Railways in Worcestershire

Go to content

Main menu:

Articles > Industry
Railways and the Worcester & Birmingham Canal

Railways and the Worcester & Birmingham Canal

The history of the Worcester & Birmingham Canal is outside the scope of this web site and there is also nothing that we can add to the definitive history written by the Revd. Alan White titled 'The Worcester & Birmingham Canal; Chronicles of the Cut' which was published by Brewin Books Ltd in 2005 (ISBN 1 85858 261 X). Anyone interested in delving into the fascinating history of the canal should find that this highly readable book with its good selection of maps and photographs contains everything they need.

The purpose then of this web page is to show how the canal and the railways interacted and also to mention some of the more interesting non-locomotive tramways that served industries on the banks of the canal.

The Worcester & Birmingham Canal was opened in 1815 from Diglis Basin, Worcester via Tardebigge and Kings Norton to Gas Street Basin in Birmingham where it made a connection with the Birmingham Canal Navigation. The Birmingham & Gloucester Railway (B&GR) opened its railway in 1840 which gave the canal twenty-five years of unfettered competition in which to build up its customer base. The railway provided a swift and convenient passage for goods between Bristol and Birmingham as it also connected at Gloucester with a railway onwards to Bristol. One disadvantage at this stage was that the B&GR was built to the standard gauge of 4ft 8½ inch whereas the railways in the West Country were all of the wider Broad Gauge beloved of the Great Western Railway.

The canal was at a major disadvantage as the large number of locks necessary to move traffic along it made for a very slow and expensive journey. The opening of the spur from the Oxford Worcester & Wolverhampton Railway at Droitwich to Stoke Works on the B&GR was a further blow to the canal.

The only known location where there was a direct main line railway to canal interchange was at Kings Norton on the now closed Lifford Loop line. A number of early photographs showing the interchange known as 'Breedon Cross Wharf' (the name being carried by a nearby public house) can be viewed in Birmingham Central Library and one is reproduced in the Revd. White's book.

A lot of industry and some quarries were located alongside the canal and several of these are thought to have had non-locomotive worked tramways although scant trace remains now of any of them and we have to rely on the Revd White's research and that of the members of the Industrial Railway Society (Andrew C. Smith, Industrial locomotives & Railways of Worcestershire, IRS 2005 (ISBN 1 901556 26 8) for the information.

The following list references industrial railways tramways located in close proximity to the canal.  There is a page on each giving further details. Please treat the veracity of the information with caution as some of it (where indicated) is of uncertain provenance.

1. The Worcester Patent Brickworks

2. Royal Ordnance Factory & Cadbury Brothers, Blackpole

3. Dunhampstead Limestone Quarries

4. Oddingley Brick & Tile Works

5. Tardebigge Quarries

6. Hewell Grange

7. Hanbury Brickworks

8. Stoke Prior Salt Works

9. Cadbury Brothers, Bournville

Back to content | Back to main menu