and the Great Western Railway Line
1852 the GWR opened the service on its line from London to Birmingham,
with a station at 'Knowle'. The line terminated at what was then
known as Livery Street Station in Birmingham. It had been planned
that it would terminate at Curzon Street as is the Euston line.
Earthworks and a viaduct from Bordesley towards Curzon Street,
the so called Adderley Street spur, were built but they were never
used. Congestion at Curzon Street and disputes between the GWR
and the LNWR resulted in the rerouting to the new station. This
station was renamed Snow Hill Station in 1858, after the line
had been extended to Wolverhampton in 1854.
journey times for the 129.5 miles from Birmingham to Paddington
were 3 hours and 16 mins. There were first, second and third class
carriages, although third class was in little more than goods
wagons with wooden bench seats and second class little better,
with nominal padding. There were no toilets, no refreshments and,
until 1893 and the introduction of corridors, no movement between
service competed with the LNWR line from Euston to New Street
and in 1859 the GWR run from Snow Hill to Paddington through 'Knowle'
was the faster of the two by 10 minutes at 2hrs and 50 mins. By
1880 a GWR express service to Birkenhead was timetabled to stop
at Snow Hill after 2 hrs and 42 mins.
line was built to the GWR Broad Gauge standard with 7ft wide track.
This differed from the Narrow Gauge 4ft 8 1/2in track used by
all other railways. As a result there all sorts of problems in
track change-overs at junctions with points and rolling stock.
An Act of Parliament stipulated that all new track would be Narrow
Gauge and GWR faced the necessity for change. In
1869 a third rail was added between the original two allowing
trains of both gauges to run over the track. In 1891 the wider
gauge was finally eliminated.
in 1874 an open cutting from Snow Hill Station to Temple Row had
been arched and upon these arches was built the Great Western
Arcade, a historic feature of Birmingham still in use today. But
the tunnel and Snow Hill beyond could not cope with demand, so
the Moor Street terminus was built before the tunnel between 1909
and 1914 to remove the pressure from Snow Hill, and particularly
to take local North Warwickshire lines traffic. In 1910, second
class was removed from the trains leaving just first and third.
1927 the 'King' class locomotives were introduced to the GWR and
were generally regarded as the finest locomotives in the world
for some time to come. They were to become workhorses of the GWR
lines. In 1959 the GWR was absorbed into the Western Region of
British Railways on nationalisation.
set about the electrification of the Euston to New Street line
in 1958 and the old GWR line carried additional trains over the
next few years to compensate, record numbers of trains and passengers
being carried on the route. A new Birmingham Pullman service was
introduced stopping only at High Wycombe. Then in 1962 came the
introduction to the line of diesel locomotives and the withdrawal
of steam. But it was the electrification that sounded the death
knell for the line and on 6th March 1967 the final express to
Snow Hill left Paddington. Snow Hill declined further and closed
altogether on 4th March 1972. Local trains from Dorridge, Leamington
and Stratford meanwhile were terminating at Moor Street.
a much diminished express service continued from Paddington through
to New Street, this was a bridesmaid service slowed down by the
ensuing decay of the infrastructure, reductions to single line
working and the use of different routings, via Reading and Didcot
to Banbury and via Coventry instead of Dorridge and Solihull.
It served stations in between but did not compete with the Euston
service for London to Birmingham passengers.
after a mere 15 years, Centro developed a new strategic vision
and a new Snow Hill Station was built and opened October 5th,
1987. At the same time, new Moor Street platforms were built and
the old terminus next door to them was closed and began to decay.
Rail technology changed again, and comfortable, fast and efficient
multiple unit trains, now using London Marylebone, are once again
competing successfully with the alternative route from New Street
to Euston (the latter being 'a bit faster but twice the price').
Station is once again seeing a a frequent service both stopping
at and passing its platforms and there has been talk of restoring
the route from Dorridge to Birmingham to 4 track, as it was in
its heyday, so that even more throughput can be achieved on the
line, but this now seems unlikely. The clock has been turned back
once again with the rebuilding and reopening of the old Moor Street
terminus, to operate alongside the through platforms. And 2011
has seen the reintroduction of a 'mainline' service from Birmingham
to London along the line, although it does not stop at Dorridge.
are those who say that the line provides the key to avoiding massive
spend on HS2, time will tell. Meanwhile, that period, not long
since, when the line beyond Leamington saw no passengers is well
consigned to history.