Western Region of British Railways


Western Region of British Railways

The Western Region was a region of British Railways from 1948. The region ceased to be an operating unit in its own right in the 1980s and was wound-up at the end of 1992. The Region consisted principally of ex-Great Western Railway lines, minus certain lines west of Birmingham, which were transferred to the London Midland Region in 1963, and with the addition of all former Southern Railway routes west of Exeter, which were subsequently rationalised.

History

The Great Western Railway (GWR) was established during the 19th century. Although run down by the Second World War, its management opposed its nationalisation into British Railways. Even after nationalisation under the Transport Act 1947 and amalgamation with the other railway companies as British Railways, the new Region continued its enmity with its powerful neighbour, the London Midland Region, which had been born out of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway. There were few incomers to the Region at senior level: for example, the Chairman of the Regional Board from 1955, Reggie Hanks, came from the motor industry but had been a Swindon Works apprentice. In the 1956-62 period, a range of express trains were named and their coaches given GWR-style chocolate and cream colours.

Major changes came on the appointment from outside as Regional Managers Stanley Raymond (in 1962) and Gerry Fiennes (in 1963); both worked hard to eliminate the Western Region's large financial operating deficit.

Infrastructure

Major new investment in infrastructure did not go ahead substantially until after 1955. The earliest projects included the rebuilding of stations at Banbury and Plymouth, both postponed since the 1940s; of less long-term relevance were new facilities at Paignton for summer holiday passenger traffic and a marshalling yard at Margam in South Wales. Bristol Parkway station opened in 1972.

Rolling stock

The Western Region built a large number of steam locomotives to GWR designs, even after the advent of diesel shunters. Both tender and tank engine variants of the BR standard class 3 were also built by the Western Region. It was the first region of BR to completely eliminate steam traction under the 1955 modernisation plan.

The Region experimented with diesel hydraulic traction such as the "Warship" locomotives, which were based on proven West German designs, and the British-designed "Hymek" and "Western" types; these were all eventually replaced with British Rail national standard diesel electric classes.

One of the major triumphs of the Western Region was introduction on the Great Western main line of the InterCity 125 trains in 1976/7 bringing major accelerations to the timetables.

References

* ISBN 0-7110-0883-3


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