Tuesday, 29 May 2012

London & Birmingham in 2012

A 'Pendolino' on arrival at Wolverhampton's Platform 4 with a service from Euston in 2007.

Following the amazing success of the Liverpool & Manchester railway (opened 1830), London was linked to Birmingham in 1838 by a route still in use today. There's an earlier post on the origins of the London & Birmingham Railway.

In the post The Premier Line I disclosed my enthusiasm for the London & North Western Railway. This Company operated the London & Birmingham railway until the Railways Act of 1921 caused the 'Grouping' when the L&NWR became part of the London Midland & Scottish Railway. The LMS did good work and, like the L&NWR, was profitable.

The second world war took its toll on all the Britsh railways and the post-war Labour government nationalised the railways in 1948. The Euston to Manchester route was chosen for the first major 25kV a.c. overhead electrification project and the work was carried out during the 1960s.

By the 1990s the calamitous Railtrack had embarked on a disastrous project to modernise the whole of the West Coast Main Line which incorporates the London & Birmingham. Railtrack's successor Network Rail managed to complete a degraded form of this modernisation plan in 2009. There's a useful 'Wikipedia' article West Coast Main Line.

I use the route today reasonably regularly to get to London and back. So what of the modern travelling experience?

Well, reading my posts Brave New Railway and Brave New Railway (again) you might just gain the impression that I'm not a total fan of the way things are done now.

Passengers still leave London from Euston Station. In my post London's Terminal Stations, the present-day Euston gets short shrift compared with King's Cross (reviewed prior to the recent extensive rebuilding) and St. Pancras (reviewed after its incredibly expensive rebuilding which added 'International' to its title).

For Network Rail's 'take' on Euston, go to their Euston Webpages. There's a page with a brief history of the station.

This statue of Robert Stephenson originally stood in the (long gone) Great Hall at Euston. It now stands in "Smokers' Corner", a depressing, muddled paved area immediately outside the present station building which Network Rail are pleased to dignify with the title 'Forecourt'.


To illustrate the route today, there are various sets of photographs listed below. The camera technique for most of them is the "drive by shooting" taken from a moving train so the quality is pretty grotty, sorry.

London & Birmingham Railway.
London: Euston.
West Midland Railways.


You can find more detailed track and signalling diagrams of the route prior to electrification in the excellent series of publications from the Signalling Record Society 'British Railways Layout Plans of the 1950's'. Euston to Rugby is included in 'Volume 1: ex-LNWR main line, Euston to Crewe' (ISBN: 1 873228 00 7) and Rugby to Birmingham and Wolverhampton is in 'Volume 11: LNW Lines in the West Midlands' (ISBN: 1 873228 13 9)

For details of what remained of this route in 2005, refer to 'Railway Track Diagrams' Book 4: Midlands & North West', Second Edition, published by Trackmaps (ISBN: 0-9549866-0-1). The First Edition of this book was published by Quail in 1988.