Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Marking the Boundaries

Buried in the undergrowth near a bridge on the Shropshire Union Canal is this stone marker. I'm not going to tell you where exactly, because to a railway enthusiast such things are valuable and extremely collectable - but I'd prefer it to stay where it belongs.

But what's it got to do with the waterways? LMSR stands for London Midland & Scottish Railway - successors to the London & North Western Railway and, before that, the Shropshire Union Railways & Canal Co. Marker stones were used by railway companies to mark the boundaries of railway-owned land, although exactly why, and in what circumstances, is not entirely clear. They are not often found alongside railway tracks because these are legally required to be fenced off, but are relatively widely used elsewhere.

This is the only one I've seen on the Shroppie, or on any other canal for that matter, but its unlikely to be unique. What I find interesting is that, far from being an historical artifact, it can be dated to a relatively recent 25 year period. The LMSR existed only between 1923 and 1947 and I find it strange that during that time it went to the expense of providing and installing these markers (presumably there are others) along the boundaries of 66 miles of canal that it had acquired almost by accident. The LMS didn't even like its canals. In 1944 it secured an Act of Parliament to abandon many of them, including what are nowadays known as the Llangollen and Montgomery Canals, and the Shroppie Main Line only survived because it penetrated the territory of a rival railway company and allowed the LMS to compete for traffic.

The marker stone has now been in place for considerably longer than the company that placed it there ever existed - and long may it remain.

1 comment:

Martin said...

Jim,
A fascinating post, and I love the irony of the last sentence.