Scholarly biography of Victorian railway magnate; Edward William Watkin bestrides the Victorian Railway Age. As a boy of 11 he witnessed the opening of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway. Two years before his death he was present at the opening of Marylebone Station, the terminus of the Great Central's London Extension, the last main-line railway to be built in Britain. Between these two occasions lay a varied and colourful life. Beginning his career with one of the constitutents of the London & North Western Railway, Watkin went on to manage the Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire, before becoming chairman of the M&SL and also the South Eastern Railway and the Metropolitan. Best remembered as the driving force behind the London Extension, Watkin was also the main protagonist of the Channel Tunnel project, the completion of London's Inner Circle, and the building of the ill-fated Wembley Tower. When president of the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada, he played a prominent part in the political unification of the country. Throughout his life Watkin was politically active.
Beginning as a Manchester Radical and supporter of the Anti-Corn Law League, he later became a Liberal and then Liberal Unionist M.P. for 25 years. He was a leading member of the Railway Interest in the Commons and one of the most important spokesmen for the industry. No biography of Sir Edward Watkin has hitherto been published. Here for the first time is a fully rounded, scholarly picture of one of giants of the Railway Age, based entirely on extensive archival research in both British and Canadian sources. It describes Watkin's individualistic career in railway management and politics in the setting of personal and company inter-relationships and rivalries, commercial and economic developments, and the national and local politics of the day. The book will appeal not only to railway enthusiasts and academics interested in nineteenth-century politics and transport history, but also rail professionals, since Watkin dealt with many issues that concern the industry today. David Hodgkins's new book is serious railway history at its best.