England is often referred to as the country of origin of the railways. At the end of the 18th century, engineers were looking for an alternative to the previously used draft horses. In 1804 the British inventor and engineer Richard Trevithick finally succeeded in designing a suitable machine. To do this, he attached a high-pressure steam engine to a chassis, and that paved the way for all subsequent developments.
England as the origin of the railway
The British engineer George Stephenson finally improved the rail technology. Had mainly laid out rolled rails, so that it was possible to open the world's first railway line in 1825.
Today, the British rail network is considered the oldest in the world and is now 16,536 km long. 4,928 km of these are electrified and 12,591 km are double or multi-track. After the first line was opened to passenger traffic in 1825, countless railway companies followed. With the nationalization of the railways in 1948, the route network was also reduced by more than half. British Rail was privatized in stages between 1994 and 1997.
Network Rail is a non-profit company that owns the UK's rail infrastructure. Passenger transport, on the other hand, is provided by many railway companies, most of which operate on the franchise principle and provide services specified by the government for financial support. The operators of freight transport in England have to get by without subsidies from the state.
Railway bridges in England
There are 35 bridges, in London alone, that cross the River Thames. We'll show you two bridges that are particularly important for train traffic:
The largest railway bridge in England is the Forth Bridge, which opened in 1890 and had the largest span in the world at the time. Today, it is still considered Europe's largest bridge of its kind. Unlike previous constructions, the bridge was made entirely of steel and has been a World Heritage Site since 2015. As a double-track railway bridge, the Forth Bridge is part of the route from Edinburgh, Scotland, across the River Firth of Forth. The total length of the impressive structure is 2,522.6 m. It was completely renovated in 2012 and is used by around 200 trains per day.
Blackfriars Railway Bridge
The Blackfriars Railway Bridge leads directly to Blackfriars station in west London. It is a wrought iron arch bridge that rests on masonry pillars. It has a total length of 284 meters and was reopened for rail traffic in 1886 after the first structure from 1864 had to be demolished due to excessive demands.
The bridge attracted international attention with the construction of a roof made of solar modules. The 4,400 modules have been generating around 900,000 kWh of electricity every year since 2014 and in this way feed half of the requirements of Blackfriars station. Today, it is considered to be the largest solar bridge in the world.
Railway stations in England
Around 14.412 million passengers travel from and to Blackfriars station by train every year. The combination of a thoroughfare station and a terminal station with continuous tracks is particularly interesting. All tracks on the south side of the station lead directly to the Blackfriars Railway Bridge.
But there are even more impressive train stations to discover:
The station is the oldest in London and was opened in 1836. It is used by more than 42 million people every year. The thoroughfare platforms are on the Kent and South East London routes to Charing Cross and Cannon Street. The remainder of the station serves as the terminus for connections from Sussex and south London.
The largest train station in Great Britain is Waterloo, with an area of 63.5 km². It serves as a hub for the Eurostar and for trains connecting London to the south coast and south-west of England.
The station with the largest and most powerful roof of its time was opened in 1852. Kings Cross is the London terminus for the main connections to the east coast with trains to and from Leeds, York, Newcastle, Edinburgh and beyond to the deepest corners of Scotland. Even the little sorcerer's apprentice Harry Potter embarks on his famous journey with the Hogwarts Express from platform 9¾.
The Eurotunnel is a 50 km long railway tunnel that has been connecting the United Kingdom with France since its completion in 1994. An incredible 38 km of the route runs under the sea. The tunnel is the longest underwater tunnel on earth and one of the seven modern wonders of the world.
Every year, around twenty million passengers travel through the tunnel on the Eurostar high-speed trains. The journey time is 35 minutes, of which 20 minutes are spent in the Eurotunnel.
Land of the model railroad
In England, the motherland of the railway, models of real railway trains have been made since the beginning of the 19th century.
In 1829, the Spanish royal court received an operational model railway as a gift.
The first child to ever own a model railway was the son of Emperor Napoleon III in 1859.
The most beautiful model railroad layouts in England
In the following video, there are a few impressions of different model railroad layouts from all over England.
England in MSL
At MSL we offer a large selection of model trains from English railway companies and suitable decorations for your layout!