Supplement to e-BLN 1250 BLN Pictorial 6 February 2016
BLN Pictorial moves to the 'cradle of industry' for this issue - not your Sub-editor's words but a phrase often used in describing that part of East Shropshire
surrounding the Ironbridge Gorge. The recent cessation of traffic on what is known (dubiously, since it never went there) as the Ironbridge Branch, due to
the closure of Ironbridge Power Station, has been the subject of several items in recent BLNs, as has the location of the temporary platform briefly used by
BR excursions in the 1980s and 90s. Since your Sub-editor lives within a mere 208 chains of the nearest of the power station's supposedly "iconic" cooling
towers (nowadays, what isn't?), it didn't take too much persuasion from the Editor to get a BLN Pictorial underway. Particular thanks are due to our
member David Bickell who kindly agreed to the use of his photos of the BR excursions on the branch. Those not attributed were taken by your Sub-editor.
Strictly speaking today's (or at least 2015's) Ironbridge Branch is a tale of two, or even three branch lines. The third, the Severn Valley line, is the one which
actually served the town of Ironbridge - it passed through what is now the power station site and some of the power station's internal lines are on its
alignment. The railway history of the area is complicated, and for the moment, a quick summary must suffice, or 'pictorial' will become a misnomer. If you
aren't familiar with the area, it's well worth having to hand Martyn Brailsford's excellent map, included in BLN 1248 (item 90).
The first line to become part of today's branch was the eastern 'arm' of the Wellington & Severn Junction Railway (WSJR). The western 'arm' of the WSJR
ran from Ketley Junction, on the Shrewsbury and Birmingham Railway (SBR) between Oakengates and Wellington, to Lightmoor, and the eastern 'arm' from
Lightmoor Junction to Madeley Junction, again on the SBR and located between Oakengates and Shifnal. Ketley Jn to Horsehay OG in May 1858 and OP 2
May 1859 along with Horsehay-Lightmoor and Lightmoor Jn-Madeley Jn. It is the eastern 'arm' from Madeley Jn to Lightmoor Jn which has survived to
serve the power station. Ketley Jn-Much Wenlock CP 21 July 1962, Ketley Jn-Horsehay CG 6 July 1964 after which Horsehay was served from the Lightmoor
direction until 30 April 1979. A short section between Lawley and Horsehay has reopened as the Telford Steam Railway (TSR). Madeley Jn-Lightmoor Jn CP
22 March 1915, ROP (Saturdays only) for a brief experimental period 13 July 1925 - 21 September 1925. Some pictures of the Ketley Jn-Lightmoor Jn
section are included at the end because of its involvement in the early part of the story, and possibly in a new future for the line south of Lightmoor Jn.
The remainder of the modern day Ironbridge Branch arrived with the simultaneous opening of the Wenlock Railway's No 1 Extension between Buildwas and
Coalbrookdale, and the Great Western's Lightmoor Extension between Lightmoor and Coalbrookdale, on 1 November 1864. CP 21 July 1962 as noted
above, both these sections remained in use for freight until the power station closure, and technically still do. The Severn Valley Railway, OA 1 February
1862, CP 9 September 1963, CG Buildwas East Jn-Alveley Colliery Sidings and Buildwas-Shrewsbury (Shropshire & Montgomeryshire Ground Frame) 2
December 1963, met the Wenlock Railway at Buildwas Junction, now part of the power station site.
Next page : map showing the Ironbridge Branch and the route of the WSJR Ketley Jn-Lightmoor Jn line in the context of present day Telford.
Ketley Jn Oakengates
Ketley Town Halt
Key New Dale Halt Telford Central
Open sta�ons Lawley Bank
Closed sta�ons and halts
Telford Steam Railway Spring Village Horsehay &Dawley
Temporary BR sta�on (TSR)
Closed former W&SJR
Borough of Telford
& Wrekin boundary
Junc�ons and other features
Street map © OpenStreetMap
Green Bank Halt Madeley (Salop)
Telford Coalbrookdale /
Albert Edward Bridge
The branch starts at Madeley Junction, 2 miles west of Shifnal on the Wolverhampton-Shrewsbury line (former Shrewsbury & Birmingham, then GWR).
Once in open country, it is now in the Stafford Park industrial area of Telford. The GWR Madeley Junction signal box here was on the Up side nearer to
the road bridge, but in the 1970s a new signal box was built in between the main line and the branch. That in turn was closed and demolished in
November 2012 when control was transferred to West Midlands Signalling Centre in Saltley, Birmingham.
Below : the final Madeley Junction signal box on 3 July 2008, looking Below : in the afternoon of 18 November 2015, two days before the
west towards Shrewsbury. The older GWR box was to the right, just power station stopped generating, 66760 makes its way off the branch
beyond the yellow 156¼ mile post. The line straight ahead goes to having left a set of biomass wagons at Ironbridge as contingency cover for
Wellington and Shrewsbury; the branch diverges to the left through a the final hours.
passing loop. The siding in the left foreground was used to reverse
westbound trains from the power station, and in the 1970s, occasional
workings from Wellington Queen Street yard to Horsehay. (Mike White
[CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons)
Next page : On 10 January 2015, 67026 heads the UK Railtours 'Shropshire
Union' tour, with 60079 at the rear, through the site of Madeley (Salop)
GWR station. There was a passing loop here, and to the right a long siding
curved away and down to a wharf on the Shropshire Canal and interchange
with tramways serving Madeley Court colliery and iron works. Kemberton
Colliery was a short distance behind the rear of the train.
Previous page : On 9 April 2014 66724 approaches the site of Madeley (Salop) with biomass empties from Ironbridge Power Station. The loco is passing
between the abutments of the bridge which carried the LNWR Coalport branch, originating at Hadley Jn on the Wellington-Stafford line and running via
Oakengates Market Street, Malinslee, Dawley & Stirchley, and Madeley Market to Coalport. Coalport station was located by 'the other iron bridge',
Coalport Bridge, built in 1818, some 39 years after its more famous neighbour. The abutment which can be seen is the Wellington side; the Coalport
direction is to the left of the picture.
At the next landmark, Lightmoor Junction, we reach the point where the line from Ketley Junction converged with the line from Madeley Junction, and we
join the first of our member David Bickell's two journeys on the BR Sunday shuttle service from Wolverhampton to Coalbrookdale. Below left : David's first
journey was on 12 August 1979, when the DMU clad in all-over Rail Blue is seen approaching Lightmoor Junction, with the line from Wellington coming in
on the right. The points are set to the right, so that the DMU can reach the Up line on which it will run 'wrong line' to the temporary platform at
Coalbrookdale. To the right the former goods yard is heavily overgrown but still boasts one forlorn lamp standard. (David Bickell). Just as in the early days
of the WSJR and its passenger service, at the time of this picture the very occasional trains to and from AB Cranes at Horsehay, formerly Adamson Alliance
and from 1755, the Horsehay Company, had to reverse here. The signal box, rebuilt in 1951, closed on 23 October 2006 when the Up line from the power
station was disconnected, and on 8 August
2008 it was leased to the Telford Steam
Railway. Lightmoor Junction is roughly half
way between the power station site and the
northern end of the TSR at Lawley Village.
Although still on a gradient it also provides a
very brief respite after the long climb up
from the river crossing and before another
long, and slightly steeper, climb to Horsehay.
The 'roughly half way' measure also applies
to height, as the line climbs from about 120 ft
above sea level at the Albert Edward Bridge
to 360 ft at Lightmoor Jn and 620 ft at the
summit at Horsehay. In GWR days banking
was allowed, and commonly used, between
Buildwas and Horsehay.
Below : looking back from the same point, the Wellington line curves away to the left. The connection by the signal on the left of the picture led at one
time to the small goods yard with four sidings, on one of which there was a goods shed. In 1979, both routes still became double before the junction and
double track continued down to the power station. Lightmoor Platform was just the other side of the signal box from this location. (David Bickell)
Below : On a cold and snowy 17 December 1976, 25184 and 08585 wait at Lightmoor Junction for a class 47 with empty coal hoppers
from Ironbridge Power Station, possibly bound for Granville Colliery near the present day Donnington Freight Terminal. The
train from Horsehay was conveying a girder from AB Cranes, as well as a BLS brake van party including your Sub-editor!
The present BLS Chairman and BLN Editor had beaten him to it, having travelled to Horsehay with the empty crane
wagons on 8 December.
Since the BR excursions, the branch has hosted a number of railtours and on 28 March 1992 a BLS tour visited the branch on its way from Manchester
Piccadilly to the MoD system at Kineton. The 'Kineton Pullman' was composed partly of Pullman stock and was top and tailed by classes 47 and 58. By
this time the road underbridge, from which Lightmoor Platform was accessed by steep footpaths, had been rebuilt to single line width and the double
track from the power station became single just before the bridge.
Above : 47597, which had headed the train from Manchester via the Above : The BLS train reversed on the Up line, home until at least 2006,
Bushbury Jn-Stafford Road Jn chord north of Wolverhampton, makes its when this picture was taken, to this GWR-pattern fixed distant signal
way past the signal box. Later in the tour 47597 failed and had to be warning of the impending junction. The junction itself is in the distance just
replaced by classmate 47596 at Crewe on the return journey from beyond the end of the trees. The Down line (right of picture) was the one
Kineton. 58013 was the rear loco at this point. The miniature BLS retained after singling, although track remains in place on both.
headboard can be seen just below the central windscreen pillar.
Next page : a very short distance down from the fixed distant signal is a footpath crossing at Oil House Coppice, from which this picture was taken on 6
June 2006 of 66105 climbing out of the Ironbridge Gorge with coal empties. The Down line (right of picture) was the one retained after singling,
although track remains in place on both.
Previous page : Just below Oil House Coppice is the site of the former Green Bank Halt, located at the foot of Jiggers Bank, the hill where the road from
Horsehay descends into the Severn Valley and the village of Coalbrookdale. The seventh wagon in the picture below, of 66713 heading biomass
empties on 6 May 2014, is at roughly the location of the east end of Green Bank Halt, named after a nearby farm. The bridge in the picture crosses
Cherry Tree Hill, and Jiggers Bank is crossed just beyond the halt.
Beyond Green Bank Halt is one of the line's major engineering features, the Coalbrookdale Viaduct, which takes the line beside the former
Coalbrookdale Ironworks, now mainly occupied by the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust's Museum of Iron and 'Enginuity' exhibition. At the time of
writing, part of the works site is still occupied by Aga Rangemaster's foundry, now in the ownership of the Illinois-based Middleby Corporation.
Below left : 66242 passes over the viaduct with empty hoppers heading for Daw Mill Colliery on 25 May 2006. Below right : Photographers awaiting
the UK Railtours 'Shropshire Union' tour on 10 January 2015 are entertained by 66713 heading loaded biomass wagons down to the power station. The
level surface of the Upper Furnace Pool accentuates the steep gradient prevailing all the way from the River Severn up to Lightmoor.
Next page : the location of the temporary BR platform at Coalbrookdale has prompted some comment in recent BLNs. David Bickell's picture of his
Sunday 12 August 1979 visit leaves it in absolutely no doubt. The building to the left, with the clock tower, houses the Museum of Iron.
Left : In 1979, the bicentenary year of the nearby Iron Bridge, the
temporary platform sported a BR-style nameboard, stating quite
accurately where it was! The photograph shows a 'bubble car' leaving
the platform on its way back to Madeley Junction.
Below left : In 1988 the approach had changed - the nameboard had
gone 'retro' with a GWR style, and the platform had become
'IRONBRIDGE GORGE' which is rather less accurate. The area is known
locally as 'The Dale'. (Left and below left both David Bickell)
Below : on a frosty 21 January 2016, the only trace of the temporary
platform is a flattened area between the entrance gate and the
railway. The building visible through the trees on the left is the one in
the centre of the picture on the previous page, behind the Museum of
Above right : The original GWR station at Coalbrookdale, seen in its prime in a 1919 postcard
(public domain, via Wikimedia). Around 30 chains further down the valley from the site of the
BR platform is the original GWR Coalbrookdale station, the only original station building left on
the WSJR or the Coalbrookdale extensions. After closure the Down side buildings (right hand
side on the postcard) were demolished and the Up side main building was left to deteriorate,
eventually losing most of its roof, but is now renovated and occupied by the Small Woods
Association. From just north of the station there was a connection into the Coalbrookdale
works, where a network of tramways converged from the Severn Foundry at Ironbridge, and
coal mines and brickworks around Lightmoor and Madeley.
Below right : The east (Up platform) side of Coalbrookdale station.
Below : Plaques on the south end of the old station building, one with a brief record of its
closure to passengers on 21 July 1962.
Next page : the north (road) side of the Coalbrookdale station building, on 22 January 2016.
Previous page : 66760 brings a loaded biomass train across the River Severn on the Albert Edward bridge at 05.59 on 30 July 2015.
Above : the Albert Edward Bridge carries three inscriptions on each side, reading from left to right :
MESSRS. BRASSEY AND FIELD, CONTRACTORS ALBERT EDWARD BRIDGE CAST AND ERECTED BY THE COALBROOKDALE COMPANY
JOHN FOWLER, ENGINEER
This bridge, a further half mile from Coalbrookdale towards Buildwas Junction, was claimed by the 'Illustrated London News' at its opening to be 'the
largest cast iron arch carrying a double line of railway that has yet been erected anywhere in the world'. Like the much better known Victoria Bridge,
which carries the Severn Valley Railway over the river near Arley, it was manufactured by the Coalbrookdale Company. Although it is a much smaller
structure than the Coalbrookdale Viaduct, it is for the time a far more advanced technology and arguably doesn't yet get the attention it deserves.
Once across the bridge, the branch curves sharply to the right to meet the former Severn Valley Railway alignment which at this point curved away from
the river which it had followed closely from Coalport to the east. This part of the SVR alignment disappeared during construction of the power station but
once past the power station boundary some stretches can be walked or cycled on its route towards Bridgnorth. The existing alignment through the power
station site, though multi tracked throughout and deviating at various points to suit unloading facilities, is essentially the same as the original Severn
Valley Railway alignment opened in 1862. It terminates immediately before the A4169 Shifnal to Much Wenlock road, which crossed the SVR line by a
level crossing. All trace of Buildwas Junction station has disappeared beneath the power station. Although the station was situated in the 'V' of the Severn
Valley and Wenlock Railway lines, the Much Wenlock platform was at a higher level than that on the Severn Valley line, due to the steep climb away up
Farley Dingle towards Much Wenlock and at one time, Craven Arms.
The recently closed power station, known mostly as Ironbridge 'B' but sometimes as Buildwas (to which it is nearer than it is to Ironbridge) is the second at
this location. The original Ironbridge (later Ironbridge 'A') power station was a smaller 200MW plant nearer the river, opened 13 October 1932. One of its
two sets ceased generating on 27 October 1980, the other in 1981. The 1,000MW 'B' station became fully operational on 27 February 1970 and ceased
generating on 20 November 2015.
The sketch map below shows the various stages of evolu�on of the power sta�on area between the opening of the Wenlock and Severn Valley Railways in
1862, and the present day. The 'B' power sta�on and its cooling towers remain in existence at present. The site of Buildwas Junc�on sta�on disappeared in
the construc�on of the 'B' sta�on which began in 1963; some of the 'A' sta�on was demolished in 1983 but the remaining parts have listed status. The only
remaining sec�ons of railway are the former SVR sec�on (blue on the map) and the Wenlock Railway's Coalbrookdale Extension (brown on the map).
Buildwas Junc�on and Ironbridge Power Sta�ons area 1862-2016
To Shrewsbury 'sAt'ap�oowner To Madeley Jn
CA 9.9.63 and Ketley Jn
Buildwas Junc�on River
To Much Wenlock Severn
and Craven Arms
Albert Edward Bridge
Severn Valley Rly, CA 9.9.1963 Cooling To Ironbridge and
Severn Valley Rly, CP 9.9.1963 Towers Bridgnorth
Wenlock Rly, CP 21.7.1962, CG 19.1.1964 CA 9.9.63
Wenlock Rly, CP 21.7.1962
Above : The BR summer Sunday passenger trains in 1988 went further, terminating inside the power station site. This photograph is taken about half way
between the Albert Edward Bridge and the end of the line; the coal unloading facilities can be seen in the distance on the right. (David Bickell)
Next page : There was insufficient room in the valley for a merry-go-round loop, so trains had to reverse beyond the coal bunkers then run back over the
bunkers in the Up direction. Here 66065 runs round its train of coal hoppers on 17 May 2006, before the biomass conversion in 2012.
In 1802 the Coalbrookdale Company built what many hold to be the world's first steam locomotive, designed by Richard Trevithick. In 1990 GKN Sankey,
one of Telford's biggest employers, completed a working replica, which today resides at the Blists Hill museum, run by the Ironbridge Gorge Museum
Trust. However in 1996 it paid a visit to Ironbridge Power Station where a length of tramway-style track was specially laid for it. Naturally, a BLS secret
agent was on hand to record the occasion.
Above : the Trevithick replica at the power station in the summer of 1996. Note the Above : the replica in its usual home on a rather shorter
'tramway' rails (some might describe them as angle iron!) between the normal rails of the oil line in the Blists Hill Victorian Town on 5 June 2012.
Below : this picture was taken from just beyond the buffer stops at the end of the Ironbridge Branch, and shows the view westwards towards
Shrewsbury along the alignment of the Severn Valley line, closed in 1964. Note the former crossing keeper's cottage to the right.
One could be forgiven for thinking that the view eastwards towards Ironbridge might one day look the same, but (ignoring retail parks and shoe-box
houses), that would be to dismiss the ambitious plans of the Telford Steam Railway. With a good deal of local good will in places where it really matters
(not least Telford & Wrekin Council) TSR have made considerable strides towards their ultimate objective of extending their line to Lightmoor Junction
and, using one line of the Ironbridge Branch, down to Coalbrookdale and over the Albert Edward Bridge to the power station site. This isn't the place for
speculation about the details of the project, but it is perhaps worth us taking a brief look at the western 'arm' of the Wenlock & Severn Junction Railway,
on which the TSR currently resides.
Telford was first designated as a new town in 1963. Just to remind you, Ketley Jn-Much Wenlock CP 21 July 1962 - how different a story might we have if
this line running north to south through today's borough, and connecting its east-west main line to its principal tourist destination, had remained active
while the town developed. The first section of the east-west motorway, M54, opened in 1975 and bisected the WSJR alignment, putting paid to any
prospect of reopening throughout.
The two pictures below were taken from the former A5 adjacent to the site of Ketley station. There was a level crossing here where the former Wellington
& Severn Junction line crossed what was, when the line was open and on until the early 1980s, the principal road from London and the Midlands to North
Wales. The crossing must have caused a considerable amount of chaos at times, particularly at the beginning and end of the West Midland summer
holidays, then concentrated into a two week period at the end of July/beginning of August. Now almost entirely superseded by the M54 motorway and
redesignated B5061, the road is comparatively quiet.
Above left : Looking north, the former alignment (on the path in the centre foreground) begins to curve to the left as it heads towards Ketley Junction,
which was on the Wolverhampton-Wellington line, some 600 metres away. Two sidings behind the line of trees to the right served a nearby factory. A
footpath parallels the alignment for about two thirds of the distance to Ketley Junction. Near to the rightmost house on the skyline an overbridge crosses
the formation, beyond which the vegetation takes over and it's hard to see the alignment to the junction. A nearby footbridge over the main line offers a
view of the site of Ketley Junction, but no trace is visible.
Above right : To the south, the remains of the platform of Ketley station can be seen to the left. The station had only a single platform, but there was a
passing loop and a connection to sidings off to the right of the picture, serving the Sinclair Iron Works.
A short walk from Ketley brings you to the site of Ketley Town Halt, of which no trace
remains. At this point the line ceases to be a public footpath. The embankment can be
seen continuing for a short distance to the boundary with the M54 at SJ 674102. From
Ketley Town there's no alternative but to walk back to Ketley and make your way south
of the M54 to where the embankment resumes at SJ 674101.
Left : From the south side of the M54 the line becomes walkable again as part of the
Ironbridge Way, to a point just south of the former New Dale Halt. Here landscaping
and the development of a large housing estate nearby takes over and the course of the
line vanishes. The estate has a road named Newdale Halt (although the railway name
and that on the 1957 OS map was New Dale, the spelling of the district had evolved by
1963 to Newdale). Telford Steam Railway's northern limit at Lawley Village is south of
the Newdale and Lawley Village development areas, and some 22 chains south of the
former WSJR/GWR Lawley station. Once past the landscaping and a large supermarket,
a little of the alignment is visible from a roughly parallel path leading to the Dawley-
Wellington road and Telford Steam Railway's line, which starts immediately north of
Heath Hill Tunnel. The short tunnel takes their line under the main road.
Left : The platform at Lawley
Village, TSR's northern
station, complete with GWR
Right : The entrance to the
TSR's northern terminus is
down a short slope to the
right, demonstrating that the
parallel path is slightly off the
17 December 1976 again, and 25184 blocks the road at Horsehay as it retrieves a crane girder from the AB Cranes works. The works area has now been
redeveloped. The GWR goods shed, which is still there, is behind the photographer and to the right. Note the TSR's GWR 0-6-2T, 5619, in the background
behind the fencing towards the left of the picture.
About 30 chains south of Heath Hill Tunnel the line enters Horsehay, with the former goods yard off to the left, now the headquarters of Telford Steam
Railway, with its Spring Village platform. The former goods shed is used for maintenance. Beside the goods shed a siding used to continue across the road
into the factory of AB Cranes. After closure to general goods, very rare movements of large steel fabrications such as bridge girders and overhead cranes
provided the only freight traffic from Horsehay, reaching the main line at Madeley Junction via Lightmoor. The single platform of the original Horsehay &
Dawley station remains in use by TSR passengers, and beyond it the line continues towards Doseley, dropping down over the length of the platform to
pass underneath the road. Tracklaying is currently in progress on the extension, and at the time of writing (late January 2016) 'head of steel' is at the
public footpath crossing at SJ 678064, less than 300 yards from the next target of Doseley Halt.
Left : the temporary end of the TSR line at the footpath crossing near Doseley
on 19 January 2016. Visited by our AGM railtour of 2 November 2014, it will
hopefully see more trains before too much longer.
Right : At the site of Doseley Halt (SJ 679062, adjacent to the Holly Road
level crossing) a pile of sleepers awaits the attention of the TSR's volunteer
Nearly forty years earlier, the 17 December 1976 brake van trip pauses at Doseley Halt for the Holly
Road level crossing to be opened. The stack of sleepers in the photo on the previous page would be
beside the leading locomotive.
Above : The 1976 train pauses at the Lightmoor Road level crossing. This area has changed almost beyond recognition over four decades - but the power
lines are still there and the railway alignment, though heavily overgrown, can still be seen.
Beyond the level crossing at Doseley the formation is overgrown for 200 yards or so, but is then used as an unofficial footpath (there is not a right of way),
crossing Lightmoor Road on the level, until it meets a private road, at which point the bridge and embankment have been removed. A few yards further
on is the A4169 Ironbridge Bypass. This heavily wooded stretch, ignored for 35 years, is going to present quite a challenge for TSR. As the bypass was built
some years after the line closed, it has to be bridged to restore the route to Lightmoor Junction, another considerable task. Beyond the bypass the
formation is clear round the curve to Lightmoor, though again not walkable as it's still Network Rail territory guarded by signs threatening substantial fines
for trespassers. Despite the obstacles, TSR have shown considerable resourcefulness so far, and as a potentially major tourist draw, they have
substantial support from local authorities. Perhaps it won't be too long before we hear 5619, their GWR 0-6-2T, climbing through Coalbrookdale. Anyone
with an interest in branch lines will surely wish them well.
Above : the bridge for the A4169, donated by Network Rail, waits in Horsehay yard for
a 'call to arms'.
Right : onwards to Lightmoor! Rails in the road at the level crossing in Doseley.