Lichfield to Newtown
On the19th March 1984 the through route of the South Staffordshire Line (Walsall to Lichfield) closed but the double line remained from Lichfield to Anglesea Sidings at Brownhills for deliveries of heating oil to the Charringtons depot. Bizarrely the double line was worked as a one-train single line with a train staff, trains going as before on the up and returning on the down merely because of the automatic crossing at Fossway.
This situation remained until the cross-city line was electrified and with the closure of Lichfield City box on 10th October 1992 control of the signalling passed to Aston and - the opportunity was taken to single the branch line and renew the half barriers at Fossway Crossing.
Resignalling plan of Anglesea Siding Branch showing the various points and signals
As part of the resignalling of the Cross City Line, the Anglesea Sidings Branch (the renamed section of the former South Staffordshisre line by British Rail) was upgraded with replacement rail, sleepers, signal cabling (mtg) and signage (fixed signalling).
In the early 1980s, a 'low cost signalling committee' was formed, tasked with finding cheaper means of signalling lightly-used lines. One thing that came out of this was the development of a reflectorised notice board style equivalent of the fixed distant signal. Some experimental boards were manufactured . The style of board that was chosen to become standard [2.121] was first put into use in 1983.
Movement down the Branch Line
John Boynton in "Rails Around Walsall" - said that trains in 1996 were expected on Tuesdays/Thursdays/Saturdays (dependant in demand).
Three trains a week arrived during the winter months. These trains would be unloaded from usually 35 rail wagons just over 1,000,000 litres per train, and the steam that was a familiar site up the siding on those days for any one travelling along the main A5 trunk road. The steam was used to heat up the heavy fuel oil and make it easier to discharge.
The other oil products diesel kerosene and red diesel or gas oil as it is known as sometimes were all transferred to the B.P. main terminal at Kingsbury near Tamworth. The last load of medium fuel oil went out on the 27th March 2002 and the gates were finally closed on this local landmark on the 31st April 2002.
View from the A5 bridge at Newtown, overlooking Charringtons
Reporting on the last Burton - Brownhills - Walsall train the Express & Star of Wolverhampton said, "Will the passenger service ever re-open? If the answer depends on economics, No. Receipts, as Dr. Beeching would say, were nowhere meeting the 'true costs'. The last train down took 31 minutes without being pressed. It is scarcely a tribute to transport progress that the alternative express road buses will take 52 minutes."
The last oil train into the former Charringtons and later B.P.oil depot was on the 17th May 2001. The last load of 25,000 litres of heavy fuel oil went out by road to British Sugar at Norwich on a cold wet Thursday morning on the 6th December 2001, I was the only person to witness this. It was a sad day for the once busy oil depot that opened in 1966 and once supplied oil for power stations and industry agriculture and domestic heating, as heavy fuel oil was the main product to be stored at Brownhills.
The Anglesea Branch has also had U.K coverage in RAIL magazine.
Copyright - Ben Williams (soon to have PDF format)
Class 37 shunts the oil wagons into the two purpose built sidings
Charringons Oil depot/ sidings in 1988
Class 60 crosses Fossway Crossing, with a train of empty oil wagons
A pair of class 37's, pulling out of the oil terminal sidings
Traffic up the Anglesea branch since the year 2000
Extract from “Location, location, location”( Edited by South Staffs Rail, April 2011)
The following are believed to have traversed the line from Lichfield City to Anglesea Sidings OT in the 2000 -2003 period.
6 May 2000 The Oil Lekko” Pathfinder excursion, 58016/56131 Top & Tail
31 Apr 2001 Gates finally closed.
Line severed for several months for building bridge over new M6 Toll Road
31 Aug 2002 Hertfordshire Rail Tours “The Three Spires” Top & Tail by 66189 & 66028, one of the few trains to pass over M6 Toll Bridge.
Spring 2003 MPV (Multi Purpose Vehicle) - Weed control track treatment unit went down the line on a routine maintenance cycle. Ref: Network Rail, Feb 2011South Staffs MF - Location/loc/loc –iep-word 030810, rev C
31st August 2002 Hertfordshire Rail Tours – The Three Spires Tour
Brownhills - Lichfield City - Wichnor Jn - Branston Jn - (6) - Birmingham Curve Jn - Drakelow East Curve Jn
Part of the review
66189 joined the rear of the train at Knighton and before long we were veering off left onto the Coalville line. With a passenger line speed of 20mph it was a good time to make up for the early start and have some zzz. At the end of the Coalville line we turned right instead of left. Railtrack had neglected to inspect the Birmingham Curve and the signaller (quite rightly) had to route us into Burton-on-Trent up goods loop to reverse. There were quite a few groans at this.
66189 burst into life and we trundled out of the loop heading towards Lichfield. At Wichnor Junction we turned onto the freight line and paused briefly at Lichfield City before heading down to Brownhills. The Brownhills branch had been especially deforested for the passage of the tour, refinery traffic having ceased in 2001. The new bridge over the North Birmingham Link Road (M6Toll) was traversed - a double track bridge with only the left hand track laid and we ran to the end of the line adjacent to the closed terminal.
After reversal we ran back to Lichfield where we had to wait for a reversing 323 to let us out. Back on the main line to Derby we crossed over at Branston Junction and headed off back towards Coalville. HRT had been on the phone and Railtrack had sent a man to perform the necessary inspection. Reversing at Drakelow East Curve Junction we also scored a very rare crossover. By the time we had made it back out and up to Derby we were running 86 late.Sources : various, including PRAR, Ken Strachan & Mike Tetlow
The Line today 2003 >
Since the MPV unit went up the line in 2003, the line was officially mothballed and closed to all traffic. The former Charringtons/ BP oil depot was dismantled and a road haulage company leased the depot. To gain enough space for HGVS, the haulage company dismantled the railway line inside the depot, but because the gates & surround fencing was in the middle of a section of track, the haulage company decided to mound soil over the line where the oil trains once gained entrance.
During 6 years 2003 - 2009 the line was quickly taken over by nature. Once people found out that the line was no longer in use, people decided to walk the line; this is when a lot of vandalism was done to the signalling control boxes scatted down the line.
According to Network Rail, some parts of the automatic barrier at Fossway crossing was dismantled to use on other such barriers across the midlands as spares and repairs.
In 2009 the value of scrap metal went up in value, which caused some track theft from around the Hammerwich and Pipehill areas of the line. Fish plates, bolts, and sleepers where taken.
The Lichfield Southern Bypass started in 2008, which meant the dismantlement of 2 sections of double track, to build a bridge that took the railway over the new bypass.
In 2010 the former Charringtons depot was once again occupied, this time by Quattro Plant Ltd. Quattro have a number of sections and divisions, one being they are a major rail contractor.
Quattro Rail Division moved onto site in February 2010. They immediately moved the mound of soil that the previous HGV Company piled up. This was to gain access to part of the line and points which entered the compound. Quattro staff then recommissioned all the points that had been fixed into place since the last train ran down the line in 2003.
Work being done on the points in Feb/ March 2010
The track to the left was one of the original sidings into the former oil depot, this was the section that had been hiddin under a mound of soil.
Quattro now use part of the line, from there compound at Newtown up to the Hammerwich footbridge. They use the line for training purposes for all sorts of road/rail machines and rail maintenance.
Lichfield Sourthen Bypass
Track piled up in sections for the new bridge to be built in Lichfield
View from the finished bridge
As with the new M6 Toll bridge, Network Rail (Railtrack at the time) installed the track back over the completed bidge. But with the Lichfield bypass bridge, the contractor only placed the sections of track on what is a fine layer od hardcore.
Images from the line today
View across the new M6 Toll bridge, looking towards Hammerwich
On the approach to Fossway Crossing
The photo below shows the railway line from Fossway upto the Sandfields water works. The new Lichfield bypass bridge can clearly be seen.
Various photo albums showing the different sections of the Anglesea Branch today