Tag Archives: Cannock Chase & Wolverhampton Railway

125Chasewater Railway Museum Bits & Pieces

125Chasewater Railway Museum Bits & Pieces

From Chasewater News April 1990

Midland Railway – Brownhills Branch – B. Bull

Copy of what may have been a locally commercially available postcard depicting a MR Johnson design 3F 0-6-0 of the type introduced in 1885 and rebuilt by Fowler from 1916 with Belpaire boiler.

Looking back through various back numbers of ‘Mercian’, ‘Chasewater News’ and ‘Railway Focus’ it becomes apparent that little has been published to inform members of the history of this branch, part of which trackbed provides us with the base for our own Chasewater Light Railway operations.  An even more glaring omission is that we have not made available for publication the few interesting photographs in the museum collection.

 On July 1st, 1879 the Midland Railway had opened a line from Castle Bromwich to Walsall with intermediate stations at Penns, Sutton Coldfield, Sutton Park, Streetly and Aldridge.  Whilst this line was being constructed, a branch from Aldridge to Walsall Wood was authorised on July 13th, 1876, with further extension to the western shores of Norton Pool being authorised on August 6th, 1880 to give an end-on connection with the Cannock Chase & Wolverhampton Railway, just south of the causeway.

The contractors for this 3¾ mile branch were H.Lovatt & Co.Ltd.  I am unable, however, to discover any details of the contractor’s locomotives which would undoubtedly been used on this project.

On April 1st, 1882 the branch opened as far as Brownhills West for goods only, with the connection to the CC & WR being opened on November 1st, 1882.

Just north of the A5 road there was a short lived spur to the Coppice Colliery, Wilkin, owned by J.Owen Ltd.  (Later the Coppice Colliery Company.  This spur closed when the colliery was shut in 1894.

Passenger services commenced to the newly opened stations at Walsall Wood and Brownhills Midland on July 1st, 1884, but colliery traffic continued to be the mainstay of the branch.

Brownhills Midland was over half a mile out of town just north of the A452 Chester Road, whereas the LNWR station on the South Staffs Walsall line was handily situated at the end of High Street so it was no surprise when the LMS withdrew the passenger service on March 31st, 1930, Brownhills Midland being demolished soon afterwards.One amazing survivor is a wooden ‘finger’ which used to point the way to the platforms.  This piece owes its continued existence to the gentleman who fortuitously purchased from the site a pile of wood to build himself a garden shed, the finger surviving long enough to find its way by means of a donation to the RPS collection.  However, I digress slightly, goods traffic continued on the branch until the closure of former Cannock Chase Colliery pits by the National Coal Board in the late 1950s, the line being lifted between Aldridge and Brownhills West in 1960, with the CC & WR remnants left around the northern shores, mainly going by 1963.  Last day of passenger services at Brownhills Midland.  A Johnson 3F, No.3277, with two coaches of compartment stock including a clerestory probably dating from the period 1897 to 1916.  The porter seems to be holding up a closure notice or something similar perhaps.

What was left owed its continued existence to the NCB Area Workshops which was then just rail connected to the former LNWR Norton Branch via a circuitous route through the closed Conduit Colliery yard reached by a spur just south of the causeway.  A small amount of the original Midland Railway metals had been left as a headshunt, this being part of the former exchange sidings with the CC & WR and it was some nine years after the Railway Preservation Society came to Chasewater before British Railways ‘rediscovered’ the sidings left for NCB use in 1960 when the rest of the branch had been lifted.  By then of course the Society had extended their track into the park so the still BR owned piece fell in the middle of the Chasewater Light Railway.  How this problem was surmounted will be the subject of a future article, as it is a story in itself.Standard MR platform lamps on hexagonal posts are in evidence, but the sawn paled fence seen in the postcard view has been replaced with the sawn diagonal variety by the time these photos were taken.

The photographs

These form part of the Museum’s collection of local photographs, some of which will be made available to the Editor to feature in future issues of Chasewater News.  With 1990 being some 60 years since Brownhills Midland closed its doors to passengers, it is especially pleasing to be able to provide photos of the last day of services, March 31st, 1930.

Chasewater Railway Publications – No.1- 1965

Chasewater Railway Publications – No.1 – 1965

This post was taken from the magazine of the Railway Preservation Societies – the ‘Railway Forum’ Winter 1965.

This picture was taken from the cover of the magazine.

Mr. W. Ives of Hixon, near Stafford, purchased this signal box from British Railways intending it to be preserved by the Midland R.P.S.  Unfortunately contractors taking up the metals of the old Stafford and Uttoxeter Line also demolished the signal box.  Now Mr. Ives (pictured) is wondering where he can get another.  (Photo:  Express & Star, Wolverhampton.)

I’m not sure where this photo was taken, but assuming it’s on ‘our’ line it might be between Norton East Road and Brownhills Road, judging by the position of the houses.  Any other suggestions will be gratefully received!

This, and the other track photos in this post were obviously taken before Chasewater trains were running.

The Chasewater Branch – by F.J.Harvey and L.E.Hodgkinson

Chasewater was constructed by the Wyrley & Essington Canal Company by building a low dam.  A reservoir 1¼ miles in length was thus formed for the purpose of feeding the nearby canals.

At one time Chasewater was encircled by railways; the earliest of these was the Cannock Chase & Wolverhampton Railway incorporated by an Act of Parliament on July 29th 1864.   A connecting link was constructed from the London & North Western Railway Cannock Chase mineral extension which was incorporated in 1862.

In 1884 a branch was built by the Midland Railway from Aldridge.  This was for mineral traffic, although passengers were conveyed as far as Brownhills.  The passenger service was withdrawn on March 29th 1930.  The direct link with the LNWR was broken in favour of a more circuitous connection via the Conduit Colliery Company’s yard.

With the closure of the Cannock Chase collieries, the Midland Railway branch from Walsall Wood to Brownhills was lifted in 1960, followed by the CC & WR track in 1963, leaving the remainder of the lines as they are today.  These were retained in order to connect the National Coal Board area workshops with the main line.

In recent years the possibilities of Chasewater as a pleasure resort were realised by Brownhills Urban District Council; an amusement park was constructed and facilities were provided for more specialised interests such as go-carts, speedboats, hydroplanes and yachts.

With the increase in visitors each year it was felt by the Midlands area of the Railway Preservation Society that the line would be suitable for development as a working railway museum and a lease of about two miles of track was taken out.  Much work has to be done to bring the line up to passenger carrying standards and it will probably be several years before a regular passenger service can be maintained.  This largely depends on the number of volunteers that are prepared to help with the track restoration.

The immediate aim of the Society is to construct a building to house the larger items of rolling stock where they can be fully restored and displayed to the public.  This building will form the permanent headquarters of the Chasewater Railway.

The Society would appreciate any help, practical or otherwise, from people interested in this project.  With sufficient support a limited service could be in operation by next summer.

We know where this one was taken – you can see the entrance to the farm gate.  The houses at the top were demolished to make way for the M6 Toll.

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Chasewater Railway Museum – A New Boundary Marker

Chasewater Railway Museum

A New Local Boundary Marker

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A recent purchase for the collection – a Cannock & Rugeley Colliery Boundary Marker.

Other boundary markers in the collection are shown below.

 

Boundary Markers

 In their heyday, the railways were the biggest landowners in Britain after the Church, and it was inevitable that boundary disputes sometimes arose.  It was to resolve this problem that many railways designed boundary posts or markers.

The oldest tend to be in stone, while those from about 1870 onwards are in cast iron – some companies using lengths of surplus rail, suitably inscribed.

The Great Western Railway (GWR) markers were made of Brunel-designed bridge rails cut into lengths, with an angle iron T-piece on the bottom, and a cast iron top, moulded round the rail.  Between 1880 and 1920, the year of manufacture was included on the cast top.  The Midland Railway (MR) used pieces of ordinary bull-head rail whose tops were stamped into an oval shape, with the raised letters ‘MR’.

These two types are by far the most common available to collectors, though the cast iron posts of the London & North Western Railway (LNWR) and Great Northern Railway (GNR) are also frequently seen.

It appears that several railways never had any boundary posts, and no examples are known from the Great Eastern, London, Brighton & South Coast, South Eastern & Chatham, or from any of the five main Scottish lines.

On the other hand, two of the small South Wales companies had boundary posts which often come up for sale – the Barry and Rhondda & Swansea Bay railways.  The GWR, MR, GNR and LNWR all made boundary posts for their joint lines, and some of these are both exotic and extremely rare.

For example, the GWR produced posts for an area of land at Reading which abutted with the South Eastern& Chatham.  This was the only meeting point of the two companies, and just two markers are known to exist, both dated 1915.

Boundary markers are usually placed in the fence line at the side of the railway, or in adjacent land by bridges, viaducts or crossings.