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Curzon Street Engine House

LMS Route: Rugby to Wolverhampton
LMS Route: Birmingham - Soho Road - Perry Barr - Birmingham
LMS Route: Birmingham New Street to Lichfield

The Engine House was opened on 12th November 1837 when goods trains started to run between Birmingham and Rugby. Its location, just a few hundred feet in front of the passenger station, reflected the initial practice of basing railway operations on those adopted for horse-drawn road vehicles and canals. This manifested itself in many ways, from early railway carriages being built with each compartment looking as if it was a stage coach to the accommodation of steam locomotives being based on the practice of stabling horses at Inns etc. In this respect it meant that locomotives were to be stabled next to the station. This close proximity, together with the unexpected volume of traffic generated necessitating the construction of New Street station, meant that the Engine House would be closed within twelve years despite being extended twice in this short space of time. When the Engine House closed in 1859 the men from Curzon Street were transferred to Monument Lane shed which had opened in November 1858.

Richard Foster in the first volume of his excellent series on New Street Station 'Birmingham New Street - Background and Beginnings the years up to 1860' quotes Cheffin's London & Birmingham Railway in describing the facilities when the Engine House was first opened. 'The Locomotive Engine-house is a building with sixteen sides, capable of holding sixteen engines and tenders or thirty-two engines alone: these stand with their ends towards the sides of the building, one against each, on sixteen ways, all meeting on a turn-plate in the centre, by which the engines are sent to their respective lines of rails, which run from the Engine-house to the Station. Under each engine is a pit, three feet deep, which enables the engine-men to get underneath the engine to examine, clean, or repair it. In front of the Engine-house are store rooms, offices, and workshops, over which is a tank, holding one hundred and seventy tons of water, with provision for a steam-engine to work a pump from a well below, in case the supply from the Water Works Company should fail. The engine-house is built on land about twenty feet lower than the present surface, under which are store rooms for coke, and a communication to a large vault under ground, which opens to the canal'.

Richard also provides information from Francis Wishaw's description of the station in 1842 in which he notes that the building was erected some 88 feet from the canal, 418 feet away from the last row of turntables used to access the lines running into the station's train shed and was 124 feet in diameter. Towards the passenger station a building projects out which is 60 feet in depth and 63 feet in front: in the middle of this is the entrance for the locomotives. The turntable in the centre of the shed is 15 feet in diameter, from which 16 lines radiate out with two lines continuing outwards. One line is for outgoing engines and the other is for incoming engines. The centre portion of the building had no roof whilst the sides covering the radiating lines was covered by a light iron roof. Wishaw writes 'On each side of the outgoing line is a circular shaft into an arched way below, for the purpose of raising coke therefrom. The passage communicates with the coke-vault, which being nearby on a level with the canal, the coke is readily transferred to it from the barges. Along the middle of the passage a single line of way is laid down with a gauge of 18 inches: on this the coke is moved from the cellar, by means of small trucks, to underneath the eyes or shafts above mentioned. The vault being at right angles to the passage, a small turntable is placed at the meeting of the two lines in the middle of the vault; the second line runs down to the canal. The coke vault is arched, is about 300 feet long, 30 wide, and 20 feet high, and is calculated to hold about 1400 tons of coke. The communication between the locomotives shed and the vault beneath is by means of a flight of 27 steps, each rising 8¼ inches'.

If you are interested in knowing more about Curzon Street Shed you can do no better than to read Richard Foster's series of books on Birmingham New Street - The Story of a Great Station including Curzon Street published by Wild Swan Publications Ltd of Didcot. I would like to take this opportunity of crediting Richard Foster as being the source for much of the rich information provided in the captions to the photographs.

The LMS and its successor, British Railways, undertook to film various aspects of operating steam locomotives and other railway operations. We have provided below links to some of the films related to shed operation that we know exist. Films on other aspects of railway operations can be viewed via our Video and Film Clip section.

London & Birmingham and Great Junction Railway Stations (20) Curzon Street Engine House (8)
Curzon Street Excursion Station (5 Curzon Street Goods Station (83)

Select an image below to view the larger version with accompanying text:

Drawing of Curzon Street station's 16 road 'roundhouse' as viewed from the passenger train shed
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Anon
A contemporary drawing of Curzon Street station's 16 road 'roundhouse' as viewed from the passenger train shed
LNWR Stephenson long boiler 2+2-2-0 No 189 seen standing in front of the now closed Curzon Station circa 1959
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NRM
LNWR Stephenson long boiler 2+2-2-0 No 189 standing in front of the now closed Curzon Station circa 1959
Plan of the approach and layout of Curzon Street station's train shed and its Engine House as seen in 1838
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Anon
Plan of the approach and layout of Curzon Street station's train shed and its Engine House as seen in 1838
Plan of the approach and layout of Curzon Street station's train shed and its Engine House as seen in 1846
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Anon
Plan of the approach and layout of Curzon Street station's train shed and its Engine House as seen in 1846
Close up of 1846 plan showing the extended Engine House and the new relocated carriage shed
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Close up of 1846 plan showing the extended Engine House and the new relocated carriage shed

Close up showing the L & B station's platforms and the arrival platform of the Grand Junction station
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Anon
Close up showing the L & B station's platforms and the arrival platform of the Grand Junction station
Plan of the approach and layout of Curzon Street station's train shed and its Engine House as seen in 1852
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Anon
Plan of the approach and layout of Curzon Street station's train shed and its Engine House as seen in 1852
Close up of a lithograph by Ackerman showing a perspective of Curzon Street shed in 1845
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Ackerman
Close up of a lithograph by Ackerman showing a perspective of Curzon Street shed in 1845

"Wash and Brush Up" 1953
Shows the procedures that a steam engine goes through as part of its regular maintenance cycle. The locomotive being featured in the film is a British Railways Standard Class 5MT 4-6-0 No 73020 at 6D Chester (Midland shed. (25 minutes 19 seconds)

LMS On the Shed - Part One of Two
Various shots of an engine being prepared and serviced ready for its next trip. Includes actions and responsibilities of crew. (9 minutes 44 seconds)

LMS On the Shed - Part Two of Two
Various shots of an engine being prepared and serviced ready for its next trip. Includes actions and responsibilities of crew. (9 minutes 31 seconds)