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British Industrial History

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John Noble

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Railway Man (c1829-1896).

1880 Became the General Manager for Midland Railway

1896 Obituary [1]

We regret to have to announce the decease, at his residence at Little Over, near Derby, of Mr. John Noble, on Sunday night last. John Noble, it may be scarcely necessary to state, was for some years general manager of the Midland Railway Company, to which position he was appointed 1880.

In 1892 being then in his sixty-fourth year, Mr. Noble, owing to failing health, retired from his position, and was appointed a director of the Midland Company. It was originally intended, says the Time's, that he should go to Oxford, and take holy orders; but his father was deterred from sending him by the spread of the Oxford Movement. He came up to London and entered the Railway Clearing House, where he ultimately became manager of the merchandise department. He left the Clearing House in 1866 to become accountant to the Midland Railway Company. He was appointed assistant general manager to Sir James Allport in 1868, and soon afterwards made his first appearance before Parliamentary Committee'S in the interest of the Midland Company during Sir James's absence in America. He subsequently became well known in the Committee Rooms and to the Parliamentary Bar. He succeeded Sir James as general manager in 1880, being probably the only man with the training of an accountant who ever reached that high position. Not that he took by any means an a accountant's view of business. His name will live among the merchants and manufacturers of the West Riding as the author of the "John Noble expresses," a series of trains which, in spite of worse gradients and a longer road, fairly challenged the Great Northern claim to a quasimonopoly of the traffic between Leeds and London.

Though by no means a mere servile follower of Sir James Allport's strong personality, Mr. Noble moved up to the Allport maxim- that where others went the Midland must go, what others did the Midland would do.

With his retirement a change came over the Midland policy. The "John Nobles" have been altered almost past recognition. That the Midland has lost or is losing, its former share of the passenger traffic between London and Scotland, between London and Liverpool, and between the West and North of England, is possible. The gain to the Midland shareholders from relaxed competition is not equally apparent. With what feelings Mr. Noble saw the word " deceleration" coined in the newspapers the other day to express the Midland alterations in its Scotch services, while East Coast and West Coast were constantly out-stripping all previous performances, we cannot say. He resigned his directorship in July of the present year.

Mr. Noble was twice married, and leaves several children.

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