The London & North Western Railway Company (L&NWR) was formed on 16 July 1846 by the amalgamation of the Grand Junction Railway, the London & Birmingham Railway, and the Manchester & Birmingham Railway.
During the previous year, the rival Manchester & Leeds Railway (M&LR) had acquired the Huddersfield & Sheffield Junction Railway (H&SJR) — now known as the Penistone Line — which was in the process of being constructed. In 1847, the H&SJR was one of three companies who merged to form the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Company (L&YR).
Through its acquisition of the Huddersfield & Manchester line, the L&NWR had gained a superior trans-Pennine link to the earlier Manchester & Leeds line which took a longer and less direct route through the Upper Calder Valley. However, the L&YR had ownership of the former Ashton, Stalybridge & Liverpool Junction Railway and therefore control over the line between Manchester Victoria Station and Stalybridge.
Finally, through an earlier Act of Parliament that had gained Royal Assent in July 1846, the two companies that had been building lines to Huddersfield had agreed to share ownership of Huddersfield Railway Station as well as a section of railway. However, even with that agreement in place, the L&YR's Penistone to Huddersfield line would suffer from being physically unconnected to the rest of the company's network.
Under the circumstances, the L&NWR and L&YR both gained from mutual cooperation and various arrangements relating to running powers over each others' lines were agreed upon, including:
The core of the L&NWR network was the West Coast Line linking London Euston to Birmingham, Manchester, and Liverpool. Through an arrangement with the Caledonian Railway, the line continued north to Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Prior to the First World War, the company's network measured over 1,500 miles.
On 1 January 1922, the company acquired the L&YR. The following year, it was combined with the Midland Railway (MR) and several Scottish railway companies to form the London, Midland & Scottish Railway (LMS).
The following branch lines were in the local area or would have likely been used by local travellers.
The Stalybridge Junction Line was opened in 1893 and opened up a more direct route from Huddersfield to Stockport via Stalybridge, bypassing the bottleneck at Guide Bridge.
Also known as the Leeds New Line, this line was opened in October 1890 to ease the bottleneck in the Heaton Lodge area and meant that the L&NWR had a continuous line between Stalybridge and Leeds, without requiring running powers over the L&YR Manchester & Leeds Railway between the junctions at Heaton Lodge and Thornhill.
Also known as the Stalybridge & Diggle Loop and Stalybridge & Saddleworth Loop, the Micklehurst Loop was constructed in the 1880s to increase capacity on the Huddersfield to Manchester line.
A selection of the L&NWR lines are highlighted in red: