The Darlaston Family Web Pages

This Web Page is Railways 1(Last revised 16th March 2008)



N.B.  Photographs may take a while to download!

All photographs © Robert Darlaston



Welcome to my Railway Pages

There are six separate pages each with a selection of my railway photographs from 1953 – 1968, years when the steam scenes inherited from the pre-nationalization past were being swept away by the Modernisation Plan.   I was in school until summer 1959 so, sadly, there were many missed opportunities caused by shortage of pocket money, but I hope that those scenes which I was able to record will be of interest to others.



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A. B.R. souvenir which cost me ten shillings in 1965!








1.  Train Spotting in 1953 – an afternoon at Birmingham Snow Hill. (photos of Snow Hill and Lapworth 1954-62 with locos 2516, 5165, 6000/1/2/15/21 and 6907)

2.  Three West Midlands Branch Lines in the 1950s. (Bromyard with loco 3607 and Railcar 6, Much Wenlock with 3732 and Tenbury Wells with 1456)

3.  South Wales glimpses from the 1950s. (346, 373 and 6411 at Pontypridd, 390 at Bridgend, 5044 and 7018 at Llantrisant, 1471 on the Ely Valley line, 3700,7216 and 8436 at Risca, 5545 in the Ogmore Valley, 70023 at Newport, 5208 at Gilfach Goch, 365 and 4121 in the Afan Valley;  the Swansea & Mumbles electric railway.



My other railway pages can be accessed by clicking on the links below:

Railways50yr.htm  (A selection of photos from the 1950s:  West Midlands, Wales, and a few Southern scenes;  the last Slip Coach)

Railways2.htm  (Brecon and Mid-Wales;  the Somerset & Dorset,  GWR and LSWR lines in Somerset, Devon and Cornwall:  1957-62)

Railways3.htm  (the Scottish Highlands, 1959 and 1961, also the Isle of Man in 1965)

Railways4.htm  (Birmingham area LMR;   Boston, Peterborough, Lincoln;  GWR lines in North Wales;  a few shots on the Southern:  all 1961-1963)

Railways5.htm  (the decline of steam;  Southampton, Birmingham GW, North Wales, Stroud Valley and Manchester Victoria:  1964 -68)

Trams.htm          (the last days of Birmingham’s tram system:  scenes  on the Erdington and Short Heath routes in June 1953;  plus a selection of British postcards from 1900-1914)

Tyseley.htm        (Birmingham Moor St station and Tyseley loco depot from the 1950s to 2010)

If our Home Page is not listed to the left of this page, it may be accessed here:






1.   Train Spotting in 1953

An Afternoon at Birmingham Snow Hill




Nostalgic souvenir from Summer 1953:  my first Ian Allan “abc”.

 In later versions there was rather more underlining, especially of the 51xx series, many of which were allocated to Tyseley and other Birmingham area depots for suburban locals.


Notice that 5070, 5163 and 5191 are marked with the orangy-red ball point which I used on my first train spotting expedition.   In later weeks I used the pinky-red ball point to mark off 5101, 5151, 5180 and 5197.   On other occasions my school Platignum fountain pen with blue-black ink was evidently pressed into service!   5189 was worthy of note as it still wore its green GWR livery.



        As a child I had been devoted to trams.   For the first thirteen years of my life I was a regular user of Birmingham’s 3’6” gauge tram system, travelling on them to school from 1947 to 1952.   Their demise in June 1953 was something of a wrench, but gave me the impetus to broaden my horizons to trains.  Thus, on a Tuesday in June 1953, a school half day when I was not required for games, I purchased an Ian Allan Locomotive “abc” for two shillings and paid the first of many visits to Snow Hill station.   By remarkable good fortune that “abc” still survives.   The locomotives I saw on that occasion were duly recorded using an idiosyncratic red ball point pen which saw no subsequent use, so it is still possible to identify the day’s ‘catch’ and to deduce which trains they are likely to have worked.


          I remember arriving just in time to see blue-liveried number 6004 King George III departing at 1.42 pm with the 11.10 Paddington to Birkenhead.   The other London train seen that afternoon was the three o’clock to Paddington (11.45 from Birkenhead) with Castle class loco number 5070 Sir Daniel Gooch.   Cross country expresses included the Bournemouth to Birkenhead at 2.26, the Margate to Birkenhead at 3.27, an arrival from Swansea at 2.5 and departures to Swansea at 3.45 and to Hereford at 3.50.   There was also a heavy parcels train from Shrewsbury to Paddington which monopolised platform 12 for about half an hour.   These trains produced numbers 5929 Hanham Hall (based at Swansea), 5935 Norton Hall, 6938 Corndean Hall, 7902 Eaton Mascot Hall, and 7912 Little Linford Hall.   5935 and 7902 were allocated to Didcot and Old Oak Common and were probably on the trains from the south coast.   6938 and 7912 were both based at Tyseley.   In between the expresses there was a regular flow of local trains to and from the Leamington Spa, Wolverhampton and Kidderminster lines.   These were handled by 2-6-2T locos numbers 4171, 4175, 5163, and 5191.   One of the Kidderminster trains ran on to Hartlebury and had number 4578.   Heavy freight trains also passed through Snow Hill, but on this afternoon there sems to have been only one such working, with 2-8-0 number 3855.   There were, however, additional freight workings, transferring wagons between goods depots north of the city and Bordesley to the south of Snow Hill.  These employed pannier tank locomotives 3660, 7449, 8726 and 9428.   In addition to the steam locos, there was also GWR streamlined diesel railcar number 14 which shuttled between Snow Hill and Dudley.  


          On this occasion I left Snow Hill shortly before four o’clock, thus just missing sight of the 4.0 pm to Paddington which came from Shrewsbury.   (In later years it became the Cambrian Coast Express from Aberystwyth and Pwllheli:  a ‘must’ for the dedicated observer, so I soon learned not to set off home quite so early).   A couple of hours watching trains gave a thirteen-year-old an insight into the slick operation of a busy enterprise and provided the enjoyable spectacle of a variety of steam trains.   As boys we monopolised the extreme north ends of either platform 6 or 8, which were lengthy continuations of platforms 5 and 7, being the main down and up platforms respectively.   Snow Hill lies on a summit, approached by steep gradients from each direction.   This was ideal for fast passenger trains as the gradient helped to slow them as they approached the platform and to accelerate them when starting, but it was an obstacle for heavy freight trains which slogged laboriously into the station at no more than 15 m.p.h.   Often freights would be under adverse signals as they would need to wait on the through lines for several minutes to allow priority to passenger trains.   Perhaps the most spectacular sight was some years later, when I saw 6823 Oakley Grange struggling to lift 20 carriages of empty stock through the station.  


Here are some scenes at Snow Hill in the 1950s and early 1960s:



The one with the bell:– a souvenir of its trip to the USA in 1927:

6000 King George V at platform 6 with the Inter-City from Paddington in September 1954


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GWR Ancient & Modern:  2516, built in 1897, leaving platform 3 with an excursion to Ditton Priors in May 1955

and GWR diesel railcar 20, built in 1940, at platform 5 with a service from Gloucester via Broadway in August 1953



5165 waits at platform 4 on a June evening in 1957 with a local for Stourbridge Junction



6907 Davenham Hall at platform 2 with the five o’clock to Cardiff General via Hereford on 5th June 1958.

The 5.5. to Kidderminster can be seen at platform 3.



6021 King Richard II arriving at platform 7 with the three o’clock to Paddington on 28th October 1961

Note the spacious platform layout, unrivalled elsewhere.

The clock shows that the train was a few minutes late.   It had been held outside the station while a parcels van was removed from the rear of the preceding local train to be transferred to the rear of the London train.



With burnished brass and copper catching the light, 6021 sets off into Snow Hill tunnel with the train shown above




Not at Snow Hill, but here are three Kings seen at speed with Birmingham trains near Lapworth in Warwickshire:


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6001 King Edward VII speeds through the snow in January 1962           An anonymous King by the Stratford canal reservoir with a down train



6002 King William IV approaches Lapworth at over 80 mph with the twelve o’clock from Snow Hill in September 1961



Back at the north end of Snow Hill, seen from the spotters’ vantage point at the extreme end of platform 6, 6015 King Richard III arrives with the three o’clock to London (the 11.40 from Birkenhead) on 25th June 1960. 



Memories of Snow Hill:







Pocket time table of the Western Region’s Birmingham area local services for Winter 1955-56.


Rush Hour at Snow Hill:  Winter 1955-56  -  all done by steam!



The 5 o’clock and 6 o’clock London trains (which took 24 minutes for the 23.3 miles to Leamington Spa) and also the 5.50 Fridays-only were usually Castle-hauled.    The 5.20 from Snow Hill (an Oxford train) and the 5.45 to Stratford-upon-Avon would generally have a Hall.   All the other trains would have been pulled by Great Western 51xx 2-6-2 tank locos.   With four tracks all the way to Lapworth, it was easy to provide a mix of fast and slow trains.  Sometimes two trains were booked to depart from a station simultaneously, leading to “races” between parallel trains!

It will be seen that between 5 and 6 pm Solihull had six departures from Birmingham (one non-stop) taking 12-23 minutes, while Shirley had four departures (one non-stop from Bordesley) taking 15-23 minutes.   In 2014 Solihull has seven departures in that period (two non-stop) taking 8-16 minutes, while Shirley still has four departures taking 15-18 minutes.   Stratford was 49-64 minutes away in 1955:  in 2014 trains take 43-53 minutes.    Leamington has lost out:  in place of non-stop trains taking 24 minutes it now takes at least 32 minutes with three intermediate stops.   Snow Hill to London took 2hr 15 min in 1955 with two stops:  in 2014 the journey with four stops takes around 1hr 49min.  






2.   Three West Midland Branch Lines in the 1950s


The West Midlands area was rich in attractive branch lines, several of which could be reached easily from Birmingham.   A favourite for an afternoon trip was the Bromyard branch from Worcester.   By the mid-fifties a train ran from Worcester a little earlier than the 4.30 shown in the timetable below, enabling one to return by the 5 p.m from Bromyard.   One travelled out through the Herefordshire hop fields in the company of shoppers returning from Worcester, but the train back from Bromyard would be almost empty.   This working was usually a G.W.R. diesel railcar, but the next train at 5.40 from Worcester would be steam-hauled, comprising three carriages, well filled with shop- and office workers.   The trip could be managed on a school half-day, catching the 1.55 p.m. from New Street to Worcester via Bromsgrove, returning by the same route to reach Birmingham at 6.55 p.m.


          Another afternoon trip was that to Much Wenlock.   The 1.15 p.m. from Snow Hill reached Wellington at 2.6 with an hour to spare before catching the 3.10 to Much Wenlock.   Telford New Town was then unthought of, and the train wandered through a strange mixture of Shropshire countryside and Industrial Revolution archaeology, passing Coalbrookdale and crossing the Severn Valley line at Buildwas, before the final wooded climb to the attractive town of Much Wenlock.   A curious feature of the line was the number of halts situated within half a mile or so of each other.  There was time for a stroll in the town before catching the 4.40 back, and changing at Wellington to a local reaching Snow Hill at 6.49 p.m.


          The Bewdley – Tenbury Wells – Woofferton line was arguably the most attractive.   From Bewdley one crossed the Severn and immediately plunged into Wyre Forest.  There were few passengers in this rural landscape, but at stations such as Neen Sollars fruit would be put on board on the return journey, en route to the markets of Birmingham.    Cleobury Mortimer was the isolated junction for the light railway to Ditton Priors.    Services on this line were a little more sparse than those to Bromyard or Much Wenlock, but on a summer’s evening an attractive trip could be made by the 5.40 pm Snow Hill – Cardiff train, changing at Kidderminster for the GWR railcar to Woofferton, getting back to Snow Hill at 9.30.   An alternative was to take a day trip to Ludlow, as I did on the “free” day granted after my ‘A’ levels finished:  the outward trip was in glorious sunshine, but the entire return journey was in a thunderstorm.   One changed at Kidderminster and Woofferton on the way out in the morning, but on the return in the late afternoon there was an auto train which ran Ludlow – Woofferton – Tenbury – Woofferton – Leominster, so that the change to the railcar was made at Tenbury with a further change at Bewdley for the local to Birmingham.





The Worcester – Bromyard branch:



Time table from Summer 1953:  trains marked X were worked by GWR diesel railcars





GWR streamlined diesel railcar 6 (built in 1935) at Bromyard after arrival from Worcester on 9th September 1956




3607 at Bromyard on a wet 24th February 1958 with a train from Worcester, returning school children and shoppers home





The Wellington – Much Wenlock branch


Summer timetable, 1953



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Greenbank Halt, seen from the branch train in June 1957.



3732 with a Wellington train in the rain at Much Wenlock on 29th June 1957





The KidderminsterBewdleyTenbury Wells – Woofferton line





  Summer 1953 time table




Woofferton, on the ShrewsburyHereford line, with GWR railcar number 26 after arrival with the 11.0 from Kidderminster on 3rd July 1958




Tenbury Wells with the LudlowLeominster auto train on 3rd July 1958

This train ran down the main line from Ludlow to Woofferton, then detoured up the branch as far as Tenbury Wells, before returning to Woofferton to resume its journey down the main line to Leominster.   One wonders if LudlowLeominster passengers were tipped out at Woofferton for twenty minutes to await the train’s retun before resuming their journey, or whether they were allowed a free ride from Woofferton to Tenbury and back!







3.   South Wales in the 1950s


Visits to my grandparents in Glamorganshire gave me glimpses of some of the lines which carried coal down the valleys either to the docks or to the main line to England.



Glimpses of the Taff Vale Railway:


Ex-Taff Vale Railway ‘A’ class 0-6-2T no. 346 takes a train to Treherbert out of Pontypridd in April 1954

Until the arrival of the 82xxx 2-6-2Ts later in 1954 Taff Vale and Rhymney Railway 0-6-2Ts were widely used on passenger workings.


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Another ex-Taff Vale Railway loco, no 390 with original round-topped side tanks, waits at Bridgend with a Vale of Glamorgan line train to Barry in April 1956

GWR 6411 takes water at the south end of Pontypridd with a local for Caerphilly and Newport in August 1954.  The carriage at the left is a former Rhymney Railway saloon, still fitted with reversible wooden seats.



Taff Vale Swansong:  No. 373, the last surviving Taff Vale Railway locomotive, shunting at the north end of Pontypridd station on 8th August 1957.   This engine, which had been built in 1919, was taken out of service later in the same month.   A train of empty coal wagons can be seen on its way up the Rhondda line, and the Merthyr Tydfil line diverges to the right.




Llantrisant and the Ely Valley line:



5044  Earl of Dunraven approaches Llantrisant with a Paddington – Swansea train in August 1959



7018 Drysllwyn Castle enters Llantrisant with the 12.40 Carmarthen - Gloucester semi-fast train in August 1955.

7018, which had been built in 1949, had a poor reputation amongst drivers and was thus chosen as the first Castle to be fitted with a double chimney, being so equipped in April 1958.



1471 waits at Llantrisant for a connection from Cardiff with the Ely Valley branch train for Penygraig in August 1953.

The saloon carriage is a former steam railmotor built about 1908 and converted into an auto trailer about 1934.


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Two scenes on the Ely Valley branch:

1471 hurries the 4.55 pm LlantrisantPenygraig through the gathering gloom near Ynysmaerdy on 9th Sept 1957.

1471 at Coed Ely, propelling the auto train from Penygraig to Llantrisant in April 1956.



Rhondda roofscape:  1471 reverses its train at Penygraig before returning to Llantrisant.

The line continued to collieries at Clydach Vale.

The course of the line is now occupied by the A4119 road.



More scenes in South Wales


Right:  8436 arrives at Risca with the 4.10 pm Brynmawr – Newport on 8th August 1957.  

The line to the left ran to the Sirhowy Valley:  it was owned by the GWR as far as Nine Mile Point.  Beyond, the line was owned by the L&NWR and ran via Ynysddu and Tredegar to Nantybwch where it joined the Merthyr to Abergavenny line.

The Newport to Brynmawr and Ebbw Vale lines closed to passengers in 1962 but reopened between Newport and Ebbw Vale in February 2008.



2-8-2T 7216 takes a load of iron ore for Ebbw Vale steelworks through Risca, while 3700 waits with the 3.35pm to Nantybwch in August 1959.



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Cousin David awaits the arrival of 2-6-2T 5545 at Blackmill with a Bridgend – Nantymoel train in April 1958

The same train seen after arrival at Nantymoel.



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B.R. Britannia class 4-6-2 70023 Venus at Newport with the down South Wales Pullman for Swansea on 23rd March 1956

GWR 2-8-0 no. 5208 at Gilfach Goch with the Llantrisant breakdown train, rescuing runaway coal wagons from Britannic colliery on 7th August 1955






In the Afan Valley:


An 0-6-2T takes the 11.25 am Bridgend – Abergwynfi train up the Afan Valley above Cymmer Afan on 18th May 1959

The Rhondda and Swansea Bay line is in the background, emerging from the short Gelli Tunnel.



Ex-Taff Vale Railway ‘A’ class 0-6-2T no. 365 climbs at about 15 mph up the 1 in 42 towards Blaengwynfi with a crowded return excursion from Aberavon Seaside to Treherbert and Pontypridd on August Bank Holiday Monday, 1955.

This locomotive was derailed less than a mile away on 18th April 1946, falling from Croes Erw viaduct into the River Afan 100 feet below, while working a TreherbertDuffryn Rhondda miners’ train.   Apart from the driver, who suffered a broken leg, no one was injured and 365 returned to service for another ten years, surviving until October 1955.   The train in the picture is almost certainly an excessive load for the loco.   The Taff Vale ‘A’ class were permitted a maximum load of 168 tons, equivalent to five loaded carriages, up the steeply graded Aberavon to Treherbert line.   The six crowded carriages would have constituted a load of almost 190 tons



GWR 2-6-2T no 4121 takes the 3.54 Bridgend – Blaengwynfi across the River Afan on 5th August 1961




Glamorganshire tickets:

Single, pre-1920; issued 24th August 1953

Single, pre-1937, issued 5th April 1958

Single, war-time printing, issued 6th August 1962

Single, war-time printing, issued 7th April 1958





Swansea Bay electric:


A train on the independent Swansea & Mumbles Railway pauses in the rain at Southend en route to Mumbles Pier on 10th September 1957.

This attractive and historic line (it opened in 1803 with horse-power) offered a delightful ride as it followed the curve of Swansea Bay.  It closed in 1960.





My other railway pages can be accessed by clicking on the links below:

Railways50yr.htm  (A selection of scenes from the 1950s)

Railways2.htm  (Brecon and -Mid-Wales;  the Somerset & Dorset line,  GWR and LSWR lines in Somerset, Devon and Cornwall:  all 1957-1962)

Railways3.htm  (the Scottish Highlands, 1959 and 1961;  also the Isle of Man in 1965)

Railways4.htm  (Birmingham area LMR;  glimpses of Boston, Peterborough, and Lincoln;  GWR lines in North Wales;  a few shots on the Southern:  all 1961-1963)

Railways5.htm  (the decline of steam, including the Southampton line, Birmingham GW, North Wales, Stroud Valley and Manchester Victoria:  1964 -1968)

Trams.htm          (the last days of Birmingham’s narrow gauge tram system:  scenes  on the Erdington and Short Heath routes in June 1953;  plus some historic postcards)

Tyseley.htm        (Birmingham Moor St station and Tyseley loco depot from the 1950s to 2010)




If our Home Page is not listed to the left of this page, it may be accessed here:



My e-mail address is robertdarlaston@btopenworld[dot]com.   If copying that address replace [dot] with a conventional full stop.





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