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Birmingham New Street Station: lnwrbns_str397

View looking East towards London from the West end of platform 1 with platform 2 on the right and platform 3 on the very right

View looking East towards London from the West end of platform 1 with platform 2 on the right and platform 3 on the very right. In the early years access to the station's platforms was possible via both the footbridge which was installed to fulfill the railway's obligation to continue to provide the ancient right of way and via the barrow crossing at track level as seen above. The crossings ran the full width of the station and could be accessed from Queens Street. The footbridge was later replaced with a much wider version of substantial build complete with the station's famous No 3 signal box on top. The low height of the platforms seen in the photograph were a common feature of many early railway stations and were another throw back to their stage coach lineage where passengers would be expected to climb in to the carriage from road level.

Richard Foster writes, 'On the original print the signal on the south (East) end of platform 2 can be seen, still in place'. In front of the barrow crossing point levers which were operated by hand can be seen and were used within the confines of the station by 'bobbies'. 'Bobbies', the nickname derived from Robert Peeler who established the police force in London, was the nickname for railway policemen who controlled the railway in the absence of signals, signal boxes, telegraph bells etc all which would come in the future. (It should be noted that Robert Peeler did NOT establish the first police force in the world that honour rests with Scotland).

Early railways would therefore be controlled by policemen by using red and green flags for stop and proceed. Trains travelling on the line required the policemen to operate the fixed time interval system which compelled trains to depart at fixed intervals of usually no less than ten minutes. The time difference was unreliable as it could not cater for breakdowns and unforeseen delays etc inevitably led to accidents with trains running in to the back of each. The reluctance of the railways to invest in the provision of a much more efficient and horrendously expensive alternative, compelled Parliament to act by forcing the railway companies to adopt the use of signals and the block system.