Walsall to Lichfield Railway Line
The railway line, then called the Walsall to Wichnor branch, was opened on April 9th 1849, and connected Walsall to Wichnor Junction, where it joined the Midland line to Burton On Trent. Stations were built at Walsall, Rushall, Pelsall, Brownhills, Hammerwich, and Lichfield. The line was leased by John McLean for a 21 year period, but he gave up the lease in 1861, and the line transferred to the LNWR. The passenger service closed on January 18th 1965.
Front entrance to Walsall Station, in Park Street
Walsall Station Booking Hall, off Park Street.
Pines Express waiting to depart from Walsall Station.
The Railway line left Walsall, going under Park Street and Wisemore. On the outskirts of the town,at the junction to Cannock, stood Ryecroft engine sheds, where the steam locomotives allocated to the Walsall area were kept and maintained. Ryecroft shed was of red brick construction, with a saw tooth northlight roof, and spanned 12 sets of parallel tracks, or roads as was the railway terminology.
All Railway sheds were issued with a shed code number, and locomotives were fitted with a cast plate bearing the code of their home shed. Ryecroft was allocated code number 3C, which was screwed to the smoke box door of each locomotive, immediately below the engine serial number. Steam traction was replaced at Ryecroft, by diesel multiple units (DMU) in 1957.
One of the DMU’s allocated to Ryecroft shed. Photographed at Shenstone on the Lichfield to Birmingham service in 1957.
Ryecroft engine sheds closed in 1965 and were demolished in 1970. Eventually Walsall Council purchased the land, and landscaped it into what is known today as Mill Lane Nature Reserve.
Main entrance to Mill Lane Nature Reserve.
Leaving Ryecroft engine sheds behind, the Lichfield line ran alongside Ryecroft cemetery and crematorium. The crematorium is not there today , and all the buildings have been taken down.
Ryecroft cemetery taken from the track bed
The line then crossed Station Road in Rushall, via a gated level crossing, operated by an adjacent signal box.
An 8F engine with possibly a freight train heading towards Lichfield. It was just past this crossing where Rushall station was located. At the present time I cannot find any information about this station, other than it existed, and that it closed in 1909.
Station road Rushall today, at the point where the level crossing was. This is now an extremely busy road, and would today, be impossible for a level crossing, as was in the 1950’s.
Running alongside Fordbrook the line crossed the meadows heading towards Pelsall.
Clearing the meadows area, bought the rail traffic to Heath End, where after going under Heath End bridge, there was a branch line feeding Leighswood Colliery, Victoria Brickworks, and Barnett and Beddows Brickworks at Stubbers Green in Aldridge
Heath End bridge
The main line however carried on, and crossing over Fordbrook Lane, entered Pelsall Station.
Bridge over Fordbrook Lane
A passenger train in Pelsall station on a winters day.
While the train is standing in Pelsall station we will take a look down the Leighswood branch line. Opened on November 14th 1878 it was a single track line, worked with a token system, which only allowed one train on the line at any one time. The line was controlled from Leighswood signal box,who issued the unique, red painted token, which gave access to the line. Passing through Shelfield, the railway crossed the Four Crosses and Lichfield roads in a deep cutting, on the Walsall side of the Spring Cottage Public House.
This picture was taken between the bridges on the Four Crosses and the Lichfield Roads.
Train from Leighswood Colliery crossing the canal.
The Collieries closed in the 1930’s and from that date the railway’s just served the Brickworks
Train entering Atlas Brickworks
Ariel view of Atlas Brickyard.
As the railway’s started to decline, heavy lorries began to take over the brick haulage industry, and the branch line finally closed in 1964. The cuttings were filled in and houses built on the land. The only evidence remaining, is part of the blue brick, railway bridge wall, in Lichfield road Shelfield.
Remains of the bridge in Lichfield Road Shelfield.
We now return to Pelsall station to continue our journey towards Lichfield. The Pelsall Station Master lived on the station in a company owned house. As well as his normal station duties, he had overall responsibility for the 24 hour operation of the nearby Norton Junction Marshalling yard.
The site of Pelsall Station, as it is today. The 10 mile Mercian Trail walk known as the Timberland Trail passes at this point.
After leaving Pelsall Station, the line passed under a farmers bridge, which gave access to Railswood farm
A short distance further along the line, was Ryders Hayes crossing, complete with the signal box, which also controlled the point system, which allowed the goods traffic which came from Walsall, entry into Norton Junction, which was situated to the left of the main line.
Ryders Hayes crossing and associated signal box
Ryders Hayes crossing as it is today.
On passing Norton Junction, there was a link from the yard feeding the main line towards Lichfield. The single line from Walsall Wood Colliery also entered the marshalling yard at this point.
Upon clearing the complex track network of Norton Junction, the engine driver was faced with the distant signal for entry into Brownhills station.
The remains of the distant signal steel post still stand today
Gradually climbing to embankment level,the railway ran parallel with Pelsall road, the houses in Clifton Avenue, over a farmers bridge, Clayhanger Lane bridge, and over the Wyrley and Essington canal by the Swan public house.
The bridge by the Swan public house. The new bridge on the Pelsall Rd can be seen in the background.
At this point the embankment gradually reverted back to ground level, and just before the line went under the old Midland railway line, there was a farmers level crossing to Swing bridge pig farm.
Remains of the farmers crossing to Swing bridge pig farm.
Track bed today by farmers crossing, the remains of the Midland line bridge is in the far background.
Going past Brownhills signal box and the canal sidings, the line went under Brownhills bridge and entered Brownhills station.
Brownhills station looking from the bridge towards Lichfield.
The entrance to the platform was down a steep path to the right of Brownhills Council house as seen in the picture. Note the brick pillar.
Site today where the platform entrance was, the brick pillar is all that remains. The track bed is completely overgrown with trees and shrubs.
The Council house today. Although the main building remains the same, it as been extended for the use of the local health centre and public library. All council work is now done in Walsall Civic Centre.
Jigger the stainless steel miner now stands guard on the bridge, and welcomes people to the High St.
When the railway was taken over by the LNWR in 1861, the company ran a small fleet of double-decked buses to take passengers onwards to Chasetown and Chase Terrace
These buses were garaged down by the canal sidings at Brownhills. The buildings were later taken over by Charles Ferrie a local business man.
Leaving Brownhills the line remained in a deep cutting, skirting Holland park and passed at the bottom of Barnetts lane, which is now a cemetery. As the railway approached the A5 trunk road, still in the cutting, it again crossed the Wyrley and Essington canal. This time however the waterway went over the cutting by means af an aquaduct.
A short distance from the aqueduct was the bridge under the A5 trunk road.
immediately past this very busy trunk road was Anglesey sidings. These sidings were installed to collect and distribute coal which had been mined at the Norton Canes, and Cannock Chase Coalfields. There was a branch line linked to the collieries via Chasewater. After the coal traffic ceased the sidings were used by Charringtons, to hold and distribute heavy fuel oil, for industrial and domestic use. Large holding tanks were erected, and the company started operating in 1966, with a throughput of three trains per week, each train carrying one million litres of oil. January 1965 saw the last passenger train to use the line, with freight trains running until 19th march 1984. The line was then closed between Anglesey sidings and Ryecroft. The section between Anglesey sidings and Lichfield however, was kept open, to enable oil freight trains to continue with large deliveries to Charringtons. Due to the infrequent traffic, the line was converted to single track working. The last delivery of oil by railway was on May 15th 2001, and the company finally closed on April 31st 2002.
The area was cleared, and a haulage company specialising in container logistics, now operates from the site.
Today’s picture of the old Anglesey sidings.
Leaving the sidings the railway continues towards Lichfield. Leaving the cutting, the terrain changes to another embankment, and swiftly arrives at the point where the recently constructed BNNR motorway, crosses at a near right angle. The BNNR, AKA the M6 Toll, is at a lower level than the railway line. Consequently the road builders cut through the embankment and constructed a steel and concrete bridge to span the gap, ensuring continuity of the line.
Bearing left the railway then headed for Hammerwich station.
Leaving Hammerwich in its wake, the line negotiated the A461 at pipe hill.
Train at Pipe Hill Lichfield
The railway line then curved towards the left heading for Fosseway level crossing.
Fosseway barrier controlled level crossing.
The redundant signal box still stands next to the Fosseway level crossing.
The track bed at Fosseway crossing looking towards Lichfield. Mother Nature as started to reclaim the land.
The line starts to climb to embankment level from here to Lichfield. On the approach to the Lichfield boundary there is a new bridge being constructed through the embankment, to accommodate the new Lichfield bypass road.
A short distance onwards towards Lichfield, the old Walsall line meets up with the current Birmingham line, and crosses the Birmingham road.
A little further towards the city centre the line crossed over Upper St John Street.
Another view of the bridge showing that it was in fact constructed with two seperate steel sections, spanning Upper St John Street.
This bridge was also the entry point into Lichfield City Station.
Lichfield City Station in the 1960’s.
Lichfield City Station, main entrance, today.