Some Early Lines – The Harborne Branch

The Harborne Branch

An old Midland Railway Class 2F 0-6-0 nears the end of the line on the 3 mile long branch from Monument Lane to Harborne, Birmingham, in July 1961.  Birmingham Post


The line was independently owned, but was operated from the start by the LNWR, who took 50% of the gross receipts from both passenger and freight traffic. It was a single line throughout, worked by the “one engine in steam” system, with six trains each way on weekdays. “Staff and ticket” working began in 1882, superseded by “electric token” working in 1892. With the continuing growth in traffic, a passing loop was installed at Rotton Park Road in 1903.

The line was an early example of a commuter route, and highly successful at first, though there were problems recovering the investment. The receiver was called in 1879 and the line remained under his control for another 21 years.

Nevertheless, at its peak in 1914 there were 27 return passenger workings a day, running from 5:35AM until 11:15PM. The journey time from Birmingham New Street to Harborne was about 16 minutes. The trains were usually hauled by Webb 2-4-2T and 0-6-2T coal tanks.


In 1923, the Harborne Railway, together with its operators the LNWR, became part of the London Midland & Scottish Railway (LMS) at the grouping. The line began to suffer competition with buses, and as trains were frequently delayed due to congestion of routes into Birmingham New Street, passenger numbers fell. Icknield Port Road station closed in 1931, and the other stations closed to passengers on 26 November 1934. The last passenger train to run on the line was an enthusiasts’ special on 3 June 1950.

The early thirties saw the beginning of strict economies, particularly on the LMS, when stations and branches began to be shut down in what some termed a policy of ‘retrenchment and despair’.  One such branch was a suburban one of three miles in length, leaving the ex LNWR main line from Birmingham to Wolverhampton just north of Monument Lane and terminating at Harborne.  During most of its life, which ended in November, 1934, it was worked by LNWR engines ranging from ’Jumbos’ to the small 2-4-2 tanks.  In June, 1950, the Stephenson Locomotive Society sponsored a special train over the branch behind radial tank No. 46757 of Walsall shed, then one of the very few survivors of the class.  As far as is known this was the first occasion that a push-and-pull train ran to Harborne.  Birmingham Post

The line remained opened to freight, however, reverting to “one engine in steam” and serving businesses in Harborne, and Mitchells & Butlers Cape Hill brewery. This traffic also succumbed eventually to road transport, and the line closed completely on 4 November 1963, when the line was completely closed and lifted. Part of the route has been converted into a footpath, the Harborne Walkway.No longer in use

This bridge pier used to carry the LMS railway branch line to Harborne. As far as I know the line was closed in the Beeching era, but I remember it well before that and cannot ever remember the line in use. Most of the old railway line is now a linear park. The houses in the upper right hand corner are in Northbrook Street.    Pic – Row17


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