Station Name: BAPTIST END HALT


[Source: Terry Callaghan]


Date opened: 21.8.1905
Location: West of Baptist End Road
Company on opening: Great Western Railway
Date closed to passengers: 15.6.1964
Date closed completely: 15.6.1964
Company on closing: British Railways London Midland Region
Present state: Demolished
County: Staffordshire
OS Grid Ref: SO944888
Date of visit: 28.8.2014
Notes: The West Midlands Railway (WMR) was formed on 14 June 1860 with the union of the Oxford, Worcester & Wolverhampton Railway (OW&WR) the Newport, Abergavenny & Hereford Railway (NA&HR) and the Worcester & Hereford Railway (W&HR).

On 17 July 1862 the WMR Additional Works Act authorised the construction of two branches radiating from Old Hill. The first was to run in a northerly direction to Blowers Green Junction, near Dudley, and connect with the GWR’s Stourbridge Junction to Wolverhampton Low Level line. The second would run south to Halesowen with an end-on connection with the proposed Halesowen & Bromsgrove Branch Railway (HB&BR). On 1 August 1863 the WMR was amalgamated with the GWR: a shrewd move by the GWR as it would deny the LNWR access via Smethwick to Stourbridge and allow direct access to Birmingham. In the 1860s any trains from the Stourbridge direction for Birmingham had to travel via Dudley and reverse at Wolverhampton Low Level, substantially increasing the journey time.

The Old Hill to Blowers Green line, or the ‘Bumble Hole’ line as it was christened, was opened on 1 March 1878 by the GWR. The line became known as the Bumble Hole line due to it passing through an area called Bumble Hole close to Windmill End. Construction of the line had not been easy as the route took in heavily industrialised areas and would have to cross the Dudley Canal near Windmill End. Expenditure on bridges and earthworks to by-pass many of the mining activities was vast and would have probably bankrupted an independent company.

Baptist End Halt was a later addition to the line, opening on 21 August 1905, with the GWR attempting to counter the threat of local omnibuses. The station stood on an embankment directly north-west of Baptist End Road with a large established housing area to the south of the station. Following normal Bradshaw practice, for many years the halt was acknowledged only as a footnote in the public timetable, which between Old Hill and Dudley included only Windmill End (prior to its demotion to a halt) and Dudley (South Side) in the ‘station bank’.

The halt comprised two wooden platforms capable of taking short trains, with a rudimentary waiting shelter being provided on both platforms. The platforms were constructed using old sleepers as supports and decking giving a very rough platform surface and appearance, with the platform shelters being of wooden frame construction clad in corrugated iron with a hipped corrugated iron roof of concave profile (popularly described as a GWR ‘Pagoda’ shelter). The roofs of the original shelters were subsequently replaced with a pitched corrugated iron roof due to extensive corrosion. Access to the platforms was via lengthy ramps either side of the railway over-bridge directly from Baptist End Road. Bradshaw’s July 1922 timetable shows there were 17 down (Old Hill to Dudley) and 20 up services calling at the halts along the line Monday to Saturday with no Sunday service. The timetable also notes the line is operated by ‘Motor Cars of one class only’.

On the opposite side of the Baptist End Road over-bridge was the trailing connection to the Withymoor Basin branch. The branch was authorised under the same Additional Works Act as the line itself, was 67 chains or 1474 yards in length (0.83 mile) and opened on 10 March 1879. A large goods warehouse was provided with ample siding space. The branch was renamed the Netherton branch on 1 August 1921, but continued to be known as the Withymoor branch until closure.



The line was renowned for its poor riding qualities owing to extensive mining activities in the area and the subsidence this caused. Passenger loadings along the line were never high enough to warrant anything more than the provision of a single GWR rail-motor or a Collet/Pannier tank engine and a single coach.

At the time of the Grouping, 1 January 1923, the line came under the control of the GWR and services continued much as they had for the previous 25 years. With nationalisation of the railways on 1 January 1948 the line fell under the control of British Railways Western Region who decided that the halts along it would require rebuilding, so from 1957 through to 1960 the halts from Old Hill High Street to Baptist End, inclusive, were rebuilt. At Baptist End the wooden platform supports and surface were replaced with pre-cast concrete. The waiting shelters were rebuilt with pre-cast concrete supports clad with corrugated iron partially enclosed but giving little protection from the elements; a roof-cum-canopy projected over the platform. Gas lighting was also replaced with electric and totems were attached to the lighting columns, allowing the dilapidated GWR running-in boards to be removed.

A major revision of British Railways regional boundaries took place on 1 January 1963 when the Bumble Hole line was transferred to the London Midland Region (LMR). The ‘Beeching Report’ of March 1963 sounded the death knell for the passenger service with its withdrawal being recommended. As seen on other recently transferred lines in the area, the LMR had no sentimental attachment to former GWR lines. The official proposal to close the line was published on 2 August 1963 and on 30 April 1964 the Secretary of State for Transport gave his consent. The final service was scheduled for Saturday 13 June 1964, a little over a year after the initial recommendation, and the official date of closure was 15 June. Some stations along the line saw as little as one passenger a day. It is quite surprising that the station at Baptist End was little used as it was within easy walking distance from the houses located to the south and was well served in both directions.
 In June 1964, the Wolverhampton Express & Star prepared an obituary of the Bumble Hole line passenger service.

Not many will mourn its passing, except maybe for pangs of nostalgia. It has had its day. But in the past there is no doubt that it provided a greater service for the community.

The paper went on to quote Guard Bishop of the 6.30pm from Dudley.

If we get one passenger on this particular train, that’s as many as we’ll ever get. We may get him twice a week and he usually gets off at Windmill End.

BR (LMR) prepared its own black bordered obituary for the line:-

Following the withdrawal of the passenger services, goods trains continued to use the line. The down turn in canal usage brought on the closure of the Netherton Goods branch on 5 July 1965. The sparse remaining traffic lingered until 1 January 1968 when the line officially closed; the track being lifted shortly after.

Today the location of the station site is easily located as the embankment it stood on is extant, although all trace of the station and access from Baptist End Road have been swept away in the intervening 50 years since closure.

Tickets from Michael Stewart and route map by Alan Young and
Totem from Richard Furness.

Sources:

  • Bradshaw's July 1922 Railway Guide - David & Charles 1985
  • By Rail to Halesowen - Michael Hale & Ned Williams - Michael Hale Publishing 1974
  • Forgotten Railways: Volume 10 The West Midlands - Rex Christiansen - David St John Thomas Publisher 1985
  • A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain - Volume 7 The West Midlands - Rex Christiansen - David St John Thomas Publisher 1995
  • Lost Lines Birmingham & the Black Country - Nigel Welbourn - Ian Allan Publishing - 2002
  • Railway Passenger Station in Great Britain - A ChronologyMichael Quick - Railway & Canal Historical Society 2009

To see stations along the Bumble Hole click on the station name:
Old Hill High Street Halt , Darby End Halt & Windmill End Halt

See also:
Old Hill, Netherton, Blowers Green & Dudley

Looking in the Dudley direction in 1956 with a gleaming GWR/AEC rail-motor running into a rather run down Baptist End halt. To the right of both buildings iron brackets can be made out for the oil lanterns to sit in. The GWR/AEC rail-motor in question is one of a batch introduced between 1935 & 1937 adding both a stylish and practical solution to lightly used lines such as the Bumble Hole.
Photo from the John Mann collection




The 1920 1:2500 scale OS map shows the stations access ramps from either side of the railway
over-bridge on Baptist End Road.

The 1958 1:2500 scale OS plan shows little change in the near 40 year period apart from some additional housing to the north of the station.


Looking south towards Dudley in 1958 with a young Keith Taylor proudly standing on the Dudley bound platform next to a very sleek GWR/AEC rail-car which is bound for Old Hill.
Photo by Keith Taylor's father


Late 1958 saw the rebuilding of the halt with pre-cast concrete platforms and lighting columns, the former oil lighting being replaced with gas. In this picture looking towards Dudley the station is not quite completed as the spigots and lanterns have yet to be fitted.
Copyright photo from Stations UK


The station site looking in the Dudley direction during 1960. A great comparison shot with the first picture on the page clearly showing the improvements made to the station environment after refurbishment.
Photo from the John Mann collection


Another 1960's view, this time looking south towards Old Hill. The signal box controlling the entrance to the Withymoor Basin branch can be seen in the distance.
Photo from the John Mann collection


A wonderful picture from 31 August 1962 shows a Gloucester RCW built Class 122 single car unit approaching the station working an Old Hill to Dudley service. The connection with the Withymoor Basin branch can be seen to the rear of the unit although within 3 years it would be closed.
Photo by Peter Shoesmith


Taken from a similar angle as the previous picture on 28 August 2014. Over 50 years later and it is hard to believe a station or railway ever passed through here.
Photo by Terry Callaghan


Looking north towards Dudley from what was the centre of the trackbed on 28 August 2014; the roofline of the building can be seen in the earlier pictures.
Photo by Terry Callaghan




 

 

 

[Source: Terry Callaghan]




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