Station Name: ROTTON PARK ROAD

[Source: Terry Callaghan]


Date opened: 10.8.1874
Location: North-east of Rotton Park Road
Company on opening: Harborne Railway Company operated by London & North Western Railway
Date closed to passengers: 26.11.1934
Date closed completely: 26.11.1934
Company on closing: London Midland & Scottish Railway
Present state: Demolished
County: Staffordshire
OS Grid Ref: SP037868
Date of visit: 14.5.2014 & 29.6.2014

Notes: The Harborne Railway, running for just over two miles was, authorised by an Act of Parliament dated 28 June 1866. It had been part of a larger scheme put before Parliament in the 1866 session with a projected junction with the London & North Western Railway (LNWR) at Monument Lane and a further junction with the Great Western Railway (GWR) at Soho. Simmons (1986) suggests that the original purpose in building the line might have been to retain for Harborne the industry that was migrating to Smethwick in the northern part of the parish where there were a canal, two railways and four stations. The line was to be a through route connecting with the Halesowen and Bromsgrove Branch Railway (HBBR) at Lapal near Halesowen. The only part of the line which was not opposed by the GWR and Birmingham Corporation (City Council) was the section from the LNWR to Harborne. When the Harborne Railway Company (HRC) withdrew the GWR junction at Soho and the extension from Harborne to Halesowen the Bill was passed. The HRC was allowed five years to construct the branch, although construction was painfully slow, and in 1870 the company was granted a three-year extension. A working agreement between the HRC and the LNWR was drawn up in 1873, with the LNWR operating, staffing, maintaining and providing rolling stock, in return for 50 per cent of the gross receipts. The line opened on 10 August 1874 and it enabled the residents of the already established suburb located in the area of Rotton Park Road and Selwyn Road to travel to and from the centre of Birmingham.

The station at Rotton Park Road opened on the same day as the line and was located to the north-west of the road from which it took its name; a ramp provided access to the platform.  Originally there was a single platform and building on the right hand side of the line. The initial service was six trains in each direction on Monday-to-Saturday with three in each direction on Sunday; two of the weekday trains operated as Parliamentary services, although all other services conveyed first, second and third class passengers. The Sunday service was short-lived owing to the residents of Hagley Road complaining about the ‘disturbance of their Sabbath‘.

In order to increase capacity on this suburban route with ever-growing traffic the HRC and LNWR made improvements along the line in 1903. At Rotton Park Road the original single-face platform was adapted into an island platform thus creating a passing loop. Signalling improvements involved the installation of an open ground frame on the platform between the road and the main building; this controlled access to and from the passing loop, so that Rotton Park Road became the intermediate ‘box’ between Harborne Junction and Harborne with electrically operated token machines placed in the offices. The original ramp to reach the station could no longer be used; a rather awkward looking elevated wooden walkway was constructed from the road, leading to a footbridge over the ‘down’ line, and a flight of stairs led down to the platform. In addition to this an entrance was created from the nearby Selwyn Road comprising a set of steps from road level which connected to the wooden walkway via a footpath and a flight of stairs. The somewhat austere single-storey brick building on the platform had a hipped roof, and a flat awning with a deep valance surrounded the building and sheltered the two platform faces. Coupled with the 1903 improvements was the construction of a half-mile long spur from the line on the opposite side of the Rotton Park Road overbridge into the Mitchell & Butler’s Brewery. This was a wise investment by the railway as considerable income would be generated by the spur which would remain active until the branch’s closure.

During the first few years of operation the line was a financial success but this was not to continue. In 1879 the company went into Chancery owing to being petitioned by the rent charge holders with a Receiver being appointed by the Court of Chancery on 26 July of that year. It was not until 31 December 1900 that the company was released from Chancery having paid off all its debts. In the meantime the LNWR had made several abortive attempts to purchase the line outright but was continually rebuffed by the owners. Dividends paid by the company were never high, although during the period 1919 to 1922 a dividend of 3 per cent was paid.

From its initial six trains per day the passenger service had improved by 1895 when Bradshaw shows 19 down workings from Birmingham to Harborne on Monday-to-Friday with 18 on Saturday. There were 20 up services on Monday-to-Friday with 19 on Saturday. To placate the Hagley Road residents there was still no Sunday service. The line enjoyed its most intensive passenger service in the years prior to World War I, the 1910 timetable showing 30 up and down workings on weekdays every hour from 6.45am until 10.45pm. This made the line the busiest suburban route in Birmingham and was a very early example of regular interval working. Many of the residents along the branch used it not only to travel to work in the morning and back in the evening, but the short journey and frequent service enabled them to return home for lunch.

The frequent service continued until the end of World War I when three factors started to affect passenger numbers, although the first two had been in operation for several years. The first was the LNWR’s practice of holding the branch train at the junction with the main line even if an express train was late. This delay was followed by the mandatory ticket inspection stop at Monument Lane station, as New Street was an ‘open’ station. As a result the 15 minute journey from Rotton Park Road to Birmingham would often take more than 20 minutes. The final factor came in the shape of competition from the local electric tram car routes 33 and 34 running along Hagley Road and Icknield Park Road respectively.
 
Up trains July 1922 Destination Down trains July 1922 Destination
5.42am Birmingham New Street 6.46am Harborne
6.26am Birmingham New Street 7.32am Harborne
7.16am Birmingham New Street 10.05am Harborne
7.34am Birmingham New Street 12.20pm Harborne
8.11am Birmingham New Street 12.57pm SX Harborne
8.26am Birmingham New Street 1.00pm SO Harborne
8.39am Birmingham New Street 1.11pm SX Harborne
8.56am Birmingham New Street 1.25pm SX Harborne
9.22am Birmingham New Street 1.37pm SO Harborne
10.39am Birmingham New Street 2.18pm Harborne
12.45pm SX Birmingham New Street 3.20pm SO Harborne
12.58pm SO Birmingham New Street 4.15pm Harborne
1.52pm SX Birmingham New Street 5.00pm SO Harborne
2.00pm SO Birmingham New Street 5.25pm Harborne
2.16pm SX Birmingham New Street 5.50pm SX Harborne
3.01pm Birmingham New Street 6.07pm SX Harborne
4.43pm Birmingham New Street 6.10pm SO Harborne
6.33pm Birmingham New Street 6.31pm SX Harborne
7.26pm Birmingham New Street 7.00pm Harborne
8.22pm Birmingham New Street 7.25pm SX Harborne
9.12pm Birmingham New Street 7.50pm Harborne
10.11pm Birmingham New Street 8.40pm Harborne
    9.40pm Harborne
    10.10pm Harborne
    10.49pm Harborne

The time taken by the trains to reach New Street prompted the travelling public to refer ironically to their service as ‘The Harborne Express’. The HRC fought back against the road competition with a price war, and this continued when, at the Grouping of 1923, the line became property of the London Midland & Scottish Railway (LMS). The LMS reduced prices so much that by the early 1930s a day return from Harborne to Birmingham cost as little as 3d (1.25p). This did not attract as many passengers as the LMS had wished, and in October 1934 notice was given by that passenger services were to be withdrawn. The final train was the crowded 11.08pm Birmingham New Street to Harborne on Saturday 24 November, with official closure two days later on 26 November 1934. Withdrawal of passenger services was uncommon in the pre-World War II era, and it caused considerable comment at the time; however this had no effect.

Following the withdrawal of passenger services the station at Rotton Park Road was demolished and the passing loop removed along with all the associated signalling equipment, and the line reverted to the train staff and ‘single engine in steam’ system of working. The morning, afternoon and evening freight trip workings continued to pass through the site of the station and service the local brewery. The line would be officially closed on 3 November 1963 following the passage of the final pick up freight to collect wagons, the line would be lifted shortly after.

Today there is very little evidence that a station ever existed here. However, the original ramp from Rotton Park Road leads down to the public walkway and cycle path which now occupies the former trackbed. There is some evidence of the platform in the shape of a raised section of earth, but it is unclear if this is spoil moved in the creation of the walkway.

Tickets from Michael Stewart and route map by Alan Young.

Sources:

  • Bradshaw's Railway Guide July 1922
  • A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain - Volume 7 The West Midlands - Rex Christiansen - David St John Thomas Publisher 1991
  • A Century of Railways around Birmingham and the West Midlands - John Boynton - Mid England Books Publisher 1999
  • Railway Passenger Station in Great Britain - A Chronology - Michael Quick - Railway & Canal Historical Society 2009

See also:

Monument Lane 1st, Monument Lane 2nd, Icknield Port Road 1st, Icknield Port Road 2nd, Hagley Road & Harborne


Taken on the final day of passenger operation on 24 November 1934 showing the substantial building and open frame on the platform. The Selwyn Road entrance steps can be seen to the right of the overbridge in the distance.
P
hoto by W A Camwell

The 1890 1:2500 OS map showing the station at Rotton Park Raod in its original form before rebuilding in the early 20th Century.


On the 1904 1:2500 OS map the development of the station can clearly be seen with the platform developed into an island and the walkway from Rotton Park Road.


The 1955 1:2500 OS map shows the station platforms extant 20 years after closure although in reality they were demolished shortly after closure. The triangle created by the building of the brewery branch can be seen to the left of the Rotton Park Road overbridge.

An undated picture showing the track layout through the station, the line to the left was the 1903 addition with the raised walkway being added at the same time.
P
hoto from the John Mann collection

The station seen from the 1903 walkway on 3 May 1929.
P
hoto by C J Williams


Looking towards Birmigham from platform level with a train to Harborne about to depart on 3 May 1929.
Photo by C J Williams


Looking from the raised station entrance through the Rotton Park Road overbridge with the connection to the brewery branch visible through the bridge.The degraded remains of former entrance to the staion can be seen to the right of the bridge.
Photographer unknown reproduced with kind permission from Harborne Library


The view looking towards Harborne on 14 May 2014 from what would have been the platform the original platform ramp is now back in use as the entrance to the public footpath.
Photo by Terry Callaghan

To see more pictures of Rotton Park Road click here

 

 

 

[Source: Terry Callaghan]




Last updated: Monday, 22-May-2017 12:04:12 BST
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