Great Western Railway

BR Western Region


The GWR, or 'Gods Great Railway' to its miriad of admirers, thanks mainly to the phenominal feats of engineering created by Isombard Kingdom Brunel, the engineer employed to build it. Was the only company that carried its name through the groupings of 1923 and even as a region after nationisation in 1948. The western Region still carried on the companies livery for engines and carriages right through to the time all intercity carriages went blue and white, suburban trains became green in a shade not too dissimilar to the GWR locomotive livery.


Even today the operators of that regions franchise pay homage, first by calling themselves 'First Great Western', recently a complete rebranding as GWR changing train liveries to a dark green similar to that of yester-year. Having recently taken ownership of the first Class 88 replacement for the tired 125 that are the mainstay of its long distance fleet. No doubt a great relief to its passengers as they currently run the oldest rolling stock on the network meaning that they no longer have the glorious outward image.


Throughout its steam existance it was reknown for its immaculately turned out locomotives, drivers seen at most stops out polishing the brass. The author knows the pride of its staff first hand as she often went to work with her 'First Class Signalman' father, where between trains he, and all signalmen polished the levers and blacked the main frames. Many a time she recalls him boasting after washing and polishing the floor, 'There, you could eat your dinner off that!'. Not a revolting male trait but a very true pride in his work. As almost all men had done their national service it was a day to day occurence to see him press his work trousers to a knife edge crease with a damp tea towel. Even the detachable collars of the early 60's got the same treatment.


Originally began as the London Paddington to Bristol Templemeads, it expanded fast by shrewd business management. Either supporting new connecting railways financially through building with a buy out clause ot waiting for companies to get into financcial trouble and buying them out for a fraction of the build cost. Therefore it was one of, if not the most finacially sound railway businesses. The thing that finally broke it, was the cost of rebuilding an anialated railway after the second world war. Forcing the government to step in and nationalise.


But unlike every other country in europe whole rebuilt their railways with modern electric traction, in a misguided attempt to save money it commissioned hundreds more steam engines. Even the infrastructure was never replaced until it was in iminant danger of failing until the Beeching report identified that deisel or electric was the way forward for locomotives, slimming the network down to the Inter City lines, The only ones that made money. Whilst this is lambasted in many quarters as narrow sighted. You cut off the feeder lines that may operate individually, but contribute unseenly to the profitability of the main lines. His cuts effectively forced people onto the roads, as once they had to drive, they were not going to stop at the nearest station, but drive the whole distance.


It is only today with the mounting cost of running a car that people are again clamouring for reinstatement of the local lines.