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What did the "Great " in Railway Co names refer to?

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This thought just crossed my mind, possibly for the first time ever.

 

Did the use of the word "Great" in the names of several old Railway companies suggest they wished to be thought of as being wonderful or that they were  large organisations?

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I am sure the Great in Great Western was to signify it was grand, wonderful and large!

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Yes. Don't forget you are talking to investors rather than just the public. You are bigging up your project to get shareholders to buy shares. 

 

The US and others often used Grand such as Grand Central instead.

 

Grand Junction Railway as well in GB. Built to link the Liverpool & Manchester and London & Birmingham. If you were a businessman in the 1830s wouldn't you want a slice of that?

 


 

Jason

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The Great Northern Railway pretty much followed the route of the Great North Road, so perhaps that was the inspiration there.

 

 

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4 minutes ago, t-b-g said:

The Great Northern Railway pretty much followed the route of the Great North Road, so perhaps that was the inspiration there.

 

 

Was going to say this, ditto the Great West Road. "Great" meaning principal. So really it's just another way of saying eg "main Western railway" or "main Northern railway" - directors/promoters looked at eg if you wanted to go to the north then the best way was via the A1 (as is now), so echoed that in their company name - basically it was a grab for the status/ubiquity associated with already existing "great" routes from other means of transport.

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'Grand' seemed to be an adjective used in several canal schemes (Grand Union, Grand Western, Grand Cross) and the the Grand Junction Railway. I seem to recall a comment some time ago that Brunel chose 'Great' rather than 'Grand' simply to make his schemes titles sound distinctive to the rest; but this might be me making it up!

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2 hours ago, Helmdon said:

Was going to say this, ditto the Great West Road. "Great" meaning principal. So really it's just another way of saying eg "main Western railway" or "main Northern railway" - directors/promoters looked at eg if you wanted to go to the north then the best way was via the A1 (as is now), so echoed that in their company name - basically it was a grab for the status/ubiquity associated with already existing "great" routes from other means of transport.

Wouldn't work for the Great Central, though.

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The 'Great' in Great Western was aspirational, the 'Great' in Great Northern was reality....:D

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4 hours ago, Steamport Southport said:

Yes. Don't forget you are talking to investors rather than just the public. You are bigging up your project to get shareholders to buy shares. 

 

The US and others often used Grand such as Grand Central instead.

 

Grand Junction Railway as well in GB. Built to link the Liverpool & Manchester and London & Birmingham. If you were a businessman in the 1830s wouldn't you want a slice of that?

 


 

Jason

Before the Grand Junction Railway was the Grand Junction Canal. 

 

Jim 

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19 minutes ago, chris p bacon said:

The 'Great' in Great Western was aspirational, the 'Great' in Great Northern was reality....:D

 

Hope you brought your hard hat back from site with you today.

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Posted (edited)

The delusions of grandeur of those promoting the initial schemes?

Edited by pH
Vocabulary

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2 hours ago, eastglosmog said:

Wouldn't work for the Great Central, though.

By the last decade of the 19th century when the MS&L decided to rebrand itself on the back of its about to be completed link to London, Great was already widely in use*, so I would think they were simply following the trend.

 

 

*and especially by two companies that they both worked closely with and with which they were about to become a potentially significant competitor - GNR and GER.

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The largest and most important lines had no need to boost their egos with such grandiloquence: London and North Western, Midland, North Eastern...

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According to L.T.C. Colt's biography, it was Brunel himself who called it his Great Western Railway in one of his original note/sketch books when he was still surveying the route. After that, presumably, all the other lesser railways had to copy the idea. (CJL)

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2 hours ago, GWR_Modeller said:

Great Britain?

Great Britain to distinguish it from Little Britain ie Brittany.

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1 hour ago, Compound2632 said:

The largest and most important lines had no need to boost their egos with such grandiloquence: London and North Western, Midland, North Eastern...

What did they call themselves after 1922 though ;)

 

Some interesting answers here, I really had never thought about it much;

I suppose I kind of thought it was "great" as in the great west/north road from earlier times, as in "the main one"

 

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3 hours ago, dibber25 said:

According to L.T.C. Colt's biography, it was Brunel himself who called it his Great Western Railway in one of his original note/sketch books when he was still surveying the route. After that, presumably, all the other lesser railways had to copy the idea. (CJL)

But Brunel had a thing about 'Great'. His ships had that incorporated in their name.

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3 hours ago, meil said:

Great Britain to distinguish it from Little Britain ie Brittany.

Not quite. Great meant large before it acquired the connotation of being something to aspire to.  Great Britain is called this because it is the largest of the islands of the British archipelago, the ‘mainland’.  The second largest is Ireland, but not everyone there would necessarily agree with this... 

 

The people who lived south of the Picts in Roman times were called Britons, from their own word for themselves in the celtic language that later developed into Welsh, which was Pretani.  A migration of these people to what is now Brittany but was then Amorica in the 3rd century CE is the origin of the name ‘Brittany’. 

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There were those that were great on incorporation, reflecting ambition: Great Western, Great Northern, Great Southern & Western; Midland Great Western; those that became great by amalgamation: Great Eastern, Great Southern, Great Northern, Great North of Scotland; and the sole example of one that became great by expansion: Great Central.

 

The Great Northern was the last to retain the epithet, up until its liquidation in 1958.

 

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I heard that "Great Britain" means the island of Britain plus all the small coastal islands politically united with Britain

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Posted (edited)
6 minutes ago, Mike Buckner said:

I heard that "Great Britain" means the island of Britain plus all the small coastal islands politically united with Britain

 

That is one of the various definitions:

Geographically, Great Britain is the name of the largest island of the British Isles.

Politically, Great Britain is the name of the state formed by the Act of Union of 1707, i.e. England (incorporating Wales) and Scotland, including all their territory not just on the mainland but also the smaller islands that were parts of those states, such as Wight and Skye.

 

The original proposal for the Furness Railway stated that the company's intention was to build a railway connecting "Roa Island with the neighbouring island of Great Britain". 

Edited by Compound2632
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Posted (edited)

But were there any with "Little" in their official title? (Little North Western and Lil' Ratty don't count, as they were not their official titles.)

Edited by eastglosmog
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8 hours ago, meil said:

Great Britain to distinguish it from Little Britain ie Brittany.

Yeah but no but yeah !!!

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Going back to Great in railway terms. Dave aka Chris P Bacon was nearly right.

 

Great Northern Railway, it was a good railway but its name came from the road that links Sandy to Biggleswade, the Great North Road. Sadly if named today the A1 (what a carp road) Railway wouldn't be a good name.

 

The Great Central Railway, just shear visions of grandeur and totally misleading. 

 

The Great Eastern Railway, well it was a great railway. It must have been its engines were painted Royal Blue. Plus it followed the Great East Road out of London to the delightful towns in Essex.

 

The Great North of Scotland, I suppose its intentions were there to be great but we all know it never happened.

 

 

One of the names considered for the LNER was the Great North and Eastern Railway. Taking the G from GNoSR, GCR, GER and GNR. The N from NER, NBR, GNoSR, and GNR. The E from GER, and NER. Now that would have been a Great Railway.

 

There was one other but that ran to bandit country so is best not mentioned here.

 

 

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