During the 1830's Chester attracted the interest of various railway companies, but it was the Chester and Birkenhead and Chester and Crewe Railways who were the first to open their respective routes in 1840. In 1846 a third company entered Chester - the Shrewsbury and Chester Railway. An Act of 1844 authorised the construction of the Chester and Holyhead Railways, the line being opened throughout to Holyhead in 1850.
Throughout the 1840's railway schemes proliferated with many never coming to fruition, of those that did a great many were not financially very sound, their promotions having been over optimistic in their projections of traffic available. Thus many of these small companies amalgamated or formed associations, those in turn were amalgamated into either the London and North Western Railway or the Great Western Railway who between them covered the Cheshire area the London and North Western having the lions share.
Eventually those under the London and North Western Railway became part of the London Midland and Scottish Railway in the post First World War grouping of 1923. This state of affairs continued as did the joint co-operation with the Great Western Railway until the creation of British Railways in 1948 whereupon the Cheshire area became part of the London Midland Region of British Railways and again co-operation continued with what had been the Great Western Railway when its routes became the Western Region of British Railways.
The following list though not exhaustive covers the majority of railway companies that operated or had interests in the Cheshire area
Chester and Holyhead Railway, North Wales Mineral Railway, Shrewsbury, Oswestry and Chester Junction Railway, London Birmingham Railway, Chester and Birkenhead Railway, Birkenhead Lancashire and Cheshire Junction Railway, Cambrian Railway, Mold Railway, Oswestry Ellesmere and Whitchurch Railway, Wrexham Mold and Connah's Quay Railway, Manchester Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway, Great Northern Railway, Cheshire Midland Railway, Chester and West Cheshire Junction Railway, Wirral Railway, Seacombe Hoylake and Deeside Railway, Great Central Railway, Great Central and North Western Railway (Joint Committee), London and North Western Railway, London and North Western and Great Western Railway (Joint Committee), Great Central and North Staffordshire Railway (Joint Committee), Cheshire Lines Committee, London Midland and Scottish Railway, London Midland Scottish and Great Western Railway (Joint Committee), London Midland Scottish and London North Eastern Railway (Joint Committee), finally British Railways London Midland Region.
The original GWR went as far as Wolverhampton. When the Shrewsbury railways were absorbed in 1855 a new Division was created called the Northern Division with a Traffic Superintendent based at Shrewsbury, controlling the line from Birmingham northwards. In 1860 upon the acquisition of the Birkenhead railways the Shrewsbury office was closed and the Superintendent relocated at Chester, the Division being renamed the Chester Division, taking the line from Wolverhampton exclusive. Commercial matters were dealt with by a Goods Manager at Shrewsbury.
The Cambrian Railways operated as an independent Company until it was absorbed by the GWR in the amalgamations following the Railways Act 1921. The Cambrian General Manager had his offices at Oswestry. The Cambrian territory broadly became a new District of the GWR, the Central Wales District, managed by a District Traffic Superintendent located in the Oswestry offices.
The GWR had twelve Divisions and two Districts. Of the latter, one was the Central Wales, the other Plymouth; because of the lighter business there was only one officer - the District Superintendent, who had Operating and Commercial responsibilities as distinct from the Divisional Superintendents who were responsible only for Operating aspects.
During the period covered by the staff registers much of the Chester Division territory was joint between the London and North Western Railway and the GWR, so some of the registers include a mixture of joint, Great Western and Cambrian entries. Dates attributed to registers are not precise but are an indication of the general period covered. The Cambrian registers would have been retained at Oswestry and blank pages used for GWR staff. Staff taken over at the time of the amalgamation would have started as Cambrian and ended their service as Great Western.
Although the Great Western took over lines in mid and south Wales in the amalgamation, the London and North Western Railway line from Craven Arms through Llandovery to Llandeilo was kept as part of the newly constituted LM& SR with a Superintendent at Swansea Victoria. The GWR had a Superintendent at Swansea High Street. After nationalisation and the setting up of the Western and London Midland Regions the line was incorporated into the Western Region as a "Penetrating Line" because the signalling and operating procedures were still based on LMS practice. It was placed under the control of the Divisional Manager at Cardiff and eventually converted to Western Region practice.
The complications in the management of the Chester Division, bearing in mind the joint nature of much of the territory, are well illustrated in the official GWR report listed as D5034/1 - Descriptive account of the Ouster Division of the GWR 1924-1925 by the then Superintendent J Morris. Chester station was a joint station under the supervision of the Joint Superintendent at Shrewsbury, and while 67 stations were Great Western, 53 were joint.
The Divisional Superintendent's responsibilities, with his personal staff of 36, extended from Leaton, just north of Shrewsbury, to Birkenhead Woodside and Liverpool St James and branches, and a good relationship with brother officers was essential as he worked with the following:- ie Superintendent locomotives etc.
Divisional Supterintendent Birmingham
Divisional Supterintendent Worcester
Divisional Supterintendent Gloucester
Divisional Locomotive Supterintendent Wolverhampton
District Goods Manager Shrewsbury
District Goods Manager Liverpool
District Traffic Manager Manchester
District Traffic Manager Oswestry
Divisional Engineer Wolverhampton
Divisional Engineer Shrewsbury
Also officers of the LMS, LNE, Cheshire Lines Committee and Manchester Ship Canal