Birmingham Snow Hill railway station

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Birmingham Snow Hill National Rail Midland Metro
Birmingham Snow Hill - London Midland 172213.jpg
Birmingham Snow Hill station
Place Colmore Row
Local authority City of Birmingham
Coordinates 52°28′59″N 1°53′56″W / 52.483°N 1.899°W / 52.483; -1.899Coordinates: 52°28′59″N 1°53′56″W / 52.483°N 1.899°W / 52.483; -1.899
Grid reference SP069873
Station code BSW
Managed by West Midlands Trains
Number of platforms 3
DfT category C1
Live arrivals/departures, station information and onward connections
from National Rail Enquiries
Annual rail passenger usage*
2012/13 Decrease 4.402 million
2013/14 Increase 4.435 million
2014/15 Increase 4.538 million
2015/16 Increase 4.713 million
2016/17 Decrease 4.451 million
Passenger Transport Executive
PTE Transport for West Midlands
Zone 1
Original company Birmingham and Oxford Junction Railway
Pre-grouping Great Western Railway
Post-grouping Great Western Railway
1 October 1852 Opened as Birmingham
February 1858 Renamed Birmingham Snow Hill
1871 Rebuilt
1906–1912 Rebuilt
6 March 1972 Closed
5 October 1987 Rebuilt and reopened
31 May 1999 Midland Metro stop opened
24 October 2015 Midland Metro stop closed
National RailUK railway stations
* Annual estimated passenger usage based on sales of tickets in stated financial year(s) which end or originate at Birmingham Snow Hill from Office of Rail and Road statistics. Methodology may vary year on year.
170433 at Edinburgh Waverley.JPG UK Railways portal

Birmingham Snow Hill is a railway station and tram stop in the Birmingham City Centre, England. It is one of the three main city-centre stations in Birmingham along with Birmingham New Street and Birmingham Moor Street.

Snow Hill was once the main station of the Great Western Railway in Birmingham, and at its height it rivalled New Street station, with competitive services to destinations including London Paddington, Wolverhampton Low Level, Birkenhead Woodside, Wales and South West England. The station has been rebuilt several times since the first station at Snow Hill; a temporary wooden structure, was opened in 1852; it was rebuilt as a permanent station in 1871, and then rebuilt again on a much grander scale during 1906-1912. The electrification of the main line from London to New Street in the 1960s saw New Street favoured over Snow Hill, which saw most of its services withdrawn in the late 1960s. This led to the station's eventual closure in 1972, and demolition five years later. After fifteen years of closure a new Snow Hill station, the present incarnation, was built; it reopened in 1987.

Today, most of the trains using Snow Hill are local services on the Snow Hill Lines operated by West Midlands Railway, serving Worcester Shrub Hill, Kidderminster, Stourbridge Junction, Stratford-upon-Avon, and Solihull. The only long distance service into Snow Hill is to London Marylebone operated by Chiltern Railways, via the Chiltern Main Line. Snow Hill is also served by the Midland Metro light rail line from Wolverhampton (via Wednesbury and West Bromwich).

The present Snow Hill station has three platforms for National Rail trains. When it was originally reopened in 1987 it had four, but one was later converted in 1999 for use as a terminus for Midland Metro trams. The original tram terminus closed in October 2015, in order for the extension of the Midland Metro through Birmingham city centre to be connected. This included a dedicated embankment for trams alongside the station, and included a new through stop serving Snow Hill.


Early history[edit]

The site of the station was formerly occupied by Oppenheims Glassworks. This was demolished, but many parts of the building and machinery are believed to be buried underneath the station and car park, and during recent development work alongside the station the area was designated as a site of archaeological importance by Birmingham City Council. The station was opened in 1852 on the Great Western Railway (GWR) main line from London Paddington to Wolverhampton Low Level and Birkenhead Woodside. Originally called Birmingham Station, its name was changed to Great Charles Street station, and then Livery Street Station. It was finally renamed Snow Hill in 1858, and the Great Western Hotel was added in 1863.[1]

The facade of the original Snow Hill on Colmore Row
Old Snow Hill station in 1957.

It was never intended to be the main station, but the railway was prevented from reaching its original intended terminus at Curzon Street; London and North Western Railway’s engineer Robert Stephenson and solicitor Samuel Carter argued in parliament that there would be safety risks in rival companies sharing the congested connection into their station.[2] The original station was a simple temporary wooden structure, consisting of a large wooden shed covering the platforms. In 1871 it was rebuilt, and replaced with a permanent structure. The 1871 station had two through platforms, and bay platforms at the Wolverhampton end, covered by an arched roof.[3] Access to the station was from Livery Street from the side.[4] Trains from the south arrived through Snow Hill Tunnel, built by the cut-and-cover method, and in a cutting from Temple Row to Snow Hill. The cutting was roofed over in 1872 and the Great Western Arcade built on top.[1]

To cope with expanding traffic. Snow Hill station was rebuilt again on a much larger scale between 1906 and 1912. The new station building was intended to compete with New Street, which at the time was a much grander building than it is today. The rebuilt station contained lavish facilities, such as a large booking hall with an arched glass roof, and lavish waiting rooms with oak bars. The main platform area was covered by a large glass and steel overall roof. It consisted of two large Island platforms, containing four through platforms, and four bay platforms for terminating trains at the northern end. The through platforms were long enough to accommodate two trains at a time, and scissors crossings allowed trains to pull in front, or out from behind of other trains stood in a platform, effectively creating a 10 platform station. The line north from Snow Hill towards Hockley was quadrupled at the same time, however the cost of widening the twin track Snow Hill tunnel at the southern end was considered prohibitive. There was not enough capacity through the tunnel to accommodate all of the services, and so, as a solution, Birmingham Moor Street was built as an "overflow" station at the opposite end of the tunnel to take terminating local trains towards Leamington Spa and Stratford-upon-Avon.[1][5] The Great Western Hotel was closed at the same time (as guests complained of being kept awake by goods trains running underneath) and converted into railway offices, and a passenger entrance was provided on Colmore Row, which became the station's main entrance.[6]

Historic services[edit]

The old station's arched glass booking hall in 1914.

At its height, many trains that now run into New Street station ran into Snow Hill, along with some that no longer run. Services included:[7][8]

  • London Paddington – service transferred to New Street in 1967, and later abandoned altogether. The London service was restored in the early 1990s, but now to London Marylebone - making this Snow Hill's only long-distance service.
  • Wolverhampton Low Level, and Dudley;– The branch from Snow Hill to Dudley was closed in 1964, and the service to Wolverhampton Low Level was one of the last to survive, ending in 1972. A Snow Hill-Wolverhampton service was resumed in 1999, when the Midland Metro tram line, which now runs along the former route to Wolverhampton was opened, although this does not serve the former Low Level station, instead leaving the former trackbed and running on-street to a terminus at Wolverhampton St George's.
  • Birkenhead Woodside via Wolverhampton, Shrewsbury, Wrexham and Chester – this was on the old GWR route from London Paddington. British Railways ended this service before closing Snow Hill in 1967.
  • Mid Wales via Shrewsbury;– these trains now run into New Street (although it is now possible to join a train to Smethwick Galton Bridge and change onto an Transport for Wales service to these destinations).
  • Hereford via Stourbridge Junction and Worcester Foregate Street; - the Snow Hill-Worcester-Hereford services were diverted to New Street in 1967, in 1995 services were resumed between Snow Hill, Stourbridge and Worcester.
  • Cardiff via Stratford upon Avon - In 1908 the North Warwickshire Line route via Stratford and Cheltenham Spa Malvern Road was opened, and became the principal GWR route between Birmingham and the South West and South Wales. A pioneering diesel railcar service with a buffet commenced running in July 1934 between Snow Hill and Cardiff, running non-stop through Stratford, with only two stops at Gloucester and Newport. This was the first long distance diesel express service in Britain. The railcar service ran until 1946, when it was replaced with a conventional steam service, which continued until it was diverted via New Street in 1962.[9][10]
  • Bristol Temple Meads, Exeter St Davids, Plymouth and Penzance via Stratford-upon-Avon – These services were diverted via New Street and Bromsgrove in 1962. British Railways later closed the line between Stratford and Cheltenham in 1976.[10]


As late as the mid-1960s Snow Hill was still a major station handling millions of passengers annually; in 1964 Snow Hill handled 7.5 million passengers, compared to 10.2 million at New Street.[8] However the electrification of the rival West Coast Main Line into New Street, meant that British Railways decided to concentrate all services into Birmingham into one station, and Snow Hill was seen as being an unnecessary duplication. In 1966 the decision was taken to end main line services through Snow Hill once electrification of the WCML was complete, and divert most of its remaining services through New Street.[11]

An original entrance in Livery Street
Snow Hill in derelict condition being used as a car park in 1977, shortly before demolition.

Long-distance services through Snow Hill ceased in March 1967. Snow Hill tunnel closed to all traffic the following year, with the last train running on 2 March 1968.[12] Local trains towards Leamington Spa and Stratford upon Avon were then terminated at Moor Street.[1] Services to London, the West Country, Stourbridge and Shrewsbury were diverted to New Street, and the branch to Dudley was closed. All that was left was a shuttle service of four trains per day using Class 122 railcars to Langley Green, along with six daily stopping services to Wolverhampton Low Level. With this, as most passenger facilities in the station were withdrawn and virtually the entire site became disused save for one bay platform, Snow Hill then acquired the unfortunate title of "the largest unstaffed railway halt in the country". In March 1972 these last services were withdrawn and the station closed entirely, along with the lines through to Smethwick and Wolverhampton,[1] with the exception of a single line from Smethwick West for Coopers Scrap Metal Works in Handsworth (the works is still in operation to this day).[13]

Following closure, the derelict station was used for several years as a car park.[14] It enjoyed a brief moment of fame in 1976 when it was the setting for a fight scene in the locally set BBC TV drama series Gangsters.[15] However, despite a public outcry, the Snow Hill building was not preserved. The Colmore Row façade was demolished in 1969,[16] and the rest of the station largely demolished in 1977,[17] when the dangerous state of the building was revealed. The ironwork of the station roof was badly corroded in several places, and the unstable ground and foundations on which the station had been built were causing it to slide downhill. A few items, including the original gates and booking hall sign, were saved and later used in the Moor Street restoration.


Colmore Row entrance

The West Midlands Passenger Transport Authority had adopted a policy to restore cross-city rail services through Snow Hill since the 1970s, a project was which completed in two phases.[13]

A Class 150 entering the rebuilt Snow Hill from the north in 2006.

The first phase was completed on 5 October 1987, when the newly rebuilt Snow Hill station opened for services to the south, along with Snow Hill tunnel. The rebuilt station is on a smaller scale than its Edwardian predecessor, built with two island platforms, giving four platform faces. The station's architecture is functional rather than ornate, a multi-storey car park stands over the main platform area, meaning artificial lighting is required on the platforms. Like its predecessor, the main entrance is on Colmore Row. Some parts of the original station are still visible (notably the now-sealed entrance, with GWR crest, in Livery Street).[18]

Initially only local stopping services to Leamington Spa and Stratford-upon-Avon used the new station. Services at Moor Street, where these services had previously terminated, were switched from the former terminal platforms, which then closed, on to two newly built through platforms, at the southern end of Snow Hill tunnel, making a through station adjacent to the tunnel mouth.[19]

In May 1993 Network SouthEast reintroduced limited-stop services to London, initially on a two-hourly frequency, routed to Marylebone instead of the pre-closure destination of Paddington.[20] The service proved popular and was increased to an hourly frequency the following year. Chiltern Railways took over the service after privatisation.[21]

Livery Street entrance

The second phase of the Snow Hill reopening project was completed on 24 September 1995, when the Birmingham to Worcester via Kidderminster Line was reopened to Snow Hill. This allowed the resumption of services to Worcester Shrub Hill via Stourbridge Junction and Kidderminster. The "Jewellery Line" project involved reopening the line between Smethwick West and Snow Hill, along with three new stations (Smethwick Galton Bridge, The Hawthorns and Jewellery Quarter).[13][22]

In 1999, the line to Wolverhampton was reopened as a light rail (tram) line, the Midland Metro.

Work began on a new entrance on Livery Street to give commuters access to the lower Snow Hill and Jewellery Quarter part of the city centre in 2005, but it did not open for business until March 2011.[23] The work had a projected cost of £9.94 million, but due to Centro's failure to apply for planning permission, and severe technical difficulties, the cost rose to at least £17 million.[24] Although construction and interior finishes' works were largely complete by December 2010, legal disputes between London Midland, Network Rail and Centro caused delay to the opening of the entrance by over a year.[24] The former tram terminus platform is being returned to use for mainline trains as a fourth platform.[citation needed]

Station Cat Memorial[edit]

Station Cat Memorial tile

In remembrance of a cat kept at the station before its closure, a memorial tile was installed during the works for the reopening. During later refurbishment works in 2014 care was taken that the tile would stay in situ.[25][26]


The station is managed by West Midlands Trains and services are provided by West Midlands Trains and Chiltern Railways. There is a small set of sidings at the Hockley end of the station, which can be reached from Platform 1 only. All platforms can be used in either direction; generally platforms 1 or 2 are used for trains heading north, platform 2 is used for trains terminating at the station and platform 3 is used for trains going south. Midland Metro currently uses two small platforms numbered 4 and 5, which are terminating platforms.

Occasional steam-hauled special trains use the station.

Chiltern Railways[edit]

Snow Hill is served by regular Chiltern services to and from London Marylebone. Some Chiltern services continue beyond Birmingham to Kidderminster. The Chiltern service is:[27]

West Midlands Railway[edit]

Local services from Snow Hill, like most local services in the West Midlands, are supported by Transport for West Midlands. They are operated by West Midlands Trains using the West Midlands Railway brand. There are six West Midlands Railway trains per hour (tph) passing through Snow Hill in each direction, running as follows:[28]


of which one continues to Stratford-upon-Avon
of which one continues to Stratford-upon-Avon
some peak hour West Midlands Railway services continue from Dorridge to Leamington Spa


of which four continue to Kidderminster:
of which two continue to Worcester Foregate Street
(services beyond Worcester, to Malvern and Hereford are irregular, generally about one per hour)
Preceding station National Rail National Rail Following station
Jewellery Quarter   West Midlands Railway
Snow Hill Lines
  Birmingham Moor Street
Terminus   Chiltern Railways
  Birmingham Moor Street
Jewellery Quarter    
Heritage Railways  Heritage railways
Terminus   Vintage Trains
The Shakespeare Express
  Birmingham Moor Street
Disused railways
Hockley   Great Western Railway & BR
Various Routes (1854–1972)

Tram stops[edit]

Former terminus[edit]

From 1999 until 2015, Snow Hill was the terminus of the Midland Metro Line 1 from Wolverhampton. Opening on 31 May 1999, it occupied the space previously used by platform 4 of the main line station. The stop had two platforms, and was approached by a short section of single track.[29]

The Snow Hill terminus was officially closed on 24 October 2015, and the approach line disconnected, in order to allow the new extension into Birmingham City Centre to be connected to the existing line. It is therefore the only Midland Metro stop so far to have been permanently closed. Trams terminated at St Paul's[30] until the first part of the extension was brought into service as far as Bull Street on 6 December 2015.[31]

Current through stop[edit]

As part of the extension, a new through Snow Hill stop at a different location opened outside the station and further west, on the existing viaduct near the Livery Street entrance.[32] Funding for this was confirmed in the October 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review.[33][34] A new viaduct was built alongside the station as part of the Snowhill development to carry the tram lines into the city centre.[32] This allows platform 4 to be returned to main line use in the future.[35]

The new Snow Hill through stop was opened on 2 June 2016, two days after the full opening of the city-centre extension to New Street. However, the necessary works to allow passenger access to the stop from the street or adjacent railway station have not yet been completed, meaning passengers can only access the stop via walking alongside the tracks from the city-centre.[36]

In January 2017, the stop was renamed St Chads as the name Snow Hill was misleading for passengers using the mainline station due to the new stop's location and the closer proximity of Bull Street stop to the mainline station. The stop is now advertised as an alternate interchange to the mainline station with Bull Street being the main interchange.[37][38][39]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Birmingham Snow Hill Station - A brief overview". Warwickshire Railways. Retrieved 9 February 2013.
  2. ^ "Samuel Carter". Dictionary of Unitarian and Universalist Biography. Retrieved 20 March 2018.
  3. ^ "Photograph of 1871 station -". Retrieved 9 February 2013.
  4. ^ Boynton 2001, pp. 10-12.
  5. ^ Boynton 2001, p. 20.
  6. ^ Boynton 2001, p. 21.
  7. ^ Boynton 2001.
  8. ^ a b Christiansen, Rex (1983). A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain, Volume 7 The West Midlands. David St John Thomas David and Charles. ISBN 0946537 00 3.
  9. ^ "Great Western railcars". The Great Western Archive. Retrieved 14 January 2017.
  10. ^ a b Boynton, John (1994). Shakespeare's Railways. Mid England Books. ISBN 0-9522248-1-X.
  11. ^ Boynton 2001, pp. 49-59.
  12. ^ " - gwrbsh1151". Retrieved 14 February 2013.
  13. ^ a b c Boynton 2001, p. 66.
  14. ^ Birmingham Snow Hill Station 31 December 1974 –
  15. ^ Doherty, Andy. "Gangsters – BBC Television Series". Retrieved 14 February 2013.
  16. ^ "Railway Hotels". Railway Britain. Retrieved 14 February 2013.
  17. ^
  18. ^ "Snow Hill Station 1852–1972 : 1987 - Present". Rail Around Birmingham. Retrieved 13 February 2013.
  19. ^ "Moor Street Station 1909 - Present". Rail Around Birmingham. Retrieved 10 March 2013.
  20. ^ "The History of Network SouthEast. Year by Year Jan 1993 - Dec 1993". Network SouthEast Railway Society. Archived from the original on 3 November 2013. Retrieved 9 February 2013.
  21. ^ Boynton 2001, p. 70.
  22. ^ "Those Were the Days" (PDF). Stourbridge Line User Group. Retrieved 9 February 2013.
  23. ^ Samuel, A. (31 March 2011). "New rail station entrance boosts access to Birmingham". Archived from the original on 20 March 2012. Retrieved 31 March 2011.
  24. ^ a b "Legal wrangle delays opening of new £17m Snow Hill station entrance". Birmingham Post. 10 September 2010.
  25. ^ Prangle, Brian (24 December 2014). "Mysterious Objects: No 6 in an occasional series". Mappa Mercia. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  26. ^ Prangle, Brian (24 December 2014). "Musings on tag historic=memorial". Mappa Mercia. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  27. ^ Table 115 National Rail timetable, May 2016
  28. ^ Table 71 National Rail timetable, May 2016
  29. ^ "Midland Metro : Tram Stops : Birmingham, Snow Hill". The Trams. Retrieved 13 February 2013.
  30. ^ "Midland Metro says farewell to Snow Hill terminus". British Trams Online. Retrieved 11 November 2015.
  31. ^ "Extensions open in Birmingham and Manchester". British Trams Online. Retrieved 9 December 2015.
  32. ^ a b "Tramway expansion for Birmingham Metro" (PDF). Railway Herald (216). 22 March 2010. p. 5. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 October 2011. Retrieved 31 March 2010.
  33. ^ "Comprehensive spending review backs light rail". Railway Gazette International. London. 29 October 2010.
  34. ^ "Spending Review backs Midland Metro and New Street plan". BBC News. 20 October 2010. Retrieved 28 October 2010.
  35. ^ Plisner, Peter. "Metro takes centre stage". Railpro. Archived from the original on 8 August 2014. Retrieved 14 February 2013.
  36. ^ "In Pictures: Snow Hill opens to the public". British Trams Online. Retrieved 3 June 2016.
  37. ^ Snow Hill tram stop to be renamed to St Chads from January 2017 National Express Midland Metro 23 December 2016
  38. ^ New year rings in name change for Midland Metro's Snow Hill stop Transport for West Midlands 3 January 2017
  39. ^ Why Snow Hill Midland Metro stop is getting a new name Birmingham Mail 4 January 2017


  • Boynton, John (2001). Main Line to Metro: Train and tram on the Great Western route: Birmingham Snow Hill – Wolverhampton. Kidderminster: Mid England Books. ISBN 978-0-9522248-9-1.
  • Harrison, Derek (1978). Salute to Snow Hill: The Rise and Fall of Birmingham's Snow Hill Railway Station 1852–1977. Birmingham: Barbryn Press. ISBN 978-0-906160-00-8.
  • Birmingham Snow Hill - A Great Station : Ian Baxter and Richard Harper (Published by the authors in conjunction with Kidderminster Railway Museum) : 2002 ISBN 0 9534775 1 7

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]