|Harborne Branch Line|
The line was first authorised in 1866, and was a proposed single line to connect Soho on the Great Western Railway Birmingham to Wolverhampton route with Lapal, on a proposed line from Halesowen to Bromsgrove, with a connection to the London and North Western Railway (LNWR) near Monument Lane. However, objections from landowners prevented most of the line from being built, and in the end only 2 1⁄2 miles (4.0 km) built, from Monument Lane to Harborne. It took five years to build, but finally opened to passengers on 10 August 1874 and goods on the first of October.
There were three intermediate stations, at Icknield Port Road, Rotton Park Road and Hagley Road. The section immediately after the main line crossed the Birmingham Main Line canal, which ran in a deep cutting. Today, only the bridge pillars remain of the steel girder bridge. The line climbed at 1 in 66 to Hagley Rd, with a break of 1 in 224 through Rotton Park Rd station, and then descended to Harborne at 1 in 66, crossing the Chad Valley on a high bank.
The line was independently owned, but was operated from the start by the LNWR, who took 50% of the gross receipts from both passenger and freight traffic. It was a single line throughout, worked by the "one engine in steam" system, with six trains each way on weekdays, taking 25 minutes from Birmingham. "Staff and ticket" working began in 1882, superseded by "electric token" working in 1892. With the continuing growth in traffic, a passing loop was installed at Rotton Park Road in 1903.
The line was an early example of a commuter route, and highly successful at first, though there were problems recovering the investment. In 1879 the receiver was called in and the line remained under his control for another 21 years.
Nevertheless, at its peak in 1914 there were 27 return passenger workings a day, running from 5:35AM until 11:15PM. The journey time from Birmingham New Street to Harborne was about 16 minutes. The trains were usually hauled by Webb 2-4-2T and LNWR 0-6-2T LNWR Webb Coal Tanks.
In 1923, the Harborne Railway, together with its operators the LNWR, became part of the London Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) at the grouping. The line began to suffer competition with buses, and as trains were frequently delayed due to congestion of routes into Birmingham New Street, passenger numbers fell. Icknield Port Road station closed in 1931, and the other stations closed to passengers on 26 November 1934. An SLS special train ran on 3 June 1950. Another SLS special ran in 1959, hauled by two Midland 2Fs.
The line remained opened to freight, however, reverting to "one engine in steam" and serving businesses in Harborne, and Mitchells and Butlers' Cape Hill brewery. After the war, most trains were hauled by Midland 2Fs and LMS Ivatt Class 2 2-6-0s. This traffic also succumbed eventually to road transport, and the line closed completely on 4 November 1963, when the line was completely closed and lifted. An SLS special, also hauled by two LMS Ivatt class 2 2-6-0s, ran on 2 November 1963. Part of the route has been converted into a footpath, the Harborne Walkway, which opened in 1981. The former railway bridge spanning Park Hill Road was preserved and renovated in 1994, forming a new entrance to the Harborne Walkway.
(Links to map resources)
|OS Grid Ref||Notes|
|Junction with main line||Harborne Junction Stour Valley Line|
|Canal bridge||BCN Main Line|
|Icknield Port Road station|
|Rotton Park Road station|
|Hagley Road station|
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The bridge that carried the railway over Park Hill road has survived, and now forms the start of the walkway. Most of the bridges that carried roads over the line (e.g. Woodbourne road, Hagley road) have also survived. Discarded sleepers can be found alongside the walkway. Although none of the stations survive, the name plate from Harborne signal box does, and can be found in Harborne library.
After Harborne station closed, the site was cleared and redeveloped. Frensham Way was built on the site, and now there are no relics that suggest the site was once a railway station. The only hints to the site's previous use are "Station Road", and a housing development called "The Sidings",which was built recently on the site of the old turntable.
Unlike Harborne station, the site of Hagley Road station wasn't redeveloped. The station buildings were demolished, but some bricks from the station can be found in the undergrowth,and the site of the goods yard is still there, but it is overgrown. A row of cottages still face the line.
Rotton Park Road's buildings were cleared as early as 1934. When the island platform was demolished in that year, a mound was left. Although overgrown, it can still be seen today. A concrete support that used to support the wooden footbridge can be seen at the site of the station
Today, there are no clues to a station's existence at Icknield Port Road. The cutting where the station was located was filled in circa 2008. Until then it was possible to walk under Icknield Port Poad through the old bridge. It was also possible to see the retaining wall that bordered the path from the road to the platform. Icknield Port Road station closed in 1931, a few years before the other stations. The line from here to the junction with the Stour Valley line used to run in a cutting, which has been filled in. The girder bridge that carried the line over the Stour Valley canal was removed, but the brick supports survive.
- Railway Magazine October 1950 p. 652
- Preston Hendry, R., Powell Hendry, R., (1982) An historical survey of selected LMS stations: layouts and illustrations. Vol. 2 Oxford Publishing
- "When Harborne track reached end of the line". Forward. 2007-06-27.
- Christiansen, Rex. Forgotten Railways volume 10: West Midlands. David & Charles. ISBN 0-946537-01-1.
- Christiansen, Rex. A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain volume 7:The West Midlands. David & Charles. ISBN 0-946537-58-5.
- "Harborne Station Entry in railaroundbirmingham.co.uk". Retrieved 2007-05-06.
- The Railways of Warwickshire: Birmingham New Street to Harborne
- Harborne Railway History from Birmingham Council website