Heritage Railway


When the first train on the proposed £55.7 billion High Speed 2 rail link from London reaches its Birmingham terminus in 2026, if all goes to plan, it will find its Victorian predecessor waiting for it there.

For HS2 will not offer the first pioneer high-speed train to access Britain’s second city from the capital.

That honour might well be claimed by the revolutionary ‘Bloomer’ 2-2-2 single wheeler introduced by LNWR locomotive engineer James McConnell as far back as 1851.

The aim of McConnell and the proponents of today’s HS2 were very much the same: his railway’s directors wanted to see London linked to Birmingham in two hours, a speed hardly bettered until electrification in 1967.

The story began on September 17, 1838 when the London & Birmingham Railway opened throughout from Euston to Birmingham Curzon Street.

It was described by Thomas Roscoe as “unquestionably the greatest public work ever executed either in ancient or modern times” – much like the claims expounded by those who seek to make HS2 a reality.

The railway became the Southern Division of the LNWR and still exists today as a key part of the West Coast Main Line. The main northbound artery, styled as the ‘Premier Line’, represents one of the most historic routes of the world’s railways, being the first genuine arterial main line link from any capital city to its regions.

With McConnell’s locomotives, frequent

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