Rails In Wolverhampton - The Early Years

by Bev Parker

Wolverhampton Low Level Station  

It was originally planned as a part of the Oxford, Worcester & Wolverhampton Railway, but the Act passed on 14th August 1848 stated that it was to be constructed and maintained jointly for the use of the Shrewsbury & Birmingham Railway, the Oxford, Worcester & Wolverhampton Railway, and the Birmingham, Wolverhampton & Dudley Railway. The buildings were designed by John Fowler, the track layout by Henry Robertson, and the overall roof by I. K. Brunel. The Oxford, Worcester & Wolverhampton line opened on 1st July 1854, and the Birmingham, Wolverhampton & Dudley opened on 14th November 1854, but work on the station was not completed until late 1855. It was initially called Wolverhampton Joint station but was renamed Wolverhampton Low Level in
April 1856.

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The station entrance in the 1960's.

The station was built of blue bricks with stone decorations, and a large span overall iron roof.

There was a grand entrance hall with booking offices, railway company
offices, waiting and refreshment rooms.

The very wide and long platforms
prevented overcrowding and allowed both up and down trains to arrive on the same platform at the same time.

The platforms were linked by an iron bridge.  All of this was very different to the basic facilities that were on offer at the High Level station, and many alterations and improvements took place in the intervening years. Some of the more notable changes were:
1st April 1869 Conversion of the broad gauge track to standard gauge.
April 1899 The new carriage shed, sidings, and new signal boxes opened.
1902 The footbridge was strengthened to withstand the increased
number of passengers going to the town's Art and Industrial
1911 Extensions to the south end of the Birmingham platform.
1922 A new booking office with 5 ticket windows was built within
the booking hall, and a new telegraph department was added
to the stationmaster's office. Both platforms were extended
and the passenger footbridge was replaced. The overall roof
had corroded badly and so this was replaced with standard
GWR platform canopies.
March 1930 Electric lights replaced the old gas lighting. This didn't happen
until 20 years later at the High Level.
July 1944 2 ton electric goods lifts were added.
The end was in sight with the West Coast Mainline electrification scheme which included the Stour Valley Line and a new High Level station.

It would be hard to imagine a similar amount of investment being made on the GWR mainline which to some extent duplicated the Stour Valley's route.

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The station as it was in 1856.

From late 1963 to March 1967 the Low Level did see a large increase in traffic, but this was only while the electrification work was in progress, when many services were temporarily diverted. When the line reopened the GWR services were quickly reduced. The last Paddington to Birkenhead express ran in March 1967, and a year later the Shrewsbury services moved to the High Level. The station continued to be used by local DMU's until March 1972.

In 1970 the station was converted to a Parcels Concentration Department at a cost of £30,000. Much of the trackwork was removed, the north signal box was demolished and the platforms were greatly modified. It opened on 6th April 1970 and was very successful, handling up to 8000 parcels each day. BR's policy on parcel handling soon changed, and it was closed on 1st June 1981. The building was listed as grade 2 on 25th March 1986. It remained as the British Rail Divisional Engineer's Department until it was purchased by the town council in May 1986. BR's staff left the building on 2nd May and on the 8th of the month a task force which was part of the MSC's sponsored Community Program, took over, and renovated the building's exterior. The building is now in use again, so hopefully its future is assured.

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