Some South Staffordshire Railway Byways – The Darlaston Branch

This post was taken from ‘Railways’ pictorial railway magazine – May 1951

Price 1/6 (seven and a half pence in modern!)

The Darlaston Branch – W.A.CamwellMap drawn by J.C.Gillham

As early as 1846 the South Staffordshire Railway Company had powers to build a branch from Wednesbury (on the Dudley – Walsall line) through Darlaston to James Bridge on the Grand Junction line of the LNWR between Bescot and Wolverhampton.  However, owing to opposition in Darlaston to the proposal, the S. Staffs Co. did not proceed with the Project.  The LNWR absorbed the S.Staffs Co. in 1861 and almost immediately the project was revived and building commenced in 1862, the one station on the branch, Darlaston, being sited 78 chains from James Bridge Junction.  The branch, 2 miles 44 chains long, was opened on 1st September 1863 double-tracked throughout.  On this date also the Ocker Hill/Princes End line was opened together with a new station at Wednesbury.  It would appear that at both Wednesbury and James Bridge (the present Darlaston), a single platform served the branch, adjacent to one of the two through platforms; Darlaston, however,  was a two platform station which was situated between two road over-bridges – the Wednesbury and Walsall roads respectively out of the town.

James Bridge Station with a holiday excursion in 1906

Trains were worked from Darlaston to James Bridge or Wednesbury to connect with trains on the Grand Junction or Walsall-Dudley lines respectively; in 1877 there were 13 trains each way between Darlaston and Wednesbury and 15 similarly between Darlaston and James Bridge, a total of 56 daily on the branch.  By 1881-1883 this total had fallen to 39 and by 1887 down to 11.  From 31st October, 1887, passenger traffic was withdrawn completely but the line has remained open for goods traffic, which is considerable, as the district is highly industrialised.  No trace now exists of the old Darlaston station and one of the tracks is used for wagon storage purposes.Site of Wednesbury Station – Tim Marshall

The disability of having to change and wait at either James Bridge or Wednesbury had always caused dissatisfaction and in 1881 a proposal was made to construct a new curve at Wednesbury to enable trains to run through from Walsall to Dudley via Darlaston; this was, of course, to overcome the fact that branch trains entered Wednesbury at the single platform but facing towards Walsall.  This scheme fell through owing to the cost – it was only made possible by the fact that the link from Walsall to the Grand Junction line via Pleck was opened in 1881.

Apart from connectional difficulties, the opening of steam tramways in the area undoubtedly caused the final withdrawal of the passenger services as the tram fares were cheaper.  Comparative fares were: Darlaston – Wednesbury, rail 2d, tram 1d (1p & ½p), Darlaston – Walsall, rail 4d, tram 3d (2p & 1½p).  The South Staffordshire and Birmingham District Steam Tramway Co. Ltd. commenced steam tram services between Darlaston and Wednesbury on 25th June, 1883 and between Darlaston and Walsall in September, 1884.

Pic by John M.

The South Staffordshire Tramways Generating Station dates from 1892. The company had about 23 miles of track linking Darlaston, Wednesbury, West Bromwich, Handsworth, Great Bridge, Dudley Port, Dudley, Walsall, and Bloxwich. Trams disappeared from Walsall in the 1930s.

In 1892 the Darlaston Council resolved to take action against the LNWR for the reinstatement of the passenger service.  The action took place on Tuesday, 19th December, 1893, and the two following days before the Railway and canal Commission Court.  This action was abortive.


2 responses to “Some South Staffordshire Railway Byways – The Darlaston Branch

  1. Recently published by Oakwood Press is a “The South Staffordshire Railway” which gives a closure date of 1968 between the Patent Shaft and Fallings Heath which seems too early, and doesn’t tie in with the dates in the IRS West Midland’s handbook for closure of the connected private sidings. If I recall correctly regular trip working ceased some time before the last trains from FH Lloyd’s ran (late 70s according to the IRS).

  2. The Darlaston Branch: in 1994 met an elderly former Bescot driver who worked the branch in the 1940s – he mentioned driving one of the ex-LNWR ‘coal engines’, 28097, shunting at E C & J Keays, the Alma nut & bolt factory, exchanging wagons on an industrial line leading to Bradley & Foster’s. He wasn’t sure whether the line served Wilkins & Mitchell (power presses) and Charles Richards (nuts & bolts) nearby.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s