Black Country Muse

Subtitle

Forums

Post Reply
Forum Home > Carriages of Convenience. > Black Country Railways.

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Great Western Railways Engine and Tender, " Hirondelle ".  c1850s

Mineral and Narrow guage Railways.


Long before the coming of the mighty Great Western Railway, the region was alive with the sound of wheels on rails. Every Brickyard, Quarry, Coal Mine, and Iron works, had a little Mineral Railway. Spoil and waste had to be dumped, Ore had to be shipped in, Coal had to be moved to the Canal wharfes, and finished products had to be taken to customers. Some of the early lines were quite short, others covered several miles, and some were constructed entirely of wood. The early method of propulsion was gravity, down the inclined plane's, the return journey being made by man or horse power. Some are stii in exsistance, although not in this area, which used the weight of the loaded wagons, to draw up the returning empties, as in the slate Quarries of North Wales. The arrival of Steam Engines, changed the methods into the endless rope and chain systems, which speeded up the process somewhat. In places, the route's of some of these early railways can still be traced, although very little physical signs are to be seen. The mines on the Rowley Hills, for instance, at least those on the eastern side, sent the coal down the slope to the canal basin in Whiteheath. These basins, were also used for the dispatch of many thousands of bricks and tiles from Blackheath, Oldbury, Cakemore, and bought in raw material's from around the region. The transformation, from static steam engines to self propelled, eventually bought the production of minature engines into the picture. For the larger Industrial sites, narrow gauge Iron rails replaced the rickerty old wooden ones, and enabled some owners to transport materials from farther afield. The Earl of Dudley, being a tad richer than most, opened up his own, full size railway, which transported coal from his mines, to the ever hungry furnaces of his Iron works in Brierley Hill. Known by many at the time, and still a few today, as The Shut End Line, it had named engines, and when, in the summer holidays, it was not required for hauling coal, it took many hundreds of his workers on trips. There was a great deal of money spent, when the GWR improved the line from Stourbridge to Wolverhampton, on building suitable sidings at these works. The New British Iron Works, at Cradley Heath, had extensive mineral lines prior to all this, but went bust due to a depression. The company that took over, The Corngreaves Iron Company, extended the mining activity, and also the mineral network. This was then integrated to link with the GWR, in siding's, just above Cradley Heath Station, and at the rear of Graingers Lane. There were links with other factory's, brickworks and the Stour Colliery, which the company then owned. Mineral lines ran from the Witley Colliery, ( the longest ) the New Hawne Colliery, the Timbertree Colliery, the pits at Homer Hill, and the Fly Colliery, in Old Hill. These lines crossed many main roads, one such, just below Saint Lukes Church, which was removed when the trams arrived, the mine it served, being closed down. Huge embankments and bridges carried these little lines everywhere large scale Industrial activity was to found, and, after 150 years of use, today there is very little sign that they were there at all. The same could be said of the goods line that was constructed. This ran from Wolverhampton Low Level, through Netherton, Halesowen, and on to Northfield, with little branches into all the major factories along the route. It also carried a few passengers as well, during it's rather brief lifetime, and is still sadly missed by the older residents of Halesowen. Pity about the old mineral lines though, what a great tourist attraction they would have made, chugging away on the little lines, sounding their shrill tinny whistles. Oh well, there always a trip to Wales to look forward to.

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

July 30, 2011 at 11:54 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Kinver, Trams, Railway, Wollaston,


I was reminded, while posting the piece on Wordsley, to at least mention the little Tramway that ran from The Fish Inn, Amblecote, the almost 5 miles to Kinver. Not quite tram or train, it bore the name,The Kinver Light Railway.  Amidst much opposition from the local authorities and land owners, it neverless opened in 1901. Banned, ( because of the use of different rails in some sections ) from using the standard double decker trams, and restricted to just 10 mph, it proved to be successful for it's private owners. Some tram cars were open sided, some enclosed, and it carried a wide variety of goods and raw materials. It even saw service as the local Milk train. Starting from the Fish Inn, the route went down Wollaston Road and High Street, turned onto the Bridgenorth Road, and then ran along the wide grass verge to the old Stewpony, on the Kidderminster Road. The last section into Kinver, was a really pretty run, it crossed the Canal and the River, ( Twice ) across the fields to the lines end in Mill Lane. The fare in 1900 was just 3p, and it was hugely popular in the Summer months. Thousands of trippers from the Black Country gasped in the clean country air of Kinver Edge, and enjoyed Teas from the little wooden Cafe in Stoney Lane. At very busy times, the odd double decker tram sneaked into Kinver, and surprisingly, the line survived the great war. But the internal combustion engine was coming, and in 1930, finally killed the KLR off, with the Bus service. Even the old Stewponey's gone as well now, and the fantastic days out at the Lido are just faded memories. Some of the line though, is still intact, as is the road bed of the last one and a half miles of route. If there's anyone out there, with a few million to spare, it would make a lovely full restoration project, there are still plenty of trams in our museums, so wheels won't be a problem.

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

August 13, 2011 at 11:17 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Smethwick, Tangye's, Steam Cars, Hydraulic Jacks.


With the coming of the Railways, came the ability of the population to get more mobile. But not all of them. Despite many branch lines being constructed, not every rural area could boast of a transport system. Very much like today really, although in modern times, it's more to do with the cost. Richard Tangye, together with his brothers, designed, and built, in 1862, a Steam Powered Vehicle, to fill the gaps where the railways didn't go. The contraption had a single steering wheel at the front, and two wheels at the back, both driven by a twin cylinder Steam engine. Besides the driver and stoker, it could carry 8 passengers, and reach a speed of 20 mph. Hills were no problem, and it had a coal range of just over 20 miles. They sent it on many trips covering hundreds of miles, which deeply shocked some members of the country set. Squires and landowners were appalled,  their horses could be frightened they said, and cause untold accidents. Never mind that it would be a cheap form of transport, for the masses of poor down trodden farm labourers. Mounting a spirited campaign, they forced legislation through Parliament that forbade this form of carriage from exceeding 4 mph. That where the law stood of course, at the advent of the Motor Car as well. So a brilliant idea, that may well have put Smethwick at the heart of the future car industry, was not to be. So the Tangye's, who had named the vehicle " Cornubia ", scrapped the idea, and went back to building other machinery, the vast majority of which was securely bolted down. When I find the sketch of the dreaded wheeled monster, I will put in the Galleries transport Album.

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

November 9, 2011 at 4:18 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Railways, Grand Junction Railway, Birmingham, Aston, Perry Barr, West Bromwich, Walsall, Darlaston, Willenhall, Bushbury, Stafford. London Midland Scottish,


The first proper Railway to have an impact on the Black Country, was the Grand Junction Railway. Designed by George Stephenson, and Joseph Locke, work began in 1833, on the 82 mile route from Curzon Street in Birmingham, to it's depot at Crewe. The line passed through Aston, Perry Barr, West Bromwich, Bescot, Walsall, Darlaston, Willenhall, Heath Town, Bushbury, and then via Stafford, on it's way north. It's very expensive, building a railway, so the Government gave an incentive, to all the Companies involved, the absolute right to any land within 500 yards of the line. All they had to do, was give notice to the landowner, pay a little compensation, and start building. This enabled them to build little branch lines, sidings, goods yards, and their own workshops and repair facilities. The GJR opened for traffic on 4th July, 1837, and within a short space of time, was paying it's shareholders a 10% dividend. It was taken over in 1846, and eventually became part of the LMS, ( London Midland Scottish ). The line did of course extend to both Liverpool, and Manchester, via another company, which was also later taken over. This gave the manufacture's of both Birmingham, and the towns of the Black Country, access to business opportunities, both at home and abroad. Trade was good, and, despite two World Wars, was to remain so, for almost 150 years. There's very little evidence left today, to mark the lines success. The stations and rails have mostly all gone, leaving just a few well built bridges, like the one on the Newton Road, and a few of the old engines. There are a few at York, and a couple at Swindon, of the type that ran through the region all those years ago. I have put a few pictures in the Gallery that might be of interest.

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

December 1, 2011 at 11:42 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

South Staffordshire Railway, Wednesbury, Wolverhampton.


Another small concern, The South Staffordshire Railway Company, linked up with the GJR, at Bescot, in 1850. This company, ran a line from Lichfield, to Dudley, via a link at Walsall. and built a wooden viaduct, at great expence, to cross the feeder pool of Elwells Forge, in Wednesbury. There would have been many railway accidents before 1850 but the photograph in the Travel and Transport Album, of a derailment at the viaduct, must be amongst the first to be recorded on camera. It's believed both the engine driver, and the fireman, escaped uninjured, although they were a little on the wet side. They also had a link with The Oxford,Worcester, and Wolverhampton Railway Company, through which the could offer wider destinations. From the link at Bescot, the company ran services to Birmingham, and with branch lines to Cannock and Brownhills, carried the products of the coal mines.They also operated, what became known as the Darlaston Loop, all gone now of course. The company were taken over in 1923, by the London, Midland, Scottish Railway, ( The L.M.S. )

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

December 3, 2011 at 11:27 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Stourbridge, Stambermill, Lye, Ambelcote, Viaduct.


Although the regions Railways are a sorry sight today, compared with the past, there have been left behind some memorable building works. Between Halesowen and Stourbridge, can be seen the rather impressive sight of a large brickbuilt ediface which goes by the name of Stambermill Viaduct. The original Viaduct was constructed in 1850, and formed part of the line from Stourbridge to Walsall. Some folk believe it was built by that great victorian engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, there is no factual evidence for this, and indeed, it isn't listed in his achievements. Its true to say though, that it was certainly built to one of his many designs, although not with the same high quality materials. The wooden structure, mounted on brick pillers, was braced with crossed Iron brackets, and stood until at least 1881, when the present viaduct was completed. There's an old painting, of Amblecote National School, from 1858, and although the artist has taken a few liberties cramming in building that couldn't be seen from his vantage point, he did include an accurate depiction of Stambermill Viaduct. ( you can clearly see the Iron bracing rods,) 


The inferior timber caused many problems and a second, and more robust viaduct was planed around 1878. Work on the foundations took some time, for its all constructed on a flood plain of the River Stour. The first of over 4 Million Blue Bricks, all made locally, were laid in early 1880, and the last, 16 months later, in 1881. The builders, Kellet and Bently, charged the GWR £14,000 for the works, and concidering it has been in use for over 130 years, I would say they got good value for the money. As there are now moves afoot, to open the line for passengers between Stourbridge and Brierley Hill, perhaps some attention can be paid to the viaduct itself. Some of the brickwork, which in places is now showing signs of decay, could do with replacing. Incidently, some of the brick supports for the original viaduct can still be seen, on the Lye side of the viaduct. Its still an impressive sight, lets hope it stays that way for a long time to come.

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

December 7, 2012 at 2:52 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

The name of one Railway Company that had an large impact on the region, The Oxford Worcester, and Wolverhampton Railway, ( O.W.W.R. ) has come up before. It was originally proposed at a meeting in the Guildhall at Worcester in 1844, and an application for a Railway Bill was submitted the same year. It may have had it's critics, but it proved to be a commercial success. Almost every Company in the Black Country used the services, many having there own little branch line right into the works.The Company was approached by both the Newport, Abergavenny, and Hereford Railway, ( N.A.H.R ) and the Worcester and Hereford Railway, ( W.H.R ) for financial backing, and by 1858, the first part of the Worcester to Malvern link was under construction. Early in 1860, with the final completion of the 128 foot span over the River Severn, the line to Malvern Wells, over nine and a half miles, was finished, and work began on the stretch to Hereford. The N.A.H. R link, from Newport to Aberdare was also nearing completion. With agreement from the board of the three companies, a merger was agreed in July 1860, and the company then became the West Midlands Railway,  with over 173 miles of track. It had, by now, also agreed to either lease or work the Severn Valley Railway, which became part of the company in the process, from Hartlebury to Shrewsbury, the Chipping Norton to Bourton on the Water line, the Severn Valley's link from Buildwas to Much Wenlock, and the Stourbridge Railway, from Stourbridge to Old Hill. This was to be the high point for the West Midlands Railway, as in May, 1861, in reponse to a battle with other companies, the board agreed to an amalgamation with the Great Western Railway, ( G.W.R ) At this time, they had over 190 miles of track, and a lease on another 77 miles. Between the original 4 companies, G.W. R obtained, as well as the track, stations and goods yards,131 Engines, 309 passenger coaches, and 4,064 goods wagons. More than enough proof, that the company was indeed better run than most supposed. There was only one little fly in the ointment later on, and a disappointment for Worcester, where the whole thing had started, in 1864, a fire distroyed the Carriage Works, and put over 200 men out of work.

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

September 23, 2013 at 11:30 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Here is one of the early complaints about the state of the railways, and that ever present  moan of today, late trains. The Company in question was the South Staffordshire Railway, and this man was Dudley, certainly wasn't a happy bunny. In October,1850, he had boarded the train at Dudley Port Station, Dudley itself, being on a bit of a hill, didn't actually have a Station. Bound for Birmingham, he had been in his seat for 20 minutes before it finally heaved itself out of the Station. His frustration grew, as at a snails pace, the Engine progressed from place to place, sometimes, hardly moving at all. Whoever the passenger was, he could at least afford a watch, for he knew just how long the journey took. And he wasn't slow in telling the Company just what he thought. Signing himself as " Julius Juniper ", he stated that the whole journey took just over two hours and twenty minutes, and ended with, " A man, might have walked the journey in about the same time ".  I bet someone in the Companies Office must have thought, "  Well why didn't you, you old fool, you could have saved the fare ".

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

January 31, 2014 at 3:44 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Trespassing on the Railway, as we all know, can be a very dangerous and stupid thing to do. Putting various items on the rails, is even more stupider, and the practice has been around a long time. It was so bad in 1925, that a special patrol unit had to be set up, to keep the line free of stones. On one small section of the Great Western Railway, at Surfiet Hill, Cradley Heath, over a hundred had to be moved in a few weeks. Just as today, it was very hard to apprehend the culprits for they did the deed quickly, and mostly undercover of the night. The Transport Police got lucky in mid June, and caught, red handed, James Stoneley, Frederick Sidaway, and William Yates, all from Pearson Street, Old Hill.  Non of them could be described as children, they were indeed all old enough to know better. Up before the Magistrates, they were each finded 10 shillings, and with a warning message to others, who might be tempted to put at risk innocent passengers lifes, the Bench warned that any other offenders would not get off so lightly. A month later and two others, caught for the same offence, were sent to prison for 3 months, with the addition of hard labour added. If any relatives of the three would care to offer a comment, please feel free.

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

May 9, 2015 at 3:26 PM Flag Quote & Reply

You must login to post.