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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 by the GWR and Birmingham Corporation. Passengers en-route to New Street would have left Harborne station, travelled over the railway bridge at Park Hill Road before continuing to cross the Chad Valley on a high embankment before passing under the Hagley Road to arrive at the first station 'Hagley Road'. A little more than a mile further on was 'Rotton Park Road' station at which point there was a spur constructed to connect with Mitchell and Butler's Brewery. After another mile there was 'Icknield Port Road' station after which the line traversed the Birmingham and Wolverhampton Canal before reaching the junction with the main line some 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). However, this view 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 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 also 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 station thereby 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 station 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 passenger train was the 11:08 pm from New Street hauled by ex-LNWR 2F 0-6-2T 'Coal Tank' No 7742. The booking office at Harborne was closed but the station would still see considerable freight activity.

Terry Callaghan of Disused Stations writes, 'The nearby Chad Valley Toy Company used the offices and single platform for the storage of wood for its products. The branch was still remunerative in the 1950s with coal and sand traffic to Harborne, the sand being stored in a wharf where the turntable once stood. The branch enjoyed three freight workings on weekdays with a morning, afternoon and evening trip. On 3rd June 1950 the line saw its first passenger service for over sixteen years with a Stephenson Locomotive Society (SLS) special being run from New Street at 3:10pm. The working comprised an LNWR 2-4-2 tank with a two-coach push-pull set. Considerable local interest was aroused by this working, with the train being seen off from New Street by the stationmaster complete with top hat and tails. Many local residents lined the route to cheer the train which was packed to capacity with enthusiasts and former regular users of the line; one such user was the guard of the final working in 1934, a Mr Perkins. Since that 1950 working the branch saw several visits from railtours with the last one coming to commemorate the final closure of the line on 3rd November 1963. Hauled by LMS Ivatt 2-6-0 2MT No 46429 it was another SLS excursion loaded with over three hundred enthusiasts who alighted to swarm all over the track at the terminus. The Stephenson Locomotive Society marked the last Harborne train with a special pamphlet detailing the history of train travel through Harborne. The line would be lifted shortly after'.

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)

Harborne Railway:- December 1895 Timetable

Departures To Arrivals From
6.45am Birmingham New Street 7.30am Birmingham New Street
7.50am Birmingham New Street 8.10am Birmingham New Street
8.25am Birmingham New Street 9.35am Birmingham New Street
8.55am Birmingham New Street 10.30am Birmingham New Street
9.10am Birmingham New Street 12.30pm Birmingham New Street
9.43am Birmingham New Street 1.10pm Birmingham New Street
10.40am Birmingham New Street 1.30pm SX Birmingham New Street
12.40pm Birmingham New Street 1.35pm SO Birmingham New Street
1.45pm Birmingham New Street 2.30pm Birmingham New Street
2.10pm SX Birmingham New Street 3.30pm Birmingham New Street
2.50pm Birmingham New Street 4.35pm Birmingham New Street
3.45pm Birmingham New Street 5.30pm Birmingham New Street
4.45pm Birmingham New Street 6.15pm SX Birmingham New Street
5.40pm Birmingham New Street 6.40pm Birmingham New Street
6.50pm Birmingham New Street 7.30pm Birmingham New Street
7.50pm Birmingham New Street 8.30pm Birmingham New Street
8.45pm Birmingham New Street 9.30pm Birmingham New Street
9.50pm Birmingham New Street 10.15pm Birmingham New Street
10.22pm Birmingham New Street 11.00pm Birmingham New Street
11.07pm Birmingham New Street 11.45pm Birmingham New Street

Timetable courtesy of Terry Callaghan (Disused Stations - Webmaster Nick Catford)