The 'true' Great Western main line

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Philip

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What is considered as the true route of the Great Western main line? I know it starts from Paddington and goes to Reading, but what about afterwards? Is it the line through Newbury, Pewsey and Bradford-on-Avon or is it the line through Chippenham and Box tunnel, or through Chipping Sodbury tunnel?

What are the respective line speeds?
 
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PeterJ

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The Great Western's view, the line that still has an ELR of MLN for Mainline is through Swindon, Chippenham, Bath, Bristol Temple Meads and then avoiding Weston and all the way through to Penzance
 

Gloster

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I have always taken it to be the original line built by the (first/proper) Great Western Railway via Didcot, Swindon, Chippenham, Box and Bath. The other lines came later, some not until the early twentieth century.
 

Irascible

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Thanks to the Broad Gauge society, here's a map of the main routes in 1890 - you'll notice a lot of bits missing, the main line sticks out well.



Historically it's probably the line to Bristol via Bath, because someone else built most of the rest & the GWR picked it up later. Bristol & Exeter railway, South Devon Railway, Cornwall Railway & others ( rail history in Cornwall gets interesting ). As you can see the main line through Westbury used to go to Weymouth, it wasn't a proper through route to the south-west until 1904 ( hence the Great Way Round... )

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Mostly 125mph to Bristol ( although not in the general vicinity of Bath afair - not been that way for many years tho ), Bristol to Taunton is 100-110 iirc, and after Taunton it gets progressively slower. Reading-Taunton via Westbury is max 110, but I've no idea what the average is because it gets pretty curvy at times.
 
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midland1

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A bit harder with the Great Western with the route spitting at Reading, unlike the WCML where the the true route is up the Trent Valley not via Birmingham and on to Crewe, then Preston, Carlisle etc. The lines to Manchester and Liverpool are branches. Likewise the ECML is Kings Cross to Edinburgh straight up. If I had to make a choice I would say Paddington to Bristol via Bath even though the Badminton route is quicker.
 

LNW-GW Joint

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I have always taken it to be the original line built by the (first/proper) Great Western Railway via Didcot, Swindon, Chippenham, Box and Bath. The other lines came later, some not until the early twentieth century.
Some of the later lines were built by separate companies (although Brunel was often their engineer), and were then bought out by the GWR at a later date.
Bristol-Exeter was not fully GWR-owned until 1876.
The Wilts, Somerset and Weymouth Railway (Thingley-Westbury-Yeovil-Weymouth, GWR from 1850) predates the Berks & Hants, which was not completed to Taunton until 1906.
The Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton was not GWR until 1863, after years of working with the LNWR into Euston via Bletchley.
Many lines in Wales were not GWR-owned until after grouping in 1923 (Cambrian, Taff Vale etc).
 

30907

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A bit harder with the Great Western with the route spitting at Reading, unlike the WCML where the the true route is up the Trent Valley not via Birmingham and on to Crewe, then Preston, Carlisle etc. The lines to Manchester and Liverpool are branches. Likewise the ECML is Kings Cross to Edinburgh straight up. If I had to make a choice I would say Paddington to Bristol via Bath even though the Badminton route is quicker.
Agreed. The Badminton route was built (much later than the main line) as a South Wales cut-off and has never carried a significant amount of via Bristol trains.
Beyond Bristol was independent companies to begin with, but as Brunel had a hand in them (understatement!) all the way to Falmouth then I think regarding the whole route to Penzance as the main line is fair. (Pedantically, the West Cornwall Railway from Truro wasn't his work - and was standard gauge from the start IIRC.)
 

LNW-GW Joint

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One way of tracing the GWR main lines is to follow the mileposts from Paddington.
They reach 326m50c at Penzance, via Chippenham, Bridgwater and Newton Abbott (with a few complications in Plymouth and in Cornwall where new sections of line have been built).
The equivalent on the South Wales line is 288m18c at Fishguard Harbour, but the route taken is that via Gloucester, not the more recent direct route via Bristol Parkway and the Severn Tunnel.
To the north, the highest GWR mileage is 212m02c at Saltney Jn outside Chester, on the route via Reading, Oxford, Solihull and Shrewsbury.
Again, the later shorter route via High Wycombe is not reflected in the mileage (and was not wholly in GWR ownership).
You can't run the whole mileage to Chester today, after closures around Wolverhampton.
 

Irascible

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Beyond Bristol was independent companies to begin with, but as Brunel had a hand in them (understatement!) all the way to Falmouth then I think regarding the whole route to Penzance as the main line is fair. (Pedantically, the West Cornwall Railway from Truro wasn't his work - and was standard gauge from the start IIRC.)
The B&ER definitely had an identity of it's own, at least. The West Cornwall rly was converted *to* broad gauge - I wonder how much work that was, it sounds akin to the level of work needed for OHE until you come to a tunnel, and then it's time for a new one...

Can't remember if the LSWR ended up with broad gauge track on the Barnstaple line.
 

Legolash2o

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Hopefully these are useful.
 

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Cowley

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Can't remember if the LSWR ended up with broad gauge track on the Barnstaple line.

Yes, but it had a bit of a strange time of things that’s sometimes a bit difficult to pick apart. I think this is correct though...
As I understand it the Exeter to Crediton section was mixed broad gauge and standard gauge until broad gauge disappeared in 1892, the B&ER then the GWR had running powers over it to Crediton.
Crediton to Barnstaple was originally built as broad gauge and remained that way for about 22 years (up to 1877) when the L&SWR converted it to standard.
 

HamworthyGoods

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One way of tracing the GWR main lines is to follow the mileposts from Paddington.
They reach 326m50c at Penzance, via Chippenham, Bridgwater and Newton Abbott (with a few complications in Plymouth and in Cornwall where new sections of line have been built).
The equivalent on the South Wales line is 288m18c at Fishguard Harbour, but the route taken is that via Gloucester, not the more recent direct route via Bristol Parkway and the Severn Tunnel.
To the north, the highest GWR mileage is 212m02c at Saltney Jn outside Chester, on the route via Reading, Oxford, Solihull and Shrewsbury.
Again, the later shorter route via High Wycombe is not reflected in the mileage (and was not wholly in GWR ownership).
You can't run the whole mileage to Chester today, after closures around Wolverhampton.

Penzance is also the highest value milepost anywhere in the UK just for a bit do trivia!
 

Gloster

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Indeed, it's still the furthest you can get to from London by train in England. 6 miles further than Carlisle.
Isn’t Berwick(-upon-Tweed) further, even if the mileposts have a zero point at Newcastle. A quick bit of work with some Quail maps makes it approximately 335.
 

Snow1964

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I have always taken it to be the original line built by the (first/proper) Great Western Railway via Didcot, Swindon, Chippenham, Box and Bath. The other lines came later, some not until the early twentieth century.

Yes, agree, although was initially slightly shorter
Bishops Bridge -Paddington and Bristol old terminus to Temple Mills came later.

Some of what later became main lines were linked bits of former secondary and branch lines.
 

edwin_m

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Indeed, it's still the furthest you can get to from London by train in England. 6 miles further than Carlisle.
Is that via the original Bristol route or via the shorter Berks and Hants? There's also eight miles or so between Carlisle and the Scottish border, though you can't alight from the train in that section so perhaps it doesn't count as "can get to".
 
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Another point of trivia, the oldest section of the line between Paddington and Penzance, via Bristol or the B & H, is Carn Brea (originally called Pool) to Camborne opened in 1837 by the Hayle Railway. This was standard gauge and forerunner to the West Cornwall Rly.
 

swt_passenger

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Isn’t Berwick(-upon-Tweed) further, even if the mileposts have a zero point at Newcastle. A quick bit of work with some Quail maps makes it approximately 335.
Not sure if you’ve accounted for it but the furthest point on the route that’s still in England is nearly 3 miles north of Berwick station.
 

Gloster

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Not sure if you’ve accounted for it but the furthest point on the route that’s still in England is nearly 3 miles north of Berwick station.
No, I just counted to the last station (as with Carlisle). Quail gives the distance from Berwick to the border as 2 m 67 ch when counted from Newcastle, but 2 m 65 ch when counted from Edinburgh. There is also a short mile near Durham, which is why I wrote approximately 335.
 

Snow1964

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Is that via the original Bristol route or via the shorter Berks and Hants? There's also eight miles or so between Carlisle and the Scottish border, though you can't alight from the train in that section so perhaps it doesn't count as "can get to".

I think the mileages run via Bristol, not the Berks and Hants, or the later cut offs.

The debate about Newcastle and Berwick might use the (now closed) Selby-York route,
 

Gloster

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I think the mileages run via Bristol, not the Berks and Hants, or the later cut offs.

Yes, all mileages west of Cogload Junction are via Box. There appears to be 1 m. 13 ch. missing just west of Laira where there was the old triangle leading to Millbay.

EDIT: Presuming all my adding and subtracting was correct, and that I haven’t missed any more Changes of Mileage beyond the one at Plymouth and another at Chacewater, I make Penzance 311 m. 04 ch. from zero at Paddington via Lavington and both avoiding lines. I think the zero is now somewhere on The Lawn well beyond the buffers tops.

The debate about Newcastle and Berwick might use the (now closed) Selby-York route,

No, the figure was (roughly) calculated via Hambleton Junctions. Surprisingly, the figure via Selby is only twenty-eight and a half chains less.
 
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edwin_m

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I think the mileages run via Bristol, not the Berks and Hants, or the later cut offs.

The debate about Newcastle and Berwick might use the (now closed) Selby-York route,
If you're going by mileposts then Penzance clearly wins and there's no point in discussing it further. But we moved off that to furthest distance in England, where milepost mileage is irrelevant because the sequence re-starts several times on the way to either Carlisle or Berwick. So I think we're obliged to consider the shortest route.
 

Gloster

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On the East Coast mileages restart from zero at York and Newcastle. The West Coast Mainline has restarts at Golborne Junction (0 m 53 ch from zero at Newton-le-Willows Junction), Preston, Lancaster and Carlisle.
 
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