Monday, 16 November 2015

Wolverhampton High Level Remembered

In the earlier post Wolverhampton High Level Station in Steam Days, I wrote briefly about the former LNWR station in Wolverhampton.

I prefer to recall the station as it was when I was growing up in the 'fifties although wartime had brought the whole of our railway system, including High Level station, to a low ebb. Sadly, I have no photographs of my own to supplement those memories but the books referenced in the earlier post mentioned above document that time. Below are a few specific memories.

Wolverhampton High Level Station as
I remember it, viewed from Railway Drive.

Overall Roof

At Wolverhampton High Level, platforms 1 and 2 were beneath an imposing overall roof of typical LNWR design. Electrification saw this demolished, of course. At least places like Crewe, Preston and others retain examples of the LNWR structures, even if modernised. The picture below shows a small, less-modernised section of this type of roof over platform 1 at Crewe.

LNWR-style roofing at Crewe.


Near the Birmingham end of the Overall Roof at Wolverhampton there was another typically LNWR feature - the footbridge between platform 1 and the island platform serving platforms 2 and 3. This was also lost during the overhead electrification project but similar footbridges survive - the photograph below was taken at Narborough on the Nuneaton Leicester line. I remember the risers on the footbridge steps at Wolverhampton carried advertising - a repeated message on vitreous enamelled steel sheets but I can't remember the product promoted.

At Narborough, the footbridge serves not only the two platforms but also the adjacent level crossing.

Access Tower

Platform 2 at Wolverhampton was home to a large, wooden access tower, looking like some medieval siege tower. I saw it in use by electricians replacing failed electric lamps but I presume it was used for any type of maintenance on the roof. It was on small wheels allowing it to be pushed into position and then a windlass and system of ropes allowed the telescoping sections to be raised and lowered.

I haven't found a picture of the tall wooden telescopic platforms that I remember but this shot shows a more modern version in use in Argentina.

Platform adornments

At one time, I remember a large, detailed ship model in a glass case on the platform. I think it represented one of the Isle of Man ferries. At another time, there was a model of 'Rocket' in a glass case. By inserting a coin, an electric motor would rotate the driving wheels and operate the pistons and connecting rods. The proceeds were for charitable purposes (a railway orphanage, I think). There was usually a weighing machine to check your weight after inserting an old penny. More interesting was the label making machine. Here, again for money, you could produce your own labels by embossing a series of letters on aluminium strip. The inclined front face of the machine carried a single pointer which you turned to select the next character before pressing an embossing lever. This could prove disappointing as the aluminium strip had a habit of not indexing forward the right amount, resulting in overlapping characters. Even worse, sometimes the aluminium strip had run out.

Water Column

The LNWR had a very austere standard design of water column. I often watched crews watering at the columns provided at the end of Platform 1 (Down) and Platform 2 (Up). There was no nonsense about a hinging crane arm that could be swung out to assist in insertion of the 'bag' - the rivetted leather hose which delivered water - into the filler on the engine. The fireman grasped a chain attached near the open end of the 'bag' and hauled it up to the locomotive filler. In frosty weather, this was particularly challenging. Freezing of the water main or water valve in winter was hopefully prevented by a small coal brazier to which firemen would add a few lumps periodically. The water valve was near the top of the column, operated by a lever near the base which moved from 'six o'clock' (closed) to 'twelve o'clock' (fully open). Very often, quite a torrent of water would spray from the top of the column, causing the driver (who usually operated the water valve whilst his fireman struggled on the top of the engine) to be cautious when trying to shut the valve. The movement was often completed by a judicious kick to the lever to ensure the valve had closed.

This shot of a standard LNWR water column was taken at Crewe Heritage Centre.

Wolverhampton Station Today

The modern station in Wolverhampton is a typically soulless affair as most of the features of its earlier history have been swept away. In the picture below, the 'new' platform 4 is on the left, sited on what, in steam days, were sidings and Up and Down goods lines.

A modern view of Wolverhampton High Level station, now simply called 'Wolverhampton' after the closure of the ex-G.W.R. Low Level station. The 'new' platform 4 is on the left and the former GWR station building (in blue brick) is in the background.

For track diagrams of the modern railway around Wolverhampton, refer to 'Railway Track Diagrams' Book 4: Midlands & North West', Second Edition 2005, published by Trackmaps (ISBN: 0-9549866-0-1). The First Edition of this book was published by Quail in 1988.

My pictures

This album (started in 2007) gives an idea of the modern scene on West Midland's railways:-

West Midland Railways.