History of Monument Lane Shed
The first Monument Lane shed opened in 1853, on the London and North Western Railway's Stour Valley line between Birmingham New Street and Wolverhampton. The original shed housed 12 locomotives but overcrowding at Curzon Street led to the need for a larger shed, for which approval came in February 1858. Thus the new six road shed opened November 1858, and was sited close to the original three road building which remained in use. From then onwards the Monument Lane allocation was normally between 30 and 40 locomotives. In the early 1930s improvements took place including a mechanical coaling plant and ash lift plant- both of which were available by 1934 and a 60 foot turntable; slightly later, in 1938, came water softening plant. The shed yard was also extended by the addition of three roads (what became known as 8, 9 and 10) and by 1939 the shed also boasted improved office accommodation and staff amenities. The new facilities led to the demolition of the original three road shed. In 1935 the shed was coded 3E.
Decline set in during the 1950s and the shed roof was partly cut back after it deteriorated. The allocation of steam locomotives gradually reduced and the last examples were transferred away on 10 February 1962. However, that was not the end of the shed. In 1956 the Lichfield line was converted to diesel multiple unit operation and the carriage shed was adapted for use as a diesel servicing depot. This meant that Monument Lane was the first diesel shed in the West Midlands The dmus, together with a small allocation of diesels shunters, ensured that Monument Lane survived until March 1967, when the men were transferred to New Street. The old steam shed continued in use as a stabling point initially and as a signing on point right until the men's transfer. The shed was never blessed with the most powerful locomotives. During the early part of the 20th Century the allocation included, on the passenger side, Precusors, George V and Prince of Wales tender locomotives, ex LNW 4-6-2 and 4-4-2 tanks and 0-6-2 tanks of the 'Watford Tank' variety. The latter class would be represented at the shed until the early 1950s, by which time the majority of the tank locomotives were the Stanier, Fairburn or Fowler 2-6-4Ts. Freight locomotives included 0-6-0 Cauliflowers and Coal Engines, whilst the tanks engines included 0-6-2 Coal Tanks. From the mid 1930s ex Midland Railway Johnson 2F 0-6-0s became a regular feature, accompanied by Midland and LMS 3Fs and 4Fs and, latterly, a small stud of Jinties.
LMS Compounds arrived at the shed in the mid 1920s and Monument Lane also received a number of brand new Stanier Class '5s' in the 1930s. Both classes remained the staple main line passenger power for many years. Late in 1936 Prince of Wales 25673 Lusitania departed, a move of some significance, as the shed would never again have a named locomotive on its allocation. Stanier Class 5s remained the most powerful locomotives until the final examples transferred away at the end of the summer timetable in 1961. However, the shed did see- and make use of- more powerful locomotives from other depots, including Royal Scots, Patriots, Jubilees, Britannias and even, on one occasion, a Clan. The shed never received an allocation of BR Standard locomotives. During the post nationalisation era the shed housed the last 'Watford Tank' in service and was home to the final LMS Compounds, 40936 and 41168. Amongst the last locomotives to leave was 4F 44444. The stock of Class 5s rotated fairly regularly, but of those, the longest to stay at the shed was 45390, between June 1950 and March 1956. That locomotive survived in the north west virtually until the end of steam and worked one of the railtours on the penultimate weekend.
The shed was responsible for a mix of main line and local passenger workings, together with local freight duties. Freight workings, which initially consisted of both longer distance and local duties, gradually contracted until they were mainly focused on the Stour Valley route to Wolverhampton, the Harborne branch or across to Bescot. Nevertheless, even at the end of steam, the men might find themselves working to the likes of Crewe or Rugby with a special freight. The Harborne line included sidings belonging to the Mitchells and Butler's Brewery, serving its Cape Hill site. The Company had its own locomotives but when they were out of action M&B borrowed a locomotive from BR, which could find itself on the Monument Lane allocation. One such example, in 1950, was the preserved ex L&Y 'Pug' 51218. On the Stour Valley line the shed had responsibility for trip workings and shunting at the goods yards between Monument Lane and Tipton, including Albion, Spon Lane and Oldbury.
Express passenger duties covered services mainly to Manchester, Liverpool or London, supplemented during the Summer to Blackpool and North Wales. Regulars in the 1950s were the:
The 9.20am to Liverpool actually set out as a 7.50am local from Leamington to New Street, where a new set of men continued to Liverpool with the same engine and carriages. With the reintroduction of two hour expresses between London and Birmingham in 1953, Monument Lane men and locomotives were called on to pilot some of the heavier workings, a job which often fell to the Compounds. The men also worked parcels trains, including to London, duties which saw the use of the Diesels 10000 and 10001 around 1957. In the mid 1950s, the booked turns for London included:
The coupled workings fell on Fridays and Saturdays. Times of the above could vary from year to year.
Summer duties included the 9.00am New Street to Blackpool (3.40pm return), the 8.35am Smethwick to Llandudno (2.50pm return to New Street) and the 9.20am New Street to Morecambe as far as Crewe. All of those services made regular use of the shed's three Compounds, 40933, 40936 and 41090. The shed was also responsible for some extras between the Midlands and the south coast- which they worked to or from Willesden- illumination specials to Blackpool, football excursions and extras to Aintree for Grand National Day (with a Central Division pilot over the latter stages). The shed's top link men were also called upon at times to work Royal Trains. Local workings covered many of the ex LNW lines around the West Midlands, including those to Lichfield via Sutton Coldfield, Coventry, Stafford, Rugby and Leamington; services to Leamington operated both via Coventry and the Berkswell to Kenilworth line. They also worked slightly further afield to Burton, via Lichfield, Rugeley, Stoke and Newcastle Under Lyme and Bletchley. Before World War 2 they also worked to Shrewsbury via Stafford and Wellington.
One other duty is worthy of mention- station pilot duties at Birmingham New Street. That responsibility actually covered only the 'Western Lines' side of the station, with Saltley or Bournville covering the Midland side. Nevertheless, it required the full time attention of two locomotives and ultimately provided the final duties for a series of Watford Tanks and Coal Tanks, before a trio of Stanier 2-6-2Ts took over until the diesels arrived. In June 1960 the shed was recoded 21E and diesel shunters arrived in November1960 to take over station pilot duties at New Street and a number of the local trip workings. The shed was again recoded in 1963, becoming 2H. Into the diesel era London workings continued, usually with what became Class 40s or 24s, by then of course, using locomotives from other sheds. Monument Lane had no main line diesels allocated but it did have a number of what became Class 08 and 03 shunters, together with a small number from the 12xxx range. Local workings continued much as before, although some Monument Lane duties took the men further afield than in steam days, such as to Peterborough and Nuneaton and a Monument Lane man actually worked the final service between Nuneaton and Coventry in 1965, although passenger services have now been reintroduced.
Finally, Monument Lane had two outposts, at Tipton and Albion. Tipton boasted a small engine shed, which housed one locomotive. The engine left the main shed on Monday morning and returned to Monument Lane on Saturday evenings until around 1953. The shed then closed and the engine made a daily trip. Albion had no shed, simply basic servicing facilities and it, too, lost its outstationed loco in 1953. Today the steam shed is covered by the car park for the National Indoor Arena. The diesel depot site remains as open land, with only part of a wall to mark the site.
The following article by Tony Higgs on Monument Lane appeared in the LNWR Society's Journal.
Monument Lane Engine Shed
By Tony Higgs
History of the Shed
So appeared an advertisement in a number of local and national newspapers in March and April 1853, signalling the intention of the London and North Western Railway to build a locomotive engine shed on the recently opened railway between Birmingham and Wolverhampton.
An early reference to the shed appears in the minutes of the Stour Valley sub committee of the General Works Committee of the London and North Western Railways Northern Division. At its meeting on 9 March 1853 the Committee recommended that a shed be built at the Crescent (a thoroughfare close to the centre of Birmingham) to accommodate eight engines.
The General Works Committee agreed that estimates for an engine shed for eight or nine engines at Monument Lane should be prepared and tenders invited in time for the next meeting, which took place on 8 April 1853. At that meeting it was agreed to proceed with the shed and the contract would be awarded to R C Pauling at a cost of £2,795.
There is an early mystery here because, although references to the Crescent would still appear from time to time during the early years, the shed soon became known as Monument Lane, but Monument Lane itself was around a quarter of a mile from the shed. Instead, the building was located at the junction of St Vincent Street and Sheepcote Street in the Ladywood district of Birmingham. The title even survived when Monument Lane itself was renamed Monument Road in the 1870s and so it remained right through to closure.
Beginning in April 1853, surviving LNWR records show a series of payments to Pauling's for work on the shed, and those payments end in April 1854, indicating roughly when the shed was ready for use. The building was a modest affair, initially stabling twelve engines rather than the original nine proposed and it lay parallel to the Stour Valley down main line. The shed had three through roads, each 200 feet in length, with access gained at the northern or Wolverhampton end of the layout. However, the 42 foot turntable and coaling stage were located a short distance away from the main buildings, beyond the St Vincent Street road bridge which crossed the Stour Valley line.
The shed offices also formed part of the building and were located on the side of the shed away from the main line. They consisted of the Locomotive Superintendent's Office, a stores, an engine driver's room and the smithy's shop. Alongside the smithy's shop was a small yard containing toilets, beyond which was a coking furnace.
By 1854 the London and North Western Railways
locomotives were also housed at Curzon Street and Vauxhall in Birmingham, but
it soon became clear that even with three engine sheds, capacity was stretched.
Proposals were therefore submitted in May 1856 to increase the allocation to 24
locomotives at Monument Lane. No immediate action was taken but when the
relevant committee met on Boxing Day 1857 they decided that it was time to act,
and they considered three options, namely:
Following the discussions, the committee members agreed to enlarge the sheds at Vauxhall and Monument Lane and confirmation that authority was forthcoming for the work appeared in the minutes of the Committee at their meeting on 10 February 1858, although formal approval had clearly already been given as tenders were invited in newspaper advertisements that appeared on 25 January. The LNWR received ten tenders for the work, with approval going to Thomas Smith of Leicester- although the accounts records show payments to Smith and Hutchinson. The total cost, including the improvements at Vauxhall, was £4,524 and twelve shillings.
The enlargement at Monument Lane was actually achieved by constructing a second shed. When completed, this lay close to the original building, which continued in its original role (although it was used as a carriage shed briefly in 1870). The additional building was referred to as the New Shed, an identification which remained for many years. The two buildings are also referred to as 'north' and 'south' and 'No 1' and 'No 2'foreman's sheds at various times.
The new facilities provided six additional roads, each 150 feet in length. Road number 3 was initially designated as the ash pit and the turntable and coaling stage facilities remained on the far side of the St Vincent Street road bridge. Parts of the old shed were also renovated, including cleaning of the walls in the engine drivers room and the foreman's office.
On 11 November 1858 Mr Baker reported that the shed at Monument Lane was ready for acceptance by the Locomotive Department. It therefore took its place within the Company's Northern Division. It appears that in those early days it was allocated the code number 11, but that identification was destined to be short term, although it is not clear when it was last used. Following the closure of Vauxhall and the opening of Aston shed in 1884- coded 10- Monument Lane became a sub shed of Aston and was coded 10M.
The work falling to the enlarged shed increased over the following twenty years as more lines were opened in the Birmingham area, including those to Sutton Coldfield, Harborne and then an extension beyond Sutton to Lichfield. Similar expansion occurred in relation to goods traffic along the Stour Valley line as new yards opened and others were expanded.
On 22 March 1884, following one of the Chairman's tours of inspection, it was proposed that an additional goods shed should be erected at Monument Lane and access improved to the site by means of an entrance from St Vincent Street. These changes affected the land occupied by the locomotive coal stage and turntable and as a result, those facilities were re-sited alongside the New Shed. There was a scare when a fire occurred in the New Shed on 22 July 1884 but it was spotted by one of the firemen on duty. He quickly extinguished the flames by attaching a hose pipe to the injector of an adjacent engine, thereby ensuring that damage was limited and the repair bill was one of around £50.
In addition to the new goods shed, plans were also approved to build a new carriage shed near to Monument Lane station. The new carriage shed was completed in 1886. Many years later it would have a part to play in the history of locomotive sheds at Monument Lane.
The layout at the shed was expanded slightly in 1915 with the provision of a seventh track alongside the New Shed. The additional track was laid on the side of the shed furthest from the main line and provided improved access to the sand drying furnace, which was itself upgraded. The additional siding was laid using second hand materials and cost around £270. During World War I, women were engaged at the shed, so it became necessary to provide lavatory accommodation and mess cabins for the female workers.
It was in that form that the shed remained during the remaining years of the London and North Western Railways existence. In the LMS era the shed gained a mechanical coaling plant and ash pit, a move that led to the demolition of the original shed in 1934- but not of the 1886 coal hole. In 1935, under a major LMS renumbering programme, the shed became 3E, with Bescot as the District lead shed. Further improvements then took place in 1938 and 1939, including new offices, a larger turntable of 60 feet diameter and a water softening plant. Around the same time the shed yard was also extended by the addition of three roads, no doubt to compensate for the loss of the three roads when the original shed was demolished. The new sidings, again at the furthest point from the main line, were at a slightly higher level than the rest of the yard and popularly referred to by the men as The Prom.
In the 1950s Monument Lane was selected as the site for the first diesel shed in the West Midlands. However, the new diesel multiple units, which primarily took over services on the route from Birmingham to Lichfield from March 1956, were not housed alongside the steam locomotives. Instead, part of the 1886 Carriage Shed was adapted for their upkeep, thus the London and North Western Railway built the first diesel shed in the West Midlands! Once again Monument Lane had two shed buildings and both sheds operated under the 3E identification until June 1960 when further reorganisation saw the code change to 21E, with Saltley as the A shed.
In February 1962 the 1858 New Shed lost its allocation of steam locomotives, although it remained in use after that date for stabling visiting engines and as the site for heavier repair work to be carried out on the DMU fleet; the building also served as the signing on point for both sheds. The code changed again in September 1963, this time to 2H within Tyseley's command. The end came for both sites in March 1967 when a new Diesel and Electric Depot opened at nearby Soho.
Monument Lane also had two sub-sites of its own, at Tipton and Albion, both of which lay on the Stour Valley line to Wolverhampton. Of the two, Tipton was the more notable in that from 1884 it had its own one road shed, whereas Albion boasted only an ash pit and water column. Nevertheless, both sites were home for a locomotive from Monday morning to Saturday evening each week, and each location had dedicated footplatemen who lived locally. The small shed at Tipton meant that only tank locomotives could be accommodated at the site but there were no such constraints at Albion.
From 1953 the outstations were closed and henceforth locos travelled from the main shed on a daily basis. Nevertheless, both sites retained a small contingent of local footplatemen for a number of years, some of whom survived to be trained on diesel shunters in 1961.
Although Monument Lane's early responsibilities covered passenger services, the shed soon took on a much more diverse range of operations, including express workings, local trains over a busy suburban network, express goods trains and local trip workings. Its more elderly tank engines were also constantly in the public eye as they undertook station pilot duties on the London and North Western side of New Street station.
The prestigious turns were between Birmingham and Manchester, Liverpool or London from the Victorian era through to the shed's last days. When the two hour expresses between London and Birmingham were introduced in the early years of the 20th century Bushbury shed took on the majority of those duties that fell to the West Midlands, but Monument Lane men also worked them at times and they were frequently involved in piloting the heavier expresses; they also worked to London regularly on services via Northampton.
A short article in LMS Railway Magazine noted that the fastest booked time on the LMS in 1924 was between Birmingham and Coventry. The article included three logs of the 4.58pm from New Street to Euston over that stretch of track, all of which were worked by Monument Lane drivers. An accompanying note stated that the service with driver Lambourne in control was a brilliant show, no less than ¾ minutes being gained on one of the hardest bookings extant. The 11 5/8 miles from Stechford to Tile Hill were covered in 9½ minutes (at speed 73½ mph). The three engines concerned were all George Vs, No 2168 Henry Maudslay with driver Lambourne at the regulator, No 445 P. H. Chambres and No 1628 Foxhound.
On Manchester and Liverpool duties the pattern normally involved a fast service to the north west in the morning. The return working varied over the years from a stopper to Crewe, an express to Crewe, where the men would book off or a direct return to Birmingham. The shed also played a part in working a small number of trains between New Street and the East Coast which travelled via Rugby and Market Harborough. Monument Lane's footplate responsibilities were confined to the section between Birmingham and Rugby but engines could travel further afield, particularly on summer Saturdays.
In relation to summer Saturdays, the shed had responsibility for a number of holiday and excursion trains. They included summer timetabled services to the North Wales Coast or Blackpool and there is evidence that duties to North Wales, at least, took place in the 1890s. Services to London, Liverpool, Manchester, North Wales and the Lancashire coast remained a feature of life at the shed until the early 1960s.
On the suburban network Monument Lane's principal route was to Lichfield via Sutton Coldfield. However, the shed also played an active part on routes to Wolverhampton, Walsall, Leamington, Coventry and Rugby, including some longer distance services to Stoke on Trent and the surrounding area, Burton, Rugby and Stafford, as well as Shrewsbury via Stafford.
In the Victorian era the shed was involved in longer distance freight duties to Manchester and Liverpool, but over the years the distance travelled on non passenger workings gradually contracted. Eventually, duties were confined to trip workings around the Birmingham area or to Wolverhampton, with only the occasional longer distance duty occurring, usually on specials.
Responsibility for local trip workings to goods yards along and close to the Stour Valley Railway were a regular feature of life at the shed and the loco would then shunt the yards. Table 1 shows the arrangements in 1878. In time, as the yards became busier, an engine would be present at some locations for an entire 24 hour period. The sites involved were those at Monument Lane, just a stone's throw from the shed, Soho Pool, where the engine would also undertake banking duties as there was a stiff climb away from the yard, Oldbury, Spon Lane, Spon Lane Basin, Albion and Tipton. Finally the shed had responsibility for working freight traffic on the Harborne branch.
Amongst the more notable company sidings to which the shed's engines worked were Avery's (weighing machines) at Soho, where the company also had its own locomotive, Mond Gas Works, near Tipton, which was the responsibility of the outhoused engine, Chance's Glass Works at Spon Lane, and the Mitchells and Butlers Brewery (M&B) sidings located on the Harborne branch. M&B also had their own locomotives but when they were out of action Monument Lane would loan an engine. There was also a coal wharf at Hagley Road on the Harborne branch and an active goods yard at Harborne itself. Opposite the shed were Malt House Sidings belonging to a local brewery which later moved to Cape Hill. Malt House Sidings (the identification remained even when the brewery had long since departed) were the holding point for coal destined for the shed following its arrival from the South Staffordshire Coalfields.
During the early days of the shed Trevithick single wheelers were based at Monument Lane and by the mid to late 1870s the complement included half a dozen new Samson class 2-4-0s. Towards the latter part of the 19th Century the shed boasted a number of 6 ft Jumbos, and amongst those noted by the enthusiasts of the day were No 752 Glow-worm, No 1164 Odin, No 285 Phalaris and No 852 Kestrel. Photographs of the day show McConnell 'Bloomers' No 894 Trentham and No 895 Torch, together with Newton 2-4-0s No 1523 Marlborough and No 1525 Abercrombie at the shed.
From the late Victorian and Edwardian eras came the types of locomotive that could be expected at a depot responsible for a mix of duties, including 17" Goods Coal Engines, 18" Goods 'Cauliflowers', 0-6-2 Watford Tanks (the last surviving Watford Tank was withdrawn from Monument Lane in 1953) and Coal Tanks, together with 4ft 6in 2-4-2 tanks, 5ft 6in 2-4-2 tanks, 4-4-2 'Precursor Tanks' and Bowen Cooke's 4-6-2 'Superheater Tanks'. They were accompanied by a mixture of Jumbos, Precursors and, by the outbreak of World War 1, Prince of Wales and George V classes. Ted Talbot has kindly provided a list of the locomotives at the shed in 1912. It was about this time that the shed began to fall behind its more illustrious neighbours, as its allocation began to lack the premier power of the day, of which Claughtons were an early example.
London and North Western Railway locomotives remained at Monument Lane for many years after the Grouping. They included, in 1927, Prince of Wales Class No 5708 , No 5709 and No 5710, George V Class No 5338 Thomas Houghton, No 5339 Henry Maudslay and No 5340 Bulldog. Around that time, though, the shed received a number of brand new LMS Compounds which took over many of the more prestigious duties. The Compounds themselves were destined for a long relationship with the shed and the last two survivors, No 40936 and No 41168, ended their days at Monument Lane.
Into the early 1930s the shed had a number of Coal Engines and Cauliflowers and a smaller complement of 19" Mixed Traffic 4-6-0s, the last two of which, No 8740 and No 8865, departed in 1932. Also in attendance at that time were Special Tanks, including No 7279, No 7346, No 7347 and No 7414. There was also some variety amongst the passenger locomotives. In 1931 Experiment Class No 5532 was at the shed on loan from Preston as was Precursor Class No 5239 Levens.
The arrival of some brand new Stanier 2-6-4 tank engines in 1936 marked the beginning of the end for the LNWR passenger tank locos at the shed. First to go were the Superheater 4-6-2 tanks, with the final three transferred to Bangor in July 1936. Next it was the turn of the Precursor Tanks. Two of the three survivors at the shed were withdrawn in late 1936 and early 1937, but No 6782 survived for further service, departing for Rugby in August 1937. By that time the last two 5ft 6in 2-4-2 tanks had already moved away, but that chapter was not completely closed, as No 6743 spent four months at the shed around the turn of 1940-41.
Back in 1937, the transfer away of Prince of Wales Class No 25673 Lusitania in January of that year brought about the end of the company's express passenger power at the shed; the final George V Class, No 5344, had departed in November 1936. Lusitania was also the last named locomotive ever to be on the shed's strength. The 0-6-0 goods engines were largely replaced by Midland Railway examples from the mid 1930s and the last Coal Engine, No 28261, moved to Walsall in April 1936. By that time the Cauliflowers, too, had departed but No 28619, later BR No 54829, arrived from Stafford during week ending 6 July 1946. For a brief period from August 1948 there were two Cauliflowers at the shed, when No 28616, later BR No 58427, arrived from Rhyl. In November of that year, though, No 58429 transferred to Bushbury but No 58427 soldiered on until April 1950. Amongst its last duties at the shed was shunting of the yard at Spon Lane, on the Stour Valley line.
Mention should also be made of the 0-6-0ST Square Saddle Tanks. Monument Lane had a long relationship with this class- there were two examples on the 1912 allocation list- but there were also two late survivors at the shed. 27480 and 27484, were both present from 1941 to 1946 and were often used as the outstationed loco at Tipton. 27484 was the first to go, withdrawn in January 1946, but 27480 survived until November of that year as the last of its class. It then became one of the Crewe Works shunters, where it continued to display its 3E shedplate!
The Coal Tanks and Watford Tanks, though, graced the shed into the 1950s and Monument Lane became a final home for a significant number in the post nationalisation era. Indeed, of the fifteen Watford Tanks that operated in the British Railway era, ten saw service at Monument Lane, and for nine of those it was their last depot, including the final two survivors, 6899 and 46900. The Coal Tanks were only slightly less prominent, with eight of the post 1948 survivors serving at the shed, although that contingent did not include the preserved 58926. As late as 6 November 1951 the Western Lines south end pilot at New Street was 58900 and the north end locomotive was 46900.
north end locomotive was 46900. There was a specific reason for the presence of a Watford Tank at the north end. Watford Tanks were, of course, classified as passenger locomotives, so should an ailing locomotive arrive from Euston en route to Wolverhampton, the north end locomotive could be called upon to provide assistance to the destination. Although infrequent, there were times even in the late 1940s when the shed's Watford Tanks were summoned to main line duties, assisting Royal Scots and Jubilees through to the Black Country. No doubt the spectacle of a Royal Scot towering over its pocket-sized assistant would create some attention amongst interested observers, but at least one young passed cleaner thrust into just such a situation found it a terrifying experience. There was no such requirement at the south end, so a freight locomotive was the normal choice.
The 1930s also saw an influx of Stanier Class 5s and Midland Railway designs. The Midland Railway was represented by Johnson 0-6-0 Class 2s for many years, working alongside LMS 3F and 4F 0-6-0s. As noted earlier, more prestigious classes were absent, so no Jubilees, Royal Scots or Patriots ever appeared on the shed's allocation lists. Even more notable was the complete lack of any BR Standard designs. Not surprisingly, with a contingent of only around 30 locomotives there was a frequent need to borrow engines from other sheds and on one occasion in the 1950s Monument Lane men working an up service to London found themselves on the footplate of a Clan which had strayed some way from home territory.
Britannias were, though, more frequent visitors but they brought a problem. One feature of the shed site was that it was in an extremely cramped location. Consequently, when the turntable was relocated in 1886 it was tucked into a corner alongside the shed buildings. By the early 1950s the chosen location was shown to have some disadvantages and the men soon learned that Britannias had to be turned chimney first. Turn them the other way and the ladder on the back of the tender ripped the drainpipe off the stores wall!
The men did encounter LNWR tender passenger locomotives in the locomotives final days. One of the last Prince of Wales Class locomotives, Queen of the Belgians, was a frequent visitor to Birmingham from its home at Stafford and on one occasion late in its working life it was used by Monument Lane for a freight turn to Stechford. In addition, a Monument Lane man still with us today is probably the last surviving 3E footplateman to work a Claughton. George Dixon moved to the shed from Bristol Barrow Road 1946 and later in that decade fired on the 9.10am from New Street to Liverpool. This turn used a Monument Lane engine which then worked back to Crewe and on one occasion the engine was failed on arrival at Edge Hill. For the return journey the shed provided the last Claughton Class locomotive, No 6004, as the replacement.
The LNWR locomotive era at Monument Lane ended in some style in June 1954. During that month celebrations took place to mark the centenary of Birmingham's New Street station, and preserved Jumbo No 790 Hardwicke was hauled dead to Monument Lane from its home at Crewe Works before going on display at New Street. At the same time the shed also had its only ever visit from a Stanier Pacific when No 46235 City of Birmingham was actually lit up at the shed after it, too, had been displayed at New Street. As part of the celebrations two footplate men from Monument Lane also appeared at New Street in uniform appropriate to 1854, whilst the shed's last LNWR design locomotive, Coal Tank, No 58903, worked two special trains, on 1 and 2 June 1954, to mark the centenary just before its withdrawal.
Some Personalities and Incidents
Beginning with the hierarchy at the shed, amongst the Assistant Foreman was William Stilton, who had trained as a fitter at Wolverton. He transferred to Derby in November 1877, and one of his successors, Charles Clench, moved to Stafford in January 1883. Despite six years elapsing between the two moves, both men were on a weekly wage of two pounds five shillings (£2.25) at the time of their transfers.
Wages had improved by May 1898 when E E Richardson- yet another Assistant Foreman- moved to the post of Locomotive Foreman at Northampton and an annual salary of £160. By the early years of the 20th Century the Assistant Foreman was Frederick Miller. He entered the service of the LNWR in December 1877 and received a salary of £150 per annum from October 1901. John Rice, a former Rugby man, rose to the position of Chief Clerk at the shed.
Early in the 20th century the foreman cleaner was John Rogers, a man who had begun life as a cleaner himself at Rugby. Other shed support staff included William Webb, who worked in the stores. He had moved to this post after having a foot amputated when working at Vauxhall as a fireman. The fitters included William King and Frederick Ellison, a native of Abergavenny.
Abergavenny. Back in the early days of the Stour Valley line the footplatemen included Lewis Gibbons, Charles Ward and Richard Bowker. Lewis Gibbons was one of a number of men who moved to the Stour Valley engine shed from either Curzon Street or Vauxhall, although unfortunately it is rarely possible to identify which of the two it was. Lewis eventually left the footplate for life in the signalbox but his son James also worked at the shed.
Charles Ward also moved across Birmingham to Monument Lane and was unfortunately involved in one of the first accidents on the Stour Valley line when his light engine collided with a passenger train in the tunnel to the north of New Street. The passenger train- like many others over the next century of steam haulage- struggled to gain adhesion in the tunnel and took far longer than normal to reach the open air. Under the primitive signalling arrangements of the day the light engine was allowed to enter the tunnel where the collision occurred. Fortunately there were no fatalities and Charles escaped with a split lip.
Richard Bowker was a Mancunian who began his railway career in the north west in 1836. He had moved to Monument Lane by the early 1850s, where he remained until the early months of 1898- still working as a driver at the age of 75. Unfortunately ill health struck and when he was unable to return to duty after six months absence he was, in the rather blunt terminology of the day, written off the books. His service, which had spanned sixty two years, did earn him a gratuity of £20 but he felt obliged to seek further financial assistance in 1900 when, using more appropriate language, the Board members awarded him a weekly rate of five shillings in recognition of his long and faithful service. His son Thomas would also work at Monument Lane, although he spent the greater part of his fooplate life at Dudley shed.
During the 1860s and 1870s the driver's room was home to an individual who would have had an interesting tale to tell. James Middleton, a Liverpudlian by birth, had moved to Birmingham where he enjoyed a footplate career that appears to have alternated between Vauxhall/ Aston and Monument Lane. His claim to fame was that back on 4 July 1837, when the first train ran into Birmingham (from Liverpool), James had been the driver.
George Durham was another to move to Birmingham from elsewhere, originating from Newport Pagnell. George's son, also named George, followed him onto the footplate but George junior was killed when he fell from the footplate when working the 9.40pm goods train from Monument Lane to Wichnor Junction in 1886. The inquest jury recommended that a handrail should be fitted to engines to prevent men falling off. George senior left the service in the late 1890s and found it necessary to ask the company for pecuniary assistance, a request that was refused.
The driver on the occasion of George junior's death was Edward Clemson, whose brother William also worked at the shed. Both were cleaners in 1871 but although Edward progressed to driver, William appears to have remained as a labourer before leaving railway employment. Edwards's career ended in 1917 when he was awarded a good service allowance on 1 January 1917 after over 45 years employment. It was an award that he was destined to receive for only eight months before his death.
Thomas Gardner was a native of Oxfordshire and his was another career that ended prematurely, albeit through his own actions. In 1884 he demolished the buffer stops at Sutton Coldfield station as a result of approaching the station at excessive speed when working a race meeting special. He was dismissed but, on appeal, allowed to remain with the company as a stoker at one of the LNWR's pumping establishments.
Based on the article in LMS Railway Magazine already referred to, the top link at the end of the London and North Western Railways existence included William Lambourne, Richard Allen and George Pritchett. George did not actually start his working life on the footplate but he was soon tempted down to the sheds, no doubt with his older brother Samuel playing a part, as he was already an engine cleaner. In time his younger brother Albert also followed suit. Only George stuck it out, though, with Sam moving onto the trams and Albert choosing a rather more sedate life as a carriage examiner. Richard Allen, who retired in 1930, was the grandfather of the railway artist Phillip Hawkins.
No doubt there were many similar tales of hardship. The Company did offer employment to men who were unable to continue on the footplate through injury but it was often work of a menial nature. Thomas Taylor had spent almost 40 years as an engineman when he virtually lost the sight in one eye in an accident at New Street in 1885. Thereafter he was reduced to sweeping out at the shed. Ernie Jones, a young cleaner, lost a foot in an accident in the early years of the 20th century and he was ultimately employed in the timekeepers office, where he remained into the 1950s.
Bert Carlill worked at the shed in its later LNWR years and he would progress to the driver's side of the footplate. In November 1934 he was the driver of the final passenger train on the Harborne branch. One of Bert's brothers, Sidney, was a cleaner at the shed but he was sadly killed in World War 1, one of seven of the shed's complement to suffer this fate. Freddie Stephens, who left the shed as a cleaner to join up during World War 1, was awarded the Military Medal. He would return to Monument Lane and remain there into the British Railways era.
Amongst the earlier footplatemen, mention should also be made of William Woods. William Woods career began when he left school at the age of 12 to go to the LNWR's Curzon Street stores, where he began his employment on 9 February 1871. He moved to Monument Lane as a fireman in 1879 and began his career as a driver at the time when New Street was being enlarged on the Midland side, as he had charge of trains utilised for the removal of debris from the site to Soho. He was similarly employed on construction of the Perry Barr loop, completed in 1887.
After several years employment on local passenger and goods workings, in 1890 he piloted express goods services between Birmingham and Manchester and Liverpool, as well as working services to the North Wales coast. He recalled that he was one of three Birmingham drivers selected for the inauguration of the 2 hour 35 minute expresses in 1900, which later became two hour expresses. He was then employed on those expresses for 23 years. By the time that he retired he had achieved a total of 58 years railway service, of which 51 were spent on the footplate.
The late Reg Lewis also believed that William Stanier's son had a short term attachment at Monument Lane during World War 2, although it has not been possible to verify that recollection.
During the final years of the LNWR Vic Blumfield transferred to the shed from Shrewsbury. He and a friend had arrived at the sheds in Shrewsbury where the LNWR and the Great Western operated alongside each other. The two friends decided to apply for jobs at different sheds and tossed a coin to see who went where. The coin fell on the 'LNWR sideVic's' for Vic and he progressed to the top link by the 1950s, when he was also called upon on one occasion to drive the Royal Train. One of Vic's trademarks was a chalked image of a foaming pint of beer, drawn inside the cab as an indication of the reward due to his fireman if he produced sufficient steam.
Other top link men in the shed's latter days who had joined the railway back in LNWR era included Roger Thornicroft, (real name Ralph) whose father was a driver at Rugby when Roger was born in the 1890s. Another was Ray Gower, who began his career at Monument Lane in the Edwardian era, moving from his native Bromsgrove to lodge with his uncle, Walter Dafforn, who was a fitter at the shed. Ray also progressed to the top link but ended his days on the station pilot duties at New Street around 1960. He was a man generous enough to offer to share his mid shift meal with his mate, but as it consisted of the scraps from all of the day's previous meals, it was usually declined!
When Monument Lane finally closed to steam in 1962 the complement included Howard Stanley, who had began his career with the London and North Western Railway in 1916 in the traditional manner as a cleaner. His wage at that time, he recalled, was sixteen shillings per week.
By the 1950s promotion was rapid as cleaners and firemen left for higher paid and less demanding employment elsewhere and men would be driving from the age of 23. Those who remained moved to New Street on closure of the shed and some would have lengthy railway careers, such as Frank Ward and Brian Clarke. Brian's expert input, as the accompanying Inspector, can be heard on a couple of the Railscene videos of the early 1990s while Frank had a career which included driving Midland Railway 0-6-0s introduced in the 1870s and HSTs introduced in the 1970s.
Finally, let's not forget those men who had responsibility for the care and maintenance of the new diesel multiple units, where a newly created post of Mechanical Fitter fell to George Whittaker in 1956. Also at the diesel shed were Jack Evans, who had formerly worked for AEC on trucks, Bernard Brown and Tom Harrison, who had joined the shed in 1954 as an apprentice.
A Major Accident
On Saturday 14 August 1915 there was a serious accident involving one of the shed's express workings. On that day driver Frederick Brightland was rostered to work the 8.45am from Birmingham New Street to London Euston. He was accompanied by his usual fireman at that time, Frederick Williams. It was the practice at the shed on Saturdays during that period to try to prevent the working of excessive hours and as a result the locomotive, George V 1489 Wolfhound, a Bushbury engine, was prepared by another experienced driver, Ebeneezer Clark.
All went according to plan until the train reached Rugby. However, while paused at the station driver Brightland left the footplate to carry out some oiling and noticed that the split pin was missing from the right hand driving crank pin washer. He summoned the Rugby bank engine driver for assistance who in turn was able to seek help from a fitter. The fitter solved the problem by removing a pin from Precursor 665, which was attaching additional vehicles to the train, and transferring it to Wolfhound, using a hammer and spanner to effect the repair.
These actions enabled the train to leave on time but on approaching Weedon, fireman Williams raised the alarm, as he had noticed something strike the ballast on his side of the engine and he observed that stones were flying up. His driver then also saw the ballast flying on the fireman's side and the two men brought the train to a stand just inside Stowe Hill tunnel.
Around the time that Driver Brightland was closing the regulator, the 08:30 Euston to Holyhead Irish Mail passed in the opposite direction, hauled by Precedent 1189 and Renown 1971. As they left Stowe tunnel Thomas Hadfield, the driver of the leading engine, noticed the flying ballast, some of which came through the cab windows; shortly afterwards his engine came off the road and broke away from the train. Unfortunately the following engine and carriages were also derailed, with a number falling down an embankment leading to ten deaths and 21 injuries.
The subsequent enquiry determined that the accident was caused when the split pin on Wolfhound came out. As a result, the coupling rod came off the right-hand driving crank axle-pin, bent outwards on hitting the ballast and then struck the closet rail on the adjacent track, pushing the down road out of alignment.
Monument Lane Local Trip and Shunting Workings 1878
Monument Lane Allocation 1912
Brian Swancott, a former passed fireman at Monument Lane, writes 'the shed was accessed by a gate at the corner of Sheepcote St and St Vincent St with quite a steep path leading down to the shed. The shed's turntable was vacuum powered whilst servicing of the engines was carried out via full length pits inside the shed or pits about the length of one loco outside the shed. The tank engines were used mostly on local passenger service but also on semi fast trains whilst the Black 5s were used mainly on the Manchester expresses such as the 7.10 am and the 12.10 pm plus other turns of work which for now escapes me'.
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.
Images of the shed and its various structures
19th Century LNWR Locomotives at Monument Lane
LMS Period (1923 to 1947) locomotives
British Railways Period (1948 to 1968) locomotives
Schematic Drawings and map of Monument Lane
Book on History of Monument Lane Shed
Tony has produced a book on the history of the shed called 'Monument Lane Loco Shed' which can be obtained from Tony at 22 Maxstoke Close, Matchborough West, Redditch B98 0EJ. Price is £11.95 plus £1.40p&p.
Recording Locomotive Sightings 1943 - 1968
The following information is provided courtesy of Shed Bash UK (http://shedbashuk.blogspot.co.uk/)
A generation of enthusiasts recorded the movements of locomotives around the railway system. These records of visits to locomotive depots have been collected and carefully analysed to provide an overall portrait for the period 1943 to 1968. During that period of steam's final years, there was a marked change from the pre-grouping types that still found work at a few depots, to the modern BR designs that worked until the end in 1968. The handling of freight and passenger services was a major undertaking from town and cities, ports, coal mines and factories. All of it traversed the labyrinth of lines that criss-crossed the country. There were numerous 'sheds' spread throughout the length and breadth of the land that provided and serviced the vast army of steam locomotives (20,000 in 1948). Here is just a taste of that history.