The Third Edition

This edition includes articles on local pannier tank engines, the last surviving O.W.W.R. locomotive, 'Reminiscences of a Bushbury train spotter', some local saddle tanks and a Webb coal tank, a photograph and details of the 1929 Bushbury ambulance class, Priestfield Station, Driver Jones and his engine, old engines at Stafford Road, 2 drawings of S & B locomotives and part 3 of the compilation of principal events in Wolverhampton's railway history.

Apart from interesting articles, this edition includes some rare photographs. There is a photograph of a Webb coal tank that was discovered by Jim Boulton, and a couple of photographs of early engines at Stafford Road works.

The cover photograph is the late Jim Boulton's picture of a Webb coal tank at Wellington.

Reminiscences of a Bushbury Train Spotter
By Alex Chatwin

For the first twenty years of my life I lived within a few hundred yards of Bushbury Sheds, and earliest recollections are of a continual clanging and thumping from the shunting hump and the distinctive beat of a L.N.W.R. 0-8-0 slogging up the bank towards the High Level.

I was born into a railway family, my father and three of his brothers being L.M.S. employees, and their father foreman for "Wagon Repairs Ltd" in Bushbury Yard until his death in 1925. As a small boy in the early 1930s my chief interest lay in the activities of the Shed and I was regularly chastised for arriving home filthy dirty from the grimy grass which grew in the fields along Fordhouse Road and Showell Road. I soon learned to distinguish the principal types of locomotive by colour and shape and well remember peering through the fence on the bridge to see a pair of standard compounds alongside the shed. At that time these engines worked in pairs on the London expresses, but were replaced when the rebuilt 'Claughtons' appeared as 'Patriots'.

I must have been about eight years of age when I started train spotting as a regular hobby during the summer holidays. A group of boys collected on the Showell Road side of the road bridge abutment, opposite the signal box. This was before the factories were built on that side of the road. From this point we had an excellent view of both lines to the south and on a clear day could see the steam of engines in the, High Level station. By the time an express reached Bushbury it was travelling at full speed and the sight of a 'George' or a 'Prince' swaying and rocking down the hill, its high pitched whistle screeching as it approached, cannot be forgotten. Some of the names come back to me, 'Gallipoli', 'Racehorse' and 'Queen of the Belgians'. On the old Grand Junction line speed was usually much slower, with trains being frequently held up at the signal near Nine Elms Lane. Many of these were the Bournville excursions usually hauled by a 2-6-0 'Crab'. Each evening would appear over this line the Saltley Goods with a Midland 0-6-0 at its head. These were of innumerable variety, and some had been rebuilt several times. I was never able to remember the differences between the permutations.

Although we had an unimpaired view of the lines to the south, we could see nothing of trains travelling from the north, and could only wait as the noise of each express increased until it burst into view under the bridge. The most impressive of these trains was The 'Pines Express' which ran from Manchester to Bournmouth each day, usually in several parts. The first part usually with a 'Royal Scot' travelled over the Grand Junction line to Birmingham and the second via the Stour Valley line through Wolverhampton.

More mundane happenings were the coal trains supplying the Gas Works, and to a lesser extent the E.C.C. factory, which were, pushed up the Down main line, to their respective spurs, usually by one of the ancient Webb 0-6-0 goods engines stationed at Bushbury.

Also from time to time would appear from under the bridge a line of coal wagons bound for the G.W.R.  junction line off the Grand Junction line. These would be pushed by one of standard 0-6-0 tank engines called 'Jintys'.

A view from Bushbury railway bridge, taken in 1952. The guards buildings an the left, sheds on the right. The L. N. W. R. gantry has gone but the scene is otherwise unchanged from the 1930s. No. 45500 'Patriot' passes at speed. Photograph Mike Jones.

Local trains to Stafford and Stoke were usually hauled by a Fowler tank engine, small or large, although occasionally a Precursor tank would be used.

The ubiquitous L.N.W.R. ā€˜Dā€™ 0-8-0s handled most of the goods trains but sometimes a demoted 'Claughton', original or rebuilt would appear.

A 'Patriot' took the Camden Goods southwards each evening just after eight o'clock.

The group of train spotters ranged in age from about eight to twenty, and among the older boys there was much talk about the exotic sights to be seen in places as far away as Crewe and Toton.

There was also a sort of folk-lore about previous sightings at Bushbury, such as the time the Great Western 'King George V' had appeared travelling south, an obvious reference to its return from the 1925 Centenary Exhibition at Manchester. Other such tales concerned the time when the northbound 'Pines Express' appeared several hours late hauled by an 0-8-0, and the Brewood Show Specials to Four Ashes when all sorts of aged motive power, even the Webb 0-6-0s were pressed into passenger service. There were about half a dozen of these ancient engines, out of use, stored in the coal sidings beyond the turntable. They rusted away for several years and then disappeared, whether for repair or breaking up I never knew. One summer evening there was great excitement not only among the spotters but also among the railway employees. The new 'Silver Jubilee' locomotive of Stanier design with its taper boiler, had brought in one of the London expresses and was to be on shed at Bushbury overnight. The new engine in its original black and chrome livery was viewed by a crowd of boys of all ages from the wall and fence of the yard in the field in Fordhouse Road. Photographs were taken, where are they now? In spite of the new design we did not know that the new class were poor steamers and it would be some time before they could be improved to match the Patriots.

As the 1930s progressed the 'Black 5s' appeared, at first without top feed and then the tapered boilered 2-6-0s, efficient no doubt, but less attractive than the Horwich design with its huge outside cylinders. The tapered boilered tanks appeared to supplement the Fowlers, and occasionally we saw the 2-8-0 freight engines which were to give such excellent service overseas during the war. (I came across one on-shed at Lydda in Israel in 1951).

One event which remains clear in my mind was being taken by my father one Sunday lunchtime along Fordhouse Road to climb up on to the shunting hump and look down on the mainline. In a few minutes, travelling north, approached a strange sight, what was apparently a motor bus with flanged wheels. This was the 'Micheline', a product of the French tyre company Michelin. I have since found out that it was powered by a 27h.p. Panhard and Lavassor sleeve valve petrol engine, and that the wheels incorporated Michelin pneumatic tyres 910/125in, operating at 85 lb/square inch. The vehicle was on test in various parts of the country and its appearance at Wolverhampton was on April 10th 1932, two days before my sixth birthday.

Although my train spotting activities had ceased by 1939, I still took an interest in the sheds, and recall seeing what was I believe the first 'Pacific' through Bushbury. One Saturday afternoon in 1941 the Scottish expresses were being routed over the Grand Junction line because of a bomb on the Trent Valley line, and I saw a 'Duchess' stop to pick up a pilot driver in Bushbury yard.

Years later, I was told another war-time story by the late Mr. W.A. Wells of the Electric Construction Co. A vital piece of switch-gear produced by the company had to be aboard a ship waiting to sail from the Clyde. Time was very short and it was obvious that only a passenger train would arrive in time.

One of the old Southern Railway six wheeled parcel vans was procured, and a Glasgow express stopped in Bushbury yard for it to be attached. This practice was unorthodox to say the least, and the railway official was duly "carpeted" for arranging such an unofficial stop, and not following the correct procedure by sending the van to the High Level. However, the end justified the means and the switchgear was shipped as required.

It has all gone now, a whole way of life has disappeared and Bushbury today is a very different place to the railway community I knew in the 1930s. I hope it will not be forgotten.

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