The commercial interests involved in the railways were often of a local nature and there was never a nationwide plan to develop a logical network of railways.
Some railways, however, began to grow faster than others, often taking over smaller lines to expand their own.
The L&MR success led to the idea of linking Liverpool to London, and from that the seeds of the London and North Western Railway (L&NWR) – an amalgamation of four separate enterprises, including the L&MR – were sown. Within 50 years the L&NWR was to become "the biggest joint stock company in the world".
The financial success of the early railways was phenomenal, as they had no real competition. The roads were still very slow and in poor condition. Prices of fuel and food fell in cities connected to railways owing to the fall in the cost of transport.
The layout of lines with gentle gradients and curves, originating from the need to help the relatively weak engines and brakes, was a challenge when speeds increased, avoiding for the most part the need to re-survey the course of a line. Less than 20 years after the Liverpool line opened, it was possible to travel from London to Scotland by train, in a small fraction of the former time by road.
By 1923 there were nine major railways operating in England and five in Scotland.
In addition there were smaller companies, such as the Cambrian Railways and the many South Wales lines; the Furness and Hull and Barnsley Railways in England and many much smaller lines.