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LMS Route: Birmingham New Street to Lichfield

Gravelly Hill Station: lnwrgh58b

Close up showing the passenger waiting rooms and other facilities located on the station's Birmingham platform

Close up of image 'lnwrgh58' showing the passenger waiting rooms and other facilities located on the station's Birmingham platform. In front of the single storey structure seen more clearly in image 'lnwrgh1487' a sign which reads 'Wait Here for Second Class on local stopping trains'. The other signs appear to indicate individual toilet and waiting room facilities although whether they were for either Second Class passengers only or for general use is not known. As will be known to any passenger familiar with travelling by train up to the 1960s, travel was either by First or Third Class facilities as Second Class travel was abandoned by most railway companies in the late 19th Century. Does this indicate the photo was taken prior to this date or that the signs remained for some time afterwards? In response to my queries as to when the LNWR ceased offering 2nd class travel I received this very expansive explanation from Steve Weston, the Editor of LNWR Society's Journal and Newsletter.

According to Reed ‘The London & North Western RailwayISBN 0 906899 66 4, there had been a significant rise in 3rd class at the expense of 2nd (1st class being relatively stable) due to trends in traffic volumes, journey lengths and fares. Third class fares, although low, were made up of many short journeys, and there had been a rapid increase in these in the 1860s. The Midland had admitted 3rd class to all trains on 1 Jan 1872 and abolished 2nd class in 1875. From 1872 3rd class were allowed on most trains on the LNWR plus offered through bookings and tourist fares on longer journeys. As a result, 3rd class revenue jumped from 32% of earnings in 1871 to 42% in 1873 and 46% in 1873 whilst 2nd class fell from 28% to 18% to 16%. None of the other major lines had followed the Midland but the Midland had also lowered its 1st class fares to 2nd class levels. Thus everyone else had to lower their 2nd class fares thus ‘pinching’ the second class differential.

Richard Moon the LNWR chairman was against the abolishment of 2nd class; it seems his views over-ruled economic reasons! Second class was abolished on the Anglo-Scottish services in May 1893 as the Caledonian had already done so. This coincided with the introduction of the new West Coast Stock. Lord Stalbridge, chairman after Moon persisted in supporting second class although new stock was being built so that 2nd class could be converted easily. Second class was abolished on all but a few suburban services after Stalbridge retired in February 1911. The main abandonment of 2nd class was 31 Dec 1911. The National Coal strike started in May 1912 and this saw the final abandonment of 2nd class together with restricted services. All 2nd class was suspended during the coal strike and despite parliamentary questions they were not restored after the end of the coal strike. Steve Weston concludes 'Long winded I'm afraid but Reed covers it quite well and goes into the reasons in some detail and I found it quite interesting. Reed's book is a very thorough history and at times is a bit hard going. However it's well worth buying and if you need to know anything about the LNWR it's usually there'.