Up the Ryecroft Junction

We are standing on the road bridge which takes North Street over the railway. To the immediate left the joint MR/LNWR line from Wolverhampton would have trailed in. Next to the left we have the Cannock branch. The mass of trees between the Cannock and Water Orton line to the right was where the South Staffs line to Brownhills and Lichfield was. Image Kindly supplied by Simon Swain.

Local rail buff Simon Swain has once again been busy with the camera and maps, tracing out the history of the South Staffordshire railway line that used to run from Wychnor near Alrewas to Dudley, but called at Lichfield, Brownhills and Walsall on the way.

Simon has previously sent some wonderful material to the blog, and this is no exception; previously he’s investigated the remnants of the lost Brownhills Railway Station and of the Grove Colliery. Simon’s work is always thoughtful and interesting, and here he raises related questions about the similarly lost Taylor’s Cafe, a gallery of which can be seen here.

The South Staffordshire Line is the focus of much nostalgia, and many (including me) would like to see it reinstated, but in these times of austerity I think it’ll be a good while before that’s a realistic prospect. In the mean time, others like Brian Stringer and the wonderful Back the Track group of activists are trying to get the old line cleared up and opened for cycling and walking, and their work is well worthy of reader’s support – more on that later this week.

In this article, Simon explores where the lost line came into Walsall – Ryecroft Junction, site of the sheds once so beloved of the late, great Jack Haddock, and of a remarkably complex set of junctions, sidings and bridges.

Looking down from the Mill Lane roadbridge onto the trackbed of the South Staffs line stands this lamp post. Image Kindly supplied by Simon Swain.

Thanks to Simon for a great contribution and fascinating exploration – so what do you know? Comment here or mail me – BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com.

Simon Wrote:

Hi Bob,

I decided to go out for a stroll this afternoon seeing as we had 2 dry days in a row and thought I would head for the environs of Ryecroft Junction.  It’s a location that I’ve explored many times over the years and one that never ceases to reveal something new to me. The difference on this occasion was that I had actually consulted the NLS (National Library of Scotland) maps before departing Brownhills so I could familiarise myself with the locations of the railway lines which once dominated the area.

This absolutely gorgeous 1:2,500 mapping of Ryecroft junction (left, obviously) and North Walsall was published in 1884 and now available for the National Library of Scotland Archive – more information on that coming soon. Click for a larger version.

I took a whole set of images and attach here half a dozen of especial interest.  I will be in the area alot over the coming weeks and months as I track the progress of the Chase line electrification.

The bridge carrying Mill Street over the trackbed of the former South Staffordshire line to Brownhills and Lichfield. Image Kindly supplied by Simon Swain.

In other news I managed to locate the zip file of the 2 chain plans for the Aldridge to Brownhills branch.  The bad news here is that I was unable to access the content.  I have dashed an e-mail off to the Midland Railway Society kindly asking if one of their volunteers could scan and send them to me. If not then I will arrange a visit to Derby and do this myself.

This bridge carried Mill Street over the LNWR/MR joint line to Wolverhampton. Image Kindly supplied by Simon Swain.

In other exciting news, the world of social media never ceases to amaze me.  I have a friend on Facebook who has access to the official Midland Railway record books which are all handwritten and document the number of passengers booked, the passenger receipts, goods receipts and staff outlays.  He has kindly scanned and sent excerpts for some Derbyshire stations that were of interest to me.  I have asked whether I could ask a massive favour and see whether he can locate the Staffordshire records and if available send me excerpts for Walsall Wood and Brownhills stations.  Watch this space as if they are available they should prove to be extremely interesting reading.  We are always reading that Brownhills Midland was never a particular success and for most of its life had just 3 trains a day in each direction.  It will be interesting to see just how much money was taken and/or lost… but that’s another story for the blog.

In the meantime I hope that the attached of of interest and I insert the captions for the photos below.

Kind Regards

The Cannock line heads towards Ryecroft Junction. The footbridge has been constructed on the site of the bridge which carried the MR loop line from North Walsall over the line. Image Kindly supplied by Simon Swain.

We are standing on the road bridge which takes North Street over the railway. To the immediate left the joint MR/LNWR line from Wolverhampton would have trailed in. Next to the left we have the Cannock branch. The mass of trees between the Cannock and Water Orton line to the right was where the South Staffs line to Brownhills and Lichfield was.

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5 Responses to Up the Ryecroft Junction

  1. Ian says:

    Hi Bob/Simon
    If you need a copy of the 2 chain map youare referred to please give me a call as I have scanned and copied this line along with several others in the area. Alternatively, pop along to the Chasewater Railway Museum who have a disc of the scanned drawings which I have produced from their delicate scrolls. The Midland Study Centre in Derby, is I am told to be closing in September and access to their good collection of material is therefore uncertain after this date (I hope this will prove to be incoorect – often they are postponed) but we do live in uncertain times.

    Kindest regards
    Ian P

  2. Mary says:

    The map of Rycroft Junction and North Walsall absolutely fascinated me. My parents moved to live with mom’s aunt in Warwick Street in 1945 and we lived there till the houses were compulsory purchased in 1960. It was amazing to be able to pick out our house on the map and also the area round Mill Street where we played near the railway. Thankyou!

  3. david oakley says:

    Hi Bob,
    Fascinating map of Ryecroft Junction from so long ago. I note that in Mill Street a public house is listed. This would be The Royal Exchange, a very old pub, apparently, but known as ‘Deakins’ to local drinkers. I enjoyed many a pint in there during the early ‘50’s with an elderly uncle. My best friend worked in the ‘sheds’ at Ryecroft Junction as a cleaner, the very first step towards his childhood ambition to be an engine driver. Glad to say he succeeded. The Sunday School shown on the map would probably belong to Ryecroft Congregational Church, on the same spot. The Minister during the forties, fifties and beyond was Mr. Simpson, a tall Lancastrian, vigorous beyond his years, a very tall man, who, when seated on his upright bicycle, could ‘look through bedroom windows’ as he rode along. So they said, anyway.

  4. Pingback: A great new bus service to Lichfield starts this summer! | BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog

  5. Graham says:

    Hi Bob,
    Reading the article and looking at the pictures certainly took me back to those far off times. I worked at Ryecroft sheds up until it closed and can remember most of the drivers and firemen most of whom I worked with. It was a lovely place.

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