On solid ground

Here’s a real find. I recently acquired a couple of railway plans from my favourite map dealer, and bought them blind. I actually thought one was of Walsall Wood, and the other was Brownhills West, due to the drawing titles. When I received them, they were far better than that. These are gems. I’ll post the other one in a couple of days.

These sit well with previous drawings featured of the conduit colliery and Gerald Reece’s wonderful land plans of the Norton Branch.

One of the problems with old drawings is getting them scanned. These were particularly challenging, as they were drawn on cotton vellum paper – a fabric like, thin material that’s incredibly soft and difficult to machine feed. Imagine a drawing printed on a cheesecloth shirt. Thankfully, I found a wonderful, very competent scanning company who did an excellent job.

Today’s drawing is a 1960 British Railways Board plan of mining activity in the Yard Seam under the Norton Branch Railway at Brownhills Common, and shows the railway path above them. This was necessary for the structural and geological engineers to assess the strength of the land beneath the trackbed. If the specialists were unhappy with ground conditions, the British Railways Board could insist on the installation of girders and props in the shafts to provide additional support. This was a serious business, and was enabled under an act of parliament.

Workings in the Yard Seam under Brownhills Common, between Engine Lane and the A5, as recorded in 1960. The scale is 1:1,250, and the plan seems to have been drawn by one M. Fletcher. This shows one layer of workings, with shafts – most likely from the Cathedral Pit. As is the case, north isn’t upwards; the level crossing at Engine Lane is on the left, the A5 Watling Street on the right. Click for a larger version.

You’ll note the plan shows several shafts, progress markers, ‘protection boundaries’ – buffers of non-working to ensure overland stability – and a building near the level crossing, on Engine Lane. I’d really, really like to know what that is. Both myself and [Howmuch?] have been looking for any trace of that on several occasions, but there’s no remnants extant that we can locate.

This is, of corse, all tied in with the ongoing speculation and discussion about mining on the common in general and the origins of Engine Lane itself.

Bear in mind that this is only workings in the Yard Seem, and there were other workings in other seams that aren’t detailed, which would be on other plans. I can’t imagine how hard surveying was in these conditions – a positive warren of old and current workings from multiple pits. Lost shafts, bell pits and infills. Imagine trying to visualise the interactions of all these voids in a time without three-dimensional simulation. An incredible, and somewhat onerous task.

As usual, I’ve created a Google Earth Overlay for you to download, which will also work in current Garmin graphical GPS units. The original seems very accurate, but don’t place too much faith in the geolocation, which I guess would be to about three to four metres. Please don’t use this as a basis for anything technical. Paper stretch, optical distortions and other errors may well make this rather inaccurate in places.

The same plan overlaid in Google Earth. Click for a larger version.

If you want to have a play with this overlay, it can be downloaded at the link below. Instructions on how to use it with Google Earth are in this post – you must have installed the Google Earth application. If you haven’t, go here to get a copy. As usual, the overlay is hosted at box.

Engine Lane 1960 mining plan overlay – 9 megabytes

My thanks to the boy [Howmuch?] who did no small amount of running around for me on this one. I really must buy him more beer…

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7 Responses to On solid ground

  1. Clive says:

    Nice maps Bob, thank you.

  2. David Evans says:

    HI Bob
    thanks for these maps..they look very interesting indeed,,and also for the overlay!

  3. jimbo says:

    The building near the level crossing is interesting I’ve metal detected the site and the finds were all modern after seeing the photo you posted from 1963 its evident that some kind of landscaping has taken place since then. I’ve read this part of the Slough arm was private canal and the arm was extended in 3 phases could this building have been a toll house at some point? Apparently there was a canal toll house at Catshill junction.

  4. JeepBoy says:

    Recently a friend who was having a clear-out passed on to me a 1962 OS map [1:2500] showing Plan SK0204 & SK0304 [to the extreme NE is Clayhanger Lane and to SW Wolverhampton Rd Pelsall] the railway tracks are shown in some detail [inc the old Mineral Railway]. I have no real use for the map – so if anyone out there would like it – just let me know !

  5. Pingback: The western front | BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog

  6. Edwina says:

    How absolutely fascinating, don’t understand much of the technical stuff, but finding it all enthralling just the same. Keep it simple lads as I’m hanging onto your every words and loving all the adventures you’re getting into…

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