Monument Lane shed opened in November 1858, although there was an earlier shed in the area known as Edgbaston. The three road shed, initially 200 feet long, included accommodation for carriages but the shed was given over entirely to locomotives from 1870. The offices were situated on the south side and the facilities were initially used by the carriage department too.
The following year the LNWR's Southern Division Curzon Street shed was closed and it's allocation was moved to Duddeston displacing the LNWR's Northern division locomotives to Monument Lane. A new shed was built around 1884, although the original buildings survived until the 1930s, when a number of improvements took place.
The improvements included a mechanical coaling plant and ash lift plant- both of which were available by 1934 and a 60 foot turntable; slightly later, in 1938, came water softening plant. The shed yard was also extended by the addition of three roads (what became known as 8, 9 and 10) and by 1939 the shed also boasted improved office accommodation and staff amenities.
In 1886 some thirty-seven locomotives were allocated and over the next forty years this kept on rising until in 1925 some forty-five locomotives were in residence. The shed was never blessed with the most powerful locomotives. During the early part of the 20th Century the allocation included, on the passenger side, Precusors, George V and Prince of Wales tender locomotives, ex LNW 4-6-2 and 4-4-2 tanks and 0-6-2 tanks of the Watford Tank variety. The latter class would be represented at the shed until the early 1950s, by which time the majority of the tank locomotives were the Stanier, Fairburn or Fowler 2-6-4Ts.
Freight locomotives included 0-6-0 Cauliflowers and Coal Engines, whilst the tanks engines included 0-6-2 Coal Tanks. From the mid 1930s ex Midland Railway Johnson 2F 0-6-0s became a regular feature, accompanied by Midland and LMS 3Fs and 4Fs and, latterly, a small stud of Jinties. LMS Compounds arrived at the shed in the mid 1920s and Monument Lane also received a number of brand new Stanier Class 5s in the 1930s. Both classes remained the staple main line passenger power for many years.
Late in 1936 Prince of Wales 25673 Lusitania departed, a move of some significance, as the shed would never again have a named locomotive on its allocation. Stanier Class 5s remained the most powerful locomotives until the final examples transferred away at the end of the summer timetable in 1961. However, the shed did see- and make use of- more powerful locomotives from other depots, including Royal Scots, Patriots, Jubilees, Britannias and even, on one occasion, a Clan. The shed never received an allocation of BR Standard locomotives.
During the post nationalisation era the shed housed the last Watford Tank in service and was home to the final LMS Compounds, 40936 and 41168. Amongst the last locomotives to leave was 4F 44444. The stock of Class 5s rotated fairly regularly, but of those, the longest to stay at the shed was 45390, between June 1950 and March 1956. That locomotive survived in the north west virtually until the end of steam and worked one of the railtours on the penultimate weekend.
The shed was responsible for a mix of main line and local passenger workings, together with local freight duties. Freight workings, which initially consisted of both longer distance and local duties, gradually contracted until they were mainly focused on the Stour Valley route to Wolverhampton, the Harborne branch or across to Bescot. Nevertheless, even at the end of steam, the men might find themselves working to the likes of Crewe or Rugby with a special freight.
The Harborne line included sidings belonging to the Mitchells and Butlers Brewery, serving its Cape Hill site. The Company had its own locomotives but when they were out of action M&B borrowed a locomotive from BR, which could find itself on the Monument Lane allocation. One such example, in 1950, was the preserved ex L&Y Pug 51218.
On the Stour Valley line the shed had responsibility for trip workings and shunting at the goods yards between Monument Lane and Tipton, including Albion, Spon Lane and Oldbury.
Express passenger duties covered services mainly to Manchester, Liverpool or London, supplemented during the Summer to Blackpool and North Wales. Regulars in the 1950s were the:
The 9.20am to Liverpool actually set out as a 7.50am local from Leamington to New Street, where a new set of men continued to Liverpool with the same engine and carriages.
With the reintroduction of two hour expresses between London and Birmingham in 1953, Monument Lane men and locomotives were called on to pilot some of the heavier workings, a job which often fell to the Compounds. The men also worked parcels trains, including to London, duties which saw the use of the Diesels 10000 and 10001 around 1957.
In the mid 1950s, the booked turns for London included:
The coupled workings fell on Fridays and Saturdays. Times of the above could vary from year to year.
Summer duties included the 9.00am to Blackpool (3.40pm return), the 8.35am Smethwick to Llandudno (2.50pm return to New Street) and the 9.20am to Morecambe as far as Crewe. All of those services made regular use of the sheds three Compounds, 40933, 40936 and 41090. The shed was also responsible for some extras between the Midlands and the south coast- which they worked to or from Willesden- illumination specials to Blackpool, football excursions and extras to Aintree for Grand National Day (with a Central Division pilot over the latter stages). The sheds top link men were also called upon at times to work Royal Trains.
Local workings covered many of the ex LNW lines around the West Midlands, including those to Lichfield via Sutton Coldfield, Coventry, Stafford, Rugby and Leamington; services to Leamington operated both via Coventry and the Berkswell to Kenilworth line. They also worked slightly further afield to Burton, via Lichfield, Rugeley, Stoke and Newcastle Under Lyme and Bletchley. Before World War 2 they also worked to Shrewsbury via Stafford and Wellington.
One other duty is worthy of mention- station pilot duties at Birmingham New Street. That responsibility actually covered only the Western Lines side of the station, with Saltley or Bournville covering the Midland side. Nevertheless, it required the full time attention of two locomotives and ultimately provided the final duties for a series of Watford Tanks and Coal Tanks, before a trio of Stanier 2-6-2Ts took over until the diesels arrived.
Diesel shunters arrived in November1960 to take over station pilot duties at New Street and a number of the local trip workings. Into the diesel era London workings continued, usually with what became Class 40s or 24s, by then of course, using locomotives from other sheds. Monument Lane had no main line diesels allocated but it did have a number of what became Class 08 and 03 shunters, together with a small number from the 12xxx range. Local workings continued much as before, although some Monument Lane duties took the men further afield than in steam days, such as to Peterborough and Nuneaton and a Monument Lane man actually worked the final service between Nuneaton and Coventry, although the line has now reopened.
Finally, Monument Lane had two outposts, at Tipton and Albion. Tipton boasted a small engine shed, which housed one locomotive. The engine left the main shed on Monday morning and returned to Monument Lane on Saturday evenings until around 1953. The shed then closed and the engine made a daily trip. Albion had no shed, simply basic servicing facilities. Today the steam shed is covered by the car park for the National Indoor Arena. The diesel depot site remains as open land, with only part of a wall to mark the site.