Pleck - Round Oak
The following photos show scenes on the section of line between Pleck Jct and Round Oak. The line closed in March 1993, and the photos are arranged in a "before and after" format. Most of the "before" photos were taken around 1988-1993, in the last few years before closure. The first set of "after" shots were taken circa 2004-2006, around a decade after closure. In many cases it turned out that there was a limited window of opportunity in which to take these "after closure" shots. It's often the case that vegetation eventually takes over to such an extent that a meaningful picture is no longer available. A shot with nothing in view other than scrub or trees which shows no sign of railway infrastructure, or even the alignment, is of little value.
However in 2017 some vegetation clearance and track removal work commenced at various locations south of Wednesbury. This was done to facilitate surveying work in preparation for the eventual use of the trackbed for trams. This clearance work opened up a number of spots for photographs once more, although it also involved the removal of the track, leaving only the alignment itself, plus bridges and tunnels.
The locations are arranged in geographical sequence, starting at the northern end of the line and working south. Apologies in advance if you find the later pictures depressing.
Between Bescot Curve Jct and Pleck Jct
- March 1991: 47320 accelerates away from Pleck Jct on the direct line to Wednesbury. The train is 6T50 Lawley St - Round Oak and the time is 09:01 on Thursday 21st March 1991. The load is steel coil on Freightliner flats. This traffic was imported through one of the East Anglian ports and reached Lawley St on a Freightliner service before being tripped to Round Oak via 6T50. During its last few years very little traffic used the lines between Pleck Jct and Bescot Curve Jct, so getting a photograph in good light was hard work.
- April 2004: In 2004 this location was the least changed of all the views included here. Someone's had it away with the telegraph pole, but that's about all. The post for signal WL45 still stands, just visible behind the small tree on the right.
- April 2015: The track here was relaid in 2013 to form a run-round loop for coal trains to and from Rugeley Power Station, saving them from having to run-round in the loops at Bescot. However it was autumn 2014 before trains started to use this facility. Regular coal trains to Rugeley ceased in February 2016, rendering the Up Dudley Siding - as the new facility was named - redundant. Before that happened a couple of railtours visited the line, like this one in April 2015.
Wood Green (Wednesbury)
- August 1992: 47051 storms away from Bescot Curve Jct with a 6Z04 empty steel train at 17:58 on Thursday 6th August 1992. Behind the Duff in this Cardiff-bound special is 37274, which had brought the train into Bescot earlier that afternoon. Bescot Curve Jct is just on the far side of the M6 motorway, and the locos have just come off the viaduct at Wood Green. Just visible to the right is the Drop Forgings, probably closed by this time.
- August 2004: The (nearer) down line is completely hidden under vegetation, but the up line remains visible. The Drop Forgings have been demolished, and all that remains is rubble. In 2016 a large Lidl Distribution Centre was built on this site.
Ridding Lane (Wednesbury)
- May 1989: 47205 trundles through Wednesbury with the 6M72 Gloucester - Cliffe Vale china-clay at 09:35 on Monday 22nd May 1989. The china clay emanates from Cornwall and the midweek train started at St Blazey (Par). However the Friday train recessed at Gloucester in the early hours of Saturday, and re-started from there on Monday morning. Sadly this long-standing traffic flow is not what it was. Daily trains of ten or eleven wagons no longer run, by the 2010s it was down to a once-weekly service, albeit usually formed of about eighteen wagons.
- April 2004: This later shot is from a narrower angle due to trees on the left. The posts for two of Wednesbury's colour light signals are still visible through the vegetation.
- July 2017: No shot available, the trackbed is covered in scrub and mature trees, as high or higher than the road bridge.
Potters Lane (Wednesbury)
- May 1993: 31415 and 31178 depart from the Exchange Sidings at Wednesbury on Friday 19th March 1993 - the last day of normal operations on the line.
- April 2004: Apart from Potters Lane itself about the only thing which appears in both these shots is the lamp post in the centre of the frame. The new bridge was constructed after the line closed and carries the Midland Metro over the South Staffs alignment. The disused railway goes under the left-hand span and the road vehicle access to the Metro depot goes under the right-hand span. I find this to be a particularly depressing comparison. The new bridge is rather uninspiring, and the fenced and neglected railway land isn't exactly pretty. The fly-tipping was a terrible advert for the town, and at the time this picture was taken there was a lot more rubbish dumped on the trackbed behind the camera.
- July 2017: This is one of the locations that benefited from vegetation removal in 2017. Amongst the changes since 2004 are the growth of that silver birch sapling into a full-sized tree, and the replacement of the wire fence by the ubiquitous palisade. The track over the level crossing has also been removed and the road re-surfaced. A couple of things that have survived are the post for the level-crossing warning lights on the left, and the lamp post which is now visible again since the trees were cut back.
Brunswick Sidings (Wednesbury)
- January 1991: Wednesbury signalbox was specially opened on Sunday 13th January 1991 to receive a number of spoil trains from worksites in the Aldridge and Sutton Park areas. Amongst the arrivals were 20139 and 20072, at this time part of the Bescot "weekend only" fleet.
- April 2004: This view was taken from a slightly different position about 100 yards away from the original spot. The camera is now higher up and further to the left than the original view. This was necessary because the footbridge from which the earlier photo was taken no longer exists, and the land it stood on is now part of the Metro depot. This alternative spot also has the benefit of including the statue. The Metro maintenance shed is the brown and white building and the position of the locomotives is roughly where the blue building stands. The statue depicts Sleipnir, Odin's eight-legged horse in Norse mythology. The relevance comes from the fact that Wednesbury is a contraction of "Woden's Borough", and Woden is the Germanic name for Odin.
- July 2017: The 2004 shot is no longer repeatable, and this illustrates why. By the time this photo was taken the hill on which the statue stands was almost wholly covered in bushes and scrub. The top could only be reached by one route, and that needed care to get through the brambles. Even standing on the plinth nothing was visible in any direction, and as can be seen the statue itself was slowly disappearing into the vegetation.
Junction with Princes End branch (Wednesbury)
- August 1988: 37712 storms away from Wednesbury with the 6V69 steel empties to Cardiff in this shot, taken at 18.46 on Tuesday 9th August 1988.
- May 2006: This shot was taken from a position slightly to the right and further forward. The original spot was just about accessible, although the perimeter fence of the Metro depot is very close - but the view from that spot was obstructed by scrub. As a consequence this view is a slightly wider one. The new bridge carrying the Metro is seen here from the south-west side.
- July 2017: This was one of several locations where, in 2017, the vegetation was cleared and the track taken up. This not only made available a shot long since lost to vegetation, but also made it possible to take it from the same spot used in 1988, although the absence of track now made it harder to precisely identify that spot. At this stage the clearance work extended from Potters Lane for about 300 yards to the point at which the trackbed crosses the River Tame. Beyond that the track was still in situ as far as Golds Hill.
- July 1990: 47312 is seen on the climb from Wednesbury to Great Bridge with the 6V70 Cliffe Vale - St Blazey china-clay empties. This photo was taken at 18:21 on Friday 13th July 1990, and a long lens was used to crop out the electricity pylons which sit either side of the line here.
- May 2004: The view from Golds Hill foot crossing hadn't changed much by this stage, apart from the additional vegetation. The church on the left is St Bartholomew's, Wednesbury. Cashmore's scrapyard was on the other side of the running lines, just behind the camera. Access was provided by a trailing connection from the yard into the down line (i.e. facing Wednesbury). Where this connection crossed the up line there was a single-slip which allowed access into the scrapyard from the Wednesbury direction. This pointwork was still extant, as was the gate to the scrapyard - although the scrapyard itself was long gone by this date.
- July 2017: This is a slightly wider view than earlier ones, so the electricity pylons and cables can be seen here. Not much has changed on the trackbed; the track was still in situ for about 700 yards down the hill, and the vegetation only just covered the rails. The bridge in the foreground carries the railway over the Tame Valley canal. The real changes here are to the sides of the railway, where tree growth on the left hides most of Wednesbury town centre, including the church spires. On the right the old factories have been replaced by newer ones, and a great big fence erected.
Eagle Crossing (Great Bridge)
- February 1991: 37905 approaches Eagle Crossing with a featherweight 6V43 Wednesbury - Margam. The date was Monday 11th February 1991 and the time was 10.28, which meant that V43 was running a little late. Just visible to the left of the loco is Ocker Hill OCGT power station. The long-term presence of a power station on this site explains the large number of electricity pylons in the area.
- April 2004: Encroaching vegetation means that this shot had to be taken from a narrower angle with a wider lens. The power station had gone, to be replaced by anonymous warehousing, some of which is just visible through the bushes. All the pylons are still in place though.
- July 2017: Vegetation growth has eliminated all of the view back towards Golds Hill and Wednesbury, but the main change here was the recent clearance of the trackbed. This extended from Eagle Lane, off which the picture was taken, for about 750 yards to a point just short of Golds Hill crossing. This included the removal of the pointwork that led into Cashmore's scrapyard. Roughly where Cashmore's gate used to be there's now a gate from the industrial estate providing road vehicle access onto the trackbed. However the workmen pictured here, who were engaged in surveying work, had accessed the trackbed from Eagle Lane itself.
New Road (Great Bridge)
- July 1991: 20169 and 20210 approach Great Bridge at 08:56 on Friday 5th July 1991 with 6T43 Round Oak - Washwood Heath. This train was a fill-in turn for the locos off the Boston - Round Oak steel train and they returned to Round Oak late-morning before working 6E73 to Boston in the afternoon. This was the very last day that Class 20s worked this diagram, 37s took over from Monday 8th.
- May 2005: This shot with a wider lens and illustrates how many of the factories in this area have been demolished in favour of housing. At this time even more new housing was being built to the south of the line (to the left in this photo) on a site previously occupied by a motor dealer and a supermarket distribution depot. Dudley Castle is just visible on top of the distant hill in both this and the original shot.
- July 2017: Not much had changed here since 2005. The track was still present, albeit now covered by vegetation. The fact that trees have grown on the embankments is no surprise, and they obscure most of the houses on the right of the line as well as the view of the houses at Horseley Heath and the distant Dudley Castle (both behind the tree on the left-hand embankment). More surprisingly some of the larger trees nearer the trackbed in 2005 had gone by the time this photo was taken.
- July 1988: 50018 trundles the 9M01 Gloucester - Bescot departmental service through Great Bridge at 10:35 on Tuesday 12th July 1988. This rather wonderful train, together with the 9V01 return working, was booked a Class 50 for a couple of years in the late 1980s. Its main failing was that it only ran on Tuesdays, significantly reducing the chances of photographing it in good light. This was one of my more successful efforts, but even this one isn't totally lit. The Horseley Road overbridge is half-way between Dudley Port and Great Bridge. The later view was taken in May 2005 and shows the new housing which replaced the factories on the north side of the line. The railway was still remarkably free of vegetation at this location, but starting to look out of place in the post-industrial landscape.
- May 2005: The Horseley Road overbridge is in Horseley Heath, about half-way between Dudley Port and Great Bridge (both places are in Tipton). This view from the bridge shows the new housing which replaced the factories on the north side of the line. The railway was still remarkably free of vegetation at this location, but starting to look out of place in the post-industrial landscape.
- July 2017: The houses in the background were almost new when the 2005 shot was taken, and had weathered in a bit by 2017. However the inevitable tree growth means that they're hidden from this spot. The track was still present here, but now hidden under vegetation.
- October 1988: 31458 is seen on the descent from Dudley towards Dudley Port at 10:00 on Monday 31st October 1988. I didn't manage to identify this train, but it was an S&T special, probably heading for Great Bridge which was being used as a base for "Project Mercury" at the time. This spot is where the railway goes over the Old Main line of the Birmingham Canal (it goes under the New Main line at Dudley Port).
- April 2004: This view shows a marked lack of vegetation compared with some other locations. However a fence now crossed the line here - one of seven or eight which did so at various points on the route by this time.
- July 2017: This view is taken a few yards back from the earlier shots, making the bridge over the canal more visible. The fence was still present, albeit no longer serving any useful function (even in 2005 there were some panels missing and it was easily crossed). As ever vegetation was hiding the houses beyond the line, but other than that it remained a largely unchanged scene with the track still extant and uncovered.
Blowers Green (Dudley)
- August 1988: 47146 wouldn't have been taxed on the climb towards Blowers Green by the modest load on this 6T42 Brierley Hill - Bescot trip. It was 11:21 on Tuesday 9th August 1988.
- April 2004: This shot from the Blowers Green Road bridge shows the most southerly of the four new bridges built since the line closed. This one carries the Dudley Southern Bypass and was built in 1999. The left-hand span crosses the trackbed, the right-hand span the access road to an industrial estate. The main reference point to the earlier shot are the fir trees to the right, although not all have survived. The track was missing in this spot, removed during the roadworks and never replaced. Rails were still in place to the north of Blowers Green Road however.
Pedmore Road (Dudley)
- June 1989: 37207 drifts downhill from Dudley with 9V01, the Bescot - Gloucester departmental service. This shot was taken on Tuesday 13th June 1989, and the shunter behind the train engine is 08646 returning from Crewe Works to the Western Region - it was allocated to Landore at this time I think. Just above the brakevan is Parkhead Viaduct, and the distant spire belongs to St Thomas in Dudley ("Top Church" to the locals, it's at the top of the High St). Thanks to Dave Gommersall for providing the number of the shunting loco and the date of this shot.
- April 2004: This shot was taken from a position slightly to the left of the original, and with a wider lens, due to vegetation encroachment. Most of the track is missing at this spot, and at the time the vegetation was as bad as anywhere on the line. However it was still possible to see Dudley town centre.
- July 2017: Taken from near enough the exact same spot as the 2004 shot. As in so many places uncontrolled vegetation had eliminated any sort of view. Dudley town centre, one of the highest locations in the Black Country, was no longer visible, resulting in a "could be anywhere" photo. You can at least still see the path of the trackbed, still trackless here of course.
Pedmore Road (Dudley)
- July 1992: 56044 heads away from Round Oak at 10:12 on Tuesday 28th July 1992. The train is 6M12 Cardiff - Bescot, which would almost certainly have dropped steel wire at Brierley Hill. The two wagons still attached are empty scrap carriers, probably bound for the scrapyard at Moxley.
- April 2004: This shot was taken from a much narrower angle due to the inevitable increase in vegetation. This is the southern limit of the closed section of line. At this time the northbound (down) track was still available as a headshunt for Round Oak trains, terminating in a set of buffers just out of sight under the bridge. The track was shiny to within a hundred yards of the bridge.
- July 2017: No shot available due to further tree growth on the left (upside). The headshunt and stop-block were still extant, although none of the visible track was shiny on my visit.
|Location||Miles and chains||Miles (decimal)||Miles and chains||Miles (decimal)|
|Bescot Curve Jct||1-37||1.46||0-26||0.33|