Railway expert Ian Pell has been in touch again, with great notes and thoughts about not just the railways around Brownhills, but concerning the recent aerial imagery featured here, from Lichfield District Council’s archives.
Ian always has interesting stuff to say, and this is no exception. I thank Ian for his contribution, you just can’t value stuff like this highly enough.
For the interest of Ian (and everyone else) I attach another image that may be of interest at the bottom of this post.
I have been following the aerial photographs with interest as they throw up some intriguing items.
Before I add my comments regarding those, I must add to the July 22 ‘Down the lines’ article. The photograph which you added to my observations is actually the copyright of Frank Shuttleworth. It was taken by Frank on the 6th June 1953. [If this is a problem, I’ll happily remove the image. I always credit sources where I can – Bob] The locomotive is 49198 which is acting as the ‘Up Yard’ shunt engine and appears to have just attached a brakevan to the rear of the departing train on the Up Norton branch. The operating of the line between Norton Junction No.1 and No.3 signal boxes was for many years quite unusual as both the Norton Up and Down branch were worked as ‘through sidings’. The photograph is also a record of the last year that the ‘Up Yard’ shunt was booked for a Super ‘D’ as a new diesel shunt locomotive was based at Ryecroft for this work from the following year. What is also of interest is the variety of traffic, proving that the yard did not only deal with coal traffic from the Norton branch. To the rear of the photograph is the main South Staffs line, moving from Brownhills (north) on the left of the picture to Pelsall (south) on the right of the picture. The line connecting the ‘Down Empties yard’ via the hump to the Down Norton branch is also still in place. This was to be disconnected shortly after this picture was taken.
The photograph has been reproduced several times in various magazines and websites (with or without permission; sometimes with incorrect captions), but whenever I look at it I always find something of interest.
Turning to the aerial photographs, I believe that they represent a very small part of a survey in 1963 which looked at most of Britain. It certainly covered Staffordshire in full, with over 2700 frames being taken. My understanding is that a ‘run’ was carried out in a west to east direction, with the following ‘run’ being taken in the opposite direction. Each frame has a ‘Run’ Number, ‘Film’ Number and ‘sheet’ Number, together with a 9th or 10th June 1963 date. The altitude is also indicated. Some of the frames are slightly blurred such as when the run encountered cloud, and some copies are not as sharp as desired, but at 5,000 odd feet I am being picky.
My attention was drawn on the Norton Pool (Westside) photograph to the wagons on Conduit Colliery sidings at the end of the ex-Midland line. These were either being stored, or in transit to and from “Wembley” at Chasetown. ‘Wembley’ was the nickname of the then NCB workshop, which for rail traffic probably had 18 months or so to go. If you follow the ex-Midland line south of the terminus of the now Chasewater Steam Railway, past Brownhills West Station to a point just above where it crosses Pelsall Lane you can just make out where the line had been recently severed by the quarry working. Like many of the lines which were officially closed, the line was used for some time for wagon storage prior to falling into decay and dereliction.
The two photographs of Brownhills and Shire Oak are in my mind upside down as north is to the bottom of the pictures as shown. The line to Brownhills basin appears to be disused as does the line north of Walsall Wood Colliery towards Brownhills West. The ex-LNWR line from the colliery to Norton Junction was still in use and clearly shows heading west from the colliery.
Finally, a question. Does anyone have a picture of Pelsall Station from the road? The station is well documented from the railway platforms but not from the road side and as such the elevations can only be guesswork. Can anyone you know help.