THE RAILWAY REINSTATEMENT ASSOCIATION
THE SOUTH STAFFORDSHIRE RAILWAY
Opened on the current site April 1849 by the South Staffordshire Railway as part of their route from Wichnor Junction (south of Burton-upon-Trent) to Dudley, which incidentally opened the same day. But the town was ftrst served by the Grand Junction Railway. Their station was at Bescot Bridge (near the present Bescot Stadium), from where travellers could catch a connecting stagecoach. Ten years later the company laid a branch line from Bescot to a temporary depot in the town at Bridgeman Place. Over the years further route development around Walsall followed until 1879, by which time the town was a very important junction with its own large engine sheds.
The station was rebuilt in 1883, due to increasing traffic levels, with five platforms and separate booking offices for each of the two companies using it. In 1916 a fire damaged the main booking hall but it wasn't until after the War had ended that a full rebuild of the concourse could be carried out, being completed & opened in 1923.
Under LMS auspices, the Midland line to Wolverhampton via Wednesfield and Willenhall Stafford Street closed to passengers in 1931 (it being a less directduplication of the older Grand Junction line via Darlaston). As part of the Beeching axe, the South Staffordshire Line to Dudley lost its passenger services in June 1964. The lines to Wolverhampton via Willenhall Bilston Street, Rugeley via Cannock, Lichfield City and to Sutton Park & Castle Bromwich all closed early the following year (on 18 January 1965). This left only one passenger line running to the station from Birmingham New Street and the station's importance to the town was reduced even further when this service was reduced to just one train per hour in 1977. A year later, the old station building was demolished as part of a new retail development - a much smaller replacement ticket office & concourse being provided within the new Saddlers Centre shopping mall when it opened in 1980.
The line via Sutton Park meanwhile remains open for freight (as a bypass for the busy area around New Street station) & periodic passenger diversions, but the old Walsall & Wolverhampton line (1964) and both sections of the original South Staffordshire route to Lichfield (1984) and to Dudley & Stourbridge Junction (1993) have all been abandoned.
The station frontage pre redevelopment
Station entrance taken shortly after the redeveloped station opened in the 1980's
Wednesbury was once served by two railway stations, Central on the GWR route to Wolverhampton from Birmingham, now operated as the Midland Metro Supertram system, and the one we are interested in for this article on the South Staffs Railway, opened in 1850. The station was built and served by the South Staffordshire Railway, which later became London, Midland and Scottish Railway (through amalgamation of the London and North Western Railway). The line had reasonable passenger usage until about the early 1880s, when it began to slump at several stations, leading to the line becoming a largely freight only operation in 1887. It would remain open for goods traffic, which was considerable at this time, as the district had become highly industrialised in the then heyday of the Black Country's industrial past.
As the local industry declined and road transport became more common, the station entered a post-World War II decline. The station was known as Wednesbury until it was renamed Wednesbury 'town' in 1950 as part of nationalisation. British Rail closed the station through the Beeching Axe in 1964 due to decline in freight and passenger custom.
While the electrification of the West Coast Main Line was underway the former GWR line did see a large increase in its traffic and a reopening of the station appear likely, but once the West Coast Main Line had been re-reopened the diverted trains were removed and the additional services quickly reduced. The last Paddington to Birkenhead express train ran on the line in March 1967, and after 1970 it was normally only used by goods trains.
The station buildings were demolished shortly after their closure, but the platform remains intact more than 50 years later. The signal box was still in use when the Walsall-Round Oak section of the line closed in March 1993, but it was destroyed by arsonists in 1995. The level crossing was fenced off around the same time in order for the Midland Metro to be built across the line nearby, although the fence was later vandalized and the line between Wednesbury and Great Bridge is often used a route for pedestrians and dog walkers.
GREAT BRIDGE NORTH
Great Bridge is another place on the South Staffs line that had two stations, the other being on the GWR route and opened in 1866. Built in 1850 North was appended to the name of the station just after nationalisation.
Passenger usage declined in the early 1880s, and the line became mainly freight in 1887. It remained open for goods traffic as the district became highly industrialized in the heyday of the Black Country's industrial past. Local industry declined after World War II and road transport became more common. British Rail closed the station to passengers through the Beeching Axe in 1964, but it continued as a freight station for local factories until 1972. Goods trains continued to pass through the site of the station until 1993. By that date no sign of the station or the goods yard remained. It is now derelict and mostly fenced off.
DUDLEY PORT LOWER
Opened on the former South Staffordshire line that had opened in 1850, which provided a rail connection from Dudley Port to Dudley railway station. The line had reasonable passenger usage until about the early 1880s, when it began to slump at several stations, leading to the line becoming a largely freight only operation in 1887. It would remain open for goods traffic, which was considerable at this time, as the district had become highly industrialised in the then heyday of the Black Country's industrial past. It closed in June 1964 as passenger services were phased out alone the line due to the Beeching Axe and the blue brick station building was demolished three years later, although the railway remained open to goods trains until 1993.
Phase Two of the Midland Metro will see the line reopening between Walsall, Dudley Port railway station, Dudley railway station and the Merry Hill Shopping Centre for trams on one track and for freight on the other. The closed section of the South Staffordshire Line through Dudley is expected to re-open during the 2010s, as a combined Midland Metro tramway and a heavy rail line for goods trains. The Lower Level station would re-open as a Midland Metro tram stop, sharing its track with goods trains.
In October 2015, it was announced that due to high transport funding for the West Midlands, the Stourbridge to Walsall line could re-open as a Network Rail operated line served by West Midlands franchise services and the delivery date was 2018-2020. This means that Dudley Port Low Level would re-open on the line. The preceding station will be Dudley Town railway station and the succeeding will be either Great Barr railway station or Wednesbury Town railway station.
Looking down into the former station site summer 2015 from Park Lane East Bridge. Just beyond the parrapet can be decerned the fencing of the overspill car park for the station on the West Coast Mainline built on the former station forecourt
Easter 2015 looking up into the current station, today little more than a bus shelter on a platform between the lines accessed by tunnel and steps. No disability access what-so-ever, taken from canal tow path on the bridge over the former South Staffordshire Railway alignment
Looking down into the former station site summer 2015 from the overspill car park access footbridge Bridge. Just behind the tree to the left can again be decerned the overspill car park for the current station
Taken from the same point l ooking north along the canal through the bridge over the former South Staffordshire Railway alignment. To the right can be seen part of the huge butress holding the West Coast Mainline embankment back
Completed in 1860 as a result of collaboration between the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway (which was soon to become part of the Great Western Railway, and the London and North Western Railway (which had taken control of the South Staffordshire Railway – the company that had constructed the line from Lichfield, via Walsall, to Dudley. The latter eventually became part of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway.
The line had reasonable passenger usage until about the early 1880s, when it began to slump at several stations, leading to the line becoming a largely freight only operation in 1887. It would remain open for goods traffic, which was considerable at this time, as the district had become highly industrialised in the then heyday of the Black Country's industrial past.
As the local industry declined and road transport became more common, the station entered a post-World War 2 decline, although not as heavily as most others on the line.
The station was popular with local people who appreciated its convenient locations and frequent trains, with high numbers of passengers still using the services as recently as the 1950s. The OW&WR line from Stourbridge Junction to Wolverhampton Low Level closed to passengers in 1962, but Dudley remained as a terminus for trains from Walsall on the South Staffordshire Line, Old Hill on the Bumble Hole Line and Birmingham Snow Hill until the Beeching Axe had its effect in 1964 despite of the station's high passenger turnover at the time.
The South Staffordshire Line's uses were complicated, since some trains terminated at Dudley from Lichfield and Walsall, and some continued through to Stourbridge Junction and there are some references to services continuing further afield. Similarly, the same applied with the journey in reverse.
The buildings of Dudley Station remained open for parcels until early 1967, when they were knocked down and replaced by Dudley Freightliner Terminal. It was one of the first of its kind in Britain and larger than that in Birmingham. It finally closed in 1989, and the line passing through Dudley closed to all traffic in 1993. Some of the track remains in place, although as on the whole line much has been stolen for its scrap value. The Freightliner Terminal has recently become an overspill car park for Dudley zoo with a small area earmarked for the proposed Light Rail Innovation Centre of Warwick Manufaturing Group.