Monthly Archives: November 2009

Chasewater Dam

Our visitors are asking more and questions about the water level in Chasewater. The short answer is that a considerable amount of work needs to be carried out on the dam in the next year or so and the water level has to be lowered to enable this to go ahead.

I have added a link to the section of the Lichfield Blog where the latest news will be published.

Click on ‘Chasewater Dam News’

Wooden Models

One of our most popular display cases is this one – containing a collection of wooden railway models hand-made by the late Mr. Eric Dee of Pelsall. (1931 – 2003).

Younger visitors like to see the models and the grown-ups appreciate the work and skill that has gone into making them.

Mr. Dee was a saddle maker by profession and made these toys for his grandchildren to play with.

He was a fine craftsman and amongst other interests made a fine collection of miniature saddles.

The collection has been kindly donated to the Chasewater Railway Museum by his daughter, Mrs. Jackie Bedward.

Coats of Arms

The early railway companies went to great lengths to give themselves status and authority.  This was partly to reassure investors and the travelling public alike since both were initially sceptical of railways and railway travel.  Th achieve the desired effect, companies often used heraldic devices on their coats of arms and seals, even though few were officially entitled to use them.

The company armorial device appears on small items such as badges and buttons, headed notepaper and publications through to ornate ironwork supporting platform canopies and stonework at major stations.  But to the collector one of the favoured items is a genuine railway company armorial transfer, usually attractively mounted on a wooden plaque or backing.

Transfers were introduced in the 1850s by Tearne and Sons Ltd of Birmingham, offering the emerging railway companies an easy method of branding their rolling stock.  Soon locomotives and carriages were suitably embellished with the grand coat of arms belonging to the parent company.

The railway companies took liberties when it came to the heraldic devices they chose to use.  For example the London & North Western Railway (LNER) made free use of the national symbol Britannia.

Although railway companies had consulted the College of Arms about the design of their coats of arms, it was not until 1898 that arms were officially granted.  This was awarded to the Great Central Railway, formerly the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire.

After the Great Central’s achievement only four other transport companies were awarded armorial devices – the London & North Eastern Railway (LNER), the Southern Railway (SR), the British Transport Commission and the Ulster Transport Authority.

British Railways’ full armorial bearings included a crest (beneath a ‘Forward’ scroll) of a demi-lion on its hind legs clutching a wheel between its paws, while two further lions held the shield.  The three wheels at the top  railways, a portcullis and chains stood for ports and harbours, and straight and wavy lines represented road, rail and waterways.  Below this was  a further scroll ‘Velociter securiter‘: swift and sure.

The crest, replacing an earlier ‘lion and wheel’ device (also known as ‘ferret and dartboard’) was adapted by BR for use as a transfer on carriages and locomotives.  This design  survived until the introduction of the BR twin arrows emblem.  Chrome finished BR crests used on some 1960s electrics are popular.

More of my Brownhills

On my Brownhills Walk earlier in the year, I took some photos along the Wyrley and Essington Canal Anglesey Branch.  One in particular made me wonder – what was there before the M6 Toll?Then we had the collection of old photographs from Laurence Hodgkinson and there was the answer:Taken in 1966, a level crossing over Wharf Lane and the railway line, as straight as an arrow, down to Anglesey Sidings/Charrington’s depot/transport yard.  You can even see one of the large storage tanks in the distance.This is the view from Wharf Lane canal bridge,and this is a similar view now.The trackbed still looks straight – what you can see of it!And on to Newtown Bridge!

There were a number of old buildings to the left of Wharf Lane, including the old stables and a water tower.

I wonder who’s got the ‘Whistle’ sign?

These railway remains were the line from the collieries down to Anglesey Sidings where the line joined the LNWR line from Wychnor to Bescot – nowadays more commonly known as the Lichfield to Walsall line.  From there the coal could transported to just about anywhere in the country, although a lot of it was used in the Black Country.

The colliery involved in this railway was the Cannock Chase Colliery Company, which ultimately had 10 pits in the area, although they weren’t all in operation at the same time.  In the very early years of No.1 and 2 collieries, the canal was mainly used, but then McClean completed the rail system.  Since McClean owned both the coal and rail companies, the canal was hardly used between 1857 and 1861, but then McClean gave up his lease on the railway company and canal sales increased to about one third of the company’s output.The end of the Colliery line at Anglesey Sidings.  Cannock Chase loco No.6, a Sharp Stewart 0-6-0ST  2643/1876.  This picture, taken 21/7/1936 also shows Hammerwich Church in the background and the signal box on the Lichfield to Walsall line.

Museum Dedication

Chasewater Railway Museum Dedication Ceremony

This ceremony was arranged to fall on the 50th Anniversary of the date of the inaugural meeting held in Stafford, 21st November 1959.

It was arranged principally, I believe, by Adrian Hall, with assistance from Barry Bull and Steve Organ.  These gentlemen each addressed the ceremony before the plaque was unveiled by Dorothy Ives.

This room is dedicated to the memory of Dave Ives, co-founder of the
Railway Preservation Society (West Midlands District) holding membership
number two. The first Hon Secretary he became Chairman in 1969 and
President in 1974 of the RPS. The RPS was a founder of the Association of
Railway Preservation Societies (now the Heritage Railway Association) of
which Dave was a Vice-President and served a term as Chairman.

Dave convened the first meeting in the Railway Hotel, Stafford, on the
21st November 1959 and steered the Society as it started its collection
and created the first depot at Hednesford in 1960. Moving to Chasewater in
1965 the Society changed name to the Chasewater Light Railway Society in
1977, and Dave was a director and trustee of the current charity, the
Chasewater Light Railway and Museum Company from its formation in 1986 to his death in 2002.

Born at Fillongly in Warwickshire on 21st August 1920 he grew up in
Newport Shrops attending the Adams Grammar School. Moving to Stafford to
take up an apprenticeship with English Electric, he later worked for
Hammersley radios.  An early volunteer he joined the Stafford Battery then
the REME during the Second World War, with active service at home and in
the Italian campaign until 1946.
Post-war he settled into a career in technical commercial sales.

David had married Dorothy Townsend in 1943 and settling in Little Haywood
they had two sons. Dorothy typed RPS newsletters and correspondence for
many years, while David pursued interests as a campaigner for the Liberal
Party, with the Historical Model Railway Society, the Stafford Industrial
Archaeology Society, and his local Parochial Church Council. He built
garden model railway, and during retirement he also helped develop the
Amerton Railway, whilst continuing to work for the Chasewater Railway.

This plaque was unveiled by Dorothy Ives on the 21st November 2009,
marking the 50th Anniversary of the Railways Foundation.

David with his first railway at the age of about 10.

Dave (right)  and colleagues at the Hednesford  Depot 1963.

The early days at Chasewater 1971,   With Dorothy on the platform at
the original Brownhills West, demolished by the motorway, in the mid

David marches through Stafford with the British Legion.

David at Chasewater with a Planet loco and what looks like the Cannock Chase Colliery Company brake van.

I will try to add a copy of the official Brownhills West Opening Ceremony photo later.

A Memorial Plaque, engraved with the names of members who have passed away, has been commissioned and a suitable site will be found.

Finally, a number of train tickets commemorating the day are available.They are made from card and are the same size as the old-style train tickets.

My Brownhills

We’ve recently been loaned a collection of old photographs of the Brownhills district by Laurence Hodgkinson.  They are mainly based on the mineral railway around Chasewater but the first one especially brought back a lot of memories of the late 1940s and early 1950s.I don’t suppose that there are too many people reading this who have much idea where this was taken, but if you put a Canoe Centre on the left-hand side, it becomes obvious.It was the two Brownhills basins of the Wyrley and Essington Canal.  It was in the right hand basin that my friends and I first started fishing, catching, on a good day, small roach and perch and even smaller gudgeon.

We usually left the other basin to a more experienced angler – Mr. Bickley.  He used a spot about two thirds of the way towards the main canal and usually caught similar fish to us, though perhaps more of them. He always had time for a chat, and considering that we were just bits of kids, we had a great deal of respect for him.  Then one day it happened – Mr. Bickley caught a tench – not a monster as far as tench go but for our small basins it definitely had the X factor.  Of course, after this, our respect for him knew no bounds – he was our hero.

The view today follows:

To get to our fishing spot and general play area of our childhood we would walk to the left of the Regent Cinema, past the back of it – hence our name for the area ‘the back o’ the flicks’ also known as ‘the batters’ – across the brook and up onto ‘our’ field.  This was our football pitch, cricket pitch, a very unsuccessful tennis court and cycle speedway track.The whole area had been our cowboys and indians and hide and seek territory before sport took over our lives.  To get to the canal basins we would walk over ‘our’ field through the fallen railway fence and across the track.Occasionally there would be a rake of empty coal wagons in the siding, and that did make it difficult to get to the basins to fish.  We seldom travelled light so we had to get rods, nets and baskets under the couplings – not so easy, but we were young enough to bend in those days.

Originally, there were four sidings at the basins, but that was before even our time. There was just the one line remaining, to the left of the original photo.All the years we played there, I don’t recall ever seeing an engine in the siding.  They must have paid a visit from time to time, to collect or deliver the wagons – obviously while we were at school!

Congratulations to the Museum of Cannock Chase

Our warmest congratulations to the Museum of Cannock Chase on achieving the Museum Accreditation Scheme standard.

The Museum was said to meet ‘the highest quality standards’  in a report from the Museum, Libraries and Archives Council.

To achieve this award the museum had to meet clearly-defined standards and did so after at least two years hard work.

Being awarded accreditation is an impressive achievement.  It recognises the high standards and service that a museum provides and acknowledges the hard work of the staff.

This is the aim also of the staff at the Chasewater Railway Museum, and it is plain to see that there is a lot of hard work still to be done, given that here at Chasewater we are volunteers, working perhaps one or two days per week – and we are not always here at the same time.

Pensnett Railway Items

The picture above shows three of the items in the museum connected to the Pensnett Railway.

Pensnett Railway Pay Check No.163 (1903)

Paycheck from the railway which once served the coal and iron industry, notably Round Oak Steel Works, Brierley Hill.  Known also as the Earl of Dudley railway as most of the eventual 40 miles of track was situated in the Dudley Estate, and at one time linked Old Hill, Cradley, Dudley, Himley, Wall Heath, Dawley Brook and Ashwood.  By the 1960s the only portions in use were the line to Baggeridge Colliery and the tracks around Round Oak Steel Works linking scrap bays, ancillary factories and works stores.

Built entirely for the movement of coal, etc. the only times a passenger service operated was on odd occasions when the Earl of Dudley took invited guests on a ‘jolly’ and on the few days per year of the annual Himley Fete and this only during the period 1928 to 1937.

Destination ticket for an empty coal wagon.

Card with instructions for repairs to coal wagon.

Train Staff from Walsall Wood

2009_08300002This is the staff which was used on the single track from Walsall Wood Colliery to Norton Junction on the LNWR at Pelsall.  Until the staff was given to the Museum, I must confess that I didn’t know that there was such a line.Walsall Wood to NortonThere it is – just below the word ‘Clayhanger’

The staff was donated to the Museum by Mr. Trevor Astbury and his son Tom.

For anyone who knew Brownhills some 50-odd years ago, there was a seed shop in the High Street called Cockram’s.  Mr. and Mrs. Cockram worked in the shop with an assistant by the name of Sid Pritchard.  (Anyone who does remember the shop must surely remember the warm, sweet smell of the seed in the sacks, and if you were a child, the feeling of running your hands through the seed – that shop will never be forgotten by anyone whoever paid a visit.)

Back to Sid – he had a brother who worked at Walsall Wood Colliery and when it closed, somehow or other, he kept the staff.  Sid was later given the staff, and later still, passed it on to his nexr door neighbour.  This was Trevor.  Trevor’s brother lives in Hednesford and is a good friend of mine, and he knows that I am a volunteer in the museum.  Ron, my friend, mentioned this to his brother and eventually he donated the staff to the Chasewater Railway Museum.  It is one of the few remaining items of railway equipment used on the local mineral lines.

The staff is marked on all four sides.  ‘Walsall Wood Colliery’  ‘Canal Bridge’ ‘Train Staff’ and ‘Norton Junction’.


Flying Scotsman Excursion

The Flying Scotsman Excursion


This is one of the Museum’s prize possessions.

One of the LNER stainless steel ‘Master Cutler’ headboards.  It was donated to the Railway Preservation Society after the organisation undertook probably the first hire of the Flying Scotsman by a preservation group.

This comprised a return Sheffield Victoria – Marylebone excursion on 15th June 1963.  This venture resulted in a loss of £100 – a large sum in those days!Flying ScotsmanThis photograph shows the Flying Scotsman uncoupled from the train on arrival at Marylebone Station, London.