Definitions

town ship line

Stourbridge Town Branch Line

The Stourbridge Town Branch Line is a short (0.8 mile) railway branch line, in Stourbridge, West Midlands, England. It is claimed to be the shortest branch line in Europe , and many miniature railways are certainly longer.

History and usage

Opened in 1879, it has operated continually since, save for a short break for the First World War. The short and steeply-inclined branch originally carried both passenger traffic from nearby Stourbridge Junction to the terminus at Stourbridge Town and freight to Stourbridge Basin.

Although the branch line was originally double-tracked, after 1935 the two tracks were worked as two parallel single lines, with the non-passenger track used for freight workings beyond the station over a bridge across Foster Street (a bridge rebuilt in 1957 then subsequently demolished in 1967) towards the Stourbridge Basin. The station and branch were listed for closure under the Beeching Axe, but were later delisted in 1965.

The 1879 Stourbridge Town station survived mostly intact until February 1979 when it was demolished and the branch cut back by 70 yards, leaving room for a bus station.

The line was controlled by traditional semaphore signals until at least 1990, later than the adjacent main line. However, the line is currently not subject to signalling.

Rail traffic on the line

The line has been used several times as the test route for new types of small rail transport. The Great Western Railway used both autotrains and one of the early railcars on this route, and in December 2005 the route began being used to test the Parry People Mover, a highly energy-efficient railcar, to provide the Sunday service. The experiment has been sufficiently successful to the extent that the Sunday service in June 2006 was included in both the Network Rail printed timetables and Internet site. Provision was included in the West Midlands refranchising documents published in June 2006 for People Mover to be considered as an option, and the winning bidder (London Midland) have indicated (June 2007) that they intend to proceed with this.

Although the line has been threatened with closure several times in the past, People Mover have suggested that should their railcar prove a success, their service could be further extended into Stourbridge town centre as a light rail system.

  • Class 153 DMU - Single car operating Monday - Saturday
  • Parry People Mover - Experimental Sunday service
  • Formerly a Class 121 was the main service provider on the line, and was locally known as Daisy the DMU.

The train operates four times per hour over the line, with a journey time of between two to three minutes.

Accidents

The branch has become notorious for the steep downhill gradient leading from Junction station, and over the years there have been several incidents:

  • 15 June 1897 – a train of empty cattle trucks and horse boxes was being reversed down the incline when the locomotive's vacuum brake failed. The locomotive and wagons ploughed into a line of stationary wagons, the office of a local coal merchant, and stables. One man was injured.
  • 24 April 1905 – the driver lost control of a locomotive descending the branch, head-first, at the head of 32 wagons. The train demolished the stop block and smashed into and through the goods office at the end of the branch. Luckily the crew managed to jump clear before impact.
  • 10 February 1948 – a heavily-laden freight train slipped away despite brakes being applied, with the result that wagons telescoped into each other.
  • 2 April 1977 – the train suffered a brake failure while descending the branch from Stourbridge Junction and crashed through the buffers and the wall beyond, leaving the front part of the train overhanging the road below.
  • 21 January 1989 – apparently caused by trespassers on the line distracting the driver, who consequently misjudged his braking, the single-car diesel unit ran through the buffer stops at the end of the line and crashed through the wall beyond.
  • 1 March 1990 – in a very similar incident to the 1989 crash, brake failure caused the train to crash through the rebuilt wall at the end of the line. The buffer stop destroyed in the 1989 crash had not been replaced.

References

External links

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