199 – Chasewater Railway Museum Bits & Pieces
From Chasewater News – Winter 1996 – Part 4
Blast from the Past – Continued
For the winter edition of the Chasewater News I have included this article and map, gleaned by our Chairman David Bathurst, from the ’Railway Magazine’ of November/December 1944 as there is a reference to the closure of our line to passenger traffic in the 1930s and for the general interest in the way the area’s network of services has been steadily eroded over the years.
Forgotten Train Services in the Birmingham District
Turning to the lines of the late Midland Railway, there is first the Halesowen Joint branch (GWR & MR) from Halesowen Junction (on the Midland main line to Bristol) to Halesowen, about 5 miles away, where it joined the GWR branch from Old Hill. This line is very heavily graded. The service was operated from Kings Norton, two stations up the line towards Birmingham, to Halesowen, and all the trains called at Northfield, on the main line, and at Rubery and Hunnington, the two stations on the branch proper. Trains left Kings Norton for Halesowen on weekdays at 9.00am, 12.31, 2.40, 6.04, and 7.28pm, and Halesowen at 7.52, 10.17am, 1.25, 3.55 and 6.40pm. There were no Sunday trains. The journey time for the distance of about 8¼ miles was 28 minutes. Practically the same service was working in November, 1913, but by 1917 there was only one train each way, and this route must be included in the casualty list of the late stages of the First World War.
Looking beneath Longbridge Lane bridge towards Northfield station with the up slow on the left on 12 March 1962. The remain lines are, from the left, the up fast, the down fast and the down slow. This is the current site of Longbridge station which is partof the Cross City Line. – warwickshirerailways.com
The next line is of great interest, as it once formed part of the trunk line to London. It is the Whitacre to Hampton line of the one-time Birmingham & Derby Junction Railway, later absorbed by the Midland Railway. In 1839 it formed the only route from the Midlands to London, and the through service consisted of two trains, one in the morning and the other at mid-day, to Hampton, and three trains in the reverse direction, in the morning, at mid-day, and in the evening. All these trains connected at Hampton with trains of the London and Birmingham Railway. There was one intermediate station at Coleshill, afterwards Maxstoke Goods Station, on this section of the line, but none at Whitacre itself; the next stations were at Kingsbury and Tamworth.
Looking towards Whitacre station with the original B&DJR line to Derby curving off to the left and the line to Nuneaton to the right circa 1964. The configuration of the station can be seen with the trains to Derby and Nuneaton stopping at the platform on the left and trains from both stopping on the left-hand island platform. The Hampton branch train originally terminated at the right-hand island platform which is out of sight in this view. warwickshirerailways.com
The days of glory of the Whitacre-Hampton section (called the Stonebridge branch) were short lived. They had begun on August 12, 1839, when the opening of the Birmingham & Derby Junction Railway from Hampton to Derby had made possible the 139-mile route between Euston and Derby. They were diminished in July, 1840, when the Midland Counties Railway was completed to Rugby and afforded a rival route between the North Midlands and London. They finished on February 10, 1842, when the 10 mile direct line from Whitacre to Birmingham (Lawley Street) was opened on that date. By 1899 this service was reduced to one train a day, leaving Whitacre at 8.25am and returning from Hampton at 9.15am. The journey time was 15 minutes for the 6½ miles. This train made connections with LNWR trains to and from the Coventry direction. The line, which was single, never paid adequately, but it had a very long period of gradual decay. One train each way was still being worked in November, 1916, but this was abandoned in the beginning of 1917, and the branch given over to wagon storage.
Also now gone is the last passenger route of the Midland Railway into Wolverhampton via Walsall. On weekdays in 1899, a service of ten trains was maintained each way, with two extra trains on Saturdays: the trains called at all or most intermediate stations. This was reduced in 1929 to a weekday service of four trains from Wolverhampton to Walsall, and three in the opposite direction. The Sunday service, which in 1899 had consisted of four trains each way, had been withdrawn by 1929. By 1931 the traffic was almost completely diverted to the old LNWR Pleck route, and the old Midland line between Walsall and Wolverhampton, via Short heath, had its passenger service withdrawn on January 5th 1931.
Another withdrawal of the same period was the Midland branch service to Brownhills. This branch left the MR at Aldridge, 2½ miles from Walsall. It was 4 miles in length, with one intermediate station, Walsall Wood. There were three trains a day each way (five on Saturdays), except Sundays, in 1899. All trains called at Walsall Wood. The service was down to two weekday trains in 1929, and was cancelled on March 31, 1930.
Also gone from the Midland timetables is the passenger service from Birmingham to Kings Norton, via Camp Hill and Lifford. This has been closed only since 1940, along with its six intermediate stations.
Lastly comes the GWR. As this company has fewer lines in the area, it has naturally fewer closed ones. There is the Oldbury branch from Langley Green Station, on the Birmingham-Stourbridge Junction line, to Oldbury. This is only about 1 mile long, there was no intermediate station, and the journey, which was made16 times daily in each direction in 1899, lasted 5 minutes. There was no Sunday service. A rail motor was introduced about 1905, and in July, 1908, there were actually some 27 runs each way daily on the branch. By 1913 the total had grown to 30, but by 1915 the whole service was withdrawn.
Old Hill station, the start of the line. Actually, the line from Old Hill to Halesowen was built by GWR before the Halesowen Railway was created.
Note the station name board which still recorded the Halesowen branch public passenger service, which was withdrawn on 5 December 1927. D.J.Norton
Discontinued also on the GWR, from September 26, 1927, was the service from Old Hill, 8 miles from Birmingham on the Stourbridge line to Halesowen, where end-on junction was made with the Joint GWR & MR branch. This was another push-and-pull service, and in 1899 trains ran over the 1½ – 2 miles branch 15 times daily from Old Hill to Halesowen, and 14 times in the reverse direction. The journey time was 5 minutes, and connections were made at Halesowen with Midland railway trains, and at Old hill with GWR trains to Dudley, Birmingham and Stourbridge.
These last two posts do not pretend to be more than a note of various interesting old services in the Birmingham area, and is certainly not exhaustive.