Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Death of the Dudley Line

I started to write this article back in June 1964, using a typewriter. For some reason, I never finished it but below I reproduce what exists, without change and under the original title.

Dudley is to lose its final rail services. Two short years after the closure of the Wolverhampton (Low Level) to Dudley line, the remaining services are withdrawn. The Dudley to Birmingham (Snow Hill) finishes on Saturday June 13th 1964; the Walsall service, originally to close on the same day, is now reprieved for a month. And so, a round trip is arranged to tour the sentenced lines and on Wednesday June 10th I set out, bright and early, with the following itinerary carefully arranged:-

Station arr. dep.
Wolverhampton H.L. ... 5.58 am
Dudleyport 6.11-1/2 6.34-1/2
Dudley 6.39 6.44
Walsall 7.00 7.14
Dudley 7.31 7.50
Dudleyport 7.53 8.08
Dudley 8.11-1/2 9.00
Birmingham S.H. 9.25 9.55
Dudleyport 10.16 10.20-1/2
and hence to Wolverhampton

Wolverhampton (High Level) station was in a state of quiet disorder, owing to the ensuing Modernisation. Alrteady boxes No. 1 and No. 3 had disappeared and Platform 1 had just been brought back into use after a confusing period when down trains used platform 2 and up trains platform 3. The 5.58 local was in platform 2 and, after 1M16 type 4 hauled and running early pulled up in 3, we got the road and left for Dudleyport. The run was uneventful but the new concrete cable troughing and the well-advanced Track Section Cabins at Deepfields, Bloomfield's down starter and Tipton point to the changes overtaking the main line.

The friendly booking clerk at Dudleyport seemed quite unruffled at supplying a return Walsall, a return Snow Hill and three returns to Dudley at 6.15 in the morning and so I was soon down the Low Level, awaiting the first connection. The diesel twin arrived on time from Walsall and rumbled off up the 1 in 39, past Sedgeley Jn. where Quiyum was on duty. The driver kept up a reasonable speed over the junctions, past Conygree Siding, onto the straight section which crosses the New Road and up to Dudley East's home, which remained resolutely on until we had come to a stand, when the subsidiary aspect cleared. Once in the platform, the train quickly emptied of its few passengers and drew down to Dudley South, to be crossed to the up side and Platform 4.

6.44 and the train left for the quick trip to Walsall. We run down to Dudleyport at a cracking pace, then gingerly descend through the cuttings, past the fairy-tale box at Horsley Fields which hides coyly in the recess in the cutting and into Great Bridge, an utterly squalid collection of huts hiding at the rear of a dirt platform. In the yard, the diesel-electric shunter positions steel coil wagons, which are in circuit working to Great Bridge and are another sign of the present attitudes to bulk freightage and the like. Fully fitted wagons too! The train starts away, past the goods shed and past Eagle Crossing. A bus waits reluctantly for us to pass and the hand-worked crossing gates hang at an angle, adding to the general appearance of decrepitude which is only offset by the new paintwork of the box. We rattle past a few wagons left on the Long Siding and pass Gols Hill Crossing. The box was burnt down a few months ago but has been rebuilt in the original (L.N.W.) pattern and repainted. A pity this course was not adopted at Tipton Curve when the Pigeon Loft was erected!

As we approach Wednesbury, we enter a thick pall of smoke from the neighbouring industries. On the left, the Princes End line can be seen rising uphill and disappearing under the roadbridge near the Ocker Hill cooling towers. T55, with a Class 8 at the head end, is just starting up the bank, with the diesel-electric shunter from Wednesbury giving assistance. Wednesbury station already looks derelict. Part of the station is already out of use, with doors boarded up and windows smashed. After a brief pause, the train starts away and the signalman in No. 2 rises from his register to give "section". The train accelerates through the cutting, past No. 2's starter, still an L.N.W. lower quadrant but now shored up by a sleeper. The line levels out past the tiny box at Mestycroft and we speed on towards Bescot Curve. Just past the junction, the line is shrouded by the massive columns of a flyover under construction, to take the M6 southwards. We soon rattle over the crossings at Pleck, where the box now stands side by side with the shell of the massive new Walsall power box.

Walsall environs are busy at 7.00 am. Two light engines stand by the P. Way Frame, awaiting duty, a Brit. pauses with stock in the carriage sidings and a 2-6-0 shunts the Midland yard. Nearer the station, a diesel shunter groans in the down sidings and another 2-6-0 contemplates a parcels turn. We pull under the massive gantry at No. 2 and stop in platform one. A diesel parcels unit draws out of the adjacent bay and then our twinset pulls out to reach platform 2. The over-anxious signalman offers a '3-1' then, realsing his mistake, cancels and offers stock. Meanwhile, a Birmingham multiple unit rolls into No. 4 and quite a crowd of passengers entrain. But the Dudley train, with so little time left, commands a sizeable patronage and by the time I board for the return journey, it is uncomfortably crowded.

And there, I'm afraid, the article stops.