The following tables show details of trains running through Wednesbury in the second half of 1976. They're included partly as a comparison to show how the traffic levels and locomotive types changed between 1976 and 1993 when the line finally closed; and partly because they're interesting in their own right. The information comes from a signalbox train register, and for reasons which are explained below I've selected blocks of data which correspond to the shifts of a particular signalman.
The register from which this data comes shows the headcodes of all passing trains, but as a rule the origin or destination of trains isn't recorded. However there are often clues which help work out that information. The headcodes themselves tell us something about the destination for many trains, but not for local trip workings which all carry the letter T (e.g. 8T26) irrespective of their destination. There's a "Line" column in the register which shows the route that the train took. Better still the signalmen would sometimes write the destination in the "Remarks" column, which is extremely helpful in retrospect. Even more helpful was the fact that one of the regular signalmen recorded the loco numbers of all trains, and it's this man's shifts which I've used. As you'd expect the proximity and importance of the marshalling yards at Bescot meant that most of the trains running to and from the north were coming and going from there - especially the trip workings. Finally my own local knowledge means that I can remember some of the traffic patterns, plus the details for a few of the headcodes referred to here.
Before looking at the detail it's worth laying out some background information. By 1976 there were no passenger trains running through Wednesbury. Those on the Dudley - Walsall line were withdrawn in 1964, and the Birmingham Snow Hill - Wolverhampton Low Level service finished in 1972. So in 1976 all the lines through Wednesbury were freight-only. The branch through Princes End to Tipton was still open - it didn't close until early 1981. At Tipton both the north and southbound connections to the Stour Valley line were open. A few trains were still using the south-facing chord to reach Albion Oil Depot, but most were using the north-facing connection to reach Spring Vale steelworks and Wolverhampton Steel Terminal. Also open at this time was the route to Wolverhampton Steel Terminal via Priestfield on the old GWR low-level route (now used by the Midland Metro). In the other direction a couple of miles of the old GWR route was still in use to serve the coal depot at Swan Village (West Bromwich). All this made Wednesbury a three-way junction, as well as being a significant traffic target in its own right.
With lines heading off in four different directions it's interesting to note that in each case the signalling arrangements were different. In the northbound direction Wednesbury worked as a fringe box to Walsall PSB (sited at Pleck Jct), and the line was operated using track circuit blocks (TCB). On the Dudley line the next box south was Eagle Crossing (Great Bridge). Conventional absolute block signalling was used between Wednesbury and Eagle Crossing. The Princes End branch was single-line between Wednesbury and Princes End, where it became double to Tipton Curve Jct. Electric token block working was used on the single-line stretch.
In late 1976 Wednesbury box was open continuously from 06:00 on Monday to 06:00 Saturday, and additionally over the weekend if the need arose. Walsall PSB was open continuously of course, and Eagle Crossing was open as per Wednesbury. Princes End was open for the morning and afternoon shifts, but closed at night. Wednesbury, Eagle Crossing and Princes End all controlled level crossings, and as a result none of them could be "switched out". The roads in question were Potters Lane, Eagle Lane, and Upper Church Lane. All three boxes have long since disappeared, and barely any trace of them remains.
Finally it's worth noting that "Down" trains ran northbound (towards Bescot/Walsall), and "Up" trains were heading south (from Bescot/Walsall). Up and Down trains are recorded in separate tables in the register, but I've combined them into one table to give a better idea of the interval between trains.
|Trains through Wednesbury on the morning of Tuesday 28th September 1976.
I chose this shift because it was worked by the signalman who recorded loco numbers, and also because of the loco which worked 6V53.
|Statistics for this shift...
Movements: There were 30 movements in 8 hours, which is just under 4 movements per hour on average. 23 of them were freight trains, and the remaining 7 were light-engines. The longest interval between trains was the 54 mins between 13:00 and 13:54. It seems to have gone a little quiet at lunchtime, but apart from this trains were passing fairly regularly and the longest gaps were about 25-30 minutes.
Trips: No fewer than seven different trip diagrams visited or passed through Wednesbury in this eight hour period, some of them showing up twice or more as you'd expect for local workings. The trip numbers involved were: T20 T25 T26 T29 T30 T37 and T58.
Locomotives: 18 different locomotives appeared, from 9 different classes. The distribution of those locos was: 2x20 1x24 4x25 1x31 2x37 2x45 3x46 2x47 and 1x52. In addition there was the (possible) steam loco, and there would have been two Class 08s shunting at Wednesbury (08674 was one of them this week).
|6M39||06.20||37183||This is the Cardiff Tidal - Soho Pool oil train. Soho Pool was in the Winson Green area of Birmingham, and by this time was reached
via a spur from the Perry Barr - Soho Jct line.
Other entries in the register reveal that this was a solid diagram for a Landore Class 37. Class 31 and 37 locos were much less common in the Black Country in 1976 than they would be in later years. At this time Classes 25, 45, 46 and 47 still dominated the local freight scene. If 31s or 37s appeared they were usually intruders from the Eastern or Western Regions working out-and-back diagrams. They'd generally head straight back home with the same crew.
This train was booked for a Hymek, and got one, until 1972.
|8T29||06.28||47554||The trip notice shows T29 leaving Bescot at 05:55, bound for Brierley Hill. It was also booked a Class 25, like many of the local trip workings at this time. It was relatively unusual to find a loco fitted with electric train heat out on a freight at this time, but 47554 was a local engine, being allocated to Bescot.|
|6V53||06.46||D1071||A Western on the china-clay. I've shown it as D1071 because that's how the signalman noted it, although by this time it was plain
1071 officially. 6V53 was the Stoke - St Blazey clay empties, and in the early 1970s it was booked for a Western as many people will
remember. What's unusual here is that this is a very late appearance, probably one of the last half-dozen or so on this train. On this
date there were only 21 Westerns left in traffic (the full set of withdrawal dates can be found
here). Three more were withdrawn in October, seven
in November, four in December, two in January, and the final five went at the end of February 1977. 1071 was one of the December
To put this working into context 6V53 was a no-show on Wednesday 29th, it was 47026 on Thursday 30th, and 46006 on Friday 1st October. Clearly Westerns were no longer turning up regularly, and probably hadn't been so for some time. However a 1970s railway photo book includes a shot of 6V53 at Bristol on Monday 4th October. 1065 was in charge that day, so Westerns were still appearing occasionally in autumn '76.
The signalman who noted the loco numbers was next on mornings during the week commencing Monday 18th October. That week 6V53 was a no-show on Monday 18th, it was 46006 on Tuesday 19th, 1015 on Wednesday 20th, 46006 again on Thursday 21st, and 1013 on Friday 22nd. Two different Westerns that week, something that's unlikely to have happened again.
The week starting Monday 8th November produced 46003, 46017, 46025, 47090 and 45026. No Westerns to be seen at all - no great surprise.
6V53 was a no-show on Monday 29th November, and then produced 47493, 47146, 47493 and 47441 for the remainder of the week. Quite an unusual run of 47s for this train, but once again no Westerns.
The week commencing Monday 20th December produced 46012, no-show on the Tuesday (the up line was blocked at Eagle Crossing due to flooding, so it was probably diverted via Soho), 47190, 46002 and then nothing on Friday 23rd when it probably didn't run at all due to the Christmas holiday.
The last week in this register started on Monday 10th January 1977. Our man was on mornings that week, and 6V53 produced 46016, 47061, 46016, 47061 for Monday to Thursday. Interestingly the register shows an 8Z53 on Friday 14th, and as the loco was 46016 we can safely assume this was a re-coded 6V53. There's a clear two-day cycle in the loco diagrams at this point, but unsurprisingly no sign of a Western.
Photo of D1049 Western Monarch leaving Bescot on 6V53. Date unknown, but probably 1975 or early 1976. The Western swapped trains with an electric locomotive at Bescot, and the northbound service was coded 6M55.
|0M83||07.04||46018||This is the loco off 6M83 Llandeilo Jct - Great Bridge, a block steel train. No doubt the loco is heading for Bescot.|
|0T20||07.12||25272||A minor puzzle here. This is the first entry for either T20 or 25272 on Tuesday 28th, and it actually says " Exchange to Up Sdgs". T20 started at Wolverhampton Holding Sidings, but the trip notice shows it running light to Bescot via Portobello, and then working traffic to Wolverhampton Steel Terminal via Priestfield. It should have been at Wednesbury from 07:05-07:25 on this leg. In the event it looks like it's run from Wolverhampton to Wednesbury via Priestfield, ending up at Wednesbury at roughly the right time. It next appears in the Wednesbury register at 09:32, and my guess is that it did a round trip to Wolverhampton Steel Terminal via Priestfield as this is what it was booked to do between 07:25 and 08:45.|
|8T30||07.40||20139+20004||These 20s were heading to Wolverhampton New Depot via Princes End. The signalman noted the destination in the register as "WTN
N DPT". New Depot is another name for what's now called Wolverhampton Steel Terminal. It's interesting to note that in this
register the three regular signalmen each described it in a different way. One used "Wtn New Depot" or more often a diminutive
form such as "Wtn N Dpt"; the second man preferred the minimalist "ND"; and the third bloke used "Wton S T"
or some variation thereof.
The trip notice shows T30 booked for a pair of 20s, but suggests that during the morning it should be working coal traffic. Not on this day by the look of it.
|8M77||07.54||46039||This was a mixed freight from Severn Tunnel Jct to Bescot. The loco would return south on a similar working
a couple of hours later, which makes it a prime candidate to be an out-and-back working for a Gloucester traincrew.
Interestingly 8M77 was booked to stop and detach traffic at Brierley Hill on the way past. Not what you'd really expect in the 1970s. It would be more usual for such traffic to get tripped back from Bescot, especially with the number of trip workings available at the time.
|8G87||07.58||45044||A Wellingborough - Spring Vale iron ore train, routed via Princes End. Another one where the signalman noted the destination in the register. This train could also run to Croes Newydd (Wrexham) if required, in which case the headcode would be 8J87 and the destination would be Brymbo steelworks.|
|0T37||08.24||25281||This loco arrived off the Princes End branch. This entry contains the remark "Van propelled to Exchange". Evidently the loco had arrived with a brake-van in tow, and propelled it into the Exchange Sidings. T37 was an engineer's trip based at Wolverhampton, and may have come from there to start its day's work.|
|8T37||08.53||25281||The same loco works forward with a train from Wednesbury Exchange Sidings, maybe to Bescot.|
|8T26||08.59||47531||A trip freight to Wednesbury Exchange Sidings, no doubt from Bescot. And a second Bescot-allocated 47/4 working a trip booked for a Class 25. The trip notice shows two Bescot - Spring Vale workings in the morning, but on this day it looks like the first of them ran to Wednesbury instead.|
|6V80||09.12-09.15||37183||The Landore 37 heads home on the Soho Pool - Cardiff empties. It wasn't immediately obvious why this train was checked at Wednesbury,
but closer inspection of the register reveals a "blocking-back" indication (bell code 2-4) sent from Eagle Crossing at 08.53.
The corresponding train-out-of-section wasn't received until 09.14. It would therefore seem that there was some shunting going on at
Great Bridge which meant that 6V80 had to be checked at Wednesbury.
Other entries in the register show that both 6M39 and the balancing 6V80 were running a bit late on this day. Perhaps 1-1½ hours late by the look of it.
|8Z36||09.24||46033||Another train bound for Spring Vale via Princes End. The "Z" headcode indicates a special working.|
|0T20||09.32||25272||After returning (I think) from Wolverhampton Steel Terminal T20 departs light engine, almost certainly to Bescot. The trip notice suggests it should have departed at 09:35, so it's remarkably close to time.|
|0T26||09.44||47531||45 minutes after arriving 47531 heads back north light engine. Once again Bescot is the most likely destination.|
|6F05||09.51||45044||The Peak returns on the iron ore empties.|
|8T29||10.04-10.22||47554||On its return north 47554 stopped at Wednesbury to attach traffic in the Exchange Sidings. The trip notice had it booked to pass Wednesbury on its way back to Bescot at 10:00.|
|8V61||10.24||46039||This is a mixed freight from Bescot to Severn Tunnel Jct. Although the destination wasn't noted against this entry, it does appear
on other days.
Other entries in the register reveal that this train occasionally ran as a Class 7 (as did the other mixed freights bound for the WR). It usually appeared at Wednesbury in the two-hour window between 10.30-12.30, but could be even earlier or later than that. Nowadays freight trains tend to run closer to their booked time, unless there's been a problem.
|0T58||10.38||24057||Light-engine from the Dudley direction, no doubt heading to Bescot. The trip notice suggests this should
have been a Kidderminster - Bescot train, with stops at all shacks bar Wednesbury. But there was no traffic on this day it would seem. T58
was based at Stourbridge, which explains why its first appearance of the day is from the south, and its last appearance takes it back south.
Class 24s were once quite common at Wednesbury, but by this date there were only about 10 or 11 of them still left in traffic. Despite that they still appeared regularly in the Bescot area. 24057 was back at Wednesbury on Thursday 30th (T37), and also on Friday 30th (T25). Later entries show 24047 on Monday 4th October (T69). 24057 again on Wednesday 6th October (T69). 24047 turned up again on the evening of Friday 8th October (T58), and 24057 again in the early hours of Saturday 9th (T27).
24047 was reluctant to disappear, and appeared again on Wednesday 13th October (T58). However a new one in the form of 24087 showed up the next day on T20. Incredibly Friday 15th October produced no fewer than three separate Class 24s at Wednesbury, and all in the afternoon shift. 24087 was on T20, 24081 was on T69, and 24133 was on T32. There are plenty of similar workings later in the register.
|8M65||10.40-10.55||37114||The second 37 of the day. 8M65 was a Tyne Yard - Brierley Hill train, and conveyed a mixed load rather than being the block steel train
I originally imagined it to be. The train was booked to stop at Wednesbury to detach traffic, and that's exactly what it did on this
occasion when wagons were left in the Up Sidings. In fact it wasn't unusual for this train to terminate at Wednesbury.
This train was regularly hauled by a 37, although not always from a north-east depot. 37114 was a March engine at this time, as was 37037 which worked 8M65 on Wednesday 20th October. However Friday 22nd produced 37090 (Healey Mills or Thornaby), and Tuesday 9th November 37216 (Gateshead). Look hard enough and you'll always find an aberration, and so it was on Friday 12th November when 31293+31276 arrived at Wednesbury with 8M65.
The best find for this train was Wednesday 3rd November. We've no loco details because the wrong signalman was on mornings that week, but the Up line entry for 8M65 shows that it arrived Wednesbury's home signal at 11.05. It appears that the train was due to terminate at Wednesbury. However there's an entry in the Down line table which shows the bell code 6 (Obstruction Danger) and the comment "Sent to Eagle Xing at 1135. 8M65 derailed in Sdgs. Rear portion of train foul of Main Line. W'bury GF restored and working correctly at 1135. No 22B points disconnected and clipped to release lever 22. Wbury GF released 1200 restored 1210." The corresponding 2-1 (Obstruction Removed) was sent to Eagle Crossing at 12.10.
There's an 0Z98 light-engine shown as arriving from Great Bridge at 10.58, and departing north at 11.28. My guess is therefore that 8M65 was allowed into Wednesbury after this loco had passed, as the times would fit. Evidently while running into the sidings 8M65 has come off the road with the back-end still fouling at least the Down line. The next movement was 8T30 which arrived Wednesbury at 11.30, and was allowed up the Princes End branch at 11.55. It was hotly pursued by 8T20 which passed Wednesbury at 12.05, having been queued behind T30. All was certainly back to normal within the hour as 6V06 went south towards Great Bridge at 12.10 and 6M81 came north on the main line at 12.28. It's hard not to wonder how long an episode like this may have taken to sort out in 2005.
|8T26||11.03||47531||47531 does its second trip of the day, this time bound for Spring Vale via Princes End. The booked working was 09:50 off Bescot, so it's an hour late on that timing.|
|8T20||11.12||25262+25272||Having departed at 09.32 25272 re-appears an hour and a half later paired up with 25262. Having attached another engine it can only
have been to Bescot of course, perhaps that the return load warranted extra power? Impossible to know at this remove.
The route for this train says "To Exchange", and there are no times in the "Advance Section" columns so the train wasn't offered to another box. On first glance this implies that the train terminated at Wednesbury, but it didn't. The destination is shown as "Woln N Dep", indicating that the train was bound for Wolverhampton New Depot via Priestfield. This is consistent with the trip notice, which has it at Wednesbury from 10:35 to 10:55.
They should have been back at Wednesbury at 12:00, before heading off light back to Wolverhampton Holding Sidings for the end of the morning shift, but they didn't return in this slot, so perhaps there was no traffic.
|0M65||11.19||37114||This loco returned north incredibly quickly. As it had only been away for 24 minutes it could have gone no further south than Great Bridge. It would almost certainly have been a foreign crew, and it looks as if they were keen to get home.|
|8T25||11.27||45055||Another Peak off the Princes End branch, and another Type 4 on a trip booked for a Type 2. The trip notice suggests it should have been en-route from Wednesfield Road via Wolverhampton station, conveying traffic to and from Bloomfield Wagon Works en route. The destination would have been Bescot.|
|9X21||11.36||25263||A puzzle this. It was a northbound train, and the "9X" code signifies some sort of special load, as does the 2-1-6 bell
code. However it was only when I transcribed this entry that I noticed the contents of the remarks column. Like all the entries made
by this signalman the writing is small and sometimes a little unclear, but what it appears to say is: 25263 . Judge for yourself
by looking at a scan of this entry. As you can see the "4" is ambiguous - it could be a
"7", but looking at his other 7s I doubt it.
On reflection I'm sure that it's a "4" and I strongly suspect that the load was steam loco 4566, a 2-6-2 "Small Prairie" tank loco based on the Severn Valley Railway. Evidently 4566 was recovered from Barry scrapyard in 1970, and first steamed again at the SVR in 1975. It seems conceivable that it was temporarily moved in 1976 for some reason, and 9X21 could easily have originated at Bewdley or Kidderminster.
A few days later, at 15.12 on the afternoon of Friday 1st October, a 9X40 special passed Wednesbury heading south. The signalman noted "BRIDGE NORTH" (sic) in the register. Despite the spelling there's no doubt that this is a reference to Bridgnorth. Could it have been 4566 returning home? Maybe, although it would only have been away for three days, which is pretty quick if it was moved for some sort of maintenance work.
Postscript: Information kindly provided by Ian Pell confirms my surmise that steam loco 4566 was indeed conveyed in this train, which was seen heading south past Saltley and reported in a contemporary magazine (Mid Rail, Volume 1, Number 10, Nov 1976). It was probably en-route to Tyseley for tyre-turning.
|8M12||12.02-12.30||31211||This is a Scunthorpe - Wolverhampton steel train, routed via Princes End. Traffic was detached in the Exchange Sidings during the Wednesbury stop. According to my 1976 Shedbook 31211 was transferred from March to Immingham sometime during 1976 or early 1977, and I'd guess it was probably an Immingham loco by this time given the origin of the train.|
|8T58||12.28||24057||24057 ran north, light-engine, at 10.38, and it now returns south with a train two hours later. It would have been to Bescot, as per the
trip notice, but is an hour or so late heading south. Further entries in the register show 8T58 arriving again
from the south at 16.14, and pausing at Wednesbury until 16.47 on its second visit to Bescot. Later still there was an 0T58 which arrived
from Bescot at 18.37, and departed south as 6T58 at 18.54. Apart from running late it was pretty much doing the scheduled moves.
T58 was always a Derby-built Type 2 during late 1976, and 24057 wasn't the only 24 which appeared. Amongst the other locos recorded were: 25143 on Friday 1st October; 24047 on Friday 8th October; 25253 on Tuesday 12th October; 24047 again on Wednesday 13th October; 25294 on Friday 15th October; and 25143 again on Monday 18th October.
|8V82||12.55||45055||This loco had worked north off the Princes End branch at 11.27, and 90 minutes later it now heads south on a train bound for the
Western Region. Evidently the Type 4 has been replaced on the T25 diagram.
8V82 was a Bescot - Gloucester mixed freight. It's only two and a half hours behind the Severn Tunnel bound 8V61, but in this era there were three or four mixed freights each day on the principal routes such as Bescot - Gloucester and Bescot - Toton. 8V82 normally appeared at Wednesbury between 13.00 and 15.00, so like 8V61 it was a bit early on this day.
If 8V61 ran late and 8V82 ran early they could end up pretty close together. In fact that happened the very next day, Wednesday 29th September. On the 29th a late-running 8V61 passed Wednesbury at 12.47 behind the very rateable 37188 (Landore). 8V82 was only half-an-hour behind, and passed at 13.19 behind 47043. Even 47043 isn't as mundane as it first appears, it was an Immingham loco in 1976.
Further research reveals that 37188 had come north on Wednesday 29th via 6M39, which was in fact 47367+37188. 6M39 was quite a bit late (07.06 through Wednesbury) so it could be that the 37 had failed. If it had then it had been fixed fairly promptly. Anyway it was packed off back to the WR sharpish via 8V61, and 47452 was provided for 6V80 which passed Wednesbury well late at 10.33.
|8T26||13.00||47531||Returning from Spring Vale via Princes End, and no doubt bound for Bescot.|
|6T30||13.54||This last train is another minor puzzle, last seen heading towards Wolverhampton at 07:40, it now appears from the Bescot direction. We have no loco number because it was accepted at 13:44 by the morning shift signalman, but his relief had taken over by the time the train arrived at 13:54. This train is heading south towards Dudley, and the trip notice suggests it would have been working empties from Heath Town to Round Oak, via Portobello Jct and a run-round at Pleck Jct.|
|Trains through Wednesbury on the night of Tuesday 5th October 1976.
I chose this shift because two trains required the banking engine, and a Class 40 also appeared. Like all the shifts I've used it was worked by the signalman who recorded the loco numbers.
On Monday 4th and Tuesday 5th October one of the regular signalmen was evidently away, and the other two men worked 12-hour shifts to cover his absence. This is the last of those four 12-hour shifts.
|Statistics for this shift...
Movements: There were 33 movements in 12 hours, which is just under 3 movements per hour on average. I've omitted 08356 from that count, as the loco was only shunting and didn't actually go anywhere. That's not bad for an evening/night turn, but it was somewhat inflated compared with a normal night. A couple of specials increased the count, as did the frequent appearance of the banking loco.
20 movements were freight trains, and the remaining 13 were light-engines. The longest interval between trains was the 94 minutes between 22.50 and 00.34. The evening portion of this shift produced 17 movements in four hours (18.00-22.00), and the overnight portion produced 16 movements in eight hours (22.00-06.00).
Trips: Six different trip diagrams visited or passed through Wednesbury in this twelve hour period, although only the banker turned up more than once. The trip numbers involved were: T06 T20 T25 T57 T60 and T69.
Locomotives: 25 different locomotives appeared, from 7 different classes. The distribution of those locos was: 8x20 7x25 1x37 1x40 3x45 2x46 and 3x47. In addition there was the Wednesbury pilot engine (08356). The number of locos is higher than normal due to the specials, and also because of the 20s. I wouldn't have been surprised by the seven 25s which appeared in this period, but four different pairs of 20s is a little unusual I think.
|4Z43||18.08||47289||The first train of this shift provides an immediate puzzle. The 4Z43 headcode implies a special train, and in 1976 a Class 4 train
almost always meant a Freightliner. However this train was a regular runner, and the normal headcode was 4E43. It was the return
working of 6M60 which came south through Wednesbury mid-afternoon, and went up the Princes End branch to Wolverhampton Steel Terminal.
It often stopped at Wednesbury to detach traffic, and it's a block steel train from Lackenby.
The return 4E43 working came off the branch around tea-time, and would also attach or detach traffic at Wednesbury on occasions. Now and then the loco would return light engine, and 4E43 would start from Wednesbury. That's what happened on 5th October, and 0E43 had arrived at 17.05 via Princes End.
6M60/4E43 was an air-braked train, and as you might expect it produced Thornaby engines - normally 47s. 47286, 47287, 47288, 47361 and 47363 also appeared in the period of this register. Perhaps Thornaby had run out of 47s in early November because they kicked out 37167 on Thursday 4th and the seriously rateable 31152+31153 the next day. Thornaby had less then 20 Class 31s, and they were rare in the West Midlands.
|8T20||18.12-18.27||25325||This train started from Wednesbury Exchange Sidings, and was destined for Wolverhampton New Depot (Steel Terminal) via Princes End.
That's pretty much consistent with the trip notice.
Earlier in the afternoon 8T20 had left Wednesbury at 16.44 for Bescot. The loco returned as 0T20, arriving back at Wednesbury at 17.30.
|0T25||18.13||25252||This light-engine headed south towards Great Bridge, doubtless from Bescot. The trip notice shows this one as finishing by 17:00, so there are no clues there as to where it was going.|
|0S50||18.18||47214||This is the light-engine from Bescot to Dudley to work the 4S50 Dudley - Glasgow Freightliner. 4S50 is a train that anyone familiar with the Black Country railway scene in the 1970s will be well acquainted. The Dudley - Bescot leg was basically a Bescot throwout, and almost any diesel ever found at Bescot was used on this diagram at one time or another. A Class 47 was pretty mundane power, but fairly typical.|
|8Z96||18.27-19.21||20092+20128||This was a special train bound for Spring Vale via Princes End. The driver rang in from a signal post telephone and asked for the
banking loco. The train was then allowed into Wednesbury at 18.35, where it waited for the banker. The banker was requested at 18.30,
and arrived at 19.18 from the Great Bridge direction (see below). 8Z96 then set off fairly promptly up the hill to Princes End.
This pair of 20s were allocated to Tinsley, and in general these Eastern Region locos were much less common in the West Midlands than the Toton based examples. They weren't exactly rare, just much less common. A higher proportion of Tinsley locos would have appeared at Wednesbury than at Bescot. This was because Toton examples dominated the mixed freights and trip workings found at Bescot, whereas Tinsley 20s (just like Eastern Region 31s and 37s) would be more likely to appear on block trains from further afield. These latter services would miss Bescot, using the direct line from Walsall to Wednesbury to reach the various steelworks and steel terminals dotted around the Black Country.
|8M68||18.32-19.43||20142+20195||Right behind 8Z96 was this Scunthorpe - Wolverhampton New Depot train. It was also routed via Princes End, and it also needed the
Unlike the previous pair these were Toton locomotives. Toton 20s on a train to or from the Eastern Region sounds a little odd, but it happened again later the same night. Further research on 8M68 showed that it was something of a "Y" service and could terminate anywhere in the Black Country. Without much effort I found it running to Great Bridge and Wednesbury, in addition to Wolverhampton.
As for locos it seemed to get anything. The first few entries I chanced upon were 37137 (Tinsley) on Monday 22nd November, on which date it ran to Wolverhampton. On Wednesday 24th it ran to Great Bridge with 47032 (Laira), after which the 47 was co-opted as a banker to assist 31243 up to Princes End on a 7Z60 special. On Thursday 25th 8M68 was 31228 (Tinsley), and ran to Wolverhampton. On Tuesday 14th December it produced 45029 (Holbeck), but the best find was Thursday 9th December. On that day 8M68 produced 25152+25252, which was notable enough even for the varied power that this train got.
On that December night the 25s were bound for Wednesbury, and the afternoon signalman received the train description from Walsall PSB at 20.12. The train is shown as arriving at Wednesbury's home signal at 20.20, but it was still there when the night shift man took over at 20.50. The train is eventually shown as passing the box at 21.40, but why did it have to wait so long before it was allowed into the sidings? Well the night shift signalman's entries in the remarks column provide a clue: "NO SHUNTING STAFF. WHY?", followed by "NO CHARGEMAN. WHY?" and "NO SUPERVISOR. WHY?". These entries betray a genuine and escalating sense of puzzlement, and they made me smile when I read them. I wonder where all the staff could possibly have been on that dark December evening.
Anyway, back to the evening of October 5th. Although 8M68 arrived around 18.30 it had to wait on the main line until 8Z96 had departed before it was allowed into Wednesbury. 8Z96 left at 19.21, and 8M68 was allowed into Wednesbury at 19.25 to await the return of the banker from Princes End. The banker got back at 19.40 (see below), and 8M68 finally set off towards Princes End at 19.43.
This scan shows the "Up" line entries for the banked trains and the banker.
|6P47||18.51||40140||This was a Brierley Hill - Workington train, conveying empty pig-iron wagons from Pensnett. Class 40s were regular visitors to Bescot at this time, but they were less common at Wednesbury and those that did appear were more likely to have been routed via Princes End en-route to Wolverhampton or Albion Oil Depot. However this one had come from the south, which would have been more noteworthy.|
|18.57-18.59||08356||This entry in the register reads "GF NO 3 Released 18.57 Restored 18.59". Evidently Ground Frame 3 was released so that 08356 could do a shunt. 08356 was one of the Wednesbury pilots in the week commencing Monday 4th October.|
|8T25||19.04||25252||This train had come from the Great Bridge direction. 25252 had gone south only 51 minutes earlier, which makes me think it might have been to Great Bridge. If not it couldn't have come from anywhere further south than Round Oak - and that would have required a quick turnaround.|
|0T06||19.18-19.20||25039||This is the banking engine. It had arrived from the Great Bridge direction to assist 8Z96 up the Princes End branch. 8Z96 set off at
19.21, and the banker was shown as passing Wednesbury box to assist it at 19.20.
Earlier in the afternoon the banker had assisted an 8Z19 special to Spring Vale up the Princes End branch. The register shows 8Z19 departing Wednesbury at 14.24, with a separate entry in the register for "T6" as a separate entry "In rear of 8Z19". Naturally the bell code for this second entry is 2-2 (engine assisting in rear of train). The banker arrived back at Wednesbury at 14.38, after which it departed towards Great Bridge at 14.41.
|8T57||19.32||25143||This trip working had come from the Dudley direction, and was doubtless bound for Bescot. The trip notice shows this as a Stourbridge based duty which spent the day doing trips between Brierley Hill and Pensnett. In the evening it made a trip to Bescot, north via Wednesbury but returning south via Galton Jct. It's roughly on time, but omitted the booked Wednesbury stop.|
|0T06||19.40-19.41||25039||The banker returns to Wednesbury after assisting 8Z96. It's next job is to assist 8M68 (as described above).|
|4S50||19.46||47214||The Dudley - Glasgow (Gushetfaulds) Freightliner heads north. This train was booked for an electric loco from Bescot to Glasgow. When the 87s were introduced in 1974 it was often one of these, but in later years it would get a pair of electrics (typically 86/87) working in multiple. Dudley Freightliner Terminal closed in 1986.|
|0T06||19.58-20.00||25039||The banker returns to Wednesbury after assisting 8M68. It then heads off south towards Great Bridge.|
|0Z98||20.57||20128+20092||The Class 20s off 8Z96 had come off the Princes End branch and were bound for Bescot. 0Z98 was the headcode used for unscheduled light
engines bound for Bescot, something that's still true in 2005.
Two interesting facts are worth reporting here. Firstly the signalman notes "White light at rear. Power box informed". As this is a northbound movement he's referring to Walsall PSB of course. At nine o'clock on an October evening it would have been dark so the rear light was significant. It should have been showing a red light of course.
Secondly by complete chance these two locomotives were not only late survivors, but both were allocated to Bescot late in their lives. 20128 was owned by BRT (British Rail Telecoms) in the 1990s, and it was based at Bescot as late as Easter 1997. It was subsequently sold to DRS who refurbished it and re-numbered it to 20307. It lasted in traffic until 2008 I believe, before spending a number of years in store before being scrapped in 2013. It was built as D8050 circa 1959, and therefore had a working life of nearly 50 years. In Britain main-line diesel locomotives rarely survive anywhere near this long.
20092 was another late survivor, being active until late 1995. This one was owned by the British Rail Research Department in the mid 1990s, at which point it was also based at Bescot. Like 20128 it was sold to DRS, however this one didn't get refurbished, and instead ended up in store at MOD Longtown (Cumbria). It later gravitated to Barrow Hill under the ownership of HNRC, and subsequently Long Marston.
|4S88||21.06||45020||4S88 was a Cardiff to Edinburgh Freightliner. It was routed this way because it called at Dudley for traffic.|
|0Z98||21.30||20195+20142||The locos off 8M68 return light-engine to Bescot via Princes End. Princes End signalbox wasn't open at night, and the box there closed as soon as these locos were out of section. The Wednesbury signalman sent train-out-of-section to Princes End at 21.30, and promptly received 7-5-5 (box closing) in return.|
|0T69||21.36||25069||Loco and brake-van into the Exchange Sidings, doubtless from Bescot. Interestingly the signalman noted that the van was being propelled.|
|8T69||22.50||25069||25069 sets off towards Dudley. The signalman noted "1 side lamp out" against this train in the register. That'll be a lamp on the brake-van of course.|
|0E39||00.34||20004+20139||Light-engines from Bescot to Wednesbury Exchange Sidings to work 8E39.
These were Toton based locos at the time, and my initial instinct was that this would be unusual for an Eastern Region destination. To check my hunch I looked at the other locos which worked 8E39 that same week. On the Monday night it was 20205+20059 (a Tinsley pair); on Wednesday night it was 37015 (Thornaby); on Thursday night it was 45001 (Holbeck); and on Friday night it was 20204+20131 (another Tinsley pair). So indeed, 8E39 normally had Eastern Region power.
|6G57||00.43||20006+20186||This is a Corby - Brierley Hill train.|
|8E39||01.25||20139+20004||This train started from Wednesbury, and the destination was Tinsley (Sheffield).|
|8T60||01.59-02.32||25187||Traffic was both attached and detached during the Wednesbury stop. This trip didn't show up again in the night shift, nor was there any sign of it early the next morning, so we've very little to go on here.|
|0E88||02.36||46044||A light engine, almost certainly from Bescot, bound for Wednesbury Exchange Sidings to work 8E88.|
|4V73||02.44||45032||This is the Edinburgh - Cardiff Freightliner, the southbound balance for 4S88.|
|8V35||02.51||46047||Was this a mixed freight to Gloucester or Severn Tunnel Jct? Maybe not given that 8V59 (below) was only a hour behind.|
|6F10||02.53||20186+20006||The Brierley Hill - Corby return train, using the same locos that went south with 6G57.|
|8E88||03.30||46044||This train started in Darlaston Sidings, and was bound for Scunthorpe.
So what sort of traction did this train normally get? A Class 46 sounds like it might be typical, but it's easy to forget exactly how much variety there was in 1976. Other locos which worked this train included 25037 in the early hours of Thursday 7th October. 25037 was transferred from Toton to Eastfield in late 1976 or early 1977, but must still have been at Toton at this stage. The next day it produced 31121 which was an Old Oak Common loco, and way off its patch here. Tuesday 26th October produced 37064, but it was the next day which provided the best find. This was 47270, a bona-fide Haymarket engine which was very rare in the West Midlands at this time. Thursday 28th produced 45016 (Holbeck), and on Saturday 30th it was 46040 (Gateshead).
Later workings included 45002 (Holbeck) on Thursday 18th November, and on Tuesday 7th December it was 45117, a Toton electric-heat loco. This was also pretty rateable as 45/1s were uncommon in the Black Country at this time. Thursday 9th produced 25296 (Springs Branch) and the next day it was 25075 (Toton). As this little list demonstrates, almost anything could appear on 8E88 - but this was true of plenty of other trains in 1976.
|8V59||03.59||45053||This was a mixed freight from Bescot to Gloucester.|
|6Z95||04.32||37098||A northbound fully-fitted special. A 6Z51 special went south at 06.53 the next morning, by which time the signalman who recorded loco numbers had booked off. 6Z51 may have been 37098 returning south, but it's only a guess. 37098 was allocated to Healey Mills (Wakefield) in 1976, which makes it less likely to be working an out-and-back diagram into the Midlands from the Western Region, but there's no sign of it coming south past Wednesbury earlier in the night. Perhaps 37098 continued north in the general direction of home, and 6Z51 is unconnected. It's difficult to say given the information available.|
|4M51||04.38||47280||This is the Glasgow - Dudley Freightliner, the balance for 4S50.|
|0M51||05.16||47280||The loco off 4M51 returns light engine from Dudley to Bescot.
It didn't hang about, taking just 37 minutes to get to Dudley, reverse the train into the terminal, unhook, and return to Wednesbury. On first glance that sounds fairly swift, particularly in the context of the 21st century railway in which shunting, propelling and coupling movements sometimes seem to take an age. However on the following day they managed it in 31 minutes, and on the morning of Saturday 9th they did it in 28 minutes. We may reasonably guess that the crew booked off on their return to Bescot.
|0T06||05.04||25267||A replacement banking loco heads south from Bescot. This banker was based at Great Bridge; there was another banking duty based at Stourbridge Jct.|
|0T06||05.52||25039||The previous banking loco returns to Bescot for servicing and/or fuel.|
|Princes End box re-opened at 06.00.|
|Trains through Wednesbury on the afternoon of Friday 15th October 1976.
I chose this shift because it was dominated by small engines, with just four Type 4s interrupting a steady flow of Type 1s and Type 2s.
|Statistics for this shift...
Movements: There were 31 movements in this 7 hour shift, which is just over 4 movements per hour on average. All the shunter swaps were one reason why there were a lot of light engines amongst this lot, 16 in fact. That leaves 15 movements which were trains proper. The longest interval between trains was the 42 minutes between 19.49 and 20.31.
Trips: Seven different trip diagrams visited or passed through Wednesbury: T20 T29 T30 T32 T57 T58 and T69.
Locomotives: 25 different locomotives appeared, from 6 different classes. The distribution of those locos was: 5x08 6x20 3x24 7x25 1x45 and 3x47. I've ignored 25325 as it seems dubious.
|0V15||14.12||25117||0V15 was a regular light-engine move which ran to Great Bridge. The 25 was obviously going to work a train from Great Bridge bound
for the Western Region.
The register contains one entry which suggests that the ultimate destination is Severn Tunnel Jct. However this is the return working of 6M83 from Llandeilo Jct.
Prior to October 1975 this train ran to and from Langley Green.
|6E38||14.26||25204+25203||This is an oil train from Wednesbury to Ripple Lane (Barking). It's the return working of 6M31, which arrived at Wednesbury about
09.00 and was berthed in the Monway Sidings. The fuel oil was bound for the Patent Shaft steelworks.
A pair of 25s was untypical on this train, which normally got a Type 4 (Class 45 or 47). However their allocation tells us something. In 1976 these were Cricklewood locos, and that suggests the train was routed via the Midland line to London (i.e. via Bedford). The Type 4s also tended to be Cricklewood or Toton locos.
Something else of interest are the entries made in the register against 6M31 on occasions. There are at least two instances which say this: "Phoned in No 4 0940. Couplings loosened @ 0945". The times vary of course, but what's it all about? Well the times and signal number show that the couplings were loosened before the train passed Wednesbury box, in other words while it was standing at the "home" signal on the main-line. I can only surmise that it may be something to do with 100-ton bogie wagons having to negotiate the tight curves in Wednesbury Exchange Sidings. Only a guess though.
|0T20||14.28||24087||This loco had arrived light-engine via Princes End, and it went into the Exchange Sidings at Wednesbury.
Earlier in the day 8T20 had passed Wednesbury at 11.10 en-route for Wolverhampton Steel Terminal via Priestfield.
|0T30||15.02-15.04||20004+20139||This pair of 20s arrived light-engine from the Great Bridge direction. At Wednesbury they reversed, and set off towards Princes End.|
|0Z98||15.12||25296||Next was this light engine heading for Bescot.|
|6M60||15.15||47288||As usual a Thornaby-allocated 47 worked 6M60 Lackenby to Wolverhampton Steel Terminal, via Princes End. Prior to May 1976 this train ran to Brierley Hill rather than Wolverhampton, and after the switch some of the traffic that it detached at Wednesbury may have been tripped down to Brierley Hill. However on this occasion it didn't make a traffic stop at Wednesbury.|
|0X94||15.21||08356||This shunting loco can only have come from Bescot, and it was headed south towards Great Bridge. Evidently one of the Stourbridge
area pilot locos was going to be swapped over.
The "X" designation in the headcode signifies the special nature of this movement. Class 08s have a maximum speed of 15mph.
|8Z50||15.48||20142+20183||This special was routed via Princes End. The locos re-appeared an hour later, so they didn't go far. Spring Vale or Wolverhampton Steel Terminal are the likely destinations, with the former being more likely given their speedy return.|
|0Z98||16.11||25294||Another light engine heading for Bescot.|
|8T30||16.34||20004+20139||The 20s return via Princes End. Bescot is the probable destination.|
|8T20||16.39||24087||T20 heads back to Bescot, but it wasn't finished yet.|
|0Z98||16.47||20183+20142||And a third light engine movement for Bescot.|
|0X98||17.25||08783||This shunter was Bescot-bound, and it's reasonable to assume this was the one that had been swapped with 08356. A friend of mine saw
08783 shunting at Kingswinford Jct (Brierley Hill) on Wednesday 13th October, so this was almost certainly the Brierley Hill pilot.
By some odd quirk of chance 08783 could once again be found in the Bescot area in late July 2005 (when this page was being written). It's chances of surviving the intervening 29 years were pretty low given the carnage to the Class 08 fleet that's ensued in that period. That it should re-appear in the West Midlands is even more unlikely, but in July 2005 the out-of-use 08783 was moved from Old Oak Common to Bescot depot, given some mechanical attention, and then despatched to Hams Hall for shunting duties at the intermodal terminal. It made that Bescot to Hams Hall move on the back of a lorry, which is the standard practise these days. Crazy.
|0Z94||17.40||25325?+08827||These two were heading towards Dudley. However I'm suspicious about the number of the Type 2. The signalman wrote 2532x (where x is
indistinct, but could be a 7 or a 9). He then overwrote the indistinct digit with a 5 to make 25325. Underneath is written
08827, but this has been crossed-out, and subsequently sent as a separate entry. That second entry was sent at the same time as the 25,
and belled as 2-2 (banking engine at rear), so the two engines were coupled when they left Wednesbury, but the 2-2 code suggests that
08827 may have been running under power with its own driver.
In fact closer inspection of the register suggests that 08827 might have been attached at Wednesbury. The register entries sort of imply this, and 08827 was shunting at Wednesbury on Tuesday 12th. Either way I strongly suspect that this is the outbound working of the 9Z98 entry (below). As 9Z98 is unambiguously recorded as 25327 I'm inclined to believe that this was actually 25327 rather than 25325 - but it's not certain.
|4E43||18.00||47288||The loco off 6M60 heads back north with the return Wolverhampton - Lackenby empties. As with 6M60 it didn't call at Wednesbury for traffic.|
|8T29||18.05||20213+20007||These were Tinsley-allocated locos, and they were bound for Wednesbury Exchange Sidings. They'd been at No 4 signal since 17.47, and they were obviously waiting for 4E43 to pass before they could cross the path of that train.|
|0T20||18.14||24087||The T20 loco is back from Bescot for one last visit. It had been waiting at No 101 signal (the next signal back from No 4) since 17.49. In effect it was queued behind 8T29, which was itself waiting for 4E43.|
|0S50||18.17||47436||This is the light engine for the Dudley - Glasgow Freightliner.|
|8T58||18.21||25294||This loco had gone north to Bescot at 16.11. Now it was heading south towards Dudley with a trip freight. Note that this is the fourth southbound movement at Wednesbury within 20 minutes.|
|0T29||18.24||20007+20213||The Tinsley 20s didn't linger. They dropped their train and headed straight back north (to Bescot no doubt). In fact they were in such a hurry that the signalman noted "No tail light. Power Box informed.".|
|0Z17||19.01||47254||Not many clues here. A southbound light engine from Bescot, heading towards Dudley.|
|8T20||19.16||24087||T20 heads back to Bescot for the last time.|
|8T32||19.24||24133||This trip was bound for Wednesbury Exchange Sidings, and had been waiting at No 4 signal since 19.10. It had to wait for 24087
to depart from Wednesbury before it could be allowed in. T32 wasn't booked to visit Wednesbury, the trip
notice shows it working between Bescot and Walsall during the early evening.
This is the third trip working to or from Wednesbury inside 90 minutes.
|4S50||19.28||47436||The Dudley - Glasgow Freightliner heads north.|
|0T32||19.39||24133||Loco and van according to the signalman's note. Straight back to Bescot, or maybe Walsall Goods (which is were it was booked to be).|
|8T69||19.43||24081||Yet another Class 24, this one on a northbound trip from the Great Bridge direction. As ever it would probably be Bescot bound.|
|8M68||19.49||45050||A Scunthorpe - Wolverhampton Steel Terminal train, routed via Princes End.|
|9Z98||20.31||25327+08765||This train was bound for Bescot, and had come from the Great Bridge direction. The 08 was dead. As I mentioned earlier I suspect this
is the return of the 0Z94 working which went south at 17.40. As 08783 appears to have been the Brierley Hill pilot 08765 must have
come from Round Oak or Kidderminster.
08765 would have been a bit unusual for one of the Stourbridge area shunts. It was one of Bescot's dual-braked and waterproofed locos, and it was more normally found at Oxley Carriage Sidings or Wolverhampton station. There were two duties for dual-braked 08s at Wolverhampton, with the third effectively a maintenance spare. The spare loco could, of course, have been used on one of Bescot's other duties - but that was relatively unusual as far as I recall.
|0X05||20.33||08588||One of the Wednesbury pilot locos heads back to Bescot for fuel and stabling over the weekend. There were still two pilots at Wednesbury
in 1976, their trip numbers were T05 and T51. They were both booked to return to Bescot at weekends, but sometimes only one seems to have
done so (as here). The move, as I recall it from my youth, was the Wednesbury pilot(s) would go to Walsall, collect the 08 there, and then
head back to Bescot. By 1976 this had changed and the Wednesbury locos were booked to return late Friday night, and the Walsall loco at
07:15 on Saturday morning.
The pilot locos returned to Wednesbury early on Monday morning, they were usually the first southbound movement and appeared almost as soon as the box was re-opened at 06.00. In fact they invariably turned up attached to the T06 banking loco (usually a Class 25), as they were booked to. The shunter(s) would be detached at Wednesbury and the Type 2 would then head off south.
Bescot's shunter duties in 1976
|8T57||20.42||25272||A Bescot-bound trip from the Great Bridge direction.|
|0Z98||20.50||45050||The Peak off 8M68 returns light-engine to Bescot.|
Sixty different locomotives feature in the three tables above. None of them were new in 1976 - the last diesels built under the Modernisation Plan emerged in 1968, and some of the locos listed here were built in the late 1950s. So in 1976 the youngest of these locos were already eight or nine years old. How many have survived the intervening thirty-seven years, and are still extant in 2013? More than you might think. In fact nine of them were still with us in October 2016 - five still in regular service, and another one active in preservation.
Thanks to Jeff B, Dave H and Simon G for their help in compiling these pages. I'm also grateful to the Wednesbury signalmen of 1976. It was their job to compile the train register, but it's the additional notes that they weren't obliged to make which has allowed me to identify the destinations of many trains, along with the locos that worked them. Without that information this exercise wouldn't have been worthwhile.
I'm also indebted to Andy Morris who saw the first version of these pages and took the trouble to contact me with additional information. Andy's info has filled in some of the gaps, and corrected one or two of my assumptions which were incorrect.
And finally my thanks to Ian Pell who provided the relevant pages from the autumn 1976 trip notice.