Charnwood Forest Railway

1896 Map showing the route of the Charnwood Forest Railway

The Cumberland Road site was adjacent to the newly constructed railway line belonging to the Charnwood Forest Railway Company, which was formed in 1874, with the express intention of improving communications between Coalville and Loughborough.

 

 

Extract from a 1903 Railway Clearing House Junction Diagram

Charnwood Forest Railway Company

The Charnwood Forest Railway Company’s plan was to start the new line at the junction with the Leicester and Burton branch of the Midland Railway and travel the almost 11 miles to terminate by a junction with the Midland Railway main line in Loughborough[1]. The Company’s prospectus, issued in August 1874[2], stated that the line, which would pass through Whitwick, Thringstone and Shepshed, would “afford a cheap and easy means of transit for the produce of the extensive coal mines of Whitwick and Coalville to Loughborough and places beyond….”. It also anticipated that the Charnwood Granite Works, near Shepshed, along with other local quarries would also use the line and anticipated the old lime quarries at Grace Dieu would re-open. The Railway Company, which had received Royal assent[3] for their bill on 16th July, was seeking £135,000 capital, with a share issue of 13,500 shares at £10 each. They also intended to add a spur line from Coalville, through Shackerstone, to connect with the joint Midland and London and North Western Railway Companies[4] line at Nuneaton.

Site of Railway Terminus, Derby Road, Loughborough (2017)

The Railway Company had seven directors, all of whom were local, including Edward Handley Warner, of The Elms, Loughborough and Henry Hughes of the Falcon Iron Works, Loughborough. Temporary offices were in Loughborough, at No. 9, Devonshire Square. The intention was that they would not run the line themselves but lease it to either the Midland Railway Company or the London and North Western Railway Company[5]. Interestingly both these Companies initially petitioned against the bill, although later they withdrew their opposition[6].

Remaining Railway Building, Loughborough (2017)

As early as December 1875, the Company were already looking to make alterations to the original Bill; successfully applying to Parliament for the relevant powers to make branch railways near Coalville and Donington-le-Heath; to divert the course of the line to Loughborough; raise additional capital[7] and to allow them to enter into agreement with either The Midland Railway or The London and North Western Railway Company’s regarding maintenance, working, use and management of the new line[8].

Over the next few years, it appears, at least externally, that the Company made little or no progress; indeed, at least one shareholder meeting was postponed and the press were not admitted to another meeting[9]. Rumours even started regarding that the Company being wound-up, which were vigorously denied[10].

It was not until May 1881[11], that they announced that they having signed a contract, to construct the line, with Joseph Firbank (1819–1886), the well-known railway contractor. It was anticipated that it would take about 18 months to complete, from the date of commencement[12]. They also announced the course of the line had also changed significantly; instead of the original route, they announced that the line would now only run between Shackerstone Junction and Loughborough. The Loughborough terminus, instead of forming a junction with the Midland Railway, was to terminate at Derby Road. These changes may have been influenced by the London North Western Railway Company who agreed to work the line for 50 per cent of the annual gross profits[13].

In late July, the Company sought an additional £159,000 capital, with a share issue of 15,900 shares at £10 each[14]. The London and North Western Railway Company agreed to subscribe £50,000 towards the share capital; £32,100 had already been subscribed, leaving the Company requiring another £76,890. This time more emphasis was placed upon passenger traffic and it was estimated that receipts for the new line would amount to £42 per mile per week gross, compared with the then average across the whole United Kingdom rail network of £72 per week per mile and £110 for the London and North Western Railway[15]. The Company offered an interest rate of 5 per cent per annum on the instalments from the date of payment up to the first of January 1883, when it was anticipated the line would be complete[16].

The sod turning ceremony took place at 2pm on 31st August 1881, on land belonging to Edward Warner, one of the Director’s, at the intended terminus, Derby Road, Loughborough. The honour of turning the first sod fell to Lady Alice Packe, wife of Hussey Packe of Prestwold Hall and daughter of the Earl of Kimberley[17].

The line eventually opened to all traffic (passenger, goods and minerals) on Monday 16th April 1883. This was slightly later than anticipated, because, whilst the line passed the official inspection by Colonel Rich, on behalf of the Board of Trade, on 12th March, the London and North Western Railway required some additional work to be undertaken[18].

The line, which was single track, with passing places, was a little over 10 miles long, with four stations serving Coalville (East), Whitwick, Shepshed and Loughborough (Derby Road). There were halts, at Thringstone, Grace Dieu and Snells Nook.

1910 Ordnance Survey Map showing sidings

 

Messenger & Co., Sidings

It was almost certainly no accident that the firm opted to locate their new factory adjacent to the new railway line. Both their products and raw materials were heavy and bulky, therefore ideal for being transported across country by rail. Perhaps with hindsight they chose the wrong railway and would have been better advised to have bought a site adjacent to the Midland Railway Company’s line.

In early 1884, they entered into discussions with the London and North Western Railway Company, regarding laying a rail siding into the new site. In May 1884, they received an estimate of £98 for extending the Railways’ own sidings an additional 101 yards, up to Messenger’s site boundary[19]. This estimate was increased by £5 on 11th December because the engineer forgot to include one set of points[20].

 

The firm were obviously keen to take advantage of the opportunity because on 19th December 1884, Walter Burder, on behalf of the firm, signed an agreement with the London and North Western Railway Company. The agreement covered both the extension to the existing sidings and the on-going maintenance costs of £10 per annum[21], which, initially, they paid in half-yearly instalments in January and July[22].

The Railway Company completed installing the new sidings before 22nd April, invoicing the firm for an additional £6 8s. 1d. making a total of £109 8s. 1d.

It appears that the firm was responsible for laying their own track within the site. This started in mid-February 1885, spending £2 18s. 1d. on labour and £15 11s. 9½d. on materials, including 50 sleepers[23]. In August 1892, a small extension was added[24] and for several years the sidings comprised of a single line running the entire length of the timber drying sheds; although by 1901[25] a small loop, close to the joinery shop, had been added.

 

The maintenance agreement signed in December 1884 lasted until early 1912, when the Railway Company sought to terminate the arrangement. They wrote to the firm on 29th February, stating that they were willing to take on the maintenance of the 98 yards of sidings on the Railway’s land at their own expense, if Messenger’s gave up their rights to the materials[26]. Despite the two parties meeting on 7th May and agreeing to the proposals, nothing appears to have progressed until August the following year, when the Railway Company sent a supplemental draft agreement for consideration[27]. The agreement was duly signed by both parties the following month[28]. It appears that the firm had not been paying the annual maintenance costs, resulting in arrears of over £30. One of the five clauses in the supplemental agreement was the formal release and discharge of the debt. However, perhaps the main reason was that the Railway Company would then have total responsibility over the sidings which were on their property and they could use them for whatever reason they saw fit.

 

Railway Usage

It is difficult to determine exactly how important the arrangement with The London and North Western Railway Company was. The earliest records for the amount spent on transporting goods by rail are for the year ending June 1887, when they spent more than £1,300 with three railway companies; £30 0s. 10d. with the Great Western Railway Company; £585 1s. 1d. with the London and North Western Railway Company; £714 1s. 7d. with the Midland Railway Company. The following year the total fell to under £1,200; £4 12s. 5d. with GWR; £561 5s. 0d. with L&NWR; £601 8s. 9d. with MRC[29]. Presumably these figures relate to the distribution of finished goods leaving Messenger’s works and not raw materials arriving at the new site.

 

The most obvious raw material candidates for delivery direct into the sidings would be glass, timber, fuel (coal and coke) and pig iron for smelting. At the time the tendency was for glass to be cut to size by the manufacturer, normally Pilkington’s, and delivered by rail directly to the client’s site ready for installation. Pig iron was purchased from several sources, always merchants or brokers, and delivered to site by rail. There is no evidence, either way regarding how either timber or fuel was delivered to site. Messenger’s obviously spent significant amounts on both products and it would appear logical for these to be delivered by rail directly to site.

Payments

In 1912[30], the firm ran into trouble with the three local railway companies, the Great Central Company, the Midland Railway Company and the London and North Western Railway Company, regarding their monthly credit account. A joint letter, dated 22nd April, signed by all the three relevant district goods managers, accused the firm of failing to comply with their credit terms. This stated that “payment shall be made not later than the end of the month in which the account is rendered, errors therein, pointed out in due course, to be allowed in a subsequent account, but while under discussion to form no ground fir delay in settlement of any accounts”. Presumably they had been refusing to pay their monthly accounts when mistakes were found. Consequently, the railway companies threatened to require payment prior to dispatch or delivery.

 

References:

  1. The Leicester Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury, 22nd August 1874.
  2. The Leicester Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury, 29th August 1874.
  3. The Standard, 17th July 1874.
  4. The Midland Railway Company was formed 1844 by the merger of the Midland Counties Railway, the North Midland Railway, and the Birmingham and Derby Junction Railway.The London and North Western Railway Company was formed on 16th July, 1846, with the amalgamation of the Grand Junction Railway, London and Birmingham Railway and the Manchester and Birmingham Railway.
  5. The Leicestershire Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury, 12th September 1874.
  6. The Leicestershire Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury, 20th March 1875.
  7. The Leicester Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury, 11th December 1875.
  8. The Standard, 17th May 1876.
  9. The Leicester Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury, 1st November 1879,
  10. The Leicester Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury, 5th October 1878 .
  11. The Leicester Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury, 28th May 1881.
  12. The Morning Post, 26th July 1881.
  13. The Leicester Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury, 28th May 1881.
  14. The Huddersfield Daily Chronicle, 25th July 1881.
  15. Ibid.
  16. The Morning Post, 26th July 1881.
  17. The Leicester Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury, 3rd September 1881.
  18. The Leicester Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury, 9th June 1883.
  19. Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland Record Office ref: DE2121/268.
  20. Ibid.
  21. Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland Record Office ref: DE2121/266.
  22. Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland Record Office ref: DE2121/01.
  23. Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland Record Office ref: DE2121/27.
  24. Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland Record Office ref: DE2121/01.
  25. Second Series OS Map.
  26. Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland Record Office ref: DE2121/268.
  27. Ibid.
  28. Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland Record Office ref: DE2121/267.
  29. Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland Record Office ref: DE2121/01.
  30. Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland Record Office ref: DE2121/268.