Relic Hunting for Low Level

From time to time I’ll search for Wolverhampton Low Level related stuff on e-Bay.  The platform ticket (which is the avatar I use both here and on RMweb) is one recent example of this.  The photo below shows this, along with a couple of other recent finds.

The June 1971 edition of Railway Magazine was sourced following a tip-off from Neil Rushby that it contained an article about the (then) imminent closure of the GWR mainline between Low Level and Snow Hill.  While the article itself doesn’t really tell me much I’d not read or seen elsewhere before, it’s nice to have and really helps to set the scene for the layout.  It’s interesting to read something written at the time the layout will be based, rather than the more recent sources.  It is accompanied by a couple of photos, one of Low Level with the bubble car stabled in one of the centre roads and an 08 in the former up platform (with a varied selection of parcels vans and a couple of vanfits).  The other shows the bubble car pausing for custom at Priestfield on its way towards Snow Hill.

The pink sheet of paper (actually there are two sheets stapled together) is a BR handbill (which also dates from 1971) showing the timetable and ticket prices for the Low Level – Snow Hill passenger service.  Six weekday departures left Low Level bound for Snow Hill (with an additional 13:50 departure Saturdays only).  Journey time was 32 minutes (compared to 35 minutestoday on the Midland Metro – although that includes additional stops and takes you right into the centre of Wolverhampton), calling at Priestfeild, Bilston, Wednesbury, Swan Village, West Brom’, Handsworth, Langley Green and Hockley.  There was of course, we are reminded “NO SUNDAY SERVICE”.  A second class day return would cost you the princely sum of 40p; a one month season ticket £7.20.

One which got away recently was a 1971 Locoshed, mainly to confirm the Bescot 08 allocation at the time; I’ll keep looking.  The plan is to display these finds on the fiddle yard screening of the layout – assuming I get the time to continue with the layout build since the arrival of the new family member at chez Forrest:

Black Country Buffalo

When deciding on a project I try and find something a little bit different taking the most averse route to avoid clichés and so it was that I gave consideration to one of the rail/canal interchanges that sprung up around the Black Country, initially to assist transfer to heavy supplies and products from the canal network to the heavy industry for which the Black Country became known across an old empire. Avoidance of the obvious led me to look into ‘Shrubbery Basin’ as it was labelled on old OS maps. This lay a short distance south of Wolverhampton High Level station, accessed from the GW Walsall Street Goods site and sitting between the LNWR’s Stour Valley route and the Birmingham Canal as shown in this map.

My initial research was frustrated by a lack of source material with little or nothing from the local council or archives other than original land purchase documents. The site itself was wiped from the map at some point during the 1960s and consumed by the expanding British Oxygen Company site and all that has surfaced since starting that research is a single image showing the shed covering the sidings and basin. Beyond my living memory the orientation and style of the shed came as a surprise to me looking a little more like a slice of Herbert Street Goods Station. The current owners of the site, BOC, had no information available from the time of their acquisition despite their estates manager recalling basic information.

Frustrated I fell back to the position of being able to better research the nearby Chillington Basin as being the only rail/canal interchange still in existence in the country and thankfully now the subject of a preservation order. The boundary of the site is reasonably accessible from Chillington Street and the towpath of the Birmingham Canal where urban decay has taken hold after the site finally fell out of usage in the last ten years.

A view of the west side of Chillington Basin from the canal towpath.

Chillington Basin, as an interchange point was first constructed by the Chillington Iron Company whose factory was half a mile east of the wharf and linked by a horse-drawn tramway to allow the products to be loaded onto the narrowboats for onward transport. The LNWR purchased the site in 1897 building the shed as we know it and opening the site as Monmore Street Goods in 1902 with the purpose of catering for other local goods needs including inbound oil supplies via rail from Ellesmere Port transferred to the canal and transported a very short distance under the Bilston Road to Gaunt & Hickman’s British Oil Company which which had moved to a site in Eagle Street after WW1 – Reference.

In the 1930s one ‘arm’ of the basin was capped off and removed to allow the building of a travelling crane for transshipment of goods between the two sidings beneath it and a central roadway illustrating the change in importance of road transport. I’m surprised that the remaining ‘arm’ of the basin remained intact from that point forward.

Ownership subsequently passed to the LMS and BR(M) and this 1952 shot still shows signage from its previous owner. In 1966 the site was ‘re-branded’ as part of the conversion of the Walsall Street Goods site to the Wolverhampton Steel Terminal with the whole of the former goods station site now being accessible from the former LNWR siding from the west side of the Stour Valley route to Birmingham New Street. The Chillington Basin portion of the site then became more of an adjunct to the main terminal as a dumping ground for sundry wagons and another loading point between lorries and wagons as shown in this 1970s view. At this time the purpose of the steel terminal was a centralised outbound railhead for the latter decade (and a bit) of outbound finished products of an industrialised area.

In current times the Wolverhampton Steel Terminal still exists but purely for inbound traffic of steel seeing 12-15 trains per week offloaded by crane and forklift as an interchange to the road network. The site is currently owned by DB Schenker and by their kind permission I was able to access the site and take more detailed pictures (some 500!) and measurements to enable the Chillington project to move forward. The foreman who facilitated the site visit was the longest-serving employee on the site, his first job being to operate the travelling crane which was still operational in 2000.

Chillington Basin travelling crane

Coincidentally the foreman had the photograph shown above in his office showing his grandfather standing in the open wagon beneath the new travelling crane evidencing that outbound steel products brought to the wharf by rail-owned transport were the staple diet of daily activity prior to WW2.

Buffalo? We day ‘ave basins in the Black Country, they’m Bisons.

North Staffs Sand

For the past few days I’ve been following this topic over on RMweb about the railways around Stoke & Staffs in the 1970s & 80s.  There are a couple of photos of Cheadle station and a link to a nice video on You Tube of 24057 shunting at Leek Brook Junction in 1977; which reminds me that I must make my brake vans more free running and improve their ability to stay on the track when propelled at speed 🙂  There is some further North Staffs Sulzer action here.  The use of a 12T van between loaded wagons and the brake van was to protect the guard from sand blowing from the load!  Note that by the mid-70s most of the sand trains were made up of ex-Iron Ore tipplers/hoppers.

In particular these photos caught my attention showing a sand train behind a pair of class 25s.  Now the wagons here (MTVs) are obviously different to the older sand tipplers which we run on NHC, but I’m wondering whether the style of loading and colour of the sand might be more appropriate for the Cheadle sand on NHC than the flat loads of red sand we currently use?

How would you model this?  I guess a resin (?) casting roughly to shape then loose sand glued on top?  On our shorter (16’6″, 9′ wb) tipplers I guess two mounds of sand rather than the three seen in the MTVs would be appropriate.  We’ll need a dozen – any volunteers?

Some research

Where possible, I like the locos on Foundry Lane to represent ones which are likely to have been seen on the West Midlands during the early 70s.  The latest of these is a class 25 which will be subject of another blog post, which needed to be renumbered.  The excellent Derby Sulzers site was my starting point, which provided me with a short list of potential candidates, but I had a few gaps in depot allocations.  After a bit of Googling I stumbled upon the BR Database website – which looks like a really useful resource.  With the Class 25 identified (it’ll be Bescot’s 25038, since you ask), I started digging further into the database.

Looking up a couple of the New Haden locos, my EE type 1 (D8000) was new to 1D (Devons Road) in June 1957, but moved to Crewe South in October ’58, where she stayed for a couple of years before moving to 1B (Camden).  My Sulzer type 2 (D5030) is more of a problem though.  Built in June ’59 she was new to 31B (March), so not exactly local!  Being built at Crewe, suppose the excuse that she was on a test run will have to stand as her Crewe allocated classmates had details differences which rule out a simple renumbering.

It covers those steam things too; for example Geoff’s Fairburn (42234) was at Stoke from 1952 to 1957, then moving to Rugby until withdrawal in 1964.

Worth a look if you are about to do some renumbering – I’ll add a link to our “blogroll”.

Who wants to model a wagon?

One of the facebook groups I’m a member of is the Industrial Railway & Locomotive Appreciation Society and there has been a very nice link posted to a website with oodles of photos of both mainline rolling stock and industrial internal user wagons. The site is by Paul Bartlett and features numerous galleries for specific types of stock and within the industrial section galleries of specific locations with photographs of different types of wagons within each gallery. Thanks to Paul  this website could be a very helpful resource for detailing and weathering, and also for a bit of atmosphere.

The site can be found here

Project Low Level

For the past couple of years I’ve been wittering on to anybody who would listen about my plans to model Wolverhampton Low Level in its days as a parcels depot.  Progress has been sporadic, particularly with the house move (and subsequent renovation work) taking priority, but I’m finally getting somewhere.

As Nigel mentioned in the Workshop Night update I’ve been making some progress on the buildings recently.  I’ve made cardboard mock ups of the station buildings to help planning the position of board joints and viewing angles.  I’ve also finally got my head around how to use Templot and have drawn up the templates for the trackwork – significantly more planning than went into Foundry Lane!

Last week, I cleared the dining room table and put the templates and buildings together, here’s what it might look like, an overall view of the scenic section, which will measure 2.4m x 1.1m:

These views are taken from the position of Sun Street bridge which will hide the exit to the fiddle yard.

Think I’ll be needing a bit more parcel stock!  Hornby’s new SR Van B and Gresley BG might be useful!

Confession time: I’ve decided I’ll be building this in P4, rather than EM – it just seems the right thing to do for a model of a real location, especially as the trackwork is quite simple and that hardly any of my EM stock from Foundry Lane will be used.

A parcel from EMGS stores arrived today; 10m of steel bullhead rail, should be able to make a start on some track soon.

And that building which Nigel mentioned (which I think was the parcels office):

and a further update after a bit more work done last night: