Up and under


I bet Aer Reg will remember this: what I think must be one of the few remnants of the station on the common. This gate opens at an oblique to Chester Road, and once provided access to the facility as shown on Ian’s map below.

Yet again I’m indebted to local rail expert and historian Ian Pell, who’s brought his considerable expertise to the question of the Chester Road railway bridge on Brownhills Common, and raised an interesting question about the nature of the bridge itself.

This is in specific reply to the young David Evans’ enquiry, and follows on from other recent local rail material to be featured here, of which there is much more to come.

Thanks to Ian for yet another authoritative and beautifully written contribution, and as vera, if you have anything to add, please do – comment here of mail me: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Thanks.

Ian wrote:

Hi All

Below is part of the 2 chain maps produced for the Walsall Wood Branch around 1923.


Image supplied by Ian Pell. Click for a larger version.

The map clearly shows the proximity of the station’s platforms to the abutments for the Chester Road Bridge and therefore the need for the railway to be as ‘flat’ as possible for sighting purposes. The map appears to imply that the bridge was constructed as shown in its current form from the beginning; however both 1882 and 1887 OS maps show a road overbridge. Possibly as a result of subsidence this appears to have been replaced by 1902, as this edition of the OS shows the form as in the above map. It is also possible that due to the ground condition when replaced, a similar situation which arose at Bridgeman Street in Walsall resulted. It is also a possibility that the initial idea of a road overbridge was not undertaken and that the OS just copied information supplied to them by the railway company prior to the line’s opening.

Untitled 9

Well bugger me – in all my years staring at this map, I never noticed that. 1884 1:10,000 Ordnance Survey map showing the Chester Road bridge as a road overbridge, not underbridge as we know now. My personal opinion is that this is a mapping error when considering the embankment. Image from National Library of Scotland archive.

The line to Brownhills West was opened to goods traffic by the Midland Railway on 1st April 1882. The goods and mineral only section further north was opened on 1st November 1882 to Cannock Chase Sidings. The later information has only recently come to light from Midland Railway sources. This seems to imply that the railway from Conduit Colliery Sidings Junction across the causeway to the sidings at Cannock Chase Colliery were initially in Midland Railway ownership and built by the Midland Railway before at some stage becoming part of the colliery lines. Any thoughts on this would be greatly appreciated. Certainly, at some time prior to 1923 this section of track appears to have changed ownership if that is the case as the Sectional Appendix of the period shows the line commencing from Conduit Colliery Sidings?

The map also clearly illustrates the footpath between Chester Road and Watling Street.

Sorry to be so verbose, but hope of some help and interest.

Kind Regards


Bridgeman Street looking North. Image kindly supplied by Ian Pell, original source BR.


Bridgeman Street looking South. Image kindly supplied by Ian Pell, original source BR. Note the hole in the brickwork on the right hand side – just a nice size for a Class 25.

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8 Responses to Up and under

  1. Pedro says:

    On the picture of Bridgeman Street looking North, there is an advert for Ansells’ Ale, but what was this bottled beer?

  2. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    A huge thankyou to Ian!. the 1923 map,is intriguing..Just after D in Chester Road is an odd marking..I wonder what it is…and above O in Road is a round feature..is this a collapsed former bell pit..and below T in Chester there are thick straight black lines..drains?
    What an amazing map..what an amazing part of the railway and its surrounding topography
    Kind regards

  3. Ian Pell says:

    Hi All
    The poster refers to “Ansell’s Spotlight Ale”. This was produced from around 1950 onwards as a bottled Pale Ale or LIght Bitter with an OG of approximately 1038.3. A bottle would cost you all of 10d. In 1957 it was described as a “bitter of distinction”.
    David, one of the uses of these maps was to determine and plot land ownership adjacent to the lines by the railway company. Often ownership was denoted on the map as well as a schedule being drawn up. In the case of the Walsall Wood branch I only have the maps and these lack the ownership details. The letters “A” to “F” are used to denote a parcel of land and “41” refers to the owner of the highway.
    I would agree that a former bell pit is indicated and the thick black line is in fact a hatched land culvert.
    Many of these maps were also beautifully hand coloured and often they form a continuous role out of an entire line, say for example Birmingham to Wolverhampton via the Stour Valley..
    Some of these “scrolls” can be found at Chasewater Railway’s museum in their archives.

  4. Ian Pell says:

    Regarding the overbridge – note the level data on the 1884 OS where a datum clearly shows on the bridge and on either side of it.

  5. Ian Pell says:

    Have a look at “Bananas to Walsall – Never a dull moment” post 8/5/2016, both of the other posters are detailed.

  6. aerreg says:

    hi david re your remark what is the round land mark on the left hand side going to ward the sun its the old bosted union refered to in the bonkies thanks so mutch all of you for the memories you

    revive yes i walked many times along the black pad to albuts road can i set you another quiz betwee the top of albuts road and bettys lane when i was a lad was a bolder lying in a ditch which was suposidley a small meatierite many years ago i had an official enquiry as to its history one i could not answer so i wonder as talking point was was it just a rock or where did it go ive often wundered god bless

  7. Clive says:

    Nice one Ian.

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