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GWR Route: Banbury to Wolverhampton
GWR Route: North Warwickshire Line

An overview, procedures and features of Snow Hill station

An overview and features of Snow Hill station Photographs - Station Infrastructure (172) Photographs - Locomotives and Rolling Stock (277)

Much of the information on this and other webpages of Warwickshire Railways is derived from articles or books listed in our 'bibliography'.

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A brief overview of Birmingham Snow Hill Station

The Act of Parliament to allow the Birmingham & Oxford Railway Company (B&OR) to build their line from Oxford to Birmingham was passed on 3rd August 1846. The Act allowed the B&OR to utilise the London North Western Railway's (LNWR) Curzon Street facilities as its Birmingham station to be accessed via a viaduct linking from Bordesley. The B&OR's submission to Parliament was supported by the Great Western Railway Company (GWR) who subsequently purchased the company on 14th November 1846. However the LNWR, recognising the danger of the arrival of the the GWR and its intention of developing its network to the north to their own plans, therefore prevented the GWR's plans from coming to fruition. Faced with this hostility the GWR had no other alternative than to to build their own station.

The route chosen into Birmingham reflected the ambitions of the GWR to continue onwards to Wolverhampton having purchased the Birmingham, Wolverhampton & Dudley Railway at the same time as the B&OR. This resulted in the railway crossing the centre of town partly in a tunnel, built by using the cut and cover method of construction, and partly in a deep cutting. The site selected for their station being the land originally occupied by the Oppenheims Glassworks. Originally known as Birmingham Station it was later known as Great Charles Street and Livery Street before the GWR finally adopted Snow Hill as the station's name in February 1858. The station was from the outset designed to accommodate mixed gauge trackwork which incorporated both standard and broad gauge within the station layout and configuration of pointwork. This was because any services using the lines to the north of the station had to use standard gauge tracks whilst to the south-east it had to accommodate broad gauge routes.

The GWR had hoped to use the old Shrewsbury & Birmingham Railways powers to run over the Stour Valley line to Navigation Street (later New Street) but as with its original plan of sharing station facilities with the LNWR, the latter the company would have none of it and, after some astute work by the LNWR's lawyers, the GWR had no other recourse other than to build its own route to Wolverhampton. With construction of the new route commencing in 1851 the station operated as a terminus until 14th November 1854 when the new line through Hockley tunnel and on to Wolverhampton came into being. The line had been delayed because of a collapsed bridge over a road between Soho and Handsworth stations, the bridge having failed on the 26th August 1854, which was the day after which it had passed a Board of Trade inspection. The route to Wolverhampton initially served the intermediate stations of Priestfield, Bilston Central, Bradley & Moxley (opened later, June 1860), Wednesbury Central, Swan Village, West Bromwich, Handsworth & Smethwick, Soho & Winson Green, and Hockley.

The station's opening was marked by the arrival in October 1852 of a broad gauge special train hauled by Daniel Gooch's Lord of the Isles locomotive. The initial building could not be described as being grand being a temporary timber structure which was to remain in place for another thirteen years until 1871 when the station was finally rebuilt. The temporary structure wasn't wasted by the frugal GWR as it was removed and reused at Didcot. The Great Western did however build in 1863 the ornate Great Western Hotel which fronted Colmore Row and which did provide an indication of the company's intent. The rebuilding of the station coincided with the full conversion of the mixed gauge trackwork to standard gauge (or narrow gauge as the GWR liked to describe it) in 1869. The layout of both the temporary station and the 1871 rebuild were essentially the same insofar that the through lines from Paddington to the Wolverhampton passed through the centre of the station served by two platforms. Services from the north terminating at Snow Hill were accommodated by bay platforms located at the northern end of both the up and down platforms. At the southern end of the station sidings were located which later were covered by the hotel and the roofing of the cutting in 1872.

The 1871 rebuild was a much larger station but was still constrained by Snow Hill and Livery Street on either side and Great Charles Street at its northern end. The new station had a huge arched roof, with a simple wooden overhead bridge linking the two platforms in the centre of the platforms. Its design however was still not as grand or imposing as that built by the LNWR at New Street station. Access to the station for passengers arriving by road transport was provided via large station yards off both Snow Hill and Livery Street. Passengers wishing to transport their horse-drawn vehicles could do so as both the up and down platforms had carriage landings built adjacent to both yards. At the Wolverhampton end of the station, adjacent to Great Charles Street, a locomotive turntable was erected to facilitate the servicing of locomotives - Tyseley shed not being built for another thirty years. The signal boxes controlling the station were located at either end of the station with the South Signal Box being located between the rear of the hotel and the down platform and the North Signal Box being sited adjacent to Great Charles Street bridge on the up line. In 1872 the deep cutting running from Snow Hill station to Temple Row was covered over with the Great Western Arcade built over the top.

The rebuilding of the third station commenced in 1906, which included incorporating a new pedestrian access from Colmore Row into the new booking hall, and was completed in 1912. The access was formed by creating a new entrance as part of the Great Western Hotel's facade, the hotel being taken out of public use and used as office accommodation. It was said that the noise and smoke of the trains passing underneath resulted in the hotel not being popular with guests. This time the GWR took up the challenge of competing with the now enlarged New Street station. The rebuilt station had a large booking hall with an arched glass roof and the platforms contained stylish buildings containing lavish waiting and refreshments rooms with oak bars of a standard worthy of many top hotels of the time. The GWR did not seek to enlarge the station by purchasing adjacent property as the LNWR did when they had enlarged New Street some twenty-five years earlier. This is probably because the GWR had, during the first decade of the new century, embarked on a major capital spending programme in building new lines, cutoffs to shorten journey times and new facilities such as Snow Hill station and money would have been very tight. Therefore the GWR resolved their need to expand the number of platforms and to provide more facilities not by widening the station but by extending the station beyond Great Charles Street which had for fifty years marked the northern limits of the station.

The new layout adopted in the 1906 design utilised two island platforms, one for the each direction of travel, thereby allowing two through lines, one line on either side of the island platform. The two island platforms were separated by four roads, two up and two down with the centre roads allowing traffic to pass directly through the station without affecting the trains standing at the platforms. In addition, by creating platforms up to 1197 feet long, the platforms could accommodate two trains at the same time with trains arriving or departing from one half of the platform via scissor crossovers in the centre of the station. The GWR therefore adopted the practice of allocating a separate number to each half of the four through platforms. The through platforms were numbered: 1 & 2; 5 & 6; 7 & 8 and 11 and 12. At the Wolverhampton end of the station the previous configuration of a pair of bay platforms for each direction was continued and these were numbered 3 & 4 on the down side and 9 & 10 for the up bay platforms. The slope of the site from Colmore Row was utilised by employing the area beneath the station at Great Charles Street to be used to provide a parcels depot accessed via a driveway. Parcels and other goods being sent by passenger service were moved to each island platform via lifts located at the buffer stops of the bay platforms.

The line towards Hockley was widened to four tracks to accommodate the increase in traffic. This option was not available to the south as the widening of Snow Hill tunnel would be very expensive requiring major land clearance. To accommodate the extra local traffic generated by the opening of the North Warwickshire line and the route to the South West, a new station, Moor Street, was built at the opposite end of the tunnel. During the 1960s the rebuilding of New Street station and the electrification of the West Coast mainline saw Snow Hill being used to accommodate the diverted traffic to London and Wolverhampton. However, once New Street was complete and the new electric services were operational the announcement that Snow Hill would be closed was made. All services were switched to Birmingham New Street and Moor Street. Express services were diverted to New Street from 1967. Local services north from Snow Hill to Wolverhampton Low Level railway station continued with four trains per day to Langley Green via Smethwick West using Class 122 units (nicknamed bubble cars) were the last to run and ended in March 1972.

For a definitive history of Snow Hill station visitors should read Derek Harrison's book Salute to Snow Hill which whilst out of print is readily available in second hand book shops and libraries.

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Extract from correspondence in The Locomotive News and Railway Notes Journal

Volume IX – No 55, published 10th June 1921

To the Editor ‘LN&RN’
The following GWR engines and sheds have been observed recently round Birmingham: No 4134 (Salop), No 4118 (marked for some reason which I do not understand, SDN-OXF),No 3447 (HFD), No 3335 (BAN), No 2923 (WPN ST.RD.), No 6000 (WPN) evidently one of the ROD class, I saw this engine quite recently bearing the number 1711, which I suppose is the ROD number, as this number (1711) still appears on the back of the tender. Others noted include No 5327 (BHD), No 6307 (OXF), of which I was not able to get a date. This engine did not look at all new, although belonging to the new 2-6-0 class. Outside framed 0-6-0 goods are also common, some of those seen being Nos 1134 (TYS), 431, 340, 358 (STB), 446 (STB), 338 (STB).
Yours faithfully
HC Shaw

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The Redevelopment of Birmingham Snow Hill Station

Extract from Great Western Magazine Vol. XXIII. No.8, August 1911
Birmingham (Snow Hill) Station by R.P. Mears B.A., A.M.I.C.E.

The new station at Birmingham is the third that the Great Western Railway have erected on the site. The first was a wooden structure, which was removed to Didcot to give place to the second station, which was finished in 1871. The design of an important railway station, both as regards its conception in plan and in level, has always of necessity to be modified and adapted to suit local conditions and the exigencies of the site, and the problem confronting the designer is, with due regard to economy, to make the most possible out of the site at his disposal. Now the works at Snow Hill are bound in plan between the two thoroughfares of Snow Hill and Livery Street on the two sides and on the south by the tunnel through the central part of Birmingham; this necessitated expansion in a northerly direction, hence the long platforms and the large provision of sidings at the north end. As regards level, the proximity of Snow Hill to Livery Street precluded the possibility of sidewards expansion, therefore in order to increase the capacity of the site it was essential to construct on different levels; and to this end the gradients of the two thoroughfares (Snow Hill and Livery Street) have been used to great advantage.

Through Lines, Sidings and Platforms

The station consists at rail level of a couple of island platforms and a couple of bays at the north end. Local traffic to the south is to a certain extent provided for at Moor Street terminal station, thereby relieving the pressure of traffic through the tunnel, where there are only two roads. The platforms are both long and wide, the up and down platforms being upwards of 1,200 feet in length and measuring about 80 feet across at their greatest width. The bay platforms measure about 500 feet in length and vary from 20 to 30 feet in width. The minimum width between plinth of platform building and edge of platform coping is 14 feet. They are paved throughout with patent Victoria stone. The architectural treatment of the platform buildings is very pleasing and the refreshment rooms are handsomely decorated internally with panelled oak. Docks for dealing with horse boxes and perishable goods, such as fish, fruit and milk, are situated on each side at the south end of the station apart from the passenger platforms; outside access to these docks is made by very easy gradients from Snow Hill and Livery Street.

The permanent way consists of four through roads between the island platforms and a relief line on either side, those at the south end converge into two lines through the tunnel. At this end there is a small amount of siding accommodation, allocated chiefly to fish, fruit and milk traffic, as before mentioned. At the north end there are five approach roads and four running lines in the direction of Wolverhampton, also the turntable and carriage sidings. A few remarks as regards traffic working may not be out of place. At the Wolverhampton end the up and down roads are side by side, but between the island platforms the two ups are together and the two downs are together; reasons for this are obvious, for, consider two trains alongside of the down platform, one behind and the other in front of the scissors crossing, the rear train can start first, and passing through the scissors come up with the front train, then the one going straight on and the other to the left, they can both proceed simultaneously towards Wolverhampton. Similarly on the up side a train behind the scissors crossing can pass a stationary train in front, the platform length being sufficient to accommodate a long distance and a short distance train. Again, two trains may approach simultaneously from Wolverhampton and both go into bay platforms Nos. 3 and 4 and conversely that two trains in bays Nos. 3 and 4 may leave simultaneously. The bulk of the carriage sidings as situated to the east side of the station yard are, by means of the diagonal road with its five pairs of slips, in easy communication with following lines up (side), down (side) and bays 3 and 4. The two sidings at the extreme east of the bay platforms deserve notice, for their existence involved extra width to Great Charles Street Bridge and materially added to the heavy girder work for carrying them over the parcels yard. At the end of the bay platforms on the down side a 70 foot electric sector turntable has been provided.

The signalling is on Messrs. Siemen’s all electric system, and has been in operation at the north end for about two years. The whole station is to be controlled from two boxes, the north box containing 224 levers, and the south box 80. The signal most distant from the north box is 620 yards away and the points most distant are 243 yards away. With distances such as these, there is much saving of space in being able to dispense with point rods and signal wires; another advantage being the size of the north signal box, which measures only 50 feet by 10 feet, and contains 224 levers at 2 inch spacing centre to centre. There is also a great reduction in the number of signals, due to the use of the Annett type of signal fitted with route indicators. The necessary power for working signal and point motors is derived from a battery of 71 cells, giving a voltage of 140 Volts in the signal box. The ammeter in the signal box generally stands at about 10 Amps, that is to say, that as a rule during the daytime not more than 2 h.p. is being utilised for signalling purposes.

Passenger Arrangements

Reference to the plan will show that the main entrance to the station is through the high level booking-hall, situated at the south end immediately behind the hotel and Colmore Row and that the cab entrance is from the Livery Street side. Road level in this booking-hall is on average 22 feet above rail level and is reached on the one side by a slight incline from Livery Street, and on the other by a staircase from Snow Hill and from the front direct from Colmore Row by an archway cut through the Company’s hotel. Here the booking, inquiry and shop-parcels offices are situated. The incoming passenger proceeds with luggage down the inclined footways to the level of the footbridge, footpath level being now 18 feet above rail level; here there are spacious lifts for dealing with luggage, while the passenger descends by an easy staircase 20 feet in width to platform level. The outgoing passenger with luggage will get into their cabs on the inclined cabroads, at either end of the footbridge, which communicate by easy gradients with Snow Hill and Livery Street respectively. Situated at about the centre of the station is the main subway, 20 feet in width, divided off into 12 feet width for passenger and 8 feet width for luggage and parcels, communication with the main platforms being by means of staircases and luggage lifts; passengers may also enter the subway direct from Livery Street. There is also another booking-hall at a low level (18 feet below rail level) under the main lines, entered from Great Charles Street and communicating with both up and down platforms by means of staircases. The platform buildings provide spacious telegraph offices, waiting rooms, refreshment rooms – with kitchens below, cloak rooms, ladies lavatories and station master’s office, as well as a booking office and bookstall on each platform.


The arrangements for dealing with parcels are also very complete. A large parcels yard at a depth of 24 feet below rail level has been excavated and constructed, the falling gradient of Snow Hill having permitted of direct cart access to the roadway at this level; the entrance is 20 feet in width. Here in the sub-basement are large offices and ample appliances in the shape of parcel racks, weighing machines, lifts, etc., for dealing separately with inwards and outwards parcels; communication with the platforms is made easy by two lifts direct to the up platform and by another lift first to subway level, then through the subway to the lifts communicating with the down platform. There is also a spacious luggage stores and lost property accommodation. Immediately over the parcels offices are situated various rooms for staff accommodation.

Gradients of Snow Hill and Livery Street

As has been stated, mush has been made of the natural gradients of these two thoroughfares to increase the earning capacity of the site of Snow Hill station. Reference to the plan will show on the Livery Street side, first the cab entrance to the high level booking-hall immediately behind the hotel, and the inclined cabroad entrance; from these two entrances levels of 22 feet and 18 feet respectively above rail level are reached by easy inclines; a little way further down the street is a cart entrance, communicating by an easy decline with the fish, fruit and milk traffic docks at rail level; further down is the rolling way into the cellarage below the down refreshment rooms, then the entrance into the subway, again lower down a cart entrance into a large storage area that has been excavated under the down platform, and at the corner of Great Charles Street have been built three shops with their fronts on Livery Street.

The gradient of Snow Hill has been similarly utilised, providing access by means of a staircase to the high level booking-hall and a cab entrance to the inclined cabroad, also a cart entrance for dealing with fish, fruit and milk traffic corresponding to that provided on the down side. Lower down, a cart entrance to another large storage area below rail level; continuing down, a valuable frontage has been utilised for shops, and an entrance constructed to the up refreshment room cellars. Still lower is the parcels yard and at the corner of Great Charles Street is the ‘office block’ building. Beyond Great Charles Street under the bay platforms, there is again ample cellarage and much interesting construction in the form of brick arches. The cellarage between Great Charles Street and Lionel Street provides accommodation for the parcels carts, horses and motor lorries and space is also largely let. The arch nearest Lionel Street is used as a transforming station where electric current at 5,000 Volts is received from the corporation and is transformed down to 110 Volts for lighting purposes and to 440 Volts for power purposes; it is in this arch also that two motor-generators are situated, for charging the two batteries of 71 cells each which supply the current in the north signal box at 140 Volts for working the signal and point motors.


Snow Hill Station presents many interesting features as regards the arrangement of its roofs. The roof to the high level booking-hall is carried by a single span arch, consisting of a three-hinged lattice steel rib of 93 feet 9.5 inches span and 31 feet 6 inches rise, the centre of the uppermost pin being 54 feet above roadway. These ribs are at 19 foot centres and carry lanterns measuring 17 feet 6 inches across. The entire weight of the intermediate roofing is borne by trussed purlin girders at 6 foot centres. There are wind screens at the two ends. The covering is 0.25 inch rough cast glass and 6lb. lead. Louvre blades are provided at the sides of the lanterns. The arched ribs are provided with screw-coupled tie rods of 2.125 inch diameter. The inclined footways and footbridges are roofed with light principals at about 13 foot centres. The intervening space between the booking office , footbridge and inclined footways is left open for the escape of engine smoke.

The roofing to the main portion of the station spans transversely to the direction of the main lines and consists of principals at 13 foot 6 inch centres with elliptical soffits carried on transverse girders at 35 foot 10 inch centres. These principals carry lanterns of 8 feet 6 inch width. The covering consists of 0.25 inch rough cast glass and galvanised iron; the sides of the lanterns are covered with galvanised iron louvre blades and the ends of the lanterns are left open. The central portion for a width of 22 feet is left uncovered. This has a tendency to let in at times a little ‘weather’, but has great compensating advantages in the free exit for engine smoke and free entrance for fresh air and sunlight, and entirely removes that depressing sensation which is so frequently felt in large all-over roofed stations; and again it saves much glass cleaning. The main roof girders are supported on four columns and stretch from street to street. They are 8 feet in depth, their soffits are 28 feet above rail level and they are continuous throughout, being cover plated over the intermediate columns. The spring in the end columns takes up any expansion. The central bay measures 103 feet exactly and the side spans from 40 to 100 feet, the longest girder of this type measures 270 feet over all. The bay platforms are covered with umbrella roofing for nearly their entire length.

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Birmingham Snow Hill's New Station

Extract from Great Western Magazine Vol. 25. No.11, November 1913

The reconstruction of Birmingham (Snow Hill) station is now almost complete, and the photographs which we reproduce will give some idea of the station as it now exists. It is interesting to compare the former accommodation with that now provided. In the old station there were only two through platforms – up and down – with one arrival bay line on the up side and two departure bay lines on the down side; there were two approaches, one from Livery Street on the down side and the other from Snow Hill on the up side, the whole of the accommodation being on the level. In the new station, owing to the proximity of the public streets, it was impossible to develop laterally, and consequently the station has been carried much farther towards Wolverhampton. There are now four through platform roads, with two arrival bays on the up side and two departure bays on the down side, and the platform accommodation is some three times as much as in the old station, each of the through platforms being capable of accommodating two trains at a time. The main entrance for foot passengers is now from Colmore Row, one of the chief thoroughfares in the city. The main booking hall - one of the most commodious outside London – is on the high level, access to it for vehicular and foot traffic is given from Livery Street and for foot passengers from Snow Hill. There is also an entrance to the station about half-way down Livery Street, and one from Great Charles Street. A very considerable portion of the station is covered in. At platform level there are the usual offices, waiting rooms, etc. Below there are a clock room, accommodation for porters and guards, a lost property office, etc, and below that again is the parcels office, with a spacious parcels yard opening on to Snow Hill.

Fish platforms have been provided for on both up and down sides at the south end, with vehicular access from Snow Hill and Livery Street respectively, also separate cab roads on the high level, for the convenience of passengers arriving by train, quite independent of the cab approach to the main booking hall. The station has been well supplied with conveniences in the way of electric lifts, of which there are four for dealing with passengers’ luggage between the booking hall level and the platform level, and five for dealing with parcels and luggage between the parcels office, subway and platforms. These were installed under the supervision of Mr Roger T Smith, the Great Western Railway Company’s electrical engineer. In the matter of signalling, too, the station is quite up-to-date, with an all electric installation, provided by Messrs Siemens Bros & Co Ltd of Westminster, under the supervision of Mr A T Blackall, the Company’s signal engineer. Another feature of interest is an electrically operated sector table to the bay platform lines on the down side.

The following photographs accompanied this article:

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Parcels Office

Extract from Great Western Magazine Vol. XXIII. No.10, October 1911
Birmingham (Snow Hill) Station by R.P. Mears B.A., A.M.I.C.E.

One of the outstanding features of the new station at Birmingham (for general description see August issue) is the spacious parcels premises, with a large cartway, at a level 24 feet below rail level, in the construction of which a quantity of 13,000 cubic yards of soil was excavated and removed. The steelwork carrying the railway and platforms above aggregates nearlt 500 tons and there is an area of 11,000 square feet of roadway and footpath interrupted by only two columns for the support of the decking above ('gwrbsh1663' and 'gwrbsh1664'). The soil is a hard sand, locally called ‘sand rock’ capable of withstanding very heavy loads and trouble with water was encountered. The concrete in foundations was gauged 6:1 and it is from 2 feet to 3 feet in thickness below the stanchion base plates, or grillages.

To support the decking over the parcels yard, two types of column were used, five in number each. Type ‘A’ consists of four plates and four angles, providing an area of 62 square inches of metal, with stanchions carrying the roof girders above. The longest column of Type ‘B’ measures 32 feet and contains 10 tons of steel, exclusive of the grillage; the column shown in the diagram has a sectional area of 166 square inches of metal, consisting of eight plates, eight angles, four tee-irons and a joist; the grillage here shown consisting of two rows of 16 inch by 6 inch by 62 lb. rolled steel joists, seven to each row, weighing over 5 tons. These stanchions were all erected by means of ‘derricks’ and from an ‘erection’ point of view there is a great advantage in the spreading grillage foundation, as the two rows of rolled steel joists being well bolted together and the stanchion base-plate bolted to the grillage, there is a resultant stability sufficient to permit of the heaviest girders being placed on the columns and adjusted to the fit of the cross girders, rail bearers, etc., before the column is concreted in.

The decking carrying the permanent way is supported on three systems of girders, all of the parallel-flanged-plate-web type. The flooring – jack-arching of 5 foot span and 10.5 inch rise – consists of 4.5 inch brindle brick drumming, heavily backed with 6:1 concrete. The whole is covered with asphalte 0.75 inch in thickness, with a layer of 3 inch protecting concrete and on this the ballast is placed. This arrangement permits of the ordinary cross-sleeper road being laid on the flooring and gives complete freedom for subsequent rearrangements of the permanent way ('gwrbsh1638').

The main girders carrying the three lines of railway over the parcel yard are 89 feet 8 inches in length and 9 feet 6 inches in depth over angles – i.e. a ratio of depth to span of 1 to 8.5. The bottom flange in the centre consists of four 0.625 inch and three 0.5625 inch plates, 2 foot 3 inches in width and a pair of 8 inch by 8 inch by 0.75 inch angles. Web joints and stiffeners are at 4 foot centres, the web is 0.5 inch thick in the middle, increasing to 0.875 inch thick at the ends. The riveting is 1 inch throughout and its pitch in the flanges varies between 3 and 4 inches. The heaviest girder of this type weighed 59 tons.

The cross girders are 36 feet in span and 3 feet 9 inches in depth over angles; the flanges are 18 inches in width and consist in the middle of four 0.625 inch plates and a pair of 4 inch by 4 inch by 0.625 inch angles. The web is 0.5 inch thick in the middle increasing 0.625 inch at ends; the stiffeners are at 5 foot centres. These cross girders are spaced 12 feet apart and weigh nearly 8 tons each. Spanning between them to support the jack-arching are 18 inch by 7 inch by 75 lb. Rolled steel joists at 5 foot centres ('gwrbsh1642' and 'gwrbsh1643').

The erection of the main girders presented some difficulty on account of their size and weight and restrictions of the site. Their design would have permitted of their being brought to the site in sections to then erect on staging and rivet in situ. To drive 1 inch rivets through several thicknesses of metal would require a 20 h.p. air compressing engine as well as a stout overhead gantry for the manipulation of the pneumatic riveting machine. It was found, however, that these girders might be brought to site whole from the works (Messrs. E. C. & J. Keay Ltd.) some 10 miles distant; this was accordingly done and proved advantageous to company and contractors alike; to the company because the girders arrived fully riveted – and in big work of this character riveting is best carried out in a steelworks yard – and to the contractors because the distance from Darlaston being short made the cost of bringing the girders whole an economic success as compared with the cost of erecting temporary riveting plant at Snow Hill.

The girders were conveyed by special train from Darleston, each on a pair of the Company’s pollen wagons, capable of carrying a load of 60 tons per pair. With these the girder forms the draw-bar between the two six-wheeled pollens and rests at each end on turn-table seating, in the bed of the wagon to which it is rigidly attached by chains ('gwrbsh1644'). At the arrival of the first of these girders the site of the parcel yard had been excavated to a depth of 25 feet below the level of Great Charles Street Bridge and the columns on which the girder was to be placed stood some 17 feet above the level of the site as excavated. It was necessary, therefore, to travel the girder from Charles Street Bridge, more than 100 feet in distance and to lower it some 8 feet. To do this Messrs. Keay constructed a pair of timber trestles, each in plan measuring 16 feet square and in height 14 feet 6 inches, consisting of 16 uprights of 12 inch square section, well braced and fitted to top and bottom frames. The bottom frame was mounted on 16 flanged wheels of 15 inch diameter in four rows, to allow of longitudinal movement along a four-railed track laid for the purpose. On the tops of these trestles ordinary sleepers were stacked to a height of 9 feet 3 inches, being clamped with plates and vertical rods to prevent rocking ('gwrbsh1639').

The first operation was to tilt the girder from the wagons on Great Charles Street Bridge to the trestles. This was effected by jacking up its leading end, removing the pollen and lowering on to a heavy forged steel roller of 8 inch diameter, the girder being then supported in front by the roller and behind by the remaining pollen. By means of tackle and winches the girder was launched along the roller so as to overhang the abutment until it rested one end on the leading trestle, as packed up with sleepers to receive it, the rear end continuing on the rear pollen, which moved forward and approached the roller. This latter was then transferred to the rear trestle, permitting of the withdrawal of the rear pollen, and launching was continued by the advancement of the leading trestle until the full length of the girder was in span. Then lowering commenced. This consisted in jacking up the girder alternately at either end and removing a few sleepers at a time, until the level of the stanchion tops were reached. Then the trestles (carrying the girder) were travelled bodily along the four-railed track to the pair of columns on which the girder was to rest. Greased rails inserted under the girder to the stanchion caps permitted it to be skidded sideways until right over the columns, where it was supported laterally by means of stout props, while a jack mounted on a puncheon raised it, to allow of the withdrawal of the greased rails, when it was lowered into its final position ('gwrbsh1640' and 'gwrbsh1641').

Three girders were dealt with in this manner; the first weighing 59 tons, the second 37 tons and the third 52 tons. The operations as described, occupied a dozen men for about a fortnight, exclusive of labour for laying the track and building the trestles. The last of these girders was erected in April, 1910, and the whole of the parcels yard was brought into use before the commencement of 1911.

The work was designed and is being carried out by Mr W. Armstrong, whose resident engineer is Mr C. E. Shackle. The contractors are Messrs. Hy. Lovatt, Ltd., for whom the writer is engineer; Messrs. E. C. & J. Keay supplied the steelwork, and Messrs. Mellows & Co. The ‘Eclipse’ roof glazing.

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Roof Construction

Extract from Great Western Magazine Vol. XXIV. No.3, March 1912
Birmingham (Snow Hill) Station by R.P. Mears B.A., A.M.I.C.E.

The Main Roof of the new station at Birmingham is of the 'ridge and furrow' type, and is carried on girders spanning transversely to the direction of the main line. Its extent is from the wind screen over Great Charles Street Bridge at the north end of the train-shed up to the steps of the footbridge, a length of 500 feet, covering about two-thirds of the entire station (see 'gwrbsh1681'), exclusive of the bay platforms; the remaining portions of the station are covered with roofs of entirely different designs (see 'gwrbsh1685'). The superficial area of the main roof is about 12,000 square yards; the covering consists of quarter inch rough cast glass fixed in Messrs. Mellowes' patent glazing bars (see 'gwrbsh1689'), and of No. 18 S.W.G. galvanised corrugated iron, flashed with 5 lb. Lead. The gutters are of steel and cast iron.

Uniformity of design has been carried out as far as the exigencies of the site permit, the main roof girders being at 35 foot, 10 inch centres, and the roof trusses at 13 foot, 6 inch centres, except for the varying dimensions at the sides. The hips against Snow Hill and Livery Street vary in length and required great care in measuring. The distinctive features of this roof are the hips and the uncovered portion over the main line. As will be seen from the accompanying illustration (see 'gwrbsh1684'), the whole is made exceedingly pleasing to the eye by means of the gracefully curved elliptical soffits of the roof trusses, the valance boarding covering the centre fascia girders, and the cast iron ornamental casings to the columns. The street exteriors are enriched by the provision of ornamental cast iron cornices and gutter. The cast iron and glass wind screens are also very tastefully designed and thoroughly in keeping with the glazed brickwork and terracotta in the street elevations.

The roof columns consist of a pair of 15 inch by 4 inch rolled steel channels, braced together with tie plates. These upper columns are for the most part carried on lower columns of the ‘box’ type. The height of the upper columns is 25 feet; the lower columns are in some cases as much as 45 feet in height, making a total height of 70 feet. The concrete foundations measure for the most part 6 feet, 6 inch square and 3 feet thick (see 'gwrbsh1686').

The main roof girders are of the parallel-flanged open-web type, measuring 8 feet in depth and 15 inch in flange width. Each of these girders is supported on four columns over which they are made ‘continuous’ by means of a pair of ‘cover plates’ uniting the top (tensional) flange over each of the two intermediate columns. The longest of these girders measures 276 feet. No direct provision has been made for temperature expansion as the ‘give’ in the supporting columns appears to answer that purpose most satisfactorily in every way, this fact permitting the girders to be firmly riveted to the stanchion caps without the necessity of providing roller bearings. The flanges of these girders consist in the centre of one 15 inch by half inch plate and a pair of 3.5 inch by half inch angles secured to a vertical half inch web plate 12 inches deep. To resist the inverse bending-moment over the intermediate columns, two 15 inch by half inch flange plates have been provided. The vertical and diagonal bracing consists of four 3.5 inch by 3.5 inch by half inch angles. The vertical members are at 6 foot, 9 inch centres, except for the three central bays, which measure 7 foot 4 inches. The middle bay is double-braced. Out of every second one of these vertical stiffeners spring the roof trusses, whose rafters are secured to shoes on the top flange, while their lower members are secured to the bottom flange, as shown in the accompanying details (see 'gwrbsh1682'). As has been previously mentioned, the girders are all riveted solid to the caps of the supporting stanchions, which are holed to receive the rivets, necessitating great accuracy in the setting of the columns to receive the girders. The distances between outside columns vary to suit the configuration of the site, but the distance between the central columns is 103 feet exactly permitting of the fourteen central girders (the wind screen girder being necessarily somewhat different) being made to one set of templates. The columns supporting these were erected and in many cases built in, solid, in the walls of the platform buildings several months before the roof girders could be put on; considerable difficulty was experienced in accurately maintaining the 103 foot dimension across the site where frequently traffic entirely suspended all ‘taping’ operations, and where the securing of measurements was always attended with difficulty. The lines of these roof girders also ruled the setting out of the entire works, and had in all cases to be sighted with a theodolite from a base line consisting of pegs set in concrete in the midst of the heavily worked permanent way, where passing trains continuously necessitated the sudden removal of the theodolite and the escape of the engineer, and where permanent way repairs were apt to tamper with the accuracy of the pegs. The roof trusses, lanterns, and lantern girders are of light but strong design, consisting entirely of ‘angle’ sections. The sides of the lanterns are covered with galvanised-iron louver blades and the ends over the hips are left open. The purlins are ‘Z’ shaped and the angle sections carrying the roof timbers are of deal and pitch pine. The valley gutters are 18 inches wide and 8 inches deep, they consist of three-eighths of an inch pressed plate, stiffened at 4 foot, 6 inch intervals by cross ‘trees’ carrying the longitudinal snow boarding. The central eaves-gutter is also of three-eighths of an inch plate, 20 inches wide and 13 inches deep. The gutters being laid to the grade of the roof (1 in 250, being that of the main line) are drained from twelve outlets in all, by means of 6 inch galvanised cast iron down pipes (L.C.C. pattern). The handrail over the eaves gutter serves as a water main for roof cleaning purposes.


The accompanying elevation of the roof-girders will show that owing to the positions adopted for the cover-plates, these girders are capable of being dealt with in as many as six or seven pieces, according to their overall length. It will also be noticed that the sections of the girder ‘butt’ above the intermediate columns, prior to being connected by riveting-up. These considerations, together with the fact that the site between each of the outside pairs of columns was at the time in the entire possession of the contractor, obviated all difficulty as regards the erection of the outer bays. Accordingly it was found practicable wholly to rivet up on the ground those portions of the roof-girders spanning between the outside columns. These portions were then lifted by a single derrick (except a few of the longer bays on the Snow Hill side, which were raised on a pair of derricks) and lowered on to the supporting columns and fixed solid. The intermediate trusses, purlins, gutter, etc. being very light, were raised on long derrick poles. It was, however, a very different problem to deal with the central portion of the roof-girders spanning across the main line for in this case the work of erection and riveting-up had to be carried on above a busy site, consisting of two passenger platforms and four lines of permanent way. Traffic on the running roads never ceased day or night, and on no account could it be interfered with, save to a limited extent on Sundays (see 'gwrbsh77').

Consequently, for this portion of the work the steel-work contractors, Messrs. Keay, had to build a travelling erecting stage of sufficient rigidity and strength to permit of a travelling crane capable of raising seven ton loads to work on the top as well as to support the roof girders, and trusses, etc., before being riveted up. The stage has also to be large enough to afford complete protection to the public and traffic beneath while a bay of roofing was being fixed, the whole to span, as just stated, across two platforms and four lines of permanent way and to be capable of longitudinal movement as the work progressed. The stage was designed by Mr. C. Barron, who is in charge of the steelwork for Messrs. E. C. & J. Keay, Ltd. It consists of three main lattice girders at 25 foot centres, 9 foot, 8 inches in depth, the high elevation of the main roof girder, whose soffits are at 28 feet above rail level, permitting of plenty of depth to those stage girders without encroaching on locomotive headroom underneath. Their length is 95 feet and span 89 feet, and they are well braced between to prevent rocking under the action of the crane (see 'gwrbsh1683'). The flanges of the girder under the crane consist of an 18.25 inch by seven-eighths of an inch plate, a pair of 4 inch by 4 inch by half inch angles and a web plate, 12 inches by half inch; the flanges of the other two girders consist of an 18.25 inch by seven-sixteenths of an inch plate, a pair of 4 inch by 4 inch by three-eighths of an inch angles and a web as before. The lattice bracing divides them into 7 foot panels. They are made principally out of sections used previously by Messrs. Keay in a former stage at Greenwich, and the supporting trestles were made out of the trestles used in the erection of the parcels yard girders, as described in the October issue (GWR Magazine Article – Station Reconstruction part 2). The flooring of the stage measures 96 feet by 67 feet and consists of a close boarded decking, 2 inches thickness carried on rolled steel joists of 14 inches by 6 inches by 46 lb section at 3 foot, 6 inch centres (see 'gwrbsh1687').

The timber trestles supporting these main girders are six in number, consisting each of No. 12 uprights of 12 inch square section, and top and bottom frames, the whole being well braced. The top frame carries the bearing joists under the main girders, and the bottom frame is mounted on eight flanged wheels so as to be capable of movement along a horizontal track. The method of attachment of the main girders to their bearing joists is by means of a gusseted stiffener designed to permit of a certain amount of lateral play, thus preventing any slight irregularities in the longitudinal movement of the trestles from affecting the girders they support. These three stage girders – weighing in all 33 tons – were sent to the site in several sections which were assembled and bolted up on the Snow Hill site and erected on a pair of trestles, and on a Sunday were pushed across the main line in the manner shown in the accompanying illustration (see 'gwrbsh1688'); that is, the two middle roads were blocked with packings supporting temporary trestle rails in a transverse direction, then the ‘Up Main’ was also blocked for an hour while the trestle travelled from the ‘Up’ platform along rails carried on balks to the packings in the centre; traffic in the meanwhile being worked in both directions on the ‘Down Main’. With the trestle in the central position the ‘Up Main’ was liberated and the ‘Down Main’ blocked while the girders and trestle completed their journey to the ‘Down’ platform. Thus the three girders were in span across the station. The two outside girders were subsequently skidded sideways on to their respective trestles and the stage completed.

At the time of writing fourteen roof girders have been erected by means of this stage, and it has travelled in the course of the past twelve months nearly 500 feet. Its movement of 35 feet, 10 inches at a time, once the necessary track has been laid, can be effected by means of a pair of winches operated by some dozen men in about two hours. The centre roof girder, weighing 15 tons, has in each instance been raised in three sections from the wagons on the permanent way as have also the six roof trusses, hips, gutters, etc. representing a total of 46 tons. These are all lifted and placed in position on a Sunday without causing the slightest inconvenience to traffic beyond the occupation of one of the middle roads during the lifting operations. The stage also affords thorough protection to the traffic and public below.

The rivets are driven by means of the ordinary pneumatic pistol riveter under pressure of 90 ils per square inch, derived from a small oil-engine-driven air compressor.

The works were designed and are being carried out by the New Works Engineer, Mr. W. Armstrong, whose resident engineer is Mr. C.E. Shackle. The contractors are Messrs. Hy. Lovatt, Ltd. for whom the writer is engineer. Messrs. E.C. & J. Keay, Ltd, supply and erect the steel-work, and Messrs. Mellowes & Co. Ltd. the Eclipse roof glazing.

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Electric Power Signalling

Extract from Great Western Magazine Vol. XXII. No 4, April 1910 and No 6, June 1910
Electric Power Signalling Installation, Birmingham North Box by C Ellis.

The electric power signalling installation recently brought into operation at Birmingham in connection with the extensive alterations now in progress at that place essentially differs in principle from the system in use at Didcot North Box described in the Magazine of August 1905, inasmuch as constant current control associated with mechanical and electrical interlocking has been abandoned in favour of mechanical interlocking combined with electrical check locking, one result being that it has been found possible to very considerably simplify the somewhat complicated electrical connections necessary at Didcot. Another important consideration in regard to the Birmingham installation is that the electrical gear and appliances for actuating the signals and points have been designed to adapt, without undue modification, the standard Great Western signal and point fittings to allow of their operation by electrical agency.

The work has been carried out under the supervision of Mr. A.T. Blackall, by the contractors – the well-known firm of Messrs. Siemens Bros. & Co. Ltd., on whose behalf Mr. L.M.G. Ferreira, engineer and manager of Messrs. Siemens’ railway Signalling Department, was responsible.

The contract embraces the complete electrical equipment of two signal boxes, together with the requisite point and signal motors, cables, etc. The Birmingham north Box contains 224 levers, and the South Box, when erected will contain 80 levers. The North Box has been completed, and is in operation so far as the present condition of the engineering works will permit, and the South Box will be erected and equipped when the new station is sufficiently advanced. The erection of the signal cabins and provision of all points, locking bars, plunger bolts, signal posts, arms and fittings devolves on the Great Western Company’s own staff.

The new North Box presents some novel construction features. In consequence of the limited space at disposal, it has been erected on braced steel stanchions, the box itself overhanging on both sides for its entire length (see 'gwrbsh1670'). The power cables are carried up from the cable ways to the floor level in framing which occupies one of the bays. The cables lead off in various directions from the box, and owing to the small amount of current required for operating the motors the sectional area of the conductors is kept within quite reasonable dimensions. Where practicable the cables have been laid in metallic troughing above ground, and in iron piping, with suitable drawing-in pits, underground. At those points where wires are led to points and signals, the cables are terminated in sealed cable-end boxes, and separate India-rubber covered conductors run through piping to the motors, detection boxes, etc. (see 'gwrbsh1671')

Throughout the power-signalling system continuous current at 140 volts pressure is employed. The supply of electrical energy is derived from the Company’s sub-station at Birmingham. Here static transformers are provided which convert three-phase current taken from the Birmingham Corporation supply. Two motor generators, each consisting of a three-phase induction motor coupled direct to a shunt wound direct current generator, have been installed for charging the accumulators serving the power signal system. Duplicate batteries of accumulators are provided, each having a capacity of 300 ampere hours. When one battery is in use supplying the working current, the other can be charged and vice versa.

The switchboard is provided with four panels – viz., the feeder, battery, generator, and motor panels respectively. It is conveniently fitted with all necessary switchgear, measuring instruments, circuit breakers, etc. Provision is made on the ‘bus bars for supplying current for working the power signal plant either from the battery direct, or from the motor generator direct, or from the motor generator in parallel with the battery. Duplicate cables are provided between the substation and the signal box to guard against the inconvenience that would arise from a possible breakdown.

The locking frame is exceedingly compact, well designed, and most accessible (see 'gwrbsh1669'). The width is only 12.5 inches, the height 4 foot, and the entire number of levers, 224, are comprised in a length of 37 feet 6 inches. The lever numbers, names, and lead numbers are engraved on an inclined brass plate forming the top of the frame. The levers are not provided with catch handles, a spring bolt working in the top-locking groove engaging with and holding the tappet in each of its correct final positions, and also in the right position for the check lock to operate when the check lock magnet receives the return current. The feeders leading from the source of electrical supply are connected to ‘bus bars in the frame, and a fuse is provided for the protection of each circuit leading out from the frame.

The reversing switches connecting with the point motors and the switches controlling the signal motors are operated directly by the movement of the tappets, the tappets being jointed to the levers at their upper ends. The mechanical locking is contained in grooves in boxes at the back of the frame. The check lock operates directly on the tappet, and is actuated by the check lock magnets for the normal and reverse positions of the lever respectively. The armatures of both check lock magnets are formed in one piece, thereby making it impossible for one to stick when the other is attracted. The check lock, together with the armature, to which it is attached, is forcibly brought into the middle or locking position by means of small projections on the tappet, which projections operate during the movement of the tappet past its middle position, thus rendering it impossible for the check lock to occupy the free position to allow of the complete movement of the lever, except the return current from the points or signals, as the case may be, has correctly energised the check lock magnet, and thereby released the check lock.

It should be understood, in this connection, that the check lock is applied to point levers in both directions – that is to say, the complete movement of a point lever normal to reverse, or reverse to normal, is prevented until the following conditions have been complied with – viz., that the points have properly responded to the movement of the lever, that the detection is correct, and that the return current for operating the check lock magnet has been duly received. In the case of signal levers the check lock is applied only to prevent the complete return of the lever from the reverse to the normal position, and is applied with the object of ensuring the correct return of a signal arm to its danger position.

Having described the arrangements appertaining to the signal box, the outdoor appliances next demand attention.

The point machine, enclosed within a cast-iron case, contains a reversible motor operating by means of suitable gearing the points and other fittings in connection therewith. The case also contains the power reversing switch connecting with the motor. The motor gearing is capable of securely holding the points in either direction, but a friction clutch is introduced with the object of preventing damage to the motor in the event of the proper movement of the point tongues being obstructed or the points being run through in the wrong direction. The motor is directly coupled to the point tongues where trailing points are concerned, but with facing points provided with the customary locking bar and bolt, a different method is adopted. As will be gathered from the illustration (see 'gwrbs1672'), the movement of the motor is transmitted through the agency of a rod to a rocking shaft, which in turn operates the locking bar and plunger bolt. The bolt is not completely withdrawn until the locking bar has attained its highest position. At this moment motion is communicated to the point tongues, moving them from normal to reverse, or vice versa, according to the direction of the rotation of the motor. The motor performs all the functions incidental to the withdrawal of the bolt, raising of the locking bar, shifting of the point tongues and, finally, the replacement of the plunger bolt. The movement of the motor ceases when the tongue is well in contact with the rail, the motor switch being so arranged that the current is automatically cut off at this point.

The movement of the points can be reversed during any part of their travel and this facility is of considerable value, as it enables a signalman to remove any slight obstruction interfering with the free action of the point tongues. On the completion of each point movement the motor circuit is opened as described, and the current then passes through the detector contacts to operate the check locks in the frame at the signal box. The detector contacts are contained in a separate cast-iron box fixed near the point machine. One contact only in each position, suffices for and detects both tongues, and, where facing points are concerned, the bolt also.

The detection circuit is complete to allow of the transmission of the return indication current necessary for the correct operation of the check locks, only when both point tongues are absolutely in their proper positions and the bolt right home. The withdrawal of the bolt, or opening of the points even to the slightest extent, will at once breakdown the detector circuit and, moreover, should any signals controlled by such points be ‘off’ they will immediately go to danger. This latter result is attained by introducing in the detector box, in addition to the contact springs required for the check locks, certain contacts which act as detectors for the signals.

The arrangements for operating the semaphore signals embrace the signal machine containing the signal motor and mechanism in connection therewith, and a signal switch or circuit controller enclosed in a separate casting. The signal motor, contained in a cast-iron case is attached to the signal post, the motor revolving in one direction only. The shaft of the motor is connected direct to a worm which engages with teeth formed on the rim of a circular coupling magnet, and by such means revolves the magnet. The magnet itself is free to revolve on the motor shaft, upon which it is mounted, and a disc forming the armature of the magnet is firmly keyed to the shaft. The shaft projects through the case, and has at its extremity a pinion which gears into a vertical rack rod. Connected to the rack rod is a lever to which is attached the rod actuating the signal arm.

Assuming now that it is desired to lower the arm, current passes by way of the switch operated by the lever in the locking frame through the circuit connecting with the coupling magnet and also with the motor. The magnet is thus energised, and forms with its armature a magnetic clutch. The motor revolving motion is transmitted through the worm-gearing pinion and rack to the signal arm. The signal having been lowered to the correct angle, the motor circuit is automatically broken, but, as the coupling magnet circuit is still intact, the coupling magnet remains energised and the arm is held off until the magnet circuit is opened. Upon the opening of the magnet circuit the magnet is de-energised, the clutch ceases to act, and the signal returns by gravity to the danger position. It must be understood that whilst the arm is returning to danger the shaft and disc alone revolve, the coupling magnet and other mechanism remaining stationary. A safety device is fitted to the signal machine which prevents the lowering of the arm from accidental causes or intentional interference.

The switchbox, in addition to the motor switch contains the switch for giving the correct return indication to the signal box when a signal has resumed its danger position. The switches are connected to, and actuated by, the signal arm itself. In some cases the switch boxes are made to contain auxiliary switches, and contacts for closing the circuits of other signals; for example, when the signal circuit of a distant signal is led through contacts controlled by switches operated by the home and starting signals. The value of this arrangement is obvious.

Ground dwarf signals are built up as desired, and one, two or three arm signal, coupling magnets being introduced according to the number of arms which it is required to operate. In the case of dwarf signals bearing more than one arm, the worms geared to and actuating the coupling magnets are connected to one shaft driven by bevel gearing from the motor, and it will readily be understood that only the coupling magnet, which may happen to be energised, is capable of forming, with its armature, the magnetic clutch necessary for imparting motion to the selected arm, the other coupling magnets, not so energised, merely slipping without effect. A device similar to that fitted to the semaphore signals is also provided to prevent interference with the arms of the dwarf signals.

Route indicators are largely employed to obviate multiplicity of signal arms. Two types are used, according to particular necessities. One is provided with sliding diaphragms bearing indications, and, by a simple process of selection, the particular diaphragm required is brought into view when the signal arm is lowered, and returned out of sight when the arm resumes its normal position (see 'gwrbsh1665'). The other type is provided with a hood containing a series of compartments arranged horizontally (see 'gwrbsh1673'), and fitted with screens bearing indications which are invisible except when illuminated. Selection is obtained on the lowering of the arm by the illumination of the particular screen selected. The screens are provided with electric lamps placed at the back of each compartment, and the indications appear in bright lettering on a darker ground.

The installation is working exceedingly well, and it only remains to add that the manner in which the work has been carried out fully sustains Messrs. Siemens Bros & Company’s high reputation.

Extract from Great Western Magazine Vol 25 No 9, September 1913, New Power Signalling Installation at Birmingham South Box

As a consequence of the new station at Birmingham , it has been possible for Messrs. Siemens Bros. To proceed with the remaining part of their signalling contract, namely, the provision of an all-electric power signalling installation at Birmingham South Box, which has been brought into use. Except for the features mentioned below the installation is much the same as that at the North Box, which was described in the Magazine for April and June 1910. A new brick box has been built, the exterior details of which were made to correspond with the design of the station buildings in close proximity. The locking frame, which is sixteen foot, one inch in length, contains 96 levers, comprising 75 working levers and 21 spares. In the accompanying illustration of the interior of the box ('gwrbsh1738'), the compactness of the frame will be noticed and also the arrangements of the block instrument, telephone, etc.

The signal motor circuits are not controlled by being led through the facing point detectors on the ground as was done at the North Box, but by means of route switch contacts in the signal box itself. These route switches are actuated by control magnets which are energised by the return indications from the points concerned. The point detector a detailed view of which is shown in image ('gwrbsh1740'), contains the necessary switched for controlling the check lock and control magnet circuits, also the point motor circuit. The mechanism is operated by a detector rod from each point tongue and a connection from the plunger in the case of facing points. Unless the three slide bars move correctly it is impossible for the detection circuit to be completed. The point machine has been simplified in construction by the omission of the large circular friction clutch which was a feature of the point machines at the North Box. Instead, a small clutch of much simpler design has been fitted inside one of the gear wheels driven by the motor.

In order to show the signalman visually the position of each of the points under his control, a small indicator is provided on the locking frame behind each point lever. As a control current is always passing through the detectors of the points actuated by each lever, the signalman is at once informed by the position of his indicator should anything happen to the detectors after the points were last moved. Moveover, if any of the detectors are out of place, even to a very small extent, the route switch coils in the cabin are de-energised and the signal circuits controlled by that route switch ‘broken’. Consequently, should any of the signals be ‘off’ they will be put to Danger and if ‘on’ be held in that position.

A pair of moveable elbows will shortly be laid in on the down main. These will be interesting as being the first moveable elbows to be worked by power on the Great Western Railway, although there are many mechanically operated elbows in various parts of the system.

The arrangements of the various fittings in connection with the operation of the semaphore signals may be seen by reference to the illustration ('gwrbsh1742'). The signal machine is the same as those at the North Box. Attention is drawn to the signal switch operated by a light rod from the semaphore arm, for giving the return indications, and to the ‘dash pot’ for allowing the signal to go gradually back to danger without shock to the mechanism. Three route indicator signals have been provided, which are of the type with fixed indications already in use for some years at the North Box. The down main distant signal is an interesting form of route indicator signal. The signal arm is arranged to be pulled ‘off’ with any of the home signals, but in order to give a driver some information as to the platform into which he is going, three fixed route indictors are provided below the distant arm. These are selected by the position of the down home signal levers, the correct route being illuminated when the distant arm is lowered.

A notable feature is the provision of a number of lamp signals, which were rendered necessary by the fact that part of the installation is in Snow Hill Tunnel. They are of simple construction, the signal merely consisting of a plain cast-iron case fitted with lenses and electric lamps. The apparatus for giving the ‘on’ or ‘off’ indications at the signal is contained in the signal cables. The control is effected through the contacts of a small relay, which is energised when the signal lever is reversed, thereby allowing a green light to be shown at the signal. When the relay is de-energised a red light is shown.

Track circuits will be provided on all the four main lines through the station. These control the stop signals in each direction, holding them at danger if ‘on’ and replacing them to danger if ‘off’. It will be impossible, therefore, for the signalman to lower a signal for a train to proceed over a certain road if another train is in possession. In the track platform roads and on the up main line weighted fouling bars will be used for achieving a similar purpose ('gwrbsh1131a'). The usual track indicators will be provided in the cabin also indicators to show whether the fouling bars are clear or occupied.

Power is obtained from the Company’s substation at Snow Hill, and the whole of the work was supervised by the Company Signal Engineer.

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Sector Tables

Extract from Great Western Magazine Vol. XXIV. No 12, December 1912
Sector Table, Snow Hill Station, Birmingham.

In connection with the Company's remodelled station at Snow Hill, Birmingham, a novel appliance for dealing with the engines of incoming trains at one of the dead-end platforms has been installed. It is termed a sector table, or, as its name implies, a table working in part of a circle. As was the case in providing the traversers at Moor Street Station (Birmingham), illustrated in the GWR. MAGAZINE for July 1910, consideration of space was the reason for introducing it, the idea being to save the room required by a cross-over road. It will be seen from the diagram (see 'gwrbsh1680') that the table is pivoted (A) at the dead-end of the platform. At the other end (B) it is capable of travelling through a distance of 8 foot, 4 inches.

The overall length of the table is 71 feet, 6 inches. It travels upon four lines of rail © and will support a maximum axle load of 20 tons, the distributed test load being 170 tons. It is operated by means of a motor and gear (D) fixed to the underside of the table, which drive spur reduction gear working a grooved barrel (E) for winding ropes, the latter moving the table in either direction. One end of each rope is fixed to a suitable attachment (F), the other being provided with an adjusting screw for taking up the stretch of the rope. Two guide pulleys (G) are provided for leading the ropes from the barrel. There are three converging roads (H) on the table, 4 foot, 8.5 inch gauge, formed from 118 lbs solid bridge rail, GWR. section. The provision of three roads prevents the possibility of an engine running off the main line rails into the pit, as would be the case with a table with two roads only.

The illustration (see both 'gwrbsh70' and 'gwrbsh1679') gives a very good idea of the working of the table, which is controlled by the handle shown at the side of the platform, and the engine of an incoming train is worked over so that it may leave by the opposite line of rails and run to the shed or elsewhere. The illustration shows the three roads on the table, and it will readily be understood that there is a pocket under each of the platforms for the table to work into. By an ingenious arrangement the table is interlocked with the signal box and cannot be operated without the knowledge of the signalman. The table was supplied by Messrs. Ransomes & Rapier, of Ipswich.

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Early Telegraph and Telephone developments at Snow Hill

Article from Great Western Railway Magazine Vol XXIII No2 (February 1911)

Birmingham New Telegraph Office – A new telegraph office at Birmingham was brought into use on January 15th. Temporary table accommodation has been provided for the single needle and sounder apparatus, but eventually the instrument will be fixed on three tables of the latest design, provision being made for future requirements. The arrangements permit of free circulation for the conduct of this work. The transfer of the telegraph appliances from the old to the new office, was accomplished within a few hours with a very small amount of inconvenience.

Article from Great Western Railway Magazine Vol XXIII No 3 (March 1911)

Birmingham: Telegraph and Telephone Facilities – Advantage has been taken of the station improvements at Snow Hill, Birmingham, to provide a new and up-to-date telegraph office on the up platform. This was completed and opened in the early part of January. The new building affords more commodious and comfortable quarters for the operating staff and also gives increased accommodation for the public requiring to send telegrams from the station. A room is set apart for the railway and public telephone switchboards, which are now becoming a very important feature at the larger stations on the Company’s system. A new telegraph office has also been provided on the down side of the station for the convenience of passengers travelling by down trains.

A further development of the telephone service on the Company’s system is about to take place in the Birmingham district, a scheme having been authorised to link up by telephone all the goods depots between Birmingham, Stourbridge and Wolverhampton. Hitherto, telegrams from and to the goods depots in this district have had to be transmitted by single-needle telegraph, but the growing demands of the business have rendered necessary the introduction of telephones. The new telephones which have been authorised will enable any member of the goods staff at the various depots to transmit telegrams to the telegraph offices at Birmingham or Wolverhampton and, in addition, will afford means of conversation on business matters between all intermediate offices.

Extract from article in Great Western Railway Magazine Vol XXIII No 8 (August 1911)

Public Telephone Development by EJ Collier – It would be difficult to forecast what the future may bring forth in regard to the development of public telephones. Notwithstanding the progressive policy of the Company in providing increased facilities during the last few years, scarcely a day passes which does not bring an application for the installation of a telephone at one place or another. Petitions are received from traders, chambers of commerce and councils, all emphatically urging the convenience which would result by the provision of a telephone and in many instances these requests are anticipated by the Company’s officers. There can be no doubt that great advantages are derived from prompt means of communication and this is proved by the rapid growth of the public telephone service. Almost every up-to-date tradesman realises that he must have a ‘phone’ and, when he is connected, one of the first discoveries he makes is the need of communication with the railway station. It would undoubtedly be useful for him to get Mr Brown or Mr Jones, but the trader who does the largest business in the place – business practically with every other trader – is the one who supplies ‘transport’ and for this particular trader not to be on the telephone is a source of considerable inconvenience to all the other traders, to say nothing of the private individuals. And if there be, as is often the case, competition in the supply of transport, then the competitor who provides good and up-to-date telephone facilities reaps an advantage which cannot easily be computed.

In the year 1904 the Company had 140 exchange lines and extensions. Today the total is 720, representing an increase of 414 per cent, and to this total should be added the telephones in the Great Western Hotel at Paddington. Private branch exchanges have been installed at the following places and the number of junction and extension lines shown:

Exchange Location Junction Lines Exchange Lines
Birmingham 6 18
Bristol 10 21
Cardiff Goods 5 10
Exeter 5 18
Gloucester 3 7
Liverpool 7 23
Manchester 4 12
Newgate Street 4 9
Poplar 4 6
Paddington 23 83
Paddington Hotel 5 160
Paddington Goods 6 14
Plymouth 7 23
Swansea 8 21
Worcester 3 5

Article from Great Western Railway Magazine Vol XXIV No 1 (January 1912)

Telephones: Birmingham District – Two new omnibus telephone circuits (worked on the common battery system for speaking and calling) have recently been introduced between Birmingham and Stourbridge, and Birmingham and Oxley. Magneto bells are employed, which are actuated by current derived from a vibratory generator fixed at Birmingham. The instruments are provided with two calling buttons, one of which will enable a station to call the exchange at Birmingham without interfering with intermediate stations on the circuit, while the other button is used for calling stations for omnibus service without effecting the exchange. It will be gathered that batteries are entirely dispensed with at the outlaying stations, while the advantages of the combined omnibus and exchange service are obvious.

Extract from article in Great Western Railway Magazine Vol XXV No 8 (August 1913)

Telephone Facilities – The telephone facilities on the Great Western Railway have been considerably increased in the past few years, facilitating train and traffic working, and the Directors have recently authorised the provision of the following:

Birmingham – A combination multiple switchboard giving access to both the railway and public telephone services with extension lines to all departments at Hockley and Birmingham stations. As a trunk line was already in existence between Paddington and Birmingham so this will give general intercommunication between these two places.

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Birmingham Snow Hill Station - Proposed New Hotel

Extract from Great Western Magazine Vol. 51. No 4, April 1939

New Great Western Hotel for Birmingham.

The announcement that the Great Western Railway is to build a modern hotel at Birmingham (Snow Hill) station is yet another instance of the Company’s desire to provide the very best facilities for its travellers and the cities and towns it serves. The hotel is to be constructed on the site of the building now used as divisional offices and restaurant, and will have frontages in Colmore Row, Snow Hill, and Livery Street. The building is to be a six-floored, steel framed structure and will be faced with natural Portland stone. The facilities are to be of the most up-to-date nature and will meet a long-felt want in the City of Birmingham. The ground floor will comprise reception offices, hall, lounge, cocktail bar and cloak rooms; and the existing bar and grill room are to be improved. The first floor will be devoted mainly to public rooms, and will include a dining room with accommodation for 150 dinners, a spacious lounge and a smoke-room. In addition, there will be three private meeting rooms (which can be converted into a single dining-room with seats for 160 people), and display and stock rooms in which business houses can entertain their customers and hold trade shows.

The first floor will also accommodate the kitchens. The remaining five floors of the new hotel will contain the bedrooms, numbering in all 28 double rooms and 142 single – each with a bathroom and lavatory. There will also be a private suite on each of these floors. Central heating, and air-conditioning of the main public rooms, will add to the comfort of patrons, and fire-proof floors will conduce to their safety. The main hotel entrance will be in Colmore Row, and there will be direct access to the booking hall forecourt on the station. New divisional offices and accommodation for the hotel and refreshment rooms staff will complete the rebuilding scheme. Work is to start this year and, when completed, will convert Snow Hill station into one of the most imposing railway structures in the provinces.

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GWR Service Time Table - Instructions


Appendix to No. 13 Section of the Service Time Tables

(Aynho Junction, Birmingham, Wolverhampton and North Warwickshire Line)


MARCH 1929, and until further notice



For the purpose of intimating to Enginemen of Down Trains passing through Snow Hill Tunnel that they are nearing the North End of the Tunnel, a Clapper has been fixed on the Down line side about 150 yards from the Snow Hill end of the Tunnel, which is operated by means of a treadle. Every pair of wheels passing over the treadle will sound the Clapper.

Should the Driver of a Down Train notice any defect in the working of the apparatus, he must inform the Station Master or Platform Inspector at Snow Hill station, if necessary stopping specially for the purpose.


In connection with the track circuit on the Down Line through Birmingham (Snow Hill) Tunnel, special apparatus has been provided to enable the Signalman to restore the track circuit to its normal ‘clear’ condition in the event of a train (coming out of the Tunnel) failing to do so owing to the presence of sand on the rails.

The apparatus consists of a special key box fixed in the South Box, in which a key stands normally locked.

In the event of a train coming out of the Tunnel and failing to cause the track circuit indicator to show ‘clear’, the key in the key box will be automatically freed. In such circumstances, the Signalman is authorised to withdraw the special key in accordance with the instructions which are cast on the box, and AFTER HAVING SATISFIED HIMSELF THAT THE DOWN LINE IS CLEAR OF TRAINS OR VEHICLES, he must withdraw the key and insert it in another key box which is also fixed at the South Box, and turn the key to the right as far as it will go and then turn the key back again and withdraw it.

This action will have the effect of restoring the track indicator to the ‘clear’ position, but before the signalman can again peg ‘line clear’ on the Down line block instrument, it will be necessary for the key to be replaced in the key box in the South Signal Box and locked therein.

In every case of failure, whether the use of the key in the manner above described is effective or not, the Telegraph Linesman must be immediately sent for in order that he can take steps to see that the rails are clear of sand, or any other necessary action.


To facilitate the shunting operations in Snow Hill Tunnel, an electric bell is provided in the South Signal Box, which when operated by push buttons fixed on the Tunnel wall on the Up side to be worked by the Shunters, and the following code must be observed:-

  • Turn Points backing from Up Main … 1 ring
  • Turn Crossover road points in Tunnel … 3 rings

The Shunter will be responsible for verbally instructing the Signalman as to which road it is required to shunt back to, the bell code being established to indicate that vehicles are over the points inside the Tunnel which it is necessary to work.


For the purpose of intimating to Shunters performing shunting operations in the tunnel sidings on the Down side at Birmingham South, when the points are set for a down train to run from the Down Main Line to either No. 1 Platform Line or No. 5 Platform Line and Down Main Line, a Lamp Indicator containing two lights – one red light and the other a white light – and facing towards the Tunnel, is fixed on the sixth column from the South Box in the direction of the Tunnel.

The exhibition of the Red light in the Lamp Indicator will indicate that the points are set for a train or engine to run from the Down Main to No. 1 Platform Line, and the exhibition of the White light will indicate that the points are set for a train or engine to run from the Down Main to either No. 5 Platform Line or the Down Main Line.

The Lamp Indicator is provided for the guidance of Shunters and others performing shunting operations in the Down Tunnel Sidings to ensure safe working and must be closely observed by all concerned, and all movements must be kept well clear of the line for which the Indicator shows the points in the Down Main Line have been set.

One of the two lights in the Indicator should always be showing towards the Tunnel Sidings, but if from any cause no light is visible, the Shunter must act in the same way as if the Red light were showing and also immediately report the absence of a light to the Station Master or Platform Inspector. (A. 9758.)


Enginemen of Up Goods Trains not requiring to stop at Moor Street must stop dead at Moor Street Up Distant Signal (fixed as lower arm on Birmingham South Up Starting Signal in the Tunel) unless the Distant Signal is in the ‘All right’ position. After stopping in the manner described, the train may proceed cautiously to Moor Street provided the Starting Signal for Birmingham South is in the ‘All right’ position.

Enginemen of all Up Goods Trains having traffic for Moor Street must stop dead at Birmingham South Box and inform the Signalman the Train has traffic off at Moor Street and must run to the Up Relief Line. When this has been done, the train can proceed, provided the proper Signals are lowered, but it will not be necessary for the Enginemen to stop a second time as laid down in the foregoing paragraph.


When an Up Goods Train is about to leave Snow Hill and has to call at Bordesley Goods Station to put off traffic, the Engineman must stop at Birmingham South Box as per instructions on page 17 and the Signalman in the South Box must advise the Signalman at Bordesley North of the fact that the Train then leaving has to call at Bordesley.


The Section between these Boxes is worked as under:-

Nos. 1 and 2 Down Platform Lines under the Standard Block Telegraph Instructions, with the following Clearing Points:-

 SOUTH BOX  When ‘Line Clear’ has been received from North Box
 NORTH BOX  No. 2 platform line down home signal

When a Horse Box, Carriage Truck or any other Vehicle is left on Nos.1 or 2 Down Platforms the Shunter detaching or placing such a Vehicle on the Line will be responsible for advising the South Box Signalman, and after dark, seeing that a Red light is exhibited at each end.

Route Indicating Instruments are also provided; for method of working see General Instructions \Clause 17, page 141.

When Nos. 5 and 6 Down Platform, Down Main, Up Main and Nos. 8, 7, 12 and 11 Up Platform Lines are unoccupied, the Section must be worked under the Standard Block Telegraph Instructions with the following Clearing Points:-

  Down Line Up Line
 SOUTH BOX For all Passenger trains stopping at Bordesley, Light Engines, Empty stock and Ordinary Goods Trains. When the Line on which Train is to run is unoccupied to Starting Signal. Up Starting Signal in Tunnel.
The Warning Signal 3-5-5 (Regulation 5) may be sent from the South Box to the North Box for Up Trains
For all Express Passenger Trains not booked to stop at Bordesley, but stopping at Birmingham, and for Passenger and Express Trains not booked to stop at Birmingham. When the Line on which the Train is to run is unoccupied to the North Box Home Signal.

NOTE. Engine or Engine and Brake may be accepted from the rear under the warning arrangement when Line is clear to South Signal Box. The Warning Signal must only be used when the Facing Points at the South end of the Station are set for the Down main Line. Only one Engine or Engine and Van on the Down Line must be allowed to leave the Box in the rear for Birmingham (Snow Hill), under this ‘Warning Signal’. The ‘Warning’ must not be used for two or more Engines coupled together.
Before an Up Passenger Train (not stopping at Birmingham) is allowed to leave the North Box and run through the Up Main Line, an assurance must be given to the Signalmen at the North and South Boxes by the Platform Inspector that the up main line is clear as between the North and South Signal Boxes.
 NORTH BOX For all Passenger Trains booked to stop at Birmingham and Ordinary Goods Trains. When the Line is unoccupied to the Down Home Signal for Line on which the Train has to run. For Up Non-stopping Passenger and Non-stopping Goods Trains. When Line is clear to Up Starting Signal
For Non-stopping Passenger and Non-stopping Goods Trains. When the Line is unoccupied to the Starting Signal for Line on which the Train has to run. For Up Passenger Trains booked to stop at Birmingham and Ordinary Goods Trains. When line is clear to Inner Home Signal for Main Line, and North end of Scissors Crossing for Relief Line.

1. Sending ‘Is Line Clear?’ Signal. – The ‘Is Line Clear?’ Signal must be sent as under:-

 SOUTH BOX Down Line When ‘Is Line Clear?’ is received from the Signal Box in rear, if ‘Train out of Section’ has been received from North Box for previous Train.
Up Line About one minute before the Train is ready to start.
 NORTH BOX Down Line About one minute before the Train is ready to start.
Up Line When ‘Is Line Clear?’ is received from the Signal Box in rear, if ‘Train out of Section’ has been received from South Box for previous Train.

2. (a) The Up Scissors Crossing Signals, situated just north of Great Charles Street Bridge, and the Stop Signal at North end of No. 12 Up Platform, are the Starting Signals for the North Box. The North Box is entitled to send a Train as far as these Signals without signalling to the Box in advance.

(b) The Down Platform Scissors Crossing Signal situated just north of Great Charles Street Bridge, must be regarded as No. 5 Down Platform Starting Signal for the South Box, and the Down Main Scissors Crossing Signal as the Down Main Advanced Starting Signal for the South Box. The South Box is entitled to send a train as far as these Signals without signalling it to the Box in advance. The Stop Signal, suspended from the station roof, to protect the Crossover Road between Up and Down Main Lines south of Great Charles Street is the South Box Down Main Starting Signal.

(c) No. 7 Up Platform, No. 11 Up Platform and Up Main Stop Signals situated nearly opposite the South Box, are the Up Home Signals for the South Box.

(d) The Stop Signal at the North end of No. 2 Down Platform, the Stop Signal at the North end of No. 6 Down Platform, and the Down Main Stop Signal near the North end of No. 6 Down Platform Line are the Down Home Signals for the North Box.

(e) Calling-on Arms are fixed upon the South Box Up Home Signals, and are to be used for Shunting purposes only, and Enginemen must be prepared to stop short of any obstruction. The following special instructions must be observed in working Trains through No. 11 and No. 7 Up Platforms and Up Main Lines.

(f) The Signalling is so arranged that the Up Starting Signal in the Tunnel must be lowered before No. 11 or No.7 Up Platform Lines or Main Line Home Signals can be lowered, and the lowering of the Platform Lines or Main Line Home Signal will be an indication to the Enginemen that the Up Starting Signal in the Tunnel is also at the ‘All Right’ position, and that the road is clear for him to proceed on his journey.

(g) When a Train is detained at either of the South Box Up Home Signals referred to, Enginemen must, when either Up Home Signal is lowered, act in accordance with Rule 45, clause B.

3. The Down Distant Signal for the South Box must be lowered when the Line on which the Train is to run is unoccupied to the Down Starting Signal for the South Box, but drivers must be prepared to find the Down Starting Signal for the South Box at ‘Danger’.

4. When an Up Passenger Train is turned on to Nos. 3, 4, 9 or 10 Bay Lines, unless the Lines on which the Train is to run is clear to the Stop Block, the Train must be stopped dead, and the Calling-on Arm lowered for Enginemen to draw forward.

5. Vehicles may be shunted outside the Down Home Signal at the South end, and the Up Home Signals at the North end. Paragraph ‘E’ of Regulation 13 of the Block Telegraph Instructions must be carried out.

6 (a) Snow Hill Tunnel – Regulation 9 for Signalling Platelayers’ Trollies will apply. When a Platelayers’ Trolley goes through on the Down Line, a Permanent Way Flagman must be stationed at Moor Street Down Starting Signal until the Trolley has cleared the section.

(b) Regulation 25 will not apply between Birmingham South and Moor Street. All trains to be piloted through the Tunnel in case of failure of Block and Speaking instruments.

7. When the ‘warning’ signal 3-5-5 (Regulation 5) is received from the South Box for an Up Train it will not be necessary to stop the train dead at the Home Signal for the North Box, and again at the Box, but the Home Signal must be kept at ‘Danger’ until the Train has been well checked, when the Home and Calling-on Signals may be lowered.

The following modifications and additions to the General Regulations will also apply:-

Additional Bell Signals Beats on Bell How to be given
 Engine with odd Vehicles in right direction for shunting purposes
 Train setting Back in wrong direction
 Train set Back in wrong direction removed, and Line now clear
 Train set Back in wrong direction now come to a stand
 Train set Back in wrong direction cleared at the Box in the rear
 Shunting into Forward Section
 Forward Shunt withdrawn
 Train last signalled incorrectly described
1 – 3
2 – 3 – 3
2 – 5
3 – 3 – 4
5 – 2
3 – 3 – 2
5 - 3

8. Admitting Trains one behind another if Section is already occupied.

(a) When a Train or Engine is already in the Section and another Train or Engine is required to be sent forward into the Section, the Signalman must give the ‘Is Line Clear?’ Signal to the Box in advance, and the Signalman there will reply by one beat on the Bell, and upon this reply being received, the second Train or Engine may be allowed to enter the Section. It will not be necessary to give the ‘Call Attention’ Signal before the ‘Is Line Clear?’ Signal in such cases. When the Train or Engine is allowed to pass, the ‘Train Entering Section’ Signal must be given; the Signalman receiving it will acknowledge it by one beat on the Bell and will move the Disc forward one number.

(b) As each Train or Engine passes out of the Section, the Bell Signal, 3 beats (thus, 2 – 1) must be given to the Box in rear, the Block Indicator remaining at ‘Train on Line’ and the Disc must be moved back one number, so that the actual number of Trains in the Section may be shewn. The Signalman at the Box in the rear will acknowledge the Signal (2 – 1) by one beat on the Bell. When the last Train has passed out of the Section, in addition to giving the Signal (2 – 1) on the Bell the Discs and Indicator must be placed in the normal position, which the Signalman in the rear will acknowledge by one beat on the Bell.

9. Up Main and Up Platform Lines.

(a) Before an Up Passenger Train is allowed, under these Regulations, to enter the Section whilst the Indicator from the South Box shows ‘Train on Line’ it must be brought to a stand at the Outer Home Signal, and the Signalman must, after bringing the Train to a stand, lower the Signal to allow the Driver to draw up, and after the Train has been brought nearly to a stand, the Up Inner Home Signal may be lowered, and the Train allowed to draw cautiously forward, and after being checked at the Starting Signal, the Calling-on Arm may be lowered for the Train to draw behind the one already in the Section.

(b) Before an Up Goods Train or Light Engine is allowed under these Regualtions to enter the Section whilst the Indicator shows ‘Train on Line’ it must be brought to a stand at the Up Starting Signal, and after being stopped dead, the Calling-on Arm may be lowered for the train or Engine to draw behind the one already in the Section.

10. Down Main and No. 6 Down Platform Lines – Before a Down Train or Engine is allowed, under these Regulations, to enter the Section when the Disc from the North Box shows ‘ Train on Line’ it must be brought to stand at the South Box No. 5 Down Platform Starting, or Down Main Advanced Starting Signal as the case may be, and the Calling-on Arm then lowered for the Engineman to draw forward.

11. Setting Back in Wrong Direction.

(a) Should it be necessary to set back a Train, Engine or Vehicle in the wrong direction outside the Home Signal, the ‘Setting Back’ Signal, 8 beats (thus, 2 – 3 – 3), applying to the Line which it is required to block, must be sent to the Box in the rear, and no Train, Engine or Vehicle must be allowed to set back outside the Home Signal until the proper reply giving permission, 8 beats (thus, 2 – 3 – 3) has been received. When permission has thus been obtained the Indicator for the Line about to be blocked must be placed at ‘Train on Line’. After having given permission in this manner for the Line to be blocked, the Signalman at the Box in the rear must not allow any Train, Engine or Vehicle to enter the Section until he receives the Bell Signal (2 – 5), denoting that the obstruction has been removed and the Indicator is placed in its normal position, or until he receives the Signal 10 beats on the bell (thus, 3 – 3 – 4), which indicated that the Train, Engine or Vehicle which was set back has come to a stand; and upon receipt of that Signal he may let another train, Engine or Vehicle into the Section under the Instructions in Clauses 8(a), 9(a) and (b) and 10. The Signals (2 – 5) and (3 – 3 – 4) must be acknowledged by repetition. Should it be necessary for the Train, Engine or Vehicle setting back in the wrong direction to go through the Section and be withdrawn by the man in the rear, the Engineman must be verbally instructed, and when the Signalman in the rear has cleared the Line at his end he must give the Signal (5 – 2) on the Bell to the Signalman in advance to denote that the obstruction has been removed, and the latter must acknowledge by repetition, and, when permissible, place the Indicator in its normal position.

(b) The Signal (2 – 3 – 3) must not be acknowledged by the North Box Signalman if the Signals are ‘Off’ for a Train to approach on the Line it is required to obstruct and no Train must be allowed to pass the Up Outer Home Signals for the Line on which the train is setting back until latter has come to a stand, but Trains may be allowed to run to the Bay Lines. Should an Engine or Train be already standing at the North Box Up Starting Signal the Ground Signalman must be advised to Instruct Engineman not to move until Train, Engine or Vehicle setting back has come to a stand.

(c) The Signal (2 – 3 – 3) must not be acknowledged by the South Box Signalman if permission has been given of any Train to approach on the Line it is required to obstruct, nor must the ‘Is Line Clear?’ Signal be acknowledged for any Train from the Box in rear if permission has been given for a Train, Engine or Vehicle to set back in the wrong direction from the North Box unless the Points are set for the Down Train to run over the Down Main Lin, and the Train from the North end is running in the wrong direction over No. 5 Platform Line and the Tunnel Siding Points at South end of Station are set for that Siding; or if the Down Train is running over No. 1 or No. 5 Platform Lines unless the Train, Engine or Vehicle setting back in wrong direction is on Down Main Line and the Points are set to turn it to the Up Main Line either at South end of Great Charles Street Bridge or opposite the South Signal Box. Should however, a Train or Engine be already standing at the South Box Down Starting Signal, the Ground Signalman must be advised to instruct Engineman not to move until Train, Engine or Vehicle setting back has come to a stand.

12. Shunting into Forward Section.

(a) When it is necessary for a Train or Engine to go into the forward Section for shunting purposes and to be afterwards withdrawn in rear, the Signal, 8 beats (thus 3 – 3 – 2), must be sent to the Box in advance, and no Train or Engine must be allowed to enter the Section in this manner until the Signal has been repeated, or acknowledged by one beat on the Bell (see next paragraph) by the Box in advance, and the Indicator of the Block Instrument for the Line affected placed to ‘Train on Line’ if not already in that position.

(b) Should the Line be already occupied, the Signalman receiving the Signal 3 – 3 – 2 must not repeat it to the Box in rear, must reply by one beat on the Bell, and move the Tell-Tale Disc forward one number, and the Signalman in the rear must stop the Driver of the shunting Train in accordance with the Instructions in Clauses 8(a), 9(a) and (b) and 10.

(c) When the ‘Shunt’ is removed at the Box in rear, the Signalman must give the ‘Forward Shunt Withdrawn’ Signal 8 beats consecutively, to the Box in advance, and this must be acknowledged if the Section is clear by the Indicator of the Block Instrument being placed in its normal position; but should the Section be still occupied in advance of the Shunt, the Signalman in advance must move the Tell-Tale Disc back one number.

(d) When a Train or Engine which has been signalled forward by the code 3 – 3 – 2 is required to go through the Section, the Signal ‘Train last signalled incorrectly described’ (5 – 3) must be given to the Box in advance and, on that Signal being acknowledged by repetition, the Train or Engine must be correctly signalled on the Bell, the Disc remaining at ‘Train on Line’ position.

13. Working of Trains Through Scissors Crossings. – The line through the Sissors Crossings must only be used as under:-

(a) A Man is employed on the Gantry Bridge at the Scissors Crossings near Great Charles Street Bridge, who is in Telephone communication with the North and South Boxes. The points of the Scissors Crossings must not be turned by the Signalman except on authority from the Gantryman by telephone, and before giving such authority, the Gantryman will be responsible for seeing that any Train standing ahead of the Points is clear and must have assurance from the Station Master or Platform Inspector that the Train will not be moved in the wrong direction until the approaching Train has passed through the Scissors Crossing or come to a stand.

(b) When Trains are sent from the Platform Line to the Main Line and from the Main Line to the Platform Line through the Scissors Crossing, they must be signalled on the Bells and Discs applicable to the Line on which the Train will pass after it has gone over the Scissors Crossing, and not upon the Instruments applicable to the Line on which the Train approaches the Scissors Crossing.

14. Vehicles left on Main or Platform Lines. – If a Horse Box, Carriage Truck or any other Vehicle is left on the Main or Platform Lines, the duties of advising the Signalman will rest on the Men as under:-

(a) Down Lines.

If left ahead of South Box Starting Signals the Gantryman must advise the North Box Signalman who, if the Block Instrument is not standing at the ‘Train in Line’ position, must immediately send the ‘Blocking Back Outside Home Signal’ (3 – 3) to the South Box, and place the Block Indicator to ‘Train on Line’.

If left in the rear of these Signals, the Shunter detaching the Vehicle must advise the South Box.

(b) Up Lines.

If left in advance of the North Box Starting Signals the Gantryman must advise the South Box Signalman who, if the Block Instrument is not standing at the ‘Train on Line’ position, must immediately send the ‘ Blocking Back Outside Home Signal’ (3 – 3) to the North Box, and place the Block Indicator to ‘Train on Line’.

If left to the rear of these Signals, the Gantryman must advise the North Box Signalman.

When a Horse Box, Carriage Truck, or any other Vehicle is left on Nos. 12 or 11 Up Platform Lines the Shunter detaching or placing such Vehicles on the Line will be responsible for advising the Gantryman, who must advise the Signalman at both North and South Boxes.

15. Shunting Vehicles on to or off the rear of down trains at south end. – When it is necessary to shunt vehicles on to or off the rear of Down Trains at the South end, the Tunnel Siding must , whenever possible, be used as a Shunting Neck, but when this is not possible, an Engine must be attached to the Vehicles at the Bordesley end, and the Vehicles may then be shunted to Down Main Line instead of having to cross over to the Up Main Line.

16. No. 7 Up Platform Line – Enginemen of trains running to No. 7 Up Platform Line, must draw up as close as practicable to No. 7 Line Home Signal in order to avoid stopping short of the bridge, where the smoke and steam are dispersed under the roof and cause deterioration of the steelwork and corrugated iron sheeting.

17. Electric Route Indicating Instruments.

(a) Down Trains between South and North Boxes. – To inform Birmingham North Box the direction of Train about to be signalled, an Indicating Instrument, pegged at Birmingham South and keyless at Birmingham North for Down Line Working is provided; the peg to be inserted to the required indication preceding the proper ‘Is Line Clear?’ code, as under:-

Down Main Nos. 5 and 6 Down Platforms Nos 1 and 2 Down Platforms
 To Snow Hill Station only  To Snow Hill Station only  To Snow Hill Station only
 To Stourbridge Branch  To Stourbridge Branch  To Stourbridge Branch
 To Wolverhampton Line  To Wolverhampton Line  To Wolverhampton Line
 To Hockley Yard  To Hockley Yard  To Hockley Yard
 To Up Sidings  To Up Sidings  To Up Sidings
 To Down Sidings  To Down Sidings  To Down Sidings
 From North Warwickshire Line  From North Warwickshire Line  From North Warwickshire Line
 From Main Line  From Main Line  From Main Line

(b) Up Trains between North and South Boxes. – Similar instruments have been provided for Up Line Working between Birmingham North and South Boxes, pegged at the North Box and keyless at the South Box, showing the following indications:-

Up Main Nos. 8 and 7 Up Platforms Nos. 12 and 11 Up Platforms
 To Snow Hill Station only  To Snow Hill Station only  To Snow Hill Station only
 To Bordesley Junction only  To Bordesley Junction only  To Bordesley Junction only
 To Tyseley Yard  To Tyseley Yard  To Tyseley Yard
 Through Train  Through Train  Through Train
 To Tunnel Sidings  To Tunnel Sidings  To Tunnel Sidings

(c) The method of operating the instrument is as follows:-

   (i) After giving ‘Call Attention’ Signal and before asking ‘Is Line Clear?’ for the Train concerned, the Dial Peg must be inserted in the hole opposite the words describing the route, and the sliding bar at the right-hand side pulled fully out, which when released will cause the needle in the receiving dial of the instrument at the opposite end of the section to rotate to the corresponding description.

   (ii) The instrument must be left in this position until ‘Train out of Section’ is received for the Train concerned (unless the Section is occupied as shown in Clause iii) when the Dial Peg must be withdrawn, which will cause the needle of the receiving dial of the instrument at the opposite end of the Section to move on to the normal position of zero.

   (iii) When the Section is already occupied and it is necessary for another Engine or train to be signalled, the Signalman at the rear must unpeg Indicating Instrument and before giving the ‘Is Line Clear?’ Signal for the second or subsequent Train must indicate the direction of the Train about to be signalled, so that the last Train in the Section will be shown on the Indicating Instrument.

   (iv) In the event of the needle stopping short of zero when returning to the normal position the Signalman must press the small adjusting button placed above the receiving dial of the instrument, which will cause the needle to travel to its normal position.

   (v) Directly the Dial Peg is inserted, and the slide is withdrawn, the Zero Cross on the transmitting portion of the instrument falls, and a red disc takes its place, showing the Signalman that the instrument has operated; and when the peg is withdrawn the Zero Cross should return to its normal position, which is an indication that the instrument is again in a position for sending signals.

18. Foggy Weather

(a) In foggy weather or during falling snow, it will be the duty of the Fog-Signalman to walk through the Station and see that the Lines are clear up to the points mentioned in these instructions.

(b) Each Signalman must obtain an assurance from the Fog-Signalman attached to his Box that the Line is clear to the specified clearing point before giving the necessary signal to admit a Train into the Station.

(c) Up Trains running to the Bay Lines must be stopped dead at the Inner Home Signal and the Driver verbally instructed to which Platform he is running.

(d) When it is necessary for a Train to enter a Section already occupied, the Train must be stopped dead at the North Box Up or South Box Down Starting Signal as the case may be, and the Signalman must telephone the Ground Signalman to instruct the Enginemen exactly what is required and after an assurance is obtained from the Ground Signalman that this has been done the Signal may be lowered for the Train to draw up, provided the necessary Block Telegraph Signals have been exchanged.

19. Electrical Bell and Hooter between Signal Boxes and the Platforms. – The Signalman in the South Box must ring the Electrical Bell fixed on the Down Platform on receipt of ‘Train entering Section’ Signal from the rear:

  • For Passenger Trains to Nos. 1 and 2 Platforms … Once
  • For Passenger Trains to Nos. 5 and 6 Platforms … 2 rings consecutively
  • To call attention of Station Staff … … Continuously

The Signal man in the North Box, in like manner, must sound the Hooter on the Up Platform on the trains leaving Hockley:

  • For Passenger Trains to No. 7 Platform … … Once
  • For Passenger Trains to Nos. 8 or 9 Platforms … Twice
  • For Passenger Trains to Nos. 10 or 12 Platforms … Thrice
  • For Passenger Trains to No. 11 Platform … … Four times
  • For Passenger trains to Nos. 3 or 4 Bay Platforms Five times
  • To call attention of Station Staff … … … Continuously


Owing to the heavy gradient on each side of the Station, great care must be exercised in shunting, etc.
No Vehicle may be moved on the Main Lines with the Shunting Horses without a man in charge (in addition to the Horseman), who must be supplied with, and have with him proper Hand Scotches.

No Vehicle may be shunted towards the South or Tunnel End of the Station on the Main Lines (Middle or Platform Lines) without being attached to an Engine or Brake Van unless there is a Brake Vehicle on the Line, in the direction of the shunting operations, with Brake applied.

Vehicles standing on the Middle Lines must, in all cases have a Van or Brake Carriage attached, with Brake applied.

The Points leading to the Horse-loading Siding at the South End of the Down Platform must stand open for the Siding, except when the Signals are off for a Down Train to run into the Station Platform Line.

When Vehicles brought in on a Down Train have to be sent back on the Down Line for the purpose of marshalling, special care must be taken that two men perform this work and that they have means ready to apply Brakes or use Sprags, in order that such Vhicles may not run back through the Tunnel. This work must always be done under the personnel supervision of the Inspector on duty.
When backing Trains out from the Up Platform, a Shunter must ride in or upon the last Vehicle.


On no account whatever must luggage barrows or similar vehicles be left on No. 1 Platform south of the foot of the staircase leading from the High Level. This is necessary to prevent the risk of a carriage door being opened and coming in contact with a barrow if left there, and also to avoid a barrow running of the Platform on to the line.


Each weekday a truck for Birmingham by the 4.20 p.m. train ex Cardiff, arriving at Snow Hill at 8.45 p.m., and will, in addition to perishable traffic for Birmingham, contain important goods traffic for Birmingham and stations in the district.

The perishable traffic which it is necessary to deliver from Snow Hill Station must be unloaded immediately on arrival of the train at Birmingham, and the truck worked specially from Snow Hill Station to Hockley Goods Yard.

The empty vehicle will be loaded at Hockley for Fishguard, and must be sent forward by the 1.0 a.m. Goods ex Bordesley Junction.

In the event of an independent truck for Wolverhampton, or any other place, being loaded at Fishguard, it must when possible be loaded back to Fishguard, or failing this, returned empty to that place, working from Wolverhampton or Priestfield, as the case may be, by the 9.50 p.m. train ex Victoria Basin.


Passengers complain that trains arriving at Nos. 1, 2 and 5 Platforms draw down further than is necessary, thereby involving a long walk to the South end of the Station.

Drivers are required to stop their trains immediately the whole of it is at the platform unless otherwise ordered. They should also obey hand signals when entering the station.

Attention is also drawn to the necessity for avoiding the emission of water when engines stand over the subways and bridges. (M.40711.)


(a) A Traffic Department man will be responsible for the working of the Sector Table, the bolt lock handle and the key controlling the electric current being kept in a Box in the Sector Table when not in use.

(b) Engines of all Trains running into Nos. 3 and 4 Platform Lines must stop dead at the Signal leading on to the Table, and the Gantry Signalman must telephone the North Signal Box to lower Signal for the Engine to run on to Table, and when the Engine is on the Table he must advise the North Box to replace the Signal at ‘Danger’. The Signalman at the North Box must then release the controlling lever in his Cabin, and the man at the Sector Table will then be free to withdraw the mechanical bolt which locks the Sector Table in position.

(c) After unlocking the Table the traffic Department man must use the electrical Control Key to move the Table to the position required, when it must be bolt-locked and the Engine run off the Table, and the Signalman at the North Box advised that the operation is complete, when he must return his Controlling Lever to the normal or ‘lock-on’ position.

(d) After removing from the Sector Table no Engine must pass the Signal controlling Nos. 3 and 4 Platform Lines until it is lowered. It may happen that the Sector Table will be in the wrong position for traversing an Engine from the road required, and in such a case Signalman at the North Box must be told to release his Control Lever, and the Table placed to the required position before the Engine is allowed to draw on to it.

This Sector Table is not now in use.


Electrical communication is provided between the Down Platform s and the North Signal Box by means of which the man in charge of the down platform is able to intimate on instruments fixed in the North Box what train is ready to leave and should have precedence.


Enginemen must not discharge waste water whilst standing on either of these Bridges.


Shunters and others concerned must exercise great care in shunting Coaching stock into and from the above Sidings.


Before allowing any engine or vehicle to be shunted from Nos. 1, 2 or 3 Sidings, or the Turntable Road, over the hand points leading from the Main Line, the Yard Foreman or the Shunter in charge should satisfy himself that the signalman in the North Box does not turn anything across from the Main Lines to form a conflicting movement. (A. 8778.)


To facilitate shunting operations on the Down Relief Line at the North End, an Electric Gong is fixed on the boundary wall near the Down Relief Advanced Starting Signal for the North Box, which is operated by means of a push button in the second recess of the boundary wall 25 yards in advance of the points near Northwood Street bridge.
The standard code of signals for controlling shunting operations by shunting horn, whistles, bells or gongs, contained in the General Appendix to the Book of Rules and regulations applies.


1. No persons except the Company’s Staff or Post Office Men in charge of Mail or Parcel Post receptacles, must, unless by special permission of the Station Master, Parcels Agent, or Platform Inspector, be permitted to ascend or descend with the Lifts.

2. The Lifts, which are worked by Electric power, will be raised and lowered by the Porter in charge of same when standing on the Lift Platform, and he must, before he sets the Lifts in motion, satisfy himself that nothing in the Lift will cause an obstruction whilst ascending or descending. The person who places Four-wheeled Vehicles on the Lift must properly secure them, and the man working the Lift will be held responsible for seeing that this is done.

On no account must any wheeled vehicle or load be sent up or down the lifts unless it is accompanied by the person in charge of it, who will be responsible for seeing the vehicle and load is kept clear.

3. The Lifts are fitted with Push Button Control, and the Gates are so interlocked with the Lift that unless they are properly fastened it is impossible for the Lift to be set in motion.

In all cases the ‘Stop’ Buttons in the cages must be used when stopping the Lifts at any Landing.

4. Great care must be exercised in working the Lifts to get the Lift Platforms on a level with the Outside Platform, to prevent the former being damaged, and Wheel Vehicles must be placed on the Lift Platform is such a manner as to avoid damage to the back of the cage.

5. When taking Luggage or Parcels through the Subway or Corridor, the staff must, when passing Barrows, etc. in the opposite direction, keep to the left-hand side.

6. The total load on the Lift must not exceed 30 cwt.

7. No unauthorised person must be allowed to use the Lifts, and any member of staff using them improperly or carelessly will be severely dealt with.

The Inspectors and Foremen must see that no improper use is made of the Lifts, and that the Staff using them do so in a proper manner, and avoid waste of power.

8. Lad Porters and the Staff of the Refreshment Department and Bookstalls must not, under any circumstances, be allowed to work the Lifts.

9. Lift Porters are specially appointed to work the Lifts between High Level Booking Hall and Platform, and one of these men must be on duty to work each lift at times shewn on duty sheets.

During meal and other times, when one Liftman only is on duty on each side at the High Level, one of the Lifts must be put out of use for this interval. On no account must these Lifts be left unattended during the hours the Lift Porters are on duty, and the Lift Porter on duty at each Lift must personally work the Control Button for and accompany the Lift up and down on every journey, and will be responsible for seeing no unauthorised person uses the Lift.

10. The Lift Porter bringing up to the High Level cycles and other machines accompanying passengers is responsible for collecting from the passenger the ticket for same.

11. Men ascending or descending in the Lift must keep well clear inside the Cage when the Lift is in motion.


In addition to the Signal Telegraph Instructions (Bell and Telephone) in force for working over the Lines between the North and South Signal Boxes at Snow Hill Station, the following Instructions must be observed for conducting the Shuunting and other work in the Station:-


As far as possible, Down Goods Trains must be run over the Down main Line at Snow Hill, and the Lines must , whenever practicable, be kept free of vehicles to ensure a clear road for the Goods Trains through the Station.


(a) In the event of a DOWN TRAIN STICKING OR BECOMING DIVIDED IN THE TUNNEL between Moor Street and Birmingham (Snow Hill), the following Special Instructions must be observed:-

(b) When Train can be held on Incline by means of the Brake Power available.

The Engineman must immediately send his Fireman to inform the Signalman in the South Box, and also the Station Master or Inspector on duty at Snow Hill of the occurrence, and to obtain the assistance of another Engine in accordance with Rule 221, Clause G, of the Standard Regulations; and if there is only one Guard in charge of the Train, the Inspector on duty, or a competent man from Snow Hill, must accompany the extra Engine to the Train that has come to a stand in the Tunnel. The Guard must go back and protect his Train, in accordance with the Standard Regulations.

(c) If there be only one Guard in charge of the Train, the man sent with the Assistant Engine from Snow Hill must take charge of the Van before re-starting after assistance has been obtained, and the Station Master or Inspector on duty at Snow Hill must, in such a case, provide a competent man to take the Train on from Snow Hill, or detain it there or at Hockley, until the proper Guard overtakes it.

(d) If there is no Engine available at Snow Hill to be sent to assist the Train, a competent man must be instantly sent from there to take charge of the rear part of the Train. After the Brakes have been well secured on the rear Vehicles the Train must be divided, and the man sent to take charge of the Train in the absence of the Guard must give the Driver written authority to take the first part to Snow Hill, and to return to his Train on the wrong Line. The Engine may return on the same Line to the rear portion; but the Enginemen must, in all cases, hold the written authority of the man left in charge of the rear portion of the Train, in accordance with Rule 221 of the Standard Regulations.

(e) Should the engine be unable to hold the Train on the Incline it must be brought to a stand at the South End of the Tunnel, and divided there, or another engine obtained according to circumstances.

(f) In all cases when a Train has stuck, or something unusual has occurred in the Tunnel, the Signalman must stop the Trains running in the opposite direction, and must verbally inform the Enginemen of what has occurred, and caution them to run carefully through the Tunnel, if the nature of the mishap does not render it necessary to suspend the traffic.

(g) Owing to varying Gradients through Snow Hill Tunnel, it is necessary that Enginemen of Up Goods Trains should exercise great care in working through the Tunnel, to avoid the risk of a Train becoming divided in the dip between the two Inclines at the South End of the Tunnel.

(h) Guards of all Goods Trains must always ride outside their Brake Compartments when running through the Tunnel, and the men working Up Goods Trains must apply their Hand Brakes when descending the Inclines and keep them on till the Brake van is on the Viaduct, so as to keep the couplings tight to avoid the risk of breaking loose between the two Inclines. Special attention is drawn to the Runaway Catch Point and Sand Drag in the Down Main Line 59 yards outside South End of Tunnel.


(a) There is a short Incline falling 1 in 104, towards Snow Hill and then rising 1 in 75 towards Snow Hill, midway between Hockley and Snow Hill. Great care must be exercised in working Up Goods Trains over these inclines. Guards must apply their Hand Brakes when descending the Incline so as to keep the couplings tight, to avoid the risk of breaking loose in the dip between these two Inclines.

Special Limitations of Speed at Snow Hill

Locality Lines Speed per hour not to exceed
Snow Hill NORTH END Up main to Nos. 8, 9, 10 and 12 platform lines 15 miles
Snow Hill NORTH END Up main to Nos. 3 and 4 platform lines 10 miles
Snow Hill NORTH END Nos. 2, 3, 4 and 5 platform lines to down main and down relief 15 miles
Snow Hill NORTH END Through scissors ,crossings to and from down relief line 15 miles
Snow Hill NORTH END Through scissors crossings in centre of station on up and down sides 10 miles
Snow Hill SOUTH END No. 7 platform line to up main 20 miles
Snow Hill SOUTH END No. 11 platform line to up main 20 miles
Snow Hill SOUTH END Down main to No. 1 platform line 25 miles
Snow Hill SOUTH END Down main to No. 5 platform line 25 miles

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GWR Service Time Table - Engine Whistles


when working over the


1st JANUARY 1933 until further notice


The following are the Standard Engine Whistle Codes:

  • Main Lines … … … 1 whistle
  • Relief Lines … … … 2 whistles
  • To or from Platform Loops … 2 whistles
  • Branch Lines … … … 3 whistles
  • Goods Lines … … … 4 whistles
  • Bay Lines … … … 2 short whistles
  • To Engine Shed … … 4 short whistles
  • Yards, to or from … … 1 crow
  • Crossover Road, Main Line … 1 crow and 1 whistle
  • Crossover Road, Relief Lines 1 crow and 2 whistles
  • In Siding Clear of Running Lines 3 short sharp whistles

For crossing operations, whistles should be used made up of a combination of the whistle for the road upon which the engine is standing or running, and the road to which the Driver wishes to be transferred, as for example:

  • Main Line to Relief Line … 1 whistle pause 2 whistles
  • Relief Line to Main Line … 2 whistles pause 1 whistle

Where Standard Whistle Codes are not required they may be utilised for other purposes.



To be given on leaving Snow Hill, North End

  • Down trains conveying traffic for Hockley … 1 crow
  • From No 2 down platform line to down relief 2 short, 1 long
  • From No 2 down platform line to down siding 2 short, 1 crow
  • From No 3 down platform line to down main or relief 3 short, 2 long
  • From No.3 down platform line to down spur … 3 short, 3 long
  • From No.3 down platform line to up sidings … 3 short, 1 crow
  • From No.4 down plat line to down main or relief 4 short
  • From No.4 down platform line to down spur … 4 short, 1 long
  • From No.4 down platform line to up sidings … 4 short, 1 crow
  • From No.6 down plat line to down main or relief 1 short, 1 long
  • From No.6 down platform line to down spur … 1 short, 2 long
  • From No.6 down platform line to up sidings … 1 short, 1 crow
  • From up sidings to No.6 down platform line … 1 crow, 1 short
  • From up sidings to No.4 down platform line … 1 crow, 4 short
  • From up sidings to No.3 down platform line … 1 crow, 3 short
  • From up sidings to main line … … … 2 crows and 1
  • From up sidings to No.8 up platform line … 2 crows and 2
  • From up loop to Snow Hill siding … … 3 crows
  • From up loop to No.12 up platform line … 3 crows and 1

The History of Snow Hill Station

Courtesy of Terry Callaghan of 'Disused Stations'

The route to connect Wolverhampton, Dudley & Birmingham with the Great Western Railway (GWR) at Oxford was originally promoted by the Birmingham & Oxford Junction Railway (B&OJR) and the Birmingham, Wolverhampton & Dudley Railway (BW&DR). Both companies were incorporated on 3 August 1846. The original plans of the B&OJR involved a connection with the London & North Western Railway (LNWR) near Curzon Street in Birmingham and also a separate Act known as the Birmingham Extension. This would allow the B&OJR to make an end on connection with the BW&DR at a station near Snow Hill in the centre of Birmingham, a station into which both companies would have running rights. The B&OJR agreed an amalgamation with the BW&DR as both companies preferred the broad gauge. However, when the LNWR learned of the B&OJR’s amalgamation it became suspicious of the intentions of the company. The LNWR started to purchase a controlling share in the B&OJR and attempted to place its own officers on an expanded board of the company. The GWR protested to Parliament regarding the tactics being used by the LNWR, and a Parliamentary Inquiry was ordered. Parliament came down on the side of the GWR and the B&OJR and the BW&DR were absorbed into the GWR on 31 August 1848 from an Agreement dated 12 November 1846.

Construction of a mixed gauge line from Oxford to Birmingham was complete in 1852, and the end-on connection with the former BW&DR was planned on a small parcel of land in Birmingham bordered by Livery Street and Snow Hill. Problems with the purchase of this piece of land and clearance of the slum housing which stood on it precluded early construction of a station on the site. A temporary station was complete for the opening on 1 October 1852; it consisted of three platforms, an up (London direction) of around 550ft in length reached from Snow Hill, a down platform of around 450ft approached from Livery Street, and an island platform on the down side of the station to which a footbridge from the up platform gave access. The down (Wolverhampton direction) platform had a through line passing its inner face with a bay platform to the north (Wolverhampton) end on the outer face, which ran parallel with Livery Street. The island platform shared the same through line as the down platform and was also provided with another through line to its east and a bay platform to the north. The up platform had just one through line with two independent through lines being provided between the island and up platform for goods and express trains to use without interrupting station working. The station had an overall roof, in keeping with the GWR practice of the time, of wooden construction supported on thick timber posts spanned by wrought iron tie-bars. The roof consisted of a combination of corrugated zinc cladding over timber boarding with glazed central ventilation sections. The sides were left open, as was the current practice; a throwback to the days when individual horse-drawn carriages were loaded and unloaded from rail vehicles. Large courtyards were provided at the Livery Street and Snow Hill entrances with separate entrance and exit gateways. Both passengers and goods used the courtyards to enter the station, with goods handling facilities being provided at the northern end of the up (London direction) platform and the southern end of the down platform. At the north end these consisted of a single stand-alone siding which was connected to the line which ran through the up platform by a small wagon turntable. The down side goods area was connected to the through line by the same method as the up, and consisted of three short stand-alone sidings each with its own wagon turntable. Various buildings were provided on the outer edges of the up and down platforms, presumably being booking offices, waiting and refreshment rooms along with goods and general administration offices; it is not clear if these buildings, if any, connected with the platforms themselves but it is quite probable.

The line north of the station, towards Wolverhampton and Dudley, opened as mixed gauge on 14 November 1854 and the GWR’s aim of reaching the Mersey (near Liverpool) was finally being realised. It was originally proposed to open the northern section on 1 September 1854 and was passed fit for purpose following an inspection, by Captain Sir Douglas Strutt, on 25 August. The following day a bridge collapsed over the road at Winson Green following the passage of a ballast train. Isambard Kingdom Brunel inspected the line and its bridges shortly afterwards and declared that five of the bridge structures along it required strengthening thus delaying the opening until 14 November.

Upon opening, the station was known simply as ‘Birmingham’ and during the following six years would be quoted in timetables as ‘Livery Street’ station and ‘Great Charles Street’ station. In 1858 the GWR adopted Birmingham Snow Hill as the station’s official title, although, as late as 1868 Osbourne’s timetables still quoted Livery Street for down (Wolverhampton direction) trains as the station name.

By the mid 1860s it had become evident that the temporary station lacked capacity, partially owing to its cramped town centre location (Birmingham did not become a city until 1889) but also because of an increase in traffic. A further factor was the clause inserted in the original Act for the B&OR for which the company was obliged to build a direct link with the LNWR’s former Grand Junction Railway line near Curzon Street; thus allowing access to the main railway station in Birmingham at the time and negating the building of a large central station on the Snow Hill site. The GWR set about building a large brick viaduct from a junction at Bordesley towards the LNWR line; the viaduct was completed up to the GWR boundary but the ever-suspicious LNWR refused to sell or allow the building on the final portion of land to permit the two lines to connect. Both companies agreed that neither wanted the connection and the viaduct remained, and remains today, unfinished; it would find use latterly as a siding, possibly the most expensive siding ever constructed on the rail network to date. During the early 1860s a large hotel was constructed at the southern end of the station site above the Snow Hill Tunnel entrance, although without direct access to the station itself, spanning the railway at right angles. Opening in 1863 the hotel was a statement of intent by the GWR and its aspirations for the Snow Hill station. This was a French-inspired pile designed by Chatwin, with strong classical overtones and the distinctive zig-zag of pointed window hoods on the second floor. The structure was finished off with robust, but ornate, chimneystacks.

The only option left available to the GWR was to fully rebuild the Snow Hill site. Construction was complete in 1871 and the new station consisted of two 450yd platforms furnished with offices, passenger waiting rooms and conveniences. Four additional bay platforms were constructed at the northern (Wolverhampton) end of the station to allow terminating services from the Dudley and Stourbridge lines not to interfere with through services. Due to the cramped nature of the site no bay platforms could be accommodated at the southern end of the station, mainly because of the convergence of the lines to pass through the Snow Hill Tunnel. Separate entrances were provided from Livery Street, for Wolverhampton direction services, and Snow Hill for London-bound services. Both are described as being a ‘gated courtyard’ and were used by pedestrians and vehicles alike. As previously stated, there was no direct access to the station from the adjacent Great Western Hotel. Platforms were linked by a wide footbridge towards their centre to allow passengers transferring from local services arriving at the Livery Street bay platforms easy access to the London-bound platforms. The buildings and platforms were covered by an arched roof, glazed in its centre and clad with wood on its sides, smaller, but similar, roofs covered the bay platforms. The track layout of the new station reflected the lack of any southern bay platforms. The platform faces each had a through line with a pair of central lines allowing freight to pass through without compromising the passenger operation. Double scissor crossovers were provided midway along the platforms allowing short trains to depart independently from the same platform in the same direction. These were controlled by a Gantryman stationed above the running lines who, in conjunction with the signalman, determined when it was safe to run trains through them. An additional crossover was provided at the southern end to facilitate the running round of local terminating services from the south.

The route from Paddington to Snow Hill, and on to Birkenhead, was one of the GWR’s premier lines, and competition with the LNWR in the latter part of the nineteenth century was intense. On 1 June 1880 a new express service commenced on the Paddington to Birkenhead route known as the ZULU; covering the 129½ miles from Paddington to Snow Hill in 2hr 42 min. The Birkenhead service was to witness another first on 1 March 1892 with the introduction of corridor stock. By 1898 a Paddington to Snow Hill non-stop flyer service was operating covering the distance in 2hr 27 min.

Unprecedented growth in rail travel in the latter part of the nineteenth century was again causing operating issues within the station confines, and a radical plan was devised to cater for the demand and increase operation flexibility. Before the major plan could be put into operation several changes were made to the existing services to allow for more capacity within the station. Some of the terminating express services were rescheduled to travel through to Dudley for servicing, greatly increasing provision to the Black Country town. The formation of trains would take place at the company’s vast sidings at Bordesley, at the south side of the city; this meant that a train for the south had to approach the station northwards, through Snow Hill Tunnel, and then depart in the same direction again through the congested tunnel. In 1900, Mr H Herring, Snow Hill stationmaster 1897–1921, was quoted as saying, ‘as fast as one train passes out of Snow Hill there is another and yet another in its wake, waiting the opportunity of squeezing into the station’. It has to be remembered that the vast majority of GWR passenger and freight traffic in the region had to pass through Snow Hill, with around 350 400 trains per day stopping or passing. All supplies for the Birmingham Central Market and the Black Country markets had to go via the station to their respective goods warehouses, Hockley and Dudley.

The start of the twentieth century saw the GWR purchase a parcel of land to the south of the Snow Hill tunnel adjacent to Moor Street, their intention being to construct the missing southern bays of Snow Hill station as an entirely new station to be called Birmingham Moor Street. This would relieve pressure on the Snow Hill site from terminating services from the south on which most people were travelling to the city centre for work or pleasure from the ever expanding suburbs of Solihull and Shirley. A sophisticated semi-subterranean goods facility was devised sitting above the new Moor Street station to handle all produce and goods for the Birmingham Central Markets. In November 1902 the GWR authorised £341,693 for the reconstruction of Snow Hill; it would be effectively building a new station whilst still operating a full passenger service through the old one, and in 1906 the audacious rebuild began. The first main problem was staff accommodation as the 1871 station had housed them on the station platforms. The Great Western Hotel was closed during the time as many guests complained about being kept awake by goods trains rumbling beneath the hotel at all hours of the day and night. A proposal was put forward to build a new railway-owned hotel nearby but the plan never came to fruition. The former Great Western Hotel was converted into office accommodation for the GWR, with the ground floor remodelled to provide a new station entrance from Colmore Row enabling the closure of the Livery Street and Snow Hill entrances. With their closure extra land was made available for the station’s redesign and it would play a huge role in the operation of the new station. The new station was designed by Walter Y Armstrong. M Inst C.E., the GWR’s newly appointed Resident Engineer. The project’s Resident Engineer was to be Mr C E Shackle A.M. Inst C.E. with the Clerk of Works being J Jackson. The building contractors were Henry Lovatt Ltd and E C & J Keay, Darlaston, were awarded the contract to supply 6,000 tons of steelwork.

Armstrong faced several determining factors when devising a new design for the station. The station site could not expand east or westwards owing to the buildings that occupied Snow Hill and Livery Street being too expensive to purchase and demolish. To the south, the narrow twin-tracked Snow Hill Tunnel precluded any widening of the station approach, so it was to the north of the station that Armstrong looked. Whilst the rebuilding was ongoing, the GWR took the opportunity to create a large undercroft beneath the station for the handling of parcels and other small consignments delivered by passenger trains to the station. To keep this operation completely separate from the station it had its own dedicated entrance from Snow Hill. Widening of the approaches and the Great Charles Street overbridge created the room to accommodate the new station and would also provide space for further carriage sidings for the servicing of stock.

The new station roof would cover two-thirds of the platform area and was to be some 500ft in length and cover some 12,000 sq yd. A special construction stage was erected which moved along temporary rails laid in the new parcels handling facility allowing the old roof to be removed and the new one constructed without any disruption to the station below. The stage was moved from the north end (Wolverhampton) to the southern end as work progressed; it was then dismantled and taken away by rail. As much prefabrication of the new steel roof was completed in the works of E C & J Keay as possible with partially completed steel work delivered to site on GWR Pollen wagons prior to being hoisted into position.

The main booking hall of the station was built in a style befitting of a major city centre station. The whole area was covered by a single span arch roof of 93ft 9½in, its centre being 54ft from ground level and glazed throughout. The buildings and main pillars in the ticket office to the pillars were faced in white Carrara Ware. The booking office buildings and those on the platforms were architecturally pleasing with buff terra-cotta for the cornice, strings, copings and dressings. The walls were faced with salt glazed bricks with the exception of a certain height above the footways where blue-pressed Staffordshire engineering bricks were used. The platform refreshment rooms were lined in fumed Austrian Oak and the counter tops finished in red marble; they were reputedly the finest refreshment rooms in the country at the time. A new booking office was constructed off Great Charles Street allowing potential passengers to avoid the circuitous route to the new station entrance in Colmore Row, and there was a further entrance at Livery Street, directly into the subway.

Two 1,200ft island platforms were constructed, both incorporating two north facing bays; the length of the platforms allowed two full length trains to use them at any one time. Along with the two additional outer platform lines, operating flexibility of the two inner platform faces was maintained with double scissor crossovers positioned midway along the platform to allow a train in the rear to depart ahead of the one in front. The two centre through roads were also retained, partially for the purpose of passenger train despatch, but also to enable goods trains to pass through without adversely affecting platform operations. Four bay platforms were provided, two on the up and two on the down platforms, which stretched for two-thirds of the platforms’ entire length; all were north facing. Again to maximise the space, the bay platforms three and four were provided with a ’sector table’ at the buffer stops supplied by Ransome & Rapier of Ipswich, negating the use of the traditional cross-overs associated with trains running round their stock at journey’s end. The bay platforms (nine and ten) appear, from the 1906 plans, not to have been provided with either cross-overs or any other aid of running round. A fish dock and engine spur were provided to the south of the up (London direction) platform, with carriage sidings to its east along with a large turntable. A new, wide, footbridge was provided along with a subway which was 20ft in width sectioned off centrally with 12ft dedicated to passenger use and 8ft to parcels and luggage. The main through platforms each carried two numbers as they could accomodate two full length trains each.

The staggeringly complex layout was controlled from just two power boxes:’ North’ and ‘South’. The North box stood on seven slender steel columns, cross-braced and flared at the top to hold the main body of the box. Birmingham North signal box, as it was known, was a GWR non-standard design fitted with a 224-lever Siemens All-Electric miniature lever frame opened on 31 October 1909. It replaced a temporary 25-lever signal box that opened about a year earlier, although confusingly, the temporary box remained open for a period after. The box contained 189 working levers and 35 spares; the interlocking was mechanical and around 9,000 lever movements occurred each weekday. By 1915 the interlocking was in an unsafe state and had to be re-locked. Birmingham South signal box, a GWR non-standard design fitted with a 96-lever Siemens All-Electric miniature lever frame opened in 1913. It replaced a temporary 36-lever signal box opened a year, or possibly two, years earlier. Although designated as a non-standard design, it was actually a GWR type 7 design but with a flat roof instead of a normal hipped style. The British Power Signalling Register notes the opening date as 13 April 1913, whilst the Signalling Register quotes August 1913. After closure, the signal box was used as a relay room, probably until the closure of Snow Hill station.

The new parcels yard created by the 1903 rebuild was impressive in itself. It was 24ft below rail level with a total area of 11,000 sq ft; its construction had required the removal of some 13,000 sq yd of earth with the steelwork in the roof structure weighing some 500 tons. The parcels yard sat directly below the up (London direction) platform, and to facilitate the speedy transfer from platform to yard, and vice versa, five lifts were provided; two connected directly with the up platform, one with the subway, and there were two further lifts from the subway to the down (Wolverhampton direction) platform. The yard dealt not only with parcels, small consignments, passenger luggage forwarded in advance of travel and lost property, but also provided stabling facilities for the company’s horses that operated the numerous delivery rounds to local shops and businesses which radiated from the yard. Above the yard, but still below rail level, a series of offices and rooms was constructed to provide employee accommodation.


  • Bradshaw's Railway Guide December 1895 - Middleton Press
  • Bradshaw's Railway Guide July 1922 - Guild Publishing
  • British Railways (WR) May - September timetble 1949
  • British Rail (LMR) 3 May 1971 - 30 April 1972 timetable
  • Forgotten Railways: Volume 10, The West Midlands - Rex Christinsen - David & Charles Publishing 1985
  • A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain - Volume 7 The West Midlands - Rex Christiansen - David St John Thomas Publisher 1991
  • A Century of Railways around Birmingham and the West Midlands Vol 1,2 & 3 - John Boynton - Mid England Books Publisher 1999
  • From Main Line To Metro - John Boynton - Mid England Books 2001
  • Railway Passenger Station in Great Britain - A Chronology - Michael Quick - Railway & Canal Historical Society 2009

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An overview and features of Snow Hill station Photographs - Station Infrastructure (172) Photographs - Locomotives and Rolling Stock (277)