THERE was no railway quite like the Great Western. It was solid and dependable; it may not always have carried you to your destination on time but it did get you there safely. It was a respectable railway. Indeed on occasions it seemed to assume such a smug air of respectability and self-satisfaction as to infuriate its critics. Somehow there were no half measures with the Great Western-either you loved it passionately or you hated it. Nevertheless even its worst critics often grudgingly admitted that it had something and that its good points were very good indeed.
It was, of course, fortunate in its continuity. The Great Western Railway was born in the minds of men at Bristol in 1833. Eight years later the dream became reality with the completion of the line from Paddington to Bristol. From this time it never looked back and when the 1921 Railways Act became law the G.W.R. was the only company to retain its old identity. A well known cartoon in the South Wales News at the time depicted a cheerful porter, the letters G.W.R. on his cap, emerging unscathed from an explosion marked "Amalgamation upheaval" and remarking "Hooray! Never even blew me cap off!" Thus it was that in 1948 when the railways were nationalised the Great Western had 115 years of tradition behind it, a tradition and pride that steadfastly refused to die despite the most persistent efforts of its new masters. In the first ten years of nationalisation only superficial changes were apparent-to all intents and purposes the Western Region of British Railways was still the old G.W. R. In 1958, however, the first of a large fleet of diesel main line locomotives appeared on W. R. until by the end of 1965 it was possible virtually to eliminate all steam traction on former G.W.R. lines.
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