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LMS Routes

LMS Route: Birmingham New Street to Harborne

The Harborne Railway Company was authorised by an Act of Parliament on 28 June 1866 to construct a single line railway, 2 miles and 35 chain in length, from Harborne to a junction with the LNWR near Monument Lane. It was however another three years before construction commenced and another five years of construction before the line opened to passenger traffic on 10th August 1874 and goods the following October. Plans to extend the line to the Halesowen and Bromsgrove Branch Railway at Lapal were opposed. Passengers would have left Harborne over the railway bridge at Park Hill Road, and crossed the Chad Valley on a high embankment, before passing under the Hagley Road, and arriving at the first station. A little more than a mile further was Rotton Park Road Station, where a spur was constructed to Mitchell and Butler's Brewery. After another mile there was Icknield Port Road Station, and then the line crossed the Birmingham and Wolverhampton Canal before reaching the junction with the main line, one and a half miles from New Street Station.

The conventional view in many commentaries on the line suggest that the service was too slow. Birmingham City Library's Harborne Railway History web site records "Although fondly remembered, the service did not have a reputation for speed, and 'Harborne Express' might have an ironic ring to it! Increased competition from rapidly improving bus services brought about such a decrease in demand that passenger services ended in 1934. A goods service continued until the 1950s" (sic). This view however is disputed by Colin Maggs in his book "Branch Lines of Warwickshire" which records the growth of the railway from an initial six trains each way per day with three on Sundays to twenty trains per weekday only by August 1887. Most of the Down services from New Street were timetabled to take thirteen minutes and Up trains to New Street were scheduled to take sixteen minutes. The regularity of the service provided a very early illustration of a regular interval service with most trains Up trains leaving Harborne at forty-five minutes past the hour whilst Down trains left New Street at fifteen minutes past the hour.

Colin Maggs notes that by the end of the Edwardian era the service had grown to thirty Down services (from New Street) and thirty-one Up services per week with some services missing out Monument Lane reducing the Down time from sixteen minutes to thirteen. Such was the reliability and speed of the service that office workers based in central Birmingham would return home for lunch. The conventional view of the service was therefore incorrect for all but the last sixteen years of the passenger service as it was the growth of bus competition post-World War One that started to erode the viability of the railway. This competition together with the practice of holding trains at Icknield Port Road to accommodate late running main line trains was the cause for a rapidly declining service which by July 1922 had fallen to twenty-one Down and twenty Up trains per weekday.

Such was the pre-war success of the line that it was the most successful of all the lines within the Birmingham area. The Harborne Railway Company contracted the LNWR to operate the line on their behalf in return for 50% of the gross receipts. Three times the LNWR offered to buy out the company and three times they were rejected. It was only at grouping in 1923 that both companies merged when the LMS was formed. Colin Maggs comments "Despite competitive fares of 3d (1.25 new pence) for a day return ticket and a weekly third class season ticket of 2s (two shillings/10 new pence) the decline in numbers compelled the LMS to close the line to passengers on 26th November 1934". The last train was the 11.08 pm from New Street hauled by ex-LNWR 2F 0-6-2T 'Coal Tank' No 7742. The last train to run on the line was a special run by the Stephenson Locomotive Society in November 1963, leaving from New Street Station, Birmingham, crowded with 300 railway enthusiasts. The Stephenson Locomotive Society marked the last Harborne train with a special pamphlet detailing the history of train travel through Harborne.

Select a station or subheading to view associated images. Numbers in [brackets] specify the number of photos on each page.

Birmingham New Street [428]
Monument Lane:
Station [20]
Shed [78]
Harborne Junction [13]
Harborne Railway - Lineside Views [5]
Icknield Port Road [5]
Rotton Park [26]
Hagley Road [10]
Harborne [28]

Railway Roundabout 1959: 'The S.L.S Special To Harborne'
A S.L.S special from Birmingham New Street to Harborne along the now closed Harbourne branch. (5 minutes 15 seconds)