The town of Wolverhampton became a city in the year 2000. It lies approximately 12 miles north-west of Birmingham, and 13 miles east of Bridgnorth. Although it was not situated on the Severn Valley Railway, the town had a number of associations with it.
The Railways of Wolverhampton
The Railway Clearing House map shows the layout of railways around central Wolverhampton from 1914. At that time the town had two main railway stations, Wolverhampton Low Level and Wolverhampton High Level.
Wolverhampton Low Level (GWR)
Wolverhampton Low Level station opened in 1854, although not finished until a year later. It was built jointly by the GWR and the OW&W. For the GWR, the station lay on the main line from Paddington via Birmingham Snow Hill. It was the most northerly station on the GWR network to include broad gauge, the mixed gauge line to the south east being fully converted to standard gauge in 1869.
For the OW&W, the station formed the northern terminus of the line from Oxford via Worcester, Hartlebury, and Kidderminster. The two lines came together at Priestfield, around a mile south-east of Wolverhampton. Ostensibly the OW&W was also mixed gauge, although in practice was only ever a standard gauge line.
The Shrewsbury and Birmingham Railway (S&BR) opened in 1849, running from a temporary station in Wolverhampton to Wellington. By 1854 the S&BR had merged with the GWR and was making use of the Low Level station, providing the GWR with a route towards the North West. The route from Wellington to Shrewsbury was completed by the Shrewsbury and Wellington Joint Railway (S&WJR), also opened in 1849 and operated jointly by the LNWR and GWR.
The construction of the Severn Valley Railway in 1862 provided a more direct connection between the railway junction towns of Worcester and Shrewsbury than the circuitous route via Wolverhampton, involving the former OW&W, S&BR and S&WJR lines.
Wolverhampton Low Level station closed in 1981. The station building survives as a Grade II listed structure.
Wolverhampton High Level (LNWR)
Wolverhampton High Level station opened in 1852. It was located on the LNWR (later LMS) main line from London Euston via Birmingham New Street, continuing northwards to Glasgow. The Railway Clearing House map shows that it also served the Midland Railway.
Today the former LNWR route forms the West Coast Main Line. The present day Wolverhampton station, which dates from 1967, is on the site of the former High Level station.
Wolverhampton Railway Works and TMD
The Stafford Road Works was opened by the S&BR in 1849. Following the merger with the GWR in 1854, it became the workshop for the Northern Division of the GWR. Around 800 new locomotives were built between 1854 and 1908, mainly under the management of George Armstrong. After that time new building ceased, but the Works continued to repair and overhaul all classes of GWR locomotives, and latterly BR Standard locomotives, until closure in 1964. It is therefore almost certain that many of the SVR’s locomotives would have spent time there.
The Wolverhampton Stafford Road TMD (Traction Maintenance Depot) was GWR Shed number 194, code SRD. It later became BR Shed Code 84A. Stafford Road was GWR 4930 Hagley Hall's first allocation on entry to service in May 1929.The late Ray Tranter, who led the restoration of GWR 7819 Hinton Manor among other locos, was an ex Wolverhampton Stafford Road loco man
Proposed Railways between Wolverhampton and Bridgnorth
- Main article: Unsuccessful proposals for railways in the Severn Valley
Although Bridgnorth found itself on a railway line linking Worcester and Shrewsbury, the town is perhaps more naturally allied to Wolverhampton, around 13 miles to the east. A number of proposals were made for railways connecting the two towns, especially during the ‘railway mania’ of the mid-19th century. However the relative position of Wolverhampton’s two stations to the north east of the town centre and Bridgnorth to the south west of it meant most schemes involved approaching Wolverhampton via a junction with one of the existing lines to the south or west, in a similar manner to the Severn Valley Railway at Shrewsbury. Some schemes proposed connections to the Severn Valley Railway north of Bridgnorth, others to the south of it.
Of the various schemes for railways linking the two towns, a total of nine bills were prepared for submission to Parliament. However most were either withdrawn by their sponsors or rejected by Parliament, with only two receiving Royal Assent, neither of which came to fruition. The earliest proposal to be advertised, the Wolverhampton & Bridgenorth (sic) Railway in 1860, was never put to Parliament. The two schemes approved by Parliament were:
- The Bridgnorth, Wolverhampton & Staffordshire Railway (June 1866). This would have left the S&BR near Oxley Viaduct, proceeding via Wombourne and Halfpenny Green to cross the Severn near Oldbury before joining the Severn Valley Railway just south of Bridgnorth. Curiously, the GWR had opposed its construction, seeing it as an attempt by the LNWR to reach Wales. Although this was overruled, the powers lapsed when funds could not be raised.
- The GWR Additional Powers Act (July 1905). The GWR’s own scheme was broadly similar to the above, but crossing the Severn close to Quatford before joining the Severn Valley Railway nearer Eardington with a triangle junction. However, even before the bill was passed, the GWR had introduced a steam bus service between Wolverhampton Low Level Station and Bridgnorth Station, soon replaced by motor buses. Although the Kingswinford and Wombourne section (“the Wombourne Branch”) was completed in 1925, the Bridgnorth section had been postponed by 1913. Another GWR Additional Powers Act in 1925 resurrected the possibility of its resumption, but the lack of traffic and growth of road transport soon led to it being abandoned.
The entry for the Severn Valley Railway on Wikipedia makes reference to a proposal prior to World War II to link the Severn Valley Line with the Wombourne Branch, with a section being pegged out and some earthworks carried out immediately south of Crossing Cottage near Eardington. This may refer to the southern end of the GWR scheme, although no reference to these workings can be found in the books listed in the Bibliography section.
The majority of schemes were for ‘full blown’ railways. However The Light Railways Act of 1896 simplified the construction of smaller railways; companies could plan a line and, having obtained a Light Railway Order, build and operate it, all without the need for specific legislation in Parliament. The Light Railway Orders would specify limits for axle weights and running speeds to take account of the normally lightly laid lines used on such railways, they could also exempt light railways from some of the requirements of a normal railway in respect of level crossings, signalling and so on (the 1896 Act, with subsequent revisions, provided the Light Railway Orders under which heritage railways such as the SVR would later operate).
- The Wolverhampton and Bridgnorth Light Railway was proposed in 1897, running from near Priestfield to join the SVR south of Bridgnorth, with a separate station in Bridgnorth Low Town. However this scheme did not proceed; the GWR and LNWR worked together to defeat the project in 1899.
Proposed Railways between Wolverhampton and Bewdley
In 1874 a Bill was brought before Parliament for construction of the West Staffordshire Railway, which was to link Wolverhampton directly to the Tenbury and Bewdley Railway at Dowles Bridge with a branch connection to Bewdley. This project had the backing of the LNWR, who were becoming frustrated by the lack of progress in constructing the Kidderminster Loop between Bewdley and Kidderminster. Although the 1874 Bill failed, it probably brought pressure to bear on the GWR to complete the Loop.
Light Railways Act 1896 on Wikipedia