What was the Chiltern Main Line originally known as?

507020

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I have been recently been reading about the GWR expresses from London Paddington to Birkenhead Woodside which ran out of Paddington starting on the original Great Western Main Line and then running via what is now the Central Line of the London Underground to join the Great Western and Great Central Joint Railway, now the Chiltern Main Line to Birmingham, where beyond Birmingham Snow Hill, they ran over the West Midlands Metro to Wolverhampton before diverging to Shrewsbury on a line now served by TfW services to Holyhead, crossing into North Wales to serve Wrexham and then back into England for a curve avoiding Chester General station onto what is now the 3rd rail electrified Mersey Wirral Line, which runs through the 1886 Mersey Railway Tunnel and terminates in the much newer loop line of the 1970s. I’ll ignore the link which now exists from Liverpool Central to the Cheshire Lines Committee main line because no through train from Paddington ever reached the Mersey Railway Tunnel, with them all terminating in the GWR Woodside terminus.

What’s obvious from this description is that none of these lines were named as such at the time when it was A Great Western Main Line, but not THE Great Western Main Line to Bath, Bristol, Penzance etc. Merseyrail was only designated on 3 May 1971 and wasn’t extended over the Birkenhead Joint Railway from Rock Ferry to Chester until 1985-93 The West Midlands Metro didn’t even open until 1999 and it certainly wasn’t a tramway in GWR days! The name Chiltern Main Line was invented by Network SouthEast in 1986 to represent only the southern section of the line, which it came under its business sector.

So my question is, what was the complete line, from Paddington to Birkenhead via Wolverhampton and all the other places mentioned, called when it was a complete main line? Because I can’t find anything calling it anything other than the Chiltern Main Line (or the TfW section as the Wolverhampton-Shrewsbury/Shrewsbury-Wrexham/Wrexham-Chester lines.)
 
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etr221

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The original GWR line to the north branched off THE Main Line (which was Paddington to Penzance via Bristol) at Didcot, and was known as the Didcot and Chester line. On to Birkenhead was the Chester and Birkenhead Line, otherwise the Birkenhead Joint (with the LNWR). AFAIK GW expresses ran into, and reversed at, Chester. The cut off (via High Wycombe) was the Acton and Northolt; Northolt and Ashendon (GW&GC Joint); and Ashendon and Aynho lines.
All these are essentailly ELR type designations: whether the operators gave it a collective name such as the North, Birmingham or Birkenhead main line I've no idea...

The Central Line extension was built as a 'seperate' line alongside the GWR mainline - until 1948 it was a GWR line for LPTB use: don't know if the GWR gave it a seperate name, or if so what it was.
 

swt_passenger

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On pre 1914 large scale OS Maps, they have all the then line names shown. Their version of Didcot to Oxford is shown simply as “GWR Oxford Branch” then north of Oxford it’s the “GWR Oxford to Birmingham section”, with the GWR Ashendon to Aynho, joining in at the obvious junction.

However, I suppose just because the OS used a particular name doesn’t necessarily mean that’s what the public used.

Please find maps here centred on Aynho Junction:

 

Gloster

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According to History of the Great Western Railway, Volume II (MacDermot, GWR, 1931) the first section to High Wycombe was originally promoted as the Acton & Wycombe Railway.
 

etr221

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On pre 1914 large scale OS Maps, they have all the then line names shown. Their version of Didcot to Oxford is shown simply as “GWR Oxford Branch” then north of Oxford it’s the “GWR Oxford to Birmingham section”, with the GWR Ashendon to Aynho, joining in at the obvious junction.

However, I suppose just because the OS used a particular name doesn’t necessarily mean that’s what the public used.

Please find maps here centred on Aynho Junction:

On other scales the names differ - on the one inch, it is "Oxford and Birmingham Branch" all the way from Didcot. I suspect that the names on OS maps were chosen by surveyors, based on where the lines went, and had no 'official' (railway) or 'public' status.
 

6Gman

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I have a document from 1953/4 (so post-GWR, but not by a great deal) listing loco and traincrew workings between Paddington and Birkenhead/ Worcester/ Hereford (but not Padd-Oxford services) which identifies this as the "London & North Section".
 

30907

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I have always believed it was called the New North Line.
I always remember "Bicester Cutoff".
Wikipedia uses New North Main Line for the OOC-Northolt Jn section and Bicester Cut-off for Ashendon to Aynho - so perhaps we are both right in part.
The bit in between was always the (GW/GC) Joint Line.
 

Taunton

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From High Wycombe to Princes Risborough was originally just Great Western, who absorbed the local Wycombe Railway in mid-Victorian times; services ran from Maidenhead through Wycombe and Risborough to Aylesbury, giving the GWR a line to there. When the GW/GC line was built in 1910 it was absorbed into the joint company, including the branch to Aylesbury.
 

S&CLER

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I have been recently been reading about the GWR expresses from London Paddington to Birkenhead Woodside which ran out of Paddington starting on the original Great Western Main Line and then running via what is now the Central Line of the London Underground to join the Great Western and Great Central Joint Railway, now the Chiltern Main Line to Birmingham, where beyond Birmingham Snow Hill, they ran over the West Midlands Metro to Wolverhampton before diverging to Shrewsbury on a line now served by TfW services to Holyhead, crossing into North Wales to serve Wrexham and then back into England for a curve avoiding Chester General station onto what is now the 3rd rail electrified Mersey Wirral Line, which runs through the 1886 Mersey Railway Tunnel and terminates in the much newer loop line of the 1970s. I’ll ignore the link which now exists from Liverpool Central to the Cheshire Lines Committee main line because no through train from Paddington ever reached the Mersey Railway Tunnel, with them all terminating in the GWR Woodside terminus.

What’s obvious from this description is that none of these lines were named as such at the time when it was A Great Western Main Line, but not THE Great Western Main Line to Bath, Bristol, Penzance etc. Merseyrail was only designated on 3 May 1971 and wasn’t extended over the Birkenhead Joint Railway from Rock Ferry to Chester until 1985-93 The West Midlands Metro didn’t even open until 1999 and it certainly wasn’t a tramway in GWR days! The name Chiltern Main Line was invented by Network SouthEast in 1986 to represent only the southern section of the line, which it came under its business sector.

So my question is, what was the complete line, from Paddington to Birkenhead via Wolverhampton and all the other places mentioned, called when it was a complete main line? Because I can’t find anything calling it anything other than the Chiltern Main Line (or the TfW section as the Wolverhampton-Shrewsbury/Shrewsbury-Wrexham/Wrexham-Chester lines.)
No regular through trains from Paddington, but there was an annual Grand National special which ran through from Paddington to Central before electrification; and believe it or not, there was a GWR through coach from Central Low Level to Folkestone Harbour in the summer of 1899. The coach was hauled by the Mersey Railway to Rock Ferry, attached to a Woodside - Paddington express, slipped at Reading (13:24) then taken forward 2 minutes later by the SER. It left Central at 08:00 and arrived at Folkestone at 16:35. You could get to Paris Nord at 22:50 the same night. Leaving Paris at 15:45 you could be at Central Low Level at 06:29 next morning. See G..W. Parkin, The Mersey Railway, pp. 16-17. By the summer of 1900 the first works for electrification had started, and the coach was not continued.

I just managed to use this line in its last year as a main line when I went for an interview at Oxford in 1966, travelling via Central and Rock Ferry (steam hauled to Chester), changing at Banbury. By October 1967, when I went up, electrification to New Street had superseded this route.
 
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Gloster

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From High Wycombe to Princes Risborough was originally just Great Western, who absorbed the local Wycombe Railway in mid-Victorian times; services ran from Maidenhead through Wycombe and Risborough to Aylesbury, giving the GWR a line to there. When the GW/GC line was built in 1910 it was absorbed into the joint company, including the branch to Aylesbury.
The Wycombe Railway (Maidenhead-Aylesbury/Kennington Junction via Wycombe) was taken over by the GWR in 1867. High Wycombe-Princes Risborough passed to the Great Western & Great Central Joint Railway in 1899. Northolt Junction-High Wycombe and Princes Risborough-Ashendon opened to goods in 1905 and passengers the following year, although GWR passenger trains did not run north of Princes Risborough until 1910, when Ashendon-Aynho Junction opened. Princes Risborough-Aylesbury also passed to the Joint Railway in 1907. (All from MacDermot, see #4.)
 

IanXC

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As I understand it the stages were:

Birmingham and Oxford Railway (1852)
Birmingham extended to Wolverhampton (1854)
New North Main Line (1903)
Great Western and Great Central Joint Railway (1905)

I've always thought the GWR would have referred to the New North Main Line, the Joint Line, and the Birmingham and Oxford. I think the key thing here is that the middle section is a joint line, so I'm not convinced the GWR would have used one name to refer to Paddington to Birkenhead at all.

The original GWR line to the north branched off THE Main Line (which was Paddington to Penzance via Bristol) at Didcot

At the risk of going off topic, this is definitely *the* Main Line, to this day its Engineers Line Reference is MLN ;)
 
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tomuk

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As OOC-Northolt Jn is the New North Main Line and Paddington - Bristol is the Main Line maybe it was the North Main Line?
 

LNW-GW Joint

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There is still, at Didcot, a Chester Line Jn, at MP 53.12 in the SA (at the western end of P4).
R.A.Cooke's Atlas of the GWR 1947 shows the whole route through the west midlands as the "Didcot and Chester Line".
As far as I am aware, the "New North Main Line" only referred to the Old Oak-Aynho Jn cutoff, with section names as etr221 has outlined.
The GWR Paddington-Birkenhead mail/sleeper service (known internally as "The Zulu") always ran via Reading and Oxford (until 1967).

As far as I am aware the only passenger trains to use the avoiding line at Chester were from North Wales coast to Birkenhead (ie LNWR/LMS).
The Wolverhampton-Shrewsbury-Chester route (Shrewsbury & Birmingham and Shrewsbury & Chester) began as now with a branch off the LNWR High Level route at Wolverhampton, until the GWR/OWW Low Level route was opened.
Wellington (Donnington Jn)-Shrewsbury was originally built by the Shropshire Union Railways/LNWR (from Stafford) and remained in joint ownership with GWR until nationalisation.
 

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Just to apologise for giving the wrong author of the Oakwood book on the Mersey Railway in my earlier post. It was G.W.Parkin, not R.W.Rush (who wrote about the Furness). Earlier post corrected.
 

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