Daily Archives: September 3, 2010

Some South Staffordshire Railway Byways – The Midland Railway’s line, Walsall to Wolverhampton via Short Heath

Some South Staffordshire Railway Byways – The Midland Railway’s line, Walsall to Wolverhampton via Short Heath

The history of the former Midland line from Walsall to Wolverhampton, 8 miles long, is excellently described in Stretton’s History of the Midland Railway, with particular reference to the extraordinary circumstances whereby the LNWR came to sell the line to its rival – the Midland – in 1876.

It is of interest that the 1923 grouping brought the line back into the fold of what was the LNW portion of the LMSR, as in 1927, the stretch of line between Wolverhampton (Heath Town Junction) and Walsall (Lichfield Road Junction) was transferred to the Western Division of the LMSR.

While the former Midland line serves an important industrial area, the alternative service on the former LNW line Walsall – Darlaston – Willenhall – Wolverhampton and latterly, the proximity and competition of the electric tramways on the Walsall – Willenhall and Willenhall – Wolverhampton routes, rendered the passenger service on the branch more or less superfluous.  In the closing years of the 19th century, when there was only partly horse tram competition, there were 10 trains each way daily on the branch.  However, on the 14th January, 1904, Walsall Corporation commenced an electric tram service Walsall – Willenhall (over their own S. Staffs Co. tracks) and Wolverhampton Corporation commenced a similar service on 18th April, 1906, Wolverhampton – Willenhall (over their own Wolverhampton District Electric Traction Co. tracks).  Thus in the year prior to the 1923 grouping the service had fallen to three trains daily Walsall – Wolverhampton and four the other way.  It is surprising that the passenger service lasted nearly a decade after the grouping – it was actually withdrawn with effect from 5th January, 1931.  During 1930 there were three trains daily between Walsall and Wolverhampton and five in the reverse direction.  A feature of the passenger service in pre-grouping days was that some of the trains were operated by the LNWR.Site of North Walsall Station – Railaround birmingham

Stations on the branch have existed at North Walsall, Bentley, Short Heath (Clarkes Lane) Willenhall (Market Place or Midland but now called Stafford Street), Wednesfield and Heath Town (Wolverhampton). Site of Short Heath Station – D.M.Bathurst

Site of Willenhall, Stafford St. Station – D.M.Bathurst

Site of Wednesfield Station – D.M.Bathurst

Of these only Short Heath, Willenhall and Wednesfield now stand and no trace exists of the others, although it is possible to discern the approach roads or paths to North Walsall and Heath Town.  North Walsall station stood on the west side of the main road Walsall to Bloxwich and approximate to the North Walsall Junction – for avoiding line to the Midland Walsall to Birmingham branch, passing to the rear of Ryecroft loco shed to Lichfield Road junction; station was closed on 13th July, 1925.  Bentley station was on the west side of the bridge over the road leading to the village of that name, 1mile, 14 chains from North Walsall station towards Wolverhampton.  It was closed just after the turn of the century when industrial activity there had lapsed.  For a decade or so prior to then, only one train each way had called daily.  Heath Town used to be the ticket-collecting station before Wolverhampton became a ‘closed’ station – its patronage suffered badly upon the opening by Wolverhampton Corporation of an electric tram route (Lorain system) to Heath Town (Church Street) on 22nd June, 1904, extended to New Street Wednesfield on 31st October, 1904.  Heath Town was finally closed on 1st April, 1910.

Heath Town Station

1872 – 1910

Following my prior visit to Wednesfield, I wasn’t holding-out much hope for anything of interest at the site of the ex-Midland Railway’s Heath Town station on their Wolverhampton High Level to Walsall Line: my pessimism being further compounded by the fact that Heath Town closed some 21 years prior to Wednesfield! However, I was pleasantly surprised to see the above bridge still partly in situ as I approached the site along Grove Street: the station site itself being to the left of this shot. railaroundbirmingham.co.uk