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Alcester Station - Midland Railway & Great Western Railway

LMS Route: Evesham to Birmingham

GWR Route: Alcester to Bearley

Alcester station was situated between Coughton and Wixford and opened for goods traffic on 16th June 1866 and to passenger traffic two months later on 17th September. Initially it was the terminus for the line from Evesham as the extension to Redditch did not open until 4th May 1868. Later the station became a block post on the MR line and a terminus to the Bearley branch line operated by the GWR. When first opened the station had just one platform and single line through the station but very quickly received an up platform on the newly built passing loop. The signalling at the station was revised several times as the original signal box situated just to the south of the station was moved to be on the southern portion of the down platform. The signal box built to accommodate the junction with the GWR branch was replaced on 24th April when the signal box on the down platform also closed both being replaced by the new signal box to the north of the goods yard. The LMS replacing both to reduce both maintenance and labour costs, the latter being required twenty-four hours per day. The station was provided with two sets of services, one operated by the GWR the other by the MR. The former providing access to the Birmingham to London line via Bearley and Hatton, the latter providing access to the southwest and a more direct line to Birmingham.

In Bob Essery's book An Illustrated History of the Ashchurch to Barnt Green Line - The Evesham Route, Bob uses the MR 1909 timetable to demonstrate that the GWR did not time their trains to coincide with any MR connections. Clearly the GWR wished their passengers to use their route to the southwest via Stratford upon Avon and Cheltenham. Goods traffic was principally agricultural with the large cattle market offering business for both railway companies. Coal formed a major part of inward traffic with several local merchants and the Alcester Co-operative Society vying for trade. The GWR services were casualties during the two World Wars, the first time seeing the line uplifted to provide materials for the front on 1st January 1917 with the line reinstated on 29 July 1923. The second closure occurred on 25th September 1939 when passenger traffic was ceased and whilst goods traffic did not officially cease until 1st March 1951, Bob Essery believes that goods traffic most likely ceased with passenger traffic. The GWR junction was taken out of use on 31st May 1953. The MR line from Redditch to Ashchurch was closed to both passenger and goods services in installments ending on 6th July 1964 with Alcester closing officially on 17th September 1963 although the last train ran on 1 October 1962 being replaced by a bus service.

Bibliography

Most of the information imparted in the captions has been derived from the three publications which are listed below. We acknowledge the authors input to the history of Alcester station and wish to thank them for their significant contribution. We can recommend both books which are:

  • An Illustrated History of the Ashchurch to Barnt Green Line - The Evesham Route
        Published by OPC Publications. ISBN: 9 780860 935629

        A Midland Railway/London Midland Scottish Railway/British Railway perspective provided by RJ Essery
  • The Alcester Branch
        Published by Wild Swan Publications. ISBN: 978-1-905184-05-7

        A Great Western Railway perspective provided by authors Stanley C Jenkins and Roger Carpenter.

An article written by Roger Carpenter, 'Alcester', appeared in British Railway Journal Published in 1999 by Wild Swan Publications ISNN0265-4105 which has been reproduced below.

Alcester Station - MR & GWR (63) Alcester Shed - GWR (12)

 
On this page:

Alcester Station

A view of the original 1866 station building prior to the track being doubled through the station and station facilities being entended
Ref: mra393
C Maggs
A view of the original station building prior to the track being doubled and the station facilities being entended
External view showing the station approach and station building with the station master's house situated on the left
Ref: mra545
HC Casserley
External view of the station approach and station building with the station master's house situated on the left
Close up showing the substantial station masters house and the lean-to green house provided to the property
Ref: mra545a
HC Casserley
Close up of the substantial station masters house and the lean-to green house provided to the property
Close up showing the station's single storey passenger facilities accommodating the booking offices and waiting rooms
Ref: mra545b
HC Casserley
Close up showing the station's passenger facilities accommodating the booking offices and waiting rooms
Looking towards Evesham  with the original signal box opened in the 1870s located just past the end of down platform
Ref: mra463
Lens of Sutton
Looking towards Evesham with the original 1870s signal box located just past the end of down platform

Close up of showing the original signal box shortly before it was replaced by a new signal box located on the end of the down platform
Ref: mra463a
Lens of Sutton
Close up of of the original signal box prior to a new box being erected on the end of the down platform
Close up showing the main portion of the station passenger facilities and booking office which was extended in the 1870s
Ref: mra463b
Lens of Sutton
Close up of the main portion of the station passenger facilities & booking office extended in the 1870s
Close up showing the original portion of the station when first opened for passenger traffic on 17th September 1866
Ref: mra463c
Lens of Sutton
Close up showing the original 1866 portion of the station when first opened for passenger traffic
Looking towards Redditch as a Midland Railway goods train is seen passing through the station on a Birmingham to Evesham freight service
Ref: mra131
Postcard
Looking towards Redditch as a MR 0-6-0 engine passes through the station on a freight service to Evesham
A later view of the Midland Railway's Kirtley double framed 0-6-0 locomotive at the head of the goods train passing through the station
Ref: mra132
Postcard
A later view of the Midland Railway's Kirtley double framed 0-6-0 locomotive at the head of the goods train

Looking along the up platform towards Redditch from the Broom end of the station with the main platform buildings on the right
Ref: mra700
UK Stations
Looking towards Redditch from the Broom end of the station with the main platform buildings on the right
Close up showing the principle station facilities for passengers including waiting rooms, booking hall and booking offices
Ref: mra133b
RS Carpenter
Close up of the main station facilities for passengers, the waiting rooms, booking hall and booking offices
Looking towards Redditch along the up platform with the GWR's Bearley to Alcester branch auto trailer standing in the goods yard
Ref: mra133
RS Carpenter
Looking to Redditch along the up platform with the GWR's Alcester branch auto trailer standing in the goods yard
Looking towards Evesham along Alcester's down platform on the left and two wagons stabled in the twelve vehicle siding
Ref: mra550
JH Moss
Looking towards Evesham along Alcester's down platform with two wagons stabled in the twelve vehicle siding
Close up of the station with doors to the store, waiting rooms, bricked up door to the booking hall and office
Ref: mra135a
Anon
Close up of the station with doors to the store, waiting rooms, bricked up door to the booking hall and office

View of the junction with the Great Western Railway's branch line to Bearley with the GWR water tower and locomotive shed to its right
Ref: mra1288
R Powell Hendry
View along the down platform towards Redditch as a freight train is seen shunting in the yard
An ex-LNWR guards van protects the end of a goods train as it runs north past the junction with the GWR branch to Bearley
Ref: mra130
Lens of Sutton
An ex-LNWR guards van protects the end of a goods train as it runs north past the junction with the GWR branch
Close up showing the trackwork to Alcester station's goods yard sidings and on the right, the shed, cattle dock and carriage landing
Ref: mra130a
Lens of Sutton
Close up of Alcester station's goods yard sidings and on the right, the shed, cattle dock and carriage landing
A British Railway's period view looking towards Evesham from the Redditch end of the up platform with the station still looking neat and tidy
Ref: mra135
Anon
A BR period view looking to Evesham from the Redditch end of the up platform still looking neat and tidy
View of the brick built Passenger Waiting Room on Alcester station's northbound platform
Ref: mra1287
R Powell Hendry
View of the brick built Passenger Waiting Room on Alcester station's northbound platform

Alcester station's brick built up platform passenger waiting room which built after the line was doubled through the station
Ref: mra551
JH Moss
Alcester station's brick built up platform waiting room which built after the line was doubled through the station
View of the junction with the Great Western Railway's branch line to Bearley with the GWR water tower and locomotive shed to its right
Ref: mra1292
R Powell Hendry
View of Alcester Station's name or 'running in board' in British Railway's Western Region corporate livery
View looking towards Evesham from the down platform in the 1950s with the MR lower quadrant signal on the left
Ref: mra547
JH Moss
View looking towards Evesham from the down platform in the 1950s with the MR lower quadrant signal on the left
The dual operation Midland Railway signal post with the buffer stop to the twelve vehicle siding on the right
Ref: mra548
J Moss
The dual operation Midland Railway signal post with the buffer stop to the twelve vehicle siding on the right

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Alcester goods yard and siding

Looking towards the front of the MR goods shed which had an open doorway and windows
Ref: mra469
J Moss
View from the signal box looking towards the front of the MR goods shed which had an open doorway and windows
Looking towards the front of the MR goods shed which had an open doorway and windows
Ref: mra469a
J Moss
Close up of the loop line and the three-way point providing access to the goods shed, cattle pens and landing dock
Looking from the LMS built signal box looking towards Redditch and the junction with the GWR's branch to Bearley which curves to the right
Ref: mra470
J Moss
View from the LMS built signal box looking towards Redditch with the GWR's branch to Bearley curving to the right
Close up showing the end of the double track through Alcester and the nature of the junction with the GWR's Bearley to Alcester branch line
Ref: mra470a
J Moss
Close up showing the end of the double track through Alcester and the junction with the GWR's Bearley branch
Close up showing the connecting through siding and coal stacking area and the hut occupied by Shrimptons and Butlers coal merchants
Ref: mra470b
J Moss
Close up showing the coal stacking area and the hut occupied by Shrimptons and Butlers coal merchants

Looking north during the 1930s towards Redditch from the down platform with the goods shed seen on the right
Ref: gwr-mra1291
PJ Garland
Looking north during the 1930s towards Redditch from the down platform with the goods shed seen on the right
Looking towards Redditch with the junction to the GWR's Bearley branch line seen to the left of the GWR locomotive shed located behind the tree
Ref: mra136
Real Photos
Looking to Redditch with the junction to the GWR's Bearley branch line seen to the left of the GWR locomotive shed
Close up of the two 10ft wheelbase, unfitted, 12 ton ex-NE vans standing in Alcester's goods yard
Ref: mra136a
Real Photos
Close up of the two 10ft wheelbase, unfitted, 12 ton ex-NE vans standing in Alcester's goods yard

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Alcester Signal Boxes

Close up showing the goods train being hauled by one of Kirtley's 0-6-0 locomotives whilst the signalman looks out of the signal box
Ref: mra131a
Postcard
Close up of the goods train hauled by a Kirtley 0-6-0 engine as the signalman looks out of the signal box
The signalman stretches up to the fireman as they exchange the single line staff in this view taken from a Birmingham bound train
Ref: mra471
RJ Essery
The signalman and fireman exchange the single line staff in this view taken from a Birmingham bound train
The fireman exchanges tokens with the signalman on a Redditch to Ashchurch train in June 1962
Ref: mra1298
G Skelsey
The fireman exchanges tokens with the signalman on a Redditch to Ashchurch train in June 1962
An extract from the ‘Great Western Railway Regulations for Train Signalling on Double and Single Lines’
Re: misc_equip236
GWR/S Turner
An extract from the ‘Great Western Railway Regulations for Train Signalling on Double and Single Lines’

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MR and LMS locomotives seen at Alcester Station

A later view of the Midland Railway's Kirtley double framed 0-6-0 locomotive at the head of the goods train passing through the station
Ref: mra132a
Postcard
Close up of the MR 0-6-0 locomotive at the head of the goods train passing through the station
Ex-MR 4-4-0 2P No 512 passes through Alcester station with the 1:20pm New Street to Ashchurch service on Saturday 18th September 1948
Ref: mra1293
WA Camwell
Ex-MR 4-4-0 2P No 512 passes through Alcester station with the 1:20pm New Street to Ashchurch service
British Railways built Ivatt 4MT Mogul No 43036, running tender first, is seen arriving at Alcester on a local passenger train to Birmingham
Ref: mra134
Anon
BR built 4MT 2-6-0 No 43036, running tender first, arrives at Alcester on a local passenger train to Birmingham
British Railways built 2-6-4T No 42054 leaves for Evesham with a down local on Easter Monday 30th March 1959
Ref: mre1328
P Shoesmith
British Railways built 2-6-4T No 42054 leaves for Evesham with a down local on Easter Monday 30th March 1959

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Miscellany

A posed photograph of Alcester station staff  with both the Great Western Railway and Midland Railway station masters present circa 1910
Ref: mra462
RS Carpenter
A posed photograph of Alcester station staff with both the GWR and MR station masters present circa 1910
View of a LM&SR Birmingham to Alcester via Redditch Third Class Single ticket costing 3 shillings and eight pence
Ref: mra1297
Anon
View of a LM&SR Birmingham to Alcester via Redditch Third Class Single ticket costing 3 shillings and eight pence
View of one of the flood damaged bridges carrying the line over the River Arrow between Alcester and Wixford in January 1901
Ref: mra138
RS Carpenter
View of one of the flood damaged bridges carrying the line over the River Arrow between Alcester and Wixford
Workman are rebuilding the final span on this girder bridge damaged by the storms and flood water of the winter of 1900-1901
Ref: mra139
RS Carpenter
Workman rebuilding the final span on this girder bridge damaged by the storms of the winter of 1900-1901
Close up showing a group of Midland Railway officials inspecting the eroded bank of the River Arrow as a gang attempt to repair the bridge
Ref: mra139a
RS Carpenter
Close up of a group of MR officials inspecting the bank of the River Arrow as a gang attempt to repair the bridge

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Maps and Schematics of Alcester Station and Junction

Schematic plan of Alcester station, its goods yard and goods shed from an undated LMS plan
Ref: gwr-mra1286
R Powell Hendry
Schematic plan of Alcester station, its goods yard and goods shed from an undated LMS plan
Close up showing the plan of the station building and layout of the goods shed and yard immediately adjacent to the station
Ref: gwr-mra1286a
R Powell Hendry
Close up of the plan of the station building, layout of the goods shed and yard next to the station
Close up showing the coal merchants staithes, the Alcester Railway junction, and GWR engine shed
Ref: gwr-mra1286b
R Powell Hendry
Close up showing the coal merchants staithes, the Alcester Railway junction, and GWR engine shed
An Ordnance Survey map showing the juxtaposition of the station with Icknield Street and Cross Street
Ref: mra1290
Ordnance Survey
An Ordnance Survey map showing the juxtaposition of the station with Icknield Street and Cross Street
An Ordnance Survey map showing the juxtaposition of the junction with the Alcester Railway and Icknield Street
Ref: mra1289
Ordnance Survey
An Ordnance Survey map showing the juxtaposition of the junction with the Alcester Railway and Icknield Street

Ordnance Survey Map showing the lines of the Midland Railway and the Alcester Railway and their proximity to Alcester
Ref: mra385
Disused UK Stations
OS Map showing the lines of the Midland Railway and the Alcester Railway and their proximity to Alcester

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The Great Western Railway at Alcester

View of the junction with the Great Western Railway's branch line to Bearley with the GWR water tower and locomotive shed to its right
Ref: mra474
Anon
View of the junction with the GWR's branch line to Bearley with the water tower and locomotive shed to its right
Post World War One view of the junction with the Midland Railway's Evesham to Birmingham line showing the lifted track
Ref: gwr-mra137
RK Cope/RS Carpenter
Post World War One view of the junction with the MR's Evesham to Birmingham line showing the lifted track
Close up of Alcester junction where the GWR branch joined the MR line
Ref: gwr-mra137a
RK Cope/RS Carpenter
Close up of the MR Signal Box sited opposite the branch and the truncated track at the start of the branch
View taken during the closure period showing the branch track bed and Alcester Road bridge
Ref: gwr-mra461
Anon
View taken during the closure period showing the branch track bed and Alcester Road bridge
The Alcester Branch viewed from the Alcester Rd Bridge looking towards Alcester Junction
Ref: gwr-mra476
Anon
The Alcester Branch viewed from the Alcester Rd Bridge looking towards Alcester Junction

Looking towards the Alcester Rd from the engine shed with the line secured from being used
Ref: gwr-mra472
Anon
Looking from the junction of the MR's line showing the head shunt on the right used by GWR locomotives
The Midland Railway Home Signal located opposite the end of the engine shed head shunt
Ref: gwr-mra473
Anon
The Midland Railway Home Signal located opposite the end of the engine shed head shunt
View of the red brick built bridge carrying Icknield Street over railway after having crossed the River Arrow
Ref: gwr-mra1294
PJ Garland
View of the red brick built bridge carrying Icknield Street over railway after having crossed the River Arrow

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GWR locomotives and rolling stock at Alcester Station

GWR ‘517’ class, 0-4-2T No.203, with a non-corridor, bogie brake coach and a four wheel passenger brake van
Ref: gwr-mra453
Anon
GWR ‘517’ class, 0-4-2T No.203, with a non-corridor, bogie brake coach and a four wheel passenger brake van
GWR ‘517’ class 0-4-2T No.1157 with auto trailer No.76 waiting to depart from the platform at Alcester for Bearley
Ref: gwr-mra467
Anon
GWR ‘517’ class 0-4-2T No.1157 with auto trailer No.76 waits to depart from Alcester for Bearley
GWR Collett 48xx class 0-4-2T No 4814 with 70’ diagram A29 auto trailer No 216 stands in Alcester down platform
Ref: gwr-mra468
Anon
GWR Collett 48xx class 0-4-2T No 4814 with 70’ diagram A29 auto trailer No 216 stands in Alcester down platform
An unidentified Great Western ‘517’ class 0-4-2T propels a auto trailer from Bearley into Alcester Station
Ref: gwr-mra465
Anon
An unidentified Great Western ‘517’ class 0-4-2T propels a auto trailer from Bearley into Alcester Station
Close up showing a GWR Auto Trailer standing in the throat of the station's goods yard
Ref: gwr-mra133a
Anon
Close up showing the branches' GWR Auto Trailer standing in the throat of the station's goods yard

GWR Brake Van No. 35860 (diagram AA3)  seen on the Alcester Branch for use on the mixed trains
Ref: gwr-mra466
Anon
GWR Brake Van No. 35860 (diagram AA3) seen on the Alcester Branch for use on the mixed trains

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Roger Carpenter's article 'Alcester' from British Railway Journal

Published by Wild Swan Publications, ISSN 0265-4105

The origins

The small market town of Alcester, with its stone, brick and half-timbered buildings, is situated on the western flank of Warwickshire. Dating from Roman times, it was once a thriving centre for local industries which, prior to 1900, included furniture, brushes, leather goods and farm produce, etc. There was also a thriving weekly livestock market.

By the 1850s the need for better access to the outside world by the businessmen of the districts encompassing Redditch, Alcester and Evesham was becoming critical. In July 1858 a railway was authorised from Barnt Green to Redditch, which was rapidly developing into a centre for industrial activity. Set up as a local concern and known as the ‘Redditch Railway’, it opened for passengers on 19th September 1859 and to freight on 1st October the same year. Although dogged by financial problems at first, it motivated interest in opening up the area south of Redditch through the rich agricultural lands that make up the western corner of Warwickshire, and down into the well-known fruit and vegetable growing Vale of Evesham. The only railway serving this area at the time was the GWR former Oxford, Worcester & Wolverhampton line which passed through Evesham.

The Midland Railway was very active in extending its system in various parts of the country during the 1850s and 1860s, including a 10 mile branch from their Birmingham—Gloucester line at Ash-church through the Vale of Evesham, skirting the foot of the Cotswold hills, to reach the market town of Evesham. Known as the Ashchurch & Evesham Railway, the line was authorised on 7th June 1861 and opened to all traffic on 1st October 1864 as a double-track branch. The MR station was situated alongside that of the GWR.

The further development of this line was part of a scheme by a number of parties to link the Evesham area with the Redditch Railway to form a through route to the rich commercial markets of Birmingham and the North Midlands. The Evesham & Redditch Railway, authorised on 13th July 1863, was opened as far as Alcester for freight on 16th June and passenger traffic on 17th September 1866. Following problems with a 330ft tunnel on the approach to Redditch, the remaining section was finally opened through to Redditch on 4th May 1868.

The Redditch and Evesham & Redditch Railway companies did not own any locos or rolling stock, the line being worked by the MR from the outset. By the MR (New Lines & Additional Powers) Act of 21st July 1863, the Redditch Railway was dissolved and taken over by the Midland from 1st January 1865. The Evesham & Redditch Railway remained nominally independent somewhat longer, but was vested in the MR from 1st July 1882 and finally dissolved on 25th June 1886 after a financial settlement.

Two years after the E&R was incorporated in 1863, a scheme was put forward by local businessmen and other worthies to link Alcester and the locality with the neighbouring Stratford-on-Avon Railway Company line in order to gain access to the east Midlands and Home Counties. ‘The Warwick Junction Railway’ was projected to leave the Stratford-on-Avon line close to their Bearley station and pass through the districts of Aston Cantlow, Great Alne, Haselor, Kinwarton, Oversley and Alcester, joining the E&R just south of Alcester station, a distance of around 7 miles. This initial scheme was abandoned due to opposition from the GWR and MR. However, undaunted, a group of local businessmen revived the idea in November 1871, the chief promoters including the Earl of Yarmouth, John Coulson Bull and William Bevington Lowe. The proposed new company was to be called the ‘Alcester Railway Company’.

Despite much opposition from both the GWR and the MR, the company eventually reached an agreement with the GWR and obtained its Act on 6th August 1872. Following a meeting with the GWR at Paddington in February 1873, William Clarke was appointed as Engineer for the new company and things got under way. The new route followed a similar course to that of the 1865 scheme, but approached Alcester station from the north. Hampered by lack of funds, construction was deferred until 1875 when Messrs. Scott & Edwards of Melmerby, Yorkshire, were appointed the contractors to build the line. The 61/2 mile long Alcester Railway was completed, and ready for Board of Trade inspection on 25th August 1876, and opened to all traffic on Monday, 4th September 1876. The terms of the 1872 Act stipulated that the GWR would work and maintain the railway in perpetuity, so, like the Redditch and Evesham & Redditch companies, the Alcester Railway owned no locomotives or rolling stock. Inevitably, the Alcester Railway Company was vested in the Great Western and Stratford-on-Avon Railway companies by an Act of 22nd July 1878, whilst the Stratford-on-Avon and Great Western Railway companies were amalgamated as from 1st July 1883.

ALCESTER STATION

Alcester station was situated on the eastern side of the town on flat open farmland, and from the outset was to be regarded as the main principal intermediate station. At first, Alcester was the only crossing place on the E&R route, that is until the opening of the East & West Junction Railway extension from Stratford-on-Avon to Broom on 2nd June 1879, when Broom became a passing station as well as a junction. The station at Alcester was laid out on a very gentle curve and was provided with two blue brick-edged platforms 300ft in length, a substantial neat station building, combining station offices and living accommodation for the station master on the down platform, and a purpose-built waiting room on the up platform. The buildings were constructed in red and blue brick with slate and pantile roofs.

The spacious goods yard on the down side was provided with a 50ft long goods shed constructed in the same materials as the station buildings and containing a 30 cwt hand crane. The architecture of these buildings was identical to the other original E&R stations at Studley, Salford Priors and Harvington. The yard was also provided with a cattle dock, an end loading dock, a long loop siding for coal and mineral traffic, and a cart weighbridge.

The station was fully signalled with standard MR equipment of the day, including one of the distinctive MR signal boxes. The opening of the Alcester Railway in September 1876 brought about numerous alterations to the station layout, carried out during August 1876 at the Alcester company's expense. The work involved extending the crossing loop to the site of the actual junction, a new trailing connection from the up line to the goods yard loop siding, and a new trailing siding off the up line at the Evesham end of the station. The signalling was amended and a new signal box was also provided at the junction with the Alcester Railway, and the main E&R station building underwent mainly internal alterations to accommodate the needs of the new company.

During the construction of the Alcester Railway, consideration was given to a separate terminus alongside the existing E&R station on land behind the goods yard, but, after much deliberation, the Alcester company decided to seek an agreement with the MR regarding the use of the E&R station as the cost of a separate station was prohibitive. In due course an agreement was reached with the MR for the use of the station at a rent of £150 per annum, and a proportional contribution to working expenses. The MR's quotation to the company for the necessary permanent way and signalling alterations, etc, was initially regarded as excessive, but, after some deliberations, the Alcester company relented and the works went ahead, despite some reluctance on the part of the MR company which was no doubt worried about securing payment. The Alcester line was originally operated on the train staff without ticket system, but after 1923 the electric token system was used.

Alcester station remained more or less unchanged during its existence; the only real alterations carried out were the replacement of the Station Signal Box in December 1905, when a larger one was erected on the end of the down platform adjacent to the main station building, and some minor alterations to the signalling which were also carried out at the same time. Further signalling alterations took place in 1932 when the two signal boxes were replaced by a standard LMS brick and timber structure located centrally between its predecessors, these alterations taking effect on 24th April 1932. The signalling underwent a gradual renewal from the 1940s onwards, the MR wooden post signals giving way to the familiar LMS tubular-post upper quadrant type.

LOCOMOTIVE AND TRAIN WORKING Evesham & Redditch Line

The initial service on the E&R line between Evesham and Alcester consisted of four trains in each direction on weekdays and two on Sundays. They were integrated with the Evesham—Ashchurch line services and extended through to Gloucester. However, by the late 1860s, through trains had been withdrawn and thereafter services terminated at Ashchurch where improving connections catered for passengers wishing to travel to Cheltenham and Gloucester. There was a weekdays-only freight train in each direction between Evesham and Alcester and another between Evesham and Ashchurch. The opening of the E&R line through to Redditch in 1868 created, in effect, a ‘loop line’ off the main Birmingham - Gloucester line and through running was made possible between Ashchurch and Barnt Green. Through passenger trains commenced running from Birmingham, with certain services terminating at Redditch (as before), Evesham and Ashchurch. A weekdays freight train service was introduced between Birmingham and Evesham. The route also enabled trains to be diverted off the main line, thus avoiding the Lickey Incline and Worcester. Passenger services between Redditch - Evesham - Ashchurch varied little between 1868 and 1962 when the service was suspended between Redditch and Evesham (the Evesham—Ashchurch section lasting until 1963), and consisted of between four and six trains in each direction on weekdays, generally running through from Birmingham to Ashchurch or Evesham, and Redditch and connecting with other services at these places. Since the 1930s, the Sunday services consisted of three return trips between Birmingham and Evesham only.

By 1911, the operating department had realized the potential of the route and sent through freights from Washwood Heath to Gloucester, Bath and Bristol over the line, as well as the local services from Washwood Heath and Redditch to Evesham and Gloucester Barnwood Sidings. The section south of Broom was also used by banana specials running from Avonmouth to London St. Pancras Goods. The whole 32 mile route from Barnt Green to Ashchurch was open 24 hours a day, 22 miles being single-track, with passing places at Redditch, Alcester and Broom. The route saw heavy traffic, especially freight, during both World Wars, but the usefulness of the ‘loop line’ began to diminish by 1960, especially the section north of Broom. The line south of Alcester to Evesham was temporarily closed from 1st October 1962, the line being declared unsafe due to the poor state of the sleepers. A bus service was provided between Redditch and Evesham but after it had been decided that the cost of track renewal was not justified, the line between Redditch and Evesham was officially closed from 1st July 1963. The Evesham—Ashchurch section closed completely on 9th September 1963, the truncated section from Redditch to Alcester remaining open for freight until 6th July 1964. Motive power on the line was provided from Bournville shed (MR code 3, later LMS/BR 2IB) and Saltley (MR code 3, later LMS/BR 21A) and the sub-shed at Redditch, which came under Bournville. Generally, Bournville and Saltley men worked most of the turns south of Redditch, with Gloucester and Redditch providing some of the turns.

Before the 1880s, motive power used on the Ashchurch—Evesham- Barnt Green line would no doubt have been Kirtley 2-4—0 tender engines on passenger work and his well-known 0—6—Os on freight duties. By 1900, Johnson 0—4—4 tanks would have appeared on the line in company with Johnson M class 0—6—0 tender engines, and, by 1914, Johnson 2—4—0s began to appear on the line on the Birmingham—Evesham- Ashchurch passenger trains, and summer excursions. It was not until about 1930-32 that larger engines were used on the line south of Redditch, these including Deeley 0—6—4 tanks and class 3 0—6—0 tender engines. It is believed that this came about after the strengthening of certain underbridges as, prior to this date, the 0—6—4 tanks and class 3 0—6-0s were permitted to work only as far as Redditch. By the early 1930s, the Deeley 0—6—4 tanks were a regular sight on passenger and local goods as were Johnson 0—4—4 tanks on passenger duties. By this date, Fowler class 3 0—6—0s had largely taken over from the Kirtley and Johnson 0—6—0s on the freight workings, especially on the through freights to Gloucester and Westerleigh (Bristol). By the late 1930s, Stanier 2—6—2 tanks, Fowler 2—6—2 and 2-6-4 tanks, and Fowler 483/2P class 4—4—0s were all seen on passenger duties, with 4F 0—6—0s, on freight, whilst by the mid-1940s, Compounds, Belpaire class 3 4—4—0s, and Hughes’ ‘Crab’ 2—6—0s appeared on the line.

During the postwar years, Fowler 2—6—4 and Stanier 2—6—2 tanks, in company with the Fowler 2P 4—4—0s, handled most passenger turns, with 3F and 4F 0—6—0s on the bulk of the freight turns. By the mid 1950s, Ivatt class 4 2—6—0s were regularly used on both passenger and freight turns whilst Stanier class 5s and 8Fs were in use on the through freights (48523 was a regular on the Washwood Heath—Gloucester at this time), and from 1957 BR Standard 2—10—0s. From 1957-62, Fowler 2—6—4 tanks and Ivatt class 4 2- 6—0s were regularly employed on the passenger duties. The line beyond Redditch remained steam-worked to the end, but during the goods-only period from October 1962 to July 1964, Sulzer type 2 diesels were also used.

Prior to the 1890s, coaching stock consisted of four and six-wheel MR vehicles, succeeded by arc-roof bogie stock, although 6-wheel stock was still to be seen on trains south of Redditch into the 1920s. By the mid-1930s, ex-MR non-corridor and corridor arc-roof and clerestory bogie stock were in use, as well as early-pattern LMS stock, train formations generally consisting of 4-6 vehicles. By 1950, the standard LMS suburban and Stanier corridor stock was in use and lasted up to 1962 when the formation was generally 4-5 vehicles.

Alcester Railway

In 1876 there were six return trips between Bearley and Alcester on weekdays only, whilst the timetables for 1894 and 1911 give five return trips, two of which ran as mixed, again on weekdays only. Prior to the First World War, royalty and other notables travelled to and from Alcester station on visits to the Marquis of Hertford's Estate at Ragley Hall, which was situated a mile or so from the station, and, on at least one occasion, a special royal train arrived at Alcester. The Redditch Indicator for Saturday, 9th August 1879, mentions that 'HRH Princess May Adelaide, the Duchess of Teck...arrived at Alcester station by special (Great Western) train on Saturday afternoon last...' The same newspaper for the period circa 1878-80 contains several references to royalty and other notables travelling by GWR and MR trains to and from Alcester station.

During the 1876-1916 period, Dean '517' class 0—4—2 tanks were used on the line, but we don't know about other types. A 1901 photo of a train in Alcester station shows an arc-roof bogie non-corridor all third coach and a four-wheel passenger brake van, suggesting that even by this period a single bogie coach sufficed for the meagre traffic.

Despite the optimism of its promoters way back in the 1860s, the Alcester branch never really lived up to expectations, and quickly fell victim to the First World War economies, the locomotive shed at Alcester closing on 1st November 1915, when the branch engine transferred to neighbouring Stratford-on-Avon, itself a sub-shed of Tyseley. The GWR closed the branch completely as from 1st January 1917, and subsequently removed the track for use elsewhere. After the war the GWR had no plans to re-open the line. However, vigorous protests from the inhabitants of Alcester persuaded the company to reinstate the section from Bearley to Great Alne which was re-opened to all traffic on 18th December 1922. The service which centred on Stratford-on-Avon, consisted of seven railmotor trips Stratford—Great Alne plus one Thursdays & Saturdays only Bearley—Great Alne. In the opposite direction, there were six trips plus two Thursdays & Saturdays only. The time- table shows one or two of the workings in each direction running as mixed.

Just over seven months later, on 1st August 1923, the line was re-opened through to Alcester, this time including a new ‘Halt’ at Aston Cantlow between Bearley and Great Alne, and the re-opening of the loco shed at Alcester.

The service of seven return trips Mondays to Saturdays only was mentioned, two of them running as mixed, and still with motor train operation, viz single auto-trailer and a '517' class 0—4—2, with the engine facing Bearley. By 1930, the timetable included workings to and from Stratford-on-Avon, and the summer service of that year lists five trips each way daily between Bearley and Alcester, two of which were mixed in each direction. The auto-train also made a morning return trip from Alcester to Stratford on Mondays to Fridays direct via Bearley North and West Junctions, and two return trips to Stratford on Saturdays. By 1937, the summer timetable showed the same service with an additional return auto trip between Bearley and Alcester.

During the 1923-39 period, trains for the Stratford Mop Fair, which was held each year on two successive Saturdays in October, were strengthened by the addition of an extra coach, apparently a clerestory compo third. This was also used on the Mop Night Special to Stratford, which, by all accounts, was a revellers’ delight! The average branch mixed train generally ran with four and six wagons behind the auto-trailer, plus the goods brake. During the 1920s - 1930s, the locals nicknamed the branch auto-train ‘the coffee pot’; the single coach and four-coupled tank engine would have looked a diminutive unit compared with the passenger trains on the LMS line, but despite their affection, their allegiance to the line steadily declined during the late 1930s. The main problem for the GWR branch passenger traffic was that few Alcester people worked in Stratford, which had little industry, whereas man;, found employment in Evesham, Studley. Redditch and Birmingham all reached by the LMS line. It can therefore have come as little surprise when, shortly after war was declared on 3rd September 1939, the GWR announced they intended to close the line entirely from 25th September 1939 until further notice. This was much the same as the 1917 closure but this time the rails were not removed.

By the spring of 1940, the line hac become used for crippled wagon storage which continued unhindered until May 1941 when, as a result of the bombing of Coventry, Maudslays built a ‘shadow factory’ at Great Alne, the GWR re-opening the line from Bearley to Great Alne only for workmen's trains from Coventry. However, these trains ceased on 1st July 1944 when buses were substituted.

As a result of a petition by local traders in the Great Alne area, the Bearley—Great Alne section was re-opened for freight in September 1942, the line beyond to Alcester being retained for wagon storage. Traffic was worked in conjunction with the existing Leamington—Stratford pick-up freight, and the service down the branch was ‘twice weekly’. By 1947, coal traffic for Maudslay works had ceased and thereafter the line was worked ‘as required’, outgoings including seasonal sugar beet from Great Alne to Kidderminster sugar refinery, but this traffic ceased about 1950.

After the cessation of the meagre freight traffic between Bearley and Great Alne, the whole branch was again used for the storage of crippled and withdrawn wagons, and was officially closed on 1st March 1951, a short length at both ends still being retained for wagon storage until about 1959-60 when the surviving track was removed.

TRAFFIC 1900s—1930s

Details of traffic in the early years prior to 1900 are not known, but presumably it was typical of a country station of the period, with incoming domestic coal, general merchandise, livestock, grain, animal feed, etc. Besides farm produce, outgoing traffic from local industries would have included furniture from the cabinet works owned by the Ison brothers, leather goods, brushes, and goods from the Minerva needle works situated in Station Road, which, by the 1930s, had been taken over by Terrys, a Redditch firm manufacturing springs. There was also a livestock sale yard and abattoir owned by H. J. Rowley adjacent to the station which generated plenty of traffic, especially on the MR line. There was a cattle market at Alcester on Thursdays when truck loads of cattle would be dispatched, notably to Birmingham.

Most, if not all, the local Alcester coal merchants of the inter-war period had stacking grounds and offices in the goods yard, these including Frank and George Butler, Frank Hawkins, Fred Shrimpton, J. A. Bates, Alcester Co-op, and the Warwickshire County Council. Most of the domestic coal came in from the / Warwickshire Coalfield.

The MR and GWR employed horse-drawn drays to collect and deliver goods in and around the town, and by the late 1930s, the LMS are believed to have been using a motor lorry, as were some of the coal merchants and local farmers.

STAFF PRE-1939

For many years the station was overseen by both an MR and GWR station master, a practice probably dating from the opening of the Alcester Railway in 1876 in conjunction with the agreement for the use of the E&R station. There were even separate booking offices within the main station building. The MR is believed to have employed two passenger clerks, plus a relief, a goods clerk, a couple of porters and a drayman, and signalmen to cover day and night shifts. LMS station staff during the 1930s included station masters Kilby and Webb; booking clerks Sainsbury and Righton; porter Bill Potter, whilst signalmen included Mr. Stokes, Ernie Jarrett, and Mr. Pepper; and goods delivery driver Mr. Darby shire. Mr. Kilby was subsequently replaced by Mr. Blakemore who arrived about 1939 and stayed there during the war years.

GWR STAFF

As already mentioned, the GWR allocated a station master and possibly a clerk to the station as well as a goods delivery driver and two porter-guards, whilst the Locomotive Department based two sets of footplatemen to the shed. By the turn of the century, the station master was a Mr. Pocock, whilst in 1911 the locomotive drivers were Mr. G. Whitehead and a Mr. C. Stairmand. The first station master after the 1923 re-opening was a Mr. W. Everitt, who was promoted to Bletchington in December 1927. A relief man probably covered the post until April 1928 when Mr. J. N. Billington transferred from Bordesley Junction. Amongst the regular train crew during the 1930s were drivers Williams and Parker, fireman Edmunds and goods guards Hughes and Bayliss.

1947-50

When Reg Tedstone, a relief booking clerk based at Barnt Green, was first sent to Alcester in 1947, the station master was Frank Pattle, who transferred away to Aldridge about 1948. He was succeeded by Frank Dainton who remained until the early 1950s before transferring to ' Kingsbury.

The station staff consisted of a booking clerk, believed to have been Norman Saunders; goods clerk Ken Sainsbury; porters (one on early turn, one on late) Billy Potter (an elderly man who had been there since before the war) and Alfred. There were two signalmen, one on each shift, and a lorry driver, but their names are not known. The passenger traffic at this period was quite reasonable, mostly in the mornings and evenings for Birmingham, Redditch and Evesham. The goods yard, too, was quite busy, with farm supplies such as animal feed and agricultural products, several vans and coal wagons being handled each day. The abattoir was adjacent to the goods yard, and the gruesome sounds could be heard on occasions around the station. Some of the livestock was still brought in by rail at this time but most came from local farms. The abattoir was run by Desmond Rowley but the business was transferred to Kidderminster during the early 1960s.

On one occasion, a large cheese was being unloaded from a box van, and was found to have been contaminated with oil or something similar. The staff buried it in the station yard! At lunchtime, the station staff would generally retire to the nearby public house, The Bear, situated in the High Street. Although there was a ‘No betting on the premises’ sign in the bar, a local policeman would sometimes come in and patronise the unofficial bookie! Billy Potter, one of the regular porters who used the pub, was often despatched from the station to summon the return of his colleagues. The Lord Nelson was another favourite retreat.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Roger Carpenter stated that he was much indebted to: Reg Tedstone, Bill Hunt and D. G. Cox for their recollections of the station in the 1930s-1950. Roger added. 'I would also like to thank John Tilsley, J. F. Burrell, Joe Moss, Pat Garland, John Smith of Lens of Sutton, Derek Sharpe, Phil Wheeler, Brian Johnson, Bob Essery, Richard Casserley, John Edgington, the late Don Powell, John Platt, Stanley Bennett and numerous other folk who helped in the preparation of this article'.

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Alcester Station - MR & GWR (63) Alcester Shed - GWR (12)