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 "after" shots were taken circa 2004, around a decade after closure. In many cases it turned out that there was a limited window of opportunity in which to take "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 could have been taken anywhere, and is pointless.

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.

Before After Details
47320 near Pleck Jct Between Pleck Jct and Bescot Curve Jct 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. The later shot reveals this location to be 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. 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, and even then only one or two each day were running round here, with the remainder still using the loops at Bescot.
47051 near Bescot Curve Jct Wood Green 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. The later shot was taken in the summer of 2004. The (nearer) down line is completely hidden under vegetation, but the up line remains visible. In the background the Drop Forgings have been demolished, and all that remains is rubble.
47205 at Wednesbury Ridding Lane, Wednesbury 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 slowly dying as the Staffordshire potteries close down. Daily trains of ten or eleven wagons no longer run, and by 2007 it was down to a twice-weekly service, running as a portion off the Burngullow - Irvine service. This picture is taken from the other side of Ridding Lane bridge. The later shot was taken in April 2004, 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.
31415 and 31178 at Wednesbury Potters Lane, Wednesbury 31415 and 31178 depart from the Exchange Sidings at Wednesbury on Friday 19th March 1993 - the last day of normal operations on the line. 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 is 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.
20072 and 20139 in the sidings at Wednesbury Sleipnir and Midland Metro depot, Wednesbury 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. The later view is taken from a different position, about 100 yards away from a spot which is higher up and further to the left. This is partly because the location from which the earlier photo was taken is now part of the Metro depot, and partly to include the statue. The Metro maintenance shed is the brown and white building and the position of the locomotives is roughly where the blue building now 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.
37712 departs from Wednesbury Wednesbury 37712 storms away from Wednesbury with the 6V69 steel empties to Cardiff in this shot which was taken at 18.46 on Tuesday 9th August 1988. The later shot was taken in May 2006 from a position slightly to the right and further forward. The original spot is 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 the later view is a wider one. The new bridge carrying the Metro is seen here from the south-west side.
47312 at Golds Hill Golds Hill 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. The view from Golds Hill foot crossing hadn't changed much in the later shot, 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 in 2004, as was the gate to the scrapyard - although the scrapyard itself was long gone by then.
37905 at Eagle Crossing Eagle Crossing 37905 approaches Eagle Crossing (Great Bridge) 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. Encroaching vegetation means that the later shot had to be taken from a narrower angle with a wider lens. The power station has now gone, to be replaced by anonymous warehousing, some of which is just visible through the bushes. All the pylons are still in place though.
20169 and 20210 at Great Bridge Great Bridge 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. The later shot was taken on 17th May 2005 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 shots.
50018 near Dudley Port Horseley Road, Tipton 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 on 17th 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.
31458 near Dudley Port Coneygree, Tipton 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). The later view shows a marked lack of vegetation compared with some other locations. However a fence now crosses the line here - one of seven or eight which do so at various points on the route.
37197 at Blowers Green Blowers Green 37197 clambers up the last few yards to Dudley tunnel with 6M12 Cardiff - Wednesbury. This shot was taken at 16:50 on Monday 22nd June 1990. The location is New Road, Dudley - at the site of the former Blowers Green station. At the time this photograph was taken there were a significant number of wheel burns on the northbound track right under the bridge here, which is no great surprise given the gradient. Just visible in the later shot is the retaining wall constructed to support the Dudley Southern Bypass, which runs parallel to the railway for about half a mile here.
47146 near Blowers Green Blowers Green Road, Dudley 47146 wouldn't have been taxed on the climb towards Blower's Green by the modest load on this 6T42 Brierley Hill - Bescot trip. It was 11:21 on Tuesday 9th August 1988. The later shot from the Blower's Green Road bridge shows a wider perspective, as is often necessary nowadays. The problem here is not encroaching vegetation, but 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 an access road to an industrial estate). All the track is missing in this spot, it was removed during the roadworks and never replaced. Rails are still in place to the north of Blower's Green Road however.
37207 at Dudley Pedmore Road, Dudley 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 town centre ("Top Church" to the locals - it's at the top of the High St). The later shot is taken from a position slightly to the left of the original, and with a wider lens. Most of the track is missing at this spot, and the vegetation was as bad as anywhere on the line. Thanks to Dave Gommersall for providing the number of the shunting loco and the date of the earlier shot.
56044 near Round Oak North Pedmore Road, Dudley 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. This is the view looking south from Pedmore Road. The later 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. 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.

Mileage table
Location Miles and chains Miles (decimal) Miles and chains Miles (decimal)
Walsall 0-00 0.00    
Pleck Jct 0-65 0.81    
    Bescot Jct     0-00 0.00
Bescot Curve Jct 1-37 1.46 0-26 0.33
Wednesbury 3-03 3.04 1-72 1.90
Great Bridge 4-06 4.08 2-75 2.94
Dudley 6-29 6.36 5-18 5.23
Round Oak 9-05 9.06 7-74 7.93
Kingswinford Jct 10-16 10.20 9-05 9.06
Stourbridge Jct 12-46 12.58 11-35 11.44