Dudley railway station opened in 1850, with a temporary wooden platform, slightly to the north of the site of the later station. It adjoined a goods shed. The station was built to the south of Dudley’s racecourse, which was closed to make way for the railway. This was at a time of intense competition between the newly formed railway companies, all trying to gain control of various routes.

The Oxford, Worcester & Wolverhampton Railway

One of the main companies involved, the Oxford, Worcester & Wolverhampton Railway, came into existence when a bill was passed in Parliament on the 4th August, 1845 to authorise the company to construct a line from the Oxford & Rugby Railway at Wolvercot Junction, to Worcester, Stourbridge, Dudley, and Wolverhampton, with a branch to the Grand Junction Railway at Bushbury. At the time there was competition between broad gauge and narrow gauge lines, and so the bill stated that the track was to be mixed gauge from Abbotswood near Worcester, northwards. It also stated that if the Oxford, Worcester & Wolverhampton Railway failed to complete the line, the Great Western Railway should either lease the line, or purchase the company and complete the line itself.

The chief engineer was I. K. Brunel, who greatly underestimated the cost of construction. His original estimate was £1.5m but it was quickly realised that the actual cost would be about £2.5m, so the Great Western Railway increased its share to four percent. Progress was extremely slow and all of the available money was spent by June 1849. Only the middle section of the line was anywhere near complete, and so the company became known as ‘The Old Worse and Worse’.

A local L.M.S. train about to leave the station. From an old postcard.

The Railway Commissioners then ordered the Great Western to complete the line, but they refused, so a legal battle began. Completion of the line was mainly due to the efforts of John Parson, a London solicitor who became the company’s legal adviser in 1850 and possibly the largest shareholder. The Oxford, Worcester & Wolverhampton Railway then signed an agreement with the London & North Western Railway and the Midland Railway on the 21st February 1851. The Great Western Railway Company was furious and the agreement was made void and then offered the company a similar deal on their own terms. The Great Western leased the line, but the ungrateful Oxford, Worcester & Wolverhampton Railway approached the London & North Western Railway to reach Wolverhampton via the Stour Valley Line, with a junction at Tipton.

The Great Western Railway protested to Parliament, which refused to allow such a thing to happen and threatened the company with heavy penalties unless the line reached Wolverhampton Low Level Station and Cannock Road Junction by September 1853. The line was eventually finished in July 1853, and opened in its entirety on the 1st July, 1854.

The section from Evesham to Stourbridge had opened on the 3rd May 1852, but as little money was available, six second-hand locomotives had to be acquired. The Stourbridge to Dudley section opened to goods traffic on the 16th November, 1852, and to passenger traffic on the 20th December, 1852. By this time the company had ordered twenty locomotives from R and W Hawthorn Limited, at Newcastle upon Tyne.

On the 4th June, 1853 the section from Wolvercot Junction and Evesham opened, and on the 1st December, 1853 the line opened between Dudley and Tipton. Tipton was later called Tipton Five Ways to avoid confusion with the station in Owen Street. There were four intermediate stations between Tipton and Wolverhampton: Princes End, Daisey Bank (later called Daisy Bank), Bilston, and Priestfield.

On the 23rd August, 1858, a children's excursion from Wolverhampton to Worcester, carrying 1,500 passengers in thirty seven coaches had a number of mechanical problems. On the way to Worcester, some of the couplings were broken, and so the train returned in two halves, the first consisting of thirty coaches. Unfortunately the still-overloaded train broke in half at Round Oak and ran down a bank near Brettell Lane. As it travelled down the bank out of control it ran into the second train killing fourteen people and injuring fifty others.

On the 14th June, 1860 the Oxford, Worcester & Wolverhampton Railway joined the Worcester and Hereford Railway, and the Newport, Abergavenny and Hereford Railway, to form the West Midland Railway. In 1861 the Oxford, Worcester & Wolverhampton Railway decided to amalgamate with the Great Western Railway, which was authorised in Parliament on the 13th July, 1863.

By August 1862 eleven trains ran daily from Wolverhampton to Oxford, the fastest time being 3 hours 25 minutes. There were also trains to Evesham, Worcester and Dudley.

The location of the railway station alongside Tipton Road.

The South Staffordshire Railway

The South Staffordshire Railway Company was formed by an amalgamation of the South Staffordshire Junction and the Trent Valley Railway Company, and the Midlands & Grand Junction Railway, both incorporated in 1846. The bill gave them permission to construct lines from the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton at Dudley to Walsall, along with other branches.

There was an instant clash of interests because the Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Dudley Railway, incorporated on the same day, was given permission to reach Dudley from Swan Village if the South Staffordshire Railway failed to do so by the 1st November, 1849. The Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Dudley Railway also had running powers to Dudley in return for the South Staffordshire Railway getting access to Wolverhampton via Wednesbury and Priestfield.

Dudley became involved in the broad gauge battle when the Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Dudley Railway joined the GWR fold in 1848 and the South Staffordshire Railway and its board members representing the London and North Western Railway and the Midland Railway, along with the independent shareholders were dedicated to defeating any broad-gauge incursions.

On the day of the deadline in 1849, the South Staffordshire Railway ran a special train from Pleck to Dudley, even though most stations were still incomplete. Regular goods services began in March 1850 and passenger services began in May.

George P. Neele recalled in his railway reminiscences book that: ‘The Station at Dudley, opened in 1850, was a temporary platform adjoining the goods shed. This was subsequently followed by another of a sadly insufficient type, nearer the town; and adjacent, nearly side by side but without any direct connecting line, was the equally shabby shedding that did duty for the Dudley station of the O. W. W. Numerous suggestions were made for constructing a joint station, but to no avail. Years passed by, and the same unsightly and disjointed buildings remained as the passenger station. At length a fire broke out in the premises, and the inhabitants of Dudley may thank it for the existing structure.’

The South Staffordshire Railway always realised that the completion of the Stour Valley route would greatly reduce its Dudley traffic. In 1851 it obtained authority for a ½ mile spur from Sedgley Junction to Dudley Port, which opened in 1854. Its construction was coupled with running powers between Dudley Port (High Level) and Dudley.

The temporary station at Dudley became the permanent station that was developed by the London & North Western Railway into the station that remained in use until the 1960s. After the fire, both stations were rebuilt with access from Tipton Road via a building that crossed over the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton lines and gave passenger access via covered stairs. There were toilets, offices, waiting rooms and a canopy around the buildings. There was also a turntable at the southern end of the station with a London & North Western Railway signal box nearby and a Great Western Railway signal box on the platform.

In 1860 the Central District of the London & North Western Railway was formed and the South Staffordshire Railway was absorbed into it. On the 15th June, 1867, the South Staffordshire Railway was dissolved and became part of the London & North Western Railway.

The railway station seen from the south. From an old postcard.

Train Services

Many passenger trains called at the station on local train services, which allowed people to travel to much of the country via Wolverhampton or Birmingham. The train services listed in the 1874 London & North Western Railway timetables were from Worcester via Droitwich, and Kidderminster; Walsall and intermediate stations via Wednesbury; Wolverhampton and intermediate stations via Dudley Port; Birmingham and intermediate stations, also via Dudley Port. Likewise, the Great Western Railway provided local services with links to a large number of places via Wolverhampton, Birmingham and Worcester. Throughout the 19th century, passenger services increased, as did goods trains, thanks to the many local industries.

In 1923 the half of the station and the goods yard under the control of the London & North Western Railway was transferred to the LMS, when the London and North Western, and the Midland Railway became part of the LMS. Similarly in 1948 with nationalisation, the LMS became part of British Railways London Midland Region and the GWR became part of British Railways Western Region. The goods yards then had different names, the old LMS yard became Dudley Town goods yard and the old GWR yard became Dudley Castle goods yard.

Passenger numbers were high, up to the end of the 1950s, but in 1962 the ex-GWR line from Stourbridge Junction to Wolverhampton, closed to passengers, other than for a few Sunday services between Wolverhampton and Worcester, that continued until March 1967. Dudley remained as a popular terminus for trains from Walsall and Old Hill until the Beeching cuts in 1964. The station remained open for parcels until early 1967 when the buildings were demolished and replaced by Dudley Freightliner Terminal. This closed in 1989 and the site remained derelict until 2017 when it was cleared to make way for the extension of the Midland Metro.

Since that time, the site has changed beyond recognition, so much so that it’s now difficult to pinpoint the exact location of the railway station or the goods yards.

Other Local Lines

Two early railways were the Shut End Railway and the Dennis Railroad, both built in 1829. The Dennis Railroad had an inclined plane that ran through the Dennis Valley to Coal bourn-brook depository. It was built by Messrs. Wheeley to transport coal along the inclined plane that started near Brettell Lane by the long bridge, at the summit of the Stourbridge Canal.

The Shut End Railway ran for three miles from Ashwood Basin on the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal to Lord Dudley's colliery at Shut End. It grew in size and by the 1850s had an additional line across Pensnett Chase to Brierley Hill and several local branches. It was owned by Lord Dudley and transported minerals from his mines and quarries including coal, iron, limestone, and sand. It was often called the Pensnett Railway and eventually linked up to the Great Western Railway at Round Oak, and at Cradley Heath and Askew Bridge.

The railway is often remembered for the early locomotive ‘The Agenoria’ built by John Rastrick at Stourbridge to run on the line. It began running on the line on its opening day, the 2nd June, 1829. The locomotive worked for about 35 years on the line until it broke down while passing a bridge and lay in a field for about 20 years. The locomotive was restored and displayed at the Wolverhampton & Staffordshire Fine Arts and Industrial Exhibition that ran from the 30th May to the 31st October, 1884.

On the 30th December, 1884 it was moved to the London Science Museum and in 1937 was loaned to the London & North Eastern Railway's Museum at York. In 1941 it moved to Reedsmouth, to protect it during the war and in 1951, was on display at the Festival of Britain. It returned to York in 1974 and it is now on permanent display at the National Railway Museum.

Blowers Green Railway Station. From an old postcard. Blowers Green Railway Station opened in 1878 to serve the growing communities of Woodside and Netherton. It was soon renamed Dudley Southside & Netherton Station. Train services from the London & North Western Railway and the Great Western Railway called at the station, which was used by a reasonable number of passengers until the early 1880s. By the late 1880s it was mainly used by goods traffic, but passenger services called there until 1962, when it was closed to passengers. The station finally closed in 1967.

Another local line, the Stourbridge Railway, was planned as an alternative link between Birmingham and Worcester. It was an independent railway, existing between 1860 and 1870 when it became part of the Great Western Railway. It was finally completed in 1867 and opened on the 1st April that year.

Stourbridge Town Branch was built to connect Stourbridge Station to the centre of Stourbridge, a distance of about a mile. It opened its shuttle service in 1879 and is still very popular today.

The Dudley & Oldbury Junction Railway began as an initiative of a private company to build a line, just 1½ miles long from Langley Green to Oldbury, called the Dudley & Oldbury Junction Railway. It involved three canal crossings and was incorporated in 1873. Three years later the Great Western Railway agreed to use the line, which eventually opened for goods traffic in 1884, under the name of the Oldbury Railway. Passenger trains began to use the line in 1885 and in 1894 it amalgamated with the Great Western Railway. It closed to passenger services in 1915 and became a goods only line. It was used for block trains of 100 ton tank wagons in and out of a large tar distillery, where new sidings and pipelines could handle up to 50,000 tons of crude oil a year, imported through Immingham.

In 1907 the Spinner's End branch opened and Cradley developed into a busy freight junction. Cradley goods yard also gave access to the Pensnett Railway. In 1962, the old Great Western line was closed to passenger traffic north of Stourbridge by the British Transport Commission, although the it remained open for goods until 1993. Only part of it is still in use. In 1965 Stourbridge Junction locomotive shed and the marshalling yard closed, putting over 200 people out of work. In the same year the goods branch running from Stourbridge to a depot and canal basin also closed.

All through services to Birmingham were diverted from Snow Hill to Birmingham New Street in 1967, but most reverted to the previous route following the reopening of the Smethwick Junction to Snow Hill line in 1995

Stourbridge station had four platforms, including two island platforms. Platform 1 was removed some years ago and the signalbox closed on the 24th August, 2012.

Another old branch line was the Halesowen & Bromsgrove Branch Railway, built to join the Birmingham & Gloucester Railway. It was authorised in 1865, with a branch to Longbridge providing a second connection with the Midland Railway. It was to be worked jointly by the Midland and the Great Western Railway, which had powers to build a branch to Old Hill, and another to Netherton. They opened together on the 1st March, 1878 and were referred to locally as the Dudley & Halesowen Railway, later becoming the Halesowen Joint Railway, which was mainly used for goods. Passenger services ceased in 1927 other than the factory worker trains that served the Austin Rover Works in Longbridge until 1958. The line closed in 1964. Longbridge workmen's services did however continue between Longbridge and Birmingham New Street until January 1960.

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