Tag Archives: Lickey Incline

Some Early Lines, Old Railway Companies, Birmingham & Gloucester Railway, Birmingham West Suburban Railway

Some Early Lines

Old Railway Companies

61Brighton Road station, Birmingham, was opened on 1 November 1875, and was just under 3 miles from the Birmingham & Gloucester Railway’s junction with the London & Birmingham Railway. A Midland Railway train hauled by a Johnson 0-6-0 No.3694 passes the timber platform during the second decade of the last century.

Birmingham & Gloucester Railway

Originally conceived to link Birmingham with docks at Gloucester, a lengthy debate on the route resulted in a line (authorised on 22 April 1836) which avoided Tewkesbury and Worcester, though public pressure forced a diversion to Cheltenham. Its main bugbear was the Lickey Incline, 2.5 miles at 1 in 37.5 – built as an economy, it kept the Company in debt for all of its independent life. The line opened from Cheltenham to Bromsgrove on 24 June 1840, Bromsgrove to Cofton on 17 September, Cheltenham – Gloucester on 4 November, Cofton – Camp Hill on 17 December, and to Curzon Street Birmingham, on 16 August 1841. It was leased by the Midland Railway with effect from 1 July 1845, which absorbed the Company on 3 August 1846.

Big Bertha 2 cropBig Bertha – Lickey Incline

Birmingham West Suburban Railway

Incorporated on 31 July 1871 to build south from Albion Wharf to King’s Norton, with a junction with the ex-Birmingham & Gloucester Railway, the 6.75-mile single track was vested in the Midland Railway from 1 July 1875. It was opened on 3 April 1876, and widened and extended following authority of 18 July 1881; Midland Railway expresses were diverted along it from 1 October 1885. In 1892 a triangular junction was built at Lifford (authorised on 24 July 1888), to make a circular suburban service possible.

EPSON scanner imageBournville Station.
View northward, towards Birmingham New Street; ex-Midland Birmingham – Bristol main line (Birmingham West Suburban section), now electrified (to Redditch) — seen in pouring rain. Worcester & Birmingham Canal is beside the line on right, Cadbury’s Factory behind camera.
Date 4 September 1962  Source From geograph.org.uk  Ben Brooksbank  This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Steam Locos of a More Leisurely Era – ‘Big Bertha’ and the ‘Decapod’

Big Bertha – Fowler 0-10-0 Banking EngineThe  engine as running soon after construction, in 1920.  H.C.Casserley.

The closing weeks of 1919 saw the appearance from Derby works of what was by far the largest locomotive to be built for the Midland Railway, which had remained a ‘small engine’ line during the period when most other railways had gone in for much larger and more powerful machines.

No.2290 was a four cylinder 0-10-0 engine built especially for banking up the Lickey incline with the three miles of continuous 1 in 37 ascent, and which had hitherto seen nothing larger than 0-6-0Ts on this duty.  It was, moreover, the only ten-coupled engine in the country at the time, its only other predecessor in this respect having been the GER ‘Decapod’, and it was not until 1943 that any further engines with ten wheels coupled appeared in Great Britain.

The new Midland locomotive had Walschaert’s outside valve gear, and the two piston valves for the two cylinders had outside admission, the parts inside the cylinders being crossed.  The cylinders were steeply inclined.

The famous Lickey Incline banker, locally known as ‘Big Bertha’ MR No. 2290 (here renumbered 22290) stands at Bromsgrove in May 1948 with steam up in readiness to assist a train up the 2¼ mile 1 in 37 gradient. H.C.Casserley

To facilitate drawing up to the rear of a train in darkness, preparatory to banking, it was later fitted with a powerful electric headlight.  It spent almost the whole of its life on the duty for which it was built, although it made one or two early trials on mineral trains between Toton and Cricklewood.  It remained the only representative of its class, and in order to ensure as short an absence as possible on its visits to shops, it had two boilers, which could be interchanged on these occasions.  After 36 years of heavy pounding up the bank it was withdrawn from service in 1956.   In 1947 it was renumbered 22290, and under the BR regime it became 58100.  It went locally by the name of ‘Big Bertha’.  Fortunately the impressive sound of its throaty exhaust has been preserved on a gramophone record by an enterprising firm specialising in railway recordings.

Driving Wheels – 4’  7½”,  Cylinders (4) 16¾” x 28”,  Pressure 180lbs.

Tractive Effort 43,315lbs. Weight 73 tons 13 cwt.

‘Decapod’ – J.Holden 0-10-0TThe ‘Decapod’ as built – H.C.Casserley

This startling engine which was built in 1902 to the designs of J.Holden was totally unlike anything else which had appeared previously on the GER or any other line.  It was indeed believed to be the most powerful locomotive in the world at the time.

No.20 had an enormous boiler with a firebox extending the full width of the frame (as on GNR Atlantics of the same year) and the water was carried in a well tank beneath the bunker.  It was the first ten-coupled engine in this country, and apart from two very early machines of 1846 and 1868 it was the first to be fitted with three simple-propulsion cylinders.  The middle pair of driving wheels was flangeless.

Its purpose was purely experimental, to ascertain whether steam haulage was capable of attaining as great a rate of acceleration as electric traction for suburban working.  The electrification advocates maintained that they could produce a train of 315 tons which could be accelerated to 30 mph in thirty seconds.  The new engine, with a train of 335 tons, actually exceeded this target on test; as a result the question of electrifying the Great Eastern suburban lines was shelved for another decade.  Unfortunately the necessary strengthening of track and bridges was also postponed on account of cost, and in the event was never carried out.  Owing to the permanent way restrictions, the ’Decapod’ was never able to be used in ordinary service, and in 1906 was reconstructed as a 2-cylinder 0-8-0 tender engine with a smaller boiler, and was used on freight trains.  It was finally scrapped in 1913.LNER Info.

It was unfortunate that the engine was so much before its time and never had the opportunity of completely justifying itself.

As 0-10-0T                                      As 0-8-0

Driving Wheels                 4’ 6”                                        4’ 9”

Cylinders                        (3) 18½” x 24”                         (2)  18½ x 24”

Pressure                             200lbs.                                    180lbs.

Weight                                 80 tons                                    54¼ tons

Some Early Lines – The Lickey Incline

Lickey Incline

Johnson Class 1P 6ft 9in No.254, still retaining its original boiler, has steam to spare as it climbs the Lickey Incline with an inspection saloon in 1935.  F.R.Hebron

The Lickey Incline is the steepest sustained main-line railway incline in Great Britain and is situated south of Birmingham, in England. The climb is a gradient of 1-in-37.7 (2.65%) for a continuous distance of two miles (3.2 km).

Some trains still require the assistance of banking locomotives to ensure that the train reaches the top.

The climb is just over two miles (3.2 km), at an average gradient of 1 in 37.7 (2.65%), between Bromsgrove and Blackwell (near Barnt Green). It is on the railway line between Birmingham and Gloucester. The Lickey Incline is the steepest sustained adhesion-worked gradient on British railways. It climbs into Birmingham from the south over the Bunter geological formation (one or two exposures are visible from the track-side), and passes about a mile and a half (2.4 km) away from the Lickey Hills, a well-known local beauty spot.

While many have suggested a gentler route could have been taken, and others have pointed out that there are steeper climbs elsewhere, the Lickey has acquired a mystique all of its own.

To assist trains up the incline and in some cases to provide additional braking, particularly to unfitted freights, specialised banking engines were kept at Bromsgrove shed at the foot of the incline.

The first locomotives were American Norris 4-2-0s, English manufacturers having declined to supply. The railway acquired 26 of them, of which the last nine were built in England, three by Benjamin Hick & Sons and six by Nasmyth, Gaskell & Company. The last one was withdrawn in 1856.

Around 1845 a large 0-6-0ST, the Great Britain was built in Bromsgrove Works.

A view of banking operations on Lickey.  Three engines, Class 3 0-6-0 No.3433 together with Jinties Nos. 47308 and 7638 passing through Bromsgrove Station in May 1948 assisting a heavy freight up the long drag.  H.C.Casserley.

1377 Class 1Fs, and later 2441 Class 0-6-0Ts were used on the route.

The famous-four cylinder 0-10-0 Lickey banker No.2290 designed by Henry Fowler and built at Derby in 1919 is seen shortly before the grouping when equipped for burning oil.  Several other engines were tried on banking duties up the Lickey Incline but ‘Big Bertha’ carried on until replaced by a BR standard class 9F 2-10-0 in 1956.  Locomotive Publishing Co.

In 1919 the specialised 0-10-0 No.2290 ‘Big Bertha’ was introduced to complement the existing 0-6-0Ts. “Big Bertha” was withdrawn in 1956 and replaced by BR Standard Class 9F No. 92079, which acquired Big Bertha’s headlight.

9F 92079

The LNER Class U1 Garratt was also tried out unsuccessfully in 1949–1950 and again in 1955. On one memorable occasion it was banking a train hauled by LMS Garratt No. 47972 which stalled on the bank and was rescued by “Big Bertha” –  resulting in the remarkable formation of a train with no fewer than nineteen driving axles.

The Lickey was transferred to the Western Region in 1958 and the 3F tanks were replaced by GWR 9400 Class pannier tanks and 92079 was replaced by classmate 92230, which did not acquire the headlight.

Heavy oil train ascending Lickey Bank, near to Blackwell, Worcestershire, Great Britain. View SE, down the Lickey Bank (two miles at 1-in-37) towards Bromsgrove; ex-Midland Birmingham – Bristol main line. This was one of the heaviest trains worked up this formidable incline, a loaded oil train from Fawley (Hants.) to Bromford Bridge (Birmingham). Headed by BR Standard 9F 2-10-0 No. 92136, pounding up at 10-15 mph with no less than four GW 94XX 0-6-0Ts at the rear, it made a thrilling sight – and sound.

Date 16th August 1963.

Geograph.org.uk  user:chevin Ben Brooksbank Creative Commons License 2.0