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Handsworth and Smethwick Station

GWR Route: Banbury to Wolverhampton

Handsworth & Smethwick station opened for passengers on 14th November 1854 as an intermediate station on the Birmingham Wolverhampton & Dudley Railway (BW&DR), which became part of the Great Western Railway's northern main line as they strived to reach Liverpool. At the height of the Railway Mania on 3rd August 1846, the nominally independent BW&DR received the Royal Assent to an Act of parliament which authorised construction of a railway for £700,000, from Snow Hill Station in Birmingham to a junction with the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway (OWWR) at Priestfield, from where they would have running rights over two miles of OWWR track to Wolverhampton. The same Act authorised the BW&DR to also build a short branch from their new line at Swan Village to a junction with the South Staffordshire Railway (SSR) at Great Bridge from where they would have running rights over the SSR to Dudley, thereby enabling a second connection to be made with the OWWR. Although intended to be broad gauge the Gauge Act prevented this and the BW&DR initially planned to amalgamate with the Birmingham and Oxford Junction Railway (B&OJR) to form a larger independent concern, but a shareholders proposal to sell the line to the Great Western Railway resulted in a second parliamentary bill on 31st August 1848 which allowed the purchase of the BW&DR and authorised the laying of broad gauge track. This did not include the Dudley branch, as the gauge on this section of line had been specified in original 1846 Act to be identical as that on the SSR. Construction of the BW&DR was delayed, while the Great Western Railway unsuccessfully negotiated with the LNWR for running rights over their Stour Valley Railway, but was eventually started in 1851. The appointed Engineer was John Robinson McClean, who was also Engineer for the SSR, the final section of which (Walsall to Dudley) had been approved by the Board of Trade (BoT) on 11th April 1850 and opened for passenger traffic on 1st May. John McClean's influence can be seen in the railway's architecture and a distinctive rigid block-like style is evident in the station buildings, with that at Handsworth & Smethwick being almost exactly the same as those at Wednesbury and West Bromwich.

Apart from the seven stations the principle engineering features were three tunnels; one of 412 yards long north of Swan Village and two short ones (135yards and 160 yards) amongst the imposing brick lined cuttings between Birmingham and Hockley. The railway was laid as mixed gauge double track, allowing the broad gauge to be extended north to Wolverhampton and trains from the recently acquired railways to Shrewsbury and Chester to reach Birmingham and eventually Paddington. On 25th August 1854 Captain Douglas Galton from the BoT inspected the line prior to giving approval, but the following day the 63 foot span wrought-iron tubular girder bridge over the Winson turnpike road (Handsworth New Road) collapsed shortly after a locomotive with two ballast wagons had crossed over it. The Great Western Railway asked Brunel to inspect the line and he condemned another five bridges as being too weak and these were replaced or strengthened over the next two months. Once this work had been completed the line was approved by the BoT and opened on 14th November 1854. At Handsworth & Smethwick station a goods yard with a large goods shed (see image 'qwrhs2645') was constructed adjacent to the Down line. The Stourbridge Extension Railway was completed on 1st April 1867 joining the BW&DR at Handsworth Junction (1,100 yards north of Handsworth & Smethwick Station) and this increased traffic. The broad gauge passenger services had ceased on 1st November 1864 and the third rail was removed from the line by 1st April 1869. In 1892 an up refuge siding was provided at Handsworth & Smethwick and this was subsequently converted into a loop with its entrance at Handsworth Junction in 1899. In the goods yard four additional sidings increased capacity and provided a mileage yard, while at the Birmingham end of the station a pair of long sidings were established on either side of the main line. The quantity of traffic required a goods shunting engine to be sent daily from Bordesley shed and in 1906 this is recorded as arriving at Handsworth at 5:55am and leaving at 3:35pm.

On 19th December 1909 major improvements to the line between Snow Hill and Handsworth Junction were completed with the track quadrupled, stations rebuilt and new signal boxes provided. At Handsworth & Smethwick station the original up platform was extended to 543 feet, with a new 493 foot long double sided island platform and 473 foot long down relief platform provided. Access to the new platforms was by a footbridge and both the new platforms had a waiting room, ladies waiting room with toilet and a gentlemen's toilet under a wide canopy. At the Handsworth Junction end of the station new cattle pens and a loading bank capable of accommodating eleven wagons were constructed on the up side behind the new Handsworth North Signal box, although by 1921 these sidings were called the carriage dock sidings and eight wheeled stock was prohibited (indicating that they was probably used for loading and unloading fitted vehicles suitable for travelling in passenger trains, ie brown stock). On the down side a connection was made to the Birmingham Railway Carriage & Wagon Co (BRCW) private railway network (see image 'misc/brc&wc_works'). On the Birmingham side of the station beyond the new Handsworth South Signal box, an extensive marshalling yard at Queen's Head Sidings was provided (see image 'gwrqhy2004'), which included two refuge loops capable of holding sixty wagons and fifty seven wagons on the up and down sides respectively.

Following the sale of a Tramway Power Station located a short distance away in Downing Street to the Shropshire, Worcestershire & Staffordshire Electric Power Co in 1908 and subsequent installation of modern AC generator plant, public electricity supplies became available in the area and in 1922 a three ton jib crane in the goods shed and the six ton jib crane in the mileage yard were both electrified. In this mileage yard additional mileage sidings were also laid out increasing the capacity of this area to accommodate a total of 99 wagons. The adjacent original goods yard together with the goods shed could hold a further 110 wagons. In 1926 the transfer capacity of the goods facilities was increased with the addition of a covered external platform extension to the goods shed (see image 'gwrhs2641').

In 1927 the two long ladder crossings at the north end of the station were removed allowing the Handsworth North Signal Box to be closed on 4th March 1928. Additional track circuits were provided and two new ground frames, electrically released from the South Box (renamed ‘Handsworth & Smethwick Signal Box’) were established to cater for the remaining switches to sidings at this end of the station. The levers in the two ground frames were:

Handsworth Station Ground Frame
No 1 – Interlocking Lever
No 2 – For points between Up main and sidings

Handsworth Goods Yard Ground Frame
No 1 – Interlocking Lever
No 2 – For spring points in Down relief line
No 3 – For disc – Down relief line to sidings
No 4 – For points in siding
No 5 – For disc – sidings to Down relief line

In 1929 the Handsworth & Smethwick and Queen's Head yards had 69 goods staff employed between them and goods traffic in 1937 totalled 189,537 tons (66,000 tons of which was coal and coke). In the second world war the railway infrastructure in Birmingham was targeted by German air-raids and on the night of the 11-12th December 1940 the goods shed was destroyed by a landmine, killing three staff and three horses (see image 'gwrhs2635').

The two lever ground frame controlling the access from the up main line to the cattle pens and carriage dock sidings was taken out of use on 25th March 1957 and these sidings were subsequently removed. Gradually other services were rationalised as demand decreased, with the facilities and sidings closing. The BRCW connection was removed in March 1965 and all the goods facilities were closed on 9th September 1968. The station closed, along with all passenger services on the line on 6th March 1972. The main line track was removed in September 1972, but some sidings were retained in the Goods and Mileage yard as private sidings for Cooper's Metals, while both relief lines were retained to give access to these, an engineering siding, plus the private sidings in the former Queen's Head yard and Soho & Winson Green yard. Handsworth & Smethwick Signal Box remained open until 21st December 1975 after, which the relief lines were operated as two single lines.

Robert Ferris

Views of Handsworth and Smethwick Station

Looking along Platform One of Handsworth & Smethwick station towards Wolverhampton with Watville Road bridge in the distance
Re: gwrhs90
Anon
Looking along Platform One of the station towards Wolverhampton with Watville Road bridge in the distance
Close up showing Handsworth & Smethwick station's name board repainted in BR maroon and cream livery and the goods yard
Re: gwrhs90a
Anon
Close up showing the station's name board repainted in BR maroon and cream livery and the goods yard
Close up of the Wolverhampton end of Handsworth & Smethwick station's Platform One showing the porters barrow crossing
Re: gwrhs90b
Anon
The Wolverhampton end of Handsworth & Smethwick's Platform One showing the porters barrow crossing
Looking south towards Birmingham from the footbridge with the original up main platform on the left
Re: gwrhs2648
OPC
Looking south towards Birmingham from the footbridge with the original up main platform on the left
View from the centre of the station footbridge towards Handsworth Junction on Monday 22nd June 1961
Re: gwrhs2650
RG Nelson
View from the centre of the station footbridge towards Handsworth Junction on Monday 22nd June 1961

The inside of the spacious Handsworth & Smethwick Goods Shed as seen in February 1933
Re: gwrhs2645
Great Western Railway
The inside of the spacious Handsworth & Smethwick Goods Shed as seen in February 1933
Photograph of Handsworth & Smethwick Goods shed on the morning after the night raid of 11th to 12th December 1940
Re: gwrhs2635
Great Western Railway
Photograph of Handsworth & Smethwick Goods shed on the morning after the night raid of 11th to 12th December 1940
View of porters using the extended  platform located on the Birmingham side of the Goods Shed in 1933
Re: gwrhs2641
Great Western Railway
View of porters using the extended platform located on the Birmingham side of the Goods Shed in 1933
Official photograph taken in February 1933, showing the view along the loading wharf and the original Goods yard
Re: gwrhs2644
Great Western Railway
Official photograph taken in February 1933, showing the view along the loading wharf and the original Goods yard
View of Birmingham Railway Carriage and Wagon Works next to Handsworth and Smethwick station in 1920
Re: gwrhs1985
Britain from Above
Birmingham Railway Carriage and Wagon Works next to Handsworth and Smethwick station in 1920

An aerial view of Handsworth and Smethwick station and sidings seen on 18th April 1926
Re: gwrhs1975
Britain from Above
An aerial view of Handsworth and Smethwick station and sidings seen on 18th April 1926
One of the Great Western Railway ‘Train Describer’ instruments from Handsworth and Smethwick Signal Box
Re: gwrhs1988
M Vanns
One of the Great Western Railway ‘Train Describer’ instruments from Handsworth and Smethwick Signal Box
Handsworth & Smethwick station Totem sign in British Railways' corporate regional livery
Re: gwrhs1974
British Railways
Handsworth & Smethwick station's Totem sign in British Railways' corporate regional livery

Locomotives seen at or near to Handsworth and Smethwick Station

A pair of unidentified engines, a 4-6-0 Castle and an outside framed 4-4-0 are seen passing through the station on an up express service
Ref: gwrhs91
M Lock
A pair of unidentified engines, a 4-6-0 and a 4-4-0 are seen passing through the station on an up express service
Ex-LMS Stanier 8F 2-8-0 No 48543 is seen passing through the station whilst at the head of an up freight on 31st December 1964
Ref: - gwrhs1588
J Cooper-Smith
Ex-LMS Stanier 8F 2-8-0 No 48543 is seen passing through the station whilst at the head of an up freight
A pair of British Railways Class 40 locomotives, D235 and D216 'Campania' are seen passing Handsworth junction on 30th May 1965
Ref: - gwrhs1593
M Mensing
A pair of British Railways Class 40 locomotives, D235 and D216 'Campania' are seen passing Handsworth junction
Ex-GWR 0-6-2T 56xx Class No 5606 passes through Handsworth and Smethwick station on an up goods on 26th September 1964
Re: gwrhs1986
R Postill
Ex-GWR 0-6-2T 56xx Class No 5606 passes through Handsworth and Smethwick station on an up goods
Ex-GWR 2-6-2T 5101 Class No 4148 heads a long mineral train near Handsworth and Smethwick station
Re: gwrhs1984
R Postill
Ex-GWR 2-6-2T 5101 Class No 4148 heads a long mineral train near Handsworth and Smethwick station

British Railways Standard Class 9F 2-10-0 No 92002 passes through Handsworth with oil train on 26th September 1964
Re: gwrhs1983
R Postill
BR Standard Class 9F 2-10-0 No 92002 passes through Handsworth with oil train on 26th September 1964
Ex-LMS 8F 2-8-0 No 48312 is seen running tender first through Handsworth and Smethwick station
Re: gwrhs1968
R Postill
Ex-LMS 8F 2-8-0 No 48312 is seen running tender first through Handsworth and Smethwick station
BR built 2MT 2-6-0 No 46492 runs tender first through Handsworth and Smethwick station on 26th September 1964
Re: gwrhs1970
R Postill
BR built 2MT 2-6-0 No 46492 is seen running tender first through the station on 26th September 1964
Map showing the location of Handsworth & Smethwick station and the access to the goods yard off Booth Street
Re: gwrhs1973
R Postill
Ex-GWR 4-6-0 No 6849 'Walton Grange' is seen standing at Handsworth and Smethwick signal box
Ex-GWR 57xx class 0-6-0PT No 8767 is seen running bunker first whilst at the head of a four wagon local coal service in March 1966
Ref: - gwrhs1589
A Muckley
Ex-GWR 57xx class 0-6-0PT No 8767 running bunker first whilst at the head of a local coal service in March 1966

Map showing the location of Handsworth & Smethwick station and the access to the goods yard off Booth Street
Re: gwrhs1971
R Postill
BR built 2MT 2-6-0 No 46492 passes through Handsworth and Smethwick station on 26th September 1964
Ex-GWR 2-6-2T Prairie No 6105 arrives at Handsworth & Smethwick station at the head of a down local service to Wolverhampton Low Level
Ref: - gwrhs465
Anon
Ex-GWR 2-6-2T Prairie No 6105 arrives at Handsworth & Smethwick station on a local service to Wolverhampton
BR built 0-6-0PT 94xx Class No 8415 passes through Handsworth & Smethwick Station on a down freight
Re: gwrhs2639
R Sellick - NRM
BR built 0-6-0PT 94xx Class No 8415 passes through Handsworth & Smethwick Station on a down freight
Ex-GWR 4-6-0 King class No 6011 'King James I' approaches Handsworth & Smethwick on 22nd June 1956
Re: gwrhs2638
M Walker
Ex-GWR 4-6-0 King class No 6011 'King James I' approaches Handsworth & Smethwick on 22nd June 1956
BR 4-6-0 Castle class No 7026 ‘Tenby Castle’ passes through Handsworth & Smethwick Station on the down main line
Re: gwrhs2648
M Hale
BR 4-6-0 Castle class No 7026 ‘Tenby Castle’ passes through Handsworth & Smethwick Station on the down main line

Looking to Wolverhampton as an unidentified ex-GWR 4-6-0 Castle class locomotive heads an up express through the station
Ref: - gwrhs803
J Edgington
Looking to Wolverhampton as an unidentified Castle class locomotive heads an up express through the station

Maps & Diagrams of Handsworth and Smethwick station and Miscellaneous items

Letter from the District Goods Manager to Mr E Murphy, in March 1907, about the temporary connection arrangements
Ref: gwrhs1587
R Ferris
A March 1907 letter from the District Goods Manager to Mr E Murphy, about the temporary connection arrangements
A low resolution version of the Signalling Diagram for Handsworth and Smethwick South Signal Box
Re: h&w-signal-diag
Signalling Record Society
A low resolution version of the Signalling Diagram for Handsworth and Smethwick South Signal Box
Map showing the location of Handsworth & Smethwick station and the access to the goods yard off Booth Street
Re: handsworth_map
Andy Doherty
Map showing the location of Handsworth & Smethwick station and the access to the goods yard off Booth Street