A really great thing about keeping this blog for such a long period of time now is knowing the breadth and diversity of the knowledge present amongst the readership – and for matters on rail and infrastructure history, Ian Pell is the expert (although he always protests to the country!)
Following my posting of the 1947 map here last Sunday that caused so much interest, Ian sent me a couple of articles on the rail aspect of the map. I include it again below for reference, but you can read the original article and excellent comment thread here.
In this piece, Ian discusses mapping and the local railway, a line that was never built, and comments on the suggested explosives store.
I’m hugely indebted to Ian for this. If you have anything to add, please do comment here or mail me at BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com.
The date for the original OS map being 1938 is significant in that this series does not always be fully mapped from previous editions. This is either the result of censorship as a result of the impending war or because the resources on the ground were not sufficient to map in detail what had changed. The OS clearly had more important areas to be mapping at that time although a degree of normality was equally wished to be maintained.
The lack of any detail, or in some cases even acknowledgement of any existence, of key installations such as ports, military bases, etc:- certainly was not uncommon and many railway locations for the 1939 series just show an outline and no detail. Many of the “interesting” railway locations only became understood after the end of the “cold war”, although some that were not shown on say 1970 UK maps were mapped on Soviet maps of the time in some detail!!!
The Pelsall Lane site is somewhat easier and I attach an 1850’s map of the area. It is indeed a railway line leading to a colliery. This line is one of a number which developed in the area previous to the existence of the Norton Branch and which had disappeared by the time of its construction.
The map shows appropriately where Norton Junction was to be later developed at the point marked ‘C’. This would also be the point from which the Norton Branch would be started. The line to the north of the South Staffs line (it is NOT the Norton Branch), like the two others on either side of the proposed Walsall Wood Branch, was soon to disappear and without this map we would only be left to speculate as to their existence. The Walsall Wood branch is shown only as a proposed line. This was the original proposal which was not built, the line was later constructed on a similar, if slightly modified, course. The colliery working served by the line heading north to the east of the South Staffs is that referred to the post ‘Slip, sliding away’, one of my previous articles relating to this area. This line had been removed by the time the Walsall Wood Branch was built and I would suggest that the spoil was from the 1850’s mining activity in that area. I think we need to review the earlier OS maps to see if the buildings pre-date say 1900 which would give a feel as to whether the buildings were more likely associated with the 1850 activities or later usage.
Detonators for the railway came from central Railway Company stores and it would be most unusual for off-site storage. It would also be interesting to know if the railway were aware if explosives were kept there due to the proximity of the railway and passing trains! That’s not to say it’s not possible.
I believe that this is the first time that these lines have been uncovered from the mists of time and it shows that maps that pre-date the 1880s OS while more difficult to track down can offer even greater insights into the past.
There are a series of canal construction maps for the ‘Curly Wyrley’ which would I’m sure would be even more intriguing. If some knows their whereabouts…