Royal lines of railway investment, from Victoria to Elizabeth

IN THE mid-1840s, bashing Queen Victoria's consort, Prince Albert, was almost as fashionable as attacking the promoters of railway companies. The contemporary cartoon in Punch shows the depth of feeling aroused by the wicked capitalists; another cartoon showed the directors of the companies tied to a locomotive as punishment for their greed.

Although private investors had put some money into canal-building companies, the railway boom of 1844-46 was the first time the mass of the British public had become involved in the stock market. Thousands of naive investors put their savings in the shares of hundreds of railway companies.

Although, like its successors, the boom was followed by a spectacular bust, the millions of pounds raised by the promoters didn't all stick to their fingers.

Indeed by 1852, a mere 22 years after the opening of the railway from Liverpool to Manchester, the main-line network in England was virtually completed, with the opening of a direct line from London to York and Newcastle to complement those running to the North-west.

Unfortunately, history does not relate whether Victoria or Albert ever owned any railway shares, or, for that matter, whether their great-great-granddaughter - or her husband - have shares in Eurotunnel.

(Photograph omitted)

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