The first modern railway, the Liverpool & Manchester, opened in 1830. Over the next eighty years the system grew, not steadily but in fits and starts, until Great Britain had about 20,000 miles of route. They introduced an era in which for the first time progress was not dictated by the power or speed of horses. Speeds of 50 mph were common by the end of the nineteenth century. Nearly all bulk transport was provided by railways. Their importance declined from 1920 onwards; cheap motor vehicles released at the end of the 1914-18 war saw to that; but they continued to carry a great deal of freight, and still do. Passengers - important from the start (though freight made more profit for many years) - continued to use the railway in decreasing number for much of the 20th century, though numbers have increased dramatically in the last 20 years. The course, illustrated with colour slides taken over the last sixty years, will consider the history of those lines owned by the Midland Railway (a very successful company based on Derby) and the Great Central (originally the Sheffield Ashton and Manchester) based initially in Manchester but later at Marylebone in London. Its finances could be kindly described as patchy.