The Shipping Services of the Great Central Railway

The Great Central Railway's (GCR) involvement in shipping was as the successor to the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway Company (MS&LR), formed in 1846 from the amalgamation of three railway companies plus the Grimsby Docks Company. In the same year it acquired the rights to operate the long-established ferry services across the Humber from Barrow, New Holland and Goxhill. The MS&LR promoted the Deep Sea Fishing Company at Grimsby in 1854, the Great Northern and the Midland Railways also having an interest in the same. They sponsored by part-ownership some private shipping companies operating to the near Continent from 1856, but obtained full powers in their own right in July 1864, taking over five existing vessels and operating from Grimsby to Hamburg, Rotterdam and Antwerp. The first new ships were a quartet brought into service in 1865.

The Great Central, formed in 1897, took over a substantial fleet comprising Humber ferries and Continental steamers, several of which were to survive into LNER days. They continued a steady investment in new ships for all services, such that the LNER needed to do no more than build three new paddle ferries for the Hull - New Holland route.

In 1935 a managing company, Associated Humber Lines (AHL), was formed to manage the GCR fleet plus that of the Goole S.S. Company which managed the London Midland Scottish Railway (LMS) fleet based at Goole (in succession to the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Company), and also two Hull-based companies in which the LNER held managing interests. However, all vessels continued to be owned by their respective companies, until A.H.L. became an owner in its own right from 1957. The Grimsby fleet retained the GCR funnel colours of white with a black top for some years before adopting the AHL colours which were based on the buff, red and black of the LMS with 'AHL' superimposed on the red band.


The following were operated by the GCR and entered service with the LNER:

NameTypeIn ServiceOut of Service
Nottingham Passenger/cargo 1891 1935
Staveley Passenger/cargo 1891 1932
Lutterworth Passenger/cargo 1891 1932
City of Leeds Passenger/cargo 1903 1936
City of Bradford Passenger/cargo 1903 1936
Marylebone Passenger/cargo 1906 1932
Dewsbury Passenger/cargo 1910 1959
Accrington Passenger/cargo 1910 1951
Bury Passenger/cargo 1911 1958
Stockport Passenger/cargo 1911 1943
Macclesfield Passenger/cargo 1914 1958

Hull - New Holland Ferry Service

The following operated the Hull to New Holland ferry service.

NameTypeIn ServiceOut of Service
Magna Charta Paddle ferry 1873 1924
Grimsby Paddle ferry 1888 1924
Cleethorpes Paddle ferry 1903 1934
Brocklesby Paddle ferry 1912 1935
Killingholme Paddle ferry 1912 1945
Frodingham Paddle ferry 1928 1936
Tattershall Castle Paddle ferry 1934 1975
Wingfield Castle Paddle ferry 1934 1975
Lincoln Castle Paddle ferry 1940 1979


Compiled by George Robinson.