History of the Newport Pagnell to Wolverton Branch Railway - Failure. Return to History
Railways are expensive to construct, and generally speaking, are useless until completed throughout: they cannot be built up from small beginnings. Consequently, the promotion of new railways has tended to occur prolifically in periods of prosperity, when public confidence in the future was high, and in other years few or no railways may have been promoted. Activity in this sphere was high in 1825, 1836 and 1845 to 1847. The last period is generally known as the "Railway Mania" during which several thousand schemes were put forward, many of them competitive. See - Early Projects

However, by this time the railway companies were in serious financial difficulties because people had been in the habit of applying for far more shares than they could afford, because they expected to be allotted only a fraction of the shares they had asked for. Consequently most of the lines authorised in 1847 were never built.

29 June 1863

NPR Act, 1863 (26 and 27 Vic c.110) incorporating Co. to build line Wolverton (junction with L. & NW near Wolverton Station) to Newport Pagnell. Estimated cost £45,000. Capital £45,000: Mortgage £15,000. Power to make working agreement with L. & NW Power to stop up Newport Pagnell Canal which has not been used for many years past a profitable undertaking. Time for land purchase 3 years: completion of line 5 years.

Thursday 26 july 1863

NPR Shareholders meeting. It was reported that contract had been let to Messrs. Brag & Wilson and that works would be commenced without delay. (CWS)

Monday 5 December 1864

NPR special meeting of Shareholders. Chairman said that works were progressing in a most satisfactory manner. Half of the capital had been paid up and the company were therefore in a position to exercise borrowing powers.

2 June 1865

NPR (Extension to Olney) Act 1865. (28 Vic c.56) authorising ~ Company to extend line to Olney (terminus 1.4 furlongs north @ of Weston Underwood road. Estimated cost £72,000. Additional ~ capital £80,000 in ordinary or preference shares: mortgage £26,000. Line to be carried over Newport Pagnell-Wolverton road instead of crossing it on level as shown on deposited plan. Time allowed for land purchase 3 years: completion of line 5 years from passing of Act.

Tuesday 1 August 1865

NPR shareholders meeting. Report states that it was expected that line would be ready for opening in autumn. Works of Olney extension will be commenced at once. Resolution was passed that additional capital shall be in preference share with interest at rate not exceeding 5%.(Times, Ry Times, Beds.Mercury).

Tuesday 27 March 1866

NPR shareholders meeting. It was reported that causes over which the company had no control had delayed the opening of the line, which would take place shortly. The directors had decided that the control of the line should be in the company's hands for the present, and arrangements would be made for the contractor to work the line for a fixed percentage of the gross receipts. Extension to Olney is expected to be opened this year. The meeting was then made special and the directors were authorised to raise £26,000 on debentures (CWS: Times, Herapeth's Journal).

Week ending Saturday 2 June 1866

Works on Olney extension discontinued altogether (CWS).

Tuesday 7 August 1866

NPR shareholders meeting. Report states that the "prevalent commercial pressure" had caused the temporary suspension of the contract (for working the line). The difficulty of the junction at Wolverton had been overcome. It was expected that work on the Olney extension would be resumed shortly.

Friday 10 August 1866

NPR (Extension) Act 1866. 29 & 30 Vic c.354 authorised extension to join Northampton & Peterborough branch of LNW near its Wellingborough station, also two spurs at Olney to join Bedford & Northampton Rly (as authorised in 1865). Additional capital £225,000: mortgage £75,000. Time allowed for land purchase 3 years: for completion of line 4 years from passing of Act. Company may make agreement with MidLand Rly.Co. for working of lime. With consent of MR Co. the company make agreement with B&NR for joint station at Olney.

(NPG of 3 Aug.1867 stated that many men walked from Newport Pagnell to work at Wolverton, owing to the shortage of houses at the latter place. In latter part of 1867 and beginning of 1868 a series of
letters appeared in NPG complaining about smoking in carriages, about the lack of lighting in carriages, the bad condition of road to the station and its distance from the town. A letter dated 14 Feb.1868 states 'the railway authority are making a very passable road from the town to the station and the carriages are now lighted up at night.....’

20 June 187O

NPR (Extension of Time and Finance) Act 1870. 33 and 34 Vic c.29 recites that whole of capital of £45,000 authorised by Act of 1863 has been subscribed but only £27,350 has been received.

..... that whole of capital of £80,000 authorised by Act of 1865 has been issued as preference shares but only £58,358 has been received. Possession of the land and property required has been taken, but only a portion has been constructed

that the company have borrowed on mortgage the whole of the moneys authorised by the Acts of 1863 and
1865, amounting to £41,000. The company have not been able to pay any portion of the principal or the interests thereon, and a considerable portion of the said principal is now due and the company are unable to renew the same. The arrears of interest amounted on 30th Nov.1869 to about £6,900.

that the company are indebted to landowners for land taken, and to other persons and are unable to meet
any of these liabilities

that a blll has been filed in the Court of Chancery by William Robert Galbraith on behalf of himself and
other creditors and a receiver of tolls and profits has been appointed.

that the whole of the rolling stock is hired and is inadequate to the existing traffic.

Time for construction of line authorised by Act of 1865 extended 3 years from passing of this Act. Time for purchase of land for lines authorised by Act of 1866 extended 3 years and for construction 4 years from passing of this Act.

The company may alter levels of parts of these extension lines (the object of this is to reduce the cost of construction by following the contours of the groundmore closely. Between Emberton and Filgrave the gradients would have been stiffened from 1 in 80 to 1 in 60 thus reducing the maximum depth of cutting from 30 feet to 24 feet).

No proceedings against the company (except proceedings against the company as carriers of goods and passengers or in respect of liabilities contracted after the passing of this Act) shall be commenced or continued except by leave of the Court, during a period of 5 years from the passing of this Act.

Nothing in this Act to affect claims of the LNWR Co.

£17,650 of capital authorised by Act of 1$63 is cancelled and the company shall not borrow any money under the Act of 1866,

The company may issue at par debenture stock to the value of £llO,OOO at a rate of interest not exceeding 5% per annum, and shall have priority over all existing mortgages, preference shares and ordinary shares (in effect, this special stock replaced the mortgages authorised by the three earlier Acts amounting to £116,000).

The said stock shall be applied according to the following priorities:

1. Payment of costs of this Act
2. Purchase of land required for original line to Newport and Olney extension
3. completion of Olney extension
4. purchase of rolling stock and plant
5. payment of principal or interest on existing mortgages ~
6. Payment of general creditors

Capital authorised by Act of 1866 to be used only for the purposes of that Act, and holders of that capital alone shall be interested in the revenue from that railway, and shall not be interested in any other of the Company's line.

25 May 1871

NPR (Further Powers) Act 1871 34 Vic c18

Powers granted to abandon the two spurs to the Bedford and Northampton Railway, authorised by the Act of 1866 and to build an alternative connecting line lm4c long. (The B& NR Co. had obtained powers in 1867 to deviate from their intended line through the middle of Olney, to the present line to the north of the town, thus making the spurs authorised to the NPR in 1866 useless.


The NPR introduced a bill to authorise the sale of the undertaking to the LNWR on terms to be agreed. The bill was withdrawn at the request of the LNWR.

29 June 1875

NPR (Transfer and Dissolution) Act 1875 34 & 35 Vic c.106

Company may abandon Olney and Wellingborough extensions, and sell back to the original owners land purchased for the Olney extension.

No further capital to be raised under Act of 1865; no capital to be raised un Act of 1866 and no further debentures under Act of 1870.

LNWR Co may raise £50,000 in ordinary or preference shares.

Within two months of passing of this Act LNWR Co. shall pay into Court of Chancery £50,000 less £2,724.16s.4d. and any further sum owing to LNWR Co.

The money shall be applied according to the following priorities:

1. Costs of this Act
2. Payment of land charges
3. Removing bridges if required to do so.
4. Paying mortgages and debts of this Company
5. Costs of winding up Company.

Balance of money shall be distributed 80% among debenture stockholders, 15% among holders of preference shares and 5% among holders of ordinary shares.

NPR Co. shall be wound up when money has been distributed.

13 June 1955

Locomotive shed at Newport Pagnell closed (Rly.Mag.June 1955, page 439).

For financial breakdown see - Finances.

*Bradshaw's Shareholders' Manual
**Act of 1870.

These dry figures have been quoted at length because they provide the only clue to reasons for the lamentable failure of the company. The management showed, as early as December1864, an urgent desire to mortgage the undertaking as soon and as heavily as possible, and the Olney extension was mortgaged with equal rapidity. Despite this the directors were able to make further calls on the ordinary capital in 1865, and with slightly less success, on the preference capital, in the beginning of 1866. After the suspension of work in the middle of that year, the shareholders wisely refrained from throwing good money after bad. Even loans appear to have been hard to get, which is not difficult to understand when it is remembered that the 1870 Act declared that the company were unable to pay any dividend on it.

The 1870 Act stipulated that the capital authorised by the Wellingborough extension Act was to be used only for the purposes of that Act: consequently no capital was raised under that Act. Obviously, no such stipulation was made about the mortgage, which was replaced, together with earlier mortgages, by a special debenture stock. Consequently the company would have been able to raise nearly £70,000 more by this means, if it had not been for the natural caution of the investing public.

As it was they raised an extra £20,000 nearly under the 1870 Act. Details of the authorised capital are given in the chronology, but are repeated here for convenience.

Share capital 1863 Act £45,000 Issued as ordinary shares. Reduced by £17,650 by Act of 1870
1865 Act £80,000 Issued as 5% preference shares.

1866 Act £225,000 Not issued.

Mortgage 1863 Act £15,000 (Replaced under Act of 1865 £26,000 ) 1870 by £110,000 debenture stock.
1866 Act £75,000 )

No dividend was paid on the share capital, and it is probable that no interest was ever paid on the mortgage or debenture stock.

Although the price of £50,000 paid by the LNWR for the undertaking meant a heavy loss for the stockholders, it seems to be a generous offer in the circumstances. The amount to be deducted from this sum for the various expenses listed in the 1875 Act is not known, but these expenses would be offset by credit for the resale of land taken for the Olney extension. The unfortunate ordinary shareholders probably only received about £8 for every £100 which they had invested many years earlier. The holders of preference shares, by the same estimate, received about £11.50, and the debenture stock holders about £60.

The reason for the occasional falls in the amount of share capital is not known, but it may be surmised without fear of error that some of the shares on which the payment of calls was most heavily in arrear, were declared forfeit. The money which had been paid on these shares would have been transferred to the revenue account, where, no doubt it would come in useful.

Relations with the LNWR

The Board of the LNWR confined its activities mainly to the appointment of members of its various committees: the powers of the Board were delegated to a Special Committee. Generally speaking the minute books record decisions, not events.

The LNW soon took notice of the NPR Co's impecuniosity and in July 1866 demanded that the security for the rent for the use of the junction and station at Wolverton. In December 1866 they demanded payment in advance for alterations to the junction at Wolverton. In Jan. 1867 it was decided to stop through booking because the NPR was already in arrears. In August 1868 the notice of withdrawal of through booking was suspended as long as the NPR paid £5 daily in cash. In Feb.1869 the NPR protested against the charge (£450 p.a.) for services at Wolverton, but the LNWR refused to modify it.

In September 1869 it was reported that the Clearing House were about to sue the NPR. By November the company was bankrupt, and the Receiver objected to the LNWR retaining sums due to NPR to pay for rent and services at Wolverton. The LNWR refused to modify its practice, and became a privileged creditor under the 1870 Act.

In January 1870 authority was given to lend an engine to the NPR. In March the general manager reported that negotiations were in progress to work the line at a charge of £1250 per annum for the use of engine and carriages, and for rent and services at Wolverton: staff at Newport to be provided at cost price. Despite the reasonableness of these proposals they fell through. Presumably the directors hoped to complete the Olney extension and thereby interest the Midland Railway in their line.

In June 1872 the NPR Co. offered to let the LNW work the line provided that a certain minimum net profit was secured to the NPR Co. and the matter was referred to the general manager. In the following month the NPR Co. protested again against the charges for services at Wolverton.

In July 1873 it was reported that NPR Co. wished to sell their undertaking and, in January 1874, it was decided to offer a rental of £2000 per annum in perpetuity or a capital sum of £50,000 provided that the obligation to extend the line to Olney could be got rid of.


Photograph - © Buckinghamshire County Council 20 March 2000[Image]