The grand name of the Great Central Railway might suggest that it achieved lofty things on long-distance routes. However, as is often the case, the boast contained in the name was never really matched in reality. Nonetheless, it has left a permanent mark in London.
Marylebone Station was formally opened on 9 March 1899 (with services beginning on 15 March) - the last of London's mainline terminal stations. Lines from the north were not allowed to have termini further south than Euston Road, hence the famous alignment of King's Cross (1852), St Pancras (1868) and Euston (1837) along the north edge of that thoroughfare. It continues west as Marylebone Road, with Paddington Station (1838) at its end; but after all these had been built, there was resistance to further stations in central London.
After much effort, the Great Central Railway were allowed to open their new terminus. The difficulties were wryly acknowledged in a speech by C T Ritchie MP, head of the Board of Trade: He imagined that there was no railway which had had to overcome so much Parliamentary difficulty as the Great Central Railway.
The Times reported the opening, but paid much more attention to the railway stock than the station itself. That's a little unfair, as it is an appealing station even if smaller in scale than its more famous neighbours. (The original plans had to be scaled back significantly for budgetary reasons.) The new trains do sound rather good, though:
These trains were made up of the new and luxurious stock which the company has had constructed for the purposes of the new line. The carriages, which all have corridors giving free passage along the whole length of the train, run upon four-wheeled bogies, and are fitted with Gould's vestibule and automatic coupler, Gresham's direct system of steam heating, communication between passenger and driver and guard by means of the automatic vacuum brake, and electric communication between passengers and attendants. Every effort has been made to reduce oscillation as far as possible, and the smoothness of running attained is a tribute to the design of the coaches as well as to the excellence of the permanent way provided by the engineers.
All the carriages, whether first-class or third-class, are handsomely decorated and comfortably fitted, practically the only differences between them being the more elaborate adornment of the former and the rather greater elbow room allowed to the passenger who has paid the higher fare. The dining-cars of both classes are lighted by electricity supplied from dynamos driven from the axles, while the other carriages are provided with Coligny lamps burning oil gas. All these carriages ... are painted in the new colours which the Great Central Railway has adopted for the exterior of its stock, the upper panels being French grey and the lower ones brown, varnished and picked out with gold lines and emblazoned with the company's new coat-of-arms.
The new line ran from Nottinghamshire to London, and was intended to provide a fast connection between the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway's services and London. When their London extension was about to open, the MS&LR change its name to the Great Central Railway to reflect this national coverage. The initials GCR can still be seen in Marylebone's decoration.
In fact, financial success was initally elusive - not helped by the line costing triple its £3.5 million budget - and the line eventually ended up carrying more freight than passengers. One intriguing aspect of the company's fortunes is that in building the line, they had carefully taken account of future compatibility with European trains. The company chairman Edward Watkin was also on the board of a French railway company, Chemin de Fer du Nord, and was behind a scheme to build the channel tunnel. He therefore envisioned the line being part of a railway network extending far beyond Britain.* However, the tunnel project was later abandoned as a potential threat to national security and would only be completed in 1994. Most of the Great Central's route was closed by Beeching in the 1960s, and today Marylebone is the terminus for Chiltern Railways which goes only as far north as Birmingham.
The Times report comes from an original copy of the newspaper, kindly sent to me by historic newspapers. They have an amazing collection of regional and national newspapers, with some dating back to the seventeenth century. As well as providing various gift options for birthdays/anniversaries, historic newspapers also have a historical research team. I was very impressed by the condition of the newspapers, as well as the gift box and tissue wrapping in which they were packaged.
They have very kindly provided a discount code: 15TODAY. It can be redeemed against any of their original newspapers.
* Thank you to Alan Burkitt-Gray for providing this information in his comment below.