A new image of the SLS May 1959 rail tour – but it is really at the Conduit Colliery? Image spotted on Six Bells Junction by Simon Swain, sourced from the John Debens Collection.
More here today that goes to show the Venn diagram of history forever curiously overlaps – Ian pell has waded in once more on the subject of the notorious May 1959 rail tour up the Walsall Wood line to the Conduit Colliery – from which a few pictures have emerged over the years and was raised here again last week by Simon Swain with a great new picture.
Ian, local rail expert and longtime friend and contributor to the Brownhills Blog of many brilliant and informative articles has spotted something curious about last week’s photo, which may also be of relevance to the Harpers bus enthusiasts.
It’s the rail thing – Conduit or is it further round the bend?
What a fascinating and intriguing new photograph has been unearthed of the SLS special of May 1959. Thanks Simon for drawing it to our attention and Six Bells Junction for adding it to their Railtour notes of the event.
The photograph shows the special at buffer stops, and is captioned as being ‘at Conduit Colliery’ (Jerome’s), Norton Canes. After looking at the photograph for some time I was puzzling as to how the No.2 end of the train, i.e.:- the end with the not quite correct headcode and the ‘SLS special’ headboard, which was at the southern end of the train, could end up with this end at the buffers. Surely, if the No.1 end of the train was the north end this would be the end at the buffers at Jerome’s? This appears to be borne out by the Ian Clarke photo at Conduit Colliery Sidings on the return leg and the other photographs by John Debens on the return trip at Walsall Wood and Aldridge. This leads us into an area of speculation that the final destination was not Conduit Colliery sidings (as I initially thought – see ‘Bending Conduit’), or Conduit Colliery as per the caption, but Coppice Colliery at Five Ways! Unfortunately, I only have a little video footage of this location shot by Ivo Peters, and so I apologise if I am off the mark, but sticking my neck out a long way I would suggest that the special is actually in the colliery yard at Coppice, with the Harper Bros. bus depot in the rear left of the photograph. To get to Coppice the train would have had to reverse up the Five Ways branch from Conduit, hence the No.2 end being at the buffer stops.
If this was able to be confirmed, it would indeed be the tour that reached the ‘other parts of the system’, and would have meant travelling over the very tightly curved section from Conduit Colliery sidings to Conduit Colliery, and the NCB section from the exchange sidings to the colliery at Coppice. It would be (I stand to be corrected) the only special to have traversed the Five Ways branch and the connection between the LNWR and Midland lines at Norton Canes.
The Six Bells Junction website shows the booked times for the tour, with very tight margins at all the stops. It begs the question as to whether the itinery was changed and the Five Ways section added? The times also do not give any stops for Conduit Colliery sdgs or Walsall Wood, which again gives rise as to whether the timings were changed.
SLS special 30th May 1959 Ryecroft MR avoiding line. Photo by M.Mensing, image supplied by Ian Pell.
To add to the fleshing out of the tour it was the Stephenson Locomotive Society’s 50th Anniversary Railtour around Birmingham and the West Midlands. It was split into two sections, the later being formed of two three –car Birmingham built Metro-Cammell DMUs. They travelled from Birmingham New Street via the Soho loop, Bescot, Walsall and the north Walsall line as far as Bushbury No.1. The 2 DMUs then ran via Wolverhampton High level and the North Walsall line to Aldridge, before undertaking the Walsall Wood branch trip. They were photographed by Michael Mensing heading eastwards for Aldridge along the ex-MR avoiding line and crossing the Walsall – Rugeley line at Ryecroft. The front end of the train shows the split headcode and “SLS special” headboard.
So, if any one can confirm that timber was stored in the colliery yard at Coppice or indeed that the background buildings are those of Harper Bros. it would go a long way towards solving the rather intriguing question of where this photograph was taken and prove or otherwise, that the tour did reach Coppice Colliery. Now that would be a turn up for the books!
Whatever, the outcome it always amazes me of the buried treasure that still surfaces from time to time to make us reassess our assumptions of ‘the facts’ from over 50 years ago.
Ian never ceases to stun me with his knowledge and deduction. My hat is doffed. Thanks so much.
Please, if anyone has anything to add, you’re welcome. Comment here or mail me: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com.