne and Wear Metro service) as well as another loop closer to the Tyne through Walker (the line south of the Tyne out to South Shields was electrified by the LNER in the late 1930s). Then there was the system linking a marshalling yard at Shildon with another, Erimus yard, near Middlesbrough (roughly where Tees Yard is today I believe) to supply coal and iron ore to the steel industry of Middlesbrough which was electrified between 1915 and 1916 at 1,500v DC this time using overhead line equipment (the route used is now mostly abandoned as it cut cross country from around Newton Aycliffe over the ECML to join the still existent Stillington branch, followed that for a short while before diverging off again on now disused track until it re-joined at what is now Bowesfield junction and on through Thornaby to the yard).

Plus by the 1920s the NER had plans to electrify York to Newcastle (including a link out to Erimus yard) with their initial plan being to electrify most of the route using third rail (allegedly at 1,500v DC!!) and confining OHLE to yards or stations. Though it seems that later they dropped the third rail and focussed entirely on OHLE instead. Sadly they seem to have been killed off by the economic downturn as they were postponed by the NER and then not taken forward by the LNER. Ever since I came across the scheme for the first time it's become one of my favourite railway "what ifs". What if York to Newcastle had been electrified at 1,500v DC by the late 1920s? What does that change for later history?

So I wonder what a 1923 BR would have made of such plans? As suggested above a lot probably depends on who is actually appointed to what positions within the company. Plus how much, if any, government funding is available (as presumably the economic conditions would still have been ropey!).
I've also sometimes wondered about the 'what if' in relation to the NER electrification plans.

If the Newcastle - York scheme had gone ahead, I suspect that the operational efficiencies and savings (versus steam operation) demonstrated by that might have been compelling enough to extend it southwards, providing the money to install it was available e.g. via low-interest Government loans as part of job-creation schemes in the 1920s/30s.

Just think about the number of steam locos that could have been replaced by a relatively small number of intensively used electric locos (and steam loco sheds closed or downsized as a consequence)...
 

ainsworth74

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Just think about the number of steam locos that could have been replaced by a relatively small number of intensively used electric locos (and steam loco sheds closed or downsized as a consequence)...

Indeed so! The book I have that covers the subject (Eastern Electric by John Glover) states that the NER believed that five electric locomotives could do the same work as thirteen steam locomotives. Plus they believed they'd be able to do away with boilerwashers, tube cleaners, coalmen, glandpackers, brickarchmen and ashpitmen. As well as being able to slim down or close locos sheds like you mention. The savings would have been significant. Assuming that the electrification south of the Thames proceeded much as it did in the real world, coupled with this big NER scheme (possibly extended southwards) all demonstrating the advantages of ditching steam power you start to wonder if perhaps we'd have been starting to think about ditching steam earlier than actually happened?
 

LNW-GW Joint

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The "coals to Newcastle" effect would have come in, though, and at government rather than private company level.
It was hard enough for BR to abandon steam in the 1950s when the benefits of electric working were more apparent.
It would have been the same in South Wales and other big coal areas of the UK, where industrial relations were poor between the wars.
 

Calthrop

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Perhaps something of a personal obsession of mine -- but a matter which has been discussed in general terms in recent years on these Forums, re what did actually historically happen in '23 and '48; it could be wondered in the context of nationalisation in 1923: which (if any) public railways -- per the "real life" models, would presumably be "lesser" in route length, or in transport importance -- might have not been nationalised as at that date? To be suspected likely, that this is totally "anybody's guess": speculation maybe enjoyable -- but ultimately futile.

It has often struck me as significant that the very first passenger closure under the 1948 BTC was of a link to the Great Central London Extension. Some nationalisers could evidently hardly wait to get started!

Request (fascinated and tantalised): please -- which line was this?


... the branch and secondary lines were left to plug on with minimal investment. LMS local services being notorious for poor services and cleaning etc / standards.

I recall reading of a user of the Conwy Valley branch -- forget whether pre-1948, or in the early days of BR -- ruefully recounting their getting head-lice from the coach in which they travelled on that line...

It's certainly true that countries like Germany and Italy developed a centralised railway to good effect during this period.
Italy in particular made huge investments in their rail network (direttissima etc). Nationalisation in France and Spain followed just before WW2.

(My bolding); sorry -- extreme "nitpickery", irrelevant to general train of thought, follows: nationalisation in Spain was in fact in 1941 -- during WW2, which Spain "sat out". The "more major", privately owned, railways were in a ruinous condition after the Civil War: nationalisation seen as imperative to try to get things something like back together. Perhaps oddly, the 1941 nationalisation featured all of Spain's broad-gauge railways; but none of its great kilometrage of narrow-gauge ones.
 

Dr Hoo

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Request (fascinated and tantalised): please -- which line was this?
The first nationalised passenger closure was withdrawal of the Woodford & Hinton to Byfield (-Fenny Compton-Stratford-u-A) services from 31 May 1948.
 

Calthrop

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The first nationalised passenger closure was withdrawal of the Woodford & Hinton to Byfield (-Fenny Compton-Stratford-u-A) services from 31 May 1948.

Thank you ! Didn't even know that there ever was a passenger connection here, between GC and S & MJ. So the new BR were even quicker to knock this one on the head; than the East Kent Light Railway's charming but ridiculous passenger service, withdrawn w.e.f. 1 / 11 / 1948.
 

ac6000cw

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The "coals to Newcastle" effect would have come in, though, and at government rather than private company level.
It was hard enough for BR to abandon steam in the 1950s when the benefits of electric working were more apparent.
It would have been the same in South Wales and other big coal areas of the UK, where industrial relations were poor between the wars.
But (in those days) the coal would have been burnt - more efficiently - in power station boilers instead to provide the electricity for the trains, so it would still have been mined (albeit a bit less of it).

Doubtless one factor in the NER's interest in electrification was that the Newcastle area had a modern local power grid very early in the 20th century - the 'North Eastern Electric Supply Company' supplied the power for the NER Tyneside Electric system from its electrification in 1904.

This availability of 'grid' power (rather than having to build and operate a dedicated power station to supply the railway) I assume made electrification particularly attractive to the NER - the Tyneside Electrics both reversed declining passenger traffic (lost to electric trams) and more than halved the operating costs compared to steam, which was a pretty compelling case for electric vs. steam.
 

beardedbrit

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Perhaps something of a personal obsession of mine -- but a matter which has been discussed in general terms in recent years on these Forums, re what did actually historically happen in '23 and '48; it could be wondered in the context of nationalisation in 1923: which (if any) public railways -- per the "real life" models, would presumably be "lesser" in route length, or in transport importance -- might have not been nationalised as at that date? To be suspected likely, that this is totally "anybody's guess": speculation maybe enjoyable -- but ultimately futile.



Request (fascinated and tantalised): please -- which line was this?




I recall reading of a user of the Conwy Valley branch -- forget whether pre-1948, or in the early days of BR -- ruefully recounting their getting head-lice from the coach in which they travelled on that line...



(My bolding); sorry -- extreme "nitpickery", irrelevant to general train of thought, follows: nationalisation in Spain was in fact in 1941 -- during WW2, which Spain "sat out". The "more major", privately owned, railways were in a ruinous condition after the Civil War: nationalisation seen as imperative to try to get things something like back together. Perhaps oddly, the 1941 nationalisation featured all of Spain's broad-gauge railways; but none of its great kilometrage of narrow-gauge ones.
One wonders whether a hypothetical 1923 nationalisation, most likely followed by rationalization and cost cutting measures, would have left the railway less able to cope with the huge demands placed on the system by WW2; one of the advantages of competition between the Big 4 companies was that there were still many duplicate routes. Single points of failure are not a good thing.
 

Calthrop

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One wonders whether a hypothetical 1923 nationalisation, most likely followed by rationalization and cost cutting measures, would have left the railway less able to cope with the huge demands placed on the system by WW2; one of the advantages of competition between the Big 4 companies was that there were still many duplicate routes. Single points of failure are not a good thing.

There has of course been in the thread, plentiful wondering about how much might have been closed how soon, supposing nationalisation had come about in the early 1920s; as ever, speculation about how things might have gone in "different time-lines" is fun, but there's absolutely no way of knowing...

It has for sure, often been observed that relative "backwaters" of Britain's rail system proved invaluable in World War II, for helping to take the overall load of massive wartime freight traffic -- plus the factor of bombing often interrupting things particularly on the main trunk lines. Often cited are the Didcot, Newbury & Southampton; and Midland & South Western Junction; routes, for their very significant role in bringing great amounts of gear manufactured further north, to the south coast around Southampton, for use in the Normandy landings in 1944.

Matthew Engel in his interesting book Eleven Minutes Late -- essentially a "digestible" social history of Britain's railways from inception to the present day, aimed at all-and-sundry rather than at "railway nuts": comments relevantly on this World War II matter, though initially coming at it from a slightly different angle: "...railways which every serious analyst believed should never have been built. And yet the British railway system, constructed with hardly any regard to military considerations, helped defeat Germany whose railways had been planned by generals with precisely that purpose in mind [I feel, rather a sweeping exaggeration and over-generalisation here; but the book, while containing much of interest, has a bit of a tabloid-journalism quality]. Here was the quintessential triumph of British muddling-through...".
 

edwin_m

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I'd say there were far larger factors influencing why Germany lost the war than the relative degree of planning of their rail network versus the UK. Not least that Germany had limited natural and human resources and ended up fighting on two fronts against enemies that had far more of both, compounded by a meddling leader with no great military acumen.
 

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If we'd needed more routes in ww2, we'd have built them - especially if there was existing & recently used infrastructure to build on. Economics doesn't go compltely out of the window in a war but necessity trumps many things...
 

Calthrop

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If we'd needed more routes in ww2, we'd have built them - especially if there was existing & recently used infrastructure to build on. Economics doesn't go compltely out of the window in a war but necessity trumps many things...

There comes to mind an anecdote which I've long liked -- I think, from O.S. Nock's book on British branch lines -- re war-related, especially WW2, exigencies and "where there's a will, there's a way". Again, involving preparations for D-Day; and an extremely "no-nonsense" U.S. officer of very high rank, involved in general shipping-logistics. He found annoying and restricting, certain roundabout routes of the Southern Railway leading to a particular south-coast port: from the context (actual place-names weren't given) I suspect that the business involved Lymington, and the "Castleman's Corkscrew" historical factor re lines in that corner of the country.

In conference with some British officers of subordinate rank, our hero asked why the hell a "beeline" rail route to the port had not been built in the first place. One of the Brits, knowledgeable on the matter, started telling him about the railway's problems roughly a century before: the difficulties of negotiating passage, with those who held the land. The American, seeing neither interest nor relevance in all this "wibble", cut him short with, "Gentlemen, we build a noo railroad; we start Monday". As things worked out, this never in fact came to pass; but it would seem illustrative of how, as stated, it can be that "necessity trumps..." .
 
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