Station Name: THE HAWTHORNS

[Source: Terry Callaghan]


Date opened: 25.12.1931
Location: Three platforms west of Halfords Lane,
one platform east of Halfords Lane
Company on opening: Great Western Railway
Date closed to passengers: 27.4.1968 (last used no offical closure date)
Date closed completely: 27.4.1968 (last used no offical closure date)
Company on closing: British Railways London Midland Region
Present state: Demolished
County: Staffordshire
OS Grid Ref: SP023898
Date of visit: 31.1.16 & 5.11.16

Notes: The construction of a railway north from Birmingham Snow Hill to Priestfield, where it would meet the Oxford, Worcester & Wolverhampton Railway (OW&WR) was authorised on 3 August 1846 to the Birmingham, Wolverhampton & Dudley Railway (BW&DR). The BW&DR favoured leasing the line to the Great Western Railway (GWR) from the offset as it planned the line to be constructed to the GWR’s broad gauge (7ft 0¼in) rather than what was, increasingly, the standard gauge (4ft 8½in). Negotiations with the GWR in regard to leasing and running the line started on 12 November 1846, only months after the railway company had been incorporated, and by Act of Parliament of 31 August 1848 the BW&DR was purchased by the GWR prior to any construction taking place. Construction of the line was started by the GWR during 1851 and by June 1852 the original Act was due to lapse and the GWR successfully applied to Parliament for a 3½-year extension to the original Act. The GWR had attempted not to construct the line at all preferring to negotiate with the London & North Western Railway (LNWR) to gain running rights along the Stour Valley line; negotiations failed as the, ever suspicious, LNWR was attempting to delay the GWR reaching its ultimate goal, Liverpool. 

Construction was complete by the summer of 1854 and the line was duly inspected by Captain Sir Douglas Strutt-Galton in August. It is not recorded whether or not the inspection was a success, but, the following day a tubular bridge over the turnpike road at Winson Green collapsed following the passage of a contractor’s locomotive working a ballast train. Isambard Kingdom Brunel visited the line the following day and a thorough inspection of the bridges along the route with John Mc Clean, the resident engineer, resulted in five of them being condemned. The opening of the line had been set for 1 September 1854 but this was now unachievable as remedial work on the structures was to take some months. Following the strengthening of the five bridges the line was again inspected and passed fit for traffic, opening on 14 November 1854.

West Bromwich Strollers F.C. was founded in 1878 by workers from George Salter's Spring Works in West Bromwich, becoming West Bromwich Albion in 1880. The club moved to a new ground, The Hawthorns close to the GWR line from Snow Hill to Wolverhampton, in 1900. The closest railway station to the ground was the LNWR’s Smethwick on the Stour Valley line, however from the 1920s, with travel on match days increasing the club was keen to have a station constructed on the GW line. The club’s fortunes had taken a turn for the worse in the 1926-27 season when it was relegated to the Second Division and the GWR therefore declined the club’s request to construct a station. In the 1929-30 season the club started to look for promotion back to the top flight and was duly promoted at the end of the 1930-31 season, winning the F.A. Cup as well. This turn-around in fortunes had made the GWR rethink construction of a station to serve the ground and on 25 December 1931 a basic station opened. The station site, being at the junction of the main line with the 1867 branch to Old Hill, required the construction a four platform affair. Three platforms, up and down main line along with the up branch, were constructed west of Halfords Lane with a single platform to the east serving the down line to Old Hill. Three entrances were provided, all from Halfords Lane: the up Birmingham platform was reached by a footpath north of the railway bridge and the down Wolverhampton and up branch platform by a footpath west of the southern end of the railway bridge. The platforms connected by a wide footbridge. Crudely designed shelters of no architectural merit covered the street-level entrances. The single platform, to the east of the railway bridge on the southern end, had a footpath leading to it. The platforms were constructed from old sleepers forming the face with compacted cinders for the surface. Lighting was not initially provided although the GWR latterly erected lampposts to which oil-fired Tilley lamps could be attached when necessary. The station did not appear in the company timetables and was used on match days only with service trains making an additional stop and football specials calling. Opening day would see West Bromwich play local rivals Birmingham City and the station would welcome 17 specials run to and from it conveying hundreds of fans,;West Bromwich would go on to win the game 2-1. The station has sometimes been listed in The Station Handbook with the suffix Halt attached and in 1938 and 1956 as ‘The Hawthorns West Bromwich Platform’; station signage was in the form of a single name board on each platform.

The station led an unremarkable life and was last used on 27 April 1968, with an official closure date unavailable. It is to be noted that closure was after the LMR took responsibility for the line and was doing its level best to reduce traffic along it in an attempt to close it as a whole. Passenger trains would continue to run through the site until withdrawal on 4 March 1972, although freight continued to pass through the site serving the scrap yard and cement terminal at Handsworth until 1994. The West Midlands Passenger Transport Authority (WMPTA) had been working since the late 1980s to restore passenger services north from Snow Hill through to Stourbridge utilising the branch through Old Hill and planned for a new station to be built on the site of the former single platform. A modern station opened on 25 September 1995 with two platforms on the site with a Metro stop opened on 31 May 1999 with the commencement of services on Line 1 of the Midland Metro system.

Today no trace remains of the original station with just the footpath to the site of the up Birmingham platform still in use; over 400,000 passenger journeys were recorded to and from the station in 2014/15.

To see the other stations on the Birmingham Snow Hill - Chester General line click on the station name: Birmingham Snow Hill, Hockley, Winson Green,
Handsworth
,
West Bromwich, Swan Village, Wednesbury Central,
Bradley & Moxley
,
Bilston, Priestfield, Wolverhampton Low Level, Dunstall Park, Stafford Road, New Hadley Halt, Admaston Halt, Walcot, Upton Magna,
Abbey Foregate
,
Shrewsbury S&C, Leaton, Oldwoods Halt, Baschurch, Stanwardine Halt, Haughton Halt, Rednal & West Felton, Whittington Low Level, Weston Rhyn, Whitehurst Halt, Rhosymedre, Rhosymedre Halt, Wynville Halt, Rhos, Johnstown & Hafod, Rhosrobin Halt, Gresford, Rossett,
Pulford, Balderton
and Saltney


Opening day on 25 December 1931 saw 2-6-2T 4575 Class loco head the first train through the station which is arriving here on the up platform located on the Old Hill branch. The loco has been decorated for the ribbon-breaking ceremony and the whole scene is surveyed by spectators, not only on the platform but on the embankment to the left.


The 1937 1:2500 OS map shows the three platforms on the Wolverhampton side of Halfords Lane.
Click here to see a large version of the map.

The 1937 1:2500 OS map showing the single platform located on the down relief lines on the Birmingham side of Halfords Lane.

The OS 1:1500 plan shows the dismantled section towards Wolverhampton, which were the former main passenger lines with the relief passenger lines curving away in the Langley Green direction. These lines were retained for access to a local scrap yard.

An aerial view in 1950 of the three platforms west of Halfords Lane. The wide footbridge from the up branch and the down Wolverhampton platform can clearly be seen along with the entrance structure from the footpath.
Photo reproduced with kind permission from Simmons Aerofilms
Click here to see a larger image


The entrance from Halfords Lane to the single down branch platform. This structure and a similar shelter over the entrance to the branch and down Wolverhampton platform were the only structures that the railway company saw fit to build.
Photo from the Tony Harden collection

A general view south from the up Birmingham platform. The basic materials of construction used for the platforms is quite evident.
Photo from the Tony Harden collection


The view north in 1966 showing the single, down Old Hill direction, platform with a Brush Type 4 (latterly Class 47) locomotive heading in the Birmingham direction with, what looks to be a Birkenhead Woodside to London Paddington express. The single platform is in remarkable condition in comparison to the three platforms, west of the Halfords Lane overbridge, in the distance.
Photo by John Evans

Class 37 37 029 ambles through the derelict single down branch platform on 28 September 1990. The loco is hauling Bescot 'T48' trip taking empty Blue Circle cement tanks from Handsworth back to Bescot Yard (via Langley Green Yard). T48 also served the coppers metals scapyard at Handsworth and the Albright & Wilson chemical works on the former Oldbury branch. The train is heading along what was the down branch (Old Hill direction) line with a short section of the up branch in situ, next to the locomotive. The platform ramp up to the Halfords Lane exit is still discernible.
Photo by P Dorney from the Ivan Stewart collection on Flickr

Looking in the Wolverhampton direction on 2 July 1996 at the rebuilt station, a BREL Class 150/1 No.150 107 is standing at platform 1 with a Stourbridge-bound service. The specification for high quality stations to be provided along the ‘Jewellery Line’ is evident with lifts provided to all platforms along with an aesthetically pleasing structure.
Photo by Alan Young


Looking towards Birmingham on 31 January 2016 with a London Midland Class 172 No.172 218 departing for Whitlocks End. The station is still well maintained and fully staffed and certainly a vast improvement on the original one.
Photo by Robert Callaghan


Looking east along the former main line alignment, now occupied by the Midlands Metro. The footpath, left, is roughly in the same alignment as the original station; the Birmingham-bound platform (main) would have been to the left with the Wolverhampton platform to the right
Photo by Terry Callaghan
Click here to see a comparison



To see more pictures of The Hawthorns click here


 

 

 

[Source: Terry Callaghan]




Last updated: Tuesday, 24-Jan-2017 11:17:14 GMT
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