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Warwickshire's Industrial Railways

Birmingham Small Arms (BSA) and Singer Motors

Birmingham Small Arms (BSA) and Singer Motors Appendix to No 13 Section of the Service Time Tables

The Birmingham Small Arms Company obtained a 25 acre site at Small Heath in 1862 for the manufacture of guns by machinery. The arms trade fluctuated and the factory shut in 1879 for almost a year through lack of orders. As a result BSA diversified into the manufacture of bicycles in 1880, but this production ceased again in 1887 when the War Office started to reequip the British Army. The cycling manufacturing recommenced in 1893 and in 1909 BSA also started to produce Motorcycles. Although this factory at Small Heath was close to the route of the Oxford to Birmingham Railway, there was no rail connection.

In 1906 BSA had purchased the Sparkbrook Royal Small Arms Factory, but the expected Government rifle orders never materialised and instead the factory was utilised for motor car manufacturing. This venture was unsuccessful and only rescued by the amalgamation with the Daimler Company of Coventry in 1910. From then on the BSA Sparkbrook Works concentrated on the manufacture of light cars producing at its peak 1,500 cars per year in the early 1920’s. During the First World War BSA produced armaments, cycles and motorcycles for the war effort making further expansion necessary. New facilities were constructed on the other side of the railway adjacent to Waverley Road with a private siding connected to the Great Western Railway close to the Small Heath South Signal Box provided in March 1919. Trailing connections were provided to the up and down Main lines. After the war this site was used for Motorcycle manufacture.

In 1926 Singer Cars acquired part of the Waverley Road site from BSA and the private siding was extended along the bank of the River Cole to their factory. Singer had started producing cars in 1905 and rapidly expanded such that their own Works in Coventry had insufficient capacity. By 1928 Singer Cars was the third largest car maker in Britain after Austin and Morris with 15% of the market share. A total of 7,000 Singer Senior Saloons were produced between 1927 and 1930 and 40,000 Singer Junior Tourers were produced between 1927 and 1932. In 1933, production had shifted to the Silent Six 2160cc Continental sports saloon and 1½ litre 6cyl 2 seater sports car, but after a disastrous Le Mans Race performance, the Managing Director (W Bullock) resigned in May 1936. The company was dissolved at the end of that year but subsequently reformed as Singer Motors Ltd.

The Railway Clearing House (RCH) Handbooks of 1929, 1939 and 1953, all identify the private siding as serving both Singer & Co Ltd and Daimler Ltd. Rail traffic ceased in 1954 and the siding connection was removed in October 1964.

The following standard gauge locomotives worked the private siding:

Type Manufacturer Works No Date Built Date Acquired Disposal
0-4-0ST Hudswell Clarke & Co Ltd, Railway Foundary, Leeds 1339 9th July 1918 New Scrapped November 1957
4 wheeled Vertical Boiler Sentinel Waggon Works Ltd, Shrewsbury 6514 July 1926 Ex-GWR No13 in 1947 Withdrawn July 1949
Scrapped 1952

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

Aerial view of the BSA Works sandwiched between the GWR and the Grand Union Canal seen from the South west
Ref: misc_bsa&singer177
Britain from Above
Aerial view of the BSA Works sandwiched between the GWR and the Grand Union Canal seen from the South west
A special train load of Singer motor cars despatched by the GWR from the firm's Birmingham factory for export
Ref: misc_bsa&singer178
GWR
A special train load of Singer motor cars despatched by the GWR from the firm's Birmingham factory for export
Aerial view of the future Singer Car factory under construction photographed in 1921
Ref: misc_bsa&singer179
Britain from Above
Aerial view of the future Singer Car factory under construction photographed in 1921
Covered carriage truck (telegraphic code PYTHON) No 580 of lot 1238 seen here when built in 1914
Ref: misc_bsa&singer181
GWR
Covered carriage truck (telegraphic code PYTHON) No 580 of lot 1238 seen here when built in 1914
Sentinel No 13 at Old Oak Common Shed in brand new condition, awaiting application of livery and cast number plate
Ref: misc_bsa&singer184
M Rutherford
Sentinel No 13 at Old Oak Common Shed in brand new condition, awaiting application of livery and number plate

A 1940ís aerial view of the BSA Small Heath site bounded by; the Grand Union Canal on two sides
Ref: misc_bsa&singer337
History of the BSA
A 1940’s aerial view of the BSA Small Heath site bounded by; the Grand Union Canal on two sides
A GWR Memo responding to an enquiry about the connections to the exchange sidings for the BSA Waverley Road Works
Ref: misc_bsa&singer338
Great Western Railway
A GWR Memo responding to an enquiry about the connections to the exchange sidings for the BSA Works
A view from the main gate showing the damage at the BSA works after a major air raid in the Second World War
Ref: misc_bsa&singer339
History of the BSA
A view from the main gate showing the damage at the BSA works after a major air raid in the Second World War
A view from the main gate showing the damage at the BSA works after a major air raid in the Second World War
Ref: misc_bsa&singer340
German Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe map dated October 1940 specifically identifying the Singer Motorcar Works as a potential target

Ordnance Survey maps and drawings

Covered carriage truck (telegraphic code PYTHON) No 580 of lot 1238 seen here when built in 1914
Ref: misc_bsa&singer183
SRS
A low resolution Signalling Diagram for Small Heath South Signal Box showing the arrangement post 1945
Plan showing the locations of the Birmingham Small Arms factories and their proximity to the Singer works
Ref: misc_bsa&singer180
Ordnance Survey
Plan showing the locations of the Birmingham Small Arms factories and their proximity to the Singer works
A 1950ís Ordnance Survey Map of Small Heath showing the original BSA Works and the GWR Main Line
Ref: misc_bsa&singer182
Ordnance Survey
A 1950’s Ordnance Survey Map of Small Heath showing the original BSA Works and the GWR Main Line