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LMS Routes

LMS Route: The Birmingham West Suburban Railway

The Birmingham West Suburban Railway, which opened in 1876, was a speculative development that aimed to exploit local and national markets as well as being intended to capitalise on Birmingham's suburban growth. It provided a shorter route between central Birmingham and the Midland Railway's main line via Camp Hill to the West Country. As originally constructed the single track line, which had passing loops at each station with the exception of Stirchley Street (later renamed Bournville), commenced at Granville Street, near Broad Street in Birmingham City Centre, proceeding through Church Road, Somerset Road and Selly Oak, before reaching what was originally called Stirchley Street. The original line then followed the route of the Worcester Canal east under the Pershore Road to what was effectively a joint dual-level station at Lifford. It then passed under the Birmingham and Gloucester Railway viaduct and turned sharp right (westwards), steeply climbing to join with the Birmingham and Gloucester to the south east of the then newly built Kings Norton railway station. Due to the engineering involved in this part of the line, it opened two months after the rest of the line in April 1876, under full operational control of its soon to be owner, the Midland Railway.

In 1879, Cadbury Brothers developed a factory adjacent to Stirchley Street Station and connected private sidings to the West Suburban. The successful branding of this site as Bournville eventually caused the name 'Stirchley Street' to be dropped in favour of Bournville station. In 1885 a major development was undertaken, known as the Stirchley Street and Bournville to Kings Norton Deviation. This allowed Midland Railway trains from Derby to Bristol to pass directly through Birmingham, instead of having to change engines and reverse direction. In the north, the project completed works connecting Birmingham New Street via tunnels under both Gloucester and Bath Rows and then via Five Ways to the BWSR. In the south, after passing through the renamed Bournville and Stirchley station, the line was swung westwards away from the canal after passing under the Mary Vale Road bridge, to join the Birmingham and Gloucester to the north east of Kings Norton station, providing a more direct and flatter route between Kings Norton and the BWSR. The line was now also double tracked along its complete length. The original route became the Lifford Canal branch and provided useful access to canal wharves near Breedon Cross. In 1892 the Lifford Curve was forced through the 'Cotteridge headland' to strengthen the main line connections. This also facilitated circular services linking New Street, Bournville, Kings Heath and Moseley, and extended travel opportunities across south west Birmingham at a time when tram routes generally followed arterial roads and motor buses had not yet 'filled the gaps'.

Following integration of the line with the Midland Railway system, the company undertook five key further developments:

1) The closure of the under utilised Granville Street allowed the now spur lines extension under the canal to open the Central Goods railway station in 1887, providing easier transfer of particularly fresh food freight from the southwest into Birmingham.

2) In 1892 the Lifford Curve was formed to strengthen the main line connections. This also facilitated circular services linking New Street, Bournville, Kings Heath and Moseley, and extended travel opportunities across south west Birmingham at a time when tram routes generally followed arterial roads and motor buses had not yet 'filled the gaps'. The MR also built a new Lifford station very near to the site of the original 1840 Birmingham and Gloucester Lifford railway station.

3) The 1892 opening of the Central Goods Depot at Suffolk Street, Birmingham.

4) Quadrupling of the joint line between Kings Norton and Northfield, extended south to the junction with Halesowen Joint Railway in 1894.

5) A new engine shed was opened at Bournville, constructed on the route of the old Stirchley-Lifford-Kings Norton alignment, alongside the realigned main line in 1895.

The MR's expansion had as a consequence allowed the rapid expansion of southern Birmingham and northern Worcestershire, which in part resulted in an expanded Birmingham in 1911. The LMS conducted a review of traffic levels in 1930, which resulted in both the lightly used Somerset Road and all of the stations along the Camp Hill Line being closed. They were all demolished during the Second World War to allow for greater freight capacity. In 1944, the lightly used Church Road was also closed. The original route through Camp Hill remains solely a freight line to this day.

The Birmingham West Suburban Railway Route

Birmingham New Street [428]
Five Ways [18]
Granville Street [0] [Photos Wanted]
Birmingham Central Goods Depot [55]
Church Road [18]
Somerset Road [7]
Selly Oak [25]
Cadbury's Sidings:
Exchange Sidings [6]
Cadbury's Railway [8]
Bournville:
Station [10]
Shed [39]
Kings Norton:
Station [42]
Lineside Photographs [95