The NER's involvement with shipping was a rather indirect one which was rooted in its take-over of the Hull & Selby Railway in 1872 (having leased the line since 1854), this having been the first line to reach Hull (in 1840). By 1872 the Hull Dock Company (HDC) had built the Town Docks, Victoria Dock and between 1869 and 1883 the Western Docks, the NER being a supporter of the HDC in the latter.

The company's monopoly of rail traffic through the port was broken in 1885 by the arrival of the line of the Hull, Barnsley and West Riding Junction Railway and Dock Company, which physically outflanked the NER/HDC by building the high-level line around to east Hull and constructing the Alexandra Dock. Thus the new rival had not only a railway but its own port facility. This spurred the NER into buying out the Hull Dock Company in 1891. Within 13 years the two companies had entered into a joint venture to build the King George Dock, completed in 1914.

Despite this move into port ownership, neither railway chose to operate sea-going vessels but the NER had powers to do so, and chose, perhaps wisely, to join with the well-established Thomas Wilson, Sons & Co. of Hull in a joint venture The Wilsons and North Eastern Railway Company, established in 1906 and operating to Antwerp, Ghent, Hamburg and Dunkirk. Six vessels were transferred from Wilson (from 1916 Ellerman's Wilson Line) and a further six were built for the company between 1907 and 1925. Eight of these survived to pass into LNER management.

A separate but complementary venture was the Hull & Netherlands Steamship Company, formed in 1894 from earlier private companies and becoming a subsidiary of the NER from 1894. The fleet was renewed with four 'Abbey' steamers built in 1907-08, two of which survived to LNER days and were joined by a new vessel in 1929, all serving the Hull - Rotterdam route.

In 1935 a managing company, Associated Humber Lines, was formed to manage the GCR Grimsby fleet plus that of the Goole S.S. Company (which managed the LMS fleet based at Goole in succession to the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Company), and also these 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.

It is perhaps worthy of special note that two of the 'Big 4' railway companies of the 1923-1948 period had shipping interests based on the Humber.

The Wilson's & North Eastern Railway Shipping Company Ltd: Hull

The following ships operated out of Hull and were managed by the LNER from 1923 to 1935.

NameTypeIn ServiceOut of ServiceComments
Hero Passenger/Cargo 1906 1924
Juno Passenger/Cargo 1906 1926
Otto Passenger/Cargo 1906 1935
Hull Passenger/Cargo 1907 1937
York Passenger/Cargo 1907 1937
Darlington Passenger/Cargo 1910 1935
Selby Passenger/Cargo 1922 1958
Harrogate Passenger/Cargo 1925 1958

Hull & Netherlands Steamship Company Ltd: Hull

The following ships also operated from Hull, and were controlled by the LNER from 1923 to 1935.

NameTypeIn ServiceOut of ServiceComments
Whitby Abbey Passenger/Cargo 1908 1936
Jervaulx Abbey Passenger/Cargo 1908 1936
Melrose Abbey Passenger/Cargo 1929 1959


Compiled by George Robinson.