Railway, Dock & Canal Company Police Forces

The very first railway company- the Stockton & Darlington in 1825, also has the first mention of a railway policeman, a year later. It was the beginning of a boom in railway building across the country which represented the biggest single investment in any project before or since. From the dawn of time, man had either walked or used a horse to get around and suddenly there was now an alternative; one that liberated the whole population.

Dozens, if not hundreds of new railway companies sprang up during the next few decades and most of them employed a police force. In 1847 an Act of Parliament also empowered dock and harbour authorities to appoint constables. Many of these companies joined together, amalgamated or were absorbed by bigger companies over the years. During the First World War all remaining railway and dock companies came under government control and in 1923 they were all amalgamated into one of the ‘big four’ railway companies –

  • The Great Western Railway Company
  • The Southern Railway Company
  • The London, Midland Scottish Railway Company
  • The London & North Eastern Railway Company

Following the Second World War, these four companies were themselves amalgamated in 1948 to become British Railways (later British Rail). The newly formed British Transport Commission brought together the railways, docks, railway passenger steamers, railway hotels, British Canals & Waterways, London Underground, London Buses, and, during its brief existence, the nationalised road haulage business- British Road Services. And a new amalgamated police force emerged to provide law and order to this giant consortium. The British Transport Commission Police was the first national police force in the country and came into being on the 1st January 1948.

The commission itself was short lived and was dissolved in 1962. On the 1st January 1963 the police force changed its name for the last time to become the British Transport Police (BTP). Many of the smaller ancillary undertakings were no longer policed by the BTP; the last to go were the docks and Sealink ferry services in 1985. Today, the British Transport Police has responsibility for the national rail network, London Underground and several light railway systems around the country.

Railway, Dock & Canal Police Forces in South Wales

Iinitials Used Police Force Name Known Period Of Existance
ACP Aberdare Canal Police1 Unknown
AD&R Alexandra Dk & Railway Police, Newport2 1873 – 01.01.1923
BYDP Barry Dock & Railway Police3 10.07.1889 – 1891
BRC Barry Railway Police3 1891 – 01.01.1923
BTC British Transport Commission Police 01.01.1948 – 01.01.1963
BTP British Transport Police 01.01.1963 to present day
BDP Bute Dock Police, Cardiff4 Oct 1858 – 01.01.1923
BDW Bute Dock Watchmen, Cardiff 1839 – 1858
CRC Cardiff Railway Police4 06.08.1897 – 01.01.1923
GCP Glamorgan Canal Police5 1851 – 1880
GWR Great Western Railway Police6 1863 – 31.12.1947
LRC Llynfi Railway Company Police7 1852
MID Midland Railway Police8 1876 – 01.01.1923
NCNC Neath Canal Navigation Co. Police9 06.01.1860
RRP Rhymney Railway Police 1865 – 01.01.1923
SCP Swansea Canal Police 1841
SHTP Swansea Harbour Trust Police Unknown – 1923
SWRP South Wales Railway Police6 June 1852 – 1863
TVR Taff Vale Railway Police 1841 – 01.01.1923
VONRP Vale of Neath Railway Police10 1856 -1866


  1. There is currently no other information on the Aberdare Canal Company Police force other than it existed. Thought to have had two officers but no names known.
  2. The railway undertaking of the Alexandra (Newport & South Wales) Docks & Railway Company (ANDR) was taken over by the Great Western Railway in 1899. The docks continued until 1923.
  3. The Barry Dock & Railway Co. changed its name to the Barry Railway Company in 1891
  4. On the 6th June 1897 the Bute Dock Company changed its name to the Cardiff Railway Company. But there is a police anomaly; there is evidence to show that the Police force followed suit to become the Cardiff Railway Police. But there is also evidence to show that it did not and remained as the Bute Dock Police. A retired officer with an extraordinary memory, the first to serve at Cardiff Docks after the force had amalgamated with the GWR Police, had never even heard of the Cardiff Railway Police. It is clear that the officers he worked with considered themselves still to be Bute Dock Policemen.
  5. The Glamorgan Canal commenced operations in 1794 but there are no records of when the police force was brought into being. The only references are to census and press reports between 1851 and 1880.
  6. The Great Western Railway was incorporated in 1832 but it did not begin operations in South Wales until 1863 when it took over the South Wales Railway.
  7. The only reference to the Llynfi Railway Police force is a press report from 1852 when it ceased to employ police for want of funds and took on two watchmen instead.
  8. In 1876 The Midland Railway took over the Swansea Valley and Swansea to Brecon railway lines and had officers stationed in Swansea as a result.
  9. There are no records for the Neath Canal Navigation Company Police force. It’s existence is known only because of an 1860 press report.
  10. The Vale of Neath Railway was absorbed into the GWR in 1866 and so presumably were its constables.