British Railways came into existence as the business name of the Railway Executive of the British Transport Commission (BTC) on 1 January 1948 when it took over the assets of the Big Four.

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The period of nationalisation saw sweeping changes in the national railway network.

A process of dieselisation and electrification took place, and by 1968 steam locomotion had been entirely replaced by diesel and electric traction, except for one narrow-gauge tourist line.

Important areas included: This included the withdrawal of steam traction and its replacement by diesel (and some electric) locomotives.

Not all the modernisations would be effective at reducing costs.

The Railway Executive was conscious that some lines on the (then very dense) network were unprofitable and hard to justify socially, and a programme of closures began almost immediately after nationalisation.

However, the general financial position of BR became gradually poorer, until an operating loss was recorded in 1955.

Excluded from nationalisation were industrial lines like the Oxfordshire Ironstone Railway.

The London Underground – publicly owned since 1933 – was also nationalised, becoming the London Transport Executive of the British Transport Commission.

Nationalisation was subsequently carried out after World War II, under the Transport Act 1947.