Stourbridge Junction 1928
by Joe Hancock

Being employed in the Civil Engineering Department of the Great Western Railway, practically every job entailed a trip to some station or depot, being a railway enthusiast, Stourbridge was an interesting station to go to.

We travelled by the 7.35a.m. ex-Wolverhampton. This train originated at Wellington and called at all stations to Stourbridge, it was thus timed to get workers to Round Oak steel works by 8.00a.m. The train consisted of 7 four-wheeled coaches, close coupled, and at this period hauled by No. 3240, one of the '3232' class, 2-4-0 tender engines which was then working out its last days. By the end of the year it was condemned.

'3521' class 4-4-0 No. 3557 at the head of a Bewdley train. Photograph by F. Braybrook. Courtesy of Joe Hancock.
The Junction station consisted of two island platforms with umbrella type verandahs, the whole constructed in 1900. It was very busy at this period and apart from the Station Master, supervision warranted the employment of a platform inspector and foreman on each day-time turn of duty. On alighting at the station for the first time, one's ears were afflicted with a strange noise, this was quickly found to be the brake ejector on steam rail car No. 40, this rail car met every train at the Junction, conveying passengers from there to the town station throughout the working day, a very intensive service.

The traffic at the junction was such that a station pilot was employed from approx. 5.00a.m. to 1.00p.m., this was usually one of the '3501' class 2-4-0 tender loco's, always with its head to Birmingham, to be able to assist any passenger train considered overloaded, as the exit from Stourbridge to Birmingham or Wolverhampton quickly found a fairly steep bank. The pilot also did a fair amount of shunting, as at this period set trains had not arrived. Coaches were added or removed as required, depending on the amount of traffic.

Milk traffic at this period was still in churns, loaded into 6-wheeled slat-sided siphon vehicles. These, as they arrived on country trains were shuffled around to the appropriate trains, prize cattle in vacuum fitted vehicles from Kidderminster on Thursday market day, and fruit vans in the season were also work for the pilot.

There was roughly a one hourly service between 7.00a.m. and 6.00p.m. These were generally worked by '3600' 2-4-2 tanks, other than those trains which originated at Wellington or Worcester. This was also the period when the 11.55a.m. stopping train Wolverhampton to Worcester would consist of 7 four-wheeled coaches with a through coach to Paddington coupled up to the rear, the vehicle being an eight-wheeled corridor coach with inset doors known as 'Concertinas'.

One summer the engine on this train from Wolverhampton was the 2-4-0 tank No. 617, which was replaced at Kidderminster for the remainder of the journey to Worcester by '3521' class 4-4-0 No. 3559.

Local trains to Birmingham could be engined by '3600' class 2-4-2 tanks and 'Bulldogs' of which Stourbridge had two, 3345 'Smeaton' and 3359 'Tregeagle'.

A very good service originating from Birmingham passed through Stourbridge for Worcester, Hereford, and South Wales, Tyseley depot providing the engine power from Birmingham, and Hereford in the reverse direction. Locomotives noted on this working were 'Badminton' class numbers: 4107 'Alexander Hubbard', 4112 'Oxford', 4115 'Shrewsbury' (these latter two had just lost their names).
'Atbara' class: 4120 'Atbara', 4127 'Ladysmith', 4132 'Pembroke', 4143 'Cape Town'.
'Flower' class: 4149 'Auricula', 4145 'Campanula', 4168 'Stephanotis'. (All from Tyseley shed).
'Bulldog' class: 3324 'Glastonbury', 3326 'Laira', 3327 'Marco Polo', 3328 'Marazion', 3334 'Tavy', 3349 'Lyonesse', 3405 'Empire of India', 3408 'Bombay', 3409 'Queensland'. (All from Hereford).
Worcester loco's passing through on Birmingham trains were: 3551 'One and All', 3353 'Pershore Plum', 3372 'Sir N. Kingscote', 3394 'Albany', 3395 'Tasmania', 3400 'Winnipeg', 3404 'Barbados', 3406 'Calcutta', 3408 'Bombay', 3410 'Columbia', 3418 'Sir Arthur Yorke', 3428 and 3436.

'3571' class 0-4-2 No. 3575 at Stourbridge Junction. A fine photograph of a Wolverhampton built engine. Notice the express headlamp code in use, the engine being ready to assist up the bank. Photo M.R.S. collection.
One of the Birmingham based trains passing through en route to South Wales was a five coach set of eight-wheeled clerestory coaches, this was an early experiment in electric lighting, one coach only having an axle driven generator. The rest of the train was dependent on this vehicle, any vehicle defects meant stopping the whole set. The train was recognisable by the heavy electric cables passing from one vehicle to the next at the high part of the clerestory roof.

Worcester based 'Bulldog' class 4-4-0 No. 3372 'Sir N. Kingscote' was one of the engines that Joe Hancock saw passing through Stourbridge Junction in the 1920s, seen here at Wolverhampton Stafford Road Shed. Photo M.R.S. collection.
Freight traffic was fairly heavy, through workings being the coke trains for the steel works at Bilston, usually engined by a '2800' 2-8-0 loco. Other trains very often saw the use of '4300' and '2600' class 2-6-0s, and various 0-6-0 tender types. The marshalling yard was fairly flat, shunting being carried out by '1901', '2021' and '2101' class tank engines. Most were in pannier tank form, but surviving saddle tanks on this work were 2005 of the '1901' class and domeless '2101' class, numbers 2107, 2108, and 2109.

Wolverhampton built '2102' class 0-6-0 saddle tank No. 2106 at Stourbridge Shed. Three domeless saddle tanks were stationed there, the others being No.s 2107 and 2109. Photo M.R.S. collection.
As traffic built-up in the yard, trips would be organised to get traffic to industrial areas such as Blowers Green, Round Oak, Kingswinford, Lye, Cradley, Old Hill, and Halesowen. Trip engines carried a disc about 15 inches diameter with a number painted on, black letters on a white background. The disc was fixed on the engine lamp bracket. Reporting to those who needed to know was thus simplified. It should be borne in mind that railway telephone systems pre-war were not as we know them today. Telephone lines were 'bus-lines', anyone could get in on the line. This was one of the reasons behind the intensive use on the Great Western for wagon names, such as 'Open A', 'Macaw B' etc.

Wolverhampton built '1501' class saddle tank No. 1545 at Stourbridge Junction. Notice the trip disc above the buffer beam. Photograph M.R.S. collection.
Stourbridge loco. still retained three Beyer Peacock 0-6-0 tanks. No 323 was usually shunting at Cradley, 325 and 327 were engaged on trip work. Several 'Armstrong' 0-6-0 tender engines were also used for trip work, one of these loco's still retained a Gooch 1800 gallon sandwich frame tender, and another an Armstrong tender, still fitted with coal rails. Banking or assisting freight engines from the rear was also carried out by these engines, from Stourbridge to Blowers Green and from Stourbridge to Rowley Regis. This was not always necessary from the load point of view, but it did ensure that no breakaways occurred on the bank, and that everything went out of your district. No. 510 was often employed on this work, also No. 1015 0f the '360' class.

'Bulldog' class 4-4-0 No. 3428 of Worcester shed, is seen here at Stourbridge Junction on the 24th June 1932, heading a Birmingham to Worcester train. The photograph is a little out of period, as is evidenced by the 'set train' behind her engine. Photograph: M.R.S. collection.
Halesowen Goods Depot required the services of three Stourbridge based shunting engines, these were always saddle or pannier tanks of the '1501' class. One was always shunting at Halesowen, the other two on trip work to and from Stourbridge, one on each end of the train to simplify the reversal at Old Hill. The shunting engines for the yards at Lye, Old Hill, Rowley Regis, Brettell Lane, Kingswinford, Round Oak, Blowers Green and Stourbridge Goods were also provided from this depot, together with the steam rail-motor for the Wolverhampton to Stourbridge via Wombourn service. The auto-cars for the Dudley to Old Hill via Windmill End were also provided and serviced, the loco's for the job being 0-4-2 side tank No. 1155, still with its raised round top firebox, and 0-6-0 pannier tank No. 2120, fitted with a domeless Belpaire boiler.

Whilst enjoying the great variety of locomotives and carriages, and the many variations among individual types, little did we realise that within three years most of this would be swept away by the heavy influx of new construction in the form of '5700', '4575, and '5101' class loco's and coaching sets.

0-6-0 No. 323 was originally a Beyer Peacock tender engine, rebuilt to saddle tank in 1879. It is seen here in pannier tank form, minus a part or two, at Stourbridge on 6th June, 1931. Photograph W. R. Whitworth. Courtesy of Joe Hancock.

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