Rails In Wolverhampton - The Early Years

by Bev Parker

The Stour Valley Line

It was originally known as the Birmingham, Wolverhampton & Stour Valley Railway, its construction was authorised by an Act of Parliament passed on 3rd August 1846. The capital was equally divided between four sources; the company itself, the Shrewsbury & Birmingham Railway, the Birmingham Canal Company,  and local interests. The line was to start at New Street station which was initially known as Navigation Street station until its name changed in timetables in November 1852. The route was to run from the London & Birmingham line at New Street station to Bushbury where it would join the Grand Junction Railway. There would also be a short branch to Dudley from Dudley Port.

There were seven intermediate stations; Smethwick, Spon Lane, Oldbury & Bromford Lane, Dudley Port, Tipton, Deepfields & Coseley, and Ettingshall Road & Bilston. The route was called the Stour Valley Line because of a projected line from Smethwick through the valley to Stourbridge, which never happened.

Right from the beginning the London & North Western Railway wanted to gain control of the line, which after all ran from their station at Birmingham to the old Grand Junction line which was also in their possession. It strengthened its control in three ways:

1. It took over the Birmingham Canal Company.
2. It leased the line under the terms of an Act passed on 1st July 1847 which would prevent the Shrewsbury & Birmingham from using the line if they joined the Great Western Railway, who were intense rivals of the London & North Western.
3. By making the Wolverhampton General station (High Level) and the section to Bushbury joint property with the Shrewsbury & Birmingham in an Act of 9th July 1847, which also gave the Shrewsbury & Birmingham running powers over the Stour Valley Line.

Having secured control of the line they could begin its construction.


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The Stour Valley Line, showing the stations listed in the text.

This was split into three sections; Birmingham to Winson Green, Winson Green to Oldbury, and Oldbury to Bushbury.

The engineers in charge were Robert Stephenson and William Baker. Initially work proceeded briskly.

Their report of August 1847 indicated that one third of the 845yard tunnel into New Street was already complete.

Having secured control of the line, the London & North Western were in no hurry to complete the task and so the remaining work proceeded at a more leisurely pace.

The progress was also slow on the section near Bushbury due to difficulties in acquiring land.

Work finished on 21st November 1851, and was officially announced on 1st December.

It had taken just over four years to complete.

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The Queen's Hotel, and entrance to Birmingham New Street station.

After the December announcement the Shrewsbury & Birmingham fully expected to start running their trains into Birmingham, but the London & North Western had other ideas. On the 10th January 1851 the Shrewsbury & Birmingham signed a traffic agreement with the Great Western Railway which led to an offer to amalgamate in 1856 or 57. The London & North Western had heard about this and so invoked the terms of their 1847 agreement. They denied access to the Shrewsbury & Birmingham which set the scene for the bitter dispute that followed.

On 1st February 1852 the line was opened for London & North Western goods, and from 1st March 1853 a half hourly service started from Wolverhampton to Birmingham which was designed to prevent the Shrewsbury & Birmingham from gaining access. The London & North Western claimed that due to the frequent service it would now be dangerous for Shrewsbury & Birmingham trains to run alongside their own.

The Shrewsbury & Birmingham finally accepted an arbitration award that set a high fixed rent for their use of New Street station and their trains started running to Birmingham on 4th February 1854. They finally joined the Great Western on 1st September 1854, and were granted an extension which allowed them to continue to run their trains on the Stour Valley line until the Great Western line could be opened. In the event it remained closed until 14th November 1854 because a bridge had collapsed at Handsworth.

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Ettingshall Road and Bilston station was a typical London & North Western Railway construction. It closed in 1964 during the electrification scheme.

After opening, several new stations were quickly added, they were:

Bushbury on 2nd August 1852, Albion on 1st May 1853,
Monument Lane on 1st July 1854,
and Monmore Green on 1st December 1863.

Once the Shrewsbury & Birmingham had departed, the line soon became a great success.

In the 1870's as many as 120 passenger trains and 50 goods trains ran daily in and out of Wolverhampton.

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